After having success with unmarked trailer trucks in Ukraine, Russia is looking to exploit its incognito strategy even further. The Russians have come up with a weapons concept reminiscent of Optimus Prime from Transformers.
It’s designed to surprise the U.S. military by sneaking up under the cover of an inconspicuous semi-trailer truck. When the weapon is close enough to strike, the trailer disconnects from the truck and transforms into a nasty helicopter drone with missiles and a Gatling gun.
In keeping with Hollywood’s depiction of Russian bad guys, the trailer also includes two get-away motorcycles. Seriously, it looks like something you’d expect to see in a ‘Die Hard’ flick.
Here’s how it works:
The trailer pulls up within striking distance of its target.
One soldier in civilian clothes scopes out the area while another soldier stays behind to monitor the transformation.
Most of the transformation is self automated.
A final weapons check is done with an iPad before the nasty payload is deployed.
The drone surprises the target by rising from the tree line.
In January, a report from Inside Defense broke the news that the US Navy’s F-35 variant, the most expensive in the Joint Strike Fighter family, had an issue with the nose gear that made takeoffs untenably rough and the aircraft unsuited for carrier launches.
The Navy’s F-35C has a history of problems with its development as it attempts to master the tricky art of catapult launches from aircraft carriers, but the nose-gear issue could set back the F-35C into the 2020s if an innovative solution is not found quickly.
“This is a very stiff airplane, even though the oscillations about the same magnitude as you would see in a Super Hornet. It beats the pilot up pretty good,” US Air Force Lt. Gen. Chris Bogdan told reporters at the McAleese/Credit Suisse defense conference earlier this month, US Naval Institute News reported.
F-35C pilots are “hurting after doing three or four of these [launches] and in some instances even banging his half-a-million-dollar helmet on the canopy,” Bogdan said. “That’s not good for the canopy or the helmet. So we knew we had an issue there.”
Testing at a land-based US Navy catapult system showed that instead of a costly and lengthy redesign of the F-35C’s nose section, some smaller adjustments may suffice.
Jeff Babione, the general manager of Lockheed Martin’s F-35 program, echoed that sentiment at the company’s office in the Washington, DC, area, telling reporters the company had worked on a few simple changes that seemed to yield results. Babione said Lockheed Martin changed the way the pilot straps in and their head and arm positions, as well as reduced the “holdback,” or stress on the plane, in the moments before launch.
“The initial indication is some of those techniques improved” the F-35C’s launches, Babione said. He conceded that the real testing would be done by the Navy aboard carriers “to see whether or not those changes were successful.”
The make-or-break tests of the launch will take place at sea later this year.
Is there anything else that aggravates already overworked military spouses more than micro complaints from their civilian friends? Probably not.
Being married to the military is a lot like hastily extinguishing small government-issued trash can fires, only to realize you will never put them all out no matter how hard you try. The government loves issuing trash can fires, and by year three, you learn to sit back and roast marshmallows over them instead.
Yes, military spouses evolve quickly from the simple state that was their civilian life to the constant state of chaos surrounding a life of service. Nothing is more annoying than forcing a passive-aggressive “oh that must be hard for you” head nod when Susie starts rattling off her civilian life complaints.
See if your friend’s grievances made our list.
When their spouse’s 48-hour business trips are made to seem as hard as a deployment
Civilian- “Oh your spouse is away a lot too? My John, he has to travel a whole three times a year for work and I just don’t know what to do with myself during those weekends he’s away.”
If eyes could emit laser beams, military spouses would be the first to be equipped with them. How many times have you as a spouse had to endure this comparison? No Susan, John’s work trips to Denver are nothing like the average work trips that the military sends our spouses on. A good day is when you find out your spouse did not get recycled in Ranger school (again) and you’ll see them in a short 60 days from now.
When they complain about having the same boring job for the last 10 years
Civilian- “Ugh, you are so lucky not to have to work. I’ve been at this same boring job for the last 10 years and I can’t wait to retire.”
To an outsider looking in, an unemployed military spouse living in Hawaii might seem like a choice or even a benefit, but the military community knows better. Not only are there periods where military life keeps us from working, but the few of us who do, find it near impossible to find the kind of employment that offers such unicorn benefits like retirement.
When their schedules are “so busy”
Civilian- “We are busy bees I tell you. The kids have their sports and I just have to find time to shop for the right piece to go above the mantle before it just drives me nuts. Don’t even get me started on how I had to push back my hair appointment.”
The first year after a PCS for military spouses involves the trial and error of everything from coffee shops to dentists, to assessing what is still missing or broken from the move. By the time we get settled in enough to get our kids in sports clubs or half-ass decorate the living room, new orders roll in. Nothing is busier than a military spouse eating a “fridge purge” sandwich on the way to baseball where she plans to make the seventh call to find out when the movers are coming this week taking her to a place she has to Google to find.
When they complain about that one time they had to move
Civilian- “Moving (down the street) was a nightmare. It took forever to go through our things. I never want to do that again.”
Nothing brings salty military spouses more joy than to hear your tragic horror story about your move down the block to that custom home you designed yourself which will perfectly meet every single one of your family’s needs. That sounds hard.
Yes, we military spouses who can live entire decades of our lives half packed and ready to move (again) in 18 months sympathize with your hardship. We who live as lifelong renters in someone else’s 1999 cookie-cutter home with beige everything feel bad that it was difficult to pick precisely the right marble for your countertops. We who must label trash cans as “do not pack” cannot fathom how difficult it was for you to leisurely watch the actual professional movers delicately move your furniture with actual customer service in mind.
We are military spouses and we have zero time for your civilian complaints.
In 1862, the Merrimack and the Monitor fought the famous naval battle at Hampton Roads where ships with iron armor fought each other for the first time. That clash is often cited as one of the moments where warfare changed overnight. Suddenly, it was clear that most cannons couldn’t penetrate iron hulls, and so every navy rushed to armor their hulls.
Just four years later, two fleets of wooden and iron-hulled boats clashed in the waters near Venice, and this first clash of iron fleets got weird, fast.
The Battle of Lissa was fought near an island of the same name in the Adriatic Sea, sometimes known as Vis, its Croatian name. A large Italian fleet of about 26 ships, including 13 ironclads, faced off against about 26 Austrian ships, but only seven Austrian ships were ironclads.
But the ironclad numbers weren’t the end of the Italian advantage. The ships that took part were powered by a mix of sail and steam. Like, each ship used both. Some ships were predominantly steam-powered but had sails to make them more efficient on long voyages, and some were sail-powered with small steam engines and paddles to help them quickly turn in combat. The ships predominantly powered by steam were generally more effective in combat, and Italy had a higher mix of those. And the Italian ships were generally larger, as well.
But most importantly, the Italian ships had larger guns and more rifled pieces. At the time, rifle-fired rounds and exploding rounds were about the only thing that could pierce iron armor. And by larger guns, we mean the largest Austrian guns were 48-pounders, and every piece of Italian naval artillery was larger.
So, the Italian ships were larger, better armed and armored, and technologically advanced. Guess the Italians won. Cool. Thanks for coming to my TED Talk.
The Austrian wooden battleship Kaiser rams an Italian ironclad in the Battle. The ship left its figurehead behind after the clash.
Except, nope, just wait. Italy sent ships to capture the island of Lissa from an Austrian garrison on July 16, 1866. This assault was repelled, and the Italian ships returned on the night of July 19 to try again. The next morning, July 20, 1866, was rainy and the waters were covered in mist.
But the Italian fleet used the weather as a cover for their coming bombardment and landings right up until a dispatch vessel ran back to elements of the fleet with news that Austrian ships had reached the island. The Italian fleet had been split up to bombard multiple targets and land troops. They were not properly massed for a naval battle.
The Italians were unimpressed, though, and continued to focus on landing troops. With the technological and numerical advantage, it must have seemed that they could bat away any attempts at disturbing the landings.
Ships are designed with long bodies to minimize resistance and to give stability, but artillery works best when it’s deployed side-by-side with all the guns firing in support of one another. So, when one group of ships charges on another, the group firing broadsides can typically fire many more cannons than the group that is charging. So, seemingly, this would work to the Italians’ advantage.
But then the Italian admiral did something completely baffling. He changed flagships as the Austrians bore down on him. He would later claim that he did this so he would be on a faster ship that could more efficiently relay orders, but the Italian ship crews didn’t know about the change and so would look to the wrong ship for direction for most of the battle.
And then the Austrians got a second break. Their headlong charge was obscured as the naval guns opened fire and began to emit those huge clouds of smoke. The Austrian commander, Rear Adm. Wilhelm von Tegetthoff, charged through the smoke with most of his ships and suddenly realized that he had unwittingly passed through the Italian line of battle.
So the Italian fleet was receiving no clear orders from what the captains thought was the flagship, was obscured by smoke, and suddenly had an enemy literally sailing through their lines. The battle quickly descended into a tight mass of ships circling and firing on one another with little real coordination. As the smoke filled the air and everyone lost sight of nearly everything, it became tough for combatants to tell who they were supposed to fight.
An illustration shows Rear Adm. Wilhelm von Tegetthoff during the Battle of Lissa.
Von Tegetthoff, though, had issued an order that worked perfectly in this insanity. Remember, Austria’s largest guns in the battle were nearly useless for firing at armor plating. The 48-pound shells that were his most powerful projectile would still need a lucky shot to seriously damage an Italian ironclad. So, von Tegetthoff had ordered his ships to ram Italian vessels whenever the opportunity arose.
And so the spinning, chaotic, smoke-filled brawl that morning was perfect for them. It softened the impact of the Italian artillery advantage, and Austrian crews began ramming everything that looked vaguely Italian.
Yeah, the first clash of iron fleets descended into a battle of naval ramming, a tactic that had lost favor in the decades prior because rammings were hard to pull off as the ships required a lot of time and space to build up speed, but easy to avoid as the targeted vessel could pull out of the way or turn so that an otherwise lethal blow would be a glancing hit instead.
In the melee of Lissa, ships of both sides rammed each other, and gun crews fired on ships that they were locked into combat with. An Austrian battleship rammed an Italian vessel and left its figurehead, a statue of the emperor, in the enemy’s iron armor. The Austrian ship even caught fire when one of its masts broke, landed on its own smokestack, and then became overheated by the exhaust.
The Italian ship Re d’Italia sinks at the end of the Battle of Lissa.
(Carl Frederik Sørensen)
When the ships were exchanging shells, the Italians generally got the better of the exchanges as they could lob 300-pound shells from some guns. But the Austrian proficiency at ramming claimed a greater toll.
The heavy Italian ship rolled away, rolled back, and then sank in less than two minutes as sailors and marines struggled to escape the suction of the quickly sinking iron.
The fleets disentangled themselves. The Austrian forces had lost no ships, had only one badly damaged, and had suffered almost 200 casualties including 38 killed. The Italians had lost a prized ironclad and hundreds killed. Worse, a fire was spreading on another ironclad, the Palestro. Despite heroic efforts by the crew to save the ship, including flooding its powder magazines, a separate store of shells and powder was ignited.
The ship blew up like a massive bomb, sending parts of its plating and hull high in the air. Hundreds more Italian sailors died, and the wreckage sank within minutes. Italy had lost a second ironclad, and its death toll for the battle rose to 620. Not to mention, the shores of Lissa were now safe from the threatened Italian amphibious assault.
The aftereffect of Lissa was even weirder than the battle, though. The success of rams led to new ship designs that emphasized the weapon for decades, so even in World War I modern-ish battleships and many smaller vessels still carried iron rams at the waterline. And, maybe even more surprising, the Austrian success at Lissa had become moot before it was even fought.
The Austrian Empire had been decisively defeated on land at the Battle of Königgrätz by Prussian forces on July 3. Prussian forces on the continent kept pressure on Austria for the rest of July, and the war came to an end with Prussian victory.
Germanic tribes, and their Italian allies, were allowed to consolidate their peoples into new nations separate from the Austrian Empire. That empire renamed itself the Austrian-Hungarian Empire and, 48 years later, one of its archdukes was killed while riding in a car in the town of Sarajevo, less than 130 miles northeast of Lissa.
(Today, the island is part of Croatia and is known by its name in the Croatian language, Vis.)
Defense Secretary Jim Mattis has completed his policy review on transgender individuals serving in the military and his recommendations are likely to be forwarded to the White House late February 2018, the Pentagon said Feb. 21, 2018.
Pentagon spokesmen said the review and recommendations would be conveyed privately and disclosure would be up to the White House.
Mattis was under a Feb. 21 2018 deadline to complete the report that came about after President Trump caught the military by surprise July 2017 in sending out Tweets calling for a ban on transgender individuals in the ranks.
Trump said he wanted the future policy to be that the U.S. “will not accept or allow transgender individuals to serve in any capacity in the U.S. military.”
In August 2017, Trump issued a memo directing Mattis to conduct a review led by a panel of experts and make recommendations by Feb. 21, 2018.
Trump’s ban would reverse the directive issued by former President Barack Obama in 2016 that allowed transgender individuals to serve openly for the first time.
Trump’s proposals triggered a series of lawsuits by advocacy groups and four federal district courts have now ruled that a ban would be unconstitutional. The courts also ordered that the recruitment of transgender individuals should resume on Jan. 1, 2018 and the military has complied.
Mattis strongly endorsed the new rules for the military setting out that those who cannot deploy for 12 consecutive months should be discharged. Exceptions would be made for pregnancies and troops wounded or injured in combat.
There has been speculation that the “deployability” rules could be used against transgender individuals, but Matt Thorn, president of the OutServe-SLDN (Servicemembers Legal Defense Network) advocacy group said that deployments were not generally a problem for transgender individuals currently serving.
“We don’t expect that policy to have much impact,” Thorn said of the new rules on deployments. “Most transgender individuals are deployable by the 12-month marker.”
The Defense Department has repeatedly declined to give an estimate on how many transgender individuals are currently serving. A Rand Corp. study estimated that there are between 2,500 and 7,000 transgender service members on active duty and an additional 1,500 to 4,000 in the Reserves and National Guard.
The F-35 program has hit another snag, this time not an expensive production mishap or overrun, but the strength of the dollar itself.
At Lockheed Martin’s 2017 Media Day, Jeff Babione, general manager of the F-35 program, laid out the “blueprint for affordability,” or the defense giant’s plan to bring down the cost of the Joint Strike Fighter to below $85 million in the coming batches.
But therein lies a problem.
With about half of the F-35s Lockheed Martin intends to build in the next five years heading out to foreign countries, even in house belt-tightening and big initial investments to help ramp up to economies of scale can’t offset the strong dollar.
Asked by a Wall Street Journal reporter if the dollar’s high exchange rate with foreign currencies is a problem for the most expensive weapons system in the history of the world, Babione said, “I think it is.”
“We’ve had some of our customers come up and raise the concern that this may potentially hurt their buys,” said Babione, who noted that some elements of production cannot move outside of the country to help mitigate costs for foreign buyers.
“We have some 1,700 suppliers in seven countries around the world. Many of the countries that are buying the F-35 produce parts for the F-35,” said Babione. But still, Babione concluded that currency exchange rates not withstanding, the best tactic is just to get the F-35’s price down, period.
A pilot takes the F-35 Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter aircraft up for its first night flight near Edwards Air Force Base, Calif., Jan. 18, 2012. (U.S. Air Force photo)
“What I think I can do is drive the price down so whatever the exchange rate is, it’s affordable,” Babione said.
Meanwhile, U.S. Air Force Lt. Gen. Chris Bogdan told reporters that Lockheed Martin’s blueprint for affordability was “just ok,” and suggested revisiting the supply chain instead of simply seeking bigger upfront investments, as Defense News notes.
There’s an old saying: “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” Some aerial warhorses take that pretty literally.
That definitely seems to be the philosophy used by many countries around the world in retaining large numbers of older aircraft as the mainstays of their air forces.
Fighters, attack planes, bombers, and even tankers, all populate this list of old warhorses that have served in wars you only read about in history textbooks today, yet still fly in modern conflicts such as the fight against ISIS in the Middle East.
Though you wouldn’t think that military planes like these could serve as long as they have, many remain on the front lines, with the promise of updates to keep them flying for many more years.
From youngest to oldest, here are seven military aircraft that refuse to go away:
7. North American Rockwell OV-10 “Bronco”
At just 52 years old, the Bronco still serves in combat roles as a light air support aircraft, having been brought out of retirement with the US military in 2015 to fly air-to-ground sorties against ISIS in Iraq.
The Bronco first tasted combat in Vietnam, serving in the observer/recon and light attack roles. The Philippine military has also deployed their Broncos to combat zones, recently using them in their own fight against ISIS.
6. Douglas AC-47 “Spooky”
Built off the even older DC-3/C-47 platform, the AC-47 served as a gunship with the US Air Force over the jungles of Vietnam in the mid-1960s before being replaced with the AC-130 series.
With a series of Gatling rotary cannons aimed out the Spooky’s left windows, and hard banking turns, this gunship could rain down serious firepower on North Vietnamese military positions, protecting friendly troops from ambushes and enemy advances.
Today, the Spooky — also popularly known as “Puff the Magic Dragon” for the smoke its guns would generate while firing — still serves with the Colombian air force in South America.
5. Mikoyan-Gurevich MiG-21 “Fishbed”
Having first flown in 1956, the MiG-21 has served an astounding 61 years as a frontline fighter with many air forces around the world, and it still flies in such a role today.
Originally designed in the Soviet Union as a cheap, highly-exportable supersonic fighter, it tangled with American aircraft over Vietnam and flew onward with the militaries of a number of Asian and Eastern European nations.
The Indian, Croat, Serbian and Egyptian air forces continue to use the MiG-21 today, along with many other African and Asian countries, though the aircraft’s days are numbered with replacement programs looming on the horizon.
4. Boeing KC-135 “Stratotanker”
Also making its debut in 1956, the KC-135 has served continuously with the US Air Force for more than 61 years, and it isn’t showing any signs of slowing down!
Built to replace older refueling tankers and medium-range transports, the KC-135 was designed using Boeing’s commercially successful 707 airliner as the base model. It has served in virtually every American conflict since, functioning as a transport and a refueler for combat aircraft on the front lines.
According to Air Force brass, plans are in the works to keep the Stratotanker flying for another 40 years, meaning that it’ll be over 100 years old by the time it finally retires to the boneyard!
3. Tupolev Tu-95 “Bear”
This old war horse relic of the early Cold War remains in service today with the Russian military, having first taken to the skies in late 1952 as the Soviet Union’s primary long-range nuclear bomber.
Extremely loud, very ugly and borderline annoying thanks to the high number of probe flights the Russian Air Force and Navy make near Western borders, the Bear has more than made its mark on the world of military aviation, and will likely continue to do so for at least another 30 years.
2. Boeing B-52 “Stratofortress”
Back when the US Air Force assigned the Space Age-y prefix “Strato-” to many of its shiny new aircraft, the B-52 Stratofortress made its debut – the latest in a long line of strategic bombers from the Boeing Company.
Though designed as a nuclear bomber, the B-52 has only expended conventional munitions throughout its long and storied service life. In recent years, the hulking bomber, affectionately known as the Big Ugly Fat F*cker, or “BUFF,” has taken to the skies over the Middle East, bombing ISIS with impunity.
Systems upgrades will allow this American icon to stay in the fight for years to come, at least until a newer strategic bomber comes online for the Air Force.
1. Antonov An-2 “Colt”
The Colt takes the crown (or walker and LifeAlert bracelet) for one of the oldest military aircraft still in service today.
First flying in 1947, two years after the end of WWII, this old warhorse has functioned in a variety of roles — from transport to makeshift bomber.
Today, North Korea and Estonia — among a handful of other countries — still have their Colts flying on active duty, though Estonia will most likely retire theirs soon. The North Korean military uses this old hunk of metal to ferry special operations troops into combat zones at low altitudes.
With Chinese aerospace companies exploring reviving the Colt line in the near future, it’s possible that this geriatric plane could keep flying for decades more.
As he slides his hands across the edges of the wings and walks from nose to tail, inspecting all aspects of the jet, a wave of emotion begins to hit Jim Harkins.
His weathered features appear calm and determined, but they hide the tears he is fighting back.
While he walks around the aircraft, he greets each maintainer and says, “Thank you.” Harkins rubs and taps the bulging nose of the QF-4 Phantom II, like an aged cowboy saying hello to a trusty steed, and then climbs into the cockpit.
“One last time,” Harkins says and the canopy closes around him.
For Harkins and the F-4, this is a day of lasts. For Harkins, it’s the last time he will fly for the Air Force and, for the Phantom, the last time it will take to the skies.
It’s their final flight.
“It’s not really sad, because in the military you get used to a lot of lasts, but it’s humbling,” Harkins said.
Harkins isn’t the only one feeling nostalgic and emotional about the aircraft affectionately referred to as “Old Smokey.” Hundreds of “Phantom Phixers,” “Phantom Phliers” and “Phantom Phanatics” gathered on the flightline at Holloman Air Force Base, New Mexico, to watch the final F-4 flight.
Some used to work on the aircraft, some are just fans and others, like retired Col. Chuck DeBellevue, had the privilege of actually flying the fighter.
DeBellevue flew the F-4 in Vietnam, where he had six confirmed kills – two against the Mikoyan-Gurevich MiG-19 and four against the MiG-21, the most of any U.S. aviator during the war.
He’s not just saying farewell to an amazing machine, he’s saying goodbye to an old friend.
“A friend who got me home more times than I care to remember,” DeBellevue said. “Being back on the flightline today brought back a lot of memories, not all are good. I lost a lot of friends, but it was a great airplane. I loved to fly that airplane. It’s very honest and it got me out of a lot of tight spots during the war.”
DeBellevue recalls the Navy originally bought the F-4 to be a fleet interceptor and the Air Force bought it in 1963 to do everything – and it did do everything. It served as the primary air superiority fighter for both the Navy and Air Force, but it also served roles in ground-attack and aerial reconnaissance and, once taken out of active service, was designated the QF-4 where it flew as aerial targets.
The F-4 was a workhorse weapons system for the Air Force through the 1990s and it still hold the distinction of being the first multi-service aircraft. During it’s heyday, the F-4 set 16 speed and altitude records and demonstrated its effectiveness time and again throughout its lengthy career.
The Phantom looked cool doing it, too.
“You didn’t get into the F-4, you put it on, it became you,” DeBellevue said. “It was a manual airplane, not like an F-16 or F-15, they were aerodynamic and designed well. The F-4 was the last plane that looked like it was made to kill somebody. It was a beast. It could go through a flock of birds and kick out barbeque from the back.”
On the flightline at Holloman, the final flight of four F-4s prepare to take off for the last time. The engines rumble and smoke flies.
In his jet, Harkins looks over the crowd, dancing in the cockpit, revving up the on-lookers and saluting those in attendance. Everyone cheers as the final four F-4s begin their last taxi.
Harkins is first to pass the crowd, followed by pilots Eric “Rock” Vold, Jim “Boomer” Schreiner and finally Lt. Col. Ronald “Elvis” King, the last active duty F-4 pilot and commander of Det. 1, 82nd Aerial Target Squadron. Together these men will fly the Phinal Phlight demonstration before King officially retires the QF-4 program during a ceremony following the flight.
“I don’t want to sound cheesy, but every time I get into the F-4 I can’t help but think of all the stories of all the pilots and all the maintainers who made this aircraft great,” King said. “The history and the heritage to me is the biggest satisfaction of flying the airplane.”
King had no concept when he became the squadron commander he would be the last active duty pilot. It didn’t really set in until he and Harkins began taking the F-4 on a farewell tour during to air shows and aviation expos last year. King felt obligated to take the F-4 on the road, to give admirers the chance to see it, touch it and share their stories one last time. It was then he realized this tour piloting the F-4 would be something special.
“It’s going to be sad to shut those engines down for the last time, but she’s served our country well,” King said of the F-4. “It’s exciting too, because our mission is to provide full scale aerial targets and we are going to be able to do that now with an airplane that’s better suited, provides higher performance and is more representative of the threats we face today in the QF-16.”
King said it was getting more and more difficult to keep the F-4’s in the air, and the only reason the QF-4 lasted as long as it did was because of the maintainers of the 82nd ATS.
Unfortunately, he says, there is no longer a need for the F-4. All remaining aircraft will be de-militarized at Holloman and used as ground targets at the White Sands bombing range.
King says most people don’t like to hear the fate of the last F-4s, and he understands, but it’s too costly to maintain as a heritage piece or to preserve them for museums.
“At the end of the day, the Air Force isn’t real sentimental,” King said. “It will have a warrior’s death.”
Engines roar and a flume of dust and smoke signals to the crowd the final four F-4s are off. The first two jets, piloted by King and Schreiner take off in a two-ship formation. Harkins follows in the third position and Vold in fourth. The last two jets perform an unrestricted climb, staying low to the ground in afterburner before pulling into a vertical climb at the end of the runway. The crowd goes crazy.
The sound of the F-4 is distinct. As Harkins passes over the crowd in a low-altitude turn it sounds like the jet is ripping the sky.
Multiple passes are made in four-ship, two-ship and stacked formations over the crowd of hundreds in attendance. Camera shutters clicking at a furious pace can be heard down the tarmac.
Out of nowhere, the sky cracks open and multiple booms shake the ground, buildings and cars, setting off alarms across the base. The concussions signal the F-4s going supersonic high above.
Harkins swoops down out of the sky passing over the crowd multiple times, and makes his final approach. As his wheels touch back to Earth, Harkins enters the history books as the last pilot to fly 1,000 hours in the F-4.
“I can’t imagine a better way to go out than with the F-4, it’s a special moment and a special jet and then … done,” Harkins said. “Although I flew F-16s and I went down to the F-4, but I consider myself going out on top.”
As climbs down from his jet he’s doused with water from his comrades and sprayed with champagne. In the distance, King lands his F-4 and with the front landing gear touching the asphalt, the history books close on the aircraft’s legacy.
But while the Phantom’s time in the sky may be over, the tales of its exploits are far from done. For those who flew the F-4, there is always time to wax poetic about the good ‘ole days, tearing across the wild blue yonder on “Old Smokey.”
The 1st Infantry Division is the oldest continuously active division in the U.S. Army and has served since 1917. During that time, it has often claimed the first honors of different American wars — everything from firing the first American shell against Germany of World War I to breaking through the berm into Iraq in 1991.
In the past 100 years, it has served in almost every American war. The Big Red One was kept in Europe to prevent a Soviet attack during the Korean War, but fought in both world wars, Vietnam, Desert Storm, the Balkans, and the Iraq and Afghan Wars.
The unit was created in May 1917 when Maj. Gen. John Pershing received orders to take four infantry regiments and an artillery regiment to France. Pershing assumed that this meant he was to take a division, and he organized the force as the First Expeditionary Division which was later changed to the First Division. The unit included an additional artillery regiment.
The doughboys of the First Division led the first American offensive of the war at Cantigny and fought on through Soissons, the St. Mihiel Salient, and the Meuse-Argonne Forest. In the Argonne, the division fought through eight German divisions despite suffering more than 7,600 casualties.
As World War I drew to a close, the division was authorized its “Big Red One” shoulder patch that it still wears to this day.
For World War II, the division was re-designated the 1st Infantry Division and sent to Africa as part of Operation Torch. America’s first major offensive in the war, Torch helped bring about the Allied victory in North Africa and cut off Axis oil supplies headed into Europe.
Big Red One soldiers pushed on, taking part in Operation Husky on Sicily and Operation Overlord, the D-Day landings at Normandy. That means that the 1st Infantry Division took part in two of the larger amphibious operations of the war, Husky and Torch, and the largest amphibious assault in history, Overlord.
In the Normandy landings, the Big Red One was assigned to take Omaha Beach where a combination of bad water and worse terrain made the initial invasion plan untenable. Instead of fighting through the five roads leaving the beach, the men were forced to scale 100-ft. tall cliffs and attack German defenses from the rear.
The division fought its way west with the rest of the invasion force, taking Normandy’s hedgerows after weeks of bitter fighting and then making it into Germany just in time for the massive counterattack at the Battle of the Bulge. They fought their way back into Germany after the Bulge and liberated two German concentration camps.
While the division did not deploy to Korea, it was called on for a number of near misses during the cold War, with units sent to Florida to support the potential invasion of Cuba during the missile crisis and to Berlin to prevent a Soviet invasion of West Berlin.
In 1968, the Division helped protect key U.S. positions during the Tet Offensive but tragically lost its commanding general, Maj. Gen. Keith L. Ware, when his aircraft was shot down in September.
During Desert Storm, the Big Red One was the spearhead into Iraq. On Feb. 24, 1991, it broke through Iraq’s defensive berm, attacked the Iraqi 26th Infantry Division, and took 2,500 prisoners before allowing other coalition units to pass it. It pressed on and took out a Republican Guard division and other units.
After serving with other units in the Balkans and Kosovo, the Big Red One was once again sent to full-spectrum combat operations in Iraq and Afghanistan where its forces served in task forces across both countries. Their largest contributions came in Iraq were 1st Inf. Div. soldiers helped secure the Sunni Triangle.
Candidates should have a bachelor’s degree or higher in history or a related field and a good understanding of U.S. military history as well as experience in the maintenance and operation of historic military vehicles.
There is an ebb and flow with a troop’s love, hate, and pure apathy toward eating Meals, Ready to Eat.
Either you score the new Chicken Burrito Bowl or you get stuck with a veggie option so foul no amount of salt can help cover the taste. It usually goes from the “Oh cool! MREs!” feeling, to then despising the concept of eating from the same 24 brown bags for months, and finally gets beaten into a state of pure Stockholm Syndrome where you get used to and enjoy them again because it’s technically food.
Whatever your personal experience will be, the minds at Ameriqual, Sopakco, and Wornick have all crafted a very specific meal under very specific guidelines.
Whichever meal you are tossed usually contains an entree, side, cracker or bread, spread, dessert, a beverage, Flameless Ration Heater, and accessories. Every MRE also needs to have a constant 1,250-calorie count, have 13 percent protein, 36 percent fat, and 51 percent carbohydrates, and make up one third of the Military Recommended Daily Allowance of vitamins and minerals.
Finally, each box of MREs must have a shelf life of at least 18 months in above 80°F conditions, three years below. This has been the constant ever since it’s inception in 1975 and standard issue in 1986.
One of the more impressive creations in the MRE is the Flameless Ration Heater. Water activated, the pouch quickly reaches heats that can warm up an eight ounce ration within minutes. Simply put the food pouch inside the bag, lean it against a rock or something, and you’re ready to eat.
Whatever you do, do not take two of the heaters, empty a tiny Tabasco sauce into a bottle of water, add the heaters and water to about the half way point, seal it, shake it, then toss it somewhere.
It’s a dick move and your squad will call you out for your douchebaggery. This is because the heat and fumes decompress within the bottle to the point of exploding.
There is also the First Strike Ration, a compact, eat-on-the-move ration that is designed to be half the size and a third of the weight while giving troops the nutritional intake of an entire days worth of food.
The Combat Feeding Directorate developed this after they noticed troops would “field strip” their MREs of unwanted and burdensome extra items, like boxes, accessory packs, heaters, and bags. The total calorie count of an FSR comes to 2,900 calories.
The actual menu changes year to year. 2017 changes are no different.
Thankfully, they’re removing “Rib shaped BBQ Pork Patty,” that fried rice thing, chicken pesto pasta, ‘Hooah!’ bars, and the wheat snack bread (which only the power of the Jalapeno Cheese Spread could make edible). The replacements actually sound delicious (like the previously mentioned Chicken Burrito Bowl) and are even more thought out.
I can see the successor of the most coveted MRE item: caffeinated teriyaki beef sticks. Julie Smith, senior food technologist at Combat Feeding Directorate of the Natick Soldier, Research, Development and Engineering Center said of the alternative to beef jerky “Typically, when we do evaluations, we get feedback from the war fighter that they want to have more beef jerky varieties. It’s such a high sodium item, however, that we have to be careful in how to include it in the menu.”
There is also the new version of the pound cake. It’s now fortified with Omega-3 fatty acids which research shows is great for muscle recovery and resiliency — all without affecting the taste of one of the better desserts in the MRE.
Far off into the future, Jeremy Whitsitt, the Deputy Director at Combat Feeding, says that one day there will be the ability to monitor an individual’s nutritional needs and -essentially- “print out a bar or a paste specifically designed for that soldier to return them to nutritional status.” He continues: “We’re laying the groundwork now through research and development to get us to that point.”
In the meantime, we can still hold out for the Pizza MRE. No timeline on its release, but it’ll be after they can work out the bread going brown after six months in 100°F.
China has carried out a military exercise in which “incoming missiles” were shot down over the Bohai Bay. The test came two days after Kim Jong Un’s regime carried out that country’s sixth nuclear test.
According to a report by the South China Morning Post, the “incoming missiles” were described as “low-flying,” and were shot down by a land-based unit of the People’s Liberation Army Air Force. While the test came shortly after a North Korean test, Kim’s regime was not the only government China was sending a message to.
The South China Morning Post noted that Li Jie, a naval analyst in Beijing, explained that while China was condemning the North Korean actions, it was also sending a warning to the United States. President Donald Trump has tweeted threats of action in the event of a North Korean attack.
“At the moment, the US is showing some restraint, but Trump is not a predictable president, and he could make a surprise move,” Li explained.
The paper noted that the Bohai Bay is a prime location for the Chinese to test new naval vessels, due to its proximity to Beijing. The body of water, part of the Yellow Sea to the east of the Korean Peninsula, is one that China is warning America to keep out of.
“This drill, which came soon after the military parade [at a training base in Inner Mongolia], shows that Chinese weapons are ready for use in war,” Zhou Chenming of the Knowfar Institute for Strategic and Defence Studies said, adding that China would likely launch more drills as tensions increased between North Korean missile and nuclear tests on the one hand and joint South Korean/American exercises on the other.
Snipers are considered one of the most dangerous warfighters in the battlefield — taking out targets from concealed and undisclosed locations while homing in on prey that has no clue that they’re in the crosshairs.
With many legendary snipers in the history books, Hollywood loves to make movies about the single-shot heroes who man the ranks of America’s martial might.
One of our guilty pleasures is seeing the good guys duke it out with the enemy — either in close hand-to-hand combat or from far off positions with surprise direct head shots from precision shooters.
So check out the Hollywood sniper shots that we often rewind, rewatch and relive the awesomeness time and time again.
1. The 2,100-yards-out
With so many badass moments we saw in the movie “American Sniper,” one single sniper shot stands out the most. This Clint Eastwood-directed war tribute features an epic duel — sniper vs. sniper — between Bradley Cooper’s legendary Navy SEAL sniper Chris Kyle and his insurgent nemesis.
2. One shot, one kill, no exceptions
Hitting a moving target at distance is crazy complicated. But under the guidance of a Marine sniper — some of the best in the business — you’ll be able to get the confirmed kill as shown in 1993’s “Sniper” directed by Luis Liosa.
3. Right through the eye
Steven Spielberg knows how to tell an effective story, and he did just that directing 1998’s critically-acclaimed “Saving Private Ryan.”
After showing the world how American troops stormed the beaches of Normandy, he successfully captured the moment of when Pvt. Jackson (played by Barry Pepper) takes out a German sniper with a perfectly aimed round right through his scope.
4. Female VC Sniper
In most cases, it’s not okay to cheer for the villain, but as Stanley Kubrick showed us in 1987’s “Full Metal Jacket,” female snipers can be just as efficient and deadly as the men.
This death shocked viewers as one of our beloved characters made a simple mistake — and paid the price.
5. Pop shot and catch
Sniping is sometimes a team effort – just ask the real Navy SEALs who filled the roles of 2012’s “Act of Valor” who killed the enemy while barely making a sound.
6. 5 Rounds = 5 targets
A sniper’s greatest tool is his power of concealment. Russian-born sharpshooter Vasili Zaytsev (played by Jude Law) used that knowledge as he whacked five unsuspecting Germans in 2001’s “Enemy at the Gates.”
Boeing Australia has built the first of three Loyal Wingman aircraft, which will serve as the foundation for the Boeing Airpower Teaming System being developed for the global defense market. The aircraft are designed to fly alongside existing platforms and use artificial intelligence to conduct teaming missions. (Boeing photo)
The Royal Australian Air Force has its first Boeing-built drone-jet hybrid prototype, which will use artificial intelligence to conduct intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance missions to supply fighter pilots with more information during a conflict.
The company delivered its first “loyal wingman” prototype to Australia this week; it is expected to be used in tandem with fourth- and fifth-generation fighters on the battlefield, officials said in a release.
It’s also the first aircraft “to be designed, engineered and manufactured in Australia in more than 50 years,” Boeing said, adding that it’s the company’s “largest investment in an unmanned aircraft outside of the United States.”
“This is a truly historic moment for our country and for Australian defence innovation,” said Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison. “The Loyal Wingman will be pivotal to exploring the critical capabilities our Air Force needs to protect our nation and its allies into the future.”
The delivery in Sydney is the first of three for Australia’s Loyal Wingman Advanced Development Program, officials said.
The aircraft, which Boeing is co-developing with the government of Australia, was unveiled at the Avalon Airshow last year. Australia is investing roughly million into the program, CNN reported.
The jet is 38 feet long and can fly more than 2,000 nautical miles, according to its fact sheet.
It uses artificial intelligence “to fly independently or in support of manned aircraft while maintaining safe distance between other aircraft, the fact sheet states. The first prototype was constructed using digital engineering concepts, allowing developers to simulate parts via computer models, according to the company.
“We are proud to take this significant step forward with the Royal Australian Air Force and show the potential for smart unmanned teaming to serve as a force multiplier,” said Kristin Robertson, vice president and general manager of Autonomous Systems for Boeing Defense, Space Security.
“We look forward to getting the aircraft into flight testing and proving out the unmanned teaming concept,” Robertson said. The drone-jet will now begin ground testing, followed by a first flight later this year.
“We see global allies with those same mission needs, which is why this program is so important to advancing the development of the Boeing Airpower Teaming System,” she said.
The concept is similar to an ongoing U.S. military effort.
In January, the Air Force conducted test flights of the XQ-58A Valkyrie drone at Yuma Proving Ground, Arizona, taking the unmanned aerial vehicle, made by Kratos Defense, to higher altitudes than previous tests.
The drone is part of the Air Force’s Low-Cost Attritable Strike Demonstration program, an effort to develop unmanned attack aircraft, which are intended to be reusable but cheap enough that they can be destroyed without significant cost.