The US lost 4 H-bombs in 1966 and they're still causing damage - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY TRENDING

The US lost 4 H-bombs in 1966 and they’re still causing damage

Early on the morning of Jan. 16, 1966, a B-52 Stratofortress bomber took off from Seymour Johnson Air Force Base in North Carolina.


The bomber headed toward Europe, where it would patrol near the borders of the Soviet Union with four nuclear weapons, part of Operation Chrome Dome, a Cold War program to provide 24-hour rapid-response capabilities in case of war.

During its return to the U.S. the next day, the B-52 was to rendezvous with a KC-135 tanker for refueling over Spain. Capt. Charles Wendorf, the 29-year-old Air Force pilot at the controls of the bomber, asked his staff pilot, Maj. Larry Messinger, to take over as they approached the refueling point.

Just after 10 a.m. on Jan. 17, the planes began their approach at 31,000ft over eastern Spain. Messinger sensed something was amiss.

“We came in behind the tanker, and we were a little bit fast, and we started to overrun him a little bit,” Messinger recalled, according to American Heritage magazine.

The US lost 4 H-bombs in 1966 and they’re still causing damage
Side view of YB-52 bomber. (Image courtesy of USAF)

“There is a procedure they have in refueling where, if the boom operator feels that you’re getting too close and it’s a dangerous situation, he will call, ‘ breakaway, breakaway, breakaway,'” Messinger said. “There was no call for a breakaway, so we didn’t see anything dangerous about the situation, but all of a sudden, all hell seemed to break loose.”

The B-52 collided with the tanker. The belly of the KC-135 was torn open, and jet fuel spilled into the tanker and onto the bomber. Explosions ripped through both planes, consuming the tanker and killing all four men aboard. Three men in the tail of the bomber were killed, and the four other crew members ejected.

Capt. Ivens Buchanan, strapped into his ejection seat, was caught in the fireball and burned. He crashed to the ground, but survived. Wendorf’s and Lt. Richard Rooney’s parachutes opened at 14,000 feet, and they drifted out to sea where fishermen rescued them.

Messinger hit his head during ejection. “I opened my parachute. Well, I shouldn’t have done that. I should have freefalled and the parachute would open automatically at 14,000 feet,” he said. “But I opened mine anyway, because of the fact that I got hit in the head, I imagine.” He drifted eight miles out to sea, where he was also picked up by fishermen.

A Spanish fisherman 5 miles offshore at the time reported seeing the explosion and the rain of debris. He then saw five parachutes — three with surviving crew members from the bomber; two others carrying “half a man, with his guts trailing,” and a “dead man.”

Soon after, on the ground in Spain, officers at Air Force bases scrambled to pack the troops they could find — cooks, clerks, and musicians — into buses to head toward Palomares, a coastal farming village in southeast Spain.

“It was just chaos,” John Garman, then a military police officer, told The New York Times in 2016. “Wreckage was all over the village. A big part of the bomber had crashed down in the yard of the school.”

By the evening of Jan. 17, all the airmen had been accounted for and no villagers were hurt. But U.S. personnel continued their search for the four nuclear bombs the B-52 had been carrying.

Days of searching

The US lost 4 H-bombs in 1966 and they’re still causing damage
Eighty days after it fell into the ocean following the January 1966 midair collision between a nuclear-armed B-52G bomber and a KC-135 refueling tanker over Palomares, Spain, this B28RI nuclear bomb was recovered from 2,850 feet (869 meters) of water and lifted aboard the USS Petrel. (Image from U.S. Navy)

The bombs — each carrying 1.45 megatons of explosive power, about 100 times as much as the bomb dropped on Hiroshima — were not armed, meaning there was no chance of a nuclear detonation.

One was recovered intact, but the high-explosives in two of them, designed to detonate and trigger a nuclear blast, did explode. The blasts left house-size craters on either side of the village, scattering plutonium and contaminating crops and farmland.

“There was no talk about radiation or plutonium or anything else,” Frank B. Thompson, then a 22-year-old trombone player, told The New York Times in 2016.

Thompson and others spent days searching contaminated fields without protective equipment or even a change of clothes. “They told us it was safe, and we were dumb enough, I guess, to believe them,” he said.

The fourth bomb remained missing after days of searching, its absence embarrassing for the U.S. and potentially deadly for people in the area.

The Pentagon called on engineers at Sandia National Laboratories in New Mexico, who crunched the available numbers in order to determine where the missing bomb may have landed. The circumstances of the crash and the multitude of variables made such an estimate difficult.

Clues pointed to a sea landing for the fourth bomb, but there was little hard data to indicate where.

An interview with the fisherman who watched five members of the bomber’s crew land at sea yielded a breakthrough.

The “dead man” was, in fact, the bomb attached to its parachute, and the “half man, with his guts trailing” was the empty parachute bag with its packing lines trailing in the air.

That information led the engineers assisting the search to recommend a new search area, bringing the total area being scoured to 27 square miles — with visibility of only 20 feet in some spots.

On Feb. 11, the Navy called in Alvin, a 22-foot-long, 8-foot-wide submersible weighting 13 tons. It had room for a pilot and two observers, carried several cameras and a grappling arm, and could dive to 6,000 feet.

Also Read: 32 times when the U.S. military screwed up with nukes

Alvin‘s primitive technology made the search a slog. There was no progress until March 1, when they spotted a track on the seabed.

Two more weeks of searching went by before they spotted the bomb — 2,550 feet below the surface, almost exactly in the spot where the fisherman had seen it enter the water. On March 24, divers in Alvin managed to attach a line to the bomb’s parachute. Just after 8 p.m., a winch on a Navy ship began to reel in the line. About an hour later, the line broke, sending the bomb back to the ocean floor.

They found it again on April 2, resting about 350 feet deeper in the same area. The Navy rigged up another retrieval plan using an unmanned recovery vehicle, but it got caught in the bomb’s parachute. On April 7, the admiral leading the search ordered his crew to lift the whole thing.

The laborious process that followed, assisted by Navy frogmen, lifted the missing nuclear bomb to the surface, bringing the 81-day saga to a close.

Alvin‘s pilots became international heroes, but little else about the incident ended so well.

‘They told us everything was safe’

U.S. soldiers plowed up 600 acres of crops in Palomares, sending it to the Savannah River nuclear complex in South Carolina for disposal.

The U.S. government paid $710,914 to settle 536 Spanish claims. The fisherman, who wanted his claim for finding the bomb, sued for $5 million and eventually won $14,566. Madrid, where protesters had chanted “Yankee assassins!” during the search, asked U.S. Strategic Air Command to stop its flights over Spain. The airborne-alert program of which Operation Chrome Dome was a part was curtailed and then ended for good in 1992.

The U.S. personnel involved in the search and Spaniards in the area have lived with the legacy of the accident in the half-century since it happened.

Despite removing soil in the immediate aftermath, tests in the 1990s revealed high levels of Americium, a product of decaying plutonium, in the village. More tests showed that 50,000 cubic meters of the soil remained radioactive. The U.S. agreed to clean up the contamination remaining in the village in 2015.

Many of the U.S. veterans who assisted the search have said they are dealing with the effects of plutonium poisoning. Linking cancers to a single exposure to radiation is impossible, and there hasn’t been any study to assess whether they have an elevated incidence of illness, but in the years since, some have been ravaged by disease.

The US lost 4 H-bombs in 1966 and they’re still causing damage
The mystery of why these people are smiling also persists.

Of the 40 veterans involved in the search who were identified by The Times in 2016, 21 had cancer — nine had died from it.

Many of the men have blamed the Air Force, which sent them to clean the scene with little protective gear and later fed troops the contaminated crops that Spaniards refused to eat. One military-police officer was given a plastic bag and told to pick up radioactive fragments by hand.

The Air Force also dismissed tests done at the time showing the men had high levels of plutonium contamination.

“It took me a long time to start to realize this maybe had to do with cleaning up the bombs,” said Arthur Kindler, who was a grocery supply clerk at the time of the incident.

He was so covered in plutonium during the cleanup that the Air Force made him wash off in the ocean and took his clothes. Four years later, he developed testicular cancer and a rare lung infection; he has had cancer in his lymph nodes three times since then.

“You have to understand, they told us everything was safe,” Kindler said. “We were young. We trusted them. Why would they lie?”

MIGHTY TRENDING

F-35s won’t save NATO from a war with Russia

Much of NATO’s hope to remain a relevant fighting force in the coming decades has been pinned on the introduction of the F-35, but a simple look at the numbers shows that one airframe alone won’t turn the tide against Russia.

“If we think we’re going to wait for the next generation to sort the problems out, I can categorically tell you we will fail when next major conflict occurs.” Simon Rochelle, the Royal Air Force’s air vice-marshal, told the Royal United Service Institute’s Combat Air Survivability conference on March 20, 2019.


“In 2030, 80% of the European NATO forces — should one of those situations occur, God forbid — will be gen 4 fighters. You can’t walk away from that,” he continued, referring to pre-stealth jets as belonging to a fourth generation of fighters.

While Rochelle sounded confident in the F-35’s ability to meet current and future threats, he stressed that NATO wouldn’t hit critical mass in its fifth-generation fleets in time for the next big conflict.

But instead of demanding a deeper well of F-35s, Rochelle said the only practical way was to spread the benefits of the F-35 horizontally, to other airframes.

“I need the F-35’s ISR (intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance) information off boarded,” he said. “We have F-35s and Typhoons, and I have to use those symbiotically. I can’t afford poor interoperability.”

The US lost 4 H-bombs in 1966 and they’re still causing damage

(Crown Copyright)

Too little, too late

While the UK has its own fifth-gen fighter planned, the Tempest, Rochelle said the slow pace of fielding the fighters slightly defeated the purpose.

“If both those airframes take 10 years to mature to the next level, they won’t fit the purpose,” he said.

In the meantime, Russia has come up with a slew of new, low-cost, and potentially potent weapons systems meant to down NATO jets.

“The threats, in terms of how it is progressing, [are] significant,” Rochelle said of Russian systems such as the S-400, which has begun to proliferate across the globe with China, Syria, and even the NATO member Turkey looking to buy.

“Those systems are so complex and so capable that a price point for those systems of defense is far cheaper than the long running programs we have in the aircraft to development,” Rochelle said. “We can’t afford not to respond at pace, because our adversaries are responding at pace.”

An S-400 can spot even stealth aircraft such as the F-35 and, using a relatively cheap missile, down a jet that costs many hundred times its own value.

Additionally, Russia may have the even more advanced S-500 system online by the time fifth-generation fighter aircraft hit the front lines en masse.

“They are formidable beasts,” Rochelle said of Russia’s new systems, which include directed energy weapons.

The US lost 4 H-bombs in 1966 and they’re still causing damage

Eurofighter Typhoon.

(Photo by Ronnie Macdonald)

Think fast

At the Rapid Capabilities Office in the Royal Air Force, Rochelle’s job is to innovate new solutions to these mounting problems and get them done fast.

Rochelle discussed cutting down extensive, sometimes grueling testing requirements for non-mission critical components of fighter aircraft. He also explained how his office was able to get Tornado jets fighting ISIS in 191 days.

When it came to fitting the F-35 into the bigger NATO fight against Russia, Rochelle was full of ideas.

“I want to be able to connect a Rivet Joint, through space, into the cockpit … We need to be thinking in those dimensions,” he said, referencing the US and UK’s standard airborne signals-intelligence plane that can help spot anti-air batteries like Russia’s S-400.

“Ideally, I’d like to reprogram the F-35 in flight” with new information, potentially including things spotted by Rivet Joints and other legacy aircraft.

Essentially, Rochelle knows that Europe won’t have B-21s, F-22s, and F-35s of its own on day one of a conflict with Russia, and has launched a series of programs to make his Typhoons fight harder with the benefit of targeting and threat data pulled from F-35s.

In effect, he’s gunning for a much cheaper, lighter air force that takes the cutting edge of the F-35 and spreads it out across the entire mass of NATO’s jet fighter fleet.

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

Intel

Here’s why it’s a bad idea to snipe at the US Army

A Taliban sniper team thought it would be a good idea to snipe some American soldiers, little did they know what they’d be facing in retaliation. America’s military doesn’t respond with just a little firepower, it responds with jets and bombs.


In this Hornet’s Nest clip on the American Heroes Channel, a father-son journalism team embedded with the 101st Airborne captured footage of the unit pinned down by Taliban snipers. The snipers come dangerously close to killing some of the soldiers. At first, the soldiers respond with machine gun fire, which managed to injure one of the insurgents but nothing too serious. “They’re reporting that everything is okay,” said the translator listening to the enemy radio chatter. “Good, it’s not going to be okay,” said Lt. Col. Joel Vowell in the video below.

The soldiers were using the shots to lock in the enemy’s position. Air support is called in and BOOM! Game over terrorists.

The military’s embedded program give journalists and filmmakers access to wars like never before, so it’s no surprise that the latest conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan have been some of the best documented in history. Here’s the footage:

MIGHTY CULTURE

What spouses wish their husbands would do (but don’t)

Love is blind, but marriage is an eye-opener. So goes the old joke. Har Har. But there’s a lot of truth to this vaudevillian knee-slapper: marriage provides an opportunity for each partner to glimpse the other in a new light. This light shows polished surfaces we never knew were there, and also shows some rough or cracked edges that need assistance. And this results in complaints: things they wish they’d realize, things they wish they’d try to do more often, things they do that unknowingly make the other feel lesser or unloved.


And you know what? Listening to complaints is helpful. Really helpful. Because all of us have overlapping tendencies. That’s why we spoke to a variety of wives to find out what they really wished their husbands would stop doing. Most of their complaints boil down issues of emotional intimacy and self-awareness — and can help the rest of us understand what we can do to make life better for our partners. So, consider what these wives said, and look inward. Maybe you’ve been guilty of some of the same infractions. Maybe not. In any case, they’re good to hear regardless to keep yourself in check.

1. I wish he’d give himself more credit

“I wish my husband would give himself more credit. He’s an amazing dad, and an amazing husband – an amazing person, really. But, he’s got a confidence issue, and usually reverts to being extremely humble when he’s praised or when people compliment him. I think he’s afraid to let it sink in. I mean, I know he’s afraid to let it sink in. It’s something we’ve talked about. I admire his humility, I just wish he would pat himself on the back every once in a while for being so great. He deserves it.” – Jasmine, 36, Mobile, AL

The US lost 4 H-bombs in 1966 and they’re still causing damage

(Flicker / 401kcalculator.org)

2. I wish he’d include me in our financial discussions more

“My husband is very secretive about finances. We have joint finances, of course, but he also has a stock portfolio that he doesn’t share with anyone besides his broker, and maybe a friend or two. It’s not the money aspect, really. It’s more the secrecy – I wish he would tell me more about it, because it’s a part of his life. If I ask, he just says, ‘Don’t worry. We’ll be fine.” And that’s great and reassuring. But it still makes me feel like he doesn’t trust me, or doesn’t think I’m smart enough to understand the whole thing.” – Christine, 63, Chautauqua, NY

3. I wish he’d realize that he doesn’t have to explain everything to me

“I trust my husband – I wish he knew that. He always feels like he has to explain things to me. Like why he was late getting home, or who he just got off the phone with in the other room. I’m thrilled that he’s so honest, but I do trust him. It makes me feel like his mom. I don’t need to know every little detail about his day in order to know that he’s a good man. If it’s something he’s excited to share, that’s awesome. But if he’s just, like, providing an alibi, it makes me feel more like he’s afraid of me than in love with me.” – Jen, 37, West Palm Beach, FL

4. I wish he knew that just saying “sorry” sometimes isn’t enough

“I wish my husband knew that just because he says, ‘I’m sorry’, it doesn’t make the hurtful things he said or did go away. I believe him when he says he’s sorry, but the words we exchanged during the fight, or the hurtful thing he did – or didn’t do – just keeps replaying over and over in my head.” – Kayla, 29, Boston, MA

The US lost 4 H-bombs in 1966 and they’re still causing damage

(Flickr / J Stimp)

5. I wish he would not make me feel as though I was talking at him

“Eye contact. When I’m talking to him about something important, I wish my husband would make eye contact with me. He does, but it’s usually only for a second, and then he goes back to looking at the floor, or off in the distance. I know he can hear me, but I don’t feel like he’s listening. And it makes me feel like he’s either disinterested or terrified – neither of which I want him to be. I just want us to be able to look at each other while we talk to each other, instead of me talking at him.” – Mary, 54, Cleveland, OH

6. I wish he’d realize he’s not as handy as he thinks


“My husband thinks he’s way more handy than he really is. His father is a total ‘Mr. Fix-It’. But my husband just didn’t inherit those genes. He’ll try to fix something around the house, and it’ll usually end up being a temporary solve until it breaks again. I wish he’d just shelve his pride and admit that we should call a pro to fix the problem correctly. I don’t care that he’s not ‘Mr. Fix-It’. Like, at all. And he doesn’t need to try and impress me – that part was cute at first, but now it’s just become annoying. And expensive.” – Zulma, 46, Phoenix, AZ

7. I wish he’d stop being so defensive

“When I come to my husband with a ‘complaint’, I wish he’d respond less defensively. When I say something’s bothering me, my goal isn’t to put him in the hot seat – it’s to try and figure out a solution that works for all of us. But, he immediately starts talking about how horrible he is for what he did, or forgot to do, or whatever. That’s not what I want. I just want to figure it out! Together!” – Erin, 37, Vancouver, Canada

The US lost 4 H-bombs in 1966 and they’re still causing damage

(Flickr / Buscando ando)

8. I wish he would try to woo me again


“My husband used to play his guitar all the time when we were dating. He was trying to woo me, and impress me. He doesn’t play a lot anymore, if ever. It makes me feel like he’s stopped trying – like now that we’re married, with kids, he’s ‘got’ me. I imagine this complaint is similar to a lot of other women’s, but it’s very specifically his guitar in my case. He’s really good! I enjoy listening to him play. It’s not even the “trying to impress me” thing, really. I just know he loves his guitar, and I miss that part of him. When I ask him to play, he just shies away. It makes me sad that I have to practically beg him to play, when it used to be something he’d surprise me with.” – Emily, 40, New York, NY

9. I wish he’d stop being a martyr and just quit his job

“I wish my husband would quit his job. He hates it. Every day he comes home, he’s miserable. But, he’s afraid to quit. It’s not worth it, though – the stress this job puts on him. I don’t care if we have to tighten our budget for a while, so he can find something else. His happiness is more important to me then a temporary lack of security. Part of me feels like he enjoys being a martyr, but that’s stupid. His mood affects everyone in our house. Me and the kids. When he’s unhappy, it makes us unhappy, too. And it’s all because of this awful job. I appreciate the sentiment of wanting to take care of us, but not at this cost. He just needs to grow a pair and quit. He’d be so much happier.” – Sarah, 29, Columbus, OH

10. I wish he’d argue with me more

“When my husband and I are mad at each other, we go silent. Well, he goes silent. I wish he would argue with me more. It sounds silly, but I really do. I think arguing shows that you care about the problem enough to have an opinion. Staying quiet just makes everything so ambiguous. Show me some passion. I’m a big girl – if you think I’m being an idiot, tell me. If you think I’m wrong, tell me. Yelling is talking, and I’d rather talk like that than not talk at all.” – Meg, 32, Woodside, NY

This article originally appeared on Fatherly. Follow @FatherlyHQ on Twitter.

Articles

The US wants a laser-equipped drone that would be a silver bullet for stopping North Korea

The US Missile Defense Agency just issued a bold request for proposals for a missile defense system that could change the game and act like a silver bullet against North Korean missile launches.


The MDA asked for proposals to build a high-altitude, long-endurance, unmanned aircraft capable of flying higher than 63,000 feet and carrying a laser to shoot down ballistic missiles as they arc upwards towards the sky.

While the laser system sounds like something out of science fiction, and is something the US Navy has struggled to field for over a decade, Ricky Ellison of the Missile Defense Advocacy Alliance told Business Insider that this drone could be the perfect application of the technology.

“What it can do is intercept missiles in the boost phase, therefore you don’t need to have billion dollar radars all over the world to intercept with 80 million dollar interceptors,” said Ellison.

Ballistic missiles fly high into earth’s atmosphere before breaking apart, often releasing multiple reentry vehicles, countermeasures, and decoys. This makes them a nightmare for traditional missile defense systems which track the launch and then fire interceptor vehicles to smash them apart upon reentry.

The US lost 4 H-bombs in 1966 and they’re still causing damage
Another possible design for the laser interceptor. Photo from missilethreat.csis.org

Even the top-of-the-line THAAD system, recently sent to South Korea, would struggle to destroy a large salvo from North Korea, and the price of installing and using the entire system, interceptors included, would cost into the billions. Additionally, THAAD’s high-powered radar capability makes China extremely nervous, as they believe it could limit their ability to respond to a nuclear strike from the US.

Meanwhile, a solid state laser can be fired continuously for dollars a minute, about what you’d pay for electricity in your home. Though building the platform would cost millions in research, development, and testing.

Traditionally, while boost-phase interception looks more attractive on paper because it hits the missile in a more vulnerable stage, it’s been impractical because the interceptor has to be close to the projectile.

So there’s just no way the US could intercept a missile fired from central Russia or China in its boost phase. With a small country like North Korea though, US drones right off the border could melt down missiles with a light-speed weapon in the cloudless upper atmosphere.

“This would be far more efficient to have boost-phase intercept capability over that territory at that height to handle that,” said Ellison. “As North Korea develops countermeasures, decoys, multiple reentry vehicles, and all the things that will continue to evolve, you have a great opportunity to eliminate all those advancing technologies before all that gets dispersed.”

The MDA hopes to field this technology by 2023, at which point most experts agree North Korea will have perfected an intercontinental ballistic missile.

popular

The real story of the Hell’s Angels biker gang and the military

The first Hell’s Angels Motorcycle Club (HAMC) was founded in the areas of Fontana and San Bernardino, California in 1948. From there, the club grew exponentially, becoming one of the largest in the world. The club has since earned a reputation in media and popular culture, thanks to a number of high-profile raids and wars on its various national charters, and in no small part to Gimme Shelter, a 1970 documentary about a riot during a Rolling Stones concert. The Stones’ management allegedly paid the Hell’s Angels to provide security at the concert and paid them in beer, which was a terrible idea. As a banner once read on the club’s website, “when we do right, no one remembers; when we do wrong, no one forgets.”


 

The US lost 4 H-bombs in 1966 and they’re still causing damage

 

What the motorcycle club never forgets is its own heritage. While mainstream media gave the club a creation myth involving drunken, misfit airmen who flew bomber missions in World War II and struggled to adapt to life after the war, the real story is much simpler.

The fake story starts with a WWII Army Air Forces unit in Europe during WWII, the 303rd Bombardment Group. The 303rd was not a misfit group, as popular lore has implied, but rather one of the highest performers in the entire air war. In its official history, the motorcycle club tells the story of the B-17 the 303rd named “Hell’s Angels,” and its commander, the capable (and not drunken) Capt. Irl E. Baldwin. Why? To make sure the world knows this aircrew wasn’t a band of drunken misfits, but instead were heroes of the war in Europe. The aircrew has nothing to do with the motorcycle club. The Angels just care that the memory of the crew isn’t dragged through the mud. (They care too much, right? That’s always been a fault of the Hell’s Angels.)

 

The US lost 4 H-bombs in 1966 and they’re still causing damage

This B-17F, tail number 41-24577, was named Hell’s Angels after the Howard Hughes movie about World War I fighter pilots. The bomber would fly with several commanders and numerous crewmen over 15 months and was the first B-17 to complete 25 combat missions in Eighth Air Force.

The 303rd’s story starts with naming their B-17 “Hell’s Angels” after the 1930 movie by famed aviator Howard Hughes. The plane was the first 8th Air Force B-17 to complete 25 combat sorties in the European Theater. It even participated in one of the first strikes on Berlin 1944. Two of the plane’s crewmen would earn the Medal of Honor. Another four would ear the Distinguished Service Cross. Fifty years later, the entire 303rd would vote to change its name to the Hell’s Angels, with “Might in Flight” as its motto. That name is the only common thread between the bikers and the airmen of the 303rd.

So where did the name Hell’s Angels really come from? The motorcycle club’s official history says it comes from a World War II veteran from the All-Volunteer Group (AVG), better known as “the Flying Tigers.” This Flying Tiger, named Arvid Olson, was a close friend of the founders of the Hell’s Angels Motorcycle Club after the war, but never even tried to become a member.

The US lost 4 H-bombs in 1966 and they’re still causing damage
The Flying Tigers, aka the A-10’s grandpa. You *might* have seen the tiger shark design before.

The Flying Tigers were an all-volunteer group of airmen and maintainers in service to the Chinese Air Force who fought the Japanese Imperial Air Forces in China, preparing for combat even before the U.S. entered World War II. The unit’s 3rd Pursuit Squadron, comprised entirely of Marine Corps aviators, called themselves the Hell’s Angels. They first saw combat against Japan days after the attack on Pearl Harbor. Over the life of the unit, the Flying Tigers would down almost 300 Japanese aircraft in combat between December 20, 1941 and July 4, 1942.

The Hell’s Angels Motorcycle Club’s copyrighted “Death’s Head” logo (below, left) can even be traced back to two U.S. Army Air Corps patches, from the 85th Fighter Squadron (center) and the 552nd Medium Bomber Squadron (right).

The US lost 4 H-bombs in 1966 and they’re still causing damage

MIGHTY TACTICAL

The 10 worst Air Forces in the world

When it comes to things like air superiority, if you don’t have to think about it, you’re probably winning. The ground pounders in the Armed Forces of the United States have it pretty good in that regard. They can be reasonably sure that if they’re going into a combat situation, death will likely not be coming from above.


The Army and Marine Corps know they can count on airmen to have the best food and the worst PT tests, but as long as those airmen can lift bombs and bullets onto aircraft and get the stuff to the fight, everyone is blessed from on high. Everyone allied with the United States, that is.

The US lost 4 H-bombs in 1966 and they’re still causing damage
#blessed.

But what happens to ground troops who can’t depend on US airpower to ensure “death from above” isn’t the last thing they hear? There are countries whose armed forces have to deal with things like that. Some countries go to war and send in ground forces without really thinking about an air force. If air power isn’t a priority, going to war in the 21st century is a terrible idea.

We’re not here to make fun of countries who don’t have an air force, especially if they aren’t going around rattling sabers all the time. You never hear about Costa Rica wanting to invade Belize for their strategic scuba gear caches. No, Costa Rica is too busy getting rich from Americans on yoga trips to worry about things like war. Meanwhile, Iran is constantly talking smack to Israel while rolling around in F-14 Tomcats that Israel can see from the the runways where their F-35s take off.

The US lost 4 H-bombs in 1966 and they’re still causing damage
Iran: 30+ years of Top Gun references. You know they love it.

But just because something is a little old doesn’t mean it doesn’t have its uses. If it works and the country can maintain its effectiveness, then why get rid of it? If a country has antiquated equipment but is still rocking it after all these years, we won’t take points off. Some things are just timeless.

The US lost 4 H-bombs in 1966 and they’re still causing damage
You magnificent, old bastard.

The reason a country’s air force makes the list is because they’re patched together with bubble gum and wishes and expected to fight a war with awful training, no funding, and little regard from the government for the lives of the people expected to keep their terrible air forces flying.

The US lost 4 H-bombs in 1966 and they’re still causing damage

A Royal Canadian Air Force CF-18 Hornet gives a shrug as it parks on the flight line at Holloman Air Force Base, N.M.

(U.S. Air Force Photo by Senior Airman Chase Cannon)

10. Canada

It’s still hard to see such a stalwart U.S. ally make the list, but here we are. In our last rundown of the world’s airborne worst, Canada was the least worst of those listed. Last time, we specifically mentioned how terrible the state of Canada’s Ch-124 Sea King fleet was. Just to get them airborne required something like 100 hours apiece.

Replacing them was just as laborious; it took more than 20 years of political wrangling to get to a point where they could first fly its replacement, the Sikorsky CH-148 Cyclone. But the helicopter fun doesn’t stop there. The bulk of the Royal Canadian Air Force’s helicopter fleet is flying the Bell CH-146 Griffon, a bird known to cause constant, debilitating neck pain in most of the pilots who fly it.

Canada never learned from its own cautionary tale – Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau pushed the F/A-18 Super Hornet for Canada’s next-gen Strike Fighter to replace the aging CF-18s ordered by his father in the 1970s while the rest of its Western Allies are upgrading to the F-35.

The US lost 4 H-bombs in 1966 and they’re still causing damage

Can you see this stealth fighter? So can everyone else’s radar.

9. China

Yeah, I know most of you are calling bullsh*t immediately, but hear me out. For all its talk, China isn’t currently capable of global reach, and isn’t expected to be until 2030. It has a relatively small number of early-warning aircraft and aerial tankers. Most of its aerial fleet are licenses or rip-offs of other, better fighting systems. And the vaunted Chinese Chengdu J-20 fighter was rushed into production with a less-than-adequate engine, which negates any stealth capabilities it has and weakens its performance as a fifth-gen fighter.

That’s a pretty embarrassing misstep for an air force that wants to strike fear in the hearts of the world’s second-largest air force: the U.S. Navy.

More than that, when was the last time China did anything with its air force other than attempt to intimidate weaker neighbors in the South China Sea? Historically, the People’s Liberation Army Air Force has a tendency to get in way over its head. It wasn’t a real factor in the Chinese wars with India and Vietnam (though you’d think an air force in the 20th century would be), but where it was a factor – the Korean War, the Taiwan Strait Crises, and the U.S.-Vietnam War – a lack of any air combat doctrine and investment in air power led to heavy losses and big lessons for the PLAAF.

It wasn’t until after the Gulf War of 1991 that Chinese leaders decided to really give air power another shot, both in terms of technology and investment. China still has a long way to go.

The US lost 4 H-bombs in 1966 and they’re still causing damage

Greece, full of historical artifacts – like its air force.

8. Greece

There are a lot of training accidents in the Hellenic Air Force. After a Greek Mirage 2000 crashed into the Aegean Sea April 2018, a look back at the incidents reported to Greek officials found 125 people died in 81 crashes between 1990 and 2018. Two of those were Greek fighter pilots trying to intercept Turkish jets.

Since the Greek government debt crisis, the Greek military has to be incredibly cautious with the money it spends. Every time a Greek fighter has to scramble to intercept a Turkish fighter in their airspace, it bleeds Greece of Euros better spent elsewhere. That might be why Turkey does it more than a thousand times every year – and there’s nothing the Greeks can do about it except go up and meet them with antiquated equipment due to the steep budget cuts demanded by Greece’s creditors.

Turkey will soon be flying F-35s like most NATO allies, while Greece (also a NATO ally, but Turkey doesn’t care) will be “intercepting” them with F-16s at best, and maybe an F-4 Phantom at worst.

The US lost 4 H-bombs in 1966 and they’re still causing damage

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani not sitting in a museum piece, but an actual Iranian Air Force F5F fighter, first build in the 60s and still used in Iran.

(FARS News Agency)

7. Iran

The F-14s flown by Iran these days were first introduced under President Richard Nixon. Don’t get me wrong, Iran’s air force should be given props (see what I did there?) for keeping the aging fleet airborne. Iran’s F-14s were purchased by the Shah or Iran and, when he was overthrown, the U.S. wasn’t exactly keen on providing spare parts to the Islamic Republic. They were able to kick ass against Saddam Hussein’s Iraqi air force in the Iran-Iraq War, but that was then and this is now.

Those things are held together with duct tape and wishes by now, with only seven operational Iranian Air Force F-14s. The Islamic Republic now has to use homegrown technology to replace certain avionics systems and weapons on its aging aircraft, even going to far as to claim an old American F-5F was an Iranian-built fourth-gen fighter in 2018 because it had a lot of Iranian-built components.

In fact, Iran is just using F-5s as a blueprint to Frankenstein “new” fighters from its old garbage – most of which is leftover from the Shah or was captured from the Iraqis. Even the IRIAF’s ejection seats can’t save its pilots.

The US lost 4 H-bombs in 1966 and they’re still causing damage

This Ukrainian Su-25 isn’t landing… at least, not on purpose.

(The Aviationist)

6. Ukraine

Ukraine has a definite Russia problem. Not content to simply let his divorce with Ukraine happen, Russia’s Vladimir Putin is out to give Ukraine headaches wherever possible and Ukraine can do little about it. Russia-backed separatists operate with near-impunity in Ukraine’s eastern Donbass region and, when the Ukrainian Air Force is able to act, they often either kill civilians or get shot down on the way.

Its aircraft go down without enemy help, as seen in the 2018 Su-27 crash in Western Ukraine that killed Lt. Col. Seth ‘Jethro’ Nehring of the California Air National Guard. The Flanker went down as the pilot was familiarizing the American with its capabilities. In fact, other Su-27s have crashed, including one at an air show that killed 83 people. The National Interest said these crashes are either a result of poor maintenance, poor training, and/or daredevil flying. The truth is probably a combination of the three.

To top it all off, Ukraine’s air force is so old it was mostly handed down from the Soviet Union after the fall of Communism in the east. The old airframes are no match for the advanced surface-to-air missile being fired at them from the separatists. When Russia captured 45 planes from Ukraine’s Su-29 fleet in annexing Crimea, they probably did Ukraine a huge favor.

The US lost 4 H-bombs in 1966 and they’re still causing damage

PAF: Caveat emptor.

5. Pakistan

On any global list of sh*t-talkers, Pakistan has historically rated very high, especially toward its longtime arch-nemesis, India (although new Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan seems more conciliatory). The Pakistanis see India as an existential threat, and are not likely to stop anytime soon.

So, after fighting four pitched wars against India and losing all of them, prioritizing air power would seem to be the way forward if Pakistan was still going to rattle the saber every so often. RAND Corporation studies still declare that the Indian Air Force would have air supremacy in any war against Pakistan. Only very recently has Pakistan decided it would be best to upgrade their fighter aircraft. So, in a joint venture with China, they created a bargain-basement version of the F-16, the JF-17 Thunder, which now makes up the bulk of the PAF.

To give you an idea of how (in)effective the Thunder is, China doesn’t fly it. Neither does anyone else. Immediately dubbed the “Junk Fighter-17 Blunder,” the aircraft is dangerous to fly at lower speeds, it can’t fly as fast as older Pakistani airframes (and certainly not as fast as India’s fighters), and it can’t use similar avionics and munitions as its other fighters, which was one of the missions in creating the fighter in the first place. If all they wanted to do was replace their old fleet, then mission accomplished. If they wanted to beat India in an air war, well, it doesn’t look good, but it remains to be tested.

Aside from the JF-17, the PAF lags behind India in terms of both numbers of combat aircraft and the actual serviceable aircraft fielded at any given moment. It also lags behind its rival in terms of training and ability. Even when facing superior Pakistani firepower, skilled Indian pilots still manage to best the Pakistanis.

It’s a good thing the two countries face a nuclear detente.

The US lost 4 H-bombs in 1966 and they’re still causing damage

4. Mexico

Mexico has been fighting a war against the cartels for over a decade now, and all it got them was an increase in violence that made them the “Syria of North America.” In all that time, not only did the Mexican government decide not to invest in its air forces, it actively allowed all of its fighter aircraft to retire. Mexico has zero fighters.

While fighter aircraft aren’t necessary as a deterrent for aggressive neighbors, the cartels the country is actively fighting regularly uses aircraft to violate Mexican airspace and move illegal substances that fund the ongoing fight against the Mexican government and rival cartels. The aircraft the FAM does fly cannot fly high or fast enough to intercept aircraft used by drug smugglers and their leadership.

The Mexican Air Force has gone full Afghanistan with its fleet, focusing on drones, light attack aircraft, and troop transports. This is particularly bothersome to its northern neighbors, especially the United States, who considers the defense of the hemisphere a multilateral issue. Without Mexican air power, the U.S. may have a soft underbelly. Moreover, the Mexican Air Force is not a separate entity from the Army and the Air Force commander is tucked away in some headquarters building somewhere, giving air power guidance to no one.

As far as external threats go, an Army War College study says that the Mexican Armed Forces, including the Air Force, are incapable of defending Mexico from an external threat.

The US lost 4 H-bombs in 1966 and they’re still causing damage

The Royal Saudi Air Force: Missing more targets before 9am than most air forces do all day.

3. Saudi Arabia

Despite being at war in Afghanistan for over 17 years, the one thing the United States can be sure of is the superiority of its Air Force. In a prolonged conflict, a good Air Force positions its resources so that it has positive control over that battlespace. When Saudi Arabia fights a prolonged war, not so much. Welcome to 2019, where the Saudi-lead coalition against Iran-backed Houthi rebels in Yemen is about ready to begin another year of abject failure.

Not only has the Saudi coalition turned Yemen into an ongoing humanitarian crisis, no amount of foreign training is making the situation any better. Moreover, it’s just making the United States look bad. The U.S. Congress may soon vote over whether or not American participation in the conflict can continue after the Saudis used an American-made bomb to hit a school bus of civilian children in Yemen, killing 40.

That’s not even the first incident of indiscriminate killing of civilians. In October, 2016, Saudi warplanes hit a civilian funeral in an attack that killed 155 Yemenis. The problem with the Royal Saudi Air Force isn’t that their planes are antiquated, the problem is their choice of “military” targets.

Get your sh*t together, Saudi Arabia.

The US lost 4 H-bombs in 1966 and they’re still causing damage

North Korean MiG, complete with glorious people’s revolutionary crocheted ejection seat cover.

(KCNA)

2. North Korea

Of course North Korea is going to be near the top of the list. The only reason the DPRK is not at the very top is because it’s not actively trying to fight a war right now. Usually Kim Jong-Un is talking some kind of smack about invading the South or nuking America, but, in 2018, he mostly just got praise for not doing all that stuff.

But Kim still holds on to power with use of the North Korean military. While the Korean People’s Army isn’t exactly considered a formidable fighting force, the tactic of holding hundreds of artillery guns to South Korea’s head works for him. Of all the things Kim Jong-Un has done to the South, using his Air Force is not one of them.

The reason for this is probably because his air force is still relatively similar to the ones used by his grandfather Kim Il-Sung and the Chinese People’s Liberation Army against UN forces in the last full-scale war fought on the Korean Peninsula – the 1950-1953 Korean War. As a result, the North Korean air force is widely acknowledged as the least threatening arm of the North Korean military.

I imagine that the purpose of the North Korean Air Force is to take the brunt of any initial counterattack from U.S. and allied air forces in the event of a war. Sure, it’s a large air force, but it won’t last long in a war.

The US lost 4 H-bombs in 1966 and they’re still causing damage

Syrian MiGs doing what they do best.

1. Syria

It’s a really good thing the Syrians are being backed up in the air by Russians because, if they didn’t, the Syrian Civil War would last a lot longer than it already has. Almost every other power present in the region violates Syrian sovereignty on a near-daily basis. Israel, Turkey, and even Denmark have entered Syrian airspace, with Israel and Turkey both scoring air-to-air kills against Syrian Sukhoi fighters old enough to have fought against the U.S. in Vietnam.

It’s also not great to be an airman in the Syrian Air Force. Besides getting shot down by everyone (including a U.S. F/A-18 Super Hornet), Syrian fighter pilots face advanced surface-to-air missiles their airframes are not prepared to evade, they accidentally veer into neighboring countries (even getting shot down in Israeli airspace), and were the first target of President Trump’s retaliatory strike for the Syrian military’s use of chemical weapons.

Within 16 months of the outbreak of the Syrian Civil War, a Syrian Air Force pilot flew his MiG-21 to Jordan, where he defected. The only surprise is that there aren’t more SAF defectors – as of 2015, Syrian pilots have spent as many as 100 days behind the sticks of their aircraft. At one point, security in Syria’s air force was so bad, they had to move their fighters within Iran’s borders so they wouldn’t be targets for other, better air forces.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Iran’s newest ballistic missile, the Bright Conqueror

Iran just unveiled a new short-range ballistic missile on Aug. 13, 2018, just a few days after test firing a variant of the missile over the Strait of Hormuz.

The Fateh-e Mobin missile is an “agile, radar-evading and tactical missile with pinpoint accuracy,” said Iranian Defense Minister Brig. Gen. Amir Hatami, according to Defense News, citing the Iranian Tasnim News Agency.


“The more intense are sanctions, pressures, smear campaigns, and psychological warfare against the great nation of Iran, the greater will become our will to enhance our defensive power in all areas,” Hatami said, according to Press TV, an Iranian news outlet.

The Fateh-e Mobin, which means “Bright Conqueror,” has a range of about 483 to 805 miles, Defense News reported.

The unveiling of Bright Conqueror came just a few days after the Iranian military test-fired a Fateh-100 Mod 3 ballistic missile from an Iranian Revolutionary Guard base in Bandar-e-Jask, according to Fox News.

The US lost 4 H-bombs in 1966 and they’re still causing damage

Bandar-e-Jask skyline.

The anti-ship Fateh-100 Mod 3 ballistic missile flew about 100 miles over the Strait of Hormuz, landing at an Iranian test range northwest of the base, Fox News reported.

It was the first time Iran test fired a ballistic missile since March 2017, Fox News reported, but it’s unclear if the missile hit its target, Defense News reported.

The test fire also came as Iran conducted a naval exercise practicing closing the Strait of Hormuz, which Tehran has been threatening to do since President Donald Trump threatened sanctions on countries importing Iranian oil in late June 2018.

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

This is the Army missile that will provide short-range air defense to maneuver units

For the first time in nearly 15 years, 7th Army Training Command’s Joint Multinational Readiness Center will soon begin observing, coaching, and training Soldiers using the FIM-92 Stinger Man-Portable, Air Defense Missile System during future exercises. In preparation for this, approximately 50 Observer Coach/Trainers, known as OC/Ts, attended their own training on the Stinger system at the Hohenfels Training Area, Jan. 10.


Based on the Chief of Staff of the Army’s initiative, getting Europe stood up with short-range air defense (SHORAD) Stinger teams is his first priority inside the initiative of getting Stinger teams back online,” said Lt. Col. Aaron Felter, the director of training and doctrine for the Air Defense Integrated Office. “We’re going to go to the National Training Center and the Joint Readiness Training Center, however, the immediate focus is Europe and getting Europe ready to fight tonight and defend Europe against any adversary.

Instructors from the Fires Center of Excellence in Fort Sill, Oklahoma, traveled to Germany on a whirlwind excursion to offer their expertise with the Stinger system. Chief Warrant Officer 2 Stephen Ford and Sgt. 1st Class Edward Goldman, both instructors with the 30th Air Defense Artillery Brigade, joined Felter to provide hands-on instructions for the system that is now being reintroduced to brigade combat teams across the U.S. Army.

JMRC was the first combat training center to receive this Stinger training for OC/Ts.

The US lost 4 H-bombs in 1966 and they’re still causing damage
U.S. Army Capt. Richard Tran, an air defense officer, and an observer-coach trainer with the Warhog Team, Joint Multinational Readiness Center, trains with an FIM-92 Stinger Man-Portable, Air Defense Missile System at the Hohenfels Training Area, Hohenfels, Germany, Jan. 10, 2018. The training was in preparation of future rotational exercises where the OCT’s will start evaluating two-man Stinger Teams for the first time in approximately 15 years. (U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. David Overson)

In the past 15 years, the Army slowly drifted away from the FIM-92 Stinger — which is an infrared, homing, surface-to-air missile that has been around since the late 1970’s — as it focused on counterinsurgency tactics. However, now it is one of the Army’s main focal points, Felter said.

“Bringing back the Stinger addresses a self-identified gap that the Army created and has recognized,” added Felter. “We’re getting back to the basics and providing short-range air defense to maneuver units.”

One of three air defense officers at JMRC, Capt. Richard Tran, who is the Headquarters and Headquarters Company OC/T for the Warhog Team, is prepared to share his knowledge with the rest of the OC/T teams at JMRC who could not attend the training.

“I have a much better picture of how to go about observing, coaching and training Soldiers,” said Tran. “I’m better equipped after this class. Initially, some of these Stinger teams who rotate through JMRC won’t be completely up to speed with the Stingers. They’re riflemen who cross-trained to operate the system, and it will be our job to help guide them along this learning process.”

Though the Avenger and other variants may be seen and used from time to time, JMRC will primarily observe, coach and train the individual two-man Stinger teams using the shoulder-fired configuration.

Also Read: This Russian beast is one of the biggest anti-aircraft missiles ever developed

While in the field at JMRC, the Stinger teams will be evaluated on the mission-essential tasks of site placement, determining air avenues of approach, defending a critical location, de-conflicting engagements of enemy aircraft based on sector of fire, and proper operation of the FIM-92 Stinger.

“In parallel efforts, the goal is to get 62 Stinger teams into the operational force as soon as possible,” added Felter. “In concert with that, additional SHORAD battalions are being stood up, which will result in aligning one SHORAD battalion with each division.”

Some of the Soldiers who have received this training include personnel from 173rd Airborne Brigade and 2nd Cavalry Regiment who recently took a five-week Stinger course with the 7th Army Training Command at Grafenwoehr, Germany. Soon, many of those same Soldiers and others will be observed, coached and trained during their participation in future exercises at JMRC.

Articles

This is what makes SWCC crews so lethal

Special Warfare Combatant-Craft Crewman, the “Boat Guys” in all those Navy SEALs photos, are a small and elite bunch of warriors who don’t get nearly enough credit for their contribution to American security.


Here’s what makes the “SEALs Taxi Service” so lethal.

The US lost 4 H-bombs in 1966 and they’re still causing damage
Special Warfare Combatant-Craft Crewmen from Special Boat Team 22 conduct live-fire immediate action drills at the riverine training range at Ft. Knox. (Photo: U.S. Navy Chief Mass Communication Specialist Kathryn Whittenberger)

First, yes, they have SEALs on the boats. When your payload is Navy SEALs, that’s a pretty big plus in the lethality department.

The US lost 4 H-bombs in 1966 and they’re still causing damage
U.S. Navy SEALs splash into the water from a combat rubber raiding craft attached to an 11-meter rigid hull infalatble boat, during a capabilities exercise, at Joint Expeditionary Base Little Creek – Fort Story. (Photo: U.S. Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class Gary L. Johnson III.)

But SWCCs don’t just drop off and pick up SEALs. They also conduct their own missions.

The US lost 4 H-bombs in 1966 and they’re still causing damage
(Photo: U.S. Navy)

Combatant-craft crews can be sent against enemy shipping and other water traffic to shut down commerce or supply operations.

The US lost 4 H-bombs in 1966 and they’re still causing damage
(Photo: U.S. Navy Chief Mass Communication Specialist Kathryn Whittenberger)

The SWCC crews keep an eye out for enemy movements or other activity in their domain. If they identify a threat, they can prosecute it themselves or report it up to the deepwater guys for help.

The US lost 4 H-bombs in 1966 and they’re still causing damage
(Photo: U.S. Navy Chief Mass Communication Specialist Kathryn Whittenberger)

The SWCCs do all of this from some of the world’s most advanced and dangerous small crafts.

The US lost 4 H-bombs in 1966 and they’re still causing damage
(Photo: U.S. Navy Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Matt Daniels)

Their boats are typically well-armed, and SWCCs train extensively on small craft tactics and strategies.

The US lost 4 H-bombs in 1966 and they’re still causing damage

The US lost 4 H-bombs in 1966 and they’re still causing damage
(GIF: YouTube/America’s Navy)

The Navy prefers to deploy SWCC craft in groups so boats can provide fire support to one another.

The US lost 4 H-bombs in 1966 and they’re still causing damage
(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Nathan Laird/Released)

But even a single boat brings a lot of firepower.

The US lost 4 H-bombs in 1966 and they’re still causing damage
(Photo: U.S. Navy Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Timothy M. Black)

Navy SWCCs can launch and recover their vehicles in the well decks of larger ships.

The US lost 4 H-bombs in 1966 and they’re still causing damage
(Photo: U.S. Navy Petty Officer 1st Class Darren M. Moore)

And some of the boats can even be airdropped into the water for operations. All SWCC operators are static-line parachute qualified so they can jump with their boats.

The US lost 4 H-bombs in 1966 and they’re still causing damage
(Photo: U.S. Navy)

Of course, jumping after a boat means the operators will land in the water. So they conduct open water swims, sometimes into near-freezing water, to prepare.

The US lost 4 H-bombs in 1966 and they’re still causing damage
Special Warfare Combatant-craft crewmen finish an open ocean swim, with water and air temperatures hovering below 40 degrees. (Photo: U.S. Navy photo by Petty Officer 2nd Tim Miller)

The Navy gets sailors ready for this grueling job by demanding constant and rigorous physical training.

The US lost 4 H-bombs in 1966 and they’re still causing damage
A Crewman Qualification Training candidate puts on his flippers before swimming in Coronado Bay during a Monster Mash training exercise. (Photo: U.S. Navy)

Navy SWCC and SEAL candidates awaiting training are assigned to the Fleet Transition Program to ensure they remain physically capable of becoming elite maritime warriors.

The US lost 4 H-bombs in 1966 and they’re still causing damage
(Photo: U.S. Navy Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Abe McNatt)

The SWCC training pipeline consists four phases, the two-month Naval Special Warfare Preparatory School, Naval Special Warfare Orientation, Basic Crewman Training, and Crewman Qualification Training.

The US lost 4 H-bombs in 1966 and they’re still causing damage
Crewman Qualification Training (CQT) candidates hustle to shore during a Monster Mash training exercise. (Photo: U.S Navy Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class John Scorza).

And the Navy isn’t afraid to recruit potential candidates while they’re still young. Scout teams go into the community to seek out talented individuals who might be interested in a special operations career.

The US lost 4 H-bombs in 1966 and they’re still causing damage
Chief Petty Officer Joseph Schmidt, assigned to the Navy SEAL and SWCC Scout Team, speaks to San Diego Junior Lifeguard members before a physical training evolution. (Photo: U.S. Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class Pyoung K. Yi)

The Navy has over 700 sailors trained and assigned as SWCCs at a time. This tiny force conducts dangerous and essential missions all over the world.

The US lost 4 H-bombs in 1966 and they’re still causing damage
(Photo: U.S. Navy Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Richard Miller)

MIGHTY TRENDING

Watch this former Navy SEAL break the world wing suit record for charity

Former Navy SEAL Andy Stumpf wants to raise $1 million for the Navy SEAL Foundation, a non-profit that supports the families of fallen SEALs, by jumping out of a plane at 36,500 feet. His jump aims to break the wing suit overland distance world record of 17.83 miles.


Please help Andy raise $1 million for the Navy SEAL Foundation by donating to his GoFundMe page.

MIGHTY HISTORY

This is how to see if you would have been drafted for Vietnam

To celebrate Ken Burns’ documentary, “The Vietnam War,” PBS and USAToday created a Vietnam War Draft Lottery calculator. Simply enter your birth month and day to find out if you would have been drafted for wartime service in Vietnam.


Check Out USAToday’s Draft Number Calculator.

The US lost 4 H-bombs in 1966 and they’re still causing damage
A U.S. soldier turns to give instructions as firing continues in front of him during Operation Byrd.

The calculator, of course, does not use your birth year because many of us were born well after the Vietnam War. For those born in 1950, however, being drafted in 1970 was a very real prospect. In today’s all-volunteer military, the idea of someone being forced into that lifestyle change can seem very bizarre. Most of the men who rotated through the country were volunteers, but a significant number were not.

Unlike World War II, there were no lines to sign up for service. And unlike the Civil War, there was no paying a substitute to take your place. But still, the perception existed that with money and connections, someone could avoid serving. So in an effort to make the draft more fair (or appear fair), a lottery was put in place.

The US lost 4 H-bombs in 1966 and they’re still causing damage
It was seriously a draft lottery.

Draft age men were assigned a number between 1 and 366, depending on their birthday. The lowest numbers were called first. This was all entirely at random.

Of course, that didn’t stop some of those who were called to service from further avoiding Selective Service. Some went to college or graduate school or faked medical conditions, while others fled to Canada. In all, half a million Americans dodged their Vietnam War service.

They were fugitives until 1977 when President Jimmy Carter ordered a general amnesty. Deserters, however, were not given amnesty.

The US lost 4 H-bombs in 1966 and they’re still causing damage
Carter pardoned draft dodgers the day after his inauguration.

Ken Burns’ film recalls the accounts of more than 100 witnesses to the war in what he calls a “360-degree narrative.” The 10-part, 18-hour documentary “The Vietnam War” is available for streaming on PBS.

MIGHTY HISTORY

6 surprising targets of Chinese espionage

For America, there’s a pretty clear idea of what our intelligence agencies should do, and it’s mostly about keeping tabs on new enemy weapons, terrorists plots, and counterespionage. But, American technology and innovations are also a coveted target for other countries, especially ones like China that are developing rapidly.

And China has the money and the culture to do something about it. They have proven capable of stealing secrets, partially to support military programs and partially to support the state-run companies that are in charge of keeping the people happy so President Xi Jinping can keep concentrating on wandering the Hundred Acre Wood.


(He reportedly hates being compared to Winnie the Pooh, so that’s just the best)

Here are six targets of Chinese espionage that you probably wouldn’t guess:

The US lost 4 H-bombs in 1966 and they’re still causing damage

The site of some of the most sinister thefts of secret technology.

(Photo by Don Graham)

Farms

Perhaps the most surprising target of foreign espionage, especially Chinese, is American farms. America has some of the most advanced farms in the world, both in terms of the machinery used and the seeds that are grown there. The seeds and machines are so advanced, in fact, that it creates friction with normal farmers who are banned from repairing their own machines and cannot grow new seeds from their crops (they have to purchase a new batch of seeds from the manufacturer, instead).

China needs to feed millions of mouths, but doesn’t want to spend all the time and money to do the research required. Instead, they’ve sent agents across the U.S. and other nations to steal seeds from suppliers, like Monsanto and Pioneer, either illegally purchasing them or straight ripping them out of the ground.

The US lost 4 H-bombs in 1966 and they’re still causing damage

Self-driving cars like, the Waymo, could remake the economy, and China doesn’t want to get left behind.

(Photo by Dllu)

Self-driving cars and other automation

While self-driving cars seem like a luxury more than anything else, the underlying tech is challenging to create and could, potentially, be extremely lucrative. Add to that the fact that deep-learning algorithms for one task can give you a better idea how to create algorithms for another task, and it’s easy to see why nations, especially China, would target the companies making the new vehicles.

Prosecutors allege that a former Apple employee was stealing tech for a new employer in China when he was arrested in the airport with stolen trade secrets from an autonomous car project.

The US lost 4 H-bombs in 1966 and they’re still causing damage

Microbes are an important part in the manufacture of some drugs and recently, chemicals. Yeah, China and other countries like those.

(Agricultural Research Service)

Microbes

Really any important biological discovery, especially medicinal, could go here, but a particular microbe case is instructive. Ching Wang, a man of Chinese descent who discovered an anti-parasitic drug in the 1970s, told the New Yorker that he received a phone call a little after he and his colleagues published their paper.

The caller worked for a state-run pharmaceutical company in China and was wondering if Wang could fly himself out to China with a sample of the microbe, just for funsies. Wang didn’t go, obviously, but China needs advanced medicine that it isn’t always willing to research. When China can get people to hand over crucial information, extort such information from companies, or simply steal it from non-secured computers, they can bound forward in science overnight.

The US lost 4 H-bombs in 1966 and they’re still causing damage

Universities are centers of learning and research that China would love to rip off.

(Photo by Ulrich Lange)

Universities

Speaking of which, universities are a great place for espionage agents, and it’s not about the co-eds. Many advanced projects being done in a country are typically the result of a partnership between governments, corporations, and universities.

And, as you might imagine, universities are typically the weakest links in these partnerships. So, they’re often the target of spies.

While there used to be only a couple thousand active contracts driving defense-applied research at any given time, a 2007 report showed that that number had risen to above 50,000 by 2006. Needless to say, there’s a lot of great research being done in places like MIT.

The US lost 4 H-bombs in 1966 and they’re still causing damage

Chinese wind farms are often made possible by technology that was stolen from an American company that nearly went bankrupt thanks to the theft.

(Photo by Land Rover Our Planet)

Wind and solar companies

China made a pledge to generate more clean energy and reduce greenhouse gas emissions. To do so, they apparently decided to just steal a bunch of U.S. secrets. In one high-profile case, American company AMSC sold 0 million in tech to Chinese firm Sinovel, putting safeguards in place that would, hopefully, prevent theft of their intellectual property.

Yeah… Those safeguards failed. China got help from an insider to download source code, reversed engineer the tech, installed it on all of their projects, and then didn’t pay the 0 million. A U.S. court recently decided a case against Sinovel for million.

The lawsuit might have gone better, except the Chinese military allegedly broke into AMSC’s servers to steal their legal strategy against the Chinese firm.

The US lost 4 H-bombs in 1966 and they’re still causing damage

The Chinese Meng Shi, or “Brave Soldier,” is a vehicle that isn’t at all a ripoff of the AM General Humvee that American troops and their allies drive.

(Photo by Morio)

Free samples

​Oddly enough, despite all of China’s thefts, companies are still super eager to do business with state-run corporations and other entities in the country just to keep their foot in the door. Some even give free samples, something China encourages and regularlytakes advantage of.

That’s likely how China was able to domestically produce the Meng Shi, the “Brave Soldier.” AM General tried to sell them a Humvee and left behind a free sample after a visit in the 1980s. Later, China purchased a few for “oil exploration.” Then, the Meng Shi rolled off the line looking distinctly Humvee-like.

For its part, China insists that the appearance is a coincidence stemming from the vehicles’ similar missions. And besides, the Meng Shi is better on every metric, at least according to papers written by military officials and not subjected to peer review.

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