Check out these amazing photos of F-22s and F-16s flying over Alaska - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY TACTICAL

Check out these amazing photos of F-22s and F-16s flying over Alaska

On July 18, 2019, F-22 Raptors assigned to the 90th Fighter Squadron from Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson (JBER) and F-16 Fighting Falcons assigned to the 18th Aggressor Squadron from Eielson Air Force Base teamed up for a training flight over the Joint Pacific Alaska Range Complex, in anticipation for this week’s celebrations for the 100th anniversary of JBER’s 3rd Wing, which occurred on July 1, 2019.

The flying component of the Wing, the 3rd Operations Group, is a direct descendant of one of the 15 original combat groups created by the U.S. Army Air Service before World War II. The 3rd Wing is also known for giving birth to exercise Cope Thunder, which later evolved in today’s Red Flag-Alaska.


Check out these amazing photos of F-22s and F-16s flying over Alaska

A U.S. Air Force F-16 Fighting Falcon from Eielson Air Force Base maneuvers over the Joint Pacific Alaska Range Complex, July 18, 2019.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. James Richardson)

The 3rd Wing’s lineage originated July 1, 1919, as an Army Surveillance Group out of Kelly Field (Texas) flying British-designed, American-made DeHavilland DH.4 aircraft to patrol the U.S.-Mexico border during the Mexican Revolution. After WWI the unit became the 3rd Attack Group, focusing on aerial experimentation and pioneering dive bombing, skip-bombing, and parafrag attacks that were later employed by U.S. Army Air Corps/Forces bomber squadrons during World War II.

Check out these amazing photos of F-22s and F-16s flying over Alaska

A U.S. Air Force F-22 Raptor from Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson and an F-16 Fighting Falcon from Eielson Air Force Base fly in formation over the Joint Pacific Alaska Range Complex, July 18, 2019.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. James Richardson)

Following the infamous attacks on Pearl Harbor, the 3rd Attack Group started combat operations against Japan. In 1942, after changing name to 3rd Bombardment Group, the unit received new bombers and helped developing low-altitude strafing tactics, becoming famous for their combat proficiency.

In 1950 the group, after assuming the Wing designation, was tasked to provide the Korean War’s first bombing mission. Notably, a B-26 gunner from the 3rd Wing scored the first aerial victory of the war, shooting down a North Korean YAK-3.

Check out these amazing photos of F-22s and F-16s flying over Alaska

U.S. Air Force F-16 Fighting Falcons from Eielson Air Force Base execute a formation break over the Joint Pacific Alaska Range Complex, July 18, 2019.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. James Richardson)

After being re-designated as the 3rd Tactical Fighter Wing in 1964, the unit moved to England Air Force Base, Louisiana, and started training in preparation for the Vietnam War. The 3rd Wing flew its B-57 Canberras and F-100 Super Sabres from different air bases all over South-East Asia, totaling more than 200’000 combat sorties.

During the war, the Air Force selected the 3rd TFW to evaluate the new F-5 Tiger in real operations, flying over 2,600 combat missions from October 1966 to March 1967 and resulting in several modifications that helped to improve the aircraft capabilities.

Check out these amazing photos of F-22s and F-16s flying over Alaska

U.S. Air Force F-22 Raptors from Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson fly in formation over the Joint Pacific Alaska Range Complex, July 18, 2019.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. James Richardson)

At the end of the Vietnam War, the 3rd TWF, equipped with F-4E Phantoms, relocated to Clark Air Base in the Philippines where it received also F-5E Tigers as aggressor aircrafts and started hosting exercise Cope Thunder since 1976. The exercise was initiated by Brigadier General Richard G. Head and was intended to give aircrews from across Asia their first taste of combat in a realistic simulated combat environment, improving U.S. and international forces joint combat readiness. Analysis at the time indicated most combat losses occurred during an aircrew’s first 8 to 10 missions, hence the goal of Cope Thunder was to provide each aircrew with these first missions, increasing their chances of survival in real combat environments. The exercise quickly grew into PACAF’s (PACific Air Forces) “premier simulated combat airpower employment exercise.”

Cope Thunder was moved to Eielson AFB, Alaska, in 1992, after a volcanic eruption heavily damaged Clark AFB. Eielson Air Force Base was considered the most logical choice because of the presence of three major military flight training ranges in nearby. The move helped the exercise’s evolution until, in 2006 Cope Thunder changed name to become Red Flag-Alaska, one of the most important exercises hosted by the U.S. Air Force and held four times a year.

Check out these amazing photos of F-22s and F-16s flying over Alaska

A U.S. Air Force F-16 Fighting Falcon from Eielson Air Force Base flies over the Joint Pacific Alaska Range Complex, July 18, 2019.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. James Richardson)

The 3rd TFW, now designated 3rd Wing, instead relocated to the nearby Elmendorf AFB and acquired two squadrons of F-15 Eagles, one squadron of F-15E Strike Eagles, one squadron of C-130s and a squadron of E-3 AWACS.

In 2007 the Wing replaced its F-15s with F-22s, becoming the second USAF air base, and the first of PACAF command, to host operational F-22 Raptor squadrons. F-22s regularly launch from Quick Reaction Alert cells at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson to intercept Russian bombers flying close to Alaskan airspace.

Since the move to Alaska, the wing has successfully participated in all major U.S. operations from Desert Storm to the most recent Inherent Resolve.

Interestingly, one of the Aggressor F-16 was painted in a livery unveiled in 2017 and dubbed “BDU Splinter”, mimicking colors seen in both the Cold War era “European One” and the Vietnam era Southeast Asia camouflage schemes. The full album is available on the Flickr page of Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson.

This article originally appeared on The Aviationist. Follow @theaviationist on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

13 photos of that huge, Air Force F-35 display

The ability to rapidly project power and force against any threat on a moment’s notice has long been a hallmark of American military might. Dozens of advanced stealth fighters carried on that tradition during a combat power exercise Nov. 19, 2018.

During the exercise, the US Air Force put a lot of destructive power in the air very quickly, launching a total of 35 F-35A Lightning II Joint Strike Fighters in 11 minutes.

Check out these stunning photos of this show of force by dozens of F-35s.


Check out these amazing photos of F-22s and F-16s flying over Alaska

Maintainers from the 388th Maintenance Group prepare an F-35A for its mission Nov. 19, 2018.

(United States Air Force photo by Todd Cromar)

Check out these amazing photos of F-22s and F-16s flying over Alaska

F-35A pilots from the 388th and 419th Fighter Wing prepare for takeoff as part of a combat power exercise at Hill Air Force Base, Utah.

(United States Air Force photo by Cynthia Griggs)

2. The milestone drill marks the first ever F-35 “Elephant Walk” combat power exercise, the purpose of which is to fly as many sorties as possible in a predetermined time period in preparation for a possible combat surge.

Source: The Drive

Check out these amazing photos of F-22s and F-16s flying over Alaska

F-35A pilots from the 388th and 419th Fighter Wing prepare for takeoff as part of a combat power exercise at Hill Air Force Base, Utah.

(United States Air Force photo by Cynthia Griggs)

Check out these amazing photos of F-22s and F-16s flying over Alaska

F-35A pilots from the 388th and 419th Fighter Wing prepare for takeoff as part of a combat power exercise at Hill Air Force Base, Utah.

(United States Air Force photo by Cynthia Griggs)

Check out these amazing photos of F-22s and F-16s flying over Alaska

F-35A pilots from the 388th and 419th Fighter Wing taxi as they prepare for takeoff prior to a combat power exercise at Hill Air Force Base, Utah.

(United States Air Force photo by Todd Cromar)

5. The Air Force revealed that on any given day, the F-35 wings at Hill Air Force Base fly 30-60 sorties.

Source: Business Insider

Check out these amazing photos of F-22s and F-16s flying over Alaska

Pilots from the 388th and 419th Fighter Wings taxi F-35As on the runway in preparation for a combat power exercise Nov. 19, 2018, at Hill Air Force Base, Utah.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Justin Fuchs)

Check out these amazing photos of F-22s and F-16s flying over Alaska

F-35A Lightning IIs from the 388th and 419th Fighter Wing fly by in formation as part of a combat power exercise at Hill Air Force Base, Utah.

(United States Air Force photo by Todd Cromar)

Check out these amazing photos of F-22s and F-16s flying over Alaska

F-35A pilots from the 388th and 419th conducted a combat power exercise at Hill Air Force Base, Utah, Nov. 19, 2018.

(United States Air Force photo by Todd Cromar)

Check out these amazing photos of F-22s and F-16s flying over Alaska

An F-35A Lightning II from the 388th and 419th Fighter Wing fly by as part of a combat power exercise at Hill Air Force Base, Utah.

(United States Air Force photo by Cynthia Griggs)

9. The first of the US fifth-generation stealth fighters to fly an actual combat mission was an F-35B that was deployed against the Taliban in Afghanistan in late September 2018.

Source: Business Insider

Check out these amazing photos of F-22s and F-16s flying over Alaska

F-35A Lightning IIs from the 388th and 419th Fighter Wing fly in close formation during the combat power exercise.

(United States Air Force photo by Cynthia Griggs)

10. During development, the F-35 has faced numerous setbacks. The aircraft, recognized as the most expensive in military history, suffered its first crash in South Carolina the same week it completed its first combat mission.

Source: Business Insider

Check out these amazing photos of F-22s and F-16s flying over Alaska

A formation of F-35 Lightning IIs from the 388th and 419th Fighter Wings stationed at Hill Air Force Base perform aerial maneuvers.

( U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Cory D. Payne)

Check out these amazing photos of F-22s and F-16s flying over Alaska

A formation of 35 F-35A Lightning IIs, from the 388th and 419th Fighter Wings fly over the Utah Test and Training Range as part of a combat power exercise on Nov. 19, 2018.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Andrew Lee)

12. Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis has ordered the Air Force and Navy to achieve a minimum of 80 percent mission capability rates for their F-35s, F-22s, F-16s, and F/A-18s by September 2019.

Source: Defense News

Check out these amazing photos of F-22s and F-16s flying over Alaska

A formation of 35 F-35A Lightning IIs, from the 388th and 419th Fighter Wings fly over the Utah Test and Training Range during the exercise.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Andrew Lee)

13. Hill Air Force Base is expected to house three F-35 squadrons by the end of 2019.

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

Watch these wounded warriors take on NFL alums in the ‘Super Bowl’ of flag football

This past weekend, Kaplan University invited WATM to join them at Radio Row for some of the Super Bowl 50 festivities. Kaplan was there in support of the Wounded Warrior Amputee Flag Football Team in their celebrity game with NFL alumni.


Adding their support to the event were such NFL greats as Rocky Bleier, Bob Golic, Tim Krumrie, Jackie Slater, Bill Romanowski, and Ed “Too Tall” Jones – just to name a few. Veterans from every branch came together in an inspiring display of solidarity, sportsmanship, and the drive to overcome all.

Articles

The Army is taking social security numbers off of dog tags, but no worries: China has them on file

After more than 40 years without a change, Army dog tags will have the Social Security numbers replaced with a random 10-digit Department of Defense identification number.


Check out these amazing photos of F-22s and F-16s flying over Alaska
Photo: US Army Human Resources Command Daniela Vestal

The change comes six months after the Office of Personnel Management admitted that 21.5 million people, mostly federal and military employees, had their Social Security Numbers stolen by Chinese hackers. The OPM and the DoD established a service for monitoring the credit of people affected by the hack.

The new DoD identification numbers are being slowly implemented across the military as an attempt to prevent identity theft. The numbers are randomly generated as they are assigned.

New ID cards already carry the DoD number instead of a Social Security number and TRICARE is switching soon, according to an Army spokesman.

No Chinese hackers were available to comment on how this will affect their bulk data collections. It will certainly reduce their ability to collect them one at a time.

Learn more about the change at Army.mil.

Articles

Air Force Chief: US must be ready to fight in space

Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Welsh said the U.S. Air Force needs to be ready to engage in space combat.


“Other nations are preparing to use space as a battlefield, a big battlefield, and we’d better be ready to fight there,” Welsh said last week in Arlington, Virginia. “We don’t want to fight there but we better be ready for it because other people clearly are posturing themselves to be able to do that.”

Welsh, who will be retiring on July 1 after just over 40 years of service, made his comments Thursday morning in Arlington, Virginia, at an Air Force Association breakfast.

His comment about space as a battlefield came in the context of what the U.S. needs to be able to do to win future fights.

One of the absolutes in modern warfare, he said, is firepower – “more of it, more quickly and more precisely.” And the Air Force needs to have that not only in the air domain but in cyber and space domains.

Check out these amazing photos of F-22s and F-16s flying over Alaska
U.S. Air Force Gen. Mark Welsh, left, the chief of staff of the Air Force, speaks with Gen. Bob Kehler, the commander of U.S. Strategic Command, during a senior leadership council meeting hosted by Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel at the Pentagon.

Welsh credited Air Force Space Command with taking the lead “in at least thinking about the space domain as a warfighting domain.”

But Space Command has been thinking about space warfare for quite some time.

In the 1990s, Air Force Gen. Joseph Ashy, then head of Space Command, told lawmakers that space would become a battleground, according to Air Force Maj. William L. Spacy II, who quoted Ashy in “Does the United States Need Space-Based Weapons?”

“Some people don’t want to hear this, and it sure isn’t in vogue … but — absolutely — we’re going to fight in space. We’re going to fight from space and we’re going to fight into space,” Ashy said.

A 1967 Outer Space Treaty stipulates that space is to be used for peaceful purposes. Just what that means has never been defined, though the 1945 U.N. Charter defined “peaceful purposes” to include the inherent right of self-defense, Spacy wrote.

That freed up space-pioneering countries including the Soviet Union and the U.S. to place military communications and early-warning system satellites into space. But both also went farther than that, developing and testing – but never deploying – anti-satellite weapons before and after the 1967 treaty was adopted.

But in recent years the idea of space engagements has grown more real as both China and the U.S. successfully demonstrated the capability to take out a satellite with a weapon.

China destroyed one of its own weather satellites with an anti-satellite weapon in 2007. A year later the U.S. took down one of its own damaged satellites using a SM-3 missile fired from the USS Lake Erie.

Humor

These 10 letters kids sent to deployed troops will make you smile

Words can’t be expressed how grateful deployed troops are when they receive care packages and letters from back home. A swarm of grown men and women will hover around them just to get whatever goodies they can out of them.


I’ve seen people fight over chocolate that made it through the trip (spoiler alert: there’s a one in a million chance it doesn’t melt on the way over). I’ve seen someone buy a pack of Girl Scout cookies for $50. I still wear a 550-cord band that I got in one of mine because a kid wrote that it’d keep me safe. I’m still here today so technically, you can’t prove the kid wrong.

The letters from the kids are the amazing. The letters fall somewhere between savage as f*ck to random as sh*t. These are some of the best from the Internet.

1. Thank you. Don’t Die

Check out these amazing photos of F-22s and F-16s flying over Alaska
(Image via Imgur)

Thanks, kid. I’ll try not to.

2. This ‘Merican AF dragon!

Check out these amazing photos of F-22s and F-16s flying over Alaska
(Image via Imgur)

I said consummate ‘v’s!

3. Call Me Maybe

Check out these amazing photos of F-22s and F-16s flying over Alaska
(Image via Imgur)

And now we all have that song stuck in our heads… Thanks, Maddie.

4. My mom likes drinking wine

Check out these amazing photos of F-22s and F-16s flying over Alaska
(Image via Imgur)

Awesome!

5. You rock more than AC/DC or Metallica, or Red Hot Chili Peppers

Check out these amazing photos of F-22s and F-16s flying over Alaska

Kid knows AC/DC, Metallica, and Chili Peppers, even if he can’t spell them? Yeah. He’s probably going to enlist some day.

6. Thank you for fighting in the war

Check out these amazing photos of F-22s and F-16s flying over Alaska
(Image via Imgur)

Don’t know if spelling error or not… But we do whatever it takes to keep our country proud of us!

7 Happy America Nut’s Kream

Check out these amazing photos of F-22s and F-16s flying over Alaska
(Image via Imgur)

Meow America, indeed.

8. My Grandpa Bob was in the Navy and now he loves peanuts.

Check out these amazing photos of F-22s and F-16s flying over Alaska
(Image via Imgur)

Peanuts. Yes, peanuts. Couldn’t possibly be anything else.

9. You’ll probably never get to see your family again

Check out these amazing photos of F-22s and F-16s flying over Alaska
(Image via Imgur)

Thanks for caring, Donovan.

10. My dad said you guys are fighting a bunch of goat f*ckers.

Check out these amazing photos of F-22s and F-16s flying over Alaska
(Image via Imgur)

For someone who doesn’t know what a goat f*cker is, Jack has some pretty good spelling and penmanship.

Articles

This battleship went from Pearl Harbor to D-Day to nuclear tests

The D-Day landings featured an immense fleet – including seven battleships.


One, HMS Rodney, was notable for being the only battleship to torpedo another battleship. However, one of the American battleships came to Normandy via Pearl Harbor, where she was run aground.

That ship was the battleship USS Nevada (BB 36). The Nevada was the lead ship in her class, the other being USS Oklahoma (BB 37). According to the Dictionary of American Naval Fighting Ships, when she was built, she had ten 14-inch guns (two triple turrets, two double turrets), 21 five-inch guns (many in casemates), and four 21-inch torpedo tubes.

Check out these amazing photos of F-22s and F-16s flying over Alaska
USS Nevada (BB 36) shortly after she was built. (U.S. Navy photo)

The Nevada did not see much action at all (although nine sailors died from the influenza pandemic that hit in 1918) in World War I. In the 1920s and 1930s, she carried out normal peacetime operations.

On Dec. 7, 1941, she was moored alone on Battleship Row. When Kido Butai launched the sneak attack on Oahu, the battleship was hit by a torpedo, but her crew managed to get her engines running, and she made a break for the open ocean.

As she did so, the second wave from the six Japanese carriers arrived. The Nevada took anywhere from six to ten bomb hits, and the decision was made to run her aground.

The Nevada suffered 50 dead and over 100 wounded, but Pearl Harbor would claim two more casualties. In “Pearl Harbor: Why, How, Fleet Salvage and Final Appraisal,” it was reported that two men were killed by hydrogen sulfide on Feb. 7, 1942, while working to salvage the Nevada.

Check out these amazing photos of F-22s and F-16s flying over Alaska
Damage to USS Nevada after the attack on Pearl Harbor. (U.S. Navy photo)

Nevada would return to Puget Sound for permanent repairs and refitting, gaining a new dual-purpose batter of eight twin five-inch gun mounts. She took part in operations to re-take the Aleutian Islands of Attu and Kiska from the Japanese, then she went to the Atlantic.

On June 6, 1944, she was part of the armada that took part in Operation Overlord, and continued to provide fire support until American troops moved further inland. In August of that year, she took part in Operation Dragoon, the landings in southern France.

She then returned to the Pacific, taking part in the invasions of Iwo Jima and Okinawa. Off Okinawa, she suffered damage from a kamikaze and from Japanese shore batteries.

The ship remained mission-capable, and she would later return to Pearl Harbor for repairs before re-joining the fleet to prepare for the invasion of Japan, stopping to pay a visit to a bypassed Japanese-held island.

Check out these amazing photos of F-22s and F-16s flying over Alaska
USS Nevada fires on Nazi positions during D-Day. (U.S. Navy photo)

After Japan surrendered, the Nevada was sent back to the West Coast, and prepared for Operation Crossroads. Painted a bright orange color to serve as an aiming point for the B-29 crew assigned to drop an atomic bomb, she got lucky.

According to the book “Final Voyages,” the B-29 crew missed her by about a mile — and she survived both the Able and Baker tests. She was later used as a target and sunk, with the final blow being an aerial torpedo according to the Naval Vessel Register.

MIGHTY MOVIES

Now we know who will play Goose’s son in ‘Top Gun 2’

Movie fans everywhere rejoiced when Tom Cruise officially announced that a sequel to Top Gun was in the works, as the original remains a beloved classic for its memorable quotes, thrilling action, and, of course, the most badass volleyball sequence in the history of film. Now Top Gun lovers have even more of a reason to get excited, as it was announced early July 2018 that Miles Teller has been cast to play the son of Goose, Maverick’s original flying partner, in the highly anticipated sequel.


On July 3, 2018, Teller confirmed he was pumped about Top Gun 2, linking to an article announcing his casting with the caption: “I feel the need…” For now, it is not entirely clear how prominent of a role Teller will have in the film, though rumors have circulated that Goose’s son will be one of Maverick’s proteges in the new Top Gun.

MIGHTY TRENDING

This amazing short film shows the internal struggle that some veterans face

An American detainee wearing an orange jumpsuit with his hands bound resists questions from a sadistic, faceless interrogator. Faced with repeated torture and more questions, it’s only a matter of time before he cracks.


The scene is from a short film called “Prisoner of War,” released on Veterans Day 2015, and it shows the internal struggle that some combat veterans face after they take off the uniform.

“This is an emotionally charged short film that will leave a lot of people speechless,” Executive Producer Marty Skovlund, Jr. told The Havok Journal. “Thanks to the exceptional performance that Josh [Kelly] put on, as well as the creative genius of both director Matt Sanders and the director of photography Chris Koser, we have something here that will send shockwaves through the audience.”

To learn more about how to help veteran’s deal with the transition home, visit: http://gallantfew.org/

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Hollywood-style special effects convert Humvees into enemy tanks

The Army National Guard is using new Hollywood special effects to transform Humvees into T-72 tanks and other Russian combat vehicles to amp up the realism in training exercises.

In 2018, the National Guard Bureau hired WestEfx Military Services in Sun Valley, California, to help improve its Exportable Combat Training Capability program and its 21-day exercises designed to ensure units are ready for mobilization, according to an Army news release.

WestEfx has provided special effects for big-screen movies such as “Taken” and “Men in Black II,” it added.

The firm’s special VisMod kits convert M1097 Humvees into realistic mock-ups of Russian T-72 main battle tanks and BTR-90 personnel carriers.


Military engineers and mechanics have helped WestEfx install 12 kits onto Humvees at the Idaho Army National Guard’s Orchard Combat Training Center, according to the release. The Guard and WestEfx plan to continue production of 48 more kits over the next three years, it adds.

Check out these amazing photos of F-22s and F-16s flying over Alaska

The upgraded T-72A which appeared in 1979.

“We will be able to train against a realistic enemy,” Sgt. 1st Class Clinton Doramus, Idaho Army National Guard VisMod fleet manager, said in the release. “These kits aren’t going to look and act like a Humvee. They are going to look and act like T-72s and BTR-90s.”

The kits weigh about 1,700 pounds and fit over a Humvee’s chassis to resemble the size and silhouette of the tank or personnel carrier, but use an inflatable canvas-like frame.

Its gas-operated weapon systems simulate the firing of .50-caliber and 125 mm main guns that can be configured to multiple integrated laser engagement systems (MILES) for added realism, according to the release.

“No enhanced battlefield training simulators can compare with the functionality, realism, durability and cost-effectiveness of this new VisMod vehicle,” WestEfx owner and lead designer Erick Brennan said in the release. “They are pretty amazing, and we are really proud of them.”

Army brigade combat teams have used similar technology over the years to replicate enemy vehicles, but these new kits are the “first of their kind,” Maj. Aaron Ammerman, XCTC program manager for the Guard Bureau, said in the release.

“Taking a look at how VisMods are done across the Army, I think these are the best I’ve ever seen,” he said. “They will provide an exponentially more realistic threat signature for troops to train against as they do force-on-force exercises.”

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

MIGHTY HISTORY

This flawed government report triggered nuclear panic in Cold War

Anyone who survived the Cold War likely remembers the fear that, with almost no notice, an endless rain of Soviet missiles and bombs could begin that would end the war. Even if your city wasn’t hit, the number of nukes that America and Russia would have exchanged would have ended the war. But there was a problem: the Soviet Union had a tiny fraction of the missiles necessary. The confusion can be traced back to one flawed report.


In the early 1950s, rumors were growing that the Soviet Union was developing better ballistic missiles, massive weapons that took off, reached a high altitude, and then fell on or near a specified target. Early ballistic missiles were used in World War II, and they were unguided and crude weapons.

But the U.S. and Russia had seized as many German scientists as they could in the closing days of World War II, and the U.S. and the Soviet Union were each suspicious of what the other was doing with the co-opted scientists. If the Soviet Union was concentrating on missile research, they could beat America to space, and they might get a massive missile arsenal that could deliver nuclear warheads by the dozens.

And then the Soviets launched a missile test, sending a ballistic missile 3,000 miles across Siberia and other Soviet territories.

Worried about the possibility of Soviet attacks, President Dwight D. Eisenhower assembled a panel to try and figure out how many nuclear warheads, bombs, and ballistic missiles the Soviet Union might have, as well as how to defend against them. Two brilliant scientists led the research into the ballistic missile numbers.

Check out these amazing photos of F-22s and F-16s flying over Alaska

Intercontinental ballistic missiles are a highly inefficient way to deliver warheads, but they’re also hard to defend against and you don’t have to risk the lives of your own troops to attack your enemy.

(National Museum of the U.S. Air Force)

Herb York was part of the scientific director at Livermore Laboratory, a nuclear research lab. And Jerome Weisner was a science adviser to the president. They were both capable men, but they had to do their research with very little information.

They figured out how much factory floor space the Soviet Union had and then tried to work out how many rockets they could build per year. But they didn’t know how much of that factory floor space was actually dedicated to rocket production, whether sufficient quantities of materiel was dedicated to the cause, or how efficient the Soviet’s manufacturing methods were.

So York and Weisner prepared a worst-case number to the president. Basically, if the Soviets were as efficient as America in rocket production, dedicated most of their available factory space to the effort, and gave sufficient labor and materiel to the project, they could produce thousands of missiles in just a few years. That was at least one new missile a day, and potentially as many as three to five missiles, each capable of taking out an American city.

Now, this wasn’t a complete stab in the dark. York and Weisner had looked at Soviet factory output, and there was a curious gap between America and the Soviet Union on the production of consumer goods and some war materials. Basically, Soviet factories were either drastically under producing, or else they were producing something hidden from America.

And what America did know of Soviet re-armament after World War II indicated a nation that was preparing for war. They had rapidly developed an arsenal of atomic and then nuclear bombs, produced hundreds of heavy bombers, then developed capable jet engines and re-built their air force for the jet age, all while churning out thousands of radar systems and armored vehicles and tanks.

So, if you thought the Soviet Union had a lot of unused factory space and wanted to create a massive missile capability, you would probably assume that they were going to churn them out by the thousands, just like they had with radar and other capabilities.

Check out these amazing photos of F-22s and F-16s flying over Alaska

Explosions like this, but in American cities. It’s a problem.

(U.S. Navy)

And York and Weisner’s numbers were included in the document Deterrence Survival in the Nuclear Age, better known as the Gaither Report in November 1957. It was supposed to be secret, but it quickly leaked, and the American people suddenly learned that the Soviets might already have hundreds of missiles with thousands on the way.

Oh, and Sputnik had just launched, so it was clear to the public that Soviet missile technology was ahead of American. Eisenhower tried to play down the report, and might have comforted some people, but plenty of others saw it as a sign that he was hiding an American weakness.

And so the idea of a “missile gap,” that the U.S. was far behind the Soviet Union in terms of missile technology and numbers was born. This set off a short-lived panic followed by years of anxiety. It also underlined the importance of two other aspects of the Gaither Report: deterrence by America’s nuclear arsenal and survival through shelters and, later, civil defense.

America would drastically increase its missile development and other aspects of its nuclear arsenal, seeking to close the gap from the Eisenhower through the Kennedy administrations. But, under Kennedy, the U.S. would learn through improved spy satellite and plane imagery that the missile gap actually went the other direction.

America’s arsenal was massively larger than the Soviets’. At the time of the Gaither report, the Soviet Union only had four intercontinental ballistic missiles, the really capable ones.

And, instead of building thousands by 1960, they constructed about 100 more in the first few years after 1957.

MIGHTY HISTORY

This is what happened to the USS Constitution’s original guns

If you visit the USS Constitution in Boston these days, the cannons you’ll see on her gun deck aren’t the originals launched with the ship. The guns aboard the ship are replicas, and only two of them are capable of firing salute charges. Even when the sailors aboard Constitution fire salutes, it’s a far cry from the way cannons were loaded and fired when Old Ironsides was first laid.

In fact, they’re inaccurate replicas, with 18 of them even bearing the Royal Cipher of King George II.


Check out these amazing photos of F-22s and F-16s flying over Alaska

The creator thought the ship’s original guns were confiscated from the British. He was wrong.

(USS Constitution Museum Collection)

USS Constitution was first launched in 1797 and saw action against the Royal Navy during the War of 1812. She took down five British warships, victories that stunned not only the Royal Navy, but the rest of the world. Her most famous victory was against the HMS Guerriere, the victory that earned her the nickname “Old Ironsides” when the Guerriere’s 526-pound broadsides bounced off Constitution’s hull as if it were made of iron. But the 30 24-pounder long guns and 20 32-pounder carronades it launched with weren’t captured from the British during the Revolution.

The guns aboard Constitution were never designed to stay solely aboard the ship, as weapons at that time were moved as needed. Shortly before the Civil War, she took an illegal American slaver as a prize off the coast of Angola and was decommissioned. The ship was turned into a training ship for Midshipmen at the U.S. Naval Academy. Eventually, she was turned into housing for sailors until the turn of the 20th Century.

Check out these amazing photos of F-22s and F-16s flying over Alaska

The Constitution being refitted as training ship for Midshipmen.

It was around 1906 that Congress decided to restore Constitution to her former glory. After public outcry against the ship being used for target practice by the Navy halted its planned sinking, 0,000 was appropriated to restore the ship as a museum. This included new casts of cannon for her decks. Some 54 guns were going to be cast for the restoration. But the Naval Constructor in charge of the armaments, believing there was no documentation about the original guns, used a French design instead. So rather than long guns and carronades, the designer saved money by using the same gun on every deck.

In 1925, the Navy rectified this and went all-out in restoring Constitution. The new restoration scrapped all of the 1906 guns for being historically inaccurate. After four years in drydock, the guns the Navy used to replace the 1906 guns were also inaccurate. These were the aforementioned British-style weapons – but at least they represent the kinds of weapons found on the gun decks and spar decks. Two of them even fire salutes.

The two saluting guns aboard Constitution were retrofitted to fire 40mm shells of black powder just in time for the United States Centennial in 1976. On Nov. 11, 1976, the commanding officer of the ship decided to fire the salute guns in the morning and in the evening from the ship’s mooring in Boston Harbor – a tradition it has carried on ever since.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Rewilding war zones can help heal the wounds of conflict

Where the Iron Curtain once divided Europe with barbed wire, a network of wilderness with bears, wolves, and lynx now thrives. Commemorating 100 years since the end of World War I, people wear poppies to evoke the vast fields of red flowers which grew over the carnage of Europe’s battlefields. Once human conflict has ended, the return of nature to barren landscapes becomes a potent symbol of peace.

These tragedies, which force people away from a place, can help ecosystems replenish in their absence. Though rewilding is typically considered an active decision, like the reintroduction of wolves to Yellowstone National Park, abandoned rural land often returns to wilderness of its own accord. Today, as people vacate rural settlements for life in cities, accidental rewilding has meant large predators returning to areas of Europe, long after they were almost made extinct.


Sudden changes, such as the the Chernobyl nuclear power plant disasterin 1986, result in wildlife recolonising exclusion zones in previously developed areas.

Check out these amazing photos of F-22s and F-16s flying over Alaska

Abandonment of Pripyat, Ukraine after the Chernobyl disaster ushered in wildlife.

Warfare can also result in human exclusion, which might benefit wildlife under specific conditions. Isolation and abandonment can generate wild population increases and recoveries, which has been observed in both terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems.

The strange link between war and wildlife

Fish populations in the North Atlantic benefited from World War II as fishing fleets were drastically reduced. Fishing vessels were requisitioned by the navy, seamen were drafted and the risks of fishing due to enemy strikes or subsurface mining deterred fishermen from venturing out to sea.

As a result, the war essentially created vast “marine protected areas” for several years in the Atlantic Ocean. After the war, armed with faster and bigger trawlers with new technology, fishermen reported bonanza catches.

A more gruesome result of World War II allowed opportunistic species such as the oceanic whitetip shark to flourish, as human casualties at sea proved a rich and plentiful food source.

Check out these amazing photos of F-22s and F-16s flying over Alaska

The growth of oceanic whitetip shark populations during WWII is a grisly example of how war can sometimes benefit wildlife.

(CC BY-SA)

Warship wrecks also became artificial reefs on the seabed which still contribute to the abundance of marine life today. The 52 captured German warships that were sunk during World War I between the Orkney mainland and the South Isles, off the north coast of Scotland, are now thriving marine habitats.

Exclusion areas, or “no mans lands”, which remain after fighting has ended may also help terrestrial ecosystems recuperate by creating de facto wildlife reserves. Formerly endangered species, such as the Persian leopard, have re-established their populations in the rugged northern Iran-Iraq frontier.

An uneasy post-war settlement can create hard borders with vast areas forbidden to human entry. The Korean Demilitarized Zone is a 4km by 250km strip of land that has separated the two Koreas since 1953. For humans it is one of the most dangerous places on Earth, with hundreds of thousands of soldiers patrolling its edges. For wildlife however, it’s one of the safest areas in the region.

Today, the zone is home to thousands of species that are extinct or endangered elsewhere on the Korean peninsula, such as the long-tailed goral.

Miraculously, even habitats scarred by the most horrific weaponry can thrive as places where human access is excluded or heavily regulated. Areas previously used for nuclear testing, such as the Marshall Islands in the Pacific Ocean have been recolonizedby coral and fish, which seem to be thriving in the crater of Bikini Atoll, declared a nuclear wasteland after nuclear bomb tests in the 1940s and 50s.

War – still good for nothing

For all the quirks caused by abandonment, warfare overwhelmingly harms human communities and ecosystems with equal fervor. A review of the impact of human conflict on ecosystems in Africa showed an overall decrease in wildlife between 1946 and 2010. In war’s aftermath, natural populations were slow to recover or stopped altogether as economic hardship meant conservation fell by the wayside.

Humans often continue to avoid a “no mans land” because of the presence of land mines. But these don’t differentiate between soldiers and wildlife, particularly large mammals. It’s believed that residual explosives in conflict zones have helped push some endangered species closer to extinction.

Check out these amazing photos of F-22s and F-16s flying over Alaska

Today’s European Green Belt traces the original route of the Iron Curtain.

(CC BY-SA)

However, where possible, accidental rewilding caused by war can help reconcile people after the fighting ends by installing nature where war had brought isolation. There is hope that should Korea reunify, a permanently protected area could be established within the current demilitarised zone boundaries, allowing ecotourism and education to replace enmity.

Such an initiative has already succeeded elsewhere in the world. The European Green Belt is the name for the corridor of wilderness which runs along the former Iron Curtain, which once divided the continent. Started in the 1970s, this project has sprawled along the border of 24 states and today is the longest and largest ecological network of its kind in the world. Here, ponds have replaced exploded land mine craters and forests and insect populations have grown in the absence of farming and pesticide use.

Where war isolates and restricts human movement, nature does seem to thrive. If, as a human species, we aim for a peaceful world without war, we must strive to limit our own intrusions on the natural paradises that ironically human warfare creates and nurture a positive legacy from a tragic history.

Feature image: SpeedPropertyBuyers.

This article originally appeared on The Conversation. Follow @ConversationUS on Twitter.

Do Not Sell My Personal Information