From the football field to the battlefield: 7 vets with NFL ties - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY FIT

From the football field to the battlefield: 7 vets with NFL ties

The National Football League has been plagued by questions of patriotism in the last few years. But whether or not the NFL kneels or stands this year, it’s important to remember that some of the players and coaches have served, too.


From the football field to the battlefield: 7 vets with NFL ties

1. George Halas

Halas was instrumental in the creation of the NFL and responsible for founding the team that went on to be the Chicago Bears in 1920. Nicknamed “Papa Bear,” Halas coached the Bears for 40 seasons, leading them to six NFL titles. Halas served in the Navy during World War I and returned to Navy service from 1942-1945.

From the football field to the battlefield: 7 vets with NFL ties

2. Ralph Wilson, Jr.

Enshrined in the Hall of Fame in 2009, Wilson founded the Buffalo Bills following his service in the Navy during World War II. He was also instrumental in the merger between the AFL and the NFL in 1970.

From the football field to the battlefield: 7 vets with NFL ties

3. Kevin Greene

Greene retired from the NFL in 1999 and ranks third among all-time sack leaders. He led the NFL twice in that category with an impressive career playing for the Steelers, Rams, Panthers, and 49ers, with five appearances in the Pro Bowl. Greene was a member of ROTC at Auburn and served 16 years in the Army Reserves.

From the football field to the battlefield: 7 vets with NFL ties

4. Alejandro Villanueva Martínez

Villanueva is an offensive tackle for the Steelers. A veteran Army Ranger, Villanueva was a captain in the Army, served in Afghanistan, and was decorated with a Bronze Star.

From the football field to the battlefield: 7 vets with NFL ties

5. Tom Landry

Hall of Famer Tom Landry was a coaching phenom for the Dallas Cowboys. He led his team to two Super Bowl titles and had 20 straight winning seasons. Equally impressive was Landry’s service in the Army Air Corps during World War II. The B-17 co-pilot flew 30 missions and survived a crash in Belgium. He passed away in 2000 at age 75 as a legend and a hero.

From the football field to the battlefield: 7 vets with NFL ties

6. Dick “Night Train” Lane

The Hall of Famer had an incredible 68 career interceptions during his time with the Los Angeles Rams, Chicago Cardinals, and Detroit Lions. For nine straight years (1954-1963), Lane earned first or second-team All-NFL honors. He played in seven Pro Bowls and during his rookie season, had an unprecedented 14 interceptions – a record that still stands today. Lane served in the Army during both World War II and the Korean War.

From the football field to the battlefield: 7 vets with NFL ties

7. Roger Staubach

Staubach, nicknamed “Captain America,” won the 1963 Heisman Trophy during his time as quarterback at the U.S. Naval Academy. After graduation, Staubach served his commitment in the Navy, which included a tour in Vietnam. Following his service, Staubach joined the Cowboys and played in Dallas for all 11 seasons of his professional football career. During his tenure, the Cowboys won two of their five Super Bowl appearances.

The list of NFL greats who served their country continues with inspiring men like Pat Tillman, George McAfee, Mike Anderson, and so many more. But for every big name in the NFL, there are countless men that gave up their football dreams to serve their country.

You may not have heard of Jack Ankerson, but he only played three NFL exhibition games in 1964 before Uncle Sam called him up to serve his time. By the time his commitment was done, so was his chance to play in the NFL. But Jack, like so many others who chose service above self, is everything that’s right with America and the sports we love to watch.

Whether they’re a hometown hero or a household name, we salute all of our football playing and football-loving veterans.

Articles

That time a Marine had a live RPG stuck in his leg

Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Winder Perez was fighting in Afghanistan in January 2012 when he was shot with a rocket-propelled grenade that pierced his leg and remained stuck there without detonating.


A medical evacuation crew ignored regulations against moving unexploded ordnance, picked him up, and flew him to medical care where an explosives technician removed the RPG so a Navy medical officer could operate on him.

Specialist Mark Edens was the first member of the MEDEVAC crew to see the Marine. The flight had originally been briefed that they were receiving an injured little girl as a patient, but they arrived to find the lance corporal with a large wound and an approximately 2-foot long rocket protruding from his leg.

When Army pilot Capt. Kevin Doo was told about the embedded RPG, he asked his entire crew to vote on whether to evacuate the patient. They unanimously voted yes despite the dangers.

“There was no doubt to anyone that we were going to take this Marine and get him the medical attention needed to save his life,” Doo told Army journalists. “When dealing with this — not knowing that any moment could be your last — 18 inches from the patient’s legs was about 360 gallons of aviation fuel.”

“After Lance Cpl. Perez was loaded on the Black Hawk, it was a total of 11.2 minutes of flight time where every minute felt like an hour,” Doo added. “During that time, we were on the radio coordinating with our escorts, the Explosive Ordnance Disposal team, and medical personnel who were going to treat Perez.”

From the football field to the battlefield: 7 vets with NFL ties
Army Staff Sgt. Ben Summerfield attempts to remove a rocket-propelled grenade from Lance Cpl. Winder Perez as Navy Lt. Cmdr. James Gennari keeps Perez’s airway stable. (Photo: US Navy)

When the helicopter landed, Perez was met by Navy Lt. Cmdr. James Gennari, the head of the surgical company at Forward Operating Base Edinburgh, and Army EOD Staff Sgt. Ben Summerfield. Summerfield quickly tugged the RPG free of Perez and Gennari worked to stabilize the patient.

Gennari later said that the Perez’s wounds were so severe that he would’ve died without the quick MEDEVAC. Edens, Doo, and the rest of the Army MEDEVAC team then transported Perez to Camp Bastion where he began the long road to recovery.

(H/t to the 25th Combat Aviation Brigade Public Affairs who wrote about this incident in May 2012.)

MIGHTY MILSPOUSE

Military Spouse Mental Health – Who are our advocates?

In May we celebrate Military Spouse Appreciation Day, Mother’s Day, and Memorial Day. May is also Mental Health Awareness Month. The military lifestyle is one of constant change and uncertainty. This alone can be a trigger for mental illness. As a nation, we are now facing unimaginable mental illness triggers as quarantines, self-isolation, and social distancing continue. Throughout this month, let us focus our attention on this issue and ask:

Who is advocating for the mental health of our military spouses?



Mental Health Facts

According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, a mental illness is defined as a condition which affects a person’s thinking, feeling, behavior, or mood. Mental health conditions can be triggered by influences in one’s environment, lifestyle, and/or develop as a result of genetics. A USO study conducted in 2018 reported military spouses expressed a lack of identity and sense of purpose. The same study highlighted their difficulty maintaining networks and support systems. In addition, military spouses felt a lack of control over their lives and expressed an inability to plan for their futures. A 2017 DOD study found that military spouses experience higher rates of stress, anxiety, depression, and unemployment than their civilian counterparts. Think about these statistics and ask:

Who is advocating for the mental health of our military spouses?

From the football field to the battlefield: 7 vets with NFL ties

Barriers to Seeking Treatment

What barriers exist that prevent military spouses from seeking mental health treatment? There is a stigma associated with mental health disorders and a lack of knowledge regarding available treatments and resources. Some people may not even recognize they have an issue. Military spouses may have an additional fear of their condition negatively affecting the active duty member’s career. Could it affect opportunities for promotion, potential for future assignments and/or duty locations? There is a fear of family, friends, and colleagues being judgmental. In order to remove the barriers to seeking treatment, we need to remove the barriers to discussing mental health within the military spouse community and ask:

Who is advocating for the mental health of our military spouses?

Changing the Mental Health Landscape

How do we change the landscape surrounding the mental health of military spouses? We can begin by supporting each other and fostering a culture of inclusiveness. Be an active part of the solution amongst our own by lending an ear, asking questions, and encouraging others to ask for and accept help. We need to increase our knowledge of available resources and share them with others. A list of free, confidential mental health resources is included at the end of this article. We have the ability to change the stigma. Let’s be the voice for those who aren’t able to speak by asking:

Who is advocating for the mental health of our military spouses?

No matter how resilient we are, there will always be aspects of our lives that are beyond our control. However, we need to recognize that we do have the ability to control our own identity, purpose, wellbeing, and mental health. It takes courage to ask for help and there is no shame in needing it. Military spouses have a duty to advocate for their active duty members and their families. In order to be able to help others, we must first take care of ourselves. Therefore, we must advocate for fellow spouses, ourselves, and our own mental health.

Mental Health Resources

If you or someone you know is having thoughts of hurting themselves or others, dial 911 or go to the nearest emergency room to get help immediately. Please don’t let a cry for help go unheard. Included below are several mental health resources.

  1. Tricare Mental Health Information: Phone numbers for a crisis hotline and nurse advice line, as well as information on coverage, available programs and resources.
  2. Military One Source: Comprehensive list of available military and nationwide resources for a wide range of mental health conditions.
  3. National Institute of Mental Health: Information on how to find help for yourself, a friend or family member, struggling with mental health issues.

This article originally appeared on Military Spouse. Follow @MilSpouseMag on Twitter.

MIGHTY MOVIES

A WWII veteran’s son captures stories left untold in ‘My Father’s War’

More than 16 million Americans fought in World War II. When those brave veterans of the ‘Greatest Generation’ returned home, many of them refused to talk about it. Now, in a race against time, one veteran’s son took on the mission of making sure their stories are told.


Charley Valera’s father Giovanni “Gene” Valera was in the legendary 8th Army Air Force’s 93rd Bombardment Group in the European Theater. But Charley didn’t know anything about it until a full ten years after his father passed away.

From the football field to the battlefield: 7 vets with NFL ties

Now, the younger Valera is trying to help families in a similar situation by interviewing and collecting the stories of WWII veterans from all ranks, all theaters, and all branches. With veterans recalling the stories they never did – or never could – tell their families, he hopes to devote equal time to every story he can capture forever. Stories like Santo DiSalvo’s (below), who was drafted into the Army on Mar. 5, 1943.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GfTXvC3Q5O0
Now, having collected so many stories and interviews, Charley Valera has compiled them into a book, My Father’s WarMemories From Our Honored WWII SoldiersHis hope is that families can learn about their loved ones’ sacrifices and bravery in the biggest conflict ever fought by mankind.
“We all know someone who was there, fighting in WWII,” says Charley Valera. “We also know they didn’t talk about their war efforts. The simply say ‘I was just doing my job.'”

My Father’s War contains ten stories (and some very honorable mentions) from World War II veterans of many ranks and branches, in their own words. Included are personal photographs and letters from their time on the battlefields that detail what happened and how they felt about it – then and now.

The book is a fascinating compendium of personal narratives. You don’t have to jump in and read it cover to cover. It’s a book that is easily put down and picked back up so you can consume these stories and truly think about the fortitude and bravery it took to swallow your fear and do the job.

And then keep it all bottled up inside when you come back home.

Charley Valera’s mission is personally driven but his motivation is a beautiful and altruistic one. Consider that only 9 surviving Medal of Honor recipients from World War II and Korea are alive today — while those stories are firmly in the history books, imagine how many were never told and never seen, but still worthy of high praise.

From the football field to the battlefield: 7 vets with NFL ties
My Father’s War: Memories from Our Honored WWII Soldiers

Furthermore, this book details how men went from citizen to soldier, fighting the good fight, seemingly overnight. They aren’t just war stories, they’re personal stories from a generation that will soon be gone, enshrined forever.

That’s what My Father’s War is all about.

Articles

US Navy SEALs are training with Ukrainian special operations forces

Across southern Ukraine, US special operations forces trained with Ukrainian special operators and conventional US and Ukrainian naval forces during Sea Breeze 2017, July 10-21.


An annual fixture in the Black Sea region since 1997, Sea Breeze is a US and Ukrainian co-hosted multinational maritime exercise.

This year, Ukraine invited US special operations forces to participate, and US Special Operations Command Europe’s Naval Special Warfare Command operators were eager to sign up for the mission.

This is the first time that special operations forces have operated at Sea Breeze, said US Navy Capt. Michael Villegas, the exercise’s director. “[Their] capabilities are extremely valued by the Ukrainians and extremely valuable to the US.”

From the football field to the battlefield: 7 vets with NFL ties
A U.S Naval Special Warfare Operator observes a Ukrainian SOF Operator during a weapons range in Ochakiv, Ukraine during exercise Sea Breeze 17, July 18, 2017. Sea Breeze is a U.S. and Ukraine co-hosted multinational maritime exercise held in the Black Sea and is designed to enhance interoperability of participating nations and strengthen maritime security within the region. (U.S. military photo)

Naval Special Warfare Command operators were completely integrated into the various air, land, and sea missions that required their unique warfighting skill set. Exercise Sea Breeze is a perfect fit for special operations forces to train and exercise their capabilities, the exercise’s lead special operations forces planner said. “With the support of the [Air Force’s] 352nd Special Operations Wing, we saw a prime opportunity to support [special operations] mission-essential training with our Ukrainian allies,” he said.

He added that naval special warfare units bring a host of unique capabilities into the exercise scenario, such as rigid-hull inflatable boats; visit, board, search, and seizure expertise; and the strongest direct action capabilities available. However, Villegas noted, capability is only one piece of the puzzle when training alongside a partner nation with shared objectives to assure, deter, and defend in an increasingly complex environment.

“In the spirit of Sea Breeze, we come not to impose what we know or how we operate,” he said. “Here, we come to exchange ideas, train towards interoperability and learn to operate side by side should a conflict arise that would require that.”

Achieving interoperability with partner nations and interservice partners is a common objective at exercises like Sea Breeze. But here, the US special operations forces capitalized on it. “Interoperability is our ability to conduct combined planning, problem solving, and mission execution efficiently to achieve a mutually-defined end state,” Villegas said.

From the football field to the battlefield: 7 vets with NFL ties
Ukrainian SOF prepare to board a U.S. CV-22 Osprey during exercise Sea Breeze 17. Army photo by Sgt. Jeffrey Lopez

Achieving this end state, he added, hinged on US-Ukrainian integration at the tactical level within the special operations platoons, and at the special operations maritime task group level.

“We have combined with our Ukrainian colleagues to integrate their experience and capabilities within our key positions,” he said. “Starting in the command team and further within our operations, communications, logistics, and intelligence departments, we were fully partnered.”

Down at the platoon level, operators fast-roped from hovering US Air Force CV-22 Osprey aircraft assigned to US Special Operations Command Europe, conducted personnel recovery training and boarded vessels at sea.

“Whether it was on the range, in the field, or on the water, these men were a pleasure to work with,” said a US special operations forces platoon commander. “The Ukrainians’ attitudes made this exercise a great opportunity to exchange training and create a strong relationship.”

From the football field to the battlefield: 7 vets with NFL ties
US Navy Special Warfare Operators train at a small-arms range with Ukrainian SOF at Ochakiv, Ukraine, July 13, 2017 at exercise Sea Breeze 17. Photo by Spc. Jeffery Lopez.

As with any exercise of this size and scope, there were challenges to overcome to make the exercise a success while identifying tactical and technical gaps in partner capabilities. “The first major obstacle we had, but were prepared for, was the language barrier,” the platoon commander said. “Another was that our mission sets differed slightly from our counterparts’.” To remedy this, he said, he found ways to incorporate the skill sets of each unit in ways to accomplish the mission while building relationships to forge a stronger partnership. As the operators returned from a long day, mutual trust emerged through combined hard work, long hours, and mutual respect for each unit’s professionalism.

“You always want to work with a partner force who is motivated, wants to train, and wants to get better, and the Ukrainian [special operations forces] are all of these,” the platoon commander said.

On the pier here, overlooking the Black Sea, Villegas expressed the Navy’s gratitude to Ukraine for inviting US special operations forces to participate in this year’s exercise.

“[Special operations] participation at Sea Breeze is so important for Ukraine and the US Navy and all the other units participating,” he said. “Our hosts have been incredibly friendly, committed, and dedicated. Their hard work has ensured Sea Breeze 17 was a success, and we are truly very thankful for that.”

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Watch a Venezuelan F-16 shoot down an OV-10 Bronco

Venezuela and the United States didn’t always have such a contentious relationship. The country was traditionally awash with funds from oil sales, and when you have that kind of cash, everyone wants to be your friend. In 1982, Venezuela signed a deal for fifteen F-16A and six F-16B fighter aircraft from the U.S.

The country would need them just a few years later.


The threat to Venezuela’s government didn’t come from an external invader, it came from within. In 1992, the Revolutionary Bolivarian Movement attempted to overthrow the government of Carlos Andres-Perez, who survived two such attempts in just a year’s time. Both were led by a guy named Hugo Chavez, whose supporters were angry about the country’s outstanding debt and out-of-control spending.

From the football field to the battlefield: 7 vets with NFL ties

TFW you’re about to run South America’s richest economy into the ground.

Venezuelan armed forces, under the command of Lt. Col. Hugo Chavez, launched two coup attempts in 1992. The second coup, which took place in November of that year, saw leaders from the Air Force and Navy take command while Chavez was still in prison for the first attempt. They learned from the mistakes of the previous attempt and seized major air bases — but not all of the pilots.

Chavez’ rebels used OV-10 Broncos to support rebel operations, but loyalist pilots were already in the air and they were flying F-16s. That’s what led to the confrontation below, filmed on the ground by a civilian.

The video above shows a government F-16 turning into the Bronco before hitting its speed brakes and firing its 20mm cannon. The burst sent the OV-10 down in flames. There’s another angle of the dogfight, taken by a local news crew.

Though both of the coups failed, Chavez ultimately became president, but through legitimate means in 1998. He won the Venezuelan presidency with 56 percent of the vote. After his election, Venezuela’s relations with the United States soured and the country could no longer maintain its fleet of F-16s due to an arms embargo slapped on by the administration of George W. Bush.

Now, the Venezuelan Air Force relies on the Russian-built Sukhoi-30 multirole fighter for the bulk of its fighter missions. It still has at least 19 F-16s, but has little capacity to care for the aging aircraft.

Articles

The 6 most terrifying weapons of World War I

When the Great War began in 1914, the armies on both sides brought new technologies to the battlefield the likes of which the world had never seen. The destruction and carnage caused by these new weapons was so extensive that portions of old battlefields are still uninhabitable.


World War I saw the first widespread use of armed aircraft and tanks as well as the machine gun. But some of the weapons devised during the war were truly terrifying.

1. The Flamethrower

From the football field to the battlefield: 7 vets with NFL ties
German flamethrowers during WWI (Photo: German Federal Archive, 1917)

The idea of being able to burn one’s enemies to death has consistently been on the minds of combatants throughout history; however, it was not until 1915 Germany was able to deploy a successful man-portable flamethrower.

The flamethrower was especially useful because even just the idea of being burned alive drove men from the trenches into the open where they could be cut down by rifle and machine gun fire.

The terrible nature of the flamethrower, Flammenwerfer in German, meant that the troops carrying them were marked men. As soon as they were spotted, they became the targets of gunfire. Should one happen to be taken prisoner, they were often subjected to summary execution.

The British went a different way with their flamethrowers and developed the Livens Large Gallery Flame Projector. These were stationary weapons deployed in long trenches forward of the lines preceding an attack. The nozzle would spring out of the ground and send a wall of flame 300 feet in the enemy’s direction.

These were used with great effectiveness at the Somme on July 1, 1916 when they burned out a section of the German line before British infantry was able to rush in and capture the burning remnants.

2. Trench Knife

From the football field to the battlefield: 7 vets with NFL ties

Even with the advent of the firearm, hand-to-hand combat was still a given on the battlefield. However, with the introduction of trench warfare, a new weapon was needed in order to fight effectively in such close quarters. Enter the trench knife.

The most terrifying trench knives were developed by the United States. The M1917, America’s first trench knife, combined three killing tools in one. The blade of the weapon was triangular which meant it could only be used for stabbing, but it inflicted terrible wounds.

Triangular stab wounds were so gruesome that they were eventually banned by the Geneva Conventions in 1949 because they cause undue suffering. The knife also had a “knuckle duster” hand guard mounted with spikes in order to deliver maximum damage with a punching attack. Finally, the knife had a “skull crusher” pommel on the bottom in order to smash the enemy’s head with a downward attack.

An improved design, the Mark I Trench Knife, was developed in 1918 but didn’t see use until WWII.

3. Trench Raiding Clubs

From the football field to the battlefield: 7 vets with NFL ties
Crudely shaped trench club from World War I. (Photo: York Museums Trust)

Along with the trench knife the Allies developed other special weapons for the specific purpose of trench raiding. Trench raiding was the practice of sneaking over to enemy lines’ and then, as quietly as possible, killing everyone in sight, snatching a few prisoners, lobbing a few explosives into bunkers and high-tailing it back to friendly lines before the enemy knew what hit them.

As rifles would make too much noise, trench raiding clubs were developed. There was no specific design of a trench raiding club, though many were patterned after medieval weapons such as maces and flails.

Others were crude handmade implements using whatever was around. This often consisted of heavy lengths of wood with nails, barbed wire, or other metal attached to the striking end to inflict maximum damage.

4. Shotgun

From the football field to the battlefield: 7 vets with NFL ties
U.S. Marine carrying the Winchester M97 shotgun.

When Americans entered the fight on the Western Front they brought with them a new weapon that absolutely terrified the Germans: the shotgun. The United States used a few different shotguns but the primary weapon was the Winchester M1897 Trench Grade shotgun. This was a modified version of Winchester’s model 1897 with a shortened 20″ barrel, heat shield, and bayonet lug.

The shotgun, with 6 shells of 00 buck, was so effective that American troops referred to it as the “trench sweeper” or “trench broom.”

The Germans, however, were less than pleased at the introduction of this new weapon to the battlefield. The effectiveness of the shotgun so terrified the Germans that they filed a diplomatic protest against its use. They argued that it should be outlawed in combat and threatened to punish any Americans captured with the weapon.

America rejected the German protest and threatened retaliation for any punishment against American soldiers.

5. Poison Gas

From the football field to the battlefield: 7 vets with NFL ties
British emplacement after German gas attack (probably phosgene) at Fromelles. (July 19, 1916)

Of course any list of terrifying weapons of war has to include poison gas; it is the epitome of horrible weapons. Poisonous gas came in three main forms: Chlorine, Phosgene, and Mustard Gas.

The first poison gas attack was launched by the Germans against French forces at Ypres in 1915. After that, both sides began to develop their chemical weapon arsenals as well as countermeasures.

The true purpose of the gas was generally not to kill — though it certainly could — but to produce large numbers of casualties or to pollute the battlefield and force the enemy from their positions.

Gas also caused mass panic amongst the troops because of the choking and blindness brought on by exposure causing them to flee their positions. Mustard gas was particularly terrible because in addition to severely irritating the throat, lungs, and eyes, it also burned exposed skin, creating large painful blisters.

6. Artillery

From the football field to the battlefield: 7 vets with NFL ties
8-inch howitzers of the 39th Siege Battery, Royal Garrison Artillery conducting a shoot in the Fricourt-Mametz Valley, during the Battle of the Somme, 1916. (Photo: Imperial War Museum)

Though artillery had been around for centuries leading up to WWI, its use on the battlefields of Europe was unprecedented. This was because of two reasons.

First, some of the largest guns ever used in combat were employed during the war.

Second, because the world had never seen such concentrations of artillery before.

Artillery shells were fired in mass concentrations that turned the earth into such a quagmire that later shells would fail to detonate and instead they would simply bury themselves into the ground. Massive bombardments destroyed trenches and buried men alive.

Artillery bombardments were so prolific that a new term, shell shock, was developed to describe the symptoms of survivors of horrendous bombardments.

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Why the AUSA is bursting at the seams with ‘light tanks’

If you’re unfortunate enough to be following the Twitter stream coming out of the Association of the United States Army’s annual meeting, you could be forgiven for thinking that it’s a summit for armored warfare. There are at least four new vehicles sporting heavy armor and tracks on the floor, all of them falling in the range of what used to be called a “light” or “medium tank.”


From the football field to the battlefield: 7 vets with NFL ties

A Norwegian CV90 infantry fighting vehicle created by the Swedish BAE Systems company.

So, why does the convention floor at the meeting of top soldiers look like the world’s most awesome car dealership?

Because the Army has been shopping for a new weapon that’s not quite a tank, and manufacturers all think their design could draw the Army’s eyes (and wallet).

The Army program, dubbed “Mobile Protected Firepower,” is looking for an armored vehicle that could fold into infantry brigade combat teams, giving them an armored advantage against other forces. They’re not looking for a heavy vehicle that can take on tanks, but a lighter one that will be top dog in places where tanks can’t go.

From the football field to the battlefield: 7 vets with NFL ties

The Griffin III technology demonstrator sits on the floor at the Association of the United States Army Annual Meeting.

(General Dynamics Land Systems)

So, something a little heavier and more robust that a Stryker or Bradley, but still light enough to cross most bridges and navigate narrow streets. This would make it useful in recent battlefields like the mountains of Afghanistan, where the heavy M1 Abrams couldn’t often go, as well as predicted future battlefields, like megacities and jungles.

It’s the infantryman’s tank.

So, what are the industry offerings available at the AUSA meeting?

A Norwegian CV90 infantry fighting vehicle created by the Swedish BAE Systems company.

One officially debuted on October 8 at the meeting: the Griffin III from General Dynamics Land Systems. This large vehicle packs a 50mm cannon, much larger than most armored vehicles and twice diameter of the 25mm gun of the Bradley. According to a tweet from the manufacturer, the gun can elevate to 85 degrees, nearly vertical. That would allow it to hit windows and ledges in cities even from tight streets.

Meanwhile, the Swedish BAE Systems has highlighted a new addition to their CV90 family of vehicles. These armored beasts tip the scales at 25-30 tonnes, can have manned or unmanned turrets, and are configurable for a variety of missions, including anti-tank or air defense. Best of all for potential infantrymen, the vehicles are supposed to be highly survivable even against larger threats, capable of firing first and of shooting down incoming munitions in combat.

Possibly the most surprising of these not-quite-tanks to debut is SAIC’s, which boasts a chassis from Singapore, a turret from Belgium, and optics from Canada. SAIC is historically a services company, repairing and upgrading components of larger vehicles, but they’re hoping to win a contract to make a fleet of vehicles from the ground up. They were passed over for the Marine Corps’ new amphibious vehicle earlier this year, but the Army would be a bigger contract anyway.

From the football field to the battlefield: 7 vets with NFL ties

A Lynx KF41 infantry fighting vehicle fires a 30mm tracer round at a range in Germany.

(Rheinmetall Defence)

The Rheinmetall Armaments Group is a German company offering the Lynx. Lynx variants are in service in a number of countries, and Rheinmetall is hoping that the U.S. will opt for the 44-tonne KF-41, which debuted in June and is visiting AUSA. It has active protection systems and a 35mm cannon as well as two “mission pods” that can be equipped with missiles or other weapons.

The Germans sought out an American partner, Raytheon, to ensure that the overall weapon will work well once it’s Americanized, a process that will definitely involve U.S. computers and software, but might even see the entire platform re-worked for American warfighters and manufactured in the U.S.

It’s looking like the infantry might get a tank — that, or the armored corps might get an armored vehicle specially selected to help them protect the infantry.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Can shooting plastic explosives really set them off?

James H. asks: How realistic is the idea presented in video games of shooting explosives to set them off?

Given that their main and really only purposes is violently exploding, you might be surprised to learn that most explosives utilized by the military are shockingly stable. So much so, in fact, that, contrary to what is often depicted in movies and video games, plastic explosives like C-4 won’t explode if you shoot them or set them on fire. In fact, C-4 won’t even explode if you shoot it while it is currently on fire.

Indeed, beyond the benefit of being able to shape the explosive in a variety of ways to accomplish a given destructive goal, one of the main reasons plastic explosives like C-4 are utilized so extensively by the military is precisely because they are largely inert and can be handled without specialized equipment.


Further, creating C-4 is noted as being a relatively simple process that involves mixing a plasticizer with a conventional explosive (in this case usually cyclotrimethylene-trinitramine, often referred to as “RDX” or “Royal Demolition Explosive”- or for the non-Brits “Research Department Explosive”). While exact ratios vary somewhat, for reference in its C-4 the U.S. military currently uses a mixture of 91% RDX, 5.3% of the plasticizer dioctyl sebacate, 2.1% of the synthetic rubber Polyisobutylene, and 1.6% mineral oil or, for civilian use, motor oil, giving such C4 its telltale odor of, well, motor oil.

Commonly likened to ordinary modeling clay in texture and consistency, C-4 and most other plastic explosives can be shaped, stored and molded just as easily. The key difference being that, unlike modeling clay, a mere half kilogram of C-4 can turn a typical vehicle into a pile of scrap metal. The key to making this happen, though, is attaching some form of blasting cap.

From the football field to the battlefield: 7 vets with NFL ties

As the name suggests, these blasting caps rely on a smaller, controlled explosion which will in turn cause the explosive components within the C-4 to go off, resulting in the C-4 producing a wave of gasses, including nitrogen and carbon oxides, that rapidly expand out at upwards of 18,000 mph. So fast is this effect that it actually creates something of a temporary vacuum around the core blast area. This results in a second, much less violent, wave of air collapsing in on the vacuum after the initial blast.

Not keen to just rely on theory, the US Army has conducted countless sensitivity tests on C-4 and other plastic explosive compounds, shooting them with bullets of varying calibres and even putting them within feet of things like hand grenades to see if that explosion or subsequent shrapnel could set the C-4 off. The Army has even conducted tests to see if things like fire will cause C-4 to explode, all with little effect. In fact, it turns out C-4 not only remains stable while on fire but it actually burns quite slowly, making it a good fire starter if you don’t mind the poisonous fumes.

While you might think soldiers would be scared to use this compound in this way, both because of perhaps worrying about an accidental explosion or from the noxious gasses given off, amazingly, during the Vietnam war using small chunks of C-4 as tinder to light campfires, or even as the sole source of the fire itself, was indeed a thing many soldiers did, despite military brass advising against it owing to the poisonous gasses given off.

Further, beyond its use as an explosive, fire starter, and badass modeling clay, it turns out that when eaten in extremely small amounts, C-4 is known to produce a mild high likened to being drunk, something soldiers in Vietnam also took advantage of.

It’s probably worth mentioning at this point that when consumed in anything other than extremely tiny quantities, C-4 can cause a host of health problems, as noted in a case study published in the Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine in 2002 where a soldier decided to swallow about a cubic centimeter of the substance… Potential resulting complications of mimicking this moronic act include “generalized seizures, lethargy, coma, muscular twitching, hyperreflexia, myalgias, headaches, vomiting, mild renal injury, and haematuria (blood in your pee).”

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Inserting blasting caps into blocks of C-4 explosive.

Back to the extreme stability of C-4- as they often do, the show Mythbusters took the idea of testing this to its logical extreme, shooting a piece that was currently on fire with a high-explosive incendiary round. The C-4 stubbornly refused to explode even then, despite the incendiary round giving a nice little blast on impact.

There is one caveat to all this, however. It turns out there is a way to set off C-4 by shooting at it. How? While there are a variety of designs for blasting caps, some may be set off via being hit with a bullet, thus providing the needed energy to cause the C-4 itself to explode. Why this is an extremely unlikely scenario in the real world is because these blasting caps are typically very small (think a half used pencil) and anyone trying to shoot at them would presumably want to be a fair distance away just in case they were successful.

This all becomes an even less likely in real world scenarios given that you don’t put the blast cap in the C-4 until you yourself are preparing to actually make it go boom.

So, in the end, while there are certainly many unstable explosives that will happily release their destructive power if you were to shoot them, it turns out plastic explosives and pretty much the majority of explosives used by militaries and for industrial use the world over are almost always shockingly stable precisely because these organizations aren’t keen on deploying explosive devices that might go off unexpectedly.

Bonus Fact:

  • Speaking of shooting at explosive devices, during WWI there are documented instances of soldiers using shotguns to destroy thrown hand grenades before they could reach their target. For example, in Leroy Thompson’s U.S. Combat Shotguns book, he notes the following account where a group of soldiers acted in concert in this way: “Their first warnings were German ‘potato masher’ hand grenades lobbing through the air. Few landed as most of them were exploded in the air by the experts in the outposts. Upon the failure of the grenade attack, the enemy launched a mortar attack. Again the trapshooters proved their worth, deflecting the slowly arching bombs. Finally, a vast grey wave of the Kaiser’s best surged forward.”

This article originally appeared on Today I Found Out. Follow @TodayIFoundOut on Twitter.

Military Life

5 types of recruits you’ll encounter at your first PFT

When recruits first arrive at boot camp, they run an initial Physical Fitness Test (PFT) to determine the capabilities of each prospect. The Marine PFT consists of pull-ups, crunches, and a timed, three-mile run. They will repeat this test a few times over the course of their stay in boot camp and results are carefully monitored by drill instructors, who track individual improvements.


If a recruit fails the test, they’ll fall behind in training, prolonging the time spent at the Marine Corps Recruit Depot — a place where no young man or woman wants to spend any extra time.

The initial test is taken within a week or so of arriving. While there, recruits will likely see a few of the following archetypes in action.

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Recruits of India Company, 3rd Recruit Training Battalion, push forward during the three-mile run portion of their Physical Fitness Test aboard Marine Corps Recruit Depot San Diego, Calif.

(Photo by Marine Sgt. Benjamin E. Woodle)

The marathon runner

Some recruits barely meet the physical requirements of the screening process at MEPS — others show up to boot camp in tip-top shape. Once the drill instructor gives the platoon the signal to start the three-mile run, you’ll quickly notice the endurance runners pull ahead of the pack.

The overrated bodybuilder

This guy or gal sports layers upon layers of muscle. They look tough and can probably lift a truck and a half, but this mass becomes a problem when it’s time to complete the timed run. This recruit probably maxed out on the pull-ups and sit-ups without problem, but they’ll be breathing heavily after about a mile’s jog.

On the flip side, these recruits are great when it comes time to lift the log.

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The “Pvt. Pyle”

We meant it when we said some recruits show up to boot camp after just barely satisfying the requirements of a MEPS physical exam. This recruit isn’t remotely prepared for the physical demands of the Marine Corps — they’ve got a long way to go. This type of recruit makes the mediocre boots look pretty sh*t-hot.

But, as the saying goes, “you don’t have to finish first, just don’t finish last.”

The skinny kid with upper body strength

You don’t have to be a bodybuilder to do well at the PFT. In fact, being skinny can actually help you crank out numbers on the pull-up bar and smoke everyone else during the timed run. Conversely, however, it’s a good idea to get those legs stronger in preparation for all those fun hikes you’ll go on — especially if you’re headed to San Diego for basic training.

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Drill instructors with Company I, 3rd Recruit Training Battalion, encourage recruits to push their limits as they finish the final part of the initial physical fitness test aboard Marine Corps Recruit Depot San Diego.

(Photo by Marine Lance Cpl. Bridget M. Keane)

The sh*tty counter

It may be frowned upon by the Corps, but if you’re lucky, your platoon mate will count by twos during your PFT. We know, it doesn’t sound so ethical, but it happens all the time. Conversely, some recruits live life by the books and make their platoon mates actually do every single sit-up on their way to reaching the goal of 100.

MIGHTY HISTORY

4 times Iran’s navy got beat down in the Persian Gulf

The Iranian Navy sure does talk a big game for the sheer number of times it got slapped around in its home waters. When Iranian sailors captured U.S. Navy sailors in 2016, the usual response would have been a short, potent facepunch from a nearby carrier group. When President Obama opted not to slap them around, what should have seemed like a close call instead appears to have artificially inflated some Iranian egos, because traditionally, Iran is not good at Navy things.

Iran has been hit or miss on the water (usually miss) since they lost to the outnumbered Greeks at Salamis in 480 BC. Its biggest naval win came against Iraq on Sept. 28, 1980, a day they still celebrate as “Navy Day” because no other engagement would qualify. Ever since, Iran has been threatening anyone within earshot with its aging, rusted patchwork of garbage scows it calls a navy.


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Anglo-Soviet Invasion of Iran, 1941

During World War II, the Allied powers thought neutral Iran was more likely to aid the Axis powers than the allies when push came to shove. Since Iran’s rich oil fields were not something anyone wanted in Hitler’s hands, the Soviets and the British Empire invaded Iran in August 1941. The British Commonwealth ships steamed into Abadan Harbor and promptly lit up the Iranian fleet, killing its leadership and deposing the Shah. The two allied powers then divided the country between them.

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Operation Prime Chance 1987

After Iran crippled the Iraqi Navy during the early days of the Iran-Iraq War, the Iranians pretty much had free rein to wreak as much havoc as they wanted on Iraqi shipping – even if those ships weren’t flagged as Iraqi. The Iranians began targeting tankers and container ships flagged as neutral countries in an effort to choke Iraq into submission. Pretty soon, other countries were reflagging their ships as American, both to deter the Iranians from attacking or laying mines and benefitting from U.S. protection.

The Iranians did not stop mining the Gulf, so the United States began setting up oil platforms as maritime staging areas for special operations missions. Operating from these bases, the Navy took down a number of Iranian minelayers while protecting international shipping lanes.

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Operation Nimble Archer, 1987

U.S. forces attacked and burned Iranian oil platforms after Iran fired a missile at a Kuwaiti tanker, hitting it and wounding dozens of sailors. The Navy determined the attack came from an otherwise-unoccupied oil platform, which they next surrounded, boarded, and destroyed – using both Navy SEALs and accurate fire from four destroyers as well as aircraft.

The special operators who boarded the platforms also seized valuable classified intel, as the platforms were controlled by the Revolutionary Guards Corps.

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PRAYING MANTIS

Operation Praying Mantis, 1988

In 1988, it wasn’t a flagged merchant who hit an Iranian-laid mine. This time it was a US Navy ship, the USS Samuel B. Roberts. Unfortunately for Iran, Ronald Reagan was still President, and the USS Enterprise carrier group was in the area. An entire battalion of United States Marines assaulted an oil platform being used to stage Iranian attacks in the Gulf. When the platform tried to fire on the Americans, they were punished for the effort from US Navy destroyers and Cobra helicopters.

The Iranians responded by sending an Iranian missile boat, the Joshan, straight at the U.S. fleet. When Joshan missed that shot, the American fleets overwhelmed the ship with missiles and guns, sending her to the bottom. Meanwhile, Iranian aircraft and destroyers joined the fray, one destroyer was sunk the other was heavily damaged, and the Iranian fighters were no match for US Navy A-6 Intruders.

MIGHTY CULTURE

This non-profit pairs war veterans with Gold Star kids

Perry Yee knew there was a way he could help his fellow veterans but wasn’t sure how. There are plenty of charities and programs out there that claim to help veterans with issues like PTSD, anxiety, loneliness and isolation, and the sometimes difficult transition into the civilian world. The call to do something was there, but he wasn’t sure what the path was.


So Yee and his wife, Jamie, did what a lot of people who want to help do….they prayed.

Soon after, the idea for Active Valor was born.

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Active Valor is a non-profit that pairs veterans with Gold Star children. Based out of San Diego county, veterans apply to be a mentor for a child that belongs to a Gold Star family. The intent isn’t to take the place of the father who has passed away, but to be a mentor, guide, confidant and teacher while honoring the parent that passed away. Active Valor does this in several ways. First, they host events throughout the year that keep veterans engaged. This is not a once a year event. This is not a one time meet up. Once paired with a kid, the veteran commits to participating in events throughout the year, and most go further developing a relationship with the child and family. They will end up having weekly conversations, taking the child to sporting events, and being involved with the kid’s life. But more than a “Big Brother” program, Active Valor serves the veteran too and helps them with their struggles.

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Yee himself knew all about that struggle. He enlisted in the Navy in 2005 on a BUDs contract. Twice he went through Hell Week and had to be rolled back. Once for nerve damage to his arm, and once for pneumonia. But like most warriors, Yee didn’t give up, and in true “third times the charm fashion” graduated in Class 262. He was eventually assigned to SEAL Team 7 out of Coronado, Calif.

Yee did a combat tour and earned himself a Navy Commendation with “V” and Army Commendation with “V.” He left the service in 2011 and embarked on the next chapter of his life. After flirting with college, Yee ended up with the Competitor Group, which runs the Rock ‘n’ Roll Marathons nationwide. After a year, he ended up as a Range Safety Officer in Poway, Calif., before getting a job at the Warfighter Academy in Escondido, Calif.. It was here that Yee taught classes in CQB and other warfighting techniques. It was also here where he started connecting with veterans and learned that his rough journey into the civilian side wasn’t just his own experience. Yee learned that many other veterans struggle to connect with coworkers, classmates, family and spouses, and few had outlets which they could express themselves and connect with others.

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The events the Active Valor puts on helps veterans do just that. They are specifically tailor-made to allow the veteran to use skills and experiences he/she learned in the military and put them to use in a setting that allows the kids to have fun.

How?

By hosting amazingly fun and badass events.

One of the events Yee organized was a treasure hunt for the kids. However, this particular treasure hunt required veterans to use their land nav skills so that kids could find the treasure. Veterans taught their kids how to read maps, use a compass, use a pace count and other tricks so that they could find the treasure that was buried. For those of us that served, it is a bit more fun to do land nav when it helps a kid win a prize as opposed to the torture of doing it as part of training.

Other events include a capture the flag event, field day events, jewel heist adventures where the kid has to recover stolen property, and the most popular of all….’The Zombie Hunt.’ This was a one-off event, where Gold Star kids and their veteran mentors navigated a course full of zombies. Armed with Nerf guns and lots of close combat experience, the pairs went around killing zombies and making memories. The event is so popular it went from a one-off to an annual event (although next year might feature aliens instead of zombies).

Seriously how fun is this:

For the Gold Star families, the events and mentorship provide fun events for the kids while giving them a chance to develop a rapport with someone that walked in their dad’s shoes. A big piece of why the events are successful for both the kids and the veteran is simple. The vet gets to teach the kids about the skills they learned in the military – the same skills their dad knew. That lays the cornerstone to a bridge between their fathers’ life and their life now.

For many Gold Star families, when they lose their loved one, they lose the one connection they had with military life. Active Valor helps reestablish that connection too. Perry has had a lot of positive feedback from mothers saying their kid was in a shell or detached after losing their dad. Having an Active Valor mentor and participating in the activities, give the child an outlet and someone they can talk to. Yee and his wife want to make it clear; Active Valor is not about bringing up the trauma the child had in losing a parent. It is about giving them a day of fun to celebrate the parent and, well, be a kid.

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Active Valor is a two-person show. Perry is the CEO and does most of the leg work when it comes to organizing the events. His wife Jamie uses her media and design background from her job to do all the marketing, social media, and photo and video work that is needed to spread the word. They are local to San Diego right now, but bring in kids from Northern California, Arizona and Texas. Perry and Jamie are working on expanding the program and engaging more veterans and Gold Star families as they have seen the positive benefits of their program and know they can do more. Right now, they have 45 kids paired with 45 veterans. The process of signing up revolves around the families. Once they sign up, they are then paired with a veteran based on several factors, including interests and hobbies. The key is to make sure the kid feels trusted, and the veteran is going to be a long-term positive influence on the child in the years to come.

The biggest obstacle they face is funding and getting the word out to Gold Star families that this program exists for their kids. If you would like to learn more and if you want to get involved, visit here!

popular

7 terrifying enemy weapons that probably suck

There are so many terrifying weapons that have come out in the last few years or are going through testing now that make it seem like the next war, no matter where it happens, will see friendly troops fighting a “War of the Worlds”-type conflict against unstoppable foes.

But many of these new weapons are either over-hyped, impossible to make work, or prohibitively expensive. In no particular order, here are seven of them you can probably stop worrying so much about:


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Russia’s new Burevestnik will be the scariest doomsday weapon in the world if it can ever fly more than 22 miles.

(Military Aviation)

That new nuclear-powered missile

The Burevestnik is Russia’s splashy, new, nuclear-powered, nuclear-armed missile announced in a March press conference. In theory, this weapon would spew nuclear waste over a large area as it swiftly maneuvers past enemy air defenses and levels an unknown enemy capital (that’s obviously Washington, D.C.).

For all of you kept awake by night terrors, feel free to suck down some NyQuil and enjoy the dreams, because that missile barely works. And by barely, we mean that its “unlimited range” is actually 22 miles, otherwise known as 878 miles less than a U.S. astronaut will drive in a diaper to win a love triangle. ‘MURICA!

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China’s Shenyang J-31 fighter will murder all the things.

China’s stealth jets, J-31 and J-20

The J-31 and J-20 would challenge the F-35 and F-22 for control of the skies, downing American fuel tankers at will and beating back flights of fifth-generation fighters too dumb to realize they were outmatched. Unfortunately, Chinese designers can’t get the engines, as well as some other details, right.

So, while the newest J-fighters are still a threat (fuel tankers will be vulnerable when the planes carry their longest range air-to-air missiles), American fighters will still hold a firm edge against them in nearly all conditions, especially knife fights and stealth battles where the Chinese fighters’ weak engines will make them have to choose between stealth and speed. Meanwhile, the American fighters can enjoy both at once, especially the F-22.

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The tank can kill you without even breaking stealth. Or something.

(Russian Ministry of Defense)

T-14 Armata tank

It’s the tank that will savagely murder every Abrams tank it faces using its autoloader and massive cannon while shrugging off enemy rounds and missiles with no problem thanks to advanced protection systems that shoot missiles down! That’d be real scary if it weren’t for the fact that it probably doesn’t work — and it costs too much for Russia to buy even if they knew how to fix it. At present, this is a tank that’s already 7 years overdue.

It looks like Russia might be throwing in the towel on ever deploying this boondoggle. The Russian Ministry of Defense allotted 7 million for upgrading existing vehicles and canceled the destruction of 6,000 current vehicles, almost as if they think they’ll need the current generation for a long time.

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The Russian Bumerang can swim up behind you kill you, and then use your body as a raft.

(Photo by Boevaya mashina)

Russian Bumerang and Kurganets-25

Russia’s newest armored vehicles, designed to complement the T-14 Armata as Russian armored columns sweep through NATO formations like Han Solo flying through the Death Star (which, for the non-Star Wars fans, didn’t end well for the Death Star). And the Bumerang can do it while swimming.

But the Bumerang and Kurganets-25 rely on some of the same protection systems that don’t work on the T-14, and its offensive systems aren’t much better. The vehicles are supposed to be capable of remote operation, but that hasn’t worked well with their “tankettes” in Syria. And this only matters if the Russian Federation can buy them, but Russia’s economic problems are threatening all of their military upgrades.

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China’s J-15 carrier-launched jet is a literal flying shark and Decepticon. It’s both of them.

(Photo by Garudtejas7)

China’s carrier jet, the J-15

The J-15 is only six years old would launch from carriers to enforce China’s will on any nation or region of the Pacific that dared stand up for freedom and justice. Too bad it’s too heavy for carrier operations, has flawed mechanics that keep failing, and is already being shelved for the J-31 (which, as noted above, has its own problems).

The J-15 has to take off from the ski ramps on China’s current and planned carriers, meaning it has a lower maximum takeoff weight than U.S. jets enjoying steam and electromagnetic catapults. This is an even bigger problem since its empty weight is nearly 3,000 pounds heavier than an F-18’s. Plus, the plane doesn’t work, suffering at least four crashes and multiple mechanical failures despite being relatively new airframes.

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Watch out! It’s right behind you!!

(Photo by Dmitry Terekhov)

Su-57 Fighter jet

The Su-57 fighter jet is equal to the F-22, better than the F-35, and can carry cruise missiles, allowing it to fly up to the American seaboard, launch strikes against U.S. cities, and then down the late-arriving jets sent up to intercept it.

It’s so good, in fact, that Russia is not buying it. Yeah, that’s the weird reason a Russian deputy defense minister gave for not sending the jet into mass production. It was so good and everyone knew that Russia could buy it, so they shouldn’t buy it. So, if there is a shooting war, there won’t be very many Su-57s to fight.

Those that do show up might not actually pose a grave threat. Why? Because it’s not that good. India had paid massive development costs for a Su-57 variant but then went shopping for American jets when the Su-57 repeatedly failed to live up to its promises, especially in the power and stealth departments.

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Russia’s super carrier

For those who haven’t heard, Russia is planning a supercarrier that is for-real going to happen and it’ll be the best carrier. Ever. But, if completed according to the little information released, it’ll be a little bigger than a Nimitz-class carrier and have similar capabilities.

So, still smaller and weaker than a Ford-class. Also, last time Russia attempted a supercarrier (or any carrier for that matter), they had barely laid the keel before their government collapsed and they took years to sell the thing off for scrap. Also, the guys who worked on that carrier and might have any idea how to build a new one are mostly retired and — this is even more important — Ukrainian.

Many Ukrainians haven’t been big fans of Russia for a few years. Something about “the Crime and Peninsula” and “the Dumbass Region” or something? Add to that all of Russia’s already-discussed budget issues and the fact that the carrier would cost 20 percent of the Russian military budget to build…

So, yeah, the carrier will either be imaginary or ridiculously underfunded. (Additional note: Their only current carrier needs a tug escort in case it breaks down and is filled with sewage and closed bathrooms.)