The real-world air combat origins of 'The Last Jedi' - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY MOVIES

The real-world air combat origins of ‘The Last Jedi’

This article contains spoilers. If you have not seen Star Wars: The Last Jedi yet, you may find it better to stop reading this article here and come back later.


Avoiding spoilers? Try this: 15 Star Wars memes we can all relate to

Hurtling toward the villain nation’s massive fortified Armageddon machine the hero-pilot has one chance, and one chance only, at hitting his target. Victory will mean one man will save his people, failure could mean a war that may lead to destruction of the planet. It is all or nothing, and this audacious attack could determine mankind’s survival.

It’s not a scene from writer/director Rian Johnson’s new film, Star Wars: The Last Jedi. That narrative is a dramatization of the real-world Operation Opera, the daring June 7, 1981 Israeli air raid on a nuclear reactor and atomic weapons fuel manufacturing facility at the Osirak nuclear reactor outside, Iraq.

This is just one example of art imitating air combat history in the new Hollywood blockbuster that hit theaters this past weekend and of nearly every previous film in the Star Wars series. Almost every intergalactic battle scene in the Star Wars films borrows heavily from actual air combat history. And if you are a fan of air combat history, some of the scenes in Star Wars: The Last Jedi may feel familiar.

Director Rian Johnson and the visual effects in The Last Jedi opened with a classic piece of air combat doctrine that has been seen many times in modern air combat. An attacking aircraft poses as performing one mission to deceive an enemy, act as a decoy and buy time before a secondary attack is launched. If this time-proven set of tactics sounds familiar, it is.

You may be recall the real-world tactics of “Wild Weasel” SAM suppression missions flown in Vietnam and Iraq. It may also bring memories of “Operation Bolo”, the audacious January 2, 1967 attack meant to destroy North Vietnam’s air force flown by USAF Colonel Robin Olds. Col. Olds’ F-4 Phantoms behaved like defenseless B-52 F-105 bombers over North Vietnam as decoys to lure enemy MiG-21s into attacking. When they did, Col. Olds’ fighters sprung their trap.

Another tactic shown in The Last Jedi was forcing an enemy, in this case the fictional First Order, to commit all of their air defense assets to an initial feint attack, thus revealing their sensors and depleting their ammunition before a larger, secondary attack is launched on the main objective. In the opening scene of The Last Jedi, one X-wing fighter distracts and delays the giant enemy First Order battle spacecraft until it can effectively fly inside and below its defenses, then opens an initial attack, suppressing defenses and paving the way for the main rebel attack force.

Visual effects throughout The Last Jedi include inspiration from real world air combat of every era and from other air combat movies. It’s widely known that Luke Skywalker’s strike mission against the Death Star in the original Star Wars, where he pilots his X-wing fighter down a narrow mechanical canyon for a precision strike on the gigantic Death Star, was inspired in part by the 1964 Walter Grauman and Cecil Ford film about WWII Royal Air Force Mosquito pilots, “633 Squadron.” The cockpit of the Millennium Falcon spacecraft was inspired to the WWII B-29 bomber.

The real-world air combat origins of ‘The Last Jedi’
B-29 Cockpit. (Image Public Domain)

It is also rumored that George Lucas may have had inspiration from either visiting or seeing images from low flying training areas like the Mach Loop in Wales and especially the now-famous R-2508 complex now referred to even by the military as either the “Jedi Transition” or “Star Wars canyon” in Death Valley, California just outside the Nellis Test and Training Range.

Despite Director Rian Johnson’s often accurate inspirations from air and space combat, he does take liberal license with physics and reality in the The Last Jedi. Gravity is selective in the film. Gravity bombs fall down in space where there is no gravity. Spacecrafts fly in a symmetrical up and down orientation nonexistent in space, and combatants pass from space with no atmosphere into pressurized spacecraft.

Some of the characters in The Last Jedi need a refresher from their officer training as well, as specific orders from commanders are executed selectively- and often disobeyed entirely. In the real world that offense that would lead flight officers a stint in the brig- look at how much hot water Iceman and Goose got themselves into in Top Gun just for buzzing the tower. Further departure from reality is seen with the gun-like weapons (as well as the above mentioned gravity bombs) used in place of long range stand-off weapons.

But at the risk of being that annoying guy in the theater pointing out technical inaccuracies, these are the elements of fiction that separate meaty fantasy from the admittedly more accurate, and “dryer” plot lines of, for instance, a Tom Clancy story unfolding in a more rigid version of the real world.

Rian Johnson must have watched plenty of video of F-22 Raptor and Sukhoi Su-35 displays since the opening space-combat sequence in The Last Jedi shows X-Wing combat pilot Poe Dameron execute a very Sukhoi-esque horizontal tail slide to evade a pair of attacking First Order fighters.

The real-world air combat origins of ‘The Last Jedi’
F-22 vs Su-35s We Are The Mighty | Lockheed Martin | Creative Commons

The cockpits in the X-Wing fighters are a mix of new technology including advanced weapons sights and side stick controls and old tech like toggle switches that somehow seem more visually dramatic to flip than using a touchscreen like the new F-35 Joint Strike Fighter.

Speaking of the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter and its advanced onboard situational awareness and networking system, the BB-8 droid that accompanies X-Wing pilot Poe Dameron on his missions is really a mix of the F-35s advanced avionics including the Multifunction Advanced Datalink (MADL), the Active Electronically Scanned Array (AESA) radar and the Distributed Aperture System (DAS). These systems run aircraft diagnostics, keep the pilot informed about the aircraft health and tactical environment and help facilitate communications and systems operation through several command systems, in the case of the BB-8 droid on the X-Wing fighter, mostly using voice actuation.

Finally, if the large rebel bomber formation in the stunning opening battle scene in The Last Jedi feels visually familiar then you may liken it to footage and tales from the mass WWII bomber attacks over Germany and Japan by the allies, especially B-17 and B-24 strikes over Germany. The lumbering, mostly defenseless bomber stream attacks in tight formation under cover from X-Wing fighter escort, and suffers heavy losses. The bombers even feature a ball gun turret at the bottom of the spacecraft exactly like the one under a B-17 Flying Fortress.

Also Read: 15 Star Wars memes we can all relate to

Ball turret gunner Paige Tico becomes one of the first sacrificial heroes of The Last Jedi when she risks her life to release a huge stick of bombs in the last-ditch bomb run by the only surviving bomber in the opening attack on the First Order spacecraft. Paige Tico’s sister, Rose Tico, goes on to become a predominant hero of the film after she loses her sister in the heroic opening bombing raid.

You may also sense that the giant First Order Dreadnought Mandator-IV-class warship in “The Last Jedi” felt familiar. Design supervisor for The Last Jedi, Kevin Jenkins, revealed that inspiration for the Dreadnought warship came from several sources that included the WWII Japanese battleship Yamato. The Dreadnought was armed with two enormous orbital autocannons for large-scale bombardments and 24 point-defense remotely aimed anti-aircraft cannons on its dorsal surface. Dreadnought is also an enormous space gunnery platform at 7,669 meters long, that is more than 25,162.8 feet in length. Imagine a strategic attack space aircraft five miles long.

The real-world air combat origins of ‘The Last Jedi’

All great fiction, including science fiction, is rooted in inspiration from the factual world, and Star Wars: The Last Jedi borrows significantly from the real world of air combat technology, tactics and history to weave a thrilling and visually sensational experience. In this way this film, and in fact, the entire Star Wars franchise, lives as a fitting and inspiring ode to air combat past, present and future and serves to inspire tomorrow’s real-world Jedi warriors.

MIGHTY TRENDING

You should go update your (hacked?) WhatsApp

WhatsApp was hacked, and attackers installed sophisticated spyware on an unknown number of people’s smartphones.

The Facebook subsidiary, which has 1.5 billion users, said it discovered in early May that “an advanced cyber actor” infected an unknown number of devices with the malware.

The Financial Times, which first reported on the issue on May 13, 2019, said bad actors exploited a vulnerability to install the surveillance technology by calling the target through WhatsApp, giving them access to information including location data and private messages. Even if the target didn’t pick up, the malware was able to infect the phone.


The FT reported that the spyware was developed by Israel’s NSO Group, whose Pegasus software is known to have targeted human-rights activists. In a statement to the FT, the firm denied any involvement in the WhatsApp hack.

The real-world air combat origins of ‘The Last Jedi’

(Photo by Rachit Tank)

“This attack has all the hallmarks of a private company known to work with governments to deliver spyware that reportedly takes over the functions of mobile phone operating systems,” WhatsApp said in a statement to the FT.

“We have briefed a number of human rights organizations to share the information we can, and to work with them to notify civil society.”

In a statement sent to Business Insider, a spokesman added: “WhatsApp encourages people to upgrade to the latest version of our app, as well as keep their mobile operating system up to date, to protect against potential targeted exploits designed to compromise information stored on mobile devices. We are constantly working alongside industry partners to provide the latest security enhancements to help protect our users.”

A notice on Facebook said the issue affected Android phones, iPhones, and Windows phones. An update to resolve the issue was released on May 13, 2019, and users are being urged to update regardless of whether they have had any suspicious call activity.

Citing a source, the FT reported that the US Department of Justice was notified about the hack last week.

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

Venezuela made this stupid video to scare US Marines

It’s not the Razzle Dazzle from Stripes, but it might as well be. Venezuelan dictator Nicolas Maduro thinks his country is staring down the barrel of an upcoming U.S.-led invasion. The only problem is that no one in the American government really seems to care about Venezuelan dictator Nicolas Maduro. He’s just a trash version of his predecessor, Hugo Chavez – who wasn’t that great of a dictator anyway.

Still, the military members still loyal to Maduro somehow believe him when he says they can defeat the United States. And apparently, the first step is (attempted) intimidation of the United States Marine Corps. IT did not have the effect Maduro hoped.


To answer the questions on everyone’s mind, it’s not a joke, and the video was really intended to frighten U.S. Marines who might be going into Venezuela, according to the Facebook page on which the video was released. They call parts of the video “intense training activities.” The activities include running, running in place, screaming, and the world’s worst obstacle course.

Of course, even the casual viewer is going to find this hilarious, knowing it wouldn’t even intimidate the Air Force, let alone the Marine Corps. When the shooting started, there didn’t seem to be magazines in their weapons.

What the training didn’t include was how to run from an A-10, how to survive a JDAM, and what to do when a K-Bar is stuck in your neck.

The real-world air combat origins of ‘The Last Jedi’

Don’t worry, Venezuela, we will bring the answer to those questions for you.

Articles

It turns out that bringing a flag to Arlington Cemetery can get you a year in jail

Guests and family members who flock to the Arlington Cemetery this Independence Day week will have to leave their America flags at home.


Current law does not permit people to bring American flags to grave sites after Congress passed legislation following protests from the Westboro Baptist Church at service members funerals, The Washington Post reported July 4.

Former Michigan GOP Rep. Mike Rogers helped pass the Respect For America’s Fallen Heroes Act in 2006, making it illegal to protest funerals within 300 feet of a cemetery. The legislation had the unintended consequence of barring the bringing of “any placard, banner, flag, or similar device.”

The real-world air combat origins of ‘The Last Jedi’
Lizzy Yaggy visiting the Arlington National Cemetery gravesite of her father. (Photo: Erin Yaggy)

Flags are permitted, however, if they are “part of a funeral, memorial service, or ceremony.”

Violating the law can bring penalties of up to a year in jail. While the bill received bipartisan support, the ACLU contended the law violated the First Amendment based on censorship.

“If someone is in there with the colors in a respectful way, or paying homage in a respectful way, then they should allow it,” Paul Rieckhoff founder of the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America.

Content created by The Daily Caller News Foundation is available without charge to any eligible news publisher that can provide a large audience. For licensing opportunities of our original content, please contact licensing@dailycallernewsfoundation.org.

MIGHTY TRENDING

The US is putting 3,500 more boots on the ground in Afghanistan

A US official has told ABC news that the Defense Secretary James Mattis authorized 3,500 additional troops to deploy to Afghanistan as part of the troop buildup associated with President Donald Trump’s South Asia Strategy.


Late last month, Trump announced his new strategy on Afghanistan which included an increase in the number of US troops to the country.

Reports in the past indicated that Mattis favored the Pentagon’s recommendation to send about 3,900 more troops to Afghanistan.

The real-world air combat origins of ‘The Last Jedi’
Defense Secretary James Mattis (left) and Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Joseph Dunford. DoD photo by Army Sgt. Amber I. Smith

On Sept. 8, Mattis told reporters that he had signed deployment orders for some of the additional troops that would be sent, though he would not disclose the number.

No details have however been released on when these troops will deploy.

On Sept. 6, Mattis, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Joseph Dunford, the Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, and Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats briefed members of Congress about the new strategy in Afghanistan.

Last week, the Pentagon disclosed that the number of American troops actually serving in Afghanistan was 11,000 and not the 8,400 official numbers it had been providing for some time.

MIGHTY MOVIES

Watch Keanu Reeves get some tactical training for ‘John Wick 3’

Keanu Reeves is back at it.

Vigilance Elite just released footage from a training session with Reeves for John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum, and you can see that he’s training like an operator, not just an actor. In the video below, trainer and former Navy SEAL Shawn Ryan walks Reeves through room clearing with a rifle — in particular, negotiating the “fatal funnel.”

This kind of dedicated training is just one reason why Reeves is highly respected and his films are so fun. Check out the video for a bit of Reeves-worship…but stay for the refresher in case you ever get into a sh*t sandwich.


Keanu Reeves Tactical Training for John Wick 3 with Vigilance Elite .MP4

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Check out the video:

“My character’s always in shit sandwiches,” jokes Reeves.

Reeves maintains a professional, respectful demeanor throughout the process, which is exactly the kind of attitude that bridges the divide between military and civilian audiences. Reeves is believable as an assassin because he puts in the work to understand weapons and tactics; military audiences can spot a phony a mile away and it ruins the cinematic experience.

Related: Video shows just how operator Keanu Reeves can be

[instagram https://www.instagram.com/p/BwEso5VFim6/ expand=1]Shawn Ryan on Instagram: “Say when… ? @vigilanceelite #saywhen #johnwick #keanureeves #johnwick3”

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It’s clear he’s got a good student-teacher relationship with Ryan, considering the banter on social media — and the fact that Reeves is a repeat customer.

Shawn Ryan on Instagram: “Ok Keanu, we all know you can shoot like a BAMF. But… Can you shoot like that while doing the “limbo”? How low can you go❓ ?…”

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From the shots we get in the trailer, it looks like that training has paid off (my question is whether Ryan offers swordsmanship training as well?).

John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum (2019 Movie) New Trailer – Keanu Reeves, Halle Berry

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John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum, starring Keanu Reeves, Halle Berry, and Laurence Fishburne, opens in theaters May 17, 2019.

Articles

It’s the end of the road for the USS Enterprise

The nuclear-powered aircraft carrier USS Enterprise (CVN 65) will be decommissioned on Feb. 3, marking the next step on her journey to the “Ship-Submarine Recycling Program” – what a 2012 National Review article dubbed a sanitized way of saying “the scrapyard.”


Her predecessor, the Yorktown-class carrier with the hull number CV 6, also was a victim of this alleged crime against naval history.

The real-world air combat origins of ‘The Last Jedi’
NORFOLK (Nov. 4, 2012) The aircraft carrier USS Enterprise (CVN 65) arrives at Naval Station Norfolk. Enterprise’s return to Norfolk will be the 25th and final homecoming of her 51 years of distinguished service. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Rafael Martie/Released)

According to a report from the Virginian-Pilot, this sendoff will be a relatively private one, with about 100 people present. The 2012 “inactivation” ceremony saw over 12,000 people attend, according to a Navy release. At that ceremony, it was announced that CVN 80 would be the ninth U.S. Navy vessel to carry the name Enterprise. A CNN report this past April notes that construction of the new Enterprise, a Gerald R. Ford-class carrier, will begin in 2018.

The real-world air combat origins of ‘The Last Jedi’
ATLANTIC OCEAN (Oct. 23, 2012) An E-2C Hawkeye assigned to the Screwtops of Carrier Airborne Early Warning Squadron (VAW) 123 flies past the aircraft carrier USS Enterprise (CVN 65) during an air power demonstration. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Scott Pittman/Released)

According to the Navy’s command history of the Enterprise (so long that it took nine entries in the Navy’s online Dictionary of American Naval Fighting Ships), the ship saw her first action during the Cuban Missile Crisis – less than a year after she was commissioned. She then did Operation Sea Orbit in 1964, a cruise that circumnavigated the globe.

In 1965, the ship carried out the first of six combat deployments to the Vietnam War, carrying two squadrons of F-4 Phantoms, four squadrons of A-4 Skyhawks and assorted support planes.

After the Vietnam War, the Enterprise was the first carrier to operate the F-14 Tomcat. In the 1980s, she would see combat by taking part in Operations El Dorado Canyon in Libya and Preying Mantis near Iran. The carrier missed Desert Storm due to receiving her complex overhaul and refueling, but she would have the honor of launching the first retaliatory strikes on al-Qaeda and the Taliban after the 9/11 attacks.

The real-world air combat origins of ‘The Last Jedi’
The aircraft carrier USS Enterprise (CVN 65) transits the Arabian Sea on her last deployment. Enterprise was deployed to the U.S. 5th Fleet area of responsibility conducting maritime security operations, theater security cooperation efforts and support missions for Operation Enduring Freedom. Even at 51, she could still kick ass. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Jared King/Released)

The carrier would make numerous deployments during the War on Terror, until the decision was made in 2009 to retire the ship early.

MIGHTY MOVIES

How ‘Saving Private Ryan’ could use a sequel, but not in the way Hollywood thinks

There’s no doubt about it. Steven Spielberg’s 1998 war epic, Saving Private Ryan, was a masterpiece in every aspect of filmmaking. It won five of the eleven Academy Awards for which it was nominated. The immense scale of the invasion of Normandy was expertly recreated for film in a way that hasn’t been replicated since — and likely never will be.

Despite the massive war that characterizes the film, the movie’s primary conflict wasn’t between warring nations, but rather between Tom Hanks’ character, Captain Miller, and his duty to return Pfc. Ryan (as played by Matt Damon), who refuses to leave behind the brothers with whom he’d fought so far.


The film, being the masterpiece that it is, wraps the story up nicely, leaving few loose ends, but there’s that ever-burning question in Hollywood — how do you make that special lightning strike twice? How can you create another story surrounding the incomparable D-Day and find just as much success?

The truth is, simply, that you can’t. The story has already been perfectly told by one of the finest filmmakers in Hollywood at just the right moment. But that doesn’t mean that the story has necessarily ended…

The real-world air combat origins of ‘The Last Jedi’

What made this scene so great wasn’t the million put into it — it was Tom Hank’s reaction to everything happening around him.

(DreamWorks Pictures)

As stated by Jack Knight of War History Online, there is serious interest in following-up Saving Private Ryan by continuing the story of the Rangers at D-Day and the mission that occurred at Pointe du Hoc. What made the beach landing scene so spectacular wasn’t the battle itself, but rather how the battle was seen — through Capt. Miller’s eyes.

The audience felt the immense gravity of war in a truly human way. In one moment, we’re listening to a guy joke on the landing craft; one second later, his blood is splattered on Miller’s face. This is the essence of what made Saving Private Ryan so great. World War II was just the backdrop to a more personal story, but the sheer, raw horrors of war were still very much present.

The audience saw the enemy in the distance, but the focus was entirely on the Capt. Miller. Any spiritual successor (or direct sequels) should keep that in mind.

The real-world air combat origins of ‘The Last Jedi’

It’s a grim reality, but it’s comforting in it’s own way.

(Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer)

Such a sequel, a movie that follows someone’s personal life after a major conflict, has been dreamt up before. One film, known as “the greatest war film never made,” that was to explore this theme was to be called The Way Back.

The 1955 film To Hell and Back was an amazing anomaly. It was the World War II experience of Audie Murphy, based on the autobiography of the same name that was written by Audie Murphy and David McClure, starring Audie Murphy himself. But this wasn’t the only film the war hero wanted to make. Everyone wanted to see his heroic stand on the back of the Sherman, but he never got the finances for the script that told the story of what happened after he was bestowed the Medal of Honor.

He struggled daily with post-traumatic stress. His family life was, to put it lightly, troubled. He turned to drugs and alcohol to cope with the pain. He even famously locked himself in a dirty motel room to kick his morphine addiction. He was lost in a world that wanted “him,” but not the real him. But he knew countless children looked up to him, so he put one foot in front of the other with a forced smile on his face.

This movie, were it ever made, would’ve been a powerful piece. Audie Murphy, arguably the greatest soldier to ever don a uniform, would’ve told everyone that not everything is fine when the war’s over. There’s a pain there that nobody can see, but many of us feel.

The real-world air combat origins of ‘The Last Jedi’

It’s not like there are too many war films out there specifically made for Post 9/11 vets. The bar is set kinda low…

(Summit Entertainment)

War films are a dime a dozen in Hollywood and rarely will they have any impact on the public because they’re just action scenes after action scenes until the credits roll. If Hollywood really wanted a powerful message to send to the world, they could make a grounded story following the life of one of the Rangers after D-Day. Use Saving Private Ryan’s personal approach and make it about one soldier. They could keep the action scenes, but make them a background to the story of just surviving. Then, as Act II rolls around, shift the story to show how a returning soldier survives this world he left behind to fight in D-Day.

Hollywood could have their cake and eat it to while also sending a powerful message to the countless returning veterans of the Post-9/11 wars, telling them that they’re not alone.

MIGHTY MOVIES

Watch as WATM parties in LA with the posse behind ‘Range 15’

The wholly irreverent, veteran-fueled, zombie killing adventure ‘Range 15’ hit Los Angeles last week – and We Are The Mighty was invited to the party. WATM host Weston Scott ripped off his sleeves and dove into the fun with the guys of Article 15 and Ranger Up, taking over Ye Rustic Inn before taking over the red carpet at the Vista Theater in Hollywood.


Enjoy this look behind the scenes of “the most decorated movie of all times” (as Ranger Up!’s Nick Palmisciano puts it).

MIGHTY TRENDING

Why even today artillery still has a key role in winning battles

Traditionally, field artillery is known as the King of Battle. It’s not hard to imagine why, either. Throughout the history of warfare, the ability to project firepower at a distance has always been one of the most important assets any commander could ask for, and time and time again, artillery proved its worth.


Even before the advent of the cannon, catapults and trebuchets hurled massive stones that could shatter castle walls, bringing sieges that could last for months to an end in a matter of days. Swedish king Gustavus Adolphus’s effective use of artillery at the Battle of Breitenfeld proved decisive, especially once he was able to capture the enemy’s guns and turn them against their own formations.

During the Battle of Guilford Courthouse in the Revolutionary War, the fighting grew so intense at one point that, in order to break up the fighting, General Cornwallis was forced to load his cannon with grapeshot, and fire them into the thickest part of the melee. Doing so killed many of his own men, but forced the lines to disengage. He would ultimately take the field, though at great cost.

Napoleon was famously fond of artillery and artillerymen, once remarking that God fought on the side with the best artillery. Generals and kings throughout history have heaped praise upon praise on the redlegs and their guns, but in recent years, people have started to wonder whether they were going the way of the cavalry charge: an increasingly useless anachronism, soon to be eliminated from modern armies the world over in favor of more modern technological terrors.

The real-world air combat origins of ‘The Last Jedi’
U.S. Army Soldiers from the 1st Battalion, 14 Field Artillery, 214th Fires Brigade, fire a rocket from a M142 High Mobility Artillery Rocket System, Fort Carson, Colo., March 6, 2015. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Nathan Clark/Released)

After all, they argue, we have bombers that can drop precision guided munitions of astounding power and accuracy. Cruise missiles can be launched from submarines and ships, and can be made to fly into a particular window. Why do we even need the guns and the peculiar breed of soldier that takes pride in calling themselves redlegs?

Well, for starters, all those planes and cruise missiles? They cost money. Lots of it. A single Tomahawk cruise missile costs upwards of a million dollars. Not only are bombers hideously expensive to fly, they suck up unbelievable amounts of money just sitting on the ground.

Meanwhile, a gun tube or a HIMARS or MLRS launcher is dirt cheap in comparison. They’re relatively easy to repair when they break. Their crews also don’t require months or years of highly specialized training. All they need is a few weeks of school, some experienced officers and NCOs to show them the ropes, some extraordinarily filthy pornography, and they’re good to go.

And, unlike aircraft, they can sit in one place for more than a few hours without crashing into the ground. You can park a firing battery in the middle of nowhere, bring them in food and ammo on occasion, and they’re perfectly happy. Well, not happy happy, since no redleg worth the name is ever truly happy unless they’re dropping 155 millimeters of freedom on some poor bastard’s head, but keeping them pissed off just means they’ll kill more bad guys.

The real-world air combat origins of ‘The Last Jedi’
A U.S. Army Soldier from 1st Battalion, 14th Field Artillery, 214th Fires Brigade, Fort Sill, Okla., unfolds an antenna on an M142 High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems vehicle during a radio check, March 6, 2015. U.S. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Nathan Clark/Released)

And, while they’re sitting out there on a fire base in the middle of nowhere, troops on the ground have access to an on call resource that can put rounds on target any time, day or night, 365 days a year. They’re not grounded because of bad weather. A cannon crew can put rounds downrange in conditions that would make even the ballsiest pilot think twice, and they can keep the heavy hate coming until all that’s left of the target is rubble and slowly cooling chunks of meat.

They’re also getting into the precision fires game, especially with the advent of GPS guided rounds. Sure, a HIMARS launcher might not be as sexy as an F/A-18, but both of them can place a whole lot of boom within a meter of a given target. And the HIMARS will be a lot safer doing it. There are a lot more fighter jets plowed into mountainsides than rocket launchers stuck in the sky, after all.

Though the world of warfare is evolving rapidly, there’s just no replacing good old field artillery. Even though the future shape of the battlefield is as uncertain as ever, one thing remains constant: there will always be a need for cannon and the crews that fire them, and any general who says otherwise is in for a rude awakening.

Articles

China just sent its homegrown aircraft carrier to the South China Sea

There’s a reason certain areas of the South China Sea are hotly disputed. There are an estimated 11 billion barrels of oil just waiting to be tapped down there. There are also 190 trillion cubic feet of natural gas reserves. 

While many countries lay claim to the vast petrochemical fields underneath the South China Sea, including Brunei, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Taiwan, and Vietnam, only China has the economic and military might to build man-made islands there – and then militarize those islands with scores of troops. 

The real-world air combat origins of ‘The Last Jedi’
Territorial claims in the South China Sea. China’s line crosses all the other countries’ lines, and, well… you see where this is going. (Voice of America/ Wikimedia Commons)

The latest military forces China is sending to the region is a first for the Chinese Communist Party: its very own, home-built aircraft carrier, the Shandong. 

Until those areas of the South China Sea claimed by China are officially recognized as belonging to anyone, the United States Navy will continue to conduct “Freedom of Navigation” missions right through those areas, daring China or anyone else to do something about it. 

U.S. Navy ships routinely enter the areas closest to the Spratly and Paracel Island chains, just two of many archipelagos which have either been artificially increased in size by China or have been completely constructed by the communist nation. China has artificially added 3,200 acres of land to the sea in the past decade. 

The real-world air combat origins of ‘The Last Jedi’
If the USS John S. McCain (DDG 56) could talk, it’d probably say: “I wish a mofo would…” (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Markus Castaneda)

While China has as many as 27 military outposts spread out among the islands of the South China Sea, with various ports, airstrips, aircraft and anti-air defenses, the United States sends its combat ships on these exercises on a regular basis because much of the world doesn’t recognize the legitimacy of Chinese claims on the region. 

Freedom of Navigation through the disputed area is important because the area claimed by China covers an important sea lane. Conservative estimates say at least $3.3 trillion of shipping per year runs through those lanes, along with 40% of the global supply of natural gas. 

The Chinese carrier Shandong recently departed its homeport of Sanya for the South China Sea to conduct exercises in the disputed areas. The ship finished construction just two years ago and is still in its testing phases according to Chinese news outlet Eastday.

The real-world air combat origins of ‘The Last Jedi’
This screen grab taken from a report by Chinese military channel js7tv.cn on May 3, 2021, shows stock image of aircraft carrier Shandong during an exercise in an unspecified location.

Shandong is replacing China’s other carrier, the Soviet-built Liaoning, as the latter returns to its homeport for maintenance. China complained about the presence of a U.S. Navy destroyer, the USS Mustin, accusing the destroyer of conducting illegal reconnaissance operations on the Liaoning. 

The United States Navy says everything the Mustin was doing in the South China Sea was legal. The U.S. Navy has increased its presence in the area by as much as 20% over the past year. It flew at least 65 reconnaissance missions in the South China Sea in April 2021, according to Chinese military think tanks. The Chinese Navy has responded with a 40% increase in naval presence. 

Despite the tensions in the region, the proximity of the two navies’ ships is unlikely to spark any kind of international incident. Both countries’ military forces conduct routine exercises there, regardless of the outrage or complaints they elicit from one another’s governments. 

The United States is determined to prevent military escalation in the region as claimants to the territory, especially the Philippines, turn up the heat on their rhetoric. 

Disputes over the region are also unlikely to disappear anytime soon. Though the United Nations and the Permanent Court of Arbitration at The Hague have ruled against each and every Chinese claim on the area, China refuses to acknowledge the courts’ authority on the issue. 


Feature image: Wikimedia Commons

Articles

Women in combat may cause Congress to end selective service process

The House Armed Services Committee will reexamine the Selective Service System’s viability and explore possible alternatives in this year’s review of the National Defense Authorization Bill, the legislation that sets the spending guidelines and policy directives for the coming fiscal year.


The real-world air combat origins of ‘The Last Jedi’
A U.S. Marine with Fox Company, Battalion Landing Team 2nd Battalion, 1st Marines, 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU), fires his weapon as part of a deck shoot aboard the amphibious assault ship USS Makin Island (LHD 8). (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Evan R. White)

Congressional staffers told the Military Times that the move comes after all the hand wringing over the idea of women registering for the draft now that they can be assigned to combat jobs in the military. Some of the representatives who sit on the House committee were part of a group who entered legislation to abolish the Selective Service System entirely, which they deem to be obsolete and outdated.

U.S. law says all male citizens of the United States and male immigrants (and bizarrely, illegal immigrants, too) have to register for the Selective Service System within 30 days of their 18th birthday. After the Vietnam War, President Gerald Ford abolished the draft, but President Jimmy Carter reestablished it as a response to the potential threat posed by the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan.

The real-world air combat origins of ‘The Last Jedi’
(U.S. Army photo by Sgt. William Tanner)

The SSS costs roughly $23 million per year to operate, but nobody’s actually been drafted since 1973. Even at the height of the Iraq and Afghanistan Wars, the option of instituting a draft was deemed unnecessary.

The draft isn’t dead yet, however. Before any changes are made to the current system, the Senate would also have to approve the legislation, and then it would move over to the President’s desk for his signature (or his veto).

MIGHTY TRENDING

Army wants to see ‘explosive power’ in new physical fitness test

The general overseeing fitness for the U.S. Army hopes to see the proposed Army Combat Readiness Test approved next spring and, in time, become the service’s standard physical fitness test of record that all soldiers must pass.


The service is in the middle of the Army Combat Readiness Test, or ACRT, pilot, exposing soldiers to the six-event fitness test designed to better prepare them for the rigors of combat than the current three-event Army Physical Fitness Test, or APFT.

The ACRT was developed, at the request of Army Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Milley, to better prepare soldiers for the physical challenges of the service’s Warrior Tasks and Battle Drills — the list of key skills all soldiers are taught to survive in combat.

The real-world air combat origins of ‘The Last Jedi’

“As we look at physical fitness, we now know in order to be physically fit in support of the Warrior Tasks and Battle Drills — what we know we need to do for combat readiness — we have to be physically fit across five fitness domains,” said Maj. Gen. Malcolm Frost, who oversees the ARCT as commanding general of the U.S. Army Center of Initial Military Training.

Only two of those domains — cardiovascular endurance and muscular endurance — are supported by the current APFT, which consist of push-ups, sit-ups and a two-mile run, Frost said.

“There are three domains of physical fitness that are not addressed by that test but are nonetheless necessary … and those are muscular strength, explosive power, and speed and agility,” he said.

‘We Aren’t Where We Want to Be’

“We have world-class equipment … but do we have world-class soldiers that are world-class athletes at world-class level fitness? The answer is probably not one that we would want, meaning if you look at a lot of indicators from an individual physical readiness fitness standpoint, we aren’t where we want to be,” Frost said.

In 2016, the Army had 43,000 soldiers who were non-deployable, he said, adding that in fiscal terms, that equates to a loss of about $3 billion.

“Another staggering figure,” Frost said, is that about 78,000 soldiers were above a body-mass index of 30 percent.

“Musculoskeletal injuries about 500,000 a year; 10 million limited-duty days per year — that’s nearly $1 billion,” Frost said.

“To put it in fiscal terms is fine, but more importantly it is the lack of readiness due to some sort of physical fitness or readiness aspect — whether it’s injury, whether it’s being overweight or whether it is being non-deployable for a medical reason,” he said.

The real-world air combat origins of ‘The Last Jedi’
Sgt. Jared Bruce, a combat engineer from the 36th Engineer Brigade, flips a tire as part of the Soldier Readiness Test during the 2017 Forces Command Best Warrior Competition at Fort Bragg, N.C., Aug. 20. | U.S. Army photo by Spc. Hubert D. Delany III

The ACRT is made up of six events:

Strength Deadlift:

This muscular strength test mimics movements required to safely and effectively lift heavy loads from the ground, then jump, bound and tolerate landing. The exercise is a strong predictor of a soldier’s ability to lift and carry a casualty on a litter and to lift and move personnel and equipment.

Standing Power Throw:

Soldiers toss a 10-pound ball backward as far as possible to test muscular explosive power that may be needed to lift themselves or a fellow soldier over an obstacle or to move rapidly across uneven terrain.

T-Push-Up:

In this event, soldiers start in the prone position and do a traditional push-up but, when at the down position, they move their arms outward and then back in to do another push-up. It is a test of soldier’s ability to push an opponent away during man-to-man contact, push a vehicle when it is stuck, and push up from cover or off the ground during evade and maneuver.

Sprint/Drag/Carry:

As they dash 25 meters five times up and down a lane, soldiers will perform sprints, drag a sled weighing 90 pounds, and then hand-carry two 40-pound kettle bell weights. This can simulate pulling a battle buddy out of harm’s way, moving quickly to take cover, or carrying ammunition to a fighting position or vehicle.

Leg Tuck:

Similar to a pull-up, soldiers lift their legs up and down to touch their knees or thighs to their elbows as many times as they can. This exercise strengthens the core muscles since it doubles the amount of force required compared to a traditional sit-up.

The real-world air combat origins of ‘The Last Jedi’
Sgt. Michael Smith, a multichannel transmission systems operator from the 58th Signal Company, 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault), drags a simulated casualty as part of the Soldier Readiness Test during the 2017 Forces Command Best Warrior Competition at Fort Bragg, N.C., Aug. 20 | U.S. Army photo by Spc. Hubert D. Delany III

Two-Mile Run:

This is the same running event as on the current APFT. In the ACRT, run scores are expected to be a bit slower due to all the other strenuous activity.

Part of the ACRT pilot, which is expected to continue into 2018, is working out how leaders will administer the six-event tests.

“Part of the challenge is if we are going to do six events, there is a scope and scale challenge to this — you can’t take a week to test a battalion,” Frost said. “You have got to be able to move a company through at the same pace you move a company through to do the APFT.”

There is also the challenge of figuring out the correct sequence to the events, he said.

“We have been able to test 50 soldiers in 75 minutes using 10 lanes, so this is doable; it’s executable with the right equipment,” Frost said.

The plan, he said, is to present the data collected so far in the pilot to Milley “in the next couple of months” and hopefully get a decision to move forward.

If approved, program officials will finalize the test protocol and other details before going back to Milley sometime next spring for final approval to start rolling the ACRT out in 2019 so soldiers can start training for it, Frost said.

“There has got to be a transition period,” Frost said. “You have to give them time to ramp up to it.”

The real-world air combat origins of ‘The Last Jedi’
Noncommissioned officers and Soldiers take a break to recover after completing the Soldier Readiness Test during the 2017 Forces Command Best Warrior Competition at Fort Bragg, N.C., Aug. 20. | U.S. Army photo by Spc Liem Huynh

Soldier Performance Training Centers

As a simultaneous effort, he said, the Army will launch a pilot program next year to develop “soldier performance training centers,” which feature the right equipment and resources to help soldiers prepare for the ACRT.

The plan is to put these centers in gyms at three installations and staff them with experts such as trainers, physical therapists and nutrition counselors. Eventually, centers would be established all over the Army, Frost said.

The centers will also need equipment for soldiers to train for the ACRT — pull-up bars, sleds for dragging weight, deadlift bars, weights and medicine balls.

A battalion set of this equipment to create 10 test lanes retails for about $12,000, but the Army will likely be able to get equipment for less, Frost said.

“If we buy this at scale, it will be much, much, much less, and a lot of this equipment is already out there so we have to kind of inventory what we have and then figure out what the need is,” he said.

“And that doesn’t mean every battalion is going to get it,” Frost said. “You may have a brigade set and every battalion is not going to take the ACRT on the same day, so there are a lot of things we can look at.”

The real-world air combat origins of ‘The Last Jedi’
Cpl. Mark Combs, an explosive ordnance disposal specialist from 52nd Ordnance Group, participates in the obstacle avoidance challenge as part of the Soldier Readiness Test during the 2017 Forces Command Best Warrior Competition at Fort Bragg, N.C., Aug. 20. | U.S. Army photo by Spc Liem Huynh

Transition Period

But there has to be a transition period before the ACRT can replace the APFT as the test of record, Frost said.

“Whether it is one year or two years, you train on one test — the other test is a test of record; maybe there is a transition period where both of them can be a test of record,” he said. “And eventually, you fade the APFT out — kind of like you did the gray PT uniform — and then the ACRT is the enduring test of record.”

There also has to be time for the Army to figure out the policy, legal and administrative factors involved with instituting a new test of record since there will be punitive and administrative measures that occur for soldiers who are not able to pass it.

“We are going to need feedback from the field, but my gut tells me before it becomes the test of record, it’s probably two years — so one year to train for it. Another year, maybe it could be a test of record maybe as an option with the APFT,” Frost said. “Then at the end of two years, the APFT is faded away, and the ACRT is the only test of record.”

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