MIGHTY TRENDING

One of Pearl Harbor’s last survivors dies at age 97

Donald Stratton, who served aboard the USS Arizona when it was attacked by the Japanese at Pearl Harbor, passed away on Feb. 15, 2020. He was 97 years old.


Stratton was born and raised in Nebraska and joined the Navy in 1940 at the age of 18 right after finishing high school. He heard rumors of war and figured it was best to join sooner rather than later.

When he was asked why he joined the Navy he said, “My theory was you either had a nice place aboard a ship and were high and dry or you didn’t have anything. In the Army, you were crawling around in the mud and everything else, and I didn’t want to do that.”

After finishing training, he was sent to Washington state, where he would be assigned to his first duty station, the USS Arizona. When he saw the ship for the first time, she was in dry dock. He said, “It was quite a sight for an old flatlander like me to see a 35,000-ton battleship out of the water.”

The Arizona was a Pennsylvania-class battleship that was commissioned during the First World War. While she didn’t see action then, the Navy made good use of her first in the Mediterranean and later in the Pacific. She was 908 feet in length and had twelve 45 caliber, 14-inch guns as part of her armament.

When the Arizona made its way down to Pearl Harbor, Stratton went with her. Stratton and the rest of the crew settled into the routine of training and exercises, both in port and out at sea. There was no doubt in his mind that the U.S. was preparing for war. Like most Americans, though, he was still shocked at how the war began.

The “day that would live in infamy” started out pretty routinely for Stratton and the thousands of other Sailors and Marines at Pearl Harbor. He woke up for Reveille and went to get chow. After bringing oranges to a buddy in sick bay, he stopped at his locker and headed up top. He heard screams and shouts and followed everyone’s points to Ford Island. There he saw an aircraft bank in the morning light and the distinctive rising sun emblem on the plane. Stratton quipped, “Well, that’s the Japanese, man – they’re bombing us.”

Stratton ran to his battle station, calling out coordinates for his anti-aircraft gun crew. His crew soon realized that they didn’t have range on the bombers and watched in horror as the Japanese made their bombing runs.

The Japanese had 10 bombers assigned to attack the Arizona. Of the bombs dropped, three were near misses, and four hit their target. It was the last hit that would prove catastrophic for the Sailors and Marines on board. The bomb penetrated the deck and set off a massive explosion in one of the ship’s magazines. The force of the explosion ripped apart the Arizona and tore her in two.

Stratton had the fireball from the explosion go right through him. He suffered burns over 70% of his body and was stuck aboard a ship that was going down rapidly. Through the smoke, he could make out the USS Vestal and a single sailor waving to him. He watched as the Sailor waved off someone on his own ship and tossed a line over to the Arizona. Stratton and five other men used the rope and traversed the 70 foot gap to safety. Stratton never forgot the sailor yelling, “Come on Sailor, you can make it!” as he struggled to pull his badly burned body to safety.

Two of the men who made it across died alone with 1773 other men on the Arizona. Only 334 men on the ship made it out alive. The Arizona burned for two days after the attack.

Stratton was sent to San Francisco where he spent all of 1942 recovering from his wounds. His weight dropped to 92 pounds, and he couldn’t stand up on his own. He almost had an arm amputated too. Shortly thereafter, he was medically discharged from the Navy

Stratton then decided that he wasn’t going to sit out the rest of the war. He appealed to the Navy and was allowed to reenlist, although he had to go through boot camp again. He was offered a chance to stay stateside and train new recruits, but he refused. He served at sea during the battles of the Philippines and Okinawa where he worked to identify potential kamikaze attacks. He called Okinawa “82 days of hell.”

Stratton left the Navy after the war and took up commercial diving until his retirement. He settled in Colorado Springs, and he actively participated in Pearl Harbor reunions and commemorations. Stratton wanted to make sure people didn’t forget about the men who died that day.

It was at one of those reunions in 2001 that Stratton’s life found another mission to complete. He found out the Sailor aboard the USS Vestal was named Joe George. When the attack commenced the Vestal was moored to the Arizona. After the catastrophic explosion, an officer ordered George to cut lines to the Arizona as it was sinking. George frantically motioned to men trapped on the Arizona, burning to death. The officer told them to let them be and cut the lines.

George waved him off and threw a safety line and saved men, including Stratton. Stratton learned that George had passed away in 1996, so he wouldn’t get a chance to thank him. But to his disbelief, George had never been commended for saving his fellow Sailors.

The Navy looked at the incident and decided they couldn’t award a Sailor for saving lives because he disobeyed an order from an officer. (Some things never change.)

Stratton and fellow rescued Sailor, Lauren Bruner, took up the cause to get George awarded. They met nothing but resistance from the Navy. From 2002 to 2017 Stratton repeatedly tried to get George honored but was ignored. It wasn’t until 2017 when he was able to meet with President Donald Trump and then-Secretary of Defense James Mattis that the ball started rolling. Shortly thereafter, George’s family was presented with a Bronze Star with “V” for George’s heroic actions that day.

Stratton wanted to make sure people never forgot that day. He recounted his life’s journey in his memoir, “All the Gallant Men: An American Sailor’s Firsthand Account of Pearl Harbor.

He also helped with a documentary about George’s life, which was narrated by Gary Sinise.

Stratton had the option to have his remains cremated and scattered at the Arizona memorial. But after a life at sea, he instead chose to go home and will be buried in Nebraska.

Of the men who served on the USS Arizona that day, only two surviving crew members are still alive: Lou Conter, 98, and Ken Potts, 98.

Fair Winds and Following Seas.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Everything to know about the Air Force’s largest transport

Since 1969 the C-5 Galaxy has dwarfed all other airframes in the Air Force inventory. The C-5 Galaxy has provided the U.S. Air Force with heavy intercontinental-range strategic airlift capability capable of carrying oversized loads and all air-certifiable cargo, including the M-1 Abrams Tank.


Development and design

During the Vietnam War, the USAF saw the necessity of moving large amounts of troops and equipment overseas quickly. Lockheed was able to meet the ambitious design requirements of a maximum takeoff weight twice that of the USAF current airlifter, the C-141 Starlifter.

“We started to build the C-5 and wanted to build the biggest thing we could… Quite frankly, the C-5 program was a great contribution to commercial aviation. We’ll never get credit for it, but we incentivized that industry by developing [the TF39] engine,” said Gen. Duane H. Cassidy, former Military Airlift Command commander in chief.

www.youtube.com

The C-5 is a high-wing cargo aircraft with a 65-foot tall T-tail vertical stabilizer. Above the plane-length cargo deck is an upper deck for flight operations and seating for 75 passengers. With a rear cargo door and a nose that swings up loadmasters can drive through the entire aircraft when loading and offloading cargo. The landing gear system is capable of lowering, allowing the aircraft to kneel, making it easier to load tall cargo.

The C-5A Galaxy undergoing flight testing in the late 1960s.

(U.S. Air Force photo)

The rear main landing gear can be made to caster enabling a smaller turning radius, and rotates 90 degrees after takeoff before being retracted.

The C-5 Galaxy is capable of airlifting almost every type of military equipment including the Army’s armored vehicle launched bridge or six Apache helicopters.

In the early 2000s, the Air Force began a modernization program on the C-5 upgrading the avionics with flat panel displays, improving the navigation and safety equipment and installing a new auto-pilot system. In 2006, the C-5 was refitted with GE CF6 Engines, pylons and auxiliary power units. The aircraft skin, frame, landing gear, cockpit and pressurization systems were also upgraded. Each CF6 engine produces 22 percent more thrust, reducing the C-5’s take off length, increasing its climb rate, cargo load and range. The new upgraded C-5s are designated as the C-5M Super Galaxy.

A 433rd Airlift Wing C-5 Galaxy begins to turn over the runway before landing Nov. 14 2014, at Eglin Air Force Base, Fla.. The reserve aircrew of the “heavy” aircraft brought Army 7th Special Forces Group personnel and equipment to the base for delivery.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Samuel King Jr.)

Operational history

In the past four decades, the C-5 has supported military operations in all major conflicts, including Vietnam, Iraq, Yugoslavia and Afghanistan. It has also supported our allies, such as Israel, during the Yom Kippur War and operations in the Gulf War, and the War on Terror. The Galaxy has also been used to distribute humanitarian aid and supported the U.S. Space shuttle program.

On Oct. 24, 1974, the Space and Missile Systems Organization successfully conducted an Air Mobile Feasibility Test where a C-5 air dropped a Minuteman ICBM 20,000 feet over the Pacific Ocean. The missile descended to 8,000 feet before its rocket engine fired. The test proved the possibility of launching an intercontinental ballistic missile from the air.

The C-5 was used during the development of the stealth fighter, the Lockheed F-117 Nighthawk, as Galaxies carried partly disassembled aircraft, leaving no exterior signs as to their cargo and keeping the program secret.

An air-to-air right side view of a 22nd Military Airlift Squadron C-5A Galaxy aircraft returning to Travis Air Force Base, Calif., after being painted in the European camouflage pattern at the San Antonio Air Logistics Center, Kelly Air Force Base, Texas.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Tech Sgt. Bill Thompson)

Did you know?

  • The cargo hold of the C-5 is one foot longer than the entire length of the first powered flight by the Wright Brothers at Kitty Hawk.
  • On Sept. 13, 2009, a C-5M set 41 new records and flight data was submitted to the National Aeronautic Association for formal recognition. The C-5M had carried a payload of 176,610 lbs. to over 41,100 feet in 23 minutes, 59 seconds. Additionally, the world record for greatest payload to 6,562 feet (2,000m) was broken.

A load team from the 352nd Maintenance Squadron, along with the crew of a C-5 Galaxy from Travis Air Force Base, Calif., loads a 21st Special Operations Squadron MH-53M Pave Low IV helicopter to be transported to the ‘Boneyard,’ or the Aerospace Maintenance and Regeneration Group in Tucson, Ariz., Oct. 5, 2007.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Tech Sgt. Tracy L. Demarco)

General characteristics

  • Primary Function: Outsize cargo transport
  • Prime Contractor: Lockheed Martin-Georgia Co.
  • Power Plant: Four F-138-GE100 General Electric engines
  • Thrust: 51,250 pounds per engine
  • Wingspan: 222 feet 9 inches (67.89 meters)
  • Length: 247 feet 10 inches (75.3 meters)
  • Height: 65 feet 1 inch (19.84 meters)

The C-5 Galaxy has been the largest aircraft in the Air Force inventory since 1969.

(Graphic by Travis Burcham)

Cargo compartment

  • Height: 13 feet 6 inches (4.11 meters)
  • Width: 19 feet (5.79 meters)
  • Length: 143 feet, 9 inches (43.8 meters)
  • Pallet Positions: 36
  • Maximum Cargo: 281,001 pounds (127,460 Kilograms)
  • Maximum Takeoff Weight: 840,000 pounds (381,024 kilograms)
  • Speed: 518 mph
  • Unrefueled Range of C-5M: Approximately 5,524 statute miles (4,800 nautical miles) with 120,000 pounds of cargo; approximately 7,000 nautical miles with no cargo on board.
  • Crew: Pilot, co-pilot, two flight engineers and three loadmasters

Capt. Grant Bearden (left) and Lt. Col. Timothy Welter, both pilots with the 709th Airlift Squadron, go over their pre-flight checklist in the C-5M Super Galaxy March 28, 2016, at Naval Air Station Pensacola, Fla. Reservists from Dover Air Force Base, Del., in the 512th Airlift Wing, conducted an off-station training event to satisfy most deployment requirements in one large exercise.

(U.S. Air Force photo by apt. Bernie Kale)

This article originally appeared on Airman Magazine. Follow @AirmanMagazine on Twitter.

Articles

First 10 women graduate from Infantry Officer Course

Ten female lieutenants completed the first step in becoming U.S. Army infantry platoon leaders on Wednesday by graduating from the first gender-integrated class of Infantry Officer Basic Leader Course.


Twelve women started the 17-week course at Fort Benning, Georgia, and 10 met the standards to graduate alongside 156 male classmates.

“The training of an infantry lieutenant is a process until they step in front of that rifle platoon, and this is but the very first step in that process,” Lt. Col. Matthew Weber, battalion commander of the course, told reporters Wednesday at Fort Benning. “It’s a critical one because we are very much focused on training and preparing the soldiers, the lieutenants, to ultimately lead a rifle platoon.”

FILE – Soldiers participate in the U.S. Army Special Operations Command’s Cultural Support Assessment and Selection program. | US Army photo by Staff Sgt. Russell Klika

The graduation of first 10 women from the infantry course comes a little more than a year after Capt. Kristen Griest and 1st Lt. Shaye Haver became the first women to graduate Army Ranger School in August 2015. Maj. Lisa A. Jaster became the third woman to graduate from a gender-integrated Ranger course two months later.

Defense Secretary Ash Carter in December ordered all military jobs, including special operations, opened to women. His directive followed a 2013 Pentagon order that the military services open all positions to women by early 2016.

Army officials maintain that it hasn’t taken long for gender integration to become the norm in training.

“We have been integrating women into the military for years; they have fought and bled beside us for years,” said Maj. Gen. Eric Wesley, commanding general of the Maneuver Center of Excellence at Fort Benning. “This is an important moment, but this is something that is in many ways business as usual.”

Fort Benning officials would not release the names of the 10 female graduates. Their next stop is Ranger School, Weber said.

Then, whether they are successful or not, they will go into other courses, including Airborne School, Striker Leader Course and then Mechanized Leader Course — a process that will take about a year to complete.

“Once they have completed all those courses, then we will have deemed them fit to lead whatever type formation out in [Forces Command] and they will depart Fort Benning,” Weber said.

Female infantry officers will leave Fort Benning and go to Fort Hood, Texas, and Fort Bragg, North Carolina, Wesley said.

Army Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Milley has directed that gender-integration first focus on leaders at those two installations, Wesley said.

“We are priming the pump and enabling success by initially focusing on two installations and then ultimately they will start to migrate out to other installations,” he said.

Griest and Haver are following the same path.

Griest, a military police officer from Connecticut, was granted transfer to the infantry branch April 25, 2016. Haver, an AH-64 Apache helicopter pilot from Arizona, has been approved to transfer into the infantry, and “we are still awaiting final word on when that is going to come down,” said Brig. Gen. Peter Jones, commandant of the Infantry School.

“Upfront, I will tell you this makes us a better Army and the reason it makes us a better Army is that this whole issue has driven us — it has been a forcing function, to ensure that we had the right standards aligned to each occupational specialty in the Army,” Wesley said.

Establishing gender-neutral standards has been the “culmination of two years of different work done by Training and Doctrine Command, with physical scientists looking at what is the physiology of moving weight and what is the difference between infantrymen and field artillerymen?” Jones said.

“We have the scientific data that shows these are the propensity skills that you have to do and the physiology to do those.”

Benning officials maintain that gender integration has not lowered standards.

“There has been no change in the standards,” said Infantry Officer Basic Leader Course Command Sgt. Major Joe Davis. “There is no change in the course … we are in the business of producing leaders. It doesn’t matter if they are male or females.”

MIGHTY TRENDING

The Navy will now fly Super Hornets until the 2040s

The Navy budget gives the service its long-sought-after F/A-18 Super Hornet increase by adding 14 fighters and more than $1 billion in procurement funds — all as part of a sweeping effort to increase the F-18 fleet size, meet mission requirements, accommodate new technologies, and ultimately fly alongside the F-35C through the 2040s.


Given the recent war-driven op-tempo involving global deployments and air strikes on ISIS, most of the F/A-18 E/F fleet, on average, has already consumed more half of its 6,000-flight hour expected service life. As a result, there has been a long-standing, multi-year Navy effort to acquire new F/A-18s in larger numbers to address urgent needs from combatant commanders.

Also read: This is the inside story behind the F-18 Super Hornet’s first enemy jet kill

When the F/A-18A and F/A-18C reach 8,000 flight hours, they are sent to the depot for service life extension upgrades with the hope of getting the airframes to 10,000 hours. However, many of the older aircraft are in need of substantial repairs and, in recent years, a large percentage of the Navy’s fleet of older Hornets have not been in service.

Two U.S. Navy F/A-18 Super Hornets of Strike Fighter Squadron 31 fly a combat patrol over Afghanistan, Dec. 15, 2008. (Staff Sgt. Aaron Allmon, U.S. Air Force)

“Extension of legacy Hornet life requires additional inspections and deep maintenance that were not originally envisioned for the aircraft. Average repair time has significantly increased because of required engineering of unanticipated repairs, material lead times, and increased corrosion of airframes,” the Navy budget document writes.

As part of a specific effort to address this scenario, the Navy’s new budget request increases fund for civilian maintenance personnel hiring, depot-level maintenance work, and sustainment initiatives. The goal of this, according to Navy budget documents, is to “decrease the time to complete depot level maintenance caused by the number of high flight hours.”

Related: Watch this crazy video of a Navy F-18 intercepting a UFO

Navy officials have told Warrior Maven that modifications include replacing the center barrel (section) and ensuring the airframe structures achieve 100% service life. Additional modifications increase the total landing limit and modifications to catapult attachment components can be incorporated to extend total catapults, service developers have described.

A US Navy F/A-18F Super Hornet, Strike Fighter Squadron 41. (TSGT Rob Tabor, U.S. Air Force)

A carrier air wing consists of about 44 strike aircraft made up of two 10-aircraft squadrons and two 12-plane squadrons complemented by several electrical jamming aircraft.

More: Coming to a highway near you: Finnish F-18s

The current composition of most carrier-based air wings includes 24 Super Hornets and 20 Hornets, however the Navy plans to replace some of its existing Hornets with F-35Cs. Although the budget does increase F-35C acquisition as well, the emergence of the carrier-launched stealth fighter will not remove combatant commanders need for the F-18.

The Navy had been planning for the Super Hornets to serve well into the 2030s, but now service leaders say that timeline will need to extend into the 2040s.

The Navy plans to acquire as many as 60 new F-35C aircraft over the next five years, according to the service budget request.

MIGHTY TRENDING

3 stories you may have missed for the week of December 22

As Christmas approaches and we finish up our holiday shopping, it’s difficult to keep track of all the incredible stories that pop up. Fortunately, WATM is here to do all your heavy lifting, bringing you the big stories you may have missed during the week of December 22.


Also Read: Watch airmen change a tire on the world’s most advanced fighter

3. These Ukrainian schoolchildren don’t fear the sounds of war after living through it for more than three years.

The war in eastern Ukraine that has claimed more than 10,000 lives and wounded thousands of others will turn four years old this upcoming April. Small-arms fire and artillery shelling have, unfortunately, become white noise for inhabitants of the cities along the front lines, Avdiivka and Marinka.

The constant bombardment has caused many locals in the area to become desensitized to their own well-being.

“[The] children don’t care about their safety anymore,” a school principal states.

Ukrainian school children smile as they carry away their new backpacks Aug. 31, 2015. (U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Alexander Skripnichuk, 13th Public Affairs Detachment)

The school’s windows are boarded up with sandbags, and the frequent bombings have become a part of their everyday lives.

2. Putin says ex-Soviet countries threatened by militants.

Russian President Vladimir Putin said that former Soviet countries were being threatened by militants using the Middle East and Central Asia as a springboard for expansion.

Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Also Read: 5 stories you may have missed for the week of December 16th

1. South Korea fired “warning shots” to fight off Chinese fishing boats.

Reportedly, the South Korean Coast Guard fired over 240 “warning shots” at Chinese fishing boats as they crowded around one of their patrol boats in their waters.

The coast guard commonly runs off Chinese boats who illegally fish in South Korean waters.

South Korean Coast Guard on patrol.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Topgun Days: Dogfighting, cheating death and Hollywood Glory

We here at SOFREP recently made the acquaintance of Dave “Bio” Baranek. We were interested in doing a review of his upcoming book “Tomcat RIO.” Baranek agreed to send us his book for review, but as a bonus he recently also sent us a copy of his previous book “Topgun Days” for us to look over.

Baranek was an F-14 RIO (Radar Intercept Officer). He not only flew Tomcats in real-world missions but became an instructor at the Navy’s Topgun school. He also worked closely on the Tom Cruise film “Top Gun.” (An interesting footnote is the Navy has Topgun as one word while Hollywood had it as two.)


When Baranek’s book arrived in the mail, I was scanning the movie channels for an action film and Top Gun popped up. Was it fate? So, switching off the television, I sat in a chair, where’d I remain for the next several hours, because once you begin reading the book, it puts its hooks into you right away and you won’t be able to put it down. This move much irked my wife who was expecting yours truly to be helping put stuff away from our recent move.

One of the first chapters deals with Baranek ejecting from the Tomcat’s GRU-7A into the Indian Ocean. The ejection subjects pilots to forces of 20 Gs which makes them blackout for a few seconds. Baranek was heavily entangled in his parachute lines and silk but managed to free himself, and — in testimony to the speed and professionalism of the rescue choppers — spent only about three minutes in the Indian Ocean.

Baranek went through Topgun school in 1982. He was the only one from his class of 451 pilots, from the flight school of 1980, to be chosen. One of the things that was interesting is that Baranek stated that the Topgun instructors were not arrogant or swaggering but delivered their lectures with enthusiasm and a seemingly limitless amount of knowledge on the subject matter.

After his graduation, he returned to his squadron. He was then selected to return to Topgun, this time as an instructor. For Navy combat pilots, that is the pinnacle.

Nearly all fighter pilots have very cool nicknames or call-signs. Baranek chose “Bionic” because it sounded like Baranek. But being thin, the Navy pilots didn’t believe he looked very bionic so it was shortened to “Bio.”

Of course, he was an instructor at Topgun when the Hollywood people came around in 1985 to begin filming the movie which made the Tomcats and the school so famous with the public.

The F-5 fighters, which were the ones the instructors flew as aggressor aircraft for the school, were normally painted in camouflage patterns that Navy pilots might encounter on deployment somewhere in the world: They would either be of a green and brown camouflage, similar to the Soviet-style, or painted in a tan that would blend in with the desert environment in the Middle East.

But for the Tony Scott film, the producers had the F-5s painted flat black with a red star on the tail. The planes were called MiG-28s — a fictional aircraft that did not exist. The film director and cameramen got some incredible footage from the F-14s. The quality and dramatic effect of the shots even impressed the Tomcat pilots.

Baranek’s wife got to kiss Tom Cruise on the cheek and they met some of the other actors including Anthony Edwards (Goose), Michael Ironside (Jester), and Tom Skerrit. I remember my own wife being similarly star-struck meeting Mark Wahlberg and Flash Gordon on the set of Ted 2 in Boston. Seeing those pictures and remembering these moments reinforces how our families are a big part of what we do.

The Navy officially retired Tomcats from active service in 2006, but due to Tom Cruise’s film, they live on as one of those iconic aircraft in the public’s imagination. An interesting fact is that most of the naval aviators of today weren’t even born when Cruise, Anthony Edwards, and Val Kilmer rocked across the screen in 1986. And Cruise has just recently finished another Top Gun film.

Baranek completed a 20-year career in the Navy, starting with assignments to F-14 Tomcat squadrons and the elite Topgun training program, and a later assignment to the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the U.S. 7th Fleet. He commanded an F-14 Tomcat fighter squadron, with nearly 300 people and 14 aircraft worth about 0 million. He completed his career with 2,499.7 F-14 Tomcat flight hours and 688 carrier landings. His logbook also records 461.8 flight hours in the F-5F Tiger II.

As Special Forces guys, we always joked about fighter pilots: “What’s the difference between God and a fighter pilot?” Answer: “God doesn’t think he’s a fighter pilot.” Pilots would also poke fun at us. One of the pilots I knew would always ask if we picked the gravel out of our knuckles. But the respect is always there.

A particularly gripping aspect of “Topgun Days” is the fantastic aerial photography that Baranek took. The book is peppered with some great pictures that put the reader right smack in either an F-14 or F-5.

Baranek’s “Topgun Days” is a page-turner and comes very highly recommended. Its 322 pages with awesome photography will zip by in the blink of an eye. “I feel the need…the need for speed.”

This article originally appeared on SOFREP. Follow @sofrepofficial on Twitter.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

The Air Force’s ‘Doomsday plane’ is spent

The E-4B “Nightwatch” plane, which would allow the president to give military orders in the event of a nuclear war and has served as a mobile Pentagon for defense secretaries, is worn out, Defense One’s Marcus Weisgerber reports.

The so-called Doomsday plane — which is the Air Force’s four E-4Bs and the Navy’s E-6B “Mercury” — has been in service since the 1970s, much like Air Force One, and is expected to keep flying through the 2020s. But to preserve the planes, Secretary of Defense Mark Esper has had to use other military aircraft when traveling, including a C-17 Globemaster and a C-32 airliner, both smaller than the E-4B.

“A number of aircraft are in a maintenance status to ensure they remain flyable for this no-fail mission for the next decade,” Lt. Col. David Faggard, an Air Force spokesman, told Defense One.


“Upgrades and maintenance include avionics, wiring, communication equipment, and other components to ensure the platform remains viable in a modern world,” Faggard said.

The E-4B dates to the 1970s, but it needs to have advanced technology to carry out its most important mission — directing US forces in a nuclear war.

(US Department of Defense)

The distinctive hump behind the cockpit of the aircraft holds satellite antennae, and the plane’s advanced electronics allows the president to order nuclear missile launches from assets on land, in the air, and at sea. It also has no windows except the ones at the cockpit.

The Air Force would not say exactly how many of the aircraft were in for repairs and upgrades, but the number of issues that the E-4B and its Navy counterpart, the E-6B, have faced recently are worrisome.

As Defense One reports, it’s sometimes difficult to obtain parts for the aircraft because they’re so old. And in 2011, an E-4B carrying then-Defense Secretary Robert Gates broke down on the runway in Belgium.

Just weeks ago, one of the Navy’s E-6B Mercury planes was grounded after it hit a bird, causing at least million in damages. In March 2019, another E-6B made an emergency landing in Oklahoma after a fire broke out on board.

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

6 dos and don’ts you need to know to become a better marksman

Rifle marksmanship is one of the handful of skills that everyone in the military needs to master. It doesn’t matter if you’re an infantryman, a special operator, or an admin clerk in the Reserves, everyone needs to master the fundamentals of marksmanship.

Being well-versed in marksmanship is what makes all of America’s warfighters, without exception, deadly in combat. If that wasn’t enough of an incentive, it’s also the one badge that every troop, service-wide, wears to signify their combat prowess. The marksmanship badge holds enough weight that a young private with expert could easily flex on a senior NCO with just a pizza box.

Here’s what you need to know:


These fundamentals can be applied to stress shoots, too.

(U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Elvis Umanzor)

Don’t: overthink it

There are just four things (outside of the obvious safety concerns) to worry about while you’re firing a weapon. These four basic components are drilled into every Army recruit’s head while at basic and they’ve been incorporated into marching cadences: steady, aim, breathe, fire. This should be your mental checklist before you take a shot.

Are you and the weapon in a steady position? Are the sights properly aligned to ensure accuracy? Are you breathing normally and timing your shots accordingly? Is your finger comfortably aligned with your trigger so you can pull it straight back?

Hey, man. It’s cheap, you can practice the fundamentals of marksmanship, and it’s fun.

(Screengrab via YouTube / ThePinballCompany)

Do: practice as much as you can

There are countless drills that you can do if your armorer lets you draw your weapon. For example, there’s the famous “washer and dime” drill. You can test how well you’re following the 4 fundamentals mentioned above by placing a single washer or dime on the barrel of an unloaded rifle. If your stance is good, your aiming isn’t jerky, your breathing is regular, and your trigger squeeze is solid, the balancing dime shouldn’t fall when you pull the trigger.

In the absence of your rifle, as odd as it sounds, you can still get some “range” time at your local arcade. If you spend your entire attention on the four fundamentals, playing some coin-operated shooter video game can be great practice. You’ll have to worry less about aiming, though — those machines are almost always misaligned.

Spend a little extra time getting everything just right.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Jericho Crutcher)

Don’t: rush zeroing

No two people will have the same sight picture, so you need to zero your almost nearly every time. Even something as slight as adjusting where you place your cheek against the buttstock will readjust the sight picture.

Even if you’ve spent the entire afternoon getting everything to surgeon-level precision, do it again. Endure whatever asschewing you’ll get from higher ups and belittlement from your peers because you’re not hurrying along.

The only terrible part of the day is having to police call the ammo.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Tiffany Edwards)

Do: relax

Firing a weapon is meditative for some people. Leave your stresses and worries at the bleachers because, right now, it’s just you and your firearm. In that brief moment when the range safety calls your lane hot, all you need to think about is hitting the target.

Don’t be intimidated by your weapon. You’re almost certainly safe if you’re on the opposite side of the barrel. There will be a bit of a kick when you fire — that’s normal. If you start anticipating the kick, you’re going to screw up all the four fundamentals because you’ll be more worried about how your weapon nudges your shoulder.

Enjoy the fact that you’re not spending your own money on ammunition or range time. If you miss a target, who cares? Don’t waste ammo trying to shoot that target a second time. The Army’s rifle qualification is 40 targets with 40 rounds. If you fire and the target doesn’t go down, don’t spend two more rounds trying to hit it or else you just screwed yourself out of two more potential hits.

Hate to sound like that guy, but someone else can and will take care of it. Don’t stress.

(U.S. Navy photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Peter Lewis)

Don’t: panic if your weapon jams

There’re plenty of different ways that your weapon might act up, preventing you from putting more rounds down range. The easiest fix is simply slapping the bottom of your lowest-bidder magazine to ensure that the next round enters the chamber.

If it’s something that takes more than a few seconds to fix yourself, simply clear your weapon and place it on the sandbags. Explain what happened to the nearest range safety officer and you’ll probably get another crack at qualifications next round.

There is a method to the madness. If your NCO is having you clean them days or weeks after the range (and you already cleaned them then), they’re just looking for busy work.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Margo Wright)

Do: clean your weapon afterwords

There’s a very good reason that they tell you to clean every single crevice of your rifle every time. A rifle is made up of many tiny, precise mechanisms that need to be perfectly clean and in order to avoid any kind of malfunction. A small carbon build-up can wreck the chamber of a rifle worse than any kind of mud.

On the bright side, while you’re taking your weapon apart and cleaning it thoroughly, you’ll grow a deeper understanding of how these little parts all work in relation to one another. Before you know it, you’ll think of your rifle as an extension of your body.

MIGHTY TRENDING

It’s confirmed: North Korea has a hydrogen bomb

The bomb North Korea tested earlier this month was a hydrogen bomb, according to the US military.


North Korea conducted its sixth nuclear test on Sept. 3, detonating a suspected staged thermonuclear device. In the aftermath, Pyongyang claimed it had successfully tested a hydrogen bomb for its new Hwasong-14 intercontinental ballistic missile, which can strike parts, if not most, of the continental US.

The seismic data indicates the bomb was significantly larger than anything the North has tested before. The blast was so powerful that it literally moved mountains.

Where as the bomb tested last September had an explosive yield of roughly 15 kilotons, the most recent test had an explosive yield potentially in excess of 300 kilotons.

“The size of the weapon shows that there clearly was a secondary explosion,” Air Force Gen. John Hyten, head of US Strategic Command, said Sept. 14 afternoon before being pulled away to deal with the latest North Korean missile test, according to Defense News.

“I saw the event, I saw the indications that came from that event,” he told reporters. “I saw the size, I saw the reports. and therefore, to me, I am assuming it was a hydrogen bomb.”

“The change from the original atomic bomb to the hydrogen bomb for the United States changed our entire deterrent relationship with the Soviet Union,” Hyten explained. “It changes the entire relationship because of the sheer destruction and damage you can use, you can create with a weapon that size.”

“That has the capability to destroy a city,” he stated.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

This anti-aircraft Stryker is really good at killing tanks

The Army is pursuing a new variant of the Stryker wheeled armored fighting vehicle, the Stryker Initial Maneuver Short-Range Air-Defense system, or Stryker IM-SHORAD. As the name implies, this vehicle will specialize in knocking nearby airborne targets out of the sky — but it’s not exclusively a threat to drones, helicopters, and tactical jets. Tanks and armored vehicles will need to watch their step, too.

According to reports, this vehicle is going to pack a lot of firepower options. At the heart of the Stryker IM-SHORAD is the Reconfigurable Integrated-weapons Platform from Moog — a versatile turret that can be configured to support a wide range of weapons options.


The loadout that the Army has selected will feature a 30mm M230 chain gun (similar to that on the AH-64 Apache), a M240 7.62mm machine gun, four FIM-92 Stinger surface-to-air missiles, and a pair of AGM-114 Hellfire missiles. What this means, in short, is that just about any main battle tank or armored vehicle can be killed by Stryker IM-SHORAD.

This configuration of the Reconfigurable Integrated Weapons platform packs a M230 chain gun, a M240 machine gun, and the BGM-71 TOW.

(Moog)

The Army is reportedly planning on buying four battalions’ worth of these vehicles — a grand total of 144 — by 2022. That distills down to 36 vehicles per battalion — yeah, that number seems a little low to us, too. The fact of the matter is, in a potential fight with a peer competitor (like Russia or China), the Army will need some sort of air defense alongside maneuver units on the ground. This would not be the first vehicle the Army has tested with both anti-air and anti-tank capability. The Air Defense Anti-Tank System, or ADATS, was developed but never purchased by the Army.

The ADATS system was tested by the Army in the 1980s.

(US Army)

This may not be the only setup the Army goes with for the short-range air-defense mission. The Army is looking to adopt new, innovative weapons systems (these could range from electronic warfare to lasers weaponry) by as early as 2023.

Only time will tell if these futuristic weapon options make the Stryker IM-SHORADs look like a primitive solution.

Articles

The USS England was a Japanese sub’s worst nightmare during World War II

Sometimes there can be total domination by an individual or a team.


In sports, we could see it in something like Gayle Sayers scoring six touchdowns in a game, or Randy Johnson pitching a perfect game. In war, it can be racking up a lot of kills in quick succession, like Chuck Yeager’s becoming an “ace in a day.”

So here is the rarely-told story of how one destroyer escort, the USS England (DE 635), pulled off utter dominance in anti-submarine warfare – six kills in less than two weeks. The famed Second Support Group lead by Frederick J. Walker of HMS Starling in its best stretch took 19 days to get six kills (31 January, 1944 to 19 February, 1944).

USS England was a Buckley-class destroyer escort, displacing 1,400 tons with a top speed of 23 knots, and was armed with three 3-inch guns; a quad 1.1-inch gun; some small anti-aircraft guns; three 21-inch torpedo tubes; a “Hedgehog” anti-submarine mortar; and a number of depth charge launchers. This was a potent arsenal against aircraft, surface vessels, and submarines.

Kill One – 18 May, 1944

The USS England was operating with two sister ships, the USS George (DE-697) and the USS Raby (DE-698) when she was ordered to intercept the Japanese submarine I-16. Navy codebreakers had cracked a message that I-16 was delivering supplies to Japanese troops. The England made five attacks using the Hedgehog and scored the kill.

Kill Two – 22 May, 1944

Again, Navy codebreakers provided information on Japanese intentions. This time, they sent a line of subs to sit astride a route that Adm. Bill Halsey had used to move the Third Fleet on two previous occasions. The USS George first detected the Japanese submarine RO-106 at 3:50 AM local time on May 22, but missed. Less than an hour later, the USS England fired the first salvo of Hedgehogs and missed. But at 5:01, the England’s second salvo scored hits that triggered an explosion.

Kill Three – 23 May, 1944

After scoring that kill, the three destroyer escorts began scouting for the rest of the line. The next day, the American vessels found the Japanese RO-104. The USS Raby and USS George missed with eight Hedgehog attacks over two hours, starting at 6:17 in the morning. The USS England then took over, scoring on her second attack at 8:34 AM.

Kill Four – 24 May, 1944

The American destroyer escorts continued their sweep up the Japanese submarine picket line. A half-hour later, the England made sonar contact, and after 24 minutes, launched a Hedgehog attack, putting the Japanese sub RO-116 on the bottom.

Kill Five – 26 May, 1944

Eventually a hunter-killer group consisting of the Casablanca-class escort carrier USS Hoggatt Bay (CVE 75) and the Fletcher-class destroyers USS Hazelwood (DD 531), USS Heerman (DD 532), USS Hoel (DD 533), and USS McCord (DD 534) relieved the three destroyer escorts. The escorts maintained their search formation, and came across the RO-108. USS England picked up the target at 11:04 PM, then launched an attack with Hedgehogs, scoring direct hits on her first salvo.

Kill Six – 31 May, 1944

After re-supplying, the three destroyer escorts were joined by the USS Spangler (DE-696), another Buckley-class destroyer escort. They re-joined the Hoggatt Bay hunter-killer group, and continued their mission. On May 30, the hunt began when USS Hazelwood picked up the RO-105 on radar at 1:56 AM. Commander Hamilton Hains, the escort commander, ordered England to hold back. A depth-charge attack failed, leading to a lethal 25-hour game of cat and mouse during which over 20 hedgehog attacks missed. Finally, Hains sent the England in. One salvo of hedgehog later, RO-105 was on the bottom of the Pacific.

Rear Adm. Samuel Eliot Morison wrote that Hains later sent a message to USS England, asking “God damn it, how do you do it?”

The response from Cmdr. C.A. Thorwall, the CO of Destroyer Escort Division 40, who has his flag on board USS England, was both witty and politically incorrect.

“Personnel and equipment worked with the smoothness of well-oiled clockwork. As a result of our efforts, Recording Angel working overtime checking in [Japanese] submariners joining Honorable Ancestors,” Morrison was quoted as saying in Volume VIII of his History of United States Naval Operations of World War II.

Admiral Ernest J. King vowed, “There will always be an England in the United States Navy.”

After her exploits, the USS England carried out escort missions. She would not see much more action until May 9, 1945, when she was attacked by three dive bombers. England shot one down, but the plane crashed into her, forcing the ship to return to the United States for repairs.

The end of World War II lead to the ship’s decommissioning the month after Japan surrendered. And she was sold for scrap in 1946.

In 1963, a Leahy-class destroyer leader was named USS England (DLG 22). Later re-designated a cruiser, this ship served in the Navy until being decommissioned in 1994, and sold for scrap 10 years later.

To date, there are no ships currently in service or under construction with the name USS England.

Articles

Trump nominates VA undersecretary to take over top job

President-elect Donald Trump on Wednesday announced he will nominate Dr. David Shulkin, the undersecretary for health at the Veterans Affairs Department, to take over the top job at the agency.


Trump made the surprise announcement during a press conference in New York, saying Shulkin is “fantastic” and will do a “truly great job,” The Associated Press reported.

Also read: What you need to know about the Navy SEAL Trump picked for his cabinet

If Shulkin is confirmed, he would be the first non-veteran to head the VA. With its nearly $180 billion budget, the VA is the second-largest federal agency behind the Defense Department.

Many veterans groups had pushed for Trump to keep current VA Secretary Robert McDonald on the job, but the president-elect has signaled he wants someone else to reform the agency in part by giving vets more access to private care — an issue he frequently raised during his campaign.

Photo by Robert Turtil | Department of Veterans Affairs

A selection for the post, expected last month, was delayed after the two frontrunners — Dr. Delos “Toby” Cosgrove, an Air Force veteran who served in Vietnam and president and CEO of the Cleveland Clinic, and Luis Quinonez, an Army veteran of Vietnam and founder of IQ Management Services — dropped out of consideration.

Shulkin was confirmed for his current position at the VA in 2015. In that role, he oversees the Veterans Health Administration and a health care system that covers nearly nine million veterans across more than 1,700 sites.

A physician, Shulkin has previously served as president at Morristown Medical Center, Goryeb Children’s Hospital, Atlantic Rehabilitation Institute and the Atlantic Health System Accountable Care Organization, according to his VA biography. Shulkin also previously served as president and chief executive officer of Beth Israel Medical Center in New York City.

He received his medical degree from the Medical College of Pennsylvania, and completed his internship at Yale University School of Medicine, and residency and fellowship in general medicine at the University of Pittsburgh Presbyterian Medical Center.

Articles

4 other ways the US could shoot down a North Korean ballistic missile

There’s been a lot of talk about North Korea’s nuclear missile potential, as recent tests have worried officials that Pyongyang could lob a nuke at the American homeland.


But the U.S. has some tools to shoot down a potential ICBM streaking toward CONUS. A lot of the anti-missile focus has centered on the Terminal High-Altitude Area Defense system.

One battery of six launchers – each with eight missiles – is being deployed to South Korea to protect that ally from a North Korean missile that either goes astray or is deliberately fired at South Korea.

But are there other options? The good news is that not all of America’s missile-defense eggs are in the THAAD basket. Here are some of the other options out there.

A Patriot Air and Missile Defense launcher fires an interceptor during a previous test at White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico. The latest configuration of the system, called PDB-8, has passed four flight tests and is now with the U.S. Army for a final evaluation. | Raytheon

1. MIM-104 Patriot – including Patriot PAC-3

This system has been doing the anti-missile thing since Operation Desert Storm.

Batteries in Saudi Arabia and Israel intercepted numerous versions of the SS-1 Scud fired by Saddam Hussein’s regime. An official DOD report from 1996 noted an 80 percent success rate in Saudi Arabia and a 50 percent success rate in Israel using the MIM-104C versions. Designation-Systems.net notes that the MIM-104E version has been in service since 2002, while the PAC-3 version came into service in 2003.

Japan Flight Test Mission 1, marked the first time that an Allied Navy ship has successfully intercepted a ballistic missile target with the sea-based midcourse engagement capability provided by Aegis Ballistic Missile Defense. The JFTM-1 test event verified the new engagement capability of the Aegis BMD configuration of the recently upgraded Japanese destroyer, JS KONGO (DDG-173).

2. RIM-161 Standard Missile SM-3

The Navy’s SM-3 system is probably one of the most reliable missile killers in the inventory. According to a Missile Defense Agency fact sheet, the SM-3 has hit its target in 27 out of 34 tests. That is a 79.4 percent success rate.

Furthermore, this system has one advantage over THAAD and Patriot: Being ship-based, it can be moved to a more ideal intercept position. The system is also very capable – Designation-Systems.net credits the RIM-161A missile with a range of over 270 nautical miles – and the RIM-161D is being tested now.

The system forms the basis of “Aegis Ashore.”

According to the Missile Defense Agency website, Aegis Ashore is being deployed in Romania and Poland. With the proven Aegis system, it would not be surprising to see more Aegis Ashore complexes built.

As part of a joint Missile Defense Agency/U.S. Navy missile defense test, an AQM-37C cruise missile target was launched from an aircraft July 31 west of Kauai, Hawaii. The USS John Paul Jones, positioned west of Hawaii, detected, tracked and launched a SM-6 Dual I missile, resulting in a third successful target intercept This was the third event in a series of joint Missile Defense Agency/U.S. Navy missile defense tests.

3. RIM-66 SM-2 and RIM-174 SM-6 Standard Missiles

These missiles, while primarily intended to kill aircraft, have gone six-for-six in tests anti-missile tests, according to the Missile Defense Agency. While not as capable as the SM-3, they can still take out an incoming missile before it does damage.

Both systems, it should be noted, could also be used from Aegis Ashore systems — in essence, creating a very powerful air-defense network in addition to defending against ballistic missiles from North Korea.

A Ground-Based Interceptor is transported to its silo. (Missile Defense Agency photo)

4. Ground-Based Interceptor

This system adds a way to thin out incoming missiles as well. According to the Missile Defense Agency, 30 of these missiles are deployed between Fort Greely in Alaska and Vandenberg Air Force Base in California. A fact sheet from the Missile Defense Agency notes that the system’s shown a 52.97 percent success rate in 17 tests.

There are two problems with the GBI, of course: There are only 30 deployed, and none are on the East Coast.

The Missile Defense Agency website notes they are looking into new technologies, as well, especially for what they call Early Intercept.