The US Army once tried to weaponize a Nerf football - We Are The Mighty
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The US Army once tried to weaponize a Nerf football

Light, soft and easy to throw, Nerf footballs have been a staple of nearly every American boy’s childhood, helping them play out dreams of throwing a game-winning touchdown pass in backyards and parks across the country.


Because of their small size, light weight and popularity among young males — especially in the military — the US Army once actually tried to turn these toys into deadly anti-tank weapons.

In the late 1960s, Parker Brothers released its Nerf line of toys — foam footballs that would fly longer and farther than regulation pigskins, essentially turning anyone with an okay arm into the equivalent of Joe Montana. Nerf footballs surged in popularity, quickly becoming a best-selling hit for the toy manufacturer.

Around the same time in Europe, Army brass were wringing their hands over the potential for a Soviet invasion that would surely involve mechanized units. Tanks rolling through tight German streets in towns and cities would be a nightmare for American soldiers to deal with, especially since they lacked anti-tank grenades which would be effective against the latest tanks and armored vehicles fielded by the Soviet Union.

Soldiers were completely ill-equipped to wage war against armor in these conditions.

The US Army once tried to weaponize a Nerf football
During a possible Soviet invasion, USAREUR troops would have to face tanks like this T-62 in the streets of European cities and towns (Photo Wikimedia Commons)

To fix this problem, infantry commanders at US Army Europe contacted the Land Warfare Laboratory in Aberdeen, Maryland, with the intent of creating a highly portable and easy-to-use hand-thrown weapon which could quickly disable a tank at close quarters. Engineers theorized that a football-shaped grenade would be a decent concept to explore further because “most U.S. troops are familiar with throwing footballs,”  as the official test report read.

The lab came up with a prototype that consisted of a hollowed-out Nerf football, packed to the brim with explosive charges and a detonator. The working theory was that once thrown, the football grenade would spiral perfectly up to a tank and blow up, irreparably damaging the vehicle and rendering it useless. This would do well for USAREUR soldiers fighting off a possible Soviet invasion.

The US Army once tried to weaponize a Nerf football
The M72 LAW was the Army’s standard infantry anti-tank weapon, though it could not be safely used in close-quarters situations (Photo US Army)

Theories don’t always equate to reality, however. In tests, the flight path of the football grenade was scarily unpredictable, thanks to the uneven weight distribution inside the device. Instead of a toss that would be worthy of an NFL scout’s approval, the grenade fishtailed and spun wildly.

By this point, it would have been more of a danger to the troops who were issued it than the tanks it was designed to destroy.

Interestingly enough, this wasn’t the first time the military had tried to relate sports to warfare. Around the time of WWII, it was largely assumed that every young American male would hypothetically be able to throw a baseball with a decent level of accuracy. To that end, the Office of Strategic Services tried to develop and field a hand grenade with a size and weight similar to that of a regulation baseball, known as the BEANO T-13.

The US Army once tried to weaponize a Nerf football
A T13 on display at the CIA’s official museum. The OSS, which came up with the idea of the T13, served as a predecessor to the CIA (Photo Wikimedia Commons)

As with the Nerf anti-tank grenade, this project proved to be highly dangerous to the troops who were issued these unique weapons in limited quantities. Grenades would often ignite prematurely after being armed or even if just jostled around, maiming the soldier or OSS operative attempting to use it against Axis foes. By the end of the war, an order was passed down to destroy all T-13s, though some inert models still survive today as curiosities for collectors.

Fast-forward to 1973, and the Nerf grenade project was killed off altogether. Despite the Land Warfare Lab’s efforts, USAREUR never received the anti-tank grenade it sought, leaving troops to have to rely on M2 heavy machine guns and M72 Light Antitank Weapons, which both required a degree of separation between themselves and the targets for effective usage — completely unfeasible in close quarters battle.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

The American howitzer you never heard much about

Some artillery pieces become very famous. Some of the most notable are the French 75 of World War I, or the Napoleons used during the Civil War, or the German 88. But some are less well-known, but packed a big punch – or long range – of their own.


One such artillery piece is the M107 self-propelled howitzer. This 175mm artillery piece entered service in 1962, alongside the M110, an eight-inch self-propelled howitzer. It could fire shells as far as 25 miles away – and this long range proved very handy during the Vietnam War.

The US Army once tried to weaponize a Nerf football
SGT Max Cones (gunner) fires a M107, 175mm self-propelled gun, Btry C, 1st Bn, 83rd Arty, 54th Arty Group, Vietnam, 1968. (US Army photo)

The M107 is not like the M109 self-propelled howitzer in that it is open, and lacks both a turret and on-board ammunition storage. As such, it needed its ammo vehicles nearby to provide shells. The M107 was fast for an armored vehicle, with a top speed of 50 miles per hour, and could go almost 450 miles on a single tank of fuel.

The M107s used the same chassis as the M110s. In fact, Olive-Drab.com reported that the two self-propelled howitzers could exchange guns, thus a M107 could become a M110, and vice versa. This was used to good effect in Vietnam, where the barrels could be swapped as needed at firebases. Israel also used the M017 for decisive effect in the 1973 Yom Kippur War, destroying a number of Syrian and Egyptian surface-to-air missile batteries, and even shelling Damascus.

The US Army once tried to weaponize a Nerf football
A gun crew member from 1st Battalion, 83rd Arty, takes a short break on top of the loading mechanism of his self-propelled 175 while waiting for further instructions. (US Army photo)

According to GlobalSecurity.org, the M107 fired only one type of conventional round, the M347 high-explosive round. The gun didn’t see service long past the Vietnam War. The M107 had a long reach, but it was not accurate – rounds like the laser-guided Copperhead or the GPS-guided Excalibur had not been developed yet.

An extended barrel for the M110 was developed, and in the late 1970s many M107s were converted to the M110A2 standard. The M110s eventually were replaced by the M207 MLRS.

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Poll reveals military sentiments on POTUS

On Sunday, a poll from Military Times and the Institute for Veterans and Military Families displayed the thoughts and sentiments of active-duty military troops about President Barack Obama as he ends his eight years as commander in chief.


The results showed that U.S. service members have an overwhelmingly negative view of Obama — or a neutral view at best.

The US Army once tried to weaponize a Nerf football
President Barack Obama (U.S. Coast Guard file photo by Petty Officer 1st Class David B. Mosley/Released)

Overall, 60.3% of Marines, 53% of the Army, 49.6% of the Air Force, and 45.9% of the Navy said they disapproved of Obama — a plurality in each case. Enlisted soldiers and Marines were more likely than officers to disapprove of Obama, by about 4 percentage points.

In total, 29.1% of soldiers said they had a very unfavorable view of Obama’s leadership, and 18% said they held a very favorable view.

The poll elicited responses from 1,664 participants. The responses were weighted to better reflect the entire military, according to the poll. The poll has a margin of error of plus or minus 2 percentage points.

Obama sought to reduce the role of the military during his presidency, with drawdowns in Iraq and Afghanistan and a decrease in the overall size of the force.

Troops interviewed by Military Times said those steps possibly made the U.S. less safe, as the last few years of Obama’s presidency have seen the rise of ISIS in Iraq and a resurgence of Taliban aggression in Afghanistan.

MIGHTY HISTORY

What it was like to suffer a German U-boat attack

The Merchant Marine in World War II was supposed to just tool around the world’s oceans, delivering supplies to ports and troops in Europe, Africa, and the Pacific while the real fighting was done by sailors, soldiers, and Marines. But due to German U-boats and other attackers, the mariners actually operated in an extremely dangerous niche.


The US Army once tried to weaponize a Nerf football

A U-boat reloads new torpedoes during World War II.

One of the biggest dangers was of U-boat attack, when even a single boat could wipe out an entire convoy, provided that the boat was able to surface and attack using its deck gun.

The mariners were in danger from the moment they lost view of the land. U-boats would typically attack deep into the Atlantic, but they liked to remind Americans that they weren’t safe at any time, so some U-boats were sent to hunt right off the coast.

Regardless of when the attack came, most merchant vessels didn’t have any kind of sonar or radar, not even all Navy vessels had those detection systems in World War II. So, unless your ship was in a large convoy with a naval escort, you won’t know a U-boat was there until it attacked.

German sailors manning deck gun in preparation for attack in North Atlantic Sea. HD Stock Footage

youtu.be

When the U-boat attack got under way, it played out in one of two ways. If there were no threats of a U-boat in the area, you would find out you were under attack when a black hulk slowly surfaced in the nearby waves, a few sailors poured out of it, and the deck gun began firing on your ship.

These were often capable of sending 3.5-inch rounds into the hull of your thin-skinned cargo vessel, allowing water to pour into the lower decks and slowly send you deep into the sea. And since the attacking vessel is a tiny U-boat and not an enemy destroyer or cruiser, there’s no way to get rescued. You have to paddle your lifeboats through a sea filling with oil from the sinking ship, potentially as it’s on fire.

And, believe it or not, that’s, by far, the preferred option.

That’s because the other likely method of attack from a U-boat comes via its torpedo tubes, which means there’s no surfacing ship, no scramble of sailors to warn you. You might, might notice a darkness in the water before a stream bubbles starts racing towards your ship.

If you look a few feet ahead of this stream of bubbles, you’ll see the 21-inch diameter, almost-24-foot-long metal tube barreling towards your ship at nearly 35 mph. It will reach you. It will hit you. And its 600-pound (or heavier) warhead will rip apart the hull.

What happens next depends almost entirely on what cargo is being carried. Got a bunch of foodstuffs like grain and fruit? The boat will sink fairly slowly, and you’ll have a chance to escape. But if you were carrying lots of heavy war materiel, like tanks and planes or, worse, industrial goods like iron and coal, you’re pretty much screwed. The weight and density will take the ship down in minutes.

But the worst came when the ship was carrying fuel or oil. The massive explosion from the torpedo warhead would often rupture any tanks on the targeted vessel, providing a massive burst of heat as the pressure wave mixed the targeted fuel with the outside air, virtually guaranteeing massive fireballs and explosions as the torpedo exploded.

The US Army once tried to weaponize a Nerf football

The Allied tanker Dixie Arrow sinks after being torpedoed in the Atlantic Ocean by a German submarine.

(U.S. Navy)

When you’re on a tanker and the tanks suddenly explode, there’s not a lot to be done. The steel around you has likely been twisted, the decks are burning hot and searing your flesh, and the blast wave has likely scrambled your brain. If you’re lucky enough to survive, you now have to overcome your scrambled brains, make it through the burning corridors, and then try to get in a boat and get away from the deck before the suction takes you under.

If you did make it out of a shipping ship, your ordeal isn’t over. Traditionally, combat ships would rescue survivors from enemy vessels once hostilities were over. If a cruiser sinks a destroyer, then once the destroyer crew surrenders the cruiser crew would begin taking on the survivors and would later take them to POW camps.

But U-boats barely have enough room for the crews. They can’t take on survivors. So, after sinking anything from a fishing trawler to a destroyer to a passenger ship, the U-boat crew typically can’t do much more than offer some loaves of bread or water before sailing away. They wouldn’t even tell other Allied ships where to pick up the survivors, at least not at first, since that would give away the location of the subs.

The US Army once tried to weaponize a Nerf football

Surrender of German U-boat, U-858, 700 miles off the New England Coast to two destroyer escorts, May 10, 1945.

(U.S. Navy)

Even if your ship was in a convoy, there was no guarantee that you could be picked up by friendly ships since a U-boat wolf pack could sink the entire convoy, leaving dozens of life boats in its wake, filled with slowly dying soldiers desperate for water or food.

To add insult to injury, Merchant Marine members were rarely paid for any period where they weren’t actively crewing a ship, and no, lifeboats don’t count. So their harrowing trial to survive at sea is performed for free, solely for the hope that they’ll survive.

And throughout all of this, the U.S. would often keep the sinkings of ships secret, reporting just a couple of ship losses every week while dozens might have gone down.

Luckily for mariners, British innovation and American industry eventually gave the sub hunters the edge over the submarines, culminating in “Black May” 1943 when German losses got so steep that subs essentially withdrew from the Atlantic, allowing the Merchant Marine to finally sail largely in peace.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Flying Boats used to be critical to the Navy; Now, not so much

Flying boats, seaplanes, floatplanes – no matter what you call them, they’re pretty cool. The terms are often used interchangeably, but these three water-faring aircraft all have a different meaning. However, no matter what you call them, it seems a real shame that flying boats aren’t as much a part of the Navy as they used to be. In fact, you could say that there’s no real place for them in the current Navy at all.

So let’s get some facts clarified on the kinds of water aircraft that are hard to find in our modern Navy.


Flying boats are built around a single hull that serves as the plane’s floating body and fuselage. Flying boats take off and land on its belly. That’s exactly what happened in 1955 in Maryland when the XP6M-1 Seamaster, the world’s first jet-powered seaplane, took its first flight.

Floatplanes are also called pontoon planes. Instead of having a hull that can land on water, floatplanes have floats (also called pontoons) that serve as surfaces for take-off and landing.

Think of the Viking Twin Otter. These amphibious aircraft can take off and land on conventional runways, water, and even on skis during snowy conditions. Talk about versatile, right?

So why aren’t flying boats and seaplanes and floatplanes better utilized in our Navy today? That’s an excellent question, considering that Russia and China both have water aircraft and have been steadily perfecting their designs for the last 20 years, the latest versions of the AVIC AG-600 and the Beriev Be-200, proving that both countries know a thing or two about amphibious aircraft.

The First Seaplane of the Navy

During the first World War, the only aircraft available had serious limitations for anti-submarine duty. Seaplanes weren’t capable of operating in the open ocean without a support ship, and we’re seaworthy enough to survive the cold, harsh conditions in the North Atlantic. Rear Admiral David Taylor proposed building a flying boat with the capability to cross the Atlantic Ocean in 1917 because he recognized that a self-deploying anti-submarine aircraft would be instrumental in the battle for the open seas. However, the design needs to be reliable, intended for combat, not to mention maintainable, and be able to operate both in the air and on the ocean. Talk about having your work cut out for you.

What developed was the largest flying boat ever built. It featured an unusual shape, state-of-the-art engineering, and unsurpassed sea-worthiness. By late 1918, the first NC-1 was constructed and undergoing testing. The war ended before the testing was complete, and the military need for the flying boat ended.

However, Navy leadership was undeterred and continued testing, refocusing efforts to complete testing. In May 1919, NC Seaplane Divisions One set off from New York and made history by crossing the Atlantic Ocean.

After WWI, naval aviation’s emphasis was on carrier operations, so patrol-plane development was limited to a shoestring budget.

Unlike Russia and China, our Navy isn’t so concerned with making amphibious aircraft. In fact, the XP6M-1 was the last seaplane flown by the US Navy way back in 1955, and it was only built in response to what leadership expected would be needed during the early days of the Cold War. It was never used for its intended purpose.

Flying boats have the advantage of using oceans as runways – good news for the pilot and crew since the ocean can’t be cratered by bombs. Atolls, bays, and coves become FOPs for flying boats, making the entire world a battlefield.

The end of flying boats was due in part to the last island campaign of WWII. There were so many military airbases built to meet the Pacific Theater’s needs, and most of them had long runways. Long-range land-based planes like the Privateer were able to operate just fine, taking away the need for amphibious aircraft.

The need for flying boats like the NC-1 is long gone, but the need for ingenuity and development continues to remain strong. The Navy continues to make big strides forward – it commissioned eight new ships in 2017 – and though flying boats remain a thing of the past, the push to move forward remains as strong as ever.

MIGHTY HISTORY

How Navajo code talkers helped win the Battle of Iwo Jima

Thomas H. Begay didn’t want to be a radio operator. In fact, up until he graduated from bootcamp, he thought he was going to become an aerial gunner for the Marine Corps during World War II.

“They sent me to a confidential area,” he said. “I walked in and there’s a whole bunch of Navajo.”

His previous MOS didn’t matter. Begay would attend code talking school.

The Navajo language had become the basis of a new code, and they were going to train to become code talkers. It was hard to see it then, but Begay and his fellow Navajo would help turn the tides of war and save countless lives.


An unbreakable code

The Code Talkers used native languages to send military messages before World War II. Choctaw, for example, was successfully used during World War I. But the Marine Corps needed an “unbreakable” code for its island-hopping campaign in the Pacific. Navajo, which was unwritten and known by few outside the tribe, seemed to fit the Corps’ requirements.

Thomas H. Begay recalls Navajo Code Talker program; Battle of Iwo Jima

www.youtube.com

Twenty-nine Navajos were recruited to develop the code in 1942. They took their language and developed a “Type One Code” that assigned a Navajo word to each English letter. They also created special words for planes, ships and weapons.

But just because a person understood Navajo didn’t mean they could understand the code. While a person fluent in the language would hear a message that translated into a list of words that seemingly had no connection to each other, a code talker would hear a very clear message.

Here is an example:

Navajo Code: DIBEH, AH-NAH, A-SHIN, BE, AH-DEEL-TAHI, D-AH, NA-AS-TSO-SI, THAN-ZIE, TLO-CHIN

Translation: SHEEP, EYES, NOSE, DEER, BLOW UP, TEA, MOUSE, TURKEY, ONION

Deciphered Code: SEND DEMOLITION TEAM TO …

In addition to being unbreakable, the new code also reduced the amount of time it took to transmit and receive secret messages. Because all 17 pages of the Navajo code were memorized, there was no need to encrypt and decipher messages with the aid of coding machines. So, instead of taking several minutes to send and receive one message, Navajo code talkers could send several messages within seconds. This made the Navajo code talker an important part of any Marine unit.

Peter MacDonald Sr. recalls Navajo Code Talker program; Battle of Iwo Jima

www.youtube.com

Begay did well in training and picked up the code quickly. A month after arriving at code talking school, he was given orders to his new unit and sent overseas.

“They told us we were going to Tokyo,” he said with a chuckle. “In February, we were told we’re supposed to land on Iwo Jima.”

On Feb. 19, 1945, at 0900 hours, Begay landed on the north side of the island with the 5th Marine Division. One code talker had already been killed during the first wave of attacks, and five more would be injured by the time the fighting stopped. In the face of machine gun fire and mortar rounds, Begay and his fellow Navajo Code Talkers continued to relay messages that were vital to the eventual victory on the island.

In all, nearly 800 coded messages were sent during the assault on Iwo Jima. There were zero mistakes.

“I was protected by the Marines,” Begay said. “They were protecting us; we were protecting them. I was lucky. But some didn’t get lucky – like those who got killed on the beach.”

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

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What it might look like if an American and Chinese carrier went toe-to-toe

It’s no secret that tensions between China and America are ramping up over the South China Sea and Taiwan as President Donald Trump and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson have drawn a firm line against China. Tillerson even went so far as to suggest the possibility of a blockade against China — considered an act of war — during his Senate confirmation hearings.


So what would it look like if an American and Chinese fleet went to blows in the western Pacific? While the U.S. could win the seapower contest, China has enough land-based assets in the area to more than make up the difference.

The US Army once tried to weaponize a Nerf football
The USS Carl Vinson sails during a training mission in the Pacific on July 17. (Photo: US Navy Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class D’Andre L. Roden)

The fighting would likely start with an innocent mistake during a freedom of navigation operation conducted by the U.S. Navy such as the planned deployment of the USS Carl Vinson. Vinson is headed into the South China Sea along with two destroyers, the USS Wayne E. Meyer and USS Michael Murphy, and the cruiser USS Lake Champlain.

Meanwhile, China’s aircraft carrier Liaoning deployed to the South China Sea in late 2016/early 2017 with three guided-missile destroyers, two guided-missile frigates, an anti-submarine corvette, and an oiler.

The US Army once tried to weaponize a Nerf football
China’s sole aircraft carrier, the Liaoning. | PLA

If the two forces came to blows, the American force would enjoy an initial advantage despite the Chinese numerical superiority. That’s because America’s air wings on the carrier are vastly more capable than China’s.

The Liaoning was last spotted flying with an air arm of 13 J-15 fighters. While the J-15 is capable of catapult takeoffs and arrested recoveries — at least in theory — the Liaoning can’t facilitate them. It utilizes a bow ramp to help its jets takeoff. So these 13 fighters can’t get airborne with their full weapons and fuel loads.

They would be facing off against Carrier Air Wing 2, the air wing currently assigned to the Vinson. Air Wing 2 has three strike fighter squadrons — 2, 34, and 137 — which fly 10-12 F/A-18 Hornets each. They have approximately 34 Hornets which would be supported by the four E-2C Hawkeye early warning radar planes of the Carrier Airborne Early Warning Squadron 113.

The US Army once tried to weaponize a Nerf football
The Vinson is packing some serious heat, is what we’re saying. (Photo: U.S. Navy)

The entire force would also be supported by the EA-18G Growlers of Electronic Attack Squadron 136.

So 13 Chinese fighters would fly partially blind and with limited weapons against approximately 34 American fighters backed up by early warning radar and electronic attack aircraft. The American forces would annihilate the Chinese.

Which they would have to do, because the Americans need all that firepower still available to take out the more plentiful ships of the Chinese strike group.

The US Army once tried to weaponize a Nerf football
Image: Joe Stephens/YouTube Screengrab

The Growlers would be essential to limiting the anti-air capabilities of the five guided-missile ships — all of which carry anti-air missiles — and the Liaoning which carries the Type 1130 close-in weapons system which is potentially capable of firing 10,000 rounds per minute at missiles and aircraft attacking it.

The Hornets could be joined by the MH-60Rs of Helicopter Maritime Strike Squadron 78 and the MH-60Ss of Helicopter Sea Squadron 4, but the Navy may prefer to keep the helicopters in reserve.

Most likely, the Hornets equipped solely for anti-air warfare would come back down and get a full load of Harpoon anti-ship missiles. Which Harpoons are available will be important to the pilots.

In the not-so-distant future, the pilots would likely receive the Harpoon Block II with a 134-nautical mile range. That’s long enough that the planes could fire on the guided-missile ships from just outside of their long-range surface-to-air missiles, the HQ-9 with its 108-nautical mile range.

The US Army once tried to weaponize a Nerf football

But if the Vinson is stuck with just the earlier Harpoons, those have only a 67-nautical mile range. While the Hornets could still get the job done, they’d have to fly near the surface of the ocean, pop up and fire their missiles, and then evade any incoming missiles as they make their escape.

Still, they could destroy the Chinese fleet, even if they lose a couple of Hornets in the attack.

But the American fleet would then need to withdraw, because Chinese planes and missiles from the Spratly and Paracel islands could strike at the carrier fleet almost anywhere it went in the South China Sea.

The US Army once tried to weaponize a Nerf football
Fiery Cross Reef air base. This air base and others could help bolster China’s aircraft carrier, the Liaonang. (Image taken from Google Earth)

While the American strike group could complete a fighting withdrawal — hitting all known locations of Chinese missile batteries within range using land-attack missiles from the cruiser and destroyers — the group just doesn’t have the firepower to really try to take out all of China’s militarized islands and reefs.

Of special concern would be the anti-ship cruise missiles thought to be deployed to Woody Island, Scarborough Shoal, and potentially even Fiery Cross Reef, Subi Reef, and Mischief Reef. If the weapons are deployed to all of them, there’s nowhere in the South China Sea the carrier can pass through without being forced to defend itself.

So, rather than go on the attack, the carrier group would likely use its Standard Missiles for ship defense and withdraw out of range. If a battle this size took place, it would surely be the start of a major war.

Better to save the Vinson and bring it back later with another strike group and a Marine Expeditionary Unit that can take and hold the ground after the Tomahawk missiles, Harriers, and Hornets soften the islands up.

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The difference between Trump’s old airplane and Air Force One

President Trump knows how to travel in style when he flies around the world. A home theater system, 24 karat gold plated bathroom fixtures, VIP lounge — just to name a few customize fittings that make up “Trump Force One” built in the 1990s.


Powered by two Rolls-Royce RB211 jet engines, Trump’s Boeing 757 is considered the “mini-me” version of his newly earned class of jetliner — Air Force One.

Air Force One — the Air Force callsign created in 1953 to designate the President’s plane — is a Boeing 747 that measures 231 feet long, seats 100 passengers, and races in at a max speed of 700 miles per hour. It comes fully equipped with enough fuel to fly 7,800 miles.

It also houses an onboard aerial refueling tube. Perfect for those extended trips to Russia.

AF-1 comes standard with amenities like a full medical clinic, a full gym and over 80 lines of communication, so he’ll always acquire that perfect internet signal wherever he is.

That’s compared to his Boeing 757 at 155 feet long, seating 43 passengers and with a top speed of 660 miles per hour which he purchased back in 2010 for close 100 hundred million smackeroos. Considerably smaller— Trump’s 757 does come in as the fancier choice but doesn’t come close to having the defensive capabilities like a full circuit of radar jamming software like AF-1 does.

Unlike any previous president, Trump independently owns his own aerial fleet, including the Boeing 757-200 airliner, a Cessna Citation X and two Sikorsky S-76Bs. Now that Donald Trump is President, he’ll have to keep his amazing fleet in the hanger, and we think that’s just awful.

MSNBC, YouTube

Which plane could you see yourself flying in? Comment below.

Related: Mattis orders separate reviews of F-35, Air Force One programs

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ISIS militants are faking illnesses to get out of fighting

There’s a term US soldiers give to one of their own who tries to shirk duty by making constant medical appointments: Sick call commando.


It looks like ISIS has the same problem.

Documents seized last month by Iraqi forces at a former ISIS base in Mosul, Iraq reveal that, despite its ability to recruit religious fanatics to the ranks, the so-called Islamic State has its fair share of “problem” fighters who don’t actually want to fight, The Washington Post reports.

Also read: ISIS is about to lose its biggest conquest in the Middle East

The Post found 14 fighters trying to skate their way out of combat, to include a Belgian offering a note about having back pain, and a Kosovar with “head pain” who wanted to be transferred to Syria.

Another, a recruit of Algerian descent from France, told his superiors he wanted to return home and offered two suspicious claims: I’m sick, and if you send me home, I’ll continue to work remotely.

The US Army once tried to weaponize a Nerf football
The line for ISIS sick call.

“He doesn’t want to fight, wants to return to France. Claims his will is a martyrdom operation in France. Claims sick but doesn’t have a medical report,” one note reads, according to The Post.

Of course, there are plenty within the ranks of ISIS who are still fighting on the front lines. But to see that at least some are trying to get out while they still can seems to suggest that the USand Iraqi military is doing something right.

Iraqi forces captured all of eastern Mosul late last month, and preparations are currently being made to start hitting the western side of the city. The top US general in Iraq, Lt. Gen. Stephen Townsend, is confident that both Mosul and the ISIS capital of Raqqa will fall “within the next six months.”

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This is how the first Asian-American Marine officer saved 8,000 men

Brutal cold, rough terrain, and intense firefights were just some of the dangers the Marines dealt with on a daily basis while engaging enemy forces in the Korean War.


Now, imagine possibly sharing the same bloodline with an enemy force your orders say you must fight and kill. That’s the real narrative for Kurt Chew-Een Lee, who served as the first Asian-American Marine officer during the multi-year skirmish.

Although he stood only at 5 feet 6 inches tall and 130 pounds, Lee was out to prove his leadership to his men and himself.

Lee would do just that.

Related: China just deployed troops to its first overseas base alongside US outpost

On the night of Nov. 2, 1950, while the San Francisco native was in charge of a machine-gun platoon in Baker company, chaos broke out as Chinese forces shot curtains of gunfire at the 8,000 men stationed in the area.

Lee’s Marines found themselves stuck in the middle of an incredibly loud and hectic situation.

Then, an eerie silence fell over the battlefield. Lee instructed the Company Gunny to keep his eyes peeled and be ready to take contact.

Lt. Lee then ventured out deep into the thick darkness to locate the Chinese’s position.

The US Army once tried to weaponize a Nerf football
Lt. Chew-Een Lee would be awarded the Navy Cross for his bravery. (Source: Smithsonian Channel/ YouTube/ Screenshot)

“Too many people think they can save lives hiding behind a boulder and not firing,” Lee explains in an interview. “In order to accomplish the mission, you got to keep moving forward.”

As Lee courageously went on his single man reconnaissance mission, he managed to fool the Chinese by firing his weapon at different cyclic rates from a variety of locations making it appear as if a massive force were advancing.

The plan worked. The Chinese returned fire exposing their fortified position. As Lee continued his approach, he used a weapon that none of his fellow Marines possessed — a second language.

Also Read: This is how SEAL Team 6 could stop North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un

By speaking Mandarin, he confused the enemy and earned himself enough of a distraction to toss his remaining hand grenades. Amidst his improvised plan, Lee discovered an enemy post that led to a single victory, saving countless Marine lives.

Check out the Smithsonian Channel‘s video to hear this epic story from the Marine legend himself.

(Smithsonian Channel, YouTube)
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The 30,000-pound bomb that could be used against Iran ‘boggles the mind’

Negotiators are working toward a June 30 deadline for a comprehensive nuclear agreement with Iran.


Should the negotiations ultimately fail and the talks fall apart, the Obama administration and any future US president will have what Michael Crowley of Politico describes as an awe-inspiring “plan B” — the Massive Ordnance Penetrator (MOP).

The US Army once tried to weaponize a Nerf football
Photo: US Air Force

According to Crowley, the US has practiced at least three attack runs over the New Mexico desert. These runs have been flown by B-2 bombers and are meant to test the US’ trump card against any attempt to procure a nuclear weapon, the Massive Ordnance Penetrator.

MOP, which is 20 feet long and weighs 15 tons, “boggles the mind,” according to a former Pentagon official who spoke to Politico after watching footage of the tests.

There’s no publicly available footage of the tests, but this footage of a BLU-109 in action gives an idea of how the MOP works. Bunker-buster munitions burst through a target’s defensive layering before the warhead detonates:

The BLU-109 has a 535-pound warhead and weighs about a ton. The MOP carries about 5,300 pounds of explosives, giving it an explosive yield about an order of magnitude greater than the weapon in the video.

The MOP is the world’s largest nonnuclear weapon. Designed to hit hardened targets, bunkers, and locations deep under ground, the MOP hits the ground at supersonic speed after being released from a B-2 bomber. After impact, the bomb can burrow through 200 feet of earth and 60 feet of concrete before detonating.

The US Army once tried to weaponize a Nerf football
Photo: Boeing

In the event that negotiations fail, the US is in a position to launch a series of MOP strikes against Fordow, a once secret nuclear facility contained within a hollowed-out mountain and specially hardened against aerial attack. The centrifuges at Fordow are capable of enriching uranium, which could be used for a nuclear weapon.

Destroying Fordow would be a difficult endeavor despite the size and sheer force of the MOP. Politico notes that the total destruction of the facility would likely require multiple B-2s dropping MOPs at the same GPS-designated location to ensure that the bombs would be able to drill through both the side of the mountain and the facility’s hardened shell before detonating.

The US Army once tried to weaponize a Nerf football
Photo: US Air Force Gary Ell

But the MOP is supposed to be used in exactly these kinds of coordinated strikes. According to The Wall Street Journal, the bomb is designed to be dropped in pairs. The first is meant to clear a path for the second hit, heightening the bombs’ potent penetration capabilities.

Unnamed officials told The Journal that the MOP’s devastation potential is unlike any nonnuclear weapon ever built.

The weapons have been designed by the US to destroy hardened facilities within North Korea and Iran.

Should the US decide to carry out bombing runs against Iranian nuclear sites, the US could run into substantial difficulties.

The US Army once tried to weaponize a Nerf football
Photo: Google Satellite of Iran’s Fordrow Facility

Google Sat. ImageIran’s Fordow facility.

Russia has announced that it would be willing to sell the S-300 air-defense system, which can hit aircraft at high altitude from a 150-mile range, to Iran.

If Iran were to acquire the S-300s, Tehran would be able to set up a formidable ring of defense around its nuclear sites.

This would make Iranian air defenses much more difficult to overcome, raising the scale and the stakes of any US bombing run against the country’s nuclear facilities.

The MOP is unique for its ability to penetrate enemy defenses, but it is not the largest bomb the US has ever built. That title goes to the T-12 Cloudmaker, a World War II-era bomb that clocked in at over 40,000 pounds.

More from Business Insider:

This article originally appeared at Business Insider Defense. Copyright 2015. Follow BI Defense on Twitter.

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With ISIS nearly dead in Syria, guess who’s making a comeback

Al-Qaeda’s Syrian affiliate is consolidating territory in a major clash with a rival rebel group and could make the terror group a more formidable threat in the longer term than the Islamic State, US-based intelligence advisory firm The Soufan Group warns.


The warning comes amid a major clash between al-Qaeda affiliate, Hayat Tahrir al-Sham, and another Islamist rebel group in the province that the Syrian regime and its allies do not largely control. The US, by and large, is focused on defeating ISIS in other areas of Syria and has largely given over a leadership role for post-ISIS Syria to Russia, Iran, and the Syrian regime.

“The prospect of a sustained de facto governing presence by al-Qaeda in Idlib is a grave national security concern,” The Soufan Group noted. “The prospect may lead to US airstrikes, though the air space over Idlib is far more complicated and crowded than over Raqqa. Idlib is just to the east of Latakia, an Assad regime stronghold with a sizable Russian military presence,” the group added.

The US Army once tried to weaponize a Nerf football
Flag of Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham from Wikimedia Commons

US-backed, anti-ISIS fighters have retaken approximately 40 percent of ISIS’s capital of Raqqa, but continue to have a long and grueling fight ahead of them. The fight consumes the majority of US resources in Syria.

HTS and the Islamist rebel group have now struck a tenuous truce giving HTS control of the city of Idlib. The terrorist group has changed its name several times and falsely declared to cut ties with the global al-Qaeda network in order to court less extreme opposition groups on the ground in Syria.

Experts fear the terrorist group will deepen its roots in Syria and may able to launch external terror plots against the West using its new sanctuary.

“The battle against the Islamic State in Raqqa is not to be the most consequential ongoing fight in Syria,” The Soufan Group lamented.

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CSI Battlefield: 7 ways forensic science is used in war

Forensic science is associated with hit TV shows and catching criminals at home, but it’s also used by the military. Here are 7 ways it is:


1. Crater analysis

The US Army once tried to weaponize a Nerf football
Photo: US Air Force Senior Airman Christopher Gross

Crater analysis is the study of holes caused by explosions and incoming rounds. It has two major uses. For decades, experts have looked at craters to determine what caliber weapon an artillery attack used and where it was fired from. Since the invention of IEDs, it has also been used to determine what size and type of explosive charge was used in the device.

2. Swabbing for explosives

The US Army once tried to weaponize a Nerf football
Photo: US Army Sgt. James Bunn

Determining what type of explosives were used in an IED allows military intelligence to determine what methods insurgents are using to create or smuggle explosives. Tactical site exploitation teams swab IED components and test the residue to learn what the explosive is and how refined it is.

Troops can also swab suspected bombmakers hands or homes to prove insurgent activity, allowing U.S. forces or local military personnel to arrest probable insurgents.

3. Fingerprinting and DNA

The US Army once tried to weaponize a Nerf football
Photo: US Army SPC Chenee’ Brooks

Fingerprint and DNA collection help commanders track the movement of people around the battlefield and aid in the prosecution of insurgents. Investigators grab fingerprints and DNA from inside known areas of enemy activity, from weapons and material, and from suspected insurgents.

Where each matching sample appears on the battlefield will let commanders know if a known bomb maker is in a certain region and will increase the chance that an insurgent is caught at a checkpoint where troops have a fingerprint reader.

Army scientist can even detect explosive materials in the fingerprints found at a site.

4. Testing for chemical and biological deployments

The US Army once tried to weaponize a Nerf football
Photo: US Navy Photographer’s Mate 1st Class Timm Duckworth

When troops come under biological or chemical attack, it’s obviously best if the military can quickly determine what agents were used against them. The U.S. has chemical warfare experts in most units who can quickly determine what threat is in the area with special collection papers that test chemical reactions.

The military has also developed an automated tool that automatically tests the environment all the time. The Joint Chemical Agent Detector (M4A1) alerts troops to the presence of an agent, tells them what level of protection is likely required, and identifies the most likely agent being used against them.

5. Searching combat camera, public affairs, and satellite imagery for clues

The US Army once tried to weaponize a Nerf football
Photo: US Marine Corps Master Sgt. Paul D. Bishop

Investigators and forensic technicians on the battlefield get precious few opportunities to collect data from many battlefields, especially if their side isn’t holding the ground at the end of the day. So they often collect data from military photographs and other imagery.

Photos from during the battle can give up clues like which side was where when a war crime was committed, and satellite imagery has already been used to prove the location and scope of mass killings by ISIS. Digital information collected from ISIS social media postings has given Air Force commanders enough information to target a strike.

6. Searching for hidden graves or other evidence

After massacres and other war crimes, criminals often hide all the evidence they can including the bodies of their victims. To bring closure to families and to aid in prosecution down the line, experts hunt out likely mass graves or other caches of hidden evidence.

Iraqi forensic teams have been following the front line as Iraqi and international troops push back ISIS. In Tikrit and other cities hit hard, they’ve found evidence of large executions and exhumed mass graves.

7. Scanning the atmosphere to detect nuclear detonations and materials

The US Army once tried to weaponize a Nerf football
Detecting nuclear detonations from far away is hard. Detecting them from up close is easy. Photo: US National Archives and Records Administration

After nuclear tests by foreign countries like North Korea, America and other countries use particle detectors to see how much nuclear material might have been detonated and to prove a detonation took place. During the Cold War, U-2 flights collected particles to learn what weapons the Cold War had in development.

Research is underway to help detect nuclear materials or weapons in transit to shut down smuggling routes and protect population centers.

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