Believe it or not, during the Cold War the British had a number of real carriers, not just the V/STOL carriers that have served for years.
These vessels were primarily a mix of two post-World War II classes: The Audacious-class fleet carriers (HMS Eagle and HMS Ark Royal), one World War II-era fleet carrier (HMS Victorious), and the Centaur-class light carriers.
One of the planes that the fleet carriers relied on most was the Blackburn Buccaneer. According to MilitaryFactory.com, this strike plane was fast (a top speed of 667 miles per hour), was equipped with an in-flight refueling probe, and could fly up to 1,108 miles on internal fuel. It could carry up to 7,000 pounds of bombs, and upgrades gave it the ability to use laser-guided Paveway bombs and stand-off missiles.
The Buccaneer also was equipped with the Martel air-to-surface missile which came in two variants — the AS 37 for attacking enemy radars, and the AJ 168 anti-ship version. Either version had a range of just over 32 nautical miles and came with a 330-pound warhead. The Buccaneer later was able to carry the Sea Eagle anti-ship missile, which had a range of just under 60 nautical miles.
The Buccaneer flew off the Royal Navy’s fleet carriers until 1978, when the Ark Royal was retired. They were then handed over to the Royal Air Force, where a dozen saw action during Operation Desert Storm, providing laser guidance for RAF Tornados and Jaguars. The RAF retired its Buccaneers in 1991 at the end of Desert Storm.
The only export customer was the Republic of South Africa, which acquired 16 Buccaneers. These planes saw action from 1965 to 1991 in the minor wars that country had with its neighbors.
The Buccaneer is now gone, but it served well when it was in the British fleet.
You can see a video about this fascinating plane below.
In August, 1914, British troops were in full retreat from the World War I Battle of Mons in Northern France. The Germans chasing them were far greater in number, and the men were desperate. In a turn of good luck, they happened to pass a celebrated old battle site that turned the tide of their retreat, in an almost supernatural way – and that’s exactly how it was remembered.
The Battle of Mons went as well for the Brits as could be expected. It was the first test of the British Expeditionary Force in continental Europe. They fought hard, and the Germans paid dearly for their advance. But the French Fifth Army gave way to the Germans, and the British could not hold the line on their own. An orderly battle turned into a two-week rout that would end with the epic Battle of the Marne – but not unless the BEF could escape the oncoming Germans. They retreated south as orderly as possible.
On their way, they passed the site of the famous medieval Battle of Agincourt, where King Henry V’s English longbowmen devastated a French Army that outnumbered the English with estimates as high as 6-to-1. The retreating British troops of 1914 were on the run from a numerically superior German force when legend says a British soldier said a prayer to Saint George that changed the outcome of their retreat.
St. George, the Christian dragon slayer.
George was a Roman Praetorian Guard for Emperor Diocletian, and was executed for not recanting his professed Christian faith centuries before the emperor converted the empire to Christianity. He is probably the most prominent of all soldier-saints. So, when a retreating British soldier asked St. George for help, it makes sense for the men of the retreating army to believe he may have intervened when the Germans suddenly broke off their pursuit.
After the battle, men present during the fighting chalked the sudden turn of events up to a number of supernatural explanations, each more awe-inspiring than the next. In the most prevalent retelling, the prayer to St. George caused an army of spectral English bowmen to appear, which both frightened and slaughtered the pursuing Germans.
Looks like St. George needs to train his angels a bit.
The claims of the English soldiers were grounded by a fictional short story called “The Bowmen” written by Arthur Machen after the battle. In the book, angelic archers appear after a British soldier prays for help from St. George. Led by the patron saint of England, a thousand archers appeared and mowed down the enemy. Afterward, the German generals determined the BEF must be using a new gas weapon, as there were no wounds on the dead German troops.
Machen’s story was a fabrication, of course, based on a different story by Rudyard Kipling. That one was set in Afghanistan. But veterans of the Battle of Mons soon began to claim they were eyewitness to the spectral event. In each retelling, the story changes: German soldiers are found with arrow wounds, the ghost army was actually a team of angels in the form of medieval knights and led by St. George, or the BEF was able to retreat into a wall of clouds.
World War I Ex Machina.
The Angels of Mons very quickly entered the lore and legends of the First World War, joined there by stories of ghouls living in No Man’s Land, crucified Canadian soldiers, and the end of the war by Christmas.
As the initial results were seen of Germany’s invasion of the Soviet Union on June 22 1941, observers around the world had every reason to believe that Germany was on a course to win the war and become one of the most powerful nations in all of history.
Four million men crossed the border into the Soviet Union during the invasion and quickly claimed large swaths of territory and inflicted heavy casualties on the Soviet Union. By the end of the summer, the Wehrmacht had swept through the Baltic states, the Soviet portion of Poland, and the western half of Ukraine. German forces had made their way to Moscow by October before the bitter cold set in and Soviet General Zhukov could organize a successful defense of the city.
The following spring, Hitler devised a new offensive in the East that would target the oil fields of southern Russia and capture the city of Stalingrad on the Volga river. Capturing the city would disrupt supply routes along the Volga and allow German forces to turn north and once again encircle Moscow. The Soviets were no less determined to defend the city as an important industrial and transportation center and a psychologically important city that bore the name of the Soviet Premiere.
In September 1943, German forces entered Stalingrad, which provoked fierce house by house and street by street fighting. The brutality of the fighting is difficult to even imagine. 1.1 million Soviet soldiers became casualties, along with another 800,000 Axis fighters. But beyond the gruesome statistics, the battle for Stalingrad was the psychological turning point of all of the Second World War.
According to British historian Antony Beevor, Soviet soldiers shouted to German Prisoners of War after they had been captured, “This is how Berlin is going to look!” Advances to the east by German soldiers were about to be replaced with Soviet marches westward and no intelligent German believed that they could ever win a war of attrition, which is what Stalingrad became.
The fighting was also romanticized almost immediately. First, by the Soviet propaganda machine and later by Hollywood, which produced films like Enemy at the Gates. The center of the fighting is now strewn with monuments celebrating Communism’s great victory over Fascism.
The real legacy of Stalingrad, however, was the wasted lives of so many young men (and women). Germany did not need to make Stalingrad a city of vital strategic importance. The main aim of the campaign was the capture of oil fields in the caucuses. That could have been achieved without taking Stalingrad. Hitler directly intervened to overrule his Generals, who were about to withdraw from Stalingrad to capture targets further south en route to the Baku oil fields. Hitler’s primary aim was the propaganda value of the city.
Soviet preparedness for war was one of the primary reasons why Germany was able to so effectively fight the Red Army in the opening months of the war. Stalin had only recently purged the armed forces of needed officers out of a desire to further consolidate his power. Zhukov was spared but later said he always kept an emergency bag packed in case a knock on the door arrived. Had he been purged, it seems likely the Soviet Union would not have been able to win the war.
Stalingrad was ultimately a microcosm of the broader war in the east: a war of ugliness, cruelty, hatred, racism, misogyny, rape, and plunder. It is a leading candidate for the most brutal war ever fought.
Of course, some very important military principles were either learned or reinforced through Stalingrad. Military leaders must be cautious in spreading their troops too thinly, soldiers and civilians in a fight for their own country will often prove more motivated and willing to expend themselves, and that guerrilla warfare is a completely different matter than conventional warfare.
But, the symbolism of Stalingrad does continue to live on in more inspiring ways than simple cruelty due to the clashing egos of two very powerful men. It really did change the course of history and involved ordinary men and women, in addition to professional soldiers, fighting for their very lives. Today, in Volgograd, there are echoes of the conflict still, as the descendants of those fighters continue on in the legacy left for them.
It’s a signal that the effort to kill the A-10 is dead, instead of the A-10 itself – which is what usually happens to anything trying to kill the A-10 Warthog. After trying to bury the plane for nearly a decade, the Air Force has not only finished refitting some of its old A-10 Thunderbolt II airframes, the branch has decided to expand the effort to more planes. The re-wing projects will cover 27 more of the Warthogs through 2030.
So the Marines can expect excellent close-air support for the foreseeable future.
“Hey Taliban, what rhymes with hurt? BRRRRRT.”
The news comes after the Air Force finished re-winging 173 A-10s in August 2019 when the Air Force awarded a 0 million contract to Boeing to expand the re-winging effort to include more planes. Even as the battle over the future of the airframe raged on in the Air Force, at the Pentagon, and in Congress, the A-10s were undergoing their re-winging process, one that first began in 2011. Ever since, the Air Force has tried to save money by using the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter for close-air-support missions or even giving that role to older, less powerful planes like the Embraer Super Tucano.
Despite its heavy use in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and the fact that the airframe is beloved by warfighters on the ground, the Air Force effort to retire the plane stems from the perception that close-air-support missions can be done better and with less risk to the plane and pilot by higher-flying, more advanced aircraft like the F-35.
Talk BRRRRRT-y to me.
The A-10 was first developed in the 1970s, at the height of the Cold War, to bust tanks and provide the kind of cover artillery might otherwise give, but with a faster, more mobile, and efficient delivery. A slow flyer, the A-10 is a kind of flying tank. But it’s more than an aircraft built around a gun (the GAU-8 Avenger fires so powerfully, it actually slows the A-10 down) the Thunderbolt II features armor, redundant systems, and a unique engine placement that makes it a difficult threat against most conventional anti-air defenses.
The Air Force’s main reason for getting rid of it was that the Thunderbolt II isn’t suitable for modern battlespaces and that most of its missions could be done by the new F-35 Joint Strike Fighter. The new re-winging effort is a signal that fight is likely to be over and that the Air Force’s close-air support mission is a much bigger deal than previously expected.
While some may question why the A-10 is getting an extended life when the F-35 can supposedly fill that role, the guys on the ground will tell you it’s all about the BRRRRRT – they live and die by it, sometimes literally.
As you may have heard, the legendary T-38 Talon, which has been in service since 1961, is slated for replacement. GlobalSecurity.org notes that the T-X competition has apparently come down to a fight between Boeing and Saab on the one hand, and Lockheed and Korea Aerospace Industries on the other.
The Lockheed/KAI entry is the T-50A, a derivative of the South Korean T-50 “Golden Eagle.” According to Aeroflight.co.uk, KAI based the T-50 on the F-16, leveraging its experience building KF-16 Fighting Falcons under license from Lockheed. The result was a plane that has actually helped increase the readiness of South Korea’s air force, largely by reducing wear and tear on the F-16 fleet.
FlightGlobal.com notes that South Korea already has about 100 T-50 variants in service. The plane is also in service with Iraq, Indonesia, and the Philippines, plus an export order from Thailand. The plane also comes in variants that include lead-in fighter trainer and a multi-role fighter (A-50 and FA-50).
According to GlobalSecurity.org, the T-50 has a range of 1,150 miles, a top speed of Mach 1.53, and can carry a variety of weapons on seven hardpoints, including AIM-9 Sidewinders on the wingtips, AGM-65 Mavericks, cluster bombs, rocket pods, and it also has a 20mm M61 cannon. The plane is equipped with an APG-67 radar as well.
The T-X contract is big, with at least 450 planes to be purchased by the Air Force to replace 546 T-38s. But with how many countries that have the F-16 or will have the F-35 in their inventory, the contract could be much, much more.
So, take a look at what it is like to fly the T-50A.
Army and industry weapons developers are working with the Defense Advanced Research Project Agency to explore the feasibility of precision-guided rounds for a man-portable, anti-personnel and anti-armor weapon known as the Carl Gustaf, officials said.
Current innovations involve a cutting-edge technology program, called Massive Overmatch Assault Round or MOAR, aimed at exploring the prospect of precision guided rounds for the weapon.
While the shoulder-fired infantry and Special Operations weapon currently uses multiple rounds and advanced targeting technologies, using a precision “guided” round would enable the weapon to better destroy enemy targets on the move by having the technology to re-direct with advanced seeker technology.
“We are exploring different kinds of seekers to pursue precision engagement capabilities,” Malcolm Arvidsson, Product Director, Carl-Gustaf M4, Saab, told Scout Warrior in an interview.
The weapon, called the Multi-Role Anti-Armor, Anti-Personnel Weapons System, known as the Carl-Gustaf, was initially used by Special Operations Forces. Several years ago, it was ordered by the Army in response to an Operational Needs Statement from Afghanistan.
These innovations are still in early conceptual, research and testing phases. However, they are being pursued alongside a current Army effort to acquire an upgraded 84mm recoilless shoulder-fired Carl Gustaf weapon able to travel with dismounted infantry and destroy tanks, armored vehicles, groups of enemy fighters and even targets behind walls, Army and industry officials said.
Acquisition efforts for the weapon began when the Army was seeking to procure a direct fire, man-portable, anti-personnel and light structure weapon able, among other things, to respond to insurgent rocket-propelled grenade, or RPG, fire, service officials said.
The Carl Gustaf get its name from the Swedish weapons production factory known as Carl Gustafs Stads Gevärsfaktori (“Rifle Factory of Carl Gustaf’s town”). | US Army photo
Designed to be lighter weight and more infantry-portable that a Javelin anti-tank missile, the Carl Gustaf is built to help maneuvering ground units attack a wide range of targets out to as far as 1,300 meters; its target set includes buildings, armored vehicles and enemy fighters in defilade hiding behind rocks or trees.
Following the weapon’s performance in Afghanistan with soldiers, Army weapons developers moved the weapon into a formal “program of record” and began to pursue an upgrade to the Carl Gustaf to include lighter weight materials such as titanium, Arvidsson said.
The upgraded M4 Carl-Gustaf, introduced in 2014, shortens the length and lowers the weight of the weapon to 15 pounds from the 22-pound previous M3 variant, he said. The first M3 variant of the weapon was introduced in the early 1990s.
“We use a steel that is half the weight and half the density. For the barrel, we have improved the lining pattern and added a more efficient carbon fiber wrapping,” Arvidsson added.
The lighter weight weapon is, in many ways, ideal for counterinsurgency forces on the move on foot or in light vehicles in search of small groups of enemy fighters – one possible reason it was urgently requested for the mountainous Afghanistan where dismounted soldiers often traverse high-altitude, rigorous terrain.
At the same time, the anti-armor function of the weapon would enable infantry brigade combat teams to attack enemy vehicles in a mechanized, force-on-force kind of engagement.
The Carl-Gustaf is engineered with multipurpose rounds that can be used against armored vehicles and soft targets behind the walls. There are also pure anti-structure rounds to go through thick walls to defeat the targets behind a wall, Army and Saab developers explained.
The weapon fires High-Explosive air burst rounds, close combat rounds, and then the general support rounds, like the smoke and battlefield elimination, developers said.
Airburst rounds use programmable fuse to explode in the air at a precise location, thereby maximizing the weapon’s effect against enemy targets hiding, for example, behind a rock, tree or building.
Air burst rounds can detonate in the air or in general proximity to a target. For instance, an airburst round could explode just above an enemy fighter seeking cover behind a rock or wall.
“I want to penetrate the target. I want to kill a light armored vehicle. I want to kill a structure. I want to kill somebody behind the structure. With the gun, soldiers can decide how to affect the targets. Really, that’s what the Carl-Gustaf brings to the battlefield is the ability to decide how they want to affect the battlefield — not call in air support and mark targets,” Wes Walters, Executive Vice President of Business Development, Land Domain, Saab North America, told Scout Warrior in an interview.
The Army is evaluating a wide range of new technologies for its newer M4 variant to include electro-optical sights with a thermal imager, magnification sights of durable-optical sights, Saab officials explained.
Sensors and sights on the weapon can use advanced computer algorithms to account for a variety of environmental conditions known to impact the trajectory or flight of a round. These factors include the propellant temperature, atmospheric conditions, biometric pressure and terrain inclination,
“There are a number of parameters that the sight can actually calculate to give you a much harder first round probability of hit,” Walters said.
Some weapons use a laser rangefinder which calculates the distance of an enemy object by computer algorithms combing the speed of light with the length of travel – to determine distance.
In the early days of mass produced, bottled beer, a good rule of thumb was that any beer in a clear glass bottle was probably not worth drinking. Back then, beers like Miller High Life, Corona and other common favorites would have been shunned.
What would people in the Midwest pour into their frozen margaritas on Cinco de Mayo if clear glass-bottled beer were still as awful as it was way back when?
The simple reason for this is that brown bottles keep the beer fresher for a longer period of time. When beer first started being delivered in bottles in the early 1800s, clear glass was used, but these beers became real stanky real fast when stored in any kind of sunlight.
Like putting a good pair of sunglasses on in summertime, beer makers began using brown glass to keep their loyal customers from experiencing a pandemic of bitter beer face. The brown glass did a better job of blocking out the sun’s ultraviolet rays.
In the beer-making industry, the term for a beer turned skunky by ultraviolet light is “lightstruck,” and it happens because of the same ingredient in beer that makes that IPA you love you so bitter, the hops. When light hits the hops, even though they’ve been boiled beyond recognition, it creates a chemical reaction.
This reaction, which is actually a series of reactions, creates a substance in the beer which is molecularly similar to a skunk’s self-defense mechanism. That’s why it tastes and smells just like it: because it basically is.
Any beer can get lightstruck, whether it comes from a brown bottle, a can, or a tap. The only necessary ingredients are the hops and some light. If you pour any beer into a clear glass, open or closed, and let the sunlight in, it’s going to turn skunk.
Until World War II, the world of beer brewing got along just fine with the new and improved brown glass (even during Prohibition in the United States, beer still came in brown glass bottles). But when the war broke out and everything suddenly became rationed for the war effort, brown glass became a hot commodity.
Like many commodities during World War II, brown glass became hard to come by and much too expensive to use in mass producing something like beer. Brewers still needed to keep their beer fresh. After the end of Prohibition and the start of a world war, we needed a good beer. Emphasis on good.
Brown glass is made by using sulfur, carbon and iron salts in glass production. Sulfur would have been a critical war resource, so allowing it to be used for beer bottles seems a little unnecessary. Whereas green glass is colored using iron(II) oxide, which is pretty much used just as an industrial coloring agent, and was thus more widely available.
These days, bottle makers say they can use special coatings on the outsides of clear bottles to block UV light from damaging the precious golden elixir on the inside of the bottle and keep it from getting that skunky taste usually reserved for frat parties and sadness.
If you want to guarantee your beer keeps on tasting fresh and not like something that came out of a forest animal’s behind, get your beer from a can and keep it in the can. Or just down it fast enough that no light can touch it.
There is nothing like a good revenge story. From Paul Kersey’s vigilante rampage in in “Death Wish” to Eric Cartman’s diabolical payback in the South Park Episode “Scott Tenorman Must Die,” revenge tales are deeply satisfying.
Here is one from World War II involving the revenge one naval officer took upon Japan for his fallen shipmates.
It started during the earliest days of America’s involvement in World War II. On Dec. 10, 1941, the Sargo-class submarine USS Sealion (SS 195) was hit by Japanese bombs during a strike on the American naval base in Cavite where it sunk pier-side.
Four of her crew — Sterling C. Foster, Melvin D. O’Connell, Ernest E. Ogilvie, and Vallentyne L. Paul — were killed. Eli T. Reich, the submarine’s executive officer, was among those evacuated.
According to retired Navy Vice Admiral Charles Lockwood’s book, “Sink `Em All,” when Reich was due for a command of his own, he asked if Lockwood could get him the new USS Sealion (SS 315), a Balao-class vessel. Lockwood, who was the commander of the Pacific Fleet’s submarines, arranged for that assignment – and Reich was soon out, seeking revenge.
Four of the torpedoes USS Sealion II carried were stamped with the names Foster, O’Connell, Ogilvie, and Paul.
On Nov. 21, 1944, while the Sealion was patrolling in the Formosa Strait, Reich then came across a Japanese surface that included the battleship HIJMS Kongo (in reality, a re-built battle cruiser). Reich moved his submarine into position, then fired a spread of six torpedoes from his bow tubes — including the ones with the names of his fallen shipmates.
He then fired a second spread from his stern tubes.
Accounts differ as to the exact sequence of events after the two spreads of torpedoes were fired.
According to “Leyte,” the tenth book in Samuel Eliot Morison’s 15-volume History of United States Naval Operations in World War II, the first spread Reich fired was intercepted by a Japanese destroyer that blew up and sank as a result, and the second spread scored one hit that eventually sank the Kongo.
At CombinedFleet.com, Anthony Tully relates a different version, with Kongo taking multiple hits from one of the spreads.
Lockwood claims Reich’s first spread scored three hits.
No matter what version, the Kongo eventually blew up and sank. Reich had avenged his shipmates. He would receive three awards of the Navy Cross, among other decorations, for his service, and died in 1999. His command, USS Sealion, would serve in the Navy until 1970, then was sunk as a target in 1978.
On the night of Aug. 5 through Aug. 6, 2011, one of the worst tragedies in modern special operations history occurred. By this point in the war, the men who made up the special operations community were some of the most proficient and combat-hardened warriors the world had ever seen. Even so, the enemy always has a vote.
The men of 1st Platoon, Bravo Company, 2nd Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment were on a longer-than-normal deployment as the rest of their company was on Team Merrill and they surged ahead with them.
Coalition security members prepare to conduct an operation in search of a Taliban leader. Photo by SGT Mikki L. Sprenkle, courtesy of Department of Defense.
They had yet another raid mission in pursuit of a high-value target in the Tangi Valley, which was in Wardak Province, Afghanistan, on the night of August 5.
The mission was not easy. The Rangers took contact not only during their movement to the target but also on the target. Despite the tough fight that left some wounded, the enemy combatants were no match for the Ranger platoon. They secured the target and were gathering anything of value for intelligence when it was suggested by the Joint Operations Center (JOC) back at the Forward Operating Base (FOB) that a platoon of SEALs from a Naval Special Mission Unit be launched to chase down the three or four combatants that ran, or squirted, from the target.
This was a notoriously bad area, and the Ranger platoon sergeant responded that they did not want the aerial containment that was offered at that time. The decision was made to launch anyway. The platoon-sized element boarded a CH-47D Chinook, callsign Extortion 17, as no SOF air assets were available on that short of notice.
U.S. Special Forces Soldiers, attached to Special Operations Task Force-Afghanistan, alongside Afghan agents from the National Interdiction Unit, NIU, load onto CH-47 Chinooks helicopters for their infiltration prior to an operation in the Ghorak district, Helmand province, Afghanistan, Sept. 12, 2016. Photo by Sgt. Connor Mendez, courtesy of U.S. Army.
As Extortion 17 moved into final approach of the target area at 0238 local time, the Rangers on the ground watched in horror as it took a direct hit from an RPG (rocket-propelled grenade). The helicopter fell from the sky, killing all 38 on board. The call came over the radio that they had a helicopter down, and the platoon stopped what they were doing to move to the crash site immediately. Because of the urgency of the situation, they left behind the detainees they fought hard to capture.
The platoon moved as fast as possible, covering 7 kilometers of the rugged terrain at a running pace, arriving in under an hour. They risked further danger by moving on roads that were known to have IEDs (improvised explosive devices) to arrive at the crash site as fast as they could, as they were receiving real-time intelligence that the enemy was moving to the crash site to set up an ambush.
Upon their arrival, they found a crash site still on fire. Some of those on board did not have their safety lines attached and were thrown from the helicopter, which scattered them away from the crash site, so the platoon’s medical personnel went to them first to check for any signs of life. With no luck, they then began gathering the remains of the fallen and their sensitive items.
Footage of the Extortion 17 crash site revealed mangled weapons and melted metal. Screen capture via YouTube.
Similar to the Jessica Lynch rescue mission almost a decade prior, the Rangers on the ground decided to push as many guys as possible out on security to spare them from the gruesome task. Approximately six Rangers took on the lion’s share of the work. They attempted to bring down two of the attached cultural support team (CST) members, but had to send them back as they quickly lost their composure at the sight of it all. On top of that, the crashed aircraft experienced a secondary explosion after the Rangers arrived that sent shrapnel into two of the medics helping to gather bodies.
Despite their injuries, they kept working. Later in the day they had to deal with a flash flood from enemy fighters releasing dammed water into the irrigation canal running through the crash site in an attempt to separate the Ranger platoon, cutting them in half. Luckily, because of the sheer amount of water heading toward them, they heard it before it hit them and were moved out of the way before anyone was hurt. If that wasn’t enough, there was also an afternoon lightning storm that was so intense it left some of their equipment inoperable and their platoon without aerial fire support.
Meanwhile, 3rd Platoon, Delta Company from 1st Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment was alerted after coming off a mission of their own. They took a small break to get some sleep before they flew out to replace the other platoon, which would hold the site through the day. Once they awoke, they were told to prepare to stay out for a few days. They rode out and landed at the nearest Helicopter Landing Zone (HLZ), 7 kilometers from the crash site, and made their way in with an Air Force CSAR team in tow.
Austin Williams visits the gravesite of U.S. Navy Petty Officer 1st Class Christopher C. Campbell in Section 60 of Arlington National Cemetery on Memorial Day, May 30, 2016. Campbell was one of 30 Americans killed when a CH-47 Chinook helicopter, with the call sign Extortion 17, crashed in Afghanistan. Photo by Rachel Larue, courtesy of Arlington National Cemetery.
After arriving, the platoon from 2/75 had to make the 7-kilometer trek back to the HLZ, as that was the nearest place a helicopter could land in the rugged terrain. The men were exhausted, having walked to their objective the night before, fighting all night, running to the crash site, securing it through the day only to execute another long movement to exfil.
New to the scene, the platoon from 1/75 did what they could to disassemble the helicopter and prepare it to be moved. The last platoon evacuated the bodies and sensitive items on board, so now the only thing left was the large pieces of the aircraft spread out across three locations. They were out for three days straight, using demolitions as well as torches to cut the aircraft into moveable sections and then loading them onto vehicles that the conventional Army unit that owned the battlespace brought in.
Despite the gruesome and sobering task, Rangers worked until the mission was accomplished. The third stanza of the Ranger Creed states that you will never fail your comrades and that you will shoulder more than your fair share of the task, whatever it may be, 100 percent and then some. The Rangers of these two platoons more than lived the Creed in response to the Extortion 17 tragedy.
The Roman Empire stretched from modern-day Syria to modern-day Spain. To maintain that amount of real estate, you have to have an amazing military to protect it. The Roman Legion was one such force.
But every military that has made its mark on history was notorious for rigorous training and extremely harsh conditions that make today’s toughest Special Operations training look like Air Force boot camp. Here’s why, in reality, being a Roman Legionnaire would’ve sucked.
Suddenly, Sergeant Major doesn’t seem so far away.
It was 25 years. These days, when you sign the dotted line, you’re in for a minimum of four years and you have the option to stay longer to earn a pension and retirement benefits. The average Roman Legionnaire was expected to serve 25 years — no exceptions.
The retirement benefits, however, involved getting a nice piece of land within the empire to spend the rest of your days — If you don’t die first, that is.
If you think the 20-kilometer hike you just did last Wednesday, the 25 kilometers you had to do the night before Christmas leave, or the 30-mile hike you did in Korea sucked, just think about what you’d have to do as a Roman Legionnaire. These guys had to carry their entire kit 90 miles, every day.
This kit included their armor, weapons, shield, and a backpack, which contained the equipment needed to help build camps. Additionally, they had to carry their rations and cooking gear.
Remember this? It would be more regular as a Roman Legionnaire.
Remember those 90-mile forced marches we mentioned? Imagine your company commander calling cadence the whole time. Well, that’s what Centurions did for their Centuries. They would call, “right, left,” the whole time, starting with the right, of course, because the left was seen as wrong or evil.
That’s why issued rifles are made for right-handed war heroes.
The amount of training probably saved a lot of lives…
In the Roman Legion, you wake up in the morning and eat breakfast with your seven tent mates and then you do a little weapons training. By a little, we mean a lot. You’re training every morning with your gear and wooden weapons and shields that weigh twice as much as your regular gear, constantly going against your friends to become a much better warrior.
This is a good thing, but you know you complain about three-day field ops. Yes, you do.
The pay was salt
And you thought your steady income and clothing allowance was bad. Granted, the Roman Legion did pay their soldiers but, at the time, salt was worth quite a bit. So, a soldier would get paid in salt.
If you think your seniors duct-taping a mattress to you and having you take a leap of faith from the third story of your barracks was bad — it was so much worse the Roman Legion.
Remember those annoying Centurions from the marches? They carried a vine branch to whip the disobedient and it was totally okay for them to do so. Getting whipped for stepping out of line is pretty mild considering your friends could stone you to death for being a coward or trying to desert — and that’s only barely scratching the surface of Roman Legion punishments.
If you’ve seen any submarine-themed movie, whether it’s Hunt for Red October, the classic Operation Pacific, or Crimson Tide, you understand the severity of an incoming torpedo. Anyone who knows naval history knows that torpedoes are lethal to ships – just look at what they did to the liner Lusitania, the aircraft carrier USS Wasp (CV 7), and a host of other ships.
Back through World War II, the primary way torpedoes did their damage was with a direct hit. The impact of the torpedo on a ship’s hull would drive a firing pin that sets off a warhead. The hope here is that the blast punches a hole in a ship, allowing water to flood in, causing the ship to list to one side or the other and, eventually, capsize. Generally, this approach worked well, but it could take many direct hits to do damage enough to sink a vessel. The Japanese battleship Musashi, for example, took over twenty hits from Mk 13 air-dropped torpedoes before she went down.
This was a problem — as defensive anti-aircraft capability developed, planes launching torpedoes needed to do so from higher altitudes, at faster speeds, and from further away in order to survive. This was not conducive to scoring the many hits you needed to sink the enemy ship.
In fact, with rare exceptions, the only vessels that use heavy anti-ship torpedoes today are submarines. The torpedoes used by planes and ships are often less than 13 inches wide and hold warheads packed with less than 100 pounds of high explosive. They’re not that good against surface ships, but you don’t need much to sink a sub that’s a few hundred feet below the surface of the ocean.
The heavy torpedoes themselves have also evolved, and not just in tracking capabilities.
During World War II, the United States Navy fielded torpedoes equipped with magnetic exploders. However, they didn’t quite work right. With bigger fish to fry and a war to fight, the U.S. Navy simply disabled them and went on fielding functional, contact exploders. These torpedoes helped force Japan’s surrender.
But the magnetic exploder concept wasn’t forgotten after the war — and for good reason: Hitting the hull does some damage, but if you want to really kill a ship, it’s best to break it in two. The best way to do that is to set off the explosion just below a ship. That will damage the ship’s keel in a process called “breaking its back.” Modern torpedoes with magnetic exploders are designed to do exactly that.
You can see what that does to the former USNS Concord (ex-AFS 5) in the video below.
In early February, the vice chiefs of the Army, Navy, Air Force, and Marines testified before before lawmakers on Capitol Hill about the state of the U.S. military as the Trump administration takes office.
And many of the revelations from that testimony are disconcerting, to put it mildly. Here are some of the moments that will have you saying, “Oh, crap!”
1. The average age of Air Force aircraft is 27 years old
Take an average Air Force plane, and it was made in 1990, when Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait. The last KC-135 was produced in 1965, the last B-52 was produced in 1962, the last F-15C was built in 1985, and the last F-16C for the Air Force was built in 2001. These are planes that will be around well into the next decade and beyond.
In other words, many of the planes the Air Force relies on are OLD.
2. The Air Force has only 55 fighter squadrons
Not only are the planes old, the number of fighter squadrons in the Air Force, Air Force Reserve, and Air National Guard has declined from 134 in 1991, the year of Operation Desert Storm, to 55 today. That is a decline of nearly 60 percent.
Yes, today’s precision weapons allow fighters to destroy multiples targets in one sortie, but sometimes, you still need numbers. The few active units we have are running their planes into the ground.
An F-16 Fighting Falcon pilot, assigned to Detachment 1, 138th Fighter Wing, dons his helmet before a flight. (U.S. Air National Guard photo/Tech. Sgt. Drew A. Egnoske)
3. The Air Force is short by over 1,500 pilots
The Air Force’s pilot shortage was reported by FoxNews.com to be around 700 last year. Now, the service is reporting the total is over twice that estimate. This is not a good situation, senior leaders say.
Planes are no good without pilots – and even new technology to make any plane an unmanned aerial vehicle will have some limits. If the balloon were to go up, where would the pilots come from? Probably the instructor cadres – which could be bad news for keeping a sufficient supply of pilots trained up in times of war.
4. Only three Brigade Combat Teams are ready to fight in the event of a major war
The Army cut its force structure from 45 brigade combat teams to what became an eventual total of 30. Yet despite the reduction of combat brigades, 1/3 of the Army’s brigade combat teams are considered ready, according to Army Vice Chief of Staff Gen. Daniel Allyn.
Of those 10 brigades supposedly ready for combat, only three of these could fight today if the balloon went up. Three out of 30 – and that is the active-duty component. Just what, exactly, is the state of the National Guard? Do we really want to know?
5. 75 percent of Army Combat Aviation Brigades are not ready
Believe it or not, the Army’s Brigade Combat Teams are in better shape than its Combat Aviation Brigades. Only 1/4 of those units are ready – and these provide AH-64 Apaches for close support, as well as the Chinook and Blackhawk helicopters needed to transport troops and supplies.
6. 80 percent of Marine aviation units can’t train properly
Remember how the Marines had to pull about two dozen Hornets from the boneyard? Well, even with that, four in five Marine units cannot give their pilots and air crews proper training because they do not have planes.
7. The Navy is smaller than it has been since 1916
Today’s ships are very capable combatants. An Arleigh Burke-class guided missile destroyer could probably sink or cripple most of a carrier’s escorts from a battle group off the coast of Vietnam fifty years ago.
But today, the Navy has a grand total of 274 ships. According to the Naval History and Heritage Command, in 1916, the Navy had all of 245 ships. Even if we were to reach the proposed 355-ship level, it would only have the Navy to roughly the size it was in 1997.
But there were other heroic deeds during the attack.
According to the 9/11 Commission report, when word reached North American Aerospace Command, also known as NORAD, of the first hijacking, two F-15 Eagles from the Massachusetts Air National Guard were scrambled to try to intercept the planes. They took off just as Flight 11 hit the North Tower – WTC 1 – at 8:53 AM on that Tuesday morning.
NORAD had last dealt with a hijacking in 1993. One thing that worked against NORAD during that terrible day was the fact that that there were very few sites from which interceptors could launch.
During the Cold War, the 9/11 Commission Report noted, there had been 26 sites.
Other military jets — F-15s from the 1st Fighter Wing at Langley Air Force Base in Hampton Virginia, and F-16s from the District of Colombia Air National Guard based at Andrews Air Force Base — had also scrambled. Pilots from the latter unit were armed only with dummy rounds for their M61 Vulcan 20mm cannon.
The F-15 pilots, according to the commission report, didn’t even know they were looking for hijacked airliners. The lead pilot would later be quoted in the report as saying, “I reverted to the Russian threat. …I’m thinking cruise missile threat from the sea.”
It as a credit to NORAD, that even though they were unable to keep the airliners from hitting targets, military personnel were able to face an unprecedented threat and challenge with an improvised air-defense system cobbled together in a matter of hours, despite having never trained to face that threat.
On the first day of what one unidentified officer called “a new type of war,” they reacted with skill and professionalism.