These 8 fighters served decades beyond “retirement” as drones - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY TACTICAL

These 8 fighters served decades beyond “retirement” as drones

You may think that when a plane is retired by the Air Force, the Department of Defense is simply done with it. The only options from here are being sold second-hand, getting scrapped, becoming a museum installation, or getting lucky and becoming a civilian warbird. Well, there is another option – planes can continue to serve, but that service usually comes to a fiery end.

That’s because old fighters make for useful target drones. These eight successful fighters all found use well after retirement.


These 8 fighters served decades beyond “retirement” as drones

A F6F Hellcat meets its end at the hands of an AIM-9B Sidewinder missile in 1957, more than a decade after the end of World War II.

(U.S. Navy)

1. F6F Hellcat

Over 11,000 F6F Hellcats were produced, so it’s no surprise that this classic ended up doing target drone duty. In the late 1950s, Hellcats served as targets for the early versions of the AIM-9 Sidewinder. Today, the FAA shows only 11 registered Hellcats.

These 8 fighters served decades beyond “retirement” as drones

The QF-86 Sabre was still in service with the United States military in 1991 – four decades after F-86 Sabres blasted Commies out of the sky.

(U.S. Navy photo by PH2 Bruce Trombecky)

2. F-86 Sabre

The most famous plane of the Korean War didn’t leave service when the Air National Guard retired its last F-86 in the 1970s. Instead, F-86s served as target drones in the 1990s — long after they dominated MiG Alley.

These 8 fighters served decades beyond “retirement” as drones

A F-16 Fighting Falcon takes down a QF-100 Super Sabre in a test of the AIM-120 AMRAAM.

(USAF)

3. F-100 Super Sabre

The F-100 Super Sabre also saw years of post-retirement service as a target for missiles. The AIM-120 Advanced Medium-Range Air-to-Air Missile’s deadliness was honed on QF-100 Super Sabres.

These 8 fighters served decades beyond “retirement” as drones

The F-102 served as a target drone into the 1980s.

(USAF)

4. F-102 Delta Dagger

Former President George W. Bush’s old steed saw some service as a target drone for a decade after its retirement. The last of the QF-102/PQM-102s were shot down in 1986.

These 8 fighters served decades beyond “retirement” as drones

The Air Force bought less than 300 F-104s, but some became target drones.

(USAF)

5. F-104 Starfighter

This plane didn’t see much service with the United States, but was purchased in large numbers by American allies. The QF-104 extended the F-104’s otherwise brief service with the United States military.

These 8 fighters served decades beyond “retirement” as drones

The F-106 Delta Dart was replaced by the F-15 in the 1980s, but those that were turned into target drones came within a couple of years of serving into the 21st century.

(NASA photo)

6. F-106 Delta Dart

The F-106 Delta Dart succeeded the F-102 as an interceptor in the 1960s, so it seems natural the QF-106 would succeed the QF-102/PQM-102 force as targets. The Delta Dart’s last mission as a target drone was in 1997.

These 8 fighters served decades beyond “retirement” as drones

The QF-4 Phantom served for over two decades as an oversized clay pigeon for various missile tests.

(Wikimedia Commons photo by Jon Hurd)

7. F-4 Phantom

The F-4 was a workhorse for the United States Air Force, Navy, and Marine Corps for decades. However, it also put in roughly two decades as a drone. It finally flew its last mission in 2016.

These 8 fighters served decades beyond “retirement” as drones

The QF-16 Fighting Falcon will be serving as a target drone for the foreseeable future.

(USAF photo by MSgt. J. Scott Wilcox)

8. F-16 Fighting Falcon

The F-16 replaced some F-4s in active United States Air Force service – as well as in the Air National Guard and Air Force Reserve. Now, the first QF-16 target drones are taking flight as targets for missile tests.

The fighters that end up as target drones meet a noble end. Though they no longer fly missions in-theater, they ensure that the missiles used by American military personnel are reliable.

MIGHTY TRENDING

How to find out if you’re eligible for the big veteran’s tax refund


The Defense Department has announced
that more than 130,000 veterans may be eligible for a tax refund on taxes paid on their disability severance.

Eligible veterans can submit a 1040X Amended U.S. Individual Tax Return for their reimbursement of taxes paid on their disability severance payment.


Army Lt. Col. David Dulaney, executive director for the Armed Forces Tax Council, said the Defense Department has identified more than 130,000 veterans who may be eligible for the refund.

According to the DoD’s press release:

“The deadline to file for the refund is one year from the date of the Defense Department notice, or three years after the due date for filing the original return for the year the disability severance payment was made, or two years after the tax was paid for the year the disability severance payment was made, according to the IRS.”
These 8 fighters served decades beyond “retirement” as drones

The IRS will accept a simplified method of filing for the refund, in which veterans claim a standard refund based on the year they received their disability severance payment. The standard refund amounts are as follows:

Tax years 1991 – 2005: id=”listicle-2587881382″,7590

Tax years 2006 – 2010: ,400

Tax years 2011 – 2016: ,200

The disability severance payment is not subject to federal income tax when a veteran meets the following criteria:

“The veteran has a combat-related injury or illness as determined by his or her military service at separation that resulted directly from armed conflict; took place while the member was engaged in extra-hazardous service; took place under conditions simulating war, including training exercises such as maneuvers; or was caused by an instrumentality of war.”

“The veteran is receiving disability compensation from the Department of Veterans Affairs or has received notification from VA approving such compensation.”

Combat-Injured Veterans Tax Fairness Act of 2016

The Combat-Injured Veterans Tax Fairness Act of 2016 is the solution to eligible veterans being wrongly taxed on their severance payment. The bill asked the Department of Defense to examine disability severance payments that occurred after Jan. 17, 1991, that were included as taxable income.

Even if a veteran did not receive a letter from the Defense Department, they may still be eligible for a refund. Veterans who may be eligible can visit the IRS website and search “combat injured veterans” for further information.

Estates or surviving spouses can file a claim on behalf of a veteran who is now deceased.

This article originally appeared on G.I. Jobs. Follow @GIJobsMagazine on Twitter.

MIGHTY CULTURE

DOD survey finds that most spouses are satisfied with military life

The latest survey of active-duty and reserve-component service members’ spouses shows the spouses are, by and large, happy with the military lifestyles they lead.

Defense Department officials briefed reporters at the Pentagon Feb. 21, 2019, on the results of the surveys, which were conducted in 2017.

The survey of active-duty spouses and a similar survey of National Guard and Reserve spouses showed similar results, they said. Among active-duty spouses, 60 percent claimed they are “satisfied” with their military way of life. Among the reserve components, 61 percent were satisfied.


While both surveys showed a slight decrease from the last previous survey, conducted in 2015, the 2015 and 2017 results both were higher than results from the same question on the 2008 survey, officials noted.

James N. Stewart, performing the duties of the undersecretary of defense for personnel and readiness, told reporters the surveys cover areas including satisfaction with military life, spouse employment, deployment and reintegration. Questions also touch on issues such as finances and the impact of deployments on families and military children.

These 8 fighters served decades beyond “retirement” as drones

A soldier from the Florida Army National Guard’s 806th Military Police Company greets his family.

(Photo by Master Sgt. Thomas Kielbasa)

Survey results inform decisions

Results are used to inform decisions about how the U.S. military provides services to families, he said.

“These surveys allow us to identify areas of concern and understand what’s working, and more importantly, what’s not,” Stewart said. “This information also helps our internal leaders evaluate programs, address issues and gaps, and determine the need for new services.”

Paul Rosenfeld, the director for DOD’s Center for Retention and Readiness, said positive results of the surveys included general spouse support for military members continuing to serve. Among reserve component spouses, for instance, 81 percent support continued service for their spouse.

Regarding financial matters, 71 percent of active-duty spouses report being comfortable with their financial situation, while 68 percent of reserve-component spouses say the same thing.

Of concern, Rosenfeld said, is that among active-duty spouses, 61 percent support continued military service for their spouse — that’s a drop from 68 percent in 2012. “Spouse support for service members staying on duty predicts actual member retention,” Rosenfeld said.

Other points of concern revealed by the surveys are high levels of “loneliness” reported by spouses when military members are deployed and unemployment rates for active-duty military spouses. Among active-duty spouses, Rosenfeld said, unemployment sits at 24 percent. Among the spouses of junior enlisted members in the E-1 through E-4 pay grades, he said, that number sits at 29 percent.

It’s all about the kids

When it comes to military spouses, Rosenfeld said, family is most important, and children top the list.

“Child care continues to be a key need for active-duty families,” he said, adding that 42 percent of active-duty spouses with children under age 6 report regularly using child care. It’s 63 percent for spouses who are employed.

Carolyn S. Stevens, director of DOD’s Office of Military Family Readiness Policy, said some 40 percent of military members have children. Of those children, she said, about 38 percent are under the age of 6.

Past survey results showed that availability of child care — in particular, hours of operation — had been an issue for military families, Stevens said. Where hours of operation for child care may have affected service members’ ability to do their mission, hours were expanded, she added.

Subsequent survey results show that now, among those who don’t make use of child care on installations, only 2 percent say it’s due to hours of operation, she said.

These 8 fighters served decades beyond “retirement” as drones

Sinead Politz kisses her daughter, Lorelai, at the return of Lance Cpl. Ryan L. Politz.

“We believe, then, that those responses are a confirmation that we’ve listened to a concern, that we’ve responded to that concern, and that in fact we’ve hit the mark,” she said.

Also of concern when it comes to child care is cost and availability. About 45 percent of respondents on the survey say cost of child care is a problem for military families, Stevens said. She noted that in some situations, appropriated funds can be used to lower the cost of child care for families who use installation child care. And for some families, she said, fee assistance programs can be used to lower costs for those who use community-based child care.

Still, Stevens acknowledged, that’s not possible for every family who needs it, and more work needs to be done. “We are unable to provide fee assistance to all of our families, and we continue to see this as an issue that requires more attention and focus as we try to find solutions for families,” she said.

Next survey: 2019

For the 2017 survey, about 45,000 active-duty spouses were asked to participate, and about 17 percent of those responded. Among reserve-component spouses, 55,000 were invited to participate, with a response rate of 18 percent.

Invitations to participate in the 2019 survey went out to reserve component spouses in January 2019. An invitation will be sent to active-duty spouses in May 2019.

A.T. Johnston, the deputy assistant secretary of defense for military community and family policy, said the results from the 2017 survey, and the now ongoing 2019 survey, will continue to be used to improve quality of life for military families.

“The research information we receive guides me and my team to ensure we provide the tools, information and services that military families need to be successful, fulfilled, and able to manage the challenges they may encounter during military service,” Johnston said.

Articles

This hard-drinking salty Coast Guard sea dog was banned from Greenland

One enlisted Coastie mutt – no disrespect, Sinbad was a “mixed breed” – earned a reputation that rivaled any sailor’s in any war before or since. He was one of only two non-humans to reach NCO status, even making Chief by the time of his retirement.


Sinbad was arguably the Coast Guard’s most famous mascot. He was enlisted into the USCG by Chief Boatswain’s Mate A. A. “Blackie” Rother of the Campbell. Sinbad was supposed to be a gift for Blackie’s girlfriend, but her building didn’t allow pets, so Rother took the dog back to the Cutter George W. Campbell.

These 8 fighters served decades beyond “retirement” as drones

A full-fledged member of the crew of the Campbell, Sinbad had to fill out his paperwork, wear his uniform, and was given pay commensurate with his rank. When World War II broke out in the Atlantic, Sinbad wasn’t about to play dead when it mattered most.

The dog wasn’t just for fun. He had a watch, a general quarters duty station, and his own bunk. Sinbad certainly didn’t roll over for anyone. When the Coast Guard wanted to use him as a PR tool in allied ports, the pup raised hell from Morocco to Greenland.

These 8 fighters served decades beyond “retirement” as drones
Especially Greenland.

The Campbell saw plenty of action. She once rammed an enemy U-boat and was also strafed by a Nazi aircraft in the Mediterranean. During a fight with U-606, the ship was severely damaged and the CO ordered that essential personnel only would remain on the Campbell. Sinbad stayed aboard ship.

Signing his enlistment papers with a pawprint, he served on Atlantic convoy duty with the rest of the Campbell crew. Just like a sailor, he had to be disciplined. One author wrote:

“Sinbad is a salty sailor but he’s not a good sailor. He’ll never rate gold hashmarks nor Good Conduct Medals. He’s been on report several times and he’s raised hell in a number of ports. On a few occasions, he has embarrassed the United States Government by creating disturbances in foreign zones. Perhaps that’s why Coast Guardsmen love Sinbad, he’s as bad as the worst and as good as the best of us.”

These 8 fighters served decades beyond “retirement” as drones

The precocious pup did earn medals, however. His awards include the American Defense Service Medal, American Campaign Medal, European-African-Middle Eastern Campaign Medal, Asiatic-Pacific Campaign Medal, World War II Victory Medal, and Navy Occupation Service Medal.

The crew loved Sinbad, even if no one really took responsibility for the dog. They said he earned his enlistment by drinking coffee, whiskey with beer chasers, and having his own shore liberty. He was reportedly the first off the ship at every port.

These 8 fighters served decades beyond “retirement” as drones
Sinbad presumably waiting for the whiskey.

He would hit the bars hard, hopping up on empty bar stools, where his whiskey and beer habit was tended to by every bar in the area. He never paid for a drink but returned the ship “bombed” every night, with only an aspirin to tend to his hangover the next day. Sometimes his drinking led to a Captain’s Mast. He was demoted in rank for actions that generally made him a bad dog. These include:

• Missing a sailing in Italy; captured by the Shore Patrol.

• AWOL trying to rejoin the Campbell.

• Going overboard trying not to miss a sailing.

These 8 fighters served decades beyond “retirement” as drones
Sinbad recovering from shore leave.

His most notorious trial was being banned from the island of Greenland altogether. During one port call, Sinbad “made his name infamous among sheep farmers.”

Captain James Hirschfield told the media that as long as Sinbad was aboard, nothing bad could happen to the ship. In a nod to Capt. Hirschfield’s statement, a statue of Sinbad is on the deck of the current Famous-class Cutter Campbell. It is considered bad luck for anyone below the rank of Chief to touch Sinbad or his bone.

These 8 fighters served decades beyond “retirement” as drones

In his retirement days, the aging pup was sent to Barnegat Lifeboat Station in northern New Jersey, After 11 years of service. He slept, watched the ocean, and waited for Kubel’s Bar to open in the mornings until he died in 1951.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Fun facts about countries with biggest US military bases

Not including the Middle East, there were more than 225,000 U.S. military personnel stationed abroad last year. A military career is a great way to learn about different cultures. You’ll also learn some pretty cool (and sometimes strange) things about life in other countries. Here are some interesting facts about some of the countries with large U.S. military populations:


These 8 fighters served decades beyond “retirement” as drones

(Marine Corps Photo)

South Korea

Camp Humphreys is America’s largest overseas base, and it’s located in South Korea. But did you know that South Korea is also home to the world’s best airport? Incheon International Airport has consistently been ranked the best in the world. It has lush gardens, saunas, an ice skating rink, free showers and free massage chairs. It even has craft areas where you can create traditional bags and fans. It’s pretty much a tourist destination in and of itself.

These 8 fighters served decades beyond “retirement” as drones

(Air National Guard photo by Master Sgt. Matt McCoy)

Germany

It’s good to be a kid in Germany. In a tradition dating back to the 1800s, every first grader gets a giant cone filled with toys and candy. Today, some kids even get cell phones and video games. When you make it through school, you’ll also get an entirely free college education. But don’t count on standing out among your classmates for your unusual name; the government has a say over what parents name their children, and they reject strange names (including ones where the gender is not obvious).

These 8 fighters served decades beyond “retirement” as drones

(U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Peter Reft)

Japan

Japan is the vending machine capital of the world. In fact, every street in Japan has at least one vending machine (for a total of over 5 million in the country). Umbrella vending machines are helpful when it rains (versus in New York, where you’ll have to grab one from a street vendor). Forgot your tie for work? Buy one in a vending machine. You can buy every kind of food imaginable—including vegetables. There are even vending machines entirely for bananas. And here’s one Americans will love – there are toilet paper vending machines in Japan too.

These 8 fighters served decades beyond “retirement” as drones

(U.S. Army photo by Davide Dalla Massara)

Italy

The Italians take their ice cream (gelato) very seriously. In fact, there is an even an entire university dedicated to studying it and making it. It’s called Gelato University, near Bologna, and it attracts both Italians and non-Italians wanting to learn the secrets behind making this revered dessert.

These 8 fighters served decades beyond “retirement” as drones

(US Army Photo by Sgt. M Benjamin Gable)

Kuwait

Kuwait isn’t a popular tourist destination, but if you do find yourself there, look for Sadu woven textiles. This craft goes back to the country’s nomadic peoples – even though most of the country’s population today are expatriates. Symbolism in the weaving shows the desert landscape and commemorates the nomadic lifestyle.

These 8 fighters served decades beyond “retirement” as drones

(U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Michael Battles/Released)

Turkey

Turkey is the right place if you’ve come to shop. It has one of the world’s largest and biggest shopping centers, called the Grand Bazaar, which dates back to the 1400s. It includes over 3,000 shops taking up over 60 streets. Many of the shops sell traditional Turkish items like ceramics, lamps, spices, rugs, jewelry, and tea.

This article originally appeared on Sandboxx. Follow Sandboxx on Facebook.

MIGHTY CULTURE

There’s now scientific evidence MREs really do stop you up like nothing else

As anyone who’s ever deployed to a war zone knows, there’s no better cork for your ass than a meal at Uncle Sam’s House of Field Rations. This was a fact long denied by the Combat Feeding Directorate of the U.S. Army Soldier Research and Development center in Natick, Massachusetts. But a recent study in the Journal of Nutritional Biochemistry set out to prove us troops right.

That probably wasn’t actually the reason for starting the study, but the end result is the same.


There are a lot of myths and urban legends surrounding MREs. They’re a fascinating feat of culinary engineering, after all. Anything that will still be good to eat three years after it’s made is something magical. So it’s no wonder these meals have so many myths and urban legends surrounding them.

First, there’s the one about how eating them for more than 20 days in a row could kill you. That’s a myth. Then there’s the one about turning them into a weapon using the tabasco sauce and the heater, which is also a myth. Finally, there’s the one about how they’re designed to make the eater constipated to keep them from having to go while on an operation and how the gum is a laxative to use when the op is over. Both are myths.

Except the the one about blocking up the works. That’s real, but not for any reason except they physically alter your bowels, according to the study.

The study, called “A diet of U.S. military food rations alters gut microbiota composition and does not increase intestinal permeability,” used 60 volunteers, both military and civilian who were tested via feces, blood, and urine samples. Half ate only MREs two to three times a day while the other half ate normal meals with a similar number of calories. They were both only allowed to drink water and black coffee. Three weeks later, the results were in.

The MRE eaters reported one fewer bowel movement per week than the regular food group. The reason is that the MRE doesn’t promote the growth of stomach bacteria that fresh foods have, especially lactic acid bacterias, while promoting bacterias that actively prevent the smooth moves human beings are accustomed to. But even though the participants ate the MREs for longer than the dreaded 20 day threshold (remember the myth that 21 days of MREs would kill you?) participants’ bowel habits went right back to normal as soon as their food went back to normal.

These 8 fighters served decades beyond “retirement” as drones

(U.S. Air Force photo by Lauren Parsons)

If you’re experiencing some gastrointestinal distress, before or after your MRE experience, the reason may be that you just need some fresh food in your diet. Americans don’t drink enough water, and they definitely don’t get enough fiber, by and large, according to Dr. J. Phillip Karl, the study’s author.

So have some water and some yogurt and get back in the fight – as soon as you get off the throne.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Marines just took tanks out of secret caves to train near Russia

US Marines from the 4th Tank Battalion withdrew tanks and weapons from caves in Norway early May, 2018, taking them east to Finland, where, for the first time, they took part in the annual mechanized exercise called Arrow 18.

The drills took place from May 7 to May 18, 2018, in southern Finland, which shares a long border with Russia and has a history of conflict with its larger neighbor. It involved about 150 armored vehicles and 300 other military vehicles. Only 30 Marines took part, but they were joined by thousands of personnel from Norway and Finland.


The live-fire event is led by the Finns, who perform the exercise with partner forces to test the fitness of their military, which is largely made up of conscripts.

“The Finnish Army’s mechanized exercise concentrates on mechanised units’ offensive and involves Army helicopter measures as well as Air Force flight activities,” the Finnish army said. “The exercise also aims at enhancing interoperability in cooperation with foreign detachments.”

Marines joined the multinational exercise for the first time “in order to increase interoperability, reassure partner nations, improve readiness and reinforce relationships,” a Corps spokesman told Marine Corps Times.

These 8 fighters served decades beyond “retirement” as drones
Marines with Bravo Company, 4th Tanks Battalion, fire a M1A1 Abrams tank during a low-light live-fire exercise as part of Exercise Arrow 18 in Pohjankangas Training Area near Kankaanpaa, Finland, May 16, 2018.
(US Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Averi Coppa)

The Marine Corps began storing vehicles, weapons, and other supplies in caves in Norway during the Cold War in an effort to pre-position equipment in case of conflict. The gear is housed in a chain of six caves in the Trondheim region of central Norway; the exact location is not known.

Three caves have everything from rolling stock to towed artillery. The other three hold ammunition, officials told Military.com in 2017. There is enough gear and food to stock a force of 4,600 Marines for several weeks of combat with everything except aircraft and desktop computers.

“All of our major equipment was drawn from the caves in Norway,” Capt. Matthew Anderson, a tank commander who participated in the exercise, told Stars and Stripes. “This exercise would not have happened without the caves. The equipment, forward-staged, allows us to conduct these exercises. Without it, it’s a whole lot less likely that we would have been as successful as we were.”

Below, you can see what Marines faced during their first time in Finland.

Tensions between Russia and other countries in Europe have been elevated since early 2014, when Russia intervened in Ukraine and annexed Crimea.

These 8 fighters served decades beyond “retirement” as drones
U.S. Marines with Bravo Company, 4th Tank Battalion, fire the M1A1 Abrams tank during a live-fire exercise as part of Exercise Arrow 18 in Pohjankangas Training Area near Kankaanpaa, Finland, May 15, 2018.
(US Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Averi Coppa)

In the years since, NATO has reassessed its security posture in Europe, deploying more forces to eastern Europe and seeking to streamline operations.

These 8 fighters served decades beyond “retirement” as drones
Marines with Bravo Company, 4th Tanks Battalion, prepare to fire a 50-cal. machine gun mounted on a M1A1 Abrams tank during Exercise Arrow 18 in Pohjankangas Training Area near Kankaanpaa, Finland, May 17, 2018.
(US Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Averi Coppa)

The initiative, designated Operation Atlantic Resolve, has seen multinational forces stationed in rotations in Poland, Latvia, Lithuania, and Estonia. The US has also sought to rebuild its armored presence on the continent after withdrawing the last of its tanks in 2013.

The US Army’s 1st Armored Brigade Combat Team, from the 1st Cavalry Division, known as the Ironhorse Brigade, recently arrived in Antwerp, Belgium, using the trip from the port to its base in Germany as a chance to practice the overland movements that a military mobilization would require.

Niether Finland nor Sweden are NATO members, but both countries have worked more closely with each other and the defense alliance to develop military capabilities and maintain readiness.

These 8 fighters served decades beyond “retirement” as drones
A Finnish soldier overlooks live-fire training in Pohjankangas Training Area, Finland, as part of Exercise Arrow 18, May 15, 2018.
(US Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Averi Coppa)

Helsinki said in early 2017 that it would increase troop numbers by 20% and add to its defense budget in response to rising tensions with Russia.

Source: Reuters

Russia singled out those moves closer to NATO by Finland and Sweden as a matter of “special concern.” Russia has also criticized neighboring Norway for allowing a US Marine rotational force to be stationed in the country — the first time a foreign force has been posted on Norwegian soil since World War II.

These 8 fighters served decades beyond “retirement” as drones
Marines with Bravo Company, 4th Tanks Battalion, drive the M1A1 Abrams tanks during a live-fire exercise as part of Exercise Arrow 18 in Pohjankangas Training Area near Kankaanpaa, Finland, May 16, 2018.
(US Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Averi Coppa)

Source: Reuters, Business Insider

The Marines deployed to Finland with M1A1 tanks for the exercise, where they were joined by soldiers from the Army’s 2nd Cavalry Regiment using Stryker armored vehicles. US personnel and a Finnish mechanized infantry brigade took part in a mock battle in woods and marshland in the western part of the country.

These 8 fighters served decades beyond “retirement” as drones
Marines with Bravo Company, 4th Tanks Battalion, fire a 50-cal. machine gun mounted on a M1A1 Abrams tank during Exercise Arrow 18 in Pohjankangas Training Area near Kankaanpaa, Finland, May 17, 2018.
(US Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Averi Coppa)

Source: Stars and Stripes

The exercise saw Marines working with Finnish soldiers to attack the enemy, a role filled by other Finnish troops. “We would punch holes through the enemy lines and the conscripts would come in and give us support,” Anderson, the tank commander, told Stars and Stripes.

These 8 fighters served decades beyond “retirement” as drones
Marines with Bravo Company, 4th Tanks Battalion, fire an M1A1 Abrams tank during a low-light, live-fire exercise as part of Exercise Arrow 18 in Pohjankangas Training Area near Kankaanpaa, Finland, May 16, 2018.
(US Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Averi Coppa)

Finnish army cooks also supplied troops in the field with hot meals every day, sparing soldiers and Marines from having to eat Meals, Ready to Eat. “It doesn’t get any better than that,” Anderson said.

The territory presented a new challenge for the Marines.

These 8 fighters served decades beyond “retirement” as drones
Marines with Bravo Company, 4th Tanks Battalion, review the scheme of maneuver for a live-fire exercise as part of Exercise Arrow 18 in Pohjankangas Training Area near Kankaanpaa, Finland, May 16, 2018.
(US Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Averi Coppa)

“We’re used to operating in open terrain,” Anderson told Stars and Stripes. “This is very different. It is very forested, and we’ve had to adjust to the way Finnish tankers fight, more closely together.”

These 8 fighters served decades beyond “retirement” as drones
Marines with Bravo Company, 4th Tanks Battalion, prepare their M1A1 Abrams tanks for a live-fire exercise as part of Exercise Arrow 18 in Pohjankangas Training Area near Kanakaanpaa, Finland, May 16, 2018.
(US Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Averi Coppa)

Source: Stars and Stripes

One of Finland’s Leopard 2 tanks got stuck in a swamp during the training, giving Marines a chance to show off. “That was a lot of fun for my crew,” Sgt. Jonathan Hess, a recovery-vehicle mechanic, told Stars and Strips. “We showed the conscripts how to do recovering with our vehicle, because they have nothing like what we have.”

These 8 fighters served decades beyond “retirement” as drones
Finnish soldiers stage Leopard tanks during a live-fire exercise as part of Exercise Arrow 18 in Pohjankangas Training Area near Kankaanpaa, Finland, May 18, 2018.
(US Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Averi Coppa)

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

Navy might be firing special railgun rounds from standard artillery

The US Navy has reportedly been firing hypervelocity projectiles meant for electromagnetic railguns out of the 40-year-old deck guns that come standard on cruisers and destroyers in hopes of taking out hostile drones and cruise missiles for a lot less money.

During 2018’s Rim of the Pacific (RIMPAC) exercises, 20 hypervelocity projectiles were fired from a standard Mk 45 5-inch deck gun aboard the USS Dewey, USNI News reported Jan. 8, 2019, citing officials familiar with the test.

USNI’s Sam LaGrone described the unusual test as “wildly successful.”


BAE Systems, a hypervelocity projectile manufacturer, describes the round as a “next-generation, common, low drag, guided projectile capable of executing multiple missions for a number of gun systems, such as the Navy 5-Inch; Navy, Marine Corps, and Army 155-mm systems; and future electromagnetic (EM) railguns.”

These 8 fighters served decades beyond “retirement” as drones

The MK-45 5-inch/62 caliber lightweight gun of the guided-missile destroyer USS Mustin (DDG 89) is fired at a shore-based target, Nov.4, 2012.

(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Devon Dow)

The US Navy has invested hundreds of millions of dollars and more than a decade into the development of railgun technology. But while these efforts have stalled, largely because of problems and challenges fundamental to the technology, it seems the round might have real potential.

The hypervelocity projectiles can be fired from existing guns without barrel modification. The rounds fly faster and farther than traditional rounds, and they are relatively inexpensive.

While more expensive than initially promised, a hypervelocity projectile with an improved guidance system — a necessity in a GPS-contested or denied environment — costs only about 0,000 at the most, Bryan Clark, a naval-affairs expert with the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments, told USNI News. The Navy reportedly estimated that the high-speed rounds ought to cost somewhere around ,000.

The cost of a single hypervelocity projectile is a fraction of the cost of air-defense missiles like the Evolved Seasparrow Missile, Standard Missile-2, and Rolling Airframe Missile, all of which cost more than id=”listicle-2625534158″ million each.

With the standard deck guns, which rely on proven powder propellants, rather than electromagnetic energy, the Navy achieves a high rate of fire for air defense. “You can get 15 rounds a minute for an air defense mission,” Clark told USNI News.

These 8 fighters served decades beyond “retirement” as drones

The guided-missile destroyer USS Jason Dunham (DDG 109) fires a MK 45 5-inch, 62-caliber lightweight deck gun during a live-fire exercise, Jan. 12, 2013.

(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Deven B. King)

“That adds significant missile defense capacity when you think that each of those might be replacing an ESSM or a RAM missile. They’re a lot less expensive,” he added. Furthermore, US warships can carry a lot more of the high-speed rounds than they can missile interceptors.

USNI News explained that the intercept of Houthi cruise missiles by the USS Mason in the Red Sea back in 2016 was a multimillion-dollar engagement. The hypervelocity rounds could cut costs drastically.

The hypervelocity projectile offers the Navy, as well as other service branches, a mobile, cost-effective air-defense capability.

“Any place that you can take a 155 (howitzer), any place that you can take your navy DDG (destroyer), you have got an inexpensive, flexible air and missile defense capability,” Vincent Sabio, the Hypervelocity Projectile program manager at the Pentagon’s Strategic Capabilities Office, said in January 2018, according to a report by Breaking Defense.

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

Marine black belt judges Vladimir Putin’s judo moves

Russia is no stranger to carefully crafting military propaganda for Western audiences. From “doomsday” submarines to missiles with “unlimited range,” the Kremlin has a knack for the dramatic when they know it’ll capture the world’s digital attention span. If I’m honest, that’s why I clicked on the link for a recently uploaded video of Russian president Vladimir Putin training with the Russian Judo team.

I expected to see a carefully crafted bit of propaganda meant to hide Putin’s advancing age. Instead, I was surprised to find that the 66-year-old man actually does seem rather spry and capable. Moreover, despite some rust on the joints, he genuinely does appear to know what he’s doing on those mats.


These 8 fighters served decades beyond “retirement” as drones

Most real martial arts training looks like this: two people working on techniques at 50% intensity.

(Image released by the Kremlin)

It’s worth noting that despite years of training in multiple forms of martial arts, I’m no expert in Judo. My background began with scholastic wrestling and led to a passionate pursuit of martial arts throughout my time in the Marine Corps. I secured multiple waivers to earn my black belt in the Marine Corps Martial Arts Program by the time I was a corporal, and then proceeded to join the Corps’ first formal mixed martial arts team, Fight Club 29, under the tutelage of (then) Sergeant Major Mark Geletko. During my time there, I trained largely in American boxing, Muay Thai, and Pankration, before transferring to a unit near Boston, where I studied Brazilian jiu-jitsu for a time under Rickson Gracie Cup Champion Abmar Barbosa. Since then, I’ve gotten out of the Corps and moved to Georgia, where I’ve focused largely on Filipino martial arts systems.

I went undefeated in my short semi-pro fighting career, but I left the world of competition behind when I took a solid right hook in sparring and lost much of the vision in my right eye (since repaired). I’m not the toughest or baddest fighter in the world, the country, or probably my state – but I have been around long enough that I can usually pick the real fighters out of a crowd when I see them.

If I were to sum up my expertise, I’d call myself a jack of multiple martial arts trades, but certainly a master of none. I’ve had the good fortune to train with a number of masters though, and it’s not a title I take lightly.

Putin trains with Russian judo champions

youtu.be

Despite Vladimir Putin holding a black belt in Judo, this video suggests that he’s no master either, though he could have been close once. Coming back to a discipline you’ve left stagnant for years is a lot like riding a bike: you may never forget how to do it, but when it’s been a while, you still look a little foolish. And Putin does indeed seem a bit silly executing the agility drills at the opening the video.

From there, the video moves to what I expected to see: a young man with a black belt serving as Putin’s training dummy and doing a fine job of allowing himself to be thrown, rolled, and balled up, meaning the former KGB agent didn’t need to execute any judo techniques with the requisite form or intensity necessary to actually take down an opponent in a real fight. Putin’s footwork and use of leverage does, however, suggest an active awareness of his body and what it’s supposed to be doing as he executes throws and leg sweeps. Form and leverage are integral to the proper execution of these types of techniques, and while the intensity is lacking, the form does largely seem present.

These 8 fighters served decades beyond “retirement” as drones

For plenty of 66-year-olds, this stretch is death defying enough.

(Image released by the Kremlin)

These drills aren’t meant to be street fights, they’re meant to develop the muscle memory required to execute these movements with little or no thought, and in that regard, Putin shows a level of competency in the footage that suggests that at least some of the martial arts awards and honors bestowed upon him may have been legitimately earned.

Of course, I’ve read pieces like this one in the Washington Post where “tough guys” have accused Putin of lacking real chops, since the only footage one tends to find of him are in training environments such as this, but in truth, these claims are largely foolish grabs for attention rather than legitimate criticisms. Training of the sort shown in this video is not only completely normal, it would make little sense for a 66-year-old man to climb in the ring and spar at 100% with anyone just to silence an internet troll–even for someone as bravado-based as Putin.

Putin may not look like a spring chicken in this video, but he does appear to harbor a level of martial arts competency that, while rusty, is certainly more impressive than I’ve seen out of other celebrity martial arts “masters” like Steven Seagal. Is Putin as dangerous as he wants the world to believe? Probably not–but for a Bond villain on the downward slope of his 60s, he doesn’t appear to be a pushover either.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

How B-52 Bombers shot down enemy fighter jets in Vietnam

The air war over Vietnam saw some incredible dog fights, but it still may surprise you to learn that the mighty B-52 heavy bomber successfully shot down not one but two Vietnamese Mig 21 fighter jets near the tail end of the conflict.

The venerable Boeing B-52 Stratofortress has been flying since 1952, and thanks to a series of upgrades, will continue to for decades to come. The massive jet bomber may have been designed in the 1940s (in fact, it was designed almost entirely in a single weekend), but its massive airframe and eight jet engine-design have proven so capable over the years that the B-52 is now expected to outlast newer bombers that were developed to replace it. As the B-21 Raider inches toward production, both America’s B-2 Spirit (stealth bomber) and B-1B Lancer (supersonic bomber) are expected to be put out to pasture, while the legendary B-52 keeps right on flying.

A U.S. Air Force B-52 Stratofortress, B-1 Lancer and B-2 Spirit fly over Guam after launching from Andersen Air Force Base, Guam (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Joshua Smoot)

The B-52 BUFF (as service members tend to call it) has been flying combat missions for so long that it actually used to come equipped with a tail gunner position to defend the slow and steady bomber against encroaching fighters. Of course, as fighter technology continued to improve, the United States moved away from manning guns on their heavy payload bombers and toward flying with their own fighter escorts. While most people tend to think of World War II when they imagine gun turrets on a bomber, the most recent enemy fighter to be shot down by a B-52’s guns was actually in the 1970s.

The tail gun turret of Boeing B-52D Stratofortress (U.S. Air Force)

It was Christmas eve in 1972, and the B-52D bomber known as Diamond Lil was flying a bombing run over Thai Nguyen when its tail gunner, Airman 1st Class Albert Moore, spotted a Soviet-built Vietnamese Mig-21 closing with them fast.

“I observed a target in my radar scope 8:30 o’clock, low at 8 miles,” Moore wrote six days later in a formal statement. “I immediately notified the crew, and the bogie started closing rapidly. It stabilized at 4,000 yards 6:30 o’clock. I called the pilot for evasive action and the EWO (electronic warfare officer) for chaff and flares.”

A view of the reclined seat that enables the crewman to crawl into the tail gunner station of a B-52 Stratofortress aircraft. (U.S. Air Force)

For Moore, it had to be a nerve-racking moment. Only one other B-52 tail gunner had scored a successful kill against a Vietnamese fighter, though more than 30 B-52s had been shot down throughout the conflict. In fact, the first time a B-52 had ever shot down a Mig had only happened a few days prior. In other words, the odds seemed pretty squarely stacked against Moore and his crew.

“When the target got to 2,000 yards, I notified the crew that I was firing. I fired at the bandit until it ballooned to 3 times in intensity then suddenly disappeared from my radar scope at approximately 1,200 yards, 6:30 low. I expended 800 rounds in 3 bursts.”

Those 800 rounds poured out of Moore’s four .50 caliber M3 Machine Guns. The kill was confirmed by another tail gunner named Tech. Sgt. Clarence Chute, who was aboard a nearby B-52 called Ruby 2.

“I went visual and saw the bandit on fire and falling away,” wrote Sergeant Chute. “Several pieces of the aircraft exploded, and the fire-ball disappeared in the undercast at my 6:30 position.”

The Mig-21 was twice as fast as the B-52 and carried an internal 23mm machine gun as well as four hardpoints for air to air missiles. (U.S. Air Force)

Moore would go down in history as not only the second B-52 gunner to score a kill against a Mig, but also as the last bomber-gunner to ever engage enemy fighters in American service, despite tail guns surviving on the B-52 until the 1990s.

Today, the “Diamond Lil” sits near the north entrance of the Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, CO (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Don Branum)

Today, the B-52 remains in service as an essential part of America’s nuclear triad, and believe it or not, as a close air support aircraft in uncontested airspace. The B-52’s long loiter time and massive payload magazine make it an excellent choice for precision strikes against ground targets, where it’s seen use in both Iraq and Afghanistan in recent years. Thanks to a slew of cockpit upgrades and improved weapon system storage, the Air Force intends to keep flying the mighty BUFF past the century mark, with some B-52s expected to remain in service as late as 2060.

Feature image courtesy of the U.S. Air Force

This article originally appeared on Sandboxx. Follow Sandboxx on Facebook.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Garbage collection in Syria is crucial to fighting ISIS

Just a few years ago, I was a diplomat working on the Turkish-Syrian border. My job was managing the U.S. government team responsible for delivering aid to Syrian towns and cities loyal to the Syrian opposition.

These were towns that had turned against President Bashar al-Assad when the Arab Spring swept across the Middle East and Assad ordered his army to shoot peaceful civilians protesting against him.


Now I’m retired from the Foreign Service and teaching international relations at the University of Washington in Seattle, where my students struggle to understand why the U.S. never seems to learn from past mistakes in the conduct of our foreign affairs.

These 8 fighters served decades beyond “retirement” as drones

University of Washington in Seattle.

Given recent decisions and announcements by President Trump about withdrawing much of our aid and our troops from northern Syria while the civil war continues and the Islamic State Group, or “IS,” still threatens, it’s a timely question.

Stability and local services

To understand what’s at stake in Syria, it’s helpful to look at Iraq.

More than 15 years after the U.S. invaded Iraq and eight years after the U.S. said it was leaving the country, Iraq is unstable. Five thousand U.S. soldiers remain in Iraq today, tasked with shoring up the still struggling Iraqi armed forces.

One of the reasons for the instability is the U.S. decision in 2003 to dismiss nearly all leaders of the Iraqi civil service when it toppled dictator Saddam Hussein because they were members of Hussein’s Baath Party.

With much of the civil service gone, local services like water and electricity fell apart and essential public employees fled. That left a perfect vacuum for extremist groups like IS to exploit by taking control of essentially ungoverned territory. The U.S. continues to pay the price for this avoidable decision today.

If the U.S. cuts off support for communities inside Syria that oppose Bashar al-Assad and fly the Syrian Opposition flag, and withdraws American troops from the fight against IS – as President Trump has announced – we will be making the same mistake again. We’ll be creating a vacuum our enemies can exploit.

Keeping local officials on the job

The U.S. has supported these communities since 2012. I directed the distribution of hundreds of millions of dollars in U.S. government aid from 2012 until 2016, as head of the team known as the Syria Transition Assistance Response Team.

Syrian refugees will never go back home if their towns can’t offer the basic services they enjoyed before the war.

Our simple strategy was that when peace returns to Syria, key local officials would still be on the job, ready to reconnect their communities to the national systems that provided services before the war.

Thus would begin the long, difficult process of reuniting Syria.

The money and supplies my team and I delivered helped keep important local officials on the job so they wouldn’t give up and flee their country to seek refuge in Turkey, Lebanon or Jordan, like millions of others before them. These were experienced civilians who could keep the water and power on, manage the sewers and clean the streets.

We helped them with small stipends – a portion of their former salary – because the Syrian government had stopped paying them. And we provided equipment they needed to do their jobs: garbage trucks, generators, water tanks and fire trucks. We helped teachers, doctors and local police with small stipends, supplies and equipment, too.

Nothing was more satisfying for me than seeing videos of a new garbage truck that we sent from Turkey removing piles of garbage from the streets of Saraqib or one of the new ambulances we provided tending to innocent civilians injured in the latest barrel bombing in Aleppo.

These 8 fighters served decades beyond “retirement” as drones

International aid paid for the rehabilitation of an unreliable electricity grid in a town near Aleppo, Syria in 2015.

(Syria Recovery Trust Fund, Author provided)

It’s in everyone’s interest to keep civil service workers on the job, paid something and equipped. That will help put Syria back together again someday and deny ungoverned space for IS and other extremist groups. The last thing the U.S. and countries in the region need is for Syria to disintegrate into warring regions, like Iraq and Libya today.

International aid

Other countries joined the effort to rebuild Syria, notably the U.K., the Netherlands and Denmark. Still more countries are contributing to an international fund based in Jordan that helps the same communities; my team cooperated closely with this effort.

Stopping this funding means jeopardizing Syria’s future at the worst possible time, just as the conflict appears to be coming to an end. I believe that reuniting the country should be the priority now.

Syria’s neighbors, especially Turkey, long supported the U.S. approach because it kept Syrians in Syria, diminishing the flood of refugees to Turkey.

Of course, the Syrian government and its supporters, Russia and Iran, opposed our aid. The assistance we gave sustained communities that the government and its allies continue to bomb into submission and surrender, particularly in Idlib province.

But the aid President Trump cut, sometimes called stabilization assistance, goes to local civilian officials, working to help the sick and wounded and keep children in school.

These 8 fighters served decades beyond “retirement” as drones

Larry Bartlett, senior adviser for the Syria Transition Assistance Response Team meets with members of the Civil Administration of Manbij, Syria, in August 2018.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Izabella Sullivan)

An opening for IS

Similarly, withdrawing U.S. troops sent to Syria to eliminate IS – when our own count suggests at least 1,000 IS fighters remain there – may serve short term political ends, but will likely come back to haunt the U.S. and Syria’s neighbors.

President Trump may worry about the price tag for rebuilding Syria, once the war ends. He is right to be concerned. The cost will be enormous and arguably the U.S. should not spend a dime.

The old adage – you broke it, you fix it – applies to the Syria conflict. I believe we should let Syria, Russia and Iran pay the billions it will take to fix what they broke – the infrastructure of bombed-out cities and towns.

The modest U.S. investment in local communities that the White House cut off – 0 million, not billions – could have helped prevent the collapse of communities in the future.

So, what do I tell my students in Seattle?

I remind them that they are our future leaders. I tell them that if we are not to repeat the mistakes of my generation, they should study and learn from history, and avoid short-term fixes to disentangle the U.S. from future foreign interventions.

“Silver bullets” don’t work – and usually force us to return later, at a greater cost.

This article originally appeared on The Conversation. Follow @ConversationUS on Twitter.

MIGHTY HISTORY

Drones vs. Delta: Who do you think won the first round?

Master Sergeant George Hand US Army (ret) was a member of the 1st Special Forces Operational Detachment-Delta, The Delta Force. He is a now a master photographer, cartoonist and storyteller.

It was 1994 when my Delta Troop and I were training in the desert in preparation to deploy to the Mid-Eastern theater where there was much misbehaving going on. We spent a particular day primarily calling in anti-armor attacks from MH-60 Blackhawk (Hawkers) helicopters toting the venerable and extraordinarily deadly Hellfire missile.

We rotated ourselves onto a hilltop as Forward Observers choosing targets and directing the helo strikes. We used a Vietnam-era LASER designator called the MULE. The MULE “painted” the target with a LASER that the helo-mounted Hellfire could track all the way to the target.


These 8 fighters served decades beyond “retirement” as drones

ANPAQ-3 Modular Universal Laser Equipment (MULE)

Some men laughed at the MULE, but theirs was a shallow laugh as none of us could find fault with the noble seeker, and “if it ain’t broke don’t fix it.” I intentionally picked armor targets as far away as possible, some 8,000 meters and beyond, to challenge the Hellfire capabilities. The challenge was always accepted, and the missiles never missed.

In addition to calling in fire from aircraft, we also launched Hellfires from our six-wheel drive Austrian-made assault vehicles using an improvised launch pedestal welded by our mechanics. Success was enjoyed as well with that highly mobile platform.

These 8 fighters served decades beyond “retirement” as drones

Vehicle-mounted Hellfire launch; we often joked that we got sleepy waiting for the Hellfire to reach its distant targets

Toward late afternoon our troop leadership introduced us to an Air Force lieutenant colonel who heard there was a group of Delta men training nearby and just had to come show off his latest Research and Development endeavor — a remote control pilotless aircraft. None of us really cared about him, or his drone but rank still had its privileges so ok…

He stood proudly amongst us and beamed as he bragged on his miniature airplane. He held his Ground Control Unit in his hands explaining that his drone was at the moment several kilometers to our southwest and that it had a ,000 instrument payload that included a pilot’s Situational Awareness (SA) camera focused ahead of the aircraft.

It was a gasoline-powered, propeller-driven drone with a wingspan of about 12′. Just as interest waned, he brought the drone in tight and had it scream a few feet over our heads. That was actually pretty cool, and questions started coming out for the colonel: how fast, how high, what duration, how many pounds payload… all measure of questions about the drone’s capabilities.

These 8 fighters served decades beyond “retirement” as drones

This tragic friendly fire incident destroyed this Abrams tank with a Hellfire

“Sir, what’s the learning curve like on piloting that craft?” came my question.

“I’ll tell you what,” the colonel began as he stepped toward me. “I’ll let you see for yourself; give her a spin!” and he reached the ground control unit with its long whip antenna toward me. I immediately recoiled, not wanting to fool with all this expensive enigma.

“Fly it, a$hole!” the brothers started in on me.

“Yeah, get you some-o-that, chicken $hit!”

“Fly the damn plane, jacka$!”

And so it went, with the colonel thrusting the unit in my hands. All flight controls were there; all health inputs for the drone were displayed: speed, altitude, heading, fuel level, and others that I didn’t recognize. In the center of the unit was a screen displaying the done’s SA camera video feed.

It was very basic. All that was readily recognizable was black for the ground, and white for the sky. The black was toward the bottom of the screen with the majority of the screen white. There was a crosshair that cut across the screen representing an artificial horizon. I had seen similar instruments in the cockpit of an airplane, but as for flying these drones, I was fresh out of any experience whatsoever!

The true horizon on the screen was, of course, the line where the black (ground) met with the white (sky). The true horizon then should be under the aircraft’s artificial horizon for safe, unobstructed flight. To keep level flight like the colonel told me, all I had to do was keep the two horizon lines parallel… and not breathe.

These 8 fighters served decades beyond “retirement” as drones

A representative artificial horizon from an aircraft cockpit. Here, brown represents ground and blue represents sky; where the two meet is the true horizon. The yellow horizontal line represents the aircraft’s artificial horizon as it appears with the aircraft parked on the ground.

“Just keep that baby flat and stable; just hold with what you got,” directed the colonel who then stepped back, turned and addressed the men in regard to how any plain-ol’ idiot could fly the thing, just not in those exact words. He really was proud of and loved his job so.

As he babbled to the boys, I imagined somehow that the amount of black seemed to be expanding into the white somewhat… and then I was sure that the black was indeed encroaching more on the white, headed up toward that artificial horizon line… “Hey, Sir…”

“Just keep her flat and stable,” the colonel yawned as he yapped to the yokels. Now the black rose up above the drone’s artificial horizon on the screen. It was time to hit the ejection lever!

“Sir I think you better see this!” I insisted as I stepped up and thrust the control unit in his face.

“Juuuust keep’r flaaaaa… DOH!!”

With that, the colonel snatched the unit from my hands and yanked back on the joystick with Ren and Stimpy bulging eyes. When the colonel had passed off the controls to me, there was flat terrain below. Unfortunately, while he was delivering his dissertation, the drone approached a hill mass that was taller than the drone was high. The video screen blipped out.

“OH MY GOD YOU’VE… YOU’VE… FLOWN IT INTO A MOUNTAIN!”

You see, that right there… that is why I did NOT want any part of the colonel’s toy. That thing was not such a piece of cake to operate as the man would have us believe. Let’s face it, all I was doing was standing with a box in my hand — I was not operating it at all!

These 8 fighters served decades beyond “retirement” as drones

A typical modern control unit for a drone; note the SA video feed screen and joy sticks

I was fire-spittin’ mad thinking about that ,000.00 waste. The boys were howling like banshees now which salted the wound. I knew as well as the next man you can’t bleed in the presence of sharks. Visions of myself in the squadron cartoon book filled my head. This event had certainly been most fitting fodder… ah, but as it is with photography, so it is with being the cartoonist: the photographer never has to be in the pictures.

The colonel could see I was mad as hell as he quickly called out:

“Ok, ok… it was absolutely not his fault, not his fault at all… he was just doing exactly what I told him to. It was entirely my fault!” That was true and gracious of him, but I was mad. I was mad at him, at myself, at that stupid airplane… and especially at that Goddamned mountain!

It was two days later my troop leader pulled up in a jeep and approached me carrying… a stick? He reached it out toward me and said:

“Hey, that drone colonel made it out to the crash site and wanted you to have this.”

I held in my hand a two-bladed wooden propeller about 18-inches long. I’m pretty sure that Colonel meant no dig or sarcasm by the gesture, but now I was mad at the world again, and didn’t like his little gift, not one little bit. I walked up to a trash dumpster near our tents. With a swoop of my arm, I cracked that propeller in two on the corner of the dumpster and flung the halves inside.

These 8 fighters served decades beyond “retirement” as drones

So twenty-six years ago we scoffed at the colonel’s drone. What was it good for? What was the application? He was some boyish dude out playing with his toy. Little did we know at the time what an impact that research would have on the world, eh? Today the likes of drones are all but taking over in their application in our everyday lives.

Just yesterday my 13-year-old son and I went out to a nearby field to fly a remote Radio Controlled (RC) hobby airplane. After many successful laps my son reached the control my way and asked:

“Want to give it a try, Dad?”

…to which I replied to my now confused son:

“NO, DAMNIT… NO, NO, NO!!!”

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Boeing has a plan to turn the B-1B into a supersonic gunship

In the fast-moving world of defense technology, it pays for contractors like Lockheed Martin, Raytheon, and Boeing to stay on top of Uncle Sam’s spending habits. If you can accurately predict how the government will be looking to spend its massive defense budgets, you can position yourself well to secure tomorrow’s contracts with just a little bit of leg work today–and over the past few years, few have managed to do so as effectively as Boeing.


With so much money being funneled toward stealth and hypersonic platforms over at Lockheed Martin, Boeing has adopted a different angle in its pursuit of tax dollars: leaning into America’s recent love affair with revamping aging platforms for continued use. Instead of offering up costly, all-new aircraft to the Pentagon, Boeing has focused on finding cost-effective ways to keep existing platforms relevant. This effort is not only responsible for the new slew of updated F-15EXs expected to begin production in 2020, but also the sweeping upgrades to the Navy’s Super Hornets that are so substantial, some have taken to calling the Block III version of the fighter, “Super Duper Hornets.”

It’s almost certain that same mindset led Boeing to secure a patent last May that would turn America’s only supersonic heavy payload bomber into the world’s fastest gunship.

These 8 fighters served decades beyond “retirement” as drones

With a top speed of Mach 1.2, the Bone would make for one quick cannon-carrier

(U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman James Richardson)

The B-1B Lancer had a tumultuous start, with the program canceled and revived twice over the span of four sitting presidents only to finally make it into production just in time to see its nuclear delivery mission sidelined by the fall of the Soviet Union. The fighter-like bomber would have to undergo yet another technical shift, converting it into a conventional payload bomber following America’s signing of the START treaty in 1995, before the “Bone” (as aircrews took to calling it) would find its way into the fight. Now, however, with the next generation B-21 Raider slated to enter service in the coming decade, the B-1B has been set to enter retirement just as soon as there are enough new bombers to replace it.

That is, unless Boeing has something to do with it. The patent they secured last year included a number of different cannon options to be added to the swing-wing bomber ranging in size from 25mm to 40mm. Some design options involve opening the bomb-bay doors to reveal the cannon, others have cannons unfolding from the belly of the beast, but the intent is the same in either regard: creating a supersonic platform that can deliver firepower like the legendary AC-130U Spooky Gunship and still outrun whatever trouble may be headed its way.

Deadly AC-130 Gunship in Action Firing All Its Cannons

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The Bone’s speed and advanced terrain following flight systems would allow it to fly in contested airspace with minimal detection, something an AC-130 can’t do, and its massive fuel stores and payload capacity mean it could loiter for hours over a target and deliver thousands of pounds of guided bombs between cannon volleys.

Of course, it’s not all sunshine and roses for the B-1B Gunship concept. Thanks to the swing-wing design, the B-1B may have a lower stall speed than you might find in some other supersonic platforms, but it still seems unlikely that the aircraft can fly slow enough to reliably use a cannon in close air support missions. The B-1B’s biggest proposed cannon, at 40mm, is tiny compared to the 105mm cannon fired from the Spooky Gunship — though that concern could be mitigated by the B-1B’s ability to drop highly accurate ordnance in combination with the hypothetical cannons.

These 8 fighters served decades beyond “retirement” as drones

One of the designs includes a cannon that would lower from the Lancer’s belly, while others would rely on opening the bomb bay doors.

(U.S. Patent Office)

The Bone would also be a costly replacement for the much slower AC-130U, to the tune of about ,000 more per flight hour, though one could argue that if they found a way to use the cannon effectively in the B-1B, it would broaden the options for commanders in the field enough to warrant the cost. Because the AC-130U tops out at around 300 miles per hour and is too big to miss with many anti-aircraft weapons, they tend to be used only in nighttime operations in lightly contested or utterly uncontested airspace. The B-1B, on the other hand, could fly close air support missions in far more threatening environments.

Will this concept ever make it off of paper and into American hangars? Well, it’s tough to say. Securing a patent doesn’t mean Uncle Sam is interested in what they’re selling — but having it means it’s always an option on the table, and as the B-1 continues to find new uses in the forms of new anti-ship and stealthy cruise missile armaments, the Air Force may find reason to invest new money in the B-1s future after all. Who knows what the wars of the future might bring.

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