How an American billionaire found an epic warship on the ocean floor - We Are The Mighty
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How an American billionaire found an epic warship on the ocean floor

In April of last year — for the third time in two months — Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen has discovered a major American warship lost during World War II. The Brooklyn-class light cruiser USS Helena (CL 50) was discovered nearly 75 years after she was sunk during the Battle of the Kula Gulf. According to the announcement, USS Helena lies just over 2,800 feet below the surface of the ocean near the island of Vella Lavella.


How an American billionaire found an epic warship on the ocean floor

USS Helena (CL 50) firing her main guns during the Battle of Kula Gulf. The flashes proved to be an excellent aimpoint for Japanese torpedoes.

(U.S. Navy photo)

In 1943, Helena, her sister ships (USS Honolulu (CL 48) and USS St. Louis (CL 49)), and four destroyers attempted to intercept ten Japanese destroyers. The Americans quickly eliminated one of the Japanese vessels, but Helena‘s guns didn’t have flashless powder, making her a perfect target in the night sky for Type 93 Long Land torpedoes.

How an American billionaire found an epic warship on the ocean floor

Francis X. McInerney on board the Baltimore-class heavy cruiser USS Helena (CA 75) in 1949. McInerney received the Legion of Merit for the rescue of 165 crewmen from the light cruiser USS Helena that had been sunk in 1943.

(U.S. Navy photo)

Three torpedoes hit the Helena and she quickly sank. Meanwhile, the Americans fatally crippled a second Japanese destroyer and damaged two more. The story doesn’t end there.

Most of the Helena‘s crew managed to escape the sinking vessel. Unlike the commander of the USS Juneau (the wreckage of which was discovered by Paul Allen just a month before finding Helena), Captain Gilbert C. Hoover insisted on rescuing any and all surviving crew. Under the command of Captain Francis X. McInerney, the destroyers USS Nicholas (DD 449) and USS Radford (DD 446) turned around to rescue survivors. In the midst of the rescue efforts, two Japanese destroyers came back. McInerney turned to fight, telling the Helena survivors, “Hang on! We’ll be back for you!”

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It would take 11 days, but McInerney would eventually fulfill that promise. Eventually, over 700 survivors from the cruiser would be rescued. For his actions, McInerney he received the Navy Cross, the Silver Star, and the Legion of Merit. The Oliver Hazard Perry-class frigate USS McInerney (FFG 8) was named in his honor.

See video of once-lost USS Helena below!

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4 epic rivalries between military commanders once on the same side

Throughout military history, it was common for generals to only know of each other by reputation or by the deeds of their troops.


But when lines are drawn, ideologies change, and another war is fought for another reason, you may find yourself fighting against your former allies and those old interpersonal rivalries can get ugly fast. It takes a darker turn when both sides of that rivalry have an army ready to kill and die at their command.

Let’s take a look at some of history’s greatest rivalries between former brothers-in-arms.

1. George Washington and Benedict Arnold — Revolutionary War

One man would later be known as the “Father of America” while the other would become synonymous “traitor.” Both Washington and Arnold were heroes of the American Revolution early on and fought many battles together.

This was until Arnold switched allegiances back to the crown. His reasons for turning his back on America are still debated by historians, but the accepted reasons include money, disillusionment, and personal vendettas against the Continental Congress.

 

How an American billionaire found an epic warship on the ocean floor
Their relationship is spot-on in AMC’s show, Turn (Image via AMC)

 

2. Ulysses S. Grant and Robert E. Lee — Siege of Veracruz

Both Generals would earn historical prestige leading their respective armies against each other during the American Civil War, but they weren’t always enemies. In fact, at the beginning of the Civil War, Lee was offered command of the U.S. Army before resigning his commission. Eight days later, he accepted command of Confederate troops in Virginia.

Back in the Mexican-American War, however, both men fought side-by-side as then-Lieutenant Colonel Lee led troops in Scott’s March on Mexico City with a young then-First Lieutenant Grant. Both Lee and Grant marched under the command of then-General Zachary Taylor. In fact, the Siege of Veracruz was full of names that would eventually become essential pieces of the Civil War, including future Generals Meade, “Stonewall” Jackson, and Longstreet.

 

How an American billionaire found an epic warship on the ocean floor
Appomattox, where two old friends caught up over a nice surrendering. (Image via Fine Art America)

 

3. Charles de Gaulle and Phillipe Petain — Battle of Verdun

Petain rose in rank to eventually become Marshal of France and, later, Prime Minister of the Nazi puppet state, Vichy France. He took strong and direct opposition to Charles de Gaulle’s revolutionary Free France. After the fall of the Nazi Regime, Petain was spared the gallows because of his actions as “The Lion of Verdun” and hero of France. France’s new leader, Charles de Gaulle, refused to execute the disgraced former-Marshal.

Petain’s military mind helped save France in WWI at the Battle of Verdun. One of the most heroic battles and early turning point of Verdun took place when the Germans were contained at Douaumont and surrounded by 90,000 men and 21,000 tons of ammunition. There stood de Gaulle, the then-Captain in the French 33rd Infantry Regiment, leading Petain’s charge. Charles de Gaulle was wounded and captured in that battle.

 

How an American billionaire found an epic warship on the ocean floor
Like every stereotypical Frenchman, these military minds both sported stylish mustaches. (Image via Les Observateurs)

 

4. Mao Zedong and Chiang Kai-shek — Second Sino-Japanese War

While Mao Zedong is etched in history as the Chairman of the People’s Republic of China, his main rival was Chiang Kai-shek, the Chairman of the National Government of China (or, as it’s more commonly known in America, Taiwan). To briefly summarize a long, storied conflict, both of these nations claim to be China. As the Communist Revolution swept over the mainland during the Chinese Civil War, the capitalists fled to Formosa (the island of Taiwan), but neither ceded statehood.

Just like the nations they led, Mao and Chiang have a history that oscillates between cooperation and opposition. First, they supported each other during the Northern Expedition. Then, they went at each other’s throats during the Chinese Civil War. Then, during the Second Sino-Japanese War, when Axis-aligned Japan invaded a Soviet- and American-backed China, they allied again.

 

How an American billionaire found an epic warship on the ocean floor

MIGHTY HISTORY

A US civilian tried to get revenge in Afghanistan with a sword

Gary Brooks Faulkner, a construction worker from Colorado, was detained by police with a pistol and a sword. Except for the sword, this would not be unusual in Colorado. But he wasn’t in Colorado. He was in Pakistan, and he was there to avenge the 9/11 terrorist attacks by taking a sword to the world’s most wanted man.


When the U.S. Army adopted the motto “Army of One,” a lot of soldiers laughed. But one American civilian seemed to have taken it to heart. He wasn’t ashamed of his self-imposed mission. He was proud of it. Even when he was arrested in the Chitral District of Pakistan while trying to cross into Afghanistan, he didn’t hide it.

“He told the investigating officer he was going to Afghanistan to get Osama. At first we thought he was mentally deranged,” said Muhammad Jaffar Khan, the Chitral police chief. But the gun-toting, sword-wielding Californian was totally serious. He even brought along night vision goggles. The American was even under armed guard while staying in Pakistan under the guise of being an everyday tourist. One night, he slipped away from his guard and made a run for the border.

How an American billionaire found an epic warship on the ocean floor

Faulkner was arrested in Pakistan back in 2010 and had no idea – like the rest of the world – that Osama bin Laden wasn’t even in Afghanistan at the time. Bin Laden’s compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan was just a ten-hour drive from the Kalash Valley, where Faulkner was staying. There wasn’t even a border to cross or policemen to arrest him or take away his samurai sword.

But the American had no idea where he was going. He told police he brought the Bible along with him and that God would guide him to where Osama bin Laden was hiding, and allow him America’s vengeance. Or at least allow him to capture the world’s most wanted terrorist. But of course, we all know how OBL’s story ends.

Faulkner’s ends with a Nic Cage movie.

Gary Brooks Faulkner, however, was turned over to the U.S. State Department in Pakistan and repatriated home to Colorado, where he was a guest on various talk shows, including The View and The Late Show with David Letterman, before going back to a regular life of managing his brother’s apartment complex. Then one day, a tenant who was being evicted tried to break into his apartment with three of her friends. She tried to intimidate a man who hunted Osama bin Laden with a sword.

He fired a shot at his assailants, but that shot brought the police, who confiscated his weapons and discovered he was a convicted felon. That shot eventually landed Faulkner in jail.

MIGHTY HISTORY

This PJ is the most decorated enlisted airman in history

Even Navy SEALs and Army Special Forces need heroes at times — those times when the fighting gets too thick and there are wounded that need attention on the ground. Those heroes are the Air Force’s Pararescue Jumpers; highly-trained airmen who will come retrieve anyone who needs it, almost anywhere, and in nearly any situation.

Just earning the title of what the Air Force affectionately calls a “PJ” is a grueling task. Dubbed “Superman School,” Pararescue training takes two years and has a dropout rate of around 80 percent. And PJs put all of this rigorous training to use in their everyday duties, when it matters the most. It’s not exaggeration to say they are among the most decorated airmen in the Air Force — and none of them are more decorated than Duane Hackney.


Over the course of his career, Hackney stacked on an Air Force Cross, a Silver Star, four distinguished flying crosses (with combat V), two Purple Hearts, and 18 Air Medals, just to name a few highlights of the more-than-70 decorations he amassed in his life.

His achievements made him the most decorated airman in Air Force history.

How an American billionaire found an epic warship on the ocean floor

Like the rest of his fellow Pararescue Jumpers, he was in the right place at the right time to earn those accolades. Unfortunately, “right place at the right time” for a PJ means “terrible time to be anywhere in the area” for everyone else. Jumping into the dense jungles of North Vietnam to recover downed pilots and special operators was incredibly dangerous work.

With the rest of the allied ground forces in South Vietnam, once lowered into the jungles, PJs were truly on their own down there.

How an American billionaire found an epic warship on the ocean floor

Duane Hackney had no illusions about the dangers he faced when on a mission. The Michigan native joined the Air Force specifically to become a Pararescueman — and the NVA made sure Duane and his fellow PJs had their work cut out for them. The North Vietnamese air defenses were good — very good. Despite the massive air campaigns launched over Vietnam, the U.S. couldn’t always count on complete air superiority. Massive surface-to-air missile complexes and well-trained NVA pilots flying the latest Soviet fighters ensured plenty of work for the Air Force. Whenever a pilot went down, they sent the PJs to find them

Duane Hackney went on more than 200 search-and-rescue missions in just under four years in Vietnam. He lost track of how many times he went into those jungles or how many times the enemy opened up a deadly barrage as he went. It was part of the job, and it was a job Hackney did extremely well.

It wasn’t easy. Just days into his first tour in Vietnam, Hackney took a .30-caliber slug to the leg. He had another PJ remove it and treat the wound rather than allow himself be medically evacuated out of the country. He was in five helicopters as they were shot down over North Vietnam, putting himself and those aircrews in the same risk as the pilots they were sent to rescue — captured troops could look forward to a quick death or a long stay in the “Hanoi Hilton.”

On one mission in February, 1967, Hackney jumped into a dense area of North Vietnam, in the middle of a massed enemy force. He extracted a downed pilot and made it back to his HH-3E Jolly Green Giant Helicopter. As they left, the NVA tore into the helo with 37mm flak fire. Hackney secured his parachute to the downed pilot and he went to grab another parachute. The rest of the people aboard the helicopter would be killed in the explosion that shot Hackney out the side door.

How an American billionaire found an epic warship on the ocean floor

Hackney managed to grab a chute before being fired out the side. He deployed it as he hit the trees below, fell another 80 feet, and landed on a ledge in a crevasse. The NVA troops above him were jumping over the crevasse, looking for him. Hackney managed to make it back to the wreckage of the helicopter to look for survivors. Finding none, he signaled to be picked up himself.

That incident over the Mu Gia Pass earned Hackney the Air Force Cross. At the time, he was the youngest man to receive the award and the only living recipient of it. But Hackney didn’t stop there. Despite that close call, he stayed in Vietnam for another three years — as a volunteer for his entire stay in country.

He stayed in the Air Force until his retirement as Chief Master Sergeant Hackney in 1991.

MIGHTY HISTORY

That time an RAF pilot stole a plane in grand protest

Flight Lieutenant Alan Pollock was an enthusiastic but mischievous member of the Royal Air Force in 1968 when he found out that the British Parliament, composed at the time of members who were cutting military spending, had slashed the plans for a 50th Anniversary Celebration of the Royal Air Force. Among the list of events cut were flybys by RAF pilots. So, Pollock stole a plane and conducted his own flybys of Parliament and other locations on the day of celebrations anyway.


RAF Hunter Pilot Goes Rogue over London 1968

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The buildup to the dramatic day had started innocuously enough. British pilots had been dropping leaflets and toilet paper rolls on each other for a while, partially to keep up training and partially to break the monotony of training with constrained budgets.

But the pilots taking part in these little pranks were also busy griping about their limited flight hours and the growing obsolescence of their equipment. Britain was investing in new missile technology that was cheaper than planes and pilots but left, in the pilots’ opinion, a gap in defenses. One plane after another was retired from service with no replacement.

The anxious pilots were always on the lookout for further cuts to their budgets and standing, and they learned that the 50th celebration of the Royal Air Force would no longer feature flights of most aircraft. Most of the pilots grumbled a little, but then got right back to work.

How an American billionaire found an epic warship on the ocean floor

Flt. Lt. Alan Pollock was in a Hawker Hunter when he decided to take a flight down the River Thames and, eventually, through Tower Bridge.

(Airwolfhound, CC BY-SA 3.0)

Pollock, on the other hand, was ensnared by a devious idea. What if he just did a few low-level flights through London anyway? In a series of decisions that he would later blame at least partially on the dual cold medicines he was taking at the time, he grabbed a map from another aviator and sketched a tentative plan for a flight through London.

He didn’t think it would really come to anything, though. He was scheduled to fly on April 5, 1968, the celebration date of the 50th anniversary (which actually occurred on April 1). Bad weather at the destination airfield made the flight questionable until the last moment. While the men waited for the weather decision, Pollock got in a small argument with a superior and found himself feeling more maverick than normal.

When the men finally took off, Pollock was number four in a flight and watched a plane ahead of him peel off to go back past the departure airfield, likely to give them a flyby salute to celebrate the anniversary. Pollock was supposed to continue with the rest to their home field, but he saw the rest of the planes banking toward home and figured, screw it, he was going to London.

How an American billionaire found an epic warship on the ocean floor

The Tower Bridge in London, the same bridge that Alan Pollock flew through in 1968 during a protest.

(Diliff, CC BY-SA 3.0)

He dropped audio connection with the other pilots and signaled that his comms were messing up and he’d make his own way home. Instead, he went to the River Thames and started flying over the bridges through London.

He flew past Westminster Abbey and other landmarks in his RAF Hawker Hunter and then turned to the Houses of Parliament and did three quick passes over it. Ironically, Parliament was discussing new rules for noise abatement as Pollock surged power to his engines to make the tight turns over the building.

He turned back out over the Thames and passed over a few more bridges until he reached Tower Bridge, a famous landmark with a lower span for vehicles and a higher one for pedestrians. The opening intrigued him, and he found himself flying right through the gap in the middle of the bridge.

When he made it home and landed, his command didn’t know what to do with him, and Pollock suggested they arrest him. They did so, but Parliament didn’t want a large fuss that would call more attention to the funding cuts Pollock was reacting to with his protests.

So, instead of court-martialing him, the Royal Air Force trumped up his medical issues and discharged him for that, ending his over 10-year career. Pollock described his career in an extended series of interviews with the Imperial War Museum from 2006 to 2009. The Thames River Run was described in detail in segment 24 of 25.

MIGHTY HISTORY

Why the Emu War wasn’t as silly as folks make it out to be

It’s always brought up as a fun fact that, at one point in history, Australia sent troops on an “all-out” assault against emus that were destroying the Western Australian Outback. A while later, it was decided that the humans wouldn’t win and the history books marked a big ‘L’ for the Aussies in the Great Emu War of 1932.

When it’s put like that, it’s funny and makes a great fun fact that can be brought up whenever Australia’s military might is in question. But the thing is, Australia’s military kicks ass — and saying, “Australia lost a war against a bunch of flightless birds,” while sort of true, doesn’t really do what actually happened justice.


How an American billionaire found an epic warship on the ocean floor

If there’s anyone who could actually be blamed for the perceived failure of the Great Emu War, it’s this guy, Sir George Pearce. The man who decided to set up the Australian Army for a lifetime of jokes.

The Australian government didn’t just decide to go on a mass Emu-killing spree out of the blue. It was in response to the destruction of farms caused by emus in their search for food and water. After WWI, Australia rewarded its returning veterans with farmland to call their own. The only stipulation was that this farmland was basically barren Outback that was plagued with native animals. The terrible soil didn’t leave farmers with many options in terms of crops, but wheat grew fairly well given the conditions. Unfortunately, wheat also attracted emus.

Of the nearly 5000 veterans who participated in the program, very few were able to grow crops without having them destroyed by hungry birds. Even fewer could afford to build fences to keep the emus at bay. The government, not willing to address the problem of terrible land quality, decided that the emu was entirely at fault for crops not growing.

It was declared by Western Australian Senator, Sir George Pearce, that veterans and troops should tackle the problem head-on and hunt the birds.

How an American billionaire found an epic warship on the ocean floor

Good luck fighting an enemy too stupid to know it’s been shot four times with only enough ammo to take out half the population even if your aim is perfect.

The biggest misconception about the Emu War is that it was a massive assault staged by the Australian military. It wasn’t. It was literally just three men, a pick-up truck, two Lewis machine guns, and 10,000 rounds. There were veteran farmers who also took up arms, but only Major G.P.W. Meredith and his two gunners were officially at war.

That’s three men versus 20,000 massive birds.

Emus aren’t just large turkeys. They stand at an average height of six feet four inches, can run up to 31 mph, have the strongest legs of any animal, and can easily shred apart metal fences with their talons. As the three Aussie hunters found out, emus can take roughly five bullets before realizing they’ve been shot and ten rounds before they finally die.

Emus naturally flock in hordes of hundreds, which means that any time the hunters unloaded into the horde, the birds would quickly disperse into smaller mobs that scattered in different directions. With only so many guns, the hunters could only focus on those smaller mobs while the rest took off running.

How an American billionaire found an epic warship on the ocean floor

If they aren’t in mobs, you’ll be searching for hours just to find one.

In that respect, the hunters were technically efficient. They managed to gun down a confirmed 986 emus over the span of a few weeks. Of the 9,900 rounds they used, they averaged out about one kill per ten or so rounds — the estimated number required to kill an emu. The three men also faced constant backlash from the news and local farmers during their hunt.

The media laughed at them for the absurdity of it all and dubbed it the “Great Emu War” to make light of the situation. It give readers a moment of levity during the otherwise-grim Great Depression. While the general population thought it was silly to send any troops after birds, the farmers were upset that the government sent only three guys to go solve a problem spanning an Australian state that’s twice the size of Alaska.

The hunters tried to give up several times because they knew how pointless it was — but each time, they were pushed back into hunting emus. Eventually, they gave up on December 9th, 1932, and everyone laughed at the three men for failing to do the impossible.

The only logical way to deal with the emus was what happened eventually. The government placed a bounty on the emus and let the farmers handle it — which they did very well. Over time, the farmers would collect a bounty on over 57,000 emus and the farms turned profitable again. It should also be noted that some farmers were smart enough to breed emus and collect a bounty on the birds they’d raised, but that was bound to happen.

All in all, the Aussies would eventually prevail over the emus. It just took more than three guys in a pick-up truck to do it.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

How the 65-year old B-52 Stratofortress just keeps getting better with age

Usually as planes get older, they become less capable. The Boeing B-52 Stratofortress has been a decided exception to that rule.


In fact, as it gets older it get even more deadly.

Part of this venerable bomber’s ascent to a new level of combat capability is new electronics. The short version: The B-52 is becoming “smarter” through the addition of the Combat Network Communication Technology package, or CONECT.

How an American billionaire found an epic warship on the ocean floor
Airmen assigned to the 36th Expeditionary Aircraft Maintenance Squadron load an inert AGM-158 Joint Air-to-Surface Standoff Missile onto a B-52H Stratofortress during a munitions loading exercise July 13, 2016, at Andersen Air Force Base, Guam. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Alexa Ann Henderson)

According to a 2014 Boeing release, CONECT allows a B-52 to use intelligence in real time on moving map displays, the re-targeting of weapons in flight, and also gives the BUFF a state-of-the-art computing network. This makes the B-52 a much more flexible asset, meaning ordnance doesn’t have to be brought back if the target is gone for one reason or another.

The Air Force, though, has also been tinkering with the bomb bays on the 76 B-52s in service to add the ability to carry more weapons, according to a 2014 announcement by the service. This would not be the first time such a modification was done on B-52 bomb bays.

How an American billionaire found an epic warship on the ocean floor
B-52D dropping 500-lb bombs – it was able to carry 84 internally and 24 on the wings. (Image: Wikimedia)

In 1965, the Air Force modified most of the B-52D versions of the Stratofortress to carry a lot of conventional bombs. The modifications increased the number of bombs from 27 to either 84 Mk 82 500-pound bombs or 42 750-pound M117 bombs. These bombers proved effective, first in the bombing missions in support of ground troops, then during Operation Linebacker II.

When the modification program is complete, the B-52H bombers in service will be able to carry a dozen missiles like the AGM-158 Joint Air-to-Surface Standoff Missile on the wing pylons and eight in the bomb bay. In essence, each B-52 will be able to carry 20 weapons, as opposed to 12 — that’s a 66 percent increase in targeting capability.

It means fewer sorties, and less strain on a force that has just turned 65 years old.

How an American billionaire found an epic warship on the ocean floor
Once the modifications are done, imagine this happening 20 times per B-52. (YouTube: Lockheed Martin)

That’s not a bad thing. You can see a video about the upgrades to the B-52 below.

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Why Hitler hated red lipstick

Red lipstick is nothing less than a power move. For centuries, women have worn it to express themselves, and the shades are as varied as their meanings: confidence, sensuality, strength, courage, playfulness, and even rebellion. Dita Von Teese once said that heels and red lipstick will put the god into people.

Maybe that’s exactly what Adolf Hitler was afraid of.


In the early 1900s, American Suffragettes like Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Charlotte Perkins Gilman boldly rocked a red lip in order to shock men. Protestors adopted the beauty statement and filled the streets in rebellion.

“There could not be a more perfect symbol of suffragettes than red lipstick, because it’s not just powerful, it’s female,” said Rachel Felder, author of Red Lipstick: An Ode to a Beauty Icon. Red lipstick had a history of being condemned by men as impolite, sinful, and sexually amoral. The trend gained traction throughout the 1920s, here in the United States and across the Atlantic into Europe, New Zealand, and Australia.

During World War II, the strength of women was finally welcomed and celebrated. As women replaced men in the workforce, their pride and independence were bolstered. Red lipstick grew in popularity as an expression of their confidence. Even Rosie the Riveter sported a bold lip.

According to Fedler, Adolf Hitler “famously hated red lipstick.” Madeleine Marsh, author of Compacts and Cosmetics explained: “The Aryan ideal was a pure, un-scrubbed face. [Lady] visitors to Hitler’s country retreat were actually given a little list of things they must not do: Avoid excessive cosmetics, avoid red lipstick, and on no account ever [were] they to color their nails.”

How an American billionaire found an epic warship on the ocean floor

Allied women wore red lipstick in defiance of Hitler’s restrictions. Cosmetic companies created lipsticks in shades of “Victory Red” and “Montezuma Red” and red lipstick was even mandatory in the dress and appearance of U.S. Army women during the war.

Today, red lipstick is still worn around the world as a symbol of feminine strength and confidence. According to Rachel Weingarten, beauty historian and author of Hello Gorgeous! Beauty Products in America, ’40s-’60s, “Anyone who’s ever dismissed the idea of beauty and makeup as being frivolous doesn’t realize the cultural and sociological impact.”

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Bell 360 Invictus and Sikorsky Raider X selected for the next phase of Future Attack Reconnaissance Aircraft program

The U.S. Army Future Vertical Lift Cross-Functional Team on March 25, 2020 selected the two competitors for the second phase of the Future Attack Reconnaissance Aircraft (FARA) program: the Bell 360 Invictus and the Sikorsky Raider X. As you may already know, FARA is intended to fill the capability gap left by the retirement of the Bell OH-58D Kiowa Warrior with initial fielding of the new helicopter by 2028.


BREAKING NEWS: @USArmy selects @BellFlight and @Sikorsky (@LockheedMartin) to build and test #FARA Competitive Prototypes @armyfutures #FVL #ArmyModernizationpic.twitter.com/dktlAS25Wc

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As noted in the official statement, the program is structured into three phases: preliminary design; detailed design, build, and test; and prototype completion assessment and evaluation for entrance into production phase. The first phase saw the preliminary design of five candidates presented by Bell, Sikorsky, Boeing, AVX Aircraft/L3 Harris and Karem Aircraft. The U.S. Army selected Bell’s and Sikorsky’s proposals after an initial design and risk assessment, granting them contracts for detailed design, build and test of their air vehicle solutions worth respectively $ 700 million and $ 940 million. The two companies will face a final fly-off competition in 2023.

“The Future Attack Reconnaissance Aircraft is the Army’s number one aviation modernization priority and is integral to effectively penetrate and dis-integrate adversaries’ Integrated Air Defense Systems. It will enable combatant commanders with greater tactical, operational and strategic capabilities through significantly increased speed, range, endurance, survivability and lethality”, said Dr. Bruce D. Jette, Assistant Secretary of the Army for Acquisition, Logistics and Technology.

Bell 360 Invictus – Penetrate Defensive Positions

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The Bell 360 Invictus, which we covered in greater detail in a previous article here at The Aviationist, uses a simple design with proven technologies to reduce risk and cost, like its main rotor which is a scaled down version of the articulated five-blade rotor designed for the Bell 525 Relentless, a super-medium-lift twin-engine commercial helicopter for the off-shore market.

One aspect that hit the headlines as soon as the Invictus was unveiled is its streamlined design much comparable to the RAH-66 Comanche. Here’s what this Author wrote about this in that occasion:

Another feature that will help the helicopter reach high speeds is its streamlined profile, internal weapon bays, main rotor aerodynamic shroud, retractable landing gear and a ducted tail rotor, which is also slightly canted. This design is highly reminiscent of the Boeing/Sikorsky RAH-66 Comanche, the stealth armed reconnaissance helicopter designed in the 1980s to replace the OH-6 Cayuse and the OH-58 Kiowa and to designate targets for the AH-64 Apache. The program was canceled in 2004 with only two flying prototypes built.

Stealth, however, is not the reason of the design adopted for the Invictus. “Everything we have done has been focused on how do you keep the lowest drag possible on the aircraft, so we don’t have to add exotic solutions to the aircraft the meet the requirements to get the speeds that you need for the FARA program”, said Flail during the presentation.

The Sikorsky Raider X, on the other hand, features a more complex solution with a coaxial main rotor and a pusher propeller. The Raider X is a scaled-up version of the S-97 Raider, with a side-by-side cockpit to widen the fuselage and increase the payload carried in the internal weapon bays. Speaking about the payload, Lockheed Martin (which acquired Sikorsky in 2015) published a new concept art that shows for the first time the Raider X with its weapon bays open and the turret for the 20 mm cannon in front of the cockpit.

Meet Sikorsky RAIDER X™.

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Recently, Bell and Sikorsky were awarded contracts also in the other Future Vertical Lift program, the Future Long Range Assault Aircraft (FLRAA) that will replace the UH-60 Black Hawk. Like for FARA, the two companies submitted two completely different designs, with Bell proposing the V-280 Valor tiltrotor and Sikorsky (in partnership with Boeing) proposing the SB1 coaxial compound helicopter. This time there were no additional competitors, so Bell and Sikorsky received two-years contracts to refine their already flying prototypes and produce conceptual designs, requirements feasibility, and trade studies for a final, ready to combat, aircraft proposal.

This article originally appeared on The Aviationist. Follow @theaviationist on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Americas don’t like Russia’s nuclear bomber deployment

The Organization of American States (OAS) has expressed the “greatest concern” about the arrival of nuclear-capable Russian aircraft in Venezuela.

In a statement released on Dec. 12, 2018, the OAS General Secretariat said it “takes note with the greatest concern of the news coming from Venezuela about the possibility that aircraft capable of using nuclear weapons from Russia are in its territory.”


It said the presence of the foreign military mission violates the Venezuelan Constitution “because it has not been authorized by the National Assembly, as required [by the constitution].”

“Therefore, we consider such an act harmful to Venezuelan sovereignty,” added the OAS, which consists of all 35 independent nations of the Americas, including the United States.

Nuclear-Capable Russian Bombers Arrive In Venezuela | NBC News

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Russia’s Defense Ministry on Dec. 10, 2018, sent two nuclear-capable strategic bombers to Venezuela, in an unusual display of Russian military force in South America, raising tensions with the United States.

The ministry did not say if they were carrying weapons.

The bombers’ arrival came just days after Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro visited Moscow, seeking Kremlin support for his country, whose economy is in shambles and deeply in debt to Russia.

Venezuela has purchased millions of dollars in military equipment from Russia in recent years.

The deployment of the aircraft drew a particularly pointed response from U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, in a posting to Twitter.

“The Russian and Venezuelan people should see this for what it is: two corrupt governments squandering public funds, and squelching liberty and freedom while their people suffer,” Pompeo wrote.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters on Dec. 11, 2018, that Pompeo’s comments were “undiplomatic” and “completely inappropriate.”

On Dec. 12, 2018, the White House said it had been assured by the Kremlin that the planes would leave Venezuela on Dec. 14, 2018.

“We have spoken with representatives of Russia and have been informed that their military aircraft, which landed in Venezuela, will be leaving on [Dec. 14, 2018] and going back to Russia,” White House press secretary Sarah Sanders told Reuters.

Oil-rich Venezuela has been racked by economic and political crises since 2010 under leftist leader Hugo Chavez and has continued into Maduro’s presidency.

Millions have fled the country, driven by violence, hyperinflation, and major shortages of food.

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

This vet and real-life Santa makes wooden toys for kids every year

Where the Marine Corps has its Toys for Tots, the Army can count on its elderly retirees – at least one of them, anyway. As of Christmas, 2019, Army veteran Jim Annis turned 80 years old. For the past 50 Christmas seasons, the former soldier spent months creating hundreds of wooden toys for children who otherwise might not have anything to open on Christmas morning. When the Salvation Army comes through for these families, Annis comes rolling along right behind them.


Annis spends hundreds of dollars from his own pocket every year to make wooden toys for needy children. The one-man Santa’s Workshop spends much of his free time throughout the year crafting and painting these toys in preparation for Christmastime. By the time he’s ready to donate the pieces to the Salvation Army, Annis has created as many as 300 toys, finished and ready to hand out to the little ones.

“When the Salvation Army gives out the food and clothes to people in this area, I give out my toys,” Annis told Raleigh-Durham’s ABC-11 affiliate. “It feels like you’re sort of forgotten about at Christmas time.”

In case you’re bad at math, creating 300 toys per year for the past 50 years, makes for about 15,000 toys total. But for Annis, it’s not about the money. He was one of those needy children during his childhood. He came from a working family with five children to take care for.

How an American billionaire found an epic warship on the ocean floor

Jim Annis, a one-man Santa’s Workshop.

(WTVD ABC-11)

Annis gets wooden scraps for free from homeowners and pays only for the tools of production and the acrylic paint for the toys. His costs run about id=”listicle-2641673298″,000 but his return on investment is the smiles of young kids who will get a toy for Christmas this year. Kids can get an array of cool, handmade toys, from fire trucks and dolls to piggy banks. Jim Annis will also make special gifts for American veterans and their loved ones.

“I have to sort of feel right in here,” Annis told North Carolina’s Spectrum News. “That’s the joy I know I’m giving some of the kids, I’m giving them something that I didn’t have a whole lot at Christmas time.”

If you want to donate to materials to this vet’s Christmastime cause, you can call Jim Annis at 919-842-5445.

WATCH

How to make a field compass in a matter of minutes

Nobody wants to get lost out in the wilderness as snow falls at a rapid rate and darkness begins to settle in. Hell, it’s scary enough getting turned around while your walking in downtown Los Angeles at 3 a.m. and the streets are littered with homeless people. (We’re only kidding — sort of.) If you get trapped out in the great unknown, hopefully, you have some survival equipment with you already. But let’s say your compass is broken, for one reason or another. Don’t worry, we can fashion an alternate, magnet-powered one in no time. It’s actually pretty easy!


First, check in your survival kit for needle or pin. Pull that out, because you’ll need it. Next, if you have a radio on you (and it’s not proving more useful than a compass), pull out some of the wire and the battery pack. Wrap some easy-to-find paper around the pin, then follow that up by wrapping the wire around that pin. The paper wrap will insulate the pin from the electric current.

How an American billionaire found an epic warship on the ocean floor
Magnetize that sucker! (Black Scout Survival)

Hold (or tape) the ends of the wire to the positive side and negative side of the battery. The needle will heat up, but that’s normal. It’s just science.

Once your pin is magnetized, disconnect the wire and pull it out from the paper. Place the needle on a leaf — or something close to that — as it floats on the surface of a small body of water.

How an American billionaire found an epic warship on the ocean floor
It’s working! (Black Scout Survival)

If you did all those steps correctly, the floating pin should point to magnetic north. Now, carry your new field-made compass with you so you don’t get lost again.

Make sure and check out
Black Scout Survival‘s video below to watch a complete breakdown of how to make a field compass.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Japan just lost an F-35; here’s what happens if Russia/China find it first

Japan’s military reported on April 9, 2019, that it lost contact with an F-35 stealth jet some 84 miles off the east coast of Aomori prefecture, Japan, in the Pacific and that the hunt was on for the pilot and the downed plane.

But if Russia or China — which both maintain a heavy naval presence in the region — find the plane first, the future of US airpower could be over before it started.

“Bottom line is that it would not be good” for the future of US airpower if Japan or the US don’t quickly recover the jet, retired US Air Force Lt. Gen. David Deptula told Business Insider.


“There is no price too high in this world for China and Russia to pay to get Japan’s missing F-35, if they can. Big deal,” Tom Moore, an expert on Russia and weapons proliferation, tweeted.

How an American billionaire found an epic warship on the ocean floor

(Lockheed Martin)

The hunt for F-35 tech is on

Basically, if Russia or China, perhaps using their advanced and stealthy submarines to probe the ocean floor, first found the jet, they would gain a treasure trove of secrets about the most expensive weapons system in the history of the world.

The F-35 crash in the Pacific represents the first-ever opportunity for Russia and China to hunt for one of these planes in the wild because the jet has crashed only once before, and that time was on US soil.

Reverse engineering the technology could allow Russia and China to build their own versions of the jet, up to a point.

“The usefulness for Russia or China of recovering some or all of the wreckage would depend on how much damage the aircraft sustained upon hitting the water,” Justin Bronk, a combat-aviation expert at the Royal United Services Institute, told Business Insider.

“The general shape of the jet is well-known, as are its performance characteristics so not much to gain there but parts of radar and other sensors would be prime targets for recover and testing/even attempts at reverse engineering,” he added.

Russia specifically operates a fleet of shadowy submarines meant for very deep dives and research. The US and Japan have advanced maritime capabilities to search for the fallen jet but mostly rely on two of the US’s aging rescue and salvage ships and on large nuclear submarines, which may not be ideal for the rescue mission.

As of now, all anyone knows is where the F-35 was last seen flying. It could have continued on for miles, and currents may have dragged it miles farther. In short, the entire region has a chance at brushing up against some piece of it.

How an American billionaire found an epic warship on the ocean floor

What Russia and China stand to gain

Russia and China know what an F-35 looks like. There’s even some evidence China stole plans for the F-35. But even with an F-35 in its hands, the two countries still lack the advanced manufacturing know-how held in the US.

Just having some composite material used in the F-35’s jet engines wouldn’t necessarily allow China to create the materials at will. Just measuring the characteristics of the fuselage wouldn’t necessarily allow Russia to reliably manufacture airframes like the F-35’s on its own.

The F-35’s stealth and performance represent a tiny portion of its worth to the US military. The rest lies in the networking, sensor fusion, and secure communications.

There, according to Bronk, the jet stands a chance against prying eyes.

“Samples or the ‘fibre mat’ stealth coating would be sought after,” Bronk said. “But the jet’s all-important software and programming would likely be hard to reconstruct given not only the likely damage from the crash and salt water in Pacific but also the way that the jet’s sensitive systems are designed to be very hard to decipher and reverse engineer to make it more suitable for export.”

Despite the US’s best efforts, Russia or China salvaging any part of the F-35 represents a US security nightmare.

“Both China and Russia have excellent reconstruction/reverse engineering/copying skills, particularly the Chinese as they are masters at it,” Deptula said.

Bronk and Deptula both agreed that in Moscow, Washington, Beijing, and Tokyo, the race is now on to find the fallen F-35 to either protect or undermine its future as the lynchpin of US and allied airpower.

This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.

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