In a recent study conducted by the Department of Defense and the Sleep Research Society, it turns out that the insomnia rate within troops skyrocketed 650 percent since the 2003 invasion of Iraq. In other news, water is wet.
No. But seriously. This should only be a shock to civilians who’re so far removed from what the troops are actually doing. If you’re wondering why we have sleep problems, take a look at our regular schedule: wake up at 0430, PT until 0700, work until 1700 (but more likely at 1800,) fill out paperwork or college courses that couldn’t have gotten done during work hours for another few hours, maybe some personal time, and eventually sleep around midnight.
That entire cycle is then propped up with copious amounts of coffee and energy drinks. And to no one’s surprise, it’s obviously the caffeine’s problem instead of systemically awful time management skills of most troops.
I’m just saying. Don’t get on the troops’ asses about drinking coffee. There are civilians who roll out of bed at 0845 and leave work at 1500 who can’t go a moment without their vanilla spiced grande chai latte whatever. Here are some memes for those of you who earned theirs!
Marbleezy asks: How did the ancient Romans manage to build perfectly straight roads hundreds of miles long?
The ancient Romans were a people famed for their architectural prowess, something no better demonstrated than by their ability to build almost perfectly straight and incredibly durable roads spanning expansive distances. For example, in Britain alone, the Romans built well over 50,000 miles of roads with the longest ruler-straight stretch spanning over 50 miles. They did all of this in an era without modern surveying tools, construction equipment, or even very accurate maps of precisely where their destination was for many of the areas. So how did they do it?
To begin with, it’s important to note there were a few different types of roads that were made throughout the Roman Republic and Empire, and exact method and materials used for road construction varied somewhat from region to region and evolved slightly over the centuries.
That caveat out of the way, the three main classification of Roman roads were viae terrenae, essentially dirt roads, often made by people walking and wagons riding over the same path over time; viae glareae, which would be a dirt road that was then graveled; and, finally much more interestingly, viae munita, which were more or less paved roads, some of which have survived through modern times.
Within these types of roads there were further classifications based on who could use them, such as viae publicae (public roads), viae militares (military or state use roads), and viae privatae (private roads, constructed at private expense and for the owners to decide who they allowed access, perhaps the general public or perhaps just a select few).
To help pay for them, roads of all types often had tolls, particularly at locations like bridges and city gates where it would be impractical to avoid the tolling location.
The Appian Way, a road connecting the city of Rome to the southern parts of Italy, remains usable even today.
This brings us to the road construction process itself. As dirt and gravel roads aren’t terribly interesting, we’re going to focus this article on the viae munita. So how did they make these incredibly durable and generally amazingly straight roads? After all, even with modern machinery, constructing and maintaining an expansive road system is an extremely time consuming and labor intensive process.
To start with, a group of surveyors would be sent out to figure out the precise direction connecting the two main points. At the same time, they’d attempt to plan the route as efficiently as possible while accounting for any major obstacles like tall mountains, rivers, etc. When possible, they may attempt to avoid such obstacles, but, particularly in some of the earliest Roman road construction, where it might result in having to take a large detour to get around, say, a mountain, if possible given the terrain, they tended to just build the road to go directly over it or directly through it. For example, the longest tunnel through such a mountain was the Grotta di Cocceio which was excavated from 38 to 36 BCE and is approximately 1 km (.62 miles) long and about 5 meters (5.4 yards) high and wide. Before WWII, it was also still a fully functional and safe to traverse tunnel despite standing about 2,000 years at that point, but was damaged during the war, though there are presently efforts to have it repaired and opened again to the public.
As for going over a mountain, it’s important to note here that we don’t mean they’d use switch backs as is the general method today. No, if at all possible, they’d just build roads straight up a mountain and down the other side, expecting the soldiers and mules and the like to just man up and traverse the steep slopes without complaint.
That said, as the empire matured, it did eventually become apparent that there were economic advantages to slightly longer roads that were easier for draught animals to pull carts over, and thus there was a shift to favoring longer distances but lesser gradients when talking roads for general public use.
A Roman street in Pompeii.
Either way, during the process, the surveyors would setup markers, often at very visible points like on hills, mapping out the optimal path, again trying to ensure the road would be as straight as possible between the start and end point to reduce needed labor, materials, and distance needed to traverse the road once it was complete.
This brings us to how they actually ensured perfectly straight roads between the markers. A key tool here was a device known as a groma. In a nutshell, this was nothing more than a sort of cross with four weights hanging from a string at each end of the cross to function as plumb lines. The whole thing could rotate with degree markers on top. Two of the plumb lines would then be lined up with a marker and then on the other side lined up with the previous marker. Where changes in direction would need to be made, the degrees were marked and ultimately the whole thing drawn up on a central document showing the entire route of the road with each segment.
Once the actual construction was to begin, the groma would once again be used, this time with rods pounded into the ground between markers using the groma to make sure every single rod was perfectly inline in between the markers.
Now, finally, construction of the road would start, usually first done via plows to loosen the soil, this would be followed by legionaries and/or slaves digging the ground out, with depth varying based on conditions. For instance, swampy land would need a lot thicker foundation if it was to have any staying power. For more typical ground, the trench needed would be somewhere in the realm of 3-6 feet (around 1-2 meters) deep. Once dug out, this would then be tamped down to a leveled, compact layer of earth.
From here, exact road composition varied based on available materials in a given region, land composition, and a variety of factors like this.
But typically large stones would be packed as tightly as possible together and into the earth base. Onto this layer would usually be placed smaller stones, sometimes comprising broken concrete or somewhat crushed rock, again packed and smoothed as best as possible. Depending on availability, they would also put a layer of sand on this foundation to make a genuinely perfectly smooth surface.
On top of all of this, at the minimum gravel would be added, packed, and leveled. In some cases, such as near big cities, as described in one manuscript on the construction of roads in Rome itself, paving stones, often flint, lava rock, or marble, would be embedded in cement for the top layer instead. When the road was complete, they are thought to have been quite smooth allowing for relatively bump free travel in carts and the like.
During this whole process, special attention was taken to making the center of the road higher than the sides so that any water would drain off, with the entire road surface itself also elevated above the ground on the sides where drainage ditches would generally be created to help rapidly move water away from the road in times of heavy rains.
Beside the roads were footpaths, sometimes graveled, which were particularly handy in the case of viae militares where only people with proper authorization could use the road itself. Finally, at the very outer edges of the roads, any nearby trees and bushes would be removed to help reduce areas for bandits to hide and surprise anyone with an attack, as well as to help ensure plant growth didn’t overtake the road or tree roots compromise it.
But this wasn’t the end of the construction process. They now needed to know exact distances along the road. It’s not fully clear how they did this, though a device known as the odometer of Vitruvius is mentioned starting around 27 BC and is often claimed to have been used for this purpose. However, whether it was actually ever used for road construction, or even made at all, is up for debate.
A depiction of Vitruvius presenting De Architectura to Augustus.
At a high level, this device used the spinning of a wheel to mark distance. In this case, it was the spinning of a wagon wheel which was in turn hooked up to gears that would drop a pebble into a container every Roman mile (4,841 feet, which is around 1,000 paces of an adult male, with the world “mile” deriving from the Latin milia, meaning, funny enough, 1,000 paces).
For whatever it’s worth, while Leonardo da Vinci tried and failed to make such a device as per outlined, in 1981 one Andre Sleeswyk was successful in building one exactly as described except, unlike da Vinci, he used triangular gear teeth instead of square ones. His justification for this modification being that these same type of gear teeth were used in the Antikythera mechanism, which was created sometime from around 250 BC to 70 BC, with the device itself used to predict various astronomical phenomenon like eclipses. Thus, perhaps if the odometer of Vitruvius was ever actually built and used, maybe it used these too.
There are, of course, many other much less technologically advanced ways they could have measure mile distances easy enough and with extreme accuracy. However they did it, at every mile mark, the law required they place an approximately two ton, 7 foot tall (2 feet in the ground) mile marker, called a miliarium. Helpfully, on this stone would be engraved the names of the locations the road connected and how many miles to each from that respective marker. A master marker, known as the Miliario Aureo or Golden Milestone was also created during Caesar Augustus’ rule and placed in the central Forum of Rome itself. This was the point at which all Roman roads were said to lead. It’s not actually clear what was on this master marker, but it’s been speculated it listed the distances from that point to all major cities under Roman rule.
Whatever the case, like the roads themselves, some of these mile markers are still standing giving archaeologists and historians a valuable snapshot of the past, since they tended to include not just basic geographic information, but information about when the road was built or repaired and by whom.
Next up, it was also required by law that regular way stations be built for official use, generally every 16 to 19 miles apart. These were more or less really nice resting areas providing food and drink and the like for officials. For the general public, inns known as cauponae would tend to pop up near these way stations. On that note, at particularly high trafficked way stations, many other businesses would pop up as well, sometimes leading to the creation of whole towns.
Along these roads you’d also find at similar intervals mutationes, or changing stations, where people could get the services of veterinarians, wheelwrights, etc., as well as potentially find new mounts.
To give you an idea of how fast one could move along these roads with its network of way stations and facilities, it’s noted that Emperor Tiberius once traversed about 200 miles in 24 hours after news that his brother, Drusus Germanicus was dying from gangrene after being seriously injured falling from a horse. A more typical time to traverse for, say, a government mail carrier was usually around 50 miles per day if not in a particular hurry.
But to sum up, it turns out that Roman road construction, amenities and all, wasn’t all that different from modern times, often featuring deep foundations, paved surfaces, proper drainage, landscaping around the roads, sidewalks, toll booths, rest areas, hotels, restaurants, the historic equivalent to gas stations and convenience stores, etc.
The infamous phrase — “Nero fiddled while Rome burned” — has come to mean a person who is neglecting their duties, probably by doing something frivolous. But did Nero actually sit around play music while Rome was burning around him in 64 AD?
To begin there was such a fire, though its extent is unknown. According to Tacitus, the fire lasted for six days and decimated Rome, with only four districts untouched (out of a total of fourteen). He goes on to state that ten of the eleven districts that burned were heavily damaged, with three of those completely destroyed. However, oddly, there is very little documented mention of the fire from those who actually lived through it. The only Roman historian during that period who even mentioned it at all was Pliny the Elder, and even he only briefly referenced it in passing.
Had it been as widespread as Tacitus claimed, one would think the likes of Plutarch, Epictetus, or other such famed Roman historians who lived through the fire would have mentioned such a significant event. And, indeed, we see that perhaps it wasn’t that great of a fire from the only other documented first hand account of the scope of the disaster — a letter from Seneca the Younger to Paul the Apostle, where he explicitly stated that only four blocks of insulae were burned (a type of apartment building), along with 132 private houses damaged (about 7% of the private houses in the city and .009% of the insulae). Not anywhere close to as widespread as Tacitus later claimed, though Seneca did say the fire lasted six days, as Tacitus stated.
As to Nero’s reaction to the fire, the first and biggest flaw in the fiddling story is that the fiddle, or violin, didn’t actually exist in Nero’s time. Historians aren’t able to give an exact date for the invention of the violin, but the viol class of instruments to which the violin belongs wasn’t developed until at least the 11th century. If Nero actually did play a stringed instrument—and there’s no evidence that he did, whether during the burning of Rome or otherwise—it was probably a lyre or cithara.
Okay, so some details can get muddled through history. But did Nero neglect Rome while it burned? Historians argue probably not. Reports do place Nero thirty-five miles away from Rome at the time of the fire, as he was staying in his villa at Antium. However, an account from Tacitus tells us that he returned to Rome immediately when word of the fire reached him in order to begin relief efforts. As the fire raged on, Nero even opened up his own gardens to provide a temporary home for those who were now homeless. He also ordered the construction of emergency accommodation and cut the price of corn, as well as provided food directly, so that people could eat. Besides this, he paid for much of these relief efforts out of his own pocket.
However, Tacitus also tells of the rumour that had spread among the masses: while the flames surged through the city, Nero stood on his private stage and sang about the destruction of Troy in a comparison of the two events. Whether or not the rumour had any evidence to back it up or was just something made up by the unhappy masses, we don’t know, but this and Suetonius’ account are the most likely source of the fiddle story we hear today. Unfortunately for Nero, at least in the context of this story, he did have a reputation for enjoying concerts and participating in music competitions, so the activity itself wasn’t entirely unlikely even if the timing of the act is highly questionable.
Bust of Nero at the Capitoline Museum, Rome.
While Tacitus claims the singing story was a rumour, Suetonius wrote about it with conviction. However, the story could have been an attempt to further mar Nero’s name. Nero faced problems during his reign from the very start, when it was reported that his own mother poisoned his predecessor, Claudius. He was also blamed for the death of Claudius’ son Brittanicus, who was being urged to take his proper place as Emperor by overthrowing Nero. Numerous other deaths were thought to have been committed by Nero’s hand, including one of his wives and his own mother.
As such, Nero was painted as a man who was difficult for the masses to trust. No one knew how the fire started, and many Romans believed that he had started the fire that burned their city. (It likely started in shops containing flammable goods, and was probably an accident rather than any one person’s intentional act.)
With the mob out for blood, Nero was forced to turn to a scapegoat and blamed Christians for starting the fire. There were only a small number of Christians in Rome at the time and they were considered a strange religious sect, so they were an easy target. As Tacitus stated:
Consequently, to get rid of the report, Nero fastened the guilt and inflicted the most exquisite tortures on a class hated for their abominations, called Christians by the populace. Christus, from whom the name had its origin, suffered the extreme penalty during the reign of Tiberius at the hands of one of our procurators, Pontius Pilatus, and a most mischievous superstition, thus checked for the moment, again broke out not only in Judæa, the first source of the evil, but even in Rome, where all things hideous and shameful from every part of the world find their centre and become popular. Accordingly, an arrest was first made of all [Christians] who pleaded guilty [to the fire]; then, upon their information, an immense multitude was convicted, not so much of the crime of firing the city, as of hatred against mankind. Mockery of every sort was added to their deaths. Covered with the skins of beasts, they were torn by dogs and perished, or were nailed to crosses, or were doomed to the flames and burnt, to serve as a nightly illumination, when daylight had expired.
Even finding someone to blame for the fire didn’t help Nero’s plea of innocence. In the wake of the fire, he built a palace on top of some of the land cleared by the flames, which people argued he had been planning from the start, though this is highly unlikely as the place he built the new palace was over a half mile away from where the fire started. In addition to a new palace, Nero did provide for the reconstruction of the city, but rebuilding stretched the limits of Rome’s treasury at the time. He was forced to devalue Roman currency, which wasn’t a popular move.
Nero ended up committing suicide — or at least, begging his secretary to kill him when he lost the nerve to do it himself—four years after the fire. Accounts of his life and of the time of the fire are highly contradictory. Further, Suetonius and Tacitus wrote their histories fifty years after Nero died, and Cassius Dio wrote his 150 years later. Many historians also think it likely that Nero was more popular with the people of Rome than he was with the senators, and as all three of the main sources were from the senatorial class, it’s likely they carry more than a little bias against him, not unlike happened with the popular history of Marie Antoinette who popular history remembers very differently than who the actual woman appeared to be. That being said, Tacitus did state that while Nero’s death was welcomed by senators, the lower classes mourned his passing.
So in the end, the implication that “Nero fiddled while Rome burned” — or played the lyre, sang a song, or neglected his duty in any way — is likely the result of anti-Nero propaganda and an attempt to tarnish his name. The morality of many of his actions during his reign is open to debate, but the fiddling, or playing music, story is almost certainly a myth, unless he was playing to entertain the displaced masses he’d taken in.
This article originally appeared on Today I Found Out. Follow @TodayIFoundOut on Twitter.
China’s People’s Liberation Army Gen. He Lei, one of the more hawkish voices asserting Beijing’s absolute rights to the South China Sea, made a telling observation at a defense conference in Singapore that reveals his military’s biggest weakness.
Though it’s strange to regret peace, He correctly identified what the Academy of Military Science of the Chinese People’s Liberation Army previously told Business Insider was the Chinese military’s biggest weakness: inexperience.
The People’s Liberation Army, the military owned by China’s Communist Party, has never fought a real war. Its missions center around humanitarian relief and policing its own borders. Besides a brief fights with Vietnam, India, and Russia on its borders, as well as involvement in the Korean War, the entire post-World War II period for China has been peaceful.
Meanwhile, the US and Russia, other top-tier militaries, have engaged in regular battles.
While much of China’s emerging new military doctrine seems sound in theory, it’s yet to be tested.
China can build ships and planes, but can’t shake the doubt
Rowden explained that while a US and a Chinese ship may both appear combat-ready,”[o]ne of them couldn’t fight their way out of a wet paper bag and the other one will rock anything that it comes up against.”
But that’s just at sea, and ground combat with its toll on individual soldiers is a whole different beast. When Chinese soldiers, many of them conscripts, are tested in battle, it’s unclear if they’ll soldier on with the same grit as the US’s all-volunteer force.
While the world can appreciate peace and a lack of fighting, as China looks to displace the US as the dominant military power, it will remain untested and doubt-ridden until it faces real combat.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
For anyone who’s been in the military, it goes without saying that being in the Air Force and being in the Marine Corps are two very different ways of life. This extends from enlisted troops all the way to the pilots flying in the skies above any active battlespace.
And it goes well beyond physical fitness standards.
A fact which totally earns a thumbs up from the USAF.
(U.S. Marine Corps photo)
In the Air Force, once a pilot is finished training, he or she is a full-fledged pilot, who still might train in other areas outside of their chosen aircraft, be it helicopters, fighters, bombers, etc. The investment the Air Force puts into training its officers to fly means those pilots are going to be flying as much as the USAF can safely force them to. As company-grade officers, they’re pretty much going to live in the wild blue yonder. As they advance in rank and skill, however, they will slowly be moved to more administrative and management positions, staff jobs, or even instructors. If they want, they might even get a chance to chew some dirt as an air liaison officer.
The life of a Marine Corps officer is much, much different.
Which goes beyond just the uniform, which is admittedly much cooler.
Anyone reading this site probably knows the saying “every Marine is a rifleman.” That goes for Marine Corps officers, too. But USMC pilots must also graduate from the Marine Corps Basic Officers Course so they can learn to command platoons of Marine Corps riflemen – and that’s before they ever become naval aviators.
It’s important to know that Marine pilots are trained as all Marine Corps officers are trained and that they’re also trained as all naval aviators are trained. They take the same training as infantry officers and as naval aviators. As if that wasn’t enough work, the Marine Corps doesn’t wait for officers of Marines to grow in rank before assigning them extra duties around the unit or a duty outside of flying altogether. This means the Marine directing close air support on the ground with you one day might be providing that top cover for you another day.
All that and they have to land on aircraft carriers too. Probably in the dark.
Maj. Gen. Arthur MacArthur, wearing the Medal of Honor he earned in the Civil War.
Arthur MacArthur joined the Union Army soon after the start of the Civil War at the tender age of 16, but he was popular with the other men and the command and was promoted to first lieutenant in Wisconsin’s 24th Infantry Regiment the following year.
The 24th was involved in a series of tough scrapes. It marched into Kentucky in September 1862 in pursuit of the forces of Gen. Braxton Bragg. The 24th fought alongside other Union forces at Chaplin Hills, Stones River, Chickamauga Creek, and others. The 24th performed well in most of these battles, hitting hard when ordered and reportedly staying organized even when the tide turned suddenly against them.
But the regiment’s order on the battlefield should not be misread as the product of great leadership. The men reportedly performed well, but officers resigned fairly regularly.
Just at the senior ranks, the regiment suffered a resignation of its lieutenant colonel and acting commander in December 1862. A major took over until the colonel could return. That major was promoted to lieutenant colonel, but then he resigned in March 1863, and so a lieutenant was promoted to lieutenant colonel. Then the commander resigned in August 1863, and so the lieutenant colonel took over the regiment.
And that’s just the officers that gave way under the pressure. They also lost a brigade commander to enemy fire in September 1863 on the same day that the regimental commander, that lieutenant turned lieutenant colonel who had just taken over, was paralyzed by shrapnel and captured.
So the regiment’s men were used to chaotic situations, even in their own chain of command, is what we’re getting at. They performed well and earned praise wherever they fought, even when other units were breaking around them, even when their own leadership was going through high turnover, even when they were exhausted and dehydrated, like they were at Chickamauga Creek.
The regiment wasn’t always flashy, but they were seemingly steady. So it might not come as a huge surprise that, when the orders and leadership at the Battle of Missionary Ridge went wobbly, the 24th just kept doing the best job it could.
Soldiers with Wisconsin’s 2nd Volunteer Infantry Regiment in 1861.
(WisconsinHistory.org, public domain)
Our hero, First Lt. Arthur MacArthur, was the 18-year-old adjutant at this point. And the entire regiment was pointed at the Confederate defenses on Missionary Ridge. The rebels had been attacking Union forces from this ridge since the Union defeat at Chickamauga Creek, and Union Maj. Gen. Ulysses S. Grant needed to clear it for his future plans in the faltering Chattanooga Campaign.
Grant’s first major assaults on Missionary Ridge, launched by his stalwart companion Brig. Gen. William Tecumseh Sherman, failed. A second failure would force the Union Army to retreat back to Chattanooga and face a siege. A victory would cement control of Tennessee and open Georgia to invasion. The 24th Wisconsin Infantry was placed near the center of the line for this important attack on Nov. 25, 1863.
The Union advance at the center went well at the start, with regiments up and down the line breaking the Confederate defenders and taking the pits. In some cases, confused Confederates believed they were supposed to give up the pits, and so they retreated with little fight.
So the pits were taken relatively easily, but then the attack stalled as the confused commanders simply manned the pits and waited. Meanwhile, the 24th and some other regiments understood that they were supposed to take the ridge, and they advanced forward with gaps in the line. The Union advance nearly failed because of simple confusion about orders.
It was during this assault that the color bearer was hit by Confederate fire and either killed or wounded (accounts differ). In the Civil War, absent colors could quickly break a unit’s assault as the men became either confused about what direction they were supposed to be going or afraid that the leading ranks had been completely destroyed and the fight was lost. MacArthur stepped forward to get the colors back up.
Despite heavy Confederate fire, he grabbed the colors and rushed forward yelling, “On Wisconsin!” as he did so. Confederate soldiers, trying to prevent the rush, aimed for him and wounded him at least twice as he charged, but they failed to stop him.
By day’s end, the 24th was camped 2.5 miles past the ridge they had fought so hard to take. The way into Georgia was open, and the 24th would take part in the advance to Atlanta.
MacArthur was awarded the Medal of Honor and promoted to major, soon taking command of the 24th amid the constant leadership churn of that unit. He was dubbed the “Boy Colonel” for being an 18-year-old in temporary command of a regiment, but he continued to prove his worth, leading his men to more victories and nearly dying at the head of their advance during the Battle of Franklin.
A South Korean decision to allow North and South Korean athletes to march together under a unified Korea flag at the opening ceremony of the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics may be costing President Moon Jae-in support.
A Gallup Korea poll released Jan. 26 indicates approval ratings for Moon, whose support had not dipped below 70 percent since he assumed office less than a year ago, now stands at 64 percent, local newspaper Kyunghyang Shinmun reported.
Moon’s nosedive in popularity comes at a time when North Korea may be taking advantage of the reconciliatory mood in Seoul, and calling for an “independent” unification that could split the U.S.-South Korea alliance.
The United States may be making it clear to North Korea its tactics are not working.
Lt. Gen. Kenneth McKenzie, Joint Chiefs of Staff director, said suspending drills that occur regularly is not an option.
“We haven’t suspended, we’re de-conflicting during the period of the Olympics and exercises will continue immediately after the Olympics,” McKenzie said Jan. 25.
Senior South Korean and U.S. officials are expected to confirm the plans in Hawaii, with a ministerial-level meeting on the timing of post-Olympic drills and their scale, according to South Korean news network MBN.
But South Korea’s tough military stance on the North, which has shown no signs of giving up its nuclear weapons program, has not contributed to Moon’s standing in the polls.
According to Gallup, Moon’s approval rating has declined for two consecutive weeks, and decisions to unify the women’s ice hockey team and march in unison at the opening ceremony of the Winter Olympics are responsible for the fall.
Among South Koreans in their 20s, the approval rating dropped from 75 to 68 percent.
Other factors for the decline include a perception Moon’s administration is “retaliating” against past administrations and punishing conservatives, like former President Lee Myung-bak, according to the survey conducted this week.
Defense Secretary James Mattis has ordered separate reviews of the Pentagon’s F-35 Joint Strike Fighter and Air Force One programs in hopes of restructuring and reducing program costs, an official announced Friday.
In two memorandums signed and effective immediately, Mattis said Deputy Defense Secretary Robert Work will “oversee a review that compares the F-35C and F/A-18E/F operational capabilities and assess the extent that the F/A-18E/F improvements [an advanced Super Hornet] can be made in order to provide a competitive, cost effective fighter aircraft alternative,” according to a statement from Pentagon spokesman Navy Capt. Jeff Davis.
For the Presidential Aircraft Recapitalization program, known as Air Force One, Mattis said Work’s review should “identify specific areas where costs can be lowered,” such as “autonomous operations, aircraft power generation, environmental conditioning [cooling], survivability, and military [and] civilian communication capabilities,” the memo said.
The memos didn’t specify if the review will reduce the planned number of aircraft.
“This is a prudent step to incorporate additional information into the budget preparation process and to inform the secretary’s recommendations to the president regarding critical military capabilities,” Davis said in an email statement.
“This action is also consistent with the president’s guidance to provide the strongest and most efficient military possible for our nation’s defense, and it aligns with the secretary’s priority to increase military readiness while gaining full value from every taxpayer dollar spent on defense,” he said.
Both the F-35 stealth fighter and Air Force One presidential aircraft acquisition programs have been in President Donald Trump’s crosshairs in recent weeks.
Trump has criticized the high cost of the $4 billion Air Force One being developed by Boeing and the nearly $400 billion F-35 Joint Strike Fighter being manufactured by Lockheed Martin Corp.
On Dec. 6, Trump tweeted “cancel order!” in reference to the Air Force One program. He brought up the issue again during a Dec. 16 speech in Pennsylvania, and also called the F-35 program a “disaster” with its cost overruns.
“Based on the tremendous cost and cost overruns of the Lockheed Martin F-35, I have asked Boeing to price-out a comparable F-18 Super Hornet!” Trump tweeted on Dec. 22.
The F-35 Joint Strike Fighter is expected to cost nearly $400 billion in development and procurement costs to field a fleet of 2,457 single-engine fighters — and some $1.5 trillion in lifetime sustainment costs, according to Pentagon figures. It’s the Pentagon’s single most expensive acquisition effort.
Trump has met with Lockheed Martin Corp.’s CEO Marillyn Hewson on multiple occasions and last week with Boeing’s CEO Dennis Muilenburg.
The company heads have vowed — in what they said were productive conversations with the president — to drive down costs on both programs.
“We made some great progress on simplifying requirements for Air Force One, streamlining the process, streamlining certification by using commercial practices,” Muilenburg said just days after Trump met with Hewson.
“All of that is going to provide a better airplane at a lower cost, so I’m pleased with the progress there,” he said. “And similarly on fighters, we were able to talk about options for the country and capabilities that will, again, provide the best capability for our warfighters most affordably.”
America has one dedicated attack helicopter, the AH-64 Apache. But our rivals in Russia have a much more diverse set of offerings with Hinds, Alligators, Black Sharks, and more all flying in concert with one another. Here are eight photos of them from some recent events in Russia:
(Ministry of Defence of the Russian Federation)
The Mi-28 Havoc attack helicopter sports a 30mm cannon in the nose and four hardpoints for carrying a mix of gun pods, rockets, anti-armor, and anti-air missiles. The pilot sits in a back seat while the weapons officer sits in the front, similar to the pilot and gunner in the American-made AH-64 Apache.
(Ministry of Defence of the Russian Federation)
The pilots sit in an armored cockpit and, at first, could only fight during the day due to sensor limitations. Those limitations were fixed with the Mi-28N, allowing these bad boys to tackle Russia’s enemies in low light and night conditions thanks to a radome installed above the rotor.
(Ministry of Defence of the Russian Federation)
Interestingly, the Mi-28 was pitted against the Ka-50 in trials, and the Mil-28 lost. But it performed well enough to keep flying anyway and eventually entered the main arsenal. Then, defense priority changes led to the Mi-28 becoming a rival to the Ka-50. Now, the Mi-28 regularly flies alongside the Ka-50s and Ka-52s in combat and training.
(Ministry of Defence of the Russian Federation)
The Ka-52 Alligator is a successor to, and two-seater version of, the Ka-50 Black Shark. The attack helicopter has six weapons hardpoints that can carry everything from anti-tank missiles to rockets to a massive anti-ship missile capable of taking down tanker ships.
(Ministry of Defence of the Russian Federation)
The Alligator uses a coaxial rotor where the two sets of blades spin in opposite directions, making it more stable than traditional helicopters and eliminating the need for an anti-torque tail rotor.
(Ministry of Defence of the Russian Federation)
Mi-35 Hinds are a very special kind of beast. They’re often classified as an attack helicopter, but the alternate description is “heavy assault gunship,” which might be a better description. The Hind can not only tear apart enemy troops on the ground, it can also drop off an infantry squad to take control of the ground after.
(Ministry of Defence of the Russian Federation)
The Mi-35s have an ungainly look on the ground but are vicious in the air, sort of like a fat duck on PCP.
(Ministry of Defence of the Russian Federation)
When they fly in large formations, they can drop entire infantry platoons or companies into the fight and provide close combat attack support to keep those infantrymen alive and lethal. They’re expensive and ungainly, but there’s a lot of value in its capability.
There’s an old military saying that goes, “if it’s stupid and it works, it isn’t stupid.” As enlisted personnel rise through the ranks, they tend to encounter more and more questionable practices that somehow made their way into doctrine. This isn’t anything new. Most of the veterans reading this encountered at least one “WTF Moment” in their military careers. Few of these bizarre scenarios will get a troop wounded or worse.
Then there are the tactics that could mean the difference between life and death – and you have to wonder who decided to do things that way and why do they hate their junior enlisted troops so much? These are those tactics.
“Walking Fire” with the Browning Automatic Rifle
When introduced in the closing days of World War I, the Browning Automatic Rifle – or “B-A-R” – was introduced as a means to get American troops across the large, deadly gaps called “no man’s land” between the opposing trenches. The theory was that doughboys would use the BAR in a walking fire movement, slowly walking across the ground while firing the weapon from the hip.
Anyone who’s ever used an automatic weapon has probably figured out by now that slowly sauntering across no man’s land, shooting at anything that moves will run your ammo down before you ever get close to the enemy trench. It’s probably best to stay in your own trench, which is what the Americans ended up doing anyway.
Soviet Anti-Tank Suicide Dogs
The concept seems sound enough. In the 1930s, the USSR trained dogs to wear explosive vests and run under oncoming tanks. In combat, the dogs would then be detonated while near the tank’s soft underbelly. It seems like a good idea, right? Well, when it came time to use the dogs against Nazi tanks in World War II, the Soviets realized that training the dogs with Soviet tanks might have been a bad idea. The USSR’s tanks ran on diesel while the Wehrmacht’s ran on gasoline.
Soviet tank dogs, attracted to the smell of Soviet diesel fuel, ran under Soviet tanks instead of German tanks when unleashed, creating an explosives hazard for the Red Army tanks crews.
Flying Aircraft Carriers
In the interwar years, the U.S. military decided that airpower was indeed the wave of the military’s future, and decided to experiment with a way to get aircraft flying as fast as possible. For this, they developed helium airships that housed hangers to hold a number of different airplanes. It seemed like a good idea in theory, but it turns out the air isn’t as hospitable a place as the seas and flying, helium-borne craft aren’t as stable as a solid, steel ship on the waves.
After the two aircraft carriers the Navy built both crashed, and 75 troops were dead, the military decided to go another way with aircraft.
In World War II, there wasn’t always a metal detector around. Sometimes, troops had to get down and dirty, literally. In areas where land mines were suspected, soldiers would get down on the ground, with their heads and bodies close to the ground and – without any kind of warning or hint of where mines might be, if there were any at all – poke into the ground at a 30-degree angle.
The angle helped avoid tripping the mines because the trigger mechanisms were usually located at the top of the mines. If the terrain was a bit looser, the mines could be raked up by the prodders instead.
If you’ve watched documentaries about the battles of World War II, the Korean War, or the Vietnam War, then chances are you’ve seen gun-camera footage. Whether it’s air-to-air or air-to-ground action, these attention-grabbing videos give us an idea of the intensity of combat aviation — but how do we get them?
In this day and age, we’re lucky to have plenty of digital tools to easily capture footage, download it to a hard drive, and upload it to YouTube or some other cloud storage service. Back in the day, however, all they had was film — and this film was often very useful. It gave intelligence officers some idea of what the pilots actually did. After all, it wasn’t unusual for a fired-up pilot to inflate their kill counts upon return.
But it wasn’t always easy to get that film.
This gun-camera footage from a Navy F9F Panther shows a MiG-15 in its last few seconds of life.
The process was a lengthy one. The film was first taken to a central processing laboratory. To save space, the film was placed in a number of magazines and then placed into one large roll. Loading that roll had to be done in total darkness. Why? In order to view film, it must first be developed and if the film is exposed to light prematurely, it’s ruined.
The entire process included rinsing to fully process the negatives, editing the processed negatives (which was done without computers, by the way), adding timestamps, and more. All in all, there were ten steps, including a test screening.
This is the final product of a long process done by specialists who did hard work.
(Jeff Quitney / YouTube)
You can see how some Air Force specialists did this job during the Korean War in the video below. As an added bonus, after they give you a run-down of all the developmental steps, you get to see a MiG-15 in the sights of a F-86 Sabre’s gun-camera. The folks who made it possible for you to see that footage never faced enemy fire, but they certainly worked almost as hard as the Sabre’s pilot did!
Check out the video below to see how we get that intense footage.
Amazon Prime is pushing their new show, Jack Ryan, based on the Tom Clancy character that has saved Britain’s queen, hunted Russian subs, and interrupted terrorist plots across the world in both novels and movies from the ’80s to today.
The character is a mainstay of the the thriller world — an American James Bond — which is why it’s so great that Amazon cast comedy icon John Krasinski in the role.
Now, Funny or Die has done what we’ve all been thinking — they cut together the Jack Ryan commercial and scenes from The Office, pitting America’s top analyst-turned-spy against the criminal genius of Dwight Schrute, the socially awkward and pretentious beet farmer who’s always hatching some failed scheme to teach his office mates a moral lesson.
Jim (left) feigns working at his desk as Dwight (center) looks at what he believes to be a gift-wrapped desk. Spoiler: The desk is actually gone completely. Jim made a fake frame for the wrapping and the whole thing collapses when Dwight tries to sit down.
Dwight is best known by his self-appointed job title: Assistant to the Regional Manager. Abbreviated, of course, as the Ass. Man.
He labors for years to outmaneuver Jim Halpert, now Jim Ryan, in a series of escalating pranks, from disappearing desks to fake spy taps to false faxes from the future. Apparently, Dwight is not putting up with it any longer.
Check out the hilarious video mashup below and get a look at more sinister Dwight Schrute.
Jack Ryan debuted August 31, but has already been been renewed for a second season. In the first season, Ryan notices irregularities in bank transactions and eventually finds evidence of a growing terrorist threat against the U.S., leading him across the world in a quest to hunt down the leaders and prevent the attack.
The show brings Michael Bay and John Krasinski back together. The men had previously worked together on 13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi, a dramatization of the horrible events at the U.S. embassy in Libya in 2012. 13 Hours was probably the most well-known example of Krasinski’s pivot from comedy to action.
After years of playing Jim Halpert in The Office and performing other comedic roles, Krasinski has been branching out, directing movies and focusing on action roles.
The commander of the destroyer USS Fitzgerald and the executive officer have been permanently detached from the ship and face non-judicial punishment over the deadly collision in June with a container ship, the Navy announced August 17.
Cmdr. Bryce Benson, commander of the Fitzgerald, and Cmdr. Sean Babbitt, the executive officer, are “being detached for cause,” meaning that the Navy “has lost trust and confidence in their ability to lead,” Adm. Bill Moran, Vice Chief of Naval Operations, said during a press conference.
Vice Adm. Joseph Aucoin, commander of the 7th Fleet, has also decided that the top enlisted sailor aboard the Fitzgerald and several other sailors on the watch crew at the time of the collision on June 17 will also face non-judicial punishment, Moran said.
Aucoin ruled that “serious mistakes were made by the crew,” Moran said.
The Fitzgerald was hit nearly broadside by the ACX Crystal cargo ship in the early morning hours of June 17 in Japanese waters. Seven sailors aboard the Arleigh Burke-class destroyer Fitzgerald were killed.
The service members, whose bodies were found in flooded berthing compartments, on August 17 were posthumously promoted.
The top enlisted sailor on the Fitzgerald was later identified as Chief Petty Officer Brice Baldwin. He, Benson, and Babbitt were all in their berths when the collision occurred.
However, Aucoin found that all three bore chief responsibility for the watch crew on the bridge losing “situational awareness” as the destroyer was proceeding at about 20 knots on a clear moonlit night in relatively calm seas, Moran said.
When asked if the non-judicial punishment against Benson, Babbitt, and Baldwin would be career-ending, Moran said: “Look at what happened here — it’s going to be pretty hard to recover from this.” Moran said investigations were continuing but he declined to speculate on whether courts martial might be pursued against any of the Fitzgerald’s crew.
Since the accident occurred, naval experts have pondered how a fast and agile destroyer carrying some of the world’s most advanced radars and proceeding on a clear moonlit night in calm seas could have been hit nearly broadside by a slow and plodding cargo ship.
The speculation has centered on whether the bridge watch crew was either poorly trained or simply not alert. Moran said only that collisions should not happen in the US Navy — “We got it wrong.”
A “line of duty” investigation released by the Navy earlier August 17 on actions following the collision gave evidence of the enormous damage inflicted on the Fitzgerald and the heroic actions of the crew in saving the ship and their fellow sailors.
Berthing Area 2, two decks below the main deck where 35 sailors were sleeping in three-decker buns, was exposed to the open sea, the investigation said. The bulbous nose of the ACX Crystal had ripped a 13×17 foot hole into the side of the Fitzgerald.
“As a result, nothing separated Berthing 2 from the onrushing sea, allowing a great volume of water to enter Berthing 2 very quickly,” the investigation said. The seven sailors killed in the collision were all in Berthing 2. They were “directly in the path of the onrushing water,” the investigation said.
The force of the collision knocked the Fitzgerald into a 14-degree list to port before the ship rocked back violently into a seven-degree list to starboard. “One sailor saw another knocked out of his rack by water,” the investigation said.
“Others began waking up shipmates who had slept through the initial impact. At least one sailor had to be pulled from his rack and into the water before he woke up,” the investigation said.
The sailors were in water up to their necks as they scrambled to reach a ladder to safety. The last rescued sailor had been in the bathroom at the time of the crash. Other sailors “pulled him from the water, red-faced and with bloodshot eyes. He reported he was taking his final breath before being saved,” the investigation said.
Recent reports have surfaced that state that the B-1B Lancer might get a cannon to help provide close support for troops on the ground. Now, as we all know, when it comes to using a gun to provide support for the troops, nothing beats the A-10’s BRRRRRT.
The A-10 may be legendary, but that doesn’t mean Boeing won’t try and top it. Currently, according to an Air Force fact sheet, the Lancer carries “84 500-pound Mk-82 or 24 2,000-pound Mk-84 general purpose bombs; up to 84 500-pound Mk-62 or 8 2,000-pound Mk-65 Quick Strike naval mines; 30 cluster munitions (CBU-87, -89, -97) or 30 Wind-Corrected Munitions Dispensers (CBU-103, -104, -105); up to 24 2,000-pound GBU-31 or 15 500-pound GBU-38 Joint Direct Attack Munitions; up to 24 AGM-158A Joint Air-to-Surface Standoff Missiles; 15 GBU-54 Laser Joint Direct Attack Munitions.”
In addition to this diverse lineup, Boeing wants to mount a cannon onto the plane that retracts into the airframe’s belly. However, we think the Lancer deserves something a little more exciting than a cannon. Here are five suggestions:
The CBU-100 cluster bomb, also known as the Mk 20, carries 247 bomblets in a 500-pound package.
1. CBU-100 Rockeye cluster bomb
This is a 500-pound cluster bomb that’s carried the same way that a Mk 82 is carried on tactical aircraft. This bomb, also known as the Mk 20, carries 247 bomblets and weighs 490 pounds. Just imagine a B-1 dropping 84 of these on the bad guys…
The Lancer has a wide variety of armaments — why not give it the capability to permeate the air with the “smell of victory?” The Mk 77 is a 750-pound bomb that uses kerosene as opposed to traditional napalm. Mixing these with Mk 82 general purpose bombs would create the ultimate “shake and bake” loadout for the B-1.
The B-1 could carry the AGM-86 Air-Launched Cruise Missile prior to enactment of the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty,
3. AGM-86 Air-Launched Cruise Missile
Before the B-1 was denuclearized by the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty, it was able to carry the massive AGM-86 on external pylons. Today, there are a number of conventional variants of this missile — and maybe it’s time to let the B-1 carry those again. Besides, the Russians are cheating on some arms-control treaties, why shouldn’t the B-1 get ALCMs again?
This test of a GBU-24 shows this bomb’s precision and power.
4. GBU-24 Paveway laser-guided bomb
GPS is nice but, sometimes, you need a bit more precision than GPS guidance can provide. Or perhaps you just want more oomph than the 500-pound GBU-54 can provide. In either case, the GBU-24 fits the bill nicely, since it’s based on the Mk 84 2,000-pound bomb.
The ADM-160 is perhaps one of the most diabolical weapons the Air Force could add to the B-1B Lancer.
5. ADM-160 Miniature Air-Launched Decoy
Okay, this one doesn’t go boom, but the ADM-160 messes up enemy defenses by presenting a lot of false targets. At just 100 pounds, a single B-1 could easily send a few dozen towards an enemy to simulate a massive raid. The enemy, in response, would likely light off radars and shoot missiles at the swarm of decoys. Meanwhile, real strikes will hit targets, which may be the very radars and missile sites busy trying to shoot down the decoys.
What bombs would you like to see the Air Force equip the Lancer with? Let us know in the comments below!