What makes an air force good? Is it combat capability? Is it their track record? Much of that can stir up debates and cause one heck of a…disagreement among patrons at any watering hole or establishment.
Then again…life gets boring without such things.
So, here’s a look at the eleven best air forces in the world:
11. Russian Air Force
The Russians have been working on some new planes, but most of their very large force is old. Still, quantity can have a quality all on its own.
Russia also has long-range bombers and some tankers and airborne early warning planes. It’s just they are old, and maintenance levels have fallen off since the Cold War ended.
10. Republic of Korea Air Force
South Korea’s air force has come a long way in the same timeframe as China. F-5s and F-4s have been replaced by F-16s, and they developed the T-50 Golden Eagle, which is a very capable advanced trainer — so much so it has also been turned into a multi-role fighter as well.
9. People’s Liberation Army Air Force (includes People’s Liberation Army Navy Air Force)
Twenty years ago, the bulk of China’s planes were copies of the MiG-21 Fishbed. Today, many of the planes are from the “Flanker family,” including home-grown versions like the J-11, J-11B, J-15, and J-16.
China also has the indigenous J-10 and JH-7, while also flying two fifth-generation designs.
8. Indian Air Force (including Indian Navy)
This country has won a few wars, and also has developed some of their own planes in the past and present. The only reason they are behind the Saudis is their reliance on Russian airframes, while the Saudis and Japanese have F-15s.
Having the second-best carrier aviation arm doesn’t hurt.
7. Japanese Air Self-Defense Force (including Japanese Maritime Self-Defense Force)
Japan could rank higher, but they have limited themselves due to Article 9 of their post-World War II constitution.
While they are stretching the boundaries, the lack of real ground-attack capabilities is very telling. But they have very good air-to-air, anti-surface ship, and anti-submarine capabilities.
With four “helicopter destroyers” that are really small carriers, Japan could vault up very quickly.
6. Royal Saudi Air Force
In 1990, the Royal Saudi Air Force had nice gear, but there was an open question of how well they could use them. Today, they’ve been upgrading the gear, and they have combat experience. This 1-2 combination is enough to vault them into the top air forces.
5. United States Marine Corps
The Marines really do close-air support well. Not that they haven’t had aces in their history, but the last air-to-air kill a Marine scored was during the Vietnam War.
Then there are the issues with their F/A-18s, and the need to pull airframes from the boneyard.
4. Royal Air Force (including the Fleet Air Arm)
This is a very capable, albeit small, force. The problem is “the Few” are becoming “fewer” — and there have been some uncomfortable gaps, including the early retirement of their Harrier force, which was a poor way to repay the airframe that won the Falklands War.
The fact that the Royal Navy’s new carrier will have to deploy with United States Marines says a lot.
3. Israeli Defense Force
The Israelis have had a good air force — much of it based on need. Yes, the airframes are American designs, but the Israelis have installed their own electronics on the F-15I and F-16I planes that are now the backbone of their military.
Plus, their pilots are very, very good.
1. United States Air Force and United States Navy (tie)
The Air Force and Navy have long been rivals – always trying to one-up each other. But in this case, the two are in a virtual tie. While the United States Air Force has strategic bombers the Navy doesn’t, the Navy, by virtue of its carrier fleet, is much more responsive.
The two services are complimentary and each are very good at what they do.
Fortunately for the United States, the impact of World War II was almost solely felt through rationing and news from abroad and rarely were American civilians affected firsthand. As a result, the American home front became a strong source of resources and morale for the soldiers overseas – something that most countries involved in the war didn’t have. Realizing this, the Japanese looked for a relatively cheap and safe way to disrupt the American home front.
In 1944, the Japanese decided to tap into a jet stream that they had discovered a few years earlier, one that traveled from Asia to North America at about 30,000 feet. Their plan was to attach bombs to giant balloons and release them into the jet stream, where they’d be carried silently and dispersed across the US at random. Overall, the plan wasn’t to kill Americans, but rather to start forest fires in the Pacific Northwest and also instill panic in the population and, in turn, diminish morale on the home front.
The balloons were around 30 feet in diameter and from the top of the balloon to the payload underneath measured around 70 feet. Each balloon bomb consisted of sandbags for ballast that would be released as the balloon descended, allowing it to drop some weight, gain a little altitude, and carry on a bit further. Once the sandbags had all been dropped, four incendiary bombs would be released one at a time until none were left, then a single anti-personnel bomb would fall and the balloon would ignite itself and be destroyed.
Launched in groups, the balloons were at the mercy of the jet stream and typically took a few days to cross the Pacific. Since they were unguided, the balloons had a wide distribution and have been discovered from Alaska to Mexico and from Hawaii to Michigan.
The bombs started arriving in Western US in late 1944 and at first no one really knew what they were. However, geologists sampled the sand and determined that it had come from a small section of beach east of Tokyo. Until the end of the war, the US Government asked media outlets not to report on the bombs in order to prevent the Japanese from tracking whether they were successful. This apparently worked because the Japanese pulled the funding for the bombs after only a few months of launches, assuming that the balloons weren’t hitting their targets.
Overall, the bombs were not successful; less than 300 out of an estimated 9,000 have ever been found – around 3%. However, one bomb detonated in rural Oregon in spring 1945 and killed a pregnant woman and five children, making them the only American civilians killed in the US as a result of enemy action.
After the war, talk of the bombs began to spread and it was found that seven landed in Nebraska including one in Omaha, one landed ten miles from Detroit and another landed near Grand Rapids. Balloon bombs, while largely unsuccessful, continued to be discovered throughout the US and Canada following the war and one was even discovered in British Columbia in October 2014.
The military has very talented photographers in its ranks, and they constantly attempt to capture what life as a service member is like during training and at war. This is the best of what they shot this week:
WATERS NEAR GUAM (Aug. 12, 2015) The Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Fitzgerald (DDG 62) fires a Harpoon missile during a live-fire drill.
Photo by: Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Patrick Dionne/USN
PACIFIC OCEAN (Aug. 11, 2015) An MH-60R Sea Hawk helicopter assigned to the Raptors of Helicopter Maritime Strike Squadron (HSM) 71 prepares to land aboard the aircraft carrier USS John C. Stennis (CVN 74) as the guided-missile destroyer USS Chung Hoon (DDG 93) follows behind during a show of force transit.
Photo by: Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Andre T. Richard/USN
SAN DIEGO (Aug. 11, 2015) Aviation Boatswain’s Mate (Fuel) 3rd Class Eric Brown moves his belongings from the aircraft carrier USS George Washington (CVN 76) to the aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan (CVN 76).
Photo by: Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Ryan McFarlane/USN
A Marine with 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit, engages his target during a deck shoot aboard the amphibious assault ship USS Essex. The Marines practiced shooting from behind a barricade to simulate staying behind cover during a fire fight.
Photo by: Cpl. Elize McKelvey/USMC
Marines with Special-Purpose Marine Air-Ground Task Force Crisis Response-Africa practice clearing a house during a two-week infantry training package, August 4-15, 2015, aboard Naval Station Rota, Spain.
Photo by: Staff Sgt. Vitaliy Rusavskiy/USMC
Staff Sgt. Fred Frizzell, an 823rd Expeditionary RED HORSE Squadron pavements and construction equipment operator, operates a drilling rig at a well site in Brisas del Mar, Honduras.
Photo by: Capt. David J. Murphy/USAF
Maintainers with the 801st Special Operations Aircraft Maintenance Squadron were flown out to Eglin Range Complex, Fla., to perform routine repairs on a CV-22B Osprey.
Photo by: Senior Airman Christopher Callaway/USAF
Soldiers, assigned to 4th Squadron, 2D Cavalry Regiment, paddle across a lake on a water obstacle course, created by Polish soldiers from the 6th Airborne Brigade, during Operation Atlantic Resolve, at the Nowa Deba Training Area, Poland.
Photo by: Spc. Marcus Floyd/US Army
Soldiers, assigned to 1st Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division, move through the smoke to clear their next objective during a live-fire exercise at Fort Bragg, N.C.
Photo by: Sgt. Juan F. Jimenez/US Army
Thank you all for following CGC JAMES as we continue on with our inaugural adventure. These past few days have been remarkable and we look forward to continue to honor Joshua James’ memory and legacy.
Photo by: Petty Officer 2nd Class Kelley/USCG
CGC Stratton crewmembers open a semi-submersible in the Eastern Pacific Ocean.
Around Veterans’ Day, 2002, a crack team made its way towards a high-value target located in a farm near Gambrillis, Maryland.
They’d gone in mufti, and waited until the coast was clear before they carried out their plan. In a few minutes, the daring personnel carrying out this special operation had succeeded: “Bill the Goat” was now a prisoner of the United States Military Academy.
A New York Times report shortly afterwards quoted a Navy academy spokesman as saying, “I can confirm that one of our goats is missing. However, we would be surprised that a West Point cadet is involved, given that we have had an agreement for a number of years that mascots will not be stolen.”
The Naval Academy soon got a photo showing an Army cadet next to Bill. The cadet was in uniform – albeit he had hidden his identity with a ski mask.
“It behooves us to keep a low profile until the game, but we’re trying to keep this lighthearted and not get in anyone’s face,” the anonymous cadet told the New York Times. “And we want to assure Navy that we’ve been treating our guest with utmost deference. In fact, he’s been putting on weight.”
Bill was later returned to the Navy. Plans to shave an “A” for Army on him were not implemented, and the cadets were given amnesty in exchange for coming forward and revealing where they had stashed Bill the Goat.
He was returned before the Army-Navy game. That year, Navy beat Army, 58-12. Since then, the Navy has not lost to Army in the annual game.
That said, since then, the Navy has twice been victimized by operations aimed at this high-value target. In 2007, the Washington Examiner reported that Army cadets again pulled off this masterpiece of pranks, posting the video on YouTube (it was called “Operation Good Shepherd”).
In 2012, unidentified individuals snatched Bill and left him tied to a pole near the Pentagon, according to the Navy Times.
Past kidnappings also included the first in 1953, which prompted an order from President Dwight D. Eisenhower for the animal’s return. In 1960, the Air Force Academy captured Bill and flew him to a Colorado farm. An A-26 Invader was used as the getaway plane. A 1995 operation by Army cadets resulted in the capture of all three Navy mascots.
But as YouTuber “Bloke on the Range” shows in the video below, it’s actually very unlikely that the enemy would gain any real advantage from the M1 Garand’s sound.
And many veterans of World War II interviewed after the wars said they actually preferred to have the sound as a useful reminder to reload.
To get a grip on the controversy, imagine being a young G.I. in combat in World War II. You’re moving up on a suspected Japanese position with a fully loaded M1 Garand. You catch a bit of movement and realize the small mounds on the ground in front of you are actually enemy helmets poking up from a trench.
You drop into a good firing position and start throwing rounds down range. With seven shots, you kill one and wound another. Your eighth shot reinforces the man’s headache, but it also causes the ping, telling the attentive third Japanese soldier that you’re completely out of ammo.
The theory states that that’s when the third soldier jumps up and kills you. But there are a couple issues with the theory.
First, in the chaos of combat, it would be uncommon for an enemy to hear the clip ejecting over the sound of the fight. Second, soldiers typically fight as a group, so the G.I. in the hypothetical should actually have five to nine other soldiers with him, and it’s unlikely that more than one or two of them would be out of ammo at the same time.
Third, as the Bloke demonstrates, it doesn’t take long for the shooter to reload, putting them back in the fight and ready to kill any enemy soldiers running to take advantage of the ammo gap.
ArmamentResearch.com found a 1952 Technical Memorandum where researchers asked veterans who carried the rifle what they thought of the ping. Out of 315 responders, 85 thought that the ping was helpful to the enemy, but a whopping 187 thought it was more useful to the shooter by acting as a useful signal to reload.
An article by a Chief Warrant Officer 5 Charles D. Petrie after he reportedly spoke to German veterans of D-Day who found the idea of attacking after a ping laughable. They reported that, in most engagements, they couldn’t hear the ping at all, and the rest of the time they were too aware of the rest of the American squad to try to take advantage of it.
How much of a threat do Russia’s emerging 5th-generation stealth fighter, nuclear arsenal, high-tech air defenses, anti-satellite weapons, conventional army and submarines pose to NATO and the U.S.?
Current tensions between Russia and NATO are leading many to carefully assess this question and examine the current state of weaponry and technological sophistication of the Russian military — with a mind to better understanding the extent of the kinds of threats they may pose.
Naturally, Russia’s military maneuvers and annexation of the Crimean peninsula have many Pentagon analysts likely wondering about and assessing the pace of Russia’s current military modernization and the relative condition of the former Cold War military giant’s forces, platforms and weaponry.
Russia has clearly postured itself in response to NATO as though it can counter-balance or deter the alliance, however some examinations of Russia’s current military reveals questions about its current ability to pose a real challenge to NATO in a prolonged, all-out military engagement.
Nevertheless, Russia continues to make military advances and many Pentagon experts and analysts have expressed concern about NATO’s force posture in Eastern Europe regarding whether it is significant enough to deter Russia from a possible invasion of Eastern Europe.
Also, Russia’s economic pressures have not slowed the countries’ commitment to rapid military modernization and the increase of defense budgets, despite the fact that the country’s military is a fraction of what it was during the height of the Cold War in the 1980s.
While the former Cold War giant’s territories and outermost borders are sizeably less than they were in the 1980s, Russia’s conventional land, air and sea forces are trying to expand quickly, transition into the higher-tech information age and steadily pursue next generation platforms.
Russia’s conventional and nuclear arsenal is a small piece of what it was during the Cold War, yet the country is pursuing a new class of air-independent submarines, a T-50 stealth fighter jet, next-generation missiles and high-tech gear for individual ground soldiers.
A think-tank known as The National Interest has recently published a number of reports about the technological progress now being made by Russian military developers. The various write-ups include reporting on new Russian anti-satellite weapons, T-14 Armata tanks, air defenses and early plans for a hypersonic, 6th-generation fighter jet, among other things. Russia is unambiguously emphasizing military modernization and making substantial progress, the reports from The National Interest and other outlets indicate.
“This is the second test of the new weapon, which is capable of destroying satellites in space. The weapon was apparently launched from the Plesetsk test launch facility north of Moscow,” the report from The National Interest writes.
In addition, The National Interests’ Dave Majumdar reported that Russian Airborne Forces are set to form six armored companies equipped with newly modified T-72B3M tanks in the second half of 2016. Over the next two years, those six companies will be expanded to battalion strength, the report states.
Russia is also reportedly developing a so-called “Terminator 3” tank support fighting vehicle.
During the Cold War, the Russian defense budget amounted to nearly half of the country’s overall expenditures.
Now, the countries’ military spending draws upon a smaller percentage of its national expenditure. However, despite these huge percentage differences compared to the 1980s, the Russian defense budget is climbing again. From 2006 to 2009, the Russian defense budget jumped from $25 billion up to $50 billion according to Business Insider – and the 2013 defense budget is listed elsewhere at $90 billion.
Overall, the Russian conventional military during the Cold War – in terms of sheer size – was likely five times what it is today.
Overall, the Russian military had roughly 766,000 active front line personnel in 2013 and as many as 2.4 million reserve forces, according to globalfirepower.com. During the Cold War, the Russian Army had as many as three to four million members.
By the same 2013 assessment, the Russian military is listed as having more than 3,000 aircraft and 973 helicopters. On the ground, Globalfirepower.com says Russia has 15-thousand tanks, 27,000 armored fighting vehicles and nearly 6,000 self-propelled guns for artillery. While the Russian military may not have a conventional force the sheer size of its Cold War force, they have made efforts to both modernized and maintain portions of their mechanized weaponry and platforms. The Russian T-72 tank, for example, has been upgraded numerous times since its initial construction in the 1970s.
On the overall Naval front, Globalfirepower.com assesses the Russian Navy as having 352 ships, including one aircraft carrier, 13 destroyers and 63 submarines. The Black Sea is a strategically significant area for Russia in terms of economic and geopolitical considerations as it helps ensure access to the Mediterranean.
Analysts have also said that the Russian military made huge amounts of conventional and nuclear weapons in the 80s, ranging from rockets and cruise missiles to very effective air defenses.
In fact, the Russian-built S-300 and S-400 anti-aircraft air defenses, if maintained and modernized, are said to be particularly effective, experts have said.
Citing Russian news reports, the National Interest reported that the Russians are now testing a new, S-500 air defense systems able to reportedly reach targets up to 125 miles.
In the air, the Russian have maintained their 1980s built Su-27 fighter jets, which have been postured throughout strategic areas by the Russian military.
Often compared to the U.S. Air Force’s F-15 Eagle fighter, the Su-27 is a maneuverable twin engine fighter built in the 1980s and primarily configured for air superiority missions.
While many experts maintain that NATO’s size, fire-power, air supremacy and technology would ultimately prevail in a substantial engagement with Russia, that does not necessarily negate findings from a recent Rand study explaining that NATO would be put in a terrible predicament should Russia invade the Baltic states.
The current NATO force structure in Eastern Europe would be unable to withstand a Russian invasion into neighboring Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia, the Rand study has concluded.
After conducting an exhaustive series of wargames wherein “red” (Russian) and “blue” (NATO) forces engaged in a wide range of war scenarios over the Baltic states, a Rand Corporation study called “Reinforcing Deterrence on NATO’s Eastern Flank” determined that a successful NATO defense of the region would require a much larger air-ground force than what is currently deployed.
In particular, the study calls for a NATO strategy similar to the Cold War era’s “AirLand Battle” doctrine from the 1980s. During this time, the U.S. Army stationed at least several hundred thousand troops in Europe as a strategy to deter a potential Russian invasion. Officials with U.S. Army Europe tell Scout Warrior that there are currenty 30,000 U.S. Army soldiers in Europe.
The Rand study maintains that, without a deterrent the size of at least seven brigades, fires and air support protecting Eastern Europe, that Russia cold overrun the Baltic states as quickly as in 60 hours.
“As currently postured, NATO cannot successfully defend the territory of its most exposed members. Across multiple games using a wide range of expert participants in and out of uniform playing both sides, the longest it has taken Russian forces to reach the outskirts of the Estonian and/or Latvian capitals of Tallinn and Riga, respectively, is 60 hours. Such a rapid defeat would leave NATO with a limited number of options,” the study writes.
“AirLand” Battle was a strategic warfighting concept followed by U.S. and allied forces during the Cold War which, among other things, relied upon precise coordination between a large maneuvering mechanized ground force and attack aircraft overhead. As part of the approach, air attacks would seek to weaken enemy assets supporting front line enemy troops by bombing supply elements in the rear. As part of the air-ground integration, large conventional ground forces could then more easily advance through defended enemy front line areas.
A rapid assault on the Baltic region would leave NATO with few attractive options, including a massive risky counterattack, threatening a nuclear weapons option or simply allowing the Russian to annex the countries.
One of the limited options cited in the study could include taking huge amounts of time to mobilize and deploy a massive counterattack force which would likely result in a drawn-out, deadly battle. Another possibility would be to threaten a nuclear option, a scenario which seems unlikely if not completely unrealistic in light of the U.S. strategy to decrease nuclear arsenals and discourage the prospect of using nuclear weapons, the study finds.
A third and final option, the report mentions, would simply be to concede the Baltic states and immerse the alliance into a much more intense Cold War posture. Such an option would naturally not be welcomed by many of the residents of these states and would, without question, leave the NATO alliance weakened if not partially fractured.
The study spells out exactly what its wargames determined would be necessary as a credible, effective deterrent.
“Gaming indicates that a force of about seven brigades, including three heavy armored brigades—adequately supported by airpower, land-based fires, and other enablers on the ground and ready to fight at the onset of hostilities—could suffice to prevent the rapid overrun of the Baltic states,” the study writes.
During the various scenarios explored for the wargame, its participants concluded that NATO resistance would be overrun quickly in the absence of a larger mechanized defensive force posture.
“The absence of short-range air defenses in the U.S. units, and the minimal defenses in the other NATO units, meant that many of these attacks encountered resistance only from NATO combat air patrols, which were overwhelmed by sheer numbers. The result was heavy losses to several Blue (NATO) battalions and the disruption of the counterattack,” the study states.
Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia could be likely Russian targets because all three countries are in close proximity to Russia and spent many years as part of the former Soviet Union, the study maintains.
“Also like Ukraine, Estonia and Latvia are home to sizable ethnic Russian populations that have been at best unevenly integrated into the two countries’ post-independence political and social mainstreams and that give Russia a self-justification for meddling in Estonian and Latvian affairs,” the study explains.
The Rand study maintains that, while expensive, adding brigades would be a worthy effort for NATO.
Buying three brand-new ABCTs and adding them to the U.S. Army would not be inexpensive—the up-front costs for all the equipment for the brigades and associated artillery, air defense, and other enabling units runs on the order of $13 billion. However, much of that gear—especially the expensive Abrams tanks and Bradley fighting vehicles—already exists,” the study says.
The actual NATO troop presence in Eastern Europe is something that is still under consideration, a recent report in Military.com sites sources saying NATO is now considering adding more troops to its Eastern flank as a way to further deter Russia.
However, while the Pentagon’s ongoing European Reassurance Initiative calls for additional funds, forces and force rotations through Europe in coming years, it is unclear whether their ultimate troop increases will come anywhere near what Rand recommends.
At the same time, the Pentagon’s $3.4 Billion ERI request does call for an increased force presence in Europe as well as “fires,” “pre-positioned stocks” and “headquarters” support for NATO forces.
Officials with U.S. Army Europe tell Scout Warrior that more solidarity exercises with NATO allies in Europe are also on the horizon, and that more manpower could also be on the way.
For example, an exercise known as Swift Response 16 began May 27 and is scheduled to run through June 26 in Poland and Germany; it include more than 5,000 soldiers and airmen from the United States, Belgium, France, Germany, Great Britain, Italy, the Netherlands, Poland, Portugal and Spain.
Sometimes the smallest thing can mean the difference between nations emerging triumphant or collapsing in defeat. Here are 7 moments from military history where the outcomes hinged on a minor detail:
1. A colonel didn’t read a note, and his men were slaughtered by Washington
Col. Johann Rall was the commander of Hessian soldiers in Trenton, New Jersey, on Christmas Day in 1776. Rall was partying with his officers when someone handed him a note that he shoved in his pocket without reading it. A few hours later, he and his men were effectively wiped out by Patriots fighting under Gen. George Washington.
2. A weather report and a birthday party changed World War II
Nazi and Allied planners had forecasted potential dates for a summer invasion based on tides, phases of the moon, and weather trends. The best window for the Allies was June 4 to June 6, 1944. June 4 started with clear skies but Allied meteorologists believed it would turn nasty, which was true.
Allied Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower postponed the invasion, and Nazi commanders left their coastal defenses for war games. German Field Marshall Erwin Rommel even left for home to celebrate his wife’s birthday. But the Allies had more Atlantic weather stations and found a lull in the bad weather that the Nazis didn’t know about. The invasion was launched into rough seas and winds Jun. 6, but the weather cleared early in the day.
3. World War I began because of bad driving directions
Conspirators attempted to kill the Archduke Franz Ferdinand in 1914 by attacking his car during a parade. One assassin threw a grenade but it bounced off the Archduke’s vehicle before the royal was rushed to safety.
Reports vary about whether the royal couple attempted to leave the city after the attack or continue the parade, but they definitely were driving back along the route when they were spotted by another assassin, Gavrilo Princip. The car stopped directly in front of Princip as the occupants argued about the proper directions.
Princip took two shots, killing both the Archduke and his wife, which set off the powder keg that was 1914 Europe and began World War I.
4. Germany lost the Battle of the Marne (and maybe World War I) because of a rumor
Early in World War I, Imperial Germany was marching quickly towards Paris after forcing British and French forces into a series of retreats. At the Battle of the Marne in Sep. 1914, the British and French barely stopped the Germans through a series of desperate actions like using taxis to ferry troops to the frontlines.
Germany might have won if it had the two divisions it had sent to the Belgian coast. The Germans had believed rumors that Russian soldiers were forming in Britain for an amphibious assault. This false rumor was later traced by historians to either a shipment of 100,000 Russian eggs that was noted in a train report as “100,000 Russians now on way from Aberdeen to London” or a group of soldiers from Ross Shire being misheard by local train officials.
Either way, the rumor began circulating that large numbers of Russian soldiers were entering the fight on the Eastern Front and Germany redeployed troops to deal with them. Those troops then weren’t available for fighting near Paris, and France was able to hold on, prolonging the war and allowing an Allied victory.
5. A slight time miscalculation ended the Bay of Pigs invasion
On Apr. 17, 1961, 1,400 Cuban exiles invaded Cuba at the Bay of Pigs and attempted to overthrow the Castro regime. If successful, this invasion would have led to the downfall of Communist Cuba and allowed America more influence over its southern neighbor. It also would’ve cut off Soviet access to the island, preventing the Cuban Missile Crisis and giving American a stronger hand in the Cold War.
6. Nagasaki was destroyed because of a single cloud at the original target
There are two cities that are synonymous with the destruction from atomic bombs: Hiroshima and Nagasaki. But, America’s target list actually included Kokura. On Aug. 6, Hiroshima was the primary target and Kokura was the backup. Since Hiroshima was clear, the bomb was dropped there.
On Aug. 9, Kokura was the primary target and Hiroshima was the backup. The B-29 crew (bomber nicknamed Bock’s Car) flew over Kokura multiple times but had orders to only drop the bomb if they could physically see the targeted weapons factory beforehand. A single cloud kept blocking their view, and so they moved on to Nagasaki, sparing the city of Kokura.
7. Constantinople fell because of an unlocked gate
Constantinople in 1453 was facing serious problems. The skilled conqueror Mehmed II was hammering at the walls with his cannons while the defenders fought among themselves about whether the Roman Catholic Church or the Orthodox Church of Byzantium was the true Christian faith.
The nominee to lead U.S. Special Operations Command (SOCOM) told lawmakers Dec. 4, 2018, that the unrelenting pace of operations may force the elite organization to pass some missions off to conventional combat units.
Army Lt. Gen. Richard Clarke, testifying before the Senate Armed Services Committee as part of his nomination process to assume command of SOCOM, said he believes it has an “adequate” number of personnel but needs to avoid taking on missions that conventional forces are capable of handling.
“Special Operations Command should only do those missions that are suited for Special Operations Command, and those missions that can be adjusted to conventional forces should go to those conventional forces,” he said.
Currently, special operations forces are responsible for conducting U.S. counter-terrorism missions in Afghanistan and elsewhere and handling missions such as combating weapons of mass destruction.
A U.S. Army Special Forces Soldier, from Special Operations Task Force-East, watches Afghan Commandos, from 2nd Commando Kandak, while patrolling a village in Dand Patan district during an operation.
(US Army photo)
The elite, multi-service SOCOM, made up of about 70,000 service members, also is slated to play a significant role in the Pentagon’s new defense strategy, which focuses on near-peer adversaries such as Russia and China.
Sen. Mazie Hirono, D-Hawaii, asked Clarke whether there is a clear delineation within the Defense Department between SOCOM and conventional missions.
Clarke said Defense Secretary Jim Mattis “has been very clear … that SOCOM should be specific to SOCOM missions, so I don’t think there is any issue of delineation within the Department of Defense with that.”
Hirono then asked whether the U.S. military needs to do a better job adhering to the policy of assigning SOCOM-specific and conventional missions.
“The publishing of the National Defense Strategy and relooking at the prioritization of the force has given us a very good opportunity to relook at all of our deployments, look where the forces are and make sure that SOCOM forces are, in fact, dedicated to the missions that are most important and are specific to special operations forces,” Clarke said.
Sen. Tom Cotton, R-Arkansas, said recent proposals to leave SOCOM out of the proposed 5 percent cut to the DoD’s budget would not guarantee that the command would not suffer.
A Special Forces Operation Detachment-Alpha Soldier scans the area as Afghan National Army Commandos, 2nd Company, 3rd Special Operations Kandak conduct clearance of Mandozai village, Maiwand district, Kandahar province, Afghanistan.
“At a time of tight budgets, when some in the administration are already talking about cutting 5 percent from the Department of Defense budget, many people say, ‘But that’s OK, because since the Special Operations Command is bearing so much of the fight, it will be fully funded,’ ” he said. “Can you talk about your dependence on the rest of the conventional military and how our special operations forces fight with them, and why stable, predictable and increasing funding for those conventional forces is so important for Special Operations Command?”
Clarke replied that SOCOM relies heavily on conventional forces from every branch of service.
“Especially for longer-term operations, we need the support of the services,” he said. ” … Special Operations Command is made up of the services. Much of the recruitment, much of the force, is actually started in the conventional force and actually came up through the ranks, and they were identified as some of the best of breed in that particular service in which they served, and they raised their hand and volunteered for special operations.”
The Army’s conventional forces have taken responsibility for training and advising conventional forces, standing up six Security Force Assistance Brigades to help establish, instruct, and enable conventional forces in countries like Afghanistan and elsewhere.
In the past, the mission to train foreign militaries fell to Army Special Forces. Special Forces units now focus on training foreign commando units.
This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @militarydotcom on Twitter.
And in 2016, the Kuznetsov cruised through the English channel belching black smoke on its way to the Mediterranean.
This series of accidents and problems leads to one inevitable conclusion: The Russian Navy has a maintenance problem.
Bryan Clark, senior fellow for the Center of Strategic and Budgetary Studies, said that when it comes to maintenance, “You can’t live on older ships. After 20 to 25 years, all you have is what’s left on the shelf.”
The Admiral Kuznetsov.
Though many of the incidents plagued their submarine force, even more telling than its history of catastrophes is the routine reliance on oceangoing tugs, which accompany its surface vessels on every deployment.
On Oct. 22, 2018, two Russian corvettes, a tanker, and a tug set sail for the North Atlantic.
Experts say Russia’s dependence on tugs is an indication of an aging, insufficient surface fleet.
While Russia can boast impressive littoral capabilities, for blue-water operations it leans heavily on its Cold War-era platforms, an influential naval expert said.
This is problematic for several reasons, according to Clark. Maintenance becomes more difficult as ships age, and as decades pass their parts become harder, if not impossible, to obtain. It is impossible, then, to manage the eventual breakdown of equipment, which results in a loss of redundancy for crucial systems.
This redundancy — secondary, tertiary and even quaternary systems — is what keeps ships afloat and ready to fight.
For the Russian Navy, the idea of tug as escort has become standard. For the rest of the world, Clark thinks there is a lesson to be learned.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
By 2010, when a Drug Enforcement Administration agent named Drew Hogan arrived in Mexico City with his family, the Mexican kingpin Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman had been on the run for nine years.
The Sinaloa cartel chief had slipped out of a prison in southwest Mexico during the first weeks of 2001 — some say while hiding in a laundry basket.
Once on the ground in Mexico, Hogan picked up the trail “by looking at the details,” he said.
“It was in the details — in the numbers,” he told NBC’s Today show in an interview on April 4, 2018, about his latest book, Hunting El Chapo.
“The phone numbers don’t lie,” Hogan said. “And I was able to pair up with a crack team of Homeland Security investigative agents, and we began intercepting members of Chapo’s inner circle and starting to dismantle layers within his sophisticated communications structure until we got to the top, where I had his personal secretary’s device, who was standing right next to him, and I could ping that to establish a pattern of life to determine where he was at.”
The search for Guzman led authorities to his home turf in Sinaloa state, in northwest Mexico.
Sinaloa, where Guzman was born and got his start in the drug trade, is considered a cradle of Mexican drug trafficking, producing figures like the Guadalajara cartel chiefs Miguel Angel Felix Gallardo, Ernesto Fonseca Carrillo, and Rafael Caro Quintero; the Sinaloa cartel chiefs Guzman, Ismael “El Mayo” Zambada, and Juan Jose Esparragoza Moreno, aka “El Azul”; and others, like the Juarez cartel chief Amado Carrillo Fuentes, aka “the Lord of the Skies,” and members of the Arellano Felix family, who ran the Tijuana cartel in the 1990s and 2000s.
Hogan’s search eventually led to Mazatlan, a resort town in southwestern Sinaloa state. There, Guzman had lived what Hogan described as an unremarkable lifestyle.
“I was surprised with the way that he lived,” Hogan said. “He almost afforded himself no luxury — same plastic tables and chairs in every safe house that was designed the same way.”
After 13 years on the run, however, Guzman had begun to let his guard down, venturing out of the rugged Sinaloa mountains to relax in Mazatlan and nearby Culiacan, the state capital.
Several of his associates were captured or killed in the first weeks of 2014.
Near the end of February 2014, Mexican marines stormed a house belonging to Guzman’s ex-wife, but they struggled to knock down a steel-reinforced door, allowing Guzman time to escape.
A few days later, they launched another raid targeting the elusive kingpin.
“We were at the Hotel Miramar,” Hogan said, and Guzman was on the fourth floor. “The Mexican marines went inside and started banging down doors. I was standing outside. I was worried about our perimeter. I was worried about him escaping us again. And I heard excited radio chatter: ‘They got him. They got him. They got the target.’
“My vehicle was first in. I drove it down to the underground parking garage, and that’s where they had him,” Hogan continued. “They were just standing him up. I got out of my vehicle, ran right up to him, I’m wearing this black ball cap that I had taken out of his closet … in Culiacan — my only souvenir of the hunt — wearing a black ski mask, and I ran right up to up to him, jumped into his face, and said the first thing that came to my head.
“I screamed, ‘What’s up, Chapo?!'”
Guzman’s capture was heralded in Mexico and abroad and held up by Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto as a hallmark achievement of his efforts to combat criminal groups and drug-related violence in the country.
But Guzman’s time in prison was short-lived. In July 2015, the Sinaloa cartel chief again slipped out, this time through a mile-long tunnel dug from a partially constructed house to the Altiplano maximum-security prison and right up to the shower in Guzman’s cell.
“It was pretty predictable,” Hogan said of Guzman’s escape. “This tunnel that went underneath the prison was the same types of tunnels that went underneath the safe houses, were the same types of tunnels that are at the US-Mexico border.”
Numerous security lapses were discovered in the aftermath.
Altiplano had the same layout as the prison Guzman broke out of in 2001. (A former Mexican security official who joined the Sinaloa cartel is suspected of stealing the prison plans.)
Reports indicated that a geolocation device Guzman had to wear may have been used by his associates to locate him within the prison. Guzman told Mexican officials his henchmen were able to build two tunnels under the prison after the first one missed the cell.
Sounds of digging under his cell were detected but not investigated, and about 30 minutes passed between when Guzman went out of sight in his cell and when jailers responded to his absence.
“It was coming if they didn’t have him on complete lockdown,” Hogan said.
Guzman’s freedom after the 2015 breakout was brief. He made his way back to Sinaloa, where Mexican authorities picked up the trail, conducting a search that frequently put civilians under fire.
But Guzman was apprehended in January 2016, spending another year in Mexico — a stint marked by more fear about another breakout — before his extradition to the US in January 2017, just a few hours before President Donald Trump took office.
Guzman is now locked up at the Metropolitan Correctional Center in lower Manhattan. His trial is set to start in September 2018, in Brooklyn.
You let us tag along on your convoy. You let us raid a house in the stack. You watched our ass while our head was in a camera viewfinder. You even let us eat your food. So when you ask us for some of the footage of the unit in action we’re happy to oblige.
When you want us to make a music video of it, no problem, even though we know using copyrighted music is illegal. We want you to keep letting us roll with you…and for you to keep saving our asses.
But then one of your officers tells us to use one of these eight songs and it makes us die inside.
1. Drowning Pool — “Bodies”
This is by far the most overused song ever paired with combat camera footage (with “Soldiers” a close second). And it’s not just commanders asking combat camera to do this. Civilians do this ad nauseam.
That video has more than a million views. A MILLION. I don’t understand the enduring popularity of this song, but if there’s a better or more obvious song about killing a lot of people, I haven’t heard it.
2. Saliva — “Click Click Boom”
A full 20 percent of YouTube is probably the same video footage of the military with this Saliva song — this Saliva song about how great the lead singer’s childhood was and how totally awesome it is that he’s on the radio now.
I wish Beavis and Butthead were around to rip on this band. Still, it does make it pretty easy to edit a video fast, even if I feel like a complete hack afterward.
The only lyric the casual listener probably understands for most of the song is “Bombs Over Baghdad,” so when you send it to your mom, she gets the point of the video, and can’t really hear about the struggles of Andre 3000 and Big Boi’s pre-stardom struggle.
4. Chad Kroeger ft. Josey Scott — “Hero”
The singers from Nickelback AND Saliva. Enough said. Good lord this song was so big in 2002-2003. You’ll be just as proud of a video featuring you clearing houses to this song as you are your trucker hat collection and your flip phone.
This song was supposed to be an uplifting anthem for the first Spider-Man movie but it’s the most depressing song I’ve ever been asked to use in any video ever. I bet if you asked Kirsten Dunst what the low point of her career was, it would be that she didn’t have the choice to be excluded from this music video.
5. P.O.D. — “Boom”
Another band who sings about how they’re a band now. If you haven’t noticed the trend, guitar riffs and shouting “boom” were super popular in the early 2000s.
P.O.D. is the MySpace of metal. They’re still around but no one knows why.
6. Toby Keith — “Courtesy of the Red, White and Blue”
This song is so cheesy, I’m actually surprised Chad Kroeger didn’t write it, but maybe there are some things even Pop Rock Jesus won’t do. Some of you might think this song is awesome but I doubt you’d play it at a party in front of all your friends.
Also Toby Keith got more awards and plaques from military units just for singing this song than some people got for actually enlisting after 9/11.
7. Godsmack — “I Stand Alone”
Forget for a moment that the frontman sounds like Adam Sandler’s impression of Eddie Vedder. This song’s lyrics read like they were translated from Nepali by Google Translate. Also, unless your unit is the 300 Spartans at Thermopylae (it isn’t), you definitely don’t stand alone.
8. AC/DC — “Thunderstruck”
Ok, this isn’t an awful song. I mean, I get why you might want six minutes of your squadron or platoon blowing things up to AC/DC. But, aside from the opening minute and a half or so, this is could be any AC/DC song. All AC/DC songs sound like this. That’s why we love them.
Nazareth — Hair of the Dog
To be honest, this request only happened once, but do you really think any young Marine is going to love watching themselves on a dismounted patrol to this song?
Why not just have me choose something from Chicago’s greatest hits? If I gave any grunt a music video of themselves with this song, they’d beat my Air Force ass so hard.
With Christmas getting ever closer, we’re working our way through the armed services, figuring out what to get them for Christmas. We’ve covered the Navy and the Army so far. Now, we take a look at the United States Air Force. Yeah, if you believe the rumors, they already have it all – “five star hotels and per diem out the ass” as Dos Gringos once put it. Even still, they definitely deserve something under the tree.
8. More C-17s and C-5s
Let’s face it, there are never enough transport aircraft around — especially ones that can carry a lot of cargo. The United States initially produced the C-5 Galaxy transport aircraft during Vietnam, and then restarted production in the 1980s. It’s time to order another batch — and a few more C-17 Globemaster III while we’re at it.
7. Faster procurement of KC-46 tankers
The KC-135s are old — no, make that ancient. The plane first flew during the Eisenhower Administration. Worse, the first effort to field a replacement in 2002 got derailed, thanks to Senator John McCain. An Air Force fact sheet notes there are 407 KC-135s in service. A one-for-one replacement with KC-46s sounds like a good start.
6. New ground-launched cruise missiles
Russia has been cheating on the INF Treaty — the thing is pretty much a dead letter. So, it’s time to get the Air Force back into the ground-launched cruise missile business. Heck, maybe they can re-construct the old Gryphon launchers and equip ’em with new Tomahawks until the new cruise missiles come online.
5. More strategic bombers
Presently, the Air Force only has 76 B-52s, 62 B-1Bs, and 20 B-2s in service. Now, these are capable planes, but they can be spread very thin very easily. Since Russia is cheating on arms control treaties, America ought to make a lot of strategic bombers. A combination of restarting the B-1B production line to build 240 more, upping the B-21 buy to 295 (the same combined total of B-52G and B-52H production), and building a new version of the FB-111 would fit the bill nicely.
4. New versions of JSTARS and RIVET on a younger airframe
The RC-135 and E-8 JSTARS have both done well, but the 707 airframe is older than dirt. Fitting these systems on a new airframe would do wonders for reducing maintenance expenses.
3. More F-22 Raptors
With the growing proliferation of the Su-27/30/33/35 family and fifth-generation fighters developing in Russia and China, the 2009 decision to halt F-22 production at 187 airframes looks more and more like a mistake. To make matters worse, according to an assessment by the Heritage Foundation, a number of F-22s are unavailable due to re-fits.
2. More active fighter squadrons
During Operation Desert Storm, the Air Force had 70 active-duty fighter squadrons. Today, the combined total of active, Air National Guard, and Air Force Reserve fighter squadrons is 55, of which 32 are active-duty. So, more squadrons should be high on the list.
1. More pilots
The Air Force’s pilot shortage gets worse and worse as months go by. The fact is, the Air Force needs pilots. So, here’s hoping the Air Force gets plenty of them for Christmas.
What else would you put under the Air Force’s Christmas Tree? Let us know in the comments.
If you’ve ever deployed to the Middle East, then you’ve probably experienced a few explosions here and there, heard a firefight once or twice, and smelled some pretty nasty sh*t burning nearby.
Well, that burning sh*t is either the bad guys torching tires as a signal to warn others that allied forces are in the area, or it’s the smell of a burn pit coming from a military base.
For years, troops serving on the frontlines have burned their unwanted trash, either in barrels or in large burn pits, set ablaze with diesel fuel.
Since burn pits are the primary avenue through which troops discard their waste products, plenty of items get thrown into the pits that shouldn’t be near an open flame — like the following.
1. Unspent rounds
It’s common for troops to experience a misfire when discharging their weapons for various reasons. After they clear the chamber, they either let the unspent round fall to the ground or, sometimes, they get tossed into a burn pit.
That’s a bad idea. Bullet projection is based on igniting the gunpowder inside the shell as a propellant. No one wants to get shot by a burn pit.
Just because the primer was struck and nothing happened doesn’t mean the round is dead — it’s still alive. Sort of like a zombie.
2. Human remains
This is just nasty. Who wants to smell a bad guy’s leg roasting over an open flame in the burn pit? On second thought, please don’t answer that.
Various types of batteries will explode if exposed to intense heat. No troop wants to get hit with shrapnel during a firefight, let alone get blasted by battery fragments while inside the wire.