Okay, so you’ve seen gun-camera footage and maybe you’ve seen the combat debut of the GBU-43 Massive Ordnance Air Burst bomb, but long before weapons are used on the bad guys, the United States Armed Forces give them a few test runs.
Dropping a bomb from an airplane is a lot more complicated than you might think — it’s even led to some close calls that were caught on tape. Having your own bomb hit you while you fly over the bad guys isn’t exactly the desired outcome of your sortie, now is it?
So, to make sure everything goes according to plan, the military does a few test drops over friendly territory before taking it into the field. They want a good idea of how it drops and, importantly, if JDAM or Paveway guidance kits will work. These test drops are typically done in sparsely populated areas — think the vast deserts of Nevada or California.
It’s why the Air Force has the 412th Test Wing that operates out of Edwards Air Force Base (best known as the place where the Space Shuttle would land). The Navy has VX-9, also known as “the Vampires,” at Naval Air Station China Lake. For the Marines, it’s VMX-1 in Yuma, Arizona. These squadrons are there to help work out the kinks and make sure that all aircraft and eligible ordnance work well together.
Tests like these have been done since World War II. For a little taste of vintage weapon tests, watch the video below and see some classic planes, like the North American F-86 Sabre, the McDonnell F-101 Voodoo, the Republic F-105 Thunderchief, and the North American F-100 Super Sabre test drop various bombs, including napalm.
Recently, four skydivers from FullMag decided to step up their game by jumping out of the bomb bay doors of a World War II B-17 bomber using wingsuits.
The skydivers are all equipped with go-pros, parachutes, and the American flag.
The B-17 Flying Fortress has lived up to its name. Primarily, it saw combat during WWII for allied bombing runs in Europe. Originally developed for the U.S. Army Air Corps, this behemoth had as many as 13 machine guns attached.
But what its known for is the devastating 9,600-pound bomb load that it could bring into battle.
The 14 men of the ‘Memphis Belle’ were among the most famous B-17 Bomber crews. It was one of the first bombers to complete 25 combat missions and bring all of her men back.
The tales of this beauty have been made into a documentary in 1944 and a feature film in 1990. In May 2018, the aircraft will be restored and placed in the National Museum of the United States Air Force. This will be done in celebration of the 75th anniversary of it’s final combat mission.
The 2004 Second Battle of Fallujah will be talked about among Marines for years to come, but for some who fought in those deadly streets and from room-to-room, the battle continues to play out long after they come home.
“The most difficult part of transitioning into the civilian world is the fact that I was still alive,” says Matt Ranbarger, a Marine rifleman who fought in Fallujah, in a new documentary released on YouTube called “The November War.”
The end result of a successful Kickstarter campaign, “The November War” gives an intimate look at just one event that changed the lives of the nearly dozen Marines profiled in the film: An operation to clear a house in the insurgent-infested city on Nov. 22, 2004.
“I remember we got a briefing that morning, and I didn’t like it,” squad leader Catcher Cutstherope says, describing how his leaders told the Marines they could no longer use frag grenades when room clearing. Instead, they were instructed to use flash or stun grenades, and only use frags if they were absolutely certain there was an insurgent inside.
“We were all pretty much ‘what the f–k are we gonna do with a flash grenade, it’s not gonna do anything,'” Nathan Douglas says. “We were pretty much right on that part.”
With part interview, part battle footage — shot by Marines during the battle with their own personal cameras — the film is unlike other post-9/11 war documentaries. Similar docs give the viewer insight into a full deployment — “Restrepo” and the follow-up “Korengal” are good examples — or a bigger picture look at both the planning and execution of a combat operation, like “The Battle for Marjah.”
“The November War” takes neither of these approaches, and the film is much better for it. Instead, Garrett Anderson, the filmmaker and Marine veteran who also fought in the battle, captures poignant moments from his former platoon-mates years after their combat experience is over. Some describe going into a room as an insurgent fires, while others talk through their thoughts after being shot.
In describing clearing the house — a costly endeavor that resulted in six Marines wounded — the film reveals the part of that day that still haunts all involved: The death of their friend, Cpl. Michael Cohen.
The documentary captures visceral stress among the Marines. Years later, sweat beads off their foreheads. As they speak, they are measured, but their voices are tinged with emotion. Viewers can tell they see that day just as clearly, more than a decade later.
Perhaps the most revealing part of the film is when Anderson asks all his interviewees whether it was worth it. One Marine filmed is offended by the question, answering that of course every Marine would answer yes. But that doesn’t play out onscreen, as two members of the unit express their doubts.
“Losing that many guys, friends … any of them,” says Brian Lynch, the platoon’s corpsman. “I don’t think it was worth it.”
In the end, “The November War” is one of those must-watch documentaries. It gives a look into what it’s like for troops in combat, and beautifully captures the raw emotion that can still endure long after they come home.
“You know how people say ‘freedom isn’t free?'” asks Lance Cpl. Munoz soon after the film opens.
“Well, you, the one watching this at home on TV right now … sitting eating popcorn, or a burger,” he says, pointing to the camera. “Living the high life. And if you’re a Marine watching this sh– and you’re laughing, it’s because you already went through this sh–.”
During the Cold War, the U.S. faced the very real possibility they’d have to rush masses of troops to the front line but wasn’t sure where the front line would open up. While the more obvious places like the Fulda Gap or Checkpoint Charlie had troops, tanks, and helicopters nearby all the time, many other potential flashpoints were lightly defended.
The plan for a conflict in these areas was to rush airborne soldiers and Marines in to plug the gap while follow-on forces were deployed over the following days to reinforce them.
So how did airborne soldiers get badly needed tanks and heavy equipment? Well, the Air Force dropped them out out of C-130 Hercules cargo planes while flying 150 mph while only a few feet from the ground.
The Low Altitude Parachute Extraction System (LAPES) was rigged to drop heavy equipment needed by remote troops where a plane couldn’t land and takeoff safely. It was developed in 1964 and saw use at the Siege of Khe San and other battles in Vietnam.
America’s current tank, the M1 Abrams, weighs four times as much as the M551 Sheridan did and so isn’t typically dropped out of planes. It’s armored personnel carrier, the Stryker, is only a little heavier than the Sheridan was and is dropped from planes, typically in Alaska.
As the U.S. faces the prospect of another Cold War, the defense industry has pitched a new light tank that can be air dropped. So, tomorrow’s tankers may benefit from airborne qualifications again.
The recent collisions involving the Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyers USS Fitzgerald (DDG 62) and USS John S. McCain (DDG 56) have generated a lot of headlines.
But there have been other collisions – though they are certainly rare events, according to a June USA Today article. But even one is far too many, and some have been even worse than that suffered by those two destroyers.
April 26, 1952: The USS Wasp (CV 18) collides with the USS Hobson (DD 464)
While making her way to the Mediterranean Sea, the Wasp was conducting night-time flight operations when she made a course change. A deadly combination of a surface-search radar and a poorly-thought out course-change by the destroyer caused the Wasp to ram the Hobson. The impact broke the Hobson in half and killed 176 sailors, including the Hobson’s captain.
The Wasp was repaired and back in action within 10 days. The Navy ultimately blamed the commanding officer of the Hobson for the collision.
June 3, 1969: The HMAS Melbourne rams the USS Frank E. Evans (DD 754)
For over two decades, the United States was a member of the Southeast Asia Treaty Organization. This alliance also included Australia, New Zealand, Pakistan, Thailand, the Philippines, France, and the United Kingdom. SEATO was hoped to be a NATO for the region, but it never reached that potential — although allies did hold exercises.
Five years previously the Melbourne had rammed and sunk an Australian destroyer.
During an anti-submarine warfare exercise, there was a near-miss between the Melbourne and the destroyer USS Everett F. Larson (DD 830). Despite that near-miss, tragedy struck when in the early-morning hours of June 3, the Frank E. Evans cut in front of the Melbourne. Her bow was sheared off and sank, causing the deaths of 74 American sailors.
The collision resulted in a Navy training film, “I Relieve You, Sir,” or “The Melbourne-Evans Incident,” that was used to disseminate the lessons learned from this tragedy.
November 22, 1975: The USS Belknap (CG 26) collides with the USS John F. Kennedy (CV 67)
This collision is notable for the extensive damage the Belknap sustained. During operations in the Ionian Sea, the Belknap and John F. Kennedy collided. A burst pipe sent fuel onto the guided-missile cruiser, and a massive fire melted the Belknap’s aluminum superstructure.
Eight sailors died, and 48 were injured. This collision actually has shaped the ship that is the backbone of the fleet today. After studying the collision and fire, the Navy decided to make the Arleigh Burke-class destroyers out of steel.
The Belknap was rebuilt over the course of four years, and served as the flagship of the Sixth Fleet from 1986 to 1994, before she was sunk as a target in 1998.
February 9, 2001: The USS Greeneville (SSN 772) rams the Ehime Maru
The Improved Los Angeles-class nuclear attack submarine USS Greeneville collided with the Ehime Maru, a fishery training ship for a high school while surfacing. The Ehime Maru sank very quickly, with nine people dead as a result.
A number of civilian visitors were aboard the sub at the time, and the failure of the Greeneville’s captain to ensure that their presence didn’t hamper military operations was a contributing factor to the fatal incident.
The next year, the Greeneville would collide with the amphibious transport dock USS Ogden (LPD 5), and suffer minor damage.
March 20, 2009: The USS Hartford (SSN 768) collides with the USS New Orleans (LPD 18)
Navigational chokepoints are called that because maritime traffic has to go through them, and they are very narrow. This doesn’t leave a lot of room for error or complacency.
According to a 2009 Military Times report, though, the crew of the Hartford got complacent, and the Los Angeles-class submarine and the San Antonio-class amphibious transport collided.
On July 1, 1914, infamous buzzkill and then-Navy Sec. Josephus Daniels implemented General Order No. 99, which said:
“The use or introduction for drinking purposes of alcoholic liquors on board any naval vessel, or within any Navy yard or station, is strictly prohibited, and commanding officers will be held directly responsible for the enforcement of this order.”
What happened next? One final blowout party to get rid of all that now-illegal booze.
Tim Kennedy, ARMY ranger and UFC fighter joins with Mat Best of ART 15 Clothing and Dakota Meyer Medal of Honor recipient in a rooftop interview with We Are The Might on the Roof of the Ranger Up part after SHOT Show 2015.
The communist forces of Vietnam were largely successful, and for a lot of reasons. They were willing to undergo extreme discomfort and suffer extreme losses for their cause, they were resourceful, and they became more disciplined and well-trained over time. But there was a nightmare infrastructure that they created that also led to success: Those terrifying tunnels.
The fighting in Vietnam dated back to the 1940s when corrupt democratic officials turned the population largely against it. Communist forces preyed upon this, rallying support from the local population and building a guerrilla army, recruiting heavily from farming villages.
The ruling democratic regime patrolled mostly on the large roads and through cities because their heavy vehicles had trouble penetrating the jungles or making it up mountains.
By the time the U.S. deployed troops to directly intervene, regime forces had been overrun in multiple locations and had a firm foothold across large patches of the jungle, hills, and villages.
And while U.S. forces were establishing a foothold and then hunting down Viet Cong elements, the Viet Cong were digging literally hundreds of miles of tunnels that they could use to safely store supplies, move across the battlefield in secret, and even stage ambushes against U.S. troops.
The original Viet Cong tunnels were dug just after World War II as Vietnamese fighters attempted to throw off French colonial authority. But the tunnel digging exploded when the U.S. arrived and implemented a heavy campaign of airstrikes, making underground tunnels a much safer way to travel.
And with the increased size of the tunnel network, new amenities were added. Kitchens, living quarters, even weapon factories and hospitals were moved underground. The Viet Cong now had entire underground cities with hidden entrances. When the infantry came knocking, the tunnels were a defender’s dream.
The tight tunnels limited the use of most American weapons. These things were often dug just tall and wide enough for Viet Cong fighters, generally smaller than the average U.S. infantryman, to crawl through. When corn-fed Nebraskans tried to crawl through it, they were typically limited to pistols and knives.
Even worse for the Americans, the Viet Cong were great at building traps across the battlefield and in the tunnels. Poisoned bamboo shoots, nails, razor blades, and explosives could all greet an attacker moving too brashly through the tunnel networks.
This led to the reluctant rise of the “Tunnel Rats,” American warfighters who specialized in the terrible tasks of moving through the underground bases, collecting intelligence and eliminating resistance. Between the claustrophobia and the physical dangers, this could drive the Tunnel Rats insane.
Once a tunnel was cleared, it could be eliminated with the use of fire or C4. Collapsing a tunnel did eliminate that problem, and it usually stayed closed.
But, again, there were hundreds of miles of tunnels, and most of them were nearly impossible to find. Meanwhile, many tunnel networks had hidden chambers and pathways within them. So, even if you found a tunnel network and began to destroy it, there was always a chance that you missed a branch or two and the insurgents will keep using the rest of it after you leave.
And the tunnels even existed near some major cities. Attacks on Saigon were launched from the Cu Chi Tunnels complex. When U.S. and South Vietnamese troops went to clear them, they faced all the typical traps as well as boxes of poisonous snakes and scorpions.
And the clearance operation wasn’t successful in finding and eliminating the bulk of the tunnels. The Cu Chi Tunnels were the ones used as staging points a weapons caches for the Tet Offensive.
Just how many times has a nuclear bomb been detonated? The number is much higher than many people might guess.
The video below reveals a staggering total — and it is a subject that is out of mind, largely because all but two of the times that nuclear weapons have detonated were tests. Furthermore, the United States hasn’t even conducted a test since 1992.
To put that into perspective, in that year, Major League Baseball still had only 26 teams. The NFL was at only 28 teams, and Cleveland still had the original Cleveland Browns while the Los Angeles Rams were still three years away from their two-decade sojurn in St. Louis. Michael Jordan and the Bulls were two-thirds of the way through their first three-peat.
This video takes about three minutes — and after it, you should come away feeling sobered at just how many times the most powerful weapon in human history has exploded, and thankful that it has only been used in anger twice.
The U.S. military is getting out of the nation-building business and is now focusing on killing terrorists. That is among the policy changes announced by President Donald Trump in a speech delivered at Fort Myer in Arlington, Virginia, Aug. 21.
“From now on, victory will have a clear definition: attacking our enemies, obliterating ISIS, crushing Al Qaeda, preventing the Taliban from taking over Afghanistan, and stopping mass terror attacks against America,” he said, while also explicitly refusing to set a timetable or to reveal how many more troops will be deployed.
Trump has already shown an inclination to not micro-manage and to give local commanders authority to make operational and tactical decisions. In April, the GBU-43 Massive Ordnance Air Burst bomb made its combat debut in Afghanistan when it was used to hit a tunnel complex used by the Afghanistan affiliate of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria.
President Trump, while not mentioning Obama by name, also criticized the abrupt withdrawal of American troops from Iraq in 2011, saying that the removal of troops created a vacuum and allowed ISIS to rise and take control of a number of cities in Iraq.
President Trump also had harsh words for Pakistan over the existence of safe havens for groups like the Taliban. Perhaps the most notable terrorist provided safe haven in that country was Osama bin Laden, who was killed at a hideout in Abbottabad — a city a little over 30 miles from the capital in Islamabad.
Commandos from the 7th Special Operation Kandak prepare for the unitís first independent helicopter assault mission, March 10, 2014, in Washir district, Helmand province, Afghanistan The mission was conducted to disrupt insurgent activity. (U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Richard B. Lower/Released)