USS Langley: The United States Navy’s first aircraft carrier - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY HISTORY

USS Langley: The United States Navy’s first aircraft carrier

Recently, the United States Navy celebrated the 98th anniversary of the commissioning of its very first aircraft carrier, the USS Langley (CV-1).

CV-1 was named after American aeronautics engineer, Astronomer, aviation pioneer, bolometer, and physicist, Samuel Piermont Langley (the same guy whose name is on a NASA research center, an Air Force base, a mountain, three other ships — two of which are USN ships — and a slew of schools, buildings, labs, and a unit of solar radiation measurement). The USS Langley was converted from the Proteus-class collier USS Jupiter (AC-3), which itself was commissioned in April or 1913.


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(WikiMedia Commons)

As the Langley, she had a full-load displacement of 13,900 long tons, a length of 542ft, beam of 65ft 5in, draft of 24ft, and 3 boilers. This was also the United States Navy’s first tubro-electric-powered ship. She was commanded by Commander Kenneth Whiting, upon commissioning.

The USS Langley saw service as both an aircarft carrier and a seaplane tender. In the seaplane tender role, she was commissioned as AV-3 on 11 April 1937. She served as AV-3 until 27 February 1942, when she was struck by Japanese bombers. She now rests on the seafloor near Cilacap Harbor, Java, Indonesia.

The USS Langley was the first step in what would help the Navy — and the United States — project global reach and force. A unique feature of the Langley (among all USN aircraft carriers) was its carrier pigeon house. USN carriers (and signals) have come a long way since then.

USS Langley: The United States Navy’s first aircraft carrier

(SDASM Archives Via Flickr)

Since the commissioning of the USS Langley as the first aircraft carrier, the United States Navy has fielded 80 total carriers. There are currently 11 in service. Both of these numbers vastly outcounts every other nation’s number of aircraft carriers. With a current global total of 44 active carriers (some of those are arguable), America owns 25% of those. But the strategic value of those 11 carriers is much more than 25% of that global total.

The first purpose-built aircraft carrier to be commissioned ever, anywhere, was the Japanese Hōshō, which was commissioned two days after Christmas, 1922.

This article originally appeared on Sandboxx. Follow Sandboxx on Facebook.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Why the M9 Beretta round wasn’t as bad as you think

When the United States military switched from the legendary M1911 to the M9 Beretta, a lot of hell was raised, to put it mildly. The M1911 had served with American troops for nearly three-quarters of a century and it fired a .45 ACP round that had a reputation for stopping enemy troops. The 9x19mm NATO round the M9 fired was… well, not quite so potent, at least in the minds of many.

The thing is, the 9x19mm NATO is not a bad round. It fires a 124-grain full metal jacket bullet at 1,150 feet per second, producing 364 foot-pounds of energy. By comparison, the .45 ACP round sends a 230-grain full metal jacket bullet at 835 feet per second, generating 356 foot-pounds of energy.

In short, you don’t want to be hit by either round — but the 9x19mm NATO is more lethal than many would have you believe.


Metrics aside, how have these rounds actually performed? Well, that’s the real issue. Being good against ballistic gelatin or a paper target is one thing, but being effective against against the living is something else.

USS Langley: The United States Navy’s first aircraft carrier

During fighting with the Nazis, an American officer holds the tried-and-true M1911 while fighting alongside a French partisan.

(US Army)

To put this matter to bed, a retired homicide detective from the Detroit area, Evan Marshall, gathered his own data on the effectiveness of different types of ammo. He computed how often a given round was able to achieve a “one-shot stop” when hitting an enemy’s torso. In his 2001 book, Stopping Power: A Practical Analysis of the Latest Handgun Ammunition, Marshall and Edwin Sanow defined a “stop” as when an aggressor collapsed before being able to carry out another aggressive act.

USS Langley: The United States Navy’s first aircraft carrier

The M9 has served for over 30 years, but was derided by those who liked the .45 ACP punch of the M1911

(USMC photo by Lance Cpl. Todd Michalek)

His work allows us to compare the .45 ACP of the much-beloved M1911 with 9mm rounds, like the ones fired by the less-popular M9.

The legendary .45 ACP achieved a one-shot stop 62 percent of the time. That’s not bad — almost five-eighths of the time. Marshall did not have data for the 124-grain NATO round, but he did have data for a very similar 115-grain full metal jacket round in 9mm. This round achieved one-shot stops 70 percent of the time — even better.

USS Langley: The United States Navy’s first aircraft carrier

The choice of 9mm rounds for the M17 wasn’t controversial — largely because the M9 proved very capable over three decades of service.

(US Army)

In short, the 9mm seems to hold its own when compared to the .45 ACP. Additionally, given that the M9 (which had a 15-round magazine) and the M17 (which has a 17-round magazine) both hold far more rounds than the M1911 (seven rounds in the magazine), it arguably gives a grunt greater firepower and a better chance of stopping the bad guy.

MIGHTY HISTORY

That time Iraqi soldiers surrendered to a hovering Apache

The Apache helicopter was a maligned weapon system in early 1991 as low readiness rates, and worse than expected performance in small conflicts made people wonder if the aircraft’s huge costs were worth it. But the system excelled in the tough environment of the Persian Gulf War, chewing up Iraqi armor, bunkers, and ground troops.


In fact, one Apache crew even accepted the surrender of an Iraqi officer and his driver after the men decided they couldn’t escape the helicopter in their vehicle.

USS Langley: The United States Navy’s first aircraft carrier

Soldiers receive an escort from AH-64 Apache helicopters in 2004.

(U.S. Army Sgt. Kimberly Snow)

Warrant Officer John Ely was one of the pilots on the attack helicopter, and he would later describe the Iraqis’ actions as a seemingly obvious decision. Ely had been part of a team hunting targets in the desert, and they had already erased a few enemy positions.

Ely had his eye on a Toyota when the driver suddenly stopped the vehicle and hopped out. He opened the door for “a fat Iraqi officer” who exited the vehicle with his hands up and a briefcase raised.

Now, even with the man attempting to surrender, this was a tricky situation. Typically, surrenders are given to “maneuver” forces like infantry or cavalry on the ground, but engineers, artillery, and plenty of other ground troops are quite capable of accepting an enemy surrender.

But Apache crews have a severe weakness in this area. While the helicopter’s lethality is a great reason for enemy troops to throw their hands in the air, how does a four-man team in two helicopters; a common battlefield deployment for the attack helicopters, take custody of prisoners?

How do they search them for intel and weapons? How do they transport them back to a base? Apaches have good armor and redundant systems, but they’re vulnerable if they land. And they have no real passenger space even if they landed.

But as reported in the Chicago Tribune in 1991, Ely figured out a solution.

Look, [if you`re an Iraqi and] you see a guy in this machine hovering 200 feet in front of you, with a gun turret that moves with the nodding and turn of my head . . . I point south, they move south. They`ve just seen their buddies blown away. What would you do?
Enemy Surrenders to Apache

www.military.com

So, yeah, Ely just sent the dudes to some friendly forces so someone on the ground could search and secure them. In a similar situation, Apaches flying with OH-58s had a comparable experience on the “Highway of Death” where Iraqi tank crews surrendered as soon as they saw the helicopters coming in for an attack.

Another event took place in Iraq after Apaches took out artillery positions. The insurgents manning the weapons went to the middle of the field and held their hands up while the Apaches took out the large weapons, and then ground troops moved in to take possession of the prisoners.

But, tragically, that’s not always an option. The 227th Aviation Regiment’s 1st Battalion saw those flags of surrender from Iraqi tankers on the Highway of Death and didn’t engage them, allowing U.S. ground troops to accept the Iraqi surrender in 1991. But in 2007, two Iraqi men jumped out of their truck and attempted to surrender to a 1-227th Apache crew.

The crew held off on attacking, but wasn’t sure what to do. The Iraqis had been firing mortars from the truck, so the unit asked an undisclosed military lawyer for a legal review. His advice was that the Apache crew could not effectively receive the surrender, and so the mortar crew was still a legal target. (This advice has proved controversial since then.)

Meanwhile, the mortar crew jumped back into the truck and drove off with its mortar tube. So it was no longer clear whether they still wanted to surrender. The Apaches re-engaged, but failed to destroy the truck in the next attack. The men abandoned the truck and took shelter in a nearby shack, and the Apaches killed them there with a 30mm gun run.

So, if you ever find yourself trying to surrender to an Apache crew, maybe look around and see if you can find some ground troops to surrender to instead.

MIGHTY TRENDING

The Air Force is ready for Russia’s new stealth fighters

After watching an F-22 Raptor twist and turn during an impressive demonstration at Langley Air Force Base in Virginia, we asked the 1st Fighter Wing’s commander if he’s worried about Russia’s new Su-57 stealth fighter.


“It’s always good to be chased,” Col. Jason Hinds, commander of the 1st Fighter Wing, told Business Insider. “When people are trying to beat you, you know you got an impressive airplane.”

Russia has touted its new Su-57 as superior to the U.S.’ F-22 Raptor, but the Su-57 is still undergoing testing and has yet to be mass-produced.

Also Read: Russia’s new Su-57 ‘stealth’ fighter hasn’t even been delivered yet — and it’s already a disappointment

While many have called into question its stealth capabilities, Moscow claims the Su-57 is a fifth-generation fighter and that it hopes to turn it into a sixth-generation fighter.

“I don’t know what they’re trying to call it,” Hinds said. “I can tell you that anytime you’re going into combat, you got to be concerned about whatever the adversary brings, whether it’s a fourth-gen airplane or a fifth-gen plane — you got to be ready for both.”

Hinds said what’s most important for the “entire operational kill chain” is their own training and the maintenance of the plane and its weapons.

USS Langley: The United States Navy’s first aircraft carrier
A Russian Su-57 in flight. Wikimedia Commons photo by Alex Beltyukov.

“You really can’t be focused on the adversary — you got to be focused on yourself,” Hinds said.

“You’ll train on the adversaries, you’ll train against everything you need to be ready for — and we got to be ready for all of it.”

While analysts have criticized some of the Su-57’s capabilities, many have also maintained that the Su-57 is highly maneuverable — perhaps even more so than the F-22.

“I’m not concerned — I’ll tell you that,” Hinds said.

Articles

These 6 tweaks could make America’s military better without breaking the bank

Pentagon budgets are shrinking (or growing at a smaller rate than they had during the previous few decades). And while there’s not a lot of money to procure new weapons systems, the threats to the nation aren’t going away. The U.S. military still has a job to do. There are no bucks, but the American public still expects Buck Rogers.


Here are six improvements — “tweaks,” if you will — to existing platforms that would improve military readiness without breaking the increasingly small bank:

1. An internal gun for the F-35B/C variants of the Lightning II

USS Langley: The United States Navy’s first aircraft carrier
(Air Force photo by Senior Airman Julius Delos Reyes)

The Air Force’s F-35A has a gun — the GAU-22, a 25mm Gatling Gun, with 182 rounds. The GAU-22 is based off the AV-8B’s GAU-12, and it gives the F-35A an offensive edge. But the F-35B and F-35C don’t have an internal gun (only a gun pod with 220 rounds).

The same situation existed with the F-4 Phantom – probably America’s first real joint strike fighter, which saw action during the Vietnam War with the Air Force, Navy, and Marines. As Navy ace (and convicted congressional felon) Randy Cunningham noted in his memoir, Fox Two, the lack of a gun cost him kills.

2. The Penguin anti-ship missile for the MH-60R Seahawk

USS Langley: The United States Navy’s first aircraft carrier
MH-60R fires a Hellfire missile. (Photo: U.S. Navy)

This chopper is an advanced version of the SH-60B. Equipped with a choice of lightweight torpedo (either Mk 46, Mk 50, or Mk 54), and Hellfire missiles, it serves as additional eyes and ears for surface combatants. But the Hellfire has only a 20-pound warhead and a range of about five nautical miles.

The SH-60B, though, had the Penguin anti-ship missile. This weapon had a 265-pound warhead and a range of 15 nautical miles. In other words, it can handle bigger targets – and would be very useful additions to the MH-60R’s arsenal.

3. More bomb capacity for the B-1B Lancer

USS Langley: The United States Navy’s first aircraft carrier
(Photo: U.S. Air Force)

While the B-1B already has the largest bombload of any American combat plane, it could have even more. Presently, it has a bomb bay that can hold 84 Mk 82 500-pound bombs. The venerable B-52 can only carry 51 such bombs. In other words, the B-1 can deliver about 60 percent more hurt to the bad guys.

But it could be even more. The B-1B, when designed, had the capability to carry up to 14 cruise missiles or 44 more Mk 82s on external pylons. Restoring those external pylons would give the B-1 50 percent more firepower.

4. Harpoon launchers for the Flight IIA and III Arleigh Burke-class destroyers

USS Langley: The United States Navy’s first aircraft carrier
Flt I Burke class destroyer shoots a Harpoon missile. (Photo: U.S. Navy)

While the Flight IIA and Flight III Arleigh Burke-class destroyers are very capable vessels in anti-air warfare and anti-sub warfare. But the earlier Flight I and Flight II versions of this destroyer have something the later ships don’t: A pair of Mk 141 launchers for Harpoon anti-ship missiles. Boeing’s latest version of the Harpoon has a range of 130 nautical miles and a 300-pound warhead. The Mk 141 launchers don’t take up a lot of space, and it never hurts to have more anti-ship firepower as China and Russia are adding modern ships to their naval arsenals.

5. Laser-guided bombs for the B-2 Spirit

USS Langley: The United States Navy’s first aircraft carrier
B-2 dropping a JDAM GPS-guided bomb. (Photo: U.S. Air Force)

What more could you want on America’s most advanced bomber in service? The B-2 Spirit has stealth technology and the ability to deliver precision-guided weapons including the AGM-158 Joint Air-to-Surface Standoff Missile, as well as nuclear weapons – excuse me, “special stores.” It’s also expensive – a flyaway cost of just over $700 million per plane caused the production run to stop at 21 airframes.

That said, they have a couple of gaps in their capabilities. All of the B-2’s weapons are either dumb bombs or GPS-guided. So, perhaps the best upgrade they could get would be to give the B-2 the ability to drop laser-guided bombs like the GBU-24 and to use Harpoon anti-ship missiles and the Standoff Land-Attack Missile, giving them more options to target ships like the Chinese Type 52C destroyer.

6. Bushmaster cannon for the M1126/M1127 Stryker

USS Langley: The United States Navy’s first aircraft carrier
(Photo: U.S. Army)

The Stryker’s proven itself in combat operations during Operations Enduring Freedom and Iraqi Freedom. The M1126 and M1127 have a remote weapons station that can use an M2 heavy machine gun or a Mk 19 automatic grenade launcher.

But now, it could be asked to help fight Russian aggression against NATO allies. Here it has a problem. The Stryker is outgunned by the BMP-3 or BTR-90, Russia’s most modern infantry fighting vehicles. The former has a 100mm gun and a 30mm coaxial cannon. The latter has a 30mm cannon and an AT-5 Spandrel anti-tank missile.

So, to give the Stryker a better chance in a fight against the Russians, the best option would be to give it the same chain gun that the M2 and M3 Bradley Fighting Vehicles carry: the 25mm Bushmaster cannon.

These six weapons systems serve with our troops – and have done so with excellence. But some small improvements to each of them would give our troops even better odds on battlefields around the world.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Subpoenaed former Boeing official is pleading the Fifth Amendment

A former Boeing official who was subpoeaned to testify about his role in the development of the 737 Max has refused to provide documents sought by federal prosecutors, according to the Seattle Times, citing his Fifth Amendment right against forcible self-incrimination.

Mark Forkner who was Boeing’s chief technical pilot on the 737 Max project during the development of the plane, was responding to a grand jury subpoena. The US Justice Department is investigating two fatal crashes of the Boeing jet, and is looking into the design and certification of the plane, according to a person familiar with the matter cited by the Seattle Times.

The Fifth Amendment provides a legal right that can be invoked by a person in order to avoid testifying under oath. Because the amendment is used to avoid being put in a situation where one would have to testify about something that would be self-incriminating, it can sometimes be seen by outsiders as an implicit admission of guilt, although that is not always the case.


It is less common to invoke the Fifth to resist a subpoena for documents or evidence. According to legal experts, its use by Forkner could simply suggest a legal manuever between Boeing’s attorneys and prosecutors.

Forkner left Boeing in 2018, according to his LinkedIn page, and is currently a first officer flying for Southwest Airlines.

USS Langley: The United States Navy’s first aircraft carrier

The Justice Department’s investigation into the two crashes, which occurred Oct. 29, 2018, in Indonesia, and March 10, 2019, in Ethiopia, is a wide-ranging exploration into the development of the plane. The investigation has also grown to include records related to the production of a different plane — the 787 — at Boeing’s Charleston, South Carolina plant, although it is not clear whether those records have anything to do with the 737 Max.

Preliminary reports into the two crashes that led to the grounding — Lion Air Flight 610 and Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302 — indicate that an automated system erroneously engaged and forced the planes’ noses to point down due to a problem with the design of the system’s software. Pilots were unable to regain control of the aircraft.

The system engaged because it could be activated by a single sensor reading — in both crashes, the sensors are suspected of having failed, sending erroneous data to the flight computer and, without a redundant check in place, triggering the automated system.

USS Langley: The United States Navy’s first aircraft carrier

Grounded Boeing 737 MAX 8 aircraft in China following the crash of Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302.

The automated system, the Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation System (MCAS), was designed to compensate for the fact that the 737 Max has larger engines than previous 737 generations. The larger engines could cause the plane’s nose to tip upward, leading to a stall — in that situation, MCAS could automatically point the nose downward to negate the effect of the engine size.

The plane has been grounded worldwide since the days following the second crash, as Boeing prepared a software fix to prevent similar incidents. The fix is expected to be approved, and the planes back in the air, by the end of this year or early 2020.

During the certification process, Forkner recommended that MCAS not be included in the pilots manual, according to previous reporting, since it was intended to operate in the background as part of the flight-control system, according to previous reporting.

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

Why the world’s two biggest countries may soon be in conflict

At the end of August, 2017, India and China backed away from a 73-day standoff on the Doklam Plateau, high in the eastern Himalayas.

In the year since, both sides have sought to mend ties, especially after a summit between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and President Xi Jinping in the eastern Chinese city of Wuhan in April, 2018.

The two countries are engaged in a kind of “recalibration” of their relationship, even though deeper-rooted issues that divide them persist, according to Faisel Pervaiz, a South Asia analyst at geopolitical-intelligence firm Stratfor.


The appointment of Vijay Gokhale, who was ambassador to China during the Doklam crisis and helped resolve the dispute, to foreign secretary was “an indication that India wants to take … a less confrontational posture,” Pervaiz said.

China, too, has come to believe it needs “a bit more calm” with its neighbors, including India, in part because of contentious relations with the US, Pervaiz added, though he stressed that Beijing’s change in thinking was likely temporary. China has also made overtures to India about a potential partnership in trade disputes with the US.

In October 2018, New Delhi and Beijing launched a joint program to train Afghan diplomats, and China’s ambassador to the country predicted more cooperation there in the future. In late October 2018, they are to sign a long-discussed internal-security agreement expected to cover cooperation on intelligence sharing, disaster mitigation, and other issues.

Despite the apparent rapprochement, the two countries are keeping a close eye on each other.

While India has largely pulled back from positions it took during the Doklam standoff, imagery reviewed by Stratfor in January 2018 showed that in late 2017 and early 2018, Delhi increased its deployments of combat aircraft to bases near the disputed area.

Those images showed even more activity around Chinese bases in Tibet, north of the disputed area, including airfield upgrades and a large aircraft presence. (China puts more assets at those bases because it does not have bases closer to the border area.)

In October 2018, officials told Hindustan Times that Delhi was concerned about construction at the Chinese air base in Lhasa, which included bomb-proof bunkers for aircraft and expanded surface-to-air missile batteries.

“You need blast- or bomb-proof hangars for fighters only if there is a possibility of hostilities,” one official said.

Any activity with military hardware or other assets that could have military applications around the eastern end of India and China’s shared border was likely to attract scrutiny, Pervaiz said.”

If you are India or China and you are seeing any sort of moves that either military is making, you view that almost through the lens of paranoia — that if you’re making that move, how can that be used against us in a potential conflict?” he told Business Insider.

USS Langley: The United States Navy’s first aircraft carrier

The Doklam Plateau

(Google Maps)

The Doklam Plateau sits at the southern edge of the Himalayan mountain range, where the elevation is on average close to 15,000 feet. High altitudes and rough terrain put considerable limitations on military operations.

While the higher elevation gives China an advantage in surveillance and physiological acclimatization, lower air density hinders jet aircraft engines and limits the weaponry and fuel that aircraft can carry. China’s air force is larger than India’s, but it only has five air bases in Tibet — though upgrades at the Lhasa base described by Hindustan Times include special helicopter bases that allow them to take off and land with full payloads.

India’s air power in the region would offer it some advantages. Indian air bases, including those that received more aircraft in 2018, are closer to the area in question than China’s bases. India counts 20 air bases within range of the Line of Actual Control, which separates Indian- and Chinese-claimed territory.

India has also also practiced with transport planes at forward landing areas in the region.

But China’s air defenses are more effective and reliable than India’s. And China has more artillery that can fire farther and is more mobile.

Thin air at higher elevations hinders traditional rocket propulsion, but Chinese officials claimed in August 2018 they were progressing on a type of electromagnetic propulsion that would give rocket artillery longer range and more accuracy.

Both countries can be expected to use land-attack cruise missiles — the Indian Su-30MKI jets deployed to the area are capable of firing India’s Brahmos missile. But China has a larger inventory of them, and the paucity of Chinese targets in the area north of the border would likely mean Beijing would have the edge.

Much of the fighting in a conflict around Doklam would likely be done on the ground, even though the terrain would limit quick strikes and mass movement of troops.

Both countries are among the most largest militaries in the world. China’s 2.1 million active-duty troops are far more than India’s 1.3 million, though Indian troops may bring more experience to bear.

Indian fought its last war, with Pakistan, in 1999 and has been involved in sporatic clashes with Pakistan, as well as counterterror and counter-insurgency operations for years. (Delhi was developing a special Mountain Strike Corps for the northern border, but it was shelved in summer 2018.)

USS Langley: The United States Navy’s first aircraft carrier

An Indian Air Force Su-30 MKI

(Aeroprints.com)

China fought its last war in 1979 — a three-week incursion into Vietnam that ended with China’s withdrawal, though both sides claimed victory. Xi has ordered China’s military to increase readiness and launched reforms to the force.

Along the Line of Actual Control, however, China may gain an edge through superior command, control, and communications and through its unified command structure in the region, whereas India divides the region among three combatant commands.

India is aware that it would likely lose a military confrontation with China, Pervaiz said, as it did in 1962. (Mao later said China invaded essentially to teach India a lesson.)

A conflict now is not in the interest of either country, he added, but “they both are going to continue to sharpen their capabilities in the event that there ever is a conflict [in order] to be able to fight and execute on that conflict, no doubt about it.”

Since the end of the Doklam standoff, China has kept the assets it deployed there — tents, bunkers, and vehicles, Pervaiz said — in place, even as Indian forces withdrew.

Questioned about that change in parliament in 2018, the Indian Defense Ministry tacitly admitted “China has actually altered those facts on the ground” and India had to accept the change, Pervaiz said.

India too has pursued a longer-term shift in its strategy toward the disputed border.

Delhi tried to minimize the number of roads in the border area after the 1962 war in order to deprive future enemies of transportation routes.

USS Langley: The United States Navy’s first aircraft carrier

Indian Army Soldiers of the Madras Regiment (left) and Chinese People’s Liberation Army during the Moscow Victory Day Parade (right)

Since the 1990s, however, India has switched to what Pervaiz called “an offensive-defense posture, meaning that we’re not just going to deny the Chinese access to roads in our region. We’re actually going to start building more roads and infrastructure so that our military can be better positioned.”

Amid the recalibration, the broader strategic issues driving tensions between India and China — the border dispute or China’s partnership with India’s rival, Pakistan — have not dissipated, suggesting the current period is one in which both sides are trying to manage their disputes, which Pervaiz analogized to treating a chronic illness.

“It may be that the physician says that you’re not going to get rid of this,” he said. “This is something you’re going to have to live with for the rest of your life, but we can manage it … and then the symptoms can stay under control.”

Even though neither side sees conflict as in their interest, deep-seated disputes that persist raise the chances one may occur.

“In the long run, because the strategic drivers are still there, and they’re building up their assets, the roads, the bunkers,” Pervaiz said, “that that does mean in the future, there’s actually a heightened probability there’s going to be some sort of confrontation, even if it’s a small one.”

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

MIGHTY TACTICAL

This was the Air Force’s super fighter that never flew

The 1950s was a game-changing decade for the world of military aviation, especially with the rise of jet propulsion in place of propeller engines. It was in this decade that the U.S. Air Force came close to fielding one of the most advanced (for its time) “super fighters” ever conceived.


Known as the XF-108 Rapier, and designed by North American – also known for producing the widely successful P-51 Mustang – it was equipped to fly at more than three times the speed of sound for long distances, hunting down and destroying marauding Soviet bombers out to drop nuclear weapons on the US and its allies during the Cold War.

The XF-108 would also be able to complement its larger sibling, the XB-70 Valkyrie bomber, which itself was capable of achieving speeds in the Mach 3 range. Though the Valkyrie’s insane speed would be too much for Soviet air defense systems to handle, it wouldn’t hurt having a smaller fighter escort nearby which could keep up with the bomber, just in case enemy fighters made it too close for comfort.

USS Langley: The United States Navy’s first aircraft carrier
An XB-70 Valkyrie prototype before its first flight (Photo US Air Force)

North American sought to make its newest fighter extremely deadly, adding a Hughes AN/ASG-18 radar that was coupled to an infrared search and tracking system. Together, this sensor suite would be able to lock onto and track targets at long ranges with solid accuracy.

The XF-108’s primary weapon was the GAR-9 missile, which had a range of over 100 miles, and could fly at more than six times the speed of sound on its way to its target. The Rapier would carry three of these on an internal rotary launcher in its belly.

To give it speed, the XF-108 would use two General Electric afterburning turbojets that could pump out over 29,300 pounds of force apiece with the afterburners lit. In comparison, an F/A-18 Super Hornet’s two GE F414 turbofan engines can put out only 22,000 pounds of force apiece in burner!

USS Langley: The United States Navy’s first aircraft carrier
An AIM-47 Falcon waiting to be loaded into a YF-12 interceptor prototype. The Falcon was the direct successor to the GAR-9 (Photo US Air Force)

However, the Rapier lost its mission rapidly with the advent of intercontinental ballistic missiles and guided cruise missiles — the latter of which could be launched from surface warships and submarines floating off the coast of the United States. Instead of sending swarms of bombers, all of which could hypothetically be shot down if responded to quickly enough, the USSR could mail nuclear weapons to the US with ICBMs, which were much more difficult to destroy.

Sadly, the Rapier never had a chance to even fly.

In late 1959, by the end of the decade, the program was shelved altogether, having only made it to the mockup stage. In a matter of months, the XF-108 was no more. Its sister plane, the XB-70 would meet a somewhat similar fate in the next decade, and would be retired from flight testing after a fatal and highly publicized accident.

USS Langley: The United States Navy’s first aircraft carrier
An A-5A Vigilante prototype (Photo US Navy)

Some of the technology and lessons learned in designing the XF-108 were put to use with a later North American product – the A-5/RA-5 Vigilante, which bears a considerable resemblance to its predecessor. The GAR-9 was also developed further into the AIM-47 Falcon missile, which would later be matured into the AIM-54 Phoenix, deployed with the F-14 Tomcat.

Mach 3-capable fighter jets have long since been relegated to the history books as an unnecessary hope of the past, but with improvements in propulsion technology, it’s very possible that future fighters fielded by the US military might be blessed with such incredible speed.

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Russia plans to build 100 of its most advanced Armata tanks

The Russian deputy defense minister said Aug. 24 at a military technical forum that Moscow plans to build 100 T-14 Armata battle tanks.


“The designed models are currently undergoing operational testing,” Defense Minister Yuri Borisov said, according to TASS, a Russian state-owned media outlet. “We have a contract for 100 units that will be supplied before 2020.”

TASS also acknowledged that Moscow previously said it would make 2,300 T-14s by 2020, which The National Interest and other analysts dismissed as “ridiculous,” given the high cost of the tank.

USS Langley: The United States Navy’s first aircraft carrier
Wikimedia Commons photo by Vitaly Kuzmin.

Since it was unveiled in 2015, the T-14 has received a lot of hype and has worried many westerners — some of which is deserved.

The T-14 is part of the Armata Universal Combat Platform, which is is based on a single chassis that that can be used for a variety of Armata armored vehicles — not just the T-14 tank.

This interchangeable platform, according to Globalsecurity.org, includes “standard engine-transmission installation, chassis controls, driver interface, unified set of onboard electronics, [and] life-support systems.”

USS Langley: The United States Navy’s first aircraft carrier
Wikimedia Commons photo by Vitaly Kuzmin.

The T-14 comes with a high velocity 125mm cannon that also fires laser-guided missiles up to 7.4 miles away, while the US’ M1A2 SEP V3 Abrams’ main gun only has a range of about 2.4 miles.

It’s equipped with a revolutionary unmanned turret and armored hull for the crew, The National Interest said, and it’s even one step away from becoming a completely unmanned tank, able to be operated by crews at a distance, Sim Tack, a Stratfor analyst, previously told Business Insider.

The T-14 also sports the new Afghanit active protection system, which has a radar and electronic system that disrupts incoming guided missiles, The National Interest said.

The APS can also jam laser guided systems and even has interceptors that can take out RPGs, missiles, and possibly kinetic rounds — although the latter has been questioned by many analysts, The National Interest said.

USS Langley: The United States Navy’s first aircraft carrier
A Russian T-72B3. Wikimedia Commons photo from user Vitaly Kuzmin.

While the T-14 has strong layers of defense and reactive armor, “no tank is invincible, it is only more survivable,” Michael Kofman, a CNA analyst, told Newsweek. “It’s somewhat unclear how effective these defensive systems are against top-down attack missiles like the FGM-148 Javelin, which is expensive but effective.”

“It’s important to remember that the Armata platform is still a prototype undergoing field trials and not a completed system …  There is still a debate in Russia on what its capabilities should be and the initial serial production run of 80-100 tanks is doubtfully going to be the final variant, so we should reserve judgment,” Kofman told Newsweek.

While the T-14 is impressive in many respects, Russia’s main tank for years to come, given the high cost of the T-14 and even the T-90A, will probably still be the T-72B3, Kofman told The National Interest.

MIGHTY HISTORY

How the Army designed divisions to fight a nuclear war

The advent of nuclear weapons on the battlefield left the Army very worried. It’s understandable; a bomb that could take out an entire city was rightly seen as a game-changer.


Over the years, the Army has shifted its divisional formations, from the “square” formation in World War I (two brigades each with two regiments) to a “triangle” formation (three regiments). But everything changed when the United States Army designed nukes for use on the battlefield, as they presumed the Soviets were going to eventually develop their own.

USS Langley: The United States Navy’s first aircraft carrier
A chart showing the organization of the 3rd Infantry Division. (Image from Wikimedia Commons)

The solution was a new, pentomic divisional organization. Instead of regiments and battalions, each infantry and airborne division would have five battlegroups, each with five companies of infantry, a mortar battery, and a headquarters unit. Furthermore, each division had two battalions of artillery. Looking at it mathematically, the “triangular” infantry division had three regiments, each with three battalions that had three infantry companies, making for a total of 27 infantry companies. The pentomic structure had 25 infantry companies.

The first unit to adopt this structure was the 101st Airborne Division. As Time Magazine reported in 1957, the Army planned to re-organize 19 infantry and airborne divisions along the pentomic structure.

USS Langley: The United States Navy’s first aircraft carrier
The pentomic divisional structure was meant to fight on atomic battlefields. (US Army photo)

However, the Army soon found some problems with this structure. The first was that there was a long gap between command tours. The companies were commanded by captains, but you had to be a full colonel to get a “battlegroup.” Keeping the same person in charge for so long means command skills will get rusty. It also caused consternation among those concerned with tradition. The “battlegroup” concept placed the storied histories of regiments at risk.

Ultimately, the pentomic structure failed to take hold as growing arsenals made a nuclear war between NATO and the Warsaw Pact unlikely. The Army ended up going back to a triangular structure that used brigades instead of regiments — just in time for the Vietnam War. In the 2000s, the Army shifted to modular brigade combat teams and put four to a division, before dropping that number to three per division in the 2010s.

MIGHTY HISTORY

Veterans are writing eulogies to ‘the buddy they’ll never forget’

Few things in this world are stronger than the bonds forged by troops who fought together in combat. Those who survive life-threatening ordeals on the battlefield become closer in ways that others may never understand. When one of them loses their closest friend, it’s a tragedy that hurts forever.

What could be a more fitting for the coming Memorial Day than to write about what that friend means to you?


This memorial day, AARP is collecting stories about the friendships forged in war. Close friendships forged on the front lines of Vietnam and in the Nazi POW camps of World War II all the way to the remote combat outposts of Iraq. Veterans are writing stories of the best friends they met during these trying times. Two crewman stationed aboard the ill-fated USS Indianapolis, Marines fighting in the frozen wastes around the Chosin Reservoir, a young lieutenant and his radioman in the jungles of Vietnam.

Some survived the war. Many did not. What they have in common is that they’ll never be forgotten. Corporal Charles Thomas was that buddy for Lt. Karl Marlantes.

USS Langley: The United States Navy’s first aircraft carrier
Marlantes in Vietnam after an eye injury.
(Courtesy of Karl Marlantes)

If that name sounds familiar, it’s because Marlantes is the author of two books, What It Is Like to Go to War and the critically-acclaimed Matterhorn.

Marlantes was a newly-christened Marine in Vietnam when Thomas was assigned to be his radioman. Like any good young officer, Marlantes listened to his more experienced corporal when he made suggestions. The young man even saved his lieutenant’s life on a mission in the mountains near the DMZ. Marlantes told AARP The Magazine:

“In early December 1968, we were on a long mission, high in the mountains, and it was monsoon time. We couldn’t get resupplied and were without food for three or four days. It was also cold, but we had no extra clothes, just the stuff rotting on us. One night I got hypothermic, really hypothermic. I couldn’t think and started shivering. Everybody knew hypothermia kills you. And Thomas just laid me on the ground and wrapped a quilted poncho liner around us and hugged me. And then his body heat got me back. Saved my life.”

USS Langley: The United States Navy’s first aircraft carrier
Marlantes receiving the Navy Cross.
(Courtesy of Karl Marlantes)

Corporal Thomas was an outstanding Marine in combat and a talented radioman. Sadly, during an assault on an NVA position in 1969, Marlantes had to send Cpl. Thomas around the hill to set up an ambush. Following his orders, Thomas left the safety of his cover and made a dash for the objective with his squad. That’s when three rocket-propelled grenades struck, killing him and one other. Marlantes, now 73, recalled the moments afterward for AARP:

“I had to go through all the guys’ bodies to pull out, if you can believe this, anything like pictures of naked girls, so their parents wouldn’t be upset — it’s bad enough that their kid comes home in a body bag. And I pulled a letter out of Thomas’ pocket from his mother and remember it said, “Don’t you worry, Butch.” We knew each other only by last names and nicknames. I never knew he was Butch, that his mother called him that. “Don’t you worry, Butch, you’ll be home in just 11 more days.”

Watch Karl Marlantes look back and tell the story of Cpl. Charles Thomas.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Mattis issues strong condemnation of Russian aggression

US Defense Secretary Jim Mattis strongly condemned Russia’s escalating provocations during a press conference at the Pentagon on March 27, 2018, following the Trump administration’s move to expel 60 Russian diplomats on March 26, 2018.


When asked how he viewed Russia’s latest aggressions, Mattis said, “Attempted murder of a man and his daughter, how’s that for starters,” referring to the poisoning of the former Russian spy Sergei Skripal and Skripal’s daughter, Yulia, in Britain. The two remain hospitalized.

Also read: Mattis isn’t sure he can work with John Bolton

Several countries have kicked out Russian diplomats over the attack.”The brazen and criminal attack was an attack on all of us,” Australian Prime Minister Malcom Turnbull said March 27, 2018, after expelling two Russian diplomats from his country.

Russia has denied any wrongdoing.

USS Langley: The United States Navy’s first aircraft carrier
Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Mattis suggested on March 27, 2018, that he is not convinced: “They point out that it can’t be proven who had tried to kill the person in Salisbury,” Mattis said. “They’re doing things they believe are deniable.”

“They take insignia off soldiers’ uniforms and they go into Crimea,” Mattis continued. “They say they have nothing to do with what’s going on with the separatists in eastern Ukraine; I’m not sure how they can say that with a straight face.”

Russia annexed Crimea in 2014, triggering a military conflict with Ukraine and economic sanctions from the European Union and the US. Russian President Vladimir Putin denies his troops were in the country, but analysts have long suspected Russian forces of disguising themselves with tactics that include removing identifiable markings from their uniforms.

Related: Mattis doesn’t care about Russia’s ‘unstoppable’ weapons

The March 4, 2018, nerve-agent attack happened as Russia faces diplomatic pressures on multiple fronts, including from the US, where federal investigators are probing its meddling in elections that have stirred political and cultural discord among Americans.

MIGHTY TRENDING

How the US could take down North Korea without firing a shot

Dennis Blair, a former director of national intelligence, on Jan. 30, defined what he called North Korea’s “kryptonite,” saying it could collapse Kim Jong Un’s government without firing a shot.


While President Donald Trump’s inner circle reportedly weighs the use of military force against North Korea, Blair, a former U.S. Navy Admiral, has suggested another method of attack that wields information, not weapons.

“The kryptonite that can weaken North Korea is information from beyond its borders,” Blair said in a written testimony to the Senate Armed Services Committee.

USS Langley: The United States Navy’s first aircraft carrier
Kim Jong Un New Years speech (Image KCNA)

North Koreans have no idea how bad things are in their country, Blair said, because they’re subject to an “unrelenting barrage of government propaganda.”

North Korean citizens caught with South Korean media can be sentenced to death or sent to horrific prison camps, as control of the media and intolerance for different narratives are pillars of North Korea’s government.

But Blair said the U.S. could leverage a recent trend in North Korea: cellphones.

About one in five North Koreans own a cellphone, many of which can connect to Chinese cell towers across the Yalu River along the countries’ border, he said.

Also Read: The US is ready to hit North Korea with tactical nukes

“Texts to these cellphones can provide subversive truth,” Blair said. “Cell towers can be extended; CDs and thumb drives can be smuggled in; radio and TV stations can be beamed there.”

Blair added: “The objective is to separate the Kim family from its primary support — the secret police, the army, and the propaganda ministry.”

Though outside media does get into North Korea and reaches the country’s elites, the U.S. could expand efforts to flood it with outside news. The U.S. used a similar tactic during the Cold War in setting up Radio Free Europe and Radio Liberty to combat the Soviet Union and its state-controlled media.

Yun Sun, a North Korea expert at the Stimson Center, told Business Insider last year that a similar idea floated by a former U.S. Navy SEAL had legs.

“Kim Jong Un understands that as soon as society is open and North Korean people realize what they’re missing, Kim’s regime is unsustainable, and it’s going to be overthrown,” Sun said.

USS Langley: The United States Navy’s first aircraft carrier
Kim Jong Un waves at North Korean soldiers. (Image KCNA)

Sun said that in the past when South Korea flew balloons that dropped pamphlets and DVDs over North Korea, Kim’s government responded militarily, sensing its frailty relative to those of prosperous liberal democracies.

Blair pointed to other totalitarian states where popular uprisings have become informed and sought to take down a media-controlling dictator, concluding his testimony by saying that “once that process starts, it is hard to stop.”

“Such will be North Korea’s fate,” he said.