First air-to-air images of supersonic shockwave in flight captured - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY TRENDING

First air-to-air images of supersonic shockwave in flight captured

“We never dreamt that it would be this clear, this beautiful.”

Physical Scientist J.T. Heineck of NASA’s Ames Research Center in California’s Silicon Valley gets his first glimpse at a set of long-awaited images, and takes a moment to reflect on more than 10 years of technique development – an effort that has led to a milestone for NASA’s Aeronautics Research Mission Directorate.

NASA has successfully tested an advanced air-to-air photographic technology in flight, capturing the first-ever images of the interaction of shockwaves from two supersonic aircraft in flight.


“I am ecstatic about how these images turned out,” said Heineck. “With this upgraded system, we have, by an order of magnitude, improved both the speed and quality of our imagery from previous research.”

First air-to-air images of supersonic shockwave in flight captured

One of the greatest challenges of the flight series was timing. In order to acquire this image, originally monochromatic and shown here as a colorized composite image, NASA flew a B-200, outfitted with an updated imaging system, at around 30,000 feet while the pair of T-38s were required to not only remain in formation, but to fly at supersonic speeds at the precise moment they were directly beneath the B-200. The images were captured as a result of all three aircraft being in the exact right place at the exact right time designated by NASA’s operations team.

(NASA photo)

The images were captured during the fourth phase of Air-to-Air Background Oriented Schlieren flights, or AirBOS, which took place at NASA’s Armstrong Flight Research Center in Edwards, California. The flight series saw successful testing of an upgraded imaging system capable of capturing high-quality images of shockwaves, rapid pressure changes which are produced when an aircraft flies faster than the speed of sound, or supersonic. Shockwaves produced by aircraft merge together as they travel through the atmosphere and are responsible for what is heard on the ground as a sonic boom.

The system will be used to capture data crucial to confirming the design of the agency’s X-59 Quiet SuperSonic Technology X-plane, or X-59 QueSST, which will fly supersonic, but will produce shockwaves in such a way that, instead of a loud sonic boom, only a quiet rumble may be heard. The ability to fly supersonic without a sonic boom may one day result in lifting current restrictions on supersonic flight over land.

The images feature a pair of T-38s from the U.S. Air Force Test Pilot School at Edwards Air Force Base, flying in formation at supersonic speeds. The T-38s are flying approximately 30 feet away from each other, with the trailing aircraft flying about 10 feet lower than the leading T-38. With exceptional clarity, the flow of the shock waves from both aircraft is seen, and for the first time, the interaction of the shocks can be seen in flight.

“We’re looking at a supersonic flow, which is why we’re getting these shockwaves,” said Neal Smith, a research engineer with AerospaceComputing Inc. at NASA Ames’ fluid mechanics laboratory.

First air-to-air images of supersonic shockwave in flight captured

When aircraft fly faster than the speed of sound, shockwaves travel away from the vehicle, and are heard on the ground as a sonic boom. NASA researchers use this imagery to study these shockwaves as part of the effort to make sonic booms quieter, which may open the future to possible supersonic flight over land. The updated camera system used in the AirBOS flight series enabled the supersonic T-38 to be photographed from much closer, approximately 2,000 feet away, resulting in a much clearer image compared to previous flight series.

(NASA photo)

“What’s interesting is, if you look at the rear T-38, you see these shocks kind of interact in a curve,” he said. “This is because the trailing T-38 is flying in the wake of the leading aircraft, so the shocks are going to be shaped differently. This data is really going to help us advance our understanding of how these shocks interact.”

The study of how shockwaves interact with each other, as well as with the exhaust plume of an aircraft, has been a topic of interest among researchers. Previous, subscale schlieren research in Ames’ wind tunnel, revealed distortion of the shocks, leading to further efforts to expand this research to full-scale flight testing.

While the acquisition of these images for research marked one of the goals of AirBOS, one of the primary objectives was to flight test advanced equipment capable of high quality air-to-air schlieren imagery, to have ready for X-59’s Low-Boom Flight Demonstration, a mission that will use the X-59 to provide regulators with statistically valid data needed for potential regulation changes to enable quiet commercial supersonic flight over land.

While NASA has previously used the schlieren photography technique to study shockwaves, the AirBOS 4 flights featured an upgraded version of the previous airborne schlieren systems, allowing researchers to capture three times the amount of data in the same amount of time.

“We’re seeing a level of physical detail here that I don’t think anybody has ever seen before,” said Dan Banks, senior research engineer at NASA Armstrong. “Just looking at the data for the first time, I think things worked out better than we’d imagined. This is a very big step.”

First air-to-air images of supersonic shockwave in flight captured

The X-59 Quiet SuperSonic Technology X-plane, or QueSST, will test its quiet supersonic technologies by flying over communities in the United States. X-59 is designed so that when flying supersonic, people on the ground will hear nothing more than a quiet sonic thump – if anything at all. The scientifically valid data gathered from these community overflights will be presented to U.S. and international regulators, who will use the information to help them come up with rules based on noise levels that enable new commercial markets for supersonic flight over land.

(NASA photo)

Additional images included a “knife-edge” shot of a single T-38 in supersonic flight, as well as a slow-speed T-34 aircraft, to test the feasibility of visualizing an aircraft’s wing and flap vortices using the AirBOS system.

The images were captured from a NASA B-200 King Air, using an upgraded camera system to increase image quality. The upgraded system included the addition of a camera able to capture data with a wider field of view. This improved spatial awareness allowed for more accurate positioning of the aircraft. The system also included a memory upgrade for the cameras, permitting researchers to increase the frame rate to 1400 frames per second, making it easier to capture a larger number of samples. Finally, the system received an upgraded connection to data storage computers, which allowed for a much higher rate of data download. This also contributed to the team being able to capture more data per pass, boosting the quality of the images.

In addition to a recent avionics upgrade for the King Air, which improved the ability of the aircraft to be in the exact right place at the exact right time, the team also developed a new installation system for the cameras, drastically reducing the time it took to integrate them with the aircraft.

“With previous iterations of AirBOS, it took up to a week or more to integrate the camera system onto the aircraft and get it working. This time we were able to get it in and functioning within a day,” said Tiffany Titus, flight operations engineer. “That’s time the research team can use to go out and fly, and get that data.”

While the updated camera system and avionics upgrade on the B-200 greatly improved the ability to conduct these flights more efficiently than in previous series, obtaining the images still required a great deal of skill and coordination from engineers, mission controllers, and pilots from both NASA and Edwards’ U.S. Air Force Test Pilot School.

First air-to-air images of supersonic shockwave in flight captured

Using the schlieren photography technique, NASA was able to capture the first air-to-air images of the interaction of shockwaves from two supersonic aircraft flying in formation. These two U.S. Air Force Test Pilot School T-38 aircraft are flying in formation, approximately 30 feet apart, at supersonic speeds, or faster than the speed of sound, producing shockwaves that are typically heard on the ground as a sonic boom. The images, originally monochromatic and shown here as colorized composite images, were captured during a supersonic flight series flown, in part, to better understand how shocks interact with aircraft plumes, as well as with each other.

(NASA photo)

In order to capture these images, the King Air, flying a pattern around 30,000 feet, had to arrive in a precise position as the pair of T-38s passed at supersonic speeds approximately 2,000 feet below. Meanwhile, the cameras, able to record for a total of three seconds, had to begin recording at the exact moment the supersonic T-38s came into frame.

“The biggest challenge was trying to get the timing correct to make sure we could get these images,” said Heather Maliska, AirBOS sub-project manager. “I’m absolutely happy with how the team was able to pull this off. Our operations team has done this type of maneuver before. They know how to get the maneuver lined up, and our NASA pilots and the Air Force pilots did a great job being where they needed to be.”

“They were rock stars.”

The data from the AirBOS flights will continue to undergo analysis, helping NASA refine the techniques for these tests to improve data further, with future flights potentially taking place at higher altitudes. These efforts will help advance knowledge of the characteristics of shockwaves as NASA progresses toward quiet supersonic research flights with the X-59, and closer toward a major milestone in aviation.

AirBOS was flown as a sub-project under NASA’s Commercial Supersonic Technology project.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Navy wants to replace Vikings with drones

The return of great-power competition has the US military refocusing on the potential for a conflict with a sophisticated adversary whose submarines can sink the US’s supercarriers.

Defense experts are increasingly concerned by a resurgent Russian undersea force and by China’s increasingly capable boats.

But the centerpiece of the US Navy’s fleet has a decade-old gap in its submarine defenses, and filling it may require new, unmanned aircraft.


First air-to-air images of supersonic shockwave in flight captured

A US Navy S-2G Tracker in the foreground, accompanied by its successor, the S-3A Viking, over Naval Air Station North Island, California, in July 1976.

(US Navy photo)

‘It’s got legs’

During the Cold War and the years afterward, aircraft carriers had fixed-wing aircraft and helicopters for anti-submarine-warfare operations. For much of that period, the fixed-wing option was the S-3 Viking.

Introduced in 1974, the turbofan S-3 was developed with Soviet submarines in mind. It replaced the propeller-driven S-2 Tracker, carrying a crew of four. It wasn’t particularly fast, but it had a 2,000-mile range and could stay airborne for up to 10 hours to hunt submarines.

“It’s got legs,” said Capt. John Rousseau, who flew the Navy’s last Vikings as part of an experimental squadron before their retirement in early 2016.

It had strong surface-search abilities to find periscopes, a magnetic anomaly detector to search for submerged subs, and gear to analyze sounds from sonobuoys it dropped in the ocean. Its search and processing capabilities tripled its search area. And in a war scenario, it could fire Harpoon missiles at ships and drop torpedoes and depth charges to destroy submarines.

First air-to-air images of supersonic shockwave in flight captured

An S-3A Viking with a Magnetic Anomaly Detection boom extending from its tail in May 1983.

(US Navy photo)

“It can go fast and long. The radar, even though it’s old, there’s not many better. We still spot schools of dolphins and patches of seaweed” when patrolling off California, Rousseau said in 2016.

The Viking performed a variety of missions, including cargo transport, surveillance and electronic intelligence, search and rescue, and aerial refueling, but it was a mainstay of the carrier anti-submarine-warfare efforts.

Helicopters deployed on carriers typically perform close-in ASW, usually within about 90 miles of the ship. The S-3, with a longer range and the ability to linger, filled the midrange-ASW role, operating about 90 to 175 miles from the carrier.

Land-based aircraft, like the P-3 Orion and now the P-8 Poseidon, have flown the longest-range submarine patrols.

‘The leadership totally turned over’

As the sub threat lessened after the Cold War, the S-3 was reoriented toward anti-surface operations. During the 2003 invasion of Iraq, an S-3 attacked a ground target for the first time, firing a missile at Saddam Hussein’s yacht.

First air-to-air images of supersonic shockwave in flight captured

“Navy One,” a US Navy S-3B Viking carrying President George W. Bush, lands on the aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln on May 1, 2003.

(US Navy photo by Photographer’s Mate Airman Gabriel Piper)

An S-3 designated “Navy One” even flew President George W. Bush to the aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln in May 2003. Some of the Navy’s last S-3s operated over Iraq in the late 2000s, looking for threats on the ground.

The S-3 was eventually able to deploy torpedoes, mines, depth charges, and missiles.

With the addition of Harpoon anti-ship missiles, the S-3’s designation in the carrier air wing shifted from “anti-submarine” to “sea control,” according to “Retreat from Range,” a 2015 report on carrier aviation by Jerry Hendrix, a retired Navy officer who took part in force-structure planning and carrier-strike-group operations.

Amid shifts in Navy leadership and the rise of new threats after the Cold War, the S-3 lost favor. It officially left service in 2009. There was nothing to replace it.

“There was a slow transition in the makeup of the air wing, as well as a slow transition in the changeover in the leadership of the air-wing community,” Hendrix, now a vice president at Telemus Group, told Business Insider. As a naval aviator, Hendrix spent over a decade in P-3 patrol squadrons that routinely conducted maritime patrols looking for foreign submarines.

“By the time we got … to replace the S-3, essentially the leadership totally turned over to the short-range, light-attack community, led by the F/A-18 Hornet pilots, and also they’ve been operating for the better part of 20 years in permissive environments,” Hendrix said, referring to areas such as the Persian Gulf, where threats like enemy subs are almost nonexistent.

Because of the lack of other threats, the S-3 was relegated largely to a refueling role during its final years, mainly as a recovery tanker for aircraft returning to the carrier.

“When it came time to make a decision, they said, ‘Well, we really don’t need the recovery tanker. I can do recovery tanking with other Hornets, and this anti-submarine warfare doesn’t seem all that important to us because there’s not submarines around us,'” Hendrix said. “So they made a decision to get rid of the S-3.”

First air-to-air images of supersonic shockwave in flight captured

A US Navy S-3 Viking refuels another S-3 Viking over the Caribbean Sea in May 2006.

(US Navy photo by Photographer’s Mate 3rd Class Christopher Stephens)

The S-3s that were retired had thousands of flying hours left in their airframes. Dozens are being held in reserve in the “boneyard” at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base in Arizona.

“They actually got rid of the S-3 early in the sense that the community still had a viable population of aircraft,” Hendrix said.

Their departure left a hole in carrier defenses that remains unfilled, especially when carrier groups are far from the airfields where P-8 Poseidons are based.

More helicopters have been added to the carrier air wing, Hendrix said. “However, the helicopters don’t have either the sensors or the mobility to be able to really patrol the middle zone” in which the S-3 operated.

First air-to-air images of supersonic shockwave in flight captured

Sailors on the Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS McCampbell load a MK-46 torpedo on an MH-60R Sea Hawk helicopter during an ASW exercise in the Pacific Ocean in March 2014.

(US Navy photo by Mass Comm. Specialist 3rd Class Chris Cavagnaro)

Nor does the arrival of the P-8 Poseidon — a vaunted maritime patrol aircraft introduced in 2013 to replace the P-3 — make up for the Viking’s absence, according to Hendrix.

“We haven’t brought the P-8s in in a one-to-one replacement basis for the older P-3s, and so they’re not really in sufficient numbers to do the middle-zone and outer-zone anti-submarine-warfare mission for the carrier strike groups,” he said. “So we haven’t filled that requirement in force structure.”

‘The Navy could mitigate this vulnerability’

Amid the increasing focus on facing a sophisticated adversary, discussion has intensified about changing the composition of the carrier air wing to replace the capabilities — anti-submarine warfare in particular — shed after the Cold War.

“ASW will become an increasingly important [carrier air wing] mission as adversary submarine forces increase in their size, sophistication, and ability to attack targets ashore and at sea using highly survivable long-range weapons,” said a recent report on the carrier air wing by the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments.

First air-to-air images of supersonic shockwave in flight captured

A Navy S-3B Viking from the aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson on January 23, 1995. It carries a refueling pod under its left wing, and openings in the fuselage for dropping sonobuoys are visible in the rear.

(US Navy photo by PH1 (AW) Mahlon K. Miller)

Longer-range anti-ship missiles allow subs to be farther outside carrier helicopters’ operational range, the report argued. (Long-range land-based weapons may also hinder ASW by reducing the area in which the P-8 can operate.)

“The increasing range of submarine-launched cruise missiles may result in [carrier air wing] aircraft being the only platforms able to defend civilian and other military shipping as well as high-value US and allied targets ashore from submarine attack,” the report added.

Unmanned systems — sensors as well as unmanned underwater and surface vehicles — are seen as an option to extend the carrier’s reach. (The Navy has already awarded Boeing a contract for unmanned aerial refueling vehicles.)

“The Navy could mitigate this vulnerability using distributed unmanned sensors to find and track enemy submarines at long ranges and over wide areas,” the CSBA report said, adding that ships and aircraft in the carrier strike group could then use anti-submarine rockets to keep enemy subs at bay rather than trying to sink all of them.

First air-to-air images of supersonic shockwave in flight captured

Boeing conducts an MQ-25 deck-handling demonstration at its facility in St. Louis, Missouri, in January 2018.

(US Navy/Boeing photo)

The need to operate at longer ranges with more endurance and higher survivability also makes unmanned aerial vehicles appealing additions to the carrier air wing, according to the CSBA report.

“There’s potential there,” Hendrix said, but he added that using the vehicles in the ASW role would be complicated.

“A lot of times doing anti-submarine warfare, there’s a lot of human intuition that comes into play, or human ability to look at a sensor, which is a very confused sensor, and pick out the information” that may indicate the presence of a submarine, he said.

Much of the midrange mission vacated by the S-3 Viking is done within line-of-sight communication, meaning a range in which sensors can communicate with one another, so, Hendrix said, “you could use an unmanned platform to go out and drop sonobuoys or other sensors … and then monitor them, or be the relay aircraft to send their information back to” the ASW station aboard the carrier, where humans would be watching.

“I could see an unmanned platform playing in that role in the future.”

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

MIGHTY MILSPOUSE

B-2 stealth bombers are learning new tricks, sending message to Russia

Three US Air Force B-2 Spirit stealth bombers, airmen, and support equipment from the 509th Bomb Wing at Whiteman Air Force Base in Missouri arrived in the United Kingdom on Aug. 27, 2019, for a Bomber Task Force deployment.

It’s not the first time B-2s have flown out of RAF Fairford, the Air Force’s forward operating location for the bombers.

The presence is a “continuation” of what the US military and European partners have done since Russia seized Crimea in 2014, said Jim Townsend, adjunct senior fellow in the Transatlantic Security Program at the Center for a New American Security. “It’s a matter of just continuing to show that we can operate at any level, whether it’s with a B-2 or it’s a lower level, [and] then we can operate where we need to in Europe, including in the Arctic.”


But within days of arriving the B-2s had done several new things that may have been as much about sending a message to rivals as they were about testing pilots and crews.

“B-2s and bombers have always been as much about the signaling as the capability,” said Christopher Skaluba, director of the Transatlantic Security Initiative at the Atlantic Council.

See what the B-2s have been up to and for whom their message is meant.

First air-to-air images of supersonic shockwave in flight captured

Airman 1st Class Austin Sawchuk, a crew chief assigned to the 509th Bomb Wing, marshals in a B-2 on the flight line at RAF Fairford, Aug. 27, 2019.

(US Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Kayla White)

First air-to-air images of supersonic shockwave in flight captured

A B-2 Spirit stealth bomber lands at Keflavik Air Base in Iceland, Aug. 28, 2019. It was the B-2 bomber’s first time landing in Iceland.

(US Air Force photo by Senior Airman Thomas Barley)

A day after arriving in the UK, a B-2 landed in Iceland — the bomber’s first time there.

Using “strategic bombers in Iceland helps exercise Keflavik Air Base as a forward location for the B-2, ensuring that it is engaged, postured and ready with credible force,” US Air Forces Europe said in a caption on one of the accompanying photos.

Despite that phrasing, “Iceland is not considered a forward operating location similar to RAF Fairford,” US Air Forces Europe said in an emailed statement.

“Training outside the US enables aircrew and airmen to become familiar with other theaters and airspace and enhances enduring skills and relationships necessary to confront a broad range of global challenges in support of the National Defense Strategy,” the statement said.

First air-to-air images of supersonic shockwave in flight captured

509th Logistics Readiness Squadron fuel-distribution operators conduct hot-pit refueling on a B-2 bomber at Keflavik Air Base, Aug. 28, 2019.

(US Air Force photo by Senior Airman Thomas Barley)

First air-to-air images of supersonic shockwave in flight captured

US Air Force fuel-distribution operators conduct hot-pit refueling on a B-2 at Keflavik Air Base, Aug. 28, 2019.

(US Air Force photo by Senior Airman Thomas Barley)

Astride sea lines between the North Atlantic and the Arctic, Iceland also likely provides “geographical advantages in terms of things we’re worried about the Russians doing,” Skaluba said. “There’s probably, for certain missions or certain mission sets, a little bit of an advantage to use [Keflavik] over UK bases.”

Russian forces are increasingly active in the North Atlantic, the North Sea, the Arctic, the Norwegian Sea, and in the GIUK Gap, which refers to the waters between Greenland, Iceland, and the UK — “so in and around Iceland with their own kind of high-end capabilities including nuclear subs and advanced fighters,” Skaluba said.

“So I think that this is a signal that the US, the UK, [and] NATO, are watching Russia closely, in clearly a little bit of, ‘Hey, we can match you with high-end capabilities in this geography,'” Skaluba said.

First air-to-air images of supersonic shockwave in flight captured

A B-2 Spirit stealth bomber taxis at Keflavik Air Base, Aug. 28, 2019.

(US Air Force photo by Senior Airman Thomas Barley)

The message may not only be for Russia.

“There’s a lot of Chinese investments,” Skaluba said. “There’s a big Chinese embassy in Reykjavik. I think that it’s in the first instance about the Russians, but there’s clearly some broader signaling going on, and I don’t think it’s a mistake that there’s a big Chinese presence in Reykjavik and that we landed the bombers there.”

First air-to-air images of supersonic shockwave in flight captured

UK F-35B Lightning fighter jets fly with US Air Force B-2 Spirit stealth bombers for the first time, Aug. 29, 2019.

(US Air Force/UK Ministry of Defense)

A day after the Iceland landing, B-2s flew along the English coast with Royal Air Force F-35Bs. It was the first time the stealth bomber had flown with the British Joint Strike Fighter — and with any non-US F-35.

Source: The Aviationist

First air-to-air images of supersonic shockwave in flight captured

A US Air Force B-2 Spirit flies above the English countryside near Dover with two RAF F-35 jets, Aug. 29, 2019.

(US Air Force/UK Ministry of Defense)

First air-to-air images of supersonic shockwave in flight captured

Two US Air Force B-2 Spirit stealth bombers fly alongside two RAF F-35B Lightnings near the White Cliffs of Dover, Aug. 29, 2019.

(US Air Force/UK Ministry of Defense)

First air-to-air images of supersonic shockwave in flight captured

A US Air Force B-2 Spirit flies along the English coast near Dover with two RAF F-35 jets.

(US Air Force/UK Ministry of Defense)

Like the B-2, the F-35 is a stealth aircraft, meant to evade air-defense systems like the ones stationed around Europe, particularly Russian systems across Eastern Europe.

Russia’s Baltic exclave, Kaliningrad, bristles with anti-access/area-denial, or A2/AD, weaponry, and Moscow has added such A2/AD systems to Crimea since its 2014 seizure.

Russian “A2/AD capability [runs] from the high north through Kaliningrad, down to Crimea and all the way down into [Russia’s] base at Tartus in Syria,” Ben Hodges, former commander of the US Army in Europe, told Business Insider in late 2018, creating what he called “an arc of A2/AD.”

First air-to-air images of supersonic shockwave in flight captured

A US Air Force B-2 bomber over the English countryside near Dover, Aug. 29, 2019.

(Royal Air Force)

The first-of-its-kind joint flight also came at a time when the US-UK special relationship might not be in the best shape, Skaluba added.

“This is kind of a reminder that the UK is the US partner of choice in security and defense, and frankly the UK is one of the few militaries globally that can…operate with the US at the high-end of the capability spectrum,” Skaluba said.

First air-to-air images of supersonic shockwave in flight captured

A B-2 Spirit approaches a KC-135 Stratotanker to receive fuel over the Norwegian Sea, Sept. 5, 2019.

(US Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Jordan Castelan)

First air-to-air images of supersonic shockwave in flight captured

A B-2 Spirit approaches a KC-135 Stratotanker for refueling over the Norwegian Sea, Sept. 5, 2019.

(US Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Jordan Castelan)

The US has been more active in the Arctic in recent years, largely out of concern about competition in the region, particularly with Russia and China, as climate change makes it more accessible.

In October 2018, a US aircraft carrier sailed above the Arctic Circle for the first time since the Cold War.

First air-to-air images of supersonic shockwave in flight captured

A B-2 Spirit approaches a KC-135 Stratotanker over the Norwegian Sea, Sept. 5, 2019.

(US Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Jordan Castelan)

The B-2s first Arctic flight may have been made possible by changing conditions there. “But really it’s about the signaling,” Skaluba said.

The US, NATO, and Arctic countries are concerned “that Russia is being more aggressive on the security front in the Arctic,” and China has sought a larger role in the region. “We’re seeing competitor moves into the Arctic in different ways,” Skaluba said.

Russia shares an Arctic border with Norway, Sweden, and Finland, and all three countries are close to the Kola Peninsula base that is home to both Russia’s Northern Fleet and nuclear weapons storage and test facilities.

Norway is the only one of the three that is a member of NATO, but all the Nordic countries have kept a close eye on Russian missile tests in the region and on its Arctic combat forces.

First air-to-air images of supersonic shockwave in flight captured

A B-2 Spirit approaches a KC-135 Stratotanker over the Norwegian Sea, Sept. 5, 2019.

(US Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Jordan Castelan)

“There was a time right after Crimea when the Obama administration didn’t want to do anything to provoke the Russians,” Townsend said.

“So just sending B-52s over the Baltic was something that had to be cleared at a pretty high level,” Townsend said, adding that there has always been recognition of not wanting to provoke Russia by sending bombers close to its borders. “For whatever reason, the feeling must’ve been that was worth doing this time around.”

Skaluba also pointed to a recent speech by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo at a meeting of the Arctic Council, in which Pompeo said the Arctic had “become an arena of global power and competition.”

Within the eight-member Arctic Council, which includes Russia, “there’s still a lot of practical cooperation … but I’m sure it’s not a coincidence that Pompeo got everybody a little bit upset … talking about [how] we need to talk security issues, and then the US sends some big-time military assets up into the region.”

“So I think this a bit of a banging of the drum or pounding on the table from the US that we need to think about the Arctic in security terms, and on our own we’re going to do that, no matter what anybody else does. But it’s a clear signal to the Russians and the Chinese, no doubt.”

First air-to-air images of supersonic shockwave in flight captured

A B-2 stealth bomber takes off from Lajes Field in the Azores, Portugal, Sept. 9, 2019.

(US Air Force photo by Ricky Baptista)

The B-2s have continued to train around Europe in September, including a trip to the Azores where the bombers conducted hot-pit refueling, in which ground crew refuels an aircraft while its engines are running, allowing it to get back into the air as quickly as possible.

“As a fulcrum point of the Atlantic Air Bridge, Lajes Field provides the US Department of Defense and allied nations a power-projection platform for credible combat forces across Europe and Africa,” US Air Forces Europe said in a release.

First air-to-air images of supersonic shockwave in flight captured

A B-2 performs a touch-and-go at RAF Fairford, Sept. 11, 2019.

(US Air Force photo by Senior Airman Thomas Barley)

The bombers also performed touch-and-go drills at Fairford, during which the bombers land and take off again without coming to a complete stop, allowing pilots to practice many landings in a short period of time.

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

MIGHTY MOVIES

9 Vietnam War movies you’ve got to watch

If you’re hunting for great Vietnam war movies about the conflict and its afterrmath, look no further.

Compiled by the staff of Military.com, some of these are surprising and possibly controversial.

Check out our Vietnam movie recommendations below and share your favorites in the comments.


1. Full Metal Jacket

Besides adding the phrase “major malfunction” to the lexicon of American pop culture, “Full Metal Jacket” gave us the most riveting, foul-mouthed boot camp scene in the history of cinema. R. Lee Ermey’s portrayal of “Gunny Hartman” dominated the movie’s first half. Such a sustained volley of X-rated insults, hurled effortlessly at petrified recruits, could only come from years of experience as a Marine Corps drill instructor – and Ermey had been one. “The more you hate me, the more you will learn,” he tells his Vietnam-bound grunts. Gunny’s six-minute tirade sets the stage for the murderous outcome that closes the first act of Kubrick’s Vietnam movie masterpiece. Casting a real-life DI as a DI: Pure genius. — Marty Callaghan

GOOD MORNING, VIETNAM – Trailer

www.youtube.com

2. Good Morning Vietnam

One of Robin Williams’s best roles, this movie brilliantly captures the experience of the Vietnam War through the eyes of someone not actively engaged in the fighting: real life Air Force radio personality Adrian Cronauer. His battles against inept leadership and the mindless bureaucracy that survives–even in a war zone–are something many service members can relate to. His rebellion against what he’s told to do is inspiring and then as he seeks to make his tour less of a soup sandwich by engaging with the local population and helping them, he is ultimately reminded that he is there to fight a war and war does in fact rage all around him. — Sarah Blansett

Rolling Thunder (1977) Trailer

www.youtube.com

3. Rolling Thunder

“Rolling Thunder” is neither sensitive to nor concerned with the actual experiences of returning Vietnam POWs. It didn’t win any awards or play in any theater more prestigious than the local drive-in. It’s a low-budget fever dream written by Paul Schrader (Taxi Driver, Raging Bull) and directed by the underrated John Flynn (“Out for Justice” starring Steven Seagal and “The Outfit” starring Robert Duvall are both worth tracking down. What you get is a revenge fantasy for every Vietnam war vet who felt the hate when he returned from service.

Major Charle Rane (William Devane) and Johnny Vohden (Tommy Lee Jones) are prisoners of war who get a hero’s welcome on the tarmac when they return to Texas, but things come unraveled immediately thereafter. Devane’s wife announces on his first night home that she’s leaving him for Jody and taking their son. He later gets awarded a Cadillac convertible and a huge box of silver dollars (one for each day in captivity) by the San Antonio city fathers. Some criminal hillbillies see the exchange on the TV news and track him down to steal that money. When he refuses to cooperate, they feed his arm into the garbage disposal and kill his soon-to-be ex-wife and son when they drop by the house to get their stuff.

Rane gets himself a hook to replace his mangled hand and takes up with Linda Forchet (Linda Haynes), a young woman who wore his POW bracelet while he was in North Vietnam. Rane goes on a hunt to deliver justice to the men who killed his family and picks up Johnny in El Paso along the way to help with the mission.

It’s lurid and cathartic, tapping into the same frustration and rage that many of the more awards-friendly Vietnam war movies on this list try to highlight. Sometimes primitive and outlandish works just as well as sensitive and thoughtful when you’re trying to work things out. — James Barber

Bullet In The Head Trailer HD (1990 John Woo)

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4. Bullet in the Head

Part “The Deer Hunter” (see roulette scene) and part “The Killer” but one hundred percent highly stylized John Woo.

After trouble with local gangsters in Hong Kong, three best friends flee to Vietnam at the height of the war in hopes to profit from black market penicillin and gold. The trio is soon captured by the Vietcong who force them to make a choice that will test the limits of their friendship.

Woo’s subtext to the movie relies on and attempts to recreate (as does “The Deer Hunter”) the infamous news photo of General Nguyen Ngoc Loan executing a Viet Cong prisoner in Saigon. While some scenes seem contrived, when taken in context of the Vietnam war, the chaos feels right at home, even welcome. — Sean Mclain Brown

Hamburger Hill – Trailer

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5. Hamburger Hill

“Hamburger Hill” is a gritty war film that focuses on the lives of 14 soldiers from the 101st Airborne Division’s B Company, 3rd Battalion, 187th Infantry Regiment during the 12-day battle that occurred May 10-21, 1969, in the northern part of South Vietnam near the A Shau Valley.

I saw the movie when it came out in 1987 as a young infantryman in the 82nd Airborne Division. I still remember that the film’s depiction of the actual battle left me, and other members of my platoon, in awe of how these Screaming Eagles endured an up-hill fight against a well-entrenched enemy under the most miserable conditions.

The Vietman war movie features a young Don Cheadle, Dylan McDermott and Steven Weber, who later played Brian Hackett in the 1990s sitcom “Wings.” One of the most powerful performances came from Courtney B. Vance who played Spec. Abraham “Doc” Johnson.

The real battle of Hamburger Hill left about 500 enemy soldiers dead. Taking the hill claimed the lives of 39 soldiers from the 187th and left 290 wounded.

To me, “Hamburger Hill” stacks up to “Platoon,” “We were Soldiers” or any other film out there that focuses on the sacrifices infantrymen made during the Vietnam War. — Matthew Cox

Rambo: First Blood – Trailer

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6. First Blood

When you think of Vietnam war movies you generally don’t think about Rambo. But the first movie in the Rambo series, “First Blood,” was in my opinion one of the best Vietnam war movies made.

Rambo meets a megalomaniacal small town police chief who doesn’t want any long-haired drifters hanging around his town, veteran or not. Rambo just wants to be left alone, the police chief wants to make a point, and you know the rest of the story.

Many people around today don’t remember when every veteran wasn’t told “thank you for your service”, or given discounts at every store. This movie shows much of the hate and discontent that returning veterans faced after Vietnam.

Vietnam veterans were drafted and sent away to somewhere that even today 90% of Americans couldn’t find on a map. The war dragged on forever and many think that we could have won.

This Vietman war movie educated the general public to the fact that Vietnam veterans lived through hell, both in the war and when they came back home, for that it deserves to be watched again and appreciated as a statement on the reality that all veterans face when they return to civilian life. — Jim Absher

Apocalypse Now (1979) Official Trailer – Martin Sheen, Robert Duvall Drama Movie HD

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7. Apocalypse Now

“Apocalypse Now” contains a lot of things I love in film – heavy use of symbolism and themes as well as exceptional acting and cinematography. Coppola does a great job of reworking Conrad’s Heart of Darkness for the Vietnam War, extending the themes of imperialism to include the madness of war, while also mixing in Dante. However, the movie feels like an abstraction, not a realistic depiction, and you could easily adapt the same script to our current involvement in Afghanistan. — John Rodriguez

Platoon Official Trailer #1 – Charlie Sheen, Keith David Movie (1986) HD

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8. Platoon

“Platoon” on the other hand plays like a more realistic depiction of the Vietnam War from a soldier’s perspective, which makes sense as Oliver Stone is a Vietnam combat vet. In general the characters are more fleshed out than in similar movies like “Hamburger Hill,” although I do have a hard time taking Charlie Sheen seriously; he’s no Martin. — John Rodriguez

The Deer Hunter – Trailer

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9. The Deer Hunter

Other Vietnam War movies have more grandeur or explosive moments, but Michael Cimino’s “The Deer Hunter” cuts the deepest. Never before had a movie about the conflict tackled head-on the emotional issues that afflict those who serve, come home, and struggle to find a place for themselves — and it’s fair to say no Vietnam War movie has ever captured the rhythms and sorrows of small-town life in the US as well as “The Deer Hunter “does.

The cast alone elevates the movie to among the best ever made: Robert De Niro, Meryl Streep, Christopher Walken in a star-making performance, and John Cazale (Fredo from the “Godfather ” movies) in his very last role before his tragic early death from bone cancer.

Looking for memorable moments? Just utter the words “Russian roulette,” and any movie aficionado will recall the harrowing POW sequences in this film. “The Deer Hunter” is not without controversy — director Cimino reportedly claimed he was in an Army Green Beret unit, but records show he only served briefly before the war started — and watching the movie can be a punishing experience. But as a lyrical, moving piece of cinema that sticks with you, very few movies can come close. — Ho Lin

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


MIGHTY TRENDING

Explainer: Anger among Iranians over long-term deal with China

Iran is negotiating a controversial 25-year agreement with China that has led to accusations that parts of Iran are being sold to Beijing.

Some critics — including the U.S. State Department — are comparing the proposed deal to the 1828 Treaty of Turkmenchay between Persia and tsarist Russia, under which the Persians ceded control of territory in the South Caucasus.

Iranian officials have dismissed the criticism as baseless while promising to make the text of the agreement public once it is finalized.

What Do We Know About The Agreement?

The pact was proposed in a January 2016 trip to Iran by Chinese President Xi Jinping during which the two sides agreed to establish their ties based on a Comprehensive Strategic Partnership, while announcing discussions would begin aimed at concluding a 25-year bilateral pact.

The announcement received the support of Iran’s highest authority, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who was quoted by Iranian media as saying that the agreement reached between the two sides was “wise.”

The text of the agreement, which will need to be approved by parliament, has not been released. But in recent days an 18-page document has been making the rounds on social media that outlines future cooperation between the countries, including Chinese investment in Iran’s energy sector as well as in the country’s free-trade zones.

RFE/RL cannot verify the authenticity of the document, which has been cited by some Iranian and Western media as a leaked version of the planned pact between Iran and China.

Analysts note the agreement being circulated is very light on details and appears to be the framework of a potential deal.

According to the text, which is labeled “final edit” on its front page and dated the Iranian month of Khordad — which starts May 21 and ends June 19 — the two sides will also increase military and security cooperation while working on joint-projects in third countries.

Iran has in recent months increasingly reached out to China in the face of growing U.S. pressure to isolate Tehran. China remains Iran’s main trading partner but trade between the two sides has dropped due to U.S. pressure in recent years.

Analysts say China is not ready to give Tehran the support it seeks while also suggesting that some of the cooperation envisaged in the pact may never materialize.

Ariane Tabatabai, a Middle East fellow at the Alliance for Securing Democracy at the German Marshall Fund of the United States, said, given its importance, the U.S. will always trump Iran for China.

“Iran is a small, risky market, sanctions have severely impeded business [there], and the regime is isolated,” she told RFE/RL. “Meanwhile, China has major economic interests in the U.S. and the trade war is still an important concern for China, which will inevitably shape its relationship with Iran.”

“If we look into what we know about the document and make some educated guesses, we see that the agreement is little more than a comprehensive road map based on the 2016 framework, which does not resolve the main issue of the China-Iran partnership — its implementation,” Jacopo Scita, an Al-Sabah doctoral fellow at Durham University, told RFE/RL.

Why Is The Treaty Controversial?

The pact is being discussed at a time when Iran is under intense pressure due to harsh U.S. sanctions that have crippled the economy and a deadly coronavirus pandemic that has worsened the economic situation.

The timing as well as the scope and duration of the agreement has led to increased concerns that Tehran is negotiating with China from a position of weakness while giving Beijing access to Iran’s natural resources for many years to come.

A distrust in the Iranian authorities that intensified after a deadly November crackdown on antiestablishment protests and the downing of a Ukrainian passenger jet — which was initially seen as a coverup — has also contributed to the criticism of the proposed deal.

A lack of trust in China, as well as rising anti-China sentiments due to the coronavirus pandemic, has also contributed to the controversy surrounding the pact.

Tabatabai, the co-author of a book on Iranian ties with Russia and China, says the relationship between Tehran and Beijing has long been perceived as benefiting China far more than Iran.

“The perception isn’t fully inaccurate,” she said. “From the elite’s perspective, China makes big promises and delivers little. And from the population’s perspective, China has been benefiting from the sanctions on Iran, it’s flooded the Iranian market, pushed out Iranian businesses, and has delivered products that are subpar.”

She added: “Many Iranians feel like this deal will cement this unbalanced relationship.”

What Are The Critics Saying?

Criticism of the planned pact appears to have increased following comments by former President Mahmud Ahmadinejad, who warned in a speech in late June that a 25-year agreement with “a foreign country” was being discussed “away from the eyes of the Iranian nation.”

Others have since joined the criticism, including former conservative lawmaker Ali Motahari, who appeared to suggest on Twitter that before signing the pact Iran should raise the fate of Muslims who are reportedly being persecuted in China.

Scita, who closely follows Iranian-Chinese relations, says some of the hype and anger surrounding the agreement were boosted by public figures with political agendas, including Ahmadinejad, who is said to be eying the 2021 presidential election.

The exiled son of the shah of Iran, the country’s last monarch who was ousted following the 1979 Islamic Revolution, has also criticized the pact.

Reza Pahlavi, who’s taken an increasingly active role against the Islamic republic, blasted the “shameful, 25-year treaty with China that plunders our natural resources and places foreign soldiers on our soil.” He also called on his supporters to oppose the treaty.

Twitter

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The Persian account of the U.S. State Department referred to the planned agreement as a “second Turkmenchay” and said that Tehran is afraid to share the details of the pact because “no part of it is beneficial to the Iranian people.”

What Are Iranian Officials Saying?

Earlier this month, Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif confirmed that Tehran was negotiating an agreement with China “with confidence and conviction,” while insisting there was nothing secret about it.

Since then, officials have defended the deal while dismissing claims that Iran will sell discounted oil to China or give Kish Island to Beijing.

President Hassan Rohani’s chief of staff, Mahmud Vaezi, said over the weekend that the framework of the agreement has been defined, adding that the negotiations are likely to be finalized by March 21.

Vaezi also said the agreement does not include foreign control over any Iranian islands or the deployment of Chinese military forces in the country.

This article originally appeared on Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. Follow @RFERL on Twitter.

MIGHTY MOVIES

This Netflix series will tell the stories of Medal of Honor recipients

The Medal of Honor is unlike any other accolade in the United States Armed Forces. It’s not something that you “win.” It’s something bestowed only to those who have shown the highest level of valor and sacrifice in the face of the enemy to save their brothers- and sisters-in-arms.

The story written onto each Medal of Honor’s citation tells of the moment a service member risked everything without hesitation. Not all recipients come away from those moments with their life and, oftentimes, it’s their brothers that carry the story onward for the world to hear.

Now, Robert Zemeckis, Academy Award winning director of Forrest Gump, and James Moll, director of the Academy Award-winning documentary, The Last Days, are showcasing these valorous tales on Netflix with the upcoming docuseries, Medal of Honor.


Medal of Honor will be an eight-part anthology series told through a mixture of interviews, reenactments, and real, live-action footage. In order to authentically capture what transpired in those fateful moments, the series will make use of archival footage and commentary from historians, veterans who were present, and family members who know these heroes best.

Creating a series about an award as prestigious as the Medal of Honor comes with a certain gravity, that producer James Moll recognizes. He said,

“There’s a huge responsibility that comes with telling stories of the Medal of Honor. We’re depicting actions that exemplify the greatest, most selfless qualities that any person can embody. We never took that fact lightly. We constantly questioned ourselves, demanding that these stories be handled with tremendous integrity at every step.”

“We were fortunate to have quite a few veterans working with us on the production, and we had quite a few crew members whose close family members had served or were currently serving.”

Mike Dowling, a Marine Corps veteran, co-founder of the Veterans in Film Television, and a former member of the We Are The Mighty team is on staff as the series’ military advisor/associate producer.

The series is set to premiere on Netflix on November 9th, 2018 — the Friday of Veteran’s Day weekend.

Catch the trailer below:

Each featured Medal of Honor recipient will have an episode devoted to their story. The recipients to be featured in the first season of the series include:

  1. Sergeant Sylvester Antolak (United States Army) — World War II
  2. Staff Sergeant Clint Romesha (United States Army) — Global War on Terrorism
  3. Staff Sergeant Ty Carter (United States Army) — Global War on Terrorism
  4. Staff Sergeant Edward Carter (United States Army) — World War II
  5. Corporal Hiroshi “Hershey” Miyamura (United States Army) — Korean War
  6. Master Sergeant Vito Bertoldo (United States Army) — World War II
  7. Corporal Joseph Vittori (United States Marine Corps) — Korean War
  8. Chief Master Sergeant Richard L. “Dick” Etcherberger (United States Air Force) — Vietnam War
MIGHTY TACTICAL

Navy prepares to test its revolutionary carrier drone

The Navy will launch formal flight testing in 2021 for a new, first-of-its kind carrier-launched drone engineered to double the attack range of F-18 fighters, F-35Cs, and other carrier aircraft.

The emerging Navy MQ-25 Stingray program, to enter service in the mid-2020s, will bring a new generation of technology by engineering a new unmanned re-fueler for the carrier air wing.

“The program expects to be in flight test by 2021 and achieve initial operational capability by 2024,” Jamie Cosgrove, spokeswoman for Naval Air Systems Command, told Warrior Maven.

The Navy recently awarded a development deal to Boeing to further engineer and test the MQ-25.


A central key question informs the core of this technology effort: What if the attack capability of carrier fighters, such as an F-18 or F-35C, could double the range at which they hold enemy targets at risk? Could such a prospect substantially extend the envelope of offensive attack operations, while allowing carriers themselves to operate at safer distances?

The Navy believes so; “the MQ-25 will provide a robust organic refueling capability, extending the range of the carrier air wing to make better use of Navy combat strike fighters,” Cosgrove said.

Perhaps enemy targets 1,000 miles away, at sea or deep inland, could successfully be destroyed by carrier-launched fighters operating with a vastly expanded combat radius. Wouldn’t this be of crucial importance in a world of quickly evolving high-tech missile and aircraft threats from potential adversaries such as near-peer rivals? Perhaps of equal or greater relevance, what if the re-fueler were a drone, able to operate in forward high-risk locations to support fighter jets – all while not placing a large manned tanker aircraft within range of enemy fire?

First air-to-air images of supersonic shockwave in flight captured

Boeing’s MQ-25 Stingray.

(Boeing photo)

The emergence of a drone of this kind bears prominently upon ongoing questions about the future of aircraft carriers in light of today’s fast-changing threat environment. Chinese DF-21D and DF-26 anti-ship guided missiles, for instance, are said to be able to destroy targets as far away as 900 nautical miles. While there is some question about these weapon’s ability to strike moving targets, and carriers of course are armed with a wide range of layered defenses, the Chinese weapon does bring a substantial risk potentially great enough to require carriers to operate much further from shore.

In this scenario, these Chinese so-called “carrier-killer” missiles could, quite possibly, push a carrier back to a point where its fighters no longer have range to strike inland enemy targets from the air. The new drone is being engineered, at least in large measure, as a specific way to address this problem. If the attack distance of an F-18, which might have a combat radius of 500 miles or so, can double – then carrier-based fighters can strike targets as far as 1000 miles away if they are refueled from the air.

Also, despite the emergence of weapons such as the DF-21D, senior Navy leaders and some analysts have questioned the ability of precision-guided long-range missile to actually hit and destroy carriers on the move at 30-knots from 1,000 miles away. Targeting, guidance on the move fire control, ISR and other assets are necessary for these kinds of weapons to function as advertised. GPS, inertial measurement units, advanced sensors and dual-mode seekers are part of a handful of fast-developing technologies able to address some of these challenges, yet it does not seem clear that long-range anti-ship missiles such as the DF-21D will actually be able to destroy carriers on the move at the described distances.

First air-to-air images of supersonic shockwave in flight captured

A U.S. Navy X-47B unmanned combat air system demonstrator aircraft prepares to launch from the flight deck of the aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt.

Furthermore, the Navy is rapidly advancing ship-based defensive weapons, electronic warfare applications, lasers, and technologies able to identify and destroy approaching anti-ship cruise missile from ranges beyond the horizon. Carriers often travel in Carrier Strike Groups where they are surrounded by destroyers and cruisers able to provide additional protection. One such example of this includes the now-deployed Naval Integrated Fire Control – Counter Air system, or NIFC-CA. This technology combines ship-based radar and fire control systems with an aerial sensor and dual-mode SM-6 missile to track and destroy approaching threats from beyond-the-horizon. Ship-based laser weapons and rail guns, in addition, could be among lower-cost ship defense weapons as well.

The MQ-25A Stingray is evolving out of a now-cancelled carrier-launched ISR and attack drone program called Unmanned Carrier Launched Airborne Surveillance and Strike system, or UCLASS.

A Northrop demonstrator aircraft, called the X-47B, has already performed successful carrier drone take-offs and landings. Accordingly, the ability of the Navy to operate a drone on an aircraft carrier is already progressing and has been demonstrated.

An existing large fuselage tanker, such as the emerging Air Force KC-46A, might have too large a radar signature and therefore be far too vulnerable to enemy attack. This, quite naturally, then creates the need for a drone able to better elude enemy radar and refuel attack aircraft on its way to a mission.

The early engineering process thus far has been geared toward MQ-25A Stingray technical and task analysis efforts spanning air vehicle capabilities, carrier suitability and integration, missions systems and software — including cybersecurity.

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

Las Vegas hotel is suing 2017 mass shooting victims

The owners of the Las Vegas hotel that was the scene of the worst mass shooting in U.S. history is counter-suing victims who are suing the hotel for negligence.

Fifty-eight people were killed and hundreds wounded when Stephen Paddock fired on a concert from his room at the Mandalay Bay hotel in October 2017. Paddock killed himself as police moved in.


Hundreds of victims have filed suit against MGM Resorts, which owns the Mandalay Bay, accusing the company of negligence for failing to monitor the hotel’s guests and for allowing Paddock to stockpile an arsenal of high-powered weapons and ammunition in his room in the days leading up to the massacre.

MGM Resorts, filed suit against the victims in July 2018, alleging those wounded or whose relatives were killed cannot sue the hotel.

First air-to-air images of supersonic shockwave in flight captured

President Trump visits a Las Vegas shooting victim.

(Official White House Photo by Shealah Craighead)

MGM cites a 2002 federal law that limits liabilities against businesses that take certain steps to “prevent and respond to mass violence.”

MGM says the security company it employed at the concert was certified by the Department of Homeland Security.

But Las Vegas lawyer Robert Eglet, who represents about 1000 of the victims, says the company providing security at the hotel, from where Paddock fired his shots, was not certified.

“MGM has done something that in over 30 years of practice is the most outrageous thing I have ever seen. They have sued the families of the victims while they’re still grieving over their loved ones,” Eglet said.

This article originally appeared on Voice of America News. Follow @VOANews on Twitter.

popular

4 reasons why Maverick would be a sh*tty Top Gun instructor

It’s just about here – the sequel aviation and military buffs have been patiently waiting for.


“Top Gun: Maverick” was supposed to fly onto the big screen in July but was pushed back to December due to COVID-19. The sequel with Tom Cruise returning in the starring role as hotshot naval aviator LT Pete “Maverick” Mitchell, a graduate of the U.S. Navy’s elite TOPGUN school and a career fighter pilot flying the Grumman F-14 Tomcat.

Though not a whole lot of information about the new movie has been released just yet, it’s generally understood that Maverick will be an instructor or something similar, teaching the next generation of fighter pilots how to push themselves and their aircraft to the limit.

While a lot has changed in the three decades since Maverick first set foot on TOPGUN’s campus at NAS Miramar (now a Marine Corps base), one thing remains absolutely certain — Maverick really shouldn’t be anywhere near the school, especially as an instructor.

From his downright reckless flying to his cavalier attitude, this aviator is no example for new TOPGUN candidates, and he definitely shouldn’t be in a position to instruct them.

Here are four reasons why Maverick might actually be the worst possible choice to be a TOPGUN instructor in the sequel:

1. He wasn’t even the best pilot at Top Gun!

 

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Mav barely even showed up at his graduation from Top Gun, so how on God’s Green Earth could he one day become an instructor? (Paramount Pictures)

Far from it.

In fact, Maverick didn’t even come close to winning the top graduate award at the end of the program, losing his edge and competitiveness after his radar intercept officer, Lt. JG Nick “Goose” Bradshaw, died during a training exercise gone wrong.

In convincing him to return to the program, “Viper” — TOPGUN’s head honcho in the movie — lets the depressed soon-to-be washout know that he has enough points to graduate with the rest of his class… but certainly not enough to achieve the award for best pilot.

Instead, it’s Maverick’s classmate and fierce rival, Lt. Tom “Iceman” Kazanski who took the plaque for first place (and gains the option to return to TOPGUN as an instructor). If anything, being that the program is designed to mature the most capable of all Navy fighter pilots currently serving, shouldn’t they only learn from the best?

2. He’s definitely not a team player

First air-to-air images of supersonic shockwave in flight captured
“You never, never leave your wingman.” – Lt. Cmdr. Rick “Jester” Heatherly (Paramount Pictures)

 

This is alarmingly evident from the very beginning of the movie, when the young pilot and his backseater decide to leave a fellow Tomcat behind and completely exposed to do a little showboating.

Instead of covering his wingman, Maverick pulls his F-14 over an enemy MiG-28 for Goose to take vanity images with a Polaroid camera. Meanwhile, “Cougar” and “Merlin” — the two aircrew of the other F-14 — are mercilessly hounded by another MiG fighter, causing Cougar to lose his edge and turn in his wings after nearly crashing his jet.

Over at Miramar, Maverick once again draws the ire of his fellow classmates by leaving them behind during training exercises, choosing instead to selfishly pursue Viper while allowing his wingmen to take a hit.

3. He’s too reckless and narcissistic

 

First air-to-air images of supersonic shockwave in flight captured
(Paramount Pictures)

Every time Maverick goes up, he flies dangerously.

It’s a chronic problem and he doesn’t know how to solve it. From buzzing control towers to his inverted encounter with the MiG-28 to his training sorties at TOPGUN, Maverick just doesn’t know how to turn off his recklessness.

At times, he’s even been known to disobey direct orders from commanding officers. His superiors call him out on it repeatedly, from his time in the fleet aboard the USS Enterprise to his antics at TOPGUN, darting below the “hard deck” to get a radar lock on one of his instructors.

Perhaps this is a result of his inherent narcissism… a trait unbecoming of a potential TOPGUN instructor pilot. The young naval aviator is frankly way too self-absorbed to be an instructor given his penchant for doing things that would ultimately give himself the glory.

4. He’s way too old to be an instructor anyways

First air-to-air images of supersonic shockwave in flight captured
The Navy retired the F-14 Tomcat, made famous by Top Gun, 11 years ago (Paramount Pictures)

Let’s do the math here — “Top Gun” was released in 1986, over 3 decades ago. By the time the sequel makes its appearance on the silver screen, 34 years will have elapsed since Maverick’s stint at the former NAS Miramar. Let’s add another four years to that, since Maverick was a lieutenant back when he first entered the TOPGUN program… which brings us to a grand total of 37 years.

The vast majority of military officers don’t even have careers that long! Given Maverick’s penchant for angering people in authority over him, it’s unlikely that he’d still be in the Navy, though it’s also possible that he got relegated to a desk job, ending his flying career, where he might remain today.

With that being said, fighter pilots also have a “shelf life.” There’s only so much wear and tear that their bodies can take from the physical and mental stress of flying high-performance fighter aircraft, and most tend to either leave the cockpit due to advancement, or out of a personal choice to accept a less-strenuous job elsewhere (within or outside the service) within 15-20 years.

OF COURSE we’re going to see the new “Top Gun” when it comes out. But we’ll be looking to make sure that if Maverick is indeed an instructor, he’s matured from his previously reckless ways.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Is the US putting sailors at risk by sending a carrier to Iran?

John Bolton, President Donald Trump’s national security adviser, announced on May 5, 2019, that the US would send the USS Abraham Lincoln aircraft carrier and its associated strike group to the waters near Iran to “send a message” and respond to vague threats.

But the US will be sending the powerful carrier to a job it’s arguably ill-suited for, putting thousands of sailors at a major military disadvantage. And if a conflict were to arise, the sinking of a US aircraft carrier would be in Iran’s sights.

Though the carrier’s deployment to Iran’s nearby waters may have been planned long ago, Bolton has been clear that the ship’s return to the region marks a response to “a number of troubling and escalatory incident and warnings” from Iran.


While Bolton did not get into specifics, a report from Axios said Israel passed the US “information on an alleged Iranian plot to attack” US forces or interests in the region.

The Wall Street Journal cited US officials as saying new intelligence “showed that Iran drew up plans to target U.S. forces in Iraq and possibly Syria, to orchestrate attacks in the Bab el-Mandeb strait near Yemen through proxies and in the Persian Gulf with its own armed drones.”

First air-to-air images of supersonic shockwave in flight captured

(DoD photo)

US aircraft carrier strike groups represent the highest order of naval power ever put to sea, but they’re not the right tool for every job.

Caitlin Talmadge, an associate professor of security studies, said on Twitter that US carriers are “designed for operations on the open ocean.”

As a floating air base with guided-missile destroyers and cruisers sailing nearby for anti-missile defenses from land and sea, the carriers are best off when moving around far from the range of missiles fired from ashore.

The narrow, “confined waters of the Persian Gulf make carriers tremendously more vulnerable to asymmetric air, land, and naval threats,” wrote Talmadge.

Iran’s home field advantage could sink a tanker

In the shallow, brown waters of the Persian Gulf and the Strait of Hormuz, the narrow pass through which about a fifth of the world’s oil passes through, Iran’s outdated submarines and missiles see a vastly uneven playing ground leveled out.

“Ideally, a Nimitz class carrier would operate within comfortable range of its targets (based on the range of its air wing) but at sufficient stand-off distance to minimize the risk of enemy threats,” Omar Lamrani, a senior military analyst at Stratfor, a geopolitical consulting firm, told Business Insider. “This varies based on operating environment, but is usually between 300 to 400 nautical miles.”

Aircraft carriers do send a message, and have been relied on for such by presidents for decades, but according to Talmadge, it’s kind of empty in this situation.

First air-to-air images of supersonic shockwave in flight captured

The USS Abraham Lincoln makes a sharp turn at sea.

(AiirSource Military via Youtube)

In the Gulf wars, or against militants like ISIS, aircraft carriers made plenty of sense.

“Iraq has tiny coast, couldn’t contest US carrier presence, so unusual situation,” continued Talmadge, who pointed out that Iran was a different kind of beast.

But “Iran’s geography military capabilities, particularly presence of significant assets near Strait of Hormuz, make sailing carrier through Gulf a lot riskier, and w/ less benefit given US ability to deploy carriers in Arabian Sea Indian Ocean instead,” she said.

In fact, the Persian Gulf, Iran’s home waters, plays directly into their hands. One of Iran’s favorite and best documented ways to harass the US Navy is to use fast attack boats in a swarming attack.

Swarm boat attacks, would “not be much of a danger in the open sea,” where the carrier had room to maneuver, but could be a problem in the choked gulf.

“Iran has various systems that can be a threat within the Persian Gulf, including anti-ship cruise missiles, fast attack craft and swarm boats, mini-submarines, and even asymmetric tactics like UAV swarms that seek to harass rather than disable the carrier,” Lamrani continued.

First air-to-air images of supersonic shockwave in flight captured

Iran’s Ghadir submarine behind a US carrier strike group in a propaganda video.

(Iranian TV via MEMRI)

Aircraft carriers lack onboard defenses against torpedoes, something that an old Iranian submarine could manage. In the noisy brown waters of the Persian Gulf, the US Navy may also struggle to track such small boats.

Furthermore, Iranian media has fantasized for years about sinking an aircraft carrier. In the country’s state-controlled media, the massive ships are often seen as targets ripe for sinking.

With US-Iranian relations hitting a startling new low, the Trump administration’s decision to send an aircraft carrier to Tehran’s home waters seems a risky choice with little apparent payoff.

Accompanying the carrier deployment announced by Bolton was an increase in bombers in the region. As Business Insider reported before, Iran is highly unlikely to attack even small, exposed groups of US troops in the region because the response from nearby US airbases would all but obliterate the country.

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

Sending letters to Marine boot camp (2020)

Do you know someone who is going to Marine boot camp or who is already at boot camp? If so then your recruit is officially beginning their journey to becoming a United States Marine! Over the next 12 weeks, your recruit will be pushed beyond their limits and if successful be made into a Marine. Through this transformation, your recruit will need your support and motivation to help them succeed. Here is all you need to know about sending Letters to Marine boot camp.


First air-to-air images of supersonic shockwave in flight captured

MCRD San Diego Mailing Address

MCRD San Diego Mailing AddressSample Address
RECRUIT First Name, Last Name
#(st, nd, rd) BN “Company” Platoon ####
##### Midway Avenue
San Diego CA 92140-####
RECRUIT John Doe
1st BN Alpha Company Platoon 1000
38001 Midway Avenue
San Diego, CA. 92140-5670
First air-to-air images of supersonic shockwave in flight captured

MCRD Parris Island Mailing Address

MCRD Parris Island Mailing AddressSample Address
RECRUIT First Name, Last Name
#(st, nd, rd) BN “Company Name” Platoon ####
PO Box #####
Parris Island, SC 29905-####
RECRUIT John Doe
1st BN Alpha Company Platoon 1000
PO Box 16945
Parris Island, SC 29905-6945
First air-to-air images of supersonic shockwave in flight captured

What should I write in my Letters to Marine boot camp?

Over the next thirteen weeks recruits will be pushed beyond their limits and, if successful, transition into a United Staes Marine.

Mental and physical exhaustion will become a norm as the loved one you said goodbye to is transformed into a completely new person.

Mail call will be the most anticipated time of the day, and your recruit will enjoy receiving a lot of mail from your over the course of the next three months.

In case you ever face writer’s block, we’ve come up with some questions to ask your recruit when writing Letters to Marine boot camp.

1. What were your first thoughts when you got off of the bus and stepped onto the yellow footprints?

2. What time do your mornings start?

3. How delicious is the chow?

4. What has been the worst thing about boot camp?

5. If you could describe boot camp in one word what would it be?

6. How many recruits are in your platoon?

7. What’s the name of one friend you’ve made, where are they from?

8. On a scale of 1 to 10 how much fun are pugil stick battles?

9. What is one thing your platoon gets yelled at for the most?

10. What time do you normally get to sleep?

11. Have you been given a nickname?

12. Is there anyone in your platoon not receiving mail that I can write to?

13. Has it been hard to keep your rack area clean and in tip top shape?

14. What have you liked best about boot camp?

15. How hard is it to keep your M-16 clean?

16. How fast can you take your M-16 and put it back together?

17. What has been the funniest thing your DI has said this week?

18. What’s the best advice you have received at boot camp?

19. What was going through your head when you jumped off of the repel tower?

20. What is the dumbest thing you have seen or heard another recruit do?

21. Has boot camp been what you expected it to be?

22. What is your wish list of bases you would like to be stationed at?

23. What’s the first thing you want to do after graduation?

24. What homemade/fast food meal do you miss the most?

25. Are you proud of yourself? (You should be!)

Looking for even more ideas of what to write during Marine boot camp? Read our what to writing when sending Letters to basic training article.

Your Letters to your recruit don’t need to be long and they don’t need to be fancy. What’s important is that you’re sending mail to support them through this journey.

Sending Letters via the Sandboxx app, will get your message and photos into your recruit’s hands within a couple of days (we overnight your Letters directly to the ship). We also include a return envelope with every Sandboxx Letter so your loved one can write you back!

Ready to send your first Letter to Marine boot camp?

Send your first letter to Marine boot camp with the Sandboxx app, write your message, include a photo and hit send.

Save and attach our week one image below to give your recruit motivation for their first week at Marine boot camp.

Learn more about how your Sandboxx Letter gets delivered.

This article originally appeared on Sandboxx. Follow Sandboxx on Facebook.

MIGHTY HISTORY

The 13 scariest dictators in history

Power struggles and war have existed since the dawn of humanity. Even today, we struggle with international relations and division within our own country. On numerous occasions, however, twisted political leaders have risen to power. Dictators like Genghis Khan and Adolf Hitler crossed far beyond the boundary of war and genocide, initiating unspeakable atrocities. While we hope history never repeats itself, it’s important that we don’t forget our past either – even the ugliest parts. These dictators were among the evilest despots in world history. Which do you think is the most terrifying?


1. Qin Shi Huang

Reign: 247-210 B.C.

Qin Shi Huang was, you guessed it, the first emperor of the Qin dynasty. The grade school taunt, “first is the worst” comes to mind because he was an absolutely brutal ruler. If scholars disagreed with him, he sentenced them to death. Any books that criticized his views were burned.

He also was responsible for the first version of the great wall, which was a small version of the one we know today, and for the construction of a massive mausoleum including an army of life-sized terra-cotta soldiers. Many conscripts died during the wall’s construction, but wall duty was the better option; those who worked on the mausoleum were automatically killed after their job was complete to keep the tomb on the down-low. In addition to all the casually ordered death, he opted to castrate prisoners of war and force them into slavery.

First air-to-air images of supersonic shockwave in flight captured

(Wikimedia Commons)

2. Julius Caesar

Reign: A.D. 37-41

Julius Caesar, also known as Caligula, wasn’t always despised. At the beginning of his rule, he freed wrongfully imprisoned citizens and nixed excessively high sales tax, but as time went on, his health suffered. Historians believe he may have suffered from several small strokes and possibly depression, and his personality changed drastically. He killed his rivals and forced their parents to watch, among other malicious acts. His political actions were increasingly bold. He was eventually overthrown by a group of 60 senators…and in this case, overthrown means murdered. He was stabbed 23 times, ending his pivotal role in Roman society.

3. Attila the Hun

Reign: AD 434-453

The Hunnic Empire was located near present-day Hungary, and it was home to the infamous Attila the Hun. He liked to invade other empires. A lot. He successfully led invasions of the Byzantine empire, devastated the Balkans, and attempted many failed, yet extremely destructive, raids on the Western Roman Empire, Roman Gaul, and Italy. While he didn’t ultimately win, his aggressive tactics and eagerness to fight made him a formidable opponent. He died shortly after razing much of Italy to the ground, and likely would have continued to plunder his way across the continent had he remained alive. Surprisingly, he died off the battlefield from unspecified internal bleeding on the night of his marriage (one of several).

First air-to-air images of supersonic shockwave in flight captured

(Wikimedia Commons)

4. Genghis Khan

Reign: 1206-1227

Genghis Khan was born to be tough. His father, chief of his tribe, was killed when Khan was only nine by poisoning, and the fatherless boy was raised in poverty. He was raised by his mother who taught him the importance of strong political alliances, and while he was captured by his father’s former allies for some time, he escaped and began to unite the Mongol tribes on his own. He proceeded to conquer much of China and Central Asia, and his methods were heartless. He killed civilians en masse more than once, including a massacre of the aristocrats of the Khwarezm Empire. He had so many wives and concubines that up to eight percent of men living in the region of the former Mongolian empire are genetic descendants of Khan.

5. Timur

Reign: 1370-1405

There were honestly too many empires to remember them all, but Timur was responsible for founding the Timurid Empire. He led ruthless military raids throughout much of western Asia, covering the area of modern-day Syria, Turkey, Iraq, and Iran. His military conquests weren’t the scary part, though. As a leader, he was heartless. To end a rebellion after he successfully invaded the city of Delhi, he ordered a bloody massacre. When it was over, he mounted thousands of heads up on minarets. He also had a tower built out of live men, glued together with bricks and mortar.

6. Vlad III

Reign: 1448; 1456-1462; 1476

Vlad III was known as Vlad the Impaler for a reason. According to his reputation, when he first became ruler of Wallachia he invited his rivals to a formal dinner. When they arrived, he stabbed and impaled them all. Needless to say, he wasn’t the best host. Impaling became his favorite means of execution. While he did attempt to stabilize the tumultuous nation, he did so by bloody and lawless methods. He was also known as Vlad Dracula, based on his family name. You can see where this is going. Because of his lust for blood, the legend of the vampire Count Dracula was born. Thanks, Vlad.

First air-to-air images of supersonic shockwave in flight captured

(Wikimedia Commons)

7. Queen Mary I (aka Bloody Mary)

Reign: 1553-1558

Religious wars and persecution were always a thing, but Queen Mary I took it to the next level. She was the only child of King Henry VIII and Catherine of Aragon and a devout Catholic. When Mary I became Queen of England, she wanted to share her beliefs with all of England. By share, I mean mandate. She married Philip II of Spain, who was also Catholic, and began a campaign of murdering hundreds of Protestants. Hanging sounds almost gentle compared to her methods; she had them all burned at the stake.

8. Vladimir Lenin

Reign: 1917-1924

Vladimir Ilyich Ulyanov, better known as Lenin, always had rebellious political views. He was outspoken about his communist views and pushed for socialism to replace capitalism. In 1917 after the Russian Tsar was overthrown and a provisional government was put in place, Lenin saw his chance. That October, he led a revolution of his own and took power. He redistributed land throughout the country and withdrew from WWI, but it all went downhill from there. His approach to his opponents was merciless, killing thousands in concentration camps and disregarding the famine and poverty his people endured.

According to the BBC, “During this period of revolution, war and famine, Lenin demonstrated a chilling disregard for the sufferings of his fellow countrymen and mercilessly crushed any opposition.”

First air-to-air images of supersonic shockwave in flight captured

(Wikimedia Commons)

9. Joseph Stalin

Reign: 1922-1953

Lenin’s successor, Joseph Stalin, wasn’t any less aggressive. Stalin was a highly significant figure during the early-mid 20th century, but his methods have been condemned for obvious reasons. First, his Five-Year plans contributed to wide-spread famine. Then, he began “The Great Purge”, to rid Russia of the so-called enemies of the working class. Over a million people were imprisoned, with over 700,000 executed. He was also responsible for mass repressions, deportations, and ethnic cleansing. Some people today, especially in Russia, still believe that some of his political views have merit.

10. Benito Mussolini

Reign: 1922-1943

Benito Mussolini, like many members of this list, didn’t grow up in the most peaceful environment. He had always been an outspoken political activist, but when he was wounded in WWI, he gathered other disillusioned war vets into violent groups known as the Blackshirts. This was the beginning of fascism, an extreme-right totalitarian party. He began dismantling Italy’s democratic government piece by piece until he had complete power.

By 1936, he had become an ally of Hitler, bringing anti-Semitism to Italy. Despite surviving many assassination attempts, he was eventually caught and executed alongside his mistress and hung upside down from the roof of a gas station in Milan.

11. Adolf Hitler

Reign: 1933-1945

The infamous Adolf Hitler wormed his way into power as the chancellor of Germany in 1933. and then as Führer just a year later. He was largely responsible for WWII after he invaded Poland in 1939, and was the primary instigator of the Holocaust. Within two years, Hitler’s Third Reich empire included most European countries. He proceeded to order the systematic destruction of any people who did not match his vision of an “ideal master race”, throwing Jews, Slavs, and anyone else he considered socially undesirable into concentration camps.

There, his followers conducted mass genocide on his orders, killing over 19 million. That’s not including the millions of soldiers and civilians who died in WWII. He’s likely responsible for the greatest amount of human loss and destruction orchestrated by a single man in all of history.

First air-to-air images of supersonic shockwave in flight captured

(Wikimedia Commons)

12. Mao Zedong

Reign: 1949-1976

Mao Zedong was an influential communist leader of China who ruled with an iron fist. He was known for his political intellect and strategies and he made some positive changes, like modernizing China and improving education, health care, and women’s rights. Unfortunately, his regime was also totalitarian and repressive. He ordered the destruction of many religious and cultural artifacts, took control of all industry and agriculture, and snuffed out any opposition like a candle. His harsh policies encouraged forced labor and led to the death of over 40 million people through starvation and mass executions.

13. Idi Amin

Reign: 1971-1979

General Idi Amin overthrew Uganda’s government in a military coup, instating himself as the new “president.” Almost overnight, he became known for his cruelty. Known as the “Butcher of Uganda,” his rule was exceptionally immoral and murderous. During his eight years in power, he massively mismanaged the economy, persecuted multiple ethnic groups, drove Uganda’s Asian population out of the country, and killed with reckless abandon. Somewhere between 100,000-500,000 people were killed by his command.


Life Flip

Veteran-owned Combat Flip Flops spreads peace in conflict zones

What started as a pilot project in Kabul making sandals has now become a major lifestyle brand that employs thousands of local craftsmen and women in conflict zones all over the world. After serving, Matthew Griffin and fellow airborne Ranger Donald Lee recognized that the factories producing military gear in Afghanistan were going to become obsolete. During the seven tours between the two of them in the region, the founders of the company were constantly astonished by the creativity, respect, and determination of the Afghani people.


Griffin and Lee agreed that extremism finds easy prey in areas that are starving for resources. Rather than heading home upon completion of their duty, they went back unarmed. Combat Flip Flops was born from the idea of transitioning from war to peace.

Griffin and Lee enlisted Griffin’s brother, designer and co-founder Andy Sewrey, to come to Afghanistan develop their flagship product: a comfy, durable sandal, referred to the AK-47. Sewrey looked around him and realized he had no shortage of inspiration: poppies, tuck-tucks, bullet casings, and combat boots. They took the raw materials from the boots and redesigned them into flip-flops. Having almost no budget, the small team had to get scrappy about material and funding.

First air-to-air images of supersonic shockwave in flight captured
Every product sold by Combat Flip Flops does one or more of these things: employs American Gold Star Families, supports a veteran-owned business, gainfully employs Afghan war widows, funds one day of school for an Afghan girl, and clears land mines.

“We sold a car and a few other things and we came up with samples and we literally threw all our samples in a duffel bag and went to a Vegas to a trade show,” Griffin recalled. “People thought they were cool and bought them and we sold thousands right out of the gate.”

It became apparent that their model and philosophy were working, and when one factory became two, they added new products and pumped the money back into the communities, providing local citizens with jobs and opportunities.

Combat Flip Flops’ main production hub is in Bogata Columbia, where women-owned and operated factories make shoes and scarves. They have also partnered with makers all over the world and worked with displaced Syrian refugees in Beirut. In these factories, creative repurposing of bomb casings into bracelets and necklace charms made from recovered mines helps reduce the environmental impact from the after-effects of war.

Also read: Ranger takes flip flop company from Kabul to the Shark Tank

Every pair of AK-47s sold — and in fact every single item on the website — funds an Afghani girl’s education for up to seven days. Since the literacy rate for girls in Kabul hovers around 15%, that is a significant infusion of education investment. Early education provides kids with upward mobility and makes them less vulnerable to fundamentalist recruiters.

Combat Flip Flops is a great example of soldiers taking their know-how and big hearts and using their powers to enact good after they have left the battlefield. These guys are committed to reducing the threat of war by trying to stabilize local communities one by one. “Employ the parents, educate the children” is the company’s informal motto.

You can check out the many fine products under the Combat Flip Flops brand here and because it’s a veteran-owned and operated nonprofit organization, all the proceeds go directly to educating young people in conflict zones.

Support soldiers — and the communities that they work so hard to protect.

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