This biplane could be one of the deadliest North Korean weapons - We Are The Mighty
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This biplane could be one of the deadliest North Korean weapons

While much of the world’s attention is focused on the effort by North Korea to develop intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) with working nuclear warheads, there is another weapon that is also quite deadly in the arsenal of Kim Jong Un’s regime. Ironically, it is quite low-tech.


That weapon is the An-2 Colt, a seventy-year-old design that is still in front-line service, which means it has the B-52 Stratofortress beaten by about eight years! So, why has this little plane stuck around, and what makes it so deadly in the hands of Kim Jong Un?

This biplane could be one of the deadliest North Korean weapons
An-2 Colt on skis. (Photo: Dmitry A. Mottl/CC BY-SA 3.0)

According to MilitaryFactory.com, the An-2 has a top speed of 160 miles per hour, and a range of 525 miles. Not a lot when you compare it to the B-52, which can go 595 miles per hour and fly over 10,000 miles. China is still producing the plane, while upgrade kits are being developed by Antonov. The plane was in production for 45 years, and according to the report from Korrespondent, thousands remain in service.

When it comes down to it, what seem like fatal weaknesses actually make the An-2 deadly in modern combat.

The reason? The plane usually flies low and slow – and as such, it is very hard for modern fighters like the F-22, F-35, and F-16 to locate, track, and fire on. Not only that, the slow speeds and low-altitude operations meant that large portions of the plane can be covered with fabric, according to Warbird Alley. There are also a lot of An-2s in North Korea’s inventory – at least 200, according to a report by MSN.com.

This biplane could be one of the deadliest North Korean weapons
A look at the inside of the An-2, showing seats for passengers. Or commandos. (Wikimedia Commons)

While the plane is often used to deliver troops or supplies, the real threat may be the fact that it could carry some other cargo. While North Korea is just now developing nuclear warheads that fit on missiles, there is the frightening possibility that a nuclear weapon could be delivered using an An-2.

That is how this 70-year-old biplane design could very well be North Korea’s deadliest weapon. You can see a video on the An-2 below.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Pljj4M8WhYs
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Trijicon got in trouble for putting bible verses on their scopes

Trijicon is one of the premiere optics manufacturers for the U.S. military. Its magnified rifle optic, the Advanced Combat Optical Gunsight, is the official medium-distance engagement optic of the U.S. Marine Corps and Special Operations Forces. However, the company found itself in hot water for placing bible verses on optics sold to the military.

This biplane could be one of the deadliest North Korean weapons
Marines in Fallujah with Trijicon ACOGs atop their M16A4 rifles (U.S. Marine Corps)

Founded by South African and devout Christian Glyn Bindon, Trijicon was originally founded as Armson USA in 1981. The company was the sole U.S. importer and distributor of the Armson OEG. Manufactured in South Africa, the Armson OEG was an occluded-type gunsight. It used tritium and fiber optics to illuminate its reticle. In 1985, Bindon reorganized the company as Trijicon and began manufacturing night sights for pistols. Two years later, Trijicon introduced the ACOG for use by the U.S. military.

The ACOGs were widely distributed across the military. It wasn’t until 2010 that ABC News reported on the placement of Bible verses in the serial numbers of sights sold to the U.S. military. Bindon, who was killed in a plane crash in 2003, applied the practice to all Trijicon products since the company’s founding. However, the inscription of religious passages on products sold to and used by the government was contested by the Military Religious Freedom Foundation.

This biplane could be one of the deadliest North Korean weapons
The Marines’ M27 IAR standard-issue optic is a Trijicon ACOG variant (U.S. Marine Corps)

Despite the controversy, the military did not discontinue use of Trijicon optics. “This situation is not unlike the situation with U.S. currency,” said CENTCOM spokesman, Air Force Maj. John Redfield. “Are we going to stop using money because the bills have ‘In God We Trust’ on them? As long as the sights meet the combat needs of troops, they’ll continue to be used.”

Indeed, Trijicon sights were and continue to be regarded as top-tier optics. The British Ministry of Defence and New Zealand Special Air Service also purchased Trijicon sights without knowing about the Bible verses. Similarly, both nations continued to use the sights.

On January 22, 2010, just two days after the ABC News story broke, Trijicon announced that it would halt the practice of engraving Bible verses on optics sold to the government. The company also offered to provide modification kits to remove existing engravings on sights already delivered to the military. However, Trijicon products sold to the civilian market continue Bindon’s prescribed practice of including Bible verses in the product serial number. Given the optical nature of the products, all of the Bible verses engraved on Trijicon sights reference illumination.

This biplane could be one of the deadliest North Korean weapons
The ACOG is part of the Special Operations Peculiar MODification kit (U.S. Navy)

The controversy did not affect Trijicon’s standing as a government contractor. In 2020, Trijicon won a Marine Corps contract to supply its Variable Combat Optical Gunsight as the Corps’ new Squad Combat Optic.


Feature image: U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Michael Jefferson Estillomo

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Here are the best military photos of the week

The military has very talented photographers in the ranks, and they constantly attempt to capture what life as a service member is like during training and at war. Here are the best military photos of the week:


AIR FORCE:

Three F-86 Sabres and an F-22 Raptor fly in formation during the 2016 Heritage Flight Training and Certification Course at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, Ariz., March 6, 2016. Established in 1997, the course certifies civilian pilots of historic military aircraft and Air Force pilots to fly in formation together during the upcoming air show season.

This biplane could be one of the deadliest North Korean weapons
U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Chris Massey

Airmen from the 25th Aircraft Maintenance Unit prepare an A-10 Thunderbolt II for a simulated combat sortie in support of exercise Beverly Midnight 16-01 at Osan Air Base, South Korea, March 9, 2016. A-10s are simple, effective and survivable twin-engine jet aircraft that can be used against all ground targets, including tanks and other armored vehicles and when using night vision goggles, A-10 pilots can conduct their missions in darkness.

This biplane could be one of the deadliest North Korean weapons
U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Rachelle Coleman

 

ARMY:

A paratrooper, assigned to 982nd Combat Camera Company (Airborne), conducts airborne operations during Operation Glück ab! at Fort Gordon, Ga., March 4, 2016.

This biplane could be one of the deadliest North Korean weapons
U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Jason A. Young

A soldier, assigned to 2d Cavalry Regiment, navigates his Stryker Combat Vehicle during a range at Grafenwoehr Training Area, Germany, March 3, 2016.

This biplane could be one of the deadliest North Korean weapons
U.S. Army photo by Sgt. William A. Tanner

NAVY:

WATERS TO THE SOUTH OF JAPAN (March 8, 2016) – The guided-missile destroyer USS Chung-Hoon (DDG 93) receives fuel from USS John C. Stennis (CVN 74) during a refueling-at-sea. Providing a ready force supporting security and stability in the Indo-Asia-Pacific, Stennis is operating as part of the Great Green Fleet on a regularly scheduled 7th Fleet deployment.

This biplane could be one of the deadliest North Korean weapons
U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Tomas Compian

Combat Cargo Marines from Combat Logistics Battalion 13 hook a pallet to be transported by an MH-60S Sea Hawk, assigned to the “Wildcards” of Helicopter Sea Combat (HSC) Squadron 23, during a vertical replenishment aboard amphibious assault ship USS Boxer (LHD4). More than 4,500 Sailors and Marines from the Boxer Amphibious Ready Group, 13th Marine Expeditionary Unit (13th MEU) team are currently transiting the Pacific Ocean in the U.S. 7th Fleet area of operations during a scheduled deployment.

This biplane could be one of the deadliest North Korean weapons
U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Brian Caracci

MARINE CORPS:

Norwegian soldiers, U.S. Marines, Dutch and U.K. Royal Commandos conduct helicopter insertion during Exercise Cold Response 16, March 3, 2016, around the city of Namsos, Norway. The exercise is a Norwegian invitational comprised of 13 NATO partners and allies working together to strengthen partnerships and crisis response capabilities.

This biplane could be one of the deadliest North Korean weapons
U.S. photo released by Sgt. Kirstin Merrimarahajara

Marines with 2nd Marine Division set up a defense position during Exercise Cold Response 16 at Spravo, Norway, March 6. The climate and environment of Norway challenges the integration of air, land and sea capabilities from 13 NATO allies and partners while improving their collective capacity to respond and operate as a team.

This biplane could be one of the deadliest North Korean weapons
U.S. Marine Corps Photo by Cpl. Rebecca Floto

COAST GUARD:

Conducting hoist training with US Coast Guard Academy cadets.

This biplane could be one of the deadliest North Korean weapons
US Coast Guard Photo

US Coast Guard Air Station Atlantic City was first opened in 1998.

This biplane could be one of the deadliest North Korean weapons
US Coast Guard Photo

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Skiing makes a comeback with revamped Army Arctic training

Learning to snowshoe, ski and stay warm in the cold might sound like a fun hobby.


But for Soldiers at the Cold Weather Leaders Course at the Northern Warfare Training Center here, learning these things can mean the difference between a failed or successful mission and it could also be the difference between life and death.

This biplane could be one of the deadliest North Korean weapons
Students pull the ahkio during a night movement during the bivouac portion of the Cold Weather Leaders Course, Feb. 9-14, 2017. The CWLC is taught at the Northern Warfare Training Center at Black Rapids, Alaska. The entire course ran Feb. 2-16, 2017. (Photo Credit: David Vergun)

Staff Sgt. Jonathan Tanner, an instructor at the NWTC, was deployed twice to Afghanistan, once from 2007 to 2009 and another time from 2014 to 2015.

During one of those tours, he said, he recalls being over 9,000 feet in the mountainous terrain of the eastern part of the country during a heavy snowfall, with snow drifts up to 12 feet tall.

“The snow stopped us dead in our tracks,” he said. “We were trying to remove snow from equipment with our e-tools.”

During a Black Hawk resupply mission, the helicopter had no place to land so it hovered above the snow while the crew chief jumped out, post-holing himself in the snow shoulder high. Post-holing is a term for sinking into the snow waist or chest high when not wearing skis or snowshoes. The crew chief had to grab the struts of the helicopter to be pulled out, Tanner recalled.

No one had skis or snowshoes and “we couldn’t do our jobs.”

Tanner and the other instructors at NWTC say they are professionally and personally invested in ensuring those kinds of situations never happen to Soldiers again.

Sgt. Sarah Valentine, a medic and an instructor, said most Soldiers that come to the school don’t know how to snowshoe, ski or survive in the cold. Instruction begins with baby steps.

This biplane could be one of the deadliest North Korean weapons
Students cross-country ski during the bivouac portion of the Cold Weather Leaders Course, Feb. 9-14, 2017. The CWLC is taught at the Northern Warfare Training Center at Black Rapids, Alaska. The entire course ran Feb. 2-16, 2017. (Photo Credit: David Vergun)

First, they learn how to wear their cold weather clothing, she said. Then they learn to walk with snowshoes. A little later they learn to walk on snowshoes carrying a rucksack, and finally, they learn to tow an ahkio, or sled, carrying 200 pounds of tents, heaters, fuel, food and other items.

Next, they advance to skis, learning how to walk uphill, how to turn and stop going downhill, and then how to carry a rifle and rucksack going cross-country.

Staff Sgt. Jason Huffman, a student, said that besides enduring the cold, pulling the ahkio was the most challenging aspect of the school.

For that portion of the training, four of about 10 Soldiers are harnessed to the sled like sled dogs. Huffman said going on level terrain is easy, but most of the terrain near the school isn’t level and it is challenging to pull the ahkio uphill, especially from a dead stop.

Going downhill, the challenge is holding the ahkio back so it doesn’t get away, he said. When the students get tired, they are replaced by other students in the squad, who in turn rotate back out once they’re tired.

Spc. Tamyva Graffree, a student from Newton, Mississippi, said pulling the ahkio uphill was the most challenging part of the course. Of going downhill, she said it would have been nice to pile on and ride it down.

Staff Sgt. Manuel Beza, an instructor and medic here, said the students are not allowed to ride the ahkio downhill. “It will definitely go fast. But if they did that, it would be a bad day. The ahkio has no brakes and no way to steer.”

Beza said he sympathizes with the students’ pain. While the ahkio can be handled almost effortlessly over level terrain, going even 500 feet uphill can tire Soldiers out.

But when roads are nonexistent and vehicles break down from the cold, ahkios give the Soldiers the option to move out with their gear, he said.

Once students demonstrate competence on snowshoes, they are given a set of “White Rocket” skis, which can be used in both downhill as well as cross-country skiing.

The difference between a dedicated downhill or Nordic ski and the White Rocket ski is that the heel in the White Rocket isn’t locked into the ski binding so the foot can move similar to walking, said Sgt. Derrick Bruner, an instructor.

A Soldier can learn to use snowshoes in two hours, but about 40 hours is allotted for ski training at the school.

Because training time is limited, Soldiers learn just the basics, Bruner said. For instance, they learn to stop and turn going downhill using a wedge movement instead of a more advanced technique like turning or stopping with skis parallel.

This biplane could be one of the deadliest North Korean weapons
Students cross-country ski during the bivouac portion of the Cold Weather Leaders Course, Feb. 9-14, 2017. The CWLC is taught at the Northern Warfare Training Center at Black Rapids, Alaska. The entire course ran Feb. 2-16, 2017. (Photo Credit: David Vergun)

A wedge consists of bringing the toes of the skis together and the heels of the skis out and carving into the snow on the inner edges of the skis by rotating the ankles inboard.

Skipping the fancy art of parallel skiing cuts down on injuries as well, he said, because there’s less chance of them crossing.

Going uphill involves side-stepping or walking up in herringbone fashion, which is the opposite of the wedge, with toes of the skis outboard, heels in.

To assist with uphill climbing, Soldiers apply special wax to the bottom of their skis.

Sgt. Dustin Danielson, a student, explained that the wax goes on just the middle third of the ski where the person’s weight is. He made hatch marks with the wax on his skis and then took a piece of cork to spread it evenly all around.

After skiing just a few kilometers, the wax tends to come off and more has to be applied, he said.

Sgt. Jessica Bartolotta, a student, said they were not given wax on the first day. On the second day of training, students were allowed to wax their skis. The point, she said, was to illustrate just how important the wax is in providing friction to grip the snow going uphill. She said the wax had no noticeable effect on slowing the skis going downhill.

Another thing the instructor did early on during the first day of ski training was to observe how well the Soldiers were skiing and to break them up into three groups of skill levels so the slow learners wouldn’t hold back the more natural skiers, she said.

Bartolotta said skiing was her favorite part of the course and she plans to take it up as a hobby.

Sgt. Chris Miller, a student from Little Rock, Arkansas, said this was his first time skiing and he fell a lot. “I’m a big guy and it’s hard to keep my balance.”

Miller measured his progress by the number of falls. The first day he said he fell 12 times and just once after three days. He said he’s still trying to perfect the art of stopping using the wedge.

Sgt. Shamere Randolph, another student, said he fell a bunch of times as well, but prefers skis to snowshoes because it’s much faster to get from point A to point B.

Sgt. Bruno Freitas, a student, said that his skis were difficult to use on the last day of training when the temperature rose and the snow turned to slush. In below freezing conditions, the skis work much better than they do in slush, he said.

About four years ago, the Army decided to do away with ski training at the NWTC, said Steven Decker, a training specialist. He said he’s not sure why the decision was made, but said he’s glad that skiing was reintroduced this year.

Canadians and Japanese go everywhere on skis, he said. They find it very relevant to mobility. In fact, “when the Japanese attend the course here, they can ski circles around us.”

The downside to skiing, he said, is that it takes a while to learn. For an entire platoon or company to move out on skis, it might take an entire winter and a lot of training time dedicated to making that happen.

But he and the other instructors all agreed that learning to ski is worth the time and effort.

Sgt. Derrick Bruner, an instructor, said snowshoes are “loud, slow and clunky” to use compared to skis and that skis provide better floatation over the snow. “Skis are a million times better once you get the technique down.”

Staff Sgt. Jack Stacy, an instructor, said when he first arrived at NWTC, he went out into the terrain in a vehicle that broke down. He didn’t have skis or snowshoes with him and ended up having to walk back to headquarters, “post-holing” it back all the way.

“It was the most miserable time I’ve ever had here,” Stacy said. “I’ve always made sure my skis or snowshoes are handy ever since.”

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The 16 greatest quotes from ‘Full Metal Jacket’

Some movies are more quotable than others, and Stanley Kubrick’s classic “Full Metal Jacket” certainly fits that bill.

A few years ago, we compiled its list of the 32 best military movie quotes of all time, but once we got to “Full Metal Jacket,” we realized it was hard to pick just one, since Gunnery Sgt. Hartman is basically a quote goldmine.


Here are our picks for the 16 best quotes (or series of quotes) from “Full Metal Jacket.”

1. Gunnery Sgt. Hartman: “I am Gunnery Sgt. Hartman, your senior drill instructor. From now on you will speak only when spoken to, and the first and last words out of your filthy sewers will be ‘Sir.’ Do you maggots understand that?”

2. Gunnery Sgt. Hartman: “Bullsh-t. It looks to me like the best part of you ran down the crack of your mama’s ass and ended up as a brown stain on the mattress. I think you’ve been cheated!”

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=71Lft6EQh-Y

3. Gunnery Sgt. Hartman: “I bet you’re the kind of guy that would f-ck a person in the ass and not even have the goddamn common courtesy to give him a reach-around. I’ll be watching you.”

4. Gunnery Sgt. Hartman: “You goddamn communist heathen, you had best sound off that you love the Virgin Mary, or I’m gonna stomp your guts out! Now you DO love the Virgin Mary, don’t you?”

5. Gunnery Sgt. Hartman: “That’s enough! Get on your feet. Pvt. Pyle you had best square your ass away and start sh-tting me Tiffany cufflinks or I will definitely f-ck you up!”

6. Gunnery Sgt. Hartman: “Are you quitting on me? Well, are you? Then quit, you slimy f-cking walrus-looking piece of sh-t! Get the f-ck off of my obstacle! Get the f-ck down off of my obstacle! NOW! MOVE IT! Or I’m going to rip your balls off, so you cannot contaminate the rest of the world! I will motivate you, Pvt. Pyle, EVEN IF IT SHORT-D-CKS EVERY CANNIBAL ON THE CONGO!”

This biplane could be one of the deadliest North Korean weapons

7. Gunnery Sgt. Hartman: “I’m asking the f-cking questions here, Pvt.! Do you understand?”

Pvt. Cowboy: “Sir, yes, sir.”

Gunnery Sgt. Hartman: “Well, thank you very much! Can I be in charge for a while?”

This biplane could be one of the deadliest North Korean weapons

8. Gunnery Sgt. Hartman: “Were you born a fat, slimy, scumbag puke piece o’ sh-t, Pvt. Pyle, or did you have to work on it?”

9. Gunnery Sgt. Hartman: “If it wasn’t for d-ckheads like you, there wouldn’t be any thievery in this world, would there?”

10. Gunnery Sgt. Hartman: “Holy Jesus! What is that? What the f-ck is that?! What is that, Pvt. Pyle?!”

Pvt. Pyle: “Sir, a jelly doughnut, sir!”

Gunnery Sgt. Hartman: “A jelly doughnut?”

This biplane could be one of the deadliest North Korean weapons

11. Gunnery Sgt. Hartman: “You forget your f-ckin’ name? 0300. Infantry. You made it.”

12. Unnamed Colonel in Vietnam: “Son, all I’ve ever asked of my Marines is that they obey my orders as they would the word of God. We are here to help the Viet-namese, because inside every gook there is an American trying to get out. It’s a hardball world, son. We’ve just got to keep our heads until this peace craze blows over.”

13. Animal Mother: “You talk the talk. Do you walk the walk?”

This biplane could be one of the deadliest North Korean weapons

14. Crazy Earl: “These are great days we’re living, bros. We are jolly green giants, walking the Earth — with guns. These people we wasted here today are the finest human beings we will ever know. After we rotate back to the world, we’re gonna miss not having anyone around that’s worth shooting.”

15. Da Nang Hooker: “Well, baby, me so horny. Me so HORNY. Me love you long time. You party?”

16. Pvt. Joker: “Sir, does this mean that Ann-Margret’s not coming?”

NOW CHECK OUT: The 32 greatest military movie quotes of all time

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After some ups and downs, MoH recipient Dakota Meyer surprises the interweb by marrying Bristol Palin

This biplane could be one of the deadliest North Korean weapons
(Photo: Instagram)


Bristol Palin, daughter of reality TV star and former Governor of Alaska and VP candidate Sarah Palin, and Dakota Meyer, Marine vet and Medal of Honor recipient, announced their surprise marriage earlier this week, 13 months after nixing their first attempt at nuptials.

“Life is full of ups and downs but in the end, you’ll end up where you’re supposed to be,” the couple told the TV show “Entertainment Tonight.”

The couple met while Meyer was filming a TV show in Alaska in 2014. They were soon engaged, which caused both mom and daughter to gush on Instagram: “I’m the luckiest girl in the world,” Bristol wrote in a since-deleted post. “We’re happy to welcome Dakota into our family,” Gov. Palin added.

But with less than a week to go before the big day, the wedding was canceled. Sarah Palin cryptically posted the news on Facebook, adding that they’d just discovered that Meyer had been married before. (Bristol Palin was also married before to Levi Johnson who is the father of her first child.)

Then, boom, another bombshell: Bristol was pregnant. “I know this has been, and will be, a huge disappointment to my family, to my close friends, and to many of you,” she wrote in a blog post last summer without saying whether or not Meyer was the father.

Palin gave birth to daughter Sailor Grace on December 23, 2015. More drama followed soon thereafter as Meyer filed for joint custody.

“For many months we have been trying to reach out to Dakota Myers (sic) and he has wanted nothing to do with either Bristol’s pregnancy or the baby,” Gov. Palin told “Entertainment Tonight.” “Paramount to the entire Palin family is the health and welfare of Sailor Grace,” she said. Palin also accused the Marine vet of trying to “save face.”

Eventually, Meyer was awarded joint custody, and that outcome also rekindled the spark between Palin and him.

“On one hand, we know that everything happens for a reason, and there are no mistakes or coincidences,” Meyer wrote on Instagram, alluding to the pair’s past. “On the other hand, we learn that we can never give up, knowing that with the right tools and energy, we can reverse any decree or karma. So, which is it? Let the Light decide, or never give up? The answer is: both.”

Meyer received the Medal of Honor for his actions during the Battle of Ganjgal on September 8, 2009, in Kunar Province, Afghanistan. As indicated in the citation, “Meyer personally evacuated 12 friendly wounded and provided cover for another 24 Marines and soldiers to escape likely death at the hands of a numerically superior and determined foe.”

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The Cuban Missile Crisis: 13 days that almost ended the world

In 1946 George Kennan, an American diplomat in the Soviet Union, wrote to the Truman State Department about his view of the USSR’s aggression. He thought the Soviets were “impervious to logic of reason… highly sensitive to the logic of force.” This outlook became the cornerstone of the United States’ “containment” policy of Soviet and Communist expansion, a policy which almost led to the brink of global nuclear war 16 years later.


After the failed Bay of Pigs invasion of Cuba in 1961 and the presence of U.S. nuclear missiles in Turkey and Italy starting in 1959, Cuban leader Fidel Castro and Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev agreed to place nuclear missile installations in Cuba to deter any future invasion attempts by the U.S. and its Central Intelligence Agency to invade Cuba. The CIA was tipped off by Soviet spy Colonel Oleg Penkovsky, who passed on war plans, secret documents, and other human intelligence.

On October 14, a U-2 spy plane overflight confirmed the presence of Soviet missiles on Cuba. For thirteen days, October 16 – 28, 1962, the U.S. and Soviet Union faced each other down in a confrontation that would be the closest the world came to nuclear annihilation during the Cold War.

16 October: President Kennedy is informed about the photographic evidence

The President was notified of the presence and confirmation of Soviet missiles in Cuba and received a full intelligence briefing. Two response ideas were proposed: an air strike and invasion or a naval quarantine with the threat of further military action. The President kept to his official schedule to raising concerns from the public.

This biplane could be one of the deadliest North Korean weapons

17 October: U.S. troops begin buildup in the Southeast

Military units flowed into bases in the Southeast United States as U-2 reconnaissance flights showed continued development of missile sites in Cuba, complete with medium and long range missiles, capable of hitting most of the continental U.S. The President met with the Libyan head of state and then went to Connecticut to support political candidates.

This biplane could be one of the deadliest North Korean weapons

18 October: The Soviet Foreign Minister meets with Kennedy

Foreign Minister Andrei Gromyko met the President at the White House, assuring Kennedy the weapons were defensive. Kennedy knew otherwise but didn’t press the issue, instead giving Gromyko a warning of “gravest consequences” if offensive nuclear weapons were on Cuba.

This biplane could be one of the deadliest North Korean weapons
18 October 1962 Kennedy meeting with the Soviet Minister of Foreign Affairs. (Kennedy Library Photo)


19 October: Business as usual

The President stuck to his scheduled travel in the midwestern United States. Advisors continued to debate a response strategy.

20 October: Kennedy orders a “quarantine” of Cuba

The White House called the blockade a “quarantine” because a blockade is technically an act of war. Any Soviet ships carrying weapons to Cuba would be turned back. The President faked a cold as an excuse to end his trip early without alarming Americans and returned to Washington.

This biplane could be one of the deadliest North Korean weapons

21 October: Tactical Air Command cannot guarantee destruction of the missiles

The President attended Sunday Mass then met with General Walter Sweeney of the USAF’s Tactical Air Command. Gen. Sweeney could not guarantee 100 percent destruction of the missiles.

22 October: Kennedy informs the public about the blockade and puts U.S. troops on alert

This biplane could be one of the deadliest North Korean weapons

President Kennedy informs former Presidents Hoover, Truman, and Eisenhower as well as the British Prime Minister Harold Macmillan on the Cuban Missile situation. He then assembles and Executive Committee  (EXCOMM) of the National Security Council to work out coordinating further action.

After a week of waiting, Kennedy addressed the nation to inform them about the presence of Soviet missiles on Cuba. He also announced the quarantine of the island to prevent further “offensive military equipment” from arriving, stating the U.S. will not end the quarantine until the USSR removes the missiles.

The EXCOMM assembled by President Kennedy recommended a military invasion of Cuba to end the stalemate, which would have led to massive retaliation from the Soviet Union, and the destruction of all forces on the island. The U.S. moved to Defense Condition (DEFCON) 3.

Kennedy wrote to Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev:

“I have not assumed that you or any other sane man would In this nuclear age, deliberately plunge the world into war which it is crystal clear no country could win and which could only result in catastrophic consequences to the whole world, including the aggressor.”

23 October: Organization of American States (OAS) Supports Quarantine

The OAS support for the blockade gave the American move international legitimacy. Cuba was expelled from the OAS earlier in 1962.

U.S. ships moved into their blockade positions around Cuba.

Soviet freighters bound for Cuba with military supplies stopped for the most part but the oil tanker Bucharest continued to Cuba.

Attorney General Robert Kennedy met with Ambassador Dobrynin at the Soviet Embassy.

This biplane could be one of the deadliest North Korean weapons
JFK signing naval quarantine authorization

24 October: Khrushchev denounces the quarantine

The Soviet Premier denounced the U.S. quarantine of the island as an act of aggression.

“You, Mr. President, are not declaring a quarantine, but rather are setting forth an ultimatum and threatening that if we do not give in to your demands you will use force. Consider what you are saying! And you want to persuade me to agree to this! What would it mean to agree to these demands? It would mean guiding oneself in one’s relations with other countries not by reason, but by submitting to arbitrariness. You are no longer appealing to reason, but wish to intimidate us.”

Pope John XXIII appealed to Kennedy and Khrushchev to push for peace.

25 October: Adlai Stevenson presents evidence of missiles in Cuba to UN

The U.S. requested an emergency meeting of the UN Security council, where the Soviet ambassador denied the presence of missiles in Cuba. U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Adlai Stevenson told the Soviet ambassador he was “willing to wait until hell freezes over” for an answer from the USSR. Then he showed the damning reconnaissance photos to the UN.

This biplane could be one of the deadliest North Korean weapons

UN Secretary General U Thant called for a “cooling off” period, rejected by President Kennedy because it left the missiles in Cuba.

26 October: The U.S. Armed Forces prepare for all out war

The U.S. military moved to DEFCON 2. Once the blockade was in place, all Soviet ships bound for Cuba either held their positions or reversed course. Some ships were searched and allowed to proceed.

This biplane could be one of the deadliest North Korean weapons

Missiles on Cuba became operational and construction continued. Soviet IL-28 bombers began construction on Cuban airfields.

Fearing an imminent attack from the United States, Cuban leader Fidel Castro suggested to Khrushchev the USSR should attack first.

This biplane could be one of the deadliest North Korean weapons

A Soviet spy, Aleksander Fomin, approached ABC News’ John Scali to offer a diplomatic solution: The removal of the missiles in exchange for a promise not to invade Cuba.

The Soviet Premier sent a letter with a similar message to President Kennedy stating his willingness to remove the missiles from the island if the United States would pledge never to invade Cuba.

27 October (Black Saturday): Khrushchev offers a new deal to Kennedy

In a second, more harshly worded letter, the Soviet Premier agreed to withdraw the missiles if Kennedy promised to never invade Cuba and to remove the U.S.’ Jupiter missiles from Turkey, contradicting his personal letter to Kennedy.

A U-2 spy plane checking the progress of the missiles was shot down over Cuba, killing the pilot, Major Rudolph Anderson. Neither side escalated the conflict, despite the shoot down.

This biplane could be one of the deadliest North Korean weapons

The U.S. ignored Khrushchev’s public offer and took him up on the first offer, adding they would voluntarily remove the Jupiter missiles from Turkey a few months later, voluntarily.

A U.S. Navy ship dropped depth charges at a Soviet submarine under the blockade line. The submarine was armed with nuclear torpedoes, but chose not to fire them in retaliation.

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A U.S. plane was chased out of the Kamchatka region by MiGs.

In the evening the USSR and USA, through Robert Kennedy and Soviet Ambassador Anatoly Dobrynin, reached an agreement to de-escalate the conflict.

28 October: The USSR announces it will remove missiles from Cuba

The Soviets agreed publicly to remove the missiles in exchange for the promise not to invade Cuba. They do not mention the agreement to remove U.S. missiles from Turkey.

Radio Moscow announced that the Soviet Union accepted the proposed solution and released the text of a Khrushchev letter affirming that the missiles would be removed.

This biplane could be one of the deadliest North Korean weapons

The missiles were loaded and shipped back to the Soviet Union in early November 1962. By the end of that month, the U.S. embargo on Cuba ended. Soviet bombers left the country before the end of the year and the Jupiter missiles were removed form Turkey by the end of April, 1963. A “hotline” was set up between the USSR and the United States to ensure direct communication between the two superpowers in the future.

 

NOW: 7 times the U.S. almost stumbled into a shooting war with Russia

OR: The 7 scariest weapons Russia is developing right now

Articles

Here are some other name suggestions for future US Navy ships

In light of the controversy over the announced names of new fleet replenishment oilers, including one after Korean War veteran and gay rights activist Harvey Milk, here some other suggestions for future U.S. Navy ships:


Suggested America-class Amphibious Assault Ships

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(Photo: U.S. Navy, Chief Mass Communication Specialist John Lill)

USS The Battle of Fallujah

During the Global War on Terror, the Marines have been fighting far from the ocean. However. those battles have featured just as much valor as was seen during Guadalcanal, Iwo Jima, or Tarawa. Notable among these was the Battle of Fallujah in November of 2004. Perhaps the most iconic picture of Operation Iraqi Freedom was the one of First Sergeant Bradley Kasal gripping his M9 Beretta as he was assisted out of the house where he heroically protected a wounded Marine. No matter what you think of the Iraq War, the valor American forces showed during the battle should be honored.

USS Battle of Khe Sanh

During the Vietnam War, the Marine outpost at Khe Sanh was besieged for nearly three months as part of a six-month battle. Unlike the French at the Battle of Dien Bien Phu, the Marines at Khe Sanh held out – with the aid of massive air power. This is one proud moment of Marine Corps history that deserves to be remembered – and it should not have taken nearly five decades to honor.

USS Battle of Khafji

One of the biggest fights the Marines had during Operation Desert Storm, the Battle of Khafji lasted three days. The Marines worked with Saudi and Qatari forces to free the city from its brief occupation by Saddam Hussein’s forces, knocking out at least 80 armored vehicles. That heroism is well worth remembering.

Suggested John Lewis-class replenishment ship

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(Photo: U.S. Navy)

USS Joe Foss

He’s a Medal of Honor recipient, and either a Zumwalt or a Burke would seem more fitting, but Joe Foss was more than a Marine Corps ace. He was governor of South Dakota for four years, the first commissioner of the American Football League (now the AFC), and he was President of the National Rifle Association for two terms – leading America’s foremost defender of the Second Amendment.

Suggested Zumwalt-class destroyer

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(Photo: U.S. Navy)

USS Robert A. Heinlein

While best known as the best American science-fiction author of all time, Robert Anson Heinlein graduated from the Naval Academy. While his career ended due to tuberculosis, Heinlein worked with Isaac Asimov at the Philadelphia Naval Shipyard during World War II. This is a cultural giant of American literature and deserves to be recognized with the Navy’s most advanced surface combatant.

Suggested Arleigh Burke-class destroyers

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(Photo: U.S. Navy, Journalist 2nd Class Patrick Reilly)

USS Tom Clancy

The inventor of the techno-thriller genre made the United States Navy the big star in his first two novels. His iconic character, Jack Ryan, was a former Marine. Clancy was one of the few civilians to receive the Alfred Thayer Mahan Award for Literary Achievement from the Navy League.

USS Joe Rochefort

Rochefort is the unsung hero of the Battle of Midway. His code-breaking efforts gave Admiral Chester W. Nimitz the advance warning needed to send Raymond Spruance and Frank Jack Fletcher to ambush the Japanese fleet. Rochefort waited over 30 years to see his story told, and a decade afterward to be officially recognized.

USS Edwin T. Layton

There was one officer that Nimitz kept by his side throughout World War II. Edwin T. Layton was retained when Nimitz took over for Husband E. Kimmel and stayed until Japan signed the  surrender documents in Tokyo Bay. If Rochefort was the unsung hero of Midway, Layton is the man who ensured Rochefort got some of the official recognition he deserved.

USS Brian Chontosh

Brian Chontosh received the Navy Cross for heroism during the initial invasion of Iraq. During a firefight on March 25, 2003, he personally cleared over 200 meters of trench and killed over 20 enemy troops. Sheer awesomeness (that arguably should have resulted in him receiving the Medal of Honor).

USS Justin Lehew

Then-Gunnery Sergeant Justin Lehew received the Navy Cross for his actions during March 23 and 24. On the 23rd, he led a team that rescued some of the members of the 507th Maintenance Company. The next day, he continuously exposed himself to enemy fire during an attack on a bridge, then while recovering Marines from an Amphibious Assault Vehicle that was hit.

USS Bradley Kasal

During the Battle of Fallujah, a photograph featuring then-First Sergeant Bradley Kasal being helped out of a building, clutching his M9 Beretta became an iconic image of Operation Iraqi Freedom. What happened before the photo, though, was the real awesome story: Kasal had shielded a fellow Marine from an insurgent’s grenades with his own body after both had been wounded. Kasal then refused evacuation until the other Marines in the house were safe. He got the Navy Cross. It should have been the Medal of Honor.

USS Justin A. Wilson

Corpsmen have long had a tradition of valor when it comes to treating wounded Marines on the battlefield. Justin Wilson is just one of the latest. He earned the Navy Cross by leaving his position, despite the threat of IEDs, to treat a wounded Marine explosive ordnance disposal tech, then did so again to find other wounded.

USS Arthur D. Struble

It is rare that a Vice Admiral is awarded a Distinguished Service Cross, but Stuble is one of two who got that honor. Struble received the Army’s second-highest decoration for valor for helping oversee the mine-clearance operation at Wonsan during the Korean War. Not too many people know about Admiral Struble’s service, and naming a ship after him would be a suitable way to change this.

Articles

It’s official — the Army is looking for a new, bigger combat rifle

The stars are aligning and it’s looking more and more like the Army is working to outfit many of its soldiers with a battle rifle in a heavier caliber than the current M4.


Late last month, the service released a request to industry asking which companies could supply the service with a commercially-available rifle chambered in the 7.62x51mm NATO round, a move that many saw coming after rumblings emerged that the Army was concerned about enemy rifles targeting U.S. troops at greater ranges than they could shoot back.

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Spc. Artemio Veneracion (back), an infantryman with Eagle Troop, 2nd Squadron, 2nd Cavalry Regiment, informs his team leader, Sgt. Ryan Steiner, that he has acquired his target with his M110 Semi-automatic Sniper System (SASS) during a Squad Training Exercise (STX) at Tapa Training Area in Estonia, May 26, 2016. (U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Steven M. Colvin)

It now seems that fear has shifted in favor of fielding a rifle that can fire a newly developed round that is capable of penetrating advanced Russian body armor — armor defense planners feel is more available to enemies like ISIS and terrorist organizations.

In late May, the Army released a so-called “Request for Information” to see if industry could provide the service with up to 10,000 of what it’s calling the “Interim Combat Service Rifle.”

Chambered in 7.62×51, the rifle must have a barrel length of 16 or 20 inches, have an accessory rail and have a minimum magazine capacity of 20 rounds, among other specifications.

The rifle must be a Commercial Off The Shelf system readily available for purchase today,” the Army says, signaling that it’s not interested in a multi-year development effort. “Modified or customized systems are not being considered.”

But what’s particularly interesting is that the ICSR must have full auto capability, harkening back to the days of the 30-06 Browning Automatic Rifle or the full-auto M14. Analysts recognize that few manufacturers have full-auto-capable 7.62 rifles in their portfolio, with HK (which makes the HK-417) and perhaps FN (with its Mk-17 SCAR) being some of the only options out there.

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A Special Forces soldier takes a rest during a patrol in Afghanistan. The Army is considering outfitting its front-line troops with a 7.62 battle rifle like this Mk17 SCAR-H. (Photo from US Army Special Operations Command)

While the Army is already buying the Compact Semi-Auto Sniper System from HK, that’s not manufactured with a full-auto option.

Under Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Milley, the Army is focusing on near-peer threats like China and Russia and starting to develop equipment and strategies to meet a technologically-advanced enemy with better weapons and survival systems. Milley also has openly complained about the service’s hidebound acquisition system that took years and millions of dollars to adopt a new pistol that’s already on the commercial market — and he’s now got a Pentagon leadership that backs him up, analysts say.

“The U.S. military currently finds itself at the nexus of a US small arms renaissance,” Soldier Systems Daily wrote. “Requirements exist. Solutions, although not perfect, exist. And most of all, political will exists to resource the acquisitions.”

Articles

9 things that would be different if Chuck Norris led the Bin Laden raid

In the early hours of May 2nd, 2011, in Abbottabad, Pakistan, SEAL team 6 got the green light to execute a deadly mission to capture or kill the man responsible for the 9/11 terrorist attacks — Osama Bin Laden. After President Obama broke the news to the world that the notorious Al Qaeda leader had been taken out, American and its allies celebrated all across the world.


As additional information poured in, the mission was labeled a success — although it had its share of flaws.

But as WATM has a deep and abiding appreciation for 1980s action movies, we wondered how different it all might have gone down if Chuck Norris had planned and led the famous bin Laden raid. So check out our list.

Related: 9 examples of the military’s dark humor

The SEALs on Norris’ team would be issued dual Uzis — because firepower.

Chuck Norris shot a man to death with an unloaded nerf gun. (images via Giphy)

The SEAL team would have parachuted in instead of inserting on stealth helicopters.

Chuck Norris went skydiving and his parachute failed to open,so he took it back the next day for a refund (images via Giphy)

Once Chuck Norris and the SEALs land, awesome black tactical motorcycles would be patiently waiting for them.  Norris would shoot bin Laden’s compound wall so his SEALs could easily breach.

People sell their souls to the devil.The devil sells his soul to Chuck Norris.(images via Giphy)

After locating bin Laden, Chuck would have challenged him to a hand-to-hand showdown after removing his shirt and popping his knuckles.

Global warming will end as soon as Chuck Norrisputs his shirt back on. (images via Giphy)

Then, Chuck would deliver a series of right jabs to bin Laden’s face, breaking every bone in his body.

Chuck Norris can hit you so hard your blood will bleed. (images via Giphy)

After beating bin Laden senseless, he’d casually walk away like the fight was over, mount his tactical motorcycle and blow the al Qaeda leader up with a missile like it wasn’t sh*t.

Chuck Norris puts the “laughter” in “manslaughter”. (image via Giphy)

Since Chuck usually orders his men to fall back early (for some reason) he now has to make his escape just as Pakistani police show up.

Chuck Norris doesn’t need a ramp because he’s f*cking Chuck Norris. (images via Giphy)

Because Chuck is such a lone wolf, the only plane leaving the terrorist-infested nation is about to take off without him — but that won’t stop him from boarding.

Chuck Norris can fold airplanes into paper. (images via Giphy)

Related: Here’s how US Marines brought karate back home after World War II

After the mission was labeled a success by the president, Chuck wouldn’t verbally congratulate his team — he’d just give thumbs up.

Chuck Norris never fails, he tells success to come backwhen it’s ready for him. (image via Giphy

popular

This is what happens when your father was your drill instructor’s drill instructor

If Marine Corps boot camp is a bitter slice of hell, then drill instructors are the demons who dish it.


Now imagine what basic training would be like if your drill instructor was your father’s recruit and knew it. That’s exactly what happened to Reddit user hygemaii.

 

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Gunnery Sergeant Shawn D. Angell gently corrects a trainee. (Photo: U.S. Marine Corps)

You’d expect one of two things to happen: you get favorable treatment because your father treated your DI to a rose garden — highly unlikely — or you become your DI’s reprisal punching bag for everything your father put him through as a recruit — probably more realistic. Here’s how the story played out, according to hygemaii (mildly edited for grammar and curse words):

Related: 4 of the funniest boot camp stories we’ve ever heard

“My best military story is my own boot camp story. I decided to join the Marine Corps almost on a whim after planning to join the Air Force for most of my senior year in high school.

“Same old story of AF recruiters seeming like they didn’t give a sh-t about their appearance or job and the Marine recruiter putting out max effort all the time and always being presentable. I was a pretty easy mark for the USMC because my dad was in the USMC; I grew up on bases all over the U.S. until we moved to the little farm town in North Florida where I went to high school.

“Since I was 18, I basically did all the paperwork myself, found a job series I liked, signed, the whole nine yards, my dad didn’t know anything until I told him I was going to MEPS and joining the Marines. He was overjoyed, obviously. He loved the Corps and regretted getting out after 12 years.

“Now the story gets funny. My dad was a drill instructor when he was in the Marines. I remembered living on Parris Island but didn’t think much of it. When I got my ship date for boot camp, my dad called some old friends and I ended up in a Company who’s First Sergeant was an old friend of my dad’s — they served on the drill field together all those years ago. So through some sort of crazy coincidence, I end up in a platoon with a drill instructor who was a recruit under my dad (6-7 years prior to me going to boot camp).

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A Drill Instructor whispers loving words of encouragement to Marines who needed some motivation. (U.S. Marine Corps)

“I have a very distinct name, and on the second day after we got our real drill instructors, as he was going through roll call, the drill instructor suddenly fell quiet. After a couple of seconds, he said my name, perfectly pronounced, and I knew I was f**ked.

“He said ‘[Last name], I bet there aren’t too many [Last names] in the world like that, are there?’ Sir, no sir. ‘Was your daddy a Marine in the 90’s Lastname?’ Sir, yes sir. ‘F**king good, [Last name], good. Get on my quarterdeck now.’

“I spent the rest of boot camp unable to make myself invisible. It spread from my drill instructor to drill instructors from other platoons, even other companies. It was f**king miserable. I felt bad for my rack mate, because at one point for about three days I had to move my entire rack to the quarterdeck and he was just along for the ride, so he caught a lot of it, too.

“It made graduating really special, in retrospect, to finally get the kind words from that drill instructor, but man that sucked. I’m pretty sure this entire thing was set up by my dad and his buddy, but they both deny it, and there’s no way to prove it.

“It was funny seeing my drill instructor stand a little straighter when he saw my dad at graduation.”

popular

This colorized German war footage shows why Stalingrad was hell on Earth

It was the pivotal battle that most historians believe turned the tide against the Nazis for good in World War II, resulting in a cascade of defeats as the Wehrmacht beat its retreat to Germany from the Soviet Eastern Front.


But it wasn’t always that way, and in the opening months of Operation Barbarossa the German army seemed poised for a stunning victory against the Red Army.

As part of its push to secure the southern Caucasian oil fields, the German 6th Army was ordered to take the city of Stalingrad in September 1942, a move some historians believe was strategically irrelevant, as the Nazis were already well on their way to Baku.

 

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The German army quickly made it to the center of the city in Stalingrad, but was eventually cut off from resupply and forced to surrender in early 1943. (Photo via Wikimedia Commons)

 

But many believe Adolf Hitler wanted to capture the city as a thumb in the eye to Soviet leader Josef Stalin, for whom the city was renamed.

Initially, the German army was able to push well into the city, taking the Univermag department store at its center. But the Red Army dug into the city’s industrial areas along the banks of the Volga river and the battle ground down into a brutal street-by-street slugfest.

One of the Red Army’s most accomplished generals, Marshall Georgi Zhukov, hatched a plan to surround the 6th Army and cut off its supply lines. And by mid-November, the Soviets began to squeeze the Nazis inside the city.

As winter descended, the Germans were running out of food, ammunition and other supplies, and when a rescue mission launched by Field Marshall Erich Von Manstein failed to break through, the Nazis’ fate was sealed. The German forces under the command of Gen. Friedrich Paulus eventually surrendered in early February 1943.

 

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While the Soviets lost nearly 500,000 men in the battle, the Wehrmacht surrendered 91,000 soldiers and lost nearly 150,000. (Photo via Wikimedia Commons)

 

It was a horrific battle waged on a titanic scale in a battlefield unlike any seen in modern times. In all, the Germans lost about 147,000 men in the battle while surrendering 91,000. The Soviets took even more catastrophic losses, with 480,000 dead and 650,000 wounded. An estimated 40,000 civilians were killed in the fighting.

Watch some of the extraordinary footage sent back by German photographers of the battle for Stalingrad culled from historical archives and colorized for a more vivid portrayal from FootageArchive.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Skyborg: Rise of the autonomous wingmen

Skyborg is an autonomy-focused capability that will enable the Air Force to operate and sustain low-cost, teamed aircraft driven by artificial intelligence that can thwart adversaries with quick, decisive actions in contested environments. These unmanned aerial systems are meant to operate alongside manned fighters and will utilize machine learning technology to increase combat capability as they train alongside their piloted partner.

These wingman aircraft could fly ahead of manned planes to extend the pair’s sensor coverage to increase battlespace awareness. They can fire weapons at targets designated by their human wingmen, and a swarm of automated wingmen could protect piloted aircraft by absorbing missile shots from enemy forces.


SKYBORG

vimeo.com

Air Force policy stipulates that people are always responsible for lethal decision-making. Accordingly, Skyborg will not replace human pilots. Instead, it will provide them with key data to support rapid, informed decisions.

“Ever since “Star Wars” first debuted, this idea of being able to fly with autonomy to support you, and cute little beeps and squeaks right, it has just caught the imagination,” said Dr. Will Roper, the assistant secretary of the Air Force for acquisition, technology and logistics. “It’s time to make that real.”

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Attendees watch a video about the Skyborg Vanguard Program during the Air Warfare Symposium, Feb. 28, 2020. Skyborg is an unmanned aircraft focused competency that will allow the Air Force to employ a team of artificially intelligent aircraft to quickly thwart adversaries in combat. Skyborg will not replace pilots but will provide crucial and prompt data to help the pilot make informed and accurate decisions. (PHOTO // KENNETH MCNULTY)

Roper said he’s excited for the R2-D2 program, a name he uses to refer to Skyborg.

Speaking to the Mitchell Institute for Aerospace Studies in June, Roper divulged that conversations with world-renowned experts at Massachusetts Institute of Technology revealed that artificial intelligence, in its current form, is fragile.

“It’s (AI) fine when it’s helping you with entertainment related functions. If your app crashes and the AI gives you the wrong choice on what movie or song to play next, well no big deal,” Roper said. “But on the battlefield an adversary will be there trying to thwart and confound that AI and it’s very easy to do.”

Roper added that the Air Force is going to need a new form of AI that is hardened against an adversary, and research is underway. He expressed the need to accelerate and if done skillfully, the Air Force won’t just be accelerating for the Defense Department; this kind of hardened AI is also needed in the commercial sector for delivery drones and improving self-driving cars.

This biplane could be one of the deadliest North Korean weapons

Dr. Will Roper, Assistant Secretary of the Air Force for Acquisition, Technology and Logistics, discusses “The Future Air Force, Faster, Smarter: The Next Gear” during the Air Force Association Air, Space and Cyber Conference in National Harbor, Md., Sept. 16, 2019. One innovative project the Air Force is employing is Skyborg, an unmanned aircraft focused competency that will allow the Air Force to employ a team of artificially intelligent aircraft to quickly thwart adversaries in combat. (U.S. AIR FORCE PHOTO // STAFF SGT. CHAD TRUJILLO)

“The roots of the Air Force are all about breaking boundaries and doing new things and I think we may have forgotten that a little bit,” Roper said. “In the wake of the Soviet Union collapse, we didn’t have that adversary pushing us. We ought to be doing new things all the time and everywhere and AI autopilot, or wingman or R2-D2 is something new. I can’t wait to get it out on the battlefield.”

Skyborg is one of three Vanguard programs identified in 2019 as part of the Air Force Science and Technology 2030 Strategy. The Air Force plans to channel more resources into the programs and speed up their development.

The Air Force Research Laboratory announced the new strategy last year. It prioritizes demands on time, space and complexity in future conflicts across all domains. The strategy aligns with the National Security Strategy and the National Defense Strategy and lays out a path forward for the Air Force Science and Technology ecosystem to deliver warfighting capabilities at the speed of relevance and necessity.

This biplane could be one of the deadliest North Korean weapons

The Kratos XQ-58 Valkyrie is an experimental stealthy unmanned combat aerial vehicle designed and built for the United States Air Force Low Cost Attritable Strike Demonstrator program, under the USAF Research Laboratory’s Low Cost Attritable Aircraft Technology project portfolio. (PHOTO // AFRL)

In July, the Air Force Life Cycle Management Center awarded multiple indefinite-delivery/indefinite-quantity contracts to The Boeing Co., General Atomics Aeronautical Systems Inc., Kratos Unmanned Aerial Systems, Inc. and Northrop Grumman Systems Corp. These initial awards will establish a vendor pool that will continue to compete for up to 0 million in subsequent delivery orders in support of the Skyborg Vanguard Program.

“Because autonomous systems can support missions that are too strenuous or dangerous for manned crews, Skyborg can increase capability significantly and be a force multiplier for the Air Force,” said Brig. Gen. Dale White, program executive officer for fighters and advanced aircraft, who, along with Brig. Gen. Heather Pringle, Air Force Research Laboratory commander, serves as the leadership for the Skyborg program. “We have the opportunity to transform our warfighting capabilities and change the way we fight and the way we employ air power.”

This biplane could be one of the deadliest North Korean weapons

An illustration depicting the future integration of the Air Force enabling fusion warfare, where huge sets of intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance data are collected, analyzed by artificial intelligence and utilized by Airmen, their autonomous wingmen and the joint force in a seamless process to stay many steps ahead of an adversary. (ILLUSTRATION // AFRL)

“Autonomy technologies in Skyborg’s portfolio will range from simple play-book algorithms to advanced team decision making and will include on-ramp opportunities for artificial intelligence technologies,” Pringle said. “This effort will provide a foundational government reference architecture for a family of layered, autonomous, and open-architecture unmanned aerial systems.”

The Vanguards are also introducing a novel early partnership between AFLCMC and AFRL due to the need to quickly identify cutting edge technology and transition it directly into the hands of the warfighter.

“The greatest technological edge is for naught if the warfighter can’t use it on the battlefield. That makes the partnership between AFRL and AFLCMC so vital to this program. We can’t allow bureaucratic speed bumps to interfere with our mandate to deliver,” White said.

Just as the last generation of pilots had the instincts for stealth, Roper believes, the next generation will have the instincts for this, previously nonexistent, type of algorithmic warfare on future battlefields.

“This next generation of pilot is not going to be ready to hand the reins over to R2-D2, but neither will they be willing to go into combat without R2-D2, if R2-D2 is available,” Roper said. “Our pilots are the best and they will continue to be the best if we give this technology, it will take their game into a completely different dimension.”

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


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