Many myths and legends surround the Vikings. Known for being fierce raiders, courageous explorers, and competent traders, the Viking Age lasted from roughly 793 AD until 1066 AD. It should be noted, however, that much of their history wasn’t written from their perspective and is therefore skewed. Only two literary works, the Prose Edda and the Poetic Edda, and some sagas were known to have survived the ages. Historians are now looking at Vikings in a different light because of recent evidence surfacing that disproves many of the myths about the “heathen savages” to the North.
Modern historians characterize Vikings more as fur traders than the bloodthirsty savages they’re often depicted as. The most barbaric and over-the-top of these Viking stories were of the Viking berserker. Berserkers were said to have been lone Viking warriors who donned nothing but a bearskin (or a “bear coat,” which, in Old Norse, is pronounced, “bjorn-serkr” — sound familiar?), took psychedelic drugs to block out pain, and destroyed anyone foolish enough to stand in the way of their ax. Though not entirely wrong, these are definitely exaggerations.
Verdict is still out on if they fought dragons or wrote books on how to train them. (Bethesda Studios’ Elder Scrolls IV: Skyrim)
First of all, there were three different warrior cults who were often bunched into the same category. They are the well-known Berserkers (whose bear coats are often attributed to the worship of Thor, Tyr, or Odin), the Ulfhednar (who wore wolf coats for Odin), and the Svinflylking (who wore boar coats for Freya). Each devotedly fought for a different Norse god and each took on the aspect of the animal whose pelt they wore.
These tribal groupings contradict the “lone savage” stereotype. All berserkers — especially the wolf coats — were used in combat as a complement to other Vikings. Scandinavian kings would use the berserkers as shock troops to augment their forces. The pelt they wore was similar in function to modern-day unit insignias. You could tell who was a berserker on the battlefield because their “battle cry” was to bite down on their shield.
Secondly, their defining pelt wasn’t the only thing they wore, either. As intimidating as it would be to see a burly Viking wearing nothing but a bear coat, war paint, and the blood of their enemies, this kind of garb was nowhere near as common as the myth would have you believe. The Volsung Saga corroborates the idea of a frenzied, mostly naked warrior, but logically speaking, the frozen tundras of Scandinavia would be too damn cold to spend weeks displaying what Odin gave them to their enemies. They may not have worn chainmail — which was very uncommon among Vikings since coastal raiding would rust the iron — but wood carvings showed them as at least wearing pants.
Who knows? Maybe a few berserks did leave this world the same way they came in, you know, naked and covered in someone else’s blood. (Woodcarving via Antiqvitets Akademien)
Finally, we arrive at the myth about the hallucinogens. The first accounts of Vikings “going berserk” because they ate magic mushrooms was hypothesized in 1784 by a Christian priest named Odmann. He came to a conclusion that connected the berserkers to the fly agaric mushroom because he read that Siberian shamans did the same when they were healing. There are two problems with this theory. First, the mushrooms are extremely toxic and would leave any warrior in no shape to fight. Second, these mushrooms were never mentioned anywhere until 1784 — long after the Viking age.
Now, that’s not to say that they didn’t take something for the pain in battle. Stinking Nightshade was discovered in a berserker grave in 1977. Mostly used as medicine, the plant was also used in war paint. If the nightshade were crushed down and made into a paste, it could be applied to a warrior to slightly dull their senses.
The effects would be similar to someone running into battle after popping a bunch of Motrin.
Some military traditions make sense to nearly everyone — little things that show mutual respect, like leaders serving food to their subordinates on holidays or NCOs electing to eat after their guys. Other traditions are odd at first blush, like messing with the new guy or passing through an archway after graduating a class or achieving a higher rank, but civilians can generally understand where they come from.
But then there are the ones that require a lot of explaining to your civilian family members. Every time, these story begins with a, “well, you see. It kinda goes back to…” and more often than not, the explanation just makes them tilt their head in confusion.
At one point, the following traditions may have meant something to one person or a group, but today, the original meaning is buried beneath decades of military bearing and tradition. We mostly just do them because, well, if it ain’t broke — and no one’s getting UCMJ’d for it — why bother stopping?
10. Paratroopers and cherry pies
When you finish going through Army Airborne School, your head will be spinning, filled with all of the information you’ll need to not shatter every bone in your body when you make a landing. You’ll have to master the art of hooking up your static line and perform countless parachute landing falls before you’re even able to get the chance to actually jump out of a perfectly good airplane.
Finally, the moment of truth arrives — you finally get to jump with your unit in the 82nd. Your superiors will recommend that you fill your cargo pockets with Hostess Cherry Pies first. They’ll often say it’s for some reason like, “in case you get hungry when you land” or whatever. Who are you to argue?
When your big moment finally comes and you take in the sights while falling gracefully, you’ll hopefully have your PLFs burnt into the back of your mind as second nature. Everything will happen so fast that you’ll forget those cherry pies in your pants. When you land, you’ll squish all those pies and leave a nice red stain on your uniform.
9. Actual callsigns
In pop culture, callsigns are the coolest things ever. You’ll often see some badass names, like Iceman, Maverick, or Snake used in TV and movies. They’re always just made up because they sound cool and the storytellers don’t really know how the military works.
In reality, callsigns are usually unit designations followed by a number to signify who they are in said unit. So, for example, the commander of the Alpha company “Black Sheep” would be known as “Black Sheep 6,” and the first sergeant of the same unit is “Black Sheep 7.”
If you’re looking for unique callsigns, those are in the aviation world, and they’re typically less cool and more nonsensical. For example, if you eat a Pop-Tart one time in front of another pilot, your callsign is now forever “Pop-Tart.” Good going, Pop-Tart. That’s your callsign until the end of time.
8. The grog bowl
At civilian parties, if there’s a punch bowl, it’ll be centrally placed and it may or may not have some kind of alcohol in it. Whenever the military throws a unit ball, that punch bowl will most certainly have alcohol in it… plus a whole slew of other random things that would make anyone throw up.
Most of the leadership of the unit gets a chance to add one ingredient to the grog bowl (which is a toilet bowl) and offer some kind of nonsense to explain why their chosen ingredient has some kind of significance to the unit.
You can expect classic grog bowl ingredients, like hot sauce, because of the deserts the unit deploys to, ground coffee, because of the long hours the troops works, a cup of salt, because of the sweat that troops give to the cause, and a dirty sock because… reasons?
7. Blood wings and blood stripes
When civilians get promoted or graduate some school, the accomplishment is usually met with a party or a card that’s signed by everyone in the office. That sounds pleasant. Troops, on the other hand, almost always lose a bit of blood over it.
Blood wings and blood stripes are, essentially, the same thing. You get the wings from a school and the stripes from a promotion. Then, everyone takes turn punching it in. It’s technically considered hazing, but the troop receiving the blood wings/stripes usually agrees to it. There (typically) isn’t any malice or hate involved in the ceremony and troops usually walk away with a bit more pride in whoever bled for their new badge/rank.
6. Challenge coin “duels”
There’s nothing really odd about challenge coins in general. It’s basically the same thing as collecting trading cards as a kid, but instead of aiming for a holographic Charizard, you’re aiming for the coolest-looking coin with the most badass backstory.
Usually, officers will keep the coolest coins on their desk in their office to casually gloat about and enlisted troops keep them in some drawer at home, but sh*t gets real when troops take their coins to the bars. The ensuing game basically goes like this:
Troops unsheathe their coolest coin. If you don’t have your coin on you, you buy the drinks. If everyone has a coin, whoever has the “least valuable coin” buys the drinks. Since the “value” is determined by backstory and design — both of which are subjective — this game almost always ends in a shouting match over who has to pick up the tab.
5. ‘Stache contests
In case you haven’t nailed down the common thread between all of these traditions, the military is engaged in a perpetual pissing contest. Troops are in constant contest to see who can do literally anything better than the next guy; to see who is the most macho of the troops. It should come as no surprise that one of the most macho things out there, facial hair, gets quantified into some sort of challenge.
The problem with this is that the military doesn’t allow most versions of facial hair — that is, with the exception of a very thin mustache. A word of warning: The first two weeks of a mustache-off makes every contestant look pathetic.
Mustache contests usually begin at the start of the deployment (presumably, when troops’ wives have less of a say in the matter) and, after a certain point, someone is declared a winner. Yet, the Air Force has unanimously decided to make March their official contest month. Whichever airman grows the best mustache by the end of March wins a high five or whatever.
4. The West Point pillow battle royale
At some point during the first years of the most intense academy for the U.S. Army’s future officers, students are offered a unique way of handling the stresses of simultaneously earning a college education while enduring four years of constant military training. These future warriors, trained in all things warfare with the intention of becoming the Army’s next generation of great leaders, settle things the exact same way as children at slumber parties — with a pillow fight.
As goofy as this sounds, things got serious. Yes. “got” — very much in the past tense, as this tradition was unceremoniously banned in 2015 in response to numerous injuries. Most cadets donned full kevlars and vests and beat the hell out of each other with pillows. More than thirty plebes that year were sent to the hospital for serious injuries, despite the strict no-hard-objects-in-the-pillows rule.
Thankfully, they had PT belts on or this could have gotten even more out of hand.
3. Blasting up the lieutenant’s patrol cap
In the technical terms, a “blasting cap” is a small, sensitive primary explosive device used to detonate a larger, more powerful and less-sensitive secondary explosive. Soldiers in the artillery world take this term literally whenever they welcome a new platoon leader.
When the platoon first goes out for a live-fire exercise with a brand new lieutenant, they’ll take the officer’s patrol cap (either willingly or otherwise) and tape it to the end of the barrel or backplate of a rocket pod. Then, the first round goes off; it’ll take the cap with it. The officer is then expected to retrieve the nearly-burnt-to-a-crisp cap so they can remain in uniform after the ceremony is done.
No one really knows when or where this began, but every artillery officer since then has had to buy a new cap the following day.
2. The sword butt tap at weddings
Most of the traditions on this list are kept within the realm of the military and don’t often affect civilians directly — with the major exception of military weddings. They are one of the most beautiful ways to introduce a new civilian spouse into our world. The troop’s comrades will attend wearing full dress uniforms, each carrying a sword to signify the protection they’ll offer the new spouse, as he or she is now kin.
The new comrades will serve as either groomsmen or bridesmaids and post guard outside of the chapel, or wherever the ceremony is held, and form a beautiful archway with their swords under which the married couple will walk.
Then, whoever is at the very end of the archway on the civilian spouse’s side will give a loving spank with their sword. Not a hard one, mind you, just a nice gentle way of letting them know that they’re now a part of the grander military family.
1. The Court of Neptune
Whenever a Navy vessel crosses a certain point on the globe, all sailors who’ve never done so get to be initiated into an unofficial fraternity of sailors who’ve been there before. The most famous example of these ceremonies is the moment a vessel crosses the Equator at any point in the world.
Officially, it’s called the “Crossing the Line” ceremony, but sailors know it as “the Court of Neptune.” The uninitiated (known as “slimy polliwogs”) must bow before King Neptune (as portrayed by the ship’s captain) and entertain his queen, Davy Jones, the Royal Baby, and his dignitaries (portrayed by other high ranking members of the crew) with a talent show.
Regardless of how the young sailors perform, they’re found guilty of being polliwogs and must answer for their crimes. They’re “punished” by eating an extremely spicy or disgusting breakfast and are forced kiss the Royal Baby’s greasy belly. Only then can they have their slimy polliwoginess washed in seawater to finally become trusty shellbacks.
Follow any of that? Neither did any of us other slimy polliwogs…
The Naval Surface Warfare Center, Dahlgren, has been exploring the use of forward-firing rockets, missiles, fixed guns, a chin-mounted gun, and also looked at the use of a 30MM gun along with gravity drop rockets and guided bombs deployed from the back of the V-22.
In recent years, the Corps has been working on a study to help define the requirements and ultimately inform a Marine Corps decision with regards to armament of the MV-22B Osprey.
Adding weapons to the Opsrey would naturally allow the aircraft to better defend itself should it come under attack from small arms fire, missiles, or surface rockets while conducting transport missions; in addition, precision fire will enable the Osprey to support amphibious operations with suppressive or offensive fire as Marines approach enemy territory.
Furthermore, weapons will better facilitate an Osprey-centric tactic known as “Mounted Vertical Maneuver” wherein the tiltrotor uses its airplane speeds and helicopter hover and maneuver technology to transport weapons, such as mobile mortars and light vehicles, supplies, and Marines behind enemy lines for a range of combat missions, including surprise attacks.
The initial steps in the process of arming the V-22 includes selecting a Targeting-FLIR, improving digital interoperability, and designating Integrated Aircraft Survivability Equipment solutions. Integration of new weapons could begin as early as 2019 if the initiatives stay on track and are funded, Corps officials said.
Developers added that “assault support” will remain as the primary mission of the MV-22 Osprey, regardless of the weapons solution selected.
So far, Osprey maker Bell-Boeing has delivered at least 290 MV-22s out of a planned 360 program of record.
Laser-guided Hydra 2.75-inch folding fin rockets, such as those currently being fired from Apache attack helicopters, could give the Osprey greater precision-attack capabilities. One such program firing 2.75in rockets with laser guidance is called Advanced Precision Kill Weapons System.
Bell-Boeing designed a special pylon on the side of the aircraft to ensure common weapons carriage. The Corps has been analyzing potential requirements for weapons on the Osprey, considering questions such as the needed stand-off distance and level of lethality.
New Osprey Variant in 2030
The Marine Corps is in the early stages of planning to build a new, high-tech MV-22C variant Osprey tiltrotor aircraft to enter service by the mid-2030s, service officials said.
While many of the details of the new aircraft are not yet available, Corps officials told Scout Warrior that the MV-22C will take advantage of emerging and next-generation aviation technologies.
The Marine Corps now operates more than 250 MV-22 Ospreys around the globe and the tiltrotor aircraft are increasingly in demand, Corps officials said.
The Osprey is, among other things, known for its ability to reach speeds of 280 knots and achieve a much greater combat radius than conventional rotorcraft.
Due to its tiltrotor configuration, the Osprey can hover in helicopter mode for close-in surveillance and vertical landings for things like delivering forces, equipment, and supplies – all while being able to transition into airplane mode and hit fixed-wing aircraft speeds. This gives the aircraft an ability to travel up 450 nautical miles to and from a location on a single tank of fuel, Corps officials said.
A Corps spokesman told Scout Warrior that, since 2007, the MV-22 has continuously deployed in a wide range of extreme conditions, from the deserts of Iraq and Libya to the mountains of Afghanistan and Nepal, as well as aboard amphibious ships.
Between January 2007 and August 2015, Marine Corps MV-22s flew more than 178,000 flight hours in support of combat operations, Corps officials said.
Corps officials said the idea with the new Osprey variant is to build upon the lift, speed, and versatility of the aircraft’s tiltrotor technology and give the platform more performance characteristics in the future. While few specifics were yet available, this will likely include improved sensors, mapping, and digital connectivity, even greater speed and hover ability, better cargo and payload capacity, next-generation avionics, and new survivability systems, such as defenses against incoming missiles and small-arms fire.
Greenberg also added that the MV-22C variant aircraft will draw from technologies now being developed for the Army-led Future Vertical Lift program involved in engineering a new fleet of more capable, high-tech aircraft for the mid-2030s
The US Army is currently immersed in testing with two industry teams contracted to develop and build a fuel-efficient, high-speed, high-tech, next-generation, medium-lift helicopter to enter service by 2030.
The effort is aimed at leveraging the best in helicopter and aircraft technology in order to engineer a platform that can both reach the high-speeds of an airplane while retaining an ability to hover like a traditional helicopter, developers have said.
The initiative is looking at developing a wide range of technologies, including lighter-weight airframes to reduce drag, different configurations and propulsion mechanisms, more fuel-efficient engines, the potential use of composite materials, and a whole range of new sensor technologies to improve navigation, targeting, and digital displays for pilots.
Requirements include an ability to operate in what is called “high-hot” conditions, meaning 95-degrees Fahrenheit and altitudes of 6,000 feet where helicopters typically have difficulty operating. In high-hot conditions, thinner air and lower air-pressure make helicopter maneuverability and operations more challenging.
The Army’s Joint Multi-Role Technology Demonstrator program has awarded development deals to Bell Helicopter-Textron and Sikorsky-Boeing teams to build “demonstrator” aircraft by 2017 to help inform the development of a new medium-class helicopter.
The Textron-Bell Helicopter team is building a tilt-rotor aircraft called the Bell V-280 Valor and the Sikorsky-Boeing team is working on early testing of its SB-1 Defiant coaxial rotor-blade design. A coaxial rotor-blade configuration uses counter-rotating blades with a thrusting technology at the back of the aircraft to both remain steady and maximize speed, hover capacity, and maneuverability.
Planned missions for the new Future Vertical Lift aircraft include cargo, utility, armed scout, attack, humanitarian assistance, MEDEVAC, anti-submarine warfare, anti-surface warfare, land/sea search and rescue, special warfare support, and airborne mine countermeasures, Army officials have said.
Other emerging technology areas being explored for this effort include next-generation sensors and navigation technologies, autonomous flight, and efforts to see through clouds, dust, and debris described as being able to fly in a “degraded visual environment.”
While Corps officials say they plan to embrace technologies from this Army-led program for the new Osprey variant, they also emphasize that the Corps is continuing to make progress with technological improvements to the MV-22.
These include a technology called V-22 Aerial Refueling System, or VARS, to be ready by 2018, Corps developers explained.
The Marine Corps Osprey with VARS will be able to refuel the F-35B Lightning II with about 4,000 pounds of fuel at VARS’ initial operating capability and the MV-22B VARS capacity will increase to 10,000 pounds of fuel by 2019, Corps officials told Scout Warrior last year.
The development is designed to enhance the F-35B’s range, as well as the aircraft’s ability to remain on target for a longer period.
The aerial refueling technology on the Osprey will refuel helicopters at 110 knots and fixed-wing aircraft at 220 knots, Corps developers explained.
The VARS technology will also be able to refuel other aircraft such as the CH-53E/K, F-18, AV-8B Harrier jet, and other V-22s.
The Corps has also been developing technology to better network Osprey aircraft through an effort called “Digital Interoperability.” This networks Osprey crews so that Marines riding in the back can have access to relevant tactical and strategic information while in route to a destination.
Chemical illumination has been a useful tool for military operations for years in the form of chem lights or glow sticks. However, glow sticks could be a hindrance to carry around. The Air Force Research Lab has exponentially lightened the load to allow chemical illumination in the form of a crayon, making light accessible, transferable and useful over and over again.
It was like trying to hit a needle in a haystack, kill a fly with a sledgehammer, or whatever analogy you prefer for using brute force to apply surgical precision in the middle of a swirling ambush.
By analogy and history, the attack on Dragon’s Jaw is a bizarre mismatch of weapons to mission. It is another hard lesson for U.S. air power in the ’60’s. Several decades of evolving doctrine and aircraft development have led the U.S. Air Force in a different direction from how air wars will actually be fought in the future. Instead of long range strategic nuclear attack, tactical precision anti-insurgent strike is the emerging mission. The U.S. will continue to learn that hard lesson on this day.
By any measure this is an impressive air armada: Sixty-six advanced supersonic fighters and strike aircraft from America’s “Century Series”. The main strike package is 46 Republic F-105 Thunderchiefs with massive bomb loads. The defensive escort is 21 North American F-100 Super Sabres holstering a covey of air-to-air missiles. The strike and escort fighters are supported by an enormous number of tanker, surveillance, rescue and reconnaissance planes. They all have one objective: to kill “The Dragon”.
The Dragon is the Thanh Hóa Bridge, near the geographic center of North Vietnam. The North Vietnamese nicknamed the bridge “Hàm Rồng” or “Dragon’s Jaw” since its massive steel and concrete construction seem like a row of sturdy teeth set in the mouth of a deadly dragon. The Dragon itself is made up of one of the most sophisticated integrated air defense networks on earth modeled closely after the most sophisticated, the Soviet Union’s.
Ironically, if this same task force had been attacking the Soviet Union with nuclear weapons their results would have almost certainly been better. That is the mission these aircraft were actually designed for. But the Dragon is a small, critical target, and an elusive one. Even though it’s not an all-out nuclear war with the Red Menace, the Dragon must be slayed in the ongoing proxy war that is Vietnam.
The Thanh Hóa Bridge would be a tough target to hit even without an advanced, integrated network of radar guided anti-aircraft guns, SAMs and MiGs surrounding it. The bridge has only a single one-meter wide railroad track on its deck. It is 540 feet long and 54 feet wide at its widest point. From the attack altitude of about 10,000 feet it is difficult to see well at high-speed.
The flight of F-105 Thunderchiefs break into sections of four aircraft each. Today they are armed with 750 pound “dumb” bombs. The day before a nearly identical strike also failed to destroy the Dragon’s Jaw when the Thunderchiefs attacked with crude AGM-12 Bullpup guided missiles and 750 pound dumb bombs. The AGM-12 missiles, an early attempt at “smart” weapons, failed significantly. Remarkably, even though some of the 750 pounders did hit the bridge, they had little effect. The first attempt at breaking the Dragon’s Jaw on April 3rd failed spectacularly. The bridge proved sturdier than expected, the weapons less precise than hoped.
(US Air Force photo)
Having abandoned the AGM-12 Bullpup missiles from the day before the F-105 Thunderchiefs would strike with only dumb bombs today.
The F-105 was originally designed to carry a nuclear weapon enclosed within its streamlined fuselage using an internal bomb bay. It was supposed to attack a target from low altitude at Mach 2, “toss” the nuclear weapon at the target in a pop-up attack, and escape at twice the speed of sound.
Today the big F-105 “Thuds” lug a junkyard of dumb bombs under their sleek swept wings and below their sinewy Coke-bottle curved fuselage. The yardsale of external bombs and bomb racks creates enormous drag on the needle-nosed “Thud”, slowing it to below supersonic speed and making it vulnerable.
As predictably as a firing line of advancing redcoat soldiers facing off against Native American insurgents in the Revolutionary War, the Thunderchiefs returned the very next day, marching across the aerial battlefield in broad daylight. The North Vietnamese had been ready the day before. Today they were angry, battle hardened and ready.
According to historical accounts ranging from Air Force Magazine to Wikipedia, four of eight lightweight, nimble, subsonic MiG-17s (NATO codename “Fresco”) of the North Vietnamese 921st “Sao Do” (Red Star) Fighter Regiment led by North Vietnamese flight leader Trần Hanh visually acquired an attack formation of four F-105Ds at 10:30 AM.
The Thunderchiefs were just starting to drop their bombs and already committed to their attack run. Flight leader Trần Hanh ordered his wingman, Pham Giay, to cover his attack on the F-105s. Hanh dove in through light cloud cover, achieving complete surprise. He opened fire on the F-105 with his heavy 37mm cannon at extremely close range, only 400 meters. Having attacked from above and behind in a classic ACM (Air Combat Maneuvering) scenario, Hanh preserved energy and positioning. The hapless F-105, piloted by USAF Major Frank E. Bennett of the 355th Tactical Fighter Wing, was pummeled by the MiG’s cannon shells. It erupted in a comet of plunging fire and hurtled downward toward the Gulf of Tonkin. Major Bennett did not survive.
A small, nimble, lightweight fighter had just gotten the better of a large, heavily loaded fighter-bomber despite having a substantial escort from F-100 Super Sabres. The Super Sabre fighter escort was out of position to respond to the MiG-17 ambush. A brutally hard lesson in the future of air combat was in session.
The melee continued when another North Vietnamese MiG-17 pilot reportedly named “Le Minh Huan” downed a second F-105D, this one piloted by USAF Capt. J. A. Magnusson. Capt. Magnusson reportedly radioed that he was heading for the Gulf of Tonkin after being hit. He struggled to maintain control of his heavily damaged Thunderchief as he tried to escape North Vietnam. Capt. Magnusson was forced to eject twenty miles from the island of Hon Me, and was eventually listed as missing in action, then killed in action after a 48-hour search turned up nothing.
Painfully, the U.S. Air Force confirmed they had lost two F-105s and pilots in the second attack on the Dragon’s Jaw. Even worse, the bridge remained intact, a straight, iron grin at the futile attack of the Americans.
After the failed F-105 strikes and aircraft losses the Americans were desperate to destroy the Dragon’s Jaw bridge. Author Walter J Boyne wrote in Air Force Magazine that the U.S. developed a bizarre, massive pancake-shaped bomb weighing two and a half tons and measuring eight feet in diameter but only thirty inches thick. The gigantic, explosive Frisbee was dropped from the back of a lumbering C-130 Hercules transport and was intended to float down river toward the bridge where it would be detonated by a magnetic fuse. Several of the weapons were actually dropped, one C-130 was lost.
The bridge remained intact.
Early laser guided bombs were also employed against the Dragon’s Jaw with modest success. An attack on May 13, 1972 by a flight of 14 F-4 Phantoms used early “smart” bombs and actually knocked the bridge surface off its pilings, briefly rendering it inoperable and forcing repairs.
But the bridge still stood.
Attacks on the Dragon’s Jaw continued until October 6, 1972. A flight of four Vought A-7 Corsair attack aircraft from the aircraft carrier USS America (CV-66) was finally successful in breaking the bridge in half. They used the AGM-62 Walleye guided bomb and 500-pound Mk.84 general purpose “dumb” bombs. The bridge was finally severed at its center piling.
Author Walter Boyne wrote about the final strike, “At long last, after seven years, 871 sorties, tremendous expenditure in lives, 11 lost aircraft, and a bewildering array of expended munitions, the Dragon’s Jaw was finally broken.” The key lesson from the brutal campaign to destroy the Dragon’s Jaw was that tactics and equipment need to be adaptable and precise in the modern battlespace.
(US Air Force photo)
The F-105 Thunderchief was an impressive aircraft, but was forced into a brutal baptism of fire over Vietnam during an era when air combat was in transition. As a result, the F-105 suffered heavy losses. The history of the aircraft went on the include an unusual accident with the U.S. Air Force Flight Demonstration Team, The Thunderbirds. On May 9, 1964 Thunderbird Two, an F-105B piloted by USAF Captain Eugene J. Devlin, snapped in half during the pitch-up for landing at the old Hamilton Air Base in California. The Thunderchief only flew in six official flight demonstrations with the Thunderbirds.
Interestingly, and perhaps ominously, the U.S. Air Force’s F-35A Lightning II shares a remarkable number of similarities with the Republic F-105 Thunderchief used in the raid on the Dragon’s Jaw in 1965.
According to author Dr. Carlo Kopp, the F-35A dimensions are oddly similar to the F-105. But among several critical differences is the wing surface area, with the F-35A having larger wing surface area and the resultant lower wing loading than the F-105. Other major differences are the F-35A’s low observable technology and greatly advanced avionics, data collecting, processing and sharing capability. Finally, the F-35A is purpose-built for a wide range of mission sets, whereas the F-105 was predominantly a high-speed, low-level nuclear strike aircraft poorly suited for conventional strike.
Lessons learned from the F-105 strike on the Dragon’s Jaw, the success of the nimble, lightweight North Vietnamese MiG-17s and the need for better precision strike capability are now deeply ingrained in U.S. Air Force doctrine. But revisiting this story is a vital part of understanding the evolving mission of the air combat warfighter and the high cost of failing to adapt in the constantly evolving aerial battlespace.
The South Korean military is reporting that North Korea launched several weapons into the sea, perhaps a sign that North Korea’s patience with Washington is growing thin.
North Korea launched a barrage of unidentified short-range projectiles early May 4, 2019, local time, the South Korean Joint Chiefs of Staff said in a press release, according to the semi-official Yonhap News Agency. The weapons, which were initially identified as missiles, reportedly flew out to ranges of roughly 70 to 200 kilometers (43 to 124 miles).
At this time, it is unclear what North Korea has launched. The mysterious projectiles were fired from the east coast town of Wonsan.
North Korea’s last missile test was conducted in November 2017, when the country launched a new type of intercontinental ballistic missile — the Hwasong-15.
As an apparent good-faith gesture to facilitate bilateral dialogue, Pyongyang proposed a self-imposed long-range missile and nuclear testing moratorium while in talks with the US. Round after round of failed negotiations, which included two leadership summits attended by President Donald Trump and Chairman Kim Jong Un, have left both sides feeling frustrated.
The Hwasong-15 intercontinental ballistic missile.
In November 2018, after an abrupt cancellation of a meeting between the US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and his North Korean counterpart, the North tested a so-called “ultramodern tactical weapon,” apparently an artillery piece.
In April 2019, North Korea tested a “new tactical guided weapon,” reportedly components for a new anti-tank weapon.
A missile launch, while potentially intended to signal a desire for movement on bilateral issues, would not only undermine the president’s claims of progress with North Korea, but it would also risk bringing Pyongyang and Washington back to the exchanges of heated rhetoric and shows of force that had many wondering if nuclear war was just over the horizon in 2017.
The latest weapons launch comes on the heels of a meeting between Kim and the Russian President Vladimir Putin, the specific details of which remain murky.
Trump was reportedly “fully briefed” on North Korea’s actions by White House National Security Adviser John Bolton, who has been decidedly pessimistic in his view of negotiations with Pyongyang. Bolton has, in the past, argued in favor of using military force.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
When it comes to armored warfare, Germany and Russia have been two of the foremost practitioners. They even fought the biggest tank battle of all time in 1943 at Kursk. So, what would happen if the two countries fought a tank battle today?
As was the case in World War II, it could easily be a clash between two competing philosophies. Russia has long favored quantity over quality (Stalin even remarked that quantity had a quality of its own). At Kursk, this was seen in the fact that Russia ultimately deployed over 7,000 tanks to that battle. Germany had just under 3,300.
Germany’s best tank at present is the Leopard 2A6. This is a fine tank. Originally deployed with a 120mm main gun, Germany refitted it with a similar gun with a barrel that was 25 percent longer. It just has two problems: There are only 328 of them after major defense cuts after 2010, and Germany also refuses to use depleted uranium in its armor-piercing rounds and tank armor.
Germany is taking steps to design a new tank in conjunction with France. This tank, called Leopard 3, is intended to be a match for Russia’s Armata T-14. This will take time. Russia already has the Armata in prototype form, but some questions are emerging about whether or not it will make it into service.
So, which country would win a tank fight? The money has to be on the Russians, even though most of their tanks are pieces of crap that some countries have to make the best of. Russia has over 4,500 T-80s. And while the German Leopards will trash a lot of Russian tanks, there will be more behind each echelon.
A U.S. Navy P-8A Poseidon was hit by a weapons-grade laser during a routine patrol above international waters on February 17, 2020. The incident happened in the Philippine Sea approximately 380 miles west of Guam, where it was targeted by the laser belonging to a People’s Liberation Army Navy’s destroyer with hull number 161, according to the official statement, which should be the Type 052D Destroyer “Hohhot”.
The laser was not visible to the naked-eye and was detected by the Poseidon’s sensors. The P-8A, assigned to Patrol Squadron (VP) 45 and based at NAS Jacksonville (Florida), is currently deployed in the U.S. 7th Fleet area of operations and operates from Kadena Air Base (Japan). No damage or injuries to the Poseidon and its crew were reported.
The U.S. Navy deemed the destroyer’s actions unsafe and unprofessional, adding also that this incident violated the Code for Unplanned Encounters at Sea (CUES), a multilateral agreement reached at the 2014 Western Pacific Naval Symposium to reduce the chance of an incident at sea, and a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between U.S. Department of Defense and the Ministry of National Defense of the PRC regarding rules of behavior for safety of air and maritime encounters.
People’s Liberation Army Navy’s Type 052D Destroyer “Hohhot”.
The official statement didn’t provide much details about the laser, other than noting it was weapons-grade and not visible to the naked-eye. However, it is worth noting that the Chinese military is developing multiple laser systems for various applications. In particular, the PLA Navy was testing last year the prototype of a tactical laser system intended for land applications and for use aboard the new Type 55 destroyers for both for air defense and close-in defense, as alternative to the HHQ-10 surface-to-air missile. China didn’t release details about the system, other than showcasing it on the national TV channel. However, the system bears some resemblance to the AN/SEQ-3 Laser Weapon System or XN-1 LaWS, developed by the U.S. Navy and tested in 2014 aboard the USS Ponce.
The LaWS is designed to work against low-end asymmetric threats with scalable power levels up to 30 kW. While working at low power, the laser can act as an Active Denial System (ADS), a non-lethal system for area denial, perimeter security and crowd control, while in high power mode it can be used to disable sensors and engines and also detonate explosive materials. During testing, the laser was directed by the Phalanx CIWS (Close-in Weapon System) Fire Control Radar and successfully hit targets mounted aboard a speeding small boat, a Scan Eagle Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) and other moving targets at sea.
Similar incidents happened also in the last two years, however this is the first time the incident is directly attributable to the Chinese military. Back in 2018, a U.S. C-130 Hercules was targeted by a visible laser while the aircraft was flying near China’s Djibouti base, resulting in minor injuries to two pilots. In 2019, Australian Navy helicopter pilots flying from the HMAS Canberra were hit by lasers in the South China Sea during a cruise from Vietnam to Singapore, requiring them to perform a precautionary landing.
With 2019 upon us, a look back at 2018’s most memorable moments might give us some good perspective when facing the new year’s challenges. A lot happened in 2018 in the military-veteran community and each event serves to remind us that the things that affect us most can affect the world around us just as much.
It’s a testament to how important the work of the U.S. military really is.
Air Force gets OCPs, Army gets Pinks and Greens
The Air Force finally ditched the ill-conceived Airman Battle Uniform and adopted the Army’s Operational Camouflage Pattern to the resounding joy of airmen everywhere. Just like with the old BDU, the only difference will be the color of the lettering on the velcro patches — the Air Force lettering is brown while the Army sports black.
The Army also adopted its World War-II throwback jersey to be the official uniform of everyday wear by 2028 to pay homage to the U.S.’ “Greatest Generation.”
The Army’s new weapons
The Army also moved to replace the M249 squad automatic weapon and the M4A1 carbine with weapons that use a more powerful round than the NATO 5.56mm. The service will adopt a 6.8mm round in line with the results of a 2017 small arms ammunition study.
This came after the Army sought to find out why some M4 and M4A1 variants were firing unexpectedly. The problem turned out to be a glitch in the weapon’s selector switch, which got caught between the semi- and automatic settings. Some 3,000 weapons failed their inspections.
The U.S. military’s “Sky Penis”
“Stop drawing d*cks everywhere” became the order of the year in the U.S. military after two West Coast Marines drew a phallic object in the sky during aerial maneuvers. After the the initial incident, a rash of attempted copycats followed until a B-52 squadron commander based out of North Dakota was relieved of duty for explicit ground-based drawings.
The U.S. Coast Guard has been begging for a new icebreaker for years. Tears of joy were heard from Cape May to the Arctic Circle when 0 million was finally earmarked for that purpose. Unfortunately for the Coast Guard, the Department of Homeland Security moved that money to fund the southern border wall in November.
Defense Secretary Mattis’ lethality initiative began Jan. 1, 2018.
The military gets more lethal
In January, Secretary of Defense James Mattis unveiled his new national defense strategy aimed at making the U.S. military more deadly and agile. This means a change in preparation for small, low-level conflicts to great power competition, ending a period of “strategic atrophy.”
President Trump awarded the Medal of Honor to Army medic Ronald Shurer II in October, 2018.
Medals of Honor
President Trump awarded five Medals of Honor this year to combat veterans living and dead to those involved in a history of conflicts, from World War II to Afghanistan. Those recognized for valor in 2018 were Air Force Tech. Sgt. John Chapman, Army 1st Lt. Murl Conner, Army Medic Ronald Shurer II, Marine Sgt. Maj. John Canley, and U.S. Navy Special Operator Britt Slabinski.
Staff Sgt. Dylan Elchin was one of three killed in action by an improvised explosive device in Andar, Ghazni Province, Afghanistan in November 2018.
Military members lost in 2018
Thirty servicemembers were killed supporting U.S. military operations worldwide in 2018, from Jan. 1 through Dec. 2, 2018.
Sgt. Jason Mitchell McClary • Staff Sgt. Dylan Elchin • Sgt. 1st Class Eric Edmond • Capt. Andrew Ross • Sgt. Leandro Jasso • Maj. Brent Taylor • Sgt. James Slape • Staff Sgt. Diobanjo Sanaugustin • Sgt. Maj. Timothy Bolyard • CWO3 Taylor Galvin • Sgt. 1st Class Reymund R. Transfiguracion • Sgt. 1st Class Christopher Celiz • Staff Sgt. James Grotjan • Cpl. Joseph Maciel • Petty Officer 1st Class Matthew Holzemer • Staff Sgt. Alexander Conrad • Staff Sgt. Conrad Robbinson • Spc. Gary Conde • Master Sgt. Jonathan Dunbar • Staff Sgt. Dashan Briggs • Staff Sgt. Carl Enis •Capt. Andreas O’Keeffe • Master Sgt. William Posch •Master Sgt. Christopher Raguso • Capt. Mark Weber • Capt. Christopher Zanetis • Sgt. 1st Class Maitland D. Wilson • Sgt. Christina Schoenecker • Spc. Javion Sullivan • Sgt. 1st Class Mihail Golin
President Trump met with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un on Jun. 12, 2018.
All’s quiet on the Korean front
With improved relations between the U.S. and North Korea, President Trump ordered a stop to the joint American-South Korean military exercises on the Korean Peninsula. In Trump’s words, it was “inappropriate” to continue the war games while asking North Korea to disarm itself of its nuclear weapons. Trump’s orders were not met with universal acclaim among retired military leaders.
President Trump signed an order creating the U.S. Space Force in June 2018.
The Space Force
The U.S, military got its sixth branch of service in 2018, even if it was in name only. With funding sources as of yet unknown, the President ordered the creation of the Space Force to ensure American dominance of Space in June 2018.
President Trump announces withdrawal from Afghanistan
It came as a shock to the defense community when the President announced he would order a large withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan and a complete withdrawal of U.S. forces in Syria. The fallout of the decision included the resignation of Defense Secretary James Mattis.
At a young age, Carlos Norman Hathcock II would go into the woods with his dog and the Mauser his father brought back from World War II to pretend to be a soldier. Hathcock dreamed of being a Marine throughout his childhood, and on May 20, 1959, at the age of 17, he enlisted.
In 1966, Hathcock started his deployment in South Vietnam. He initially served as a military policeman and later, owing to his reputation as a skilled marksman, served as a sniper.
The Hathcock brothers and a friend, shooting as children.
During the Vietnam War, Hathcock had 93 confirmed kills of North Vietnamese Army (NVA) and Viet Cong personnel. However, kills had to be confirmed by an acting third party, who had to be an officer, besides the sniper’s spotter. Hathcock estimated that he actually killed between 300 and 400 enemy soldiers.
In one instance, Hathcock saw a glint reflecting off an enemy sniper’s scope. He fired at it, sending a round through the enemy’s own rifle scope, hitting him in the eye and killing him.
Hathcock’s notoriety grew among the Viet Cong and NVA, who reportedly referred to him Du kích Lông Trắng (“White Feather Sniper”) because of the white feather he kept tucked in a band on his bush hat. The enemy placed a bounty on his head. After a platoon of Vietnamese snipers tried to hunt him down, many Marines donned white feathers to deceive the enemy. Hathcock successfully fought off numerous enemy snipers during the remainder of his deployment.
Hathcock did once remove the white feather from his bush hat during a volunteer mission. The mission was so risky he was not informed of its details until he accepted it. Transported to a field by helicopter, Hathcock crawled over 1,500 yards in a span of four days and three nights, without sleep, to assassinate an NVA general. At times, Hathcock was only a few feet away from patrolling enemy soldiers. He was also nearly bitten by a snake. Once in position, Hathcock waited for the general to exit his encampment before shooting. After completing this mission, Hathcock came back to the United States in 1967. However, missing the service, he returned to Vietnam in 1969, taking command of a sniper platoon.
On September 16, 1969, an AMTRAC Hathcock was riding on struck an anti-tank mine. He pulled seven Marines from the vehicle, suffering severe burns in the process. Hathcock received the Purple Heart while he was recuperating. Nearly 30 years later, he received a Silver Star for this action.
After returning to active duty, Hathcock helped establish the Marine Corps Scout Sniper School at the Marine base in Quantico, Virginia. However, he was in near constant pain due to his injuries, and in 1975, his health began to deteriorate. After diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, he medically discharged in 1979. Feeling forced out of the Marines, Hathcock fell into a state of depression. But with the help of his wife, and his newfound hobby of shark fishing, Hathcock eventually overcame his depression. Despite being retired from the military, Hathcock continued providing sniper instruction to police departments and select military units, such as SEAL Team Six.
The Air Force has planes for every mission, but those planes aren’t always doing missions for the Air Force.
In October 2018, the Defense Department comptroller released the latest reimbursement rates for each service branch’s planes and helicopters.
These costs are generally calculated based on fuel use, wear and tear, and personnel needs — the branch providing the aircraft also typically provides a pilot and crew, an Air Force spokeswoman told Business Insider.
The document lists four categories for reimbursement: other Defense Department components, other federal agencies, foreign-military sales, and “all other.”
“When determining the hourly rate, agencies should utilize the appropriate rate category,” the document said. “The ‘all other’ annual billable rate will be used to obtain reimbursement for services provided to organizations outside the Federal government.”
Below, you can see Air Force aircraft reimbursement rates for users that fall into the “all other” category — that’s you.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Betty R. Chevalier)
A-10C Thunderbolt — ,454
The A-10C Thunderbolt, also known as the Warthog, is the US Air Force’s premier ground-attack aircraft and perhaps the best in the world, renowned by foot soldiers for its ability to absorb punishment and dish out even more with its 30 mm cannon.
The Air Force has a total of 281 A-10s in its inventory. As of mid-2018, 173 of them had gotten or were in the process of getting new wings.
The future of the roughly 100 that still need wings has been the subject of debate between Air Force officials, many of whom want to retire the Thunderbolt and move on to other platforms, and members of Congress, who want to see the fearsome gunship continue flying.
The AC-130J Ghostrider.
(US Air Force photo)
AC-130J Ghostrider — ,541
The AC-130J is the latest variant of the AC-130 gunship, upgraded with enhanced avionics, as well as integrated navigation systems, defensive systems, and radar. It is also modified with the Precision Strike Package, which has a mission-management system that puts sensors, communications, and order-of-battle and threat information into a common picture.
The Ghostrider — a name officially designated in May 2012 — is still relatively new, having completed developmental tests and evaluation in June 2015. As of 2016, the Air Force planned to have 32 Ghostriders in the active-duty force by fiscal year 2021.
The aircraft has struggled, particularly with its 30 mm and 105 mm guns. But the commander of the 1st Special Operations Wing said last year the gunship would probably be “the most requested weapons system from ground forces in the history of warfare.”
(U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Brian Ferguson)
B-1B Lancer — ,475
Of Air Force aircraft, the B-1B Lancer packs the largest payload — 75,000 pounds — of both guided and unguided weapons and is the “backbone” of the US long-range-bomber force.
It has a ceiling of 30,000 feet, which isn’t the highest of the Air Force’s bombers, but it is the fastest, capable of topping 900 mph, or a little over the speed of sound at sea level.
In order to comply with the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty, signed by the US and the Soviet Union in the early 1990s, the Lancer was modified to make it incapable of carrying nuclear weapons, a conversion process completed in 2011.
As of late 2016, the Air Force had 64 Lancers — two for testing — all of which were in the active force.
A B-2 Spirit.
(US Air Force photo)
B-2A Spirit — ,012
The B-2A stealth bomber arrived at the Air Force in 1993, six years after the first Lancer was delivered.
Unlike the Lancer, which is designed for high-speed, low-altitude strikes, the Spirit flies higher — up to 50,000 feet — and slower. It’s also capable of hauling nuclear weapons.
As of the end of 2015, there were 20 Spirits in the Air Force active-duty fleet, one of which was for testing. The only operational base for the B-2 is Whiteman Air Force Base in Missouri, so add that flying time into your budget.
(US Air Force photo)
B-52H Stratofortress — ,919
Pricewise, the B-52 is a bargain compared with its bomber counterparts, but the Stratofortress is well over a half-century old, reaching initial operating capacity in spring 1952.
Flying at 650 mph and up to 50,000 feet with a payload of 70,000 pounds of both conventional and nuclear weapons, it can conduct strategic strikes, close air support, and maritime operations.
Its unfueled range is more than 8,800 miles. With aerial refueling, its range is limited only by its crew’s endurance.
At the end of 2015, there were 58 B-52s in use by the Air Force’s active-duty force and another 18 being used by the Air Force Reserve. They’re all H models and are assigned to the 5th Bomb Wing at North Dakota’s Minot Air Force Base and to the 2nd Bomb Wing at Barksdale Air Force Base in Louisiana.
A C-130J Hercules.
(US Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Thomas Grimes)
C-130J Super Hercules — ,651
The C-130J is the latest addition to the C-130J family, replacing older C-130Es and some C-130Hs with more flying hours.
Technology on the C-130J reduces manpower needs and operational and maintenance costs. The J model also climbs higher and faster and can fly farther with a higher cruising speed, in addition to taking off and landing in a shorter distance.
As of June 2018, the Air Force had 145 C-130Js in active duty, with anther 181 being used by the Air National Guard and 102 by the reserve component.
A C-17 Globemaster III.
(US Air Force photo)
C-17A Globemaster III — ,236
The C-17 is the most flexible member of the Air Force airlift fleet, able to deliver troops and cargo to main operating hubs or to forward bases.
“The C-17 was designed for multi-role functions,” Maj. Steve Hahn, an instructor pilot with the Air Force Reserve’s 301st Airlift Squadron, said in 2010. “Its strategic and tactical abilities join the missions of the C-5 (Galaxy) and C-130 (Hercules) into one aircraft. It does everything, and not many aircraft can do that.”
As of mid-2018, there were 157 C-17s in active service, 47 in use by the Air National Guard, and 18 being used by the Air Force reserve.
A C-5M Super Galaxy.
C-5M Super Galaxy — ,742
The C-5M Super Galaxy — the modernized version of the legacy C-5 aircraft — is the largest aircraft in the Air Force inventory, tasked with transporting troops and cargo.
It can carry oversize cargo, including 50-foot-long submarines, over intercontinental distances, and doors at the front and back allow for it to be loaded and offloaded at the same time.
Its maximum cargo is 281,000 pounds, and the longest distance it can fly without refueling is just over 5,500 miles — the distance from its base at Dover Air Force Base to the Incirlik air base in Turkey.
In August 2018, Lockheed Martin delivered the last of 52 upgraded C-5s, bringing 49 C-5Bs, two C-5Cs, and one C-5A up to the M variant and wrapping up a 17-year overhaul effort. The work extends the C-5 fleet’s service life into the 2040s.
(US Air Force by Louis Briscese)
E-4B — ,123
The E-4B is an expensive aircraft with an invaluable mission.
It serves as the National Airborne Operations Center, providing a highly survivable command, control and communications center where the president, defense secretary, and joint chiefs of staff can direct US forces, execute emergency war orders, and coordinate actions by civil authorities if ground command centers are destroyed.
The Air Force has four E-4Bs in its active force, and at least one is on 24-hour alert. In addition to an advanced satellite-communications system and an electrical system to support it, the E4-B is hardened against electromagnetic pulses, if that’s something you’re worried about.
An F-15E dropping a bomb.
(US Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Lance Cheung)
F-15E Strike Eagle — ,936
The F-15 is an all-weather, highly maneuverable tactical fighterdesigned to gain and maintain air superiority. It became operational in 1975 and has been the Air Force’s primary fighter jet and interceptor for decades.
The F-15E is two-seat integrated fighter for all-weather, air-to-air, and deep-interdiction missions. The Air Force has 219 F-15Es in total.
The first F-15E was delivered in 1989, about a decade after the F-15C, a single-seat fighter, and the F-15D, another two-seater. The latter two are also available, but they’ll cost you a little be more — ,233 for the C model and ,045 for the D model.
An F-16 Fighting Falcon.
(US Air Force photo)
F-16C and F-16D — ,000 and ,696, respectively
Despite the low price, the F-16 is considered one of the most capable fighter aircraft out there.
It arrived in 1979, built in partnership between the US, Belgium, Denmark, the Netherlands, and Norway.
The F-16C/D started arriving in 1981 and are the single- and two-seat counterparts to the F-16A/B, bringing improved cockpit control and display technology.
As of late 2015, the Air Force had 1,017 F-16s across its active, reserve, and guard components.
An F-22 Raptor.
(US Air Force Photo)
F-22A — ,005
Reaching initial operating capability in December 2005, the single-seat F-22 is considered the Air Force’s first fifth-generation fighter, incorporating low-observable technology that gives it an edge over air-to-air and surface-to-air threats.
Caught between low-intensity wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, a crushing global recession in 2008, and the Pentagon’s move toward the F-35 in the late 2000s, the F-22 program was shut down in 2009. As of September 2015, there were 183 F-22s in use by the Air Force.
(US Air Force photo by Senior Airman Stormy Archer)
F-35A — ,501
The F-35A Lightning II is the Air Force’s second and newest fifth-generation fighter, reaching initial operational capability in August 2016.
The US, the UK, Italy, the Netherlands, Turkey, Canada, Denmark, Norway, and Australia were involved in the F-35’s development.
The F-35A is meant carry out air-to-air combat and ground-attack missions, replacing the F-16 and the A-10, while bringing next-generation stealth technology, enhanced awareness, and reduced vulnerability to the US and allies, several of whom have already received their versions of the fighter.
There is also a carrier variant — meant to replace the Navy’s F/A-18s — and a short-takeoff-and-vertical-landing variant, which is meant to replace the US Marine Corps’ AV-8B Harriers and F/A-18s, as well as the UK’s Harriers and Sea Harriers.
The F-35 has also become the most expensive weapons program in history, and hiccups during its development process have not improved its perception.
The KC-46A Pegasus.
(Boeing/John D. Parker)
KC-46A Pegasus — ,740
The KC-46A aerial-refueling tanker is the newest addition to the Air Force, with officials accepting the first one from Boeing on January 10.
The program was delayed for years by technical problems, and Boeing has eaten more than .5 billion on the program, as the firm is responsible for any costs beyond the Air Force’s .9 billion fixed-price contract.
Six tankers have been accepted by the Air Force, but Boeing is not out of the woods. Deliveries were suspended earlier this month by the Air Force because of problems with foreign objects, tools and other debris, left aboard the aircraft.
Will Roper, the Air Force’s assistant secretary for acquisition, technology, and logistics, said it would likely be “some time” before the Air Force began accepting tankers again.
An HC-130J Combat King II.
(US Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Trevor T. McBride)
HC-130J Combat King II — ,001
The HC-130J — an extended-range version of the C-130J — replaces HC-130P/Ns as the only dedicated fixed-wing personnel recovery platform in the Air Force inventory. It’s tasked with rapidly deploying to recover downed aviators in enemy territory and with all-weather expeditionary personnel-recovery operations.
An MC-130H Combat Talon II.
(US Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Micaiah Anthony)
MC-130H Combat Talon II — ,166
The MC-130H Combat Talon II provides infiltration, exfiltration, and resupply of special operations forces and equipment in hostile or denied territory. Secondary missions include psychological operations and helicopter and vertical lift air refueling.
The Combat Talon II is based on the C-130, with structural changes that include a stronger tail to allow high-speed and low-signature airdrops. It also has terrain-following and terrain-avoidance radars that allow it to fly as low as 250 feet in poor weather.
The MC-130 first flew in 1966 and has operated around the world — an MC-130E landed in the Iranian desert in April 1980 to support Operation Eagle Claw, a failed attempt to rescue Americans being held by Iran.
MC-130Hs were also used to seize an airfield in southern Afghanistan for ground operations there in 2001, and in 2003, an MC-130H was the first US aircraft to land at Baghdad International Airport. As of the beginning of 2016, the Air Force has 18 MC-130Hs.
An LC-130 Hercules.
(US Air Force photo)
LC-130H — ,774
The Air Force has a lot of cargo planes, so you have a lot of options. But what if you need to go to Antarctica? Well then you’ll need the LC-130H, the polar version of the C-130.
The US is the only operator of ski-equipped LC-130s, which the 109th Air Wing describes as the “backbone” of US transport within Antarctica, where it supports an array of scientific endeavors, and as a provider of transportation between McMurdo Station and New Zealand.
(US Air Force photo by Josh Plueger)
OC-135B — ,435
Night or day, austere or hospitable, ice or solid ground, the Air Force’s airlift fleet can do it all.
But what if you need to conduct an unarmed observation flight over territory belonging to one of the signatories of the 1992 Open Skies Treaty? That’s where the OC-135B comes in.
A modified version of the WC-135B, its main mission is to take pictures, and it’s outfitted with equipment and systems to support its cameras and camera operators.
That includes one vertical and two oblique KS-87E framing cameras, which are used for low-altitude photography — about 3,000 feet above ground — and one KA-91C panoramic camera, which scans from side to side to give each photo a wide sweep. It’s used for high-altitude photography — roughly 35,000 feet.
As of spring 2014, there were two OC-135Bs in the Air Force inventory.
A T-38 Talon.
(Department of Defense)
T-38C Talon and T-6A Texan — ,156 and 7, respectively
The T-38 Talon is a high-altitude supersonic jet trainer, used for a variety of operations because of its design, ease of maintenance, high performance, and safety record. Air Education and Training Command is its primary user of the T-38, employing it for specialized undergraduate pilot training, preparing pilots to fly F-15s, F-16s, F-22s, A-10s, and B-1Bs.
The T-38 first flew in 1959, and 1,000 of them were delivered between 1961 and 1972. The planes and their components have been modified and upgraded since then, and the Air Force had 546 in usewith the active force as of January 2014.
The T-6A Texan II is also a jet trainer, though it only has one engine and is also used by the Navy.
The first operational T-6A was delivered in May 2000. Joint Primary Pilot Training, the Texan’s main mission, began in October 2001. Production of the aircraft ended in 2010, and the Air Force has 446 of them in use by its active force.
(Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Kristin High)
U-2S Dragon Lady — ,496
Along with the B-52, the U-2 is one of the only Air Force aircraft introduced early in the Cold War that’s still in use.
Despite its age, its prowess is unquestioned. At 70,000 feet, the curvature of the earth gives it a field of vision of about 500 miles. In one mission, it can map all of Iraq.
Built in complete secrecy, the U-2A first flew in August 1955. The spy plane’s early history is marked with two high-profile blemishes — a 1960 shootdown over the USSR, which led to the capture of pilot Gary Francis Powers, and a 1962 shootdown over Cuba, which killed pilot Rudolf Anderson Jr. But it remains in use as one of the US’s premier surveillance aircraft.
All U-2s have been upgraded, adding a new engine that resulted in it being designated the U-2S. Pilots train on one of five two-seat aircraft designated as TU-2S. (The Air Force announced recently that it would change the training process.)
The U-2 is based at Beale Air Force Base in California, but it rotates worldwide. As of September 2015, there were 33 U-2s in use by the active force, including the five trainers and 2 ER-2s in use by NASA.
(US Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Ryan Labadens)
WC-130J — ,472
Not every Air Force aircraft is for combat or transport. The WC-130 Hercules is used by the Air Force Reserve for weather missions, flying into tropical storms, hurricanes, and winter storms to gather data.
The WC-130J is a C-130J reconfigured with palletized weather instruments. At its optimum cruising speed of 300 mph it can stay aloft for almost 18 hours. A typical weather mission can last 11 hours and cover 3,500 miles.
As of mid-2014, only 10 WC-130Js were in use, all of them belonging to the Air Force Reserve. They operate out of Keesler Air Force Base in Mississippi, flown by the 53rd Weather Reconnaissance Squadron — the Hurricane Hunters.
A US Air Force WC-135 Constant Phoenix.
WC-135C/WC-135W Constant Phoenix — ,173
Getting ahold of the Constant Phoenix may be tough. The Air Force has only two of them, and they have a highly specialized mission: collecting particles, gas, and debris in order to detect any nuclear or radioactive events.
Then-Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower commissioned the Constant Phoenix program in September 1947. Two years later, one of the program’s aircraft picked up evidence of the first Soviet nuclear test while flying between Alaska and Japan. Forty years later, the WC-135W helped track radioactive debris from the meltdown of the Chernobyl nuclear reactor in the USSR.
The WC-135s are the only planes in the Air Force inventory conducting air-sampling operations, which are now done in support of the 1963 Limited Nuclear Test Ban Treaty. The treaty prohibits countries from testing nuclear weapons above ground.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
The U.S. military alleges Chief Petty Officer Eddie Gallagher, a Navy SEAL from California-based SEAL Team 7, murdered a teenage ISIS detainee and then posed with the corpse during a re-enlistment ceremony. NCIS investigators are also looking into allegations the SEAL killed civilians with a sniper rifle and threatened to intimidate other SEALs who would testify against him.
Gallagher proclaimed his innocence immediately after his 2017 arrest, one made while he was receiving treatment for traumatic brain injury at Camp Pendleton. Ever since, it is alleged that the SEAL has been held in inhumane conditions at the Navy’s Consolidated Brig Miramar.
Not anymore, by order of the Commander-In-Chief.
Gallagher’s platoon leader, Lt. Jacob X. “Jake” Portier, is also being prosecuted for his role in trying to cover up the alleged incidents. Unlike Gallagher, Portier is not under arrest or otherwise confined. California and federal legislators want Gallagher to also be released while awaiting trial, not languishing in Miramar with “sex offenders, rapists, and pedophiles.” The Naval Consolidated Brig Miramar is located some 10 miles north of San Diego and houses the Navy’s Sex Offender Treatment Program.
“(Gallagher) risked his life serving abroad to protect the rights of all of us here at home,” North Carolina Rep. Ralph Norman, said at a rally. “He had not one deployment, not two deployments, but eight deployments … We urge this be fixed In light of his bravery, his patriotism and his rights as an American citizen.”
Chief Gallagher after his 2017 arrest.
Some 40 members of Congress asked the Navy to “analyze whether a less severe form of restraint would be appropriate” for Gallagher instead of the usual pre-trial confinement. Those members of Congress included former Navy SEALs, Marine Corps veterans, and others from both sides of the political aisle. Representative Norman spoke to President Trump personally about the matter.
“To confine any service member for that duration of time, regardless of the authority to do so, sends a chilling message to those who fight for our freedoms,” the lawmakers said. Gallagher’s family has already publicly thanked President Trump for his intervention.