Ever since the F-35 Lighting II program started experiencing cost overruns – a nice way of saying it was hemorrhaging cash – much has been made of its excessive cost in both time and money. But the F-35 is hardly the most expensive Pentagon weapons system in the history of the Big Green Machine, it’s just that the F-35 is the first one to get the scrutiny that an internet-gifted public can give a Pentagon weapons program.
With the B-21 Raider bomber coming into production soon, it might be a good idea to look back and see the most expensive airframes ever created by the U.S. Air Force. For reference, although the development of the F-35 topped $1.5 trillion, the cost per plane is a relatively minuscule $115 million.
The only caveat to this list are the Presidential planes, commonly referred to as Air Force One. Each of those cost $600 million apiece and would sit at number two on this list, but since they’re a specialty item with only two models in service I opted to make room for others.
Northrop Grumman’s tactical airborne early warning airframe has been in service since the Navy of the 1960s. An upgraded version, the Advanced Hawkeye, flies with the same mission but upgraded avionics, comms, and sensors. This advanced version comes with an advanced price tag, 2 million apiece.
The Kestrel is the only helicopter on this list and is actually no longer in service. At 1 million apiece, it was intended to replace the Marines’ Marine One helicopter for moving the President around (among other missions), but the cost of developing it ballooned out of control quickly and the program was canceled. The models were all sold to Canada for spare parts.
This anti-submarine aircraft is just ten years old and comes with the capability to support early warning systems and surface warfare as well. It can even defend itself in air combat when necessary. All those bells and whistles come at a price though – 6 million.
C-17 Globemaster III
The Globemaster III is Boeing’s air cargo masterpiece. At almost 25 years old, there is no more reliable and maintenance friendly airframe in the Air Force that is also capable of the kind of heavy lifting the U.S. military asks of it. Over the course of its life, a single C-17 will run upwards of 8 million.
Second only in technological advancement to its younger sibling, the F-35, the F-22 Raptor still manages to edge the Lightning II out in many areas, including price tag. At 0 million per aircraft, its radar cross section is that of a steel marble. The F-22 didn’t really need to go out of production (some will even argue the U.S. should restart the program), it’s just that the F-35 is a more versatile, fifth-generation fighter.
At the time of its production, it was estimated to cost 7 million apiece, which would already have made it the most expensive aircraft ever built. But tacking on its much-needed upgrades and refits less than a decade later puts the per unit cost of a B-2 bomber at a whopping .1 billion each.
In the northwest Chinese region of Xinjiang, many locals read endlessly, write often, and sing loudly.
But not by choice.
In extrajudicial indoctrination camps around Xinjiang, ethnic Uighur men and women are forced to study Chinese history, write personal reflections, and sing songs like “Without the Communist Party, there is no New China.” Many are beaten, tortured, and are unable to go home.
China considers this process “re-education.” It runs outside the court system with people dragged away for infringements like talking to a loved one overseas or having a beard, and there is no course for appeal.
A recent estimate put the number of people who have been, or are currently, interned since April 2017, in the hundreds of thousands, or even just over one million.
Though the exact total is unknown, Adrian Zenz, a social researcher at the European School of Culture and Theology, pored over local job ads and government bids to find new evidence of the system’s existence and scale.
Since 2016, there were government bids to construct or upgrade 73 facilities in Xinjiang that, despite various names, appeared as though they will operate, wholly or at least in part, as re-education centers.
Re-education centers are often disguised as vocational training hubs, as many were in these bids, but the details betray their hidden purpose.
Together, the facilities required guard rooms, video surveillance, security fences, police equipment, police living quarters, handheld security inspection devices, steel-reinforced concrete walls, and even iron chains.
“Many of these facilities are heavily secured, to an extent that they do not just aim to keep potential intruders out, but to keep those inside under tight surveillance.” Zenz told Business Insider.
Twenty bids listed new or upgraded monitoring or video surveillance. One bid from January 2018, wanted 122 cameras to cover the whole facility without leaving any “dead angles.”
One center required security nets, the renovation of a guard room, and “four watchtowers.” Another, submitted on April 25, 2018, requested an 86,000 square-foot “underground facility.”
These security features, according to Zenz, confirm reports that vocation centers frequently function as internment camps, though many facilities likely sit on a continuum.
“All we know is that a substantial number of facilities, likely capable of holding at least several hundred thousand, are geared more towards the re-education side. Some are explicitly and directly marked as re-education facilities. More than likely, facilities with a stronger vocational training focus can likewise hold several hundred thousands,” said Zenz.
“Some even specifically state that they are designed to perform ‘re-education.’ An official government notice from April 2017, pertaining to these facilities in a particular prefecture mandated that training topics include military drill, Chinese language, legal knowledge, ethnic unity, religious knowledge and patriotic education.”
Job ads are also a huge giveaway
As easy as it may be to silently whisk away thousands of people to new re-education centers, skyrocketing prisoner would also require a huge recruitment drive.
According to Zenz, from May 2017, counties with large ethnic minority populations “initiated a wave of recruitments” for so-called education and training centers.
But ads for such staff were often listed in the same ads as open police positions, and some ads even preferred recruitees with a military or police background.
Other job ads conflated the two roles, hiring “training center policing assistants.” If the staff were being hired to work at a regular vocation center the high number of security personnel would be “difficult to explain,” said Zenz.
Ads also frequently lacked required skills or qualifications that would normally be crucial to providing vocational training. Many required only a middle-school education whereas other provinces, where few Uighur would live, usually require at least a bachelor degree.
In one Xinjiang country, where Uighurs make up 95% of the population, 320 jobs available at a “training center” had three criteria: have a middle-school education, be loyal to the Chinese Communist Party, and be part of the ethnic majority Han.
Re-education isn’t the only problem Uighurs face
In an attempt to crack down on religious extremism, authorities in Xinjiang have targeted almost any form of religious expression by Uighur Muslims.
Women have been banned from wearing burqas and veils. Residents were barred from fasting during Ramadan with restaurants ordered to stay open despite religious obligations. And in 2016, millions of Xinjiang residents were ordered to surrender their passports and must seek permission to travel abroad.
Authorities have installed surveillance apps on residents’ phones and begun collecting DNA samples, fingerprints, iris scans, and blood types from all Xinjiang residents aged between 12 and 65. They have also collected voice samples that may be used to identify who is speaking on tapped phone calls.
North Korea announced April 17, 2019, that it had tested a “new tactical guided weapon,” leading to a lot of speculation about what North Korea, a volatile nation known for its nuclear and missile tests, may have actually fired off.
Acting Secretary of Defense Patrick Shanahan would only go so far as to say that the weapon “is not a ballistic missile” in his discussions with the press April 18, 2019. He added that there has been “no change to our posture or to our operations.”
The South Korean military, according to the semi-official Yonhap News Agency, concluded that North Korea was experimenting with a “guided weapon for the purpose of ground battles.”
US intelligence, CNN reported, has assessed that North Korea tested components for an anti-tank weapon, not a new, fully-operational weapon. The US determined that the weapon was, as CNN worded it, “inconsequential to any advanced North Korean military capability.”
Satellites and aircraft operating nearby did not detect any evidence that the North launched a short-range tactical weapon or a ballistic missile. US officials told reporters that had North Korea fired an operational weapon, US sensors would have detected it.
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un inspects the defence detachment on Jangjae Islet and the Hero Defence Detachment on Mu Islet located in the southernmost part of the waters off the southwest front, in this undated photo released by North Korea’s Korean Central News Agency on May 5, 2017.
Meaningful or not, the test, which was reportedly “supervised” by Chairman Kim Jong Un and comes just a few months after the failed summit in Hanoi. Some North Korea watchers believe it was intended to send a message to the Trump administration, as the announcement was accompanied by a call from the North Korean foreign ministry to remove Secretary of State Mike Pompeo from all future nuclear negotiations.
“The United States remains ready to engage North Korea in a constructive negotiation,” a State Department spokesperson said.
North Korea has not conducted a nuclear test since Sept. 3, 2017, when it tested what analysts suspect was a thermonuclear bomb, and the country’s last ballistic missile test was the successful launch of a new type of intercontinental ballistic missile in late November that year.
Amid negotiations with Washington, Pyongyang has maintained a strict moratorium on nuclear and ballistic missile testing. North Korea has, however, engaged in lower-level weapons testing to signal frustration during these talks.
Kim Jong Un inspects the Hwasong-15 intercontinental ballistic missile.
Following an abrupt cancellation of a meeting between Pompeo and his North Korean counterpart in November 2018, the North tested a so-called “ultramodern tactical weapon.” The country apparently tested an artillery piece, most likely a multiple rocket launcher. Nonetheless, that test was the first clear sign that North Korea is willing to restart weapons testing if necessary.
The North Korean leader suggested as much in his New Year’s address. “If the U.S. does not keep the promises it made in front of the world, misjudges the patience of our people, forces a unilateral demand on us, and firmly continues with sanctions and pressures on our republic, we might be compelled to explore new ways to protect our autonomy and interests,” Kim explained.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
Military recruiters are some of the most tireless salesmen in the country. When they’re not handling some paperwork to make entering the military easier on a recruit, they’re out finding fresh faces to bring into military service. Oftentimes, however, recruiters are given a bad reputation for stretching the truth to a prospective troop.
And let’s be honest; there is an extremely small handful of recruiters out there who are unethical and bring discredit upon their branch of service by flat-out lying to boost their numbers. The other 99.9% of recruiters out there doing the right thing, however, respond to questions a recruit asks in more colorful words to avoid scaring them. For example, if a dumb high-school graduate asks if the military will give them a free Camaro, the recruiter would likely respond with something like, “the military will give you the money you’ll need for a Camaro.” This isn’t a blatant ‘yes,’ but reframes how the potential recruit thinks about military service.
Here are some the ways these master persuaders put their special touch on common questions.
7. When asked, “is Boot/Basic is hard?”
Recruiters have a qualifier they use here — “It’s not as hard as it used to be.”
They’ll never tell you that it’s a walk in the park — because it’s not. Older vets that went in when Drill Sergeants/Instructors could lay hands on a recruit had it much harder, but they’re still going to break the civilian out of you.
Basic is so easy, even Homer Simpson could do it. (Image via GIPHY)
6. When asked, “is college is free?”
A good recruiter will never use the phrase “free college,” because it isn’t.
In addition to “paying for it with your commitment,” you pay small chunks for the first 12 months of your enlistment as an allotment.
There is no job in the military that pays more than others. Yes, there are slight increases in pay for certain things, like deployments, dependents, and airborne pay, but everything else goes off pay grade.
That said, an MOS with lower promotional requirements will pay more over time.
Yep. That’s pretty much how it works… (Image via GIPHY)
4. When asked, “Do I get to do this when I’m in?”
Outsiders looking in have wild ideas about military service. Wide-eyed recruits who show up wanting to start their life as part of Airborne, Rangers, or Special Forces will be sadly disappointed.
Recruiters don’t have the pull to get a fresh recruit into some of the most prestigious schools. The go-to response is, “you can try when you get to your first duty station,” which basically like a Magic 8-ball saying, “ask again later.”
When a recruiter is asked if a recruit can get an “SF Contract.” (Image via GIPHY)
3. When asked, “what are my best options when I get out?”
All MOS’s have skills that transfer into the civilian world. “Leadership abilities” and “working well as a team or alone” are buzzwords that every civilian job goes nuts over.
Usually, if you show interest in anything non-military, the recruiter will masterfully relate it to the lessons learned in service.
Best advice a recruiter can give. (Image via GIPHY)
2. When asked about bonuses.
Bonuses add a little incentive, helping convince people into high demand jobs (like water purification specialists) or jobs that need to stay competitive with the civilian marketplace (like aviators).
Recruiters don’t or at least shouldn’t lie about bonuses because they’re hard numbers on paper. If you just ask which job has the best bonus, they’ll look to the spreadsheet to see which job is needed at that moment. If you show interest in a job that doesn’t have a bonus, they’ll often leave them out of the conversation as to not change your mind.
Don’t spend it all in one place… (Image via GIPHY)
1. When asked, “does this need a waiver?”
If a recruiter pushes for a waiver, they like something about the recruit or their numbers are hurting, but there’s just one or two things holding them back.
Waivers are a pain in the ass. While the recruit has to prove they’re worth the trouble, the recruiter has to jump through far more hoops to get them through — that means paperwork, meetings, and phone calls. It takes a lot for the recruiter to back-up their claim that the recruit is a fine addition to the military or they really, REALLY need the numbers.
Recruits can basically get in with whatever — given enough paperwork. (Image via GIPHY)
A recent increase in UFO sightings has caused the Navy to revamp guidelines with which to report a UFO sighting officially. This comes on the heels of a 2018 sighting that was reported by the Washington Post and then seemingly disappeared back into the national never-before-truly-confirmed zeitgeist alongside bigfoot and infants that don’t cry on airplanes.
“advanced aircraft” is a farcry from the traditional UFO explanation of weather balloons (pictured)
A Navy spokesperson told Politico, ” There have been a number of reports of unauthorized and/or unidentified aircraft entering various military-controlled ranges and designated air space in recent years […] For safety and security concerns, the Navy and the [U.S. Air Force] takes these reports very seriously and investigates each and every report.”
The current process has led to some gridlock and complications with reporting ‘unidentified flying objects’ so the format is being streamlined by the Navy to make sure that “such suspected incursions can be made to cognizant authorities.”
Obviously, one possible knee-jerk public reaction is going to use this as military confirmation about the possibility of extraterrestrial life or “aliens” on earth. However, the Navy has made no such comment on the matter, as it is far more likely that these “UFOs” are either allied/enemy covert aircraft.
This is not to say that the possibility hasn’t been explored in a military context. In fact, the Department of Defense established a program entirely dedicated to further investigation of UFO sightings: The Advanced Aerospace Threat Identification Program.
However, the Advanced Aerospace Threat Identification Program (AATIP) only ran from 2007-2012. Its eventual folding in 2012 was because it was “determined that there were other, higher priority issues that merited funding and it was in the best interest of the DoD to make a change.”
Former military intelligence official Luis Elizondo, who apparently led the AATIP, is in favor of ramping up UFO sighting efforts.
He describes the paradox with military sightings in relation to civilian UFO sightings, “If you are in a busy airport and see something you are supposed to say something” he said.
“With our own military members it is kind of the opposite: ‘If you do see something, don’t say something. … What happens in five years if it turns out these are extremely advanced Russian aircraft?”
Chris Mellon, an associate of Elizondo’s and a co-contributor to the upcoming docuseries “Unidentified: Inside America’s UFO Investigation” piggybacked on Elizondo’s comments.
“Right now, we have a situation in which UFOs and UAPs are treated as anomalies to be ignored rather than anomalies to be explored,” he told Politico. He continued on saying that it is a common occurrence that military personnel “don’t know what to do with that information — like satellite data or a radar that sees something going Mach 3.”
It is unclear what military officials believe these anomalies could be, but one thing is for certain now—they’re on the radar.
Lockheed Martin said in early August 2018 that the last of 52 upgraded C-5M Super Galaxy cargo planes had been delivered to the Air Force, finishing the nearly two-decade-long modernization of the service’s largest plane.
Lockheed began work on the Air Force’s Reliability and Re-engineering Program (RERP) in 2001 and turned over the first operational C-5M Super Galaxy, as the latest version is called, on Feb. 9, 2009.
In the 17 years since the RERP effort started, 49 C-5Bs, two C-5Cs, and one C-5A were upgraded, according to a Lockheed release, first cited by Air Force Times. The upgrades extend the aircraft’s service life into the 2040s, the contractor said.
A C-5M Super Galaxy lands at Dover Air Force Base, Delaware, April 4, 2016.
(US Air Force photo)
The program involved 70 modifications to improve the plane’s reliability, efficiency, maintainability, and availability, including changes to the airframe; environmental, pneumatic, and hydraulic systems; landing gear, and flight controls.
The main new feature is more powerful engines, upgraded from four General Electric TF-39 engines to General Electric F-138 engines. The new engines, which are also quieter, allow the C-5M to haul more cargo with less room needed for takeoff.
“With the capability inherent in the C-5M, the Super Galaxy is more efficient and more reliable, and better able to do its job of truly global strategic airlift,” Patricia Pagan, a senior program manager at Lockheed, said in the release.
All together, the RERP upgrades yield “a 22 percent increase in thrust, a shorter takeoff roll; [and] a 58 percent improvement in climb rate,” according to release, which said the modifications give the C-5M greater fuel efficiency and reduce its need for tanker support.
Airmen and Marines load vehicles into a C-5M Super Galaxy at Camp Bastion, Afghanistan, Oct. 6, 2014.
(US Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Jeremy Bowcock)
The C-5 stands 65 feet high with a length of 247 feet and a 223-foot wingspan. The upgraded C-5M can haul 120,000 pounds of cargo more than 5,500 miles — the distance from Dover Air Force base in Delaware to Incirlik airbase in Turkey — without refueling. Without cargo, that range jumps to more than 8,000 miles.
The plane can carry up to 36 standard pallets and 81 troops at the same time or a wide variety of gear, including tanks, helicopters, submarines, equipment, and food and emergency supplies.
The first C-5A was delivered to the Air Force in 1970. By 1989, 50 C-5Bs had joined the 76 C-5As that were already in service. Two C-5Cs, modified to carry the space shuttle’s large cargo container, were also delivered in 1989.
An Air Force C-5M Super Galaxy taking off.
(Lockheed Martin photo)
The modernization push
The Air Force began a C-5 modernization push in 1998, starting the RERP in 2001 with plans to deliver 52 upgraded planes by fiscal year 2018. The remainder of the C-5 fleet was to be retired by September 2017.
But the C-5 fleet has face administrative and operational issues in recent years.
Due to budget sequestration, a number of C-5s were moved to backup status in over the past few years, meaning the Air Force still had the aircraft but no personnel or funding to operate them. In early 2017, Air Force officials said they wanted to move at least eight C-5s from backup status to active status.
“I need them back because there’s real-world things that we’ve got to move, and they give me that … added assurance capability,” then-Air Mobility Commander Gen. Carlton Everhart said at the time.
A C-5M Super Galaxy taxis down the flight line before takeoff at Dover Air Force Base, Delaware, Aug. 17, 2015.
(US. Air Force photo by Roland Balik)
In the months since, the Air Force’s C-5s have encountered maintenance issues that required stand-downs.
In mid-July 2017, Air Mobility Command grounded the 18 C-5s — 12 primary and six backups — stationed at Dover Air Force Base after the nose landing-gear unit in one malfunctioned for the second time in 60 days. Days later, that order was extended to all of the Air Force’s 56 C-5s, which had to undergo maintenance assessments.
The issue was with the ball-screw assembly, which hindered the extension and retraction of the landing gear. The parts needed to fix the problem were no longer in production, however, but the Air Force was able to get what it needed from the “boneyard” at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, where unused or out-of-service aircraft are stored.
In early 2018, the nose landing gear again caused problems when it failed to extend all the way for an Air Force Reserve C-5M landing at Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland. The plane landed on its nose and skidded about three-quarters of the way down the runway. The cause of the accident and extent of the damage were not immediately clear, but none of the 11 crew members on board were hurt.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
Nobody wants to get lost out in the wilderness as snow falls at a rapid rate and darkness begins to settle in. Hell, it’s scary enough getting turned around while your walking in downtown Los Angeles at 3 a.m. and the streets are littered with homeless people.
We’re only kidding — sort of.
If you get trapped out in the great unknown, hopefully, you have some survival equipment with you already. But let’s say your compass is broken, for one reason or another. Don’t worry, we can fashion an alternate, magnet-powered one in no time.
First, check in your survival kit for needle or pin. Pull that out, you’ll need it. Next, if you have a radio on you (and it’s not proving useful), pull out some of the wire and the battery pack. Wrap some easy-to-find paper around the pin, then follow that up by wrapping the wire around that pin. The paper wrap will insulate the pin from the electric current.
America’s F-15 Eagle has long since secured a position in the pantheon of the world’s greatest fighters. With an incredible air combat record of 104 wins and zero losses, the fourth generation powerhouse we call the F-15 remains America’s fastest air superiority fighter, beating out even the venerable F-22 Raptor. But the F-15E Strike Eagle, the F-15’s multi-role sibling, was never really intended to serve as a dedicated air-to-air platform. Instead, the F-15E’s goal was to leverage the speed and payload capabilities of an F-15 for ground attack missions — making it one of the most capable multi-role fighters of its generation.
In 1993, Air Force Capt. Tim Bennett was serving as a flight leader for the 335th Tactical Fighter Squadron out of Al Kharj AB in central Saudi Arabia, in support of Operation Desert Storm. He and his F-15E would fly a total of 58 combat missions through the deployment, but one stands out as particularly exceptional: The time Bennett and his weapons officer, Capt. Dan Bakke, managed to shoot down an Iraqi helicopter using a 2,000 pound laser guided bomb.
(USAF photo courtesy of Master Sgt. Lance Cheung)
February 14, 1993: Valentine’s Day
On Valentine’s Day of 1993, Bennett and Bakke were conducting an early morning Scud combat air patrol — flying around northwest Iraq looking for mobile Scud missile platforms that could pose a threat to American forces. They were flying above the cloud cover, waiting to receive targeting coordinates from a nearby AWAC, when they received a different kind of call: An American Special Forces team had been operating secretly more than 300 miles from the border identifying Scud launchers for engagement, and they’d been discovered by the Iraqi military.
As the AWAC relayed that there were five Iraqi helicopters closing with the Green Beret’s position, Bennett diverted toward the special operators. He and his weapons officer called back in to the AWAC as they spotted the helicopters on their radar, traveling west to east.
(U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Aaron Allmon)
“We don’t have any friendlies in the area. Any helicopters you find, you are cleared to shoot,” Bennett was told over the radio.
As Bennett closed with the helicopters, he and Bakke noticed that they were flying and stopping at regular intervals, and it seemed as though they were dropping off ground troops to continue engaging the Special Forces team. In effect, the helicopter and ground troops were coordinating to herd the American Green Berets into an unwindable engagement.
Polish Mi-24 Hind (WikiMedia Commons)
“By this time, we were screaming over the ground, doing about 600 knots–almost 700 mph. The AAA [Anti-Aircraft Fire] was still coming up pretty thick. Our course took us right over the top of the Iraqi troops to the east of the team. We didn’t know exactly where our team was, but it was looking to us like things were getting pretty hairy for the Special Forces guys,” Bennett later recalled.
Bennett decided to engage the lead helicopter, but not with his Aim-9 Sidewinders which were designed for air-to-air engagements. Instead, he planned to lob a 2,000 pound bomb in its direction. Chances were good, he knew, that it wouldn’t hit the helicopters, but it would kill the troops on the ground and likely startle the Hind pilots, allowing his wingman to get a clear shot with a Sidewinder.
Polish Mi-24 Hind (WikiMedia Commons)
Because they were moving so quickly, the unpowered bomb actually had a greater range than the Sidewinder missile. Bennett released the bomb 4 miles out from the Hind-24 Bakke was carefully keeping his laser sighted on.
“There’s no chance the bomb will get him now,” Bennett thought as the Hind-24 lifted off the ground and began to accelerate. “I got a good lock with my missile and was about to pickle off a Sidewinder when the bomb flew into my field of view on the targeting IR screen.”
“There was a big flash, and I could see pieces flying in different directions. It blew the helicopter to hell, damn near vaporized it.”
Of course, scoring the F-15E’s first air-to-air victory might be a point of pride for Bennett and Bakke, but they still had a job to do. They moved on to engage a mobile Scud on a nearby launchpad before heading home.
“The Special Forces team got out OK and went back to Central Air Forces headquarters to say thanks and confirm our kill for us. They saw the helicopter go down. When the helos had bugged out, the team moved back to the west and was extracted.”
The little old building on the back of the $20 bill is known all around the world as the residence and workplace of the leader of the free world. Being said leader is a dangerous prospect: There have been thirty-three known attempts at the lives of sitting U.S. presidents. Four of those attempts, unfortunately, were successful.
It stands to reason that measures must be taken at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue to prevent any attacks on the lives of the president, the first family, and anyone else who serves there. But protecting the president requires far more than just armed guards and motion-activated cameras.
The true extent of the protection at the White House has never been — and shouldn’t ever be — released to the public. While the White House is open about sharing some of its protective measures, it should be assumed that the men and women of the Secret Service have thought of ways to counter or deal with literally any other scenario a would-be threat could conjure up.
You really don’t want to try your luck at finding out what the President’s bathroom looks like.
21-day advanced tour notice
When you think of a “secure location,” the last place you think of is somewhere that’s so widely visited that it offers tours in eleven different languages. But not just anyone can easily mosey on into the White House.
In order to be given the tour of the highest office in the land, you must submit an application at least 21 days before your scheduled visit. This gives the security an accurate headcount and the ability to perform background checks on visitors. For obvious reasons, the tour is also guided through only select portions of the White House.
If gas stations and banks have them, you can assume the White House has better.
(Official White House photo by Shealah Craighead)
Windows are typically vulnerable to firearms. Funnily enough, in any photo you see of the White House, you’ll also see countless windows. Even the Resolute Desk is positioned with the President’s back turned to a bunch of windows in the Oval Office.
Thankfully, they’re some of the most impenetrable windows known to man. In November 2011, an attacker fired seven rounds from a semi-automatic rifle into the White House, but not even consecutive shots could shatter a window.
“There he is! Get him!”
Every inch of the perimeter is surrounded in infrared lasers that detect even the most minuscule threat against the White House. These aren’t the lasers that you’d see in old spy films that challenge intruders to a deadly game of limbo. No, these blanket everything to include the sky, the surface, and even underground.
With that level of security, you’d expect swarms of agents to descend on even the smallest intruders — like a wayward squirrel. Well, it happens all the time. But it’s better to be aware of every single squirrel than to let a single threat wiggle by.
In this photo are at least seven SAM batteries (probably), so the White House itself wouldn’t need one.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Thomas J. Doscher)
Washington D.C. is a no-fly zone. Any plane not scheduled or following the strict path into Ronald Reagan National Airport are first given a warning. If they don’t show any sort of compliance immediately, they’ll be taken down by one of the countless surface-to-air missiles located around the capital.
While it’s known that many missile batteries are located in Washington D.C., it’s more of an urban legend that there’s an Avenger missile system on top of the White House itself. That remains unproven, but the White House does have those high-tech laser systems that can detect any possible threat from a mile out, alerting other missile systems that then take down the threat.
Which probably means the guy who had fun with the drones might now be in charge of them. Or not. We’ll never know.
(United States Secret Service photo)
In January, 2015, an unnamed government employee and amateur drone hobbyist was having fun with his drone outside the White House lawn after his shift. It was able to fly through the detection systems fairly easily until it hit the ground and set off countless alarm systems, sending every single agent into a frenzy. The man wasn’t charged because he was an employee at the White House and because it highlighted a major security fault in the systems at the time.
Since then, the White House has employed drones of their own to act as both roving security cameras and to take down any other drones that come into area. Coincidentally, the same drones that the Secret Service now uses are the same that the hobbyist used.
Everyone always looks through the fence, but never stops to admire the awesomeness that is the fence itself.
With all of these security measures in place, the most obvious one is actually the most effective, historic, and iconic: the fence that surrounds the White House. First erected in 1801 by President Thomas Jefferson, it has seen many changes over its lifetime. What was once a simple barricade to keep the president’s livestock on the property has now become an 11-foot tall, vehicle-stopping, climb-resistant, behemoth of steel and rebar.
Not only is the newest fence crowned with spikes to deter attempts at climbing, it also alerts agents the moment anyone puts pressure on it to ensure nobody makes it over.
The choice to carry a knife as a means of self-defense brings with it the responsibility of learning how to use it, but just knowing how to do something doesn’t make you good at it. Skill comes from repetition through dedicated training. Attending a couple edged-weapons seminars might give you a base knowledge, but it won’t make you proficient with a blade. You must incorporate that knowledge into a regular training regimen to hone your skills.
The great thing about blade training is it can be done pretty much anywhere. Unlike firearms training, you don’t need a designated training area. You don’t need to worry about noise and backstops, and your neighbors aren’t likely to call the police if you do it in the backyard.
The greatest challenge with solo blade training is knowing where to start. Once you know how to train on your own, the possibilities become endless. The information presented here will give you some good starting points to help you develop a consistent solo training program that will sharpen your edged-weapons skills.
Some solo training tools pictured here include aluminum training blades, a shot timer, a tennis ball on a string, bubbles, and a Rubber Dummies 3D Silhouette Target.
Shadow shanking is the edged-weapon equivalent of shadow boxing, with a little urban slang mixed in. It’s the act of fighting with an imaginary opponent to develop technique, timing, lines of motion, and muscle memory. It’s one of the most useful training methods for learning and training basic movements and movement patterns. There are a few different ways to implement shadow shanking into your training regimen.
Shadow shanking is the edged-weapon equivalent of shadow boxing. When done with the proper progression and mind-set, it can be a valuable training tool.
1. Working the basics
This is how you build your foundation. The best way to set this up is to stand in front of a mirror and watch yourself perform the movements. You might also want to draw a large asterisk on the mirror with lipstick or a grease pencil to give you a visual reference for the various angles of attack. You can then follow these lines with your blade.
We tend to be very unaware of ourselves. Seeing yourself moving in a mirror helps you develop a mind-body connection. It’s the reason gyms and martial arts schools are covered in mirrors. Use the mirror to correct flaws and solidify proper technique until your body knows what the right motion feels like. Go back to the mirror frequently to reinforce proper technique.
2. Free flow
Another form of shadow shanking is free flow. This is where you develop your ability to flow from one cut or thrust to another using the most efficient path for each angle of attack. Start with preset combinations to engrain paths of motion into your central nervous system. As those combinations become more fluid, you can begin linking the lines between various combinations until you’re able to free flow without thinking.
3. The ghost
Visualization is the key to fighting the ghost, a cool name for an imaginary opponent. To fight the ghost, you have to imagine an opponent as vividly as possible, seeing his every move through your mind’s eye. Visualize his attacks and react to them using footwork, evasions, defenses, interceptions, and counters. Imagine how he’s reacting to your movements and respond accordingly. This variation of shadow shanking is the most challenging, but the benefits you reap from it are invaluable.
The training post
The training post is one of the oldest and simplest combat training tools known to man. Historically known as a pell, this solid wooden post was used to practice striking, cutting, and thrusting with the sword, shield, and spear. It was the ancient swordsman’s equivalent of a boxer’s heavy bag, and its use is recorded in historical documents dating back to the 1st century.
The training post is a vital piece of solo training equipment. Delivering cuts and thrusts against the air is great for developing basic technique, but the resistance of a solid target is necessary for conditioning the mind and body for impact. Just like a heavy bag, using the training post will strengthen your muscles and increase connective tissue resilience. Striking a solid post will challenge your grip and expose weaknesses in your technique.
Historically known as the pell, the training post is the ancient swordsman’s equivalent of a boxer’s heavy bag.
Training on a post requires very little logistics. A 6-foot pole with a sturdy base is all you need. A solid, dead tree can work just as well. It’s also a good idea to add some target markings like lines and circles to aid with working your cutting angles and thrusting accuracy.
Proper safety precautions are necessary when working the post. Wear safety glasses to protect your eyes from flying pieces of wood. If you’re going to use a live blade, it’s a good idea to wear Kevlar-lined gloves to protect your hand in case it rides onto the blade during a thrust, especially if your blade doesn’t have a substantial guard.
Your best buddy “BOB”
Century’s Body Opponent Bag is one of the most useful combatives training devices available. The vinyl skinned, lifelike mannequin provides all the shapes and contours of a human head and torso, making for a realistic, target-rich training environment. BOB isn’t very practical for live-blade training, at least not if you want to keep him around for a while. A synthetic or aluminum training blade, or a homemade “stubby” (knife-shaped, hard foam cutout wrapped in electrical tape), are your best options for blade work on BOB.
The Body Opponent Bag is one of the most useful combatives training tools. Shown here with the Dionisio Zapatero anatomical rash guard for vital target identification.
When training on the BOB, focus on targeting and precision. Work the eyes, neck, throat, lungs, and abdomen with various thrusts and cuts. It’s easy to forget you have two hands during weapons training, so take advantage of the liveliness of the BOB and emphasize the use of both hands by incorporating empty-hand strikes, checks, and grabs with your live hand (the hand not holding the blade). Move around the mannequin and work as many angles as possible.
Another way to up your game on the BOB is with anatomical drilling. This form of training involves the use of a Dionisio Zapatero anatomical rash guard in conjunction with the BOB. The purpose is to identify the anatomical location of vital targets on the body in order to increase your ability to recognize target landmarks. This particular method was developed with the input of this author and popularized by Scott Babb in the Libre Fighting System.
Rubber Dummy mayhem
The Rubber Dummies 3D Silhouette Body Target is a self-healing rubber target designed for close-quarters firearms application, but has proven effective for edged weapons training as well. Filipino martial arts practitioners have long employed used automobile tires in various configurations to practice stick and blade combatives.
The Rubber Dummy combines many elements of the training post and BOB into one device, able to withstand the abuse of a live blade while offering human target features.
The Rubber Dummy puts a modern twist on this solo training concept with its three-dimensional human shape and tire-like, hard rubber texture. The Rubber Dummy combines many elements of the training post and the BOB into one training device. The Rubber Dummy can withstand the abuse from a live blade, while offering human target features. Cuts and stabs leave visible markings on the renewable “skin” (applied with spray paint), yielding instant feedback.
Speed drilling is a broad category of solo training with many variations. The purpose is to develop speed, efficiency, and accuracy. For solo training, using a programmable shot timer in conjunction with a suitable striking target, such as the ones mentioned above, works extremely well. The idea is to program the shot timer using delayed start and perform the action within a set par-time parameter. Striking a target that makes an audible sound, like a balloon or X-ray paper will signal the shot timer to record the split, letting you see your actual hit time.
A programmable shot timer and a quality training blade are excellent tools for developing speed and accuracy.
Speed drill progression should look something like this: Begin drilling from a ready position with your blade in hand and address the target at the sound of the beep. Then, perform the drill from a neutral position with the blade in hand. Next, deploy the blade from its carry location and engage from a ready position. Finally, deploy and engage from a neutral position.
Speed drilling with the aid of a shot timer adds stress and challenges you to leave your comfort zone. It pushes you to the edge of failure, so you can recognize how fast you can move without compromising your accuracy or control of your weapon. Always use training blades for these types of drills.
Ball on a string
Striking a simple ball on a free-hanging string can be one of the most challenging solo drills for edged-weapons training, and it’s also one of the cheapest and easiest tools to set up. Attach a ball to a string and hang it up — that’s it. The weight and size of the ball and the length of the string are variables you can vary to change the level of difficulty. Let the ball swing freely and work your cutting and thrusting angles as the ball swings toward you. Don’t forget to include footwork. That’s about all there is to this simple but effective drill.
Who hasn’t at some point in their life run around poking bubbles out of the air with their finger? It was fun when you were a kid, and it’s even more fun with a knife. Borrow your kid’s bubble machine and go to town. You’ll have random targets floating all around you, so you’ll have to move up and down, side to side, back and forth, and turn around. If a bubble hits you, it means you’ve been tagged, so keep moving and pop them before they land on you. The one caveat is you have to be precise with your blade, no wild swinging or flailing about.
Putting it all together
The less effort involved in setting up a training drill, the more likely we are to do it, especially when we’re limited on time. The training tools and drills presented here take very little effort to set up. Most can be left in place wherever you set them up, meaning you can quickly visit them and get in some quality repetitions within 5 or 10 minutes. Practice makes permanent, so focus on getting quality repetitions.
Physical preparation is only half the equation when it comes to any deadly force issue. Mental preparation is just as important, if not more so. You must train your mind to deal with the emotional trauma that comes with a violent physical assault. Rather than mindlessly performing countless repetitions, consider incorporating visualization into your solo training. Work through various attack/response scenarios in your mind as you do your drills. This will help prepare you to perform under stress and reduce the likelihood that you’ll freeze during a violent encounter.
The Marine Corps plans to introduce a new weapon intended to enhance the lethality of infantry Marines on the battlefield.
The M320A1 is a grenade launcher that can be employed as a stand-alone weapon or mounted onto another, such as the M27 Infantry Automatic Rifle. Scheduled to be fielded in fiscal year 2020, the system will give fleet Marines the ability to engage with enemies near and far, day or night.
“The M320A1 will provide good range and accuracy, making the infantry squad more lethal,” said Lt. Col. Tim Hough, program manager for Infantry Weapons in Marine Corps Systems Command’s Ground Combat Element Systems.
The functionality of the M320A1 makes it unique, said Hough. Its ability to be used as a stand-alone or in conjunction with a firearm should help warfighters combat enemy forces. The weapon will replace the M203 grenade launcher, currently employed by Marines.
“The mounted version of the M320A1 is a capability we’re currently working on so that Marines have that option should they want it,” added Hough.
Capt. Nick Berger, project officer in Infantry Weapons at Marine Corps Systems Command, holds the M320A1 during a weeklong review of the system.
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Joseph Neigh)
Before the Marine Air-Ground Task Force receives the M320A1, the Corps must draft technical documents for the weapon. These publications provide Marines with further information about the system.
In early March 2019, Ground Combat Elements Systems collaborated with fleet maintenance Marines and logisticians from Albany, Georgia, conducting various analyses to determine provisioning, sustainment and new equipment training requirements for the system.
The first evaluation was a Level of Repair Analysis, or LORA. A LORA determines when a system component will be replaced, repaired or discarded. This process provides information for helping operational forces quickly fix the weapon should it break.
The LORA establishes the tools required to perform a task, test equipment needed to fix the product and the facilities to house the operation.
“It’s important to do the LORA now in a deliberate fashion so that we don’t do our work in front of the customer,” explained Hough. “And it ensures the system they get is ready to go, helping them understand the maintenance that must be done.”
The second evaluation was a Job Training Analysis, which provides the operational forces with a training package that instructs them on proper use of the system to efficiently engage adversaries on the battlefield.
“This process helps us ensure this weapon is both sustainable and maintainable at the operator and Marine Corps-wide level,” said Capt. Nick Berger, project officer in Infantry Weapons at MCSC. “It sets conditions for us to field the weapon.”
M320 40mm Grenade Launcher Module.
Analyses supports sustainability
Sustainability is a key factor in any systems acquisition process. The goal of the LORA and Job Training Analysis is to ensure the operator and maintenance technical publications of a system are accurate, which reduces operational ambivalence and improves the grenade launcher’s sustainability.
The LORA is an ongoing process that continues throughout the lifecycle of the M320A1 to establish sustainability, said Hough. After fielding the M320A1, the Corps will monitor the system to ensure it is functioning properly.
During this time, the program office will make any adjustments and updates necessary.
“We’re looking to have the new equipment training and fielding complete prior to fourth quarter of FY19 to ensure they can be used and maintained properly once they hit the fleet,” said Berger.
The analyses, which occurred over the course of a week, were no easy task.
“This was an extensive and arduous process,” explained Hough. “We scheduled three days for the LORA — all day — so you’re looking at about 24 hours of work for the LORA. And that doesn’t include reviews, briefs and refinements to the package.”
However, at the end of the week, Hough expressed gratitude for all parties involved in the M320A1 analyses, which he called a success. He said the tasks could not have been completed without the help of several key individuals.
“I will tell you what’s noteworthy is working with our contract support, the outside agencies and the deliberate efforts by our team — specifically Capt. Nick Berger and Steve Fetherolf, who is a logistician,” said Hough. “Those two have made a significant effort to get this together and move forward.”
Berger also expressed pride about the accomplishments of the analyses.
“This week has been a success,” he said. “We got the system in Marines’ hands, worked out the kinks and began to understand how we’re going to use this moving forward.”
Enough messing around. Dad’s got the gag gifts and the cushy hunting gear. He doesn’t need another beautiful knife or the latest gizmo for convenience in the field. No, what Dad wants is to be ready for when shit hits the fan, dammit. Time to get tactical.
That means simple, effective gear that’s built to be tough and trustworthy in the field. Finding the gear you can trust your life with is the tricky part, friends. That’s why we went to our experts: The entire team here at SOFREP put our heads together to pick our favorite tactical gear. So whether it’s a solar panel that will never fail, a contingency knife that’s always ready to go, a tactical boot that’ll help you pound ground, or the ultimate loadout box for all the important stuff you’ve already got, here’s the gear we stand by. It certainly stands by us.
1. Overland Solar Bugout Panel
When things go south, power is… well, power. Overland Solar makes the daddy of all solar chargers for a serious off-the-grid setup. It’s good for 130 watts of power in various conditions and produces seven amps an hour thanks to high solar cell efficiency. It charges in low angle light, and when it’s overcast, rainy, and even lightly snowing. Plug and play with your camper, or throw it on the roof of your micro-cabin for solid power basics.
Everything needed for a range kit, nothing more. Polycarbonate shooting glasses, soft foam earplugs, adjustable fit muffs. It’s the perfect replacement gear for the old, beat up shit you’ve had for years. The earmuffs and earplugs are good for 31 and 27 decibels, respectively. And anyway, the best gift you can receive this year is healthy eyeballs and eardrums in old age.
What’s the right level of protection for your bedside equalizer? This thing. It’s got just the right pairing of quick access and safety: open it using RFID access card or keycard or LED-backlit access code. Its Soft Stop door technology means you can open it silently, or set it to a decibel mode for family safety. Oh, and it’s heavy-duty 12-gauge steel.
Nobody in the movies ever needs to fix a jammed rifle or disassemble one for cleaning. This is not the way of the world, though. The Real Avid Armorer’s Master Wrench has everything you need for rifle housekeeping: torque wrench attachment point, armorer’s hammer, castle nut wrench, multiple hammerheads, muzzle brake wrench, and more. With it, as long as you have ammo, you’ll be fine.
Zese Germans make a sehr gut firearm. They also make a prime red dot sight for MSR platforms of all calibers. It’s waterproof, runs off one included battery for up to 20,000 hours, has 10 daytime brightness settings, and two for night vision use. At just a hair over a Benjamin, it might be the perfect tool for target acquisition at close and mid-range.
Curved handle, simple sheath, skeletonized, full-tapered tang, and a 3.5-inch blade: this knife is ready to go when it needs to be. It’s intended as an everyday carry, but you’d be forgiven for showing off its maple handle and black oxide no-glare finish 80CrV2 steel blade. Its beauty is terrible to behold, especially if the beholder is trying to fuck with you.
What does a glove buy you? Try serious hand protection in a combat situation thanks to carbon fiber knuckles, a reinforced synthetic leather palm, and rubberized grip padding. Gloves so affordable rarely come with bonus features, but these ones do: their four-way spandex helps with a comfortable fit, and each glove has two-way touchscreen-friendly fingertips. They’ve got everything you need to throw hands without hesitation.
Ultra-high molecular weight polyethylene is a hell of a material. Ask a scientist if you want the nitty-gritty, but basically, it’s got the highest impact strength of any thermoplastic humans can currently manufacture. It can stop 9mm and .44 rounds up to 1,400 fps, which means you want it in your vest. And because it’s flexible and lightweight, you won’t mind it in your carry-on luggage, or wherever else you have to take it.
SW’s Recruit Tactical Range Bag is made out of ballistic fabric, with oversized zippers and rubber foot skids for protecting your gear. Its two internal pockets are big enough for your handguns, and the main compartment has all the room you need for ammo, ear protection, and the like. External pockets include seven magazine slots, plus tons more room for all the extra crap you’re lugging around.
The best way to get serious about cleaning your gun properly is to get all the right gear. This one has everything you’ll ever need, and then some: 22 bronze bore brushes for every caliber of shotgun, rifle and pistol, cleaning patches, memory-flex cables, obstruction removal tools, precision cleaning tools, and quality solvent. It totals over 40 components and comes in a nylon case. If you don’t keep everything clean with it, well, that shit’s on you.
Viridian makes a mean laser sight. Their Tacloc holsters pull triple duty: they secure your weapon; aid in a smooth, accurate, quick draw; and activate the integrated laser sight instantly when that draw happens. The company makes them for your Beretta, Glock, MP 45, Sig Sauer, and several other guns. And, thanks to rugged Kydex construction and a seven-year warranty, it’ll last.
The perfect tactical boot is well suited to any situation. That’s what makes the Salomon Quest 4D our go-to. It’s got the support and grip of a mountain boot, thanks to a serious outsole and supportive midsole. And its uppers are built for combat: anti-reflective, with anti-debris mesh, mudguard, and waterproofed materials like Goretex. Oh, and the Ranger Green looks damn sharp, too.
Finally, a fix for the annoying, simple problem: you can’t get your brim low enough when you’re wearing your eye protection. A simple notch in this cap fixes that problem. But it’s also just a quality cap: button-less at the top, so your hearing protection fits smoothly, 98 percent breathable, stretchy cotton, moisture-wicking headband, low profile fit, hook-and-loop for your patch of choice. It might be the last ballcap you ever buy.
Minimalistic in all the ways you want, full protection where you need it. That’s the deal with this plate carrier, which is fully adjustable to fit all body types, holds a front and backplate, and is made of durable, rigid, weather-resistant 600D polyester with PVC coating. The straps are padded so you’ll stay cozy, princess.
When it comes to thinking tactically, it’s easy to forget your feet. Don’t. Darn Tough makes some of the best socks out there today. They’re built around performance merino wool with durable, breathable, comfortable design elements. They’re the perfect tool for staying light on your feet all day, no matter the terrain or operation.
Kelty’s been the name behind top U.S. forces tactical gear for decades. This one is issued to spec ops soldiers, and its features make it clear why. It’s got easy access through top and side loading panels, storage options for all your gear, and then some, and its aluminum suspension system is lightweight but durable. And 50 liters of storage is just right for most ops.
This modular vehicle rifle rack and rigid MOLLE panel will mount to any vehicle to help you haul your gun plus MOLLE pouches and extra accessories. It’s made of injection-molded glass-reinforced nylon, perfect for holding plenty of weight. The panel can be installed in under a minute with no tools thanks to mounting straps.
Our favorite cooler company already makes indestructible boxes to keep stuff cold — so the pivot to indestructible boxes for important gear is an easy one. This is our favorite gearcase around: it’s waterproof, dustproof, and stackable, and can be outfitted with dividers and caddies to organize and store your gear just the way you like.
Stay up to date on the latest news, insider info, and the best tactical gear and equipment reviews. Annual subscribers to the Team Room get full access to all SOFREP stories, plus the TeamRoom’s award-winning military documentaries, SPEC OPS training footage and war stories, forums and community chats, podcasts, and exclusive interviews.
Children love playing with toys. So, it makes sense that immature adults love playing with toys, too. A benefit of being in the military is that we can pretend like there’s actually a legitimate reason for playing along.
Somewhere along the line, a high-ranking officer saw that same immature troop accomplish some good through playing with toys and gave the following the seal of approval.
1. Nerf guns
Never underestimate the abilities of a bored infantry platoon looking for a way to let off steam. Stacking and clearing “glass houses” (which are really just white tape on the ground) and using your gun-shaped fingers as mock-weaponry gets kinda dull after a while.
What’s actually fun is when the platoons of hardened warfighters practice their battle drills in the barracks by kicking in doors and tagging each other with Nerf darts while they’re on the toilet.
2. Paintball guns
The rules of engagement are taken very seriously by troops who are deployed. First, you must establish a show of force, letting a potential enemy know you’re armed. Then, you shout, usually through an interpreter or in broken Farsi, to let the enemy know they should back the f*ck up. If they still don’t back away, you can physically “shove” them in the direction they should be going in. Finally, use of force is authorized.
Some troops find it easier to just cover their feet with colored paint than to bust out the real weapons.
3. Little, green Army men
Sand tables are used by commanders to show a rough overview of the mission. Many different things can be designated as a unit. This broken stick? The objective. And this pebble will flank in through the south — like this.
Commanders can clear away a bunch of the confusion by ordering a $5 bucket of plastic Army guys. Add a little bit of paint and you’ve got some distinct markers.
“Okay, first platoon. You’re going to wave your rifles in the air like an idiot. Second, you’re going to kneel with a radio.” (Photo by Sgt. Tracy McKithern)
4. Silly String
Trip wires are placed by the enemy on the paths through which troops will walk. When someone bumps into it, the attached explosives detonate. The solution? A cheap can of Silly String.
The string shoots out pretty far and is so soft and light that it won’t set off the wire. If troops spray it through a doorway, they’ll quickly discover a trap. Even if a wire is sensitive enough to be tripped by silly string, the surprisingly long range of the spray gives troops enough distance to mitigate some of the explosion.
The military has plans for everything, especially communication. Primarily, units depend on secured, frequency-hopping radios. Alternatively, troops can rely on a slightly less secure radio. In case of an absolute emergency, send a runner.
A cheap, effective, “ah-crap” plan is to use regular walkie-talkies instead of sending that runner to maintain unit integrity.