During the Cold War, the U.S. Air Force experimented with a seemingly crazy idea for dispersing the weight of their heaviest bomber across the tarmac of airports and bases. They would fit the bombers with tank tread-inspired landing gear.
Convair XB-36 takeoff during its first flight on March 29, 1950. (Photo: U.S. Air Force)
When flying shorter routes, the plane could carry as much as 86,000 pounds.
The massive B-36 was slowly developed throughout World War II but was finished too late for the war. The first bomber rolled off the line six days after the Japanese surrender. But the plane’s capabilities, carrying 10,000 pounds of ordnance to targets thousands of miles away, made the plane perfect for a nuclear strike role in the Cold War.
There was one big problem, though. The B-36 was extremely heavy, about 419,000 pounds when fully armed. And all that weight initially sat on two smaller tires in the front and two larger ones under the wings.
The weight on each tire was so great, the Peacemakers risked sinking into the concrete if they were parked for too long on most airstrips.
So the Air Force tried out a novel solution. They installed tank tread landing gear under the nose and both wings of the plane, allowing the weight to be spread over a much larger area.
Initial tests of the system were successful, but the Air Force scrapped it anyway. It focused on improving more airstrips rather than putting the bulky system on production B-36s. It did start buying the planes with four smaller wheels under each wing instead of the single large one, which also helped with the pressure per square inch on airfields.
Thirty-three days into the US government shutdown, the only military branch affected has missed one paycheck and is on the verge of losing its next.
The Coast Guard and its roughly 41,000 active-duty members are part of the Homeland Security Department, which wasn’t funded before the government shut down last month. The other branches are part of the Defense Department, which is fully funded.
Officials found a way to pay Coast Guard members on Dec. 31, 2018, but no such maneuver was possible for Jan. 15, 2019. Legislative action is needed this week to make sure a check comes on Jan. 30, 2019. Pay and benefits for Coast Guard civilian workers and retirees are also on the line.
Petty Officer 3rd Class Bryan Evans, a Coast Guard Air Station Miami rescue swimmer, conducts a free-fall deployment from a MH-65 Dolphin helicopter east of Miami Beach, June 6, 2017.
(Photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Eric D. Woodal)
‘We are in uncharted waters’
Some Coast Guard operations, like safety boardings and license services, have been curtailed, but missions related to saving lives and national security continue. Now the service’s current and former commandants have weighed in, rebuking the inaction prolonging the shutdown.
In a video posted Jan. 22, 2019, commandant Adm. Karl Schultz told service members that he, the service’s leadership, and the public “stand in awe of your continued dedication to duty and resilience and that of your families.”
“We’re five-plus weeks into the anxiety and stress of this government lapse and your non-pay. You as members of the armed forces should not be expected to shoulder this burden,” Schultz said.
Schultz said he was heartened by assistance being officer to service members. “But ultimately I find it unacceptable that Coast Guard men and women have to rely food pantries and donations to get through day-to-day life.”
Coast Guard commandant Adm. Karl Schultz, left, with Navy Secretary Richard V. Spencer and Alaska Sen. Dan Sullivan, right, in Nome, Aug. 13, 2018.
(Photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Jetta Disco)
Paul Zukunft, who retired in June 2018 as an admiral after his four-year term as commandant, was more blunt in a column for the US Naval Institute’s Proceedings Magazine titled “Breaking Faith with America’s Coast Guard.”
Despite the service’s extensive and varied responsibilities and continuous operations, the Coast Guard is often overlooked by the public and by congressional appropriators, Zukunft writes.
“To add insult to injury, the Coast Guard is no longer ‘doing more with less,’ but ‘doing all with nothing,'” Zukunft says. “I have served shoulder to shoulder with our service members during previous government shutdowns and listened to the concerns of our all-volunteer force. This current government shutdown is doing long-term harm and is much more than pablum to feed the 24-hour news cycle.”
“We are now in uncharted waters given its duration and the hardship it’s causing, particularly at many Coast Guard installations that reside in high-cost communities along the US coastline where service personnel already live paycheck-to-paycheck to pay the bills and meet childcare costs that can exceed ,000 per month for one child.”
Family and friends reunite with crew members on Coast Guard Cutter Bertholf’s flight deck upon the cutter’s after a 90-day deployment, Sept. 4, 2018.
(Photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Matthew S. Masaschi)
‘We can only take it day by day’
For the more than 14,000 junior members of the Coast Guard — about one-third of the active-duty force — base pay is considered to be at or just under the poverty level, three former master chief petty officers said in an op-ed, adding that most of them don’t have the resources to live without pay “over any extended period.”
“We chose to make some sacrifices when we signed up or married into the Coast Guard,” Coast Guard spouse Susan Bourassa told Military Times. “We’re proud to be there. But part of making those sacrifices is that we thought there was a paycheck we could count on, through thick or thin.”
Communities have rallied to support Coast Guard families — including in Alameda, California, home to four of the service’s new national-security cutters.
In January 2019, more than 600 service members, including 168 families, gathered there for a giveaway of everything from fresh fruit to diapers. The cutter Bertholf and its more than 100 crew members left Alameda for a months-long Pacific deployment. The Defense Department will reimburse the Coast Guard for the mission, but the personnel won’t be paid until the shutdown ends.
Coast Guard cutter Bertholf on a counterdrug patrol in the eastern Pacific Ocean, March 11, 2018.
(Photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Michael Trees)
In a Jan. 18, 2019 letter, vice commandant Adm. Charles Ray said Coast Guard Mutual Assistance, a nonprofit charity that assists the service, had increased the value of and expanded eligibility for interest-free loans it was offering.
Mutual Assistance is partnering with the Red Cross to distribute those funds, Schultz said in January 2019. CGMA has “secured sufficient funds to put money in your hands to bridge through your personal financial challenges,” Schultz said in his video message. “That is your fund. That is your safety net.”
Ray’s letter said the service was working with the Defense Department “to notify all privatized government housing sites that Coast Guard [basic allowance for housing] allotments will not be available until funding is restored.”
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
NASA’s Voyager 2 probe exited our solar system nearly a year ago, becoming the second spacecraft to ever enter interstellar space.
It followed six years behind its sister spacecraft, Voyager 1, which reached the limits of the solar system in 2012. But a plasma-measuring instrument on Voyager 1 had been damaged, so that probe could not gather crucial data about the transition from our solar system into interstellar space.
Voyager 2, which left the solar system with its instruments intact, completed the set of data. Scientists shared their findings for the first time on Oct. 4, 2019, via five papers published in the journal Nature Astronomy.
The analyses indicate that there are mysterious extra layers between our solar system’s bubble and interstellar space. Voyager 2 detected solar winds — flows of charged gas particles that come from the sun — leaking from the solar system. Just beyond the solar system’s edge, these solar winds interact with interstellar winds: gas, dust, and charged particles flowing through space from supernova explosions millions of years ago.
“Material from the solar bubble was leaking outside, upstream into the galaxy at distances up to a billion miles,” Tom Krimigis, a physicist who authored one of the papers, said in a call with reporters.
The new boundary layers suggest there are stages in the transition from our solar bubble to the space beyond that scientists did not previously understand.
An image of Uranus taken by Voyager 2 on January 14, 1986, from a distance of approximately 7.8 million miles.
The place where solar and interstellar winds interact
On Nov. 5, 2018, Voyager 2 left what’s known as the “heliosphere,” a giant bubble of charged particles flowing out from the sun that sheathes our solar system. In doing so, the probe crossed a boundary area called the “heliopause.” In that area, the edge of our solar system’s bubble, solar winds meet a flow of interstellar wind and fold back on themselves.
It took both spacecraft less than a day to travel through the entire heliopause. The twin probes are now speeding through a region known as the “bow shock,” where the plasma of interstellar space flows around the heliosphere, much like water flowing around the bow of a moving ship.
This illustration shows the position of NASA’s Voyager 1 and Voyager 2 probes outside the heliosphere, a protective bubble created by the sun.
Both Voyager probes measured changes in the intensity of cosmic rays as they crossed the heliopause, along with the transition between magnetic fields inside and outside the bubble.
But because so much of the transition from our solar system to the space beyond is marked by changes in plasma (a hot ionized gas that’s the most abundant state of matter in the universe), Voyager 1’s damaged instrument had difficulty measuring it.
Now the new measurements from Voyager 2 indicate that the boundaries between our solar system and interstellar space may not be as simple as scientists once thought.
The data indicates that there’s a previously unknown boundary layer just beyond the heliopause. In that area, solar winds leak into space and interact with interstellar winds. The intensity of cosmic rays there was just 90% of their intensity farther out.
“There appears to be a region just outside the heliopause where we’re still connected — there’s still some connection back to the inside,” Edward Stone, a physicist who has worked on the Voyager missions since 1972, said in the call.
An illustration of a Voyager probe leaving the solar system.
Other results from the new analyses also show a complicated the relationship between interstellar space and our solar system at its edges.
The scientists found that beyond the mysterious, newly identified layer, there’s another, much thicker boundary layer where interstellar plasma flows over the heliopause. There, the density of the plasma jumps up by a factor of 20 or more for a region spanning billions of miles. This suggests that something is compressing the plasma outside the heliosphere, but scientists don’t know what.
“That currently represents a puzzle,” Don Gurnett, an astrophysicist who authored one of the five papers, said in the call.
What’s more, the new results also showed that compared with Voyager 1, Voyager 2 experienced a much smoother transition from the heliopause to a strong new magnetic field beyond the solar system.
“That remains a puzzle,” Krimigis said.
The scientists hope to continue studying these boundaries over the next five years before the Voyager probes run out of fuel.
“The heliopause is an obstacle to the interstellar flow,” Stone added. “We want to understand that complex interaction on the largest scale as we can.”
The Voyager 2 spacecraft launches from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center on August 20, 1977.
NASA launched the Voyager probes in 1977. Voyager 2 launched two weeks ahead of Voyager 1 on a special course to explore Uranus and Neptune. It is still the only spacecraft to have visited those planets.
The detour meant that Voyager 2 reached interstellar space six years after Voyager 1. It is now NASA’s longest-running mission.
“When the two Voyagers were launched, the Space Age was only 20 years old, so it was hard to know at that time that anything could last over 40 years,” Krimigis said.
Now, he said, scientists expect to get about five more years of data from the probes as they press on into interstellar space. The team hopes the Voyagers will reach the distant point where space is undisturbed by the heliosphere before they run out of fuel.
After the spacecraft die, they’ll continue drifting through space. In case aliens ever find them, each Voyager probe contains a golden record encoded with sounds, images, and other information about life on Earth.
In the future, the researchers want to send more probes in different directions toward the edges of our solar system to study these boundary layers in more detail.
“We absolutely need more data. Here’s an entire bubble, and we only crossed at two points,” Krimigis said. “Two examples are not enough.”
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
Chief of Naval Operations (CNO) Adm. Mike Gilday sent a message to the fleet to celebrate the 245th Navy Birthday.
Below is the text of his message:
Shipmates, this year we are celebrating our 245th Birthday virtually, around the world, together.
Although this birthday is different than in past years, what has not changed is how proud we can be of two and a half centuries of tradition, as well as our Sailors and civilians who continue to build our legacy with family members and loved ones at their side.
Today, Sailors stand the watch from the Western Atlantic to the South China Sea, and from the High North to the South Pacific. Your Navy enables prosperity 24/7/365 – at home and abroad – by helping keep the maritime commons free and open. And I promise you that our allies and partners – as well as your fellow Americans – all sleep better because you are there.
Our birthday is an important occasion because we celebrate our rich past, recognize the accomplishments of our shipmates today, and look to our bright future ahead.
The Navy needs you to be the best that you can be. Serve others. Be courageous. And always remember that America has a great Navy.
Happy 245th Birthday Navy Family. See you in the Fleet, Shipmates.
“The job of the Ravens was to, literally, look for trouble. And they often found it . . .”
—Orr Kelly, FROM A DARK SKY, The Story of U.S. Air Force Special Operations
Two wars were being waged in Southeast Asia in the 1960s and early 1970s. One was the “public war” in Vietnam. Highly publicized and highly controlled from Washington, it had all the media trappings associated with major military operations. The other was a “secret war” in Laos. Waged under the tightest of security, little oversight and with minimal assets compared to the conflict in Vietnam, its objective was to interdict and destroy the flow of men, equipment and supplies along the Ho Chi Minh trail from North Vietnam to South Vietnam. Responsibility for conducting day-to-day air operations, in what one pilot called a “high risk, no-bullshit war,” was assigned to volunteers operating under the call sign Ravens, a small group of unconventional and incredibly fearless air combat controllers thinly disguised as civilian operatives.
The reason the campaign in Laos had to waged in secret was the terms of the Geneva Accords signed between the United States and the Democratic Republic of Vietnam (North Vietnam) on July 23, 1962, that guaranteed the neutrality of the Kingdom of Laos, a land-locked nation abutting Vietnam’s western border. One of the provisions in the Accords was the requirement that all foreign military forces had to leave Laos. Though the United States complied North Vietnam ignored it. Laotian Prime Minister Price Souvanna Phoumo’s request for American military aid against North Vietnam’s violation presented President John F. Kennedy’s administration with a quandary: how to comply with the prince’s request without violating the accords. Another concern was that official American military involvement might inspire a tit-for-tat response by China and the Soviet Union that risked escalating hostilities, touching off World War III.
But Laos’ strategic location, along with the fear that doing nothing would cause the country to go communist, caused President Kennedy to direct the Air Force to formulate a plan to assist Laos. Working in partnership with the CIA, the result was a covert operation placed under the command of America’s ambassador to Laos, William Sullivan, and later his successor G. McMurtrie Godley, who closely controlled all American activities there. Air Force Attaché Colonel Gus Sonnenburg and his successors directed air operations. The covert air program began modestly with the deployment in 1963 of four combat control team sergeants, call sign Butterfly.
A CIA U-10D Helio Courier aircraft sits on a covert mountaintop landing strip (LS) “Lima site” in Laos. The planes were owned by a CIA front company, Air America. Photo: Wikipedia
To get around the Geneva Accords restrictions, the Air Force Butterfly NCOs (and all subsequent volunteers) were scrubbed of their military identity and given a new civilian cover for the duration of their deployment in Laos, a process colorfully referred to as “sheep dipping.” Sitting in the co-pilot’s seat of the spotter aircraft, Butterflies would issue targeting instructions to Thai, Laotian, and later Hmong pilots trained through Project Water Pump. Originally created to teach indigenous and Thai pilots how to conduct Search and Rescue missions from forward bases along the Laotian border with Vietnam, Water Pump was soon expanded to train pilots for combat roles.
The Butterfly program came to an abrupt end in April 1966 when General William Momyer, the 7th Air Force commander, learned that the Butterflies were NCOs, and not jet fighter pilots, per doctrine. The following month, on May 5, 1966, Air Force lieutenants Jim F. Lemon and Truman (“T.R.”) Young, upon returning to Nakhon Phanom Royal Thai Air Force Base after directing air strikes at the Demilitarized Zone separating North and South Vietnam, were presented with an offer they couldn’t refuse by their commanding officer: volunteer for a secret program, and a variety of minor disciplinary breaches including “rat-racing” (unauthorized acrobatics in O-1 Bird Dogs) and furniture broken during an excessive outburst of enthusiasm at a recent party would not appear in their personnel files. The lieutenants volunteered and the Raven program was launched.
The Ravens were part of a new air campaign in Laos begun in 1967 under the code name Palace Dog/Project 404. FACs for the program included pilots trained by Colonel Henry “Heinie” Aderholt following his tour of duty as commander of the 56th Air Commando Wing at Nakhon Phanom. After that deployment he was assigned deputy chief of staff for operations at the Special Air Warfare Center (now Air Force Special Operations Force) at Eglin Air Force Base.
After completion of their training and upon arriving for duty in Vietnam the FACs were informed that after six months they could volunteer for special duty through the Steve Canyon Program. After being successfully vetted and screened, the volunteers were sent to the American embassy at the Laotian capital of Vientiane where they were sheep dipped and assigned.
Mavericks, with an aggressiveness and courage bordering on the foolhardy, and stamina to endure flying twelve or more hours a day under some of the most harrowing combat and weather conditions, the Ravens and their Hmong counterparts the Nokateng (Swooping Bird) fought the war from bases at Vientiane, Luang Prabang, Pakse, Savannakhet, and Long Chieng, flying O-1 Bird Dogs, O-2 Skymasters, modified for combat AT-28 Trojans, Porter Pilatus and other aircraft.
To say that the flights were dangerous is an understatement. Of the 191 who served as Ravens, thirty-one paid for their dedication with their lives.
Major Mike Cavanaugh was a Raven in 1969. He recalled that the intensity of action over Laos caused them to become extraordinarily adept at spotting signs of enemy presence. “One time,” he recalled, “I saw bushes which came to a ninety- degree angle. The clever devil that I am, I know that bushes don’t grow in ninety- degree angles. That’s all I had to go on; I hit it with a set of fighters. I uncovered pallet after pallet of 122 mm rockets. . . . [W]e had secondary explosions for two solid days.”
One Raven’s routine was to do a dawn patrol scouting flight before breakfast,looking for such signs of enemy activity as smoke from cook fires that might indicate an enemy bivouac, or trails where the early morning dew had been brushed away by troop traffic. Upon returning for breakfast, he’d have a checklist of locations to investigate later that morning.
On one flight another Raven, Captain Karl L. Polifka, spotted a suspicious mound in the Plaine des Jarres (Plain of Jars), so named for the thousands of megalithic stone jars scattered throughout it. After alerting the base of his finding, he was informed that Intelligence indicated it was the entrance to a cave storing 500 barrels of fuel. Polifka called in a fighter-bomber who dropped a guided bomb on the mound. The resulting explosion created a fireball 1,000 feet across and was so hot that a passing rain cloud was sucked into its vortex.
While the Ravens participated because they were volunteers, their Hmong counterparts fought because it was their country. Polifka said that the Hmong pilots’ dedication was “unsurpassed by any combat pilot anywhere. . . . They seemed to have no fear, although I do think they had a vision of early mortality.” Raven Darrel Cavanaugh said, “In close, they were damned accurate. They liked to get down there and mix it up with the bad guys.”
The best pilot among the Hmong, and his admirers argued the best combat pilot in Laos regardless of nationality, was Ly Leu (also spelled Lee Lue). A schoolteacher and son-in-law to the charismatic Hmong leader General Vang Po, Captain Ly Leu was the first Hmong to volunteer for Project Water Pump. After completing T-28 training and earning his wings at Udorn Royal Thai Air Force Base, he returned to Laos to wage war against the communists. His motto was “Fly ’til you die”
The Ravens who worked and fought with him loved him. One Raven who observed Ly Leu in action recalled that in strafing runs it was not unusual for him to fly twenty feet above the ground and that his idea of strafing “was to stick a .50 caliber gun in the enemy’s ear and pull the trigger.” From dawn to dusk, Ly Leu flew non-stop, as many as ten missions a day. After returning from a mission, to reduce downtime he’d assist in loading ordnance for the next mission before flying off again. When he landed at dusk he was so tired he had to be lifted out of the cockpit. Ly Leu averaged 120 missions a month and racked up more than 5,000 sorties during his career. On July 12, 1969, the newly promoted Major Ly Leu flew his final mission. Attacking Pathet Lao forces in Moung Soui, northwest of the Plaines des Jarres, he was shot down and killed by enemy anti-aircraft fire. Posthumously promoted by General Vang Po to lieutenant colonel, in gratitude the Americans posthumously awarded Ly Leu the Silver Star.
Though Ravens operated throughout Laos, their major base was at Long Chieng (or Long Tieng). Located southwest of the Plaine des Jarres in Xiangkhouang Province in the north central highlands of Laos, Long Chieng (officially code-named by the Americans Lima Site 30, but usually referred to as Lima Site 20 Alternate, or just “Alternate”) was located in a mountainous valley at an elevation of 3,100 feet. The Hmong are mountain dwellers and General Vang Pao made Long Chieng his headquarters, eventually gathering 30,000 troops into his guerilla army.
At its peak of operations, Long Chieng had a population of more than 40,000, and its airfield conducted about 400 flights a day, making it one of the busiest in the world. Long Chieng gained a reputation of being “the most secret place in the world” because despite its size (it was the second largest city in Laos after the capital, Vientiane, and had the world’s largest Hmong population), it never appeared on any map.
Compared to the air war over Vietnam, the forces available in Laos were negligible—the number of Ravens in Laos at any one time was always small, and General Vang Pao’s air arm often numbered less than a dozen serviceable aircraft. That was a major reason why Hmong pilots flew the high number of missions they did. Even so, they were not alone in the skies. Raven FACs, who also flew a grueling schedule, became expert in calling in Air Force assets when needed, whether it was to aid Hmong ground troops in danger of being overrun or taking out a target of opportunity.
In some cases, the enemy ironically helped the Ravens in their interdiction missions. Polifka recalled that enemy troops had been taught that an AK-47 was capable of shooting down an F-4 Phantom, something that was possible if it was flying a low-flying strafing mission. Cruising at 12,000 feet or more was another matter. But Polifka said the enemy troops didn’t take that difference of distance into account.
He recalled there would be times that he’d be on a Raven mission, flying between 2,500 and 3,000 feet and he’d look down and suddenly see a ridge line light up with muzzle flashes. “[Enemy troops] wouldn’t really be shooting at [me]; they would be shooting at a bunch of F-4s flying somewhere.” With the enemy soldiers having revealed themselves, Ravens would then call in an air strike. He said, “We know of one case where there were three survivors of a five-hundred-man battalion that straggled into a regimental command post.”
By 1969 Raven guided air operations had become so deadly and successful that Vang Pao was able to switch from guerrilla to conventional war and launch an offensive that wrested control of the Plaine des Jarres from the Pathet Lao. Though because of what happened in Vietnam ultimate victory in Laos was not achieved, the record of the Ravens’ accomplishment demonstrated that when the time came, a handful of highly skilled, dedicated, resourceful, and courageous men could accomplish a mission others regarded as impossible.
After finishing off Avengers: Endgame with a definitive and decidedly sweet ending, the next big Marvel movie — Spider-Man: Far From Home — will return to Marvel’s diabolic plans to get you to sit through the credits for extra scenes. Are there post-credits scenes for Spider-Man: Far From Home and do that matter? The answer is a big yes.
No spoilers ahead.
It’s hard to know which of these facts feels more surreal:
Tom Holland has been in five Marvel movies as Spider-Man at this point
It’s only been five years since Andrew Garfield was in his second Spider-Man movie; which also starred Jamie Foxx getting bitten by electric eels.
2019 marks twelve years since Tobey Maguire did his emo-Spider-Man dance routine in Spider-Man 3.
Feeling old yet? If so, there’s some very good news about Spider-Man: Far From Home. The post-credits scene is basically made for olds. If you remember seeing the first Tobey Maguire Spidey-flick like the same year you were able to legally buy alcohol for the first time (or maybe even before) then this post-credits scene is for you.
We aren’t going to spoil what it is exactly yet, but let’s just put it this way: There are two post-credits scenes for Spider-Man: Far From Home, and the first one is the one you’ve got to see. Technically, this is what the pros call a “mid-credits” scene because it happens pretty quickly after the movie “ends.” (These movies never end.)
Will this scene make everyone happy? Yes. Does it set-up great things for the next big phase of Marvel movies. Big yes.
So, word of warning, between now and July 2, 2019, avoid spoilers as much as you can. This might not as Endgame-level as some thought, but if you’re of a certain age, it’s going to be very, very cool.
Spider-Man: Far From Home is out in theaters on July 2, 2019, which is, friendly reminder, a freaking Tuesday.
This article originally appeared on Fatherly. Follow @FatherlyHQ on Twitter.
An innovative in-ear headset is being tested by the 100th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron and 100th Maintenance Squadron at RAF Mildenhall, England.
The device, which uses the bones in the user’s ear to transmit sound waves, provides both communication and hearing preservation capabilities to airmen working in noisy environments.
RAF Mildenhall was awarded funding to test the product after US Air Forces in Europe and Air Forces Africa identified the base’s proposal, to incorporate bone conduction communication technology into their operations, as especially innovative. The base was paired with Denmark-based INVISIO, a hearing protection and communications company, which was able to supply a product using this technology.
“We’re funded by USAFE-AFAFRICA specifically to provide feedback and input to the Air Force on whether bone conduction is a viable option across many platforms,” explained US Air Force Master Sgt. Christopher Pettingill, 100th AMXS continuous process improvement and innovation manager. “We get to be the guinea pig and determine if it works for us and whether it’s worth investing in more.”
Maintenance airmen will be required to wear over the ear hearing protection in addition to the product, but they will more clearly be able to communicate due to the in-ear headset microphone.
“When aircraft engines are running or in a loud environment, our maintainers are required to wear ear plugs in addition to a headset,” said Pettingill. “Imagine sticking ear plugs in your ear and then trying to have a conversation with somebody; it doesn’t work. Enter the dual in-ear headset. This product offers hearing protection and also a microphone you can communicate with.”
A dual in-ear headset at RAF Mildenhall, England, July 30, 2019. The headset, which provides hearing protection and situational awareness to the user, is being tested at RAF Mildenhall to determine whether the Air Force will invest further in the technology.
(Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Joseph Barron)
In addition to enhancing hearing protection and communication abilities for maintainers, the device will also benefit airmen in other career fields during exercises and real-world conditions, circumstances which necessitate the wearing of protective gear.
“RAF Mildenhall wanted to invest in the product not only due to the advantages it would provide the maintenance squadron, but also the ease of communication it would provide users in an exercise or in a real world event,” said Pettingill. “If you’re wearing a gas mask and you are trying to communicate with a radio, it’s going to be muffled. The product provides a better alternative to radios, which you actually have to bring up to your face to speak into.”
The 100th AMXS and 100th MXS production staff were chosen to test the in-ear headset because they are responsible for the movement of manpower and resources on the flight line, including such things as where aircraft are parked, when fuel is dispatched and which maintainers service certain aircraft, responsibilities that make communication essential. They were given the opportunity to provide their feedback about what they liked and disliked about a device not initially designed for maintenance Airmen, but special operators.
“We’re afforded the resources and the money to provide that feedback,” said Pettingill. “It’s not all positive, but that should be expected. We’ll just have to make adjustments.”
Both maintenance squadrons continue to test the in-ear headsets they have, but they’re waiting for funding to become available that will allow them to purchase the bulk of the headsets for testing.
“Once we’re ready to execute, we will outfit our maintainers and encourage them to use the product as much as possible. We’re going for a single issue rollout, so each airman will be assigned their own headset,” said Pettingill.
RAF Mildenhall’s position as the only installation in the Air Force to be testing this technology is due in large part to the maintenance senior leaders who were convinced of the product’s worthiness.
“It’s a huge honor to be able to test this innovative product,” remarked Pettingill. “We’re afforded the ability to try things out, and that’s why we are so successful. It doesn’t surprise me that we’re the first to do these things. Our leadership has our back.”
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
Last week the U.S. Air Force tweeted to the world that it needs help naming its newest bomber, the B-21 Long Range Strike Bomber. (What could possibly go wrong?) Well … we discuss the possibilities and provide examples where crowdsourcing failed. We also discuss the OV-10 Bronco’s comeback and what it means in the fight against ISIS. And on a lighter note, we talk about which service branch we’d join knowing what we know about the military today.
During World War II, the Allies, especially Britain, worked hard to convince Germany that every attack it saw was a feint and that every shadow in its vision was another Allied army coming to crush it. These deception operations led to the creation of an entire, fake invasion of Norway that was supposed to keep German defenders away from Normandy on D-Day.
Norwegian soldiers on the Narvik front in World War II.
The overall deception operation was known as Operation Bodyguard, a reference to a speech by Prime Minister Winston Churchill that said Truth was too precious and fragile to go anywhere without a Bodyguard of Lies. And when it came to D-Day, Bodyguard was on steroids.
To understand how deception operations worked for D-Day, it’s important to understand that the actual landings at Normandy weren’t necessarily logical. The Normandy landings took no deepwater port, and the terrain in the area forced the Allied invaders to fight through thousands of hedgerows to break out into the rest of France. Even after that, it was over 600 miles from there to Berlin, and the bulk of that was through German homeland.
So, while the D-Day landings of Operation Neptune were successful and Germany lost the war, it wasn’t the easiest or, arguably, even the most logical course of action. After all, there were two succulent nuts that would be easier to crack than Normandy.
German troops in the Balkans in 1941.
(Bundesarchiv Bild, CC BY-SA 3.0)
The first and likely the easiest 1944 target for the Allies would’ve been an invasion into the Balkans, the soft underbelly of Europe. Allied troops were already holding the lowest third of Italy, all of North Africa, and Turkey, so they had plenty of places to invade from. And taking the Balkans from Hitler would’ve robbed him of much of his oil, copper, and bauxite, among other materials.
But another juicy target was Norway. Norway had been captured by Germany early in the war because Hitler knew that he needed a large Atlantic coastline to prevent his navy being bottled up in the Baltic and North seas like it had in World War I. And, the German presence in Norway helped keep Sweden neutral and amenable. If Norway fell, Sweden might allow Allied forces in its borders or, worse, join the alliance itself.
From Sweden or Norway, the Allies could easily bomb northern German factories and take back Denmark. And an invasion through Denmark would put the Allied forces less than 450 miles from Berlin, and only half of that path would be through German home territory.
And so Allied strategists played up the possibility of a Norway invasion, seeking to keep as many German units as possible deployed there to make the actual landings in France much easier.
Danish troops during Germany’s invasion in 1940.
This led to Operation Mespot, a coordinated plan to move troops, create false planning documents, and pass fake intelligence that would indicate an invasion into Norway, through friendly Sweden, and into Denmark in the summer of 1944, right as the actual D-Day invasions were taking place. According to the Mespot deception, the D-Day landings were the feint to draw German defenders from real invasions in the Baltics.
The part that related directly to an invasion of Norway was Operation Fortitude North, and it called for a British and American landing in the North. There, the forces would link up with Russian soldiers and press south. In order to sell this subterfuge, Britain ordered dozens of double agents from Germany to report on the movements of the “4th Army,” a fake organization that would be a major force in the invasion.
Those second two units were real, and the 52nd had actually been training for a potential invasion of Norway. So Germany wasn’t completely crazy.
The British 4th Army was a field army in World War I, and military deception planners revived the unit in World War II on paper in order to create fake units to deceive German defenders.
(Imperial War Museum)
The American troops were supposedly talkative, and German agents were told stories of another infantry division and three Ranger battalions training in Iceland. German double agents there were told to verify this false intelligence, and they did. In the end, Germany thought 79 divisions were training in England for invasions when there were only 52, and they believed that the main target might be Norway.
Since Hitler was already obsessed with a Baltic invasion, all of this intel fed into his fears and demanded a response. And so one was given. 464,000 German troops were held in Norway to fight off an Allied invasion. While many would have been there regardless, 150,000 were otherwise “surplus” troops who likely would’ve been sent to France to combat the landings if Germany had known Norway was relatively safe.
There was also a Panzer division and 1,500 coastal defense guns, many of which could have been moved if Germany had better intelligence.
British forces land on the beaches of Normandy on June 6, 1944.
(Sgt. Mapham J, No. 5 Army Film Photographic Unit)
All of this had a real effect for Allied troops on the French beaches. Combined with the success of the famous Ghost Army, deception operations towards the Balkans, and German missteps, the D-Day landings faced much less resistance than they otherwise would have.
While Germany was defending Normandy, Denmark, and Greece, it was getting pummeled in France.
While it was a clear message to North Vietnamese forces that American troops were moving away from just a support role for South Vietnam, the Marine landing was an administrative landing in friendly territory. The Marines of 3rd Battalion, 9th Marines would not come under enemy fire in their initial foray into the country, according to Global Security.
Instead of encountering bullets, the Marines were greeted by welcoming South Vietnamese troops and pretty girls giving them leis of flowers.
“Nevertheless, a new phase of the Vietnam war had begun. About one-third of the Marine ground forces and two-thirds of the Marine helicopter squadrons in the Western Pacific had been committed to South Vietnam,” reads an official Marine Corps history of the service’s involvement in Vietnam.
It wouldn’t be long before U.S. troops were involved in major combat operations. In August, four Marine infantry battalions launched Operation Starlite in order to repel Vietcong forces from the area around the Chu Lai Air Base.
From The Guardian:
The landing was carefully stage managed. The troops were given a warm welcome by a delegation of smiling children and traditionally dressed Vietnamese women brandishing garlands of flowers. A sign held aloft read: “Welcome, Gallant Marines.” It was an incongruous beginning for the marines, and their mission – to defend the city’s air base during the Operation Rolling Thunder bombing campaign against targets in the North – seemed straightforward. Nobody on the beach that day had any idea of the long and tortuous conflict that was to follow. By the end of the year, nearly 185,000 troops had been deployed as the war escalated. A decade later when Saigon fell and US soldiers made their final exit, more than 540,000 Americans had served in Vietnam – more than 58,000 were killed.
Strange as it may seem (though maybe not so much, considering America’s basic love of all things military), today’s generation of kids probably know more about military strategy than many generals of a hundred years ago. Why? In a phrase: “Video games.” From World of Warcraft to Halo, Modern War to Fallout 4, gamers these days get quite the education in military strategy well before they’re old enough to attend West Point.
Maybe that’s kind of a natural thing for a nation that proudly boasts the largest and most powerful military in human history. All things considered, it shouldn’t be that weird. And yet somehow, we bet you’ll be surprised by exactly how many of these classic military strategies you already know. You might not know the names of the strategies themselves, or the history behind them. But you’ll probably find at least half of these strategies oddly familiar.
Vote up the most genius military strategies below, and be sure to let us know what you think in the comment section.
“The Hump” was the nickname Allied pilots gave the airlift operation that crossed the Himalayan foothills into China. It was the Army Air Force’s most dangerous airlift route, but it was the only way to supply Chinese forces fighting Japan — and things weren’t going well for China.
World War II began in 1937 for Chiang Ki-Shek’s nationalist China. By the time the United States began running supplies to the Chinese forces fighting Japan, the Western part of the country was firmly controlled by the invading Japanese. The Japanese also controlled Burma, on India’s Eastern border, cutting off the last land route to the Chinese. Aid would have to come by air and American planes would have to come from the West — over the “Roof of the World.”
But getting there was terribly inefficient.
As a matter of fact, the original plan to bomb targets on the Japanese mainland involved flying B-29s loaded with fuel over the Hump from India into China. But when the planes landed at Shangdu, they would often have to take on fuel to ensure they could make the flight home, as recounted by then-Army Air Forces officer and later Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara in the film The Fog of War.
Beyond the inefficiency of flying the Hump, it was incredibly dangerous. More than 1,000 men and 600 planes were lost over the 530-mile stretch of rugged terrain, and that’s a very conservative estimate. It was dubbed the “Skyway to Hell” and the “Aluminum Trail” for the number of planes that didn’t make it.
Some 14 million Chinese died and up to 100 million became refugees during the eight years of fighting between China and Japan.
1. Flying the Hump was central to winning the war.
When reading about World War II’s Pacific Theater, what comes up most often is the gallantry and bravery of Marines, Sailors, and Coasties who were part of the island hopping campaign. We also hear a lot about the bomber groups of airmen who devastated the Japanese home islands. What we seldom hear about is the U.S. Army in the China, India, Burma theater who were busy building a 1,000-mile road and flying over the Himalayan foothills to keep China in the fight.
And this was vitally important.
China is a vast country and when the Communists and nationalists joined forces to take on the Japanese, they were a massive force to take on. Three million Chinese soldiers kept 1.25 million Japanese troops in China, away from the ever-creeping Allies who were taking island after island, slowly getting closer to the Japanese mainland.
China was fighting for survival.
2. Extreme weather took down more U.S. pilots than the Japanese.
Forget, for a moment, that American pilots were flying planes dubbed “The Flying Coffin” — the Curtiss C-46 Commando — at times. The mountain ranges of the Himalayas caused jetstream-strength winds and dangerous weather at extreme altitudes. And when that doesn’t take you, a Japanese Zero will be there to try.
Pilots would plod along at ground speeds of around 30 miles per hour while the wind lifted their planes to 28,000 feet and then back to 6,000 shortly after. If pilots weren’t fighting ice storms or thunderstorms, they were fighting the Japanese.
Where dreams (and air crews) go to die.
3. Many pilots flying the Hump were newbies.
Although the China National Aviation Corporation ran the route before the war and its pilots continued to run cargo over the Hump, the Army’s pilots were newly-trained flying officers with little experience flying in anything, let alone extreme weather. Even General Henry “Hap” Arnold — the only General of the Air Force ever bestowed such a title — got lost due to lack of oxygen flying the Hump.
This may have added to the fatality rate on the route — a full one-third of the men flying it died there.
4. If the weather didn’t get them, the terrain might.
Pilots traversing the route had to fly the Kali Gandaki River Gorge, a depression much wider and deeper than the Grand Canyon. The mountains surrounding the gorge were 10,000 feet higher than most of the planes could fly. The pass to escape the gorge was 15,000 high — but pilots couldn’t often see it.
It looks cold even in black and white.
5. Inside the plane wasn’t great either.
Pilots were issued fleece-lined jackets, boots, and gloves to keep their extremities from freezing during the flight. Lack of oxygen could cause pilots to veer off-course and into an almost certain death. C-46 cargo planes did not glide, their heavy engines causing an almost immediate dive. Once out of fuel, crews would have to bail out with minimal protection, cold weather gear, and nine rounds of a .45-caliber pistol.
When you’re flying your next Hump mission and just want to see the sights before you die.
6. That last bullet is for you.
Whether crashing or bailing out into the freezing cold or jumping into enemy-held territory, there would be no search and rescue mission coming for crews flying the Hump. A rescue crew would be subject to the same extreme cold weather and fuel issues as any other plane. In enemy territory, Japanese patrols would capture American pilots, torture them, then kill them. Part of the training regimen for Hump pilots included the right way to use the last bullet on oneself.
Military and law enforcement working dogs are vital. They not only add capabilities for the units they serve with, like finding the enemy faster due to their powerful sense of smell; they also save their lives in the process. These dogs willingly sacrifice themselves in the process of saving their team. Atos was one of them.
Randy Roy served four years in the 2nd Ranger Battalion of the Army in the 1980’s and went on to become a law enforcement officer in Iowa. He began working with the K9 unit and training dogs. In 2007 he was approached by the United States Army Special Operations Command (USASOC) to become a Contract Trainer for their military working dogs. Roy and his family left their home in the Midwest and settled outside of Ft. Bragg in North Carolina shortly after that.
Atos was the first military working dog he trained.
Roy shared that USASOC acquired Atos in the summer of 2007. “Atos was a goofball, hard head, Malinois. He was awesome. Atos was kind of stubborn but very trainable and learned quickly,” said Roy. He continued on saying, “He was very sociable with everyone. They truly become part of the team and he certainly became a team member.” When Atos finished his training, he deployed to Iraq.
It was while in Iraq that he was assigned to his handler. The handler had just lost his previous military working dog, Duke, who was killed in action during a firefight. Roy shared that at first, Atos’ handler didn’t want to like him, most likely because the loss of Duke was so fresh. But Atos grew on him quickly.
Jarrett “Fish” Heavenston and Roy connected on that deployment, with Heavenson often volunteering for Atos’ training and happily donning a bite suit. Heavenston joined the Army at seventeen in 1991 and completed seven years as a ranger. He also worked in jungle warfare and USASOC. Heavenston wanted to do something different, so he left the Army and joined the Air Force in 2001 as a Combat Controller where he stayed until he retired in 2016.
“They [working military dogs] recognized who their tribe or pack was and they were very protective of them. We are kind of look, dress and walk the same; if you weren’t part of that pack they were alert and watching you and on guard,’ said Heavenston. As a Combat Controller, he was with many different dogs; he shared that some dogs were approachable, and friendly and that’s how Atos was described.
On Christmas Eve in 2007, Heavenston and his team were tracking enemy combatants. The brush was incredibly thick and woody. “It was very tough to move in the brush. We knew they were in there and waiting for us,” he shared. Heavenston said that he was helping to guide the handler as he was casting Atos out. The dog was able to find and track the guy they were looking for because of his keen sense of smell; but that meant that the team lost sight of Atos.
Although Atos quickly made his way through the brush, the team moved behind him much more slowly due to the difficulty of navigating the tough terrain. “You have the best-trained guys in the world out there, but it doesn’t negate that what you are doing is really hard,” said Heavenston. He shared that between the rough terrain and fading daylight, it was a tough operation.
“The dog is on him the dog is on him” is what Heavenston remembers hearing from the communications with an aircraft above them. They didn’t realize it was Atos at first, but eventually, they heard the commotion.
Shortly after that, the enemy combatant blew himself up, killing not just himself, but Atos.
Four members of their team were wounded that night, some grievously. “Had Atos not done what he had done, it would have been much worse,” shared Heavenston. He knows that if Atos hadn’t engaged with the enemy and forced him to detonate his bomb early, there would have been certain loss of human life that Christmas Eve.
“There are hundreds of dogs out there who have made the ultimate sacrifice. There are many of us within the military that are here today because of what they did,” said Heavenston. It was with this in mind that his company, Tough Stump Technologies (which Atos’ trainer, Roy, became a part of), decided to hold an event in Atos’ honor.
Touch Stump Technologies partnered with K9 for Warriors to raise money through their event for the organization, which is working to end veteran suicide and return dignity to America’s heroes by pairing them with service dogs. Dogs are paired with veterans who are diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), traumatic brain injury (TBI), or have suffered military sexual trauma (MST).
The event will celebrate the life and sacrifice of Atos and all working dogs on March 13, 2020.
Heavenston also shared that his company is working hard to develop technology that would allow the military to better track their military working dogs. “If we had this on Atos that night, that narrative would have been a lot different,” said Heavenston. The hope is that with specialized GPS tracking capabilities, they won’t lose dogs like they lost Atos.
Working dogs are an integral part of the military and law enforcement. On this K9 Veteran’s Day, take a moment to remember the dogs like Atos that willingly sacrificed their lives to save their people. Every loss is felt deeply, and the gratitude for the lives they’ve saved is unmeasurable. Don’t forget them.