Restored P-51 Mustang returns for mission over Germany - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY TACTICAL

Restored P-51 Mustang returns for mission over Germany

A restored P-51 Mustang, once flown by the late Brig. Gen. Robin Olds, iconic US Air Force fighter pilot, flew with 480th Fighter Squadron F-16 Fighting Falcons during an event at Spangdahlem Air Base, Germany, May 28, 2019.

The event included aerial maneuvers by the P-51, formation flight training with F-16s and a presentation about Robin’s accomplishments by his daughter, Christina Olds.

Robin was a triple-ace fighter pilot who had 16 kills by the end of his career. The P-51 that arrived to Spangdahlem, named SCAT VII, was Robin’s seventh airplane which he flew in the last days of World War II. It was restored and is still flying around Europe in the same color scheme it had nearly 75 years ago.


Restored P-51 Mustang returns for mission over Germany

SCAT VII, a P-51 Mustang, on the runway at Spangdahlem Air Base, Germany, May 28, 2019.

(US Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Preston Cherry)

Restored P-51 Mustang returns for mission over Germany

Scat VII, a P-51 Mustang once flown by triple-ace fighter pilot Robin Olds, over Spangdahlem Air Base, May 28, 2019.

(Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Roidan Carlson)

Restored P-51 Mustang returns for mission over Germany

Scat VII, a P-51 Mustang once flown by triple-ace fighter pilot Robin Olds, alongside four F-16C Fighting Falcons at Spangdahlem Air Base, May 28, 2019.

(US Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Roidan Carlson)

Restored P-51 Mustang returns for mission over Germany

Scat VII, a P-51 Mustang once flown by triple-ace fighter pilot Robin Olds, alongside four F-16C Fighting Falcons at Spangdahlem Air Base, May 28, 2019.

(US Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Roidan Carlson)

Restored P-51 Mustang returns for mission over Germany

Scat VII, a P-51 Mustang once flown by triple-ace fighter pilot Robin Olds, alongside an F-16C Fighting Falcon at Spangdahlem Air Base, May 28, 2019.

(US Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Roidan Carlson)

Restored P-51 Mustang returns for mission over Germany

Scat VII, a P-51 Mustang once flown by triple-ace fighter pilot Robin Olds, with an F-16C Fighting Falcon at Spangdahlem Air Base, May 28, 2019.

(US Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Roidan Carlson)

Restored P-51 Mustang returns for mission over Germany

Scat VII, a P-51 Mustang once flown by triple-ace fighter pilot Robin Olds, with an F-16C Fighting Falcon at Spangdahlem Air Base, May 28, 2019.

(US Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Roidan Carlson)

Restored P-51 Mustang returns for mission over Germany

Scat VII, a P-51 Mustang once flown by triple-ace fighter pilot Robin Olds, alongside an F-16C Fighting Falcon at Spangdahlem Air Base, May 28, 2019.

(US Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Roidan Carlson)

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

MIGHTY HISTORY

7 awesome pirate crews who plundered the Seven Seas

So, after sitting through weeks of military transition classes, you’ve decided, “screw it! I’ll just turn to a life of crime!” Congrats! You’re joining a long tradition — a tradition mostly limited to privateers in the 17th and 18th centuries, sure, but a tradition nonetheless.

So, how about piracy? It’s glamorous, it’s profitable, and it’s exciting (also brutal, uncomfortable, and morally repugnant — but don’t get wound around the axle). Here are seven awesome pirates and their crews who turned their seafaring skills into fun, usually short careers in sea vessel re-appropriation:


Restored P-51 Mustang returns for mission over Germany

The face of a blacksmith who will absolutely start a crime syndicate and use it to topple an empire.

French Pirate King and American hero Jean Lafitte

Jean Lafitte was a French blacksmith who expanded his business into smuggling and piracy until he, his brother, and their men controlled a fleet in Barataria Bay, Louisiana, that was stronger than anything the U.S. Navy had in the area. During the War of 1812, Great Britain decided that it would be way easier to buy their way into New Orleans through him than fight for it.

So they offered him ,000 and a captaincy to help them, but he apparently loved America and told Louisiana instead. Authorities didn’t believe him and imprisoned him until then-Gen. Andrew Jackson pointed out that the British would totally do that. Lafitte and his men fought on Jackson’s side during the Battle of New Orleans and were granted full pardons. They later returned to piracy, focusing on Spanish ships because screw those guys.

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Madame Cheng was known for her *ahem* humble roots and her ability to cut your fleet to shreds, fool.

The prostitute pirate Madame Cheng

Cheng was a pirate king looking for love when he fell in with a prostitute and married her. She took the name Cheng I Sao and, when her husband died in 1807, turned his pirate fleet from a successful operation into possibly the largest pirate fleet in history. She overhauled the command structure and rule of law in the fleet, captured vessel after vessel, and made enemies of every European power in China at the time.

But when the Chinese Navy came to stop her, she stomped them so hard that the Chinese military was crippled. They then allied with the Portuguese and British fleets to come after her again, and she stomped them so hard that she ended the battle with more ships and men than she started it with. Finally, China offered her an amnesty and noble title to end the fighting.

Restored P-51 Mustang returns for mission over Germany

Captain Bart Roberts captured 400 ships, including one filled with the Portuguese king’s personal jewels from the middle of a 44-ship fleet.

Black Bart’s buccaneers on the Royal Fortune

Black Bart was born John Roberts (and likely was never called Black Bart while he was still alive). He was forced into piracy in 1719, but was so good at navigation and assessing enemy ships strengths that he was elected commander only six weeks later when the captain was killed.

His flagship was generally named Royal Fortune, and the crews of his ships did very well for themselves when they weren’t attempting to mutiny. Bart’s crews once stole the best ship out of the Portuguese treasure fleet of 44 ships, including two man-of-wars. Onboard were 40,000 gold coins and a cross covered in diamonds destined for the King of Portugal. Black Bart and his men stole another 400 ships during their short career from 1719 to 1722.

Unfortunately, Bart pushed it too far, constantly pushing off his retirement until a British man-of-war forced the issue with grapeshot through his neck.

Restored P-51 Mustang returns for mission over Germany

Benjamin Hornigold was known for his antics as well as his fuzzy features and thin ankles.

(Public Domain)

Blackbeard’s mentor, Benjamin Hornigold

Benjamin Hornigold began his pirate career in 1713 as the head of a small gang of men in canoes, but he quickly built up a fortune and a fleet, eventually leading 350 men in the 30-gun Ranger, possibly the most heavily armed ship in the Bahamas in 1717. In one awesome incident, they stopped a merchant ship and boarded it. Instead of stealing the cargo and ship, though, they said that they had all lost their hats the night before and needed to take the crew’s.

But his men were annoyed that Hornigold never allowed them to attack British ships, so they mutinied. Hornigold fled to Jamaica and received the king’s pardon for his piracy, then became a pirate hunter. No honor among thieves.

Restored P-51 Mustang returns for mission over Germany

Henry Every stands on shore while his ship fights an enemy vessel. Not sure why Every is waving his sword around while hundreds of meters from any action, but whatever.

Henry Every and the Fancy’s successful retirement

Henry Every began his life at sea as a boy and, by 1693, he was an experienced seaman. He took a slot as first mate on a privateer vessel named Charles II. But the vessel sat in port for months and the crew went without pay, so Every stole that ship and renamed it the Fancy.

And the Fancy had a stunning career. Every led the crew to the coast of Africa where they preyed on European merchant vessels and put together a fleet of pirate ships that stole the flagship of India’s Grand Mughal as well as 325,000 British pounds in gold and silver. Then, he cleverly retired. Few of his men faced justice and the rest disappeared wealthy.

Restored P-51 Mustang returns for mission over Germany

Capt. Jack Rackham got his nickname, “Calico Jack,” for his wardrobe. You’d think the fact that he helped a woman escape from prison and potentially got her pregnant while she was on his crew would be what he was known for, but nope. Calico.

(George S. Harris Sons)

Calico Jack Rackham

John Rackham was known for his calico clothing and for stealing the Ranger from then-Captain Charles Vane. He used the Ranger to plunder a series of merchant vessels, but then took the King’s pardon for a seemingly peaceful life. A peaceful life that involved an affair with the wife of a pirate informant. And then he voided his pardon to break said wife out of jail, and they started a new pirate crew and ship.

Rackham had another few months of successful piracy but then partied a little too hard. Capt. Jonathan Barnet was sent to capture Rackham and found him and most of his crew too drunk to defend themselves. Rackham was executed, but the two women in his crew, the aforementioned informant wife, Anne Bonny, and another woman, Mary Read, were pregnant and allowed to live.

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William Kidd, pimp and traitor

William Kidd and his motley traitors

William Kidd was commissioned as a privateer, and he and his men were sent to the West Indies in 1696 where it didn’t go well. They couldn’t find good targets, so, in 1697, they went to Madagascar and started preying on Indian vessels. Then, in 1698, they spotted the Quedagh Merchant, a 500-ton ship loaded with treasures.

Kidd and his crew stole it, making off with a massive boatload of gold, silk, spices, and other goods. Unfortunately for them, one of the owners of the ship was a senior member of the Indian government and put pressure on the English government to turn Kidd over. Kidd tried to escape to America, but he was caught, bundled to England, and hanged on May 23, 1701.

MIGHTY HISTORY

Here’s how ancient Romans built perfectly straight, crazy long roads

Marbleezy asks: How did the ancient Romans manage to build perfectly straight roads hundreds of miles long?

The ancient Romans were a people famed for their architectural prowess, something no better demonstrated than by their ability to build almost perfectly straight and incredibly durable roads spanning expansive distances. For example, in Britain alone, the Romans built well over 50,000 miles of roads with the longest ruler-straight stretch spanning over 50 miles. They did all of this in an era without modern surveying tools, construction equipment, or even very accurate maps of precisely where their destination was for many of the areas. So how did they do it?

To begin with, it’s important to note there were a few different types of roads that were made throughout the Roman Republic and Empire, and exact method and materials used for road construction varied somewhat from region to region and evolved slightly over the centuries.

That caveat out of the way, the three main classification of Roman roads were viae terrenae, essentially dirt roads, often made by people walking and wagons riding over the same path over time; viae glareae, which would be a dirt road that was then graveled; and, finally much more interestingly, viae munita, which were more or less paved roads, some of which have survived through modern times.


Within these types of roads there were further classifications based on who could use them, such as viae publicae (public roads), viae militares (military or state use roads), and viae privatae (private roads, constructed at private expense and for the owners to decide who they allowed access, perhaps the general public or perhaps just a select few).

To help pay for them, roads of all types often had tolls, particularly at locations like bridges and city gates where it would be impractical to avoid the tolling location.

Restored P-51 Mustang returns for mission over Germany

The Appian Way, a road connecting the city of Rome to the southern parts of Italy, remains usable even today.

This brings us to the road construction process itself. As dirt and gravel roads aren’t terribly interesting, we’re going to focus this article on the viae munita. So how did they make these incredibly durable and generally amazingly straight roads? After all, even with modern machinery, constructing and maintaining an expansive road system is an extremely time consuming and labor intensive process.

To start with, a group of surveyors would be sent out to figure out the precise direction connecting the two main points. At the same time, they’d attempt to plan the route as efficiently as possible while accounting for any major obstacles like tall mountains, rivers, etc. When possible, they may attempt to avoid such obstacles, but, particularly in some of the earliest Roman road construction, where it might result in having to take a large detour to get around, say, a mountain, if possible given the terrain, they tended to just build the road to go directly over it or directly through it. For example, the longest tunnel through such a mountain was the Grotta di Cocceio which was excavated from 38 to 36 BCE and is approximately 1 km (.62 miles) long and about 5 meters (5.4 yards) high and wide. Before WWII, it was also still a fully functional and safe to traverse tunnel despite standing about 2,000 years at that point, but was damaged during the war, though there are presently efforts to have it repaired and opened again to the public.

As for going over a mountain, it’s important to note here that we don’t mean they’d use switch backs as is the general method today. No, if at all possible, they’d just build roads straight up a mountain and down the other side, expecting the soldiers and mules and the like to just man up and traverse the steep slopes without complaint.

That said, as the empire matured, it did eventually become apparent that there were economic advantages to slightly longer roads that were easier for draught animals to pull carts over, and thus there was a shift to favoring longer distances but lesser gradients when talking roads for general public use.

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A Roman street in Pompeii.

Either way, during the process, the surveyors would setup markers, often at very visible points like on hills, mapping out the optimal path, again trying to ensure the road would be as straight as possible between the start and end point to reduce needed labor, materials, and distance needed to traverse the road once it was complete.

This brings us to how they actually ensured perfectly straight roads between the markers. A key tool here was a device known as a groma. In a nutshell, this was nothing more than a sort of cross with four weights hanging from a string at each end of the cross to function as plumb lines. The whole thing could rotate with degree markers on top. Two of the plumb lines would then be lined up with a marker and then on the other side lined up with the previous marker. Where changes in direction would need to be made, the degrees were marked and ultimately the whole thing drawn up on a central document showing the entire route of the road with each segment.

Once the actual construction was to begin, the groma would once again be used, this time with rods pounded into the ground between markers using the groma to make sure every single rod was perfectly inline in between the markers.

Restored P-51 Mustang returns for mission over Germany

A groma.

Now, finally, construction of the road would start, usually first done via plows to loosen the soil, this would be followed by legionaries and/or slaves digging the ground out, with depth varying based on conditions. For instance, swampy land would need a lot thicker foundation if it was to have any staying power. For more typical ground, the trench needed would be somewhere in the realm of 3-6 feet (around 1-2 meters) deep. Once dug out, this would then be tamped down to a leveled, compact layer of earth.

From here, exact road composition varied based on available materials in a given region, land composition, and a variety of factors like this.

But typically large stones would be packed as tightly as possible together and into the earth base. Onto this layer would usually be placed smaller stones, sometimes comprising broken concrete or somewhat crushed rock, again packed and smoothed as best as possible. Depending on availability, they would also put a layer of sand on this foundation to make a genuinely perfectly smooth surface.

On top of all of this, at the minimum gravel would be added, packed, and leveled. In some cases, such as near big cities, as described in one manuscript on the construction of roads in Rome itself, paving stones, often flint, lava rock, or marble, would be embedded in cement for the top layer instead. When the road was complete, they are thought to have been quite smooth allowing for relatively bump free travel in carts and the like.

During this whole process, special attention was taken to making the center of the road higher than the sides so that any water would drain off, with the entire road surface itself also elevated above the ground on the sides where drainage ditches would generally be created to help rapidly move water away from the road in times of heavy rains.

As for the size of the roads, according to something known as The Law of Twelve Tables, which more or less formed the basis of Roman Law for almost a millennia, Roman roads were required to be at minimum 8 Roman feet wide (which converted into modern units equals about 2 and half metres) where the road was straight and double that if the road happened to be curved.

Beside the roads were footpaths, sometimes graveled, which were particularly handy in the case of viae militares where only people with proper authorization could use the road itself. Finally, at the very outer edges of the roads, any nearby trees and bushes would be removed to help reduce areas for bandits to hide and surprise anyone with an attack, as well as to help ensure plant growth didn’t overtake the road or tree roots compromise it.

But this wasn’t the end of the construction process. They now needed to know exact distances along the road. It’s not fully clear how they did this, though a device known as the odometer of Vitruvius is mentioned starting around 27 BC and is often claimed to have been used for this purpose. However, whether it was actually ever used for road construction, or even made at all, is up for debate.

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A depiction of Vitruvius presenting De Architectura to Augustus.

At a high level, this device used the spinning of a wheel to mark distance. In this case, it was the spinning of a wagon wheel which was in turn hooked up to gears that would drop a pebble into a container every Roman mile (4,841 feet, which is around 1,000 paces of an adult male, with the world “mile” deriving from the Latin milia, meaning, funny enough, 1,000 paces).

For whatever it’s worth, while Leonardo da Vinci tried and failed to make such a device as per outlined, in 1981 one Andre Sleeswyk was successful in building one exactly as described except, unlike da Vinci, he used triangular gear teeth instead of square ones. His justification for this modification being that these same type of gear teeth were used in the Antikythera mechanism, which was created sometime from around 250 BC to 70 BC, with the device itself used to predict various astronomical phenomenon like eclipses. Thus, perhaps if the odometer of Vitruvius was ever actually built and used, maybe it used these too.

There are, of course, many other much less technologically advanced ways they could have measure mile distances easy enough and with extreme accuracy. However they did it, at every mile mark, the law required they place an approximately two ton, 7 foot tall (2 feet in the ground) mile marker, called a miliarium. Helpfully, on this stone would be engraved the names of the locations the road connected and how many miles to each from that respective marker. A master marker, known as the Miliario Aureo or Golden Milestone was also created during Caesar Augustus’ rule and placed in the central Forum of Rome itself. This was the point at which all Roman roads were said to lead. It’s not actually clear what was on this master marker, but it’s been speculated it listed the distances from that point to all major cities under Roman rule.

Whatever the case, like the roads themselves, some of these mile markers are still standing giving archaeologists and historians a valuable snapshot of the past, since they tended to include not just basic geographic information, but information about when the road was built or repaired and by whom.

Next up, it was also required by law that regular way stations be built for official use, generally every 16 to 19 miles apart. These were more or less really nice resting areas providing food and drink and the like for officials. For the general public, inns known as cauponae would tend to pop up near these way stations. On that note, at particularly high trafficked way stations, many other businesses would pop up as well, sometimes leading to the creation of whole towns.

Along these roads you’d also find at similar intervals mutationes, or changing stations, where people could get the services of veterinarians, wheelwrights, etc., as well as potentially find new mounts.

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Giphy

To give you an idea of how fast one could move along these roads with its network of way stations and facilities, it’s noted that Emperor Tiberius once traversed about 200 miles in 24 hours after news that his brother, Drusus Germanicus was dying from gangrene after being seriously injured falling from a horse. A more typical time to traverse for, say, a government mail carrier was usually around 50 miles per day if not in a particular hurry.

But to sum up, it turns out that Roman road construction, amenities and all, wasn’t all that different from modern times, often featuring deep foundations, paved surfaces, proper drainage, landscaping around the roads, sidewalks, toll booths, rest areas, hotels, restaurants, the historic equivalent to gas stations and convenience stores, etc.

Bonus Fact:

The infamous phrase — “Nero fiddled while Rome burned” — has come to mean a person who is neglecting their duties, probably by doing something frivolous. But did Nero actually sit around play music while Rome was burning around him in 64 AD?

To begin there was such a fire, though its extent is unknown. According to Tacitus, the fire lasted for six days and decimated Rome, with only four districts untouched (out of a total of fourteen). He goes on to state that ten of the eleven districts that burned were heavily damaged, with three of those completely destroyed. However, oddly, there is very little documented mention of the fire from those who actually lived through it. The only Roman historian during that period who even mentioned it at all was Pliny the Elder, and even he only briefly referenced it in passing.

Had it been as widespread as Tacitus claimed, one would think the likes of Plutarch, Epictetus, or other such famed Roman historians who lived through the fire would have mentioned such a significant event. And, indeed, we see that perhaps it wasn’t that great of a fire from the only other documented first hand account of the scope of the disaster — a letter from Seneca the Younger to Paul the Apostle, where he explicitly stated that only four blocks of insulae were burned (a type of apartment building), along with 132 private houses damaged (about 7% of the private houses in the city and .009% of the insulae). Not anywhere close to as widespread as Tacitus later claimed, though Seneca did say the fire lasted six days, as Tacitus stated.

As to Nero’s reaction to the fire, the first and biggest flaw in the fiddling story is that the fiddle, or violin, didn’t actually exist in Nero’s time. Historians aren’t able to give an exact date for the invention of the violin, but the viol class of instruments to which the violin belongs wasn’t developed until at least the 11th century. If Nero actually did play a stringed instrument—and there’s no evidence that he did, whether during the burning of Rome or otherwise—it was probably a lyre or cithara.

Okay, so some details can get muddled through history. But did Nero neglect Rome while it burned? Historians argue probably not. Reports do place Nero thirty-five miles away from Rome at the time of the fire, as he was staying in his villa at Antium. However, an account from Tacitus tells us that he returned to Rome immediately when word of the fire reached him in order to begin relief efforts. As the fire raged on, Nero even opened up his own gardens to provide a temporary home for those who were now homeless. He also ordered the construction of emergency accommodation and cut the price of corn, as well as provided food directly, so that people could eat. Besides this, he paid for much of these relief efforts out of his own pocket.

However, Tacitus also tells of the rumour that had spread among the masses: while the flames surged through the city, Nero stood on his private stage and sang about the destruction of Troy in a comparison of the two events. Whether or not the rumour had any evidence to back it up or was just something made up by the unhappy masses, we don’t know, but this and Suetonius’ account are the most likely source of the fiddle story we hear today. Unfortunately for Nero, at least in the context of this story, he did have a reputation for enjoying concerts and participating in music competitions, so the activity itself wasn’t entirely unlikely even if the timing of the act is highly questionable.

Restored P-51 Mustang returns for mission over Germany

Bust of Nero at the Capitoline Museum, Rome.

While Tacitus claims the singing story was a rumour, Suetonius wrote about it with conviction. However, the story could have been an attempt to further mar Nero’s name. Nero faced problems during his reign from the very start, when it was reported that his own mother poisoned his predecessor, Claudius. He was also blamed for the death of Claudius’ son Brittanicus, who was being urged to take his proper place as Emperor by overthrowing Nero. Numerous other deaths were thought to have been committed by Nero’s hand, including one of his wives and his own mother.

As such, Nero was painted as a man who was difficult for the masses to trust. No one knew how the fire started, and many Romans believed that he had started the fire that burned their city. (It likely started in shops containing flammable goods, and was probably an accident rather than any one person’s intentional act.)

With the mob out for blood, Nero was forced to turn to a scapegoat and blamed Christians for starting the fire. There were only a small number of Christians in Rome at the time and they were considered a strange religious sect, so they were an easy target. As Tacitus stated:

Consequently, to get rid of the report, Nero fastened the guilt and inflicted the most exquisite tortures on a class hated for their abominations, called Christians by the populace. Christus, from whom the name had its origin, suffered the extreme penalty during the reign of Tiberius at the hands of one of our procurators, Pontius Pilatus, and a most mischievous superstition, thus checked for the moment, again broke out not only in Judæa, the first source of the evil, but even in Rome, where all things hideous and shameful from every part of the world find their centre and become popular. Accordingly, an arrest was first made of all [Christians] who pleaded guilty [to the fire]; then, upon their information, an immense multitude was convicted, not so much of the crime of firing the city, as of hatred against mankind. Mockery of every sort was added to their deaths. Covered with the skins of beasts, they were torn by dogs and perished, or were nailed to crosses, or were doomed to the flames and burnt, to serve as a nightly illumination, when daylight had expired.

Even finding someone to blame for the fire didn’t help Nero’s plea of innocence. In the wake of the fire, he built a palace on top of some of the land cleared by the flames, which people argued he had been planning from the start, though this is highly unlikely as the place he built the new palace was over a half mile away from where the fire started. In addition to a new palace, Nero did provide for the reconstruction of the city, but rebuilding stretched the limits of Rome’s treasury at the time. He was forced to devalue Roman currency, which wasn’t a popular move.

Nero ended up committing suicide — or at least, begging his secretary to kill him when he lost the nerve to do it himself—four years after the fire. Accounts of his life and of the time of the fire are highly contradictory. Further, Suetonius and Tacitus wrote their histories fifty years after Nero died, and Cassius Dio wrote his 150 years later. Many historians also think it likely that Nero was more popular with the people of Rome than he was with the senators, and as all three of the main sources were from the senatorial class, it’s likely they carry more than a little bias against him, not unlike happened with the popular history of Marie Antoinette who popular history remembers very differently than who the actual woman appeared to be. That being said, Tacitus did state that while Nero’s death was welcomed by senators, the lower classes mourned his passing.

So in the end, the implication that “Nero fiddled while Rome burned” — or played the lyre, sang a song, or neglected his duty in any way — is likely the result of anti-Nero propaganda and an attempt to tarnish his name. The morality of many of his actions during his reign is open to debate, but the fiddling, or playing music, story is almost certainly a myth, unless he was playing to entertain the displaced masses he’d taken in.

This article originally appeared on Today I Found Out. Follow @TodayIFoundOut on Twitter.

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MIGHTY TACTICAL

Sea Raptor: The Navy’s sweep-wing F-22 that wasn’t to be

The U.S. Air Force’s venerable F-22 Raptor is widely seen as the world’s most capable air superiority fighter, but for a short time, it was nearly joined by a sister platform modified specifically for the Navy in the NATF-22.

The Lockheed Martin F-22 Raptor came about as a result of the U.S. Air Force’s Advanced Tactical Fighter program that aimed to field an all-new aircraft that could not only compete with advanced Soviet jets like the Sukhoi Su-27 and Mikoyan MiG-29, but dominate them. The Su-27 and MiG-29 had both been developed with America’s F-15 Eagle and F-16 Fighting Falcon squarely in their sights, and although the Soviet Union was on its last leg by the late 1980s, the Air Force remained steadfast in their need for a new generation of fighter.

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An F-16 Fighting Falcon flies in formation with a Polish MiG-29 during exercise Sentry White Falcon (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Shaun Kerr)

Ultimately, the F-22 Raptor won out over its (arguably more capable) Northrop YF-23 competition, thanks in no small part to Lockheed’s flair for dramatic presentations and Northrop’s troubled reputation at the time. While the YF-23 boasted better range and stealth, the YF-22 and its operational F-22 successor offered a combination of solid capability and Lockheed Martin’s reputation for delivering highly capable military aircraft. While the YF-22 ultimately won the decision, either aircraft would have gone on to become the world’s first stealth fighter, establishing a new generation of fighters to come. Had the YF-23 won out, it would have been the defacto choice for a Navy fighter variant for consideration.

While some still contend that an F-23 could have been the superior fighter, the F-22 quickly separated itself from its operational competition thanks to a combination of low observability, high speed, and acrobatic performance. The Raptor was not only able to reach and sustain speeds as high as Mach 2.25, it also offered the ability to “supercruise,” or to maintain supersonic speeds without the use of the afterburners on its pair of Pratt & Whitney F119-PW-100 augmented turbofans. The thrust pouring out of those engines was managed by the aircraft’s Thrust Vector Control surfaces, which allowed the pilot to orient the outflow of the engines independent of the direction the aircraft was pointed. In other words, an F-22 pilot can point its nose (and weapons) down at you while it continues to push forward through the sky.

Related: COULD THE YF-23 HAVE BEEN BETTER THAN THE F-22?

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F-22 Raptors during testing (U.S. Air Force photo)

The F-22 proved so capable, in fact, that Congress pressed the Navy to consider adopting a sweep-wing version of the new fighter under the NATF (Naval Advanced Tactical Fighter) program that began in 1988. In return for the Navy considering the NATF as a potentially lower-cost alternative to developing their own replacement carrier-based fighter, the U.S. Air Force agreed to evaluate a modified version of the carrier-based stealth bomber being developed under the Navy’s Advanced Tactical Aircraft (ATA) program as a replacement for their own aging F-111.

In theory, this agreement would allow the Air Force to leverage Navy R&D for their new bomber, while the Navy leveraged the Air Force’s for their new fighter. This approach to sharing development costs across branches, one could argue, would reach its zenith when multiple combat aircraft programs across the Navy, Air Force, and Marines were merged to create what would go on to become the (incredibly expensive) F-35 Joint Strike Fighter program.

Related: AN F-35 PILOT EXPLAINS WHY THE JET’S BAD PRESS MISSES THE POINT

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F-35 Joing Strike Fighter (USAF Photo)

In a prelude of things to come, the NATF program, and its associated plans for an NATF-22, were soon seen as prohibitively expensive. By 1990, some seven years before the F-22 would first take to the sky, Admiral Richard Dunleavy, the man responsible for outlining the Navy’s requirements for a new fighter, was quoted as saying that he didn’t see any way the F-22 could be incorporated into an affordable plan for Naval aviation. As a result, the NATF-22 concept was dropped in early 1991.

Had the U.S. Navy opted to pursue a carrier-capable variant of the F-22, there would have been a number of significant technical hurdles to overcome. Aircraft designed for carrier operations have to manage a very different set of take-off and landing challenges than their land-based counterparts. The aircraft fuselage needs to be more physically robust to withstand the incredible forces applied to it during catapult launches and short-distance landings supported by a tailhook at the rear of the aircraft. The NATF-22 would also have to leverage the same sort of variable-sweep wing approach found on the F-14 to grant the aircraft the ability to fly slowly enough to safely land aboard a carrier.

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Artist’s rendering of the NATF-22

That variable-sweep wing design itself brought a slew of its own problems engineers would need to solve. First and foremost, the Navy was already dealing with the high cost of maintaining the sweep wing apparatus on the F-14 Tomcat. A new sweep wing design likely wouldn’t alleviate the high operational costs associated with the Tomcat. As the Air Force has gone on to prove, the Navy’s decision was probably right. Even with fixed wings, the F-22 remains one of the most expensive fighter platforms to operate.

It also stands to reason that the variable sweep wing design would compromise some degree of the aircraft’s stealth. If the connecting surfaces of the moveable wings produced a high enough return on radar to secure a weapons grade lock on the aircraft, the value of such a fighter would be fundamentally compromised. The F-22 may be fast and maneuverable, but the Navy’s existing F-14 Tomcats were faster — and despite their high maintenance costs, still significantly cheaper than building a new stealth fighter for the Navy’s flattops, even if it was borrowing heavily from the Air Force’s program.

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The F-14 utilized a variable-sweep wing design to offer it the ability to manage both low and high speed flight effectively. (U.S. Navy photo)

At the end of the day, it’s easy to see why the U.S. Navy opted not to pursue the NATF-22. It was complicated, expensive, and may have only offered a slight improvement over the Navy’s existing carrier-based platforms if any at all. But, nonsensical as it may be in practical use, the very concept of a variable-sweep wing F-22 carrying on the legacy of the fan-favorite F-14 Tomcat aboard America’s super carriers is just too cool not to look back on a bit wistfully.

After all, with only 186 F-22 Raptors ever rolling out of Lockheed Martin’s factories, this king of sky combat is destined to have a painfully short reign. One has to wonder… could a Navy variant of the F-22 have been enough to save this program from the budgetary ax?

Restored P-51 Mustang returns for mission over Germany

The truth is, probably not — but the pictures sure are cool to look at.

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

MIGHTY HISTORY

This Cold War nuclear sea mine required a chicken to explode

The Cold War spawned decades’ worth of bizarre weapon ideas as the West and the Soviet Union strove towards gaining the strategic upper hand over their superpower rival.

The US was responsible for at least seven nuclear weapon designs during the Cold War that now seem outlandish or ill-advised. But the US wasn’t alone in its willingness to build seemingly absurd weapons systems to gain some kind of advantage over the Soviets.


In the 1950s, the UK designed a nuclear landmine that would be placed in West Germany to stop a hypothetical Soviet assault on the rest of Europe, the BBC reports. The landmine, dubbed Operation Blue Peacock, would be operated remotely so that it could be detonated at the moment when it could inflict maximal damage on the invading Red Army.

But the weapon had a major hitch. Buried underground, it was possible that the mine would become cold to the point that the detonator would be unable to trigger a nuclear blast. In 1957, British nuclear physicists found a solution: chickens

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The design was based on the free-falling Blue Danube bomb.

“The birds would be put inside the casing of the bomb, given seed to keep them alive and stopped from pecking at the wiring,” the BBC notes. The chickens’ body heat would be enough to maintain the triggering mechanism’s working temperature. In all, the chickens would be estimated to survive for a week, after which time the bomb would return to a possibly cooled and inoperable state.

In all, the landmines designed in Operation Blue Peacock were thought to yield a 10-kiloton explosion which would produce a crater 375 feet in diameter, according to the American Digest. Such destructive potential ultimately led to the abandonment of the project as the British realized that there would be an unacceptable amount of nuclear fallout from such a blast — never mind the complicated issue of burying nuclear weapons within the territory of an allied nation.

By 1958, after the production of only two prototypes, Operation Blue Peacock was abandoned.

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

Beyond the Green Line: From British civilian to Israeli paratrooper

One of the great perks of this job is that sometimes things, which you had missed or had never heard of before, get tossed into your lap and you wind up with something special. Kind of like Christmas in July. So, when the SOFREP editors asked me if I would be interested in reviewing Marc Goldberg’s book, “Beyond the Green Line,” I accepted.

Goldberg’s story is a very interesting one. It takes him from his home in Britain to the ranks of the Israeli paratroopers during the Al Aqsa (Second) Intifada. Goldberg made his aliyah to Israel during a turbulent time.


Goldberg came to Israel from London. Despite speaking poor Hebrew, he joined an elite reconnaissance unit (Orev) of the Israeli paratroopers. The book recounts his relationships with his fellow military members and his tour of duty which mainly consisted of counter-insurgency operations in the West Bank.

The Al-Aqsa Intifada stretched from September 2000 to February 2005 and was marked by as many, if not more, civilian deaths as combatant deaths. It began when Palestinians unleashed waves of suicide bombers against Israel after the 2000 Camp David Summit failed to reach a final agreement on the Israeli-Palestinian peace process in July 2000.

What makes Goldberg’s case and his service unique is that he was a Briton, but being born in Jew in the U.K., he “felt like an outcast.” He hated life in the U.K., as a young man. He had dreams of grandeur, of making the Aliyah to the birthplace of his people and becoming an elite Israeli paratrooper and an officer in the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF).

He thought that Israel was the answer to all of the questions that troubled him. It would be the reason he existed and would erase the centuries of powerlessness that he felt his people and he had keenly suffered from.

Despite his language barrier, Goldberg passed the selection course for the IDF paratroopers, went through his training, and joined the ranks of the unit. His parents traveled from Britain to see him be awarded his maroon beret and silver paratrooper wings. He did so well in his training that his NCO gave him his own beret at his graduation and his commander gave him a watch.

His service in the IDF during the counter-insurgency campaign in Nablus is much like any operation in any military in the world. Hours upon hours of preparation and sheer boredom interspersed with brief periods of adrenaline rush. Intermingled in with the boredom were moments of head-scratching ridiculousness that mark many veterans’ career in Special Operations.

During one rock-throwing incident, where Palestinian youths climbed onto a roof of an apartment building and were throwing everything they could get their hands on, one older Palestinian man was intermittently yelling at the youths and the Israeli soldiers. He was upset that the youths broke into his apartment and were tossing all of his possessions, including the man’s washing machine, off the roof and onto the armored car the paratroopers were riding in.

One uncomfortable episode takes place in an apartment that the paratroopers are occupying to hunt for a wanted terrorist. Goldberg had to watch over a Palestinian family as well as leftist “volunteers” from the United States and the U.K.

But like many other veterans involved in a counter-insurgency campaign, Goldberg grew disillusioned with his job, the mission, and their reason for being there. He even grew disillusioned with the very terrorists they were hunting. One wanted terrorist, who was responsible for the deaths of an untold amount of Israelis and Palestinians, was trapped in a house with a boatload of ammunition. But rather than shoot it out and die a martyr’s death, as he preached to so many others, he surrendered sobbing and crying while pleading for his life.

He later fell into depression and had a classic case of PTSD, not able to interact with the civilians in Israel, while he was off-duty, anymore than he could back in England. This was despite not seeing the type of pitched combat that many of his contemporaries did.

In the end, Goldberg realized that Israel isn’t the land of milk and honey where everything is perfect and all of his questions would be answered. It is a land as troubled as anywhere else.

“Now I had seen the truth, Israel was just as beset with problems as anywhere else and the people who lived there were exactly the same as everyone else. The best were wonderful, the worst were awful, and the majority somewhere in between.”

The IDF had given him so much but also took a big piece out of him. Things got worse upon his return to England. Like many ex-servicemen, the mundane life awaiting him left him, he felt, with no challenge. He hit rock bottom and briefly contemplated suicide. But he entered therapy and ever so slowly made his way back.

In 2010, Goldberg returned to Israel, not “to a paradise, a place of milk and honey, or some kind of holy place the Messiah was imminently arriving to. I was going back to the land and country of my people. Dirty, dusty, imperfect but ours.”

He never experienced the war that he pictured in his boyhood; the war that would make him a Jewish war hero like he read and dreamed about. But he did his duty to his country and his people. He’s at peace with that. Now he’s married and living in the place he belonged all along.

Goldberg’s book is an easy, outstanding read. His style is such that while reading it, the reader has the feeling that the author is talking to you in a quiet bar and telling his story. This makes it a great page-turner and instantly hooks you; the pages will turn faster than you could imagine.

Make this book part of your counter-insurgency collection.

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

Lawmakers just gave the Veterans Choice Program a huge overhaul

On May 16, 2018, The House passed by a vote of 372-70 major veterans legislation to extend and reform the Veterans Choice Program to allow more private care options.

The “VA Mission Act,” would also lift the restrictions on family caregiver benefits, which are now limited to post-9/11 veterans, and extend them to the caregivers of veterans of all eras.


The bill will now go to the Senate, where Sen. Johnny Isakson, R-Georgia, chairman of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee, and Sen. Jon Tester, the ranking member of the Committee, have already expressed their support.

President Donald Trump has said he will sign the bill quickly when it reaches his desk.

In a statement, the White House said the bill would “transform the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) into a modern, high-performing, and integrated healthcare system that will ensure our veterans receive the best healthcare possible from the VA, whether delivered in the VA’s own facilities or in the community.”

Restored P-51 Mustang returns for mission over Germany
President Donald Trump

Veterans Service Organizations (VSOs), which previously had expressed concerns that a rapid expansion of community care options could lead to the “privatization” of VA health care, had lined up to back the new bill.

Denise Rohan, national commander of the two-million member American Legion, said in a statement that “I applaud the passage of the VA Mission Act.” She said the bill “will streamline and fund the Department of Veterans Affairs’ many community care programs” and also “expand caregiver benefits to pre-9/11 veterans and their families.”

Keith Harman, national commander of the 1.7 million member Veterans of Foreign Wars, said the bill “will help improve services throughout the VA health system while utilizing private sector resources when needed, striking the right balance to make sure we provide veterans with the best care possible.”

A similar bill offered in 2017, by Isakson was left out of the omnibus $1.3 trillion spending package signed by Trump in February 2018, for all government agencies, forcing the House and Senate to begin anew on reforming choice.

Rep. Phil Roe, R-Tennessee, the chairman of the House Veterans Affairs Committee who was instrumental in gaining bipartisan support for the new legislation, said that “Over the last several months, we’ve taken great, bipartisan steps to reform the department, and this legislation is yet another strong step in the right direction.”

Restored P-51 Mustang returns for mission over Germany
Rep. Phil Roe, R-Tennessee, the chairman of the House Veterans Affairs Committee.

Roe said the provisions in the bill would keep “our promise to give veterans more choice in their health care while building on our strong investment in VA’s internal capacity.”

The bill would authorize $5.2 billion to extend the current Veterans Choice Program, whose funding was set to expire on May 31, 2018, for one year while the VA enacts reforms to expand private care options.

Rep. Tim Walz, D-Minnesota, the ranking member of the House Veterans Affairs Committee, voted against the bill.

“There is little debate that the VA Mission Act is better than the current Veterans Choice Program,” Walz said, but he questioned whether there would be sufficient funding in the long run to sustain it.

“Voting against this bill is not something I take lightly,” he said. “While I have serious concerns with regard to long term sustainability and implementation, the bill does take steps to consolidate VA’s various care in the community programs while providing much needed stop gap funding for the ailing Veterans Choice Program.”

Former VA Secretary David Shulkin in 2017, said that about one-third of VA medical appointments were being handled in the private sector, but the Trump administration had argued for more private care options for veterans who face long waits for appointments or have to travel long distances to VA facilities.

This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @military.com on Twitter.

MIGHTY CULTURE

8 tips to service your car after a road trip

The summer road trip is an iconic American institution.

Whether a cross-country tour with the family, a trip to the beach with friends, or the long haul home from college when the second semester ends, American motorists log millions of collective miles on those summer road trips. A US Department of Transportation study found that the average recreational summer road trip sees an average of a 314-mile drive one-way on such trips, or more than 600 miles in total. Many trips, of course, measure well into the thousands of miles.

Road trips can be enjoyable and relatively inexpensive compared with air travel, but they can do a number on the car, truck, or SUV logging all those miles. To keep your vehicle in its best possible shape, you need to complete a number of car care tasks after the long drive is over, and these go beyond the routine maintenance you offer a commuter vehicle.

Here are the steps to take to service a car after a long summer road trip.


Restored P-51 Mustang returns for mission over Germany

(U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Alexandra Singer)

1. Clean the car thoroughly, inside and out

After days on the road, deep cleaning your car is a necessary and timely step. As Mike Schultz, Senior Vice President of Research Development with Turtle Wax explains: “Not only are smashed bugs unsightly on your ride, but some also contain acidic substances, which can bite into the paint. Simply trying to scrape of stuck-on bugs can damage paint, too.”

He recommends using a dedicated car cleaning product to lift away the smashed insects. You should also remove floor mats and thoroughly clean the car’s carpets and upholstery and then let it air out for hours to prevent mold growth.

Restored P-51 Mustang returns for mission over Germany

(U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Nathanael Callon)

2. Check the tire treads

Long drives can wear down tires past their point of full efficacy and safety, so check the treads once you get home.

As Fred Thomas, Vice President and General Manager for Goodyear Retail explains: “Proper tire depth is an easy way to help maximize safety and performance. There are several ways to check tread depth, including the ‘penny test.’ Simply insert a penny into your tire’s tread groove with Lincoln’s head upside down, facing you. If you can see all of Lincoln’s head, it’s time to replace your tires.”

Restored P-51 Mustang returns for mission over Germany

(U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Bailee A. Darbasie)

3. Add a fuel stabilizer to the tank

After a long road trip, it’s likely you won’t use your car as heavily for a period of time, especially if you live in a city and store the vehicle elsewhere.

Adding a fuel stabilizer to the gas tank can help fuel remain fresh and prevent corrosion. If your car is likely to go unused for more than a month following your long drive (or any time) you should use a fuel stabilizer.

Restored P-51 Mustang returns for mission over Germany

(U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Nathanael Callon)

4. Top off the fluids

Beth Gibson, Experiential Travel Expert with Avis Car Rental says: “Fluids are like blood for your car, and after a long trip they’ll be depleted. To keep levels where they should be and ensure your car is in drivable condition for the next time you use it, replenish windshield wiper fluid, and transmission fluid,” and so on.

Restored P-51 Mustang returns for mission over Germany

(U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Bailee A. Darbasie)

5. Get an oil change

Even if your car isn’t due for an oil change for another few months or few hundred miles, it’s a good idea to get an oil change after a long trip.

The extended journey will have put more strain than usual on the motor, especially if your vehicle was towing a trailer or was more heavily laden than normal what with luggage and passengers.

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(U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Bailee A. Darbasie)

6. Replace the wiper blades

Auto experts recommend you get fresh wiper blades twice a year anyway, but the likely heavy use your windshield wipers saw during a long road trip may necessitate earlier replacement.

Wiper blades usually cost less than and you can install them yourself or have a shop do it, which will likely only charge you for 15 minutes of labor.

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(U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Bailee A. Darbasie)

7. Run a diagnostics check-up

You can buy a top quality OBD-II scanner that lets you assess all sorts of systems within your car for less than , and using such a scanner might detect an issue before it becomes a big problem, saving you an even costlier repair.

After a long drive, these scanners can check everything from filter quality to engine health, and it can explain what’s behind that annoying check engine light.

Restored P-51 Mustang returns for mission over Germany

(U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Bailee A. Darbasie)

8. Test your brakes

Jenni Newman, editor-in-chief, Cars.com, says: “You gave your car a work out on that long road trip – now it’s time to pay extra attention to how it’s driving now that you’re back on local roads with slower speed limits. Is there a squeal happening when you hit the brakes or a weird sound coming from the wheel? Give your ride a test drive so that you know what work needs to be done when you take it in for maintenance.”

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

A hacker tried to sell killer drone manual on the Dark Web

A hacker who got ahold of sensitive US military documents tried to sell them on a dark-web forum — only to find there were no buyers. The hacker was forced to lower his price to $150.

After a team of undercover analysts from Recorded Future’s Insikt Group embedded themselves with users from the dark-web forum, they came across the hacker who exploited a simple vulnerability on Netgear-brand routers.

Through this exploit, the hacker gained access to documents belonging to a US Air Force service member stationed at the Creech Air Force Base in Nevada, and documents belonging to another service member believed to be in the US Army.


The sensitive files included a maintenance manual for the MQ-9A Reaper drone, a list of airmen assigned to a Reaper drone unit, manuals on how to suppress improvised explosive devices, and an M1 Abrams tank manual.

Although the materials do not appear to be classified, the information was still prohibited from being “released to another nation without specific authority” and was intended for “military purposes only.”

The hacker also tapped into live footage of surveillance cameras at the US-Mexico border and NASA bases, and an MQ-1 Predator flying over the Gulf of Mexico.

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The MQ-9A Reaper

(U.S. Air Force photo)

The hacker claimed to have stolen “classified” information from the Pentagon, but Insikt Group’s analysts say their interactions with the hacker painted a less sophisticated picture. After building a rapport with other users on the dark-web forum, analysts chatted with the hacker and discovered he possessed “above amateur” abilities and may have been part of a group within a larger group.

“I wouldn’t say that they possess skills of highly advanced threat-actors,” Andrei Barysevich, a researcher at Recorded Future, told Business Insider. “They have enough knowledge to realize the potential of a very simple vulnerability and use it consistently.”

Analysts say they have a “good level of confidence” of the hacker’s identity, and are coordinating with Homeland Security officials in their investigation. A DHS representative declined to comment on the matter and the affected Air Force drone unit did not respond to requests for comment.

He didn’t fear the Reaper

The hacker may not have been fully aware of the nature of the information he possessed. At one point, he complained that he was unable to find interested buyers for the files — which he believed were highly valuable. He ultimately lowered his price.

“I expect about 0 or 0 for being classified information” he said, according to a transcript.

In an attempt to make a quick sale, he was also “proactive in giving” samples to analysts, which in turn allowed them to determine whom the documents were stolen from.

“[It] clearly shows he had no knowledge of how much this data may cost and where and whom to sell it to,” analyst Barysevich said. “He was attempting to get rid of it as soon as possible.”

After Barysevich’s team alerted US officials, the vulnerable computers were taken offline. That move ultimately cut off the hacker’s access to the files.

The hacker, who is believed to live in a poverty-stricken country in South America, said his internet connection was slow and that, because his bandwidth was limited, he did not download as much information as he had hoped to, prior to finding a willing buyer.

Instead, he relied on screenshots and shared them with the analysts, who say they believe he was still unable to find a buyer.

Restored P-51 Mustang returns for mission over Germany

(Amazon)

A password impasse

The Netgear router vulnerability, which dates back to 2016, allowed hackers to access private files remotely if a user’s password is outdated. Despite several firmware updates and countless news articles on the subject, thousands of routers remain vulnerable.

A simple search on Shodan, a search engine for devices connected to the internet, reveals more than 4,000 routers that are susceptible to the attack.

“We’re literally talking about thousands of systems,” Barysevich said. “And many of them appear to be operated by government employees.”

Hackers, like the one Barysevich’s team encountered, would scan large segments of the internet by country, identify which routers would have a standard port used by private servers, and then use the default password to discover private files.

It’s difficult to match the contents of the files with their owners, but that’s not exactly the point. It’s a brute-force method with only one goal in mind: to find valuable data and exploit it.

“Sadly, very few understand the importance of properly securing wireless access points [WAP], and even fewer use strong passwords and understand how to spot phishing emails,” Recorded Future said in a report.

“The fact that a single hacker with moderate technical skills was able to identify several vulnerable military targets and exfiltrate highly sensitive information in a week’s time is a disturbing preview of what a more determined and organized group with superior technical and financial resources could achieve.”

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

popular

Watch rare footage of a Kamikaze attack caught on film

Kamikaze pilots struck fear in the hearts of allied troops as they conducted their nose-dives right into U.S. ships during World War II’s Pacific fight.


Reportedly, the first kamikaze operation of the war occurred during the Battle of the Leyte Gulf in the Philippines.

After a mission had been planned, the pilots of the “Special Attack Corps” received a slip of paper with three options: to volunteer out of a strong desire, to simply volunteer, or to decline.

Related: This video shows rare footage from an actual Vietcong ambush

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These Kamikaze pilots pose together for the last time in front of a zero fighter plane before taking off from the Imperial Army airstrip.

On Apr. 6, 1944, Marines and sailors aboard Naval vessels located in the Pacific were going about their regular workday knowing the enemy was planning something soon — something big.

On the nearby island, the Japanese gathered every operational plane remaining in their arsenal. Many of the Kamikaze pilots were inexperienced but highly devoted to the Empire.

Once they were armed and loaded, the flying fleet took off in waves heading toward their American targets.

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A Kamikaze operated plane takes off from the Japanese airstrip heading toward their American target. (Source: Smithsonian Channel)

As the suicidal pilots reached their target, they began an attack that would supersede any air raid in history. Over the course of two days, over 350 enemy planes imposed absolute havoc on the allied vessels.

As American forces defended themselves with well-trained fighter pilots and ship gunners, the enemies’ ambitious nature proved costly.

The Japanese crashed over 1,900 planes in choreographed kamikaze dives around Okinawa — sinking a total 126 ships and damaging 64 others.

Also Read: This is actual footage of the Japanese surrender aboard the USS Missouri

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Sailors and Marines work together putting out the fires caused by the Kamikaze pilots. (Source: Smithsonian Channel/ Screenshot)

Although the destruction took a toll on allied forces, it also helped fortify their motivation to continue with the fight — eventually defeating their Japanese adversaries.

Check out the Smithsonian Channel’s video below to see the historic and rare footage for yourself.

Smithsonian Channel, YouTube
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South Korea’s Marines are almost as scary as the Americans’

The United States Marine Corps has long lived by Mattis’ motto of “no better friend, no worse enemy.” They make for very scary opponents, able to defeat enemies who greatly outnumber them — just ask the Chinese about the Chosin Reservoir; they know who really won that battle.


But the Republic of Korea Marine Corps is almost as scary to foes as the United States Marine Corps, and for good reason. While the United States Marine Corps has been around for 242 years, the South Korean Marines have only been around since 1949. That’s 68 years. Not bad, but still a mere one-seventh of the time the American leathernecks have been kicking ass.

South Korean Marines saw action in Vietnam when their 2nd Marine Brigade was deployed alongside two divisions from the Republic of Korea Army. During the war, a company of South Korean Marines was attacked by three battalions of North Vietnamese and Viet Cong troops. When the fighting was finished, the South Korean Marines had triumphed, losing only 15, a small fraction of the 306 enemy troops killed.

U.S. Army studies of the South Korean forces that fought in Vietnam noted that the South Korean troops in general, including their Marines, had taken great steps forward since the Korean War. They even seized more weapons than American units did in similar operations.

 

Restored P-51 Mustang returns for mission over Germany
Republic of Korea Marines provide security after they dismount a CH-53 Sea Stallion helicopter during the two-day culmination of Exercise Key Resolve/Foal Eagle 2008 at Rodriguez Live Fire Complex in South Korea March 8, 2008. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Freddy G. Cantu)

After the Vietnam War, the South Koreans turned to their Marine Corps to establish a special unit to retaliate against North Korean commando attacks. This unit’s motto translates, roughly, to “kill them all, let God sort it out.”

Today, the South Korean Marines are looking to modernize their force. On November 23, 2010, North Korean forces shelled Yeonpyeong Island. As a result, South Korean Marines are getting new return-firepower, like the K9 howitzer. To learn more about this elite fighting force, check out the video below:

(Warthog Defense | YouTube)

MIGHTY TACTICAL

This suppressed pistol was custom made for Navy SEALs

The Mk 22 is a modified Smith & Wesson M39 pistol with a silencer, but it’s mostly known as the “Hush Puppy.”


During the 1960s, the Navy SEALs were just starting to develop their clandestine techniques that would eventually turn them into one of the finest fighting forces in the world. Being special operations commandos, they had their pick of conventional and non-conventional military weapons.

One of those was the M39. But after a few runs in the field, the frogmen started asking for modifications, which resulted in a longer barrel threaded at the muzzle to accept the screw-on suppressor, among other modifications.

“We’d go into these villages at two or three o’clock in the morning, and the dogs and ducks raised all kinds of kain [noise],” said former Navy SEAL Chief James “Patches” Watson in the video below. “We needed something to shut them up without disturbing the whole neighborhood.”

The gun was fantastic for silencing noisy dogs, hence its nickname. (Editor’s note: please don’t kill dogs.)

American inventor, Hiram Percy Maxim created the first commercially successful firearm suppressor in the early 1900s, giving way to the quietest gun on the battlefield.

Ironically, his father, Hiram Stevens Maxim, was the inventor of one of the loudest — the Maxim Gun. This weapon was the first fully automatic machine gun, according to the Encyclopedia Britannica.

Maxim Jr.’s suppressors were popular in the 1920s and 30s among shooters and sportsmen before being adopted by the Office of Strategic Services — the predecessor of the modern CIA — during World War II. The next use by the American military were by the Navy SEALs, according to this American Heroes Channel video:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rm9zGv8oIR8

American Heroes Channel, YouTube

popular

Actually, the Maginot Line was a good idea

The Maginot Line is a historic meme, a shrine to the failure of fixed defenses in the age of tanks and planes. But modern historians are increasingly making a bold claim: It wasn’t the Maginot Line that failed, it was diplomacy and French armored tactics.


The Maginot Line: Actually a Good Idea
www.youtube.com

YouTube channel Historigraph has a pretty great primer on this concept that you can check out above, but we’re going to go over his arguments and that of historians below.

The purpose of the Maginot Line was to secure France’s border with German so well that, even accounting for Germany’s much larger population and birth rate, no attack over the border could succeed. This was to be achieved with strong defenses and massive concentrations of artillery.

And so it was constructed with thick concrete — reaching 12-feet thick in the most secure bunkers — and artillery and machine guns with overlapping fields of fire along a 280-mile front. The defenses were so imposing that military planners counted on second-rate troops to man them in case of a war.

But why would French planners place second-rate troops on the border with their greatest nemesis, even if they had great defenses? Because the French knew that Germany wasn’t limited to attacking over its shared border with France. And the military wanted its best troops available to fortify the less built-up grasslands in Belgium.

France had a deal with Belgium that, in case of a likely or actual invasion by a foreign army, would allow French troops to operate on Belgian soil. The plan was for the best French divisions to form a battle line with their Belgian counterparts along the River Meuse and Albert Canal.

The River Meuse was a great, natural bit of terrain for defenders that, when combined with the Albert Canal, would allow Belgian and French forces to hold back an attacking army for an extended time. It had seen fighting in World War I, and it always went bad for the attacker.

Restored P-51 Mustang returns for mission over Germany
A French Char B1 tank destroyed by its crew. The Char B1 was a good tank with thick armor, a strong 75mm gun, and acceptable speed. But French armor was not used effectively in the defense of France despite France having about as many tanks as Germany did.
(Bundesarchiv Bild)

Nearly all of France’s tanks and most of her best troops would man this barrier and prevent a German invasion from the north. But, German forces would be forced to come against this defensive line because the only alternative was attacking against the Maginot Line — suicide.

But there were two flaws in France’s assumptions that wouldn’t be revealed until too late. The first was that Belgium was a neutral state in Europe prior to 1914. When Belgium was formed in 1830, it was as a neutral buffer state and all the major European powers gave some guarantee towards that neutrality. Most of the pledges stopped short of saying they would necessarily defend Belgium if it were invaded, but that was the general understanding.

So, Belgium was not actuallysuper comfortable with being an ally of a major European power in case of war. The country preferred neutrality instead. The other big problem was that Belgium in 1936 had a young and inexperienced king who headed a small military. King Leopold III needed strong guarantees of French resolve.

Restored P-51 Mustang returns for mission over Germany
A Panzer IV pushes through France in 1940.
(Bundesarchiv Bild)

And so when Germany violated the Treaty of Versailles by moving their own troops into the Rhineland, German territory that was off limits to its military under the terms that ended World War I, Leopold III became scared. Rather than count on France to hold up its end of the bargain, he broke the pact with France and reasserted Belgian neutrality.

And that is what made the Maginot Line suddenly much less useful. Sure, it would still force the Germans to go around it, allowing 943 miles of border to be guarded with lower-tier troops. But France now had hundreds of miles of border, most of it bare plains, that were guarded by nothing but Belgian hopes and dreams.

Hitler invaded and France raced to set up a defensive line as deep into Belgium as they could. But the Germans broke through Belgian defenses even more quickly than anyone could have guessed, partially because the Belgians had under-supplied one of the world’s best forts.

Restored P-51 Mustang returns for mission over Germany
The Fort Eban Emael as it was captured by German troops.

Fort Eban-Emael was the anchor of defenses on the Albert Canal, but Germany landed a bare 87 paratroopers on top of the fort, which was built into a hill, and captured it. The defenders had machine guns and artillery that could sweep the top of the hill, but their weapons maintenance was shoddy and the artillery lacked the canister shot that would have been most effective.

The fort fell in the first day, and the three bridges it guarded were soon lost as well. The Germans swept east and finally encountered the French digging in on the River Dyle. And here was where French armored doctrine failed. French tanks were only slightly outnumbered, but were committed to battle piecemeal while German armor was formed into strong columns capable of forcing opening in French lines and then exploiting them.

And the French also underestimated the ability of modern tanks to navigate the tough terrain of the Ardennes Forest, failing to send either a counterattack or bombers to the forest despite multiple reports that German armor was making its way through.

Restored P-51 Mustang returns for mission over Germany
American troops look at Maginot Line defenses during the drive to Berlin in 1944.
(U.S. Army Signal Corps)

And so, the Maginot Line stood, strong and proud and funneling German troops north just like it was supposed to. The Maginot Line allowed France to choose its ground. But because of diplomatic missteps and a failure by French generals to understand the changing role of the tank, the defensive lines to the north failed.

The general argument against the Maginot Line is that the money should have spent on tanks, planes, and other modern equipment instead, but those were the exact assets which France failed to properly employ.

Today, fixed defenses are out of vogue as strategic bombing and bunker busters have made them nearly impossible to man for long. But they had one last hurrah in them in the Battle of France — if only their successes had been combined with good combined arms maneuvering.

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