U.S. F-35s might head into combat for the first time - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY TRENDING

U.S. F-35s might head into combat for the first time

The US is finally ready to take its most expensive fighter jets into battle, as the F-35B Lightning II Joint Strike Fighters sailing aboard the amphibious assault ship USS Essex may soon be called to conduct strikes against insurgent forces in Afghanistan, CNNreported Sept. 25, 2018.

The USS Essex arrived in the Middle East early September 2018. Having already sailed through the Gulf of Aden into the North Arabian Sea, the ship should move into the Persian Gulf in the very near future, a defense official told CNN. The stealth fighters on board have reportedly been conducting intelligence and reconnaissance operations in Somalia, but they have yet to engage an enemy in combat.


While the US Air Force was the first service to declare its version of the F-35 combat ready, it appears the Marine Corps may be the first to take the plane into combat. Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni became the first overseas base to operate the F-35 in 2017.

The F-35B is designed for short takeoffs and vertical landings, giving it the ability to take off from the USS Essex, a ship much smaller than a modern US aircraft carrier. The incorporation of the F-35B, an powerful aircraft built to support the Marine Corps, into the USS Essex Amphibious Ready Group (ARG) “is a very significant enabler for me and for my team,” Capt. Gerald Olin, Amphibious Squadron 1 commander and Essex ARG/Marine Expeditionary Unit commodore, told USNI News in early September 2018.

U.S. F-35s might head into combat for the first time

F-35B Lightning II Joint Strike Fighters, attached to the “Avengers” of Marine Fighter Attack Squadron (VMFA) 211, sit on the flight deck of Wasp-class amphibious assault ship USS Essex.

(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Matthew Freeman)

“It increases battlespace awareness with data fusion and the ability to share information with the ships and the ships’ combat control system. So it’s really an extension of our sensors, and it also brings to the table a greater increased lethality than what we had with previous generation aircraft,” he added, calling it a “game changer.”

The first reported F-35 combat mission was carried out by Israel in May 2018, when Israeli Air Force (IAF) F-35A fighters participated in strikes on unspecified targets.

“We are flying the F-35 all over the Middle East. It had become part of our operational capabilities. We are the first to attack using the F-35 in the Middle East and have already attacked twice on different fronts,” IAF chief Maj. Gen. Amikam Norkin said at the time, The Jerusalem Post reported.

Over the years, the F-35 has faced significant criticism, largely due to high costs.

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

MIGHTY HISTORY

This Bearcat has been unjustly overshadowed by history

When you think about Grumman fighters, the Wildcat, the Panther, and the Tomcat all spring to mind. And for good reason — these planes are all classics. But there is one Grumman fighter that didn’t quite get a chance to shine in World War II, but it did see some action in Southeast Asia.


U.S. F-35s might head into combat for the first time

Grumman F8F Bearcats line up on the Essex-class aircraft carrier USS Valley Forge (CV 45)

(U.S. Navy)

During World War II, the Navy was deploying the F6F Hellcat and the F4U Corsair was operated by the Marine Corps. The Hellcat was a very tame plane, but the Corsair — known as the “Ensign Eliminator” and foisted on the Marines — simply had higher performance. The Navy wanted the best of both planes. They wanted the F8F Bearcat.

U.S. F-35s might head into combat for the first time

French F8F Bearcats prepare to take off to carry out a napalm strike in Southeast Asia.

(U.S. Navy)

At the heart of the Bearcat was the Pratt and Whitney R-2800. This was the powerplant used by both the Corsair and Hellcat, but the Bearcat was much lighter, which gave it extreme performance. The Bearcat also packed a significant punch — to the tune of four M2 .50-caliber machine guns. If that wasn’t enough, the Bearcat was also able to haul five-inch rockets or a 1,000-pound bomb.

The Bearcat’s primary mission was to intercept enemy planes. The plane had a “bubble” canopy (pretty much a standard feature on today’s fighters) to improve the situational awareness of pilots. The Bearcat had a top speed of 421 miles per hour and a maximum range of 1,105 miles. It stuck around long enough to see some upgrades, but was quickly replaced by the onset of fighter jets, like the F9F Panther.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UkeN4riBy4A

www.youtube.com

The Bearcat did see some combat, though. The French acquired Bearcats from the United States and used them in Southeast Asia. Some of those same planes were later passed on to the South Vietnamese.

The Bearcat also got some time in the spotlight when it was flown by the Blue Angels, from 1946 to 1950.

Learn more about this almost forgotten Grumman cat in the video below.

Articles

Canadian sniper sets new world record for a long-distance kill

A Canadian sniper operating in Iraq set the world record for a long-distance confirmed kill at 3,450 meters, or 2.14 miles just last month.


According to Robert Fife of the Globe and Mail, this soldier functions as part of Canada’s contribution to the war against ISIS, and serves as a member of Joint Task Force 2, the country’s top-tier special operations unit.

U.S. F-35s might head into combat for the first time
Joint Task Force 2 recruiting poster. (Photo Canadian military)

Fife reports that the shot was part of a response to an ISIS attack on Iraqi security forces. To break up the attack, coalition forces, including sniper teams, engaged the enemy element from a distance, picking out targets and dropping them from afar. The JTF2 sniper’s kill shot took around 10 seconds to reach its mark after exiting the barrel of the rifle.

Yet-to-be-released video footage of the shot apparently further adds credence to the claims surrounding this incredible feat.

It may surprise you that this isn’t the first time Canadians have held the record for a longest confirmed kill. In 2002, Cpl. Rob Furlong, a marksman with 3rd Battalion, Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry set a record for a kill at 1.5 miles breaking the previous record set at 1.43 miles, held by… you guessed it, another Canadian – Master Cpl. Arron Perry, also of the same unit.

U.S. F-35s might head into combat for the first time
Soldiers of 2nd Battalion, Royal Canadian Regiment, during a 2017 military exercise. Photo by Sgt JF Lauzé (Canadian Army)

Furlong’s shot was exceeded in 2009 by a British army sniper, Craig Harrison, who dropped a pair of Taliban machine gunners while serving in Helmand Province, Afghanistan.

The JTF2 sniper reportedly used a McMillan Tac-50 rifle, known as the C15 Long Range Sniper Weapon in Canadian service. The C15 is chambered to fire the same .50 caliber round the M2 heavy machine gun utilizes, though for shots that require considerable amounts of precision.

Interestingly enough, the record prior to Perry’s 2002 kill stood at 1.42 miles, held by legendary US Marine sniper Carlos Hathcock, who actually used a modified M2 outfitted with a scope to take his shot in early 1967. Both Furlong and Perry used the C15 for their long-distance shots in 2002.

The secretive JTF2 exists in the same vein as the US Navy’s Special Warfare Development Group, also known as DEVGRU. Like its American counterpart, the Canadian unit is primarily tasked with counterterrorism, though it can be used for direct action, high value target capture, and reconnaissance operations as needed. It’s also one of the smallest units of its kind in the world, recruiting very selectively from the three branches of the Canadian military.

U.S. F-35s might head into combat for the first time
CANSOFCOM operators practice a rooftop insertion during a building takedown exercise (Canadian Army)

Potential JT2 “assaulters” are put through a difficult selection and training phase, designed to weed out candidates quickly so that only the toughest remain. Following selection, assaulters can be assigned to various specialties within two operational fields, air/land and sea. The unit regularly cross-trains with foreign partners around the world and at home in Canada.

Though JTF2, in comparison with similar units like the Special Air Service and DEVGRU, is very young in its history, it has already racked up a number of commendations for its actions on the battlefield, especially with its service in Afghanistan over the past 15 years.

In 2004, members of the unit were awarded the Presidential Unit Citation because of their actions as part of Task Force K-Bar, the first Canadian unit to hold such an honor since the Korean War.

Very little is known today about what JTF2 does in Iraq. It is known that the unit was first deployed late last year to the beleaguered country, supplementing other coalition special operations units currently active in the area.

Though it’s possible that JTF2 has carried out direct action assaults, it’s generally understood that their primary mission in-country is to serve in a training and advisory role with Kurdish fighters in the battle against ISIS.

MIGHTY MILSPOUSE

Coronavirus stimulus checks: Everything military families need to know

As the United States continues to battle the spread of the coronavirus, the federal government has passed legislation that will send stimulus checks to most tax paying Americans, including military families.

These stimulus checks are a part of a massive $2 trillion effort to not only assist Americans who are financially struggling amidst this time of layoffs, furloughs, and social isolation, but also to inject funding directly into businesses around America that are continuing to employ people throughout this chaotic time.


The payments heading directly to American families in the coming weeks are projected to reach nine out of 10 households in the country, which means military families can count on receiving these payments despite the military itself not suffering the same sorts of layoffs and reduced employment found elsewhere in the nation. This money can be used to help offset lost spouse income, the cost of buying essential cleaning materials, and the cost of being stuck in your homes on base or elsewhere.

Service members that are suffering financial hardship as a result of being caught between duty stations while executing orders at the time of the Pentagon’s stop-movement order are eligible for other financial assistance provided through the Defense Department. Those payment have nothing to do with the coronavirus stimulus checks the Treasury Department will soon be sending.

So who, exactly, is eligible for a stimulus payment and how much can they expect to receive? We break it all down below.

How much will I receive in my coronavirus stimulus check?

Stimulus payments are based on the recipient’s adjusted gross income, so the Treasury Department can prioritize payments to Americans that are most in need. It’s important to note that basic entitlements like BAH (Basic Allowance for Housing) and BAS (Basic Allowance for Subsistence) are not included in your family’s adjusted gross income. Only taxable income (basic pay) is taken into account for tax purposes.

You can find up to date info on the IRS webpage here.

Coronavirus stimulus payments include:

  • A maximum id=”listicle-2645620124″,200 per adult
  • Up to ,400 for couples who make up to ,000
  • An additional 0 per each child that is 16 or younger
U.S. F-35s might head into combat for the first time

However, at a certain income level, the payments begin to reduce until a certain point, in which they stop completely.

  • Those who make over ,000 per year individually will see payments reduced by for each 0 in their Adjusted Gross Income over the ,000 cap.
  • Individuals who make over ,000 per year will not receive a payment
  • Couples filing jointly who make more than 8,00 per year will not receive a payment
  • Those who file as “head of household” will not receive a payment if their income is about 2,500 per year
  • Dependent adults are not eligible for a payment, including college aged children and adults with disabilities

How does the government know how much money I make or how many kids I have?

The Treasury Department will be using 2018 tax returns to assess income level and dependents, as well as the direct deposit information for those who have it in order to deposit the stimulus checks.

What if my income was above ,000 in 2018, but has since dropped?

These payments are really just an advanced tax credit, so even if you don’t receive a payment because your 2018 taxes showed you as ineligible, you can still receive it as part of your tax return when you file your 2020 taxes.

Do I have to sign up or fill out forms to receive my stimulus payment?

As long as the IRS already has your bank account information from your 2019 or 2018 tax returns, all you have to do is sit and wait for the check to hit your account. However, if you have not yet filed your 2018 taxes, the IRS encourages you to do so as soon as you can, otherwise your payment may be delayed.

The IRS said that they will be building a portal to change direct deposit information in the coming weeks.

U.S. F-35s might head into combat for the first time

live.staticflickr.com

What if my family and I are stationed overseas?

As long as you meet the income requirements and have a social security number, you will still receive the payment regardless of where you are stationed.

Will I have to pay taxes on the stimulus payment?

No, these payments are technically considered a tax credit.

What if I don’t have direct deposit established for my taxes?

Your payment will come to you the same way a tax refund would, so if you don’t have a direct deposit account established with the IRS, the check will be mailed to you at the address listed on your tax return.

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

MIGHTY HISTORY

This Civil War battalion was just college kids

During the Civil War, an entire battalion was formed by pulling the students of two colleges out of school, putting them under the command of their professors, and shipping them off to war. And these college kids really did fight, possibly firing some of the first and last shots of the war and earning battle streamers for seven different engagements before the war ended.


Citadel cadets recreate the firing on the Star of the West

www.youtube.com

The college students were cadets at The Citadel and The Arsenal Academy, both establishments for training future military officers. So, when South Carolina seceded on Dec. 20, 1860, there was obviously a question of roles for these men who had already signaled an interest in military service.

Just a few weeks later, on Jan. 9, cadets were manning artillery emplacements in Charleston Harbor when a merchant ship, Star of the West, loaded with supplies and reinforcements for Fort Sumter, entered the harbor. The Citadel’s superintendent, Col. Peter Stevens, ordered gunners to fire on the ship in an attempt to turn it around.

A single warning shot across the bow failed to deter the ship, but a short volley a few minutes later caused multiple strikes against the ship’s hull and forced it to withdraw.

A later attack by Confederate forces on Fort Sumter in April 1861 is generally regarded as the first attack of the war, but the cadets were awarded a streamer for their January attack.

U.S. F-35s might head into combat for the first time

An illustration of The Citadel during the Civil War.

(Alfred Rudolf Waud)

The next streamer for the academy came in November 1861, at Wappoo Cut, but they didn’t actually meet with Union forces. On Nov. 7, Union naval forces had shelled and seized two Confederate forts near the South Carolina capital, and political leaders worried that the Union would press forward. They called on the cadets to man defenses at Wappoo Cut, but the Union soldiers didn’t press the attack, and the cadets eventually returned to school.

Around the same time, Union forces landed on James and John’s islands, and Confederate counterattacks failed to re-take the beachheads, and on James Island, they were even forced back along a bridge. These were islands key to Charleston’s defense, and the cadets were sent again to hold the line. They brought eight light artillery pieces to James Island and manned them against Union attack.

At this point, though, The Citadel and The Arsenal were still functioning as military academies despite their students and faculty being called away from time to time to perform training, logistics, or even defensive duties. But by June 1862, there was a body of cadets that was ready to go to war without waiting for their commissions at graduation. At least 37 cadets resigned from the school and formed the “Cadet Rangers,” a cavalry unit.

This sort of pattern would continue for the next few years, with the cadets being called out to defend Charleston for a few days or weeks and then being sent back to the school to train, frustrating some of them. In early 1863, cadets manned guns in a defensive battery on a bridge between Charleston and James Island.

Union forces shelled the city during this period, and some of the cadets were sent to guard stores of weapons and supplies. But they returned to school again until the first half of 1864, when they were once again sent to defend James Island.

At the end of 1864, the cadets were called to a defense that would actually result in combat. Union Marines, soldiers, and sailors were sent to break the Charleston and Savannah Railroad, and their attack surprised the infantrymen defending the position. The cadets, stationed a few miles away at the time, rushed to the fight at the double-time.

U.S. F-35s might head into combat for the first time

Union Marines and other troops attacked cadets at the Battle of Tulifinny near Charleston, South Carolina, and the cadets earned praise for their disciplined fire and poise under attack.

(David Humphreys Miller)

During that first night, on Dec. 6, the cadets did little because they arrived as the Union troops were digging into their defensive positions while the Confederate attacks gave way.

But the next morning, the cadets were one of the key components of an attack on the Union positions. They came under rifle fire and responded with a bayonet charge, but were driven back. They secured their wounded and dropped back to their own defenses. In this role, they earned praise from nearby infantry units for their disciplined fire. They even pursued the Marines attacking them during the final Union retreat. During the fight, they suffered eight casualties.

The following year, in May 1865, cadets would once again engage in direct combat with Union forces. They were sent to guard infrastructure in Williamston, South Carolina, when Union forces attempted to reach a bridge over the Saluda River and burn it. The cadets beat back the attack successfully, saving the bridge.

Even as the Confederacy’s prospects in the war suffered under the Union Anaconda Plan, the cadets held their lines when ordered. They never surrendered and were one of the last forces to disband, not doing so until May 9, 1865, one month after Gen. Robert E. Lee surrendered at Appomattox Courthouse in Virginia.

Articles

This prediction of an asteroid impact on Earth will give you goose bumps

Scientists believe a 40-million-ton asteroid set to fly close to Earth in 12 years may end up colliding with our planet on a future pass.


The Apophis asteroid will pass within 18,600 miles of Earth on April 13, 2029, which is ridiculously close by space distance standards. Scientists expect the near-miss to disrupt the asteroid’s orbit, making its future path unpredictable.

This means there’s a small chance Apophis could hit Earth on a future pass. Apophis will pass by the Earth again in 2036.

“You can find a full table of objects for which the impact probability is not mathematically zero,” Dr. Richard P. Binzel, a planetary science professor at Massachusetts Institute of Technology who’s involved in research on Apophis, told The Daily Caller News Foundation. “The table includes Apophis with a probability of 8.9e-6 (less than one chance in 100,000).”

U.S. F-35s might head into combat for the first time
Image courtesy of NASA / JPL.

If Apophis did strike Earth, it could create a crater about 1.25 miles across and almost 1,700 feet deep. Such an impact could be devastating, as on average an asteroid this size can be expected to impact Earth about every 80,000 years.  It could annihilate a city if it were to directly land on an urban area. The blast would equal 880 million tons of TNT or 65,000 times the power of the atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima.

“We can rule out a collision at the next closest approach with the Earth, but then the orbit will change in a way that is not fully predictable just now, so we cannot predict the behavior on a longer timescale,” Alberto Cellino of the Observatory of Turin in Italy, told Astrowatch.net.

MIT announced last month that professors and students are designing a space probe mission to observe the asteroid “99942 Apophis” as it passes Earth in 2029. MIT or NASA would have to launch the probe before August of 2026 due to the way orbital mechanics work.

U.S. F-35s might head into combat for the first time
Wikimedia Commons photo by Steve Jurvetson.

The MIT probe could teach scientists more about the construction of asteroids, providing valuable information about the formation of our solar system. What scientists learn from the Apophis encounter could make it easier to mount a planetary defense in the event an asteroid was ever found to be on an impact course.

In December 2004, initial observations of Apophis indicated it had a 2.7 percent chance of striking Earth in 2029 or exactly seven years later. This has since been revised downward considerably.

Smaller asteroids are much harder to detect and there’s little that could be done to stop a small space rock on course for Earth without early warning. Typically, these rocks are discovered just days or hours before they pass by Earth.

There’s not a shortage of space rocks that put our planet at risk either. Global asteroid detection programs found more than 16,314 near-Earth objects of all sizes — 816 new near-Earth objects were identified so far this year alone, according to International Astronomical Union’s Minor Planets Center.

Articles

This 80-year-old minuteman took on a column of British troops by himself

Every red-blooded American knows the story of the Battles of Lexington and Concord and the “Shot Heard ‘Round the World” that was fired there. But shortly after, one of the most incredible stories of heroism in the entire war – maybe even American history – happened just a few miles away.


Samuel Whittemore served in the Queen Dragoons, dominating both the French and Indians during the French and Indian War and the earlier King George’s War. Born in England in 1695, he was still beating down Frenchmen at age 64. In the American west, he battled native warriors in the Indian Wars of 1763, fought after the French withdrawal.

When those wars ended, the battle-hardened dragoon officer decided to stay in the new land for which he fought so many times. Whittemore settled in the Massachusetts Colony, and like many there, soon came to believe in American Independence.

So when the shots started firing at Lexington and Concord in 1775, the old veteran was firmly for the American cause. From his home in Menotomy, Massachusetts, he watched a column of 1,400 British reinforcements make their way to the fighting. Then he heard two columns of British were retreating toward Menotomy – and they were burning homes along the way.

U.S. F-35s might head into combat for the first time
Pictured: How Redcoats win hearts and minds.

Whittemore, now 80 years old, grabbed all his weapons – dueling pistols, an old captured French cutlass, powder horn, musketballs, and rifle – in a Rambo-like Revolutionary War montage of potential destruction. He then marched out to a position overlooking the road from Lexington.

He stared down the 47th Regiment of Foot as other minutemen started to open up on the British troops. Whittemore waited until the Brits were directly in front of him, then took on the entire regiment, all by himself.

The patriot capped three Redcoats with his firearms at point blank range, but not having time to reload he drew his sword and started slashing at the oncoming bayonets instead. One soldier shot Whittemore in the face, finally bringing the old man down… and yet he still tried to get back up.

U.S. F-35s might head into combat for the first time
It took a lot more than one Redcoat to bring him down. (Revolutionary War Archives)

Redcoats swarmed the minuteman. A swift buttstroke and multiple bayonet stabs convinced them the old man was dead and the British continued on, leaving Whittemore bleeding in the road. Their fight through Menotomy cost them 40 dead and 80 wounded. When the smoke cleared, the townspeople went to collect Whittemore’s body.

What they found was the old veteran reloading his musket, getting ready to go again. They carried him to a local tavern where doctors were tending to the wounded. Believing the old dragoon captain suffered mortal wounds, doctors didn’t tend them, they had him sent home to die with his family.

Except he didn’t die then, either. Death was afraid to come for Samuel Whittemore for another 18 years. He died at age 98 in February 1793, the oldest colonial Revolutionary War combatant and recipient of the best memorial marker of all time.

U.S. F-35s might head into combat for the first time
The Whittemore marker in Arlington, Mass.

MIGHTY MILSPOUSE

This powerful vodka will bring genuine clarity to your veteran spirit

‘Tis the season for the giving of gifts. ‘Tis also the season of FOMUG (Fear of Messed-Up Gifting). We get it. It’s hard out there for an elf. Team WATM would like to offer you some guidance.


For your Secret Santa 007:

~ a bottle of premium, military-grade vodka ~

Would it be a gross generalization to say that military… uhhhh…”spiritual” preferences tend to run toward the darker-colored varieties–the bourbons? The scotches? The whiskeys? And, failing whiskey, beer? Without question, most of the veteran entrepreneurs we’ve met who operate in the alcoholic beverage sector are almost single-mindedly focused on bringing either whiskey or beer to market.

U.S. F-35s might head into combat for the first time
USMC Veteran Travis McVey, founder of Heroes Vodka, in 2009. This photo might be blurry, but their mission is clear. (Photo from Heidelberg Distributing YouTube)

Marine Corps veteran and former Presidential Honor Guard Travis McVey is happy to be the exception to that rule. After the combat fatality of a close friend in Afghanistan, McVey opted for clarity over darkness and murk. He started a vodka company.

“Vodka, you make today and sell tomorrow. You don’t have to age it. It’s gender neutral. It’s seasonless. And it outsells all the other spirits combined.”

If that sounds unsentimentally strategic as a description of one’s central product, McVey would counter by pointing to his label and to the millions of servicemembers’ stories that anchor it. Heroes Vodka is all about sentiment where it counts. The brand is dedicated to the brave men and women who protect the country, at home and abroad.

 

A portion of every sale goes directly to AMVETS, Operation Stand Down, and other organizations in support of community assistance programs for American veterans, active duty military, and their families. To date, McVey has donated more than $60,000, but most important is the message the brand projects.  Etched into the company’s DNA and broadcast to the world with every nightly news profile, tasting award, and Instagram post, a single message is clear:

 

We Are The Mighty couldn’t say it better or agree more.

The 2017 We Are The Mighty Holiday Gift Guide is sponsored by Propper, a tactical apparel and gear company dedicated to equipping those who commit their lives to serving others. All views are our own.

Speaking of Propper, they’re giving away twelve tactical packs filled with gear from our Holiday Gift Guide. Click this link to enter.

U.S. F-35s might head into combat for the first time
MIGHTY TACTICAL

The amazing thing the SR-71 did the day before its retirement

Usually, when someone or something retires, it’s because they’ve grown a little older — and maybe a little slower — over time. Maybe their skills aren’t as useful as they once were, so they opt to spend their sunset years peacefully watching others take over their old duties.

But not the SR-71 Blackbird. It went out with a sonic boom.


The SR-71 was in the prime of its amazing life. This was a titanium bird designed to outrun and spy on the Russians, a bird that was fooling Russians even before it was assembled.

U.S. F-35s might head into combat for the first time

(Laughs in Blackbird)

When the Blackbird was retired in 1990, not everyone was thrilled with the idea. Much of the debate around the SR-71’s mission and usefulness was because of political infighting, not because of any actual military need the plane couldn’t fill. Still, the program was derided by Congressional military and budget hawks as being too costly for its designated mission. Some speculate the old guard of Air Force Cold Warriors had long since retired and newer generals couldn’t explain the plane’s mission in the post-Soviet order.

Whatever the reason for its retirement, the Air Force’s most glorious bird was headed for the sunset — but not before making history and setting a few more records.

U.S. F-35s might head into combat for the first time

An SR-71 refuels in mid-air during sunset.

(U.S. Air Force)

When it was operationally retired in 1990, a Blackbird piloted by Lt. Col. Raymond E. Yeilding and Lt. Col. Joseph T. Vida was tasked to fly one last time from Palmdale, Calif. to its new home at the Smithsonian Institution’s Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center in Chantilly, Virginia. Apparently, they had somewhere to be in the D.C. area that day, too.

During that Blackbird’s final flight on Mar. 7, 1990, the plane and its pilots set four new speed records:

  • West Coast of the United States to the U.S. East Coast – 2,404 miles in 68:17.
  • Los Angeles, Calif., to Washington, D.C. – 2,299 miles in 64:20
  • Kansas City, Mo., to Washington, D.C. – 942 miles in 25:59
  • St. Louis, Mo., to Cincinnati, Ohio – 311 miles in 8:32
U.S. F-35s might head into combat for the first time

(U.S. Air Force)

The SR-71 refueled in mid-air over the Pacific Ocean before beginning its transcontinental journey. It arrived at Dulles International Airport to a throng of onlookers and well-wishers who knew a good thing when they saw one.

Addressing the full Senate after the historic, record-setting 1990 flight, Senator John Glenn told the assembly that the flight would be remembered as “a sad memorial to our short-sighted policy in strategic aerial reconnaissance.”

MIGHTY TRENDING

This weird African mammal appeared around Fort Bliss

During my first couple days at Fort Bliss, I had heard smatterings from Soldiers about a non-indigenous species of African antelope population that somehow inhabited the training grounds.


But no one really quite knew how the animals, known as the oryx, got there.

Many of the Soldiers told me different theories that they’d heard. Some told me that they didn’t even believe these antelope-looking animals were out there.

Also read: This is how close we came to killing off our national bird

But on my last day at the post, as I was hanging out with a bunch of artillerymen waiting to see an M109 Paladin test fire, one of the creatures appeared before us.

Here’s the true story about how the animal arrived in the US, and what I saw that day:

The artillerymen, combat photographers, and I were waiting to watch the Paladin fire, when, suddenly…

An oryx appeared out of nowhere — like something out of an M. Night Shyamalan movie.

U.S. F-35s might head into combat for the first time
An Orynx Gazella at Etosha National Park, Namibia.

For about 15-20 minutes, the oryx stood about 20 yards away, periodically nibbling on foliage and curiously looking at us.

The oryx is an African antelope that is non-indigenous to the US. On average, oryx weigh about 450 pounds and stand about 4 feet tall (not including their 34-inch horns).

U.S. F-35s might head into combat for the first time
An Oryx near Wolfsnes, western Etosha National Park, Namibia. (Photo by Hans Hillewaert)

The Soldiers told me a number of different theories that they’d heard about how the animals arrived in the US.

More: Medieval knights used to fight giant snails and no one knows why

One Soldier said that a film crew brought the oryx there to shoot a movie many years ago and simply left them out in the desert. Another Soldier said that he heard that an African king had gifted them to the US. But in reality, the New Mexico Department of Game and Fish introduced 95 oryx to the area in the 1950s for large game hunters. Thousands now populate the region.

U.S. F-35s might head into combat for the first time
An Orynx Gazella drinking alongside six Helmeted guineafowl at Chudop waterhole in Etosha, Namibia.

But, being an non-indigenous species, the National Park Service is concerned about how the animals are affecting the local ecosystem, especially the nearby White Sands National Park. At one point, being a curious fellow, I crept up to the animal to get a better shot — but it wasn’t having any of that. It stomped its hoof and took a couple charging steps towards me, which sent me running in the other direction, much to the Soldiers’ amusement. Nor was the oryx scared of the Paladin. Even after the howitzer fired, sending a massive shockwave throughout the surrounding area, I saw it still hanging around.

U.S. F-35s might head into combat for the first time
M109A6 ‘Paladin’ howitzer. (Photo by Capt. Alex Aquino)

Eventually, it meandered away, slowly fading into the sprawling desert landscape — and we never saw it again.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Why the Marines are cannibalizing Humvees for the JLTV

The High-Mobility Multi-Purpose Wheeled Vehicle, best known as the Humvee, has been a mainstay of the United States Military for three decades, replacing the classic Jeeps. These vehicles are now giving way to the Joint Light Tactical Vehicle, or JLTV, which has some big shoes to fill.

However, the Humvee is likely going to help its successor along — by being a parts donor.


According to a release from Marine Corps Systems Command, Humvees will be capable of donating their gun turrets to JLTVs. This turret, known as the Marine Corps Transparent Armor Gun Shield, or MCTAGS, helps protect the folks manning the machine guns from enemy small-arms fire.

The MCTAGS entered service in 2005, replacing the older Gunner’s Protection Kit. One of the major advantages offered by MCTAGS is increased situational awareness for the gunners, enabling them to better see and more quickly target the enemy.

U.S. F-35s might head into combat for the first time

The Marine Corps Transparent Armor Gun Shield has been used since 2005, but will continue on much longer thanks to a procedure that allows it to be transplanted on the Joint Light Tactical Vehicle.

(BAE Systems)

Marines recently proved that the MCTAGS can be transplanted from a Humvee to a JLTV by carrying out a proof-of-principle operation, but it’s not the only piece being donated. The Improved TOW Gunner’s Protection Kit, or IT-GPK, is also fit for transfer, alongside radios and other communications gear.

U.S. F-35s might head into combat for the first time

The Joint Light Tactical Vehicle will enter service in 2019.

(Oshkosh Defense)

Not only will this second-hand gear enhance the survivability of the JLTV by giving gunners better situational awareness, it’ll also help the Marines save a fair chunk of change. By using existing technology, the Marines will save on development and manufacturing costs. Additionally, many who will operate the JLTV have previous experience with the Humvee’s similar configuration, meaning there’ll be no additional training — another savings.

U.S. F-35s might head into combat for the first time

A Marine Corps Transparent Armor Gun Shield being transplanted on a Joint Light Tactical Vehicle. This will save time and money for the Marine Corps, while increasing the combat capabilities of the JLTV.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Kristen Murphy)

Marines are currently carrying out the Operational Test and Evaluation process on the JLTV. The first units to get the JLTV will be the Marine Corps School of Infantry-West at Camp Pendleton, California; School of Infantry-East at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina; The Basic School at Marine Corps Base Quantico, Virginia; and Motor Transport Maintenance Instructional Company at Camp Johnson, North Carolina, which are scheduled to get the vehicles early next year.

MIGHTY CULTURE

This C-17 crew broke diplomatic protocol to save a life

Air Force Capt. Forrest “Cal” Lampela was about to put the aircraft landing gear down in Shannon, Ireland, eight hours into a flight. If all had gone according to plan, he and his C-17 Globemaster III crew should have been more than halfway over the Atlantic.

He couldn’t see the runway because of dense fog, catching a glimpse of it from only 100 feet above the ground — the absolute minimum altitude to which the large transport aircraft can descend before its pilot must either call for a landing or to abort approach.

Somewhere below, an ambulance stood by, waiting to pick up a sailor who had been wounded in combat and was in critical condition.


“I was a little bit afraid of where the ambulance was going to be because I didn’t want him to try to run up on the jet while we still had engines running, because the fog was that bad,” Lampela said.

He recalls it as “the most challenging landing that I’ve ever done.” But on top of dangerous, foggy conditions, Lampela and the crew, call sign Reach 445, had just entered a country where they had not received diplomatic clearance before touching down.

“I wouldn’t do that unless it was an emergency,” Lampela said in a recent interview with Military.com, recounting the April aeromedical mission to transport the sailor. He and his team belong to the 14th Airlift Squadron out of Joint Base Charleston, South Carolina.

U.S. F-35s might head into combat for the first time

Senior Airman Kyle Bowers, left, a C-17 Globemaster III loadmaster, and Capt. Cal Lampela, a C-17 pilot, are instructors assigned to the 14th Airlift Squadron at Joint Base Charleston, S.C.

(U.S. Air Force photo illustration by Joshua R. Maund)

“If I’m going to fly into a country without diplomatic clearance, it’s going to be [over a potential] loss of life or [loss of] your craft or safety of flight,” he said. “We were … essentially a flying ambulance.”

The flight included Lampela, the aircraft commander and C-17 instructor pilot; Capt. Chris Puckett, a C-17 instructor pilot; Capt. Ken Dickenscheidt, a C-17 pilot; Senior Airman Chris Kyle Bowers, a C-17 instructor loadmaster; Airman 1st Class Timothy Henn, a C-17 loadmaster; and Tech. Sgt. Nick Scarmeas, flying crew chief of the 437th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron.

The decision they made to turn back from the U.S. and head to Ireland to save the sailor’s life got the Air Force’s attention: The six airmen are now under consideration for the Air Medal for making the right call under difficult circumstances. The sailor remains unidentified for privacy reasons.

“For their act of heroism and success in operating beyond what is expected and routine, Capt. Lampela and his crew were submitted to be awarded single-event Air Medals,” Lt. Col. Kari Fleming, 14th Airlift Squadron commander, told Military.com on June 10, 2019. “It is my honor to recognize this deserving crew with such a rare decoration.”

The medal is awarded to U.S. and civilian personnel “for single acts of heroism or meritorious achievements while participating in aerial flight … in actual combat in support of operations,” according to the service. It can also be awarded to foreign military personnel.

“Our airmen dedicate their lives to serve this great nation to deliver lifesaving capabilities, so our wounded may return to their loved ones,” Gen. Maryanne Miller, head of Air Mobility Command (AMC), said in a separate statement. “The crews of Reach 445 highlight that our incredible airmen are our greatest advantage.

“Sound decision-making and superior care once again bring a hero home to his family,” she added.

U.S. F-35s might head into combat for the first time

A C-17 Globemaster III sits on a flightline at Al Udeid Air Base, Qatar, Jan. 9, 2014.

(U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Jared Trimarchi)

Diverting the flight

The crew had begun their transit at Al Udeid Air Base, Qatar, reaching Spangdahlem Air Base, Germany. But they had to delay the second leg of their journey because of bad storms on the U.S. East Coast. Their home base, Joint Base Charleston, had lost power; some squadrons there had been sent home early.

“We [were] just bringing some stuff from Al Udeid back home to Charleston, [and] we were in Germany for the crew to rest up,” Lampela said.

But “it looked like pretty terrible storms all the way across the East Coast,” he added.

Their delay meant they were the only C-17 in theater with the tools and space required to transport the patient to Walter Reed Medical Center outside Washington, D.C. They headed to Ramstein Air Base, approximately 70 miles away, to pick up medical teams from Landstuhl Regional Medical Center.

“We were told that he was in such a state that Germany couldn’t care for him anymore, and Walter Reed [is] the best trauma center,” Lampela said.

With the six members of the crew, the patient and the Critical Care Air Transport Team, known as a CCATT, there were 17 people bound for Joint Base Andrews, Maryland, said Bowers, the instructor loadmaster. The CCATT is known throughout the Air Force as a “flying intensive care unit.”

Col. Allison Cogar of the 313th Expeditionary Operation Support Squadron, currently deployed to Ramstein, gave general background information on CCATTs. More specific information on the Reach 445 flight was unavailable for confidentiality reasons.

CCATTs typically transport a ventilator and monitors, along with other gear, she said.

“We have IV pumps, we have suction equipment — that’s kind of the standard equipment,” Cogar said. “We can augment that with other things that are specific to the patient.”

Teams can perform surgical tasks, she said, but “it’s pretty uncommon.”

“If I’m having a patient who’s having issues, I try and alert the crew early on so they can communicate with [air operations and command centers],” Cogar said of reasons why a flight would be diverted. “It’s much safer and better for the patient to do on the ground, where you have a lot more resources available to you. So we try and kind of pre-emptively fend off any of those things that we think we may need to do.”

U.S. F-35s might head into combat for the first time

A C-17 Globemaster.

Making the call

The sailor took a turn for the worse and needed immediate surgery. The medical professionals knew they’d have to divert or face a grim outcome.

“We were approximately halfway over the ocean when the patient started to destabilize,” Lampela said. The crew contacted the air operations center at Air Mobility Command at Scott Air Force Base, Illinois, to strategize.

“They couldn’t get his blood levels under control,” Lampela said. “They brought enough blood for the flight, but he was bleeding out in one and, they thought possibly, two wounds. So they didn’t have enough blood to keep him stabilized. Secondly, we needed dialysis because his kidneys had failed, so they needed a hospital.”

The crew looked at the available options.

“I was probably four hours from the tip of Canada, which even making it to Canada, there was nothing until I hit probably stateside, and I was probably six hours from Boston. I was approximately two hours from Ireland, probably three to England, and [roughly] five hours to Iceland,” Lampela said.

University Hospital Limerick, about 30 minutes from Shannon airport, had the necessary equipment. They made the decision to turn around and head to Ireland.

In the back of the C-17, Bowers, the loadmaster, was trying to ease the stress, communicating back and forth with the cockpit and the cargo hold. He had already reconfigured the cargo hold to fit the sailor and the CCATT before they boarded.

Around 2 a.m., 60 miles from their approach to Ireland, Lampela got a call from air traffic control that fog had unexpectedly rolled in.

U.S. F-35s might head into combat for the first time

Air Force pilots in a C-17 Globemaster III during takeoff at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, July 27, 2017.

(US Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Keith James)

Wheels down in Ireland

Lampela had asked the pilots, Puckett and Dickenscheidt, to take turns in the co-pilot seat assisting, since they were about to do a Cat II minimum approach — meaning the pilot must make a decision whether to land at only 200 to 100 feet altitude.

“Keep in mind: During this time, I also have a patient who’s bleeding, and I don’t know how much time and I don’t know where else I can go,” Lampela said.

He added, “The landing itself was not eventful. But I will tell you, with a patient you have in the back, and going through 200 feet above the ground, and you still don’t see anything … you start to get really [anxious and hope] that you see the runway real quick.”

The sailor was taken off the C-17 five minutes after the aircraft landed. Soon after, Lampela was answering calls from both the Irish and U.S. embassies.

“They wanted to know several things, such as were we there to spy, or if we had anything that was not allowed in the country, such as guns or something like that,” he said.

Lampela called his chain of command in Charleston to say they would be delayed.

“I said, ‘All right, uh, don’t get mad. I declared an emergency. I’m in Ireland without diplomatic clearance or, if you hear something about me, it was warranted,'” he recalled.

After receiving clearance, the crew stayed in Ireland for 24 hours, waiting for the sailor to undergo surgery before flying him to Joint Base Andrews. He was transported in stable condition.

U.S. F-35s might head into combat for the first time

Soldiers and equipment disembark from a C-17 Globemaster III in southern Arizona.

(Angela Camara/Operation Faithful Patriot)

Being versatile

“Essentially, you wake up in the morning, and there’s been many times where we’ve been picked off for different missions,” Lampela said. “So you’re actually going here, you’re going to this country, or a humanitarian issue pops up. So you’re never really sure of … what you think you’re going to do. But until you actually go do it, nothing’s really guaranteed.”

Air Mobility Command has logged 245 aeromedical evacuations in the first quarter of this year, moving 1,183 patients. Last year, airmen moved 5,409 patients in 866 aeromedical events, according to statistics provided to Military.com.

While some Reach 445 members had been on aeromedical tasking before, the critical level made it rare.

“Every situation is different,” Bowers said. “We’re constantly learning on a daily basis. There’s never going to be a similar incident. But as far as, are we going to do better, get better and are we going to be more prepared? Absolutely.”

“In AMC and in the flying world, we preach this attitude of readiness,” Lampela said. “I’m humbled to have been a part of this opportunity.

“We woke up; we weren’t expecting this. But because of our training, we were prepared to go out and do this. We were ready to go. And I’m glad it [turned out] OK,” he said.

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

Venezuela in crisis as US-backed opposition attempts coup

The Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaidó declared a military coup against the government of President Nicolás Maduro on Tuesday, April 30, 2019, sparking a confrontation that escalated into an armed conflict.

In a message to supporters online, Guaidó announced the beginning of what he called “Operation Liberty” and called for supporters to rally at a military air base in the Venezuelan capital of Caracas.

Reporters for the news agency Reuters reported that the gathering at the military air base — called La Carlota — came under fire Tuesday morning and shot back. Reuters said both sides appeared to be using live rounds.


Part of the clash can be seen in this video, broadcast by the Latin American TV channel NTN24. A noise that sounds like gunfire can be heard:

The opposition leader then held a rally at Francia de Altamira square where he told supporters: “Today it became clear that the armed forces are with the people and not with the dictator.”

Maduro called for his supporters to maintain “nerves of steel,” tweeting that he still has complete loyalty from his commanders.

His government also said it was taking action against “a small group of traitors” in the military who had defected to Guaidó.

In his announcement Tuesday morning, Guaidó was seen surrounded by uniformed men whom he described as Venezuelan soldiers who switched their loyalty to him.

“People of Venezuela, the end of the usurpation has begun,” Guaidó said on Twitter. “At the moment I am meeting with the principal military units from the armed forces to start the final phase of Operation Liberty.”

He said the gathering at La Carlota would set in motion the “definitive end” to Maduro’s rule.

Guaidó was joined by Leopoldo López, another opposition leader who had been under house arrest for two years. López tweeted that he was freed by soldiers supporting Guaidó.

Venezuela’s government said it was working to stop the uprising.

Jorge Rodríguez, the Vice President of Communications, said on Twitter that the state was “confronting and deactivating a small group of traitors in our military personnel.”

Venezuela’s defense minister, Vladimir Padrino, tweeted: “The armed forces are firmly in defense of the national constitution and its legitimate authorities.”

Diosdado Cabello, the leader of Maduro’s socialist party, urged Maduro supporters to rally in front of the presidential palace, according to the AP.

The White House press secretary, Sarah Sanders, said President Donald Trump had been briefed. “We are monitoring the ongoing situation,” BBC News reported her as saying.

Mike Pompeo, the US secretary of state, tweeted that the US government “fully supports the Venezuelan people in their quest for freedom and democracy.”

Russian news agencies reported that President Vladimir Putin, an ally of Maduro, had scheduled a meeting to discuss the uprisings with his Security Council, according to the AP.

Guaidó has been trying to oust Maduro since January 2019, when Guaidó declared himself the legitimate interim president of Venezuela. He cited emergency powers in the constitution that he argued gave him the right to rule.

More than 50 countries, including the US, the UK, and all the nations of the European Union, have backed Guaidó’s claim to power.

Besides calling for new elections, one of Guaidó’s main goals was to win support from Maduro’s power base: the army.

The power is especially concentrated among high-ranking officers who hold important government positions and run influential companies under the socialist government.

Though hundreds of soldiers have defected to neighboring countries and pledged allegiance to Guaidó, most of these are from the lower ranks.

Guaidó has said that he will offer amnesty to any member of the armed forces who has not committed crimes against humanity.

Featured image: andresAzp (CC BY-ND 2.0)

This article originally appeared on Insider. Follow @thisisinsider on Twitter.