The 'Chopper Popper' scored the A-10's first air-to-air kill...against an Iraqi helicopter - We Are The Mighty
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The ‘Chopper Popper’ scored the A-10’s first air-to-air kill…against an Iraqi helicopter

The A-10 Thunderbolt II, known affectionately as the Warthog, is the U.S. Air Force’s most beloved and capable close air support craft. Its low airspeed and low altitude ability give it an accuracy unmatched by any aircraft in the Air Force fleet. No matter what anyone in an Air Force uniform tells you.


The ‘Chopper Popper’ scored the A-10’s first air-to-air kill…against an Iraqi helicopter
Sorry, Bruh. (U.S Air Force photo)

Read Now: Watch the effects of an A-10’s GAU-8 cannon on an enemy building

For one A-10 pilot, the CAS world was turned upside down in the First Gulf War. Captain Bob Swain was flying anti-armor sorties in central Kuwait during Operation Desert Storm. After dropping six 500-pound bombs and taking out two Iraqi tanks with Maverick missiles, he saw potential tangos several miles away, just barely moving around.

“I noticed two black dots running across the desert that looked really different than anything I had seen before,” Swain told the LA Times in a February 1991 interview. “They weren’t putting up any dust and they were moving fast and quickly over the desert.”

He was tracking what he thought was a helicopter. When his OV-10 Bronco observation plane confirmed the target, Swain moved in for the kill. One of the targets broke off and moved north (back toward Iraq), the other moved south. The A-10 pilot tracked the one moving south but couldn’t get a lock with his AIM-9 Sidewinder missiles because the target was too close to the ground, just 50 feet above.

So he switched to the A-10’s 30mm GAU-8 Avenger cannon – aka the BRRRRRT.

The ‘Chopper Popper’ scored the A-10’s first air-to-air kill…against an Iraqi helicopter

 

It would be the first air-to-air kill in the A-10’s operational history. But Swain didn’t know that. He was just concerned with taking it down and started firing a mile away from the helicopter. His shots were on target, but the helicopter didn’t go down.

“On the final pass, I shot about 300 bullets at him,” Swain recalled to a press pool at the time. “That’s a pretty good burst. On the first pass, maybe 75 rounds. The second pass, I put enough bullets down, it looked like I hit with a bomb.”

Swain’s A-10 became known as the “Chopper Popper” in Air Force lore and is now displayed on the grounds of the U.S. Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs.

The ‘Chopper Popper’ scored the A-10’s first air-to-air kill…against an Iraqi helicopter

“We tried to identify the type of [helicopter] after we were finished, but it was just a bunch of pieces,” he later told the Air Force Academy’s news service.

After the war, Swain went back to his job flying Boeing 747s for U.S. Air and is still in the Air Force Reserve, now with the rank of Colonel.

MIGHTY FIT

5 ways to get in shape this Winter

While on active duty, maintaining some level of fitness is essential. It is literally a requirement of your everyday life. But once it’s not required, it’s very easy to find yourself completely out of shape and overweight.

After giving yourself a look in the mirror, you’ll probably pine for the days of old — the days of tone and definition. Well, it’s never too late; here are a few ways to get in shape fast.


Summer is over, but that doesn’t mean you can’t or shouldn’t get a headstart on next summer. Use this winter as a springboard into a body that everyone envies next summer
The ‘Chopper Popper’ scored the A-10’s first air-to-air kill…against an Iraqi helicopter

Full-body workouts are a hot topic these days

(Photo via Greatist.com)

Full-body training

Full-body training is a form of weightlifting that has been gaining lots of popularity in the fitness world recently, and it’s exactly what it sounds like. Throughout the course of a single session, you’ll target each muscle group, getting a pump for your entire body.

Despite its recent popularity, full-body training has been around for ages. Design a routine that pays extra attention to your trouble spots and you should see some serious results very fast.

The ‘Chopper Popper’ scored the A-10’s first air-to-air kill…against an Iraqi helicopter

Johnny Bravo…the Bro Split poster dude.

(Cartoon Network Studios)

Bro-Splits

We all know what bro splits are, even if we don’t necessarily know them by that name. A bro-split is a routine that focuses on your back, your biceps, your chest, and your triceps. This technique, too, has been around for far longer than most of us have been alive.

There’s an obvious benefit to this: it’s simple and it’ll get you looking swole quickly. That being said, there’s must more to being fit than looking fit. If you’re only in it for the beach bod, this might be the method for you.

The ‘Chopper Popper’ scored the A-10’s first air-to-air kill…against an Iraqi helicopter

CrossFit is often the punchline of gym jokes, but the results and popularity can’t be denied.

(Photo via BoxRox.com)

CrossFit

Ahh, the much-maligned CrossFit. If you’re a CrossFit junkie, then you already know that everyone has an opinion on the recent trend. In the blink of an eye, CrossFit has managed to blossom into a full-blown sport that is beloved and practiced worldwide. Truthfully, CrossFit is an amazing workout and will give you great results… even if the exercises look a little funny at times.

The ‘Chopper Popper’ scored the A-10’s first air-to-air kill…against an Iraqi helicopter

Sprinter body vs marathon runner body? Both are low on fat, so pick your method and enjoy.

(Photo via RachelAttard.com)

Marathon training

Running is one of the most time-tested ways to lose weight and training for a marathon is one of the most certain ways to commit to running many miles with regularity. There’s simply no way to do all the running you need to prepare for a marathon without slimming down.

As an added bonus, committing to a run (marathon or otherwise) forces you to get your diet together. You simply won’t be able to go the distance without a proper diet.

The ‘Chopper Popper’ scored the A-10’s first air-to-air kill…against an Iraqi helicopter

Bodyweight exercises have been around since the beginning of time. Maybe it’s time you gave it a try.

Photo via Boss Royal.com

Calisthenics 

Can you do 40 push-ups without stopping? How about 40 dips within 2 minutes? How about 40 pull-ups in that same timespan?

Chances are, especially if you’re a recently retired/separated veteran, you can do the push-ups with no issue. The others, however, are going to be more challenging. Put together a quick, fun, and sweaty, circuit-style workout of your own and see the combined benefits of body weight movements and aerobic exercise.

Articles

Iran is sending threatening messages to US surveillance planes

Over this past weekend, Iran reportedly threatened two U.S. Navy surveillance aircraft operating in international waters. The P-8A Poseidon and the EP-3E Aries II operating in the Persian Gulf received the threatening radio messages but proceeded with their mission.


Iran could very well have the means to shoot down U.S. spy planes. Iran has the SA-10 “Grumble” (also known as the S-300) missile system from Russia and also has developed a home-brew version of the air defense missile called the Bavar 373. Iran has a number of other surface-to-air missiles in service as well as fighters like the MiG-29 and F-4 Phantom.

The ‘Chopper Popper’ scored the A-10’s first air-to-air kill…against an Iraqi helicopter
A P-8A Poseidon assigned to the Bureau of Air Test and Evaluation Squadron (VX) 20 replicates the characteristics of an MK-54 torpedo. (U.S. Navy photo by Greg L. Davis/Released)

The P-8A Poseidon is a modified version of Boeing’s 737 airliner, slated to replace the legendary P-3 Orion. The P-8 can carry torpedoes, anti-ship missiles, and even AIM-9 Sidewinders for self-defense, and it has a range of 4,500 nautical miles. The plane has been ordered by the Royal Australian Air Force, the Indian Air Force, and the Royal Air Force.

The EP-3E Aries II is a modified version of the P-3 Orion maritime patrol aircraft that specializes in electronic intelligence, or ELINT. The plane has a range of 3,000 miles. This was the aircraft that was involved in a 2001 incident off Hainan Island that killed the pilot of a Chinese J-8 Finback after a mid-air collision.

The threats come after a series of incidents between Iranian and American naval vessels. Notable incidents included harassment of the Aegis destroyer USS Nitze (DDG 94) and an incident where the Cyclone-class patrol craft USS Squall (PC 7) fired warning shots at Iranian Boghammers. American surveillance aircraft have also faced harassment from Russian and Chinese forces in recent years, including incidents where aircraft have come within ten feet of P-8 maritime patrol aircraft and RC-135 surveillance planes.

In 1988, tensions between the United States and Iran in the Persian Gulf region led to a series of clashes, including Operation Praying Mantis in April after the frigate USS Samuel B. Roberts (FFG 58) was mined. During a day of heated clashes, American forces sank a frigate and missile boat and destroyed or damaged other Iranian maritime assets, in exchange for one AH-1 Cobra helicopter. Later that year, an Airbus was shot down during a clash between the Ticonderoga-class cruiser USS Vincennes and Iranian Boghammers.

The current state of tensions between Iran and the United States raises the specter of another round of clashes. How would an Operation Praying Mantis II go down? It could very well start with a shoot-out between Revolutionary Guard speedboats and a U.S. Navy vessel. After that, we could very well see a sharp series of naval and air clashes, combined with cruise missile strikes on Iranian bases.

If Iran were to launch missiles at Israel in the event of a conflict breaking out (Saddam Hussein tried that gambit in 1991), the entire Middle East could be on the precipice of a conflagration.

MIGHTY CULTURE

10 Ways to Show Your Gratitude During Military Appreciation Month

May is Military Appreciation Month. Each year the President makes a proclamation reminding the nation of the importance of the Armed Forces, and declaring May as Military Appreciation Month.

Here are 10 ways you can show your gratitude to military members during Military Appreciation Month:

Wear your pride

Pull out those patriotic and military themed shirts, or buy a new one and wear them with pride. This shows those members of the Armed Forces that you support them and appreciate all that they do.

Donate to a military charity

If you want to give of yourself or financially, consider donating to a military charity. It can be difficult to know which charities are worthy of your gifts, as there are so many out there. The key to this is to do your research before you decide. A few of the top rated charities are: The Gary Sinise Foundation, Homes for Our Troops and Fisher House Foundation.

The ‘Chopper Popper’ scored the A-10’s first air-to-air kill…against an Iraqi helicopter

Fly the flag

As Americans, this is always the number one way we show our patriotic pride. During the month of May fly those colors (properly, of course) and show your pride and appreciation for those who protect our country every day.

Buy a military member a drink, coffee or meal

If you are out, why not buy a military member a drink, a coffee or even a meal? Acts of kindness are always appreciated by the men and women of the Armed Forces.

Take to social media

This Military Appreciation Month, fill up social media with notes and posts of how much our military is appreciated. Paint your gratitude across Facebook, Twitter and other social platforms.

Send a note or card

There are thousands of men and women deployed across the world from all branches of the military. Send them a note or a card telling them how much you appreciate their service and sacrifice. Better yet, get the kids involved and have them make cards to send to the troops.

Send a care package

If you want to take things a step farther, care packages are always appreciated by the troops, especially those deployed. Websites like Operation Gratitude give information on how to best get care packages to the members of the Armed Forces.

The ‘Chopper Popper’ scored the A-10’s first air-to-air kill…against an Iraqi helicopter

Pay respects at a military cemetery or memorial

Part of the month of May is Memorial Day. This is one of the reasons this month was chosen for Military Appreciation Month. Take the time to visit a cemetery or memorial and pay your respects to those that gave the ultimate sacrifice for their country.

Support military-owned businesses

There are many military members, military spouses and veterans who own their own business. Find some in your neighborhood and make a point to support them by stopping by, purchasing their goods, and recommending them to your friends and families.

Say thank you

Any of these options are a wonderful way to show appreciation to members of the military. However, oftentimes a simple ‘Thank You’ is more than enough. If you see a member of the military out and about, take the time to give them a smile, a handshake, and a thank you. Those two words mean more than you can know.

May is Military Appreciation Month. However, these men and women serve and sacrifice every day of the year. Yes, this month in particular show your gratitude towards them. But, remember them the rest of the year as well. They make the choice to serve and to sacrifice for you, give them your thanks every day.

Articles

Army chief eyeing Glock pistol as service’s next sidearm

The ‘Chopper Popper’ scored the A-10’s first air-to-air kill…against an Iraqi helicopter
A Special Forces soldier fires a Glock 19 pistol at a range during joint training with Hungarian special operations forces. | U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Tyler Placie


The U.S. Army‘s chief of staff is searching for alternatives to the multi-year Modular Handgun System effort, to include piggy-backing on Army Special Operations Command’s current pistol contract.

Gen. Mark Milley has used recent public appearances to criticize federal acquisition guidelines that all services must follow when choosing and purchasing weapons and equipment.

During a March 10 speaking engagement at a conference in Washington, D.C., for instance, Milley chastised a bureaucratic acquisition system for making it overly complicated to field equipment in a timely manner, citing the service’s Modular Handgun System, or MHS, effort as a prime example.

The Army launched its long-awaited XM17 MHS competition in late August to replace its Cold-War era, M9 9mm pistol.

Milley criticized the program’s 356-page requirement document and lengthy testing phase slated to cost $17 million for technology that has existed for years.

“The testing itself is two years long on known technology,” Milley told law makers at a March 16 House Armed Services Committee hearing.

“We are not talking about nuclear subs or going to the moon here. We are talking about a pistol.”

But behind the scenes, Milley has moved beyond criticism and taken steps to select a new sidearm for soldiers, including exploring the possibility of bypassing the MHS effort altogether.

Milley recently asked the Army Special Operations Command’s G-8 office, which oversees fielding of equipment, if there is room for the Army to join its pistol contract to buy Glock 19s, according to a source who asked to remain anonymous because he is not authorized to speak to the media.

The compact Model 19 is one of Glock’s most popular handguns. The striker-fired, 9mm pistol features a four- inch barrel and has a standard capacity of 15 rounds, although 17-round magazines are available. The polymer frame features an accessory rail for mounting lights.

New Glock 19s retail for $500-$600 each. USASOC is currently paying a base price of about $320 for each Glock 19, the source said.

With that price, the Army would pay about $91.8 million if the service were to buy 287,000 pistols, the quantity requirement outlined in the MHS effort.

Currently, the MHS program is projected to cost about $350 million, Army officials maintain.

But choosing the Glock 19 would abandon one of the major goals of the MHS effort — to adopt a pistol chambered for a more potent round than the current 9mm. The U.S. military replaced the .45-caliber 1911 pistol with the M9 in 1985 and began using the 9mm NATO round at that time.

Most special operations forces, however, use 9mm pistols and a new Defense Department policy that authorizes “special purpose ammunition” now allows the military to use expanding or hollow-point bullets, experts maintain.

Military.com contacted Milley’s office and USASOC for comment but neither office responded by deadline.

Milley has also asked Defense Secretary Ashton Carter to grant authority to the service chiefs to approve the acquisition of equipment that does not require new technology or research and development, the source said.

“I think it’s absolutely ridiculous that you don’t have the authority to pick a pistol for the Army,” Rep. Austin Scott, a Republican from Georgia, told Milley during last week’s House Armed Service Committee hearing. All of the service chiefs were present.

“I would bet that the four of you in uniform could probably in 10 minutes come up with an agreement on what that platform should be,” he said. “I would think that with a quick click or two on an iPad that you could figure out what the retail price of the pistol was, what a decent price for that pistol was and what we should be paying for that pistol if we were buying it in the quantities that we were buying it in.”

The congressman added, “I want you to know that I do believe that you should have that authority.”

Milley told lawmakers that the “secretary of the Army and I do have the authority to pick the weapon, but that’s at the end of the day; the problem is getting to the end of the day.”

Scott agreed with Milley that the current acquisition system needs simplifying.

“I can’t help but wonder that if it’s this bad with a pistol, what about optics, what about rifles; all of the things we are buying? How much bureaucracy is in there? What we could remove that would allow you to equip your men and women better, faster and with less money?” he said.

Scott encouraged Milley, and the other service chiefs, to come up with “specific language you would like to see in the National Defense Authorization Act that would help you cut through that red tape.”

MIGHTY TRENDING

The unique way the Navy performs burials on submarines

The Navy is a tradition-bound military service, and few traditions are as important as burials at sea.


Perhaps the most unique services in the fleet occur on board submarines that spend the majority of their time under water. Submarine Force Atlantic says it is preparing for burials at sea on several Norfolk-based subs in the next few months.

One of those burials will be for World War II submarine veteran Marcus White, who served on seven war patrols in the Pacific theater during World War II and the Korean War, and was awarded the Bronze Star Medal with the “V” device for valor, signifying it was earned in combat.

The ‘Chopper Popper’ scored the A-10’s first air-to-air kill…against an Iraqi helicopter
Photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Ryan McFarlane/USN

White died in June at age 95. The USS Newport News, a Los Angeles-class attack submarine, will commit him and his wife Mary Miles White, who died seven years earlier, to the sea sometime next year. White’s son, Marcus White Jr., lives in Chesapeake and said his father loved being a submariner, and that he’s fulfilling his father’s wishes. The Navy allows active-duty sailors, veterans and their family members to be buried at sea.

The chaplain for the Navy’s Norfolk-based submarine squadron, Lt. Cmdr. Richard Smothers, spoke with The Virginian-Pilot about what makes burial ceremonies on board subs unique and special for those who choose them.

Releasing of cremains

Unlike larger ships such as aircraft carriers that can accommodate caskets, all submarine burials at sea involve cremains. They also must occur at least 3 miles from shore.

Smothers said burials at sea aboard a sub primarily occur in two ways. If the weather is fair, a sub will surface, stop moving and conduct a ceremony topside that involves raising a flag the family can keep, reading any scriptures the family requests and firing a 21-gun salute with seven rifles. A member of the crew will then pour the ashes overboard. Chaplains don’t serve on board subs, and the service is usually led by a lay leader on the boat.

Smothers said the sub’s commanding officer will usually address the crew from an onboard communications system so everyone can learn about the person who was committed to the deep. If the weather isn’t good enough to allow for a full topside ceremony, the cremains can be poured overboard in a smaller ceremony from a ship’s sail, the tall structure found on the topside of the sub.

The other option involves releasing ashes underwater through a torpedo tube while the sub is still moving. Smothers said this is a popular option among those who served as torpedomen.

“I know it sounds amazing or strange, but it does happen, and it can be done very honorably, very respectfully,” he said.

Smothers said the crew will clean the torpedo tube’s surface and place the cremains inside. After the burial, the family will usually receive a letter of condolence and appreciation from the sub’s commanding officer and a chart showing the GPS coordinates where the cremains were released.

The ‘Chopper Popper’ scored the A-10’s first air-to-air kill…against an Iraqi helicopter
A Virginia-class attack submarine launches a torpedo. Graphic: Department of Defense Ron Stern

Custody of the fallen

The Navy accommodates requests for burials at sea when it can, but it’s not always a speedy process. A ship’s operational schedule takes priority, and it can be months between the time a request is made and the time the burial occurs. In White’s case, that also allowed for a traditional memorial service long before his cremains were set to sail from Norfolk.

For a burial at sea on board a Norfolk-based sub, Smothers said a family will first provide their loved one’s cremains to Naval Medical Center Portsmouth. A religious program specialist in the submarine force will then take custody of the cremains and examine sub schedules to find the best fit.

If former submariners spent most of their time in a certain home port such as Groton, Conn., or Kings Bay, Ga., they’ll try to find a sub based there. Otherwise, they’ll find the best available schedule. Sometimes family members will be allowed onto Naval Station Norfolk or another base to watch the sub carrying their loved one’s remains depart, which is a rare occurrence for an outsider to know when a sub is departing.

Also Read: The fascinating story behind the military’s use of the 21-gun salute

Smothers said a religious program specialist will go aboard the sub with the cremains and transfer it to either the executive officer or chief of the boat, where they will be safely locked away in a state room until the burial. Smothers said the Norfolk squadron typically performs about a dozen burials at sea a year.

Crew connection

The submarine force is a small, tight-knit, all-volunteer community that places a premium on valuing tradition and respecting their forerunners. In some cases, subs will perform a burial at sea where a sub sank so a former submariner can be committed to the deep with some of his former crew members or the sub where he served.

Smothers also said it’s not uncommon for family members to request that someone who holds the same job their loved one did participate in the ceremony.

“I think burials at sea, that’s one of the ways we not only just honor those families and their service, but we reactivate our commitment and our appreciation for serving,” Smothers said. “It’s a real privilege to be a part of. … Every sub that’s ever been part of a burial at sea has thanked us and said, ‘Hey, we appreciate being able to do this.’ It’s an honor.”

MIGHTY HISTORY

5 things you should know about ‘Anchors Aweigh’

Today’s U.S. Navy can trace its origins to the Continental Navy of the Revolutionary War. It boasts the largest, most capable fleet in history, proudly serving its mission of “…winning wars, deterring aggression, and maintaining freedom of the seas.” America’s sailors are the finest in the world, and their rousing song — born in victory — suits them well.


Also read: The complete hater’s guide to the US Navy


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Even if you can’t sing along, you’ve probably heard the familiar tune, but here are five things you might not know about “Anchors Aweigh:”

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1. It was written at the U.S. Naval Academy

Bandmaster Lt. Charles A. Zimmerman served as director of the U.S. Naval Academy Band from 1887 until his death in 1916, and he wrote a march for each graduating class. But it was “Anchors Aweigh” would be the one ultimately adopted by the U.S. Navy as its official song.

The ‘Chopper Popper’ scored the A-10’s first air-to-air kill…against an Iraqi helicopter

The Navy Midshipmen take the field in the 2012 Army-Navy game.

U.S. Navy Photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Chad Runge)

2. It helped shut out the Army

By 1906, Navy had not beaten Army on the football field since 1900. Midshipman First Class Alfred Hart Miles approached Zimmerman with a request for a new march — one that would lift spirits and “live forever.” According to legend, Miles and Zimmerman got to work at the Academy’s chapel organ. Later that month, the band and brigade performed the song and the Navy swept the Army in a 10-0 victory.

The ‘Chopper Popper’ scored the A-10’s first air-to-air kill…against an Iraqi helicopter

Sailors secure a line to the capstan while hoisting the anchor chain.

(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class David Finley)

3. It’s chock full of naval jargon, starting with the title

An anchor is “aweigh” when it is hoisted from the bottom, freeing the vessel. This event is duly noted in the ship’s log.

The ‘Chopper Popper’ scored the A-10’s first air-to-air kill…against an Iraqi helicopter

Nimitz Carrier Strike Group conducts an underway.

(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Michael D. Cole)

4. It evolved over time

It wasn’t until 1997 that the lyrics were finally revised (by the 8th Master Chief Petty Officer of the Navy, John Hagan) to be a little less college football and a little more domination of the high seas.

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5. It boasts ancient lore — like 2300 BC ancient

The revised lyrics include some naval lore, such as a reference to Davy Jones, whose locker on the ocean floor is home to drowned sailors and shipwrecks, and the “seven seas,” an ancient phrase for all the world’s oceans.

Here are the proud lyrics (both original and revised):

Original Lyrics

[Verse 1]

Stand Navy down the field, sails set to the sky.

We’ll never change our course, so Army you steer shy-y-y-y.

Roll up the score, Navy, Anchors Aweigh.

Sail Navy down the field and sink the Army, sink the Army Grey.

[Verse 2]

Get underway, Navy, Decks cleared for the fray,

We’ll hoist true Navy Blue So Army down your Grey-y-y-y.

Full speed ahead, Navy; Army heave to,

Furl Black and Grey and Gold and hoist the Navy, hoist the Navy Blue

[Verse 3]

Blue of the Seven Seas; Gold of God’s great sun

Let these our colors be Till all of time be done-n-n-ne,

By Severn shore we learn Navy’s stern call:

Faith, courage, service true With honor over, honor over all.

Revised Lyrics

(It is verse 2 that is most widely sung)

[Verse 1]

Stand Navy out to sea,

Fight our battle cry;

We’ll never change our course,

So vicious foe steer shy-y-y-y.

Roll out the TNT,

Anchors Aweigh.

Sail on to victory

And sink their bones to Davy Jones, hooray!

[Verse 2]

Anchors Aweigh, my boys,

Anchors Aweigh.

Farewell to foreign shores,

We sail at break of day-ay-ay-ay.

Through our last night ashore,

Drink to the foam,

Until we meet once more.

Here’s wishing you a happy voyage home.

[Verse 3]

Blue of the mighty deep:

Gold of God’s great sun.

Let these our colors be

Till all of time be done, done, done, done.

On seven seas we learn

Navy’s stern call:

Faith, courage, service true,

With honor, over honor, over all.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Russia doubles down on its version of the beloved A-10

The Su-25 Frogfoot, known as the Grach or “Rook” by Russian pilots, is one of those aircraft that may not be at the cutting edge of technology, but still has seen widespread service around the world because it offers an effective and useful solution to the need to blast targets on the ground.

As such, its obvious stablemate is the American A-10 Thunderbolt II attack plane. But while the U.S. Air Force wants to retire the A-10 starting in 2022, the Su-25 is undergoing extensive upgrades to keep with the times.


Also unlike the Thunderbolt, it has been disseminated it all over the world and seen action in over a dozen wars, including in the air campaigns over Syria, Iraq and Ukraine.

Not only has Russia had a lot of experience flying Su-25s in combat — it has shot several down as well.

During World War II, Russia’s armored Il-2 Sturmovik attack planes, nicknamed “Flying Tanks,” were renowned for their ability to take a pounding while dishing it out to German Panzer divisions with bombs, rockets and cannon fire.

The ‘Chopper Popper’ scored the A-10’s first air-to-air kill…against an Iraqi helicopter

An A-10 Thunderbolt II.

Unlike the U.S. Air Force in the 1960s, which was enamored with the concept of “winning” nuclear wars with strategic bombers, the Soviet air service, the VVS, placed more emphasis on supporting ground armies in its Frontal Aviation branch. However, no worthy successor to the Shturmovik immediately appeared after World War II

In 1968, the VVS service decided it was time for another properly designed flying tank. After a three-way competition, the prototype submitted by Sukhoi was selected and the first Su-25 attack planes entered production in 1978 in a factory in Tbilisi, Georgia. Coincidentally, the American A-10 Thunderbolt had begun entering service a few years earlier.

Like the A-10, the Su-25 was all about winning a titanic clash between the ground forces of NATO and the Warsaw Pact by busting tanks and blasting infantry in Close Air Support missions. This meant flying low and slow to properly observe the battlefield and line up the plane for an attack run.

Flying low would also help the Su-25 avoid all the deadly long-range SAMs that would have been active in a European battlefield. However, this would have exposed it to all kinds of antiaircraft guns. Thus, the pilot of the Su-25 benefited from an “armored bathtub” — ten to twenty-five millimeters of armor plating that wrapped around the cockpit and even padded the pilot’s headrest. It also had armored fuel tanks and redundant control schemes to increase the likelihood of surviving a hit. And in their extensive combat careers, Su-25s have survived some really bad hits.

The ‘Chopper Popper’ scored the A-10’s first air-to-air kill…against an Iraqi helicopter

A Sukhoi Su-25SM at the Celebration of the 100th anniversary of Russian Air Force.

Despite the similarities with the A-10, the Su-25 is a smaller and lighter, and has a maximum speed fifty percent faster than the Thunderbolt’s at around six hundred miles per hour. However, the Frogfoot has shorter range and loiter time, can only operate at half the altitude, and has a lighter maximum load of up to eight thousand pounds of munitions, compared to sixteen thousand on the Thunderbolt.

More importantly, the types of munitions usually carried are typically different. The Thunderbolt’s mainstays are precision-guided munitions, especially Maverick antitank missiles, as well as its monstrous, fast-firing GAU-8 cannon.

The Su-25’s armament has typically consisted of unguided 250 or 500 kilogram bombs, cluster bombs and rockets. The rockets come in forms ranging from pods containing dozens of smaller 57- or 80-millimeter rockets, to five-shot 130-millimeter S-13 system, to large singular 240- or 330-millimeter rockets. The Su-25 also has a Gsh-30-2 30-millimeter cannon under the nose with 260 rounds of ammunition, though it doesn’t have the absurd rate of fire of the GAU-8.

The lower tip of the Frogfoot’s nose holds a glass-enclosed laser designator. Su-25s did make occasional use of Kh-25ML and Kh-29 laser guided missiles in Afghanistan to take out Mujahideen fortified caves, striking targets as far as five miles away. KAB-250 laser-guided bombs began to see use in Chechnya as well. However, use of such weapons was relatively rare. For example, they made up only 2 percent of munitions expended by the Russian Air Force in Chechnya.

The Su-25 was still packing plenty of antipersonnel firepower—and that’s exactly what was called for when it first saw action in Afghanistan beginning in 1981. The Su-25 was the workhorse fixed-wing attack plane in the conflict, flying more than sixty thousand sorties in bombing raids on mujahedeen villages and mountain strongholds. They often teamed up with Mi-24 attack helicopters to provide air support for Soviet armored units.

However, as the Afghan rebels began to acquire Stinger missiles from the United States, Su-25s began to suffer losses and the Soviet pilots were forced to fly higher to avoid the man-portable surface-to-air missiles. In all, some fifteen Su-25s were shot down in Afghanistan before the Soviet withdrawal.

With the dissolution of the Soviet Union, Su-25s were passed onto the air services of all the Soviet successor states. Those that didn’t use Su-25s in local wars—on both sides of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, for example—often exported them to countries that did. Frogfoots have seen action in the service of Macedonia (against Albanian rebels), Ethiopia (against Eritrea, with one shot down), Sudan (target: Darfur), and Georgia versus Abkhazian separatists that shot down several. And that list is not comprehensive.

In one notable episode, Cote d’Ivoire acquired several Su-25s and used them in its civil war. When the government of President Laurent Gbagbo was angered by the perceived partisanship of French peacekeepers, his mercenary-piloted Su-25s bombed the French camp, killing nine. Whoever ordered the attack didn’t consider that there was a French contingent stationed at the Yamoussoukro Airfield where the Frogfoots were based. The French used anti-tank missiles to destroy the fighter bombers on the ground in retaliation.

Russian Su-25 were back in action in the Chechnya campaign of 1994 to 1995, flying 5,300 strike sorties. Early on they helped wipe out Chechen aircraft on the ground and hit the Presidential Palace in Grozny with anti-concrete bombs. They then pursued a more general bombing campaign. Four were lost to missiles and flak. They were again prominent in the Second Chechen War in 1999, where only one was lost.

Of course, it’s important to note at this juncture that the Su-25 is one of a handful of Soviet aircraft that received its own American computer game in 1990.

Modern Su-25s

In addition to the base model, the Frogfoot also came in an export variant, the Su-25K, and a variety of two-seat trainers with a hunchback canopy, including the combat-capable Su-25UBM.

There were a number of projects to modernize the Su-25, including small productions runs of Su-25T and Su-25TM tank busters. But the Russian Air Force finally selected the Su-25SM in the early 2000s for all future modernization.

The SM has a new BARS satellite navigation/attack system, which allows for more precise targeting, as well as a whole slew of improved avionics such as news heads-up displays (HUDS), Radar Warning Receivers and the like. The Su-25SM can use the excellent R-73 short-range air-to-air missile, and has improved targeting abilities for laser-guided bombs. Other improvements reduce maintenance requirements and lower aircraft weight.

The National Interest‘s Dave Majumdar has written about the latest SM3 upgrade, which includes the capacity to fire Kh-58 anti-radar missiles, which could enable Su-25s to help suppress enemy air defenses, as well as a Vitebskelectronic-countermeasure system that could increase its survivability against both radar- and infarred-guided surface to air missiles.

Georgia and Ukraine also have limited numbers of their own domestically upgrade variants, the Su-25KM and the Su-25M1 respectively. You can check out the Su-25KM variant, produced with an Israeli firm, in this video full of unironic 1980s flair.

Speaking of Georgia, things got messy in 2008 when both Russia and Georgia operated Frogfoots in the Russo-Georgian War. The Georgian Frogfoots provided air support for Georgian troops seizing the city of Tskhinvali. Then Russian Su-25s assisted Russian armor in blasting them out. Russia lost three Su-25s to MANPADS—two likely from friendly fire—and Georgia lost a similar number to Russian SAMs. To the surprise of observers, however, the Russian Air Force did not succeed in sweeping Georgian aviation from the sky.

In 2014, Ukraine deployed its Frogfoots to support ground forces combating separatist rebels in Eastern Ukraine. They assisted in the initial recapture of the Donetsk airport in May, would be followed over a half year of seesaw battles ending in a separatist victory in 2015. Ukraine lost four Su-25s in the ensuing ground-attack missions—three were hit by missiles (one MANPADS, two allegedly by longer-ranged systems across the Russian border), and a fourth was reportedly downed by a Russian MiG-29. Two others survivedhits from missiles. As a result, Su-25 strikes were sharply curtailed to avoid incurring further losses.

In 2015, the Russian separatists of the Luhansk People’s Republic claimed to have launched airstrikes with an Su-25 of their own. Depending on who you ask, the airplane was restored from a museum or flew in from Russia.

The Iraqi Air Force has deployed its own Su-25s in the war against ISIS, purchasing five from Russia in 2014 and receiving seven from Iran that had been impounded during the 1991 Gulf War.

Finally, in the fall of 2015, Russia deployed a dozen modernized Su-25SMs in support of the Syrian government of Bashar al-Assad. Many observers noted that of the aircraft involved in the mission, the Su-25s were the best adapted for the close air-support role. The Frogfoot flew 1,600 sorties against rebel-held Syrian cities, and expended more than six thousand munitions, mostly unguided bombs and S-13 rockets. They were withdrawn this year, leaving attack helicopter behind to perform more precise—and risky—close air support missions.

Lessons Learned from Flying Tanks?

While it’s fun to admire high-performing fighters like the MiG-29 or F-22 Raptor, the unglamorous Su-25 has so far had a greater impact on a wide range of conflicts. We can draw a few lessons from its recent combat record.

First, the significant losses suffered by Su-25s demonstrate that without effective air-defense suppression and electronic counter-measures, low-and-slow ground support planes are poised to take heavy losses against Russian-made surface-to-air missiles deployed in sufficient numbers.

Second, observation of Russia’s Syrian contingent suggests that despite possessing a diverse arsenal of precision guided munitions, the Russian Air Force continues to rely primarily on unguided bombs and rockets for the close air support mission.

Lastly, aircraft capable of delivering punishing attacks on ground targets while retaining a good chance of surviving hits taken in return are going to remain in high demand worldwide.

This article originally appeared on Warrior Maven. Follow @warriormaven1 on Twitter.

MIGHTY SPORTS

Watch this dedicated 49er shake every military hand before MNF

While some people see the NFL’s Salute to Service as a PR stunt, paid for by the U.S. military (we know who you are; we read the comments), what you need to know is that no matter who’s paying for it, those players really mean it. It’s the individual that really takes on the mantle of showing affection for U.S. troops.

To see appreciation in action, look no further than the 49ers’ George Kittle.


The 49ers’ tight end was the top passing target for San Francisco during the Veterans Day game on Monday night. The former Iowa Hawkeye had nine receptions for 83 yard in the 49ers’ loss to the Giants, but it was the reception he gave before the game that has fans talking.

The Nov. 12th game was played on the evening the United States observed Veterans Day and, as a result, was attended by dozens of uniformed servicemen and women from every branch of the U.S. Armed Forces. The 49ers invited the troops to open the game.

At the end of the National Anthem and before the game’s kickoff, Kittle made his way to the sidelines to shake each of the visiting troops’ hands. The video of Kittle shaking hands went viral, but not because Kittle had a camera following him – there was no time for a photo op. That’s just the kind of guy he is.

The ‘Chopper Popper’ scored the A-10’s first air-to-air kill…against an Iraqi helicopter

Kittle and the 49ers led for much of Monday night’s game, outdone only in the last few minutes of the game, losing to the Eli Manning-led Giants 27-23.

“He’s got a good personality,” says 49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan. “He acts like a WWE wrestler and I don’t think that’s an act; I think that’s who he is 24/7, which is fun to watch. But you’ve always got to watch out for him. He’s pretty rowdy all the time.”

Fellow players and staff describe Kittle as a “mild-mannered and respectful citizen” off the field. On the field, however, they call him a “scarlet-and-gold-clad superhero,” according to Bleacher Report.

This is not the 49ers’ first run-in with veterans this season. The team was one of a handful of teams who trained in the offseason with U.S. special operations veterans. San Francisco’s players, coaches, and scouts trained with a cadre of Navy SEAL veterans.

The ‘Chopper Popper’ scored the A-10’s first air-to-air kill…against an Iraqi helicopter

During the first phase of the offseason program, 49ers players, coaches and members of the scouting staff participated in a rigorous (albeit familiar-looking) workout led by veteran Navy SEALs.

(49ers.com)

MIGHTY HISTORY

This is how Robert E. Lee’s house became Arlington National Cemetery

Before the Civil War, Robert E. Lee’s mansion was part of a Virginia estate on the Potomac River, across from the nation’s capital. It was land his wife inherited from her father. At 1,100 acres, it was an idyllic area to raise George Washington’s adopted great-grandchildren (his father-in-law, was George Washington Park Custis, the adopted son of the first Commander-in-Chief and our nation’s first First Lady).


They must have been really upset when the Union Army came by in May of 1861 and seized it from them.

The ‘Chopper Popper’ scored the A-10’s first air-to-air kill…against an Iraqi helicopter
Taking photos at the enemy commander’s house was all the rage. Probably.

Also Read: The Civil War started and ended at the same guy’s house 

The previous month, South Carolinian contingents of the Confederate Army fired on Fort Sumter in Charleston Harbor. The Civil War had begun. President Lincoln called up the U.S. Army, who came to the capital and took control of the Arlington side of the Potomac. The area was a prime position for Union Artillery.

In April 1861, Lee was appointed commander-in-chief of Virginia’s military forces. Though the state had not yet seceded, it was widely expected to do so. When Virginia left the Union, Lee was appointed to a Brigadier General’s rank in the Confederate Army in May 1861. That’s when the U.S. government took his land and home. Lee was with his army in nearby Manassas when the U.S. Army came knocking on May 24th.

Though the war started well for Lee and Virginia, it didn’t end well. After his defeat at Gettysburg, the Army of Northern Virginia would never recover and Lee would be forced to surrender at Appomattox Court House in 1865. In the meantime, the land was used by Lee’s (and other) former slaves to grow food to feed the Union Army.

The ‘Chopper Popper’ scored the A-10’s first air-to-air kill…against an Iraqi helicopter
General Irvin McDowell and staff, Arlington House 1862. I told you it was all the rage.

Related: Robert E. Lee may have lost Gettysburg because of a heart attack 

After the war, the Lee family decided to try to get their land and home back through a series of legal battles. The main sticking point? Lee’s unpaid tax bill. The U.S. government charged the Lees $92.07 in taxes on their land ($2130.52 in today’s dollars). Mary, Lee’s wife sent her cousin to pay the bill, but the U.S. would only accept the payment from Lee herself. When she didn’t show, they put the property up for sale.

The ‘Chopper Popper’ scored the A-10’s first air-to-air kill…against an Iraqi helicopter
Then they hoisted a giant American flag on it, just for funsies.

Now that the land was delinquent on its taxes the government could purchase it, which it did. For $26,800, the equivalent of just over $620,156 today. Except in 2017, 1100 acres of Arlington, Va. is worth millions. But in 2017, that specific 1100 acres is actually priceless, because it’s now called Arlington National Cemetery. It’s where the United States inters its honored war heroes.

The ‘Chopper Popper’ scored the A-10’s first air-to-air kill…against an Iraqi helicopter
The first graves in Arlington National Cemetery were dug by James Parks, a former slave. Parks was freed in 1862 but still lived on Arlington Estate for the duration of the war.

The U.S. long ago turned it into a cemetery for those troops lost in the Civil War. Union troops were buried there beginning in 1864, partly to relieve the overflowing Union hospitals and partly to keep the Lee family from ever returning. As late as 1870, the year Gen. Lee died, Mary Lee petitioned Congress to get her home back and remove the dead. The petition failed and Mary Lee died in 1873.

Her son, however, sued the government, claiming its 1864 tax auction was unconstitutional. The Supreme Court agreed and ordered the government to either remove the bodies from the cemetery or pay the Lee estate a fair market price for the land. The government paid $150,000 for the now-priceless land.

Articles

This psychedelic drug could be approved to treat PTSD

Just as cannabis is gaining traction as a legitimate treatment option for military veterans, the US Food and Drug Administration has given the “breakthrough therapy” designation to MDMA, the main chemical in the club drug Ecstasy, for treatment of post-traumatic stress disorder.


The move appears to pave the way for a Santa Cruz, California-based advocacy group to conduct two trials of MDMA-assisted psychotherapy for patients with severe PTSD.

The nonprofit group Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies plans to test out the strategy on 200 to 300 participants in clinical trials this spring.

The ‘Chopper Popper’ scored the A-10’s first air-to-air kill…against an Iraqi helicopter
Image from MAPS.org

“For the first time ever, psychedelic-assisted psychotherapy will be evaluated in [advanced] trials for possible prescription use, with MDMA-assisted psychotherapy for PTSD leading the way,” said Rick Doblin, the group’s founder and executive director.

The FDA says it doesn’t disclose the names of drugs that receive “breakthrough therapy” designation. But if a researcher or drug company chooses to release that information, they are allowed to. In this case, the Psychedelic Studies group is the researcher.

Veterans have pushed for new treatments for PTSD, which some consider the “signature” injury of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Symptoms include depression, isolation, inability to concentrate and, in the extreme, suicidal thoughts.

The ‘Chopper Popper’ scored the A-10’s first air-to-air kill…against an Iraqi helicopter
MDMA in pressed pill form. Image from DEA.

At present, the US Drug Enforcement Administration lists the drug as a Schedule I drug, which means there are no currently accepted medical uses and there’s a high potential for abuse.

The drug affects serotonin use in the brain.

It can cause euphoria, increased sensitivity to touch, sensual and sexual arousal, the need to be touched, and the need for stimulation.

Some unwanted psychological effects can include confusion, anxiety, depression, paranoia, sleep problems, and drug craving, according to the DEA.

Clinical studies suggest that MDMA may increase the risk of long-term problems with memory and learning.

MIGHTY TRENDING

These countries are the worst human traffickers in the world

In a new report, the U.S. State Department says Belarus, Iran, Russia, and Turkmenistan remain among the worst offenders of human trafficking and forced labor.

The department’s annual Trafficking In Persons report, which is aimed at curbing human trafficking, was unveiled in a ceremony in Washington on June 28, 2018, by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and presidential adviser Ivanka Trump.


It evaluates 187 countries and territories and ranks them into four tiers (Tier 1, Tier 2, Tier 2 Watch List, and Tier 3), with Tier 1 being the best and Tier 3 the worst.

Russia, Belarus, Iran, and Turkmenistan were among 22 countries ranked as Tier 3. Others included Burma (also known as Myanmar), China, North Korea, Syria, and Venezuela.

The Russian government “does not fully meet the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking and is not making significant efforts to do so,” the 2018 Trafficking In Persons report stated as a reason why Russia remained among the worst offenders for the sixth year in a row.

The ‘Chopper Popper’ scored the A-10’s first air-to-air kill…against an Iraqi helicopter

It said Russian authorities “routinely detained and deported potential forced labor victims without screening for signs of exploitation, and prosecuted victims forced into prostitution for prostitution offenses.”

It urged Moscow to investigate allegations and prevent the use of forced labor in construction projects, screen for trafficking indicators before deporting or repatriating migrants, and to establish formal national procedures to aid law enforcement officials.

The report said Belarus, a Tier 3 country since 2015, “maintained policies that actively compelled the forced labor of its citizens, including civil servants, students, part-time workers, and the unemployed, citizens suffering from drug or alcohol dependency, and, at times, critics of the government, among others.”

In Iran, which has been Tier 3 since at least 2011, “trafficking victims reportedly continued to face severe punishment, including death, for unlawful acts committed as a direct result of being subjected to trafficking.”

It also accused the government of providing financial support to militias fighting in Iraq that recruited and used child soldiers.

It said Turkmenistan, which remained on the Tier 3 list for the third consecutive year, continued to use “the forced labor of reportedly tens of thousands of its adult citizens in the annual cotton harvest and in preparation for the Asian Indoor and Martial Arts Games” that the country hosted in September 2017.

The ‘Chopper Popper’ scored the A-10’s first air-to-air kill…against an Iraqi helicopter

Pakistan, meanwhile, was upgraded from Tier 3 to Tier 2, with the report crediting Islamabad with “making significant efforts” to tackle trafficking.

It said Pakistan, which had been Tier 3 from 2014-17, “demonstrated increasing efforts by increasing the number of victims it identified and investigations and prosecutions of sex trafficking.”

It cautioned, though, that the country’s overall law enforcement efforts on labor trafficking remained “inadequate compared with the scale of the problem.”

The State Department ranked Georgia as the only former Soviet republic to be a Tier 1 country, a category that comprises 39 countries.

In the middle are the Tier 2 countries, defined as those that do not fully meet the minimum standards but are making significant efforts to bring themselves into compliance.

These include Afghanistan, Albania, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Kosovo, Macedonia, Moldova, Pakistan, Romania, and Serbia.

The report listed 43 countries in danger of being downgraded to Tier 3 in future years. The Tier 2 Watch List includes Bosnia-Herzegovina, Kyrgyzstan, Montenegro, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan, along with EU member Hungary.

This article originally appeared on Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. Follow @RFERL on Twitter.

Articles

Some of the world’s smartest people are worried about killer robots

The ‘Chopper Popper’ scored the A-10’s first air-to-air kill…against an Iraqi helicopter


Elon Musk and Stephen Hawking have joined with 1,000 of some of the world’s smartest people in warning of the potential rise of killer robots being used on the battlefield.

“If any major military power pushes ahead with [artificial intelligence] weapon development, a global arms race is virtually inevitable,” reads an open letter from more than 1,000 AI and robotics researchers. “And the endpoint of this technological trajectory is obvious: autonomous weapons will become the Kalashnikovs of tomorrow.”

The Guardian reports:

The letter, presented at the International Joint Conference on Artificial Intelligence in Buenos Aires, Argentina, was signed by Tesla’s Elon Musk, Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak, Google DeepMind chief executive Demis Hassabis and professor Stephen Hawking along with 1,000 AI and robotics researchers.

The letter states: “AI technology has reached a point where the deployment of [autonomous weapons] is – practically if not legally – feasible within years, not decades, and the stakes are high: autonomous weapons have been described as the third revolution in warfare, after gunpowder and nuclear arms.”

Artificial intelligence on the battlefield poses many difficult questions, according to the open letter. Besides the possibility of SkyNet, some of the concerns posed by the letter are:

  • A military arms race akin to nuclear weapons in which nations build smarter and more powerful robots
  • Killer robots falling into the hands of terrorists
  • Dictators using such robots for genocide and other violent campaigns

You can read the full letter here

READ MORE: The Pentagon wants armed citizens to stop standing outside of recruiting centers

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