Turkey’s purchase of Russia’s top-of-the-line S-400 missile defense system has caused a diplomatic spat between Ankara and Washington and led NATO’s southernmost member to miss out on the F-35 stealth fighter jet, but it could actually prove fatal to Moscow’s plans to take on US F-22s and F-35s.
Articles on the threat posed to the F-35 program by the S-400 are a dime a dozen, with experts across the board agreeing that networking Russian systems into NATO’s air defenses spells a near death sentence for allied air power.
Additionally, scores of US experts have argued that Turkey’s S-400 could get a peak at the F-35’s stealth technology and glean important intelligence on the new plane meant to serve as the backbone of US airpower for decades to come.
But something weird is going on with the US’s laser focus on F-35’s security. Michael Kofman, a senior research scientist at CNA, a nonprofit research and analysis organization, told Defense One this should be cause for concern.
An F-35A Lightning II.
“For some reason coverage tends not to ask the question of how are Russians planning to deal with the potential problem of US intelligence being all over their system in Turkey,” he said.
“Russians are not crying about selling their best tech to a NATO country, despite the obvious implications for technology access. That should make us wonder,” he continued.
Basically, while Russia’s installation and support for S-400 systems in Turkey may give it intel on the F-35, Turkey, a NATO country, having Russia’s best weapon against against US airpower could spell doom for the system.
If the US cracks the S-400, Russia is in trouble
Russia relies on its missile defenses to keep its assets at home and abroad safe as it pursues increasingly risky military escalations in theaters like Ukraine and Syria. Defeating these systems, potentially, could leave Russia vulnerable to attack.
But if the US can take a look at Russia’s S-400 “depends entirely on what conditions the Russians manage to hold the Turks to in terms of allowing NATO (US) access to inspect the system,” Justin Bronk, an aerial combat expert at the Royal United Services Institute, told Business Insider.
Russian S-400 batteries in Syria.
(Russian Defense Ministry)
“It’s potentially a very valuable source of previously unavailable information about a threat system which is a specific priority for the alliance and the US has never come into possession of an S-400 before,” Bronk said. However, “it may be that the system is actually operated by and guarded by Russian personnel in Turkey which could complicate things,” he continued.
Also, Russia’s export version of the S-400 doesn’t exactly match the version they use at home, but a former top US Air Force official told Business Insider that the US already has insight into Russia’s anti-air capabilities, and that the export version isn’t too far off from the genuine article.
Russia needs the money?
“Russia will sell them to whomever will give them the cash,” the source continued, pointing to Russia’s weak economy as a potential explanation for making the risky move of selling S-400 systems to a NATO country.
So while Russia may get some intelligence on the F-35 through its relationship with Turkey, that road runs both ways.
Furthermore, while US stealth aircraft represent individual systems, Russia’s missile defenses serve as an answer to multiple US platforms, including naval missiles. Therefore, Russia having its S-400 mechanics exposed may prove a worse proposition than the F-35 being somewhat exposed to Russian eyes.
“Getting a look at the system architecture and the hardware would still be extremely valuable for NATO,” Bronk concluded.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
In fact, Tom Clancy recounted one such tale of an Abrams tank getting stuck in the mud during Desert Storm, deflecting shots from as close as 400 yards, and then surviving efforts to destroy it in place with just some sights out of alignment.
However, that toughness comes at a price. These tanks have a lot of blind spots.
What types of problems come from not being able to see through armor? Think about that scene with Welsh and McGrath during Episode 3 of “Band of Brothers” when they took out that German assault gun with a bazooka. Worse, the only way to really get a good view was to poke your head outside the vehicle. If the enemy has a good sniper, that becomes a dicey proposition.
Thankfully for tank crews, Elbit Systems is addressing that problem. According to company reps, the IronVision system now means crews don’t have to deal with being situationally unaware. But you might be wondering how you can get a tank crew to see though inches of armor.
Officially, Elbit’s website describes IronVision as a 360-degree “panoramic situational awareness system” for crewmen on board tanks and other armored fighting vehicles. This is done using so-called “See-Through Armor” technology very similar to that used on the helmet-mounted sights used by pilots of aircraft like the MiG-29, Su-27, and AH-64 Apache.
IronVision also uses pre-loaded data about terrain and obstacles to give crews the ability to see through their tanks and eliminate the blind spots. As a side benefit, these systems also help reduce motion sickness and visual distortion in armored vehicles.
Often, when tank crews are buttoned up, they risk some grunt getting close enough to do real damage to their vehicle. With IronVision, those risks have been greatly reduced.
If you have any hope of winning, your strength has to be greater than your opponent’s weakness. As a young second lieutenant in pilot training, I learned that lesson the hard way.
I was flying a Basic Fighter Maneuver Flight, also known as dogfighting. The objective was for me to point at my instructor, who was in his own F-16, and as soon as we passed—with over 1,000 miles per hour of closure—maneuver my jet so I could gun him.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Andy Dunaway)
On the first set I hit the merge at just under the speed of sound and pulled back on the stick. At 50 pounds of force, the stick was fully-aft, yet only moved one inch—a design feature to make the jet as responsive as possible. The big stabilizers on the tail dug in and in less than a second I was at 9G’s.
At 9 times the force of gravity, my body weighed over 2,000 pounds. The crushing force pushed me into my seat as blood drained from my head into my arms and legs. If enough drained out, I would lose consciousness and, more likely than not, impact the ground before I woke up. To counteract this, I performed an anti-G straining maneuver—squeezing my legs and abs, while making short, crisp breaths to keep pressure in my lungs. Even with an effective G-strain, I lost my peripheral vision as the world closed in until it looked like I was watching it through a toilet-paper roll.
Pilot fitness has a significant effect on performance while dogfighting. (USAF Photo/Tech. Sgt. Jeffrey Allen)
For the next minute or so I struggled to maneuver my jet into a position to gun my instructor. He was able to easily neutralize my game-plan and called “knock it off” so that we could set up the fight again. The next three fights ended the same way. By this point, I was out of breath and exhausted from fighting him and the G’s. We ended up doing two more sets, but instead of just neutralizing the fight, he gunned me on both of them.
In the debrief, after the flight, my labored breathing was evident in the tape. He paused it and said, “How did you ever expect to win today? I have 15 years of experience flying fighters, and granted, you don’t have anywhere near that, but I’m also in better shape than you.”
He was right. Being in my mid-20’s, I should have been in better shape than someone in their early 40’s. Having far more experience than me, there was no way I was going to be tactically superior. But, my fitness, and my poor performance towards the end of the flight was completely in my control. His weakness was greater than my strength which meant there was a zero percent chance of me winning that day.
I’ve reflected that lesson many times since; not only for myself, but also as a package commander in charge of upwards of a hundred aircraft. As the weaker force, you must find an area on the battlefield where your strength is greater than the enemy’s weakness. If you can’t find it, you’re in for a bad day. Likewise, if you are the incumbent, stronger force, it’s important to shore up your weaknesses so that hopefully they are greater than your enemies strength.
Want to learn more about dogfighting, flying, and the most successful professionals in any industry? Make sure to check out F-35 pilot Justin Lee’s podcast, The Professionals Playbook!
The rate of machinist’s mate has a long and proud history in the United States Navy. Established in 1880 as finisher, the rate changed names a couple of times before being settled as machinist’s mate in 1904.
According to the Navy CyberSpace website on enlisted jobs, “Machinist’s mates (non-nuclear) operate, maintain, and repair (organizational and intermediate level) ship propulsion machinery, auxiliary equipment, and outside machinery, such as: steering engine, hoisting machinery, food preparation equipment, refrigeration and air conditioning equipment, windlasses, elevators, and laundry equipment; operate and maintain (organizational and intermediate level) marine boilers, pumps, forced draft blowers, and heat exchangers; perform tests, transfers, and inventory of lubricating oils, fuels, and water; maintain records and reports; and generate and stow industrial gases.”
With such a wide array of skills and responsibilities, the machinist’s mates in George Washington’s engineering department prove the value and versatility of the rate to the ship and to the Navy as a whole.
Petty Officer 3rd Class Austin Huizar samples liquid nitrogen in the cryogenics shop aboard the aircraft carrier USS George Washington, October 14, 2016.
(US Navy photo by Seaman Krystofer Belknap)
Machinist’s Mate Fireman Gopika Mayell checks a steam usage reading in one of the flight deck catapult rooms aboard the aircraft carrier USS George Washington, June 14, 2012.
(US Navy photo by MCS 3rd Class William Pittman)
“The main ways that machinist’s mates and engineering department support naval aviation is through the catapult shop and [oxygen and nitrogen] shop,” said Huizar.
“The catapult shop makes sure that all of the machinery is up to date and fully functioning in order to operate the catapult that launch the jets. As for [oxygen and nitrogen], we create aviator’s breathing oxygen and we also have a cryogenic plant that creates liquid oxygen and liquid nitrogen. The liquid oxygen is used as aviator’s breathing oxygen and the liquid nitrogen is used as gaseous nitrogen for the airplane tires because it expands and contracts less at various altitudes.”
Machinist’s Mate 3rd Class Duane Hilumeyer, left; Machinist’s Mate 3rd Class Kexian Li, center; and Machinist’s Mate Fireman Jacob Tylisz close a valve to maintain accumulator steam pressure on a catapult aboard the Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson, Sept. 24, 2014.
(US Navy photo by MCS 2nd Class John Philip Wagner, Jr.)
In order to convert each gas into liquid form, the air expansion engine lowers the temperature of the air to reach negative boiling points, separating oxygen and nitrogen from air.
The air in the expansion engine is frozen to negative 320 degrees Fahrenheit to separate nitrogen, and negative 297 degrees Fahrenheit to separate oxygen.
Air separation is vital to the mission of George Washington, regardless of where the ship finds herself in her life cycle.
According to navy.mil, “O2N2 Plants Bring Life to Airwing Pilot,” O2N2 plants provide oxygen to the aviators, nitrogen to the air wing, and gas forms of both for use throughout the ship.
Machinist’s Mate 1st Class Robert Howard, front, Machinist’s Mate Fireman Austin Martin, center, and Chief Warrant Officer 5 Glen Spitnale, test a package conveyor aboard the aircraft carrier USS Dwight D. Eisenhower, Aug. 5, 2019.
(US Navy photo by MCS 3rd Class Kaleb J. Sarten)
Machinist’s Mate 3rd Class Brandon Amodeo performs maintenance on a pressure regulator in emergency diesel generator room aboard the aircraft carrier USS Dwight D. Eisenhower, Sept. 16, 2019.
(US Navy photo by MCS Seaman Apprentice Trent P. Hawkins)
The current refueling complex overhaul (RCOH) environment enables them to put their skills to the test in. Sailors from engineering department, such as Machinist’s Mate 1st Class Larissa Pruitt, auxiliary division leading petty officer, have provided significant support to accomplishing major ship milestones while in RCOH.
“The machinist’s mate is like the Swiss army knife of the Navy,” said Pruitt. “Since being in the shipyards, we have repaired all four aircraft elevators, started the five-year catapult inspection, restored fire pumps to support Ready to Flood operations, and refurbished the air conditioner and refrigeration units.”
Machinist’s Mate 2nd Class Teran Vo, left, and Fireman Billy Price perform maintenance on a deck edge door track in the hangar bay aboard aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt, Nov. 4, 2019.
(US Navy photo by MCS 2nd Class Pyoung K. Yi)
As a rate that has been around for roughly 140 years, machinist’s mates will continue to make an impact throughout the surface fleet and the naval aviation community. The hard work of the machinist’s mates ensures that George Washington will have a successful redelivery to the fleet.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
In honor of the 20th anniversary of The Matrix, Dolby Cinema™ and AMC Theaters will be showing the film on the big screen for one week only. Starting Friday, Aug. 30, you can follow the white rabbit and — if you so choose — you can do it with sound so powerful, your seat will literally shake.
Dolby Vision™ has colors more vivid than any other theater I’ve experienced. In fact, the Dolby trailer at the beginning of the screening was one of the most surprising moments of the viewing experience. I won’t spoil it here, but I was pretty impressed.
Meanwhile, Dolby Atmos® sound “fills the room and flows all around you” — literally. There are speakers on the ceiling.
First of all, I absolutely recommend seeing The Matrix again in theaters. If you saw it twenty years ago or you’re already a fan, I think you’ll enjoy the nostalgia of it (and if you haven’t seen it since then, my bet is you’ll catch so much more than you did the first time).
If you somehow haven’t seen it yet, the film totally holds up. Some lines are so perfect, they make the screenwriter in me giddy. I went home and re-read the script. It’s great.
The whole scene with The Oracle is perfection. I love a good prophecy story, even if it’s just about a vase.
As for seeing it in Dolby Cinema™, here’s what I’ll say. It’s intense. You can literally feel the sound waves hit you in your seat. The punches, the technology, the gunfights — you can feel them. It’s great sound design, but if you’re like me and you have sensitive hearing, then be warned and definitely don’t sit up front (although, there are speakers all throughout the theater, so I don’t know where you’re most safe?).
Actual footage of me watching ‘The Matrix’ in Dolby…
I expect that most people aren’t as sensitive to light and sound as I am, though, so if you’re already a Matrix fan, or just an avid movie goer, this is an experience you won’t want to miss.
I’d also guess that, short of plugging us all into the actual matrix, this is how the Wachowskis would want someone to see their epic cyberpunk film — plus it’s a good time to freshen up your memory before ‘Matrix 4’ is released.
When you think of a meteor, your mind likely points to the object that wiped out the dinosaurs some 65 million years ago. Well, if we’re being technical, that was actually a meteorite, but the details aren’t important. The fact is, that giant, extinction-bringing boulder came from seemingly nowhere and took out the dinosaurs — who had no idea what hit them.
The British have developed a new, beyond-visual-range, radar-guided, air-to-air missile, appropriately named Meteor. It, too, is a bolt that comes from out of the blue to wipe something out of existence. It may be much smaller than the meteor that wiped out the dinosaurs, but for the aircraft it targets, well, it’s just as final.
The Meteor is actually the latest in a long line of British missiles designed for air-to-air combat.
The United Kingdom developed an improved Sparrow called Sky Flash.
Believe it or not, Britain’s use of the American-made AIM-9 Sidewinder in the Falklands was a rare event. The Brits had actually developed a number of air-to-air missiles on their own. For example, the Red Top and Firestreak missiles were used on fighters, like the de Havilland Sea Vixen and the English Electric Lightning. The British also made an improved version of the AIM-7 Sparrow, called the Sky Flash.
The British also developed the AIM-132 Advanced Short-Range Air-to-Air Missile (ASRAAM), which the United States had planned on buying until the end of the Cold War. The British acquired the AIM-120 Advanced Medium-Range Air-to-Air Missile (AMRAAM) from the United States, but soon realized that they needed more range. So, they added a ramjet engine to the AMRAAM and the Meteor was born.
The Meteor and Spear combine to give the F-35 long-range punch with an itty-bitty radar cross section.
The new Meteor makes for a perfect complement to the MBDA Spear, allowing British F-35s to hit targets dozens of miles away while maintaining a very small radar cross section. An official handout showed that F-35s can carry eight Spear missiles, two Meteors, and two ASRAAMs.
The Meteor has entered service with the Swedish Air Force, and will also operate on the Rafale and the Eurofigther Typhoon. Japan is reportedly teaming up with the UK for to create a new version of this system.
And so the British tradition of developing lethal missiles continues!
While every military has accidents, the Russian military appears to be more accident-prone than other great powers.
“There’s a tendency for accidents to happen in Russia,” Jeffrey Edmonds, a Russia expert at CNA, told INSIDER.
Edmonds, a former CIA analyst and member of the National Security Council, said that the problem appears to be that Russia often combines a willingness to take risks with an outdated military infrastructure that simply can’t support that culture, creating an environment where accidents are more likely.
In recent weeks, many people have been killed or wounded in various Russian military accidents, including a deadly fire aboard a top-secret submarine, an ammunition dump explosion at a military base, and a missile engine explosion at a military test site.
Fourteen Russian sailors died on July 1, 2019, when fire broke out aboard a submarine thought to be the Losharik, a deep-diving vessel believed to have been built to gather intelligence as well as possibly destroy or tap into undersea cables.
The incident was the worst Russian naval accident since 20 Russian sailors and civilians died aboard the nuclear-powered submarine Nerpa in 2008 — a tragedy preceded by the loss of 118 sailors aboard the nuclear-powered cruise-missile sub Kursk in 2000.
“The aging Russian navy (and the predecessor Soviet Navy) in general has had a far higher number of operational accidents than any other ‘major’ fleet,” A.D. Baker, a former naval intelligence officer, previously told INSIDER.
The Russian navy lost its only aircraft carrier, the Admiral Kuznetsov, last fall when a heavy crane punched a large hole in it, and the only dry dock suitable for carrying out the necessary repairs and maintenance on a ship of that size sank due to a sudden power failure.
Even when it was deployed, the Kuznetsov was routinely followed around by tug boats in expectation of an accident.
Admiral Kuznetsov aircraft carrier.
Accidents are by no means limited to the Russian navy. An ammunition depot housing tens of thousands of artillery shells at a military base in Siberia exploded on Aug. 5, 2019, killing one and wounding over a dozen people. Then, on Aug. 8, 2019, a missile engine at a military test site in northern Russia unexpectedly exploded, killing two and injuring another six.
Russia also experiences aircraft accidents and other incidents common to other militaries, the US included.
“Russia really pushes an infrastructure that is old to try to keep up or gain parity with the United States,” Edmonds told INSIDER. “They’re pushing their fleet and pushing their military to perform in a certain way that is often beyond what is safe for them to actually do considering the age of the equipment and the age of the infrastructure.”
At the same time, though, “there is a culture of aggressiveness and risk-taking,” Edmonds added, pointing to some of the close calls the Russian military has had while executing dangerous maneuvers in the air and at sea in close proximity to the US military.
“There is a culture of risk-taking in the Russian military that you don’t have in the United States,” he explained. “You would never allow a US pilot to do a low flyover of a Russian ship. The pilot would immediately have his career ended.”
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
With the pool of qualified recruits shrinking, a new Army marketing campaign debuted on Veterans Day to target younger cohorts — known as Generation Z — and focus beyond traditional combat roles.
To do this, the Army is asking 17-to-24-year-olds one question: What’s Your Warrior?
The query is at the heart of the new strategy, and is designed to introduce young adults — who may know nothing about the military — to the diverse opportunities on tap through Army service, said Brig. Gen. Alex Fink, chief of Army Enterprise Marketing.
Over the next year, 150 Army career fields — along with eight broad specialty areas — will be interlinked through digital, broadcast, and print outlets, Fink explained, and show why all branches are vital to the Army’s overall mission.
The ads, designed to be hyper-targeted and highly-engaging, he said, will give modern youth an idea of how their unique identities can be applied to the total-force.
What’s Your Warrior is the Army’s latest marketing strategy, aimed at 17-to-24-year-olds, known as Generation Z, by looking beyond traditional combat roles and sharing the wide-array of diverse opportunities available through Army service.
So, instead of traditional ads with soldiers kicking in doors or jumping out of helicopters, What’s Your Warrior pivots toward the wide-array of military occupational specialties that don’t necessarily engage on the frontlines — like bio-chemists or cyber-operators.
The campaign will unfold throughout the year with new, compelling, and real-soldier stories meant for “thumb-stopping experiences,” Fink explained, regarding mobile platforms.
And, with so many unique Army career-fields to choose from, Fink believes the force offers something to match all the distinctive skillsets needed from future soldiers.
One of the vignettes featured is Capt. Erika Alvarado, a mission element leader for the Army Reserve’s Cyber Protection Team, where she is on the frontlines of today’s cyber warfare.
Another example is 2nd Lt. Hatem Smadi, a helicopter pilot who provides air support to infantrymen, engineers, and other branches to secure the skies.
A U.S. Army Black Hawk helicopter.
(U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Jerry Saslav)
Their stories — along with others — will tell the Army mission more abundantly, something previous marketing strategies “didn’t do the best job of,” Fink admitted.
“Young adults already know the ground combat role we play. We need to surprise them with the breadth and depth of specialties in the Army,” Fink said. “This campaign is different than anything the Army has done in the past — or any other service — in terms of look and feel.”
The backbone of the new push isn’t just showing the multitude of unique Army branches — such as Alvarado’s and Smadi’s stories. It goes beyond that, he said, and is meant to show how individual branches come together as one team to become something greater than themselves — a sentiment their research says Gen Z is looking for.
“Team” is also the key-subject of chapter one. An initial advertisement, unveiled as a poster prior to Veterans Day, depicts a team of soldiers from five career tracks — a microbiologist, a signal soldier, an aviator, a cyber-operator, and a ground combat troop — all grouped together.
“By focusing on the range of opportunities available, What’s Your Warrior presents a more complete view of Army service by accentuating one key truth — teams are exponentially stronger when diverse talents join forces,” Fink said.
Roughly five months after the team in chapter one, chapter two will be unveiled and focus on identity, he said. At this checkpoint, soldier’s personal stories will be shared through 30-60 ad spots, online videos, banner ads and other formats to tell their story.
U.S. Army recruits practice patrol tactics while marching during U.S. Army basic training.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Shawn Weismiller)
“We know today’s young men and women want more than just a job. They desire a powerful sense of identity, and to be part of something larger than themselves,” said Secretary of the Army Ryan D. McCarthy. “What’s Your Warrior highlights the many ways today’s youth can apply their unique skills and talents to the most powerful team on Earth.”
The campaign will be the first major push for the Army’s marketing force since they moved from their previous headquarters near the Pentagon to Chicago — in an effort to be near industry talent, Fink said.
Although not quite settled in, the force’s marketing team started their move to the “Windy City” over the fall. Since then, they have led the charge on a variety of advertisements and commercials, both in preparation of What’s Your Warrior, and other ongoing efforts.
At the Chicago-based location, the office makeup is roughly 60% uniformed service and 40% civilian employees, Fink said.
Chicago is also one of 22 cities tapped by Army leaders as part of the “Army Marketing and Recruiting Pilot Program.” The micro-recruiting push — focusing on large cities with traditionally lower recruiting numbers — has utilized data analytics, and been able to tailor messaging for potential recruits based on what’s popular in their location, sometimes down to the street they live on, Fink said.
How “What’s Your Warrior” will target those cities — and others — remains to be seen.
That said, Fink believes the new campaign will speak to today’s youth on their terms, in their language, and in a never-before-seen view of Army service and show how their skillsets are needed to form the most powerful team in the world: the U.S. Army.
In a move that almost seems suspiciously logical, Secretary of the Army, Mark Esper, has declared safety briefs no longer mandatory. That means no more long, drawn-out discussions led by the first sergeant about oddly specific incidents. No more sh*tbag “leaders” talking down to warfighters about crimes that they themselves committed. No more checking the box by reminding troops to not drink and drive, beat your spouse, or beat your kids in a monotone, apathetic voice that diminishes the gravity of those serious crimes.
Soldiers are about to get told that this weekend to “be safe” and then to fall out. Some units may try out this thing called, “assuming adults are responsible for their own actions” while others will be stuck in their old ways, discussing a few safety issues out of sheer habit.
For the love of all that is awesome in the Army – do not f*ck this up, troops. If even a single private gets a speeding ticket this weekend, the chain of command will put that incident on a pedestal in order to keep safety briefs. If a single douchebag gets arrested for a DUI and jokes that they weren’t told not to this week, that one asshat will Blue Falcon the entire United States Army.
So, enjoy some memes if it means you’re not out trying to appear on the blotter.
Mary A. asks: How did someone get the job of an executioner in medieval times?
Few occupations from history are as maligned as that of Medieval-era executioner. Popularly painted as gleeful dispensers of death and torture, the truth seems to be that many executioners throughout this period usually treated the occupation with a certain reverence and exhibited an extreme dedication to duty. Beyond trying to minimize the suffering of those slated to be executed, this was, among other reasons we’ll get into, because it would often mean the life of the executioner if they ever botched an execution or otherwise weren’t extremely professional in carrying out their job.
So, moving beyond any Hollywood depictions, what was it actually like to be an executioner in the ballpark of Medieval times and how did someone get the job in the first place?
A thing to note before we continue is that the duties expected of and performed by executioners, as well as what life was like for specific executioners, has varied wildly across time and regions. For example, as we’ve talked before, those condemned to death in the Ottoman empire during the 18th century could potentially get off scot-free by challenging the executioner to a footrace. In this case, in addition to doling out lethal justice with their bare hands, executioners also worked as both bodyguards and gardeners.
That caveat out of the way, how did one become an executioner in the first place? It turns out that many European Medieval executioners were former criminals themselves. You see, for reasons we’ll get into shortly, the role of executioner was so unpopular that finding someone to do the job often required either forcing someone into the profession or offering the gig to someone who was slated to be executed themselves.
Scandinavian countries were known to make extensive use of this novel hiring practice, with a little twist thrown in- they’d maim executioners by cutting off one or both of their ears so that they could be easily identified by the public. It also wasn’t uncommon for people made executioners in this way to be branded somewhere on their head, once again for the purpose of their new profession being, in this case literally, written all over their face. For example, as noted in Hugo Mathiessen’s Boddel og Galgefugl,
“In the year 1470, a poor thief stood at the foot of the gallows in the Swedish town Arboga and was waiting to be hanged. The public attending the spectacle had pity on the sinner and when he, to save his neck, offered to become executioner in the town, it was agreed. He was pardoned and the red-hot iron was used to brand his body with both thief and executioner mark.”
This all brings us around to why so many avoided the profession like the plague. To begin with, the general consensus among most was that in taking such a job, one was then sure to be damned in the afterlife. This was despite the fact that in some regions, such as France, executioners were by official church decree absolved of the sins committed while performing their duties.
This still didn’t stop the general public from considering executioners unclean, leading to the more practical problem with the job- nearly being completely ostracized from society. Coming back to those condemned to die instead becoming an executioner, people seem to have been perfectly fine with this as the criminal’s life would still be forfeit, just in a more metaphorical sense.
For example, throughout Medieval Europe executioners were often forced to live in houses outside of the city or town they plied their trade in. In cases where this wasn’t possible, they tended to live near things like public latrines, lepertoriums, or brothels. Executioners were similarly often denied citizenship to the towns and cities they served (and thus had few rights in the town) and were largely barred from holding office or even entering churches, pubs, bathhouses, etc- basically most public establishments were off limits to the executioner.
Thus, despite executioners being deemed critical for a society to remain civilised, they were paradoxically generally forced to live apart from that civilised society.
In fact, some places across Europe went as far to institute laws specifically targeting executioners and what they could and could not do in their day to day lives. For example, the Bavarian town of Memmingen enacted an ordinance in 1528 that forbade members of the general public dining with an executioner.
Such laws and just general attitudes effectively limited the people an executioner could interact with in their day to day lives to their own family and those from the criminal underworld who simply didn’t care that the executioner was unclean. On top of this, an executioner’s children and spouse were likewise similarly shunned by anyone but the underbelly of society.
This, combined with the fact that the children of executioners could usually only find mates with children of other executioners, understandably led to the role of executioner becoming a macabre family trade that resulted in executioner dynasties that spanned centuries.
Beyond being ostrosised and damning your progeny to a similar life, as well as an afterlife full of hellfire, while there were potentially ways for an executioner to make a killing within the profession, it turns out for most there simply weren’t enough executions themselves to make ends meet. Alternate work was limited to jobs nobody else wanted. This included all manner of things, from disposal of corpses (animal and human), emptying cesspools, collecting taxes from the diseased and prostitutes, etc.
Oddly, at least from a modern perspective, another common profession for a well trained executioner was that of a doctor and surgeon. You see, beyond executing people, another thing executioners were often called to do was torture people for various reasons. These two things, combined with the close-knit community of executioners sharing their knowledge amongst themselves, resulted in lifelong executioners generally having exceptional knowledge of human anatomy, and thus they were commonly called on to treat various medical maladies.
In fact, one rather famous 17th century German executioner, Frantz Schmidt, noted in his journal that over the course of his near five decade career he had over 15,000 people he treated as a doctor, while executing only 394 and disfiguring or otherwise torturing or flogging roughly the same number- meaning most of the time he functioned as a doctor, despite society at the time considering him an executioner.
Schmidt was one of those thrust into the profession as his father was strong-armed into becoming an executioner, condemning Schmidt to the same life once he came of age, though Schmidt’s story has something of a happy ending.
Like many executioners, Schmidt was given a wide berth by the public in his day-to-day life, but the incredible professionalism with which he conducted his grisly duties earned him the begrudging respect of both the general public and those in power. In his later years, Schmidt was able to parlay this into a meeting with Nuremberg authorities and then was able to appeal to Emperor Ferdinand II himself, with the goal of restoring his family honor.
Swayed by not just Schmidt’s words, but also letters from city council members and other notable people extolling Schmidt’s character and dedication to his duty, the then 70 year old executioner was granted both Nuremberg citizenship and had his family name cleared, allowing his progeny to escape the bloody spectre of his work.
Of course, being ultra-professional with the profession was something of a necessity for Schmidt as, at the time in Germany, there was a law stipulating that any executioner tasked with doling out death by the sword (a form of execution largely reserved for especially important individuals) who took more than three swings to behead a victim would be condemned to die themselves.
Even where such laws didn’t exist, the job of an executioner was extremely dangerous as executioners were also at risk of being killed either by vengeful relatives or the crowd witnessing an execution. In regards to the latter, if an executioner was especially cruel in their meting out of punishment, simply incompetent to the point that they caused undue suffering, or just otherwise acted in an unprofessional manner in performing their duties, it wasn’t unheard of for a crowd to retaliate by killing the executioner on the spot, generally with no consequence to anyone in the mob.
This constant danger of the job was something Schmidt himself talked about several times in his journal, though he only notes one instance where the crowd turned into a mob. This occurred during a flogging he was performing, with the person being beaten ultimately stoned to death by the crowd.
As you might imagine from this, in cases like Schmidt who was trained from childhood to take over the job from his father, a rather lengthy apprenticeship was called for, including a robust education from one’s parent, followed by assisting in executions and torture from a young age. Schmidt also notes that he practiced executions extensively on various animals before being allowed to actually execute a human himself. The end goal of all of this was to make sure he wouldn’t screw up, as raucous mobs didn’t really care if it was someone’s first day on the job or not.
Now, although being an executioner came with some massive downsides, it wasn’t all bad. Enterprising executioners could actually earn a fairly decent living doling out torture and capital punishment on command if they were smart about it. For example, especially skilled executioners who didn’t mind traveling could take advantage of the scarcity of people willing to do their job by plying their trade across whichever country they happened to live in, rather than just staying local.
Executioners also frequently earned extra money in the form of bribes from the condemned or their families, invariably given in the hopes that the executioner would ensure death was as swift and painless as possible, or otherwise allow the condemned extra comforts leading up to the execution. This might include, for example, slipping them extra alcohol or the like to make the execution a little easier to handle.
On top of this, throughout much of Medieval Europe a perk of being an executioner is that it was customary for whatever property was worn at the time of death to be granted to the executioner.
Additionally, executioners in Germany were frequently tasked with things like arbitrating disputes between prostitutes and driving lepers out of town, among other such jobs, all of which they could charge a premium for because nobody else was willing to do the job.
Executioners were also sometimes not just given the job of disposing of animal carcasses, but also in some regions the explicit right to all stray animal carcasses found in a town. Depending on the animal, this could mean the rights to valuable hides, teeth, etc.
An even greater benefit for certain executioners, this time in France, was the idea of droit de havage. In a nutshell, because executioners were so ostracized and couldn’t in some regions, for example, just go down to the market and shop freely, under droit de havage, executioners were more or less allowed to tax those who sold various food and drink items. This came in the form of being able to demand goods for free.
Finally, there’s the money an executioner would be paid for performing an execution, flogging, or the like. Although it’s hard to say exactly how much an executioner could earn per hanging or beheading in today’s currency due to the inherent difficulty of gauging the value of historic currencies, it’s evident that it was a good amount, at least relative to the generally low social standing of executioners.
For example, according to information gleaned from an old statute dated to a small German town in 1276 an executioner could earn the equivalent of 5 shillings per execution. This is an amount roughly equal to the amount of money a skilled tradesmen could earn in about 25 days at the time. Likewise, an executioner operating in England some two centuries later in the 1400s could reportedly earn a fee of 10 shillings per execution, or roughly 16 times the amount a skilled tradesmen could earn in a single day.
Granted, as you might have deduced from the aforementioned case of Frantz Schmidt only executing about 400 people and flogging a similar number in his near five decades on the job, nobody was getting rich doing this by itself, it at least wasn’t bad pay per hour of work.
Finally, we’d be remiss in any discussion of Medieval executioners to not point out that the idea of executioners wearing masks to hide who they were does not appear to have actually been much of a thing. Beyond, as mentioned, in many regions being literally branded as executioners, even large cities for much of history weren’t actually that large; so people knew who the executioner in a given region was, if not directly, by being marked such. Thus, wearing a mask would have been pointless.
This article originally appeared on Today I Found Out. Follow @TodayIFoundOut on Twitter.
Apparently, December 13 was National Day of the Horse, thanks to the 108th Congress, so we want to take a second to talk about one of the military’s most heroic horses: Marine Corps Korean War hero, Sgt. Reckless.
Reckless began life as Ah Chim Hai, a racehorse owned by a Korean man, but the man sold the horse in order to buy a prosthetic for his sister who had lost a leg to a landmine. The Marines who bought Reckless initially treated her a little like a pet, giving her portions of their food and bringing her into the barracks when she was cold.
But she was destined for service and began running ammunition into combat and wounded Marines out.
And this is where Private Reckless distinguished herself. Most horses are skittish, and it takes a resilient horse to operate under fire in any circumstances, but Reckless could ferry rounds into combat and wounded Marines out.
Then-Pvt. Reckless operating under fire in Korea.
(U.S. Marine Corps)
And she could do it unsupervised.
Once she knew where the supply post was and where her Marines were fighting, she could make trips back and forth quickly, efficiently, and without further guidance. Ask any gunnery sergeant in the Corps, and we guarantee they’ve had at least one Marine that couldn’t be trusted like that.
Marines pose with a statue of Staff Sgt. Reckless during an October 2016 ceremony where the statue was unveiled.
(U.S. Marine Corps Pfc. Dylan Overbay)
Despite the enemy fire and potential distractions, Reckless carried 386 rounds of ammunition to the front in a single day. The rounds weighed 24 pounds each, enough to exhaust even a horse.
For her heroics, Reckless was promoted to sergeant, awarded two Purple Hearts, and sent to America a short time later. She went on to give birth to four children and enjoy retirement as a Marine Corps celebrity and staff sergeant.
Way back in 1999, Lockheed Martin had a plan to field a delta-shaped stealth fighter that skipped the need for a conventional tail section, in the F-22-based X-44 Manta.
Instead of using a conventional tail section with both vertical and horizontal control surfaces, the Manta aimed to leverage thrust vector control, or directing the flow of the engine’s thrust to give the aircraft the acrobatic capabilities it would need in a high-end dogfight. Today, more than two decades later, that same concept appears to be found consistently across nearly all official renderings of the Air Force’s next air superiority fighter being developed under the NGAD, or Next Generation Air Dominance, program, begging the question… could elements of the X-44 Manta have found their way to America’s next top-of-the-line fighter?
Last year, the U.S. Air Force shocked the world with the announcement that they had already designed, built, and tested a prototype aircraft out of their Next Generation Air Dominance program. This new jet promises to be more advanced than any fighter to ever come before it, designed to not only do battle with the advanced 5th generation fighters being churned out by America’s opponents in Russia and China, but to dominate them for decades to come.
At right around the same time, the Air Force also unveiled a birthday-celebrating image seemingly showing a wedge-shaped aircraft with no conventional tail section, prompting some to wonder if the artist’s handiwork had anything to do with the NGAD announcement that came alongside it. Since then, other official images out of the Air Force, along with renderings from prominent aviation firms like Lockheed Martin, have all shown similar wedge-shaped aircraft.
Some, including me, have pointed toward Northrop’s highly capable but ultimately passed-over YF-23 Black Widow II as the stealthy precedent for this tailless design, but Northrop isn’t the only show in town that knows how to build a stealth fighter without a tail.
In fact, based on some of these artist’s renderings and the practical limitations of developing a new fighter on a short fuse, the X-44 Manta may represent an early iteration of what has or will become at least part of America’s next prizefighter in the sky.
X-44 MANTA… or the Multi-Axis No-Tail Aircraft
The X-44’s name, or more appropriately, its acronym, gets straight to the intent behind the concept. After decades of rapid fighter development, some things had simply come to be considered standard fare for a capable tactical aircraft: things like a conventional tail section with vertical and horizontal control surfaces. While both the F-22 and later, the F-35, adopted slightly different tails than you’d find on a non-stealth 4th-generation fighter like the F-16, the X-44 Manta aimed to pull off the same sort of maneuverability without the need for all those tail surfaces. With no tail section, the aircraft’s radar return would be dramatically reduced, creating an even stealthier fighter than America’s highly capable F-22.
So, logically enough, Lockheed Martin partnered up with NASA to talk about how to bring this concept to fruition. Successfully making an acrobatic fighter that could forgo using its tail for handling would mean relying heavily on using thrust vector controls to change the direction of the fighter’s flight path. NASA had already had a great deal of success using thrust vector controls on a high-performance fighter in the F-15 ACTIVE, which was a modified F-15 Eagle that used front wing canards (taken from the tail section of an F/A-18 Hornet) and thrust vectoring jet nozzles to produce a fighter that could outperform the legendary Eagle in almost every appreciable way.
Put in its simplest terms, thrust vector control offers the ability to aim or point the nozzle of the jet engine. In some platforms, like the F-22 Raptor, that nozzle aiming is done on a single plain (up or down), while in other jets like Russia’s 4th-generation Su-35, the nozzle can move in 360 degrees, offering even more dramatic options when it comes to rapidly shifting directions.
In a head-on engagement, the F-22 Raptor’s thrust vectoring can allow the pilot to point the nose and weapons of the fighter down at an enemy jet as it passes by, all while continuing to push in the same original direction. In a close-up scrap between two fighters who are trying to successfully turn tighter than the other to get weapons lock, that same thrust vectoring capability allows jets like the F-22 and Su-35 to change directions far more aggressively than any advanced jet without thrust vector controls can.
While the F-22 leverages thrust vector control alongside its more conventional tail section, Lockheed Martin proposed using the F-22 design as a starting point for this new technology demonstrator that could prove just as capabley as the fighter designs we’ve come to see as conventional in recent decades.
An F-22 Raptor without the tail
Because the concept wasn’t being pursued as a clean sheet fighter development program, but rather as a technology demonstrator effort, starting from scratch on an aircraft design didn’t seem practical. Instead, Lockheed Martin volunteered the F-22 Raptor. While not the most recent stealth fighter out of Lockheed Martin’s Skunk Works (the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter began test flights three years prior), the F-22 was–and is—America’s best and most capable fighter when it comes to engaging enemy jets. It also already boasts thrust vector control, making it a logical choice for an experiment so focused on that specific capability.
The X-44 Manta wasn’t the only F-22 based concept rolling around at the Pentagon at the time. As the world’s first operational stealth fighter, the first fighter to christen the new “5th-generation” of jets, and arguably the most potent air superiority aircraft ever to fly in service for any nation, it makes sense that the United States would have considered leaning into the F-22 program for other, more specialized roles. While the X-44 concept aimed to saw off its tail and make the F-22 even sneakier, the Sea Raptor effort would have placed F-22s aboard America’s fleet of supercarriers–offering a jet that could fly faster, further while carrying more ordnance than the F-35C’s now destined for Uncle Sam’s flat tops.
The F-22 Raptor had already set itself apart from the rest of the fighter world thanks to its creators leveraging stealth as a part of the fighter’s very design. While previous and highly-capable air superiority fighters like the F-15 relied on sheer performance to win scraps in the air and only later incorporated things like radar-absorbent coating to slow detection, the F-22’s very design was intended to postpone or defeat detection entirely. From there, its two powerful Pratt & Whitney F119 engines could still push the stealthy fighter to speeds as high as Mach 2.25, and its thrust vector controls allowed it to pirouette away from any inbound missiles that may have managed to secure a hard-to-come-by lock. Today, the F-22 remains the most highly capable air superiority fighter on the planet, and in 1999, its lead over the competition was even more pronounced.
But even the incredible F-22 could be even better if it could be even stealthier, and that’s where a tailless delta design could have produced real results. If the X-44 Manta could have offered similar performance to the F-22 while also being even harder to detect, it may have been enough to push this aircraft concept off of Lockheed’s notebook pages and into their production facilities. But it wasn’t just stealth the X-44 did better. It also carried a whole lot more hate.
Some of the strengths of the F-16XL
While the tailless wedge shape of the X-44 Manta would benefit its stealth profile, it also came with some other significant advantages over America’s existing stealth fighters, like payload capacity and range. America’s F-22 Raptor can carry a maximum of six air-to-air weapons internally and the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter is limited to just four–but the broad fuselage of the wedged-shaped X-44 would almost certainly have allowed for far more ordnance, both in terms of carrying space inside the aircraft and overall payload capability as a measure of lift and fuel economy.
First developed as the F-16 SCAMP and later matured into the F-16XL that would compete with (now) Boeing’s F-15E Strike Eagle in the Enhanced Tactical Fighter (ETF) competition, the F-16XL also leveraged a broad, wedge-shaped fuselage that granted it superior lift, range, fuel capacity, and payload over the standard F-16 Fighting Falcon. The F-16XL wasn’t worried about stealth, so it carried its weapons on external hardpoints, but thanks to the increased surface area of its wedged-wing design, the F-16XL had hard points for an astonishing 27 weapons, as compared to the F-16’s standard nine.
It’s unclear just what a sort of boost to payload or range the X-44 Manta may have offered over the F-22, but it would have benefitted not only from the increased internal payload space, but also the increased lift provided by the broader lifting body. That lift could help support more weight while also offering greater efficiency in fuel use.
Could the X-44 Manta be involved in the NGAD program?
Like most questions made about NGAD at this point, there’s no real way to definitely say for sure that the X-44 has been a part of the conversation leading up to fielding the F-22’s replacement. However, there are some parallels we can draw between the intent behind the X-44 and the goals in place for NGAD.
The premise behind the X-44 Manta was to build an even better stealth fighter than the F-22 Raptor, and in no uncertain terms, that is precisely the stated aim of the NGAD program. However, it’s also important to note that the X-44 concept was born in 1999, making its design just about as dated as the F-35 and the fighters NGAD will be tasked with killing–the Chinese J-20, and Russian Su-57, both of which also began development in the late 1990s and early 2000s. In other words, simply dusting off the X-44 concept and pushing it into production really wouldn’t meet the needs of the NGAD program. Of course, because so much of the X-44 is based on the out-of-production F-22, kicking off that production line would be about as expensive as simply starting from scratch with a new fighter anyway.
But that’s not to say the X-44’s DNA won’t find its way into the Air Force’s next top dog. As Air Force renderings have repeatedly shown, the branch seems intent on a wedge-shaped, tailless design for the NGAD. Many analysts have indeed pointed to the similarities between this concept and Northrop’s very real YF-23, but it’s important to note that these design images of the X-44 actually bear a stronger resemblance to what the NGAD is proposed to look like. So, if Northrop’s old stealth fighter is in this fight, it seems logical that so are advanced iterations of Lockheed’s more successful one.
The idea of using no conventional tail section and a wedge-shaped design keeps bubbling to the surface in other places as well–like this image from the Air Force Research Lab (part of a video they released a few years ago):
Or these images from Northrop Grumman:
Or this image from Boeing:
So, at the end of the day, the question might be: Will the Air Force draw its inspiration from wedge-shaped aircraft like Lockheed Martin’s proposed X-44 Manta and Northrop’s YF-23 Black Widow II for it’s next generation fighter? Or perhaps more aptly… has the whole aviation industry already done that?
The year is 1918, and American troops are facing the Germans in deadly trench warfare on the Western Front. That isn’t the only place war has taken hold, the Great War is raging all over the world, and California is no different. There, along the far, far Western front, California state horticulturist George H. Hecke called up California’s most precious natural resource: children.
Their enemy was a pest unlike any other the state had ever seen, and Hecke decided their time had come. The squirrels had to go.
The new children’s crusade called for a seven-day operation whereby California schoolchildren would attack the vicious squirrel army (often depicted wearing the pointed “Hun” helmet worn by the German army at the time). When the students weren’t creating passive killing fields by spreading rodent poisons where squirrels were known to gather food the kiddos were encouraged to form “a company of soldiers in your class or in your school” to go out and meet the enemy head-on, hitting the furry huns where they lived. “Squirrel Week” was on.
“All the killing devices of modern warfare will be used in the effort to annihilate the squirrel army, including gas,” wrote the Lompoc Journal. “Don’t wait to be drafted.”
The U.S. government made every effort to link the anti-squirrel effort to the war effort, referring to the California Ground Squirrel as “the Kaiser’s aides” while showing the squirrels decked out in enemy uniforms, wearing the Iron Cross. The government even distributed recipes for barley coated with the deadly poison strychnine.
The state had a point. OtospermophilusBeecheyi, also known as the California Ground Squirrel, was not only a pest to farms and stored food, but was also known to carry certain diseases, such as bubonic plague. More importantly, the rodent ate nearly 0 million in crops and stored food in California (using today’s dollar values), food which could otherwise go to the doughboys fighting the World War raging in Europe. Children were even asked to bring in squirrel tails to school to show off their confirmed kills.
The schoolchildren did not disappoint. In all, More than 104,000 squirrels met their furry maker during Squirrel Week 1918 – but that was just one battle. The war raged on as long as the War in Europe raged on. California children continued killing the squirrels for a long time after Squirrel Week. The effort did not have lasting consequences for the squirrels at large, however. Today the California Ground Squirrel’s conservation status is the lowest at “least concern.”
Least concern, or lulling us into a false sense of security before counter-attacking? You decide.