It should be no surprise that skills learned in the military such as decision-making under pressure, organization, and leadership translate well to the corporate boardroom. And those skills tend to make a big difference, with companies led by former military officers tending to show better performance.
People like Fred Smith or Sam Walton have become household names for their business success. Lesser known is their service prior to the companies they founded.
After World War II, nearly 50% of veterans went the entrepreneurship route, though that number has substantially declined today. Still, there are currently around 3 million veteran-owned businesses.
Here are 9 companies started by military veterans.
1. RE/MAX, cofounded by Air Force veteran Dave Liniger
Prior to founding “Real Estate Maximums” — better known as RE/MAX— Dave Liniger served in the Air Force during the Vietnam War.
From 1965 to 1971, he served as an enlisted airman in Texas, Arizona, Vietnam, and Thailand, according to his LinkedIn.
“The military really gave me the chance to grow up. It was fun. I thought it was a fabulous place,” he told Airport Journals. “It also taught me self-discipline and a sense of responsibility.”
After he got out of the military, he started flipping houses for profit, and eventually got his real estate license. He cofounded RE/MAX with his wife Gail in 1973.
2. Sperry Shoes, founded by Navy veteran Paul A. Sperry
You can thank a former sailor in the US Naval Reserve for inventing the world’s first boat shoe.
In 1917, Sperry joined the Navy Reserve, though he didn’t stay in for very long. He was released from duty at the end of the year at the rank of Seaman First Class.
Still, his experience there and further adventures sailing led to the founding of his company, which eventually created the first non-slip boating shoe. He founded Sperry in 1935.
During World War II, his Sperry Top-Sider shoes were purchased by the boatload by the Navy. Now nearly a century later, they are still a favorite of sailors everywhere.
3. FedEx, founded by Marine Corps veteran Fred Smith
Back before FedEx was the behemoth logistics company it is today, founder Fred Smith was observing how the military was getting things from point A to point B.
After graduating from Yale University, he was commissioned as a Marine Corps officer and served two tours in Vietnam. He earned a Bronze Star, Silver Star, and two Purple Hearts,according to US News.
Only two years after he left the Corps, he started Federal Express.
“Much of our success reflects what I learned as a Marine,” he wrote forMilitary.com. “The basic principles of leading people are the bedrock of the Corps. I can still recite them from memory, and they are firmly embedded in the FedEx culture.”
It was founded by a former Army intelligence officer named Sam Walton.From 1942 to 1945, Walton was in the Army and eventually rose to the rank of captain. His brother (and cofounder) Bud served as a bomber pilot for the Navy in the Pacific.
According to the company’s history, Sam Walton’s first WalMart store, called Walton’s Five and Dime, was started with $5,000 he saved from his time serving in the Army and a $25,000 loan from his father-in-law.
5. GoDaddy, founded by Marine Corps veteran Bob Parsons
The company responsible for registering a large portion of the world’s web domains, GoDaddy, is the brainchild of Marine veteran Bob Parsons.
Parsons enlisted in the Corps in 1968 and later served in Vietnam, where he earned a Combat Action Ribbbon, the Vietnamese Cross of Gallantry, and the Purple Heart for wounds he received in combat.
“I absolutely would not be where I am today without the experiences I had in the Marine Corps,” he writes on his website.
In 1997, he started GoDaddy. In 2014, it filed for a $100 million IPO. He left the company around that time to focus on his philanthropic efforts
6. WeWork, founded by Israeli Navy veteran Adam Neumann
Hot coworking startup WeWork is the 9th most valuable startupin the world, and it was started by a veteran of the Israeli navy.
Adam Neumann started a coworking office space for entrepreneurs in New York City back in 2011.Today, WeWork has 128 offices in 39 cities around the world.
7. Taboola, founded by Israeli Army veteran Adam Singolda
Another veteran of the Israel Defense Forces is Adam Singolda, the founder of content recommendation engine Taboola.
Like many other successful Israeli entrepreneurs who served in the IDF (military service ismandatory in Israel), Singolda developed many of the skills that would help his company later on in the military intelligence field.
He started Taboola back in 2007, and you have surely seen his work under the many millions of articles who feature “Content You May Like” that the company generates at the bottom. Taboola raised a round of financing in 2015 that put its value at close to $1 billion.
8. Kinder Morgan, cofounded by Army veteran Richard Kinder
The fourth largest energy company in North America was cofounded by Vietnam veteran Richard Kinder. Along with his business partner William Morgan, he started the company in 1997.
It may not be a huge surprise that USAA — a company that exclusively caters to military veterans and their families — was started by veterans.
Interestingly though, it doesn’t have just one founder. It has 25.
Back in the 1920s, it was pretty hard for military service members to get (or keep) auto insurance, since it was either way too expensive or likely to get cancelled since they moved around so much.
So Maj. William Henry Garrison and 24 of his fellow Army officers got together in 1922 and formed their own mutual company to insure themselves, according to Encyclopedia.com. Today, the United Services Automobile Association provides insurance, banking, and investment services to nearly 12 million members.
Disclosure: I personally have USAA insurance and use its banking services.
Juan Guaidó, the Venezuelan opposition leader who declared himself interim president in January 2019, appeared to be in hiding as the country’s military leaders declared their support for his rival, President Nicolás Maduro.
The whereabouts of Guaidó, 35, remains unknown after he symbolically swore in as the country’s interim president on Jan. 23, 2019, before tens of thousands of supporters, promising to remove Maduro from power.
Guaidó has said that he needs support from three groups: The Venezuelan people, the international community, and the military, The Associated Press reported.
He hasn’t passed all three tests yet.
The long list of countries supporting his claim — including the US, the EU, and most of Venezuela’s neighbors — gives him a good argument that he has persuaded the international community.
President Nicolás Maduro.
It is difficult to measure Guaidó’s popular support, though his rallies have pulled in huge crowds. Tens of thousands of Venezuelans marched in support of Guaidó in January 2019.
On July 2, 1881, President Garfield was mortally wounded when he was shot only four months into his administration.
His assailant, Charles Guiteau, was likely insane. He spent weeks stalking the president, believing he was fulfilling a mission from God to unite the Republican party, and finally on the morning of July 2, 1881, he shot the president at the Baltimore and Potomac train station in Washington D.C.
The president was treated quickly and spent the next few days fighting for his life, while Vice President Chester A. Arthur served as acting president. On Sept. 19, 1881, after 80 brutal days, President Garfield finally died of blood poisoning. The following day, Arthur was inaugurated as President of the United States.
Guiteau was found guilty of murder and sentenced to death. He was hanged in June 1882.
Four presidents have been assassinated in American history: President Abraham Lincoln was fatally shot on April 14, 1865, James Garfield was fatally shot on July 2, 1881, William McKinley was fatally shot on Sept. 6, 1901, and finally John F. Kennedy was shot and killed on Nov. 22, 1963.
Featured Image: An engraving of James A. Garfield’s assassination, published in Frank Leslie’s Illustrated Newspaper on July 16, 1881. The caption reads “Washington, D.C.—The attack on the President’s life—Scene in the ladies’ room of the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad depot—The arrest of the assassin / from sketches by our special artist’s [sic] A. Berghaus and C. Upham.”
President Garfield is at center right, leaning after being shot. He is supported by Secretary of State James G. Blaine who wears a light colored top hat. To the left, assassin Charles Guiteau is restrained by members of the crowd, one of whom is about to strike him with a cane.
“The only thing that ever really frightened me during the war was the U-boat peril,” British Prime Minister Winston Churchill reportedly said while reflecting on the second world war.
By the end of the war, Hitler’s Kriegsmarine, the navy of Nazi Germany, had built 1,162 U-boats, which is short for the German word “Unterseeboot,” or undersea boat.
In the fall 2015 issue of Weapons of WWII magazine, Marc DeSantis explains how the U-boats were used during World War II.
At the beginning of the war, the commander of the German U-boat fleet, Karl Dönitz, said that if he had 300 U-boats, “he could strangle Britain and win the war.”
The Kriegsmarine began the war with just 56 U-boats, but over the course of the war they would build 691 type VII U-boats alone. Here’s a photo of a U-35 boat during training exercises in 1936.
The U-boat was not a true submarine in today’s sense of the word. It was more of a submersible craft. The diesel engines required air, so while underwater, the craft was powered by 100 tons of lead-acid batteries, meaning it had to surface every few hours when air and battery power were exhausted.
The battery power made the U-boats exceptionally slow underwater, clocking in at 8 knots (9.2 mph), compared to 17.2 knots (19.8 mph) above water on the VII-B models.
The boats were manned by up to 44 men …
… who shared extremely crammed quarters.
The U-boat featured a fearsome 88-millimeter cannon on the deck, as well as a 20-millimeter antiaircraft gun. Here’s the cannon in action:
U-boats were also equipped with torpedoes for underwater attacks. Here’s a photo of a German G7 torpedo, the standard torpedo for all German U-boats and surface torpedo-bearing vessels of the war.
However, many early torpedoes fired by U-boats did not function properly, either exploding prematurely or not at all.
By 1943, Allied forces began fiercely hunting U-boats at sea. Here’s an Allied pilot bombing a U-boat.
Toward the end of the war, the U-boats were death traps. Of 40,900 men who manned U-boats, some 28,000, or 70%, were killed. Here’s a photo of US troops boarding a captured German U-boat.
German U-boats sank more than 2,600 Allied ships carrying supplies during World War II.
Speaking to Pentagon reporters via video link, Air Force Gen. Terrence J. O’Shaughnessey said local, state, and federal cooperation has been outstanding.
The general spoke from outside North Carolina’s operations center and said the effort allowed state and local officials to identify the capabilities needed as the storm approached, which allowed the Federal Emergency Management Agency and Northcom to integrate them into the broader federal response.
“Our Department of Defense anticipated that we would need things like search and rescue, we would need … the high-water vehicles, [and] helicopters and vertical lift to transport things back and forth,” he said. “That was exactly what we needed to have, and we had them pre-positioned and pre-postured, and the plan is now actively part of the response.”
He said the cooperation and communication on the federal side has been incredibly strong, “as has the coordination and collaboration from the state ops centers and FEMA and us.”
About 13,000 service members are participating in the effort, with 8,000 being National Guardsmen. With Florence’s dissipation, the concern goes from the storm itself to the flooding. Streams and rivers throughout the region have broken their banks and flooded vast swaths of land. A drone video released early today shows what looks like a river, but actually is Interstate 40 – a major east-west highway.
Michael Ziolkowski, a field operations supervisor for the National Disaster Response K-9 Unit, and a woman rescued by local emergency personnel and U.S. soldiers assigned to the 127th Quartermaster Company, check the well-being of a rescued kitten in Spring Lake, N.C., Sept 18, 2018.
(Army photo by Spc. Austin T. Boucher)
“We are still concerned over the next 48 hours about the rising flood waters and how that can have a separate, but nonetheless equally important, impact to the local area,” O’Shaughnessey said.
Officials are watching flood gauges and assessing what will be needed if communities are isolated or people need to be rescued. “We are well-postured to augment the state force that has been actively engaged,” the general said. “I would say my overall assessment of the DoD response has been outstanding, and the key to that has been the coordination with the state – from the first responders to the state National Guard, and tying directly in with them.”
Both states activated their dual-status commanders, giving officials one point of contact for military help. “They both have forces under their command that allows them to synchronize their governors’ efforts with FEMA’s efforts and the Department of Defense,” he said.
Special operators are often America’s 911 call, flying to the scene of emergencies and safeguarding American interests while outnumbered and sometimes outgunned. Years of training and military exercises hone them into deadly weapons.
But it takes a lot of logistics to get the premier warfighters from their home bases or staging areas and into the fight, ready to kill or be killed on America’s behalf. Here’s a glimpse of the process:
1. Step one of deploying special operators is preparing gear and recalling personnel.
2. Operators and support personnel rush vehicles and other gear to loading areas. The exact makeup depends on the planned mission.
3. The vehicles are secured for transport. Often, this means the gear is going into planes. Gear that will roll off is secured to the plane itself while gear that will be airdropped is typically secured to a pallet.
4. Operators sometimes take part in securing their gear since it guarantees that it will come out as expected on the objective.
5. Once the gear is ready to go, the personnel have to get strapped in. While these guys are strapping on parachutes, some missions require they run off the ramp on the ground instead.
6. Attention to detail is critical since any mistake on the objective can cost lives.
7. While MC-130Js are one of the more famous planes for special operators, there are plenty of other aircraft that will do the job, such as this MC-12.
8. Or Black Hawks… Black Hawks are good.
9. Of course, operators on the ground like to have fire support, and they can’t be guaranteed artillery on the ground. So they’ll often fly in with extra firepower as well.
10. The AC-130s can bring everything from 20mm miniguns to 105mm howitzers. The typical modern armament is 25-105mm cannons. Jets and helicopters can bring the boom when necessary.
11. And then the operators get to work, grabbing bad guys, ending threats, and chewing bubble gum.
For those who haven’t seen “Range 15” (it’s for sale as a digital download at Amazon.com), it’s about some military buddies who have a wild party and find themselves tossed into the drunk tank. They wake up to the realization that the zombie apocalypse is in full swing.
Think of what follows as a threesome between “Team America,” “Zombieland,” and “The Hangover.”
According to a report by the Military Times, the documentary made its debut on June 30, 2017. The video, dubbed Not a War Story, details the making of the movie, which was filmed in 13 days — a balls crazy pace. The 80 vets who made the film, some of them amputees, had very little (if any) experience shooting feature films, but they didn’t let that stop them.
In the trailer, William Shatner, who plays an attorney in the film, strikes a very poignant tone as he recognizes the sacrifices many of these veterans have made. “You’re the fellows who altered your life to do the job,” he says.
Oh, and good news for Range 15 fans: Military Times mentioned that a sequel is reportedly in the works.
Bell has unveiled its proposed single-rotor design for the U.S. Army’s Future Attack Reconnaissance Aircraft (FARA), a cutting-edge helicopter that may be optionally manned.
The ‘360 Invictus’ helicopter will be loaded with a 20 mm cannon and integrated munitions launcher able to carry Hellfire missiles or rockets. It will be able to adapt for future weapons integration in order to fight in urban environments, according to Bell.
Bell showcased its design to reporters at its facilities in Arlington, Virginia on Oct. 1, 2019.
“The Army realized that they absolutely do need a smaller aircraft that’s … able to operate in urban canyons as well as out in mixed terrain,” said Jeffrey Schloesser, executive vice president for strategic pursuits at Bell.
Bell ‘360 Invictus’ rendering.
Schloesser said the 360 Invictus has high-cruise speeds, long-range capabilities and advanced maneuverability, all intended to help it dominate a future battlespace.
“We have a solution that can accomplish those missions, but it’s also the lowest-risk, and therefore probably the lowest-cost aircraft, to be able to accomplish [that],” Schloesser said.
Keith Flail, vice president of advanced vertical lift systems, said the agile helicopter’s first flight is expected in the fall of 2022. It should be able to fly at speeds greater than 180 knots true airspeed, or more than 200 miles per hour; the aircraft will also have a supplemental power unit that can boost the aircraft’s speed in flight.
Loosely based on Bell’s 525 Relentless rotor system, the fly-by-wire computer flight control helicopter will be made in partnership with Collins Aerospace which will deliver a new avionics hardware and software suite. “[Collins] also has the ability to integrate capabilities with the MOSA, or modular open system architecture, onto the aircraft,” Flail said.
Some observers at Oct. 1, 2019’s event remarked how the streamlined, lightweight fuselage design of the 360 Invictus resembled the body of a shark, particularly the vertical canted ducted tail rotor, designed for optimized lift and propulsion.
“As we’re in the wind tunnel, as we’re looking at performance, as we’re looking at drag, everything on the aircraft, we’re very confident that we have a good story on … that design target,” Flail said.
In April 2019, the Army awarded Bell, a subsidiary of Textron, the contract to begin prototype and design work; but the company must compete against four other firms before the service downselects its options to move forward with its future helicopter.
They are: AVX Aircraft Co. partnered with L3Harris Technologies; Boeing Co.; Lockheed Martin’s Sikorsky; and Karem Aircraft.
Currently, the Army is developing FARA and the Future Long Range Assault Aircraft (FLRAA) along with other airframes as part of its larger Future Vertical Lift initiative, or FVL.
FVL, the Army’s third modernization priority, is intended to field a new generation of helicopters before 2030.
Flail said that Bell will have a full-scale model of its FARA design, which fits inside a C-17 Globemaster III for transport as well as a 40-foot CONEX box, at the annual Association of the U.S. Army show later this month.
This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @militarydotcom on Twitter.
Fifty years after the Battle of Hue City, retired Marine John L. Canley has moved a step closer to receiving the Medal of Honor for his “above and beyond” actions in the house-to-house fighting.
On Jan. 29, President Donald Trump signed a bill passed by Congress to waive the five-year limit on recommendations for the nation’s highest award for valor and authorized the upgrade of Canley’s Navy Cross to the Medal of Honor.
The bill (H.R.4641), sponsored by Rep. Julia Brownley, D-California, “authorizes the President to award the Medal of Honor to Gunnery Sergeant John L. Canley for acts of valor during the Vietnam War while serving in the Marine Corps.”
In a letter to Brownley last month, Mattis said, “After giving careful consideration to the nomination, I agree that then-Gunnery Sergeant Canley’s actions merit the award of the Medal of Honor.”
The 80-year-old Canley, of Oxnard, California, who retired as a sergeant major after 28 years of service, was Brownley’s guest of honor Jan. 31 at Trump’s State of the Union address to a joint session of Congress.
Canley “is a true American hero and a shining example of the kind of gallantry and humility that makes our armed forces the best military in the world,” Brownley said in a statement Jan. 30.
“It is my great honor that he will be attending the State of the Union with me tomorrow — 50 years to the day of the start of the Tet Offensive, where his bravery and courage saved many lives,” she said.
In a statement to Brownley after Trump signed the bill, Canley said, “This honor is for all of the Marines with whom I served. They are an inspiration to me to this day.”
He earlier told Military.com that in the grueling 1968 fight to retake Hue from the North Vietnamese Army and the Viet-Cong: “The only thing I was doing was taking care of troops, best I could. Do that, and everything else takes care of itself.”
Canley also thanked Brownley and a member of her staff, Laura Sether, “for their effort and work to make this happen.”
They worked closely with the survivors from Alpha Co., 1st Battalion, 1st Marine Regiment, 1st Marine Division, who fought with Canley at Hue and mounted a 13-year effort to get past the red tape to upgrade his Navy Cross to the Medal of Honor.
The distinguished Medal of Honor — Navy version. (Image from U.S. Navy)
John Ligato, a private first class in Alpha 1/1 and a retired FBI agent who was part of the effort to upgrade the medal, said of Canley: “This man is the epitome of a Marine warrior.”
At Hue, Canley took command of Alpha 1/1 when Capt. Gordon Batcheller, the company commander, was wounded and evacuated.
He fought alongside Sgt. Alfredo Cantu “Freddy” Gonzalez, who had taken command of Third Platoon, Alpha 1/1, and was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor.
Canley’s Navy Cross cites his actions from Jan. 31 to Feb. 6, 1968, when he had command of Alpha 1/1 before being relieved by then-Lt. Ray Smith, a Marine legend who earned the Navy Cross, two Silver Stars, a Bronze Star and three Purple Hearts during his tours in Vietnam and retired as a major general.
“On 31 January, when his company came under a heavy volume of enemy fire near the city of Hue, Gunnery Sergeant Canley rushed across the fire-swept terrain and carried several wounded Marines to safety,” the citation states.
Canley then “assumed command and immediately reorganized his scattered Marines, moving from one group to another to advise and encourage his men. Although sustaining shrapnel wounds during this period, he nonetheless established a base of fire which subsequently allowed the company to break through the enemy strongpoint,” it continues.
On Feb. 4, “despite fierce enemy resistance,” Canley managed to get into the top floor of a building held by the enemy. He then “dropped a large satchel charge into the position, personally accounting for numerous enemy killed, and forcing the others to vacate the building,” the citation says.
The battle raged on. Canley went into action again on Feb. 6 as the company took more casualties in an assault on another enemy-held building.
“Gunnery Sergeant Canley lent words of encouragement to his men and exhorted them to greater efforts as they drove the enemy from its fortified emplacement,” the citation states.
In speaking of Canley, Ligato, retired Maj. Gen. Smith, former Lance Cpl. Eddie Neas and others who served with him, both in battle and stateside, told of his indefinable command presence that made them want to follow and emulate his example.
“The most impressive combat Marine I ever knew,” Smith told Military.com.
Smith recalled that at his own retirement ceremony at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, he said, “All through my career, whenever I had to make a decision that would affect Marines, I’d always think — ‘What would Canley tell me to do?’ ”
Canley’s command presence was such that others who served with him to this day recall him in awe as a 6-foot-4 or 6-foot-5 tower of strength who would calmly pick up wounded Marines, put them on his shoulder, and run through fire to safety.
“They worshipped the ground the guy walked on,” Smith said of Canley, but “he was actually about six feet” tall.
The US issued a stark warning to Beijing on May 31, 2018, as Chinese militarization of the South China Sea creates a potential flashpoint in a longstanding battle for control of the Pacific.
For years, Beijing has dredged the South China Sea to build artificial islands in waters it claims as its territory.
Six of China’s neighbors also lay claim to conflicting patches of the South China Sea. The body of water is home to natural resources, and trillions of dollars’ worth of trade passes through every year.
On May 31, 2018, the US reminded China of a “historical fact.” Lt. Gen. Kenneth McKenzie, the director of the Joint Staff, said “the United States military has had a lot of experience in the Western Pacific, taking down small islands.”
“We have a lot of experience, in the Second World War, taking down small islands that are isolated,” McKenzie said. “So that’s a — that’s a core competency of the US military that we’ve done before. You shouldn’t read anything more into that than a simple statement of historical fact.”
The US has been the main challenger to China’s maritime claims and in doing so has provoked the bulk of Beijing’s rage, which is often expressed in a kind of doublespeak common for the Chinese Communist Party.
On May 31, 2018, China’s foreign ministry called US claims that Beijing was militarizing the islands “ridiculous” and compared them to “a case of a thief crying ‘stop thief’ to cover their misdeeds.”
But on the same day, the Chinese state media detailed plans to prepare a military response to US interference.
The Global Times, a newspaper controlled by the Communist Party, wrote: “Aside from deploying defensive weapons on the Spratly Islands, China should build a powerful deterrence system, including an aerial base and a roving naval force and base.”
“How can anyone argue with a straight face?” Bonnie Glaser, the director of the China Power Project at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, told Business Insider. “How can anyone say this is not militarization? It’s a patent lie.” She said the ranges and functions of missiles China placed on the islands pointed to a clear military utility.
Beijing’s militarization of the South China Sea isn’t just a potential threat to the region. Beijing is already using hard power to force out other countries and assert its dominance.
Most recently, on May 11, 2018, a Philippine navy ship was harassed by two Chinese vessels while trying to resupply Filipino marines in the disputed waters. A helicopter reportedly got dangerously close to the small, rubber Filipino ship and chased it off.
(U.S. Energy Information Administration)
“If the Chinese start blocking supply operations,” the Filipino marines “could starve,” Glaser said.
The Philippines are a longtime US ally. The US has massive military bases there and a duty to protect it.
Glaser said this was the first time the actual Chinese navy had announced involving itself in a patrol of the waters, marking an escalation of conflicts.
Entering the military requires an oath to obey the lawful orders of those in the higher chain of command. Commanding officers can order troops into a suicide mission if it serves the greater purpose. When obeying orders, it’s necessary for those troops to believe a commander wouldn’t order them into harm’s way unless it was necessary, that the order serves a greater good, and it’s not an illegal order.
Most of the nine men listed here (in no order) did not disobey orders because they were illegal. They disobeyed them because lives were at stake and felt saving those lives was worth the risk. Others pushed the envelope to keep the enemy on its heels. People make mistakes, even when the stakes are life and death. It can mean the difference in the course of the entire war (as seen with Gen. Sickles) or to a few men who are alive because someone took a chance on them (in the case of Benaya Rein).
1. Dakota Meyer, U.S. Marine Corps, Afghanistan
In 2009, Meyer was at the Battle of Ganjgal, where his commander ordered him to disregard a distress call from ambushed Afghan and American troops, four of them friends, pinned down by possibly hundreds of enemy fighters. He repeatedly asked permission to drive his truck to help relieve his outnumbered and surrounded friends and allies. He and another Marine hopped in a Humvee. Meyer manned the gun while the other drove the vehicle.
They drove right into the firestorm, loading the beleaguered Afghans, mostly wounded, onto their humvee. As weapons jammed, Meyer would grab another, and another. They drove into the melee five times, until they came across Meyer’s friends, now fallen, and pulled them out too. Meyer received the Medal of Honor for his actions.
2. Daniel Hellings, British Army, Afghanistan
Hellings was on a joint patrol in Helmand Province with Afghan allies when his patrol was hit by an explosion. An improvised explosive device (IED) was detonated in an alleyway, injuring two of the patrollers. Then another went off, injuring a third man. Hellings’ commander ordered an immediate withdrawal. Instead, Hellings got down on the ground and started a fingertip search for more bombs — and found four more. He was on the ground, poking around in the dirt until he found all of the IEDs. For his bravery and quick thinking, he was awarded the Queen’s Gallantry Medal.
3. Lt. Col. Stanislav Petrov, Soviet Army, Cold War
Petrov was in command of the Oko Nuclear Early Warning System on the morning of September 26, 1983 when it detected a probable launch of American nuclear missiles. Suspecting it was a false alarm, he disobeyed the standing order of reporting it to his commanding officers, who likely would have “retaliated” with their nuclear arsenal.
In this case, doing nothing was doing something big, as in completely averting World War III, and mutually assured destruction. It also showed a flaw in the USSR’s early warning system and helped to avert further misunderstandings.
4. Benaya Rein, Israel Defence Forces, Second Lebanon War
Several Israeli soldiers, lacking accurate maps, became lost in 2006 while downrange in Southern Lebanon. As they attempted to get their bearings, about 20 men appeared in the distance, and the commander — thinking they were Hezbollah fighters — ordered Benaya Rein to open fire.
Rein wasn’t so sure. Instead, he took a tank out to the location to investigate. When he arrived, he found 20 of his fellow IDF soldiers. “Because he refused to follow his commander’s order, the lives of these soldiers were saved,” his mother told an Israeli paper.
Rein would later be killed after the tank he was commanding was hit by a Hezbollah missile. He was one of the last Israelis killed during the war.
5. Lt. David Teich, U.S. Army, Korean War
Teich was in a tank company near the 38th parallel in 1951 when a radio distress call came in from the Eighth Ranger Company. Wounded, outnumbered, and under heavy fire, the Rangers were near Teich’s tanks, and facing 300,000 Communist troops, moving steadily toward their position. Teich wanted to help, but was ordered to withdraw instead, his captain saying “We’ve got orders to move out. Screw them. Let them fight their own battles.”
Teich went anyway. He led four tanks over to the Rangers’ position and took out so many Rangers on each tank, they covered up the tank’s turrets. He still gets letters from the troops he saved that day, thanking him for disobeying his order to move out.
6. Cpl. Desmond Doss, U.S. Army, World War II
Doss wanted to serve, he just wasn’t willing to kill to do it and refused every order to carry a weapon or fire one. However, Doss would do anything to save his men, repeatedly braving Japanese fire to pull the injured to the rear. As his unit climbed a vertical cliffside at Okinawa, the Japanese opened up with artillery, mortars, and machine guns, turning his unit back and killing or wounding 75 men. Doss retrieved them one by one, loading them onto a litter and down the cliff.
A few days later, in the mouth of a cave, he braved a shower of grenades thrown from eight yards away, dressed wounds, and made four trips to pull his soldiers out. He treated his own wounds and waited five hours for a litter to carry him off. On the way back, the three men carrying him had to take cover from a tank attack. While waiting, Doss crawled off his litter, treated a more injured man, and told the litter bearers to take the other man. While waiting for them to come back, he was hit in the arm by a sniper and crawled 300 yards to an aid station. He was the first conscientious objector to earn the Medal of Honor.
7. Lt. Thomas Currie ‘Diver’ Derrick, Australian Imperial Force, WWII
The Battle of Sattelberg in the Pacific nation of New Guinea was as hard-fought as any in the Pacific Theater. It took the Australians a grudgingly slow eight days to push the Japanese out of the town and they paid dearly for it. On November 24, 1943, Lt. Derrick was ordered to withdraw his platoon because the CO didn’t think he could capture the heights around Sattelberg.
Derrick’s response: “Bugger the CO. Just give me twenty more minutes and we’ll have this place.”
Derrick climbed a vertical cliff by himself, holding on with one hand and throwing grenades with the other, stopping only to fire his rifle. He cleared out 10 machine gun nests that night and forced the Japanese to withdraw. The Aussies captured Sattelberg and Derrick was awarded the Victoria Cross.
8. 1st. Lt. Frank Luke, Jr., U.S. Army Air Corps, WWI
In September 1918, Luke was grounded by his commanding officer and told that if he disobeyed, he would be charged with being AWOL. Luke, an ace with 15 aerial victories, flew anyway, going out to find military reconnaissance balloons. Balloons sound like an easy target, but they were heavily defended by anti-aircraft weapons.
He knocked out three balloons that day before he was forced down by machine gun fire. Once out of his plane (which he landed, he wasn’t shot down) he kept fighting the Germans with his sidearm until a bullet wound killed him. Luke is the first pilot to receive the Medal of Honor.
9. Maj. Gen. Daniel Sickles, Union Army, Civil War
Sickles’ slight disobedience to orders during the Battle of Gettysburg changed the momentum of the war and may have changed the entire history of the United States. In a move historians haven’t stopped talking about for 150 years, Sickles moved his men to Peach Orchard instead of Little Round Top, as Gen. George G. Meade ordered him. This move prompted Confederate Gen. James Longstreet to attack the Union troops in the orchard and the wheat field, nearly destroying the Union forces there. Which, admittedly, sounds terrible.
The Confederate move allowed Union troops to flank them in a counteroffensive and completely rout the Confederate forces, winning Gettysburg for the Union and ending Robert E. Lee’s invasion of the North. Sickles himself lost a leg in the fighting, but received the Medal of Honor and helped preserve Gettysburg as a national historic site after the war.
On Tuesday Morning, Russian aircraft manufacturer UAC unveiled the nation’s newest stealth fighter, the LTA Checkmate, at the MAKS air show at Ramenskoye airfield near Moscow. While information about this new 5th generation platform has steadily made its way to the media in recent months and some images even found their way onto the internet last week, we now have the most complete vision of this budget-friendly entrant into the stealth competition yet.
It’s important to remember that this new jet is not an operational platform, nor is there any strong indication that a flying tech demonstrator even exists. In other words, capabilities, cost, and even the overall design of this new fighter are all liable to change before this jet ever starts afterburning its way through production (if it ever does). Russia’s struggling economy and limited defense budget all but assure that the nation won’t be able to fund continued development, let alone production, of the LTA Checkmate single-handedly, so the future of this fighter program is largely in the hands of the foreign market. Russian officials have claimed that they invited delegations from 65 nations to come to the event and get a closer look at the fighter for this specific purpose.
According to today’s announcement, UAC believes they can start delivering new Checkmate fighters within five and a half years, with the first fighter for testing slated to be complete in 2023. ROSTEC officials predict orders of 300 aircraft, though they did not specify if they meant domestic, foreign, or total.
If Russia wants to make the LTA Checkmate its first successful stealth fighter on the export market (let alone in the sky), they need to make this jet look capable, reliable, and perhaps most importantly of all, affordable. These focal points were all on display on Tuesday, with mentions of the aircraft’s automated supply chain system and streamlined maintenance processes getting top billing alongside the usual fighter-fare.
And while it’s important to remember that this fighter is actively being marketed (in other words, exaggeration or extreme optimism may well be in play in terms of announced capabilities), it’s also equally as important to remember that Russia has a long and illustrious history of making grandiose claims about new military technology, only for it to fail to meet expectations…or even ever manifest, after the initial headline-grabbing announcements.
So, with a baseball-sized grain of salt, let’s dive into what UAC says their new fighter can do, and why it matters for the future of Russia’s ongoing staring contest with the West.
We’ve already analyzed where the LTA Checkmate fits into Russia’s defense apparatus and what it will take to get the fighter into service in this article. The following will largely pertain to newly announced information.
The LTA Checkmate aims to be the cheapest stealth fighter on the market
To be clear, being budget friendly does seem to be the focus, or at least one of the focuses, of the Checkmate. According to UAC CEO Yuri Slyusar, this new jet will ring in at under $30 million per airframe, making it the least expensive stealth fighter anywhere on the planet by a wide margin (assuming that price holds). While projected operating costs were not specified, a press release distributed during the event also emphasized cost savings in that department.
Of course, $30 million isn’t something to scoff at, but when compared to America’s two stealth fighters, the F-35 and F-22, it’s an absolute steal. The F-22 was the world’s first operational stealth fighter, but was canceled with just 183 of 750 ordered jets built. That massive cut in volume dramatically increased the per-unit price of the fighter to more than $200 million. The F-35 Joint Strike Fighter has consistently lowered its per-unit cost over the years and now rings in at under $80 million per aircraft, but both Lockheed Martin and the Pentagon have been accused of fudging those numbers by the nonpartisan government watchdog, Project On Government Oversight (POGO).
In their analysis of F-35 costs, an F-35A actually costs the taxpayer around $110 million, with the F-35C ringing it at $117 million and the short take off, vertical landing (STOVL) F-35B breaking the bank at nearly $136 million a piece in 2020.
It isn’t as easy to ascertain costs for China’s Chengdu J-20 or Russia’s existing stealth platform, the Su-57, though experts have weighed in on both. The China Power Project established by the Center for Strategic and International Studies estimates that the per-fighter cost of the J-20 could be as high as $120 million, with the Su-57 likely closer to $100 million.
If these numbers are broadly accurate, then the LTA Checkmate would cost less than a third of its least-expensive competition, making it a viable low observable option for nations that can’t drop nine-digit checks on a single piece of equipment.
Russia claims it uses AI to support pilot operations
An ongoing concern for fighter pilots in a high-end fight is managing mental load. Traditionally, a fighter pilot has to keep track of multiple gauges and sensor read outs as well as the terrain, friendly nearby aircraft, the target, and any potential threats. Until recently, pilots had to combine all of this information in their heads, but flying supercomputers like the F-35 streamline the process and free up pilots to focus on the task at hand. Not only did UAC claim the Checkmate fighter would leverage onboard supercomputers, but they went a step further and claimed the aircraft would also use artificial intelligence, or AI, to further reduce the mental strain on its pilots.
This idea isn’t unheard of. In fact, it the was basis behind the U.S. Air Force and DARPA’s Alphadog Flight Trials held last year. The event pitted real human fighter pilots against AI in virtual dogfights, but the stated aim has long been to improve the AI while increasing pilot comfort with the idea. Eventually, the plan is to use AI in the cockpit as a co-pilot of sorts, handling monotonous tasks for the pilot, or even responding to inbound missiles faster than humans are capable of.
However, to date, AI hasn’t found a place in any fighter cockpit, and it seems unlikely that Russia will master the craft by 2023, when the first Checkmate is projected to take to the skies.
It is likely that the Checkmate fighter will leverage its onboard computers alongside some degree of sensor fusion to provide an enhanced awareness of the battlefield, like most fighters of its generation.
It won’t be able to match other 5th-generation fighters in a dogfight
All those cost savings have to come from somewhere, and even with the assumption that claims about the Checkmate will be exaggerated for marketing purposes, its claimed capabilities still fall short of the other jets of its class.
While every other 5th-generation fighter on the planet has a claimed structural limit that exceeds 9gs, the Checkmate claims only 8. G forces are measured in relation to the natural weight of gravity on earth; 1 G is what you experience all the time while walking around, so 9 Gs is literally 9 times that. Here’s an explanation from F-35 pilot instructor and Sandboxx News contributor Major Hasard Lee:
“Right now, as you’re reading this, you’re probably at 1G, or one time the force of gravity. Your weight is what you see when you stand on a scale. I weigh approximately 200 pounds, 230 with my gear on. For most people, the peak G-force they’ve experienced is probably on a rollercoaster during a loop—which is about 3-4G’s. It’s enough to push your head down and pin your arms by your side. Modern fighters like the F-16 and F-35 pull 9G’s, which translates to over 2,000 pounds on my body.”
You can read all about Hasard’s experiences pushing his F-16 to 9 Gs and just what an incredible toll it takes on your body in his article about it here.
Being limited to 8 Gs means Russia’s new Checkmate won’t be able to perform maneuvers as aggressively as other stealth fighters, or even non-stealth 4th-generation jets. Of course, that’s not necessarily a huge problem though. The Checkmate can bank on its low observability when squaring off against non-stealth fighters like the F-16, and this jet probably wouldn’t be sent out to pick fights with F-22s.
The Checkmate fighter has a claimed range of 3,000km (1,800+ miles)
The single-engine Checkmate weighs in at significantly less than the twin-engine Su-57, and in conjunction with its stealthy but high-lift delta-wing design, seems to offer good range. It’s unclear whether its claimed 3,000km range is based on a stripped-down ferry-flight, but that seems likely.
If this range holds true into production, it would give the Checkmate superior range to that of America’s F-35s, the furthest-reaching of which is the carrier-capable F-35C with a maximum range of a bit shy of 1,400 miles in the best of conditions. The F-22 Raptor can beat the Checkmate’s proposed range, but just barely, and with the addition of stealth-killing external fuel tanks.
Russia claims the Su-57 has a combat radius of around 930 miles, which is significant (that suggests a total range of 1,860 miles with a combat load), and it seems the LTA Checkmate is similarly aiming for long-distance operations.
Its claimed service ceiling of better than 50,000 feet is on par with its 5th generation competition, many of which claim operational ceilings of “better than 50,000 feet” without further specifics.
It will be able to carry hypersonic air-to-air weapons internally
According to Tuesday’s announcement, the Checkmate fighter will be capable of carrying three RVV-BD long-range air-to-air missiles internally without compromising its stealth profile. The RVV-BD (also known as the R-37M or by NATO as the AA-13 Arrow) is a hypersonic weapon originally designed to take out tankers, AWACS, and other command and control aircraft from beyond the range of their fighter escorts, or about 124 miles.
Capable of achieving speeds in excess of Mach 6, the missile is believed to leverage an active data link for guidance, supported by the fighter’s onboard computers rather than the pilot, before switching to active radar homing in the final leg of its flight path.
Like the Checkmate itself, the RVV-BD was purpose-built with the export market in mind, and was designed to be easily mated to Russia’s export-iterations of both Su and MiG fighters. It seems logical, then, that the LTA Checkmate would be designed to leverage these weapons, as both stealth fighters and hypersonic weapons are currently considered extremely valuable for national militaries.
That added girth means a lot of added weight too. Depending on the source, the RVV-BD weighs in at between 1,100 and more than 1,300 pounds… meaning a single one of these missiles weighs as much as six Aim-9Xs, or nearly four AIM-120s. The most modern iteration of America’s furthest-reaching air-to-air missile, the AIM-120D, has a reported range of at least 87 miles, though its actual maximum range has never been disclosed. Unlike the RVV-BD, however, the AIM-120 tops out at around Mach 4, well below the hypersonic barrier of Mach 5.
However, storing three of these weapons internally is a pretty tall order. At around 13’9″, the RVV-BD isn’t that much longer than a normal air-to-air weapon, but its 15″ diameter is more than twice that of air-to-air weapons like the AIM-120 carried internally by the F-22 and three times that of smaller, short range weapons like the AIM-9X.
Those RVV-BDs will be housed in the aircraft’s primary weapons bay, with another smaller bay further forward on the fuselage that will likely house smaller defensive air-to-air munitions. Per the display, it seems likely that this new Checkmate fighter will also carry a 30mm cannon, similar to the GSh-30-1 autocannon found in the Su-57. Managing targets and other pertinent information will be accomplished via an all-glass cockpit dominated by one large primary display that’s sure to serve a variety of purposes based on the situation alongside the usual variety of cockpit bells and whistles one might expect of a fighter designed in the 21st century.