For a lot of sailors serving in the Vietnam War, especially those on aircraft carriers, the war effort was a matter of routine. For many, that daily routine didn’t involve much combat. But for the Navy’s river force, among a few other units, it was a different story. The pilots who flew from carriers or land bases, the SEALs and members of the Underwater Demolition Teams, and Navy corpsmen all saw plenty of action, among others.
One other group of sailors who often saw combat was the Navy’s riverine force. This force, known as the “Brown Water Navy,” took on the Viet Cong (and later, the North Vietnamese Army) in the Mekong Delta. These days, there are much newer, riverine combat vessels in service, and “brown water” sailors have seen action during Operation Iraqi Freedom.
In Vietnam, two classes of vessel primarily carried out operations. The first were PBRs (Patrol Boat Riverine). The Navy bought 32 of these 32-foot long vessels, each of which displaced seven tons. For small ships, they packed a huge punch: Three M2 .50-caliber machine guns and a Mk 19 automatic grenade launcher came standard. These small boats could be loaded up extras, too, including 7.62mm machine guns, 60mm mortars, and even flamethrowers!
Whatever configuration, these river force boats brought a lot of firepower for a crew of four to unleash on the enemy.
A crewman rests near the forward gun turret of a PBR.
The other vessel was the Patrol Craft Fast, known as the PCF or “Swift Boat.” This vessel, famous for being served on by former Secretary of State John Kerry (whose service drew controversy in 2004), packed three M2 .50-caliber machine guns and had a crew of six. 193 were built, and while they’re most famous for their service in Vietnam, the PCF was also exported.
Swift Boats take South Vietnamese Marines to their infiltration point.
While the sailors who went into harm’s way deserve our thanks, they could never have done it without the help of those who carried out maintenance on the vessels that brought them to the fight.
See how those maintainers kept the PBRs and Swift Boats in service and in action below!
Colby Buzzell was almost killed when his entire battalion was ambushed by insurgents in Iraq.
“I heard and felt the bullets whiz literally inches from my head, hitting all around my hatch and making a ping, ping, ping sound,” Buzzell said, recalling how the enemy armed with rifles and RPGs attacked from rooftops, alleys, windows from every imaginable direction.
Even worse, a few minutes after the battalion fired their way out of the kill zone, they were ordered to go back to where they got ambushed.
“I literally felt sick to my stomach,” Buzzell said. “I felt like throwing up. My gut, my body, my mind, my soul, my balls were all telling me loud and clear not to go back. I was scared to death, but we had to go back. And, we did.”
Watch how (a scared) Buzzell musters the courage to do things most Americans couldn’t imagine doing in this riveting short video:
The future is coming, and if you’re in the military that means a return to the wars of the past where troops fought in large armies and task forces for bits of land on far flung battlefields.
With an ever more aggressive China and Russia pushing against America and its allies around the world, Pentagon planners believe troops have to be ready to fight near-peer rivals the next time the balloon goes up.
Here are six things American troops need to be ready for if this generation’s Cold War turns into World War III:
1. Patrols will have to deal with enemy surveillance at all times
One of the worst things for the average Joe on the ground will be avoiding an enemy’s persistent surveillance. Near-peer rivals have a blanket of drones, satellites, and electromagnetic sensors that will spot Marines and soldiers and their radio transmissions.
Patrols will have to attempt to avoid detection when possible, but be ready to move quickly and often even when the enemy is looking. Because a single, low-flying drone can provide up-to-the-second targeting data to an enemy mortar team, automatic weapons teams and riflemen won’t be able to stay in one place for long.
2. Every firefight will become a multi-dimensional slugfest within minutes
In World War II, Korea, and Vietnam, U.S. troops had to deal with the fact that enemy spotters could quickly feed their locations to air and artillery assets, triggering an air battle overhead and an artillery duel on the ground.
In a future conflict, this will be even worse as both sides employ drones and automatic sensors that find enemy troops and relay targeting data to supporting planes, artillery units, and electromagnetic warfare specialists.
Any fight larger than a couple of squads duking it out will likely see an air battle develop overhead and an intense duel to jam the opponent’s communications in the electromagnetic spectrum.
3. Leaders must be ready to go completely analog
Speaking of which, all the high-tech bells and whistles will become nearly useless if the jamming on each side gets too intense. Soldiers and Marines are already practicing land nav with pencils, compasses, and paper maps while the sea services are digging up old sextants for celestial navigation.
Headquarter companies will now need to plant their antennas far from the operations center so that missiles which hunt electromagnetic transmissions won’t home in on communication arrays and wipe out the command team.
Expect buried phone lines, mobile radios with whip antennas, and redundant systems to make a comeback.
4. Cooperation between branches will be more challenging — and essential
All this will make it harder for the different military services to talk to one another, but they have to be able to coordinate quickly since ubiquitous sensors and fast-moving weapons mean that forces in trouble need help in seconds to survive.
Marines fighting ashore at the next Battle of Guadalcanal can’t wait for Chesty Puller to get to the ships and personally direct naval artillery. Whether or not the radio operator can find an unjammed radio channel and get a coded message out will decide whether air and artillery support will arrive in time to matter.
5. Medics and physician assistants will have to treat patients for hours or days in the field on their own
With the dynamic fighting on the front, troops will likely be wounded and killed at staggering rates not seen since the Vietnam War. While China and Russia are more likely to observe the Geneva Conventions than insurgents in Iraq and Afghanistan were, the military can’t count on being able to quickly and safely evacuate the wounded.
To deal with the increased risk to injured personnel, the Army is spearheading a “telemedicine” effort that would allow medics in the field to send data and photos to surgeons in hospitals who would then walk the medic through necessary treatment options.
6. Mission loads will be heavier, and forces will have to be more self-sufficient
Medical evacuations won’t be the only missions that become more challenging. Aerial resupply will be a risky maneuver when top-tier missile systems are hunting American planes and helicopters. To adapt to this, ground pounders will need to carry extra gear with them through the jungles of the Pacific or across the plains of Eastern Europe.
Chemical treatments for water will help keep liquid weight from climbing too high, but troops will need extra food, batteries, and ammo in case the helicopters can’t get in. The Pentagon is looking into some high-tech gizmos like powered armor to help with this increased weight, but most of it will rest on the muscles and bones of the troops.
Nothing hurts the ears of everyone in the platoon like hearing the same phrase used in countless situations. At points, it seems like entire conversations are geared toward that specific phrase just to make whomever is speaking feel like the smartest person in the room.
Officers, senior enlisted, and even the occasional high-speed specialist who’s trying to prove themselves are guilty of using these phrases to feel smarter than the rest.
No. No you’re not. Unless you’re infantry, you’re not infantry. Even the famous Marine saying, “Every Marine is a rifleman” has its limits.
You can be a grunt commo guy or whatever and do grunt sh*t, regardless of MOS. You can even have an Infantryman MOS but be POG as f*ck. Use the right terminology if you’re trying to seem more badass.
6. “Back in my day…”
It’s understandable when this phrase comes from the old, salty Sergeant First Class who probably remembers serving with Baron Von Steuben, or even if you’re talking with an older vet at some bar.
What really makes people scratch their head is when this line is spoken by the guy who enlisted just a year before them.
5. “Make sure to have your battle buddy!”
Sounds likes great advice in a safety brief, but you’re basically just saying, “don’t do something dumb alone.” Whether or not the command team agrees, soldiers are full-grown adults. The young private may not act like it sometimes, but on paper, they’re adults.
Not only is the phrase “battle buddy” way too childish and silly, but it’s a pain in the ass not being able to leave post without having to call up your “Battle Buddy” to go to Wal-Mart.
4. “However, comma,”
Spoken language is fun. You can up the emphasis wherever you want in a sentence and change the intent entirely.
One of the many benefits is that you don’t need to sound out punctuation marks. Commas are a soft pause in the train of thought. You can just as easily just say, ‘however’ and then wait to get everyone’s attention.
And you just fake a laugh when they say it to be funny. via GIPHY
3. “To piggy back off what ___ said…”
Let’s be honest. How many times in the history of safety briefs has this phrase ever added new information or completely contradicted what was just said?
Just saying it brings a sense of dread across the faces of the already eager-to-leave soldiers.
2. “This is the easiest job you’ll ever have!”
Don’t get me wrong: Right time, right place, and right uniform is all you need to get a paycheck — but easier than everything else in the civilian world? Are you sure about that? You can misspell names at Starbucks and make a living. You can work a manufacturing gig where you press the same button 500 times a day and make a living. You can even get a job as a beer taster and make a living.
This saying is one part condescending and another part retention conspiracy.
1. “It would behoove you…”
Used as an intransitive verb, Dictionary.com describes behoove as “tobeworthwhileto,asforpersonalprofitoradvantage.“ Every time it’s spouted out, it comes out of the mouth of someone who is swirling a figurative glass of scotch.
So by saying, “it would behoove you to be at formation on time” or whatever, the speaker is being facetious and the throwaway joke get tired quickly, just like every other joke repeated ad nauseam.
Defense Secretary Mark Esper is pledging to improve the way troops are treated while in coronavirus quarantine after a soldier in Texas reportedly called the situation “the most dysfunctional Army operation I’ve ever seen.”
A soldier, referred to by the pseudonym Henry Chinaski by The Daily Beast, told the outlet he has been stuck in a 15-by-15 foot room with three other troops at Fort Bliss since Sunday. The service members just returned from Afghanistan and have been ordered to remain quarantined for two weeks in case they caught the novel coronavirus, or COVID-19, while deployed or returning to the States.
The group gets two meals a day and a couple bottles of water, The Daily Beast reported Tuesday. The soldier, who has served for 17 years, texted reporters with the outlet about their experience. He said they’ve gotten no information about what they’re supposed to be doing while they wait.
“Prisoners receive better care and conditions than that which we are experiencing at Fort Bliss,” the soldier told The Daily Beast. “The Army was not prepared, nor equipped to deal with this quarantine instruction and it has been implemented very poorly.”
The situation now has Esper’s attention, a Pentagon spokesman told reporters Wednesday.
“His response is, ‘We can do better, and we need to do better,'” Jonathan Hoffman said. “I know that the commander at Fort Bliss is aware; he has been in contact. My understanding is that he met with all the soldiers who are quarantined and talked through some of their concerns.”
The soldier at Fort Bliss told The Daily Beast his exercise has been limited to push-ups, sit-ups and lunges in the room. On Tuesday, the service members got 20 minutes of yard time, according to the report.
The military is now looking at allowing troops stuck in holding patterns before they’re considered to be virus-free more time outside, Hoffman said, and visits to base exchanges, where they can purchase toiletries and other items.
“[We’re] also looking at other bases that are doing quarantines,” Hoffman said. “We’re checking to see how they’re holding up and doing this, as well. We can do better.”
As of Wednesday morning, 49 U.S. troops had tested positive for COVID-19. Another 14 Defense Department civilians, 19 dependents and seven contractors also have the virus.
Hoffman said every base commander is looking at how the military should handle quarantine situations as a result of The Daily Beast’s story.
“This is something that’s unusual for all these bases to be handling, and they’re doing the best they can,” he said. “… [But] we owe it to them, and we’re going to look into it and try to do better.”
Like many heads of state who reach power through blood rather than merit, Czar Nicholas II was utterly unprepared to rule Russia as it headed into the 20th century. He made one unpopular decision after the next. His loathed intimacy with the notorious mystic Grigori Rasputin was another reason he was unpopular. The turmoil agitating the country and the world at the turn of the century proved too much for this monarch who did not want to be a Czar. In early 1917, Russia was swept over by the Revolution and the Czar deposed, signing the end of a 300 years old imperial dynasty. That was not enough for the Bolsheviks to take over Russia; they needed the royal family murdered and kept secret, but why?
The House of Special Purpose
After Nicholas’s removal from power, he was taken into custody along with his family by the Provisional Government. They were stripped of any title and placed under house arrest, first at the Alexander Palace, then in Tobolsk, Siberia, in August 1917. After the Bolsheviks came into power in October 1917, the Romanov’s conditions of detention deteriorated significantly. Finally, they were moved to Yekaterinburg’ Ipatiev House in the first half of 1918. There, they were openly considered as hostages.
All those under arrest will be held as hostages, and the slightest attempt at counter-revolutionary action in the town will result in the summary execution of the hostages.
Announcement in the local newspaper by Bolshevik War Commissar Filipp Goloshchyokin, in charge of the family’s incarceration in Yekaterinburg
In July 1918, pro-royalist soldiers from Czechoslovakia, called “Whites”, had been advancing through the country and closing on Yekaterinburg. The Bolsheviks feared they would try to rescue the Romanov and support the renewal of monarchy in Russia. So, on the evening of the 16th July 1918, during dinner, the entire family and their servants were ordered to go down to the cellar. There, amid a chaos of screams, escape attempts and bullets, they were summarily executed. Those who survived the shooting were dispatched with bayonets or the butts of guns. Over the next couple of months, many relatives and allies were assassinated around the country. The swift eradication resulted in 27 deaths in 84 days.
Bolsheviks controlled the media circus
A few days later, the murder of the former czar was publicly announced by the Bolsheviks, calling him “the personification of the barbarian landowner, of this ignoramus, dimwit and bloodthirsty savage” in the official party newspaper. However, the assassination of his family was kept secret. Although rumors began to spread, the official version was that Alexandra and her children had been moved for their protection. To prevent any recognition, the bodies were mutilated, burned with acid, and buried in a secret place in the forest. So why were the Bolsheviks happy to endorse the murder of Nicholas, but not that of his family?
It’s speculated that it was mostly an image issue. The Red Revolution already struggled with a brutal reputation outside of the country. The violent repression of any hint of opposition made the revolution quite unpopular with many governments. Socialist and communist ideas were thoroughly mistrusted by the ruling class. Moreover, king George V of England was Nicholas’s first cousin and enjoyed a friendly relationship with the former monarch. Nicholas’s murder was received with sorrow, but the massacre of the entire family might have prompted a political and military response that would have overthrown the still unstable Bolshevik government.
The cover up
The “whites” and other enemies of the communist revolution tried to use the rumors flying around on the disappearance of the family to defame the movement and its famous leader, Lenin. If speculations had turned to facts, proving the massacre beyond the shadow of a doubt, Lenin’s image as a wise and fair leader would have been severely damaged. There is no historical evidence that Lenin was the one who gave the order for the assassination. In fact, he seemed in favor of a trial, with Leo Trotsky as the main accuser.
Even a biased trial could have been used as propaganda of justice of the new regime. However, the murders, if supported by evidence, could have been laid at the leader’s door — whether he was truly implicated or not, in an attempt to weaken his newly acquired position. In addition, the mysterious fate of the family led many European monarchs on a manhunt to rescue the last Romanov. Thus squandering resources and keeping their attention away from the fate of the Russian people under Bolshevik rule.
That is why the fate of the last heirs of the Russian imperial family was kept officially hidden for decades. The truth would lay hidden until the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991. The bodies were eventually recovered and five of the family members have now been laid in state, resting together in the St. Petersburg Cathedral.
Macron ran as part of a centrist party of his own creation with globalist goals, and has grown increasingly close with Trump despite their fundamental policy differences.
A cheery public image and the successful joint airstrike by the US, Britain, and France on Syria’s government forces in response to the chemical attack set an optimistic stage for the state visit and future partnerships in policy. But the reality of future potential could be overblown, Brookings Institution foreign policy fellow Célia Belin warned.
“There are areas where the French/American cooperation can be strong and immediate, especially when they share a common, precise goal like in the small, punitive strikes on Syria,” Belin said. “But overall they won’t have the same approach on a number of things.”
Macron founded the République en Marche, or the Republic on the Move, to provide France with a reformist alternative to far-right parties that share Trump’s suspicion toward globalism and favoring of closed borders.
“Macron was just talking last week about how there’s a civil war in Europe between a liberal democracy and authoritarianism,” Ian Bremmer, president of geopolitical-risk firm Eurasia Group, told Business Insider. “If he was being honest about the US, he’d say the same thing and Trump would be on the other side.”
The roots of their bromance
(Official White House Photo by Shealah Craighead)
Trump and Macron’s strong relationship is due in no small part to their common backgrounds, said former US diplomat and Global Situation Room President Brett Bruen.
Macron rose to prominence in French banking, an uncommon path to the presidency comparable to Trump’s roots in real estate.
“He understands intrinsically this kind of language that Trump needs to hear,” Bruen said. “Trump needs to hear profit and loss, he needs to hear return on investment.”
Their personal relationship is at the center of Macron’s state visit, as White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said ahead of the French president’s arrival April 23, 2018, the administration expected an “open and candid discussion because of the relationship they built.”
Other world leaders could learn from Macron
(DoD photo by Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class Dominique Pineiro)
Though their personal chemistry is often in the spotlight, it’s Trump’s high-profile legal troubles that could hinder the kind of progress Macron is hoping for, Bremmer said. Macron notably wants Trump to keep the US in the Iran nuclear deal, which Trump has called “the worst deal ever.”
“Trump is under an enormous amount of pressure domestically,” he said. “No matter who Trump meets with, his focus is mostly on the investigation. You see that with his tweets, you see that with his statements.”
As for their partnership so far, Macron has already succeeded in getting close to the president in a way no other world leader has, Bruen said, and that could serve as an example to other world leaders in how to deal with Trump because of his unique approach to policy.
“It’s a model for other world leaders to look at if they want to get things done, not just get along,” Bruen said. “They have to find a way to establish that common ground with an unconventional leader — and Trump won’t be the only unconventional leader.”
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
China’s defense minister met his Russian counterpart in Moscow on April 3, 2018, to “let the Americans know about the close ties between the armed forces of China and Russia,” according to the Associated Press.
“I am visiting Russia as a new defense minister of China to show the world a high level of development of our bilateral relations and firm determination of our armed forces to strengthen strategic cooperation,” China’s new defense minister, Gen. Wei Fenghe, said, according to CNN.
“The Chinese side has come [to Moscow] to show Americans the close ties between the armed forces of China and Russia … we’ve come to support you.”
The two defense ministers met for the seventh Moscow International Security Conference, according to Russian state owned media outlet TASS.
“To my memory, this is the 1st time in many years that a senior Chinese military leader says [something] like that publicly,” Alexander Gubev, a Senior Fellow and Chair of Russia in Asia-Pacific Program at Carnegie Moscow Center, tweeted on April 4, 2018.
Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov also met in Moscow on April 5, 2018, where they expressed the same sentiment of a forged “strategic partnership” against a “unipolar” world dominated by the US, the Associated Press reported.
In the last year, Russia and China have held joint naval drills in the South China Sea and the Baltics, as well as joint missile defense drills, according to the AP.
China and Russia have long supported each other’s positions on North Korea and Syria at the United Nations, and Beijing increased its support for Moscow after the West imposed sanctions on Russia for its annexation of Crimea, CNN reported.
Like most first-in-class warships, the USS Gerald R. Ford has had problems during its construction and testing, especially because of the array of new technology it carries.
But the $13 billion aircraft carrier has attracted special attention, and now Secretary of the Navy Richard V. Spencer is putting his job on the line to guarantee one big problem will be resolved.
The Ford’s new Electromagnetic Aircraft Launch System has been a particular focus for President Donald Trump. He expressed dismay with the system in May 2017 and has mentioned it several times since, bringing it up at random on several occasions.
Other officials, including the Senate Armed Services Committee chairman, Sen. James Inhofe, have objected to protracted issues with the carrier’s Advanced Weapons Elevators, which use magnets rather than cables to lift munitions to the flight deck.
President Donald Trump speaking with Navy and shipyard personnel aboard the Gerald R. Ford in Newport News, Virginia, in 2017.
(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication 1st Class Joshua Sheppard)
None of the carrier’s 11 elevators were installed when it was delivered in May 2017 — 32 months late. But the Navy accepted and commissioned the carrier, and after a year of testing at sea, in July 2018 it entered its post-shakedown period.
The start of the post-shakedown period was delayed by another defect, and it was extended from eight months to a year to take care of normal work and work that had been put off, like the installation of the elevators and upgrades to the Advanced Arresting Gear, which has also faced technical problems.
The Navy has said the elevators will be installed and tested by the end of the post-shakedown period in 2019. Six will be certified for use at that time, but five won’t be completed until after July 2019.
Spencer said Jan. 8, 2019, that during a discussion at the Army-Navy football game in December 2018 he gave Trump a high-stakes promise.
“I asked him to stick his hand out — he stuck his hand out. I said, ‘Let’s do this like corporate America.’ I shook his hand and said the elevators will be ready to go when she pulls out or you can fire me,” Spencer said at an event at the Center for a New American Security, according to USNI News.
“We’re going to get it done. I know I’m going to get it done,” he added. “I haven’t been fired yet by anyone — being fired by the president really isn’t on the top of my list.”
Tugboats maneuvering the Gerald R. Ford into the James River.
(US Navy photo)
Spencer also said Trump asked him about EMALS. He told the president that the Navy had “got the bugs out” and that the system and its capabilities were “all to our advantage.”
Inhofe is also raising the stakes.
“The fleet needed and expected this ship to be delivered in 2015,” he told Bloomberg on Jan. 7, 2019. “Until all of the advanced weapons elevators work, we only have 10 operational aircraft carriers, despite a requirement for 12.”
Inhofe has told the Navy he wants monthly status reports on the carrier until its elevators are working.
The Ford is the first of its class, and the next Ford-class carrier, the USS John F. Kennedy, is under construction by Huntington Ingalls at Newport News, Virginia, where it reached the halfway point in 2018.
The Navy told legislators early January 2019 that it would go ahead with a plan to buy the next Ford-class carriers, CVN 80 and CVN 81, on a single contract, known as a “block buy.”
A crane moving the lower stern into place on the nuclear-powered aircraft carrier John F. Kennedy at Huntington Ingalls Shipbuilding in Newport News, making the second Gerald R. Ford-class aircraft carrier 50% structurally complete, on June 22, 2017.
(US Navy photo)
The Navy has said it will spend about billion on the first three Ford-class carriers, and it has touted the block buy as a way to save as much as billion over single contracts for the third and fourth ships. The program as a whole is expected to cost billion.
“This smart move will save taxpayer dollars and help ensure the shipyards can maintain a skilled workforce to get the job done,” Democratic Sen. Tim Kaine of Virginia said after the Navy informed lawmakers of the decision.
Inhofe, however, remains wary.
He told Bloomberg that he looked forward to “the greater predictability and stability” provided by the block buy but called the purchase “a significant commitment” requiring “sustained investments for more than a decade” to get the billion in savings estimated by the Navy.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
On August 29, 1949, the Soviet Union conducted its first-ever atomic weapons test, ending America’s monopoly on the most destructive weapon system ever conceived by man. An arms race that had already begun immediately kicked into high gear, with both nations working frantically to develop new weapons and capabilities that were powerful enough to keep the opposition in check.
From our modern vantage point, the Cold War between America and the Soviet Union seems like an exercise in overblown budgets and paranoia, but it’s important to remember the context of the day. Many senior leaders in both D.C. and Moscow had seen not one but two World Wars unfold during their lifetimes. After the uneasy alliance between the Soviet Union and the rest of the Allied Nations failed to last beyond the final shots of World War II, many believed a third global conflict would be coming in short order. And terrifyingly, most believed it would begin with a nuclear exchange — including those with their fingers on the proverbial nuclear buttons.
Although the destructive force of the atom bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki had been so monstrous that they changed the geopolitical landscape of the world forever, both the U.S. and Soviet Union immediately set about developing newer, even more powerful thermonuclear weapons. Other programs sought new and dynamic delivery methods for these powerful nukes, ranging from ballistic missiles to unguided bombs.
Project Pluto and the SLAM Missile
One such effort under the supervision of the U.S. Air Force was a weapon dubbed the Supersonic Low Altitude Missile or SLAM (not to be mistaken for the later AGM-84E Standoff Land Attack Missile). The SLAM missile program was to utilize a ramjet nuclear propulsion system being developed under the name Project Pluto. Today, Russia is developing the 9M730 Burevestnik, or Skyfall missile, to leverage the same nuclear propulsion concept.
As Russian President Vladimir Putin recently pointed out, nuclear propulsion offers practically endless range, and estimates at the time suggested the American SLAM Missile would likely fly for 113,000 miles or more before its fuel was expended. Based on those figures, the missile could fly around the entire globe at the equator at least four and a half times without breaking a sweat.
The unshielded nuclear reactor powering the missile would practically rain radiation onto the ground as it flew, offering the first of at least three separate means of destruction the SLAM missile provided. In order to more effectively leverage the unending range of the nuclear ramjet, the SLAM missile was designed to literally drop hydrogen bombs on targets as it flew. Finally, with its bevy of bombs expended, the SLAM missile would fly itself into one final target, detonating its own thermonuclear warhead as it did. That final strike could feasibly be days or even weeks after the missile was first launched.
Over time, the SLAM missile came to be known as Pluto to many who worked on it, due to the missile’s development through the project with the same name.
The nuclear ramjet developed for SLAM under Project Pluto was designed to draw in air from the front of the vehicle as it flew at high speed, creating a significant amount of pressure. The nuclear reactor would then superheat the air and expel it out the back to create propulsion. This ramjet methodology is still in use in some platforms today and plays a vital role in some forms of hypersonic missile programs.
The onboard nuclear reactor produced more than 500-megawatts of power and operated at a scorching 2,500 degrees — hot enough to compromise the structural integrity of metal alloys designed specifically to withstand high amounts of heat. Ultimately, the decision was made to forgo metal internal parts in favor of specially developed ceramics sourced from the Coors Porcelain Company, based in Colorado.
The downside to ramjet propulsion is that it can only function when traveling at high speeds. In order to reach those speeds, the SLAM would be carried aloft and accelerated by rocket boosters until the missile was moving fast enough for the nuclear ramjet to engage. Once the nuclear ramjet system was operating, the missile could remain aloft practically indefinitely, which would allow it to engage multiple targets and even avoid intercept.
The nuclear-powered ramjet wasso loud that the missile’s designers theorized that the shock wave of the missile flying overhead on its own would likely kill anyone in its path, and if not, the gamma and neutron radiation from the unshielded reactor sputtering fission fragments out the back probably would. While this effectively made the missile’s engine a weapon in its own right, it also made flying the SLAM over friendly territory impossible.
A missile carrying 16 hydrogen bombs
While the doctrine of Mutually Assured Destruction has since made the launch of just one nuclear weapon the start of a cascade that could feasibly end life on Earth as we know it, Project Pluto’s SLAM Missile was practically apocalyptic in its own right. The nuclear powerplant that would grant the missile effectively unlimited range would also potentially kill anyone it passed over, but the real destructive power of the SLAM missile came from its payload.
Unlike most cruise missiles, which are designed with a propulsion system meant to carry a warhead to its target, Project Pluto’s SLAM carried not only a nuclear warhead, but 16 additional hydrogen bombs that it could drop along its path to the final target. Some even suggested flying the missile in a zig-zagging course across the Soviet Union, irradiating massive swaths of territory and delivering it’s 16 hydrogen bombs to different targets around the country.
Doing so would not only offer the ability to engage multiple targets, but would almost certainly also leave the Soviet populace in a state of terror. A low-flying missile spewing radiation as it passed over towns, shattering windows and deafening bystanders as it delivered nuclear hellfire to targets spanning the massive Soviet Union, would likely have far-reaching effects on morale.
How do you test an apocalyptic weapon?
Project Pluto’s nuclear propulsion system made testing the platform a difficult enterprise. Once the nuclear reactor onboard was engaged, it would continue to function until it hit its target or expended all of its fuel. Any territory the weapon passed over during flight would be exposed to dangerous levels of radiation, limiting the ways and the places in which the weapon’s engine could even be tested.
On May 14, 1961, engineers powered up the Project Pluto propulsion system on a train car for just a few seconds, and a week later a second test saw the system run for a full five minutes. The engine produced 513 megawatts of power, which equated to around 35,000 pounds of thrust — 6,000 pounds more than an F-16’s Pratt & Whitney F100-PW-229 afterburning turbofan engine with its afterburner engaged.
However, those engine tests were the only large scale tests Project Pluto would ultimately see, in part, because a fully assembled SLAM missile would irradiate so much territory that it was difficult to imagine any safe way of actually testing it.
A weapon that’s too destructive to use
Ultimately, Project Pluto and its SLAM missile were canceled before ever leaving the ground. The cancellation came for a litany of reasons, including the development of intercontinental ballistic missiles and the introduction of global strike heavy payload bombers like the B-52 Stratofortress. There were, however, some other considerations that led to the program’s downfall.
Because the SLAM would irradiate, destroy, or deafen anyone and anything it flew over, the missile could not be launched from U.S. soil or be allowed to fly over any territory other than its target nation. That meant the missile could really only be used from just over the Soviet border, whereas ICBMs could be launched from the American midwest and reach their targets in the Soviet Union without trouble.
There was also a pressing concern that developing such a terrible weapon would likely motivate the Soviet Union to respond in kind. Each time the United States unveiled a new weapon or strategic capability, the Soviet Union saw to it that they could match and deter that development. As a result, it stood to reason that America’s nuclear-spewing apocalypse missile would prompt the Soviets to build their own if one entered into service.
Project Pluto and its SLAM missile program were canceled on July 1, 1964.
I’ve known for a long time that some men and women really don’t enjoy the holiday season. In recent years I’ve had encounters that really brought home to me how many people there are in this situation, and how deep is their pain.
I’ve been convicted that we – the VA – and we – the community of faith – really should find some way to address this deep, aching need that some of our brothers and sisters feel.
Planning this service brought home to me many reasons why people might suffer during the holidays.
The first one that comes to mind is grief — loss of a loved one or a friend — but it’s not the only reason.
Alienation from family or even geographic distance from them can do it.
Painful memories of events that happened in the holiday season might be a reason.
Some people are experiencing loss of a job or other economic difficulty.
Even good things might make the holidays difficult; think about retirement, empty nest, or moving to a new home.
Any big change that affects a strong part of your self-identity might cause loneliness and feelings of isolation.
Even the loss of what might have been can be so painful.
I’m supposed to say something helpful, here, but I don’t want to offer quick fixes or simple tips; What brings healing is going to be distinctive for each person. Still, there are some principles that can help many.
Chaplain Jonathan Landon.
We may suppress our painful feelings, because we don’t want to burden others, but giving ourselves freedom to acknowledge the pain may be helpful by itself. Concealing those feelings can leave us feeling lonelier, and leaves those who care about us helpless to comfort us. So if you need to cry, then cry. And if you need to be hugged, say that, and let your family members and friends reach out to you and meet your need.
I can’t be so presumptuous as to guarantee it, but if you acknowledge your pain, and people offer space to let it out, and make that giving of mutual support into a time for bonding, maybe you can let the pressure off a little bit. Maybe you can relieve the tension of those who care about you, who are trying to avoid stirring up painful feelings. Then you may just find that there’s some room for laughter, smiles, and enjoyment.
You see, what most of us really need is not the quick fix or the simple solution; it’s caring relationships. One of the key themes of the time leading up to Christmas is the prophecy that foretold the coming of Jesus, giving him the name or title of “Emmanuel”, which means, “God with us.” This Word teaches me that I am never alone in any loss or pain, no matter what my emotions may tell me.
But the message is not only about God being with us; we have the opportunity to show the presence of God to others, by living God’s love in truth and caring for them. Some people came here today because they’re struggling with the holidays. Some people came here because they care about who is struggling with the holidays. Some care because of their faith. Some of them just care because they see a human in pain and they don’t want anyone to suffer alone.
Don’t forget: in the midst of your own pain, you have opportunities to come alongside of others — to be with them, as God is with us.
In this fairly recent tradition, the Blue Christmas service usually happens on or close to the 21st of December, the night of the winter solstice, the longest and darkest night of the year.
It’s an appropriate symbol for a time when many people feel alone, lost and in pain. But that’s not the only meaning of the night of the 21st. Because what happens at sunrise on the morning of the 22nd?
The days begin to get longer. At first, it’s by tiny increments and you hardly notice it, and then it grows faster and faster and you can’t miss it. It’s inevitable. The light returns. That, too is part of the symbolism of this night and this service. The light returns. No matter how long the night will be — or has been — the light returns.
Chaplain Jonathan Landon is the chaplain at the Eugene VA Health Care Center.
Military movies are a lot of fun, and the Department of Defense loves how they prime plenty of young folks to join the service. But while military service and military movies are both great, there’s a huge gap between how military life is portrayed and how it actually works. So, here are nine scenes from military movies that are fun to watch but few troops ever get the chance to do:
Buzzing the deck or tower
Yeah! “Top Gun!” And not the beach scene that makes our sisters act weird for 20 minutes afterward! But if you’re thinking about joining naval aviation in order to fly super fast past control towers on ship and shore, you should probably know that the beach scene is more likely to happen (but much less sexy) than “buzzing the tower” against orders.
See, F-14 Tomcats cost about $38 million each. So, pilots taking dangerous risks with their birds weren’t told off by an angry commander, they were investigated and had their wings taken away. And “Top Gun” is a school, and the commander definitely should’ve had some pilots ready to go to school besides the one who keeps taking unnecessary gambles with aircraft.
Hunt for lost technology with sexy archaeologists
In “The Mummy,” another awesome Tom Cruise flick, the hero is an elite soldier who, after a series of illegal mishaps, finds himself searching a tomb with a sexy archaeologist. The Nazi soldiers in “Indiana Jones” also spend a lot of time in ruins with sexy archaeologists (I’m talking about Dr. Elsa Schneider, but if you’re into Dr. René Emile Belloq, go for it).
But actually, modern military weapons typically come from laboratories, not ancient ruins. And the number of entombed monsters the Air Force is sent to re-secure like in “The Mummy” is also shockingly low. You’ll spend much more time in smelly port-a-johns with a smartphone than you will in Egypt with models.
Tell off scientists for being too science-y
But about that weapons-coming-out-of-labs thing from the last paragraph — plenty of movies also show soldiers running into academics and being all superior because the soldiers are brave and covered in muscles and the scientists are pencil necks. For those of you lucky enough to have forgotten the 1998 “Godzilla,” the military ignores about 30 warnings that Godzilla may have laid eggs.
But scientists aren’t actually assigned to combat units very often. And the few scientists who do end up with military units aren’t typically biologists tracking the local zombie outbreaks that you can laugh off until you get bit. They’re usually anthropologists telling you that the local Afghans don’t like you much, mostly because of all the shooting. Thanks, scientists!
We loved “Independence Day” and hated “Battlefield: LA” as much as the next guy but, and brace yourselves here, aliens have never invaded Earth, and that’s not what the Space Force is for. Offensive wars against aliens don’t happen much either. We won’t be mining unobtanium from Pandora.
I know, big shocker. You might get to work against the “immigrant” form of aliens, but that’s mostly putting up barbed wire and providing medical aid while you sit in the middle of the desert during Christmas. So, I guess what we’re saying is: weigh your options.
Slaughtering bug armies
The best kinds of armies, alien or otherwise, to kill are easily bug armies and zombies. So much killing, so much gore, so little moral squeamishness. No one worries much about the bugs in “Starship Troopers,” even when heroes are climbing on top of them, shooting a hole through their exoskeletons, and then throwing a grenade inside of them.
Sigh. Unfortunately for die-hard action fans, American forces actually spend most of their time fighting other humans. While this is often necessary (looking at you, Hitler), it also means a lot of real people just swept up in the currents of their times are killed (looking at you, all of the Wehrmacht who weren’t dedicated Nazis). Not nearly as much fun as killing the bugs.
Survive bomb after bomb, grenade after grenade
Also, you’re not nearly as survivable in future combat as movies and video games would have you think. Bombs, artillery fire, grenades, and even bullets can kill you very easily. You’re basically a big bag of soup with a little brain pushing it around the world, and wars are filled with all sorts of flying metal that can shred your bag.
Defeat the enemy thanks to their one critical weakness
Luckily, your enemies will usually have the same weakness. Unfortunately, they won’t also have one big weakness that can be exploited by some savvy Jeff Goldblum type saying, “I gave it a cold. I gave it a virus, a computer virus.” Instead, when the British start rolling the first tanks against your lines, you just have to hit them with artillery and hope they get caught in the mud.
And you press every weapon in your arsenal against the new threat. Turns out, machine guns could break off rivets inside early tanks and injure or kill the crew. High-powered rifles would split the armor and send shards into the crew. Incendiary devices could set off gas and force the crew to evacuate. So, German soldiers used all of these things.
Retrain in four jobs before the final credits roll
Remember when Jake Sully in “Avatar” took over his brother’s job as a scientist and pseudo-alien, then became a spy for the human military, then became a pilot for the alien resistance, then a small strike team leader? Those are all still different jobs, right?
In reality, most soldiers spend weeks or months learning their first job, and they can only switch jobs with more weeks or months of training. Any movie realistically showing them moving from job to job would need to be a biopic with a story spanning years of the soldier’s life.
Fun fact: There’s only been one documented underwater submarine battle in history. And that was an exchange between two submarines in World War II. But that hasn’t stopped movie after movie that showed submarines hitting each other or even divers fighting to the death under the waves.
It is exciting, exciting stuff — I’m partial to the underwater spear gunfight in “Thunderball” — but actual underwater fighting is super rare since almost no military forces specialize in it or want to fight in the water. Even SEALs generally fight above the waves.
ISIS fighters will be closely watching the fighting between Turkish and Kurdish troops in northeastern Syria, waiting for a chance to break thousands of fighters, and tens of thousands of family members, out of Kurdish prisons, according to a former member of the group, Western intelligence officials, and Kurdish commanders.
Concerns of a mass-scale ISIS prison break have grown as Turkish troops enter northeastern Syria to confront the Syrian Defence Forces. The SDF is a predominately Kurdish group regarded as terrorists by Turkey but a key American ally in the ground war against ISIS. SDF officials, who have warned that their resources were already overstretched guarding tens of thousands of ISIS prisoners before the invasion, now say the situation is critical.
But that won’t be enough to prevent ISIS from attempting to break out thousands of lesser known but vital fighters, according to a former member of the group.
“Prison is like their home,” a former ISIS fighter tells Insider
Abu Ahmed al Halabi fought alongside ISIS and its predecessor groups from 2012 until 2015 before quitting the group over its brutal treatment of other Syrian rebel groups in his hometown of Tal Riffat, outside of Aleppo. Although not in contact with the group any longer, he’s currently fighting in Idlib Province for a non-jihadist rebel group. He told Insider that the group is deeply experienced in prison breaks, and its men will have organized while they were detained.
“All of the big bosses in Daesh are Iraqis that were in jail together during the American occupation,” he said. “The group that Abu Musab [al Zarqawi] founded in Iraq in 2003 was all sent to Camp Bucca, it’s where they organized Daesh [ISIS]. Prison is like their home.”
“Daesh will be organized inside the prisons and ready to attack the guards and escape,” Abu Ahmed said. “Outside the prisons, Daesh will be watching the guards and defenses and planning an attack, at any of these prisons they know they can get an entire [battalion] of fighters if they succeed. They have people watching right now waiting for a chance.”
Western intelligence officials agree, one officer from a NATO member that served inside Syria with his government’s special forces told Insider.
“These guys are a jail gang, running their operations while detained might even be easier than [being outside] hiding from drones afraid to use a telephone,” the official, who lacks permission to speak to the media, said.”
We are sure that there is close cooperation between fighters in some prisons, the families in al Hol, and the units that are still free in the desert area between Iraq and Syria,” the official said.
As many as 12,000 ISIS fighters including about 2,000 foreigners are held in SDF prisons. Among the 70,000 women and children in al Hol are hundreds of women who are still loyal to ISIS’s ground leadership.
Flag of the “Islamic State of Iraq and Syria.”
“[ISIS leader Abu Bakir] Baghdadi even said in his last statement that his people should be patient and await rescue, and that was before the Turks upended what had been a mostly stable situation.”
ISIS fighters in Kurdish jails have been in constant contact with the group’s leadership via Telegram and Whatsapp
The families of ISIS fighters currently held in deteriorating security conditions in al Hol — where the SDF was already stretched thin — were in constant contact with the group’s leadership via Telegram, Whatsapp and other secure messaging systems, the official told us.
“Of course, we know they are plotting something but the resources to stop them just aren’t available,” the official said.
Abu Ahmed described the release of women and children in al Hol as a goal for the group but secondary to the immediate military need to free as many of its captured fighters as possible.
“The women might escape al Hol themselves but the Daesh bosses will be watching the prisons holding the fighters first,” he said. “They want those thousands of mujahideen so they can also fight the Kurds and Iraqis. If they take one prison, they will use those new guys to take another prison and then it will be just like Mosul” in 2014.
“They will have planned to attack at the perfect time and will have trucks and guns waiting for all the men they free”
Abu Ahmed said that in a series of attacks on Mosul in 2014, the plan was merely to break out 2,500 fighters from a local prison. Fighting for the group in northern Syria at the time, Abu Ahmed’s commander had been assigned to help plan the mission.
“My Emir was Abu Omar [al Shishani], and he was commander for all Daesh ground forces in Syria and Iraq, I helped him plan the Mosul operation. We were just trying to get fighters out of prison when the Iraqi Army collapsed. Once Abu Omar saw this he ordered everyone to attack to take as much space as they could as the Iraqis retreated. But the Mosul operation was part of a campaign of jailbreaks called ‘Breaking the Walls.'”
“These are very careful people,” he added. “They will have planned to attack at the perfect time and will have trucks and guns waiting for all the men they free.”
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.