The Army element known as “America’s Contingency Corps” marked the 76th anniversary of D-Day by telling the story of a black veteran of that battle who died without ever receiving the full hero’s recognition he deserved.
The Fort Bragg, North Carolina-based XVIII Army Corps published a series of tweets Saturday night telling the story of Cpl. Waverly Woodson, who sustained “grievous” wounds at Omaha Beach in Normandy, but still managed to save the lives of 80 other soldiers.
The XVIII Corps is the same unit from which some 1,600 soldiers were ordered to the Washington, D.C. region this week to stand on alert for protest control. They ultimately returned home without entering the district.
Woodson was one of roughly 2,000 black American soldiers who landed at Normandy on June 6, 1944. A member of the all-black 320th Anti-Aircraft Barrage Balloon Battalion, he worked for 30 hours to triage the wounded after getting hit by a German shell himself, according to the tweet thread. In all, he treated more than 200 soldiers.
“He was transferred to a hospital ship but refused to remain there, returning to the fight to treat more Allied Soldiers. He was hailed as a hero in his hometown of[Philadelphia],” the thread stated. “Yet when he returned to the US, he had to fight Jim Crow, facing discrimination at every turn.”
Woodson was nominated by his commander for the Medal of Honor, the nation’s highest combat award. Instead, he was awarded the Bronze Star and a Purple heart.
The tweets noted that Woodson had departed Lincoln University, where he was a pre-med student, to serve his nation after Japan attacked Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941. Despite passing the Army’s officer candidate school exam, his race meant he could only serve as an enlisted soldier.
“Waverly Woodson never truly received the recognition he deserved for his selfless heroism on this day 76 years ago,” the thread concluded. “Today, let’s acknowledge him and the [largely overlooked] African American troops who landed on Normandy on D Day.”
“Based on extensive research on his service record, it is clear that Cpl. Woodson did not receive the Medal of Honor during WWII because of the color of his skin,” the lawmakers wrote. “We believe that the Army has sufficient evidence of the required recommendation to, at a minimum, permit a formal review by an award decision authority. Accordingly, we respectfully ask the Army to rectify this historic injustice and appropriately recognize this valorous Veteran with a posthumous recommendation for the Medal of Honor.”
It’s not clear if the XVIII Airborne’s public acknowledgement of Woodson and his heroism signals a larger interest on the part of the Army in revisiting his award.
Until the 1990s, no Medals of Honor had been awarded to black World War II veterans. Following a review commissioned by the Army in 1993, seven black veterans of the war received the nation’s highest combat honor, all but one posthumously.
China continues to emerge as the most dynamic region for defense program development and introductions among the superpowers. In October 2018, photos of their aircraft carrier development and preparations for ongoing sea trials have surfaced; their advanced interceptor claiming to have low-observable capability has reemerged with a new camouflage scheme in an operational unit; they have flown a new long range flying boat amphibious aircraft and shown a new armed, long range remotely piloted aircraft. There are even frequent reports (some of those have been denied already) of a new low-observable strategic heavy bomber ahead of the U.S. unveiling of their new B-21 Raider long range stealth bomber.
All of this new development continues the conversation about China expanding military ambitions beyond their borders in regions such as Africa, the Middle East, and even South and Central America. These ambitions add to their ongoing power projection in the Taiwan Strait and South China Sea.
Perhaps the most significant development is the potential return to a strategic nuclear role for the PLAAF, China’s air force. China’s air delivered nuclear capability has reportedly advanced recently after it was abandoned in the 1980s when China only had air delivered nuclear gravity bombs.
In a Sept. 6, 2018 feature on TheDiplomat.com, analysts Ankit Panda and Prashanth Parameswaran reported that, “The PLAAF once again has a nuclear mission, although we don’t know what that is”. The analysts suggested that an air launched ballistic missile may be an emerging technology China is developing. The missile, thought to be a new version of the CJ-20K long range cruise missile, currently has the capability to strike targets at a range of 1,080 nautical miles (2,000 kilometers) with a conventional warhead after being launched from China’s legacy Xian H-6K heavy bomber.
For the first time ever in early May 2018, the PLAAF flew Xian H-6K heavy bombers to the disputed Woody Island in the Paracel archipelago. The Paracel archipelago, also called “Xisha” by the Chinese, is a disputed chain of low-lying islands in the South China Sea. Although China has maintained a military presence there since 1974 when they forcibly evicted Vietnam, the Taiwanese and Vietnamese both still lay claim to the islands. A Pentagon statement from U.S. Pacific Command spokesman Lt. Col. Christopher Logan said the May landing of Chinese heavy bombers in the island chain is evidence of “China’s continued militarization of disputed features in the South China Sea.”
China’s Navy Deploys New H 6J Anti Ship Cruise Missile Carrying Bombers
The 2018 edition of China International Aviation and Aerospace Exhibition in Zhuhai, Guangdong, will take place from Nov. 6-11, 2018. Photographers already at the show venue have shared a feast of interesting images in social media including photos of the Chengdu J-20A “Mighty Dragon” in a completely new operational camouflage scheme.
The Chengdu J-20As seen at the show are claimed “fifth generation” twin engine, single seat air superiority fighters with a distinctive canard, delta wing and twin tail configuration. They are reported to be operated by the172th Brigade based at the FTTB (Airbase) at Cangzhou according to expert analyst Andreas Rupprecht who maintains the Modern Chinese Warplanes page on Facebook and publishes a series of authoritative reference guides about Chinese military aircraft (and many others) through Harpia Publishing.
Several J-20A Mighty Dragons arrived ahead of the Zhuhai Airshow with brand new paint schemes.
(Hunter Chen Photos via Twitter and Facebook)
Rupprecht noted that two of the J-20A aircraft wore serial numbers 78231 and 78232. He also pointed out that the aircraft previously had an angular “splinter” style camouflage scheme but now have a new, rounded pattern camouflage livery.
In conjunction with the timing of the Zhuhai Airshow, Rupprecht’s Harpia Publishing has just released their latest reference book, “Modern Chinese Warplanes: Chinese Air Force – Aircraft and Units”.
Other unique aircraft photographed arriving at Zhuhai for the 2018 China International Aviation and Aerospace Exhibition include a unique J-10B prototype aircraft number ‘1034’ modified to with a special thrust vectoring engine nozzle. The modification is likely a test version according the Andreas Rupprecht that has been retrofitted onto the existing WS-10 jet engine.
A unique new version of the J-10B with thrust vectoring arrived at Zhuhai Airshow early this week.
(Modern Chinese Warplanes on Facebook photos)
China’s naval aviation program also arcs forward into a rapidly developing and ambitious future with their aircraft carriers. On Oct. 28, 2018, the new, unnamed Type 002 aircraft carrier sailed away from its construction and maintenance facility at Dalian, China for its third sea trial. Andreas Rupprecht observed on his Modern Chinese Warplanes page on Facebook (Author’s note: this page is worth “Liking”) that the ship’s flight deck had been cleaned and possibly prepared for flight deck trials during this current shakedown cruise.
Of equal interest is a photo that surfaced on Google Earth that is only a few weeks old, taken on Sept. 22, 2018, showing the two Chinese aircraft carriers sitting side-by-side in their maintenance and construction yard in Dalian. Dalian is a modern, rapidly growing port city on the Liaodong Peninsula, at the southern tip of China’s Liaoning Province.
Two Chinese carriers in the Dalian Shipyard.
(Modern Chinese Warplanes on Facebook photos)
Video of the new AVIC AG600 Kunlong flying boat making its first ever waterborne take-off and landing were posted to YouTube on Oct. 20, 2018. The impressive four-engine turboprop aircraft is intended for the long range maritime patrol, reconnaissance, search and rescue mission. It is said to be capable of operating in sea state 3 conditions, or waves as high as 6.6-feet (2 meters). With its projected range of 2,796 miles (4,500 km), the AG600 flying boat can reach the contested islands in the outlying regions of China’s sea.
Aerial view: China’s AG600 amphibious aircraft makes maiden flight from water
In addition to global power projection in their own interests, an aim of China’s emerging new military aviation push is the export market. In early October 2018, the sale of 48 new Wing Loong II armed, remotely piloted aircraft to Pakistan was announced.
According to analyst Shaurya Karanbir Gurung of India’s Economic Times in a story published on Oct. 10, 2018, “The Wing Loong II is an improved version of the Wing Loong 1 Unmanned Aerial Vehicle. Falling in the category of Medium Altitude Long Endurance, it is manufactured by the Chengdu Aircraft Industrial (Group) Company. The UAV has been developed primarily for People’s Liberation Army Air Force and export. The concept of the Wing Loong II was unveiled at the Aviation Expo China in Beijing in September 2015.”
All About Wing Loong II: Pakistan’s New Drone From China | Urdu | Hindi |
And finally, and perhaps most interestingly, news about an entirely new, long range low observable Chinese heavy bomber has surfaced. According to some reports, the program is claimed to be significantly advanced in its development. The Hong-20 is tipped as China’s new long-range strategic stealth bomber. Official Chinese media has released concept images of the aircraft after teasing shapes earlier in the year in what appeared to be a direct parody of a video touting the upcoming U.S. bomber, the B-21 Raider.
A rendering of what China claims is the new Hong-20 low-observable long range bomber.
(Modern Chinese Warplanes on Facebook photos)
Defense World.net reported that, “The Hong-20 official unveiling could be slated for next month’s Zhuhai Air show though there is no confirmation of it as yet.” The report went on to reveal that Russian media outlet Rossiyskaya Gazeta claimed the Hong-20 bomber has been under development at the Shanghai Aircraft Design and Research Institute in China since 2008.
Conceptual artwork from earlier this year of new Hong-20 low-observable long range bomber.
(Andreas Rupprecht/Rupprecht_A on Twitter)
Many casual observers of China’s defense and aviation programs have been cynical of China’s ability to produce truly advanced high-end, reliable new military technologies that may compete with western technology. Because of lingering dogma about China’s mass manufacturing being comprised largely of knock-offs from western technology mimicked quickly at lower cost and lower quality by legions of near-slave laborers, this mistaken stereotype has lingered. Anyone who has visited China recently knows this country has vaulted into a new era of economic, technological and now, military development. Given that China is the country that invented gunpowder and revolutionized warfare, any country that underestimates China’s new capabilities does so at their own peril.
This article originally appeared on The Aviationist. Follow @theaviationist on Twitter.
Four-person tank crews from across the U.S. Army, U.S. Marine Corps and partner nations met at Fort Benning, Georgia, to take part in the Sullivan Cup April 30 through May 4, 2018. The Sullivan Cup is a biennial competition to determine the best tank crew through a series of scored tests.
The Maneuver Center of Excellence, the U.S. Army Armor School, and the 316th Cavalry Brigade host the competition.
At a demonstration at Red Cloud Range at Fort Benning April 27, 2018, Col. Thomas Feltey, 316th Cavalry Brigade commander, talked about the competition, which began Monday, April 30, and to which the public is invited.
“You’re going to see a demonstration of our Army’s tank crews’ proficiency, conducting both live fire and maneuver exercises,” said Feltey. “What we’re putting together is a series of arduous testing — it’s both technical and tactical — to get the most out of our Soldiers in this competition.”
Feltey stressed the complexity of the tank crew’s performance.
“There’s a lot of activity that goes on inside these tanks, so they’ve got to synchronize the actions of the driver, the loader, the gunner and the tank commander,” he said. “Then they’ve got to understand the terrain so they can move their vehicle tactically … while taking into account what the enemy is doing.”
One of the goals of the Sullivan Cup, according to Feltey, is the demonstration of good doctrinal technique, which begins at the Maneuver Center of Excellence and Fort Benning.
“We’re following our doctrinal foundation of our integrated weapons training strategy,” he said. “And we’re modeling exactly what these tank crews and these units can do back at their home station. So really, in our way, it’s Fort Benning leading the way and showing our Army what right looks like.”
Throughout the week, the crews are scheduled to perform a gunnery skills test, engage targets with their tanks’ weapon systems, call for fire, take written exams, perform tank-related physical fitness tasks, conduct a competitive combat maneuver exercise, conduct a timed stress shoot, and more.
The weeklong competition is open to members of the public, whom Felty welcomed so they might witness the difficult work that goes into tank operation.
“This is their Army, so it’s a great opportunity for them to come out and see what we do on a daily basis,” he said. “There’s a lot of hard work and a lot of preparation that goes into being able to fire these tanks.”
The first big event of the Sullivan Cup was Operation Thunderbolt, which took place in the afternoon of April 30, 2018, at Red Cloud Range.
“If they come to the demonstration on Monday, they’re not only going to get to see a tank, but arguably they’re going to feel the power of the 120mm main gun and also our mortars that are out here,” said Feltey.
Children younger than 5 and pregnant women should not attend.
To keep up with the Sullivan Cup, visit the Maneuver Center of Excellence and Fort Benning Facebook page at www.fb.com/fortbenningmcoe. Family and friends are encouraged to tweet updates on their teams during the competition using @FortBenning and the hashtag #Sullivancup.
The US’s long-awaited F-35 stealth jet will feature in military drills with South Korea aboard the USS Wasp, a US Navy amphibious assault ship that became the first-ever ship deployed with combat-ready stealth jets onboard, CNN reports.
The Wasp, and the squadron of US Marine Corps F-35 pilots onboard, will take part in the drills which kick off on April 1, 2018, even as the US and South Korea explore an unprecedented openness to dialogue from North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.
Though South Korean President Moon Jae In and President Donald Trump have both agreed to meet with Kim, they remain committed to keeping up the “maximum pressure” strategy that both sides say has led to North Korea’s new willingness to talk.
As part of the pressure strategy, the US has pushed tougher-than-ever sanctions on North Korea, and leaned harder than ever on the prospect of using military force to denuclearize the peninsula.
In April 2017, the US demonstrated that pressure with three aircraft carriers off North Korea’s coast. In 2018, the US has a revolutionary new capability in a smaller carrier with F-35s, stealth aircraft that North Korea can’t hope to spot or defend against.
With the F-35 pilots trained specifically to tackle challenges in the Pacific and stealthily take out air defenses and hardened targets, a test pilot called the carrier configuration “the most powerful concentration of combat power ever put to sea in the history of the world.”
In 2017, North Korea responded to US and South Korean military drills with angry statements and missile tests, but this time around, Pyongyang has said it will suspend its missile testing.
Since 2017’s US-South Korea drills, North Korea has demonstrated both the ability to hit the US with a nuclear weapon, and a newfound willingness to talk about denuclearization. The US in that time has stepped up military pressure while imposing crippling sanctions down to the level of individual businessmen and ships.
As 2018’s annual military drills come around, there’s a completely different mood as hope of negotiations lie on the corner, but the inclusion of the USS Wasp stacked with F-35s sends the message that it’s still not safe.
When retelling stories of war, our focus tends to fall where the action was. Tales of battlefield bravery have been around for as long as there has been language and battlefields, but securing victory over a powerful foe requires more than the strength of will and courage under fire. Often, it takes the calm, calculating mind of strategic leaders, the tireless efforts of scientists and researchers, and as was the case in the skies above World War II… the unusual approach of an Austrian mathematician.
Abraham Wald was born in Austria-Hungary in 1902, and by 1931 he had completed his Ph.D. in mathematics. However, despite possessing a gifted scientific mind, Wald couldn’t find work in his home country upon his return. The problem? It was 1931, and Wald was Jewish.
By 1938, the Nazis were invading Austria and Wald and his family were on their way to the United States, where Wald had no trouble securing a job at the Cowles Research Commission in Economics, and then with the American government assisting with the war effort.
(Konrad Jacobs via WikiMedia Commons)
Wald quickly proved to have a powerful analytical mind, making a name for himself with the U.S. government’s Statistical Research Group (SRG) where he worked on classified programs despite his status as a “potentially hostile immigrant.” Just as his Jewish heritage made him a pariah in Austria, his Austrian heritage made Wald a bit of an outcast in Uncle Sam’s ranks. He wasn’t even allowed to look at his own equations after submitting them, as the programs Wald worked on were classified. Wald’s secretary was even known to joke that her job was to yank Wald’s pages away as soon as he finished writing them “for the sake of national security.”
Despite this looming prejudice, Wald thrived in his role as a mathematician for the allies, contributing to multiple programs over the years and securing a place in history thanks to his groundbreaking work in “survivorship bias.”
Allied forces were feverishly working on ways to help their B-29 bombers survive anti-aircraft fire, but knew that limitations on weight and available resources would bar them from adding armor to the entirety of the aircraft. So they began collecting data on returning B-29s in hopes that the data would eventually produce a working theory. Soon enough, it did.
This graphic shows where the majority of holes were recorded on returning B-29s.
Officials took note of how the B-29s that made it back were often riddled with holes in specific areas. Some of these bombers were even described in official documents as looking like “swiss cheese,” but the heaviest concentration of holes were always all over the aircraft’s fuselage. By the time they had translated their observations to hard data, they had confirmed that the fuselage and wings of the aircraft took rounds at nearly twice the rate of the aircraft’s engines.
The data seemed to be pointing at a clear answer to their problem: if the fuselage was taking the brunt of the of damage, they should add armor to that portion of the aircraft. After all, it housed all of the plane’s internal systems and its crew, it made perfect sense that taking so much fire to the fuselage must be what was bringing these bombers down.
Wald, however, knew immediately that placing armor on the fuselage of these bombers wasn’t going to solve the problem. He asserted instead that additional armor needed to be placed on the parts of the aircraft that had the smallest number of recorded bullet holes, rather than the highest. His assertion, and the premise of “survivorship bias,” was basically that these airplanes could survive taking a great deal of fire to the wings and fuselage because they were making it back riddled with holes all over both. Instead, Wald posited, it’s the places they didn’t see holes that couldn’t handle direct fire.
Like this but with more holes.
(U.S. Air Force Photo by Airman 1st Class Erin McClellan)
Wald believed that these planes were getting hit in the engines just as often as the fuselage or wings, but because the bombers that got hit in the engines didn’t survive, no data could be collected from them. Lacking data from the aircraft that didn’t make it back had skewed the numbers to show the exact opposite of what they had been looking for.
Wald proposed adding armor to the engines, rather than the fuselage and his premise was swiftly adopted, and soon that premise was proved true. Bombers that had additional armor added to their engine shrouds saw much higher rates of return, and before long, armoring the engines of B-29s became standard practice.
In fact, Wald’s approach continues to be employed in military aircraft design today, making it hard to even guess just how many aircraft, missions, and lives Abraham Wald is ultimately responsible for saving… all through his unique combination of perspective and arithmetic.
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We don’t know what you’re preparing for. Maybe you’ve found yourself in hot water with a local gang, maybe you’re convinced that the rise of automation will lead to SkyNet, or perhaps you have the very real concern that molemen will come out of the internal layers of the earth and demand large segments of surface world (an attack to which we are vulnerable thanks to everyone poo-pooing Capt. John Symmes’ expedition to the center of the Earth).
Regardless, our friends over at Propper want to help you prepare. For our illustrative case, we’re going to use a possible zombie outbreak model, because that’s fun for us and something all patriotic Americans should prepare for.
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There you are, quietly typing away on your newest article (You’re all internet writers, right? No? Some of you have real jobs that produce actual value for the economy? Well, aren’t you fancy) when, suddenly, a news alert pops up on your phone:
CDC confirms that new variation of flu virus has spread in America. Small town near you on lockdown. Read more: https://bit.ly/2TVioLq
Sure, there’s a chance it’s nothing, just like there was a chance that alerts on December 7, 1941 were nothing, or that Iraqi forces would never cross into Kuwait in 1990. You didn’t make it to your ripe current age by assuming that potential threats were nothing.
So it’s time to bug out for a little while, get away from population centers, and wait for this whole thing to blow over. And you need to reach your spot before that virus spreads.
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Luckily, you know a pretty good spot in the hills where you’ve got a little water cached, and you’ve got two bags ready to go with all your immediate needs. You head home, get your dog into the car, and grab your PROPPER® Bail Out Bag and Expandable Backpack from the hall closet.
You’re out the door and on the road in under a minute. Medical supplies, ruggedized laptop, water, some old MRE components, and more supplies are already packed away in your trusty bag.
You drive towards your spot, but the ominous rain reaches you on the road, and you’re left driving slow with the wipers on max. Unfortunately, a driver headed the other way isn’t being so conscientious, and they’re flying down the road. You try to slow down and shift to the shoulder, but the other guy is coming too fast and swerves towards you, forcing you to ditch the road entirely to avoid a collision.
The car tumbles down the shoulder and ends driver-side down. You take a quick stock of yourself. Nothing seems broken, and the cut over your eye could be much worse. You take a moment for your mutt.
“Hey, good dog. How are you feeling?”
You hear a quick whine, but then feel a tongue licking your face, so you look over your right shoulder and see a healthy dog. Shaken, but they don’t appear to be favoring a leg. So, that’s great news.
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Carefully, you position your boot against the windshield. You rear back and let loose a quick, calculated kick, cracking the windshield. Two more hits and the glass breaks. You slowly disentangle yourself from the wreck, and free yourself into a cool, consistent drizzle.
It’s not super late yet, but with the storm clouds overhead, you know it’ll be hard to see anything outside the range of your headlights. You take a quick chance to check out the hound and are happy to find no serious injuries. You also slap a quick bandage on yourself and dig out your Streamlight® ProTac HPL USB Rechrg Light.
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It’s charged, so you’ve got a while. And you can always swap in your spare button batteries if you need. You step past the headlights and give a quick scan of the road. You can’t see the car that nearly hit you, but you still want to get moving. Erratic drivers in a potential zombie outbreak area is a horrible sign.
So it’s time to start moving overland to your hideaway. You clip the flashlight to the D-ring on the backpack and dig out the map and compass, taking a quick second to mark your car’s location on the map. The backpack goes on your back, the bailout bag goes over your shoulder, and you step off.
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As you do, you switch on the HQ ISSUE Multi-Band Dynamo Solar Powered Radio and leave the volume on low. You can always crank the dynamo if it runs low on juice, and you can open the solar panel on it come morning. In the meantime, it will help you stay connected to the rest of the world long after you lose cell signal.
As the miles start to crunch away under your boots, you remember that you went offroad a good distance from where you planned, meaning it’s going to take way longer to reach your secret spot and its supply of water. You’re going to need an interim solution.
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But hey, you’re clearly nothing if not well-prepared. You double check the map for the little blue lines and pools that denote water, and alter your course to take you past a nearby creek.
Once you hear the trickle of water over the rocks, you beeline to it. Out here, the water looks pure and clear, but you know that even rainwater this close to the city can be contaminated, and rivers and streams can pick up all sorts of pollutants from its path and bacteria from the local wildlife.
So you pull out your Katadyn Vario Filter and plunge the hose into the water. In a pinch, it can clean and bottle two liters of water in a minute, passing the water through three filters. Activated charcoal eliminates most scents in the water too. But since you’re not in that big of a hurry, you set it to one-liter a minute, reducing wear and tear.
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Refreshed and once again moving to your cache, you start to whistle. You’ve got your dog, you’ve got your supplies, you’re hiking in the rain. As long as the city doesn’t descend into a zombie apocalypse tonight, life could be a whole lot worse. And if it does, well, at least you’re prepared.
And, hey, you’ve even got a GOSO Starter 24-Piece Lock Pick Set in your pocket, so if the worst has come to pass, at least you can break into all sorts of old bases, libraries, whatever, and explore them wasteland-style.
“Let’s go, Mutt.”
This article is sponsored by Propper, the guys dedicated to equipping those who commit their lives to serving others.
For months, the Avengers: Endgame speculation machine limped along on slivers of evidence: A leaked picture of a Lego set, frame-by-frame breakdowns of misleading trailers, tweets from Chris Evans. With so little to go on, it’s no wonder that no one has actually figured out what’s going to happen.
But now that we’re weeks away from Endgame hitting theaters, there are promotional appearances from the cast and crew and, along with them, more information trickling out.
Case in point: last weekend’s press junket. After showing six minutes of footage, the assembled actors and directors took questions from the media. Yahoo! asked about the ending of Infinity War, specifically the disintegration of half of the Avengers by the Infinity Gauntlet-wielding Thanos.
Mark Ruffalo said that he wasn’t sure the Hulk would survive until he saw the movie. Don Cheadle talked about how hard it was being left behind, and Chris Hemsworth joked that he had “survivor’s guilt.”
The most honest answer came from Scarlett Johansson: “I think like every actor you’re just like, ‘Great, I get more screen time.'”
But by far the most interesting response for fan theorists came from Joe Russo, director, along with his brother Anthony, of both Infinity War and Endgame.
“The only thing we’ll say in that regard, is that there’s a reason that the original six Avengers survived,” he shared.
True to his word, that was the only thing Russo said in that regard, leaving fans to speculate as to what the reason might be. You can find out for sure on April 26, 2019, when you can finally watch the film (assuming you were able to get tickets).
This article originally appeared on Fatherly. Follow @FatherlyHQ on Twitter.
Seven NavyF-35 Joint Strike Fighters spent Monday morning in a round robin off the coast of Norfolk, Virginia, completing a tight succession of take-offs and arrested landings as pilots with Strike Fighter Squadron 101 completed carrier qualifications on the aircraft.
The dozen instructors with the squadron each completed the required 10 traps and two touch-and-go maneuvers in less than two days. But thanks to an advanced landing system in the fifth-generation aircraft that limits the variables pilots need to monitor when they catch the wire, officers with the squadron said they could have gotten the practice they needed in much less time.
“What has traditionally been required for initial qualifications … that can probably be reduced, because the task becomes mundane after a while,” said Lt. Cmdr. Daniel Kitts, officer in charge of the testing detachment aboard this ship. “You can make corrections so easily.”
The system that makes the difference is Delta Flight Path, developed by Lockheed Martin Corp. with input from Naval Air Systems Command. That system is one of more than a half-dozen F-35C features that are being tested in this third and final round of carrier exercises.
During a 20-day developmental testing period aboard the George Washington that will conclude Aug. 23, pilots will test the aircraft’s ability to fly symmetrical and asymmetrical external weapons loads, execute aircraft launches at maximum weight and against crosswinds, try out a new helmet software load designed to improve visibility in dark conditions, test the capabilities of Delta Flight Path and the Joint Precision Approach and Landing System, and take out and replace an entire F-35C engine to simulate major maintenance aboard a carrier.
At the conclusion of these tests, officials believe the F-35C will be substantially ready for initial operational capability, a milestone the aircraft is expected to hit in 2018.
But success of the built-in carrier landing technology may have even wider-reaching effects.
Like the Maritime Augmented Guidance with Integrated Controls for Carrier Approach and Recovery Precision Enabling Technologies, or MAGIC CARPET, system now being tested on the Navy’s legacy F/A-18E/F Super Hornets, Delta Flight Path gives the aircraft the ability to stay on glide slope automatically and minimize the number of corrections the pilot must make.
“All pilots are trained, we make corrections for glide slope with the throttle. We practice it when we get to our fleet trainers, and we practice it a bunch each and every time before we come out to the boat,” Kitts said. “So what you’re able to do when you come out here is hopefully spend less time practicing, because the workload on the pilot is extremely reduced.”
That’s important, Kitts said, because time spent in the field and on the carrier practicing landings is time in which pilots are becoming less tactically proficient because they can’t develop and drill other skills.
The commanding officer of VFA-101, Capt. James Christie, said pilots are collecting data as they complete their required takeoffs and landings that could be used to inform a prospective proposal to reduce carrier training and qualification requirements.
“We’re not going to move too quickly; we’re going to ensure it’s the right thing to do,” Christie said. “But as soon as we have the empirical evidence that shows we can safely reduce those numbers, I’ll be all for submitting that to leadership.”
So far, the data looks good. In this round of testing, there have so far been no bolters, when an aircraft unintentionally misses the wire, and no landing wave-offs attributed to aircraft performance or safety issues, said Lt. Graham Cleveland, landing signal officer for VFA-101.
Cleveland said this new technology might enable the Navy to cut ashore training from 16 to 18 field carrier landing practices to between four and six. He said he also envisioned cutting carrier qualification requirements from ten to six traps in the future.
“That’s going to save money, that’s going to save fuel, that’s going to save aircraft life, basically,” he said.
The future aside, getting out to the carrier for the first evolution of testing to involve operational pilots as well as test pilots was its own milestone for many at the fore of efforts to ready the F-35C for the fleet.
“It’s incredibly gratifying to see them come out and really make this aircraft real from the perspective of the fleet,” said Tom Briggs, acting chief test engineer for the Navy. “This is going to be a viable program, a viable aircraft that’s really going to do what it’s designed to do… watching them come out here and do this, it’s goose-bumpy.”
Defense Secretary James Mattis has ordered separate reviews of the Pentagon’s F-35 Joint Strike Fighter and Air Force One programs in hopes of restructuring and reducing program costs, an official announced Friday.
In two memorandums signed and effective immediately, Mattis said Deputy Defense Secretary Robert Work will “oversee a review that compares the F-35C and F/A-18E/F operational capabilities and assess the extent that the F/A-18E/F improvements [an advanced Super Hornet] can be made in order to provide a competitive, cost effective fighter aircraft alternative,” according to a statement from Pentagon spokesman Navy Capt. Jeff Davis.
For the Presidential Aircraft Recapitalization program, known as Air Force One, Mattis said Work’s review should “identify specific areas where costs can be lowered,” such as “autonomous operations, aircraft power generation, environmental conditioning [cooling], survivability, and military [and] civilian communication capabilities,” the memo said.
The memos didn’t specify if the review will reduce the planned number of aircraft.
“This is a prudent step to incorporate additional information into the budget preparation process and to inform the secretary’s recommendations to the president regarding critical military capabilities,” Davis said in an email statement.
“This action is also consistent with the president’s guidance to provide the strongest and most efficient military possible for our nation’s defense, and it aligns with the secretary’s priority to increase military readiness while gaining full value from every taxpayer dollar spent on defense,” he said.
Both the F-35 stealth fighter and Air Force One presidential aircraft acquisition programs have been in President Donald Trump’s crosshairs in recent weeks.
Trump has criticized the high cost of the $4 billion Air Force One being developed by Boeing and the nearly $400 billion F-35 Joint Strike Fighter being manufactured by Lockheed Martin Corp.
On Dec. 6, Trump tweeted “cancel order!” in reference to the Air Force One program. He brought up the issue again during a Dec. 16 speech in Pennsylvania, and also called the F-35 program a “disaster” with its cost overruns.
“Based on the tremendous cost and cost overruns of the Lockheed Martin F-35, I have asked Boeing to price-out a comparable F-18 Super Hornet!” Trump tweeted on Dec. 22.
The F-35 Joint Strike Fighter is expected to cost nearly $400 billion in development and procurement costs to field a fleet of 2,457 single-engine fighters — and some $1.5 trillion in lifetime sustainment costs, according to Pentagon figures. It’s the Pentagon’s single most expensive acquisition effort.
Trump has met with Lockheed Martin Corp.’s CEO Marillyn Hewson on multiple occasions and last week with Boeing’s CEO Dennis Muilenburg.
The company heads have vowed — in what they said were productive conversations with the president — to drive down costs on both programs.
“We made some great progress on simplifying requirements for Air Force One, streamlining the process, streamlining certification by using commercial practices,” Muilenburg said just days after Trump met with Hewson.
“All of that is going to provide a better airplane at a lower cost, so I’m pleased with the progress there,” he said. “And similarly on fighters, we were able to talk about options for the country and capabilities that will, again, provide the best capability for our warfighters most affordably.”
Great aircraft and vehicles aren’t very useful without somewhere to park them, and troops need good cover to keep them safe from attacks. So, for all the innovations coming out of DARPA and the weapons being developed by the military, it’s the humble Hesco barrier that became an icon of security in Iraq and Afghanistan.
The barriers are a staple of deployed-life where they formed many of the outer perimeters and interior walls for NATO installations.
Originally invented by a former British miner to shore up loose earth in his backyard, the Hesco was first used for military defense in the Gulf War. The basic Hesco design is a wire mesh crate with fabric liner that can be folded flat for storage and transportation. To deploy them, engineers simply open them up and fill them with dirt and rocks. When they want to get fancy about a permanent wall, they can then apply a concrete slurry to the sides and top to seal them.
Even without a slurry added, the walls provided impressive protection. A group of engineers in Afghanistan in 2005 had a limited space to build their wall and so modified the barriers to be thinner. They then tested the modified version against static explosives, RPGs, and 40mm grenades. This thinner version was heavily damaged but still standing at the end of the test. In the video below, go to the 0:45 mark to skip straight to the tests.
Hescos even provide concealment from the enemy while troops are putting them in.
The famous Restrepo Outpost was constructed by soldiers who slipped up to a summit they needed to capture at night and began building fortifications around themselves. They dug shallow trenches for immediate cover and then began to fill Hescos with dirt and rocks for greater protection. When the enemy fired on them to stop construction, some troops would fire back while others would get down and keep pitching rocks into the barriers.
Though the original Hesco were great, the company still updates the design. When the military complained that breaking down Hesco walls took too long, the company created a recoverable design with a removable pin that would allow the dirt to fall out. Later, they developed an apparatus that could be attached to a crane to remove multiple units at once.
To rapidly build new perimeter walls like those needed to expand Bagram Airfield as the NATO footprint grew, a trailer was developed that could deploy the barriers in a long line. Each trailer can deploy a barrier wall over 1,000 feet long.
The barriers were so popular with troops that multiple people named animalsrescued from Afghanistan after them.