In this WATM classic a grumpy Sergeant Major hatches a plan to steal Christmas from the troops of Troopville. (Words via our good friends at Duffel Blog, the military’s most trusted news source. Animation by U.S. Marine Corps veteran VannickArtz.com.)
Carriers are awesome. Even bad carriers are awesome. They’re floating fortresses with airstrips on the roof. They’re the original man-made islands.
And that’s why, potential adversary or no, China’s single aircraft carrier, the Liaoning, is pretty cool. It’s a smaller carrier built on a rusted relic purchased from Ukraine in 1998 after the collapse of the Soviet Union.
The former Soviet carrier was destined for a glitzy life as a floating casino, but the Chinese company that bought it gave the hull to the People’s Liberation Navy and it was treated for corrosion, given new engines and other major systems, and sent back to sea as the Liaoning, a combatant and training ship.
Now, the Liaoning is China’s only aircraft carrier in service, though another is almost ready for commissioning and more are reportedly under construction. The ship supports up to 24 J-15 fighters, though it typically carries fewer.
We often think a lot about the risks that service members take during combat. However, the routine day-to-day peacetime operations, and training are also fraught with danger. The example of the destroyer USS Fitzgerald (DDG 62) is just the latest prominent incident where peacetime ops proved deadly. It’s been that way for a long time. One incident that got very dangerous involved a training operation involving a B-58 Hustler with the 43rd Bombardment Wing out of Carswell Air Force Base in Texas. The trainees had 32 flight hours and six sorties in their plane.
But the plane’s seventh flight went bad from the moment it began to take off. The left main landing gear failed and damaged a fuel tank, sending aft a train of flame as the afterburners of the B-58’s four J79 jet engines ignited the fuel. Miraculously, the plane didn’t explode, and was able to take off.
The navigator noticed the flames, and advised the pilot. The pilot reported the plane’s situation to ground control. A plane was sent up, but couldn’t tell how badly the Hustler was damaged until they flew over the city of Fort Worth.
Eventually, the decision was made to send the B-58 to Edwards Air Force Base to make an emergency landing. What was supposed to be a routine training mission ended up lasting 14 hours, and involved multiple pit stops with Air Force aerial refueling planes, during which the pilot had to come up with a technique to maintain speed and directional control using the Hustler’s engines.
The B-58 eventually made a safe landing. You can see the Air Force documentary on this incident below.
That satisfying “Ping!” of bullets on target is as regular as a metronome when former Green Beret sniper, Aaron Barruga, is running tactical marksmanship drills on his home turf in Santa Clarita, CA. With his company, Guerrilla Approach, Barruga trains civilians, military, and law enforcement in proper and effective tactical firearm deployment.
The man does not miss.
“Oscar Mike” host Ryan Curtis paid a visit to Barruga’s training facility to bone up on his sharpshooting and found himself in good hands, drilling shoulder to shoulder with this veteran entrepreneurial success story. Barruga’s advice?
“I would definitely say that, if they have the opportunity, use that G.I. Bill. Get that piece of paper that says, “I’m smart and employable.” And just grind away, basically. You gotta hustle.”
As the day progresses, the sweat beading on Ryan’s brow is a testament to his hustle, if not his dead shot accuracy. And when he challenges Barruga to an Old West-style duel, our host quickly learns what high noon looks like at the Less-than-OK Corral.
Watch as Barruga makes plinking targets look easy, and Curtis proves his monkey is definitely the drunkest, in the video embedded at the top.
Sometimes the span of years can be summed up in one quote.
“One really clear way of understanding the shift in World War I in terms of technology is that soldiers rode in on horses and they left in airplanes,” military historian Dr. Libby H. O’Connell told the History Channel.
The fact is, World War I wasn’t just about turning out the instruments of death rapidly but instead, new death dealing technology evolved from the slogging stalemate of the trenches. Some of the technologies that helped end the war didn’t even exist when it started in 1914.
Here are some of the most notable developments.
In the early part of World War I, bombing attacks were carried out by dropping mortar rounds from planes. There were various ingenious methods being used to mount machine guns so they wouldn’t shoot off a propeller.
By the end of that war, though, the interrupter gear had been perfected, making the fighter a dominant part of aviation. From the ad hoc arrangement of dropping mortar rounds, large, multi-engine bombers delivered massive payloads on target. The aircraft was a proven weapon of war by the end of World War I.
Viable submarine technology was in its infancy in World War I. The basics of the diesel-electric boat were worked out, though, and in 1914, an obsolete submarine, the U-9, sent a message by sinking three British armored cruisers in about an hour. That submarine displaced about 600 tons, had four torpedo tubes and eight torpedoes. By the end of the war, German submarines displaced 1,000 tons, had six torpedo tubes and 16 torpedoes.
3. The machine gun
Hand-cranked Gatling guns had emerged during the American Civil War, but they were still very clumsy affairs. It was Hiram Maxim, though, who came up with the design that would turn the battlefields of World War I into a charnel house. The frontal charges, like Joshua L. Chamberlain’s at Little Round Top, became more about death than glory.
With the rise of the machine gun, troops needed a way to punch through defensive lines. Ideas for the tank had been kicked around, but short-sightedness meant practical designs didn’t arrive on the battlefield until the Battle of the Somme in 1916. By 1918, both sides had tanks, even though Germany’s inventory was very limited.
5. Chemical Warfare
Another idea to break the deadlock of the trenches was the use of poison gas. While it was effective early on, eventually gas masks were developed to protect troops from toxins. Chemical weapons remain a threat on the battlefield today, with sarin gas recently being used during the Syrian Civil War.
However, unexploded World War I chemical munitions also remain a threat across France and Belgium, according to a 2015 Daily Mail article on the Battle of Verdun.
The howitzer came about because the artillery of previous eras, mostly focused on providing direct fire, proved inadequate against troops dug into the trenches. The howitzer came into its own in World War I and was able to provide the long range of cannons with a trajectory able to drop the shell in on enemy troops like a mortar. Today, most artillery pieces used by military forces are howitzers.
So, with that in mind, take a look at the HISTORY video below to learn more about the deadly military technology of World War I.
Decades before the terror attacks of 2001 struck New York City, another, very different plane crashed into the Empire State Building, arguably one of New York City’s — America’s —most iconic buildings. It was July 1945, and it wasn’t terrorism or even an attack from the Japanese Empire (with which America was still at war).
The aircraft flight plan indicated the plane was coming from Massachusetts and would land at La Guardia. Instead the pilot decided to land in Newark but got lost in the heavy fog while flying over Manhattan. Believing he was on the West Side of the island, he flew to the right instead of the left when he went around the Chrysler Building. That was his fatal error.
According to a 1995 story in the New York Times, Lt. Col. William F. Smith Jr. heard from the tower at La Guardia airport that the top of the Empire State Building wasn’t visible in the fog. Minutes later, he hit the iconic skyscraper between its 78th and 79th floors at 200 miles per hour.
The crash blew an 18-by-20-foot hole 913 feet above 34th Street. It’s tail section was stuck in the hole in the building.
Luckily, the bomber was an unarmed trainer aircraft with no bombs on board. The explosions that rocked the area came from the B-25’s fuel tanks exploding.
“It was as if a bomb went off,” said harpsichordist Albert Fuller, who was shopping across from the Empire State Building that day. “The floor moved. I looked at the clerk and said, ‘Isn’t that strange?’ And I thought it couldn’t be an earthquake.”
Fourteen people died, all told; the three bomber crewmembers and 11 people working in the building that day.
Explosive Ordnance Disposal is going to be a career field that lasts for a long time. This is because unexploded stuff is all over the place, some dating back to the Civil War. Germany and the United Kingdom have had to deal with bombs from World War II as well in the past year alone.
The problem isn’t just the old ordnance. There is also the need to deal with the newer stuff. This generally falls into the category of the improvised explosive device, or IED. The folks called in to deal with the ones found in time are the EOD units.
To get into an EOD unit takes a lot of training. According to the Air Force’s recruiting web site, you need to spend 163 days following basic training and Airman’s Week to become an “Enlisted Airman with credits earned towards Explosive Ordnance Disposal” before going to the United States Navy’s EOD school.
A 2015 release by the Air Force noted that the service has a need for 134 new EOD techs a year. The service has recently changed its training for that role, which includes a greater emphasis on hands-on learning for those becoming EOD team leaders.
Watch the video to check out some Air Force EOD techs as they train by using beer cans stuffed with C4 to deal with a van.
An Australian SA70 Black Hawk helicopter clipped a rotor blade during a counterterrorism exercise in the harbor of Sydney and had to perform an emergency landing in a nearby park.
The SA70 Black Hawk chopper was taking part in a maritime counterterrorism exercise, fast-roping commandos on top of a small cruise ship in the middle of Sydney harbor. It was holding station above the ship, having just placed its commandos on the vessel when one of its main rotor blades clipped a communications mast. Upon impact, debris scattered all over the scene.
But the pilots remained calm and coolly flew the aircraft to nearby Robinson Park for an emergency landing.
The Black Hawk helicopter was from the 6th Aviation Regiment (and most probably from the unit’s 171st Aviation Squadron). The 6th Aviation Regiment is specially trained and equipped to support special operations units.
Maritime counterterrorism is one of the toughest special operations mission sets. It involves numerous moving parts, from boats to helicopters, and has all the potential to go wrong. The goal is to reach the hostages and neutralize the terrorists as soon as possible. To achieve that in the fastest way possible, special operations units often use several insertion methods simultaneously. The skill required by the pilots and crews of the helicopters and boats is tremendous, especially if you consider that the target vessel might be moving and also account for the sea state.
This isn’t the first time an Australian Black Hawk supporting special operations troops is involved in an accident. In 1996, two Black Hawks supporting a Special Air Service Regiment (SASR) counterterrorism exercise in Queensland collided. As in the Sydney Harbor incident, one of the S70A Black Hawks clipped a rotor blade but this time against another Black Hawk. The first Black Hawk immediately went down, while the second crash-landed and went up in flames. In total, 18 troops (15 SASR operators and 3 aviators) were killed, making it the worse single loss of life in Australian special operations history.
The 6th Aviation Regiment is the Australian equivalent of the US 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment, better known as the “Night Stalkers.”
However, the Australian unit has more limited lift capabilities, currently operating only the S70A Black Hawk. In comparison, the Night Stalkers fly both the light AH/MH-6 Little Birds, MH-60 Black Hawks, and MH-47 Chinooks, thus providing light, medium, and heavy-lift options to their special operations customers.
Although the Special Air Service Regiment—the Australian military’s Tier 1 special operations unit and the equivalent of Delta Force and SEAL Team Six—used to be wholly responsible for domestic counterterrorism, that mission set is now been shared with the 2nd Commando Regiment, a unit similar to the U.S. 75th Ranger Regiment.
SASR operators man the Tactical Assault Group-West (TAG-W), which is responsible for domestic counterterrorism operations in the West part of Australia (the SASR is headquartered in Perth, West Australia). Commandos man the Tactical Assault Group-East (TAG-E), which is responsible for domestic counterterrorism operations in the East part of Australia, including the capital, Canberra.
Considering the location of the exercise, it is safe to say that these operators were from TAG-E.
The “Bermuda Triangle” is a geographical area between Miami, Florida, San Juan, Puerto Rico, and the tiny island nation of Bermuda. Nearly everyone who goes to the Bahamas can tell you that it doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll die a horrible death.
From 1946 to 1991, there have been over 100 disappearances. These are some of the military disappearances that have been lost in the Bermuda Triangle.
1. U.S.S. Cyclops – March 4th, 1918
One of the U.S. Navy’s largest fuel ships at the time made an unscheduled stop in Barbados on its voyage to Baltimore. The ship was carrying 100 tons of manganese ore above what it could typically handle. All reports before leaving port said that it was not a concern.
The new path took the Cyclops straight through the Bermuda Triangle. No distress signal was sent. Nobody aboard answered radio calls.
This is one of the most deadly incidents in U.S. Navy history outside of combat, as all 306 sailors aboard were declared deceased by then-Assistant Secretary of the Navy Franklin D. Roosevelt.
2. and 3. USS Proteus and USS Nereus – November 23rd and December 10th 1941
Two of the three Sister ships to the U.S.S. Cyclops, The Proteus and Nereus, both carried a cargo of bauxite and both left St. Thomas in the Virgin Islands along the same exact path. Bauxite was used to create the aluminum for Allied aircraft.
Original theories focused on a surprise attack by German U-Boats, but the Germans never took credit for the sinking, nor were they in the area.
According to research by Rear Adm. George van Deurs, the acidic coal cargo would seriously erode the longitudinal support beams, thereby making them more likely to break under stress. The fourth sister ship to all three of the Cyclops, Proteus, and Nereus was the USS Jupiter. It was recommissioned as the USS Langley and became the Navy’s first aircraft carrier.
3. Flight 19 – December 5th, 1945
The most well known and documented disappearance was that of Flight 19. Five TBM Avenger Torpedo Bombers left Ft. Lauderdale on a routine training exercise. A distress call received from one of the pilots said: “We can’t find west. Everything is wrong. We can’t be sure of any direction. Everything looks strange, even the ocean.”
Later, pilot Charles Taylor sent another transmission: “We can’t make out anything. We think we may be 225 miles northwest of base. It looks like we are entering white water. We’re completely lost.”
After a PBM Mariner Flying Boat was lost on this rescue mission, the U.S. Navy’s official statement was “We are not even able to make a good guess as to what happened.”
4. MV Southern Districts – 5 December 1954
The former U.S. Navy Landing Ship was acquired by the Philadelphia and Norfolk Steamship Co. and converted into a cargo carrier. During its service, the LST took part in the invasion of Normandy.
Its final voyage was from Port Sulphur, Louisiana, to Bucksport, Maine, carrying a cargo of sulfur. It lost contact as it passed through the Bermuda Triangle. No one ever heard from the Southern Districts again until four years later, when a single life preserver washed on the Florida shores.
5. Flying Box Car out of Homestead AFB, FL – June 5th, 1965
The Fairchild C-119G and her original five crew left Homestead AFB at 7:49 PM with four more mechanics to aid another C-199G stranded on Grand Turk Island. The last radio transmission was received just off Crooked Island, 177 miles from it’s destination.
A month later on July 18, debris washed up on the beach of Gold Rock Cay just off the shore of Acklins Island (near where the crew gave its last transmission).
The most plausible theory of the mysterious disappearances in the Bermuda Triangle points to confirmation bias. If someone goes missing in the Bermuda Triangle, it’s immediately drawn into the same category as everything else lost in the area. The Coast Guard has stated that “there is no evidence that disappearances happen more frequently in the Bermuda Triangle than in any other part of the ocean.”
Of course, it’s more fun to speculate that one of the most traveled waterways near America may be haunted, may have alien abductions, or hold the Bimini’s secret Atlantean Empire.
The sea is a terrifying place. When sailors and airmen go missing, it’s a heartbreaking tragedy. Pointing to an easily debunkable theory cheapens the lose of good men and women.
Air Force Pararescuemen are one of the elite units. They have to be, given that they have one very important — and dangerous — mission: to retrieve downed aircrews, even if they’re behind enemy lines. One good cinematic portrayal of these heroes was by Ty Burrell (best known as Phil Dunfy on Modern Family), who portrayed Tim Wilkinson in Black Hawk Down.
Ty Burrell playing Air Force PJ Tim Wilkinson. (Screenshot from Columbia Pictures Black Hawk Down)
Pararescue has its origins in World War II and became vitally important once the U.S. launched a strategic bombing campaign. During the Korean War, pararescue used early helicopters to evacuate over 8,000 critically wounded casualties and to save over 1,000 personnel from behind enemy lines. They became a legend in the Vietnam War with the Jolly Green Giants, and today, they are often called on to rescue those wounded in combat.
When the Pararescuemen are deployed, they bring a lot of skills to the table, but how do they stay ready when they’re not deployed? According to an Air Force release, Air Force Pararescuemen team up with the Army, Navy, and Marines, along with personnel and equipment from Italy, Poland, Canada, and France to put on specialized exercises, like Angel Thunder.
A Eurocopter EC-725 picks up Angel Thunder Exercise personnel in Southern Arizona on Nov. 7, 2017. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Andrew Lee)
“We want to create scenarios where these different Department of Defense entities have to come together to solve a problem,” said Lt. Col. Robert Rosebrough, 414th Combat Training Squadron Detachment 1 director of operations. Overseeing this exercise are people from the legendary training exercise known as Red Flag.
To wtach PJs keep their skills sharp, check out the video below. Not only will you see V-22 Ospreys operating in this exercise, but you’ll also catch a French chopper from the Armée de l’Air Française taking part as well.