Boasting that Russia’s nuclear arsenal has already surpassed its competitors, Russian President Vladimir Putin issued a fire and brimstone warning to his nuclear rivals Oct. 18, 2018.
In the event of a nuclear war, “the aggressor should know that retaliation is inevitable, and he will be destroyed,” Putin said at an international policy forum in Sochi. “We would be victims of an aggression and would get to go to heaven as martyrs. They will simply drop dead. They won’t even have time to repent.”
“We have run ahead of the competition,” he bragged.
“No one has precision hypersonic weapons. Others are planning to start testing them within the next 1½ to 2 years, and we already have them on duty,” Putin claimed, potentially referencing the Kinzhal air-launched hypersonic missile.
The Avangard hypersonic boost-glide vehicle, which Putin said can travel up to 20 times the speed of sound, hitting a target “like a meteorite, like a ball of fire,” is set to enter service in the near future.
This weapon can reportedly carry a conventional or nuclear warhead with an explosive yield ranging from 150 kilotons to one megaton, the Russian news outlet TASS introduced in March 2018.
The Kh-47M2 Kinzhal air-launched hypersonic missile being carried by a Mikoyan MiG-31K interceptor.
The US military, facing competition from both Russia and China on hypersonic weapons, is scrambling to catch up. The Army, Navy, and Air Force are jointly working to develop advanced hypersonic systems for next-level warfighting. The US is also interested in modernizing its nuclear arsenal.
While Putin delivered his message focused on the nuclear destruction of Russia’s enemies, he insisted that his country would never strike first.
“Only when we become convinced that there is an incoming attack on the territory of Russia, and that happens within seconds, only after that we would launch a retaliatory strike,” he said. “It would naturally mean a global catastrophe, but I want to emphasize that we can’t be those who initiate it because we don’t foresee a preventive strike.”
Russia dropped its “no-first-use pledge” in the early 1990s, writing a new nuclear doctrine with certain loopholes and exceptions.
The Russian president’s tough and damning rhetoric comes amid heightened tensions between Russia and the US and its NATO allies.
Starting late October 2018, US forces, along with NATO allies and partners, will take part in a massive war game involving tens of thousands of troops, as well as numerous vehicles, ships, and aircraft. The drills are designed to send a strong deterrence message to Russia.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
When the US Air Force took delivery of its four E-4B Nightwatch ‘doomsday’ jets, they made sure the small fleet was capable of surviving a nuclear holocaust, its occupants safe and sound within its protective cocoons as they carried out their mission of directing the US military in the aftermath of the end of the world.
As it turns out, the Nightwatch may be able to survive a nuclear blast in the air, but the forces of nature are a different matter altogether.
On June 16, a pair of E-4Bs, currently known as “Advanced Airborne Command Posts,” found themselves sitting in the path of a tornado while parked at Offutt AFB in Nebraska. Though both aircraft were pulled into hangars, their tailplanes still sat somewhat exposed and suffered the wrath of the tornado, taking enough damage to keep them grounded and inoperable.
A number of RC-135 reconnaissance aircraft, also parked at Offutt at the time, were affected by the storm but were quickly repaired and returned to service.
The extent of the damage is unclear, though it’s probable that these two aircraft will be out of service for the time being as the Air Force and Boeing both evaluate and determine a course of action to repair them. The two remaining Nightwatches were away from Offutt at the time — one undergoing an overhaul, while the other is currently operational.
The tailplane of the Nightwatch does house one of its mission systems — a 5-mile long antenna which can be spooled out the rear of the aircraft while in-flight. This antenna allows the battle staff aboard the E-4B to communicate with the US Navy’s ballistic missile submarines while they’re underway. It’s definitely likely that this part of the aircraft, known as the Trailing Wire Antenna, sustained some damage during the storm.
The E-4B, formerly known as the National Airborne Operations Center, entered service with the Air Force in the 1970s, replacing older EC-135J “Looking Glass” aircraft, as “doomsday planes” — command posts that allow members of the US National Command Authority to stay in touch with the military during a catastrophic event. Each Nightwatch is equipped with an advanced communications suite that facilitates this, allowing it to virtually contact anything connected to a phone line in the entire world.
Today, Nightawtch serves as the Secretary of Defense’s official transport, ferrying him across the world on state-sponsored trips to foster good relationships with American military partners. Because of its communications abilities, the E-4B allows the SECDEF to remain constantly up-to-date on US military activity no matter where he is, even while flying.
The Air Force recently tendered a $73 million contract to support the E-4B’s expansive communications systems over the next seven years, though it’s possible that the service could potentially consider retiring all Nightwatch jets in the coming years in favor replacing them with newer aircraft with lower operating costs. The current hourly operating figure for a single E-4B is estimated to be at least $159,529 per hour.
Above the heavy financial burdens of flying these converted Boeing 747s, the small fleet is getting harder to support due to its age. The Air Force projects that by 2039, all E-4Bs will have maxed out their lifetime flying hours, necessitating a follow-on aircraft to carry out the same mission on behalf of the Air Force and NCA.
In May, the Air Force announced it would spearhead a joint program with the Navy to seek a replacement for the E-4B and the Navy’s E-6 Mercury. The E-6 is a continuation of the Looking Glass program, and shares a similar role with the Nightwatch fleet, though its mission is more popularly known as TACAMO, short for “Take Charge And Move Out.”
This project will see the Air Force and Navy unite their airborne command post assets under a fleet of identical nuclear-proof aircraft with next-generation communication and sensor systems. There’s no word just yet on whether or not America’s upcoming fleet of doomsday aircraft will be tornado-proof as well, however.
The U.S. Army’s new boss recently got a chance do shoot-house training with the latest Microsoft-based, smart soldier glasses.
Ryan McCarthy, who is now serving as acting secretary of the Army, and incoming Army Chief of Staff Gen. James McConville traveled to Fort Pickett, Virginia earlier this spring to try out early prototypes of the Integrated Visual Augmentation System, or IVAS.
The Army awarded a $480 million contract to Microsoft in November 2018 to develop IVAS — a high-tech device that relies on augmented reality to create a synthetic training environment for soldiers. The experience is reportedly similar to first-person shooter video games. The system is being designed to also be worn in combat, projecting the operator’s weapon sight reticle into the glasses.
“He and I literally put them on, and we went through a shoot house together,” McCarthy told Military.com on a flight to Fort Knox, Kentucky.
“Here’s the thing — they are empty rooms, because we had the synthetic feed.”
The Army’s new Integrated Visual Augmentation system is a single platform that uses augmented reality where soldiers and Marines can fight, rehearse, and train.
McCarthy then described how the IVAS device presented targets that resembled enemy fighters from terrorist groups such as the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria.
“I literally came in a room … and they looked like Taliban targets and ISIS guys with black turbans,” he said. “They had one where they had a guy holding a civilian. It looked like a very good video game.”
IVAS is part of the Army’s effort to create a synthetic training world so soldiers can run through many repetitions of combat scenarios, such as clearing urban areas and engaging enemy forces, without having to leave home station and travel to training facilities.
Leaders can view the data compiled by IVAS during the training to show soldiers where they need improvement.
McCarthy and McConville were joined by Army and Marine Corps sergeants who also took a turn with IVAS.
“We had a bunch of NCOs from the 75th Ranger Regiment and the 1st Marine Division, and they did the shoot house and reminded me that I have been out for a while,” McCarthy chuckled, referring to the days when he served in the Ranger Regiment. McCarthy served in the Army from 1997-2002.
Secretary of the Army Ryan McCarthy.
McCarthy acknowledged that these were early prototypes of IVAS that need further development.
“You would do it for a little bit, and they would go out and [engineers] had to make a tweak and they would get the screen back up,” McCarthy said.
Rangers and Marines liked the technology, he said.
“The one thing that they all really liked about it was the greater depth perception,” he said.
“It was like a pair of glasses … and literally when you are walking through a room and seeing the target, I had depth perception to my left and right, so I could see down the hallway.”
IVAS replaces the service’s Heads-Up Display 3.0 effort to develop a sophisticated situational awareness tool soldiers can use to view key tactical information before their eyes.
Officials hope to complete the prototyping phase on IVAS by 2020; when the system might be fielded to soldiers is still unclear.
This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @militarydotcom on Twitter.
Most soldiers have a valid reason for joining the military: family, patriotism, better opportunities — chances are they made their mind up long ago. For those who joined during a “huh, that sounds like a good idea!” moment, they probably got the idea after seeing a television commercial or billboard — complete with noteworthy slogans.
While this list is compiled fairly loosely, it still illustrates a range from complete sh*tshow to absolutely iconic:
7. Army of One (2001 to 2006)
Oh boy. There’s no contest on which slogan goes to the very bottom.
Not only did it invoke the sense of individuality over teamwork, but all of the quotes that went on the posters just came off as pretentious.
6. Look Sharp, Be Sharp, Go Army! (1950 to early 70’s)
This slogan was plastered on billboards around the country. But during the draft, the second slogan was kind of…mean: “Your future, your decision…choose ARMY.”
Not really your decision if you’re drafted, huh?
5. Join the people who’ve joined the Army (mid 70’s)
Because of slogans like “Today’s Army Wants to Join You” (whaaaat?) and because of the rumors that there was beer in the barracks and loose rules and things like that, “…it was perceived by a great many Americans that the Army would be an undisciplined Army,” said Secretary of the Army Bo Callaway.
This campaign was very short lived before the Army reverted back to the next entry on our list because of a kickback scandal involving the ad agency. It was fairly basic in just giving the facts. It was created out of the fear of soldiers drinking in the barracks…which totally never happens…
4. Today’s Army Wants to Join You (early 70’s to 1980)
After the Vietnam War came to an end, the Army had a bit of an image problem. Drafting men to fight in an era of hippies took its toll when it came time to transition into an all-volunteer Army.
So the Army loosened many of its restrictions to try to appeal to the more free lifestyle of the youth counter-culture. It was a twist on the classic “I Want You for U.S. Army” poster with the added intensive that the Army would “care more about how you think than how you cut your hair.”
I mean, it was effective. So it lands firmly in the middle of the list.
3. Army Strong (2006 to Present)
After the blunder that was “Army of One,” they decided to strip down the advertisements to just show all the cool things you can do in the Army.
Nothing but the bare bones of soldiers doing awesome things. No lies being spread. No sense of individuality trumping your unit. Just “Look how cool this sh*t is!” Plus it gave us a catchy theme song that gets stuck in everyone’s head after a battalion run.
(The only down side is that the other branches definitely use this slogan against the Army.)
2. Be All You Can Be (1980 to 2001)
The Cold War still had not thawed when they came up with this scheme but then it seemed to fit with everything 80’s and 90’s — so it stuck.
The emphasis was more on using cool promises to get lost high schoolers to join after graduation. I hate to break it to the kid below, but are a lot of steps before you can become a pilot.
The original James M. Flagg poster turned countless heads across the country during the first World War. Even after the armistice, the posters stuck around.
The iconic poster made its round again to bring the Greatest Generation back into the fray. It has since been imitated, referenced, and adapted, even if it was also a reference to the British “Your Country Needs YOU” campaign.
Would you have ranked it differently? Were there any we left out? Let us know in the comment section!
On Monday, SpaceX conducted a short test flight of a full sized prototype of the Starship they say will soon ferry Americans to Mars.
The Starship SN5 Test Vehicle flew for only about 40 seconds on Monday evening before touching back down to earth at SpaceX’s South Texas facility. Short as the Starship’s little hop may have been, it was a significant leap toward SpaceX founder Elon Musk’s goal of mounting crewed missions to Mars.
The SN5 Starship prototype isn’t the first iteration of the Starship to reach take off. Last year, a smaller prototype vehicle called the Starhopper completed a handful of short flights, reaching as high as 500 feet on one launch before returning to the ground. While these short trips may not seem significant, they actually represent two of the most challenging parts of a any space mission: the take off, and the return to earth.
The Starship mirrors the landing capability of SpaceX’s smaller and proven Falcon 9 rockets. The ability to land and re-use rocket stages has dramatically reduced the cost of orbital missions. The ship will eventually utilize an entire Falcon Heavy, the most powerful rocket in service anywhere on earth today, as it’s first stage. The Falcon Heavy utilizes 31 individual Falcon 9 rockets for propulsion and boasts similar reusability.
SpaceX Falcon Heavy during launch (SpaceX)
The SpaceX Starship prototype is powered by a single Raptor engine, but will eventually be equipped with six of the advanced rocket engines, which in conjunction with its powerful first stage, will give the ship a total crew capacity of up to 100 people.
The combination of the Falcon Heavy with the Starship will make SpaceX’s massive rocket entirely reusable, dramatically reducing the costs associated with long-duration space missions to the Moon or Mars. Importantly, the Falcon Heavy is the only rocket currently capable of making the long trip into lunar orbit with a crew onboard.
SpaceX is currently a strong contender for America’s upcoming moon plans to place astronauts on the Lunar surface by the mid-2020s. Japanese billionaire Yusaku Maezawa has already booked a flight around the moon aboard Musk’s Starship slated for 2023.
Australian airline Qantas is taking the next steps towards its goal of having nonstop 19-hour flights between Sydney and London and New York.
The airline has openly discussed the endevour — internally known as “Project Sunrise” — for several years, following the successful launch of a slightly shorter, but still lengthy, nonstop flight between Perth and London in March 2018.
That route is measured as about 9,000 miles and takes around 17 hours, while the Sydney-New York route would be around 10,000 miles, and the Sydney-London flight is about 500 miles longer.
Qantas is scheduled to receive three new Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner aircraft this fall — one each in October, November, and December 2019. The planes are being built at Boeing’s Seattle plant, and would normally be flown by Qantas pilots straight to Australia from there.
(Photo by Suhyeon Choi)
Instead, the airline plans to fly the planes to New York and London first, and then fly nonstop to Sydney from there.
The planes won’t have paying customers — instead, they’ll each have about 40 people on board — including crew — most of whom will be Qantas employees. the airline says it plans to study how those on board react to the lengthy 19-hour flights.
According to the airline, “[s]cientists and medical experts from the Charles Perkins Centre will monitor sleep patterns, food and beverage consumption, lighting, physical movement, and inflight entertainment to assess impact on health, wellbeing and body clock.”
Commercial flights with full or mostly-full passenger loads are not currently possible due to the range of the airplanes available today. Keeping the planes mostly empty will increase their range, making the test flights possible. A normal Qantas 787-9 can seat up to 236 passengers, plus crew, and carry both luggage and cargo, while still achieving a range of about 9,000 miles — the length of the Perth-London flight.
(Photo by John Kappa)
The airline is considering new ultra-long-range aircraft from Boeing and Airbus for the eventual New York and London to Sydney flights — Airbus’ rumored A350-1000ULR airplane, and Boeing 777X project, both of which are still being tested. Qantas has previously said it would make a decision around the end of 2019.
The world’s current longest flight— from Singapore to New York’s Newark Airport — is operated by a Singapore Airlines A350-900ULR configured with only business class and premium economy seats— no regular economy cabin.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
Syrian state media said a military airport near Homs had come under missile attack, which was repelled by its air defense systems on May 24, 2018.
“One of our military airports in the central region was exposed to hostile missile aggression, and our air defense systems confronted the attack and prevented it from achieving its aim,” state news agency SANA said.
Charles Lister, a senior fellow at the Middle East Institute, tweeted that there were reports of “possible #Israel airstrikes underway targeting the Al-Dhaba’a Airbase near Al-Qusayr in #Homs, #Syria.”
Al-Qusayr is an Iranian Revolutionary Guard and Hezbollah stronghold, Lister tweeted.
“Some local users said #Israel strikes,” Joyce Karam, a reporter at The National, also tweeted.
SANA earlier reported sounds of explosions heard near the Dabaa airport near the city of Homs.
Veterans Day isn’t just a day to pause and reflect on the great sacrifices that troops have made in the name of this great country. It’s also a day of celebration and a moment for troops and veterans to take in the gratitude of the American people.
So, businesses across the country offer some sort of deal to anyone with a military ID, uniform, or veteran apparel, like a campaign cap. Sure, a free order of chicken wings might not be a fair trade for all that veterans have done for us, but it’s greatly appreciated nonetheless.
To help you properly celebrate Tactical Thanksgiving, we’ve put together a little guide here to make sure you don’t miss a spot on your tour of appreciation. Put the following places on your list and get ready for deals — all for the low, low price of just the gas in your car.
This list highlights types of businesses you should check out. For a list of specific spots that have officially announced Veterans Day discounts or freebies ahead of time, look here. Keep in mind, this list isn’t comprehensive and discounts may be subject to availability, but it’s definitely worth a read.
Make sure to adjust your schedule to account for a free breakfast, lunch, dinner, second breakfast, supper, late-afternoon snack…
Restaurants all over the country offer Veterans Day discounts — and that’s amazing. Most places you’ll go to will have little ways of making their meals more patriotic, too, like Red, White, and Blue Pancakes at IHOP or a burger adorned with a little American flag toothpick.
While the more well-known, chain restaurants are often able to take the financial hit of offering free meals, they might be extremely crowded — like, 2-hour-wait-times crowded. Meanwhile, the smaller, locally-owned spots may offer something smaller, like a free side, but you’ll likely get better service and a more personal “thank you.”
If you’re not the type to enjoy small talk during a haircut, at least it’s better than giving yourself a free haircut.
Getting a really good haircut isn’t cheap. And the places that offer a cheap chop typically aren’t all that good. For one day of the year, at least for veterans, this decision is made much easier, as even the good places offer their services for extremely low prices — some even offer free cuts.
What’s nice about getting a free haircut — in contrast to most other things on this list — is that when you let your barber know that you’re a veteran, it actually initiates a conversation. It’s much more personal than a quick thanks and a line item on the receipt.
If you’re in the Chicago area, I highly encourage you to take a visit to the National Veterans Art Museum. Every exhibit in there is made by our brothers- and sister-in-arms.
(National Veterans Art Museum)
Plenty of museums are free for veterans year round. Those that aren’t, however, typically offer free admission on Veterans Day.
If you look through the pamphlet of most any history museum, you’ll likely find that warfare is a central theme. And when you look deeper into most of the paintings in art museums, you’ll see that many of the beautiful pieces, adored by critics and enthusiasts alike, were created by veterans.
What better way to honor a fellow veteran’s work than by spending the day admiring some of it?
They always put on an amazing show for the troops and veterans at Disneyland on Veterans Day.
(Screengrab via 1st Marine Division Band)
Amusement parks and casinos
Many amusement parks close their gates around Labor Day — but some use Veterans Day as their final celebration of the year. This is perfect for veterans with kids or grandkids as it’s a way for the kiddos to enjoy the benefits of their service.
Or, if you’re not excited by cartoon mascots dancing around, know that most casinos on Veterans Day offer free cash credits for veterans. If you play your cards right (literally), you can take that free money walk away. Or just play one or two games and walk out with the remainder. Whatever floats your boat.
Nothing says “thank you for your service” better than a free beer or five.
Your favorite bar
When the day comes to a close, there’s no better way to end a day of celebration than with a nice, hard drink. Head down to your local bar and you can probably get a free drink — either from the bartender or other patriotic patrons.
This one isn’t ever written down as an official thing, but it’s mostly agreed upon that bars will give veterans a free drink or two on Veterans Day.
Team Red, White & Blue’s 1776 Challenge is an epic physical series of goals that brings Veterans, supporters, and Team RWB partners together to focus on service, personal growth, and the joy that comes from doing something hard with others.
Take the challenge each day from June 17, 2020, to July 4, 2020. Together, we will perform up to 100 daily repetitions of various exercises such as lunges, squats, push ups, or crunches. Alternative exercises will be provided to ensure participants at all ability levels are able to complete the challenge.
New exercises will be shared through the Team RWB App every day, featuring demonstrative videos hosted by Team RWB’s corporate and nonprofit partners. Demonstrations will include modifications for various fitness levels and mobility. Additional adaptive exercises will be demonstrated by retired Army Sergeant First Class and and Paralympian Centra “Ce-Ce” Mazyck, a recipient of TrueCar’s DrivenToDrive program.
Up for the challenge?
If you’re up for the challenge, join Team RWB as we tackle 1776 reps and break down barriers for Veterans. Click here to sign up for reminders and daily inspiration straight to your inbox. Participants to complete every exercise and check-in through the app will receive a free 1776 Challenge patch.
You must be a member of Team RWB to check in and participate. Membership is free and Veterans get a free Nike shirt!
On January 13, 2021, Alabama Governor Kay Ivey and U.S. Senator Richard Shelby announced that Redstone Arsenal in Huntsville, Alabama was selected as the location for the United States Space Command Headquarters. “I couldn’t be more pleased to learn that Alabama will be the new home to the United States Space Command!” Governor Ivey said.
““This is outstanding news, not only for our state but also for the Air Force,” Shelby said. “This long-awaited decision by the Air Force is a true testament to all that Alabama has to offer. Huntsville is the right pick for a host of reasons – our skilled workforce, proximity to supporting space entities, cost-effectiveness, and quality of life, among other things. I am thrilled that the Air Force has chosen Redstone and look forward to the vast economic impact this will have on Alabama and the benefits this will bring to the Air Force.”
Space Command was established in 2019 as a unified combatant command under the Department of Defense. The search for its headquarters’ location began in 2020. Potential sites were ranked based on room to grow, opportunity to add infrastructure, community support, cost to the DoD, and ability to support the command’s mission. 24 states initially competed to host the headquarters. In addition to Huntsville, finalist cities included Albuquerque, Bellevue, Cape Canaveral, Colorado Springs, and San Antonio.
The new command is expected to bring at least 1,600 new jobs to the local area, with more expected as its mission grows. Redstone Aresenal is already home to Army Materiel Command, Army Space and Missile Command, the Defense Intelligence Agency/Missile and Space Intelligence Center, and the U.S. Missile Defense Agency. The FBI has also taken up residency at Redstone Arsenal as part of a strategic realignment of major assets including its cybersecurity operations. The bureau called Huntsville, “the Silicon Valley of the South.”
Historically, Huntsville has played a major role in America’s space presence since the 1950s. Dr. Wernher von Braun and his team of rocket scientists developed the Saturn V rocket that would take man to the moon in Huntsville. The space shuttle propulsion system was also developed there, and the city still hosts the U.S. Space and Rocket Center with its world-famous Space Camp.
Space Command is currently commanded by Army General James Dickinson and is located at Peterson Air Force Base in Colorado Springs. The command is expected to remain there for at least six years. The decision to move to Huntsville is still pending an environmental impact study. A final decision is expected to be made in spring 2023.
The Boston Marathon bombing on April 15, 2013 killed three and wounded 264 others. The attack was committed by two American brothers of Chechen descent who set off a couple of pressure cooker explosives they learned to make from an English language al-Qaeda magazine. One of the brothers died after the other brother ran him over with a stolen SUV following a shootout with law enforcement. The other brother is in prison, awaiting execution.
At least 14 of the the bombing victims required amputations. Anyone who undergoes amputations of limbs for any reason will go through the five psychological stages of grief, but 20-22 percent of all amputees will experience some form of post-traumatic stress, according to studies from the National Institute of Health. For the civilian victims of the Boston Marathon Bombing, their stress is coupled by the two explosions, just 12 seconds apart, that killed three, injured scores more, and took one or more of their limbs.
The aforementioned studies show the ability to cope with an amputation be affected by pain, level of disability, the look of the amputated limb and associated prosthetics, and the presence of social supports. The 14 amputee survivors of the bombing received a ready network of support from wounded warriors, veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, who lost limbs during their service. Within days of the attack, injured veterans arrived in Boston to meet the survivors.
“We felt as amputees compelled to get out here,” said Captain Cameron West, a Marine who lost a leg in Afghanistan. “It won’t define them as a person … soon all of them will be able to do everything they could before the terror attack.”
“Military combat veterans are not the only victims of PTSD,” said Dr. Philip Leveque, a pharmacology researcher, WWII veteran, and author of “General Patton’s Dogface Soldier of WWII.” “Civilians in a horrific event like those in Boston will not only be victims of these events but may be mistreated by their physicians with morphine-like drugs, antidepressants, and anti-seizure drugs, which can cause adverse side effects, including suicide.”
Chris Claude is a 33-year-old Marine Corps veteran from Pennsylvania. He met with marathon amputees and told the Associated Press it was his chance to provide the kind of support he got after the amputation of his right leg following a 2005 bomb blast in Iraq. B.J. Ganem, a Marine who lost his left leg in Afghanistan, said all he saw was resilience. The two groups came together again later in 2013, at the New England Patriots home opener. They were honored on the field together before the game.
“I like the idea of the amputees coming out on the field together,” Claude said. “It’s another way for people in the crowd to see the human spirit can’t be broken.”
On Mar. 2, 1965, North Vietnamese guards at an ammunition storage area near Xom Bang heard the telltale sounds of massed aircraft overhead. They then learned why the F-105 Thunderchief earned the nickname “Thud” as 5,000 pounds of bombs from each of the passing planes hit the Earth around them.
The United States Air Force had just launched Operation Rolling Thunder, a bombing campaign over North Vietnam that lasted more than three years. Photographer Cade Martin set out to document and preserve the memories and images of the men who flew those dangerous missions.
Martin was just seven years old when the Vietnam War ended. What he knew about it came from movies and documentaries. Then, one day, he went to a Thud pilot reunion in San Antonio, took their portraits, and listened to their stories — the revelation of the war from their perspective rendered him speechless. Their stories were many and, as one might imagine, incredible.
“We have since learned that our target list was shared through Switzerland with the enemy to ensure no civilians were harmed. Well, that’s no way to win a war. The enemy would move out and set up somewhere else, ready to hit us on our way in and out. And, sometimes… Chiefs of Staff would send us five days in a row.” – John Piowaty, USAF
Rolling Thunder was an effort to break the will and ability of the Communists in the North and bring a negotiated end to the aggression against the non-Communist South. But, like many other aspects of the Vietnam War, it restricted the warfighter for political reasons and failed to achieve its overall strategic goals. Meanwhile, the men flying above North Vietnam were performing acts of valor and heroism without knowing what’s happening in Washington.
“In my junior year of high school, 1952, the Korean War was in full swing. Our fighter pilots were picking up where the aces of WW2 left off. Now in jets engaging in dogfights with the MiGs of North Korea and China. I wanted in. Went directly from high school to flight school. My all-time childhood dream come true.” – Gerald McGauley, USAF
Thoe pilots who flew those missions hit thousands of targets in North Vietnam, dropping more ordnance than was dropped during the bombing campaigns of World War II. The problem was that the classic targets of such a campaign were not as abundant or as vital to the North Vietnamese war effort than they were in Nazi Germany or Imperial Japan. Much of North Vietnam’s weapons and materiel for the war was provided by Communist China and the Soviet Union.
“I finished first in my class, giving me first choice of assignment. I went to “Gun School” at Luke AFB in Phoenix. There, I was in a class of seven. Three years later, only three of us were still alive… and this was before the war had begun.” – John Morrissey, USAF
Even though it was a Rolling Thunder target, the main distribution network for these supplies – the Ho Chi Minh Trail – was not effectively halted, as it was a simple network of roads and trails, hidden under jungle canopy and traversing steep mountain passes. The pilots could not hit what they couldn’t see and the trail remained an effective means of distribution.
“The F-105 – It was the sweetest thing you’d ever want to wrap your hands around. Once you got it airborne the sensation was like flying a Cadillac. 52,000 pounds, 65 feet long, 38-foot wingspan. Couldn’t turn with a MiG but could outrun them. Great airplane.” – Ben Bowthorpe, USAF
A simple cost-benefit analysis of the campaign shows the failure of the strategic initiative. At a cost of 0 million, the US wreaked only 0 million worth of damage to the North. It also forced the Vietcong to increase troop levels in South Vietnam, which further escalated the war. The North came to the negotiating table as President Lyndon B. Johnson called off the campaign — but they were not cowed into a negotiated peace as the U.S. had hoped.
Rolling Thunder ended fifty years ago, on November 2, 1968 — but the war raged on in various forms until 1973.
“My heroes growing up were soldiers and pilots. They played big roles in the movies and stories of the time, making aviation look exciting and romantic. I daydreamed and sketched airplanes through my early childhood. This led to building and flying models until finally in high school I got a chance to take flying lessons.” – Ed “Moose” Skowron, USAF
The Air Force was also hamstrung by leadership in Washington over available targets. While military commanders wanted more decisive action and an unrestricted bombing campaign, political leaders wanted to humble the North Vietnamese with an impressive display of American military might. While the display was made, the North would not concede. After spending the better part of a decade ousting the French from Vietnam, the Communists knew that a war of attrition was their best chance at defeating a power like the United States.
“They had so many different kinds of guns. 37, 57, 85, 100 millimeter guns. 1,700 guns in place circling Hanoi. We had briefing, we knew where the guns were at… but you couldn’t avoid all of them. We had to go in there and take our chances.” – Cecil Prentis, USAF
In the years that followed Vietnam, photographer Cade Martin noted that the men who flew the F-105 mission during Rolling Thunder were silent in the postwar years, sitting back as the world Monday-morning-quarterbacked their performance in the war. The Thud pilots lost some 922 aircraft in the skies over North Vietnam and more than a thousand American service members were killed, captured, or wounded.
“You can’t run a war from the Oval Office. I would have loved to have McNamara or Johnson on one of those flights with me.” – Cal Jewett, USAF
Martin’s project, called Over War, seeks to document and share the history of the Rolling Thunder pilots that they have shared among themselves for the last fifty-plus years. You can check out more of their personal statements, photos, and testimonies at Cade Martin’s Over War website.