Throughout history, bridges have been one of the most targeted structures on the battlefield, as opposing forces do everything in their power to blow them up and cut off incoming supply lines.
After a bridge is destroyed, a new one needs to be established, or occupying forces can risk losing their resupply sources permanently.
In World War II, Japanese, Italians, and German armies used explosive motorboats as a technique to take down allied bridges. Enemy troops in scuba gear would point these motorboats in the direction of the bridge’s supporting structures and bail out right before the vessel strikes and detonates.
The explosive motorboats in action. (Images via Giphy)Because of the effectiveness of the explosive motorboats, allied forces needed to create a portable bridge that could be quickly set up and could handle the massive stress of getting blown up.
The resolution came from an unlikely source — the mind of a British civil servant named Donald Bailey.
While returning home after working at an experimental bridge, an idea popped into Bailey’s mind. He began sketching out the new architectural idea on the back of an envelope — something that later became the “Bailey Bridge.”
This new creation could support large armored tanks across 200 feet of water and set up quickly just by using some wrenches and a few engineers.
“The Bailey bridge is a very fabricated bridge, and it can be broken down into parts, trucked to a site, and then reassembled in a big hurry,” military historian William Atwater explains.
After being successfully set up under fire during the Battle of Monte Cassino in Italy, President Dwight D. Eisenhower reportedly claimed the bridge was one of the pieces of equipment that most contributed to the victory in Europe.
Check out Lightning War 1941’s video below to see how this quickly fabricated bridge helped change the course of the war.
The F-35 Joint Strike Fighter is the U.S. Air Force’s infamous trillion-dollar weapon system. So many millions were poured into making the airframe one of the stealthiest fighters on the planet, it might surprise aviation fans to know it comes with an option to totally kill its own stealth capabilities.
With every nook and cranny of this aircraft precisely engineered to make it invisible to enemy radar, it comes with these tiny bolts that are fashioned onto the top of its fuselage, ensuring every radar watcher and SAM battery knows exactly where it is.
There are actually a few great reasons for making the aircraft more visible to radar. The use of these devices, called Luneberg Reflectors, amplify the stealthy craft’s radar signature to make it visible because not every mission is a combat mission. Troops require training with their weapons and the F-35 and its pilots are no different. Just flying an invisible plane in an area close to air lanes used by aircraft from around the world would be an incredibly dangerous venture.
Think about Area 51 in the Nevada desert, the site where the Air Force tests its combat aircraft, is just over a hundred miles from Las Vegas’ McCarran Airport, where thousands of tourist flow in and out every day. Invisible airplanes would create a slow hell for the Air Traffic Controllers over those skies – and if you think U.S. pilots won’t do something crazy over a civilian area, I invite you to google “Sky Penis.”
An F-35B without reflectors.
So flying over friendly areas on non-combat missions would obviously be the first safety goal for such an aircraft. But a more military reason for keeping the F-35 visible is that the United States doesn’t want to give the enemy any practice in looking for the F-35 on their radar. If the Russians don’t know what it looks like on radar during peacetime, they won’t be prepared to track it during wartime – whether in Syria or Eastern Europe, where Russian anti-air capabilities are the same.
How many of you science fiction buffs have fantasized about zipping around town in your very own flying car? Sure, a trip in a helicopter or airplane has now become the standard or even mundane mode of long distance travel, but imagine taking your very own flying machine on a trip across town, presumably withThe Jetsons‘ theme song blasting in the background. With advances in modern technology, it is only a matter of time right? What may surprise you though, is that way back in 1942, twenty years before Americans were meeting George Jetson and marveling at The Jetsons‘ flying car, the British Military actually had their very own flying jeep.
It was right smack in the middle of the Second World War and the military needed to find a way to airdrop more than messages, medical supplies or rations. They wanted to sky dive off-road vehicles to provide transportation for their infantry soldiers and other military personnel. They had previously tested the Hafner Rotachute, a rotor equipped parachute towed by an airplane with the objective of delivering armed soldiers more precisely to the battlefield, and they figured they could apply similar technology to a large vehicle.
So they looked to Raoul Hafner again. Hafner was an Austrian engineer – a contemporary and admirer of Juan de la Cierva, that Spanish pioneer of rotary-winged flight – with a passion for helicopters. Hafner first designed the Rotachute and later conceptualized its spin-off the Hafter Rotabuggy. While both machines used rotor technology, the Rotachute was actually a fabric-covered capsule with room for one pilot and a notch for his weapon with fairing in the rear and an integrated tail. After various modifications, the first successful launch occurred on June 17, 1942 from a de Havilland Tiger Moth. Taking off, the airplane towed the Rotachute on a 300 foot towline and released it at an altitude of 200 feet. A rough landing necessitated further improvements in the form of a stabilizing wheel and fins to improve stability.
In the case of the Rotabuggy the question was how to build a vehicle that they could fly and drop from a height without causing damage. They did some tests using a regular (non-flying) 4×4 wartime jeep- a Willys MB- loaded with concrete and discovered that dropping it from heights up to a pretty impressive 2.35 metres (7.7 ft) could work without damaging the unmodified jeep.
With durable jeep in hand, they then outfitted it with a 40 ft rotor as well as a streamlined tail fairing with twin rudderless fins. For added toughness, they attached Perspex door panels, while stripping it clean of its motor. Inside they installed a steering wheel for the driver and a rotor control for the pilot and other navigational instruments. So visually you had the now-bantamweight jeep in front with two guys inside, a driver and a pilot, a rotor on top and a tail bringing up the rear. Welcome to the Blitz Flying Jeep!
In November of 1943, the flying trials started at Sherburn-in-Elmet, near Leeds. The first challenge was how to get the jeep up in the air. As so often happens with first attempts, during the first test flight the jeep literally failed to get off the ground. It ended miserably as they used a lorry to tow the flying jeep but it couldn’t get enough speed to lift the Willys MB airborne. During the second attempt, the jeep was towed by a heavier and more powerful Bentley automobile and it flew, gliding at speeds of reportedly about 45 to 65 mph. Later, they tested the jeep behind an RAF Whitley bomber, managing to achieve an altitude of about 122 meters (approximately 400 ft) in one ten minute flight in September of 1944.
While the records show that in the end the Flying Jeep worked very satisfactorily, there is an account of a witness who observed a rather shaken and exhausted pilot emerge to lie down relieved after one terrifying test flight. Apparently it had taken superhuman effort for him to handle the control column on that particular flight, which led to a rather scary, bobbing and weaving, bumpy ride. When the jeep finally dropped safely to the ground, the driver took over. After the vehicle came to a stop, reports say the ensuing silence was protracted, then the pilot was helped out to a spot adjacent to the runway where he lay down to rest and collect himself.
Although the Flying Jeep machine was improved with upgraded fins and rotor functionality, perhaps it was just as well that its further development was abandoned after military gliders, like the Airspeed Horsa, that could transport vehicles, were introduced.
Raoul Hafner was an Austrian national and thus was classified as an enemy alien and placed in an internment camp in England during the start of WWII. He obtained his naturalization and was soon released and put to work by the government as previously described. He later became interested in applying his knowledge to sailboat design and died in a sailing accident in 1980.
Raoul Hafner’s daughter Ingrid became a British actress. She was best known for playing Carol in the TV seriesThe Avengers.
In the 1950s, the Americans developed a prototype of a flying jeep known as the Airgeep but like it’s British predecessor it didn’t make it to the battlefield.
It’s no surprise that heroes emerged from D-Day, the largest amphibious assault in history. What is surprising is that three of the four recipients of Medal of Honor for that day came from one division. The Army’s 1st Infantry Division was sent to Omaha Beach, the most heavily defended beach of D-Day. Sheer cliffs and fortified positions blocked the Allied assault against the dug-in German units.
Here are 4 men who were key in breaking the “Atlantic Wall” around occupied France.
1. Teddy Roosevelt’s son, Brig. Gen. Theodore Roosevelt, Jr.
Brig. Gen. Theodore Roosevelt Jr., the 56-year-old son of President Theodore Roosevelt and a senior officer in the 4th Infantry Division, had twice verbally requested to join the assaulting forces on Utah Beach and was denied twice due to his age and rank. Finally, a written request was approved and Roosevelt became the only general officer to land in the first wave on D-Day. He walked on to the beach with his cane and began leading troops over the sea wall. He also provided key information to the senior officers of each new wave that landed, including his boss who didn’t want him on the beach.
He died of a heart attack the night before Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower called to inform him that he’d been nominated for the Medal of Honor and promotion to major general, one month after D-Day. The award was given to his widow by his distant cousin, President Franklin D. Roosevelt. His citation reads:
“For gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty on 6 June 1944, in France. After 2 verbal requests to accompany the leading assault elements in the Normandy invasion had been denied, Brig. Gen. Roosevelt’s written request for this mission was approved and he landed with the first wave of the forces assaulting the enemy-held beaches. He repeatedly led groups from the beach, over the seawall and established them inland. His valor, courage, and presence in the very front of the attack and his complete unconcern at being under heavy fire inspired the troops to heights of enthusiasm and self-sacrifice. Although the enemy had the beach under constant direct fire, Brig. Gen. Roosevelt moved from one locality to another, rallying men around him, directed and personally led them against the enemy. Under his seasoned, precise, calm, and unfaltering leadership, assault troops reduced beach strong points and rapidly moved inland with minimum casualties. He thus contributed substantially to the successful establishment of the beachhead in France.”
2. An infantry officer who led tanks when they got too scared to move up the beach
1st Lt. Jimmie W. Monteith, Jr.was drafted into the Army during World War II but quickly climbed the ranks, attaining corporal in basic training in 1941. He was accepted into officer school a few months later and was sent to the 1st Infantry Division after his commissioning. He fought with them in Sicily and Italy before the assault on Omaha Beach.
On D-Day, he saw two tanks buttoned up and unable to fire due to heavy artillery and machine gun fire. He walked up, completely exposed, and led the tanks through a minefield before directing their fire onto German positions. After that, he led a group of men onto the bluffs and repulsed Nazi counterattacks until he was killed.
His citation reads:
“For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity above and beyond the call of duty on 6 June 1944, near Colleville-sur-Mer, France. 1st Lt. Monteith landed with the initial assault waves on the coast of France under heavy enemy fire. Without regard to his own personal safety he continually moved up and down the beach reorganizing men for further assault. He then led the assault over a narrow protective ledge and across the flat, exposed terrain to the comparative safety of a cliff. Retracing his steps across the field to the beach, he moved over to where 2 tanks were buttoned up and blind under violent enemy artillery and machinegun fire. Completely exposed to the intense fire, 1st Lt. Monteith led the tanks on foot through a minefield and into firing positions. Under his direction several enemy positions were destroyed. He then rejoined his company and under his leadership his men captured an advantageous position on the hill. Supervising the defense of his newly won position against repeated vicious counterattacks, he continued to ignore his own personal safety, repeatedly crossing the 200 or 300 yards of open terrain under heavy fire to strengthen links in his defensive chain. When the enemy succeeded in completely surrounding 1st Lt. Monteith and his unit and while leading the fight out of the situation, 1st Lt. Monteith was killed by enemy fire. The courage, gallantry, and intrepid leadership displayed by 1st Lt. Monteith is worthy of emulation.”
3. The radioman who kept shrugging off mortal wounds until he got comms up on Omaha Beach
Joe Pinder was a professional baseball player before he joined the Army. His first battles were in Africa and he fought in Sicily as well. At D-Day, Pinder was wounded multiple times and nearly lost some radio equipment during the struggle to reach the beach. He kept going back and forth in the surf, retrieving needed items despite sustaining other injuries.
“Almost immediately on hitting the waist-deep water, he was hit by shrapnel,” 2nd Lt. Lee Ward W. Stockwell said, according to Baseball’s Greatest Sacrifice. “He was hit several times and the worst wound was to the left side of his face, which was cut off and hanging by a piece of flesh.”
After refusing medical treatment multiple times and finally getting his radio equipment all back together, Pinder was killed by a burst of machine gun fire to the chest.
His citation reads:
“For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity above and beyond the call of duty on 6 June 1944, near Colleville-sur-Mer, France. On D-day, Technician 5th Grade Pinder landed on the coast 100 yards off shore under devastating enemy machinegun and artillery fire which caused severe casualties among the boatload. Carrying a vitally important radio, he struggled towards shore in waist-deep water. Only a few yards from his craft he was hit by enemy fire and was gravely wounded. Technician 5th Grade Pinder never stopped. He made shore and delivered the radio. Refusing to take cover afforded, or to accept medical attention for his wounds, Technician 5th Grade Pinder, though terribly weakened by loss of blood and in fierce pain, on 3 occasions went into the fire-swept surf to salvage communication equipment. He recovered many vital parts and equipment, including another workable radio. On the 3rd trip he was again hit, suffering machinegun bullet wounds in the legs. Still this valiant soldier would not stop for rest or medical attention. Remaining exposed to heavy enemy fire, growing steadily weaker, he aided in establishing the vital radio communication on the beach. While so engaged this dauntless soldier was hit for the third time and killed. The indomitable courage and personal bravery of Technician 5th Grade Pinder was a magnificent inspiration to the men with whom he served.”
4. The infantryman who swam back and forth in the D-Day surf, saving his floundering comrades.
A high school dropout and former cook, Carlton W. Barrett volunteered to join the Army in 1940, just before he turned 21. On D-Day, he was assigned to be a guide, showing the way for each successive wave of troops to hit the beach. This meant Barrett had to land at D-Day not once, but multiple times. During the fierce fighting, he ferried wounded troops from the water and beach to evacuation boats, despite fierce small arms fire and mortar attacks. What’s more, he also carried messages between assaulting elements on beach.
He survived D-Day and stayed in the military, retiring as a staff sergeant in 1963. His citation reads:
“For gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty on 6 June 1944, in the vicinity of St. Laurent-sur-Mer, France. On the morning of D-day Pvt. Barrett, landing in the face of extremely heavy enemy fire, was forced to wade ashore through neck-deep water. Disregarding the personal danger, he returned to the surf again and again to assist his floundering comrades and save them from drowning. Refusing to remain pinned down by the intense barrage of small-arms and mortar fire poured at the landing points, Pvt. Barrett, working with fierce determination, saved many lives by carrying casualties to an evacuation boat lying offshore. In addition to his assigned mission as guide, he carried dispatches the length of the fire-swept beach; he assisted the wounded; he calmed the shocked; he arose as a leader in the stress of the occasion. His coolness and his dauntless daring courage while constantly risking his life during a period of many hours had an inestimable effect on his comrades and is in keeping with the highest traditions of the U.S. Army.”
There has been a lot of web chatter over the last few months about whether the F-35 Lightning II is an ace maker or a total grape. Most of the discussion has centered around a 1v1 test hop that pitted an F-35 against an F-16, and the outcome of that event varies by URL.
One thing is true: In spite of the fact the post-9/11 wars haven’t featured anything in the way of air-to-air engagements (Google “Aces of the Taliban” and see what you get), dogfights aren’t necessarily dead. If the F-35 ever goes up against an enemy with a real air force, eventually it will be forced into the visual arena. And regardless of how much stealth and other high-tech gee-wizzery the program hangs on the airframe, the airplane will always be subject to the laws of physics. (Okay, that’s two true things.)
In spite of the variety of opinions, several common themes have emerged that suggest the best way to fight the F-35 in the event stealth and BVR weapons don’t do the trick.
1. You’re going to be pulling Gs, so make sure your helmet fits
The F-35 is designed with a super-Gucci helmet (that costs $500,000) that’s supposed to do all kinds of cool stuff that basically makes a heads-up display old news. But it won’t work right if it doesn’t fit. Reports indicate that the F-35 pilot in the 1v1 with the F-16 was wearing a helmet that was so big that his head spun freely inside of it, which probably didn’t help with the accuracy of the symbology or, for that matter, just keeping sight.
Also remember the F-35 helmet works with cameras throughout the airframe to give the pilot the ability to see through the fuselage (like Space Ghost), although if you’re looking at your opponent through the bottom of your jet you’re probably getting your ass handed to you.
2. Drive your opponent ‘one-circle’ and get him slow
Web wisdom indicates that the F-35 is a ‘bleeder,’ which means it dissipates airspeed in a hurry when in a hard turn, so it would be a bad idea to try a two-circle power fight against an airplane that doesn’t have that problem — like a well-managed F-16. After the merge the F-35 pilot should mirror the direction the opponent turns and work hard to keep the ranges close. The ultimate goal is to get the opponent beat down so the fight turns into one where the guy who can maintain the highest alpha wins — because that guy on paper is the F-35.
Word on the streets is the F-35 has great pitch authority at low airspeed, and this makes sense when you consider the shape of the airplane and how much the horizontal stabs deflect at full throw.
3. Use your sensor and missile superiority to get the first shot
If you complete the previous steps well, you will be the first guy to get nose on. Don’t pass up a valid shot.
4. Be careful when you try to bug out
The F-35’s energy addition rate is average, and it’s top end speed is below average, so bugging out can’t be an afterthought. Remember: you only have one engine, and old fighter pilots have a saying about stealth technology — it doesn’t work against bullets.
The BTR family of wheeled armored personnel carriers, which were introduced by the Soviet Union in 1960, predates the Stryker family of vehicles by several decades. The Soviets built tens of thousands of BTR-60/70/80 vehicles before the fall of the USSR in 1991, but production continued after the collapse, and the BTR family took diverging paths.
Ukraine, where many of the Soviet BTRs were built, began to design their own variants. The latest of these is the BTR-4. This vehicle, like the BTR-60 and the Stryker, is an eight-wheeled vehicle. The BTR-4, however, packs a lot more firepower than most other eight-wheeled armored personnel carriers.
Here’s what the BTR-4 infantry fighting vehicle packs: A 30mm autocannon, up to four anti-tank missiles (either AT-4 Spigot or AT-5 Spandrel), and a coaxial 7.62mm general-purpose machine gun. The vehicle requires a crew of three and can hold eight grunts. It has a top speed of 68 miles per hour and can travel 429 miles on a tank of gas. The BTR-4 was designed with an option to replace two of the AT-4 or AT-5 missiles with a 30mm automatic grenade launcher, like the AGS-17.
There are several variants of the BTR-4, including the MOP-4K, a fire support version, which packs a 120mm main gun. Other variants include a command version, a recovery vehicle, and a medical evacuation vehicle, which clears out some space for medical litters, equipment, and staff.
The BTR-4 has been in service with the Ukrainian military since 2009. It has also seen some export orders to Indonesia, Iraq, and Kazakhstan.
Learn more about the versatile Ukrainian Stryker in the video below! Tell us in the comments, do you like the Stryker, the BTR-4, or another armored wheeled vehicle?
Narrator: Every year, the United States Postal Service takes and delivers 142 billion mailed items. If it needs to go from point A to point B anywhere in the US, the post office can do it. It survived the Civil War, two world wars, the Great Depression, and the upheaval brought by the internet and email.
But it’s currently more than 0 billion in debt, and it’s telling Congress it will run out of cash by September and needs a billion infusion. How did this happen?
The US Postal Service has been delivering mail since before the Declaration of Independence was even signed. In 1775, Benjamin Franklin was appointed postmaster general, and it was Franklin who handled the distribution of letters from Congress to its armies during the Revolutionary War. President George Washington signed the Postal Service Act, which authorized Congress to create the US Postal Service. This established routes and made it illegal to open anyone’s mail.
Clip: What matter if it took two weeks to go from New York to Atlanta, over a month to St. Louis? If the letter from Uncle Ben arrived a day or so later, nobody fussed.
Narrator: In 1823, it started using waterways to deliver mail, then began using railroads. 1847 saw the first issued stamps. And then the famed Pony Express debuted in 1860. In 1896, it began delivering to some rural addresses, meaning residents no longer had to go to the town post office to get their mail. By 1923, all houses were required to have a mail slot. And in 1963, zip codes made their debut.
Clip: What a system! As you can plainly see, just five little numbers, quick as can be.
Narrator: But what really transformed the post office into what we know today? That happened a few years later.
Clip: The post office stands to be swamped, overwhelmed, drowned in a sea of mail. Where do we go from here?
Narrator: In 1967, the postmaster general testified before Congress that the post office was in “a race with catastrophe.” There were all sorts of backlogs, and sorting-room floors were bursting with unsorted mail. Combined with a postal worker strike in March of 1970, led to the Postal Reorganization Act and established the United States Postal Service as we know it today.
Clip: The Post Office Department is leading the search for better ways to process and dispatch mail in the shortest time possible.
Narrator: The act eliminated the post office from the president’s cabinet and made the post office its own federal agency. It was set up more like a corporation than a government agency and had an official monopoly on the delivery of letter mail in the US. It also set up the elimination of the post office’s direct government subsidies, which were completely phased out in 1982. The post office has been operating without any taxpayer money since.
Competition from UPS and FedEx made the post office innovate on its offerings, like introducing express mail. But since its most lucrative service was first-class mail, the USPS didn’t have to worry too much about competing with other companies. In fact, the post office has partnered with both companies in the past, like when it signed a deal in 2000 that contracted its air delivery of first-class, priority, and express mail to FedEx.
So, basically, the USPS was fine. First-class mail volume peaked in 2001 at 103.6 billion pieces of mail. It operated at a loss in the first couple years of the 21st century, but by 2003, it was back to operating at a profit. In fact, from 2003 through 2006, USPS recorded a total .3 billion profit. That all changed at the end of 2006.
Clip: HR 6407, a bill to reform the postal laws of the United States.
Narrator: Enter the Postal Accountability and Enhancement Act, which was passed by the Republican-controlled Congress and signed into law by President George W. Bush. Up until this point, the post office added to and removed from its retiree pension and healthcare accounts on an ongoing basis, putting money in as needed, based on its current retirees. This model is similar to the way many other companies and corporations fund their own healthcare pensions. This act changed all that.
It required the post office to calculate all of its retiree pension and healthcare costs for the next 75 years, including for people it hadn’t even hired yet, and put away enough over the next 10 years to cover them. To put this in perspective, that’d be like you only working from age 18 to 28 and then expecting to live on that income until you were 103 years old.
The timing for this was not ideal, either. Email, texting, and online payments had begun to chip away at the post office’s main business, first-class mail, which had slowly been declining since its 2001 peak. But even that decline wouldn’t put the post office in the negative.
If not for the 75-year pension and healthcare obligation, the USPS would have reported operating profits for the last six years. Once the bill was enacted, USPS had to contribute about .6 billion a year for people who had not yet retired, in addition to the normal amount for current retirees. In 2006, prior to the new bill, this was id=”listicle-2646188290″.6 billion for those who were already retired. In 2007, USPS had to put away 625% more, about billion, to cover both current and future retirees. This gave the post office an annual loss of more than billion for the year.
Additionally, the new bill restricted the post office’s ability to set prices. First-class mail, marketing mail, and other products the post office does not have a large competition for were all tied to the consumer price index, meaning it couldn’t increase rates for those products above the rate of inflation. This has caused various problems, like in 2009, when prices couldn’t be raised at all on those products, because there was no inflation.
The rule has created an environment where packages are the post office’s only profitable area. By 2010, the post office’s overall debt, which was just over billion in 2006, had climbed to billion. It sounded the alarm to Congress multiple times and was also the subject of a 2018 Trump administration report saying the pension obligation should be restructured. But nothing changed. In its most recent annual report, the post office said it had incurred almost billion in losses from 2007 to 2019. It couldn’t afford to make any payments into the fund from 2012 to 2016 and now owes about billion related to its future pension and health benefit obligations.
Which brings us to today. As with many other industries, the coronavirus has taken its toll on the post office. First-class and marketing mail have plummeted, and the post office expects a billion decline in revenue. The postmaster general has told Congress she expects the USPS to be completely out of cash by September. This would make it unable to pay its employees and could quickly cause disaster in mail delivery across the country, especially in rural areas not serviced by UPS and FedEx. So, can it be saved?
The post office is now asking Congress for a billion cash infusion along with a billion loan. The initial bailout bill Congress passed in March provided billion for the post office, far less than the billion the organization was seeking in the bill. However, President Trump threatened to veto any bill that bailed out the post office, so the bill was changed before signing to a billion loan, 13% of the billion it had originally asked for and another billion to add to its debt.
And then, in early May, Trump appointed Louis DeJoy the new postmaster general, and he will take the reins of the organization on June 15. Unlike the last three postmaster generals, DeJoy is not a career employee; he is a large GOP donor and the former CEO of a logistics company. Democrats and ethics watchdogs see the appointment as purely political, not just because of Trump’s desire to reshape the post office, but also because millions of Americans may be forced to vote by mail this year, which means the future of the post office is likely to become a political issue this spring and summer, especially if its cash flow starts running dry.
And those at risk? The 497,000 Americans who rely on the USPS for their jobs, and the 329 million Americans who rely on it for paying bills, medication, and everything else the USPS delivers through rain, sleet, snow, and even pandemics.
The F-111 Aardvark didn’t have a lot of air-to-air kills – it just wasn’t designed to be in aerial combat. It was a supersonic nuclear bomber and recon plane. But a fighter it was not. What it did have was an electronic warfare variant that could help the Air Force control the skies in a particular battlespace. Unlike their combat-ready counterparts, these EF-111A Ravens didn’t have defenses if they were attacked in the air.
So when the unarmed variant scored the only aerial kills in the history of the F-111, it was a memorable occasion.
Normally, it’s just dropping bombs. Not this time.
(U.S. Air Force)
When the United States and its coalition allies launched Operation Desert Storm in 1991, it’s safe to say it took Saddam Hussein’s Iraqi Army and Air Force by surprise. The opening minutes surprised a lot of people, and no one more so than USAF pilot James Denton and Electronic Warfare Officer Brent Brandon – as well as the Iraqi Mirage pilot who was trying to shoot their two-seater EF-111A down.
The EF-111A Raven came under attack from an Iraqi Dassault Mirage Fighter in the first minutes of Desert Storm, Jan. 17, 1991. This was troubling for many reasons, most notably because the EF variant of the F-111 didn’t have any means of protecting itself – it wasn’t supposed to be an aerial fighter. But that was going to change, for at least this one and only time.
The EF-111A Raven variant.
(U.S. Air Force)
For the Iraqi, the EF-111A was a great target of opportunity. He had just evaded an F-15C and managed to enter through the screen of F-15 and F-16 fighters that were supposed to be escorting the EF-111A. The Iraqi attempted to shoot the Raven down with missiles, but well-timed chaff and flares took care of the enemy incoming. When missiles didn’t work, the Mirage switched to guns. Brandon switched from countermeasures to piloting skills.
The EF-111A was originally flying just 1,000 feet above the desert floor, so Denton decided to take it lower and use the plane’s terrain-following radar to stay above the desert and not fly into the ground. The Iraqi pilot wasn’t so lucky. As Denton and Brandon tag-teamed their way above the terrain, Denton saw his opportunity, banking hard into a climb that took him well above the desert. The Iraqi, so focused on his target and not the dark terrain below, slammed hard into the ground, exploding into a fireball that lit up the night.
It was the first F-111 aerial kill in the airframe’s history. It would end up being the only aerial kill for the F-111, and it was done without so much as a weapon fired from the American plane.
Whenever the Pentagon sends troops abroad it’s about demonstrating resolve, reassuring allies or confronting potential opponents – or some combination of all three. But for the A-10 Warthogs and their crews in the Philippines, their biggest message might be one for critics back home.
On April 16, the U.S. Air Force announced that four of the venerable ground attack jets would remain in the Philippines after taking part in the annual Balikatan training exercises with Manila’s forces. Three HH-60G Pave Hawk rescue helicopters and an MC-130H Combat Talon II tanker would round out the new air contingent at Clark Air Base.
“The Air Contingent will remain in place as long as both the Philippines and the United States deem necessary,” MSgt. Matthew McGovern, the Operations Division Manager for the Pacific Air Force’s public affairs office, told We Are the Mighty in an email. “Our aircraft, flying in and around the South China Sea, are flying within international airspace and are simply demonstrating freedom of navigation in these areas.”
The deployment at Clark is one part of a deal between Washington and Manila called the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement. Signed on April 28, 2014, the arrangement opened a number of Philippine military bases to American troops and outlined plans for increased cooperation between the two countries’ armed forces.
The EDCA would “help strengthen our 65-year-old alliance, and deepen our military-to-military cooperation at a time of great change in the Asia-Pacific,” Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter told reporters during a visit to the Philippines on April 14. “In the South China Sea, China’s actions in particular are causing anxiety and raising regional tensions.”
As Carter noted, Beijing’s ambitions in the South China Sea is the major concern for the Philippines and its neighbors in Southeast Asia. Effectively claiming the entire body of water as its sovereign territory, China policy has brought it near close to skirmishing with Manila’s ships.
In 2012, the Philippines found itself in a particularly embarrassing stand-off with unarmed Chinese “marine surveillance” ships near the disputed Scarborough Shoal, less than 250 miles west of Manila. While Beijing’s vessels ultimately withdrew, they blocked the BRP Gregorio Del Pilar – an ex-U.S. Coast Guard cutter and the largest ship then in the Philippine Navy – from moving into arrest Chinese fishermen.
Since then, Chinese authorities have used their dominant position to harass Philippine fishermen in the area. More importantly, Beijing began building a series of man-made islands – complete with air defenses, ballistic missile sites and runways able to support fighter jets and bombers – throughout the South China Sea to help enforce its claims.
“Countries across the Asia-Pacific are voicing concern with China’s land reclamation, which stands out in size and scope, as well as its militarization in the South China Sea,” Carter added in his comments in Manila. “We’re continuing to fly, sail and operate wherever international law allows.”
So, it’s no surprise that the A-10’s first mission was a show of force over the Scarborough Shoal, which China refers to as Huangyan Island and claims as its own. With plans to develop the narrow strip of land into a tourist destination, Beijing was incensed to see the Warthogs fly by.
“This threatens the sovereignty and national security of the relevant coastal states, as well as the regional peace and stability,” the Chinese Ministry of Defense said in a statement according to People’s Daily, an official organ of the country’s Communist Party. “We must express our concern and protest towards it.”
Though originally built to blast hordes of Soviet tanks in Europe, the blunt nosed attackers are a threat to small warships and other surface targets. The aircraft’s main armament is a single, massive 30-millimeter cannon that can fire up to 70 shells per second.
On top of that, the straight-winged planes can carry precision laser- and GPS-guided bombs and missiles. On March 28, 2011, Warthogs showed off their maritime skills when they destroyed two Libyan patrol craft during the international air campaign against the country’s long time dictator Muammar Gaddafi.
After the Pentagon announced the Warthog would stay in the Philippines, the Air Force released shots of the jets sitting at Clark, each loaded with targeting pods, training versions of the AGM-65 Maverick air-to-ground missile and an AIM-9 Sidewinder short-range air-to-air missile. Northrop Grumman’s LITENING pod has a laser designator and a powerful infrared camera that can also double as a surveillance system if necessary.
Over Scarborough, the A-10s sported a LITENING on the right wing and an AN/ALQ-184 electronic jamming pod on the left. All four Warthogs, along with two of the Pave Hawks, went out for the initial maritime patrol.
But the Warthogs made an even bigger statement just by flying the mission at all – and not to officials in Beijing, but to critics back home. The deployment comes as the Air Force continues to move forward with plans to retire the low- and slow-flying planes without a clear replacement available.
To hear the flying branch tell it, the aircraft are inflexible, dated Cold Warriors unable to survive over the modern battlefield. Unlike multi-role fighter bombers like the F-16 or up-coming, but troublesome F-35, the A-10 is only good at one thing: close air support for troops on the ground.
The A-10 “is a 40-year-old single-purpose airplane,” then Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel said in February 2014. “There’s only so much you can get out of that airplane,” Air Force Gen. Herbert Carlisle, chief of Air Combat Command, declared more than a year later.
The Warthogs’ trip to the Philippines stands in stark contrast to these claims. According to the Air Force itself, the A-10s and HH-60s will fly missions providing air and maritime domain awareness and personnel recovery, combating piracy and otherwise keeping anyone from denying access to “the global commons” in the South China Sea.
The flying branch didn’t randomly pick the A-10 for the job either. “Selecting the A-10C and HH-60Gs for this mission was strategically and economically the right decision,” Brig. Gen. Dirk Smith, PACAF’s director of air and cyberspace operations, told Air Force reporters after the detachment stood up at Clark.
“PACAF considered multiple options for what aircraft to use, however, the A-10Cs were the right choice for a number of reasons,” McGovern explained further. “A-10Cs also have a proven record operating out of short and austere airstrips, provide a flexible range of capabilities, and have a mission profile consistent with the air and maritime domain awareness operations the air contingent will conduct.”
The Warthog’s ability to stay airborne for long periods of time was another point in its favor. Of course, the fact that the jets were already in the Philippines for Balikatan didn’t hurt.
Still, the A-10 is cheap to operate in general. Compared to around $20,000 per flying hour for the F-16 or more three times that amount for bombers like the B-1 and B-52, the Air Force has to spend less than $20,000 for every hour a Warthog is in the air.
“With a relatively small investment we were able to deepen our ties with our Philippine allies and strengthen our relationship,” McGovern added. “The aircraft involved in subsequent deployments will be tailored to airfield capability and capacity and desired objectives.”
In February, the Air Force announced plans to start retiring the A-10s by 2017 and have the entire fleet gone by the end of 2022. Hopefully deployments like the one to the Philippines will show both the Chinese and the Pentagon that the Warthogs still have a lot of fight left in them.
The new Veterans Affairs chief shares the goal set by former President Barack Obama’s administration of ending homelessness among veterans, but says it’ll take longer than his predecessor predicted.
Reducing the number of homeless veterans nationwide from roughly 40,000 to 10,000 or 15,000 is an “achievable goal” for President Donald Trump’s administration, VA Secretary David Shulkin told The Associated Press during a visit to Rhode Island on Friday.
“This is a continuous problem of people finding themselves in economically difficult situations and then being out on the street or going from shelter to shelter,” Shulkin said.
Homelessness among veterans has been effectively ended in Virginia, Connecticut and Delaware and in more than 40 communities. The outgoing head of the VA, Robert McDonald, said in January that “we should be there” nationwide within a couple of years.
Shulkin, who formerly was VA undersecretary of health under Obama, said on Friday, “We’re still looking at a multi-year process.”
While advocates are encouraged to hear Shulkin’s commitment, some wish he was more ambitious.
“My personal take is, the VA secretary is being cautiously optimistic about what can be achieved and not wanting to kind of set the administration up for a missed goal,” said Lisa Vukov, who works to prevent and end homelessness in the Omaha, Nebraska, metropolitan area. “I’m a firm believer in setting your goals big because you achieve more that way.”
U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal, a Connecticut Democrat, said veteran homelessness can be ended during the Trump administration.
“There’s no reason we can’t achieve it if enough resources are dedicated to the fight,” said Blumenthal, a member of the Senate Committee on Veterans’ Affairs.
Shulkin said some veterans offered housing by the VA prefer other alternatives and high real estate prices and a shortage of available housing in some parts of the country make it hard to house veterans there. He sees the biggest challenge in Los Angeles.
Democratic Mayor Eric Garcetti said homelessness in Los Angeles is a long-term crisis, but the city has housed more than 8,000 veterans since 2014 and he’s fighting to ensure all veterans have a safe place to call home. Los Angeles voters approved a bond in November to raise $1.2 billion for up to 10,000 permanent units.
Navy veteran Chris N. Cardenas said there are some veterans who refuse help or have trouble accessing benefits because of mental illness or substance abuse issues, but 40,000 homeless veterans is far too many.
“That’s a very high number,” Cardenas said. “It can get down to zero for the ones that want the help.”
Cardenas, 52, said he stopped working as a deliveryman in Santa Fe because of problems with his right knee in 2013 and became homeless after he used up his savings. He moved into an apartment in the Santa Fe area in 2016 with the help of a VA grant program and is now a student at the University of New Mexico-Los Alamos.
“I’m at a loss for words because it’s so great,” he said. “It makes you feel like a functioning person in society.”
To get homeless veterans into permanent homes, the Obama administration used a program that was created in 2008 and combines rental assistance from the Department of Housing and Urban Development with case management and clinical services from the VA, so-called HUD-VASH vouchers. Some areas of the country currently have a waiting list for a voucher, including Los Angeles.
While programs for helping homeless veterans received funding increases in fiscal 2017, there’s less money for new HUD-VASH vouchers. There’s $40 million available, compared to $60 million for new HUD-VASH vouchers in 2016 and $75 million in 2015, according to HUD.
“We urge the VA to prioritize finishing the job and I have absolute confidence the new secretary has that commitment,” said Chris Ko, director of homeless initiatives for the United Way of Greater Los Angeles. “We need to see that commitment exercised in additional federal resources.”
Shulkin said he’s committed to maintaining the voucher program and continuing strategies that are working, such as housing people first and then pointing them toward help to confront the root cause of their homelessness.
Multiple media outlets are reporting that the largest non-nuclear bomb in the United States arsenal has made its combat debut.
According to a report by CNN, the GBU-43 Massive Ordnance Air Blast, also called the Mother of All Bombs, was used to hit a cave and tunnel complex used by the Afghanistan affiliate of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria in Nangarhar Province, Afghanistan.
Designation-Systems.net notes that the GBU-43 weighs 21,700 pounds – almost 11 tons – which includes 18,700 pounds of high explosive. It has a 40-inch diameter and is 30 feet long. The bomb is often used by the MC-130, a special operations variant of the C-130 Hercules.
One DOD official told FoxNews.com, “We kicked it out the back door.”
The GBU-43’s GPS guidance allows it to be dropped from high altitudes from as far as three miles away – out of the reach of some air defenses, and also allowing planes to avoid being caught in the bomb’s blast radius. The London Daily Mail noted that the bomb can leave a crater almost a thousand feet wide.
The GBU-43 replaced the BLU-82 Daisy Cutter, a Vietnam-era bomb that weighed in at 15,000 pounds, and saw action in the Vietnam War, Desert Storm, and Operation Enduring Freedom, with a similar delivery method. Designation-Systems.net notes that the bomb’s explosive was 12,600 pounds of a mixture of ammonium nitrate, polystyrene, and aluminum powder. The last BLU-82 was dropped in 2008.
CLEVELAND, Ohio — The Republican National Convention started here Monday tapping into the ill-ease of the American public in the wake of terrorist attacks across the globe and domestic unrest. The theme for the first of four days was “Make America Safe Again,” a play on Donald Trump’s “Make America Great Again” tagline that he’s used from the beginning of his current run for president.
The prime time slate of speakers who took the stage at the Quicken Loans Arena started with Willie Robertson, one of the stars of the “Duck Dynasty” reality show, and television actor Scott Biao. They were followed by the first veteran in the lineup, former SEAL Marcus Luttrell, author of Lone Survivor.
Luttrell started his remarks by stating that he was born into a patriotic family that taught him “to die for any woman and to fight beside any man.” He said his father, who served in Vietnam, was “shamed out of his uniform” but instilled in his sons to “love this country and its people more than we loved ourselves.”
Luttrell was followed by Patricia Smith, the mother of Sean Smith, one of the four Americans killed during the attack on the consulate in Benghazi in 2012. “For all of this loss, for all of this grief, for all of the cynicism the tragedy in Benghazi has wrought upon America, I blame Hillary Clinton,” she said, which elicited a passionate response from the delegates on the convention floor, many of whom launched into a “lock her up” chant.
The topic of Clinton’s responsibility for the failure and tragedy of Benghazi continued with Mark Geist and John Teigen, two security contractors who fought off the attacks that night. The two men, who helped write 13 Hours, a book criticizing the State Department’s response to the attacks that was made into a Michael Bay movie last year, offered the crowd a lengthy, machismo-infused version of their experiences that night and left no doubt that they believe the lives of their comrades were lost because of the inaction of then-Sec. Clinton.
Arkansas Sen. Tom Cotton, a U.S. Army veteran who served in both Iraq and Afghanistan as a platoon leader with the 101st Airborne Division, jabbed at President Obama’s unwillingness to use the term “fundamentalist Islamic terrorist” when referring to ISIS and the associated network of lone wolves, saying that if Donald Trump was made commander-in-chief he would “call the enemy by its name.”
The energy in the building shifted into the next gear as former New York City mayor Rudy Giuliani took the stage and proclaimed that “the vast majority of Americans today do not feel safe. They fear for their children; they fear for themselves; they fear for our police officers who are being targeted, with a target on their back.”
Giuliani also hit Obama for his apparent reticence around labeling the terrorist threat in religious terms, saying, “Failing to identify them properly maligns all those good Muslims around the world who are being killed by them. They are killing more Muslims than anyone else.”
The lights faded to black as Giuliani left the stage, and the classic Queen hit “We are the Champions” boomed through the PA system. Donald Trump appeared as a backlit silhouette, and when the lights came back on he stepped to the podium and announced, “We are going to win so big,” and then introduced his wife Melania, who was the keynote speaker for the evening.
Mrs. Trump’s remarks, delivered with her heavy Eastern European accent, hit a number of general themes, including the fact that she was an immigrant who went through the naturalization process and became a citizen in 2006 and that her husband wasn’t one to give up on anything in life. (Media pundits were quick to point out that parts of her speech mirrored one given by First Lady Michelle Obama at the DNC in Denver in 2008, an accusation that Trump allies dismissed. “There’s no way that Melania Trump was plagiarizing Michelle Obama’s speech,” New Jersey Gov. and Trump proxy Chris Christie said.)
Donald Trump retook the stage at the end of his wife’s speech, and the two walked off to raucous applause from the delegates and other faithful in attendance. And, in what has to be viewed as a case of bad showmanship planning by either the RNC or the Trump team, retired Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn, former head of the Defense Intelligence Agency and a vocal critic of the Obama administration in spite of the fact that he’s a registered Democrat, walked to the podium to speak as a large majority of the audience streamed for the exits, assuming they’d seen the most important part of the program.
“The destructive pattern of putting the interests of other nations ahead of our own will end when Donald Trump is president,” Flynn said. “From this day forward, we must stand tougher and stronger together, with an unrelenting goal to not draw red lines and then retreat and to never be satisfied with reckless rhetoric from an Obama clone like Hillary Clinton.”
Flynn was followed Iowa Sen. Joni Ernst, another Army veteran, who told the dwindling crowd, “Our allies see us shrinking from our place as a leader in the world as we have failed time and again to address threats. They are looking for American leaders who are willing to stand up and say ‘enough is enough.'”
And by the time Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick brought the first day’s proceedings to a close, Quicken Loans Arena was nearly empty.
Snipers specialize in taking out enemy personnel from well beyond the average grunt’s range. Lately, due to advances in technology and an amazing degree of skill, the distances from which snipers are scoring kills are getting longer and longer. In 1967, Carlos Hathcock set a record, recording a kill from 2,500 yards using a modified M2 heavy machine gun. But in the War on Terror, four snipers proceeded to shatter the record set by “White Feather” Hathcock.
Of those four record-snapping snipers, three of them (Master Corporal Arron Perry, Corporal Rob Furlong, and an unidentified member of Combined Joint Task Force 2) used the same rifle: The McMillan Tac-50. This gun is chambered for the .50 BMG round — the same round used by the legendary Ma Deuce.
The McMillan Tac-50.
According to the manufacturer, the Tac-50 uses a five-round detachable box magazine. The rifle has a 29-inch, match-grade, free-floating, hand-lapped, and fluted barrel. Most versions of the rifle are equipped with a bipod to provide a fixed length of pull. The rifle comes in one of five finishes: black, olive, gray, tan, or dark earth.
So, how did a cartridge full of .50 BMG, a caliber once used to kill tanks and aircraft, end up on sniper rifles? The answer lies in the round. All three of the McMillan Tac-50 snipers used the Hornaday A-Max match-grade bullet. In .50 BMG, this bullet weighs barely 750 grains — or about 1.7 ounces — meaning it can be flung amazing distances.
The Hornaday A-Max in .50 BMG. The bullet from this round comes in at 1.7 ounces.
Here’s something else interesting: There’s a civilian version of this rifle available for sale. Yes, it’ll have to be shipped to your local Federal Firearms License-holder and you’ll have to go through a background check, but this long-range shooter is available. You can also get the Hornaday rounds as well.
One thing is for certain: It would be fascinating to see what Hathcock could’ve done with this rifle.