Landing Home takes you right into the trenches, forcing you to acknowledge the impacts of America’s 20-year war. Viewers must confront the reality of veterans struggling after they return home.
Douglas Taurel plays Luke, an Army veteran returning home after serving in Afghanistan. Taurel himself is best known for his gripping one-man play, The American Soldier, in which he plays multiple characters, bringing the viewer from the Revolutionary War to the current conflict in the Middle East. The play itself and all of his unforgettable relationships built with veterans of every walk of life inspired Landing Home.
The child of Jewish Argentinian immigrants, he grew up with his father who was in love with America and her promises. A deep love he passed to his son.
“The thing that got me going was being involved in 9/11. I was coming out of the second tower when that second plane hit it,” Taurel shared. “I couldn’t join [the military] because I was blind in my left eye. But that’s what got me involved in working with veterans.”
Taurel began furiously reading and following America’s involvement in Iraq and Afghanistan. While researching other wars he read letters from soldiers who’d been involved in all of America’s conflicts, describing their experiences. As he was reading, he made a shocking revelation. They were all the same, whether it was written during the Civil War or modern times, the struggles of these veterans couldn’t be differentiated. That discovery led him on a six-year journey to creating The American Soldier.
But he wasn’t done yet.
“The series really came from the QA we always have after the play. Vets would come up to me after the show and share their stores. Everyone always said ‘you have to turn this into a movie’,” Taruel said. While he didn’t think it was feasible to fit all his characters into a movie, he decided to create a modern soldier who embodied those characters for a web series.
Taurel wanted it to be a real and true compilation of all of the veteran stories he’d been privy to. On set, 17 of the cast and crew were veterans themselves. Launched through Vimeo, the first episode is an immediate poignant reminder of how difficult reintegration is for veterans. Something as simple as a birthday party is overwhelming for a veteran suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder.
Landing Home brings viewers along on the journey of a former soldier trying to reintegrate into civilian life. The obvious struggle Luke walks through is a heartbreaking reminder of the cost of war, as his story is an accurate depiction of a true veteran. Each episode is filled with moments that bring you deep inside to feel the effects of combat.
“We have a history as a nation of not taking care of our veterans, that goes back to the Revolution,” Taurel said. “It is a beautiful country, but it has been paid in blood. If we honored our veterans more, we’d think about war a whole lot differently. It’s easy to go to war when you aren’t involved.”
There’s another scene, in a bar that stands out. Luke is obviously struggling and an older gentleman sits beside him. A quiet and heavy silence sits in the air. Then the man says, “Where did you serve?” This moment stands out because one veteran immediately knew another and their fight, on sight.
“We owe our veterans so much. I think we’ve become selfish as a country. We’ve forgotten the people who have given us the liberties and freedoms we have,” Taurel explained. He continued, “That’s why I do the projects that I have, I want people to understand what service really means.”
The series does not hold back. The raw and true compilations of the experiences of America’s veterans in Landing Home will move you. Taurel hopes that viewers walk away with a deep understanding of what “Thank you for your service” really means.
You can watch Landing Home by going to Vimeo. To learn about the other work Taurel is involved in, click here.
Take off your tin-foil hats for a second, because sometimes an insane-sounding conspiracy theory actually turns out to be true. From the government making up an enemy attack to justify war to “mind control” experiments, some stories are hard to believe until declassified documents or investigations prove they actually happened.
Here are five of the wildest former conspiracy theories we found:
1. The US Navy fired on North Vietnamese torpedo boats that weren’t even there.
On the night of Aug. 4, 1965, the USS Maddox engaged against hostile North Vietnamese torpedo boats following an unprovoked attack. The only problem: there were no torpedo boats. Or attack. The Maddox fired at nothing, but the incident was used as a justification to further escalate the conflict in Vietnam.
Others who were present, including James Stockdale (a Navy pilot who would later receive the Medal of Honor), disputed the official account:
“I had the best seat in the house to watch that event, and our destroyers were just shooting at phantom targets — there were no PT boats there … There was nothing there but black water and American fire power.”
Even LBJ wasn’t convinced: “For all I know, our Navy was shooting at whales out there.”
2. The FBI infiltrated, surveilled, and tried to discredit American political groups it deemed “subversive.”
When it wasn’t investigating crimes and trying to put people in jail, the Federal Bureau of Investigation under Director J. Edgar Hoover kept busy trying to suppress the spread of communism in the United States. Under a secret program called COINTELPRO (counter-intelligence program), the FBI harassed numerous political groups and turned many of its members completely paranoid.
Though they could never be sure, many activists suspected the FBI was watching them. And the Bureau was able to mess with groups it didn’t like and influence what they did.
Under COINTELPRO, FBI agents infiltrated political groups and spread rumors that loyal members were the real infiltrators. They tried to get targets fired from their jobs, and they tried to break up the targets’ marriages. They published deliberately inflammatory literature in the names of the organizations they wanted to discredit, and they drove wedges between groups that might otherwise be allied. In Baltimore, the FBI’s operatives in the Black Panther Party were instructed to denounce Students for a Democratic Society as “a cowardly, honky group” who wanted to exploit the Panthers by giving them all the violent, dangerous “dirty work.” The operation was apparently successful: In August 1969, just five months after the initial instructions went out, the Baltimore FBI reported that the local Panther branch had ordered its members not to associate with SDS members or attend any SDS events.
It wasn’t only communist or left-leaning organizations. The FBI’s list of targets included the Civil Rights movement, and public enemy number one was Dr. Martin Luther King. Agents bugged his hotel rooms, followed him, tried to break up his marriage, and at one point, even sent him an anonymous letter trying to get him to commit suicide.
It would’ve been just a whacky conspiracy theory from a bunch of paranoid leftists that no one would’ve believed. But the conspiracy theorists — a group of eight anti-war activists — broke into an FBI field office in 1971 and found a trove of documents that exposed the program.
3. U.S. military leaders had a plan to kill innocent people and blame it all on Cuba.
Sitting just 90 miles from the Florida coast and considered a serious threat during Cold War, communist Cuba under its leader Fidel Castro was a problem for the United States. The U.S. tried to oust Castro with the Bay of Pigs invasion of 1961, but the operation failed. So the generals went back to the drawing board and came up with an unbelievable plan called Operation Northwoods.
The plans had the written approval of all of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and were presented to President Kennedy’s defense secretary, Robert McNamara, in March 1962. But they apparently were rejected by the civilian leadership and have gone undisclosed for nearly 40 years.
“These were Joint Chiefs of Staff documents. The reason these were held secret for so long is the Joint Chiefs never wanted to give these up because they were so embarrassing,” Bamford told ABCNEWS.com.
What were the “embarrassing” plans? Well, there were ideas for lobbing mortars into Guantanamo naval base, in addition to blowing up some of the aircraft or ammunition there. Then there was another idea floated to blow up a ship in its harbor. But these were rather timid compared to other plans that came later in a top secret paper:
“We could develop a Communist Cuba terror campaign in the Miami area, in other Florida cities and even in Washington … We could sink a boatload of Cubans enroute to Florida (real or simulated) … Exploding a few plastic bombs in carefully chosen spots, the arrest of Cuban agents and the release of prepared documents substantiating Cuban involvement also would be helpful in projecting the idea of an irresponsible government.”
The paper went on to describe in detail other plans for possibly hijacking or shooting down a “drone” airliner made to look like it was carrying civilian passengers, or faking a shoot-down of a U.S. Air Force jet over international waters to blame Cuba.
4. The CIA recruited top American journalists to spread propaganda in the media and gather intelligence.
Started in the 1950s amid the backdrop of the Cold War, the Central Intelligence Agency approached leading American journalists in an attempt to influence public opinion and gather intelligence. The program, called Operation Mockingbird, went on for nearly three decades.
Some of these journalists’ relationships with the Agency were tacit; some were explicit. There was cooperation, accommodation and overlap. Journalists provided a full range of clandestine services—from simple intelligence gathering to serving as go‑betweens with spies in Communist countries. Reporters shared their notebooks with the CIA. Editors shared their staffs. Some of the journalists were Pulitzer Prize winners, distinguished reporters who considered themselves ambassadors without‑portfolio for their country. Most were less exalted: foreign correspondents who found that their association with the Agency helped their work; stringers and freelancers who were as interested in the derring‑do of the spy business as in filing articles; and, the smallest category, full‑time CIA employees masquerading as journalists abroad. In many instances, CIA documents show, journalists were engaged to perform tasks for the CIA with the consent of the managements of America’s leading news organizations.
The Church Committee exposed much of the program, with a full report from Congress stating: “The CIA currently maintains a network of several hundred foreign individuals around the world who provide intelligence for the CIA and at times attempt to influence opinion through the use of covert propaganda. These individuals provide the CIA with direct access to a large number of newspapers and periodicals, scores of press services and news agencies, radio and television stations, commercial book publishers, and other foreign media outlets.”
5. The CIA conducted “mind control” experiments on unwitting U.S. and Canadian citizens, some of which were lethal.
Perhaps one of the most shocking conspiracy theories that turned out to be true was a CIA program called MKUltra, which had the stated goal of developing biological and chemical weapons capability during the Cold War, according to Gizmodo. But it ballooned into a larger program that encompassed research (via Today I Found Out):
which will promote the intoxicating affect of alcohol;
which will render the induction of hypnosis easier or otherwise enhance its usefulness;
which will enhance the ability of individuals to withstand privation, torture and coercion during interrogation and so called “brain-washing;”
which will produce amnesia for events preceding and during their use;
[which will produce] shock and confusion over extended periods of time and capable of surreptitious use; and
which will produce physical disablement such as paralysis of the legs, acute anemia, etc.
During the program, the CIA established front companies to work with more than 80 institutions, such as hospitals, prisons, and universities. With these partnerships in place, the agency then ran experiments on subjects using drugs, hypnosis, and verbal and physical abuse. At least two American deaths can be attributed to this program, according to the Church Committee.
Though the Church Committee uncovered much of this shocking program, many of the top secret files were ordered to be destroyed in 1973 by CIA Director Richard Helms.
American bombs rain down on the Japanese soil of Iwo Jima. Lt. Surge, an American patriot, pilots his aircraft over the island of imperial injustice but suffers a catastrophic hit to the plane’s energy supply. He has no option but to adapt and overcome – ‘Go Raichu!’ The Pokemon can power the B-29 aircraft long enough for Lt. Surge to return to a friendly airfield.
The alternate universe of Nintendo’s Pokemon adapted real world events into the game. This World War II veteran’s story is being gradually erased with each new generation of Pokemon games in the name of political correctness. This is a tribute to Lt. Surge before Japan removes him completely from the pages of the Pokedex.
Lt. Surge was a pilot in the Army Air Corps
Like most combat veterans, Lt. Surge doesn’t talk about the war outright, we must piece together from different sources what happened.
“I tell you, kid, electric Pokémon saved me during the war!” – Lt. Surge
The Army Air Corps was the predecessor to the Air Force and operated in the Central Pacific Area. In the Pokemon game’s Vermilion City there is a journal that states:
“Lt. Surge is rumored to have been a pilot while home in America. He used the electricity generated by Pokémon to power his plane.”
Lt. Surge was a harsh but fair officer
The young officer booby trapped his entire gym with a double locking mechanism hidden in trash cans. I’ve never felt more personally attacked by a Nintendo game because at one time, I too, booby trapped my barracks room. Gentleman Tucker, a trainer at his gym said, ‘When I was in the Army, Lt. Surge was my strict CO. He was a hard taskmaster.’
He probably fought in the Battle of London before deploying to the Pacific
In the games HeartGold and SoulSilver he can be found at the magnet train station in Saffron City after you get his pokegear number (a cell phone number) and you’ve spoken to him at the power plant. He will offer to trade his French Pikachu named Volty. In WWII during the Battle of London from 10 July – 31 October 1940, there were only eight Americans serving in that theater at the time. By the time the invasion of Japan on Iwo Jima from 19 February – 26 March 1945, he would have had more than enough time to fight on both sides of the world. How likely is that possible? It’s a video game and he has a French electric rat as a sidekick. So, I’m going to need you to get all the way off my back on this one.
He was also a high-ranking officer of Team Rocket
In the manga, Lt. Surge is responsible for trainers losing their Pokemon on the famous cruise ship U.S.S. Anne. He is identified as a Team Rocket Executive, the main villains, and captures a trainer named Red. Red is tortured with electricity and thrown overboard. His plans to exploit Pokemon for his personal gain are foiled by a mysterious trainer named Yellow. Team Rocket had been using the U.S.S. Anne cruise ship as a means to transport stolen Pokemon from Vermillion City to Viridian City.
However, in the video games there is no mention of Lt. Surge as a member of Team Rocket. That may have been a marketing choice to remove the risk of offending an American audience by portraying a veteran as a bad guy. Later in the Gold and Silver series of the Manga he turns into a good guy and helps the main character on a quest.
There is amazing fan art with pokemon being used in combat
The greatest thing about the Pokemon fanbase is that there are no limits to their imagination. When I was eight years old and played Pokemon Yellow on Christmas – it was the greatest day of my life. That impact was also shared by millions of other children across the world. We grew up and filled in the blanks. Here are some of the best artwork so far with pokemon fighting side by side in combat.
Kieran L. asks: Who started the conspiracy theory about the moon landing being fake?
Since the early 1970s conspiracy theorists have created ever more elaborate stories about how NASA faked the moon landings, much to the annoyance of the literal hundreds of thousands of people who worked in some capacity to make these missions a reality, and even more so to the men who were brave enough to sit in front of a massive controlled explosion, take a little jaunt through the soul crushing void of space in an extremely complex ship built by the lowest bidder, then get into another spacecraft whose ascent engine had never been test fired before they lit the candle, and all with the goal of exiting said ship with only a special suit between them and oblivion. And don’t even get the astronauts started on the paltry government salary they earned in doing all that and the hilarious lengths they had to go to to provide some semblance of a life insurance policy for their families should the worst happen during the missions. So who first got the idea that the moon landings were faked?
While it’s highly likely there were at least a few individuals here and there who doubted man could accomplish such a thing a little over a half century after the end of period in which humans were still hitching up covered wagons, the first to really get the moon landing hoax story going popularly was a writer named Bill Kaysing. How did he do it? Kaysing self-published a book in 1976 called We Never Went to the Moon: America’s Thirty Billion Dollar Swindle.
Released a few years after the Apollo 17 mission in 1972, Kaysing’s book popularly introduced some of the most well known talking points of moon landing deniers, such as that the astronauts should have been killed when they passed through the Van Allen radiation belts, noting the lack of stars in photographs, the missing blast crater below the lunar modules, etc. Beyond these, he also had some more, let’s say, “unusual” and occasionally offensive assertions which even the most ardent moon landing denier would probably rather distance themselves from.
Not exactly a best-seller, Kaysing’s book nonetheless laid the ground work for some of what would come after, with the idea further gaining steam in part thanks to the 1978 film Capricorn 1, which shows NASA faking a Mars landing and then going to any lengths to keep it a secret. As for the film, director Peter Hyams states he first got the idea for such a movie when musing over the Apollo 11 mission and thinking, “There was one event of really enormous importance that had almost no witnesses. And the only verification we have . . . came from a TV camera.”
Not an accurate statement in the slightest on the latter point, it nonetheless got the wheels turning and he ultimately developed a script based on this notion.
As to how Kaysing before him came to the conclusion that NASA faked the moon landings, the story, at least as Kaysing tells it, is that in the late 1950s he managed to view the results of a highly secretive internal study conducted by NASA on the feasibility of man successfully landing on the moon that concluded, in his own words: “That the chance of success was something like .0017 percent. In other words, it was hopeless.”
Kaysing doesn’t explain how NASA came up with such a precise figure given all the unknown variables at the time, nor why he put the qualifier “something like” followed by such an extremely exact number. He also did not name the report itself. And, in fact, as far as we can tell, NASA never conducted such an all encompassing study on the feasibility of a successful moon landing in the 1950s. Whether they did or not, we did find in our research looking for that report that NASA conducted a feasibility study on the proposed designs for several manned rockets immediately prior to Apollo program to decide which contractor to use. This, of course, has nothing to do with Kaysing, but we figured we’d mention it as we like to deal in facts and reading Kaysing’s various works has us feeling like we need to be cleansed a little by saying things that are actually true about NASA in this period.
Astronauts Buzz Aldrin and Neil Armstrong in NASA’s training mockup of the Moon and lander module.
In any event, Kaysing would later assert that he determined from this report that there’s no way NASA could have improved these 0.0017% odds in the time between the results of this supposed study and the moon landings about a decade later.
Now, if Kaysing was just some random guy shouting in the wind, it’s unlikely anyone would have listened to him. Every conspiracy theory origin story needs at least some shred of credibility from the person starting it to get the fire going. For Kaysing’s assertions about the moon landings, this comes in the form of the fact that for a brief period he worked for Rocketdyne, a company that made rockets for the Apollo program. Not an engineer or having any similar technical expertise whatsoever, Kaysing’s background was primarily in writing, earning an English degree from the University of Redlands, after which he naturally got a job making furniture.
As for the writing gig he landed with Rocketdyne, his job was initially as a technical writer starting in 1956 and he eventually worked his way up to head of technical publications. He finally quit in 1963, deciding he’d had enough of working for the man.
After quitting, to quote him, “the rat race”, in 1963 Kaysing traveled the country in a trailer with his family, earning his living writing books on a variety of topics from motorcycles to farming.
This brings us to 1969 when he, like most everyone else in the world with access to a TV watched the moon landing. While watching, Kaysing recalled the supposed NASA study he’d seen all those years ago, as well as that engineers he’d worked with at the time in the late 1950s claimed that while the technology existed to get the astronauts to the moon, getting them back was not yet possible. He later stated he further thought,
As late as 1967 three astronauts died in a horrendous fire on the launch pad. But as of ’69, we could suddenly perform manned flight upon manned flight? With complete success? It’s just against all statistical odds.
Despite often describing himself as “the fastest pen in the west”, it would take Kaysing several years to write the book that introduced one of the most enduring conspiracy theories to the world.
As for why NASA would bother with the charade, he claimed NASA worked in tandem with the Defence Intelligence Agency to fake the moon landings to one up those pesky Russians. While certainly good for the country if they could get away with it, the benefit to NASA itself was, of course, funding. Said Kaysing, “They — both NASA and Rocketdyne — wanted the money to keep pouring in.” As to how he knew this, he goes on “I’ve worked in aerospace long enough to know that’s their goal.”
Model of Soviet Lunokhod automatic moon rover.
So how did NASA do it? He claimed that the footage of the moon landing was actually filmed on a soundstage. When later asked where this soundstage was located, Kaysing confidently stated that it was located in Area 51. As he doesn’t seem to have ever given clear evidence as to how he knew this, we can only assume because it’s not a proper space related conspiracy theory if Area 51 isn’t mentioned.
Kaysing also claimed that the F-1 engines used were too unreliable so NASA instead put several B-1 rockets inside each of the F-1 engines. Of course, in truth these wouldn’t have been powerful enough to get the Saturn V into orbit even if its tanks were mostly empty. (And given the frost and ice clearly visible covering certain relevant parts of the Saturn V here, it’s apparent the tanks could not have been mostly empty). There’s also the little problem that the clusters of B-1s he described couldn’t have fit in the F-1 engine bells and you can see footage of the F-1 engines working as advertised, with no clusters of engines anywhere in sight. Nevertheless, despite these problems with his story, he did purport that the Saturn V was launched to space as shown (though at other times has claimed that in fact as soon as the rocket was out of sight it was simply ditched in the ocean and never made it to space). Stick with us here people, he changed his story a lot over the years.
Whatever the case, in all initial cases, he claims the astronauts were not aboard.
(And if you’re now wondering how the U.S. fooled the Soviets and other nations tracking the rockets during these missions, he claims a way to fake signals was devised, allowing for tracking stations on Earth to think the craft was headed for the moon and, critically, successfully fooling the Soviets who were indeed closely tracking the missions to the moon and back.)
So what did Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin and Michael Collins do during the mission if they weren’t zipping around in space? In the first edition of his book, Kaysing claims that they flew to Las Vegas where they mostly hung out at strip clubs when they weren’t in their rooms on the 24th floor of the Sands Hotel.
We can’t make this stuff up, but apparently Kaysing can.
Kaysing goes on that at one point one of the trio got into a fistfight with someone in broad daylight over a stripper. Sadly Kaysing doesn’t reveal which of the men did this, nor how he knew about it, so we’re forced to assume it was Buzz Aldrin who is the only member of the three we definitely know actually has gotten in a fist fight.
The Apollo 11 lunar landing mission crew, pictured from left to right, Neil A. Armstrong, commander; Michael Collins, command module pilot; and Edwin E. Aldrin Jr., lunar module pilot.
In this case, in 2002, a 72 year old Buzz Aldrin punched Bart Sibrel who is a “we never landed on the moon” conspiracy theorist, “documentary” maker, and cab driver. Sibrel invited Aldrin to a hotel with Sibrel telling him he was making a children’s TV show on space. Once Aldrin arrived at the hotel, Sibrel pulled out a Bible and tried to get Aldrin to put his hand on it and swear that he had walked on the moon. Needless to say, Aldrin was pretty irritated at this point. Things got worse when Sibrel called Aldrin a “liar” and a “coward”, at which point Aldrin punched him.
As for his defense, Sibrel states, “When someone has gotten away with a crime, in my opinion, they deserve to be ambushed. I’m a journalist trying to get at the truth.” Unwilling to sway on what that truth is, however, Sibrel states, “I do know the moon landings were faked. I’d bet my life on it.” Not all is lost, however, because he states, “I know personally that Trump knows the moon landings are fake and he’s biding his time to reveal it at the end of this term, or at the end of his second term if he’s re-elected.” So, rest easy everyone, the truth will come out soon enough apparently.
In any event, going back to Kaysing’s book, he states that shortly before the astronauts were supposed to begin broadcasting from the moon, all three men arrived on a soundstage deep within the confines of Area 51 and ate cheese sandwiches. He also states that along with cheese sandwiches, NASA provided the men with buxom showgirls while at Area 51. Presumably this was the only way to pry the astronauts away from the strip clubs.
After eating the no doubt delicious sandwiches, Aldrin and Armstrong put on some space suits and pretended to walk across a fake moon set while reading out some, to quote Kaysing, “well-rehearsed lines” in a performance he called “not great” but “good enough”.
A description we personally feel is a little unfair considering it has apparently fooled seemingly every scientist on Earth then to now, including ones working for the nation directly competing with the US to land on the moon who would have relished any opportunity to even allege the whole thing was faked in a credible way, let alone prove it and embarrass the U.S. utterly in front of the whole world. But, unfortunately, as you might imagine, the Soviets at the time were monitoring the whole thing quite closely with their newfangled technology and so never got the opportunity to disprove the landings.
Astronaut Buzz Aldrin poses for a photograph beside the deployed United States flag during an Apollo 11 Extravehicular Activity on the lunar surface.
Amazingly Kaysing also claimed in his book that the fake moon landing footage was filmed live and that there was only “a seven second delay” between Armstrong and Aldrin’s performance and the broadcast the world was watching. Thus, had even a fly buzzed across the set, NASA would have only seconds to notice and cut the feed, lest such a mistake or inconsistency be noticed in the footage people would be watching for the rest of human history.
As for the splash down and recovery, he claims the astronauts were eventually put on a military cargo plane (a Lockheed C-5 Galaxy) and simply dropped from it in the capsule. As for how he knew this, he did provide a source for once, claiming that an airline pilot he talked to had seen the Apollo 15 module drop from a cargo plane. Who this pilot was, what airline he worked for, if he offered any evidence to support his claim, such as a flight log showing him piloting a plane in the area during the time of the splash down of Apollo 15, or even when he talked to said pilot, however, he fails to mention.
As for the moon rocks brought back, these were apparently meteorites found in Antarctica as well as some that were cleverly made in a NASA geology lab.
As to how NASA was able to keep the lid on things, despite nearly a half a million people working on the Apollo Program in some capacity, not just for NASA but countless independent organizations, he claims NASA simply only let those who needed to know the whole thing was a hoax know.
So following this reasoning that means all these scientists, engineers, etc. working on all the components and various facets of the mission were genuinely trying to make the moon landing happen, including knowing the requirements to make it happen and testing everything they made until it met those requirements… Meaning what was built and planned should have been capable of doing what the mission required…
That said, Kaysing admits a handful of people here and there would have had to know the whole thing was a sham, and thus NASA simply paid off those who could be paid off, promoted those who preferred that reward, threatened those who still wouldn’t go along, and murdered those who still resisted, which we’ll get into shortly.
The ridiculousness of many of these claims and how easily they crumple under the slightest bit of scrutiny is likely why in the 2002 re-release of his book Kaysing changed his story in various ways, including claiming that the engines on the Saturn V actually did work and that Collins, Aldrin, and Armstrong did go to space after all, instead of going to hang out with strippers in Vegas. He then states that all three men orbited the planet while pre-recorded, not live, footage was shown on Earth.
The swing arms move away and a plume of flame signals the liftoff of the Apollo 11 Saturn V space vehicle.
Despite, to put it mildly, straining credibility on pretty much everything he said from start to finish and him providing absurdly specific details, generally without bothering to provide any evidence whatsoever backing up these claims and changing those specific details frequently over time, Kaysing’s book and subsequent work nonetheless helped spawn the still thriving moon landing hoax conspiracy theory.
As for Kaysing, he didn’t stop there. He continued to sporadically come up with new allegations against NASA, including that the agency murdered the astronauts and teacher aboard the Challenger explosion. Why would they do this when the whole Christa McAuliffe thing was supposed to be a publicity stunt to get the public more interested in space travel, science, and what NASA was doing? According to Kaysing, “Christa McAuliffe, the only civilian and only woman aboard, refused to go along with the lie that you couldn’t see stars in space. So they blew her up, along with six other people, to keep that lie under wraps…”
Speaking of things that Kaysing said that are ridiculously easy to debunk with even a modicum of effort, we feel obligated to point out that Christa McAuliffe was not the only woman on board. NASA astronaut Judith Resnik was also killed in that tragedy.
Not stopping there, Kaysing also claimed the deaths of the Apollo 1 astronauts were intentional as one or more of the astronauts aboard was about to blow the whistle on the upcoming hoax plan. We feel obligated to point out here that, as previously mentioned, he also used this fire as evidence of NASA lacking expertise to get a man to the moon… Meaning according to Kaysing this fire was somehow both intentional to murder a few astronauts and also accidental owing to NASA’s incompetence.
Moving swiftly on, NASA officials also apparently had others killed, including safety inspector at North American Aviation Thomas Baron who wrote a report on NASA safety protocol violations after that tragic Apollo 1 fire.
It’s at this point, we should probably note that in the 1990s Kaysing decided to sue Jim Lovell. You see, in 1996 Lovell publicly stated “The guy is wacky. His position makes me feel angry. We spent a lot of time getting ready to go to the moon. We spent a lot of money, we took great risks, and it’s something everybody in this country should be proud of.”
Lovell also wrote to Kaysing asking him to “Tear up your manuscript and pursue a project that has some meaning. Leave a legacy you can be proud of, not some trash whose readers will doubt your sanity.”
Unwilling to stand for his good name being publicly besmirched, Kaysing naturally sued Lovell for defamation, though the case was eventually dismissed and nothing ever came of it.
Kaysing continued to assert that the moon landings were a hoax right up until his death in 2005, in between writing books on cookery, motorcycle safety, farming, taxes, survival, how to subsist on very little money, and travel guides, as well as making occasional appearances on such shows as Oprah expounding on his conspiracy theory work.
A 1963 conceptual model of the Apollo Lunar Excursion Module.
On the side he also promoted micro-housing as a solution for homeless people and ran a cat sanctuary called “FLOCK”, standing for “For the Love of Cats and Kittens”. So, yes, Kaysing was a man whose passions included micro housing, cats, survival, travel, living off almost nothing, and rapidly coming up with conspiracy theories. If only he’d been born later or the interwebs invented sooner, this man could have been an internet superstar.
Whatever the case, Kaysing’s death understandably garnered a mixed reaction from the scientific community, with few finding the ability to muster much sympathy for a man who accused NASA of murdering people.
Gone but not forgotten, Kaysing’s ideas have actually gained in popularity in recent years, particularly among younger generations according to various polls, such as one done by space consultant Mary Dittmar in 2005 showing that 25% of people 18-25 doubted man had ever walked on the moon.
This is all despite the fact that it’s never been easier to definitively debunk Kaysing’s various assertions. Not just via reading the countless explanations by scientists definitively addressing point by point every idea ever put forth by moon landing conspiracy theorists, there’s also the fact that there are literally pictures taken in the last decade showing clear evidence of some of the equipment sitting on the moon, including for the Apollo 11, 14, 15, 16, and 17 landing sites. Even in some cases showing the tracks left by the astronauts and the shadows from the flags planted themselves.
Naturally, moon landing deniers simply claim these photos too were faked, although why China, India, and Japan should cater to NASA on this one when they independently took pictures of their own verifying the moon landings is anybody’s guess.
We’ll have much, much more on all this in an upcoming article on How Do We Know Man Really Walked on the Moon?
This article originally appeared on Today I Found Out. Follow @TodayIFoundOut on Twitter.
Fighter aircraft are designed and created for a lot of reasons. The F-22’s maneuverability and speed were designed to make the aircraft the world’s premier air superiority fighter. The A-10, by contrast, is relatively slow, but the flying tank packs a mighty punch to give American ground troops the close-air support they need on the battlefield. Other countries presumably develop their aircraft for similar purposes. The Russian P-42 Flanker fighter, however, was designed with one thing in mind – beating records.
American aircraft records, that is.
The P-42 in 1986.
The Sukhoi-27 “Flanker” (as it was called by NATO) was, to many aviation historians, the pinnacle of Soviet and Russian aviation engineering. It was created in the mid-to-late-1970s as a means of taking on the American F-14 Tomcat and F-15 Eagle fighters and all their various air combat roles. Their primary mission was to scramble and intercept heavy American bombers in the event of World War III. Of course, they never fulfilled that mission, but some Su-27s have seen active duty action in recent years, notably in Syria as part of the Russian Air Force mission there.
Su-27 Flankers, like the F-15, saw modification in different variations in order to fulfill the roles required of various aircraft in the Soviet arsenal. But one of those variants wasn’t to fill a military function at all; it was built for one reason: to beat American aviation records.
The Soviet P-42 was expected to set records for range and flight altitude, maximum airspeed, and rate of climb. From 1986 to 1990, the specially modified P-42 set 41 different world records, according to the Federation Aeronautique Internationale, the world’s governing body for air sports. They started by taking on the F-15 Eagle directly – with a “zoom climb” to 30,000 meters.
A zoom climb comes when an aircraft pilot pulls up, trading forward motion (kinetic energy) for upward motion (potential energy) and by applying thrusters, can actually achieve a higher climb rate than its maximum climb rate and a higher altitude than its maximum. Pilots will take off as fast as possible and fly close to the ground until they pull up at a nearly vertical angle, reaching cruising altitude as fast as possible. The Soviet P-42 was stripped-down and ready for this first part, generating so much energy for that initial burst of speed that it had to be chained to a tractor to prevent a “premature takeoff” on its own.
Its thrust-to-weight ratio meant that its brakes were unable to keep the plane in its starting position. Soviet engineers attached the plane to a towrope with a special lock. The towrope was attached to a specially outfitted and armored tractor that would be protected from the extreme heat of the plane’s afterburners. Detaching the towrope was automatically triggered by the start of the timers for all the P-42’s world records.
The F-15 “Streak Eagle” used to break world aviation records.
The Russians were targeting the altitude record set by USAF F-15 Strike Eagle in 1975. At an embarrassing rate (for the USSR, that is) American F-15 fighters smashed eight world aviation and speed records in just two weeks, records which stood for more than a decade. This apparently stuck to the Russians particularly hard, as the Soviet Air Force spent years preparing a plane specifically designed just to beat them back.
This modified Su-27 didn’t go supersonic during its zoom climbs. It didn’t have to. Without the weight of systems like avionics or armaments, the P-42 was able to easily subdue the records for the 3,000, 6,000 9,000, and 12,000 meter climbs, along with 23 other aviation and speed records.
Leaders of Kosovo and Albania have said they are collecting money to pay fines that two Switzerland soccer players received for making a pro-Kosovo gesture when the celebrated their team’s victory over Serbia in June 2018.
Granit Xhaka and Xherdan Shaqiri trace their roots to Kosovo, a former Serbian province with an ethnic Albanian majority which declared its independence from Belgrade in 2008.
The two players had made double-eagle gestures in celebration, referring to Albania’s national symbol, which is viewed as a symbol of defiance in Serbia. Belgrade has never recognized Pristina’s declaration of independence despite its recognition by 116 other countries.
The players’ celebrations caused outrage in Serbia and prompted FIFA, world soccer’s governing body, to fine both players $10,100. FIFA’s rules prohibit displaying political symbols in stadiums.
Albanian Prime Minister Edi Rama said on June 26, 2018 that he had opened a bank account to enable his fellow countrymen to help pay the fines, which he called “absurd.”
The account named “Don’t be afraid of the eagle” is a “gesture of gratitude to the two sportsmen,” he said on Facebook.
It’s been 72 years since the end of World War II, and most vets who served have passed away, with many of them honored as being part of the “Greatest Generation.” However, a few of those still alive are fighting for the recognition they believe they are due, including the one of the last surviving aircrew who took part in one of the most famous attacks in World War II.
According to a report by the London Daily Mail, former RAF aircrewman Johnny Johnson, MBE, who took part in Operation Chastise – the attack on the Mohne, Elbe, and Sorpe dams in 1943, is among those campaigning for World War II veterans of the Royal Air Force’s Bomber Command to receive a medal. And he has some very harsh words for some historians.
“I have a pet hate of what I call ‘relative’ historians. I ask them two questions: ‘Were you there?’ and ‘Were you aware of the circumstances at the time?’ The answer is no, so keep your bloody mouth shut,” he said.
RAF’s Bomber Command, most famously lead by Sir Arthur “Bomber” Harris, carried out numerous bombing missions against Nazi-occupied Europe during World War II. According to the Royal Air Force Benevolent Fund, 55,573 men who served in that command made the ultimate sacrifice.
Bomber Command notably launched missions against German cities, most notably the 1945 bombing of Dresden, often sending over a thousand planes to carry out area-bombing missions against targets at night. The Daily Mail noted that the tactic caused heavy civilian casualties, causing the same politicians who ordered the bomber crews to carry out those difficult missions to distance themselves from the bomber offensive after World War II.
A memorial to Bomber Command’s fallen was not commissioned until 2012. A clasp was also awarded to veterans of Bomber Command, but Johnson is not satisfied.
“All I’m asking for is a Bomber Command medal,” he told the Daily Mail. He also is advocating that ground crews receive recognition for their efforts.
Iran has been negotiating a 25-year accord with China “with confidence and conviction,” Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif told parliament on July 5, saying its terms will be announced once the deal is struck.
Zarif insisted there was nothing secret about the prospective deal, which he said was raised publicly in January 2016 when President Xi Jinping visited Tehran. Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei also has publicly supported a strategic bilateral partnership with China.
China is Iran’s top trading partner and a key market for Iranian crude oil exports, which have been severely curtailed by U.S. sanctions.
Zarif made the comments in his first address to parliament since a new session began in late May after elections that were dominated by hard-liners.
During the session, Zarif was heckled by lawmakers largely over his key role in negotiating a 2015 nuclear deal with world powers, which the U.S. unilaterally abandoned in 2018 before reimposing sanctions.
U.S. President Donald Trump withdrew the United States from the deal saying it was not decisive enough in ensuring Iran would never be able to develop a nuclear weapon.
Trump wants Tehran to negotiate a new accord that would place indefinite curbs on its nuclear program and restrict Tehran’s ballistic missile program.
Iran has gradually rolled back its commitments under the accord since the United States withdrew.
The 2015 deal provided the Islamic republic relief from international sanctions in return for limits on its nuclear program, but Iranian hard-liners staunchly opposed the multilateral agreement, arguing the United States could never be trusted.
Being an aircrew member in the armed forces isn’t just flying a plane, helicopter or a jet. It’s putting your own personal safety on the line to protect people from threats known and unknown.
Lastly, it’s being brave enough to answer a call that most don’t.
From as early as 1909, when the Wright brothers sold the Wright military flyer to the US Army Signal Corps, aircraft and aircrew have been a vital part to the success of military operations.
The armed forces puts a great emphasis on ensuring these pilots are safe and have the knowledge and skills to make it home safe in any situation they might endure.
This responsibility heavily lies on the shoulders of the United States Air Force’s survival, evasion, resistance, and escape (SERE) specialist, whose main job is to train aircrew and other military personnel how to survive in a variety of environments and conditions.
Staff Sgt. David Chorpeninng, 366th Fighter Wing survival, evasion, resistance, and escape specialist, explains the differences between the illumination and smoke ends of the MK-124 marine smoke and illumination signal to Capt. Scott Hatter and Capt. Tyler Ludwig, 389th Fighter Squadron aircrew, at Saylor Creek Bombing Range, Idaho, Sept. 26, 2019.
(US Air Force photo by Airman Antwain L. Hanks)
Chorpeninng pops a M-18 smoke grenade, at Saylor Creek Bombing Range, Idaho, Sept. 26, 2019.
(US Air Force photo by Airman Antwain L. Hanks)
Chorpeninng explains to Hatter how to properly use a MK-124 marine smoke and illumination signal, at Saylor Creek Bombing Range, Idaho, Sept. 26, 2019.
(US Air Force photo by Airman Antwain L. Hanks)
Tech Sgt. Timothy Emkey, 366th Fighter Wing survival, evasion, resistance, and escape specialist, checks radio communications, at Saylor Creek Bombing Range, Idaho, Sept. 26, 2019.
(US Air Force photo by Airman Antwain L. Hanks)
Emkey demonstrates how to use the surrounding area to evade the enemy’s line of sight, at Saylor Creek Bombing Range, Idaho, Sept. 26, 2019.
(US Air Force photo by Airman Antwain L. Hanks)
Aircrew are then given certain points to reach via global positioning system before they contact friendly forces to extract them from the hostile area.
Aircrew throughout history, such as Capt. Scott F. O’Grady who in 1995 was shot down and stranded in enemy territory for six days during the Bosnian War, used these skills taught by SERE to return to safety.
Chorpeninng pops the illumination end of a MK-124 marine smoke and illumination signal, at Saylor Creek Bombing Range, Idaho, Sept. 26, 2019.
(US Air Force photo by Airman Antwain L. Hanks)
Chorpeninng pops the illumination end of a MK-124 marine smoke and illumination signal, at Saylor Creek Bombing Range, Idaho, Sept. 26, 2019.
(US Air Force photo by Airman Antwain L. Hanks)
Chorpeninng pops the illumination end of a MK-124 marine smoke and illumination signal, at Saylor Creek Bombing Range, Idaho, Sept. 26, 2019.
(US Air Force photo by Airman Antwain L. Hanks)
The US Air Force’s main missions are to take care of airmen and enhance readiness. SERE accomplishes just that and will continue to with the ever changing environment these men and women might find themselves in.
“SERE is constantly adapting,” said Staff Sgt. David Chorpeninng, 366th FW SERE specialist. “We are continuously implementing new technology and tactics to increase survivability in the future.”
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
Happy Thanksgiving! Here’s hoping you were too smart to engage in the Black Friday madness. But regardless of whether you’re killing time standing in line at the store or hiding out in the bathroom to get away from your crazy aunts, here are 13 memes to keep you occupied:
The U.S. Army has shifted focus toward virtual recruiting to limit exposure to the coronavirus.
On Friday, the United States Army announced sweeping changes to their recruiting practices, prompted by America’s ongoing efforts to curb the spread of the coronavirus known as Covid-19. As of the end of last week, the Army has chosen to close all of its physical recruiting stations and transition the effort to the online realm, leaning heavily on social media to continue recruiting.
The shutdown began on Friday and continued through the weekend, with recruiters being told to emphasize “virtual recruiting” through the active use of social media and other sites young Americans like to congregate on.
“We are going to basically virtual recruiting. Much of that is done in social media, and that allows us to protect our soldiers and also protect the new recruits,” Army Chief of Staff Gen. James McConville told defense reporters.
“It’s happening right now, as we speak. I can’t attest to every recruiting station, but that is what we are doing over this week and over the next couple of days,” he added.
Recruiters are among the service members with the most direct contact with the civilian population.
(U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Carl N. Hudson/Released)
Prior to the decision to make changes to the recruiting effort, the Army was forced to postpone shipping for as many as 1,200 recruits as they developed a process that would allow the Army to test for symptoms of Covid-19 infection at various points throughout the on-boarding phase of a new recruits traveling to basic training. Now, the Army has begun shipping once again thanks to these new safety procedures.
“They are screened in the state, and then they move to the military entrance processing stations [MEPS] and they are screened there again to make sure there are no issues. And then they move to the sites where we execute initial military training,” McConville said.
These extra safety screenings may have already paid off, with six recruits being separated from the group after showing symptoms that may be indicative of Covid-19 infection. The Army separated those recruits and took additional steps to ensure they receive any care they need.
(U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Amber I. Smith)
Moving forward, the Army has reduced its numbers shipping to basic training by about fifty percent; allowing for screening and minimizing the number of new recruits that are exposed to one another throughout the screening process.
The Army says they’re unsure of when they’ll get back to traditional recruiting methods, citing the uncertainty surrounding the coronavirus as the reason they’re playing the situation by ear.
“It’s all going to depend on duration; we are looking at this really hard over the next 15 days,” Army Secretary Ryan McCarthy said. “Right now, it’s almost a tactical pause. … We have had a margin in our recruiting numbers this year, so we are doing very well.”
“It’s all going to depend on duration, where will we be in a month,” he said.
The Marine Corps has not transitioned to all-digital recruiting, but also said they’ve made changes to their procedures in an effort to keep recruiters and the public safe. Navy and Marine recruiting stations expect to stay open, but have made it clear that they will follow local and state guidelines as they’re issued.
“Marine recruiters are taking all preventative measures to protect themselves as they interact with the public, and are currently screening applicants scheduled to ship to recruit training to identify individuals who may have heightened risk factors for exposure to the novel coronavirus,” said GySgt Justin Kronenberg, spokesman for the Marine Corps Recruiting Command.
Marines with the 1st Special Operations Battalion practice boarding and taking down a ship at night. Photo: US Marine Corps Staff Sgt. Robert M. Storm
So how does the Corps get gung-ho Marines ready to try out for the Raiders and other Marine special ops units? With a smartphone app and .pdf guide.
The 10-week fitness program focuses on getting prospective students ready to complete the Marine Corps Physical Fitness Test, the intermediate swim test, and the MARSOC Assessment and Selection Ruck movement standards, according to the intro that comes up when users download the app.
Each of the three major events gets at least two days of training each week, and there are detailed explanations of how to safely and effectively do each exercise. This includes everything from proper form for a pull up to the best way to simulate the weight and feel of a weapon while ruck marching off base.
The app does everything it can to help students succeed. It has an integrated checklist and a notes section so users can track their progress through a workout, and it has a reminder function to give people the nudge out the door to begin training.
The .pdf guide obviously has fewer bells and whistles, but it’s well set up. The exercise regimens are modular and each module is clearly printed on a card. So, to get the materials together for a daily workout, the reader pulls out the assigned cards for that day and then completes each card in order. The same images and workout descriptions that are available in the app are present in the .pdf.
Raider candidates should check out the app and .pdf. And for more on MARSOC go here.
The People’s Liberation Army Air Force of China and its sister branch, the PLA Naval Air Force, operate a huge fleet of around 1,700 combat aircraft — defined here as fighters, bombers, and attack planes. This force is exceeded only by the 3,400 active combat aircraft of the U.S. military. Moreover, China operates a lot of different aircraft types that are not well known in the West.
However, most Chinese military aircraft are inspired by or copied from Russian or American designs, so it’s not too hard to grasp their capabilities if you know their origins.
The Soviet-Era Clones
The Soviet Union and Communist China were best buddies during the 1950s, so Moscow transferred plenty of technology, including tanks and jet fighters. One of the early Chinese-manufactured types was the J-6, a clone of the supersonic MiG-19, which has a jet intake in the nose. Though China built thousands of J-6s, all but a few have been retired. However, about 150 of a pointy-nosed ground-attack version, the Nanchang Q-5, remain in service, upgraded to employ precision-guided munitions.
Sino-Soviet friendship ended in an ugly breakup around 1960. But in 1962, the Soviets offered China a dozen hot, new MiG-21 fighters as part of a peace overture. Beijing rejected the overture, but kept the fighters, which were reverse-engineered into the sturdier (but heavier) Chengdu J-7. Production began slowly due to the chaos of the Cultural Revolution, but between 1978 and 2013 Chinese factories turned out thousands of the pencil-fuselage jet fighters in dozens of variants. Nearly four hundred still serve in the PLAAF and PLANAF.
The J-7 is a 1950s-era hot rod in terms of maneuverability and speed — it can keep up with an F-16 at Mach 2 — but it cannot carry much fuel or armament, and it has a weak radar in its tiny nose cone. Still, China has worked to keep the J-7 relevant. The J-7G, introduced in 2004, includes an Israeli doppler radar (detection range: thirty-seven miles) and improved missiles for beyond-visual range capabilities, as well as a digital “glass cockpit.”
These aircraft would struggle against modern, fourth-generation fighters that can detect and engage adversaries at much greater ranges, though hypothetically mass formations could attempt to overwhelm defenders with swarm attacks. Still, the J-7s allow China to maintain a larger force of trained pilots and support personnel until new designs come into service.
Another Soviet-era clone is the Xi’an H-6, a twin-engine strategic bomber based on the early-1950s era Tu-16 Badger. Though less capable than the U.S. B-52 or Russian Tu-95 Bear bombers, the air-refuelable H-6K remains relevant because it could lug heavy long-range cruise-missiles and hit naval or ground targets as far as four thousand miles from China without entering the range of air defenses. The H-6 was originally tasked with dropping nuclear weapons, but the PLAAF no longer seems interested in this role. Xi’an is reportedly developing a new H-20 strategic bomber, though there’s little information available so far.
In the mid-1960s, China began working on genuinely home-designed combat jets, leading to the Shenyang J-8 debuting in 1979. A large twin-turbojet supersonic interceptor that could attain Mach 2.2 and resembled a cross between the MiG-21 and the larger Su-15 , the J-8 lacked modern avionics and maneuverability. However, the succeeding J-8II variant (about 150 currently serving) improved on the former with an Israeli radar in a new pointy-nose cone, making it a fast but heavy weapons platform a bit like the F-4 Phantom. Around 150 are still operational.
The two-hundred-plus Xi’an JH-7 Flying Leopards, which entered service in 1992, are beefy two-seat naval-attack fighter-bombers that can lug up to twenty thousand pounds of missiles and have a top speed of Mach 1.75. Though they wouldn’t want to get in a dogfight with opposing contemporary fighters, they may not have to if they can capitalize on long-range anti-ship missiles.
The Chengdu J-10 Vigorous Dragon, by contrast, is basically China’s F-16 Fighting Falcon, a highly maneuverable, lightweight multi-role fighter leaning on fly-by-wire avionics to compensate for its aerodynamically unstable airframe. Currently dependent on Russian AL-31F turbofans, and coming several decades after the F-16 debuted, the J-10 may not seem earthshaking, but the J-10B model comes out of the box with twenty-first-century avionics such as advanced infrared search-and-track systems and a cutting-edge Active Electronically Scanned Array (AESA) radar, which cannot be said for all F-16 types. However, the fleet of 250 J-10s has suffered several deadly accidents possibly related to difficulties in the fly-by-wire system.
The Flanker Comes to China—And Stays There
After the dissolution of the Soviet Union, a Russia starved for cash and no longer concerned about ideological disputes was happy to oblige when Beijing came knocking at the door asking to buy then state-of-the-art Sukhoi Su-27 fighters, a highly maneuverable twin-engine jet comparable to the F-15 Eagle with excellent range and payload. This proved a fateful decision: today a sprawling family of aircraft derived from the Su-27 form the core of China’s modern fighter force.
After importing the initial batch of Su-27s, Beijing purchased a license to domestically build their own copy, the Shenyang J-11 — but to Russia’s dismay, began independently building more advanced models, the J-11B and D.
Moscow felt burned, but still sold seventy-six modernized ground- and naval-attack variants of the Flanker, the Su-30MKK and Su-30MK2 respectively, which parallel the F-15E Strike Eagle. Chinese designers also churned out their own derivative of the Su-30: the Shenyang J-16 Red Eagle, boasting an AESA radar, and the Shenyang J-15 Flying Shark, a carrier-based fighter based on a Russian Su-33 acquired from Ukraine. Around twenty now serve on China’s Type 001 aircraft carrier Liaoning. There’s even the J-16D, a jamming pod-equipped electronic-warfare fighter styled after the U.S. Navy’s EA-18 Growler.
The Chinese Sukhoi derivatives are theoretically on par with the fourth-generation fighters like the F-15 and F-16. However, they are saddled with domestic WS-10 turbofan engines, which have had terrible maintenance problems and difficulty producing enough thrust. Jet-engine tech remains the chief limitation of Chinese combat aircraft today. Indeed, in 2016 China purchased twenty-four Su-35s, the most sophisticated and maneuverable variant of the Flanker so far — likely to obtain their AL-41F turbofans engines.
The Stealth Fighters
In a remarkably short timeframe, China developed two distinct stealth fighter designs. Twenty Chengdu J-20s entered PLAAF service in 2017. Unlike the F-22 Raptor, designed to be the ultimate air superiority fighter, or the single-engine multirole F-35 Lightning, the J-20 is a huge twin-engine beast optimized for speed, range, and heavy weapons loads at the expense of maneuverability.
The J-20 might be suitable for surprise raids on land or sea targets — though its larger rear-aspect radar cross section could be problematic — or to sneak past enemy fighters to take out vulnerable support tankers or AWACs radar planes. Special-mission stealth fighters make sense for a country that is only just getting into the business of operating such technically demanding aircraft.
Meanwhile, the smaller, privately developed Shenyang J-31 Gyrfalcon (or FC-31) is basically a twin-engine remodeling of the F-35 Lightning — quite possibly using schematics hacked off Lockheed computers. Chinese designers may have developed an aerodynamically superior airframe by ditching elements supporting vertical-takeoff-or-landing engines. However, the J-31 probably won’t boast the fancy sensors and data fusion capabilities of the Lightning.
Currently, the J-31 appears intended for service on upcoming Type 002 aircraft carriers, and for export as a cut-price F-35 alternative. However, while there are flying Gyrfalcon prototypes with Russian engines, the type may only begin production when sufficiently reliable Chinese WS-13 turbofans are perfected.
Towards the Future
Roughly 33 percent of the PLAAF and PLANAF’s combat aircraft are old second-generation fighters of limited combat value against peer opponents, save perhaps in swarming attacks. Another 28 percent include strategic bombers and more capable but dated third-generation designs. Finally, 38 percent are fourth-generation fighters that can theoretically hold their own against peers like the F-15 and F-16. Stealth fighters account for 1 percent.
However, the technical capabilities of aircraft are just half the story; at least as important are training, organizational doctrine, and supporting assets, ranging from satellite recon to air-refueling tankers, ground-based radars, and airborne command posts.
For example, China has the intel resources, aircraft, and missiles to hunt aircraft carriers. However, the doctrine and experience to link these elements together to form a kill chain is no simple matter. A 2016 Rand report alleges Chinese aviation units are scrambling to reverse a lack of training under realistic conditions and develop experience in joint operations with ground and naval forces.
At any rate, Beijing seems in no rush to replace all its older jets with new ones. Major new acquisitions may wait until the Chinese aviation industry has smoothed out the kinks in its fourth-generation and stealth aircraft.