Sweden asserted its neutrality during the Cold War. Still, Stockholm was not going to let the country stand helpless in face of potential threats.
That’s why the Swedish Air Force had some fighters that were very capable – and perhaps the first of three that would be every bit as good as their contemporaries serving in NATO was the Saab J 35 Draken.
The Draken was a Mach 2-capable fighter equipped with a “double-delta” wing — a design rarely used in modern fighter construction. One of the only other planes to use it was the F-16XL, a prototype version of the F-16 that lost out in a competition with what became the F-15E Strike Eagle.
Sweden used the Draken as an interceptor. According to MilitaryFactory.com, the plane was armed with two 30mm Aden cannon and four Sidewinders (known to the Swedes as the Rb 24), the Draken ended up being exported to Denmark, Finland, and Austria. Improved versions of the Draken would eventually be able to carry up to six missiles, and add the capability to fire the AIM-4 Falcon and AIM-26 Falcon.
Ironically, the Danes used the Draken as a strike plane. The plane’s hardpoints were modified to allow them to drop 1,000 pound bombs. Six of the Danish Drakens found their way to the National Test Pilot School in the United States, where they served until 2009.
The Draken did emerge as a bit of a Hollywood star in at least one movie. The 1990 action flick “Fire Birds” saw at least two Drakens serve as fighters under the control of a drug cartel. One was shot down by an Apache flown by Brad Little (played by eventual Academy Award-winner Tommy Lee Jones), the other was shot down by a hand-held FIM-92 Stinger used by Billie Lee Guthrie (played by Sean Young).
In real life, the Royal Swedish Air Force flew the Draken for nearly four decades, retiring it in 1999 due to maintenance costs. The plane had only been partially replaced by the AS 37 and JA 37 versions of the Saab Viggen, and the replacement was completed with the JAS 39 Gripen, also from Saab. Not a bad career for a plane.
Last year marked the fifth consecutive year I’ve visited France, but this time, the mood was markedly different. Terrorist attacks had changed both the topics and the nature of civil discourse, and there was a dramatic increase in physical security around all public events. It was noticeable as soon as I stepped off the plane.
In years past, you’d see pairs of uniformed soldiers of various noncombat arms strolling around Charles de Gaulle Airport in Paris looking bored, checking out the young women, and trying to feign interest in a largely symbolic duty. In contrast, last summer I saw squads of jocked-up infantry veterans deployed to even second-string airports, where they were actually patrolling and even — horror of horrors — had magazines in their weapons.
The rifle they carried was the FAMAS, the iconic “Bugle” and the last service weapon to be produced in a nation that at one time led the world in firearms innovation. In 2016, France was in the process of selecting a replacement, which would come from either Belgium — on whose soil hundreds of thousands of French servicemen died — or from Germany, whose conscripts faced them across artillery-scarred mud and from behind the sights of K98 Mausers. France wound up choosing the HK version of America’s service rifle. But hey, we’re all Europeans now.
It seemed appropriate, therefore, to visit the city in which France produced the millions of rifles, bayonets, machine guns, and pistols needed to equip their armed forces, who just 100 years ago were locked in a bloody, existential battle for their nation’s survival. The factory where thousands of workers toiled in a desperate race to put weapons in the hands of those who were battling the Teutonic hordes had been shuttered and bulldozed in the 2000s, but their remarkable product line had been placed behind glass for visitors to gawk at.
Saint-Étienne was, during the latter part of the Industrial Revolution, one of the most important manufacturing centers in Europe, producing textiles, machine tools, bicycles, and farm equipment, but its history as an arms maker dates to the Middle Ages. Swords and armor were manufactured for French kings and emperors to equip their armies, and as edged weapons transitioned to powder, the musket of 1777 became the most prolific firearm ever produced until the advent of WWI.
Over 7 million examples were made (though not all by Saint-Étienne), and troops so equipped faced off against those armed with the Brown Bess in Europe and Asia. French firearms featured prominently in the early days of American history too. Although the famed Charleville musket of the Revolutionary War was named after the eponymous state arsenal in the Ardennes, many were produced in Saint-Étienne and made their way across the Atlantic. Later, in the Civil War, France supplied cannons, Minie rifles, pistols, submarines, and ironclads to both sides.
Pair of presentation pistols from the workshop of maître Nicholas Boutet.
While the history of French firearms development in Saint-Étienne could easily fill its own building, the collection shares space with other notable local trades and is housed almost entirely on the upper floor of the Musee d’Science et Industrie. The building itself is reached by crossing a small town square that’s quintessentially French; while we were there, the weekly market was well underway and townsfolk were stocking up on locally grown produce, meat, and cheese.
Climbing a few limestone steps to the entrance, the ballistic pilgrim enters the usual foyer-slash-gift-shop, ponies up their entrance fee, and then climbs the stairs past displays of glass and lace.
Examples of medieval armor, swords, and halberds greet the museum’s visitors as they enter the third floor space of the Museum of Science and Industry. Inside, displays cover both combat and jousting, with examples of both highly decorated plate armor and mail in evidence, along with the lances and shields every well-equipped nobleman needed in order to win the heart of a fair maiden.
The period where armor was being supplanted due to the ability of commoners to punch big frickin’ holes in it with their comparatively cheap matchlocks overlaps the birth of several of the most notable area workshops. Locks from this time are displayed in wall-mounted cases and some are quite stunning in both design and execution. The earliest service firearms on display are a pair of wheel-lock cavalry pistols dating from 1550, while a suit of Maximilian armor dates all the way back to 1415.
Although Alexandre Dumas’ characters were fictitious, his father was an honest-to-God general in the French revolutionary wars, and there really were two companies of Musketeers who served as the king’s bodyguard. The only remaining example of a Musketeer pistol is on display in the MSI, along with corresponding Mousquetons, or cavalry carbines.
Fusil d’Assaut de la Manufacture d’Armes de Saint-Étienne.
At around the same time, an enterprising gunsmith by the name of Nicholas Boutet was hiring the best artisans he could find to produce what could be fairly considered some of the finest guns the world has ever seen. As arquebusier, or gunsmith to the court of Louis XVI, he was given free reign to create extraordinary works of art, such as the pair of cased pistols shown here.
As the industrial age progressed, cartridge arms replaced flintlocks in a process familiar to amateur historians on both sides of the pond. Production became both codified and centralized, with Saint-Étienne’s place as a strategic asset to the French Empire cemented in place with every one of the bricks laid to enclose the new factory. Revolvers from the 1870s are showcased and demonstrate just how advanced their designs were in comparison to contemporaries on the world stage.
While we were taming the west with Colt single-actions, the French were fielding their first sophisticated D/A revolver, which for a military pistol was exquisitely made (in the officer’s variant anyway — rank has its privileges). The 11mm 1873 Chamelot-Delvigne was made until 1886 and continued in service until well into the Second World War. Civilian versions were widely distributed, with Belgian copies hitting the market soon after the military adopted the pistol; we encountered examples of both at a local flea market, where, due to being over 100 years old with no currently manufactured ammunition, they’re freely traded.
The MSI has numerous, well-preserved samples of drop-dead gorgeous French sporting arms from the golden age of gun making, but it’s the oddballs and one-offs that are particularly eye-catching. Such as the carbide-powered rifles and the high-powered airguns, along with early semi-auto shotguns that show a level of development that surpass their American counterparts. This is, after all, the country that was the first to field a self-loading service rifle, over 20 years before the Garand stepped onto the stage.
As visitors make their way past case after case of well-preserved and displayed products of the gunmakers’ craft, they eventually fetch up at the usual Euro-bullshit display of modern art, the message being, of course, that guns are bad m’kay? It’s ironic then that the last exhibit before having to suffer the artists’ smug self-righteousness is of the final products of the Saint-Étienne factory, which is, of course, where our story started. We can only hope that the gamble of neglecting and then destroying the remnants of their domestic arms industry doesn’t come back to bite them. History’s a bitch, ain’t it?
For the first time, the 9th Reconnaissance Wing will open its aperture for recruiting Air Force pilots into the U-2 Dragon Lady through an experimental program beginning in the fall of 2018.
Through the newly established U-2 First Assignment Companion Trainer, or FACT, program, the 9th RW’s 1st Reconnaissance Squadron will broaden its scope of pilots eligible to fly the U-2 by allowing Air Force student pilots in Undergraduate Pilot Training the opportunity to enter a direct pipeline to flying the U-2.
“Our focus is modernizing and sustaining the U-2 well into the future to meet the needs of our nation at the speed of relevance,” said Col. Andy Clark, 9th RW commander. “This new program is an initiative that delivers a new reconnaissance career path for young, highly qualified aviators eager to shape the next generation of (reconnaissance) warfighting capabilities.”
The FACT pipeline
Every undergraduate pilot training student from Air Education and Training Command’s flying training locations, during the designated assignment window, is eligible for the FACT program.
A U-2 Dragon Lady pilot, assigned to the 9th Reconnaissance Wing, pilots the high-altitude reconnaissance platform at approximately 70,000 feet above an undisclosed location.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Lt. Col. Ross Franquemont)
UPT students will now have the opportunity to select the U-2 airframe on their dream sheets just like any other airframe.
The first FACT selectee is planned for the fall 2018 UPT assignment cycle and the next selection will happen about six months later.
After selection, the FACT pilot attends the T-38 Pilot Instructor Training Course at Joint Base San Antonio-Randolph, Texas, before a permanent change in station to Beale Air Force Base, Calif.
For the next two years, the selectee will serve as a T-38 Talon instructor pilot for the U-2 Companion Trainer Program.
“Taking on the task of developing a small portion of our future leaders from the onset of his or her aviation career is something we’re extremely excited about,” said Lt. Col. Carl Maymi, 1st RS commander. “U-2 FACT pilots will have an opportunity to learn from highly qualified and experienced pilots while in turn teaching them to fly T-38s in Northern California. I expect rapid maturation as an aviator and officer for all that get this unique opportunity.”
After the selectee gains an appropriate amount of experience as an instructor pilot, they will perform the standard two-week U-2 interview process, and if hired, begin Basic Qualification Training.
After the first two UPT students are selected and enter the program, the overall direction of the FACT assignment process will be assessed to determine the sustainability of this experimental pilot pipeline.
Broadening candidate diversity
Due to the uniquely difficult reconnaissance mission of the U-2, as well as it’s challenging flying characteristics, U-2 pilots are competitively selected from a pool of highly qualified and experienced aviators from airframes across the Department of Defense inventory.
A mobile chase car pursues a TU-2S Dragon Lady at Beale Air Force Base, Calif., Jan. 22, 2014.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Bobby Cummings)
The selection process includes a two-week interview where candidates’ self-confidence, professionalism, and airmanship are evaluated on the ground and in the air while flying three TU-2 sorties.
Traditionally, a U-2 pilot will spend a minimum of six years gaining experience outside of the U-2’s reconnaissance mission before submitting an application.
As modernization efforts continue for the U-2 airframe and its mission sets, pilot acquisition and development efforts are also changing to help advance the next generation of reconnaissance warfighters. The FACT program will advance the next generation through accelerating pilots directly from the UPT programs into the reconnaissance community, mitigating the six years of minimum experience that current U-2 pilots have obtained.
“The well-established path to the U-2 has proven effective for over 60 years,” Maymi, said. “However, we need access to young, talented officers earlier in their careers. I believe we can do this while still maintaining the integrity of our selection process through the U-2 FACT program.”
Developing the legacy for the future
FACT aims to place future U-2 warfighters in line with the rest of the combat Air Force’s career development timelines to include potential avenues of professional military education and leadership roles. One example would include an opportunity to attend the new reconnaissance weapons instructors course, also known as reconnaissance WIC, which was recently approved to begin the process to be established as first-ever reconnaissance-focused WIC at the U.S. Air Force Weapons School at Nellis Air Force Base, Nevada.
U-2 pilots prepare to land a TU-2S Dragon Lady at sunset on Beale Air Force Base, Calif., Jan. 22, 2014.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Bobby Cummings)
“This program offers FACT-selected pilots enhanced developmental experience and prepares them for diverse leadership opportunities, including squadron and senior leadership roles within the reconnaissance community,” Clark said.
The FACT program highlights only one of the many ways the Airmen at Beale AFB work to innovate for the future.
“Beale (AFB) Airmen are the beating heart of reconnaissance; they are always looking for innovative ways to keep Recce Town flexible, adaptable, and absolutely ready to defend our nation and its allies,” Clark said. “(Senior leaders) tasked Airmen to bring the future faster and maximize our lethality — to maintain our tactical and strategic edge over our adversaries. This program is one practical example of (reconnaissance) professionals understanding and supporting the priorities of our senior leaders — and it won’t stop here.”
GatGatCat asks: Is cooking grenades and pulling the pins with your teeth something people really do or just something in games?
We’ve all seen it — the protagonist of a film whips out a hand grenade, dashingly yanks the pin with his teeth as his hair flows in the wind, counts one-potato, two-potato, three and hucks it at nearby teeming hoards of enemy swarming on his location. But is this actually a thing in real life?
First thing’s first, yes, if you have hair, it is possible for it to flow in the wind… As for the grenade part, the generally recommended proper technique is — “proper grip, thumb to clip, twist pull pin, strike a pose, yell frag out, hit the dirt”.
On the first step of “proper grip” it is particularly important to make sure to NEVER adjust your grip on the lever (called “milking”) once the pin is pulled. Doing so may let up enough on said lever to allow the striker to do its thing to the percussion cap, which in turn creates a spark, thereby causing a slow burn of the fuse materials lasting approximately 2-6 seconds for most types of grenade, after which the main charge will ignite, sending shrapnel in all directions. So should you adjust your grip, you could potentially have a really bad time, even should you re-squeeze the lever after. Such a thing has caused the deaths of many a soldier, for example thought to have been the cause of the death of Specialist David G Rubic who had an M67 grenade explode in his hand as he was about to throw it during a training exercise.
As you can see from these steps, at no point is taking your sweet time getting rid of the grenade after you release the lever, called “cooking”, mentioned. Nevertheless, cooking the grenade is not without its virtues, with the general idea to minimise the window of opportunity the enemy has to react to said grenade — potentially throwing it back or diving for cover.
That said, while in film throwing the grenade back is a common trope, this is an incredibly difficult thing to pull off in real life. Consider that when the grenade is thrown, it is likely going to be in the air or bouncing around on the ground for a couple seconds in most scenarios, and thus about the only chance of someone actually picking it up and throwing it back successfully is if they Omar Vizquel’d it and caught it in the air and immediately hucked it back. But even then, whether it would get back to the thrower before exploding is anybody’s guess — quite literally given, if you were paying attention, that rather variable estimate of 2-6 seconds from lever release to explosion, depending on model of grenade.
For example, the US Army’s own field manual on the use of grenades and pyrotechnic signals states the fuse time tends to vary by as much as 2 whole seconds with, for example, the M67 grenade then having an estimated “3-5 second delay fuze”. So counting one-potato, two-potato potentially only gives you one potato to go through the throwing motion, then take cover. And if you happen to be on the 3 potato end of things to boom, that grenade is going to be extremely close to your position when it sings the song of its people.
It’s at this point we should point out that in many common grenade designs the potential lethal area is approximately 15-30 metres (50-100 feet), with the risk of injury from shrapnel extending to a couple hundred metres with some types of grenades. As you can imagine from this, potentially under one-potato just isn’t a good enough safety margin in most scenarios.
For this reason, both the US Army and the Marines Corp strongly advise against cooking grenades with the latter referring to it as the “least preferred technique” to throw a grenade. As for the most preferred technique, to quote the Marine Corps manual on Military Operations on Urbanized Terrain:
The preferred technique involves throwing the grenade hard enough that it bounces or skips around, making it difficult to pick up. The hard-throw, skip/bounce technique may be used by Marines in training and combat.
That said, there are edge cases where cooking a grenade may be beneficial where the reward outweighs the risks and potentially environmental factors make it a safer prospect. As such, the same manual notes that cooking a grenade is a technique that can be used “as appropriate” based on the discretion of an individual Marine, but should never be used during training. Likewise, the US Army notes in its field manual on the use of grenades that the act of cooking off grenades should be reserved for a combat environment only.
As for situations where cooking a grenade is deemed potentially appropriate, the most common are clearing rooms and bunkers where there are nice thick barriers between you and the impending blast. (Although, it’s always worth pointing out that while many a Hollywood hero has taken cover on one side of a drywall wall, this isn’t exactly an awesome barrier and shrapnel and bullets easily go through the gypsum and paper. Likewise as a brief aside, any such hero ever trapped in a room in many homes and buildings can quite easily just smash a hole in the drywall to escape if they so chose. It’s not that difficult. Just make sure not to try to punch or kick through the part with a 2×4 behind it…)
In any event, beyond urban environments, hitting very close enemies behind heavy cover is another common scenario cited in field manuals we consulted for cooking a grenade.
As for the amount of time it is advised to cook a grenade before throwing it, every official source we consulted notes that 2 seconds is the absolute maximum amount of time a soldier is advised to hold onto a live grenade before throwing it, with emphasis on MAXIMUM.
(U.S. Marine Corps photo)
All this said, technology has improved this situation in some newer designs of grenades that use electronic timer components, rather than unpredictable burning fuses. In these grenades, you can be absolutely sure that from the moment you release the lever, you have exactly the amount of time the designers intended, making cooking these grenades a much safer prospect in the right circumstances. Further, there are also new grenade designs coming out with position sensors as an added safety mechanism, via ensuring they cannot detonate unless the sensor detects the grenade has been thrown first.
But to sum up on the matter of cooking grenades, soldiers can and do, though rarely, “cook” grenades to minimise the time an enemy has to react to them, although doing so isn’t advised and requires, to quote a book literally titled Grenades, “great confidence in the manufacturer’s quality control”. And, of course, similarly a soldier with balls or ovaries of solid steel and compatriots who are extremely trusting of their ability to count potatoes accurately — when literally a one second margin of error may be the difference between you dying or not, a sloppy seconds counter is not to be trusted.
Now on to the matter of pulling a pin with your teeth… While designs of grenades differ, from accounts of various soldiers familiar with a variety of grenades, as well as looking at the manufacturers’ stated pull power needed — it would seem trying to pull a grenade pin with your teeth is a great way to put your dentist’s kids through college.
For example, the relatively common M67 grenade takes about 3-5 kg (about 7 to 11 pounds) of force to pull free stock. The Russian F1 grenade takes about 8 kg (17 pounds) of pull power to get the pin out. Or as one soldier, referring to the Singapore SFG87 grenade, notes, “The pin was actually partially wrapped around the spoon(handle) of the grenade and was extremely stiff. You had to literally twist and yank the pin out, which made your fingers red and hurt a little.”
(U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Staci Miller)
Even without bent pins, to illustrate just how hard it can be to pull these pins in some cases, we have this account from Eleven Charlie One Papa by James Mallen. In it, he states,
[The] new guy had entered the hooch and hung up his gear, apparently from the canvas web gearing of his LBG but actually hanging on the pull pin of an HE fragmentation grenade, and then decided to go off somewhere. Worse still, the guy had not bent the cotter pin of the grenade over, so that at any moment…the gear would fall, the pin would be pulled out, the grenades’ primer would ignite, and give seconds later everyone in the hooch at the time would be killed or horribly wounded.I had a mini heart attack and turned immediately to jump out but a soldier behind me was blocking my way, whereupon I mostly violently pushed him out of the way, up the stairs and outside, to escape a quick and violent end… I learned that the guy who was responsible for it would return soon. I decided that he would have to take care of it… After about ten minutes that soldier … returned…He went back down, seemingly unconcerned, and rearranged his LBG so that it was hanging by the suspender strap instead of the pull-pin of a hand grenade….
Going back to bent pins, while many grenades don’t come stock with the pins bent, this is a common practice done by soldiers the world over anyway, making it even more difficult to pull the pin. The primary purpose behind this is to ensure that the pin doesn’t accidentally get pulled when you’d rather it not, like catching on a stray tree branch as you’re trotting through the jungle, or even in combat when you might be hitting the deck or scrambling around haphazardly with little thought to your grenade pins.
Illustrating this, in Eleven Charlie One Papa, Mallen states, “I pointed out to him that the grenade cotter pin wasn’t even bent over and he said that he was completely unaware that he should have them bent over. So for the last week or so we had been humping the bush with this guy whose grenades could have easily been set off by having the pin catch in a big thorn or spike. I guess it was our fault for not telling the guy things like that, things that were never taught in basic or advanced infantry training back in the states.”
This practice, although widely utilised by soldiers is sometimes discouraged by some in the military precisely because it makes it extremely difficult to pull the pin if one doesn’t first take the time to bend the metal back. This not only makes the grenade potentially take a little longer to be deployed in a pinch, but is also thought to contribute to soldiers unintentionally milking the grenade directly after the pin has finally been pulled with extreme force. This is what is speculated to have happened in the aforementioned death of Specialist David G Rubic, as noted by Colonel Raymond Mason who was in charge of figuring out what went wrong. In the investigation, it was discovered that Rubic had, according to witnesses, both previously bent the pin and been holding the lever down at the time it exploded in his hand.
(U.S. Marine Corps Photo by Cpl. Dengrier Baez)
Of course, if one throws the grenade immediately upon pin removal, whether you milk the grenade or not makes little difference — with it only being extra risky if you choose to hold onto it for some number of potatos. On top of this, regardless of what superiors say, many soldiers are unwilling to entrust their and their compatriots’ lives to a mere 3-8 kg worth of pull force, which a tree branch or the like while jogging can potentially exert.
That said, a tree branch is not your teeth and whether bending the pins or not, as Sergeant Osman Sipahi of the Turkish Armed forces states, you can pull the pin this way, “but there is a high probability of you fucking up your teeth. It’s the same as biting the top of a beer bottle off; it’s doable but not recommended.”
Or as Lieutenant Colonel Bill Quigley, author of Passage Through A Hell of Fire And Ice, sums up: “The business in the movies of the guy grabbing the grenade ring in his teeth and pulling out the pin is a load; it does not happen unless he is prepared to throw out a few teeth with it as well. We have all commented how we would like to get some of those Hollywood grenades that allow you to bite off the pin, throw the grenade a few hundred yards, and never miss your target, going off with the blast effect of a 500-pound bomb…”
Any article on the discussion of grenade usage would be remiss in not answering the additional question often posed of whether you can put the pin back in after you’ve pulled it and still have it be safe to let go of the lever — the answer is yes, but this must be done VERY carefully, as letting up even a little on the lever before the pin is fully-re-inserted can cause the striker to do its thing, potentially without you knowing it, as illustrated in the death of one Alexander Chechik of Russia. Mr. Chechik decided it would be a good idea to pull the pin on a grenade he had, take a picture, then send it to his friends. The last text he ever received was from a friend stating, “Listen, don’t f*** around… Where are you?” Not responding, reportedly Chechik attempted to put the pin back in, but unsuccessfully. The grenade ultimately exploded in his hand, killing him instantly, while also no doubt making him a strong candidate for a Darwin award.
(US Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Justin J. Shemanski)
Next up, as occasionally happens to all of us, if you happen to find a grenade thrown at you or drop the one you’re holding with the pin already pulled, if no readily available cover is nearby the general recommendation is to lay flat on the ground with, assuming you remembered to wear your Kevlar helmet like a good soldier, your head towards the grenade. These helmets are designed to be an effective barrier against such shrapnel. This position also ensures minimal odds of any shrapnel hitting you in the first place via reducing the cross section of you exposed to the grenade’s blast.
Now, you might at this point be thinking as you have your shrapnel proof Kevlar helmet, why not just put it on the the grenade? Genius, right? Well, no. While these helmets can take a barrage of quite a bit of high speed shrapnel, they cannot contain the full force of the blast of a typical grenade, as was tragically proven by Medal of Honor winner, Jason Dunham. In his case, not trusting his helmet to contain the blast, he also put his body on top of the helmet to make sure nobody else would be hurt by the dropped grenade. He did not survive, but those around him did.
In yet another case of a soldier jumping on a grenade to save his fellow soldiers, but this time with a reasonably happy ending, we have the case of Lance Corporal William Kyle Carpenter. On November 21, 2010 while in Afghanistan, a grenade was thrown into his sandbagged position. Rather than run, he used his own body to shield the other soldier with him from the blast. Miraculously, though severely injured, Carpenter lived and was awarded the Medal of Honor in June of 2014.
In a similar case, during a battle on Feb. 20, 1945, one Jack H Lewis and his comrades were advancing toward a Japanese airstrip near Mount Suribachi. Taking cover in a trench under heavy fire, Jack realized they were only feet away from enemy soldiers in a neighboring trench. He managed to shoot two of the soldiers before two live grenades landed in his trench. Thinking quickly, Jack threw himself on the first grenade, shoving it into volcanic ash and used his body and rifle to shield the others with him from the pending blast. When another grenade appeared directly after the first, he reached out and pulled it under himself as well. His body took the brunt of the two blasts and the massive amount of shrapnel. His companions were all saved, but his injuries were so serious they thought he had died. Only after a second company moved through did anyone realize he was somehow still alive. Jack endured nearly two dozen surgeries and extensive therapy and convalescence. Despite the surgeries, over 200 pieces of shrapnel remained in his body for the rest of his life which lasted an additional six decades. He died at the ripe old age of 80, on June 5, 2008 from leukemia.
This article originally appeared on Today I Found Out. Follow @TodayIFoundOut on Twitter.
China’s navy is growing at a rapid rate. On Dec. 17, 2019, China commissioned its first homegrown aircraft carrier, the Shandong, into service as part of the People’s Liberation Army Navy, Chinese state media reported.
The new carrier entered service at the naval port in Sanya on the South China Sea island of Hainan. The ship bears the hull number 17.
China joins only a handful of countries that maintain multiple aircraft carriers, but its combat power is still limited compared with the UK’s F-35B stealth-fighter carriers and especially the 11 more advanced carriers fielded by the US.
The Shandong is the Chinese navy’s second carrier after the Liaoning, previously a rusty, unfinished Soviet heavy aircraft-carrying cruiser that was purchased in the mid-1990s, refitted, and commissioned in 2012 to serve as the flagship of the Chinese navy.
The Shandong is an indigenously produced variation of its predecessor. It features improvements like an upgraded radar and the ability to carry 36 Shenyang J-15 fighters, 12 more than the Liaoning can carry.
Construction of a third aircraft carrier is believed to be underway at China’s Jiangnan Shipyard, satellite photos revealed earlier this year.
China’s first and second carriers are conventionally powered ships with ski-jump-assisted short-take-off-barrier-arrested-recovery launch systems, which are less effective than the catapults the US Navy uses on its Nimitz- and Ford-class carriers.
The third aircraft carrier is expected to be a true modern flattop with a larger flight deck and catapult launchers.
A J-15 taking off from Chinese aircraft carrier Liaoning.
“This design will enable it to support additional fighter aircraft, fixed-wing early-warning aircraft, and more rapid flight operations,” the US Department of Defense wrote in its most recent report on China’s military power.
The US Navy has 10 Nimitz-class carriers in service, and it is developing a new class of carrier. The USS Gerald R. Ford is undergoing postdelivery tests and trials, and the future USS John F. Kennedy, the second of the new Ford-class carriers, was recently christened at Newport News Shipyard in Virginia.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
A heavily armed man is patrolling the hallways of a Florida school. His only job? Prevent a mass shooting.
The Sarasota Herald-Tribune reports that Harold Verdecia, a 39-year-old U.S. Army veteran who served tours in Iraq and Afghanistan has been hired as the first guardian at the Manatee School for the Arts in Palmetto, Florida. Verdercia wears body armor and carries a Glock 19X handgun, but it’s his Kel-Tec “Bullpup” rifle, loaded with exploding rounds, that’s raising eyebrows.
MSA Principal Bill Jones outlined to the Herald-Tribune a specific scenario — shooter armed with a rifle, clad in body armor, looking to cause maximum damage — in justifying the unusual move of arming his school’s guardian with a rifle.
Verdercia completed 144 hours of training facilitated by the Manatee County Sherriff’s Office. He also went through extra training to carry the rifle on school grounds.
Palmetto’s Manatee School of the Arts Ramping up more Safety and Security
Security experts, however, seem skeptical of Jones’s insistence that a semi-automatic rifle is appropriate for the job. Walt Zalisko, a retired police chief and police management consultant, told the Herald-Tribune that the school would be safer with its rifles locked away and its guardian building relationships with students, not singularly focused on a mass casualty event.
Michael Dorn, president of a company that has performed security assessments of dozens of school systems in Florida, told the New York Times that a long gun is a more dangerous weapon for someone to take from an officer and that it’s harder for an officer to subdue and handcuff a suspect when he’s carrying such a gun.
Jones doesn’t seem to mind the criticism. He’s currently reviewing applications and hopes to hire a second rifle-toting guardian soon.
This article originally appeared on Fatherly. Follow @FatherlyHQ on Twitter.
Special operations forces have long been fans of the C-130. Why not? It’s one of the most versatile platforms available. The basic transport has been a standby for airborne units over the years, but when it comes to carrying the precious cargo that is American special operations forces, no ordinary Hercules will do.
Over the course of several decades, the Air Force has developed advanced versions of the C-130 platform to be used specifically by special operations. One of the first was a variant of the old C-130E, dubbed the MC-130E “Combat Talon,” which entered service in 1966. The MC-130P “Combat Shadow,” derived from the HC-130P, entered service in 1986. The MC-130H was a special-operations version of the C-130H that entered service in 1991.
All of these planes, however, are pretty old by now.
A MC-130J with the 413th Flight Test Squadron takes off. Note the winglets on the plane.
(USAF photo by Samuel King)
The C-130J version of the Hercules entered service in 1999, replacing aging C-130E models. Continuing the tradition of its predecessors, the C-130J was also modified for use by special operations forces. Older MC-130Es and MC-130Ps were first in line to be replaced by a total of 37 MC-130Js, according to a United States Air Force fact sheet.
The MC-130J first entered service in 2011. It was given the name “Commando II,” taking on the designation of the Curtiss-Wright C-46 “Commando,” a cargo plane that mostly saw action in the Pacific Theater of World War II and was retired in 1968.
A new MC-130J Commando II taxis on the flightline at Cannon Air Force Base, N.M.
(USAF photo by Senior Airman James Bell)
The MC-130J has a top speed of 415 miles per hour and an unrefueled range of 3,000 miles. It’s capable of refueling up to four helicopters or tiltrotors at a time. It’s also equipped with advanced electro-optical and infra-red sensors.
Learn more about this impressive special-ops plane in the video below!
Iran just conducted a massive rapid deployment exercise that consisted of 12,000 coordinated troops – the Islamic Republic was saying to the world that any attackers would face a “crushing blow.” Over two days, Iran’s regular military forces used ground troops, fighter planes, armored vehicles, and drones to practice its methods of repelling invaders over 190 square miles.
The exercises are aimed at Israel and the United States, both of which Iran considers a regional menace. Back in the United States, regardless of Iranian training exercises, a growing portion of the military community is urging against a war with Iran, and the effort is being led by retired U.S. Army Maj. Gen. Paul Eaton.
Eaton is best known for his command of training Iraqi troops during Operation Iraqi Freedom.
Led by Eaton, a cadre of former General-grade officers wrote an open letter to Congress, urging against provoking a war with the Islamic Republic of Iran. The Iranian military exercises played no role in the letter, which had been in the works for some time. In the letter, Eaton, the other officers, and the non-profit Vet Voice Foundation remind Congress about the costs of the current wars the United States is still engaged in right now.
“A full-scale military conflict with Iran would be a huge and costly undertaking,” the letter reads. “It’s a lesson we’ve learned before as a nation, at great cost. The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have cost us a lot in blood and treasure. We know that war with Iran would require hundreds of thousands of American service members to deploy and could result in even larger numbers of American casualties and injuries―alongside an unknown number of civilian deaths.”
While the United States does not have any kind of motive to attack Iran as of this writing, the letter is urging Congress to pass legislation to keep the White House from using military force without direct Congressional approval. The current authorization for the use of military force used by the Trump Administration to conduct military operations in Afghanistan and elsewhere is the same one used by his predecessors Obama and Bush, signed into law by President Bush after the Sep. 11, 2001, attacks on New York and Washington. The new National Defense Authorization Act could bar the use of force in Iran.
Specifically, the letter endorsed a bi-partisan detail in the 2020 NDAA that would prevent “unauthorized” military force in or against Iran, sponsored by Pennsylvania Democrat Rep. Ro Khanna and ardent Trump supporter and Florida Republican Congressman, Rep. Matt Gaetz. There is no current language in the Senate version of the bill. Before going to the President’s desk, the NDAA would need to be reconciled and passed by both houses. The letter urged the inclusion of the Iran language in the final bill.
U.S. troops are deployed to hundreds of countries – Iran is not one of them.
The group of military officers believes the interests of the United States are better served by focusing on the confrontations with Russia and China, instead of expanding into another Middle East conflict.
“The idea that we would enter yet another war in the Middle East without a clear national security interest, defined mission, and withdrawal strategy is unacceptable to America’s veterans and our allies across the political spectrum,” the letter reads.
Eager to get out its message that the Boeing-Leonardo MH-139 helicopter would save the US taxpayer $1 billion as the replacement of the UH-1N helicopter, Boeing flew several journalists this afternoon to demonstrate its capabilities.
Boeing also delivered nine boxes to the Defense Department this afternoon containing its proposal for the program that will supply 84 helicopters for a range of missions, including moving security crews in the event of threats to our nation’s ICBM fields, escorting convoys moving nuclear weapons, flying senior government officials out of the capital in the event of an emergency, and also providing support to the US Embassy in Japan.
Lockheed has also submitted its proposal for the UH-1N helicopter replacement program. “We are confident it will provide the best solution for the Air Force’s critical missile site and utility support missions,” spokeswoman Melissa Chadwick says in an evening email.
One bit of good news for the Air Force: Because this program has already been funded, it won’t be affected by yet another congressional Continuing Resolution, such as the one covering government spending to December. The bids come four days before the start of the Air Force Association’s annual conference, site of so many abortive announcements about this program.
This program has been a long time coming. Just ask Gen. John Hyten, head of Strategic Command. “Of all the things in my portfolio, I can’t even describe how upset I get about the helicopter replacement program,” he told the Senate Armed Services Committee in April. “It’s a helicopter, for gosh sakes. We ought to be able to go out and buy a helicopter and put it in the hands of the people that need it. And we should be able to do that quickly.”
As Breaking D readers will remember, the Air Force yielded to congressional pressure after it tried to issue a sole source contract to buy 25 of Lockheed Martin’s UH-60 Blackhawk helicopters for the nuclear mission.
A key requirement for the competitors to meet is the ability to carry a full load of nine combat-ready airmen. Lockheed says their HH-60U can carry nine fully outfitted Security Forces specialists, special equipment, and two special mission aviators for the Continuity of Operations mission, which is all about getting senior leaders out of harm’s way in a disaster or attack.
Boeing would not discuss how many fully combat ready Security Forces troops its helicopter can carry and the aircraft we flew in was not configured as it would be for the program. When configured for commercial use (mainly oil and gas companies), though, the helicopter can carry 15 passengers, so I’m betting it can handle the load.
There have been questions about the ability of the offerings to handle some of the Air Force requirements, especially those involving the “high and hot” requirements. Flying at altitude in hot weather places great strain on helicopters and is one of their greatest challenges. I understand the highest altitude they would operate at around the missile fields is about 6,200 feet. Of course, the Continuity of Operations mission could involve flights at a wider array of locations, but low-lying Washington DC is far and away the most likely.
One of the most striking things about today’s flight on the Boeing-Leonardo aircraft was the lack of vibration. Anyone who’s flown on Blackhawks knows the comforting vibrations from its four rotors. (I usually fall asleep within five minutes of takeoff.) The MH-139 has five rotors, which, with their tapered blade ends, significantly reduce the amount of vibration. The helicopter was also noticeably quieter than most of its conventional military competitors. We flew up to 150 knots and it felt as smooth as a large Mercedes sedan on the highway. Also, as a 62-year-old with lousy Achilles tendons, I noticed that entry and exit was pretty easy.
May the best helicopter program, embodying the best combination of cost and capability, win.
After months of tedious searching, top U.S. Army leaders on July 13, 2018, announced that Austin, Texas, will be the location of its new Futures Command, which will lead the service’s ambitious modernization effort.
Army Secretary Mark Esper, surrounded by other key leaders, said that Army Futures Command will “establish unity of command and unity of effort by consolidating the Army’s entire modernization process under one roof. It will turn ideas into action through experimenting, prototyping, testing.”
Esper told defense reporters at the Pentagon on July 13, 2018, that the Army chose Austin for a variety of reasons.
“Not only did it possess the talent, entrepreneurial spirit and access to key partners we are seeking, but also because it offers the quality of life our people desire and the cost of living they can afford,” he said.
The announcement comes after the Army scoured the country searching for major cities with the right combination of an innovative industrial presence and academia willing to work with the service in creating its force of the future.
M1A2 Abrams Main Battle Tank
The effort began three months ago with a list of 30 cities, which was quickly narrowed down to 15. Austin was selected from a short list of five, beating out Boston, Minneapolis, Philadelphia and Raleigh, North Carolina.
The Army announced its plan to build a future force in October 2018. It named six modernization priorities: long-range precision fires, next-generation combat vehicle, future vertical lift, a mobile network, air and missile defense, and soldier lethality. For each priority, special cross-functional teams of experts have been assembled to pursue change for the service.
If all goes as planned, the Army’s new priorities will ultimately lead to the replacement of all of its “Big Five” combat platforms from the Cold War with modern platforms and equipment. These systems include the M1 Abrams tank, Bradley fighting vehicle, Black Hawk helicopter, Apache attack helicopter, and Patriot air defense system.
This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @military.com on Twitter.
After colliding with a civilian cargo ship earlier this year, the USS Fitzgerald sustained over $500 million worth of damage to its structure and systems.
Though the Arleigh Burke-class warship was brought back to port at Yokosuka, Japan, it will likely be unable to transit the ocean in its current condition, officials say.
However, as the Navy and its contractors don’t maintain large maintenance facilities and dry docks in Japan capable of carrying out the repairs the Fitzgerald needs, it will have to somehow be delivered to the United States for fixing.
To bring the Fitzgerald home, the Navy will make use of massive heavy-lift ships, designed to hoist smaller vessels onto a platform and carry them across the world’s waterways. The alternate name of these unique ships — float on/float offs (FLO/FLO) — hints at how they’re able to load and carry ships weighing thousands of tons.
To load a vessel aboard a heavy-lift ship, it takes on water into ballast tanks, submerging its main deck area enough that its cargo can be floated into position, sometimes onto a cradle which will keep it stabilized during transport. When its cargo is in place, the ship releases its ballast and is now able to move under its own power.
This won’t be the first time the Navy has had to use a civilian heavy-lift ship to bring one of its own back to American shores.
In 1988, the USS Samuel B. Roberts, an Oliver Hazard Perry-class frigate, was struck by an Iranian mine during Operation Earnest Will. The Roberts was marred with a 15-foot gash in its hull, and its engines were rendered inoperable.
To return the Roberts back to the US, the Navy contracted Dutch shipping firm Wijsmuller Transport to the tune of $1.3 million to provide a heavy-lift ship — MV Mighty Servant 2 — that would carry the stricken frigate back to Newport, RI, where further damage assessments would take place.
Years later, in 2000, the USS Cole, another Arleigh Burke-class destroyer, was damaged on its port side at the waterline during a suicide attack which claimed the lives of 17 sailors and injured 39 more. Though the ship was still afloat in the aftermath of the attack, it was quickly determined that it would not be able to proceed back to mainland America under its own power for repairs.
As such, the Navy contracted a Norwegian company, Offshore Heavy Transport, to sail a heavy-lift vessel to Yemen where the Cole remained after the attack, in order to bring the warship home.
In addition to carting damaged warships around the globe, the Navy’s Military Sealift Command also charters heavy-lift ships to carry its smaller craft to various operating locations in foreign seas, including minesweepers and patrol boats.
A number of these heavy-lift ships are still in service today, save for the Mighty Servant 2, which was lost at sea near Indonesia in 1999. It’s possible that the vessel which brought the Cole back to the United States — the Blue Marlin — could be the same one to return Cole’s sister ship, the Fitzgerald, to America to begin the repair process.
It was recently reported that the move could begin as early as September, depending on when the contract for transport is issued and inked.
Some aircraft carriers are legends – either from long service like that of USS Enterprise (CVN 65) or with an unmatched war record like that of another USS Enterprise (CV 6).
They have either heroic sacrifices, the way USS Yorktown (CV 5) did at Midway, or they simply take a ton of abuse as USS Franklin (CV 13) did.
But some carriers just stink. You wouldn’t wish them on your worst enemy… or maybe you would, simply to make the war easier. There’s arguments on both sides of that. Here are the carriers that would prompt such an internal debate.
6. USS Ranger (CV 4)
When America was down to one carrier in the South Pacific in 1942, re-deploying America’s first purpose-built carrier, the USS Ranger (CV 4) was not considered as an option.
That tells you something about the ship. Her combat career was relatively brief, and she eventually was relegated to training duties. Still, she had a decent air group (mostly fighters and dive-bombers), so she is the best of this bad lot.
5. Admiral Kuznetsov Class (Kuznetsov, Liaoning, and unnamed Type 001A)
If you’ve read a lot of WATM, then you know about the Kuznetsov Follies. The crappy engines (the Russians send tugs along with her in case of breakdown), the splash landings, and the fact the Russians ended up using her as a glorified ferry all speak to real problems. In her favor, though, is the presence of 12 long-range anti-ship missiles on the lead ship, and she can fly MiG-29K and Su-33 Flankers off her deck. China’s versions carry J-15 fighters, but not the missiles.
4. Kiev class (Kiev, Minsk, Novorossiysk)
The Russian Kiev and her sisters are on here for a crap air wing.
The Yak-38 Forger was one of the worst planes to ever operate from a carrier. The Kiev gets a higher ranking largely because she had a lot of firepower, including eight SS-N-12 Sandbox missiles as well as a lot of SA-N-3 Goblets and point-defense systems, which were arguably more of a threat to the enemy than the planes she carried.
Yeah… that kinda has the whole purpose backwards. Now, a modern version with F-35Bs or even AV-8B+ Harriers and the Aegis system could be interesting.
3. HTMS Chakri Naruebet
The Chakri Naruebet from the Thai navy is on the list not so much for inherent problems, but because of substantial air wing neglect during the reign of King Bhumibol Adulyadej (aka Rana IX). Worse, the Thais officially call her an “offshore patrol helicopter carrier.”
They did buy some second-hand AV-8S Matadors from Spain. But most flunked the maintenance, and soon Thailand had one flyable jet. At least the Kievs had heavy firepower to make up for their crap air wing!
That said, his successor, King Vajiralongkorn, was a former fighter pilot, and hopefully will be able to turn things around.
2. Ise Class battleship/carrier hybrid conversions
Okay, in some ways, this is understandable. After the Battle of Midway, Japan needed carriers in the worst possible way. Ise and Hyuga are perfect examples of getting those “carriers” — in the worst possible way.
Initially built as battleships with a top speed of 23 knots, they got turned not into full carriers, which might have been useful. But a half-battleship/half-carrier holding 22 seaplanes (okay about 50 percent more than Hosho) that they could launch and recover wasn’t totally awful.
Remember that’s seaplanes, not Zeroes for fighter cover or strike planes. Granted Japan had the A6M-2 Rufe, a seaplane Zero, but this was a rush job, and it showed. At least they each had eight 14-inch guns.
1. HIJMS Hosho
This was the world’s first purpose-built aircraft carrier. But let’s be honest, the Japanese boat was a dog. It had a top speed of 25 knots, and it carried all of 15 planes. During the Battle of Midway, it had eight biplanes.
By comparison, USS Langley (CV 1), America’s first aircraft carrier, could carry 36 planes. Even with a top speed of 15 knots, she would have been useful escorting convoys in the Atlantic – if America hadn’t turned her into a seaplane tender to satisfy an arms-control treaty Japan violated anyhow.
Are there any bad carriers we missed? Let us know in the comments!
The Badger is officially the smallest passenger tank on Earth, according to the Guinness Book of World Records. It’s a one-man, all-terrain vehicle designed to breach buildings and other fortified positions. It’s powerful enough to break down doors yet small enough to fit in a lift.
Make no mistake, this tank is not a novelty. Howe Howe Technologies, the makers of this little beast, have experience making vehicles for the military. Howe Howe specializes in the fabrication and design of armored and military-grade vehicles. The Badger, however, is currently being used by SWAT teams.