This is the last tank airborne units jumped into combat - We Are The Mighty
WATCH

This is the last tank airborne units jumped into combat

Airborne forces face a problem whenever they have to jump behind enemy lines — whether it’s to seize an enemy airfield or to take and hold territory.


The paratroopers can’t bring their own armor support, because America doesn’t currently have an airborne-certified tank or large armored vehicle. (The Stryker and the Light Armored Vehicle have undergone successful airdrop tests, but neither has been certified).

But it wasn’t always this way. During the Cold War, Airborne forces relied on the M551 Sheridan, an Airborne-capable light tank first fielded in 1969.

This is the last tank airborne units jumped into combat

The M551 Sheridan tank was a 16-ton tank made primarily of aluminum and employed by airborne forces. (Photo: U.S. Army)

The Sheridan was a replacement for the World War II-era Mk. VII Tetrarch tank and the M22 Locust Airborne tank. The Tetrarch was a British glider-capable light tank and the M22 was an American tank custom-built for glider insertion.

The M551, unlike its predecessors, was airdrop-capable, meaning it could be inserted using parachutes instead of gliders. The tank was also used with the Low-Altitude Parachute Extraction System, an airdrop system that allowed the U.S. to drop the tanks from a few feet to a few dozen feet off the ground.

This is the last tank airborne units jumped into combat

An M551 Sheridan is pulled from the back of a C-130 by the Low-Altitude Parachute Extraction System. (Photo: U.S. Air Force)

The Sheridan was crewed by four people and weighed 16 tons, light enough that it could actually swim through the water. It was powered by a 300-hp diesel engine and could hit approximately 45 mph. It could travel 373 miles between fill-ups.

The tank used an experimental 152mm gun that could fire missiles or tank rounds. Even its tank rounds were experimental, though — they used a combustible casing instead of the standard brass casings.

This is the last tank airborne units jumped into combat

The M551 Sheridan tank firing a Shillelagh missile. (Photo: U.S. Army)

The Sheridan served well in Vietnam and Panama. During Operation Just Cause, it was even airdropped into combat, allowing paratroopers to bring their own fire support to the battlefield.

The tank’s main gun could inflict serious damage at distances of up to 2,000 feet, allowing it to punch out enemy bunkers from outside the range of many enemy guns.

Unfortunately, the light armor of the Sheridan posed serious issues. Some Sheridans were pierced by enemy infantry’s heavy machine guns, meaning crews had to be careful even when there was no enemy armor or anti-armor on the field. Worse, the main gun started to develop a reputation as being unreliable.

Firing the main gun knocked out the electronics for the longer-range missile, meaning that a tank firing on bunkers or enemy armor at close range would usually lose their ability to punch targets at long range. And there was no way to avoid this issue as the Shillelagh missile couldn’t hit targets at less than 2,400 feet.

The only way for an M551 to punch at close range was to give up its capability at long ranges.

By 1980, most cavalry units were moving to the M60 Patton Main Battle Tank, which was actually introduced before the Sheridan. The Patton featured heavier armor, more power, and a more reliable gun. It had also just been upgraded with new “Reliability Improved Selected Equipment,” or “RISE.”

According to an Army history pamphlet, one cavalryman told the Stars and Stripes, “We can get the job done with the Sheridan, but most cavalrymen would rather have the tank.”

The airborne forces would keep the Sheridan through 1996, partially because they had no other options. A number of potential replacements were canceled and modern airborne forces just make do without true armored support.

The Army is, once again, looking at new light tanks or heavy-armored vehicles to support paratroopers. The new solution could be another custom-built tank, like the Sheridan. But as of summer 2016, its specifications were up in the air. It just has to be capable of an airdrop, and it has to get the job done.

WATCH

Why the pilot of the Enola Gay needed a tire gauge and a tape measure to keep his plane in the air

The B-29 Superfortress was arguably the most advanced bomber to fly in World War II. While two of them, the Enola Gay and Bock’s Car, are the only planes to ever use an atomic bomb in anger, much of a B-29 pilot’s work was not glamorous at all.


It was downright tedious in some ways. So tedious in fact, the pilot of the Enola Gay had a tape measure and a tire-pressure gauge to check the spacing on various components and to make sure the plane’s tires were pumped up.

Yeah, the aircraft commander had to do that grunt work!

 

This is the last tank airborne units jumped into combat
Photo by US Army Air Forces Birdsall, Stephen via Wikimedia Commons

The B-29 was a complex aircraft — an inevitable consequence of its advanced technology. In fact, a training film for B-29 pilots focuses less on the airborne part of the flying and more on the ground checks needed and the pre-flight checklist.

Aviation historian Joe Baugher noted that the B-29A that was the mainstay of the World War II bombing campaign against Japan featured four remote-controlled turrets, each with two .50-caliber machine guns. The tail turret had the two .50-caliber machine guns, but also a 20mm cannon.

As raunchy comic Andrew Dice Clay would put it, “There’s a Sunday surprise!”

This is the last tank airborne units jumped into combat
Fifi, one of only two flying Boeing B-29 Superfortresses. (Photo by Ilikerio via Wikimedia Commons)

The B-29 could also carry up to 20,000 pounds of bombs, and it had a top speed of 357 miles per hour. The famed Mitsubishi A6M Zero, by comparison, had a top speed of 322 miles per hour. A total of 3,970 B-29s were produced, and each had an 11-man crew.

The training film below about flying the B-29 shows all the work that went into preparing to take off.

popular

This is one of the deadliest kamikaze attacks caught on film

Japanese kamikaze pilots commonly struck fear in the hearts of allied troops as they conducted choreographed nose-dives right into U.S. ships during World War II’s Pacific fight.


Although the act proved costly for both sides, the Japanese were determined to take out as many Americans as they could in their quest for victory.

This is the last tank airborne units jumped into combat
Kamikaze pilots pose together in front of a zero fighter plane before taking off from the Imperial Army airstrip on  Nov. 8, 1944.

Related: This is actual footage of the Japanese surrender aboard the USS Missouri

Reportedly, the first kamikaze operation of WWII occurred during the Battle of the Leyte Gulf in the Philippines.

After a mission had been planned out, the pilots of the Japanese “Special Attack Corps” received a slip of paper with three options: to volunteer out of a strong desire, to simply volunteer, or to decline.

This is the last tank airborne units jumped into combat
A Japanese kamikaze pilot in a damaged single-engine bomber, moments before striking the U.S. Aircraft Carrier USS Essex off the Philippine Islands on Nov. 25, 1944.

Although the majority of the fighter pilots completed their final mission, a few were noted to divert and change their course at the last second while others suffered engine malfunctions causing them to abort.

On Dec. 28, 1944, while transporting supplies to Mindoro, Philippines, a trained kamikaze pilot dodged incoming alled fire and flew directly into the USS John Burke, destroying the instantly.

The plane struck the the vessel’s ammunition storage area causing a monstrous secondary blast that killed all the troops aboard.

Also Read: Rarely seen footage from the Battle of the Bulge

By the end of January 1945, at least 47 allied vessels were sunk by Japanese kamikaze pilots — and other 300 were damaged.

Check out the video below to see how an unsure cameraman from a nearby ship accidentally caught one of the deadliest kamikaze missions and recorded it on film.

andrew hayes, YouTube
WATCH

USS New York – the ship built with steel from the World Trade Center

Shortly after the Sep. 11 terrorist attacks, New York Gov. George E. Pataki wrote a letter to the Navy requesting to bestow the name “New York” on a warship in honor of the victims.


During the naming ceremony aboard the Intrepid Sea-Air-Space Museum in Manhattan, Pataki said, “USS New York will ensure that all New Yorkers and the world will never forget the evil attacks of September 11, and the courage and compassion New Yorkers showed in response to terror,” according to the Navy.

Read more about the USS New York, the ship built with steel from the World Trade Center here.

Articles

Attack helicopter lands and asks for directions

Well, that’s something you don’t see everyday. A group of truckers in Kazakhstan were surprised when an Mi-8 helicopter with attached rocket pods landed on the road, halting traffic.


The drivers waited as one of the pilots climbed out and asked a quick question before waving, running back to the bird, and taking off again.

According to RT, the drivers are getting a good laugh on the radios after they realize what has happened:
“They were lost,” says a voice on the convoy radio, failing to suppress his laughter. “He came to ask which way to Aktobe.”

“How can you get lost in the steppe? How the hell can you get lost in the steppe?” says another incredulous voice.

According to the Kazakhstan Ministry of Defense, the pilots were on a planned visual-orienteering mission to test their navigation skills, including human survey. Since the pilots made it back after asking for directions, their mission was a success.

Even if it made them a bit of a joke between the truck drivers.

(H/T The Aviationist)

popular

This Medal of Honor recipient blocked out being paralyzed to finish the mission

Drafted into the Army in March of 1968, George Lang graduated boot camp and went right into advanced infantry training before heading off to the jungles of Vietnam.


In February of 1969, Lang was scheduled to go on leave when an intelligence officer got word of enemy movement closing in.

Lang had just spit-shined his boots when the company first sergeant updated him on his new mission. Lang put his leave on hold and geared up without hesitation. He and his squad loaded up on “tangos” (boats) and proceeded down the river toward their objective.

Related: 6 questions you asked yourself after your first firefight

This is the last tank airborne units jumped into combat

Lang and his men maneuvered down the canal toward Kien Hoa Province in South Vietnam, where they eventually dismounted the “tangos” and proceeded inland on foot.

After only 50-meters of patrolling, the anxious squad came in contact with a series of bunkers, linked together by communication wires.

Taking point, Lang was first to spot five armed men guarding the area — he quickly engaged. After expelling a full magazine and getting hit by enemy artillery, the squad came under attack by an additional, but unexpected force — red ants.

This is the last tank airborne units jumped into combat
The red ant. (Image by Wikipedia Commons)

The squad dashed toward a shallow pond while under fire to wash off the six-legged attackers. Cleaned off and ready to go, the soldiers located a blood trail and followed it to find the bodies of the VC troops they previously engaged.

Suddenly, another barrage of incoming fire opened up from a nearby bunker, killing a handful of Americans. Lang sprinted toward the dug-in position and took it out with his rifle and a few hand grenades.

Also Read: 3 key differences between Recon Marines and Marine Raiders

Lang destroyed a total of three enemy bunkers, which were also full of weapons. Upon returning to his squad, a deadly rocket detonated nearby, shooting hot shrapnel into Lang’s back, damaging his spinal cord.

Unable to move his legs and suffering unbelievable pain, Lang continued to direct his men. After several hours of coordinating troop movement and medical evacuations, Lang was finally removed from the battlefield and brought to safety for treatment.

On March 2, 1971, George Lang was awarded the Medal of Honor from former President Richard Nixon.

Check out the Medal of Honor Book‘s video below to hear this incredible story from the legend himself.

(Medal of Honor Book | YouTube)
WATCH

See what these vets say are their best and worst military habits

In this latest episode of Vets Get Real, WATM talks to a group of former servicemembers about all the military habits they’ve brought back to civilian life — the good, the bad, and the questionable.


Be sure to keep an eye out for other episodes of Vets Get Real where WATM hosts discussions with vets on topics ranging from relationships to recruiters.

Editor’s note: If you have questions that you’d like to see Vets Get Real about, please leave a comment below.

WATCH

Watch the Coast Guard bust the biggest Narco-Sub ever

Narco-subs, aka drug subs, aka Bigfoot submarines, are custom-made submarines used by cartels in Central and South America to smuggle drugs (usually cocaine) from Colombia to Mexico and/or the United States. For more than twenty years the U.S. Coast Guard has been on the watch for these kinds of smuggling techniques. The first time they found one, they dubbed it Bigfoot, because before they actually found one, they had only heard rumors of their existence.


 

This is the last tank airborne units jumped into combat
A narco-sub under construction in Ecuador

 

Sometimes the subs are self-propelled, sometimes, they’re dragged by a surface ship. Sometimes the subs are fully submersible, sometimes, they aren’t. This all depends on the level of expertise in their creation. The subs can typically carry tons of illegal cargo. Before subs, fishing vessels and speed boats were the main enemy in the war on shipping, but they can be seen on radar and the Coast Guard developed a special kind of helicopter to catch the fast boats. Much of cocaine moved that way was intercepted.

In July 2015, the Coast Guard caught a semi-submersible running just below the waterline.

 

In the video, the Coast Guard Cutter Stratton crew seizes bales of coke from a self-propelled semi-submersible submarine caught 200 miles off the coast of Mexico, July 19, 2015. They captured more than six tons of drugs from the 40-foot ship, worth an estimated $181 million. Another two tons of cocaine sank with the homemade sub.

MIGHTY BRANDED

Denver Broncos star DeMarcus Ware surprised four servicemembers with a Thanksgiving meal

Each year, thousands of civilians host military for meals in their homes as thanks for their many sacrifices, including missing their family at holidays.


For “NFL Salute to Service,” USAA teamed up with Denver Broncos star DeMarcus Ware for a surprise home-cooked Thanksgiving meal for military members from Fort Carson (CO) in honor of their service. Watch as this NFL star hosts these unsuspecting military for a surprise home-cooked meal that they’ll never forget.

The experience was hosted by USAA, the Official Military Appreciation Sponsor of the NFL as part of its commitment to authentically honor military through “Salute to Service.”

Articles

French special forces emerge from the shadows in this stunning video

France has been looking for some new recruits for its Commandement des Opérations Spéciales, and it’s turning to YouTube to drum up some interest.


This is the last tank airborne units jumped into combat
Members of France’s special forces fire their HK416 rifles. (Youtube screenshot)

According to a report by the London Daily Mail, the video is titled, “A very special video” (gee, did they draw their inspiration from promos for the TV show “Blossom” when they were talking titles?), and shows French commandos in the type of scenes you’d see in a Hollywood blockbuster.

This includes insertions by parachute, minisub, and with scuba gear.

This is the last tank airborne units jumped into combat
A Eurocopter Tigre escorts a transport helicopter. (Youtube Screenshot)

The French Commandement des Opérations Spéciales was founded in 1992 to control the special operations forces across the entire French military. This includes the 1st Régiment de Parachutistes d’Infanterie de Marine and the 13th Régiment de Dragons Parachutistes from the French army, the Force Maritime des Fusiliers Marins et Commandos from the French navy, and the Division des Opérations Spéciales from the French air force.

The famous Groupe d’intervention de la Gendarmerie Nationale — known for a number of hostage rescues and counter-terrorism missions — can be called on by the COS for reinforcement, along with other units across all the French armed forces.

This is the last tank airborne units jumped into combat
A C-160 Transall comes in for a landing. (Youtube Screenshot)

One notable piece of gear that is featured in the video is the Transall C-160, a Franco-German twin-engine cargo plane that can hold up to 88 paratroopers and which has a top speed of 368 miles per hour and a range of 1,151 miles. France had 75 of these planes in service.

Also seen are helicopters like the AC532 Cougar, the AS332 Super Puma, and the AS330 Puma, Tigre gunships, and assault rifles like the HK416 and FAMAS. You can see the entire trailer below.

Do Not Sell My Personal Information