30 years later, the Marine Corps AH-1W Super Cobra makes its final flight - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY TACTICAL

30 years later, the Marine Corps AH-1W Super Cobra makes its final flight

In October, after 34 years of service and more than 930,000 flight hours, the AH-1W Super Cobra attack helicopter made its final flight. Maj. Patrick Richardson, Marine Light Attack Helicopter Squadron 773, flew the last flight out of Naval Air Station Joint Reserve Base New Orleans.

In a video released by Bell Helicopter, Maj. Richardson said that the final flight is very important to aviators as a way to honor the aircraft. He counted it as an honor to be able to fly the last flight. 

The dual-blade helicopter was received in 1994. Marines flew it in Afghanistan between 2003 and 2005. The aircraft was also flown in Iraq, Somalia, the Gulf War and with Marine expeditionary units operating on Navy ships worldwide.

This battle-hardened helicopter performed a photo-worthy display over New Orleans in tandem with its successor, the AH-1Z Viper. The last “Whiskey” sortie was performed by the Red Dogs, Detachment A of the Marine Light Attack Helicopter Squadron 772. The Red Dogs are part of the Marine Corps Reserve forces based in New Orleans. 

In total, the Super Cobra’s career included 933,614 flight hours as of August 2020. Maj. Richardson called the final flight bittersweet. 

Marine Corps Colonel David Walsh said that the AH-1W Super Cobra served admirably and leaves a remarkable legacy of “on-time, on-target helicopter support” for the Marines. 

An evolution of aviation for the Marine Corps 

The Marine Corps first flew the Super Cobra in Vietnam in 1969. This single-engine aircraft was on loan from the Army. Then, the service introduced the two-engine AH-1J Sea Cobra in 1971. It saw combat at the end of the conflict in Vietnam and participated in Operation Frequent Wind, the evacuation of American diplomatic personnel from Saigon in April 1975. Just a year later, the Marine had the improved Ah-1T version, which helped add precision weapon capabilities with the BGM-71 Tube-Launched, Optically Tracked Wire-Guided (TOW) anti-tank missile.

The Whiskey model, as it’s known today, can trace its origins to the AH-1T+ demonstrator, originally developed for Iran under the Shah. The Iranians wanted an enhanced Ah-1J that could incorporate new engines and the transmission from the Bell Model 214 ST helicopter. But the overthrow of the Shah in 1979 put an end to those ambitions. The T+ variant emerged as a suitable replacement for the Army’s AH-64 Apache after Congress refused to grant funds for a Marine procurement of the A-64. 

In 1980, the AH-IT+ made its maiden flight powered by a part of 1,258-shaft-horsepower GE T700-GE-700 engines. By 1983, the helicopter was the de facto prototype for the AH-1W. Besides getting upgraded engines, the AH-1W featured bulged cheek fairings to accommodate electronics associated with TOW missiles. These cheeks were relocated from the tail boom. Enlarged exhaust suppressors helped reduce the AH-1W’s infrared signature. 

The Marines placed an order of 44 AH-1W, and the first of them were delivered in March 1986. The final aircraft was delivered in 1999, and its addition made a fleet of 179 AH-1Ws. Retirement is the official end of the AH-1W, but many of the Whiskey frames will fly on as they are remanufactured into updated AH-1Zs.

In 2000, the Turkish Army expressed interest in procuring the AH-1Z, but that order was canceled in 2004. In 2012, South Korea expressed interest in purchasing 36 of the AH-1Zs, but the country ultimately selected the comparable Boeing AH064 Apache instead. 

AH-1Z Viper

The AH-1Z Viper has now officially replaced the AH-1W. It began life as a “four-bladed Whiskey” and is now in operation together with the UH-1Y Venom. The AH-1Z has been in Marine Corps service since 2010. 

AH-1Ws will continue to serve abroad with Taiwan and Turkey. There’s still a chance that some of the Marine Corps’ fleet will be transferred to a partner ally, which might future extend its illustrious legacy.

Articles

Army still testing Ripsaw ‘Luxury Super Tank’

The U.S. Army continues to test a lightweight tracked vehicle known as Ripsaw that’s now being pitched to the consumer market as a “luxury super tank.”


A handful of the Ripsaw Extreme Vehicle 2, or EV2, products made by Howe and Howe Technologies Inc., based in Waterboro, Maine, are undergoing evaluations at Picatinny Arsenal in New Jersey to assess how they could be used in future combat operations. Indeed, on Tuesday, Maj. Gen. Cedric T. Wins, head of the U.S. Army Research, Development and Engineering Command, rode in one of the vehicles with a driver as part of a demonstration.

Related: SOCOM plans to test Iron Man suit by 2018

The company describes the 750-horsepower, optionally manned vehicle — which is capable of reaching speeds of almost 100 miles per hour and costs roughly $250,000 — as a “handcrafted, limited-run, high-end, luxury super tank developed for the public and extreme off road recreation.”

30 years later, the Marine Corps AH-1W Super Cobra makes its final flight
A handful of the Ripsaw Extreme Vehicle 2, or EV2, products made by Howe and Howe Technologies Inc., based in Waterboro, Maine, are undergoing evaluations at Picatinny Arsenal in New Jersey. (Photo courtesy Howe and Howe)

For one, it’s too light. At 9,000 pounds, the EV2 is closer in size to the Humvee than a tank. For example, the Army’s M1A2 Abrams main battle tank tips the scales at more than 70 tons. Indeed, the Ripsaw isn’t even in the same weight class as an M1126 Stryker Combat Vehicle or M2/M3 Bradley Infantry Fighting Vehicle.

Also, it doesn’t carry the same firepower. The EV2 is designed to accommodate the Common Remotely Operated Weapon Station, which can mount any number of weapons — including the M2 .50-caliber machine gun, Mk19 40mm automatic grenade machine gun, M240B 7.62 mm machine gun and M249 Squad Automatic Weapon. By comparison, the M1A2 tank’s main armament is the 120mm L/44 M256A1 smoothbore tank gun.

Finally, it doesn’t have any armor to speak of, just an aluminum frame with gull-wing doors. So it’s really more of a tracked DeLorean than a tank (see picture below).

30 years later, the Marine Corps AH-1W Super Cobra makes its final flight
A handful of the Ripsaw Extreme Vehicle 2, or EV2, products made by Howe and Howe Technologies Inc., based in Waterboro, Maine, are undergoing evaluations at Picatinny Arsenal in New Jersey. (Photo courtesy Howe and Howe)

Even so, the manufacturer says the Ripsaw is the “fastest dual tracked vehicle ever developed.”

And that may be why, several years after the vehicle was featured in “Popular Science” magazine in 2009, the Army remains interested in seeing how it might incorporate the EV2 into its combat formations. The service has tested the technology for at least a year — a soldier in 2016 operated a Ripsaw from a M113 Armored Personnel Carrier trailing a kilometer away, according to a press release at the time.

Here at Military.com, we’re fascinated by the technology and reaching out to the Army to learn more about how officials are evaluating this slick ride, which is almost guaranteed to get more popular in the months and years ahead.

See the Ripsaw in action below:

Articles

These Japanese fire balloons were the grandaddies of the ICBM

While everyone knows about Pearl Harbor, what most don’t remember was that Japan tried hard throughout World War II to hit the U.S. mainland.


Tokyo ended up using very old technology – hot air balloons – to deliver bombs to the United States.

The genesis of this attack was the Doolittle Raid of 1942. The attack had caused the Japanese military to lose face, so they resolved to strike back. After several bomber projects failed, Tokyo turned to what they called the fūsen bakudan, or “fire bomb.” Manufactured primarily by teenage girl laborers, over 9,000 of these balloons were sent America’s way, according to WarHistoryOnline.com, with the goal of creating forest fires to draw American resources away from the front.

30 years later, the Marine Corps AH-1W Super Cobra makes its final flight
In what may be the first intercontinental weapon in military history – the fūsen bakudan, or fire balloon. Japan produced 9,3000 of them. (Youtube Screenshot)

First launched in November 1944, the balloon bombs reached as far east as Detroit, Michigan. These 30-foot balloons used the jet stream to reach America. American and Canadian fighter pilots saw some of them, and shot down about 20. Many others were seen to come down, and at least seven were recovered by the U.S. Army.

The United States covered up knowledge of the ICBM precursor — mostly fool Japan into thinking the balloons weren’t making it to the mainland. Speculation centered around the internment camps and submarines, but geologists traced the sand in the sandbags to Japan.

30 years later, the Marine Corps AH-1W Super Cobra makes its final flight
The Mitchell Memorial, listing the names of the only Americans killed killed by the Axis on the North American continent. (Youtube screenshot)

Only one of the bombs caused any fatalities. On May 5, 1945, a minster, Archie Mitchell, and his wife took five Sunday School students on an outing to the forest. Mrs. Mitchell and the students then found the balloon while Rev. Mitchell was still at the car. The bomb detonated while the students were trying to drag it out, and Mrs. Mitchell and all five students were either killed or later died of their wounds.

An Army investigation determined the balloon bomb had been in the area for weeks before it blew.

The tragedy surrounding that outing was the only balloon attack that was publicized by the military. As a result, Japan cancelled the program. America’s media blackout had worked. Only 300 of the balloon bombs were seen in the United States, according to a 1995 Salt Lake Tribune article. One bomb was found in Canada in 2014, and detonated by EOD personnel.

Check out this National Geographic video for more details of Japan’s WW2 ICBMs.

Articles

The Army is using this FPS video game to help design its weapons of the future

The Army is currently seeking soldiers to provide feedback through online gameplay in order to contribute to the development of the future force.


Operation Overmatch is a gaming environment within the Early Synthetic Prototyping effort. Its purpose is to connect soldiers to inform concept and capability developers, scientists and engineers across the Army.

30 years later, the Marine Corps AH-1W Super Cobra makes its final flight
(Photo from U.S. Army)

“What we want is two-way communication, and what better medium to use than video games,” said Army Lt. Col. Brian Vogt, ESP project lead with U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command’s Army Capabilities Integration Center.

Through a collaborative effort between TRADOC, U.S. Army Research and Development Command and Army Game Studio, Operation Overmatch was created to encourage soldier innovation through crowd-sourcing ideas within a synthetic environment.

“Soldiers have the advantage of understanding how equipment, doctrine and organization will be used in the field — the strengths and weaknesses,” said Michael Barnett, chief engineer at the Army Game Studio and project lead for Operation Overmatch. “And they have immediate ideas about what to use, what to change and what to abandon — how to adapt quickly.”

Within Operation Overmatch, soldiers will be able to play eight versus eight against other soldiers, where they will fight advanced enemies with emerging capabilities in realistic scenarios.

Players will also be able to experiment with weapons, vehicles, tactics and team organization. Game analytics and soldier feedback will be collected and used to evaluate new ideas and to inform areas for further study.

Currently, the game is in early development, Vogt said.

30 years later, the Marine Corps AH-1W Super Cobra makes its final flight
A screenshot of the Army’s video game Operation Overmatch. (US Army photo)

One of the benefits of collecting feedback through the gaming environment within ESP is the ability to explore hundreds — if not thousands — of variations, or prototypes, of vehicles and weapons at a fraction of what it would cost to build the capability at full scale, Vogt explained. A vehicle or weapons system that might take years of engineering to physically build can be changed or adapted within minutes in the game.

“In a game environment, we can change the parameters or the abilities of a vehicle by keystrokes,” he said. “We can change the engine in a game environment and it could accelerate faster, consume more fuel or carry more fuel. All these things are options within the game — we just select it, and that capability will be available for use. Of course, Army engineers will determine if the change is plausible before we put it in the scenarios.”

The game currently models a few future vehicles to include variants of manned armored vehicles, robotic vehicles and unmanned aerial vehicles. The scenarios are centered on manned/unmanned teaming at the squad and platoon level in an urban environment. Through game play, soldiers will provide insights about platform capabilities and employment.

Intel

DARPA’s new drones show that robots are winning their war against us

30 years later, the Marine Corps AH-1W Super Cobra makes its final flight
Photo: DARPA


Man is not required.

While most drones require an operator to control them, the ones in DARPA’s Fast Lightweight Autonomy (FLA) program fly themselves. Although not perfect in its current phase, the program’s first flight test exceeded expectations.

Related: 5 jobs future recruits will enlist to get

“We’re excited that we were able to validate the airspeed goal during this first-flight data collection,” said Mark Micire, DARPA program manager. “The fact that some teams also demonstrated basic autonomous flight ahead of schedule was an added bonus. The challenge for the teams now is to advance the algorithms and onboard computational efficiency to extend the UAV’s perception range and compensate for the vehicle’s’ mass to make extremely tight turns and abrupt maneuvers at high speeds.”

Advancing algorithms and extending perception range. That’s what we thought.

Now watch this video of DARPA’s first test flight:

Articles

Whether it’s used in space or in Afghanistan, the Makarov pistol is out of this world

30 years later, the Marine Corps AH-1W Super Cobra makes its final flight
A Russian Makarov PM pistol with its 9×18 mm ammunition, a common sidearm anywhere in the world where the Soviet Union had influence. Public domain photo.


If you are a Russian cosmonaut, you’ve got more than a space suit to protect you.

The Russians have been packing heat in low Earth orbit for decades.

Along with fishing gear and a first aid kit, the Granat-6 survival kit in every Soyuz spacecraft has a Makarov PM semi-automatic pistol and plenty of ammunition.

Presumably available to hunt game or provide a self-defense option, the pistol is just one more tool for the space-faring Russian to use if things go wrong.

But the Makarov PM – for Пистолет Макарова, or pistolet Makarova in honor of its chief designer Nikolay Makarov – has plenty of down-to-Earth uses.

Concealable and compact, it fires the Russian 9 x 18mm Makarov round, which is slightly shorter and fatter than the 9-mm NATO pistol round used throughout the rest of the world. It has a double-action mechanism – if a round is already chambered the pistol can be fired by pulling the trigger without manually cocking the hammer.

Even though it is heavy for its size and has a stiff trigger pull, it’s a natural for police work and covert operations. The designer even copied features from the Walther PP (police pistol) designed in 1929, including its size and the shape of the pistol’s frame.

Not surprisingly, since its introduction in 1951 the Makarov was frequently the handgun brandished by state security agents in the U.S.S.R. or the old Eastern Bloc when they said, “Comrade, come with us.”

Even in the age of polymer-frame pistols, the Makarov has its adherents.

Spetsnaz (Russian special forces) team members often carried the Makarov as their sidearm, particularly team commanders, deputy commanders, and radiomen. They sometimes carried a suppressed version of the weapon for so-called “wet works” – kidnappings and assassinations where stealth, surprise, and silence were necessary for mission success as well as personal survival.

With the fall of the Soviet Union, many Makarovs flooded the market and eventually ended up in the hands of shooters in the United States.

“The Makarov is more reliable than most of the more expensive small pistols, is well made of good material, and is surprisingly accurate,” writes Matthew Campbell, author of 21st-Century Stopping Power: What Works, What Doesn’t, and Why. “This makes the Makarov a superior choice to most of the double action first-shot .380 ACP pistols in this size and weight class.”

Despite the fact it was officially phased out in 2003 by the Russian Ministry of Defense, thousands of the pistols remain in service with police officers, soldiers, and intelligence personnel. It is frequently in the hands of combatants fighting the Russia-Ukraine War, serving as the sidearm for both sides.

And like many weapons, the Makarov has a “bad boy reputation.”

Noted terrorist Ilich Ramírez Sánchez  (a.k.a. Carlos the Jackal) carried a Makarov. During the Vietnam War, many senior ranking North Vietnamese Army officers and Communist Party officials carried the pistol – special operators from the U.S. military or the CIA often found the weapon when they searched live prisoners or dead bodies.

To this day, Makarovs frequently appear on the battlefield in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Syria – a testament to the staying power of a rugged, Soviet-era pistol with few frills but incredible reliability.

MIGHTY HISTORY

6 things you didn’t know about Operation Market Garden

It’s been 75 years since the launch of Operation Market Garden – the World War II mission to secure key bridges across Belgium and the Netherlands while pushing an Allied advance over the Rhine into Germany and ending the war in Europe by Christmas 1944. Unfortunately, many of Market Garden’s main aims failed, and the Christmas victory was not secured.

That doesn’t mean this brainchild of British Field Marshal Sir Bernard Montgomery was a total failure, it was just slightly more ambitious than the Allies were prepared for. Here’s why.


30 years later, the Marine Corps AH-1W Super Cobra makes its final flight

It was actually two operations.

Market Garden was divided into two sub-operations. The first was “Market,” an airborne assault that would capture the key bridges Allied forces needed to advance on German positions and cross into Germany. The second was “Garden,” where ground forces actually crossed those bridges and formed on the other side. In the north, the push would circumvent the Siegfried Line, creating the top part of a greater pincer movement of tanks inside Germany’s industrial heartland, as well as a 64-mile bulge in the front line.

Getting there would be slow going.

30 years later, the Marine Corps AH-1W Super Cobra makes its final flight

Six American paratroopers of the First Allied Airborne Army receive a final briefing from their commanding officer before Operation Market Garden.

(Imperial War Museum)

It was the largest airborne operation ever.

The British 1st Airborne Division and Polish 1st Independent Parachute Brigade were dropped around Oosterbeek to take bridges near Arnhem and Grave. The U.S. 101st Airborne was dropped near Eindhoven, and the 82nd was dropped near Nijmegen with the aim of taking bridges near there and Grave. In all, some 34,000 men would be airlifted into combat on the first day, with their equipment and support coming in by glider the next day. In the days that followed, they would be relieved by Allied troops zooming North to cross the river.

30 years later, the Marine Corps AH-1W Super Cobra makes its final flight

British POWs captured by the Germans at Arnhem.

The Allies thought the Nazis weren’t going to fight.

Isn’t that always what happens in a “surprise” defeat? Underestimating the enemy is always a mistake, no matter what the reason. In this case, the Allies thought German resistance to the invaders would be minimal because the Nazis were in full retreat mode after the Allies liberated much of occupied France. They were wrong. Hitler saw the retreat as a collapse on the Western Front and recalled one of his best Field Marshals from retirement, Gerd von Rundstedt. Von Rundstedt quickly reorganized the German forces in the West and moved reinforcements to the areas near key bridges and major cities.

Even though Dutch resistance fighters and their own communications intercepts told the Allies there would be more fighting than planned, they went ahead with the operation anyway.

30 years later, the Marine Corps AH-1W Super Cobra makes its final flight

Cromwell tanks speed toward Nijmegen, Sep. 20, 1944.

Speed was essential and the Allies didn’t have it.

The surprise of using 34,000-plus paratroopers definitely worked on the German defenders. But still, some attacks did not proceed as planned, and though most bridges were taken, some were not, and some were demolished by their defenders. The British were forced to engage their targets with half the men required. What’s worse is that the paratrooper’s relief was moving much slower than expected, moving about half of its planned advance on the first day. To make matters worse, British Gen. Sir Brian Horrocks halted his advance on the second day to regroup after assisting in the assault on Nijmegen Bridge.

It was the halt that would keep British troops at Arnhem from getting the forces they needed to be successful and spell the ultimate failure of Market Garden.

30 years later, the Marine Corps AH-1W Super Cobra makes its final flight

British Engineers remove explosives set by German engineers on a bridge near Arnhem.

The British took the brunt of the casualties.

Overall, Market Garden cost the Allies between 15,000 and 17,000 killed, captured, or wounded. The British 1st Airborne Division was the hardest hit, starting the battle with 10,600 men and suffering 1,485 killed and some 6,414 captured. They failed to take and hold the bridge at Arnhem, encountering stiff resistance and reinforcement from the Nazi troops there. Because of that bridge, the invasion of Nazi Germany over the lower Rhine could not proceed.

30 years later, the Marine Corps AH-1W Super Cobra makes its final flight

“Monty” still saw Market Garden as a success.

British Field Marshal Bernard Montgomery was a steadfast supporter of the operation, even after considering all its operational successes and failures. Despite the lack of intelligence and overly optimistic planning in terms of the defenders, Montgomery still considered the operation a “90 percent” success.

Articles

Special Air Service is testing a helmet inspired by Star Wars

The British Army is unveiling a new helmet that provides much more protection for its troops. The Devtac Ronin Kevlar Level IIIA Tactical Ballistic Helmet is now being field-tested by the Special Air Service.


According to a report by the New York Post, the troops have taken to calling their new helmets “Boba Fett” helmets, after the famous bounty hunter who first appeared in “The Empire Strikes Back” in 1980. The helmets are already used by special operations personnel in the United States, including Navy SEALs and Delta Force.

30 years later, the Marine Corps AH-1W Super Cobra makes its final flight
Navy SEALs in desert camouflage, looking very un-Star Warsesque. (Photo from U.S. Navy.)

The new helmets feature protection against a number of small arms rounds (up to Dirty Harry’s favorite, the .44 Magnum), infra-red goggles for night operations, communications technology, and a GPS system that can project a map for the operator.

However, the helmets in question aren’t new — or at least, they had been widely used in a very different sector than the military. According to PopularAirsoft.com, the Ronin had been a highly sought-after mask used by people involved in Airsoft, an action sport in which participants use guns that fire 6mm BBs made of hard plastic at speed of 350 to 500 feet per second. The guns in question are replicas of actual firearms like the M9 pistol and M4 carbine.

30 years later, the Marine Corps AH-1W Super Cobra makes its final flight
GIF: Youtube/STAR WARS NERD

Best left unsaid is just what happened to Boba Fett in “Return of the Jedi.” Hopefully, special operations troops will fare better than the most famous bounty hunter in the Star Wars movies. I mean, taken out by a blind guy is a pretty embarrassing way to go.

You can see a video about this new helmet below.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Memphis Belle: The legendary B-17 flying fortress

The “Memphis Belle” a B-17F Flying Fortress of the Eighth Air Force would become the most famous of the 12,750 B-17s produced by Boeing during World War II. The plane and her crew would become immortalized, first by the Army who filmed her crew for a documentary prior to a War Bond tour and later by Hollywood who made a fictionalized feature film on the exploits of her crew.

The casualty rates were so high, that the United States put a 25-mission limit on crews. If a crew flew 25 combat missions and survived, they were rotated back to the states. But none of the crews were surviving that long. The Memphis Belle was one of the first to do so.

Background

The air war for the United States in 1942 and early 1943 was a bloody affair. The United States had entered the war just months before, and Britain decided to pressure the German war machine by bombing it around the clock. The British would bomb at night, the Americans by day.

The Allies didn’t yet have fighters that had the range to escort the bombers to their targets and back. The German Luftwaffe was a formidable adversary with very experienced fighter crews. The German anti-aircraft artillery which they called “Flak” was accurate and plentiful.

In the early days of daylight bombing, the Germans exacted a terrible toll on the new American formations. Casualty rates were appalling. It was here that Captain Robert Morgan and his crew would step into the war.

B-17F 10-BO, manufacturer’s serial number 3470, USAAC Serial No. 41-24485, was added to the USAAF inventory on July 15, 1942, and delivered in September 1942 to the 91st Bombardment Group at Dow Field, Bangor, Maine. The aircraft was deployed to Prestwick, Scotland, on September 30, 1942,  and stationed at a temporary base at RAF Kimbolton on October 1, and then finally to her permanent base at RAF Bassingbourn, England, on the 14th of October.

The marking on the sides of the fuselage bore the unit and aircraft identification markings of a B-17 of the 324th Bomb Squadron (Heavy); the squadron code “DF” and individual aircraft letter “A.”Read Next: The Eighth Air Force, “The Mighty Eighth” Was Born on This Day 1942

Morgan decided to name the plane after his sweetheart back home, a woman named Margaret Polk from Memphis, TN. Originally the plane would be named after Morgan’s nickname for Polk, which was “Little One” but after he and co-pilot Jim Vennis saw a film where the main character had a riverboat named the “Memphis Belle”, the name stuck. Morgan brought it up to the crew and they voted for it.

The drawing on the fuselage was from a pinup by artist George Petty that was in Esquire magazine in April of 1941 issue. Corporal Tony Starcer, copied the Petty girl pinup on both sides of the forward fuselage, depicting her bathing suit in blue on the aircraft’s port side and in red on the starboard. The Memphis Belle was born.

Air War Over Europe

Morgan and his crew flew their first mission over Europe on November 7, 1942, at Brest, France. The command of the American Air Forces and the Pentagon set the incentive of 25 missions for crews to reach to be rotated back to the United States. But no one was reaching that threshold. Casualties among the bomber crews in those early dark days were at 80 percent.

In interviews much later, Morgan summed up the horror of the early days of the airwar in describing the awful casualties suffered by American aircrews in the first days of the bombing campaign.

“Eighty-percent losses means you have breakfast with 10 men and dinner with only two of them.”

Memphis Belle had her share of difficult scrapes with German fighter planes and flak and on five different occasions had an engine shot out. Another time, a diving German Focke Wulf  Fw-190 came straight at the plane and riddled the tail with holes setting it on fire. After the fire was out, Morgan climbed back into the tail to survey the damage.

His comments, captured by History.net tell of the difficulty he had in bringing the ship back safely. “It looked like we had no tail at all,” Morgan said. “I got back in the cockpit and flew back to the base in two hours. It was tough flying, and tougher than that to set her down. The elevators were damaged so badly that the controls jammed. Somehow we managed to get down safely.”

The American bomb groups were taking on tough, well-defended targets including the Focke Wulf plant at Bremen, locks and submarine pens at St. Nazaire and Brest, docks, and shipbuilding installations at Wilhelmshaven, railroad yards at Rouen, submarine pens and powerhouses at Lorient and aircraft factories at Antwerp.Read Next: The Australian Army Chief Got it Wrong…Bring Back the Punisher

During her 25 missions, Memphis Belle gunners were credited with shooting down eight German fighters with another five probable kills. They damaged 12 more fighters and dropped over 60 tons of bombs on the German war machine.

After their 25th mission, the crew which had been the subject of a war documentary by Hollywood director William Wyler, the crew was rotated home on a 31-city war bond tour. The men were treated as heroes wherever they stopped. Only one female was ever allowed to fly with the Belle. Stuka, a Scottish terrier bought by co-pilot Jim Vennis in England accompanied the crew and was spoiled with the rest of the crew.

One of the stops was in Memphis where Polk was in attendance, although interestingly enough the two never did marry but did remain life-long friends. Morgan put on a stunt at his own hometown of Asheville, NC where he flew the Fortress down the main drag in town and turned it between two large buildings on its side.

General Henry “Hap” Arnold, gave Morgan the choice of any assignment he wanted. He chose to transition to B-29 bombers and bomb the Japanese. He took part in the first raid on Tokyo in November of 1944. After flying 50 missions he was sent home for good. He remained in the Air Force and retired as a Colonel.

Memphis Belle Not the First to Complete 25 Missions

Unlike the feature film that came out in 1990, the Belle was not the first plane to fly 25 missions in Europe. That distinction belonged to Captain Irl Baldwin of the 303rd Bomb Group and the plane “Hell’s Angels” named after a Howard Hughes, Jean Harlow film from back in the day. Baldwin completed his 25 missions a week before Morgan did. Memphis Belle was the first to complete 25 missions and return to the United States. Baldwin and his crew would go on to fly 48 missions before returning to the U.S. for their own bond tour in 1944.

I met Baldwin at the Mighty Eighth Air Force Museum in Savannah, GA a few years before he passed away. And in talking to him, you got a great sense of how difficult life was for those bomber crews over Europe.

Asked which was worse, the fighters or flak he smiled and answered…”Yes!” He said, “it didn’t matter how large the group was when those German fighters were coming head-on into the group, you’d swear to God every one of them was firing at you.”

He added, “Once they’d open up it looked like they were winking at you and the next thing was those cannon shells ripping past.”

I asked how he managed to survive 48 missions where so many didn’t last long at all.

“Some of it is pure luck,” he said. “There is nothing you can do about flak and those German gunners were good. They’d get your range and it looked like you could walk from burst to burst with touching thin air.”

“But the other thing we learned right away was that we had to be better pilots. The only way we could survive the fighters was fly wingtip to wingtip. That way all of our guns could be trained as one. If the Germans could get in between the bombers of the group, and they were some great pilots, they’d cut you to pieces.”

Baldwin too transitioned to B-29s after his War Bond tour. But he never got the chance to fly in combat over Japan. “Right after I got there, we dropped the bomb,” he said with a shrug. “I got there a few days too late.”

Asked why he’d volunteer after already flying so many combat missions, he shrugged again. “We were at war and I felt I was better suited for it than other guys.”

“Besides,” he added, “ I figured the Germans were the best we’d go against. If they couldn’t get me I didn’t think the Japs could.”

This article was originally published on May 17th, 2020.

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

MIGHTY TACTICAL

A top test pilot landed backwards on Britain’s largest warship

A British F-35 pilot has pulled off what the Royal Navy called a “milestone” maneuver, executing a backward landing on the deck of Britain’s largest warship, the HMS Queen Elizabeth.

The Royal Air Force test pilot Squadron Leader Andy Edgell flew his American-made F-35B Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter across the bow of the large British aircraft carrier.

The pilot then brought the short-takeoff-and-vertical-landing aircraft to a hover over the deck before gently setting it down, the Royal Navy said in a statement Nov. 19, 2018. He said the F-35 jump jet “handled beautifully.”


The aviation achievement is intended to give the carrier crew additional options in the event of an emergency. Given the nature of the aircraft, the landing was not radically different from more conventional alternatives.

30 years later, the Marine Corps AH-1W Super Cobra makes its final flight

An F-35 Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter landing on the HMS Queen Elizabeth.

(Royal Navy photo)

The British Royal Navy said this atypical landing was like “driving the wrong way down a one-way street.” Reflecting on the maneuver, Edgell said, “It was briefly bizarre to bear down on the ship and see the waves parting on the bow as you fly an approach aft facing.”

“It was also a unique opportunity fly towards the ship, stare at the bridge, and wonder what the captain is thinking,” he added.

This maneuver, like the previously executed conventional landings and rolling landings, was part of a nine-week intensive training program that began off the US east coast.

30 years later, the Marine Corps AH-1W Super Cobra makes its final flight

An F-35B Lightning II above the aircraft carrier Queen Elizabeth on Sept. 25, 2018.

(UK Ministry of Defense)

The first landing was carried out Sept. 25, 2018, when Royal Navy Cmdr. Nathan Gray landed an F-35B on the deck of the carrier. It marked the first time in eight years that an aircraft had landed on a British carrier. The UK had previously acquired the F-35, and its new carrier set sail in 2017. The combination of the two was championed as the dawn of a new era for British sea power.

Commodore Andrew Betton, the commander of the UK carrier strike group, called it “a tremendous step forward in reestablishing the UK’s carrier strike capability.”

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

The Air Force wants to retire these 8 aircraft

Get ready for a new A-10 budget fight. Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David Goldfein wants to fund new initiatives in connectivity, space, combat power projection, and logistics starting in 2021 – to the tune of $30 billion on top of what it is already using. One way to do that, says Todd Harrison, a defense budget analyst at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, is to retire $30 billion worth of legacy aircraft.

That is, get rid of the old stuff to make room for the new.


While getting rid of these aircraft isn’t the only way to make room for the new initiatives and save $30 billion, it is the fastest route to get there, and many of the retirements make sense. Some of the planes’ missions are obsolete, some of the airframes are currently being updated with newer models, and at least one can’t even fly its primary mission due to treaty obligations.

30 years later, the Marine Corps AH-1W Super Cobra makes its final flight

B-1B Lancer

The B-1B is already scheduled for retirement in the 2030s, but retiring the program early could save up to .8 billion. At 32 years old, the Lancers are already struggling with a 50 percent mission-capable rate. It can’t even complete the missions for which it was designed as a nuclear deterrent. The Air Force’s fastest bomber, the one that carries the biggest bomb loads, can’t carry nuclear weapons under the terms of the 1994 START I agreement with Russia.

30 years later, the Marine Corps AH-1W Super Cobra makes its final flight

B-2 Spirit

Also scheduled for retirement in the 2030s, the B-2 Spirit has a mission-capable rate of 61 percent and is scheduled to be replaced by the new B-21 Bomber in the late 2020s. Retiring the B-2 early could save as much as .9 billion.

30 years later, the Marine Corps AH-1W Super Cobra makes its final flight

A-10 Thunderbolt II

The Air Force’s 281 A-10s are mission capable 73 percent of the time and are its primary close-air support craft. The average A-10 is 38 years old, and even though the bulk of the A-10 fleet has just been scheduled to get new wings, canceling the re-winging and retiring the Warthog could save as much as .7 billion.

30 years later, the Marine Corps AH-1W Super Cobra makes its final flight

KC-10 Extender

Retiring the 59 heavy tankers in the U.S. Air Force fleet would save the service billion if they do it before 2024 – when they’re scheduled for retirement anyway. This may create a tanker shortage because the new Boeing KC-46 Pegasus tanker isn’t quite ready for prime time.

30 years later, the Marine Corps AH-1W Super Cobra makes its final flight

RC-135V/W Rivet Joint

This signals intelligence and optical and electronic reconnaissance aircraft is more than 56 years old but still kicking around the Air Force waiting for a yet-undeveloped Advanced Battle Management System to replace its old tech. While retiring it before 2023 would save .5 billion, it would create a gap in electronic and signals intelligence capacity.

30 years later, the Marine Corps AH-1W Super Cobra makes its final flight

E-3 Sentry AWACS

These 39-year-old planes are mission-ready just 66 percent of the time and are undergoing modernization upgrades. If the Air Force scraps its modernization along with the rest of the airframe before 2023, it could save billion.

30 years later, the Marine Corps AH-1W Super Cobra makes its final flight

U-2 Dragon Lady

Getting rid of the 37-year-old U-2 would save some billion for the Air Force. The Air Force could then rely on the much more efficient RQ-4 Global Hawk drone for ISR.

30 years later, the Marine Corps AH-1W Super Cobra makes its final flight

E-8C JSTARS

Also waiting for the unknown advanced battle management system, the 16 Joint Surveillance Target Attack Radar aircraft in the Air Force are already scheduled for retirement. But actually retiring the aircraft would save the USAF .7 billion.

Articles

This machine gun could replace the legendary M2 .50 cal for ground units

The M2 .50 caliber machine gun has been a cornerstone of American military firepower for nearly 100 years. Its long range capability coupled with a heavy round combine for a devastating mixture on the battlefield — a weapon powerful enough to destroy a building or shoot down aircraft.


But for troops on the ground, the M2’s advantages come at a severe cost — namely weight. The typical M2 weighs in at a crushing 84 pounds, not to mention the weight of the ammunition itself (which is over 140 pounds for 500 linked rounds). That means despite the M2’s firepower, it’s not a man-portable weapon, requiring a heavy tripod for a mount that makes it more suitable for defensive positions and vehicle-mounted options.

A few years ago General Dynamics Ordnance and Tactical Systems proposed an alternative to the M2 and medium M240 chambered in an innovative new caliber. The company argued that its new machine gun came in at nearly 1/4 of the weight of the M2, but delivered a similar knockout punch to bad guys at .50 cal ranges.

Dubbed the “Lightweight Medium Machine Gun,” the new weapon is chambered in .338 Norma Magnum — a favorite of some precision shooters for its ability to reach out to targets at extended ranges while still having enough knockout power to take down the enemy.

While outside experts saw the capability as a game-changer, there really wasn’t any money available to add a major weapons program for ground forces at the time.

30 years later, the Marine Corps AH-1W Super Cobra makes its final flight
The .338 Norma Magnum has a maximum effective range close to the M2 .50 cal at a fraction of the overall weight. (Photo from General Dynamics OTS)

Now, five years later, the Army is in the market for ways to lighten its soldiers’ load and provide increased firepower with a smaller footprint. So there’s a renewed interest in the LWMMG program.

Weighing in at only 25 pounds, the General Dynamics-designed machine gun has a maximum effective range of more than 1,800 yards and can reach out as far as 6,000, according to company documents. The LWMMG in .338 NM has a lot of advantages over the current 7.62mm M240 machine gun as well, the company says.

30 years later, the Marine Corps AH-1W Super Cobra makes its final flight
The General Dynamics Lightweight Medium Machine Gun delivers a ballistic punch similar to an M2 .50 cal with less weight than the current M240. (Photo from General Dynamics Land Systems briefing documents)

“At 1,000 yards the LWMMG is capable of defeating Level III body armor and incapacitating soft skinned vehicles by delivering more than four times the terminal effects of the 7.62mm NATO cartridge,” General Dynamics documents say.

GD has also developed a new “Short Recoil Impulse Averaging” system that the company says delivers the same recoil as an M240 despite the larger .338 NM round.

Some argue that the increased weight of the .338 round cancels out the LWMMG’s advantages for dismounted troops, since 1,000 rounds of 7.62 weigh about as much as only 500 rounds of .338 NM. But new developments in polymer case technology could combine to make the new machine gun a lighter option overall than the M240 while delivering the killer punch at M2 ranges.

 

MIGHTY HISTORY

These armored M1s were nothing like the Abrams

The M1 Abrams tank is arguably the best in the world — there are many reasons why it dominates the battlefield. But it’s not the only vehicle to have been called the “M1.” Prior to World War II, there were two other M1s in service, and neither were anything like the Abrams. In fact, these vehicles were downright puny. That being said, these little vehicles were important in their own way.


It might not seem like the greatest lot in life, but some people leave a legacy of being an example of what not to do. That also apply to tanks and other armored vehicles — see the Soviet-era T-72 for a prime example of this, both in terms of design and operational experience. This was also the case with America’s earliest M1s.

30 years later, the Marine Corps AH-1W Super Cobra makes its final flight

The M1 armored car was so bad, America only bought a dozen.

(US Army)

The first of these vehicles was the M1 armored car. Looking at it, this vehicle lacked intimidation factor. It was best described as a funky-looking 1930s car with a turret that housed an M2 .50 caliber machine gun with two additional .30 caliber machine guns. Only about a dozen of these were built.

The vehicle only powered the rear four wheels. Even though it packed two spares, the biggest problem with this armored car was its off-road performance. As it turns out, all-wheel drive is necessary when not exclusively travelling on paved roads.

30 years later, the Marine Corps AH-1W Super Cobra makes its final flight

Civil War veterans inspect a M1 “combat car” at the 1939 World’s Fair in New York.

(DOD)

The other M1 was the M1 “combat car.” This ‘car’ was, in reality, much closer to a light tank, but there was a specific reason for the semantics. In the years between World Wars, cavalry was prohibited from operating tanks. So, instead, they created an “armored car” with a tank’s armaments: one M2 .50-caliber machine gun and one .30-caliber machine gun. A grand total of 113 M1s were purchased, and it hung around until 1943.

Neither of these M1s saw any combat — which was a good thing for their four-man crews. Still, these vehicles, made major contributions to the war effort by teaching America what was needed to create a truly modern armored force.

Learn more about these vehicles — and see how far armored vehicles have come in terms of design — in the video below!

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3snjE5Ss1e0

www.youtube.com

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