How the US Air Force trains to fight Russia using real Russian fighters - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY TACTICAL

How the US Air Force trains to fight Russia using real Russian fighters

The United States Air Force needs aggressor aircraft. There is no geopolitical adversary for the United States quite like Russia and its Soviet-built airplanes. American combat crews need to train against someone, and the best we can get comes in the form of MiG-29 fighters and Sukhoi-27 aircraft.


It doesn’t matter that the aircraft are from the 1970s, so is the U.S. Air Force’s F-16 fleet. American airmen need targets, and these are the most likely real-world ones.

How the US Air Force trains to fight Russia using real Russian fighters

Target acquired.

In 2017, onlookers spotted an F-16 engaged in a life or death dogfight over Nellis Air Force Base, Nev. with a Russian-built Su-27 Flanker aircraft. It’s highly unlikely an errant Russian fighter penetrated NORAD and began an attack on a specific base. The only logical explanation was that Nellis has a supply of Russian-built fighters for U.S. airmen to train against. It turns out, that is exactly what happened in the skies over Nevada that day. Make another notch in the win column for Occam’s Razor.

The United States Air Force has acquired and maintains a number of Russian and Soviet-built aircraft for airmen to fly against. Where they get the aircraft is anyone’s guess, but The National Interest reported it likely gets the most advanced fighters from Ukraine. Other fighters are on loan from private companies who acquired the Russian planes on their own. That’s another W for capitalism.

How the US Air Force trains to fight Russia using real Russian fighters

Anything is possible with enough money.

So even if the United States Air Force couldn’t afford to own and maintain its own supply of Russian aggressor aircraft, there are apparently a number of civilian contractors who have acquired them and are willing to loan those fighters out to the USAF. Among those come MiG-29s from a company called Air USA, MiG-21s and trainer aircraft from Draken International, and the two aforementioned Sukhoi-27 fighters from Pride International via Ukraine.

Let’s see the semi-Communist oligarchs in Moscow pull off acquiring an F-22 Raptor using their shady business dealings. But even if the United States couldn’t fight real Russian fighters, American pilots could still get excellent training.

How the US Air Force trains to fight Russia using real Russian fighters

The emperor has new clothes.

If you’re not sure what’s happening in the photo above, that’s an F-16 Fighting Falcon all dressed up as a Sukhoi-57 fifth-generation stealth fighter. While the F-16 may not have stealth and definitely isn’t a fifth-gen fighter, it still gives U.S. airmen training on what to look for while engaging a Russian in the skies. The paint job is used by the Russians to make the Su-57 look like a different, smaller aircraft from a distance. Acquiring real enemy aircraft and training under the conditions closest to combat will give American pilots the edge they need.

That is, if they ever need that edge against the Russians.

Humor

12 GIFs that perfectly recall checking into your unit for the first time

When young troops graduate from all their intense training and move onto their first duty station, they tend to believe they have the whole world in the palm of their hand.


Going from an “in training” status to working full-time in the military can cause culture shock for many boots.

The day you join your first unit, the real work begins.

For some it’s a rude awakening, so we’ve compiled these images to remind us all that when we check in on day one, we’re not all that.

1. How it felt walking out of S.O.I. after graduation making our way to our first infantry unit.

I’m unstoppable. (Image via Giphy)

2. That badass feeling you had on the bus like the worst part of training was over. There’s also a rumor floating around that after everyone checks in they’re going on a three-day liberty.

It’s party from here on out. (Image via Giphy)

3. When you get off the bus at the barracks, and you realized no more open squad bays.

This is great! (Image via Giphy)

4. How you felt entering your three man barracks room for the first time.

It’s alright. (Image via Giphy)

5. You then looked inside the bathroom and found it’s a one-man shower stall.

The possibilities of what you’re going to be doing in there later on by yourself can bring you joy. (Image via Giphy)

6. The barracks duty comes around and informs you that you need to report to the company office. But you have no freakin’ clue where that is.

You don’t ask because you don’t want to look like a complete boot. (Image via Giphy)

7. You walk around the camp looking for a building with a red roof.

Where am I going? (Image via Giphy)

8. You finally walk into the company offices and feel so small compared to everyone else.

You’re not as big as you once thought. (Image via Giphy)

9. You start sweating bullets and attempt not to make any eye contact with the higher-ups who are all wearing their serious faces.

Keep it together private. (Image via Giphy)

10. The troop in charge of personnel hands you a check-in sheet that must be completed before the close of business. But you can’t start doing that until after you head down to supply for gear issue.

I can’t go to supply. We’re supposed to go on liberty right away. (Image via Giphy)

11. Then the worst possible scenario happens, the lieutenant on duty walks into the office and asks you “what’s your unit?” You deeply exhale, swallow hard and tell him “this unit, sir.” Then the lieutenant starts to grin like a James Bond villain.

He’s pulling you to stand duty.

“Welcome to the unit, private.” (Image via Giphy)

12. You desperately reply, “But, I’m supposed to go to supply, sir.”

And you’ve never wanted to go to supply as bad as you do right now. Goodbye liberty. (Image via Giphy)

What was your first day in your first unit like? Comment below.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

The world’s longest minefield isn’t where you’d expect

Veterans of the war in Afghanistan can tell you the country is absolutely riddled with land mines of all kinds. The country has experienced nonstop war and civil strife since the 1979 Soviet Invasion and ever since, land mines have been a constant hazard. But despite being one of the most heavily mined countries on earth, the biggest minefield is far from Afghanistan – it’s in the Sahara Desert.


Sure, there are plenty of war zones where one might expect a minefield, especially in North Africa. The unexploded ordnance from World War II is still a concern for North Africans, as well as the remnants of the French expulsion from Algeria, and the recent Civil War in Libya. But the world’s longest minefield is actually just south of Morocco – and it was placed there by the Moroccans.

How the US Air Force trains to fight Russia using real Russian fighters

Little known outside of Africa is the tiny territory of Western Sahara. It’s not a country, not a recognized one anyway. When Spain left the area in 1975, both Mauritania and Morocco were quick to claim it for themselves. The people who lived in the area, called Saharawis, had other ideas. They wanted their independence along with the rest of Africa, which experienced wave after wave of anti-colonial independence movements in that time frame. Forming a military and political body called the Polisario, they forced Mauritanian troops out but were unable to dislodge neighboring Morocco. Morocco has occupied the area ever since.

But the Moroccan forces weren’t able to subdue the entire country. Instead of allowing a protracted rebellion by allowing the freedom of movement between the occupied territories and the so-called “free zone” run by the Polisario, Morocco constructed a sand berm with a strip of land mines 2,700 kilometers long (that’s 1677-plus miles for non-metric people). That’s some seven million mines along the disputed boundary.

How the US Air Force trains to fight Russia using real Russian fighters

(Stefan Grossman)

Even after the shooting stopped in 1991, Morocco made no attempt to take out the mines. In fact, it doubled down on its occupation, constructing guard towers, radar posts, and deploying thousands of troops along the berm to keep the Saharawi out of Western Sahara and detect any possible infiltrators. Civilians are constantly being blown up and maimed by the minefield, while almost no other country recognizes the Moroccan claim to Western Sahara.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Why the US Navy will stop publicizing Admiral promotions

A top US admiral explained March 13, 2019, that the Navy is keeping high-level promotions a secret because hackers from China and other adversarial countries are targeting flag officers.

While the Army, Air Force, and Marine Corps all continue to publish lists of newly promoted officers, the Navy abruptly stopped in October 2018, USNI News first reported February 2019.

The policy reportedly began with the promotion of Trump’s doctor, Rear Adm. Ronny Jackson, who withdrew from consideration to lead Department of Veterans Affairs amid a scandal.


Chief of Naval Operations Adm. John Richardson defended the policy decision March 13, 2019, arguing that publishing this information — which the US Senate continues to publish— leaves high-ranking Navy officers vulnerable to cyberattacks.

“I don’t know if you’ve been personally attacked in the cyber world, but our flags are,” Richardson said at a conference in Washington, DC, Breaking Defense reported. It is “just a vulnerability that we are trying to think about,” he added, according to Military.com.

How the US Air Force trains to fight Russia using real Russian fighters

Chief of Naval Operations Adm. John Richardson.

“There’s always a tension between on the transparency and security,” he explained, telling reporters that the Navy intends to do anything it can “to make sure we’re keeping their information and stuff secure.”

An alarming internal Navy cybersecurity review recently concluded that the service, as well as its industry partners, are “under cyber siege,” The Wall Street Journal reported March 12, 2019.

“We are under siege,” a senior US Navy official stressed to The Journal. “People think it’s much like a deadly virus — if we don’t do anything, we could die.”

The service has been hit relentlessly by Chinese, Russian, and Iranian hackers, with the threat presented by Chinese cyber criminals among the most severe. China is accused of hacking the US military, large and small defense contractors, and even university partners to steal anything not nailed down.

In 2018, Chinese government hackers stole important data on several US Navy undersea-warfare programs from an unidentified contractor. Among the stolen information were plans for a new supersonic anti-ship missile, The Washington Post reported in June 2018, citing US officials.

Speaking to Congress March 13, 2019, Army Gen. Paul Nakasone, head of US Cyber Command, said that the US is prepared to aggressively strike back against adversarial powers in cyberspace.

While Navy leadership argues that the decision to keep flag officer promotions a secret is to eliminate exposure that could put its admirals at risk, the defense appears a bit thin, as their names, ranks and biographies are still publicly available.

“This may not work out in the end, I don’t know, but that’s kind of our mindset there,” Richardson reportedly said March 13, 2019.

This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

The Navy is pursuing stealthier torpedoes for submarines

Navy weapons developers are seeking a high-tech, longer range, and more lethal submarine-launched heavyweight Mk 48 that can better destroy enemy ships, submarines, and small boats, service officials said.

The service has issued a solicitation to industry, asking for proposals and information related to pursuing new and upgraded Mk 48 torpedo control systems, guidance, sonar, and navigational technology.

“The Mk 48 ADCAP (advanced capability) torpedo is a heavyweight acoustic-homing torpedo with sophisticated sonar, all-digital guidance and control systems, digital fusing systems, and propulsion improvements,” William Couch, Naval Sea Systems Command spokesman, told Warrior Maven in early 2018.


Naturally, having a functional and more high-tech lethal torpedo affords the Navy an opportunity to hit enemies more effectively and at further standoff ranges and therefore better compete with more fully emerging undersea rivals such as Russia and China.

The Mk 48 heavyweight torpedo is used by all classes of U.S. Navy submarines as their anti-submarine warfare and anti-surface warfare weapon, including the Virginia class and the future Columbia class, Couch added.

A Mk 48 torpedo is 21 inches in diameter and weighs 3,520 pounds; it can destroy targets at ranges out to five miles and travels at speeds greater than 28 knots. The weapon can operate at depths greater than 1,200 feet and fires a 650-pound high-explosive warhead, available Navy and Lockheed data states.

How the US Air Force trains to fight Russia using real Russian fighters

Mk-48 ADCAP torpedo aboard USS Louisville.

Navy efforts to pursue new torpedo technologies are happening alongside a concurrent effort to upgrade the existing arsenal.

For several years now, the Navy has been strengthening its developmental emphasis upon the Mk 48 as a way to address its aging arsenal. The service restarted production of the Mk 48 torpedo mod 7 in 2016.

An earlier version, the Mk 48 Mod 6, has been operational since 1997 and the more recent Mod 7 has been in service since 2006.

Lockheed Martin has been working on upgrades to the Mk 48 torpedo Mod 6 and Mod 7, which consist of adjustments to the guidance control box, broadband sonar acoustic receiver, and amplifier components.

“The latest version of the Mk 48 ADCAP (advanced capability) is the mod 7 Common Broadband Advanced Sonar System. The Mk 48 ADCAP mod 7 CBASS torpedo is the result of a Joint Development Program with the Royal Australian Navy and achieved initial operational capability in 2006,” Couch said.

With Common Broadband Advanced Sonar System, or CBASS, electronics to go into the nose of the weapon as part of the guidance section, Lockheed and Navy developers explained.

CBASS technology provides streamlined targeting, quieter propulsion technologies, and an ability to operate with improved effectiveness in both shallow and deep water. Also, the Mod 7 decreases vulnerability to enemy countermeasures and allows the torpedo to transmit and receive over a wider frequency band, Lockheed and Navy developers say.

The new technology also involves adjustments to the electronic circuitry to allow the torpedo to better operate in its undersea environment.

How the US Air Force trains to fight Russia using real Russian fighters

Mk-48 ADCAP torpedo was loaded into USS California.

Modifications to the weapon have improved the acoustic receiver, replaced the guidance-and-control hardware with updated technology, increased memory, and improved processor throughput to handle the expanded software demands required to improve torpedo performance against evolving threats, according to Navy data on the weapon.

Improved propulsion, quieting technology, targeting systems, and range enhancements naturally bring a substantial tactical advantage to Navy undersea combat operations. Attack submarines are often able to operate closer to enemy targets and coastline undetected, reaching areas typically inaccessible to deeper draft surface ships. Such an improvement would also, quite possibly, enable attack submarines to better support littoral surface platforms such as the flat-bottomed Littoral Combat Ships. Working in tandem with LCS anti-submarine and surface warfare systems, attack submarines with a more capable torpedo could better identify and attack enemy targets near coastal areas and shallow water enemy locations.

A Military Analysis Network report from the Federation of American Scientists further specifies that the torpedo uses a conventional, high-explosive warhead.

“The MK 48 is propelled by a piston engine with twin, contra-rotating propellers in a pump jet or shrouded configuration. The engine uses a liquid monopropellant fuel,” the FAS analysis states.

Submarine operators are able to initially guide the torpedo toward its target as it leaves the launch tube, using a thin wire designed to establish and electronic link between the submarine and torpedo, the information says.

“This helps the torpedo avoid decoys and jamming devices that might be deployed by the target. The wire is severed and the torpedo’s high-powered active/passive sonar guides the torpedo during the final attack,” FAS writes.

In early 2018, Lockheed Martin Sippican was awarded a new deal to work on guidance and control technology on front end of the torpedo, and SAIC was awarded the contract for the afterbody and propulsion section, Couch explained.

The Mk 48, which is a heavy weapon launched under the surface, is quite different than surface launched, lightweight Mk 54 torpedoes fired from helicopters, aircraft and surface ships.

The Navy’s Mk 48 torpedo is also in service with Australia, Canada, Brazil, and The Netherlands.

This article originally appeared on Warrior Maven. Follow @warriormaven1 on Twitter.

MIGHTY CULTURE

The best tactical gifts to buy dad this year

Enough messing around. Dad’s got the gag gifts and the cushy hunting gear. He doesn’t need another beautiful knife or the latest gizmo for convenience in the field. No, what Dad wants is to be ready for when shit hits the fan, dammit. Time to get tactical.

That means simple, effective gear that’s built to be tough and trustworthy in the field. Finding the gear you can trust your life with is the tricky part, friends. That’s why we went to our experts: The entire team here at SOFREP put our heads together to pick our favorite tactical gear. So whether it’s a solar panel that will never fail, a contingency knife that’s always ready to go, a tactical boot that’ll help you pound ground, or the ultimate loadout box for all the important stuff you’ve already got, here’s the gear we stand by. It certainly stands by us.


How the US Air Force trains to fight Russia using real Russian fighters

1. Overland Solar Bugout Panel

When things go south, power is… well, power. Overland Solar makes the daddy of all solar chargers for a serious off-the-grid setup. It’s good for 130 watts of power in various conditions and produces seven amps an hour thanks to high solar cell efficiency. It charges in low angle light, and when it’s overcast, rainy, and even lightly snowing. Plug and play with your camper, or throw it on the roof of your micro-cabin for solid power basics.

Overland Solar: 5

How the US Air Force trains to fight Russia using real Russian fighters

2. Browning Range Kit

Everything needed for a range kit, nothing more. Polycarbonate shooting glasses, soft foam earplugs, adjustable fit muffs. It’s the perfect replacement gear for the old, beat up shit you’ve had for years. The earmuffs and earplugs are good for 31 and 27 decibels, respectively. And anyway, the best gift you can receive this year is healthy eyeballs and eardrums in old age.

Cabela’s:

How the US Air Force trains to fight Russia using real Russian fighters

3. Bulldog Quick Vault

What’s the right level of protection for your bedside equalizer? This thing. It’s got just the right pairing of quick access and safety: open it using RFID access card or keycard or LED-backlit access code. Its Soft Stop door technology means you can open it silently, or set it to a decibel mode for family safety. Oh, and it’s heavy-duty 12-gauge steel.

Cabela’s; 0

How the US Air Force trains to fight Russia using real Russian fighters

4. Real Avid Armorer’s Master Wrench

Nobody in the movies ever needs to fix a jammed rifle or disassemble one for cleaning. This is not the way of the world, though. The Real Avid Armorer’s Master Wrench has everything you need for rifle housekeeping: torque wrench attachment point, armorer’s hammer, castle nut wrench, multiple hammerheads, muzzle brake wrench, and more. With it, as long as you have ammo, you’ll be fine.

Cabela’s:

How the US Air Force trains to fight Russia using real Russian fighters

5. Sig Sauer Red Dot Sight

Zese Germans make a sehr gut firearm. They also make a prime red dot sight for MSR platforms of all calibers. It’s waterproof, runs off one included battery for up to 20,000 hours, has 10 daytime brightness settings, and two for night vision use. At just a hair over a Benjamin, it might be the perfect tool for target acquisition at close and mid-range.

Cabela’s: 0

How the US Air Force trains to fight Russia using real Russian fighters

6. WK Contingency Knife

Curved handle, simple sheath, skeletonized, full-tapered tang, and a 3.5-inch blade: this knife is ready to go when it needs to be. It’s intended as an everyday carry, but you’d be forgiven for showing off its maple handle and black oxide no-glare finish 80CrV2 steel blade. Its beauty is terrible to behold, especially if the beholder is trying to fuck with you.

Tactical Distributor: 0

How the US Air Force trains to fight Russia using real Russian fighters

7. Rapid Dominance Carbon Fiber Knuckle Combat Gloves

What does a glove buy you? Try serious hand protection in a combat situation thanks to carbon fiber knuckles, a reinforced synthetic leather palm, and rubberized grip padding. Gloves so affordable rarely come with bonus features, but these ones do: their four-way spandex helps with a comfortable fit, and each glove has two-way touchscreen-friendly fingertips. They’ve got everything you need to throw hands without hesitation.

Sportsman’s Guide:

How the US Air Force trains to fight Russia using real Russian fighters

8. VISM Soft Body Armour Panel

Ultra-high molecular weight polyethylene is a hell of a material. Ask a scientist if you want the nitty-gritty, but basically, it’s got the highest impact strength of any thermoplastic humans can currently manufacture. It can stop 9mm and .44 rounds up to 1,400 fps, which means you want it in your vest. And because it’s flexible and lightweight, you won’t mind it in your carry-on luggage, or wherever else you have to take it.

Sportsman’s Guide: 0

How the US Air Force trains to fight Russia using real Russian fighters

9. Smith & Wesson Tactical Range Bag

SW’s Recruit Tactical Range Bag is made out of ballistic fabric, with oversized zippers and rubber foot skids for protecting your gear. Its two internal pockets are big enough for your handguns, and the main compartment has all the room you need for ammo, ear protection, and the like. External pockets include seven magazine slots, plus tons more room for all the extra crap you’re lugging around.

Smith Wesson:

How the US Air Force trains to fight Russia using real Russian fighters

10. Otis Elite Gun Cleaning Kit

The best way to get serious about cleaning your gun properly is to get all the right gear. This one has everything you’ll ever need, and then some: 22 bronze bore brushes for every caliber of shotgun, rifle and pistol, cleaning patches, memory-flex cables, obstruction removal tools, precision cleaning tools, and quality solvent. It totals over 40 components and comes in a nylon case. If you don’t keep everything clean with it, well, that shit’s on you.

Cabela’s: 0

How the US Air Force trains to fight Russia using real Russian fighters

11. Viridian TacLoc Holster

Viridian makes a mean laser sight. Their Tacloc holsters pull triple duty: they secure your weapon; aid in a smooth, accurate, quick draw; and activate the integrated laser sight instantly when that draw happens. The company makes them for your Beretta, Glock, MP 45, Sig Sauer, and several other guns. And, thanks to rugged Kydex construction and a seven-year warranty, it’ll last.

Viridian:

How the US Air Force trains to fight Russia using real Russian fighters

12. Salomon Quest 4D Tactical Boot

The perfect tactical boot is well suited to any situation. That’s what makes the Salomon Quest 4D our go-to. It’s got the support and grip of a mountain boot, thanks to a serious outsole and supportive midsole. And its uppers are built for combat: anti-reflective, with anti-debris mesh, mudguard, and waterproofed materials like Goretex. Oh, and the Ranger Green looks damn sharp, too.

LA Police Gear: 0

How the US Air Force trains to fight Russia using real Russian fighters

13. Notch Brim Multicam Operator Cap

Finally, a fix for the annoying, simple problem: you can’t get your brim low enough when you’re wearing your eye protection. A simple notch in this cap fixes that problem. But it’s also just a quality cap: button-less at the top, so your hearing protection fits smoothly, 98 percent breathable, stretchy cotton, moisture-wicking headband, low profile fit, hook-and-loop for your patch of choice. It might be the last ballcap you ever buy.

McGuire Army Navy:

How the US Air Force trains to fight Russia using real Russian fighters

14. Hackett Equipment Tactical Plate Carrier

Minimalistic in all the ways you want, full protection where you need it. That’s the deal with this plate carrier, which is fully adjustable to fit all body types, holds a front and backplate, and is made of durable, rigid, weather-resistant 600D polyester with PVC coating. The straps are padded so you’ll stay cozy, princess.

Hackett Equipment:

How the US Air Force trains to fight Russia using real Russian fighters

15. Darn Tough Socks

When it comes to thinking tactically, it’s easy to forget your feet. Don’t. Darn Tough makes some of the best socks out there today. They’re built around performance merino wool with durable, breathable, comfortable design elements. They’re the perfect tool for staying light on your feet all day, no matter the terrain or operation.

Darn Tough: +

How the US Air Force trains to fight Russia using real Russian fighters

16. Kelty Tactical Redwing 50 Pack

Kelty’s been the name behind top U.S. forces tactical gear for decades. This one is issued to spec ops soldiers, and its features make it clear why. It’s got easy access through top and side loading panels, storage options for all your gear, and then some, and its aluminum suspension system is lightweight but durable. And 50 liters of storage is just right for most ops.

Kelty Tactical: 9

How the US Air Force trains to fight Russia using real Russian fighters

17. PMAG 30 Round Magazine

It’s the best AR-15 mag on the market. What else is there to say?

Palmetto State Armory:

How the US Air Force trains to fight Russia using real Russian fighters

18. Grey Man Tactical Vehicle Weapon Rack

This modular vehicle rifle rack and rigid MOLLE panel will mount to any vehicle to help you haul your gun plus MOLLE pouches and extra accessories. It’s made of injection-molded glass-reinforced nylon, perfect for holding plenty of weight. The panel can be installed in under a minute with no tools thanks to mounting straps.

Grey Man Tactical: 0+

How the US Air Force trains to fight Russia using real Russian fighters

19. YETI LoadOut GoBox 30

Our favorite cooler company already makes indestructible boxes to keep stuff cold — so the pivot to indestructible boxes for important gear is an easy one. This is our favorite gearcase around: it’s waterproof, dustproof, and stackable, and can be outfitted with dividers and caddies to organize and store your gear just the way you like.

YETI: 0

How the US Air Force trains to fight Russia using real Russian fighters

20. SOFREP Team Room Subscription

Stay up to date on the latest news, insider info, and the best tactical gear and equipment reviews. Annual subscribers to the Team Room get full access to all SOFREP stories, plus the TeamRoom’s award-winning military documentaries, SPEC OPS training footage and war stories, forums and community chats, podcasts, and exclusive interviews.

SOFREP:

This article originally appeared on SOFREP. Follow @sofrepofficial on Twitter.


MIGHTY MOVIES

Why Vincent Vargas in ‘Mayans’ is a huge win for the vet community

It was announced last year that Vincent ‘Rocco’ Vargas would be a main character in FX’s new series, Mayans M.C. This week, at San Diego Comic Con, fans got to see a little bit more of the series and, in short, it looks amazing. Yes, it’s awesome that the series is going to take off where Sons of Anarchy ended (Spoiler alert: The series that was basically a modern retelling of Shakespeare’s Hamlet ended in pretty much the same way as Shakespeare’s Hamlet) — but the fact that one of the veteran community’s own made the cut is a win for all of us.

There’s a long history of veterans taking up acting careers after serving. Steve McQueen, Chuck Norris, and Morgan Freeman all served before becoming on-screen legends. Even several post-9/11 veterans have graced the big screen, like Adam Driver and Rob Riggle.

Now, Vincent ‘Rocco’ Vargas joins that list.


Vargas has been making a name for himself ever since leaving active duty. He became the Chief Operations Officer of Article 15 Clothing and has appeared in many of their YouTube videos. He also appeared in a bit role in Ross Peterson’s Helen Keller vs Nightwolves before both of them went on to star in Range 15.

Vargas also appears in many episodes of the YouTube series, Dads in Parks, created by Navy veteran and comedian Jamie Kaler.

Vargas is set to play Gilberto “Gilly” Lopez, a good-natured MMA fighter that rides for the Santo Padre chapter of the Mayans Motorcycle Club. Unfortunately, he’s only listed as being in two episodes on IMDb, but we’ll still count this as a win.

Not much else is known at this time about the series, but we do know it’ll star JD Pardo as a potential recruit to the Mayans M.C. Check him out when the series premieres on September 4th on FX.

Having more veterans in Hollywood is a win for every veteran who wishes to take on more artistic and creative roles after service. Just as Adam Driver’s work with the Arts in the Armed Forces proves, Vincent ‘Rocco’ Vargas is also showing the world that veterans are capable of much more than just grunt work.

All of his videos, blogs, podcasts, and films are proof that the world wants to hear the veteran’s voice. But for further proof that Vargas has the interests of the veteran community at heart, watch this short film he wrote and starred in calledThe Long Way Back.

MIGHTY HISTORY

Navy’s next ship will be named for this Korean War hero

On December 1, the Navy will commission a new Arleigh Burke-class destroyer named for Capt. Thomas Hudner, a pilot who landed his plane in contested territory to save his wingman who was shot down during the Battle of Chosin Reservoir.


How the US Air Force trains to fight Russia using real Russian fighters

A Corsair fires rockets at Okinawa in World War II.

(U.S. Navy Lt. David D. Duncan)

Hudner would later receive the Medal of Honor for his actions, and now an entire destroyer crew will serve on a ship named for him.

Hudner’s wingman was Ens. Jesse L. Brown, the Navy’s first black aviator. They were piloting F4U Corsairs in support of Marines on the ground during the Battle of the Chosin Reservoir. Chinese forces had joined the war after the U.S. and democratic Koreans had nearly won it. And so, previously victorious U.S. forces were conducting a fighting withdrawal south.

Aviators had to fight tooth and nail to buy time for the withdrawing ground forces. Corsairs and other planes were sent to drop bombs and fire rockets at enemy armor and formations, then strafe for as long as they could, then re-arm, re-fuel, and re-attack.

How the US Air Force trains to fight Russia using real Russian fighters

Ensign Jesse L. Brown, the Navy’s first black aviator, died after being shot down in December, 1950.

(U.S. Navy)

On December 4, 1950, Hudner, Brown, and four other pilots were searching for camouflaged Chinese troops in the snowy mountains. They finally found them when the snow started blinking with the muzzle flashes of Chinese riflemen firing at them.

With the Corsairs flying so low, the rifles were actually an effective anti-aircraft weapon, and Brown’s Corsair started streaming vapor. It was oil from the damaged engine, and Brown’s plane wasn’t going to make it. The ensign was going down 17 miles behind enemy lines.

The crash was rough, and the pilots in the air were worried that Brown died on impact. That was, until they saw him move. Still, Hudner was worried about Brown on the ground, exposed to the elements, especially when Brown didn’t emerge from the cockpit.

So, Hudner crash-landed his own plane.

How the US Air Force trains to fight Russia using real Russian fighters

Lt. j.g. Thomas Hudner received the Medal of Honor from President Harry S. Truman for his attempted rescue of Ens. Jesse Brown.

(U.S. Navy)

Hudner rushed to Brown’s Corsair, only to find him trapped inside. He attempted to get him out while taking breaks to pack snow around the engine and prevent a fire. When he was unable to get Brown out, he radioed for a rescue, but even then, they couldn’t save him.

Brown died in the cockpit, and Hudner was nominated for the Medal of Honor, which he would later receive for his efforts.

The new destroyer which will bear his name is of the Arleigh Burke Class. These guided-missile destroyers use the Aegis Combat System, which can fire all sorts of missiles and rockets to target enemies on land, on the sea, under the water, and in the air. They often pop up in the news during ballistic missile tests because they can shoot down missiles in flight and even hit satellites in space.

How the US Air Force trains to fight Russia using real Russian fighters

Members of the 1804 Concord Independent Battery render honors as the future Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Thomas Hudner (DDG 116) arrives in Boston, Massachusetts on November 26, 2018..

(U.S. Navy Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Joshua Hammond)

But they’re also often used in Tomahawk missile strikes. The USS Higgins, an Arleigh Burke-class destroyer, fired 23 missiles from the North Arabian Gulf into Syria during that large strike in April.

While the destroyers cost over four times as much as littoral combat ships, smaller vessels with a similar mission set and armament, the destroyers’ eye-watering billion cost per ship is generally considered well worth the price. That’s partially because the Aegis system on the destroyer is so much more capable, but also because the Arleigh Burkes are thought to be much more survivable than the LCS variants.

The USS Thomas Hudner will be the 66th Arleigh Burke-class destroyer in the U.S. Navy.

MIGHTY TRENDING

F-35 nose gear collapses after plane makes emergency landing

An F-35A from Eglin Air Force Base, Florida, experienced an in-flight emergency Aug. 22, 2018 as well as a ground mishap which caused its nose gear to collapse, service officials said.

The F-35, assigned to the 58th Fighter Squadron, experienced a ground mishap at approximately 12:50 p.m., the 33rd Fighter Wing said in a Facebook post.


“The F-35A experienced an in-flight emergency and returned to base,” officials said. “The aircraft landed safely and parked when the front nose gear collapsed,” the 33rd said.

One pilot was on board the aircraft, but did not sustain any injuries as a result of the mishaps, the Air force said. Fire crews “responded immediately,” officials said.

How the US Air Force trains to fight Russia using real Russian fighters

An F-35A Lightning II taxis down the runway.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Emily Smallwood)

Lena Lopez, a spokeswoman for the 33rd Fighter Wing, told Military.com that an investigation into the incident “is just beginning.” Lopez did not specify a timeline when the Air Force may have an update into the incident.

The Air Force did not specify the extent of the damage.

Eglin is home to one of the busiest F-35 training units in the Air Force; The 33rd Fighter Wing is also the leading training wing for F-35 student pilots.

The 33rd maintains 25 F-35As. The U.S. Navy, which also has a presence at Eglin and sends pilots through the training pipeline at the base, keeps 8 F-35Cs on station.

Photos from the Northwest Florida Daily News showed the F-35 tipped downward atop its collapsed landing gear.

Featured image: Contracted Logistics Maintenance personnel from Lockheed Martin at Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., stop the pilot on the taxiway during the return of his flight in preparation to verify the F-35A’s brake temperatures are within safe limits to recover the aircraft March 13, 2012.

This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @militarydotcom on Twitter.

Articles

That time a Marine had a live RPG stuck in his leg

Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Winder Perez was fighting in Afghanistan in January 2012 when he was shot with a rocket-propelled grenade that pierced his leg and remained stuck there without detonating.


A medical evacuation crew ignored regulations against moving unexploded ordnance, picked him up, and flew him to medical care where an explosives technician removed the RPG so a Navy medical officer could operate on him.

Specialist Mark Edens was the first member of the MEDEVAC crew to see the Marine. The flight had originally been briefed that they were receiving an injured little girl as a patient, but they arrived to find the lance corporal with a large wound and an approximately 2-foot long rocket protruding from his leg.

When Army pilot Capt. Kevin Doo was told about the embedded RPG, he asked his entire crew to vote on whether to evacuate the patient. They unanimously voted yes despite the dangers.

“There was no doubt to anyone that we were going to take this Marine and get him the medical attention needed to save his life,” Doo told Army journalists. “When dealing with this — not knowing that any moment could be your last — 18 inches from the patient’s legs was about 360 gallons of aviation fuel.”

“After Lance Cpl. Perez was loaded on the Black Hawk, it was a total of 11.2 minutes of flight time where every minute felt like an hour,” Doo added. “During that time, we were on the radio coordinating with our escorts, the Explosive Ordnance Disposal team, and medical personnel who were going to treat Perez.”

How the US Air Force trains to fight Russia using real Russian fighters
Army Staff Sgt. Ben Summerfield attempts to remove a rocket-propelled grenade from Lance Cpl. Winder Perez as Navy Lt. Cmdr. James Gennari keeps Perez’s airway stable. (Photo: US Navy)

When the helicopter landed, Perez was met by Navy Lt. Cmdr. James Gennari, the head of the surgical company at Forward Operating Base Edinburgh, and Army EOD Staff Sgt. Ben Summerfield. Summerfield quickly tugged the RPG free of Perez and Gennari worked to stabilize the patient.

Gennari later said that the Perez’s wounds were so severe that he would’ve died without the quick MEDEVAC. Edens, Doo, and the rest of the Army MEDEVAC team then transported Perez to Camp Bastion where he began the long road to recovery.

(H/t to the 25th Combat Aviation Brigade Public Affairs who wrote about this incident in May 2012.)

MIGHTY HISTORY

How this school teacher became a war chief in WWII

Few people have lived a life as hardcore and fulfilling as that of Dr. Joseph Medicine Crow. He attended college and became the first member of his tribe to obtain a master’s degree. While working on his doctorate, he taught at the Chemawa Indian School. Then, World War II broke out and everything changed.


Related video:

Medicine Crow started working at a naval shipyard in Washington before enlisting in the Army in 1943. He became an infantry scout assigned to the 103rd Infantry Division and was almost immediately sent to Europe. In keeping with Crow traditions, he went into battle donning red war paint under his uniform and a sacred eagle feather under his helmet.

How the US Air Force trains to fight Russia using real Russian fighters
He embodied the warrior spirit.
(PBS: The War)

Also in line with tradition, he set out to complete the four required tasks in becoming the “War Chief of the Crow Indians,” a title reserved for only the most hardened warriors who have proved their worth with death-defying feats of combat. The requirements were as follows:

  1. Lead a successful war party on a raid.
  2. Capture an enemy weapon.
  3. Touch an enemy without killing them.
  4. Steal an enemy’s horse.

The first task was nearly inevitable for any competent platoon leader or sergeant, but Pvt. Medicine Crow didn’t have such a rank. After fighting hard on the western border of France, Medicine Crow proved himself fearless among his peers. He finally got an opportunity when his CO told him to stealthily clear out a German bunker with seven men and some TNT. He was told by his CO,

“If anyone can do this, it’s probably you.”

His CO was right. Not only did they cross German machine-gun and artillery fire, they got into the bunker and blew a hole right through the Siegfried Line without losing a single man. He was awarded the Bronze Star for his actions — and he completed the first of his four tasks. Rumor has it that after Medicine Crow destroyed the defenses, he jumped through the breach and was the first American GI to step foot into Nazi Germany.

How the US Air Force trains to fight Russia using real Russian fighters
Medicine Crow’s success meant that it was much easier for the rest of the American troops to enter Germany though his breach.
(National Archive)

As the 103rd made its way into Germany, it wasn’t uncommon for forward scouts to get separated and flanked by the enemy. One night, Medicine Crow was alone when a Nazi soldier got the jump on him and charged headlong into combat. He charged right back, leading to a helmet-to-helmet collision that quickly devolved into a fist fight.

Medicine Crow beat the Nazi bloody and had his hands around the Nazi’s near-lifeless neck. The Nazi chose “momma” as his almost last words. Medicine Crow didn’t kill him. Instead, he took the German as a POW and confiscated his rifle, completing the next two tasks on his list.

The last task, to steal an enemy horse, seemed implausible on a battlefield dominated by tanks. Medicine Crow got his chance, however, in early 1945 when his recon team found a camp for senior German staff officers. With them were nearly 50 thoroughbred race horses.

How the US Air Force trains to fight Russia using real Russian fighters
German troops relied on horses on the Eastern front, but they were very rare on the Western Front…
(National Archives)

Medicine Crow snuck into the camp in the dead of morning with nothing but some rope and his 1911. He tied the rope into a makeshift bridle and took the best horse of the group. He let out a mighty Crow war cry to herd the rest out of the corral, which woke the Germans. He had successfully gotten away with 50 horses and sang a traditional Crow war song as he returned to his men.

Joe Medicine Crow returned to his tribe after the war ended as a war hero and assumed the mantle of war chief. He was knighted in the French Legion of Honor, finished his doctorate along with three honorary PhDs, wrote almost a dozen books on military and Crow history, and received the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2009 for his military service and work done to improve the lives of his people. Dr. Joseph Medicine Crow passed on April 3rd, 2016 at the age of 102 and was given full military honors.

How the US Air Force trains to fight Russia using real Russian fighters
Chief Joe Medicine Crow may have passed, but legends never truly die.
(U.S. Department of the Interior)

MIGHTY TRENDING

US Navy’s carrier-based F-35s may not be ready for combat after all

The US Navy has declared its F-35Cs ready for combat, but the service’s own testing data says the stealth fighters designed to take off and land on aircraft carriers are nowhere close to ready, an independent nonpartisan watchdog reports.

“The F-35C is ready for operations, ready for combat and ready to win,” Vice Adm. DeWolfe Miller, commander of Naval Air Forces, said in February 2019 as the Navy announced that the fighter had achieved initial operating capability. “We are adding an incredible weapon system into the arsenal of our Carrier Strike Groups that significantly enhances the capability of the joint force.”


But the Project on Government Oversight, a nonprofit government-accountability group, warned March 19, 2019, that despite these claims, the F-35C, like the other variants, “continues to dramatically underperform in crucial areas including availability and reliability, cybervulnerability testing, and life-expectancy testing.”

How the US Air Force trains to fight Russia using real Russian fighters

An F-35C Lightning II carrier variant joint strike fighter.

(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist Eli K. Buguey)

While still secretary of defense, Jim Mattis demanded last fall that the Navy and the Air Force strive to achieve a fleet-wide mission-capable rate of 80% for their fighters by October 2019. The Navy’s carrier-capable F-35 variant is apparently nowhere close to that target, having consistently achieved unacceptably low fully mission-capable rates.

The mission-capable rates for the Navy’s F-35Cs dropped from 12% in October 2016 to zero in December 2017, with figures remaining in the single digits throughout 2018, the oversight group reported, citing Navy documents. The US Navy, according to Military.com, also has only 27 of the required 273 F-35Cs, and the mission-capable rates do not apply to aircraft in testing, training, or depot.

“The fully mission capable rate for the full fleet is likely far below” the target set by Mattis, the watchdog concluded.

It said the Navy had opted to move forward with the aircraft “in spite of evidence that it is not ready for combat” and that it could “put at risk missions, as well as the troops who depend on it to get to the fight.”

The group’s analysis follows the release of a disconcerting report from the Defense Department’s director of operational, test, and evaluation in January that called attention to F-35 readiness issues, such as life expectancy, cybersecurity, and stagnant aircraft availability.

How the US Air Force trains to fight Russia using real Russian fighters

Two F-35C Lightning II aircraft.

(U.S. Navy photo by Chief Mass Communication Specialist Shannon E. Renfroe)

“Fleet-wide average availability is below program target value of 60% and well below planned 80% needed,” the official report said. “The trend in fleet availability has been flat over the past three years; the program’s reliability improvement initiatives are still not translating into improved availability.”

The F-35 Joint Program Office responded to that report, saying the problems presented in the report were being “aggressively addressed.”

The JPO told Business Insider that as of January 2019, the mission capable rate for the Navy’s F-35C was 56 percent. “The Program Office has identified the enablers to increase our mission capability rates,” a JPO spokesman explained.

“We will continue to learn and improve ways to maintain and sustain F-35C as we prepare for first deployment,” the Joint Strike Fighter Wing commodore, Capt. Max McCoy, said as the Navy’s carrier-capable variant was declared “ready for combat” February 2019. “The addition of F-35C to existing Carrier Air Wing capability ensures that we can fight and win in contested battlespace now and well into the future.”

This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.

Articles

This is what made the F-4 Phantom II the deadliest fighter to fly over Vietnam

Imagine, as a fighter pilot, being able to see your enemy without them knowing you’re even in the area. Sounds like some newfangled stealth capability you’d expect to come stock on a fifth generation fighter, like the F-22 Raptor or the F-35 Lightning II, right?


But what if I were to tell you that the US Air Force possessed such a capability as far back as the early 1970s, far before the F-22 and concepts of its ilk were even on the minds of engineers who’d eventually design them? Heck, more than half of those engineers and designers were probably still finishing off college or hadn’t yet completed grade school.

Called the APX-80, but more popularly known by its codename, “Combat Tree”, this top secret technology was first equipped on McDonnell Douglas F-4D Phantom IIs, the US Air Force’s primary fighter-bomber aircraft. Today, we call the system involved “Non-Cooperative Target Recognition”, after having developed it for years. Back then, Combat Tree was a next-generation game-changer which would only be equipped on a select number of F-4Ds, which would fly in hunter/killer packs with other F-4Es (Phantoms built with internal rotary cannons). The precise details of how Combat Tree worked are still classified to this very day, but we do know, to an extent, how Phantom aircrews used it.

How the US Air Force trains to fight Russia using real Russian fighters

Instead of activating the powerful radar scanner in the nose of the Phantom, weapon systems officers (WSOs) in the rear cockpit of the fighter would use Combat Tree to look around the sky for specialized transponders built into enemy aircraft flown by the Vietnamese People’s Air Force (VPAF; North Vietnam’s military aerial element). These transponders were actually designed to prevent friendly-fire incidents, where North Vietnamese ground-controlled interception (GCI) stations and surface-to-air missile (SAM) emplacements would accidentally target and hit friendly fighters in a bid to shoot down enemy American aircraft. Referred to as “IFF” transponders or (Identification Friend or Foe), these beacons would relay a code to scanners built into SAM and GCI search radar computers, allowing their crews to distinguish between their own fighters and marauding jets of the USAF, US Navy and Marine Corps.

Combat Tree would “challenge” or “interrogate” each transponder it came across, asking in return whether or not the aircraft mated to the transponder was allied or otherwise. As soon as Combat Tree ascertained the allegiance of the aircraft after receiving the automatic response from the VPAF MiG-21’s transponder (completely unbeknownst to the MiG’s pilot, mind you), it would accurately plot its quarry’s location on a display in the rear cockpit of the F-4, and open up the hunt for the pilot flying in the front seat of the Phantom. Conversely, using the Phantom’s radar would have likely tipped off enemy fighters that they were being “painted” or tracked by other aircraft in the sky, thus losing any edge of surprise that the American fighters would have previously owned. Not only did this make MiG interceptions by Phantoms “stealthier”, it also allowed F-4 pilots to engage VPAF MiG-21s at greater distances, beyond visual range (BVR).

How the US Air Force trains to fight Russia using real Russian fighters
A U.S. Air Force McDonnell Douglas EF-4C Phantom II aircraft (s/n 63-7474) of the 67th Tactical Fighter Squadron, 18th Tactical Fighter Wing over North Vietnam in December 1972. | U.S. Air Force photo

Prior to the existence and fielding of Combat Tree, all US military fighter pilots operating in Vietnamese skies were forced to get closer to VPAF MiG fighters to gain a positive identification on enemy aircraft before attacking them. Since radar only determines whether or not there are other aircraft in the sky ahead of your own, a visual identification is required to figure out whose aircraft those are. While American F-4 Phantom IIs were much more technologically advanced, they were still less maneuverable within the parameters of a close-in dogfight than a MiG-21 or the older MiG-19, also flown by the VPAF. This led to frustratingly high loss rates for American fighters. Combat Tree exponentially enhanced the margin of safety for American pilots by allowing them to gain positive identifications without pushing them into envelopes which greatly favored North Vietnamese MiG drivers.

The North Vietnamese eventually wised up to the presence of such a technology, though, they didn’t quite know what it was or how it functioned. The VPAF’s ranking officers began noticing a sharp increase in attrition rates with their fighter forces, especially those that found themselves tangling with US Air Force fighter jets. Cells of MiG-21s were reportedly being engaged at distances never before seen during the war, and with deadly accuracy. Radio transmissions between pilots, intercepted by picket stations, were able to pinpoint the reason for the suddenly high MiG-loss rate the North Vietnamese were sustaining – their aircraft’s IFF transponders. The VPAF’s pilots were instructed, there on out, to only turn them on when absolutely necessary, but to otherwise fly without any IFF protection, making them vulnerable to their own surface-to-air missiles in addition to the threat posed by American fighters in the area of operations.

How the US Air Force trains to fight Russia using real Russian fighters

Combat Tree’s effectiveness as a device that allowed American pilots to own the first look/first shot/first kill advantage wasn’t completely diminished by this discovery, however. By the end of American involvement in Vietnam in 1975, Combat Tree had earned assists in a number of US Air Force kills against North Vietnamese aircraft. In fact, Combat Tree was was responsible for helping Air Force legends Richard “Steve” Ritchie and Charles “Chuck” DeBellevue reach ace status (achieving five confirmed kills) between May to September, 1972. Since the early 1970s, the APX-80, or at least the lessons learned from Combat tree, has likely been redeveloped and extensively modernized for use with America’s current fighter fleet. Combat Tree, in a way, can be considered the forerunner of the modern sensors you’d find today on an F-35 or the F-22, which allow the aircraft to “see” the enemy before they even enter the playing field.

Originally published on The Tactical Air Network in January 2017.