The United States says it is halting deliveries to Turkey related to the F-35 fighter-jet program in response to Ankara’s decision to move ahead with the purchase of Russian air-defense system.
“Pending an unequivocal Turkish decision to forgo delivery of the S-400, deliveries and activities associated with the stand-up of Turkey’s F-35 operational capability have been suspended while our dialogue on this important matter continues with Turkey,” a Pentagon spokesperson said on April 1, 2019.
Washington has been warning Ankara for months that buying the S-400 system would jeopardize its planned purchase of the advanced fighter aircraft.
Turkey has said it is committed to a deal to buy S-400 missile-defense systems from Russia.
Why are the Marvel movies so damn popular? Well, that might be the wrong question, because the more important question should be: how did the Marvel movies get to be so damn funny? What are the best jokes in the funniest Marvel movies?
From “Iron Man” in 2008 to “Avengers: Endgame” in 2019, one thing moviegoers have always been able to count on from these films is a one-liner quip machine even in the bleakest of installments. Figuring out all the funniest moments in all 22 installments of the official Marvel Cinematic Universe might seem like a task better suited to one of Tony Stark’s supercomputers, but since Jarvis and Friday aren’t real, you’ll have to deal with human bias. So, with that in mind, here are 18 of the best jokes from the entire Marvel Cinematic Universe. And to avoid saying any of these jokes are better or worse than others, we’re just listing these jokes in chronological order.
Warning: Joke spoilers for all Marvel movies ahead!
1. “Let’s face it, this is not the worst thing you’ve caught me doing.”
When Pepper Potts walks in on Tony messing with his Iron Man suit, this classic Stark comeback cannot be beaten.
2. “We have a Hulk.”
From the 2012 “Avengers,” Tony Stark’s rebuttal to Loki’s boast “I have an army” is “We have a Hulk.” This is made all the sweeter when you consider Loki himself says “We have a Hulk” when he stands-up to Thanos in “Infinity War.”
3. “Better clench up, Legolas.”
Tony Stark’s pop culture references are an artform. If you don’t know who Legolas is and why this is funny, I’m sorry that I have to explain this to you: Legolas is an elf archer from “Lord of the Rings.” Hawkeye is an archer. Okay. enough explaining.
4. “I’m a huge fan of the way you lose control and turn into an enormous green rage monster.”
This Tony Stark quip is preceded by him complimenting Bruce Banner on his scientific achievements, which of course, is totally overshadowed by his ability to Hulk-out.
5. “No hard feelings, Point Break.”
I’m not going to explain this reference. I’ll explain “Lord of the Rings” references, but not this one. Either you get it, or you don’t. (If you’re reading this website and you’re a dad, I’m guessing you get this.)
6. “I understood that reference!”
Steve Rogers is great when he gets super-earnest in subsequent Avengers flicks, but he’s pretty much the best when he’s struggling with 21st-century pop culture references. In the first “Avengers,” when Steve actually understands one of Nick Fury’s references to “The Wizard of Oz,” his reaction is pure gold.
7. “The city is flying. We’re fighting an army of robots. And I have a bow and arrow. None of this makes sense.”
One of the funniest meta-fictional lines in any Marvel movie. Hawkeye knows nothing about his role in these movies makes sense.
8. “Why would I put my finger on his throat?”
You could, in theory, do an entire list of just great jokes and funny moments from both “Guardians of the Galaxy” movies and their appearances in “Infinity War” and “Endgame.” I’ve tried to prevent too many “Guardians” jokes from dominating this list. But still, when Star-Lord is trying to reason with Drax in that prison, this visual gag where Drax doesn’t understand the pantomime for killing someone is hilarious.
9. “If I had a black light, this place would look like a Jackson Pollock painting”
A crass joke that flies over the head of kids and into the ears of knowing adults. Nice. Totally on-brand from Chris Pratt’s Star-Lord. Also, fun fact, this line was ad-libbed by Chris Pratt on the spot.
10. “He says he’s an a-hole, and I’m quoting him here, but he’s not 100 percent…a dick”
John C. Reilly’s small role in “Guardians of the Galaxy” is underrated. It just is.
11. “If you say one more word, I’ll feed you to my children! I’m kidding. We’re vegetarians.”
M’baku might not be as famous as T’Challa in the kingdom of Wakanda, but he’s pretty much the funniest person in “Black Panther.”
12. “He’s a friend from work!”
When Thor realizes he’s supposed to fight the Hulk in “Ragnarok,” he’s thrilled and relieved. This line is fantastic because it’s so relatable, but it’s made ten times sweeter when you know that a Make-A-Wish kid actually suggested the line in the first place. True story!
13. “Dude, you’re embarrassing me in front of the wizards.”
Tony Stark and Bruce Banner’s reunion in “Infinity War” is full of a lot of great moments, but this joke is easily the best.
14. “OH! we’re using our made-up names!”
The lovable innocence of Tom Holland’s Peter Parker is always great and when he understandably doesn’t understand that Dr. Strange’s real name is Dr. Strange, it’s one of the funniest moments in the entire series.
15. “Kick names. Take ass”
Mantis’ mangling of a pretty common cliche turns it into something very different thanks to her naivite — and impeccable timing.
16. “I get emails from a raccoon, so nothing sounds crazy.”
Black Widow is super tired in this “Avengers: Endgame” one-liner, but her workplace emails are certainly a little different than yours. Or are they?
17. “What’s up, regular-sized man?”
Rhodey gets in on the one-liner action, in one of the best jokes for “Endgame.” Picking on Ant-Man might not be nice, but it is hilarious.
18. “As far as I’m concerned, that is America’s ass.”
Paul Rudd, an actual comedic actor who found his way into the Marvel universe as Ant-Man, gets what is probably the very best line in “Avengers: Endgame.” This joke is so good, it gets repeated by Steve Rogers as he’s staring at former-him’s ass.
This article originally appeared on Fatherly. Follow @FatherlyHQ on Twitter.
In April 1944, an intrepid pilot swooped into the jungle in Burma and scooped up three wounded British soldiers and began to fly them out. It would have been a grand escape, a small part of the growing story of air ambulances in World War II. But this story isn’t about that pilot, Tech Sgt. Ed Hladovcak.
An L-1A Vigilant similar to the plane piloted by Tech. Sgt. Ed Hladovcak before he went down.
They were alone behind enemy lines. Low-flying planes of the 1st Air Commando Group, of which Hladovcak was a member, found the struggling survivors. But while the air commandos had planes specially made for jungle and short airstrip operations, even those planes couldn’t get the four men out of the jungle they were in. So the order was given to send in a YR-4B, the first military production helicopter.
The YR-4B was an experimental aircraft, but it worked and went into production. The early models had bomb racks and were used in a variety of combat trials while the later R-4 had the racks stripped off. There were so few helicopter pilots in the world in 1944 that there was only one qualified pilot in the China-Burma-India Theater: 1st Lt. Carter Harman.
1st Lt. Carter Harman, standing at left, and other members of the 1st Air Commando Group medical evacuation mission.
(U.S. Air Force)
Harman had joined the Air Corps to avoid being drafted into the infantry, but fate steered him into helicopter flight. Despite Harman’s martial misgivings, he took to the “whirlybirds” and became just the seventh Army pilot to fly a helicopter solo. When he shipped to India, he was the only one who could fly the “eggbeater.”
And he was needed 600 miles away, over mountains and through thin air which his helicopter could barely traverse, as fast as possible if the four men on the ground were going to get away without being captured or killed by the Japanese troops already searching for them.
Harman packed the YR-4B with extra fuel and took off on a marathon flight, hopping through the terrain until he reached a jungle airstrip known as “Aberdeen.” Then, despite the jungle air inhibiting the performance of his air-cooled engine and the lift of his rotors, he took off over the trees.
A liaison airplane, one of those models built to perform in the jungle, led Harman to the downed airmen. But thanks to that jungle air mentioned above, Harman could only lift one patient at a time. So, he landed April 24 and spoke to Hladovcak, and Hladovcak helped load a British soldier. It was Hladovcak’s first time seeing a helicopter.
Harman carried him and then a second British soldier back to Aberdeen and came back for the third man, but his engine gave out under the strain. He was forced to land on a small sandbank as Japanese troops prowled the nearby jungle, searching for him. Alone behind enemy lines, Harman slowly repaired his engine. On the morning of April 25, he was back in the air.
He quickly got the third British soldier to a waiting liaison plane and then pulled out Hladovcak, flying his 1st Air Commando counterpart to Aberdeen. Harman would later receive the Distinguished Flying Cross for his actions. This and other rescues in World War II proved the value of helicopter evacuation, leading to its extensive use in Korea and then Vietnam.
It was there, in the jungles of Vietnam, that the helicopter cemented its place in military aviation. It didn’t just serve medical evacuation; it was used extensively to move supplies and troops, and Bell Helicopters sold the Army its first dedicated attack helicopter, the AH-1 Cobra.
Many of the side effects of war go unaddressed by those outside the military and veteran community. Recent veterans have been exposed to deadly chemicals released from burn pits. Vietnam War veterans fought for decades to get recognition of the impacts of exposure to Agent Orange. But finally, there can be some solace for veterans who have been exposed to nuclear radiation.
The first sort of federal acknowledgement of the unfathomable health concerns involved with being in close contact with nuclear waste, radioactive elements, and even nuclear blast testing came in 1990 with the establishment of the Radiation Exposure Compensation Act (RECA). Now, with the John S. McCain National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2019, radiation-exposed veterans will be honored with the colloquially named “Atomic Veterans Medal.”
It means that the government is finally saying that being this close to a nuclear explosion is, apparently, “bad for your health”
H.Amdt.648 to the H.R.5515 requires the Secretary of Defense to design and produce a military service medal to honor retired and former members of the Armed Forces who were exposed to radiation — or, as the amendment calls them, “atomic veterans.”
At first glance, this seems like a paltry concession for someone who has lived a lifetime of hardships stemming from irradiation. It is, in essence, a ribbon, a piece of metal, and a paper that says, “that sucks — we’re sorry that happened!” That sort of thing is of little importance in the minds of atomic vets.
But it means far more in the bigger picture.
One fire screwed over 16 million vets well over 45 years later.
(Department of Defense)
Federal acknowledgement is paramount. The fact that, according to the House voting record, 408 congressmen agree that this amendment should be included and that the government should do more for atomic veterans is huge.
Care for atomic vets has been an issue swept under the rug for years. That care was made even more questionable after the National Archives Fire of 1973, which saw the destruction of military personnel files for over 16-18 million veterans in a single night. Because of that fire, many cancer-stricken veterans were denied healthcare as it was impossible to prove that they were, in fact, within the proximity of a nuclear blast.
One hill at a time.
(United States Air Force photo)
The first radiation exposure act gave atomic veterans the ability to receive special, priority enrollment for healthcare services from the VA for radiation-related conditions. The amendment in 2013 allowed even more veterans to be covered by RECA by including veterans who were downwind of nuclear tests. The wording of the medal seems to allow for all veterans who’ve been affected by radiation in some manner.
This alone is a huge win as it now gives treatment for the veterans who’ve long been denied access to medical care. With legislation like this receiving overwhelming support, it’s only a matter of time before Agent Orange veterans and the Burn Pit veterans also get their acknowledgement.
Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD) 1st Class Jeffrey Thomas was awarded the Silver Star Medal during an awards ceremony, Sept. 20, at EOD Mobile Unit Three on board Naval Amphibious Base, Coronado, California.
The Vice Chief of Naval Operations, Adm. Bill Moran, recognized Thomas for his conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity in action against the enemy, in support of Operation Inherent Resolve.
“Today we recognize the heroic actions of individuals and the legacy of their teammates. This recognition is well deserved, and it’s an acknowledgment of bravery, training, and dedication to team and country,” said Moran.
On Oct. 20 and 21, 2016, while conducting combined clearance operations, Thomas’ element became engaged in a 10-hour firefight with forces of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria. Throughout the battle, he continuously maneuvered through heavy small arms, rocket-propelled grenades, and mortar fire in order to engage the enemy and clear paths for his teammates.
After the lead vehicle in the convoy struck an improvised explosive device, mortally wounding a teammate, Thomas exited his vehicle and swept the vicinity for additional explosive devices in spite of enemy mortar and small arms fire impacting near him.
This enabled medics to maneuver to the damaged vehicle and provide critical combat care to the casualty. Thomas then guided the remaining vehicles out of the minefield, ensuring all forces safely reached the medial evacuation zone.
“No one that was present on the 20th of October knew better than Jeff the dangers he was facing,” said Cmdr. Geoff Townsend, commanding officer, EODMU 3. “After the EOD supervisor, a friend and mentor, was mortally wounded, Jeff knowingly exposed himself to hazards in order to protect the lives of his teammates and brothers in arms, and secure a MEDEVAC for his wounded teammate. His actions that day saved the lives of his teammates and exceeded all measures of selflessness and devotion to his country.”
The ceremony also included the presentation of the Bronze Star Medal with Combat “V” to Lt. Morgan Dahl and the Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medal (with Combat Distinguishing Device) to Explosive Ordnance Disposal Senior Chief Jon Hamm. Dahl was awarded the Bronze Star for his heroic achievement during combat operations as vehicle commander and primary explosives ordnance disposal technician, when he safely guided the tactical advance of his combined convoy under constant direct and indirect enemy.
Hamm was awarded the Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medal for his heroic achievement when Islamic State fighters engaged Hamm’s element with effective automatic weapons and rocket propelled grenade fire, he maneuvered without hesitation under fire in order to clear a safe route allowing his team to suppress the enemy.
US Navy EOD enables special operations and conventional forces access to denied areas. Navy EOD technicians and Navy divers are instrumental in clearing the way for further combat operations. They render safe various types of ordnance, including conventional, improvised, chemical, biological, and nuclear.
Stanford University’s Graduate School of Business is trying to maximize the entrepreneurial potential of America’s veterans, and after a successful pilot program in 2014, the school is again opening its doors to another 25 current and former military for their Post-9/11 Ignite Program.
“No veteran wants a handout and just say ‘hey come to this program [and] learn some things because you’re a veteran.’ No,” said Alex Martin, a Marine veteran, in a video about the program. “What they do want is: ‘hey, do you want to work hard for something? Do you want to learn the language of this business or this industry? If you do, and if you’re qualified, and if you’re the right person for the job and if you’re a man or woman of character, then you have shot to get interviewed.”
The four-week program is meant for veterans and transitioning service-members who have a demonstrated record of excellence in and out of uniform, and who are passionate about starting or scaling up a business. The Ignite Program accelerates their development from idea to profitable venture.
Those who are selected after the application period closes on March 3rd will live on campus with the other participants, learning about business fundamentals from some of the world’s best professors. Topics include innovation, leadership, operations, marketing, strategy, negotiations, and finance accounting.
The program also includes practical application along with classroom instruction. The participants split themselves into small groups, who then develop and finally pitch their business to a panel of experienced entrepreneurs and investors from Silicon Valley.
Alongside The Commit Foundation, a veteran service organization focused on helping transitioning service members, Stanford is subsidizing this immersive environment for anyone interested in building a successful business. Beyond the rigorous training, the veterans form new connections across branches of service.
To learn more about the Stanford Graduate School of Business Post-9/11 Ignite program, click here. To register for the February 11th informational webinar, click here.
William Treseder served in the Marines between 2001 and 2011. He now writes regularly on military topics, and has been featured in TIME, Foreign Policy, and Boston Review.
For five years, the young Special Forces officer spent most of his time in a cage and wasn’t allowed more than 40 yards from it. Limited to two cans of rice per day, Rowe and fellow prisoners would capture snakes and rats whenever they could. Rowe also tried to escape three times.
Angry at his deceit and the training he had provided South Vietnamese soldiers, the North Vietnamese sentenced Rowe to death. A Viet Cong patrol took Rowe into the jungle for the execution.
As they were heading to the execution point though, Rowe heard a flight of helicopters. He shoved a guard to the ground and sprinted into a nearby clearing, waving his arms to get the pilots’ attention.
They were American helicopters, but the first pilot to spot Rowe saw his black pajamas and nearly fired on him. Then he noticed Rowe’s beard that had grown out during his captivity. After realizing that Vietnamese men were incapable of growing a thick beard, the helicopter scooped Rowe up and carried him to safety.
Rowe returned to the states as a major. He left the military for a short period before returning in 1981 as a lieutenant colonel stationed at Fort Bragg. There, he developed the Army’s Survival, Evasion, Resistance, and Escape Course using the lessons he learned in captivity.
Rowe later deployed to the Philippines as the ground forces director for the Joint U.S. Military Advisory group for the Philippines where he provided counterinsurgency training for Philippine forces.
Cluster bombs and napalm are two of the most underappreciated yet effective types of munition that a plane can drop on the bad guys, but they’re not suited for every purpose. Yes, cluster bombs can do thing JDAMs can’t and yes, napalm does provide the age-old “smell of victory,” but when the bad guys are using local civilians as human shields, precision is paramount.
Thankfully, there’s a bomb for exactly that. On display at SeaAirSpace Expo 2018 in National Harbor, Maryland, Lockheed’s newly developed bomb is appropriately called the “Scalpel.” The Scalpel is a “precise, small weapon system with low collateral damage” designed for use “particularly in urban close air support (CAS) environments.”
The bomb weighs all of 100 pounds. That’s about the size of the AGM-114 Hellfire missile, a weapon that’s proven extremely effective against terrorists and tanks facing American troops. Like the Hellfire, the Scalpel is laser-guided, but there is one big difference: While the Hellfire has a relatively small, 20-pound, high-explosive warhead that detonates on impact, the Scalpel has options.
This new, laser-guided system has a “kinetic” option. What this means, simply, is that it can be set to not explode if not needed. This might sound like a waste of a bomb, but even without an explosion, a long (six feet, three inches), thin, 100-pound rod dropped from at least 15,000 feet doesn’t need to go off to put a world of hurt on some bad guys.
The Scalpel weighs about as much as a Hellfire, and uses Paveway mountings and settings.
The Scalpel is also quite easy for pilots to employ. The guidance system is the same as that of the Paveway series of laser-guided bombs, and the Scalpel uses the same computer settings as the GBU-12 laser-guided bomb. It has been used on the F-16 Fighting Falcon, F/A-18 Hornet, Mirage 2000, Mirage F-1, and the Jaguar.
The Scalpel is capable of hitting within about six feet of its aim point. It’s a safe bet that, with more military operations taking place in urban environments, the Scalpel will be used to tactically cut apart enemy positions without making too much of a mess.
Military history is full of blunders. Even the best among history’s greatest leaders made mistakes in their careers, often at critical times. Napoleon took too long to invade Russia. The Crusader kingdoms decided to march their army in full armor across a burning desert to attack Saladin on his own ground, heck President Truman even called Douglas MacArthur a “dumb son-of-a b*tch.”
During the American Civil War, any ill-timed loss or setback could have been catastrophic for either side. So winning when it mattered was vitally important. Too bad no one told these guys.
There’s no better example of poor execution ruining an excellent plan than the Battle of Fredericksburg. When the Union Army under Ambrose Burnside wanted to invade Virginia across the Rappahannock River, all went exactly as planned… until it came time to actually cross it. Gen. Henry Halleck, who was an excellent administrator but a terrible field commander, didn’t get the bridges downriver in time for the Union to keep the initiative. By the time they actually crossed the river, the Confederates were ready for them. But even so, the Federals could have been better – and that’s Burnside’s fault.
Burnside wasn’t exactly acting with military precision when he ordered his subordinates to attack the rebels with “at least a division” when the original plan called for some 60,000 troops. His underlings, following their orders, threw a thousand men in single waves at the reinforced enemy lines. Outnumbered by a lot, the rebels repelled the Federal Army, who retreated across the Rappahannock.
At Shiloh, the Confederates boldly placed their camp near Sherman’s headquarters, achieving complete tactical surprise on the morning of the battle, a fight Sherman wanted to avoid. Eventually, the unprepared Union troops were forced into a fight by the approaching enemy army. But the Confederates weren’t able to press this advantage because Confederate General Albert Sidney Johnston left P.G.T. Beauregard in command of the army from the rear, and then ran off to lead the fight from the front. Beauregard’s coordination led to the whole confederate Army getting mixed up in the fight. Later in the day, Johnston was killed after spending too many lives trying to take a fortified Union position called the “Hornet’s Nest” – an unnecessary venture.
The next day, the Confederates were down to half-strength, and the lull in the previous day’s fighting had allowed the Union to get reinforcements. Without knowing he was outnumbered by more than two-to-one, Beauregard remained in the battle and was himself surprised by a Union counterattack the next morning. The Confederates were later forced to retreat, having completely lost the initiative.
Cold Harbor could have won the war for the Union in 1864. Instead, it’s a lesson learned. During the Overland Campaign, Grant and the Union Army ground at Lee and the Army of Northern Virginia for nearly two months with some 120,000 troops, outnumbering Lee two-to-one. The culmination of the campaign was an attack on the Confederate defenses at Cold Harbor, where Grant gambled that Lee’s decimated army would be so exhausted it would fall to a Union onslaught. Grant was right, and the defenses fell, and then he went onto Richmond, and the war was over.
Of course, that’s not what happened. What happened is the same thing that happens when any army throws thousands of men at reinforced defenses manned by veteran troops: wholesale slaughter. Grant massed his men in front of the Confederate defenses, and the rebels just fired shot after shot of canister into the throngs. Grant lost nearly 10 percent of his army, more than 12,000 men – and the war dragged on.
At the Siege of Petersburg, Va., an engagement that lasted nearly a full year, Union engineers dug a mineshaft underneath the Confederate defenses. It was a brilliant plan to destroy the Confederate defenses from below instead of attacking them head-on (Grant had learned a little lesson from Cold Harbor, so at least there’s that). There was a special division that had been drilling and training for the assault on the rebel lines immediately after the mine was blown up. They would roll up the rebels through the hole created in the defenses, and everyone could go home. The only problem was that that division happened to be an all-black U.S. Colored Troops unit, so at the last minute, Gen. George G. Meade swapped them out with a bunch of untrained rabble and put the world’s worst officer in charge of the attack.
The mine blew as planned and created a giant crater on the battlefield. The officer in command, Gen. James Ledlie, didn’t brief his men that they would be attacking around a crater and then got drunk during the battle. Instead of going around the crater and attacking, the Union troops ran into it, found it was too deep to get out of, and just stayed there while the rebels killed them.
Antietam (hear me out…)
While Antietam isn’t technically a loss, it should have been a slam dunk for the Union Army. Instead, it was a gross loss of life. They outnumbered the rebels three-to-one, Lee had divided his forces into three different parts to facilitate its movement, oh, and George B. McClellan actually had Lee’s entire battle plan the whole time. It was found by two Union soldiers and delivered to the Union commander who waited a whole 18 hours to do anything about it. After squandering his foreknowledge of Lee’s plans, McClellan then dithered further, allowing Lee’s forces to mass near Sharpsburg, Md.
Once the armies were all set, the battle began, and the slaughter commenced. What should have been an easy rout for the Union turned out to be the bloodiest day in American history up until that point. After barely managing a win, McClellan allowed Lee’s army to escape without further harassment. McClellan’s lack of aggression was so apparent that President Lincoln fired him for it.
A few days ago reading the news that Lt. Col. Ralph Featherstone, Marine All Weather Fighter Attack Squadron 225 squadron commander since last April, had been fired on Jan. 24 after performing a flyover during a “sundown” ceremony at Marine Corps Air Station Miramar, “due to concerns about poor judgment” I immediately thought his F/A-18 had performed some kind of insane low passage or buzzed the Tower as done in the famous Top Gun scene.
Then, I found the video obtained by the San Diego Union-Tribune that shows the actual flyover. According to the media outlet, an air wing official confirmed the removal was linked to the flight shown in the following video:
What is more, “Featherstone was in the rear seat of the jet when it flew lower and faster than was approved in the day’s flight plan.”
In about 30 years attending airshows and events and 25 years reporting about military aviation I’ve seen many many “stunts” (i.e. aggressive maneuvers at low altitude) far worse than the one in the video above. Maybe we miss some detail about the whole story here, but that flyover is far from being “low”! No matter you are an expert or not, I think you won’t find it dangerous from any point of view.
Let’s not forget that the sundown ceremony celebrated the squadron’s transition from the “Legacy Hornet” to the F-35B STOVL (Short Take Off Vertical Landing) variant of the Lightning II aircraft. It’s an event aimed at boosting the morale of the squadron as it moves to another chapter of its history. Do you see anything “unsafe” in that passage?
For Army Sgt. Shaun Castle, the Army was becoming a career.
As a military policeman in the early 2000s, Castle had some key war-zone assignments to Kosovo, Macedonia and the Middle East that were tracking toward a bright future in the service.
But in 2005, Shaun suffered a spine injury that eventually ended his Army career. And while he recovered enough to serve as a police officer in Alabama, his prior-service injury worsened and he had to leave the force, losing the use of his legs.
Undaunted, Shaun focused on getting a college degree and earned a place on the roster of the University of Alabama wheelchair basketball team where he’s also a member of the 2020 Paralympic Games development team.
In 2012, after standing under the Paralympic banners of the Birmingham-based Lakeshore Foundation, Castle began training six days per week – hard work that has paid dividends for the now collegiate and professional sports star who plays for the University of Alabama’s men’s wheelchair basketball team and the USA Developmental team. Castle also has played professional wheelchair basketball in Lyon, France, and is a Paralympic hopeful for the 2020 Games in Tokyo, Japan. (Photo from Shaun Castle)
An advocate for Paralyzed Veterans of America and the Lakeshore Foundation, Castle has participated in numerous radio spots and other promotions in which he’s known for making mundane topics – like MREs (meals ready to eat) – sound interesting. In 2016, Castle pioneered the construction of an arena dedicated solely to wheelchair basketball at the University of Alabama. (Photo from Shaun Castle)
The US Air Force’s F-22 Raptor stealth fighter is playing a crucial yet evolving role in air operations over Syria and Iraq.
With advanced stealth technology and powerful sensors, the aircraft is the first coalition plane back in Syrian airspace after a major incident. Such was the case after the US downings of Syrian aircraft this month, as well as the US Navy’s Tomahawk missile strike on al Shayrat air base in April.
Notably missing from the high-profile shoot-downs, the fifth-generation aircraft made by Lockheed Martin Corp. isn’t necessarily showcasing its role as an air-to-air fighter in the conflict. Instead, the twin-engine jet is doing more deconflicting of airspace than dog-fighting, officials said.
“This is a counter-ISIS fight,” said Lt. Col. “Shell,” an F-22 pilot and commander of the 27th Squadron on rotation at a base in an undisclosed location, referring to the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, or ISIS. He spoke to Military.com on the condition that he be identified by his callsign.
“ISIS doesn’t have advanced surface-to-air missiles, they don’t have an air force … but we are deconflicting the air space,” Shell said. “Not everyone is on the same frequencies,” he said, referring to the US, Russian, Syrian, and coalition aircraft operating over Syria. “Deconfliction with the Russian air force — that is one of the big things that we do.”
The pilot said the F-22’s ability to identify other aircraft — down to the airframe — and detect surface-to-air missiles and relay their existence to other friendly forces while remaining a low-observable radar profile makes it critical for the fight.
The Raptor is typically flying above other aircraft, though not as high as drones such as the MQ-9 Reaper and other intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance aircraft, Shell said.
The F-22, along with the E-3 Sentry Airborne Warning and Control System, “has really high fidelity sensors that we can detect when non-coalition aircraft are getting close,” he said, “and we can move the coalition aircraft around at altitude laterally, so that, for example, if a Russian formation or Syrian formation going into the same battlespace to counter ISIS, [they are] not at conflict with our fighters.”
Weapon of Choice: Small Diameter Bomb
Even so, to defend itself in the air and strike targets on the ground, “we carry a mixed load out,” Shell said.
The F-22 wields the AIM-9X Sidewinder missile, the AIM-120 Advanced Medium-Range Air-to-Air Missile, the laser-guided GBU-39 Small Diameter Bomb, and the GPS-guided GBU-32 Joint Direct Attack Munition.
The Small Diameter Bomb is more likely to be used, especially in the counter-ISIS fight in urban areas where the Raptor is conducting precision strikes, Shell said.
“We carry the low collateral damage weapon, the Small Diameter Bomb GBU-39, to precisely strike enemy combatants while protecting the civilian population,” he said. “We also can carry the 1,000-pound JDAM GBU-32 used for targets where there is less-to-little collateral damage concern,” meaning a larger blast for attack.
Location Isn’t ‘Scramble-able’
The Combined Air Operations Center, or CAOC, based in another location, develop the F-22’s mission tasking typically three days out, Shell said. For logistical purposes, all aircraft in theater don’t fly unless the mission is deemed critical, he said.
“Typical maintenance practices will not have every airplane airborne at once,” he said.
In addition, “We’re not in a scramble-able location,” he said. “We’re not [a dozen or so] miles away from the OIR fight — we have to drive.”
Between flying in Iraq and Syria, “there are different rules based on where we’re flying,” Shell said, stopping short of detailing each country’s rules of engagement and flight restrictions. “They’re minor in the technical details.”
‘The Only Thing That Can Survive’
During the Navy’s TLAM strike, “serendipitously,” there were more F-22s in the area of responsibility because some were getting ready to fly home while others were coming in, according to Brig. Gen. Charles Corcoran, commander of the 380th Expeditionary Wing, which houses the F-22 mission in an undisclosed location for Operation Inherent Resolve, the Pentagon’s name for the anti-ISIS campaign.
After incidents like that, “We kind of go to F-22s only — fifth gen only” because “it’s the only thing that can survive in there,” he said, referring to the plane’s ability to fly in contested airspace despite the presence of anti-access aerial denial weapons.
Should Russia paint coalition aircraft with surface-to-air missile systems, “the only thing we’ll put in there is F-22s,” Corcoran said. Leaders will then decide which types of fourth-generation fighter — like an F-16 Fighting Falcon with capable radars — and/or drone can return to the fight, he said. Only later would they allow “defenseless aircraft” such as tankers to circle back through taskings, he said.
“If an F-15 or an F-18 — which is really more of a ground-attack airplane — is busy doing this, they’re not available to do the close air support stuff, so if we [have] got to keep this up, we’re probably going to need some more forces over here that can do their dedicated jobs,” Corcoran said. That includes more “defensive counter air” assets like F-22s so the tactical fighters can drop more bombs “and get after ISIS,” he said.
‘We Can Bring More’
Given the nature of how the US air operation against ISIS has evolved in recent months, Shell acknowledged the possibility that commanders may decide to deploy more F-22s to the area of responsibility.
“The airplanes that we have here, it’s not the maximum we can bring, we can bring more if directed,” he said. With more Raptors in theater, “they would obviously task us more,” he said.
Shell said, “People often call us the quarterback [in the air]. I don’t like that because we’re not always in charge — there is a mission hierarchy … and most of the time it is not the F-22. We enhance the mission commander’s situational awareness by feeding him information based on off our sensors for him or her to make a decision.”
When asked if that meant the stealth fighter works as a “silent partner” gathering intel, he said, “We’re not really silent. We’re pretty vocal.”
The US military is sending a carrier strike group and a bomber task force to the Middle East as a show of force to Iran. There is a ton of firepower heading that way.
The USS Abraham Lincoln carrier strike group, which consists of the carrier and its powerful carrier air wing, as well as one cruiser and four destroyers, is moving into the region with an unspecified number of B-52 Stratofortress heavy long-range bombers, according to US Central Command.
These assets, according to US Central Command, are being deployed in response to “clear indications that Iranian and Iranian proxy forces were making preparations to possibly attack US forces in the region.” This is in addition to strategic assets already in the area.
(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Zachary S. Welch)
Aircraft carrier: USS Abraham Lincoln
Adm. John Richardson, the chief of naval operations, previously described aircraft carriers as “tremendous expression of US national power.” A carrier strike group is an even stronger message. “CSGs are visible and powerful symbols of U.S. commitment and resolve,” US European Command said in a statement on May 7, 2019.
The USS Abraham Lincoln, a mobile sea-based airfield, is the lead ship for the carrier strike group that bears its name and is outfitted with a highly capable carrier air wing.
Carrier air wing: fighters, electronic-attack aircraft, early-warning aircraft, and rotary aircraft
Carrier Air Wing Seven consists of F/A-18 Super Hornets, EA-18G Growler electronic-attack aircraft, E-2 Hawkeye early-warning aircraft, and a number of rotary aircraft from multiple squadrons capable of carrying out a variety of operational tasks.
The USS Leyte Gulf.
(US Navy photo)
Cruiser: USS Leyte Gulf
Ticonderoga-class guided-missile cruisers are multi-role warships that run heavily armed with 122 vertical-launch-system (VLS) cells capable of carrying everything from Tomahawk land-attack cruise missiles to surface-to-air missiles and anti-submarine-warfare rockets.
The USS Mason.
(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Anna Wade)
4 destroyers: USS Bainbridge, USS Gonzalez, USS Mason, and USS Nitze
Like the larger cruisers, destroyers are also multi-mission vessels. Armed with 90 to 96 VLS cells, these ships have air-and-missile defense capabilities, as well as land-attack abilities.
Early in the Trump presidency, two US Navy destroyers devastated Shayrat Airbase with 59 Tomahawk cruise missiles to punish the Syrian regime in the aftermath of a chemical-weapons attack.
The B-52 with all its ammunition.
(US Air Force photo by Tech Sgt. Robert Horstman)
The B-52 is a subsonic high-altitude bomber capable of carrying nuclear and conventional payloads. These hard-hitting aircraft can carry up to 70,000 pounds of varied ordnance and can be deployed to carry out various missions, including strategic attack, close air support, air interdiction, and offensive counter-air and maritime operations.
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