The 6 most expensive aircraft in the US military - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY TACTICAL

The 6 most expensive aircraft in the US military

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.

The 6 most expensive aircraft in the US military

 E-2D Hawkeye

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 6 most expensive aircraft in the US military

 VH-71 Kestrel

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.

The 6 most expensive aircraft in the US military

 P8-A Poseidon

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.

The 6 most expensive aircraft in the US military

 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.

The 6 most expensive aircraft in the US military

 F-22 Raptor

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.

The 6 most expensive aircraft in the US military

 B-2 Spirit

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.

MIGHTY CULTURE

5 items to make your field exercise less miserable

Let’s face it; no one actually likes going to the field. Round-the-clock operations, sleeping on the ground, and spending way too much time with the people you work with can take its toll. Next time you prep for the field, be sure to consider bringing these items to make your field experience a little more bearable. Just be sure that they’re not contraband. Sergeant Major yelling at you is the opposite of what we’re trying to achieve here.


The 6 most expensive aircraft in the US military

Mags, check. Plates, check. Gloves, check. Jetboil, check (Jetboil)

1. Portable stove

In most cases, a portable stove is an approved item to bring to the field. One of the most common stoves is the convenient Jetboil. Available in a variety of sizes and powered by easily-packed fuel canisters, Jetboil stoves can be used to boil water to warm MREs, cook instant ramen, make coffee, and even shave with (just be sure to boil more water and wash it out afterwards). Also, be careful operating it so that you don’t end up like Cpl. Ray Person after Rudy’s espresso machine went off like a 40 mike mike (if you know, you know).

The 6 most expensive aircraft in the US military

They fold flat and can easily be stuffed in an assault pack (Rothco)

2. Folding stool

Look, laying in the prone for hours sucks, especially if the ground is cold, wet, and full of bugs. Some grunts and snake eaters live for that sort of thing, but for those of us that don’t, there’s the folding stool. When you come off the line and into the center of the patrol base for some chow, a stool to sit on is a simple luxury that can make all the difference. Plus, you won’t have to fight with your buddies over who gets to sit on the few remaining unopened MRE boxes. You didn’t hear it from me, but you might even consider popping a squat on your folding stool while pulling security. Just don’t get caught.

The 6 most expensive aircraft in the US military

Maybe bring a spare pack for your buddies (Pampers)

3. Baby wipes

This one is almost a given, but you’d be surprised how often troops forget their baby wipes. If you do forget them, you’d better hope your buddies are willing to share theirs. Otherwise, it’s the MRE napkins for you. Aside from helping you answer nature’s call, baby wipes also provide the cooling relief of a “field shower”, which can be all you need to unwind after a day of patrols. If you’ll be wearing face camo during your time in the field, consider packing makeup wipes as well. They’re better suited for cutting through the thick and waxy face paint than regular baby wipes.

The 6 most expensive aircraft in the US military

The Iceman knows the value of a can of Beefaroni (HBO)

4. Civilian food

Again, this one is almost a given. That said, packing lists can sometimes explicitly forbid bringing any type of food, so read yours carefully…or just hide your food well. Sunflower seeds can help relieve boredom when you’re static for hours on end, beef jerky can keep you going during those long foot patrols, and a can of Chef Boyardee (heated with your portable stove) might be the morale boost you need to make it through the final days of your op. Need a convenient way to carry your food while having it easily accessible? Consider adding a magazine dump pouch to your kit. Just don’t let First Sergeant catch you pulling gummy worms out of it.

The 6 most expensive aircraft in the US military

The famous Gulf War Gameboy is completely original (Nintendo)

5. Nintendo Gameboy

Or really, whatever portable game system you want. I’ve seen everything from PSPs in sunglasses cases to a Switch stuffed in a Crown Royal bag. That said, an old-school Gameboy offers you an easily concealable platform, absurdly long battery life, and the chance to beat the Elite Four again. A Gameboy can also be quickly switched off and shoved into your pocket or an empty mag pouch if you see your squad leader coming towards your position.

By no means is this an all-encompassing list. Really, the best items to bring with you on a field exercise are the things that will make you happy, whether that be a book, a photograph, or fuzzy socks to sleep in. Again, and I can’t stress this enough, pay attention to your packing list…and your surroundings.


MIGHTY TACTICAL

Swarms of killer and support drones are on the horizon

Over the last 10 days, DARPA has announced two developments in their ongoing quest to build swarms of drones to protect warfighters on the ground, and the British Ministry of Defence has announced a $3.26 million investment in similar technology, so it looks like the swarms may be here sooner rather than later.


Currently, most drones on the battlefield are remotely operated aircraft, meaning that there is a pilot, just not in a cockpit in the aircraft. So, remote pilots control aircraft around the world, and the time for the signal to travel from aircraft to pilot and back means there’s a serious gap between a pilot seeing something in the drone’s path, the pilot giving a command to the aircraft, and then the aircraft following that command.

When drones are flying on their own over a battlefield, that’s fine. But the U.S. and allied militaries have expressed interest in swarms of drones supporting each other and soldiers on the ground. Some of this support would be lethal, dropping bombs on targets like current models. Some would be non-lethal, providing surveillance, acting as signal relays, providing medical assistance, logistics, or even scaring enemies.

To do all of this, drones have to be able to make a lot of decisions on their own, allowing an operator to act as a commander of multiple aircraft rather than the pilot of a single one. This requires that the drones avoid crashing on their own, but also that they can continue their mission, even if the human operators lose connection or are jammed.

The 6 most expensive aircraft in the US military

RQ-23 Tigersharks line up on a runway at Yuma Proving Ground for the CODE demonstration.

(DARPA)

On the U.S. side, this effort falls under the CODE, Collaborative Operations in Denied Environment. The program is funded and ran by the Navy, but the workers in the program wanted to make it clear that they want to support the whole DoD, and so they’ve made the technology as adaptable as possible and will make the computer code available to other services.

“What we’re doing with the laboratory we set up is not just for the Navy or NAVAIR. We’re trying to make our capabilities available throughout the entire DoD community,” said Stephen Kracinovich, director of autonomy strategy for the Naval Air Warfare Center Aircraft Division. “If the Army wanted to leverage the DARPA prototype, we’d provide them not just with the software, but an open development environment with all the security protocols already taken care of.”

It’s probably not surprising that the Navy would be at the forefront of this since Iran developed its own swarm tactics to attack Navy assets. The Navy responded by ensuring its ships had plenty of close-in weapons systems like the Mk. 15 Phalanx, but it also eyed the idea of creating its own offensive swarms.

Watch the Navy’s LOCUST launcher fire a swarm of drones

www.youtube.com

A few programs were greenlit to support the effort, but the most emblematic of CODE comes from the Locust launcher. With Locust, the Navy can launch drone after drone from a launcher that looks like rocket, missile, or torpedo tubes, but actually quickly fires small aircraft. Locust can launch drones at a rate of about a drone every 1.33 seconds.

If CODE ends up being everything the Navy wants it to be, then those drones will increasingly be able to work together to achieve missions, even if an enemy manages to jam the control signals from the ship or ground operators.

DARPA is helping with CODE but is also pursuing other programs, and the OFFensive Swarm Enable Tactics program, OFFSET, looks to link together up to 250 drones on missions. Its focus is on solutions that would work in urban areas even when the drone will lose line-of-sight and some communications. And, the program wants to plug in both flying and driving drones.

This would be especially valuable if the Pentagon is right about fighting in megacities in the near to mid-future.

The 6 most expensive aircraft in the US military

British drones that are part of the country’s military transformation.​

(U.K. Ministry of Defence)

The Brits are pursuing their own project dubbed “Many Drones Make Light Work,” which is pretty great. It’s being pushed forward by the Defence and Security Accelerator.

“The MOD continues to invest in pioneering technology that enhances capability, reduces risk to personnel and enables us to better perform our tasks,” Defence Minister Stuart Andrew said. “Drone swarm technology can revolutionise how we conduct intelligence gathering, humanitarian aid, disposal of explosives and supply our troops on the battlefield.”

Britain’s new .26 million investment follows million put into mini-drones and is part of an over 8 million program to prepare the British military and its equipment for future conflicts.

MIGHTY HISTORY

This is the story of the Civil War’s only double-barrel cannon

It always struck me as odd when I read history books as a kid: cannons are pretty much giant shotguns — why didn’t they ever make double-barreled cannon pieces? Well, I wasn’t the only genius with the idea.


A Southerner from Athens, Ga. named Pvt. John Gilleland forged one in 1862. Gilleland’s idea was to connect the two three-inch barrels by firing chain shot connected by two six-pound balls. When fired, the designer’s idea was for the balls to be shot at different angles to allow the ten-foot chain to fully extend.

If you’re not sure what chain shot does to walking bags of meat (soldiers), the guys at MythBusters demonstrated this on a pig carcass – warning: it doesn’t end well for the pig carcass.

So imagine a ten-foot nunchuck weighing in at roughly 50 pounds flying into a massed formation of people at more than a thousand feet per second. That was Pvt. Gilleland’s great idea. Except it didn’t go quite as he would have liked.

The 6 most expensive aircraft in the US military
This ends well for no one.

His tests showed erratic and often dangerous results. Though the gun was designed for both barrels to be fired simultaneously, they often didn’t, meaning an intense veering in an unintended direction. When they did fire, the chain would sometimes break apart, with two end of chain led by a ball, each veering three degrees away from each other at more than a thousand feet per second.

Gilleland still declared it a success and sent it to be tested with the Confederate Army. The Confederates found the cannon “not usable due to unpredictable rates of powder burn and barrel friction which led to unpredictable performance.”

No kidding.

So the Confederate government sent the cannon back to Gilleland in Athens. The weapons was still used in combat in just one battle. As Union raiders approached Athens on July 27, 1863, the double-barrel cannon was used as a signal gun to rouse the population to arms.

Some 9,000 Union cavalry approached Athens as part of General William T. Sherman’s “March to the Sea.” Athens would be put to the torch, but not if the Georgia Home Guard Artillery could repel them.

At Barber’s Creek, just south of Athens, the cavalry hopped across the Confederate earthwork defenses. But before they could break the home guard completely, the city’s cannon and howitzers stole the initiative and fired a volley into the oncoming traffic. The yankees broke off the attack and Athens was spared.

Today the cannon is parked on Hancock and College Avenues in Athens.

The 6 most expensive aircraft in the US military
Pointed North, of course.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Watch Navy SEAL Jocko Willink break down combat scenes

“If your reserve parachute doesn’t work, the procedure is…basically you’re gonna hand salute the world and you’re gonna hit the dirt…because you’re gonna die,” said former Navy SEAL Jocko Willink without much to indicate whether he’s cracking a joke or not.

The retired Lieutenant Commander and recipient of the Silver Star and Bronze Star saw multiple combat deployments, including the Battle of Ramadi in Iraq. After his military career, he created a popular podcast, Jocko Podcast; co-founded Echelon Front, a premier leadership consulting company; and co-authored books like the #1 New York Times bestseller Extreme Ownership: How U.S. Navy SEALs Lead and Win.

He’s nothing if not a commanding presence, which makes his commentary on combat scenes from movies all the more entertaining. Willink doesn’t hold back.


Navy SEAL Jocko Willink Breaks Down Combat Scenes From Movies | GQ

www.youtube.com

Willink starts by breaking down the HALO (High Altitude Low Open) jump from Navy SEALS. He goes pretty deep into the mechanics of a HALO jump and mission logistics that are worth watching in the video above, but here’s a highlight:

“In all branches of the military, you rely on each other to make sure you’re safe. The guy’s checking the other person’s pins on his rig to make sure they’re going to deploy the parachute properly…and then he’s messing with him, which is pretty normal, too. If you know someone’s scared of parachuting, then he’s gonna get messed with a little bit more. Never let anyone know you’re scared of something. Just keep it to yourself,” Willink shared — and again…if he’s amused, you’ll never know. The guy has a straight-up poker face.

He goes on to describe what happens when a parachute malfunctions.

The 6 most expensive aircraft in the US military

“There’s a bunch of things that can go wrong with a parachute. I had one malfunction in my career,” Willink reflected. “What do you do when your parachute doesn’t open? You follow procedures. We train really hard to know what the procedures are.”

He shared his own story of cutting away his main chute and pulling his reserve — which is also demonstrated in the Navy SEALs clip in the video above.

Willink moved on to the amphibious operations of Act of Valor.

“Just because you’re on the SEAL Teams does not mean you’re a sniper. Sniper is a specialized school that guys go to. And there’s a bunch of different schools: you could be a communication expert, you could be a medic…” Willink illustrated.

Willink had a few problems.

“Let me pause it right here. It’s just kind of … not realistic at all. I guess they’re trying to make it look cool. It always surprises me a little bit because … it’s the best job in the world. You don’t really need to do anything to make it look cool. It is cool,” he affirmed.

From ghillie suits to breaching operations to catching a target before he hits the water, Willink has something to say — and it’s not always a critique. He has a lot of knowledge and experience, so it’s cool to hear him break down what’s going on in the scene and why the operators are doing what they do.


Check out the video above to see Willink’s thoughts on additional films like American Sniper, Zero Dark Thirty, Captain Phillips and Lone Survivor.
MIGHTY TRENDING

VA has their own version of ’23andMe’ genetics program

In its journey to improve the lives of veterans through health care research and innovation, VA recently reached a major milestone with enrollment of its 750,000th veteran partner in the Million Veteran Program (MVP) — a national, voluntary research initiative that helps VA study how genes affect the health of veterans.

The milestone, which was reached April 18, 2019, is the result of years of outreach, recruitment and enrollment efforts to help to bring precision medicine to the forefront of VA health care.

“While having 750,000 Veteran partners is a momentous achievement, there is still much work to be done,” said VA Secretary Robert Wilkie. “MVP is on track to continue the march to 1 million veteran partners and beyond in the next few years.”


From its first enrollees in 2011, the program has successfully expanded into one of the largest, most robust research cohorts of its kind in the world. MVP was designed to help researchers understand how genes affect health and illness. Having a better knowledge of a person’s genetic makeup may help to prevent illness and improve treatment of disease.

The 6 most expensive aircraft in the US military

The enrollment milestone is significant because as more participants enroll, researchers have a more representative sample of the entire veteran population to help improve health care for everyone. Enrollees in the program include veterans from all 50 states, Washington, D.C., Puerto Rico and Guam. MVP also has the largest representation of minorities of any genomic cohort in the U.S.

Research using MVP data is already underway with several studies, including efforts focused on understanding the genetics of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), diabetes, heart disease, suicide prevention and other topics. Several significant research findings have already been published in high-impact scientific journals. The knowledge gained from research can eventually lead to better treatments and preventive measures for many common illnesses, especially those common among combat veterans, such as PTSD.

MVP will continue to grow its informatics infrastructure and expand its partner base, to include veterans beyond those enrolled in VA care. VA is also working on a collaboration with the Department of Defense (DoD) to make MVP enrollment available to DoD beneficiaries, including active-duty service members.

This article originally appeared on VAntage Point. Follow @DeptVetAffairs on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

5 life lessons today’s troops could learn from Vietnam vets

It’s easy to look at different eras of veterans and write them off as coming a different time, a different place, a different war. The truth is, the old Vietnam vet you met at the Legion while trying to get cheap drinks isn’t all that different from our men and women fighting today in Iraq and Afghanistan. Toss a drink or two his way and share some stories. Life sucks in the sandbox, but things in the jungle weren’t any better.


Whether you’re out to avoid the same pitfalls of their generation, find out that your struggles aren’t unique, or even joke about the military across eras — pick their brain. We could all learn a thing or two from them. Here’s what you might learn:

5. Things could always get worse.

Back in Afghanistan, I thought the worst conditions imaginable were summer heat, sandstorm season, and the wash out from the week of rain. Boy, just doing a Google search of weather conditions in Vietnam put my heart at ease.

Comparing one person’s hell to another isn’t always appropriate or beneficial, but I’ll admit full-heartedly that damn-near everything from the country to living conditions to the enemy to contacting folks back home was much, much worse for our older brothers.

The 6 most expensive aircraft in the US military
Hell, even being a commo guy sucked back then. (Image via Stars and Stripes)

4. Cleanliness regardless.

If there’s one clear trait shared among nearly all Vietnam vets, it’s cleanliness. This isn’t just a “different military back then” kind of a thing. Nearly everything from the clothes they wear to the house they live in and the weapons they take to the range: Spotless.

In war, constantly changing socks and uniforms kept them healthy, living areas needed to be spotless to keep vermin out, and their trusty rifle needed to be cleaned constantly to stay trustworthy.

The 6 most expensive aircraft in the US military
If you can’t clean your damn weapon, you probably don’t deserve one. (Image via Wikicommons)

3. Winning hearts and minds is tricky.

In both wars, troops are out in the middle of some foreign country, fighting an enemy they can’t easily identify. Our wars weren’t as simple as looking at an enemy dressed in a clearly distinguishable uniform fighting under a clearly identifiable flag. Winning hearts and minds isn’t so easy when you’re focusing on who’s the good guy and who’s not.

The famous counter-insurgency tactic of winning over the hearts and minds of the locals wasn’t the brainchild of modern Generals trying to get a warm and fuzzy about the war. In fact, President John. F. Kennedy started it and President Lyndon B. Johnson repeated exact phrase on record 28 times during the Vietnam War.

The 6 most expensive aircraft in the US military
You know what the definition of insanity is? (Image via NATO Canada)

2. The fight against burn pits will be a rough one.

Getting recognition for health concerns over the dispersal of deadly chemicals in the air because of the negligent decisions of corner-cutting big wigs is the heart of the fight against burn pits. There’s a reason saying there is nothing wrong with burning literal trenches filled with garbage and human sh*t just feet away from the tents troops live in for twelve months is called the “Agent Orange of our generation.”

With the actual Agent Orange, it wasn’t until 1984, eleven years after the end of American involvement in the Vietnam War, that a class action lawsuit against the government for using the substance first came out. To this day, Vietnam vets are still fighting for recognition of health concerns related to Agent Orange exposure.

The 6 most expensive aircraft in the US military
If we want burn pits to be taken seriously, we need to handle the napalm and Agent Orange situation first. (Image via Wikicommons)

1. Not everyone will thank you for your service.

Not to call anyone out or pass judgement, not having year-round veteran discounts isn’t the most disrespectful thing ever done to a returning veteran, so maybe don’t raise hell at some minimum-wage retail worker about it.

Our older brothers came home to a country that shifted cultures drastically after they were, in some cases, drafted into the fight. Until you’ve had a former childhood friend abandon you for serving, paying full price for a damn coffee shouldn’t even be on your radar.

The 6 most expensive aircraft in the US military
Not to be THAT guy, but a flower isn’t going to stop the bullet from coming out of the barrel. Just saying. (Image via Washington Star)

MIGHTY HISTORY

The raid on Camp Bastion was a bloody first for some Marine aviators

On Sept. 14, 2012, 15 heavily armed Taliban fighters disguised in U.S. Army uniforms infiltrated Camp Bastion, a large Marine Corps and British forces base and Afghan National Army training complex. Camp Bastion could accommodate some 30,000 people, so when the Taliban split into three teams to wreak havoc on the base’s interior, things could have gone very badly for the Marines.

The infiltrators made it all the way to the flight line, where their coordinated, complex attack began by targeting the Marines’ Harrier aircraft. It would be the single biggest loss of American airpower since the Vietnam War. It would also be the first time that the maintainers and pilots of Marine Fighter Attack Squadron 211 (VMA-211) operated as riflemen since World War II.


The 6 most expensive aircraft in the US military

A video released later showed the attackers dressed for the assault.

The fighting began at 10pm local time with one Taliban team engaging the flight line personnel, another targeting the refueling area, and a third focusing on destroying aircraft using explosives and RPGs. It was an aircraft explosion that signaled the start of the attack.

Within minutes, six Harriers were burning on the tarmac, the Marine helicopter area was surrounded by fires, and the cryogenics and fuel pit areas were on fire as small arms crackled and tracers lit up the night sky. The Taliban brought everything from hand grenades to heavy machine guns and caught the Marines completely off guard.

The 6 most expensive aircraft in the US military

Lt. Col. Christopher Raible’s memorial.

Marines scrambled to protective barriers as RPGs exploded around the flight line. They initially believed it was an attack of opportunity from outside the base — a random, lucky hit from rockets or mortars. But after ten explosions, one every ten seconds, it was clear that this was more than a few lucky shots. The Troops in Contact alarm began to sound. They called in the British quick reaction force, but they were on the other side of the base and the Marines would have to hold their own until they arrived.

The Marines quickly moved to don their flak jackets and retrieve their rifles. The Taliban weren’t going to stop at the aircraft. They fired RPGs at the building that housed Marine workstations while another hit a building that contained the medical section. An anti-personnel RPG killed the commander of VMA-211, Lt. Col. Christopher Raible, before he could organize a defense. Shrapnel from one of the RPGs lodged in his neck as he was leading a crew full of mechanics and maintainers out into the night as a rifle unit.

The 6 most expensive aircraft in the US military

By this time, every Marine was operating as a rifleman. Weapons and ammo were doled out to anyone without one and Marines began taking up their fields of fire. The air wing was a total, confusing mess as the fuel bladders blew up, temporarily turning the night into day.

A Huey aircraft commander and two enlisted Marines were the ones who brought the weapons to the flight line area. They went to check on the entry control point and began to take fire from the cryogenics area. A Huey crew chief manned an M240 to suppress the enemy fire.

At the same time, Marines were struggling to get remaining aircraft in the air to provide close-air support. All they could muster was two Hueys and a Cobra, but the Marines managed to get them ready to fly in the midst of the confusing, intense attack. Thick smoke, burning ordnance, and enemy fire loomed as flight line Marines took up defensive positions to cover the helicopters’ takeoff.

The 6 most expensive aircraft in the US military

One of the Harrier jets destroyed in the raid.

When the helicopters were airborne, things changed quickly on the ground. They told the JTAC to concentrate fire toward the enemy position in the cryogenics facility. When the southern wall of that building lit up with tracers, the AH-1 Cobra helicopter peppered the building with 20mm rounds and UH-1V Venom Hueys tore through it with 300 .50-cal rounds while a gunner on the ground hit it with 600 rounds from a GAU-17.

After the aerial hit, the British quick reaction force arrived and cleared out the infiltrating Taliban in the cryogenics facility with 40mm grenade launchers. That left four Taliban hiding in the T-walls near the flight line. As Marines on the ground attempted to converge on the remaining Taliban attackers, guns from the helicopters eliminated the last of the threat.

When the smoke cleared, two Marines, Lt. Col. Raible and Sgt. Bradley Atwell, had been killed. Allied wounded numbered 17, six Harriers were completely destroyed, and another two were damaged, along with an Air Force C-130E. Three fuel bladders and a few sunshade hangars were also destroyed. All but one of the attacking Taliban fighters were killed in action. The attack caused some 0 million in damages.

The 6 most expensive aircraft in the US military

Maj. Gen. Charles M. Gurganus, left, and Maj. Gen. Gregg A. Sturdevant were forced to retire just one year after the raid.

(U.S. Marine Corps)

The story doesn’t end there. The Marine Corps wanted to know how 15 heavily armed Taliban fighters were able to get onto the base in the first place. It turned out the commander of Bastion, Maj. Gen. Charles Gurganus, reduced the number of Marines patrolling the base of 30,000 from 325 to 100 just one month before the attack, leaving the base guarded by troops from Tonga. He and Maj. Gen. Gregg Sturdevant were forced to retire in the days following the incident. Commandant of the Marine Corps, Gen. James Amos, said the two failed to accurately assess the strength and capabilities of the enemy in the area and failed to protect their troops.


Sturdevant was the Marine aviation commander of the base and was blamed for inadequate force protection measures on the flight line area that night. The two Marines who went to check the entry control point found it unmanned before they started taking fire from the cryogenics facility. Meanwhile, the British review of the attack found that only 11 of 24 guard towers were manned that night. Both generals retired with fully pay and benefits.

Later, it would be revealed that the attackers spent months posing as poppy farmers, probing the base defenses and testing reactions from perimeter guards. They were able to map out the base, its defenses, its fuel farms, and the airfield. They were even trying to target Prince Harry, who was stationed on the base at that time.

Articles

This is what makes tankers so deadly

American tankers were slightly late to the armored game, historically. Britain first rolled out the tank in the Battle of the Somme in 1916, before America even joined the war. In fact, America wasn’t even able to get its first tank, the M1917, to production in time to fight in World War I.


But America came roaring back in World War II with pioneers of armored doctrine, including the first American tank officer, George S. Patton. Since then, tanks have had a respected place in the pantheon of American combat arms. Today, tankers drive the M1 Abrams tanks into battle. Here’s what makes them so lethal.

The 6 most expensive aircraft in the US military
U.S. Soldiers with the 2nd Battalion, 7th Infantry Regiment, 1st Armored Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division, fire an M1A2 SEPv2 Abrams Main Battle Tank during exercise Combined Resolve VII at the 7th Army Training Command in Grafenwoehr, Germany, Aug. 18, 2016. (Photo: U.S. Army Visual Information Specialist Markus Rauchenberger)

Abrams tanks are highly mobile, capable of propelling themselves at speeds of over 40 mph despite their approximately 68 short tons of weight. That weight goes even higher if the tank is equipped with protection kits like the Tank Urban Survival Kit (TUSK).

The 6 most expensive aircraft in the US military
M1A2 Abrams Main Battle Tanks move to engage targets during a joint combined arms live-fire exercise near Camp Buehring, Kuwait Dec. 6-7, 2016. (Photo: U.S. Army Sgt. Aaron Ellerman)

Once it gets within range of its target, the Abrams crew can fire their 120mm smoothbore cannon, the M256A1. The cannon can use a variety of ammunition including high-explosive, anti-tank (HEAT) ammo; canister rounds that are basically tank-sized shotgun shells; and sabot rounds, depleted uranium darts that shoot through armor and turn into a fast-moving cloud of razor-sharp, white-hot bits of metal inside the enemy tank.

The 6 most expensive aircraft in the US military
Marines with 1st Tank Battalion fire the M1A1 Abrams tank during the 11th Annual Tank Gunnery Competition at Range 500, Feb. 20, 2016. The competition was divided into six segments to test the skills of the tank crewmen. (Photo: U.S. Marine Corps Cpl. Ali Azimi)

These tank rounds make short work of most enemy tanks, but they’re also heavy. Loaders have to move them from storage racks to the gun by hand, and each round weighs between 40 and 51 pounds.

The 6 most expensive aircraft in the US military
A pallet full of 120mm rounds sit waiting to be loaded and fired from the M1A2 tanks during gunnery. Considering that just one 120mm round weighs roughly 50 pounds, an entire 14-tank company is a force to be reckoned with. (Photo: U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Leah Kilpatrick)

The tanks can fire canister or other rounds to destroy enemy infantry and light vehicles, but they can also turn to their mounted machine guns. The Abrams has a .50-cal machine gun and two 7.62mm machine guns.

The 6 most expensive aircraft in the US military
Command Sgt. Maj. Eric C. Dostie, U.S. Army Central senior noncommissioned officer, fires a M2A1 .50 Caliber Machine Gun with a Soldier from the 3rd Armored Brigade Combat Team, 1st Armored Division, during a visit to Camp Buehring, Kuwait Oct. 18, 2016. (Photo: U.S. Army Sgt. Aaron Ellerman)

While Abrams can survive open warfare, crews prefer to hide and maneuver their tanks into better position as often as possible to protect the tank from enemy infantry, armor, and air assets. Covering the tank in local camouflage is a good first step, and using the terrain to mask movement is important as well.

The 6 most expensive aircraft in the US military
An M1 Abrams Tank emerges out of wooded terrain after Soldiers assigned to 1st Battalion, 68th Armor Regiment, 3rd Armored Brigade, 4th Infantry Division had concealed it to blend in with surrounding environment, Jan 20, at Presidential Range in Swietozow, Poland. (Photo: U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Elizabeth Tarr)

Concealment is tricky in a tank, but it increases survivability and allows the tanks to conduct ambushes.

The 6 most expensive aircraft in the US military
Soldiers assigned to 1st Battalion, 68th Armor Regiment, 3rd Armored Brigade, 4th Infantry Division sit in an M1 Abrams Tank after concealing it in wooded terrain, Jan 20, at Presidential Range in Swietozow, Poland. (Photo: U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Elizabeth Tarr)

Abrams tanks were originally produced in 1978, but they’ve been modernized many times since then to keep them as capable as possible. The M1A1 rolled off in 1985 and the M1A2 in 1986. Now, upgrade kits like the TUSK or the System Enhancement Packages (SEP) improve M1A2s’ capabilities.

The 6 most expensive aircraft in the US military
The Abrams Integrated Display and Targeting System, or AIDATS, upgrades the thermal and day sights on the stabilized commander’s weapon station through a state-of-the-art, high definition camera, and permanently mounted color display. (U.S. Marine Corps photo)

Army and Marine Corps logistics officers have to work hard to ensure the heavy tanks can always be deployed where they are needed. While Abrams can be airlifted, its much cheaper to ship them by boat.

The 6 most expensive aircraft in the US military
An M1A2 Abrams tank from 1st Battalion, 68th Armor Regiment, 3rd Armored Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division, sits on the dock after being off-loaded from a cargo vessel at the port of Bremerhaven, Germany, Jan. 6, 2017. (Photo: U.S. Army Capt. Scott Walters)

When it would be dangerous or too expensive to drive the tanks to their objective, they can be loaded onto trains or special trucks for delivery.

The 6 most expensive aircraft in the US military
Sgt. Arnulfo Ramos, an M1A2 Abrams tank crewman for Company Bravo, 1st Battalion, 66th Armor Regiment, 3rd Armored Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division, secures the chains on a tank after it was loaded on to a rail car at Fort Carson, Colorado, Nov. 15, 2016. (Photo: U.S. Army Ange Desinor)

But the most impressive way to deliver an Abrams is still definitely driving it off a plane.

The 6 most expensive aircraft in the US military
(Photo: U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Richard Wrigley)

The tanks can operate in most environments, everything from snow-covered plains…

The 6 most expensive aircraft in the US military
An M1A2 Abrams Tanks belonging to 1st Battalion, 68th Armored Regiment, 3rd Armored Brigade, 4th Infantry Division fires off a round Jan. 26, 2017 in Trzebien, Poland. (Photo: U.S. Marine Corps Staff Sgt. Corinna Baltos)

…to scrub-covered plains…

The 6 most expensive aircraft in the US military
Marines with Company A, 4th Tank Battalion, 4th Marine Division, Marine Forces Reserve, fire a M1A1 Abrams Main Battle Tank during their annual training at Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, Calif., July 19, 2016. Marines fired the tanks to adjust their battle sight zero before the main event of their annual training. (Photo: U.S. Marine Corps Cpl. Gabrielle Quire)

…to sandy deserts.

The 6 most expensive aircraft in the US military
An M1A2 Abrams Main Battle Tank fires suppressive rounds at targets during Hammer Strike, a brigade level live-fire exercise conducted by the 3rd Armored Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division, at the Udairi Range Complex near Camp Buehring, Kuwait. (Photo: U.S. Army Sgt. Christopher Johnston)

To make sure they can always get to the target, tank units sometimes bring specially equipped engineers with them. The Assault Breacher Vehicle is built on the M1 chassis but features a number of tools for breaking through enemy obstacles rather than a large number of offensive weapons.

The 6 most expensive aircraft in the US military
An Assault Breacher Vehicle with 2nd Combat Engineer Battalion, 2nd Marine Division, idles in the Black Top Training Area aboard Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center Twentynine Palms, Calif., May 17, 2016. (Photo: Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Levi Schultz)

The front of the breacher is a plow that can cut through enemy berms, creating a path for tanks.

The 6 most expensive aircraft in the US military
An Assault Breacher Vehicle drives through a lane in a berm during breaching exercises aboard Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, Dec. 8, 2016. Marines with 2nd Tank Battalion along with 2nd CEB worked together to conduct breaching exercises in which they provided support fire while Assault Breacher Vehicles eliminated tank pits and created a lane in which tanks may safely travel, aboard Camp Lejeune, Dec. 8-10, 2016. (Photo: U.S. Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Preston McDonald)

The main purpose of the plow is to scoop up and either detonate or remove enemy mines. Mines that don’t go off are channeles to the sides of the path, creating a clear lane for following tanks.

The 6 most expensive aircraft in the US military
An Assault Breacher Vehicle uses its mine plow in order to scan the surrounding area for potential threats during breaching exercises aboard Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, Dec. 8, 2016. Marines with 2nd ank Battalion along with 2nd CEB worked together to conduct breaching exercises in which they provided support fire while Assault Breacher Vehicles eliminated tank pits and created a lane in which tanks may safely travel, aboard Camp Lejeune, Dec. 8-10, 2016. (Photo: U.S. Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Preston McDonald)

The breacher vehicles can quickly create a lane through IEDs by firing one of their Mine-Clearing Line Charges, a rocket-towed rope of explosive cord that explodes approximately 7,000 pounds of C4, triggering IEDs and mines.

The 6 most expensive aircraft in the US military
A U.S. Marine Corps Assault Breacher Vehicle (ABV) assigned to 1st Combat Engineer Battalion (CEB) launches a Mine Clearing Line Charge (MCLC) on range 600 at Camp Pendleton, Calif., Feb. 20, 2015. Armed with approximately 7,000 pounds of C4 explosives and a mine resistant Titanium-plated undercarriage, the ABV ensures Marines can maneuver on the battlefield despite enemy minefields. (Photo: U.S. Marine Corps Warrant Officer Wade Spradlin)

The M1 Abrams is still a titan of the battlefield, allowing tankers to be some of the most lethal soldiers and Marines in any conflict.

The 6 most expensive aircraft in the US military
Marines from Company C, 1st Tank Battalion, prepare their tank for the day’s attack on Range 210 Dec. 11, 2012, during Steel Knight 13. (Photo: U.S. Marine Corps Lance Cpl. D. J. Wu)

MIGHTY FIT

Try this veteran daily-deployment cycle to manage your life

The struggle is real brothers and sisters. You’ve been indoctrinated, but are now in the civilian world trying to figure out how to apply all of your skills, experiences, and structure to a seemingly impossibly chaotic world.

I wasn’t the best Marine, and I’ll be the first to admit that. I had long hair, I traveled on my own often, and I ignored most liberty restrictions. I told my E-dogs to stop saluting me, and I was constantly planning my next move after the Corps.

As far as I was concerned, I drank the least Kool-aid of anyone I knew.


The 6 most expensive aircraft in the US military

I’m in there somewhere plotting my next move.

(Courtesy of one of the citizens of MOUT town)

After nearly five years of service, I was out and grateful. Grateful for everything I learned in the military, but also grateful that I could finally become the person I thought I was meant to be. There was one problem, though…

I was paralyzed by fear. Fear of failure, fear of making the wrong choice, fear of wasting time, fear of being an imposter veteran/adult/man. Fear that all of a sudden, my safety net was gone, and I was actually on my own. I had been on the government’s teat for a decade–I signed my first paperwork when I was 17 and was given the opportunity to go to college before active duty started.

I had bought into the culture of the military more than I ever realized. I feared for my future, because I knew it would never resemble my past.

Sound familiar?

The 6 most expensive aircraft in the US military

Not me, but the point stands. The older you get, the more your body makes you pay for a night like this.

(Photo by Ben Konfrst on Unsplash)

From structure to nonsense to balance

My first move involved scheduling every waking moment of my day.

Mind you, I was living in Bali at this point with a nice nest egg saved, so the expectation was that I would chill and decompress.

That was not f*cking happening though. I was stressed and lost. So I scheduled when I would wake up, work out, surf–I even scheduled naps. I needed structure. I wound myself up tighter than I had ever been while on active duty.

I was stressed, with no “daddy” to tell me what to do.

Eventually, I came undone and decided to relive my early 20’s, the years I had “missed.” It turns out I cannot handle alcohol or late nights partying like I could when I was 18 (err, I mean 21).

The 6 most expensive aircraft in the US military

Hungover, happy, sad, or crying: I’m in there when it’s on the schedule.

(My phone and tripod)

That period didn’t last long. It was like a flash flood: it swept in, destroyed a lot, and was gone before I could ever move to higher ground.

Maybe that sounds familiar too?

Through the whole figuring-it-out phase, I had one practice that kept me sane and somewhat grounded: my training.

I never stopped training. I didn’t know what I was training for, I just knew I had to keep training.

The 6 most expensive aircraft in the US military

Nothing better to teach the lessons of the world than a heavy barbell.

(Photo by Alora Griffiths on Unsplash)

Training for life

It turns out I was training for the day-to-day enemy. I just didn’t know it.

While on active duty, I spent a fair amount of time in the Philippines “training” with the Filipino military. They have terrorists in their backyard literally, so it was interesting to watch how they operate with the fight so close to home.

One day they were sitting in a briefing with me talking theory and best practices. The next day they were two-ish islands away in the jungle, their backyard, engaged in a firefight with terrorists. They had to be at the ready at a moment’s notice.

This is not something that U.S. military personnel can relate to easily. We have big, grand deployments with all the bells and whistles, halfway around the world in countries we would never otherwise visit. The enemy is far removed from the homeland. There are no terrorists in Pennsylvania; we are not used to an enemy constantly at the gates, like our Filipino counterparts are.

They have to be ready every single day, at any time, for the very real threats that are so close to home.

The 6 most expensive aircraft in the US military

U.S. and Filipino forces training together in the Philippines. One of these guys is training, one is prepping for next week.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Courtney G. White)

Learning a daily cycle

So who are the enemies for us veterans?

With my military issued umbrella gone, I was opened up to a deluge of enemies in my own backyard. Even on a tropical paradise, I had to confront fears that never left my side. They come with me everywhere.

It takes an approach like that of the Filipino military to keep close-at-hand fears and inadequacies from crushing us into a debilitating depression.

The real world doesn’t give us a pre-deployment plan to prepare and train us to combat feelings of inadequacy. There is no doctrine written with step-by-step directions on how to troubleshoot imposter syndrome.

We are now like the gladiators of ancient Rome. We have to train for all possible contingencies and hope that our daily practices will allow us to walk out of the Colosseum of the day.

I keep my blade sharp, my rifle clean, and my mind clear through my daily practices. My training area is the gym. These tools have helped me find balance.

The 6 most expensive aircraft in the US military

Small acts add up and keep us on track.

(Photo by Cyril Saulnier on Unsplash)

Creating momentum

Training in the gym is more than just training the body. It’s training the mind, resolve, patience, maturity, and composure.

Look at each day as a deployment cycle:

  • The mornings are work-ups
  • Going to work is the deployment
  • Training is downtime on deployment
  • The evenings are post-deployment leave

I’ll go into more detail about how veterans can optimize each of these steps in their daily lives in coming articles, so keep an eye out for “Veteran Daily Deployment Cycle Plug-In” posts.

In the meantime, take 2 minutes on this survey and help Michael and the other Mighty FIT writers create the content that you want to read. Thank you!

The 6 most expensive aircraft in the US military
MIGHTY HISTORY

The reindeer that served on a submarine for 6 weeks

A pinnacle of wartime technology, the HMS Trident was supposed to patrol the Atlantic, doing submarine things. Maybe sink a ship or two, enforce the blockade, and smuggle a reindeer from Russia to England. If that last part sounds more like the plot of a Nickelodeon cartoon than a World War II mission, then you clearly don’t understand diplomacy.


Our stage is World War II, 1941. America is the Arsenal of Democracy but is not yet formally part of the war. Russia and England are the bookends to a powerful and super-evil Nazi Germany, and Germany is busily invading the latter while trying to contain the former.

Britain and Russia were not natural allies. Britain had interceded in the Russian Civil War in 1918 on the losing side, and many veterans of that war were still kicking in 1941. Some were resentful. Some, certainly, would’ve cheered if Germany had invaded the British Isles in 1940 and conquered it.

But Hitler made strange bedfellows. And so a Russian bear cuddled up to the British crown, and much canoodling was had by all. But young romances rely on careful gestures, and one side cannot spurn the gift of another. Which brings us to the strange events of the HMS Trident in 1941.

The 6 most expensive aircraft in the US military

The Trident was sent to fight and kill Nazis in the Arctic, and its patrol took it into contact with a Russian crew. There, the crews exchanged tactics and had to play nice. A slip up on top of the world could cock up the whole alliance to the south. So, the men engaged with one another, were polite, and then the Trident crew prepared to head out for a fight with more German ships.

The Russian admiral hosted the British leaders, and British Commander Geoffrey Sladen mentioned that his wife was having trouble pushing her pram through the snow in England. The admiral had a great idea: The Brits should take one of the reindeer with them, and the reindeer could haul the pram around in England.

Again: This was the international diplomacy equivalent of a new high school romance. If the cute girl passes you a photo of her, even if it also shows her disapproving grandpa and some unsightly dental headgear, you give the photo a kiss, smile at the girl, and then tuck the photo into the door of your locker.

The 6 most expensive aircraft in the US military

For those who are curious, the reindeer equivalent is: You accept the reindeer, name it Pollyanna, and carefully get it into your submarine by opening the torpedo tube and helping it slip in. You bring a barrel of moss aboard as well, so the young reindeer will have something to eat.

And so the British set sail for another six weeks of wartime patrol. Pollyanna often slept in the captain’s cabin next to his bunk. And, according to the BBC, she would trot to the control room and wait for the hatch to open when fresh air was allowed in. The moss eventually ran out, and the crew fed Pollyanna scraps from their meals.

When the sub returned to England, it took a bit of work to get Pollyanna back out. The moss and the table scraps had taken their toll, and the young reindeer was too large to make it back out of the torpedo tube. Instead, she was winched out through the top.

Polly went to the zoo and was reportedly happy, though she did have a few quirks from her submarine service. George Malcolmson, a Royal Navy Submarine Museum Archivist, said, “It was rumoured that she never forgot her submarine career, for whenever she heard bells or a sound like a submarine tannoy, she would lower her head as though preparing for diving stations.”

Pollyanna died at the zoo five years later, the same week that the HMS Trident was sent to the breakers yard to be reduced for scrap.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Putin delivered a threatening sermon against Russia’s enemies

Boasting that Russia’s nuclear arsenal has already surpassed its competitors, Russian President Vladimir Putin issued a fire and brimstone warning to his nuclear rivals Oct. 18, 2018.

In the event of a nuclear war, “the aggressor should know that retaliation is inevitable, and he will be destroyed,” Putin said at an international policy forum in Sochi. “We would be victims of an aggression and would get to go to heaven as martyrs. They will simply drop dead. They won’t even have time to repent.”

“We have run ahead of the competition,” he bragged.


“No one has precision hypersonic weapons. Others are planning to start testing them within the next 1½ to 2 years, and we already have them on duty,” Putin claimed, potentially referencing the Kinzhal air-launched hypersonic missile.

The Avangard hypersonic boost-glide vehicle, which Putin said can travel up to 20 times the speed of sound, hitting a target “like a meteorite, like a ball of fire,” is set to enter service in the near future.

This weapon can reportedly carry a conventional or nuclear warhead with an explosive yield ranging from 150 kilotons to one megaton, the Russian news outlet TASS introduced in March 2018.

The 6 most expensive aircraft in the US military

The Kh-47M2 Kinzhal air-launched hypersonic missile being carried by a Mikoyan MiG-31K interceptor.

The US military, facing competition from both Russia and China on hypersonic weapons, is scrambling to catch up. The Army, Navy, and Air Force are jointly working to develop advanced hypersonic systems for next-level warfighting. The US is also interested in modernizing its nuclear arsenal.

While Putin delivered his message focused on the nuclear destruction of Russia’s enemies, he insisted that his country would never strike first.

“Only when we become convinced that there is an incoming attack on the territory of Russia, and that happens within seconds, only after that we would launch a retaliatory strike,” he said. “It would naturally mean a global catastrophe, but I want to emphasize that we can’t be those who initiate it because we don’t foresee a preventive strike.”

Russia dropped its “no-first-use pledge” in the early 1990s, writing a new nuclear doctrine with certain loopholes and exceptions.

The Russian “people are ready to defend our sovereignty and independence,” Putin added, “Not in every country are people so eager to sacrifice their lives for the Motherland.”

The Russian president’s tough and damning rhetoric comes amid heightened tensions between Russia and the US and its NATO allies.

Starting late October 2018, US forces, along with NATO allies and partners, will take part in a massive war game involving tens of thousands of troops, as well as numerous vehicles, ships, and aircraft. The drills are designed to send a strong deterrence message to Russia.

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

MIGHTY HISTORY

Most stressful hand receipt ever: The ‘Little Boy’ nuke

Remember that first time you had to sign for more than $10,000 in gear? Or, hell, even that first real clothing hand receipt when you saw that the military was handing you what they saw as a couple thousand dollars worth of uniforms and equipment, and they could hold you accountable for every stitch of it?

Now imagine signing a hand receipt for a nuclear bomb, the only one of its type in existence in the world at the time.


The 6 most expensive aircraft in the US military

The Little Boy bomb is prepped on Tinian island for insertion into the Enola Gay’s bomb bay.

(U.S. National Archives and Records Administration)

America had learned in 1939 of German efforts to weaponize the power of nuclear energy from just years before. Experiments in 1935 and 1938 had proven that uranium, when bombarded with neutrons, underwent the process of fission. Scientists had argued about whether a sustained nuclear reaction could be created and, if so, if it could be used for the industry or war.

It may sound odd today, but there was plenty of reason to suspect that nuclear fission was useless for military designs. No one had yet proven that fission could be sustained. But the Roosevelt Administration, understanding the existential threat that fascism and the Third Reich posed to the rest of the world, decided it couldn’t wait and see if German efforts came to fruition.

President Franklin D. Roosevelt created the Advisory Committee on uranium and quickly funded research into nuclear chain reactions.

The 6 most expensive aircraft in the US military

The USS Shaw explodes in Pearl Harbor during the Dec. 7, 1941, attack.

(U.S. National Archives and Records Administration)

The group would go through two name changes and multiple reorganizations as the scientific research progressed. While America was bombed at Pearl Harbor and entered the war, America’s scientists kept churning away at the problem of how to enrich uranium and create “the bomb.”

But in that same month, Germany shelved its own plans to create a nuclear bomb, opting instead to dedicate its best scientists and most of its research funds into rocket and jet research. Germany had been at the forefront of research, but would now essentially cease progress.

America, unaware that none of its rivals were still developing the bomb, pressed ahead, dedicating vast resources to gathering, enriching, and testing uranium and plutonium. This would eventually result in material dedicated to one uranium device and a number of plutonium ones.

The 6 most expensive aircraft in the US military

The Trinity explosion was the first human-controlled nuclear explosion in history.

(U.S. Department of Energy)

The first nuclear explosion took place on July 16, 1945, in the deserts of New Mexico. The Trinity test used a plutonium implosion to trigger the blast. The Trinity “Gadget” was tested because America was having better luck gathering and preparing plutonium for use, but wasn’t sure the design would actually work.

It did, releasing as much energy as 21,000 tons of TNT from only 14 pounds of plutonium.

But at the same time, the nuclear elements of the Little Boy device were already headed across the Pacific on the USS Indianapolis. Of course, this being the military, there was a form for shipping dangerous materials, and the form specifically tells users to avoid remarks that would make the document classified.

The 6 most expensive aircraft in the US military

An Army form shows the transfer of materials for components of the Little Boy bomb that was dropped on Hiroshima, Japan.

(U.S. Army Heritage Education Center)

This resulted in a “Receipt of Material” form describing “Projectile unit containing…kilograms of enriched tuballey at an average concentration of ….” Hopefully, if the form ever had fallen into Japanese hands, they would’ve been smart enough to suspect something was amiss when famous physicist and member of the Secretary of War’s staff Dr. Norman F. Ramsey was signing over a single bomb to Army Brig. Gen. Thomas Farrell.

Not the way most bombs units are transferred to the Pacific, we’d wager.

The materials were transported to Tinian Island where they were used to assemble the “Little Boy” bomb which, at the time, was the only uranium bomb that had ever existed. Capt. William Parsons, the Enola Gay’s weaponeer and commander, signed for the bomb and was in charge of verifying that it was returned to the base or expended in combat.

The 6 most expensive aircraft in the US military

An atomic cloud rises over Hiroshima after the Little Boy bomb was dropped.

(509th Operations Group)

On Aug. 6, 1945, the Enola Gay dropped the bomb at approximately 8:15 on the city of Hiroshima, Japan. Parsons, seemingly consulting his watch while it was still set to time on Tinian Island, wrote: “I certify that the above material was expended to the city of Hiroshima, Japan at 0915 6 Aug.”

It’s one of the most mundane ways possible of annotating the destruction of a city, but it satisfied the requirements of the form. Over the ensuing years, Farrell got notable members of the mission and the Manhattan project to sign the form, creating the most-stacked piece of nuclear memorabilia likely in existence.

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