These are some of the craziest planes ever flown by the US military - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY TACTICAL

These are some of the craziest planes ever flown by the US military

A number of American planes have become classics. We know them off the top of our head: the P-51 Mustang, the F4U Corsair, the B-17 Flying Fortress. We can go on and on, and even debate amongst ourselves which planes were the coolest.


Some, though, are just plain crazy. You have to wonder Whiskey Tango Foxtrot were they thinking when they tried to fly `em. Was there ever any hope of them working? Here’s a look at a few — but just because they look crazy doesn’t mean some of them didn’t work.

McDonnell F-85 Goblin

Early jet fighters were a lot like sprinters. They were fast, but they didn’t have a lot of range. So some folks had the bright idea of having the bomber bring along its fighter escort. The “parasite fighter” was intended to be carried in by a bomber, be discharged, fight off enemy planes, then hook back up with the bomber.

The ultimate expression was the F-85 Goblin. This plane weighed less than 5,000 pounds, and was armed with four .50-caliber machine guns. It made a total of seven flights before the program was cancelled. Why? Aerial refueling was perfected, and making bombers trade off a lot of their payload to carry their fighter escort was no longer necessary.

 

These are some of the craziest planes ever flown by the US military
To fit inside the parent aircraft’s bomb bay, the XF-85’s wings folded up. (U.S. Air Force photo)

 

Northrop B-35 and B-49

We see the B-2 today as perhaps the ultimate high-tech bomber. But Northrop had been trying to make a flying wing work since World War II. The B-35 and B-49 looked futuristic — and indeed they were decades ahead of their time. In this case, that was literally their problem.

The flying wing had its benefits, but the problem was the technology wasn’t there yet. The crash of a YB-49 prototype helped put the flying wing into limbo, not to return until the B-2 program, when computers enabled the flying wing to fly.

 

These are some of the craziest planes ever flown by the US military
YB-49 takes off. (U.S. Air Force photo)

 

NB-36H Peacemaker

In one sense, the B-36 arguably made the legendary B-52 Stratofortress look puny. However, that plane took a lot of fuel to get off the ground, and to keep flying. Fuel can get expensive, and its flammable. So, they decided to see if they could use nuclear power. The NB-36H was built to test the concept.

The reactor weighed 35,000 pounds. But after test flights, the Air Force decided that jet fuel was still a better option. Besides, they were buying some of the first of 732 KC-135 tankers.

 

These are some of the craziest planes ever flown by the US military
The NB-36H testbed. (Photo: U.S. Air Force)

 

C-5 Galaxy

The C-5 Galaxy is crazy, all right. Crazy huge. It is 247 feet long, 65 feet high, and has a wingspan of just under 223 feet. The Air Force built 126 of these planes: 76 C-5As from 1968-1973, and 50 C-5Bs from 1985-1989.

It can be refueled while flying, but even when carrying 60 tons, it can fly 4,800 nautical miles. Currently the Air Force has 78 C-5s on inventory. But when you have something that can haul as much as 135 tons of cargo in one go, maybe it wouldn’t hurt to build more.

 

These are some of the craziest planes ever flown by the US military
A C-130 Hercules training fuselage is loaded into a C-5 Galaxy for transport to Stratton Air National Guard Base, New York. This was the first time a C-5 transported a C-130 fuselage. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Ty Moore)

 

F-117 Nighthawk

This plane falls into the crazy-enough-to-work category. Just looking at it, you think it wouldn’t even fly. Well, it could, and it is one of the crown jewels to emerge from that famous Lockheed refinery known as the “Skunk Works.”

Often called the “Wobblin’ Goblin,” the F-117 was designed to have a very low radar cross-section. It ended up working very well for American pilots, easily penetrating Iraq’s vaunted air defense system. One was lost over Yugoslavia during Operation Allied Force in 1999, but the F-117 served well, and the planes have still been flying despite having been “retired” in 2007.

 

These are some of the craziest planes ever flown by the US military
An F-117 on display at MCAS Miramar, in 2006 (Photo Wikimedia Commons)

MIGHTY TACTICAL

A senate report says the US government’s current plan to prepare for cyber doomsday isn’t nearly strong enough

The US cyber strategy needs some major improvements if the country hopes to defend itself against threats from China, Russia, and other adversaries, according to a report released this week by a bipartisan group of senators.


Among its 80+ recommendations are the creation of a “national cyber director” overseen by new congressional committees on cybersecurity, more personnel trained in cyber operations, and increased funding to ensure federal agencies like the Department of Homeland Security and Election Assistance Commission are equipped to carry out increasingly complicated missions.

These are some of the craziest planes ever flown by the US military

“The U.S. government is currently not designed to act with the speed and agility necessary to defend the country in cyberspace,” concluded the report, the result of a year-long study by the Cyberspace Solarium Commission, a group created by Congress in 2018.

“We want this to be the 9/11 Commission Report without the 9/11,” Sen. Angus King, one of the commission’s co-chairs, told Cyberscoop, adding that the group is “trying to urge and foment change without a catastrophic event.”

To accomplish that goal, the commission suggested the US adopt a “layered cyber deterrence” strategy. Broadly, that involves encouraging allies to promote responsible behavior in cyberspace, shoring up vulnerabilities in private and public networks that enemies could exploit, and being able to retaliate against attackers.

“China, Russia, Iran, and North Korea all probed U.S. critical infrastructure with impunity,” the report said, while globally connected networks allowed criminals to commit cyber theft and extremist groups to raise funds and recruit followers.

“American restraint was met with unchecked predation,” the report said, advocating that the US take a more active role in deterring bad actors.

These are some of the craziest planes ever flown by the US military

However, the report did not address some of the more controversial topics surrounding cybersecurity, like encryption — a frequent target of US Attorney General William Barr and others in law enforcement — and which offensive capabilities the US might be willing to give up to secure similar agreements from adversaries.

The Cyberspace Solarium Commission was modeled after President Dwight Eisenhower’s Project Solarium, which was formed in the 1950s to help the US devise a new foreign policy strategy around the Cold War, showing that the US is fundamentally rethinking how it’s approaching new digital battlegrounds as the nature of warfare evolves.

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

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Why a simple fence is perfect armor on today’s battlefield

The M1126 Stryker is a beautifully designed vehicle. It’s packed with 16.5 tons of high-hardness steel to shield the passengers from direct attacks and a unique underbelly design to help defend against IEDs. Many are outfitted with remote weapon systems, allowing troops to engage the enemy without fear of snipers. It even has one of the most state-of-the-art fire-extinguishing systems in the world in case the worst happens.


With all that protection, it seems strange that someone decided a bunch of steel bars around it would make great armor…

These are some of the craziest planes ever flown by the US military
It also works great for extra storage space for things you don’t mind losing.  (Photo from U.S. Army)

Though it might look flimsy, the simple fence design is an excellent counter considering how explosives blow up. Having thick, reactive armor works wonders against conventional fragmentation rounds, but HEAT (High explosive, anti-tank) rounds are designed specifically to burst through it.

Take a standard RPG-7 single-stage HEAT round for instance: The explosion isn’t what makes it deadly. By forcing the explosion into a narrow cone, it’s used to blow a hole through whatever it hits. It’s the molten copper follows and uses the pathway cleared by the explosion that’s truly deadly.

Not pleasant, to say the least. (Image via GIPHY)

In comes what we’ve been calling “fence armor.” This type of armor is actually called “slat armor” and has been used since the World War II on German panzers. The Germans needed an extra layer of defense from Russian anti-tank rifles and low velocity, high explosive rounds. They added steel plates. set a few inches away from the actual shell of the vehicle, so when it’s hit, the cheaper plates would be hit and the copper would have time to cool, causing minimal damage.

This method of stopping common HEAT rounds is still used today by armies going against enemies with RPGs. While slat armor isn’t 100% effective (no armor is, truly), it does have up to 70% effectiveness, which is remarkable for a solution that costs nearly nothing, is an addition to existing armor, and doesn’t negatively affect the mission.

These are some of the craziest planes ever flown by the US military
And hell, for years, troops used to just put sandbags under their seats and called it good enough. (U.S. Army Photo by Sgt. Joshua Edwards)

Though nowhere near as effective, even ISIS tried to Mad Max their vehicles. Note, for this to work, slat armor needs to be a few inches away from the vehicle, it should cover vital spots, and shouldn’t be welded on (since the point of it is to be destroyed and swapped out).

These are some of the craziest planes ever flown by the US military
B- for effort. F for forgetting that missiles drop down — not across — at three feet above ground. (Image via Reddit)

Articles

U.S. Army trains winter camouflage techniques in Poland

Now you see them, and now you don’t. Learning how to conceal 28-ton Bradley fighting vehicles and M1 Abrams tanks in any type of terrain takes a high level of skill.


These are some of the craziest planes ever flown by the US military
An M1 Abrams tank emerges out of wooded terrain after soldiers assigned to the 4th Infantry Division’s 1st Battalion, 68th Armor Regiment, 3rd Armored Brigade Combat Team had concealed it to blend in with the surrounding environment at Presidential Range in Swietozow, Poland, Jan. 20, 2017. The vehicles and soldiers are part of a nine-month deployment in support of Operation Atlantic Resolve. (U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Elizabeth Tarr)

Whether they are training in a desert environment or — as they are now — in the forested hills of Poland, the soldiers assigned to the 4th Infantry Division‘s 1st Battalion, 68th Armor Regiment, 3rd Armored Brigade Combat Team trained on camouflaging Bradley fighting vehicles and M1 Abrams tanks at Presidential Range in Swietozow, Poland, Jan. 20.

“Today we’re here to prove the concept that, regardless of the color of the vehicle, with enough preparation and dedication, we have the ability to camouflage in any scenery, but specifically here in the forest of western Poland,” said Army Capt. Edward Bachar, commander of Company C, 1st Battalion, 68th Armored Regiment.

How it’s Done

Army Sgt. Cody Flodin, an infantryman assigned to 1-68, said the initial step of camouflaging a vehicle is to place it in an assault position and cover the vehicle with a camouflage net — a radar- and laser-scattering net that deters detection from the air or the ground.

Then, Flodin said he covers the vehicle using dead foliage from the forest floor to break up the visual outline of the vehicle.

Once the vehicle is concealed, Flodin said, he places snow on the foliage to mimic the natural environment, ensuring that all vehicle functions still work properly.

“We need to have the ability to quickly move into a wooded area and not be able to be observed by any potential enemy,” Bachar said. “It is important that within approximately 15 minutes, this Bradley was able to go from maneuvering in a large open area directly into the wood line and blend in with the local surroundings.”

The unit prepared for this mission during a 30-day training rotation at the National Training Center at Fort Irwin, California.

These are some of the craziest planes ever flown by the US military
A Trooper with B Troop, 1st Squadron, 11th Armored Cavalry Regiment, communicates enemy positions to higher headquarters during a June 15, Situational Training Exercise at Fort Irwin, Calif. (U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Erik A. Thurman)

From Desert to Forest

“Three months ago, we had to do the same thing in the desert with these vehicles and we did it phenomenally,” the captain said. “We have the ability to execute hide sites, [conduct] assembly area operations, [assume] assault positions and remain undetected from the enemy. To be able to do the same thing in a completely different environment really shows the proficiency of the crew themselves to camouflage their Bradley fighting vehicles and tanks.”

The Bradleys and tanks are slated to be painted in green foliage camouflage in a few months, making it a little easier for the “Iron Brigade” soldiers to conceal themselves. In the meantime, Bachar said, they will continue to train and hone their skills.

Also read: This new camouflage could make troops totally invisible

“Field craft is a priority, really in anything, from a dismounted squad being able to blend into its surroundings to a Bradley fighting vehicle,” he added. “So we will emphasize field craft camouflage and the ability to blend in to your immediate surroundings in every training exercise. This [Jan. 20 training] is just a proof of concept and the initial training to ensure we have the ability to do it. From here on out, we’re going to continue to get better in our ability to do exactly that.”

The Iron Brigade is here as the first rotation of back-to-back armored brigades in Europe in support of Atlantic ResolveU.S. European Command officials said this rotation will enhance deterrence capabilities in the region, improve the U.S. ability to respond to potential crises and defend allies and partners in the European community. U.S. forces will focus on strengthening capabilities and sustaining readiness through bilateral and multinational training and exercises, officials added.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

F-35 production may not begin for more than a year

It’s official: top Pentagon officials will not clear the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter for full-rate production this year, after setbacks during a crucial testing phase.

Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition and Sustainment Ellen Lord on Oct. 18, 2019, said officials may not sign off on the F-35 full-rate production milestone — a sign of confidence in the program to produce more fighter jets — until as far out as January 2021 because of the latest testing lapse.

“I’m going to make some decisions about when that full-rate production decision will be made shortly,” Lord said at a briefing at the Pentagon Oct. 18, 2019.


September 2019, it was revealed that the Lockheed Martin-made F-35 would not complete its already-delayed formal operational test phase by the new fall deadline due to a setback in the testing process.

These are some of the craziest planes ever flown by the US military

A combat-coded F-35A Lightning II aircraft.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Alex R. Lloyd)

Military.com first reported that while F-35 Initial Operational Test and Evaluation (IOTE) was supposed to be complete by late summer, the testing was incomplete due to an unfinished phase known as the Joint Simulation Environment. The F-35 Joint Program Office and Pentagon at the time confirmed the delay.

“We are not making as quick progress on the Joint Simulation Environment integrating the F-35 into it,” Lord told reporters during the briefing. “It is a critical portion of IOTE,” she said, adding inspectors need to get JSE “absolutely correct” before further testing can be done.

The Office of the Secretary of Defense would be the authority to sign off on the decision, moving the program out of its low-rate initial production (LRIP) stage.

The JSE simulation projects characteristics such as weather, geography and range, allowing test pilots to prove the aircraft’s “full capabilities against the full range of required threats and scenarios,” according to a 2015 Director, Operational Test Evaluation (DOTE) report.

These are some of the craziest planes ever flown by the US military

An F-35 Lightning II flies around the airspace of Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, Ariz., March 5, 2016.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Brandon Shapiro)

JPO spokeswoman Brandi Schiff in September said the JSE is in the process of integrating Lockheed’s “‘F-35 In-A-Box’ (FIAB) model, which is the simulation of F-35 sensor systems and the overall aircraft integration.” FIAB is the F-35 aircraft simulation that plugs into the JSE environment.

“This integration and the associated verification activities are lagging [behind] initial projections and delaying IOTE entry into the JSE,” Schiff said at the time.

Lockheed Martin originally proposed a Virtual Simulator program for this testing. But in 2015, the government instead opted to transition the work — which would become the JSE — to Naval Air Systems Command at Naval Air Station Patuxent River, Maryland.

In December 2018, the JPO and Lockheed announced that all three F-35 variants belonging to the Air Force, Navy and Marine Corps would be field-tested “for the purposes of determining the weapons systems’ operational effectiveness and operational suitability for combat.”

The testing had originally been set to begin in September 2018.

IOTE paves the way for full-rate production of the Lightning II. Three U.S. services and multiple partner nations already fly the aircraft.

Some versions of the F-35 have even made their combat debut.

This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @militarydotcom on Twitter.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Russia’s standard-issue sniper rifle is over 50 years old

Former Navy SEAL Chris Kyle is a legend — and deservedly so, seeing as he was America’s top sniper of all time. But the United States is not the only country in the world to have had a great sniper. Russia has its legends as well, like sharpshooter Vasily Zaytsev.


We know a lot about the guns Chris Kyle used to leave his mark, but what type of rifle did Russia’s deadeye use? The answer is likely to be a rifle that was around for over a decade when Kyle was born in 1974. That rifle is the SVD Dragunov, which, over the years, has seen a lot of action — from the Vietnam War to the War on Terror.

These are some of the craziest planes ever flown by the US military
The United States military has faced the Dragunov since the Vietnam War. This rifle was taken from one of Saddam’s palaces. (USMC photo)

The Dragunov fires the 7.62x54mmR cartridge, the same cartridge used by the PKM machine gun and the classic Mosin-Nagant rifle. The Russians had a lot of those rounds hanging around – and decided to put them to good use.

These are some of the craziest planes ever flown by the US military
The SVD has been upgraded over the years. This one has a folding stock. (Wikimedia Commons photo by Michal Maňas)

It is a semi-automatic system – giving the user a chance to make a quick follow-up shot. It comes with a 24.4-inch barrel, weighs just under ten pounds, takes detachable magazines (usually with 10 rounds), and is equipped with a PSO-1 optical sight. Now, don’t look down on it for being a semi-auto — the U.S. Army has proved that a semi-automatic sniper rifle can do serious work —America’s top sniper in Vietnam, Adelbert Waldron, used the Army’s M21 sniper rifle, an M14 equipped with a scope, to tally 109 confirmed kills.

These are some of the craziest planes ever flown by the US military
A Polish version of the SVD Dragunov. (Photo by Polish Ministry of Defense)

The Dragunov has been widely exported. China made their own version, called the Type 79, and later developed an improved variant, which they call the Type 85. As you might expect, this means American personnel have faced it in combat. The rifle is still serving in Russia and newer variants have emerged, including some chambered for more powerful rounds.

These are some of the craziest planes ever flown by the US military
Two Tigr rifles, the civilian version of the Dragunov. (Wikimedia Commons photo by Cas4j)

Since the Dragunov is semi-automatic, that means it’s also seen export to the United States for private owners. One model, the Tigr, was chambered not only in 7.62x54mmR, but also had options for using the 9.3x64mm and .308 Winchester (the same round used by the M14 rifle and M40 sniper rifle, among other systems).

This dependable rifle is likely not going away anytime soon!

MIGHTY TACTICAL

The Marines want you to design their unmanned cargo system

In 2028, another major hurricane has struck Puerto Rico, causing utter devastation across the island. Buildings have collapsed, roads are damaged, and there have been reports of small scale flooding near the coast.

The Marines have been deployed as first responders to the island along with a fleet of GUNG HO (Ground-based Unmanned Go-between for Humanitarian Operations) robots have been to provide additional resources.


The ask

In this Challenge we are asking for you to visually design a concept for an Unmanned Cargo System that we are calling the Ground-based Unmanned Go-between for Humanitarian Operations or GUNG HO.

It should be a relatively small, cargo transport bot, that can be deployed easily, and is used for a variety of tasks across the Corps from humanitarian assistance and disaster relief (HADR) scenarios to assisting with on-base logistics and beyond.

For this challenge the GUNG HO will be utilized to….

These are some of the craziest planes ever flown by the US military

The users

When developing your GUNG HO concept keep in mind that there are two very different users.

Operators: These are the users operating the device. They will almost exclusively be Marines who will load and secure cargo, and establish the destinations and mode of operations. In HADR situations, there is no single rank or job title that provides relief. The operators could be anyone who is available to help, and they may not have training on the system.

Receivers: These are the people who are receiving the cargo. Some of them will be Marines, but they will often be civilians.

In a disaster relief scenario the receivers may have just lost their home or family members, they might speak a different language and come from a different culture. The GUNG HO should make its intent absolutely clear, but should also come across as comforting and disarming for those in a traumatic situation.

Design principles

The following design principles have been created to help you as a designer get inspiration, provide some guidance and understand where the USMC is trying to go with this project.

  1. Understandable: Intuitive for users at every level of interaction from newly recruited marines, to civilian children and the elderly.
  2. Comforting: Those interacting with the GUNG HO might be in a traumatic situation, not speak english, or be unfamiliar with the technology. The cargo recipient should feel safe, comfortable, and compelled to interact with the GUNG HO.
  3. Unbreakable: The GUNG HO must be rugged and ready for anything just like a marine. It will be operated in a variety of terrain, air dropped into inaccessible locations, and fording water next to marines on foot.
  4. Simple: Easy to fix, easy to operate, and easy to upgrade.
  5. Original: With a broad variety of operators, recipients, and mostly importantly cargo, there is no standard form factor that the GUNG HO needs to take. Explore those boundaries!

Requirements

Dimensions and Capacity:

  • Footprint: 48″ x 40″ x 44″H (122 cm x 102 cm x 112 cm) – Shipped on a standard warehouse pallet
  • Cargo Capacity: 500lb (227 kg) or roughly half of a standard Palletized Container (PALCON).

Cargo

Cargo Examples & Specs

  • Water in Container: 8.01 ft^3 of (226.8 L) – 500 lbs equivalent.
  • Case of .5L Water Bottles: 10.2″ x 15.1″ x 8.3″ – 28.1 pounds
  • MRE Case: 15.5″ x 9″ x 11″ – 22.7lbs
  • Medical Supply Kit: Not Standardized

Additional Requirements

  • Operational speed: low speed, up to 25 miles per hour (40 KPH)
  • Range: 35 miles (56 KM)
  • Autonomous with manual control abilities. (Must be free-operating, no tethers)
  • Must be able to traverse the same area as Marines on foot, including– climbing a 60% vertical slope, operating on a minimum 40% side slope across varying terrain.
  • Must be able to cross a depth of water of 24 inches.
Slopes



Go check out the requirements for additional information.

This article originally appeared on the United States Marine Corps. Follow @USMC on Twitter.

Articles

NATO is hunting for this Russian submarine in the Med

Maritime patrol aircraft from several NATO countries — including United States Navy P-8 Poseidons — are scrambling to carry out a mission that comes from the darkest days of the Cold War: Locating sneaky Russian submarines skulking around good-guy ships.


In this case, NATO’s prey is at least one Oscar-class nuclear cruise missile submarine.

According to a report by The Aviationist, the hunt is on since two nuclear-powered aircraft carriers, the USS Dwight D. Eisenhower (CVN 69) and the French carrier Charles de Gaulle (R 91), are operating in the Eastern Mediterranean Sea.

These are some of the craziest planes ever flown by the US military
A port bow view of a Soviet Oscar Class nuclear-powered cruise missile attack submarine underway. Each Oscar sub is equipped with 24 SS-N-19 550-kilometer-range missiles. (DoD photo)

While most submarines are designed to target an enemy merchant fleet, submarines, or enemy surface combatants, the Oscar was designed to take out two kinds of ships: supercarriers like the Eisenhower and de Gaulle or large-deck amphibious assault ships like the USS Wasp (LHD 1).

These are tough ships, not likely to go down after taking a single hit from a torpedo.

The main weapons of the 19,400-ton Oscar are its 24 SS-N-19 Shipwreck anti-ship missiles. With a warhead of over 1,650 pounds, a top speed of Mach 2.5, and a range of roughly 300 nautical miles, the Shipwreck is one powerful missile.

Oscar-class submarines also can fire torpedoes, with four 533mm torpedo tubes and four 650mm torpedo tubes. The 650mm torpedoes in the Russian inventory are arguably the most powerful in the world – and designed to kill escorts like the Arleigh Burke-class destroyer or the Ticonderoga-class cruiser with one hit using a torpedo called the 65-76.

The 65-76 has a range of up to 54 nautical miles, a top speed of 50 knots and delivers a warhead of nearly 2,000 pounds. The Oscar’s 533mm torpedoes, like the TEST-71M, can handle surface ships as well, but also give this carrier-killer a weapon to protect itself from submarines hunting it.

These are some of the craziest planes ever flown by the US military
A look at the SS-N-19 cells on the Soviet battlecruiser Kirov. 24 of these missiles are on an Oscar-class sub (DOD photo)

According to the 16th edition of Combat Fleets of the World, Russia has seven Oscar-class submarines in service out of an original inventory of 13.

One, the Kursk, sank after an accidental explosion in 2000, and five others were retired. The seven survivors are the target of modernization plans.

According to a report from IHS Janes, they are slated to replace the 24 SS-N-19s with as many as 72 SS-N-26 “Sapless” or SS-N-27 “Sizzler” cruise missiles.

This Oscar hunt raises a very big question: Who is hunting whom? Is the Oscar (or Oscars) hunting the carriers, or is NATO hunting the Oscar (or Oscars)?

MIGHTY TACTICAL

How the Air Force helps fight American wildfires

Staff Sgt. Timothy Dawson was trying to get some rest before work the next day. The phone rang twice before he answered it. His neighbor, who lives just above his apartment complex on the hill, told him the fire was really close and they were evacuating.

That neighbor was 1st Lt. Mike Constable, a pilot with the 146th Airlift Wing, Channel Islands Air National Guard Station, California. Dawson said he could see Constable and his roommates packing things into their cars.


The Thomas Fire started on Dec. 4, 2017, in Santa Paula, near Thomas Aquinas College. Driven by Santa Ana winds gusting up to 70 mph, the flames screamed across the hillsides toward Ojai and Ventura. Numerous fires leapfrogged across Ventura and Los Angeles Counties the following day.

These are some of the craziest planes ever flown by the US military

Chino Valley firefighters watch the oncoming flames of the Thomas Fire from the yard of a home in Montecito, California, Dec. 12, 2017. C-130Js of the 146th Airlift Wing at Channel Islands Air National Guard Base in Port Hueneme, carried the Modular Airborne Fire Fighting System and dropped fire suppression chemicals onto the fire’s path to slow its advance in support of firefighters on the ground.

(Photo by J.M. Eddins JR.)

“I looked out my window, and could see the sky above the ridge by my home was glowing really orange and red already. My wife and I decided at that point to just grab what we could get and go somewhere safe,” Dawson said.

Dawson’s three-level, 52-unit apartment complex burned to the ground a few hours later.

Ironically, Dawson is a C-130J Hercules crew chief for the 146th AW, one of five wings in the Air Force equipped with the module airborne firefighting system, or MAFFS. This system is loaded onto C-130s and is designed to fight the very thing that took his home, wildfires.

The 146th AW was activated Dec. 5 to fight what became the largest California wildfire by size in the state’s recorded history, covering 281,893 acres. The Thomas Fire is now 100 percent contained.

These are some of the craziest planes ever flown by the US military

“We got the word and everybody sprung into action. Our maintenance folk got the airplane ready for us, our aerial port guys went and got the MAFFS units pulled out and loadmasters got the airplanes ready. It was really a well-oiled machine on that day. We got things done really quickly,” said Senior Master Sgt. Phil Poulsen, a loadmaster with the 146th AW.

Most of the airmen stationed at Channel Islands ANGS are from Ventura County or the surrounding area. Approximately 50 people from the 146th AW evacuated their homes during the fire and five airmen lost their homes.

These are some of the craziest planes ever flown by the US military

Residents of a 52-unit apartment complex search for belongings, Dec. 13, 2017, after the Thomas Fire roared through their neighborhood. Staff Sgt. Timothy Dawson, a C-130J Hercules aircraft maintenance technician with the 146th Airlift Wing, was also a resident of the apartment complex.

(Photo by Master SGT. Brian Ferguson)

“I can see the smoke from my house and we know people who live there,” Poulson said. “My daughter went to day care up there and I think I flew over that house. I think it’s gone. So it really hits close to home when you are this close to home.”

The California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, or CAL FIRE, requested MAFFS aircraft and personnel support through the state’s governor and the Adjutant General of the state’s National Guard. Once activated, CAL FIRE incident commanders assigned to the Thomas Fire, and based at the Ventura Fairgrounds, generate the launch orders for the MAFFS. The aircraft sit ready at Tanker Base Operations, a few miles south of the fairgrounds at Channel Islands Air National Guard Station.

Once requested, the C-130s would join the fight at a designated altitude in the protected flight area, typically 1,500 feet above ground. An aerial supervisor, or air attack, would fly at about 2,000 feet, directing and controlling the aircraft. Lead planes, at 1,000 feet, guide the tankers to their drop points, approximately 150 feet above the ground.”

Once we enter the fire traffic area, we join on the lead plane. He’ll typically give us a show me [puff of smoke] which shows us where he’s intending us to drop,” said Lt. Col. Scott Pemberton, a C-130J pilot with the 146th AW. “We try to be very precise with that because you know it’s a high value asset and you get one shot at it.”

The mission requires the crews to fly the C-130s very close to the fires.

“You’re taking the fight directly to the ground,” Pemberton said. “We are 150 feet above the ground at 120 knots, at the edge of the airplane’s envelope. You’re demanding a lot of yourself and your fellow crewmembers. So that’s why you are typically very highly trained and are very prepared to do this mission.”

The MAFFS can hold 3,000 gallons of retardant, which is released from a nozzle placed in the left rear troop door of the aircraft. It takes approximately 15 minutes to load retardant into the MAFFS, another 15 minutes to reach the Thomas Fire, 10 more to join the lead plane and drop and then another 15 minutes to return to base. With 10 hours of daylight and two planes, the 146th AW drops an average of 60,000 gallons of retardant each day.

These are some of the craziest planes ever flown by the US military

Lt. Col. Scott Pemberton, a C-130J pilot with the 146th Airlift Wing, has been with the 146th for 30 years and has lived in the Ventura/Santa Barbara, California community for about 48. He has been flying the modular airborne fire fighting system for approximately 20 years. The 146th was activated Dec.5, 2017, to support CAL FIRE with wildfire suppression efforts within the state.

(Photo by Master SGT. Brian Ferguson)

“Many times if you are close to a fire line and you’re doing direct attack you’ll see the guys standing down there,” Pemberton said. “On the second, third or fourth drop you’ll come by and you will see that you have gotten close enough to where they are a different color. But I’ve also seen the whites of their eyes where they’re diving behind their bulldozer because you’re that close, and they know that the retardant is coming.”

Still, the dangers of this mission are not lost on Pemberton.

On July 1, 2012, MAFFS 7, which belonged to the North Carolina Air National Guard’s 145th Airlift Wing based at the Charlotte-Douglas International Airport, crashed while fighting the White Draw Fire in South Dakota’s Black Hills. Four of the six crewmembers aboard died.

“There was a thunderstorm approaching from the north and as they were waiting for the lead to coordinate and get his bearings… The thunderstorm moved closer and closer,” Pemberton said. “They made a first run and I think they got off half of their retardant.”

As they made their second run, they had a wind shear event and a microburst took away their lift and forced them to fly straight ahead into the terrain.

These are some of the craziest planes ever flown by the US military

Senior Master Sgt. Phil Poulsen, 146th Airlift Wing loadmaster, checks the level of retardant in the module airborne firefighting system as redardant is loaded, Dec. 9, 2017. The 146th AW is one of five wings in the Air Force equipped with MAFFS. This system is loaded onto C-130s and is designed to fight wildfires.

(Photo by Master SGT. Brian Ferguson)

“As a result of that incident we completely changed our training. We incorporated a lot of the wind shear escape maneuvers, and we built new seats for the loadmasters in the back and made crashworthy seats for those crewmembers,” Pemberton said.

This training and the 146th AW’s capabilities benefit everyone involved in the wildfire fighting community, too.

The 146th AW plays a big role in extinguishing fires, said Tenner Renz a dozer swamper with the Kern County Fire Department, but it’s something he sees on almost every fire. Whether a 100-acre or a 250,000-acre fire, the guard shows up.

“Some of these guys are crazy. I mean dipping down into some of these canyons, flying through smoke, buzzing treetops,” Renz said. “They have a talent that most people don’t have.”

Having the MAFFS capability means the 146th AW can be federally activated to support firefighting operations around the United States by the National Interagency Fire Center in Boise, Idaho. An Air Force liaison group, led on a rotating basis by one of the five MAFFS unit commanders, staffs the center.

These are some of the craziest planes ever flown by the US military

A C-130J Hercules from the 146th Airlift Wing, California Air National Guard, sprays fire retardant ahead of the leading edge of the Thomas Fire, Dec. 13, 2017. The 146th was activated to support CAL FIRE with wildfire suppression efforts within the state. The C-130s from Channel Islands Air National Guard Station are capable of spraying fire retardant from a modular airborne firefighting systems loaded in the cargo bay.

(Photo by Master SGT. Brian Ferguson)

This wide-ranging operational experience and capability gives CAL FIRE an extra capability when things are at their worst.

“We currently have low humidity, Santa Ana winds, we haven’t had rain in a number of days and we’re in areas that haven’t burned in 50-60 years,” said Dan Sendek, MAFFS liaison officer for CAL FIRE. “You can never have enough equipment for every eventuality. What the guard brings to us is that surge capacity when we’re in a situation where we need everything we can get.”

Six days after he lost his home, Dawson was back at work.

“The routine of going about the mission and getting things done is probably better,” Dawson said. “I needed to get back and get involved in the fire mission. The show must go on. The world doesn’t stop spinning and the guard doesn’t stop flying missions.”

For Dawson, it’s also a chance to combat the fire that took his home and save some of his neighbor’s property.

These are some of the craziest planes ever flown by the US military

Tanner Renz, Kern County Fire Department, looks on as a C-130J Hercules from the 146th Airlift Wing, California Air National Guard, sprays fire retardant ahead of the leading edge of the Thomas Fire, Dec. 13, 2017. The 146th was activated to support CAL FIRE with wildfire suppression efforts within the state. The C-130s from Channel Islands Air National Guard Station are capable of spraying fire retardant from a modular airborne firefighting systems loaded in the cargo bay.

Photo by Master SGT. Brian Ferguson)

Dawson and his wife were able to return to their apartment a few days after the fire destroyed it, however, they were not able to search for personal items because the fire was still smoldering.

“Every single tenant in the 52 units was able to get out ahead of the fire. When we went back for the first time it was it was pretty emotionally taxing,” he said. “There were two stories worth of apartments that collapsed into a carport. There’s nothing left that we could really find.

“To me, then and even now, it still feels a little surreal. I know it’s happening to me, but it feels like it’s happening to someone else.”

This article originally appeared on Airman Magazine. Follow @AirmanMagazine on Twitter.

Articles

US wants to issue special operators a new personal defense weapon

It’s the caliber that’s beloved by the commando crowd for its close-in ballistics and smooth shooting through a short-barreled, suppressed rifle. And what was once a weapon for the secret squirrel types has now gone high-profile with a new solicitation from U.S. Special Operations Command asking industry for options to outfit spec ops troops with a new personal defense weapon.


These are some of the craziest planes ever flown by the US military
Special Operations Command wants a new close-in battle weapons with nearly impossible specs. (Photo: Army Special Operations Command)

In a formal Request for Information, SOCOM is asking for options to equip its commandos with an M4A1-compatible upper receiver group that fires the .300 Blackout cartridge and configures the weapon into a short-barreled rifle no longer than 26 inches with the stock fully extended.

The whole PDW with the upper can’t weigh any more than 5.5 pounds and has to have a collapsed or folded length of a tick over 17 inches.

Also Read: Delta Force and SEAL Team 6 want these new weapons

Those dimensions will be tough to meet, firearms experts say, and combined with the requirement that the weapon be able to fire with the stock collapsed or folded narrows the current options significantly.

And, oh, the upper has to convert from a .300 BLK barrel to a 5.56 one in less than three minutes.

(Could a variation of the Honey Badger be the only real option out there? Ah, the sweet irony!)

Aside from the dimensions, weight and conversion time, the selection of the .300 BLK cartridge for the new kit is one of the first public acknowledgements of special operators’ preference for the caliber in its close-quarters combat arsenal.

Developed about five years ago by the now Remington-owned Advanced Armament Corp. for SEAL Team 6 and Delta Force types who wanted a replacement of the MP-5 submachine gun, the .300 BLK is essentially a 7.62 bullet in a cut down 5.56 case. That gives it good short-range ballistics and allows operators to use the same magazines, lower receivers and bolts of standard-issue rifles but with a different barrel.

Because of the shortened case, the .300 BLK also performs better than 5.56 in rifles with extremely short barrels (under 9 inches) and when shooting with a suppressor, ammo experts say, which aligns with special operations troops’ preference for suppressed rifles in close-in shootouts.

The SOCOM request states that companies have until April 10 to respond with their options.

 

MIGHTY SURVIVAL

Here are 7 battlefield-tested tips from a US Army sniper on how not to lose your mind in isolation

On the battlefield, snipers often find themselves isolated from the rest of the force for days at a time, if not longer.

With people around the world stuck at home in response to the serious coronavirus outbreak, Insider asked a US Army sniper how he handles isolation and boredom when he finds himself stuck somewhere he doesn’t want to be.


Obviously, being a sniper is harder than hanging out at home, but some of the tricks he uses in the field may be helpful if you are are starting to lose your mind.

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Sniper in position in the woods

U.S. Army National Guard photo by Spc. John Bright

Remember your mission

As a sniper, “you’re the eyes and ears for the battalion commander,” 1st Sgt. Kevin Sipes, a veteran sniper from Texas, told Insider, adding, “There’s always something to look at and watch.”

He said that while he might not be “looking through a scope the whole time, looking for a specific person,” he is still intently watching roads, vehicles, buildings and people.

“There are a lot of things that you’re trying to think about” to “describe to someone as intricately as you possibly can” the things they need to know, he said. “Have I seen that person before? Can I blow a hole in that wall? How much explosives would that take?”

There is always work that needs to be done.

Break down the problem

One trick he uses when he is in a challenging situation, be it lying in a hole he dug or sitting in a building somewhere surveilling an adversary, is to just focus on getting from one meal to the next, looking at things in hours, rather than days or weeks.

“Getting from one meal to the next is a way to break down the problem and just manage it and be in the moment and not worry about the entirety of it,” said Sipes, a seasoned sniper with roughly 15 years of experience who spoke to Insider while he was at home with his family.

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Work to improve your position

“You’re always trying to better your position,” Sipes told Insider. That can mean a number of different things, such as improving your cover, looking for ways to make yourself a little more comfortable, or even working on your weapon.

Take note of things you wouldn’t normally notice

“What is going on in your own little environment that you’ve never noticed before?” Sipes asked.

Thinking back to times stuck in a room or a hole, he said, “There is activity going on, whether it’s the bugs that are crawling across the floor or the mouse that’s coming out of the wall.”

“You get involved in their routine,” he added.

Look for new ways to connect with people

In the field, snipers are usually accompanied by a spotter, so they are not completely alone. But they may not be able to talk and engage one another as they normally would, so they have to get a little creative.

“Maybe you can’t communicate through actual spoken word, but you can definitely communicate through either drawings or writing,” Sipes said.

“We spend a lot of time doing sector sketches, panoramic drawings of the environment. We always put different objects or like draw little faces or something in there. And, you always try and find where they were in someone’s drawing.”

He added that they would also write notes about what was going on, pass information on things to look out for, and even write jokes to one another.

Think about things you will do when its over

“One big thing I used to do was list what kind of food I was going to eat when I get back, like listing it out in detail of like every ingredient that I wanted in it and what I thought it was going to taste like,” Sipes said. He added that sometimes he listed people he missed that he wanted to talk to when he got back.

Remember it is not all about you

Sipes said that no matter what, “you are still a member of a team” and you have to get into a “we versus me” mindset. There are certain things that have to be done that, even if they are difficult, for something bigger than an individual.

He said that you have to get it in your head that if you don’t do what you are supposed to do, you are going to get someone else killed. “Nine times out of 10, the person doing the wrong thing isn’t the one that suffers for it. It is generally someone else.”

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

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Black Rifle Coffee Company wants to pump you full of Freedom

‘Tis the season for the giving of gifts. ‘Tis also the season of FOMUG (Fear Of Messed Up Gifting). We get it. It’s hard out there for an elf. Team WATM would like to offer you some guidance.


For the conservative caffeine connoisseur:

~ Small batch, roast-to-order coffee that might as well be shot from guns~

These are some of the craziest planes ever flown by the US military
Let’s just be clear. These guys have earned the right to be bold.

Black Rifle Coffee Company is a deeply veteran-owned, veteran-oriented business.

Military service, American conservatism, and an unapologetic love of liberty make up the philosophical bedrock upon which founder, Evan Hafer, built his in-your-face gourmet coffee upstart.

If you’ve ever taken a virtual stroll through Black Rifle’s youtube marketing videos (frequently featuring co-owner and 2nd Amendment Pom Pom Waver @mat_best_official), then you know that these guys really, really treasure circadian rhythm shattering coffee.

 

These are some of the craziest planes ever flown by the US military
Adult supervision recommended.

Hafer served as a Green Beret during Operation Iraqi Freedom, as well as a stint as a contractor for the CIA in subsequent tours of Iraq and Afghanistan, all while nurturing an abiding fascination with the fine art of roasting coffee. Much as he prized his time as an operator, when it came time to transition, he was ready for the adventure of running a small business exactly according to his rules.

“I transition out…in a way that’s probably unusual to a lot of people, because, I’ll just turn the page on it, meaning, like, I love and respect my time in the military–it’s taught me a lot, but at the same time…it doesn’t hold me back.”

–Evan Hafer, Interview with Valor Magazine

 

His solution to the problem of leading a new life as an vetrepreneur is to bring with him as much of his past warrior life as is germaine to his new mission. The combat humor, the belief in veteran power, the faith that hard work will pay off in the end…these qualities and more make up the arsenal that Black Rifle Coffee carries on its steady march forward.

Like the best of them, they remember where they came from.

“War is something that, it’s like, it’s always there. I think for most veterans…you don’t ever leave it. You don’t leave it.”

–Evan Hafer, Interview with Valor Magazine

 

You can shop for BRCC coffee, apparel, and more right here.

The 2017 We Are The Mighty Holiday Gift Guide is sponsored by Propper, a tactical apparel and gear company dedicated to equipping those who commit their lives to serving others. All views are our own.

Speaking of Propper, they’re giving away twelve tactical packs filled with gear from our Holiday Gift Guide. Click this link to enter.

These are some of the craziest planes ever flown by the US military

Articles

This is what you get when you name an armored vehicle ‘Gurkha’

Mexico’s Veracruz state may be one of the most dangerous places in the entire country. The extortion and kidnapping of civil servants and journalists are rampant, dismembered bodies are a common occurrence, and the city is on the front lines of Mexico’s ongoing drug war.


These are some of the craziest planes ever flown by the US military
Mexico’s Fuerza Civil of Veracruz (Mexican government photo)

The Fuerza Civil – the Civil Forces of the Mexican state – is an elite security force designed to protect trade routes, migrants, agricultural areas, fisheries, and forests as well as assist with municipal authorities in preventing organized crime. They need all the help they can get.

Enter the Gurkha armored vehicle.

The Fuerza Civil equipped with next-generation weapons, armor, and vehicles to support that mission. One of those advanced armor vehicles comes from Canada’s Terradyne Armored, Inc. and is dubbed the Gurkha after Nepal’s feared elite warriors.

The Gurkha is a 4×4 light armored patrol vehicle, currently produced in three tactical configurations – each of which uses the Ford F550 chassis. They also run with Ford’s in-house built 6.7L Power Stroke V8 diesel engine and six-speed automatic transmission.

These are some of the craziest planes ever flown by the US military
Fuerza Civil officers deploy on the streets of Veracruz (Mexican government photo)

The power and armor make a huge difference in Veracruz. Civilians and police are regularly targeted or in the crossfire of ongoing violence between the Zetas, Sinaloa, and Gulf Cartels. Things got so bad the Mexican government had to deploy military forces to quell the fighting.

 

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