The C-130 has a long legacy of getting troops and cargo from point A to point B. However, while the Hercules is versatile (from a gunship to wielding the powers of the Shadow) and a legend, let’s face it, it does have limitations. Part of it is the fact it can carry 22 tons at most in the C-130J-30 version.
So, Airbus decided to try to address that shortcoming. The result is the A400M Atlas, and like Japan’s C-2 transport, it is intended to fit in the niche between the C-130 and the C-17.
The difference is that while Japan chose to build a scaled-down C-17, Airbus decided that the answer involved giving the C-130 a “steroid” boost, just as Japan did with the F-16.
The result is a plane that lists more (37 tons compared to 22), has more endurance (4,800 nautical miles to 2,100), and which can still land on rough fields like the C-130. The C-17, according to an Air Force fact sheet, needs a 3,500 foot runway.
So, what exactly does this mean? The cargo hold is 58 feet long, 13 feet high, and 13 feet wide. Airbus says the plane can carry an NH90 or CH-47 helicopter, or most infantry fighting vehicles.
And we’re not talking a Stryker — we’re talking a heavy infantry fighting vehicle like Germany’s Puma.
The A400M will also be able to haul troops, and unlike the C-2 or C-17, it is also capable of being used as a tanker. Yeah, like the C-130, the Atlas is capable of topping up fighters on a ferry run or when they are headed out to carry strikes.
Below, you can see the Atlas do a move that few transports can do. But ultimately, this transport’s going to be doing a lot of hauling. Already, 46 are in service, with a total of 174 ordered.
Moscow has condemned Britain’s plans to build new military bases in Southeast Asia and the Caribbean, saying Russia is prepared to take retaliatory measures if its own interests or those of its allies are threatened.
British Defense Minister Gavin Williamson told the Sunday Telegraph in December 2018 that Britain could establish the new military bases “within the next couple of years” after the country leaves the European Union.
Williamson said the expansion would be part of a strategy for Britain to become a “true global player” after Brexit.
He did not specify where the bases might be built. But the newspaper reported that options included Singapore or Brunei near the South China Sea and Montserrat or Guyana in the Caribbean.
British Defense Minister Gavin Williamson.
Speaking on Jan. 11, 2019, Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswomen Maria Zakharova said Williamson’s comments were baffling and warned that such plans could destabilize world affairs.
“Of course, Britain like any other country is independent when it comes to its military construction plans. But against the backdrop of overall rising military and political tensions in the world…statements about the desire to build up its military presence in third countries are counterproductive, destabilizing, and possibly of a provocational nature,” she was quoted as saying by TASS.
Russia has military bases in several former Soviet countries. It also operates military facilities in Syria and Vietnam.
The Battle of the Atlantic lasted almost the entirety of the Second World War. It started when the United Kingdom and France declared war on Nazi Germany in 1939 and it didn’t end until Nazi Germany surrendered. Even then, some U-boats refused to give up the fight with their nation — a maritime version of Japanese holdouts.
The Nazi pocket battleship Graf Spee scuttled in Montevideo, Uruguay.
It’s hard to really comprehend this battle, both due to the length of the campaign (almost six years of fighting) and the massive scope. Forces clashed the world over, from the North Cape to Montevideo. But between these battles, it was sheer drudgery — long moments of boredom, punctuated by a submarine attack or air raid that would never make headlines.
A Vought SB2U flies over a convoy carrying troops and supplies to the front.
(US Navy photo)
Despite the languid pace, the Battle of the Atlantic was of paramount importance. Without winning the Battle of the Atlantic, the Allies could never have pulled off the Normandy invasion, much less force the surrender of Nazi Germany. It was all about securing the lines of communication between the United States and the Allied forces in Europe and the Mediterranean.
A convoy heads towards Casablanca, one of the locations where troops hit the beach during Operation Torch.
(US Navy photo)
Merriam-Webster defines a line of communication as “the net of land, water, and air routes connecting a field of action (as a military front) with its bases of operations and supplies.” In the case of the Battle of the Atlantic, the major focus was on keeping waterways open. This was the only way to transport the many tanks and planes needed to win the war, not to mention the supplies for ground troops. In fact, sea transport still matters today because it’s the most convenient way to move a major force to the front.
In 1918, World War I was in its fourth year. Imperial Russia had succumbed to the Communist Revolution and capitulated to Imperial Germany. In the West, a race against time was on. The Allies of Great Britain and France were watching with mounting concern as German armies from the Eastern Front began reinforcing those on the Western Front. Their armies, having been bled white and wracked by mutiny after three horrific years of trench warfare, were at the breaking point. The last hope for Allied victory was the United States. It had entered the war in April 1917, and its troops began arriving in France later that year.
The American forces were hastily trained for the demands of total warfare in the European model, and for the most part were equipped with a hodge-podge of weapons supplied by their allies. The question on both sides of the trenches was not if the growing number of American units would fight, but rather how well? Only combat would answer that question. Field Marshal Paul von Hindenberg and Gen. Erich Ludendorff of Germany were determined to shatter Allied resolve and achieve victory with an offensive launched before the full weight of the U.S. Army could be felt.
On May 27, 1918, specially trained “shock units” led a three-pronged offensive that smashed into the British and French lines. At Aisne, the French lines bent, then broke. In less than two days, the German army was at the Marne River at Chateau Thierry. Once again, the German army had victory within its grasp, and once again, the road to Paris, about 50 miles away, was wide open. In 1914, France, and the Allied cause, was saved by a sudden influx of troops delivered to the front by Parisian taxis – the “Miracle of the Marne.”
This time France had no miracles of her own remaining. Allied Commander-in-Chief Gen. Ferdinand Foch turned to Gen. John Pershing, commanding general of the American Expeditionary Force. Previously, Pershing had resisted releasing units piecemeal to reinforce depleted British and French divisions. He stated that when Americans fought, they would do so as a unified army.
But Pershing recognized that the present crisis overrode national considerations and temporarily released his five divisions to Foch’s command. The American 2nd Division, containing the 4th, 5th, and 6th Marine Brigades, was assigned to Gen. Joseph Degoutte’s French 6th Army, located along the Marne Front. Not since the Civil War had American troops been involved in a conflict of such magnitude. And it had been more than 100 years, at the battles of Bladensburg and New Orleans during the War of 1812, since the Marine Corps had faced an armed foe at the professional level as it did now against the 461st Imperial German Infantry regiment.
Though Pershing, an Army general, harbored little love for the Marines, he did not allow service parochialism to blind him to the Marines’ capability. Shortly after Ludendorff’s offensive began, when the 4th Marine Brigade’s commander, Brig. Gen. Charles Doyen, had to return to the States due to a terminal illness, Pershing assigned command of the brigade to his chief of staff, Army Brig. Gen. James Harbord, telling him, “Young man, I’m giving you the best brigade in France – if anything goes wrong, I’ll know whom to blame.”
It was not without some concern that Harbord assumed his new command. He was replacing a respected and loved commander; he was a National Guard cavalry officer, a temporary brigadier general; and his two regimental commanders were Col. Albertus Catlin and Col. Wendell “Whispering Buck” Neville, both recipients of the Medal of Honor. He worked hard at his new command and earned the respect of the Marines. Harbord would retire a major general and later write of his experience, “They never failed me. I look back on my service with the Marines Brigade with more pride and satisfaction than on any other equal period in my long Army career.”
The fighting ended, exhausted and seriously depleted ranks of the 6th Marines gather outside Belleau Wood before moving on.
(USMC History and Museums Division)
The 4th Marine Brigade was ordered to shore up defenses and assume a blocking position north of the important east-west Paris- Metz highway. They dug into position along a line just above the village of Lucy-Le-Bocage. Immediately in front of the Marine line was a large wheat field, and beyond that was a mile square game preserve. The French called it Bois de Belleau. To the Marines and America, it would be immortalized as Belleau Wood. The Marines had barely gotten into position, digging shallow individual trenches they called “foxholes,” when the German army renewed its offensive on June 2. Demoralized French troops in the forest began falling back. One French officer, as he passed through the Marine lines, advised the Americans to join in the retreat. Capt. Lloyd Williams responded, “Retreat, hell! We just got here!” The French officer and the other French troops continued on. Soon the Marines were alone.
The rest of the day and the following morning were quiet. The heat of the early June sun parched the throats of the Marines as they waited for the enemy to appear. Finally, in the early afternoon, movement was seen at the southern edge of the forest, and the distinct shapes of German soldiers in their feldgrau began to emerge. Long line after long line of soldiers, slightly crouched and weapons low, began trotting through the ripening wheat. Veteran Marines of the Spanish-American War, the Boxer Rebellion in China, and the Veracruz Expedition lay side by side with unblooded men whose memories of the profane injunctions of their drill instructors were still fresh. The Germans confidently advanced. What they did not know was that no longer before them was a demoralized French foe. Instead, they were marching toward a fresh enemy with high morale that took pride in training its men in how to shoot. The Germans also did not realize they were already within range of the Marines’ shoulder arm, the .30-06 Springfield M1903 rifle.
The accepted combat range of rifles during World War I was a maximum of 250 yards. The Springfield ’03 was rated with an effective range of 600 yards. In the hands of an expert marksman, it could be deadly at ranges well beyond that. The line of gray-clad troops advancing through an open field presented the Marines with a shooting gallery. At 800 yards, the order was given, and sustained fire commenced. German soldiers spun, collapsed, and fell as bullets from the first volley tore into them. The German advance wavered, then astonished survivors fell to the ground seeking cover. Their officers ran through their ranks, shouting for them to get up and continue the advance. The troops rose and were hit with another volley fired at long range. A third attempt to advance was met by a third deadly volley that was also accompanied by machine gun fire. The stunned survivors retreated into the woods to take up defensive positions and plan their next move.
The commander of the German 28th Division facing opposite the American 2nd Division confidently told his men, “We are not fighting for ground – for this ridge or that hill. It will be decided here whether or not the American Army will be equal to our own troops.” It was a prescient statement. Unfortunately, for him, not in the way he expected.
After receiving news that the German attack had been blunted at Belleau Wood, Degoutte ordered the 2nd Division to counterattack the following day, June 6. The attack began with the 1st Battalion, 5th Marines launching a dawn attack on the German-held Hill 142 on the division’s left flank. German machine guns raked the Marine ranks during the half-mile advance. The Marines succeeded in capturing the hill at about noon. But doing so had cost the battalion 410 casualties. It was a foretaste of what was to come.
Meanwhile, two battalions of the 6th Marines and one battalion of the 5th Marines were preparing for the main attack on Belleau Wood. The attack was launched at 5 p.m., and the Marines advanced in a formation and at a fast pace taught by the veteran French officers who had rounded out their training shortly after the Marines arrived in France. It was the same formation that had doomed thousands of French poilus during the disastrous offensives of 1914 and 1915. It achieved the same results on the Marines. As the Marines began crossing the battle-scarred wheat field, it was the German machine gunners’ turn. The lead troops were quickly cut down. Surviving Marines dove for the ground and continued the advance crawling on all fours, pausing and, like pop-up targets, taking aim and quickly firing back before dropping down for cover in the wheat stalks. Even so, the advance slowed dangerously, with the German machine gun fire continuing seemingly unabated. It appeared that the attack would fail just 50 yards before the Marines reached the German lines.
Reporter Floyd Gibbons was with the Marines during the attack and lay terrified among the dead and wounded in the wheat field. Not far from him was Gunnery Sgt. Daniel Daly, a double Medal of Honor recipient for heroism in the Boxer Rebellion and Haiti. In a report he later filed, Gibbons wrote, “The sergeant swung his bayoneted rifle over his head with a forward sweep, yelling at his men, ‘Come on, you sons-of-bitches, do you want to live forever?'” The Marines with him stood up, and with a roar, charged. By the end of the day, the first line of German defenders was overrun and taken. But the cost of the attack was severe. On that day, the 4th Marine Brigade had suffered 1,087 casualties, making it the bloodiest day in Marine Corps history up to that point. More Marines had fallen on June 6, 1918, than in the entire 143-year history of the Marine Corps.
The Battle for Belleau Wood would continue to almost the end of June and was fought in a series of savage actions. It was during this battle that, according to legend, the 461st Imperial German Infantry gave the Marines the nickname “Teufelhunden” – “Devil Dogs.” Finally, on June 26, Maj. Maurice Shearer of the 5th Marines sent to headquarters the message: “Woods now U.S. Marine Corps entirely.”
Convinced that the Marines had saved Paris, the French government renamed the game preserve Bois de la Brigade de Marine. And, more importantly, this action, as well as American success at Cantigny and Ch’teau-Thierry, Pershing later wrote, “… gave an indication of what trained American troops would do.” But the German high command was not finished. A final German offensive was launched on July 15. This time, the 2nd Division and its Marines joined the French XX Corps and repulsed the German attack at Soissons, sustaining another 2,000 casualties. When the German offensive was stopped, the initiative shifted to the Allies. They responded with the Meuse-Argonne Offensive.
On July 29, 1918, Pershing made Gen. John A. Lejeune commander of the 2nd Division. His first assignment was to reduce the dangerous German salient at St. Mihiel. After four days of fierce fighting by the combined Marine and Army units, the salient was eliminated. The 2nd Division then was assigned offensive operations in support of the French Fourth Army, commanded by Gen. Henri Gourand. But German defenses along the Meuse River succeeded in slowing the French advance until it was stopped before Blanc Mont, or White Mountain, a ridge that dominated the region for miles. The Germans had held Blanc Mont since 1914 and had heavily fortified the ridge. To restart his stalled attack, Gourand wanted Lejeune to break up his division and disperse it into depleted French units. Lejeune’s reaction was quick and hot. Following Pershing’s example, he was not about to have his division broken up, particularly since there was no dire crisis now confronting the Allies. The Marine general told Gourand, “Keep the division intact and let us take [Blanc Mont].”
U.S. Marines in Belleau Wood (1918) by Georges Scott.
Gourand looked at Lejeune skeptically, then nodded his assent. Lejeune’s plan was to assault the German position with lead attacks from both flanks and, when they had closed to pinch out and isolate the center, the rest of his troops would advance and overwhelm the defenders. In what Pershing would later call “a brilliant maneuver against heavy machine gun resistance,” the attack kicked off on Oct. 3 with a short, five-minute artillery barrage of 200 guns. As soon as the cannon fire stopped, the 3rd Infantry Brigade launched its attack on the German right flank. Simultaneously, the 4th Marine Brigade attacked the German left. This was followed by an advance by the 6th Marines. Supporting the overall attack were French tanks. By noon, the 6th Marines had seized the crest and were clearing the heights. Additional troops from the 5th Marines moved up to add overwhelming power to the 2nd Division’s punch. On the left flank was a heavily fortified position known as the Essen Hook that was assigned to French units who were temporarily held in reserve. As the battle progressed, the French troops were released to seize the Essen Hook. When the French proved unable to do so, a company of Marines from the 5th Regiment led by Capt. Leroy P. Hunt was ordered to help. Hunt’s company succeeded in throwing out the Germans, and the Marines then handed over the Essen Hook to the French. The Germans returned and quickly overwhelmed the French defenders at Essen Hook, whereupon the 5th Regiment was forced to drive the Germans out a second time. This time they secured the position for good. When the day was over, Blanc Mont was in the hands of the 2nd Division.
Lejeune followed up the capture of Blanc Mont with an advance on the nearby village of St. Etienne on Oct. 4. The 5th Marines, who were leading the attack, literally ran into the Germans’ counterattack designed to retake Blanc Mont. Unfortunately, the Marines’ advance in the offensive had outpaced the French units beside them, causing them to form a salient that left them exposed to enemy fire from both flanks as well as their front. Despite the murderous fire falling on them, the Marines grimly kept the pressure on. After four days of intense fighting in which the Marines suffered more than 2,500 casualties, including the seemingly indestructible Daly, who was wounded, St. Etienne was liberated and, by Oct. 10, the Germans were in full retreat.
Not long after the battle, the grateful French government awarded the 5th and 6th Marines and the 6th Machine Gun Battalion their third citation of the Croix de Guerre for gallantry. As a result, the members of those outfits were now entitled to wear the scarlet and green fourragère. Field Marshal Henri Petain, the hero of Verdun, would add his own accolade, stating that, “The taking of Blanc Mont Ridge is the greatest single achievement in the 1918 campaign.”
Of the Marine Corps contribution in World War I, Col. Joseph H. Alexander, USMC (Ret.) wrote in his book, A Fellowship of Valor, “Less than 32,000 Marines served in France. More than 12,000 of those given the opportunity to fight in France became casualties; 3,284 died. The survivors had given their country and their Corps a legacy of courage, esprit, and ferocity which would remain the standard of combat excellence for the remainder of the violent century.”
This article originally appeared on Argunners. Follow @ArgunnersMag on Twitter.
For the second time in two years, the Coast Guard is relaxing its policy on tattoos in what officials say is an effort to widen the pool of eligible service recruits.
According to a new policy document released Oct. 3, 2019, Coast Guard recruits and current service members may now sport chest tattoos as long as they are not visible above the collar of the Coast Guard operational dress uniform’s crew-neck T-shirt.
The new policy also allows a wider range of finger tattoos. One finger tattoo per hand is now authorized, although the location of the tattoo is still restricted. It must appear between the first and second knuckle. And ring tattoos, which were the only kind of finger tattoo previously authorized, will be counted as a hand’s finger tattoo, according to the new guidance. Thumb tattoos are still off-limits.
Finally, in a change from previous guidance, hand tattoos are also allowed. While palm tattoos remain out of bounds, Coasties and recruits can sport a tattoo on the back of the hand as long as it is no more than one inch in any dimension. One finger and one hand tattoo are allowed on each hand, according to the new policy.
The Coast Guard released a graphic to explain its new tattoo regulations.
“I am pleased to see the Coast Guard’s new tattoo policy reinforces a professional appearance to the public while adopting some of the very same tattoo standards that are now acceptable among the public,” Master Chief Petty Officer of the Coast Guard Jason Vanderhaden said in a statement. “The new tattoo policy will expand our recruiting candidate pool and provide those already serving in the Coast Guard with a few new options.”
The Coast Guard last updated its tattoo policy in 2017 with rule tweaks that offered a little more leniency. Chest tattoos were allowed to creep up to one inch above the V-neck undershirt, where previously they had to remain hidden; ring tattoos were authorized.
Unlike some other services, the Coast Guard has not restricted tattoo size of percentage of body coverage on tattooable areas, but the 2017 policy stated that brands could be no larger than four by four inches and could not be located on the head, face or neck.
The other military services have all issued updates in recent years to address concerns in the active force and current trends in the recruitable population.
In 2016, then-Defense Secretary Ash Carter warned that services’ tattoo policies could be preventing otherwise eligible young people from serving. As the percentage of prospective recruits who can meet fitness, education and background standards shrinks, the service branches have even greater incentive to remove secondary barriers to service.
The Army loosened its tattoo policy in 2015, saying society’s view of body ink was changing; the Navy thrilled sailors with a significantly more lenient set of rules in 2016. The Marine Corps also released a relaxed 2016 tattoo update, and the Air Force did a 2017 about-face, allowing airmen to sport coveted sleeves.
Military officials have said they’re working to find the line between professionalism and practicality when it comes to tattoos.
“This is not an episode of [History Channel show] Vikings, where we’re tattooing our face. We’re not a biker gang, we’re not a rock and roll band. We’re not [Maroon 5 lead singer] Adam Levine,” then-Marine Corps Commandant Gen. Robert Neller told Military.com in 2017. “You can get 70 percent of your body covered with ink and still be a Marine. Is that enough?”
This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @militarydotcom on Twitter.
A low-flying military plane zoomed between buildings in downtown Nashville, Tennessee, for roughly half an hour on Jan 18, 2019, panicking residents who said they had no warning of the flyover, and feared it might strike a building.
Residents took to social media, sharing photos and videos of the sight. The large, dark gray plane could be seen circling the city’s skyline, flying just over the tops of buildings and past office windows.
But local news outlets reported that the flyover was just part of a training exercise ahead of Governor-elect Bill Lee’s inauguration on Jan. 18, 2019.
One Nashville resident, Madison Smith, told INSIDER she works on the 16th floor of the Fifth-Third Bank building in downtown and her colleagues phoned the police, and later evacuated the building, when they realized the plane kept weaving through the city’s downtown core.
“You kept seeing it circle around downtown,” she said. “So it came back by our building a second time, and the whole building shook.”
Smith said she and her colleagues realized it was a military plane, due to the size and color, and figured it must have been some sort of government operation. But they couldn’t help but think of 9/11, she said.
“What if something malfunctioned and the wing came into one of our buildings? That wasn’t far-fetched because of how low it was,” she said. “Definitely people were concerned. I was concerned. My colleagues were concerned.”
Nashville residents complained on Twitter that the plane was flying too low over the city, and appeared to just barely miss certain buildings and landmarks.
People in the videos can be heard exclaiming and cursing as the plane draws closer. One person can even be heard speculating which buildings the plane might strike.
But the test run may all have been for nothing — The Tennessean reported that Jan. 19, 2019’s inaugural flyover has already been canceled due to weather concerns.
Smith said the idea was “ridiculous in the first place,” adding that she hoped Lee would release a statement reassuring the residents who panicked.
“Congrats on your inauguration, I don’t think that’s a great start. Just to frighten your people straight off the bat,” she said. “A military operation in a city is just striking to me. Especially to have it all for nothing, I wouldn’t have wanted him to do it in the first place. Let’s just have a parade.”
Lee’s transition team did not immediately respond to INSIDER’s request for comment.
On July 6, at the Naval Air Station at Patuxent River, Maryland, US Marines carried out the first successful test of the F-35B’s GAU-22 gun pod, Business Insider has confirmed.
Five days later, the gun pod fired it’s first 80-round burst. Both tests were resoundingly successful, and the video is posted below.
Business Insider previously reported on the first test of the F-35A’s integrated gun, but the gun pod, which will be used on the F-35B and C variants, is an entirely different animal.
Instead of the integrated design of the US Air Force’s F-35A, the Marine Corps’ F-35B and the US Navy’s F-35C will feature a 220-round, 25 mm gun in a modular pod.
This means that the Navy and Marine variants, which launch from aircraft carriers or amphibious assault vessels, will have the option of excluding the gun to save weight and increase fuel efficiency.
Here’s the GAU-22 ripping a target with pinpoint accuracy:
While the F-35 has fielded some criticism for its gun, which at 55 rounds per second can empty its entire magazine in under four seconds, the gun actually makes sense for the type of close air-support environment that the F-35 is expected to operate in.
The much-loved A-10 Warthog, which holds 1,350 rounds, is ideal for flying low and slow, loitering in the sky, and delivering its precise fire to provide close air support. But this makes sense in only uncontested air space.
The F-35’s smaller magazine capacity reflects the future of close air support as military planners envision it. The F-35 will usher in an era of quick and precise strikes that leverage a suite of sensors, electronic-warfare capabilities, and stealth.
Watch the full video of the GAU-22 gun pod firing an 80-round burst for the first time below:
The Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS John S. McCain (DDG 56) completed her necessary repairs and is underway to conduct comprehensive at sea testing.
During the at-sea testing, the ship and her crew will perform a series of demonstrations to evaluate that the ship’s onboard systems meet or exceed Navy performance specifications. Among the systems that will be tested are navigation, damage control, mechanical and electrical systems, combat systems, communications, and propulsion application.
John S. McCain, assigned to Destroyer Squadron FIFTEEN (DESRON 15) and forward-deployed to Yokosuka, Japan, completed her in-port phase of training, and will continue Basic Phase at-sea training in the upcoming months to certify in every mission area the ship is required to perform and prepare for return to operational tasking.
“The USS John S. McCain embodies the absolute fighting spirit of her namesakes, and shows the resiliency of our Sailors. She has completed her maintenance period with the most up-to-date multi-mission offensive and defensive capabilities, preparing her to successfully execute a multitude of high-end operations,” said Capt. Steven DeMoss, commander, Destroyer Squadron 15. “As a guided-missile destroyer assigned to Destroyer Squadron 15, the John S. McCain is poised and ready to contribute to the lethal and combat ready forward-deployed naval force in the free and open Indo-Pacific region.”
John S. McCain completed repairs and extensive, accelerated upgrades over the last two years, following a collision in August 2017.
“This whole crew is eager to get back to sea, and that’s evident in the efforts they’ve made over the last two years to bring the ship back to fighting shape, and the energy they’ve put into preparing themselves for the rigors of at-sea operations,” said Cmdr. Ryan T. Easterday, John S. McCain’s commanding officer. “I’m extremely proud of them as we return the ship to sea, and return to the operational fleet more ready than ever to support security and stability throughout the region.”
Multiple upgrades to the ship’s computer network, antenna systems, radar array, combat weapons systems and berthing have ensured John S. McCain will return to operational missions with improved capability and lethality.
John S. McCain, is assigned to Destroyer Squadron (DESRON) 15, the Navy’s largest forward-deployed DESRON and the U.S. 7th Fleet’s principal surface force.
The F-111 Aardvark didn’t have a lot of air-to-air kills – it just wasn’t designed to be in aerial combat. It was a supersonic nuclear bomber and recon plane. But a fighter it was not. What it did have was an electronic warfare variant that could help the Air Force control the skies in a particular battlespace. Unlike their combat-ready counterparts, these EF-111A Ravens didn’t have defenses if they were attacked in the air.
So when the unarmed variant scored the only aerial kills in the history of the F-111, it was a memorable occasion.
Normally, it’s just dropping bombs. Not this time.
(U.S. Air Force)
When the United States and its coalition allies launched Operation Desert Storm in 1991, it’s safe to say it took Saddam Hussein’s Iraqi Army and Air Force by surprise. The opening minutes surprised a lot of people, and no one more so than USAF pilot James Denton and Electronic Warfare Officer Brent Brandon – as well as the Iraqi Mirage pilot who was trying to shoot their two-seater EF-111A down.
The EF-111A Raven came under attack from an Iraqi Dassault Mirage Fighter in the first minutes of Desert Storm, Jan. 17, 1991. This was troubling for many reasons, most notably because the EF variant of the F-111 didn’t have any means of protecting itself – it wasn’t supposed to be an aerial fighter. But that was going to change, for at least this one and only time.
The EF-111A Raven variant.
(U.S. Air Force)
For the Iraqi, the EF-111A was a great target of opportunity. He had just evaded an F-15C and managed to enter through the screen of F-15 and F-16 fighters that were supposed to be escorting the EF-111A. The Iraqi attempted to shoot the Raven down with missiles, but well-timed chaff and flares took care of the enemy incoming. When missiles didn’t work, the Mirage switched to guns. Brandon switched from countermeasures to piloting skills.
The EF-111A was originally flying just 1,000 feet above the desert floor, so Denton decided to take it lower and use the plane’s terrain-following radar to stay above the desert and not fly into the ground. The Iraqi pilot wasn’t so lucky. As Denton and Brandon tag-teamed their way above the terrain, Denton saw his opportunity, banking hard into a climb that took him well above the desert. The Iraqi, so focused on his target and not the dark terrain below, slammed hard into the ground, exploding into a fireball that lit up the night.
It was the first F-111 aerial kill in the airframe’s history. It would end up being the only aerial kill for the F-111, and it was done without so much as a weapon fired from the American plane.
The Saab Gripen is a beautiful fighter with a nifty little mane on its nose, and it’s popular with small militaries around the world because it’s cheap to operate, has high-mission readiness, and can take off from nearly anywhere. Seriously, if you’ve got a half mile of level pavement, you can probably get a Gripen in the air from it.
You might need to cut down some light poles or whatever, but that’s on you.
The Gripen fighter, which recently saw its E-variant enter serial production, is squarely aimed at fighting whatever it needs to, including fifth-generation fighters like Russia’s Su-57. That might be surprising since it’s not as fast. Or have as many weapons. Or have much stealth coating or many materials.
But the Gripen’s manufacturer, Saab, isn’t trying to win at air shows, and it isn’t accepting the price point required to develop stealth aircraft. (Even Russia can’t actually afford its stealthy Su-57, which might not even be that stealthy.)
That’s because Saab makes weapons for Sweden and for export to countries like Thailand, Hungary, and South Africa. These countries don’t have the money to drop 0 million per F-35, a plane that costs ,000-,000 per hour of flight. And they don’t have the billion to develop a Su-57 and fail like Russia did.
A Saab Gripen takes off from a public road.
(San Diego Air and Space Museum)
So Saab built the Gripen around a few complementary ideas. The first was that they could develop a capable jet fighter with a low cost per flight hour. Right now, new Gripens cost up to million per copy and come out to ,000 per flight hour.
Part of this low-cost per flight hour is making it easy to refuel, rearm, and maintain the plane on the ground. And, the way they did this allows operators to work the plane from nearly anywhere a 20-foot cargo container can be delivered on a truck, provided there are at least 875 yards of runway-ish concrete for the plane to take off from. So, Gripens can easily disperse during combat. Sure that’s not scary for an aggressor who has to face them.
But operators, obviously, still need them to be lethal. Paper planes are cheap and hard to spot, too, but there’s a reason they aren’t popular with militaries. But the Gripen is lethal, partially because it can fire most NATO-produced missiles and partially because the entire plane was designed around electronic warfare.
But the Gripen’s electronic warfare is robust, so much so that Saab believes the plane can blind nearly all of the Russian fighters the Gripen is designed to deter, especially the large number of Flankers in Russia’s inventory but also the Su-57. Even better, Saab thinks the E-variant can fight the Su-57 on equal terms.
There is one serious caveat, though. Sweden doesn’t want the fighter jet’s electronic warfare tools recorded by adversaries who could create exploits against them. (Electronic warfare in combat turns into a game of tit-for-tat as each side tries to reconfigure their signals to defeat the other.) So, Sweden has rarely allowed pilots to turn on the full electronics suite in exercises with England.
And so, no one can be really certain how the Gripen E will perform against advanced air defenses and fighters. They can hide in the brush, they can take off from anywhere, but they can only probably cut their way through Russia’s air force.
In June 1982, Israeli tanks rolled across their border into neighboring Lebanon. Their mission was to stop the terrorist Palestine Liberation Organization from repeating further attacks on Israeli officials and civilians.
All this was in the middle of Lebanon’s Civil War, which raged from 1975 to 1990. When their tanks tried to roll through the U.S. Marines’ camp in Beirut, one Leatherneck told them they could do it “over his dead body.”
The Lebanese Civil War was in many ways like Syria’s civil war today. The country was a fractured group of religions, sects of those religions, political parties, refugees, and outright armed militias. The various factions vying for power were also aided by the patronage of other countries, like Iran, Iraq, Syria, Israel, the Soviet Union, and their Cold War adversary, the United States.
It was a mess.
Israel Defense Forces began to surround Beirut within a week of the invasion. The siege was particularly brutal. Of the more than 6,000 Lebanese and Palestinians who died in the siege, 84 percent were civilians. It was so bad, then-President Ronald Reagan reportedly called an August artillery barrage on Beirut a “holocaust” in a phone call with Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin.
The brutality of the war as a whole is what prompted Reagan to send Marines to Lebanon’s capital as part of a multi-national force of peacekeepers. The MNF were there to protect foreigners and civilians while trying to protect the legally-recognized government and restore its sovereignty.
Later in 1982, Israel again drew worldwide condemnation for failing to stop the massacre of Lebanese and Palestinian civilians in refugee camps Sabra and Shatila. A militia allied with Israel began killing inhabitants of the camps as Israeli forces stood by. The PLO also blamed the United States for not living up to the MNF agreements to protect civilians.
So when three Israeli Centurion tanks rolled to the MNF perimeter manned by the Marines, Capt. Charles B. Johnson stood still as the tanks stopped only within one foot of his face. A full five minutes later, the IDF commander dismounted to talk to the captain. The Israeli told the Marine the tanks were on their way to nearby railroad tracks. He then demanded to speak to a Marine general.
Johnson replied by repeating he had orders not to allow the tanks to pass. The Israeli told him he would drive through anyway and began to mount his tank. That’s when the Marine drew his sidearm, climbed the lead tank and told the Israelis they could pass “over his dead body.”
One account in the Washington Post even recalls Johnson jumping on a tank as it raced toward his checkpoint, warning the Israelis that the likelihood of shooting each other was going to increase. A UPI report at the time says Johnson “grabbed the Israeli lieutenant colonel with his left hand and pointed his loaded pistol into the air.”
After a 50-minute stand-off, the tanks backed down and left the perimeter.
In response, the United States summoned then-charge d’affaires Benjamin Netanyahu to protest Israeli provocations against American forces in Beirut. The tank incident turned out to be one of many. The Israelis denied the incident occurred, saying tanks were in the area to investigate the death of an Israeli soldier.
Johnson was lauded for his “courageous action” by Secretary of Defense Casper Weinberger.
The next month, a car bomb was detonated next to the Marine barracks at Beirut airport, killing 241 Marines (Johnson survived the attack) and 58 French paratroopers. By Feb. 26, 1984, the Marines withdrew to ships offshore and much of the MNF departed from Lebanon entirely.
When Jaime Sloan realized that she was on pace to set a personal record at the Ironman 70.3 in Tempe, Arizona in October 2018, she decided not to stop to pump breast milk as she had planned. Instead, the 34-year-old Air Force Staff Sergeant pumped while running, placing the milk in a CamelBak water bottle which she carried for the remainder of the race.
“I had brought my hand pump and I just decided to go for it. I was making good time and I just didn’t want to stop and lose the time on my race,” explained the mom of two, who gave birth to her second child back in March 2018. She admitted that she was “nervous at first that I would get some weird looks or even get disqualified due to nudity, but I did my best to cover up and make it work.”
Jaime Sloan Airman mom pumps breast milk while completing Ironman 70 3
At first, a couple of people were concerned, mistaking her breastfeeding cloth as bandages. But once they realized what she was doing, Sloan says the reactions were very positive, adding, “I did get some looks from women but they were just big smiles.”
And pumping certainly didn’t slow the active duty airman down. With her husband, Zachary, and daughter Henley, 2, cheering her on, Sloan finished the race (which includes swimming for 1.2 miles, biking for 56 miles and then running 13.1 miles) in six hours, 12 minutes and 44 seconds — a full 30 minutes faster than her previous best.
Sloan, who has also completed 2 full Ironman races in the past, wants other women to realize that if she can do it, they can, too: “I hope that [my story] can encourage other women and mothers and really anyone who has a lot going on in their lives. No matter what, if someone believes they can do something, they can make it happen because it is possible.”
This article originally appeared on Fatherly. Follow @FatherlyHQ on Twitter.
In honor of the 20th anniversary of The Matrix, Dolby Cinema™ and AMC Theaters will be showing the film on the big screen for one week only. Starting Friday, Aug. 30, you can follow the white rabbit and — if you so choose — you can do it with sound so powerful, your seat will literally shake.
Dolby Vision™ has colors more vivid than any other theater I’ve experienced. In fact, the Dolby trailer at the beginning of the screening was one of the most surprising moments of the viewing experience. I won’t spoil it here, but I was pretty impressed.
Meanwhile, Dolby Atmos® sound “fills the room and flows all around you” — literally. There are speakers on the ceiling.
First of all, I absolutely recommend seeing The Matrix again in theaters. If you saw it twenty years ago or you’re already a fan, I think you’ll enjoy the nostalgia of it (and if you haven’t seen it since then, my bet is you’ll catch so much more than you did the first time).
If you somehow haven’t seen it yet, the film totally holds up. Some lines are so perfect, they make the screenwriter in me giddy. I went home and re-read the script. It’s great.
The whole scene with The Oracle is perfection. I love a good prophecy story, even if it’s just about a vase.
As for seeing it in Dolby Cinema™, here’s what I’ll say. It’s intense. You can literally feel the sound waves hit you in your seat. The punches, the technology, the gunfights — you can feel them. It’s great sound design, but if you’re like me and you have sensitive hearing, then be warned and definitely don’t sit up front (although, there are speakers all throughout the theater, so I don’t know where you’re most safe?).
Actual footage of me watching ‘The Matrix’ in Dolby…
I expect that most people aren’t as sensitive to light and sound as I am, though, so if you’re already a Matrix fan, or just an avid movie goer, this is an experience you won’t want to miss.
I’d also guess that, short of plugging us all into the actual matrix, this is how the Wachowskis would want someone to see their epic cyberpunk film — plus it’s a good time to freshen up your memory before ‘Matrix 4’ is released.