John Glenn may be one of the United States Marine Corps’ most epic alums. And that’s saying a lot (he’s in good company).
In his 95 years on planet Earth — and his time off the planet — Glenn racked up accomplishment after accomplishment, feat after feat, do after derring-do.
It’s no wonder the U.S. and the world hail the Ohioan as a legend. He was a decorated war hero, astronaut, and senator — but he was so much more.
Here are a few interesting things you may not have known about the first American to orbit the Earth.
1. The documentary about his life was nominated for an Oscar.
The 1963 short film “The John Glenn Story” was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Documentary Short. That was before he was elected to the Senate.
His life was already so epic it warranted its own movie, and even then, he was far from finished.
2. He and his wife were married for 73 years.
Glenn and his wife, Anna, were married in April 1943. They had two children and two grandchildren. Anna had a severe speech impediment and he protected her from the media because of it.
3. He was also the first man to eat in space.
The first meal in space was applesauce. And it was a big deal because scientists thought humans might not be able to digest in zero gravity. He also ate pureed beef and vegetables. Other famous space feats include being the oldest man in space (age 77) and the first man to carry a knife (a 9-inch blade in a leather sheath).
4. His Korean War wingman was also famous.
Glenn flew several missions with “The Greatest Hitter Who Ever Lived,” baseball hero Ted Williams. Williams flew half of his 39 combat mission over North Korea with Glenn.
Glenn called Williams “one of the best pilots I ever knew.”
5. Bill Clinton sent two emails as President: One was to John Glenn.
The internet as we know it was in its infancy during the Clinton Administration, yet as President, Bill Clinton sent two: one to U.S. troops in the Adriatic, and the other to Glenn, then 77 years old and in orbit around the Earth.
6. Glenn was almost an excuse to invade Cuba.
Operation “Dirty Trick” was planned if Glenn’s capsule crashed back to Earth. The Pentagon reportedly wanted to blame any mishap on Cuban electronic interference, and use his death as an excuse to invade Cuba.
7. Glenn’s Marine Corps nickname was “Magnet Ass.”
He flew a F9F Panther jet interceptor on 63 combat missions, twice returning with over 250 holes in his aircraft. His aircrews all thought he somehow attracted flak.
8. John Glenn was the last surviving Mercury 7 astronaut.
The next to last one died in 2013. Also, the five sons of Jeff Tracy in the kids show “Thunderbirds” were named after the first five American astronauts into space through the Mercury project: Scott Carpenter, Virgil Grissom, Alan Shepard, Gordon Cooper, and John Glenn.
9. President John F. Kennedy barred Glenn from further space flights.
Glenn found out by reading Richard Reeves’ biography of President Kennedy decades later.
Sure, each nation has its own style. But some militaries have introduced dress uniforms so surprising, they’d stop you in your tracks if you saw them in person.
1. French Foreign Legion Pioneers
This engineering unit works like America’s sappers, clearing the way through enemy obstacles so other forces can attack behind them. In their dress uniforms, the pioneers carry ceremonial axes and wear large, leather aprons.
2. Greek Evzones
These light infantry soldiers are a primarily ceremonial unit whose members are pulled from the standard army’s infantry, artillery, and armored corps. The uniform they wear harkens back to the klephts, anti-Ottoman insurgents who fought for Greek independence from the 1400s to 1800s.
3. India Border Security Force
Formed in response to a failure by the State Armed Police to prevent incursions by Pakistan during the Indo-Pakistani War of 1965, this young force has grown from a few battalions to over 186 battalions in its 50 years. The headdress is surprising to many visitors to the country, but it’s a common uniform item in the Indian military. Like the U.S. military’s berets, different colors and patterns of headdress indicate different units.
4. India Border Security Force, Camel Contingent
India’s BSF is tasked with guarding a desert border with Pakistan, and so they have camel units which operate in sensitive areas. The camel contingent wears a separate uniform from the rest of the BSF and bedecks its camels in colorful harnesses.
4. Fiji’s Presidential Guard
The sulu is a skirt that is part of Fiji’s national dress, but it can still be surprising for tourists the first time they see ceremonial guards wearing it.
5. Mongolian Army
The uniforms are meant to harken back to the days of the Mongol Empire, as is the white staff with yak hair. The staffs are called tug banners and are white during times of peace, black during times of war. Large processions like this are typically done before Nadaam, the Mongolian independence celebration.
6. South Korean Royal Guard
In 1996, the guards at the main palace of South Korea, Gyeongbokgung, reenacted the changing of the guard conducted during ancient times. The display was popular, so the guard unit protecting the palace has conducted the ceremony for tourists ever since, continuing to wear traditional clothing and carrying traditional weapons throughout the ceremony and their guard shift.
7. The Vatican Swiss Guard
The famed guards of the Vatican are partially known for their bright uniforms. Each uniform weighs 8 pounds and consists of 154 pieces before you count both the traditional and modern weaponry they carry. The uniform was redesigned in 1914, but it was created to match the uniforms the unit wore in the 1500s when they were formed.
Being forward deployed in a foreign country has many dangers. No matter how well you fortify your Forward Operating Base, it’ll never be safe — only safer.
But for months or even years, it’s home for hundreds of service members…surrounded by an enemy on all sides who want to bring harm to them on a daily basis.
One thing Marines take seriously is making sure that while their brothers and sisters rest inside the wire — they’re safe. With different security levels in place, check out six obstacles that the enemy has to breach before even getting inside.
1. Hesco barriers
One aspect of fighting in the desert is the massive amounts of sand, dirt, and rocks that are available. Filling the natural resources in the encased barriers provides excellent protection against most types of enemy fire.
Marines from 1st CEB, fill Hesco barriers at a combat outpost in Musa Qaleh, Afghanistan. (Photo via 1stMarDiv)
2. Heavy guns in the nest
Occupying the high ground gives allied forces the best vantage possible. Add in a few Marines with big guns waiting for the bad guys to feel froggy — that’s protection.
The bad guys may want to rethink how they attack with these Marines on deck. (Photo via Wikimedia Commons)
Even if granted permission to access the FOB, entering should be difficult. Serpentine belts force incoming vehicles to slow down and maneuver through the barrier maze.
If you don’t have permission to enter, the Marines will definitely open fire. (Photo via Global Security)
4. Security rounds
Marines carry hundreds of rounds on their person at any given time. Carrying a full combat load on patrol can wear the body down. Inside a FOB, you can ease up on your personal security — a little.
Instead of carrying 210 rounds, they’ll have the 30 security rounds inserted in their magazine.
In warfare, it’s essential to have cameras positioned everywhere and that see everything.
Dear bad guys, we totally see you. (Photo via Wikimedia Commons)
Over time, the gravel inside the Hescos will settle, causing separation between the individual barriers. When FOB security notices this interruption, they frequently place and conceal claymore mines in between the Hescos until the issue is patched up.
Iran’s parliament has voted to slash four zeros from the national currency, the rial, to fight hyperinflation caused by crippling U.S. sanctions and the coronavirus pandemic.
Lawmakers also decided on May 4 that the rial, which has been Iran’s national currency since 1925, wiil be replaced by the toman, which will be equal to 10,000 rials, according to the IRNA and ISNA news agencies.
President Donald Trump in May 2018 withdrew the United States from a landmark 2015 nuclear agreement between Iran and world powers under which Tehran pledged to curb its nuclear activities in exchange for sanctions relief.
Washington then reimposed most sanctions on Iran, dealing a hard blow to the Islamic republic’s economy.
In recent months, the rial has shed more than 60 percent of its value, with hyperinflation also accelerated by the economic consequences of the coronavirus outbreak. Iran is one of the countries worst hit by the pandemic.
The law must be ratified by the Guardians Council, a powerful hard-line constitutional watchdog.
State television said Iran’s Central Bank will have two years to “pave the ground to change the currency to the toman.”
The Iranian currency was trading at about 156,000 rials per dollar on the unofficial market on May 4, according to foreign-exchange websites.
America has 50 attack submarines in active service designed to tail and destroy enemy submarines and surface ships. China and Russia have dozens more.
Strangely enough, only one submarine battle has been fought underwater in over 100 years of modern submarine warfare — it was a World War II action that saw a British sub with limited firepower attack a much larger German adversary.
The fight took place in 1945, near the end of the war. British intelligence intercepted communications about Operation Caesar, an attempt by Germany to send advanced technology to Japan, helping it stay in the war and, hopefully, buying the Axis a few more months to turn everything around.
The Germans had loaded prototypes and advanced weapon designs as well as German and Japanese scientists onto U-864 with massive amounts of liquid mercury for transport to Japan. Some of the most exciting pieces of technology onboard were jet engines from German manufacturers.
Operation Caesar was launched on Dec. 5, 1944, under the command of Corvette Capt. Ralf-Reimar Wolfram. His rank is the equivalent of a U.S. lieutenant commander or major — fairly junior for such an important mission.
His initial plan was solid. The Allies controlled much of the water he would have to transit, and the beginning was the most dangerous. Britain had solid control of the North Sea, so Wolfram decided to stick to the coast and allow German shore installations to protect him.
Unfortunately for him, he grounded his sub while going through the Kiel Canal and had to head to drydock for repairs. While the boat was being repaired at Bergen, Norway, an attack by British planes dropping “earthquake bombs” damaged the pen and the sub, further delaying the mission.
This delay would prove fatal. Britain had intercepted early communications about the mission, and the delay gave them a chance to send a British submarine to intercept the German one. The HMS Venturer was sent to Fedje, Norway.
Venturer was a fast attack submarine, quick, but with a smaller crew and armament than its enemy. It could fire four torpedoes at once and had a total inventory of eight torpedoes to U-864’s 22.
The British sub, under command of Lt. James S. Launders, moved into position on Feb. 6, 1945. Launders was a distinguished sub commander with 13 kills to his name, including the destruction of a surfaced German submarine. The technological challenges he was facing would still be daunting, though.
The Venturer had only two methods of finding an enemy sub, hydrophones or active sonar. The active sonar would give away his position, but the hydrophones had a limited range. And the boat’s torpedoes were designed to attack ships on the surface.
Worse for Launders and his crew, by the time he arrived, Wolfram and U-864 had already passed their position. The German sub was safely beyond the British position.
But then the German sub’s diesel engines began to misfire. Wolfram had a decision: press forward with his mission and risk engine trouble or failure while sailing north past the Baltic countries and Russia and through the Arctic Circle, or double back for additional repairs.
Out of an abundance of caution, Wolfram headed back to Bergen, taking him right through Launders’ trap.
On February 9, the British crew was monitoring their hydrophones when the misfiring diesel engine on the German sub gave away its position. Launders had his sub stealthily move to the source of the noise where he first saw an open ocean, a sign that the engine noise was coming from underwater.
Then, he saw what he suspected was an enemy periscope, likely the German subs snorkel mast that allowed it to run its diesel engines while shallowly submerged. Launders knew he had his target in front of him.
The Venturer tailed the U-864 for the next few hours. U-864 began taking evasive actions, a sign that it had likely detected the British presence.
The British, running low on battery power, decided to put all their eggs in one basket, attacking with two salvos of four torpedoes. The first salvo was “ripple-fired,” with each torpedo launch coming about 18 seconds after the previous one.
The British sub dove and began re-loading its four tubes. Again, the British fired all four. Of the eight torpedoes, seven were complete misses.
One was a direct hit. The British hydrophone operators heard the torpedo impact, the explosion, the wrenching of iron as the pressure crumpled it like paper, and the dull thud as the wreckage crashed to the sea floor.
The site was undisturbed for almost 60 years until the Norwegian Navy discovered it in 2003. Mercury was leaking from damaged vials, and Norwegian authorities decided to bury the wreck under tons of sand and rocks to prevent further damage to the ecosystem.
One month ago, RN Terri Whitson was mucking out hurricane-damaged houses in Lake Charles, LA. On Tuesday, she was at the Navajo Nation vaccinating frontline workers against COVID-19.
Making that vaccine delivery was very emotional for Whitson, who retired from the Navy in 2016 and has spent much of the past year volunteering on feeding operations and assisting with hurricane relief with Team Rubicon.
“What I heard more times than not, is ‘it’s the beginning of the end.’ We’re just hopeful that things are going to get back to normal and people are not going to be sick anymore. People are not going to be dying,” said Whitson of her first day providing vaccines. “And, to think that I had a small, itty bitty part in that is pretty amazing.”
Whitson, who served in the Navy Nurse Corps, deployed as a volunteer nurse with Team Rubicon at the Gallup Indian Medical Center on December 6 having no idea she’d be there when the vaccine arrived. When she heard it was coming she asked to extend her deployment by another week so that she could help get the vaccine into the arms of people who need it most.
“I feel pretty fortunate to have been involved in this, and to be involved in something that I think is so huge—so huge that it could possibly bring everybody’s lives back to normal again and provide protection for these frontline workers in the hospitals who are just so overwhelmed,” Whitson says, before stopping to dry some tears. She gets a little emotional thinking about the losses Americans, and medical workers, have experienced over the past nine months.
Before the vaccine arrived at the Navajo Nation, Whitson had spent weekdays at the Medical Center working with employee health services, where she would talk with people about their test results—hard, emotional work in itself given the number of positives and knowing how short-staffed the system already was. On the weekends, when health services was closed, she swabbed noses at the drive-through coronavirus testing site, which is open to the public.
When the vaccine arrived at the Navajo Nation at 10 a.m. on Monday, Whitson was on the team that began setting up a vaccination space. It’s a place, Whitson says, that people might receive a bit of hope. On Tuesday, she delivered her first COVID-19 vaccination there.
For now, IHS and the team are focusing on vaccinating those frontline workers who have the most exposure to COVID-19 patients, such as people working in the emergency department, anesthesiologists, and hospitalists. The hospital, which has more than 1,300 employees, has received 640 doses of the vaccine.
By the end of the day Tuesday, the team had vaccinated 80 of their fellow doctors and nurses; on Wednesday, they expect to vaccinate another 95 more.
“You can feel an excitement, and people were joking and laughing,” says Whitson of her time administering the first shots. Everyone also wanted to either have a picture taken or be videotaped making history. “It was joyous. It was such a good feeling.”
That joy was a lift for Whitson, too. She’d spent the prior week hearing codes called in the hospital and hearing ambulances come and go, and knowing for herself just how devastating the pandemic has been in this community.
“It was a good day. It was a really good day, and it felt really good to give people … to hear them say, ‘you know, this is the beginning of the end’,” Whitson says, stopping to clear her throat. “You know, we were giving them an injection of hope.”
The aircraft carrier Admiral Kuznetsov is the biggest ship in the Russian navy and the most visible symbol of the Kremlin’s military power. This October, she will travel to the Mediterranean and carry out air strikes in Syria, according to a report from the Moscow-based Tass news agency.
There is a general rule for news about Russian warships. Like most things in life — don’t believe it until you see it. The first problem is that the Tass report, which reverberated throughout the Russian and Western press, relied on a single anonymous “military-diplomatic source.”
Nor is this the first time rumors have spread about the Admiral Kuznetsovgoing to war in Syria. The Russian navy denied a 2015 report which claimed as much.
But this is not to say you should totally disbelieve it, either. Recent activity surrounding the Admiral Kuznetsov may indicate an upcoming combat deployment.
First, here are several reasons to doubt it.
Admiral Kuznetsov has never seen combat, nor would she be of much practical military use. The 55,000-ton carrier has a bow ramp, not steam catapults, requiring her aircraft to shed weight before taking off. This means her planes will go into combat with less fuel or bombs than the ground-based fighters Russia has already deployed to Syria.
This is on purpose. The Soviet Union designed Admiral Kuznetsov as a “heavy aircraft-carrying missile cruiser” to support a surface battle fleet, foreign policy writer Taylor Marvin pointed out.
This makes her less flexible than U.S. supercarriers, and it’s the reason she packs anti-ship missiles for sinking other vessels, but cannot launch fully gassed-up strike planes with heavy bomb loads suitable for attacking targets on land.
Worse, the conventionally-powered Admiral Kuznetsov has problems. Poor maintenance, defective steam turbines and shoddy boilers means she’s unreliable — which is why Russia sends an ocean-going tug with her, wherever she goes.
A video of one of these tugs hauling the carrier in bad weather during a 2012 voyage appeared last year. It has an utterly awesome and appropriately Russian soundtrack.
“Carrier operations, particularly high-tempo strike missions, are an extremely complex logistical and operational dance, with lethal consequences for mistakes,” Marvin wrote. “Since the USSR and Russia has had little opportunity to build these skills, and none to test them in combat, any strike missions from the Kuznetsov would be limited and mostly for show.”
Russia would take a big risk … for not much gain. This doesn’t mean the Kremlin wouldn’t take the risk. There is circumstantial evidence to suggest — although in a speculative fashion — that the Russians may be preparing to do just that.
For one, Admiral Kuznetsov is planning a voyage to the Mediterranean this fall. “It is true. There is such a plan,” Adm. Vladimir Komoyedov, chairman of the State Duma defense committee, told Tass on June 28.
Su-33 and Su-25 jets recently landed on the flattop, last spotted sailing in the Barents Sea. MiG-29Ks — a carrier-launched version of the muscular, multi-role Fulcrum — will arrive “in the coming days,” according to a July 4 reportby Interfax.
The news agency reported that the arrivals are in preparation for a “long hike” planned “roughly in the middle of October.”
The MiG-29K and its two-seater KUB variant are Soviet-era designs revived for the Indian Navy after it purchased the Kiev-class flattop Admiral Gorshkov — renamed INS Vikramaditya — in 2004. However, the planes themselves are brand new, pack advanced avionics and can drop precision-guided bombs.
The Su-33 is an air-superiority fighter, and the Su-25 is a close air support plane. Tass’ source said the carrier will go to Syria with “about 15 fighters Su-33 and MiG-29K/KUB and more than 10 helicopters Ka-52K, Ka-27 and Ka-31.”
But it gets weirder.
Russia went to war in Syria in September 2015. That month, Admiral Kuznetsov was completing a three-month maintenance stint near Murmansk.
Then in October, she appeared in the Barents Sea … for combat training.
That’s unusual, because the Russian aircraft carrier is a snowbird; she heads south late in the year. More specifically, she sails into the Mediterranean, which she did during her four previous deployments — all during winter.
October is not winter. But the Barents Sea and the carrier’s home port at Severomorsk are beyond the Arctic Circle, where flight operations are particularly dangerous beginning in mid-October due to the polar night, when there is little light.
Sergei Ishchenko, a military commentator and former navy captain, found that perplexing. “Only extraordinary circumstances could have forced training flights from the carrier during the least suitable time of the year,” he wrote for the website Svobodnaya Pressa.
“It’s obvious that the war in Syria is that circumstance.”
Russia might not have a chance to deploy its carrier in combat again for awhile. In early 2017, Admiral Kuznetsov will head into dry dock for a two-year overhaul shortly after she returns from the Mediterranean. The war may be over by the time her repairs are done, giving the Kremlin a tiny window to signal military prowess with its flattop.
More curious is what’s happening with the MiG-29Ks.
These warplanes train at a runway with a ski-ramp in Yeysk, Russia, along the Sea of Azov. The Kremlin built this facility in 2012 as an alternative to a similar ramp runway in Nitka, Crimea — then part of Ukraine — which Russia leased. Russia captured Nitka during its February 2014 invasion, but the facility is apparently not suitable for MiG-29Ks.
And according to Ishchenko, the MiG-29K unit — the 100th Shipborne Fighter Aviation Regiment — was not fully trained as of January 2016.Admiral Kuznetsov is useless without those multi-role fighters and their pilots. “Victory in that war demands actual, not potential, power,” Ischenko wrote. “And the Admiral Kuznetsov still lacks its full combat power.”
Hence the reason why the carrier is back in the Barents Sea for the second time since last October, now with MiG-29Ks on the way … on a crash course for an upcoming combat mission.
At least, that’s the theory. We’ll find out in a few months.
Born in a bar, raised on an island, honed on the rifle range, refined in combat, there is no better friend, no worse enemy than a United States Marine. After 242 years of adapting and overcoming, evolved the most elite organization of barrel-chested freedom fighters the world has ever witnessed.
It is said that there are only a select few who will ever truly understand the U.S. Marine Corps: the Marines themselves and their enemy. Well, there may be one more group: Spartans. Sparta was a city-state of ancient Greece, best known for producing a warrior class that has become the gold standard of the subject. Notorious for their training styles and battlefield effectiveness, Spartans earned their reputation.
After exploring a little further, one can appreciate why Marines are often referred to as “America’s Spartans.”
1. Beauty Standards/Fat Shaming
Spartan soldiers had strict diets because they were focused on remaining physically fit – as both a point of pride and to avoid beatings. Every ten days, young men had to stand naked in public so their bodies could be inspected. Those who failed to meet standards of physical fitness were censured and/or beaten, and anyone who was overweight was ridiculed in public or banished.
The USMC is renowned for the look of its Marines, showcasing the high fitness standards in posters and commercials, but it doesn’t stop there. Consistent uniform inspections as well as physical fitness tests complete with a height and weight standard keep them that way.
If a Marine is found to be outside these height and weight standards, his body mass index will be measured shirtless with a tape measurer. If the leatherneck fails this, he will be visually inspected by the commanding officer, who will then determine whether the Marine is within regulations. If not, the Marine will be assigned to a Body Composition Plan controlling his/her diet and exercise routine until fit again.
In basic training, we call these recruits Fat Bodies because “your feelings do not matter.”
2. Fighting Tooth and Nail
During the famous Battle of Thermopylae, the events of which were depicted in the film 300, Spartan soldiers continued to fight despite losing their weapons, resorting to using their nails and teeth in an attempt to bite and scratch their way to victory.
Marines are well-documented warriors with plenty of hand-to-hand combat on the books. Most notable perhaps was in Okinawa during World War II where E-tools were turned 90 degrees and unleashed on the brave Japanese soldiers who soon died for the emperor.
Spartans sported the Crimson tunic; Crimson (red) represents Spartan pride in their women. In 1925 gold and scarlet became the official colors of the Marine Corps. While there is no direct representation for the colors, this Marine likes to think scarlet red represents blood and blood, as every Devil Dog knows, makes the grass grow.
4. Low Reg Haircuts
Spartans were famous for having very long hair. The Spartans viewed long hair as the symbol of a free man. Marines have a strong and ferociously enforced standard regarding hair length. Only those with very special permission can even dream to grow their hair to any length that could ever be considered “long.”
Any Marine with actual long hair EAS’d years before, therefore long hair represents a free man in the Corps as well.
5. Two Kings
Sparta had two kings from two different ruling dynasties. Their explanation was that during the fifth generation after the demi-god Heracles, from whom legend claimed all Spartan kings descended, twin sons were born which formed the bloodline for the two royal houses, Agiad and Eurypontid. The two rulers would share the duties of king.
The USMC has a Commandant and a Sergeant Major of the Marine Corps and while they do not share the same authority, they do both lead in respective ways.
The conversations about who the best warrior class is, much like the fights, always end with U.S. Marines and Spartans as the winners, and that is just what they are, winners. When being the best is a lifestyle, victory becomes ancillary. Spartans have secured their legacy but Marines are still writing theirs, and if history is an indicator, those legacies will be similar as well.
What’s not to love about being a fighter pilot? Even the troops who continually bash the Air Force get a little giddy when they hear the BRRRRT of an A-10 in combat. And when you actually meet a fighter pilot, you’ll rarely see them without a huge smile on their face because they know they own the sky.
Sounds pretty sweet, right? Well, we’re sorry to say, but you very likely don’t make the cut. In order to even be considered for the lengthy training process that fighter pilots go through, you have to be in the top percentile of healthy, capable bodies.
If you’re still curious how you’d stack up, check out the requirements below.
If you pass these, then you can start your journey at OCS… Then resume your pilot training requirements.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Christopher Stoltz)
First and foremost, you begin your journey at the Military Entrance Processing Station, or MEPS. They’ll check you for the disqualifying factors that apply to all service members and the additional qualifiers that dictate pilot selection.
Most people are well aware of the strict vision requirements of pilots, but it’s much more intensive than a regular check-up at the optometrist. You cannot be color blind, which immediately disqualifies about 8.5 percent of the population, and you must have 20/20 vision uncorrected.
Now, clean off your glasses before you read this shocker: perfect vision is actually very uncommon. According to studies from The University of Iowa, a low 30 percent of the population enjoys 20/20 vision, uncorrected. It’s also worth pointing out that, at this stage in the selection process, they disqualify those who have a history of hay fever, asthma, or allergies after the age of 12. You must also have a standing height of between 5’4″ and 6’5″ and a sitting height of 34 to 40 inches.
You also need to be able to swim one mile in a flight suit. Good luck.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Nicholas Benroth)
Additionally, you must already be on your way to becoming an officer in the branch that you wish to fly with. Once you’ve completed your branch’s officer training, you can finally submit your flight packet.
Then, there’s the physical fitness exam. Everyone in the Air Force must undergo the USAF Physical Fitness Test, but fighter aircrews have a different, more difficult one, called the Fighter Aircrew Conditioning Test. This test gauges whether a candidates body will be able to withstand the insane amount of G-forces a fighter pilot endures.
Navy and Marine pilots must also undergo the Aviation Selection Test Battery and score among the highest. The test is extremely grueling and if you fail once, your chances of becoming a pilot drop significantly. Fail three times in your lifetime and you’re never to be considered again.
If you’re smart enough, strong enough, and have good enough eyes, then you just might be selected to be begin the training to become a fighter pilot. That’s right; your journey is just beginning.
To learn about these schools, the physical requirements, and more, check out this video from The Infographic Show.
A 9th Expeditionary Bomb Squadron B-1B Lancer conducts a training mission in the vicinity of Japan where they integrated with Japan Air Self Defense Force assets, May 12, 2020. (U.S. Air Force/Senior Airman River Bruce)
The Air Force‘s B-1B Lancer bomber is about to move front and center in the U.S. military’s power-projection mission in the Pacific.
As part of its mission “reset” for the B-1 fleet, the Air Force is not only making its supersonic bombers more visible with multiple flights around the world, it’s also getting back into the habit of having them practice stand-off precision strikes in the Pacific, a dramatic pivot following years of flying close-air support missions in the Middle East.
The “nice thing about the B-1 is it can carry [the Long-Range Anti-Ship Missile], and that’s perfectly suited for the Pacific theater,” Maj. Gen. Jim Dawkins Jr., commander of the Eighth Air Force and the Joint-Global Strike Operations Center at Barksdale Air Force Base, Louisiana, said in an interview Tuesday.
“Not only are we resetting the airplane’s mission-capability rates and the training done for the aircraft, we’re also resetting how we employ the airplane to get more toward great power competition to align with the National Defense Strategy,” added Dawkins, who supports the warfighting air component to U.S. Strategic Command, as well as operations within Air Force Global Strike Command.
According to the 2018 NDS, “China is a strategic competitor using predatory economics to intimidate its neighbors while militarizing features in the South China Sea.”
Former Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson stated that China has become “a pacing threat for the U.S. Air Force because of the pace of their modernization” in the region.
The Pentagon’s strategy prioritizes deterring adversaries by denying their use of force in the first place.
During a simulated strike, crews “will pick a notional target, and then they will do some mission planning and flying through an area that they are able to hold that target at risk, at range,” Dawkins said.
Close-air support, the B-1’s primary mission in recent years, is a much different skill set than “shooting standoff weapons like JASSM-ER and LRASM,” he said, referring to the Long-Range Anti-Ship Missile and Joint Air to Surface Stand-Off Missiles-Extended Range.
While Dawkins wouldn’t get into specifics of how crews are conducting the practice runs in the Pacific, the non-nuclear B-1s have been spotted recently carrying Joint Air to Surface Stand-Off Missiles.
Photos recently posted on DVIDS, the U.S. military’s multimedia distribution website, show Dyess’ 9th Expeditionary Bomb Squadron Aircraft Maintenance Unit weapons crew members loading a JASSM into the belly of a plane. The B-1 is capable of carrying 75,000 pounds — 5,000 pounds more than the B-52 Stratofortress — of both precision-guided and conventional bombs.
The JASSM’s newer variant, JASSM-ER, has a higher survivability rate — meaning it’s less likely to be detected and shot down — due to low-observable technology incorporated into the conventional air-to-ground precision-guided missile. It is said to have a range of roughly 600 miles, compared with the 230-mile reach of JASSM, according to The Drive.
The LRASM, a Navy missile integrated on both the B-1 and F/A-18 Super Hornet, is able to autonomously locate and track targets while avoiding friendly forces.
Joint air-to-surface standoff missiles are loaded into a 9th Expeditionary Bomb Squadron B-1B Lancer on the flightline at Andersen Air Force Base, Guam, May 9, 2020. The B-1Bs carry the largest conventional payload of both guided and unguided weapons in the Air Force inventory. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman River Bruce)
The precision-guided, anti-ship standoff missile was first tested on a B-1 in August 2017. A single B-1 can carry up to 24 LRASMs, or the same number of JASSM-ERs. The LRASM missile achieved early operational capability on the bomber in 2018.
The vast expanses of the Pacific are well-suited for training with these kinds of missiles, Dawkins explained. Stateside ranges, which may lack surface waters or enough distance between two points, depending on location, cannot always accommodate the needs of bomber crews training with these long-range weapons.
Also, “[when] we deploy, for instance to Guam, taking off from [the U.S.] and going to the Pacific, it allows us to do some integration with our allies, as well as exercise the command-and-control … and also allows us to practice our long-duration flights and work with the tankers,” he said.
The flight was part of the Air Force’s new unpredictable deployment experiment to test crews’ agility when sending heavy aircraft forces around the world, since the need to improve the bombers’ deployability rate is also crucial, Dawkins said.
Mission-capability rates refers to how many aircraft are deployable at a given time. The B-1 has been on a slow and steady track to improve its rate — which hovers around 50% — after being broken down by back-to-back missions in the desert, officials have said.
The B-1 could become the face of the Pacific for the foreseeable future, Dawkins said.
“We want … to be the roving linebacker, if you will, particularly in the Pacific,” he said, adding the mission could also pave the way for incorporating hypersonic weapons into the bomber’s arsenal.
Gen. Tim Ray, head of Air Force Global Strike Command, has expressed support for the B-1 as a future hypersonic weapons platform.
“Basically, the configuration we’re seeking is external hardpoints that can allow us to add six Air-Launched Rapid Response Weapons [ARRW, pronounced “Arrow”], and then you still have the bomb bay where you can carry the LRASM or the JASSM-ER,” Ray told reporters last month. LRASM or JASSM-ER could also be carried externally, he added.
“They’re not doing any testing with the hypersonic on the B-1, but that’s definitely in the mix,” Dawkins said.
If configured with that payload in the future, that would be “quite a bit of air power coming off that airplane, whether it’s JASSMs, JASSM-ERs or some combination of those, and hypersonics,” he said.
Wars should be like taking off Band-Aids: If a country can’t get it over with fast, maybe it shouldn’t think about shedding blood.
When a country is this bad at war, it probably runs the risk of just slowly bleeding to death. There are many, many examples of this in both history and in today’s newspapers — and we’ve collected our favorite examples.
This episode of “Fixer Upper: Armed Forces Edition” has seen a lot of changes since 2015.
There are also a few new faces on this updated list. When considering this year’s candidates, I actually created some criteria. It was important to consider what the armed forces of a country needs versus what it has and what a country’s priorities really are. I also considered how much sh*t the country (or its leadership) talks versus what it actually accomplishes.
But keep in mind this is not about criticizing the people who fight wars on the front lines. For the most part, it’s about criticizing the governments and policymakers who fund, train, and equip these armies and then expect them not to get annihilated once they go into battle.
There are many countries with extremely substandard defense forces, but most of those aren’t going around rattling sabers, either. For example, Gambia has about 2,000 troops with old weapons and uniforms that don’t match, but they spend most of their time fighting HIV and wizards, not threatening to invade Senegal.
And though there are many armed forces engaged in fighting around the world, many of those aren’t actually from a recognized country.
This year’s list gave Mongolia a break for going the extra mile and having a Navy despite being totally landlocked. We also said goodbye to the Philippines. After the Manila Standard called our 2015 assessment of the Philippines’ armed forces “spot on,” incoming President Rodrigo Duterte decided to spend $6.6 billion upgrading the AFP.
To be clear, no one here is taking credit for this.
Also leaving this year’s list is “Africa’s North Korea,” Eritrea. At the time of this writing, the country is looking to end its war with Ethiopia and maybe even stop “drafting” all of its men to work in forced labor.
Also missing from the list is Somalia, whose armed forces is pretty much subsumed by U.S. special operations along with Kenyan and Ethiopian troops.
These are the forces that make the KISS Army seem even more formidable than they already do.
The latest hand-me-downs from Russia to the Armed Forces of the Republic of Tajikistan include two classes of helicopter from the 1960s, tanks from the 1970s, and personnel carriers from the 1980s. This is still a big step up from the absolutely nothing they got from the fall of the Soviet Union. That’s just the equipment. It doesn’t get much better for the troops on the ground in an army where even the doctors will haze them to death.
But congrats to the Tajik armed forces, which celebrated its 25th anniversary in 2018. This is only weird because independent Tajikistan is 27 years old.
Many might be surprised to see Russia on a “worst armies” list, but the country’s biggest wins of the last few years include:
Not starting World War III in Syria.
Air strikes on poorly-armed Syrian rebels.
Fighting Ukraine to a draw.
Building a Navy it can’t crew.
Annexing a peninsula with no electricity, fresh water, or money.
Hypersonic missiles that fly only 22 miles.
Finally building a robot tank after 30 years and failing at it.
Russia seems strong because it doesn’t let anyone tell it what to do. But all it wants to do is beat up on its weaker neighbors and generally be an asshole to Washington — and this is the source of its true power. It can fight a war. It can conquer countries.
President Erdoğan is a lot more aggressive with Turkey’s armed forces than he used to be, both in use of force and imprisoning generals he thinks started a coup against him in 2016. That’s what dictators do. But as ISIS fighters approached the Turkish border with Syria, Turkey did very little about it. Erdoğan only cared about consolidating power, (something he finally did with the most recent election) while Turkey’s longtime enemy, the Kurds, cleared ISIS from the area.
Fast-forward to when Turkey did act in Syria, months after the U.S.-backed Kurdish fighters defeated ISIS in northern Syria. Turkey invaded and immediately started attacking – you guessed it – the Kurds. Turkey has always had a reason to hate Kurds, but it’s poor timing to exercise those demons on a de facto ally in the middle of a war they were winning to help protect Turkey.
The only goal of the Turkish invasion is to keep the Kurds from getting their own country, the ultimate geopolitical dick move.
If you thought it was bad that Nigerian military members were fired for making a strategic retreat or that Nigerian troops could only run away from Boko Haram because neither their weapons nor vehicles worked, remember: it can always be worse. Especially for Nigerian women.
As for the troops’ welfare, senators are more likely to have armored cars than front-line troops. And when the country did decide to invest $2 billion into its military, it was immediately funneled into personal bank accounts of government ministers – to the tune of $2.2 billion, more than the original investment.
First of all, let’s understand that the U.S. is never, ever going to leave Afghanistan — ever. If we really planned to leave Afghanistan, we’d give them something more effective than old prop planes and uniforms we don’t want. When U.S. troops do give the ANA reasonably modern equipment, the ANA turns right around and deserts them in the next Taliban attack. So the U.S. then has to go destroy their own Humvees. And while some call the Afghan Air Force a win for U.S. training, they should remember that when the Taliban get its hands on those planes and laser-guided munitions and the U.S. has to blow those up, too.
Most of the funding for the ANA goes toward salaries, essentially begging ANA troops not to kill their fellow troops or NATO allies. This is a game the ANA can’t win when the Taliban is offering three times as much to do the opposite. So, even though the ANA called the 60mm mortar a “game changer” for ground troops, the Taliban will still pay a king’s ransom for them to fire it into a friendly base. The United States has sunk billion into an Army that can’t win — or even fight. Hell, they pass basic training just by not going AWOL.
To top it all off, the older generals are being forced to retire from the Afghan Army. Remember what happened the last time the U.S. pushed to fire a whole big chunk of another nation’s army? The Iraq War and, eventually, ISIS.
The number one PT score for Venezuela’s army is probably in running, because that’s all they’ve been doing lately. When a Venezuelan soldier’s choices are limited to either working for free and potentially starving to death or to desert entirely, the choice becomes clear.
So, what does an embattled President do when his army starts crumbling? Tell civilians the U.S. is going to attack and then show them how to defend the country.
Mexico militarized its law enforcement then sent its military into Mexico to fight of violent drug cartels… and still lost. The country was divided into five security zones and then invaded by the armed forces. Then they became just as corrupt and criminal as the local law enforcement they replaced.
To make matters worse, when the army takes out any kind of cartel leadership, it creates a power vacuum and then a war among the cartels. The strategy of removing high-level kingpins has resulted in a 60 percent increase in violence that the Mexican military can’t control, despite fully occupying its own country. They’ve been at this since 2006 and it’s taken a heavy toll on the Mexican military and Mexican people. In the last few years, Mexico quietly became the second deadliest conflict, surpassed only by Syria.
That means you’re actually safer in Kabul than in Cabo.
3. North Korea
Of course North Korea makes the list again. Despite the recent Singapore Summit, there is no one better at rattling a saber than a North Korean named Kim. In fact, Kim Jong Un is really just following the North Korean game plan to get concessions from the United States:
Create a scene
Threaten all-out war with the South
Get talked down at the last minute
Get rewarded for not starting the war you had no intention of starting in the first place.
But to make step two seem plausible, North Korea needs to have a credible threat. So while it does have hundreds of artillery pieces pointed at Seoul, a city with 9.8 million people, it also has the world’s oldest air force and trains its pilots using the power of imagination, mostly because it can’t afford jet fuel. Its navy is just considered a “nuisance” and we would all be amazed if its army had enough food for the time it takes to actually kill those 9.8 million people.
Syria’s armed forces are so awful, they can’t win a civil war with the help of Russia, Iran, Hezbollah and the U.S. and Kurds fighting ISIS for them. In fact, anyone can feel free to violate Syria’s sovereignty. Turkey, the GCC, Europe, and Israel are doing it without repercussions on an almost daily basis. So, naturally, what do Syria’s armed forces do? Threaten to attack the U.S. and Israel. As if they didn’t have enough problems.
And when they do win, it’s not exactly clean. Chemical weapons, cluster munitions, and starvation are the primary tactics used for the now-seven year long civil war there. It’s not exactly the way to convince the civilian population that Assad is the right leader for them. Seven years down, five to go.
1. Saudi Arabia
Saudi Arabia talks a lot of smack about a war with Iran but even when it brings its full military might to bear, it can’t keep a coalition together, let alone finish off an Iranian proxy. They’ve been fighting the Houthi-led insurgents in Yemen since 2015 and with the help of half of Yemen, all of Sudan, Morocco, the U.S., the UAE, Senegal, France, Egypt, Jordan, and Bahrain, they still fail to win the war.
This coalition has every numerical and technological advantage on sea, land, and air and they’re just being manhandled, the result of overconfidence and a dash of hubris. The Saudis thought 150,000 battle-hardened Houthis would just roll over after a few airstrikes. “Winning” was the extent of their plan and, if it didn’t work for Charlie Sheen, it sure as hell isn’t going to work for Saudi Arabia.
Not only have they failed to win after three years and heavily outnumbering and outgunning the Houthis, they’ve lost coalition partners and turned the entire country into a humanitarian disaster. That’s what you get for relying on another country’s military to bail you out of everything for 20 years.
U.S. Special Operations Command and sub-maker Electric Boat have partnered up to develop a dry submersible mini-submarine designed to more safely and efficiently deliver Navy SEALs into hostile, high-threat areas beneath the surface of the ocean.
The 31-foot long underwater vehicle, called the User Operational Evaluation System 3, can carry as many as six people. It is currently being tested and developed through a three-year, $44 million U.S Special Operations Command, or SOCOM, firm-fixed-price design, build and deliver contract with Groton, Conn.-based General Dynamics Electric Boat.
USSOCOM has a long-term goal to develop an affordable dry combat submersible system that satisfies current SOF (Special Operations Forces) maritime mobility requirements,” a SOCOM spokesman said. “Combat submersibles are used for shallow water infiltration and exfiltration of special operations forces, reconnaissance, resupply, and other missions in high threat, non-permissive environments.”
The pressure hull and motor of the User Operational Evaluation System 3, or UOES 3, have already been built and have undergone key tests, Electric Boat officials said. Engineering plans call for the inclusion of a standard suite of submersible navigation systems, gyroscopes, sonar and obstacle avoidance technology, according to mission systems and business development officials with General Dynamics Electric Boat.
The idea with the dry submersible is to minimize risk and fatigue for special operations forces, such as SEALs, who are adept at quietly swimming into hostile areas to complete high-risk missions.
“Right now when we deploy SEALs they typically go in what’s called a wet boat – so they are in the ocean breathing through scuba gear. What the SEALs really want is something where they can get the guys to their objective dry, so they don’t have to endure this harsh water environment,” an Electric Boat official said.
While SEALs are known for their training and long-distance swimming abilities, a dry submersible could lessen mission- fatigue and reduce their exposure to harsh elements such as cold or icy water. Therefore, the UOES 3 would seem to be of particular value in cold or stormy waters given that it would protect them from the elements.
It is not yet clear whether the 19-ton dry submersible will be launched from a submarine or from a surface ship, however those questions are now being explored, SOCOM and Electric Boat officials said.
The dry submersible was slated to undergo developmental testing and early operational assessment through fiscal year 2015, Special Operations Command officials said.
The idea is to use UOES 3 progress as a “technology development” effort to prepare for what will become a more formal effort to build a dry semi-submersible for SEALs.
The UOES 3 is currently being built to commercial specifications through a partnership between General Dynamics Electric Boat and an Italian firm called Giunio Santi Engineering, or GSE, Electric Boat officials explained. The idea behind using commercial specifications is to leverage the best and most cutting-edge existing technology while working to keep costs lower, he said.
Some of the navigational technology includes a sonar Doppler velocity log which bounces a signal off the bottom of the ocean to help provide essential mission-relevant location information, an Electric Boat official added.
“After bouncing off the bottom, a signal comes back to an array which tells you how far you are moving,” he said.
One analyst said such a technology could bring great advantage to the SEALs.
“It is sensible that they would want to deploy in the stealthiest way available. It is something that fits with the traditional missions of the SEALs,” said Benjamin Friedman, research fellow in homeland defense and security studies, Cato Institute, a Washington-based D.C. think tank.
Now that terrorism is finally taking a back seat to great power conflict, the United States military is working to catch up to those other great (but not as great) powers. The wonder weapons they developed while we were making the world safe for democracy may give them a strategic edge in some critical areas.
The United States has to protect its surface ships, the nuclear triad and its command and control capabilities to retain its global reach and remain the world’s top military power. Here are five technologies the US is supposedly working on that will help us start at the top.
1. Directed Energy Weapons
The principle of directed energy weapons is just like it sounds, the weapon focuses energy in a single beam toward a target. Depending on what kind of energy or the amount of energy being focused, the beam may be invisible and is most likely fired without a sound.
The most prevalent of these kinds of directed energy weapons is the high-energy laser, which can completely destroy targets from hundreds of miles away, with little to no degradation in the beam.
While Russia was busy creating missiles and missile systems capable of flying at multiple times the speed of sound, the United States put some of its hypersonic weapons testing on hold. But that doesn’t mean it didn’t have any hypersonic efforts. For years, the U.S. military has been working on developing the Railgun.
Railguns use electromagnetism to fire a projectile at speeds of up to seven times the speed of sound, uses non-explosive rounds, and causes more destruction than traditional naval gunfire. Currently, only two ships can muster up the energy required to fire them, but who knows what future developments can occur?
3. PHASR Rifles
The PHASR is a directed energy weapon that gets a special mention because it’s carried in rifle form. Before any Star Trek nerds get excited about ordering their men how to set their PHASRs, these weapons are always set to stun. “PHASR” is an acronym for personnel halting and stimulation response rifle.
This weapon temporarily blinds a target using a low intensity laser. Since the effect of the PHASR is only temporary, it’s still a legal weapon under the UN’s 1995 Protocol on BLindling Laser Weapons.
4. The Laser Avenger
While it’s only number four on this list, the name puts it at number one in our hearts. The Laser Avenger is a truck-mounted anti-aircraft system that uses infrared lasers to knock out drones and other small aircraft. The potential for increased power increases the potential for combat use. Boeing, which is also funding the project itself, can also mount traditional machine gun weapons to the Avenger system.
5. Modular Advanced Armed Robotic System (MAARS)
This 400-pound robot carries a 12-hour battery (with sleep mode), moves at 7 miles per hour, can operate 1,000 meters from its controller and can be fitted with any combination of lethal and nonlethal weaponry. On top of that it has a full 360-degree turret, seven mounted cameras for its controller and a host of possible ammunition sizes.
On top of all that, it also has a siren, laser dazzler mount, gunfire detection system and an optional working arm that can carry more than 300 pounds. A few more of these and we won’t even need infantry anymore.
Featured photo: Lockheed Martin/Directed Energy Weapons