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When All Hell Breaks Loose

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The initial volley came in. It felt like multiple RPGs (rocket-propelled grenades) were just raining down on us. I remember it seemed like at one point there was so many coming in, just one after another, that I remember thinking, “alright, I get it, you really want to kill us, but some of us are still here, and you’re not getting me, but it’s really pissing me off.” It was just overwhelming. I couldn’t think. It was just one explosion after another [and] that it seemed like it lasted forever.

It took me a minute to gain my bearing. I ended up in the northern fighting position and had suffered wounds mostly to my right leg, but I had taken some to my left and my left arm as well. I was sitting there, and I could see the wounds in my legs, and I wanted to stand up and move around and start getting involved in the fight, but I couldn’t move my feet. I remember looking at my feet and trying to will myself to move my feet, like “come on Ryan, move your feet,” and I couldn’t.

After that point, I crawled to the southern position, because I had seen a wound on my inner thigh. I had concerns it had struck a major blood vessel and I wanted to get a tourniquet on my leg, but I couldn’t exactly do it with my injuries. I crawled to the lower southern position that we had designated as our casualty collection point. When I got there, Sgt. Gobble was in there, [but] he was disoriented. He had been wounded, and Spc. Bogar, at the time, was returning fire. [He] was laying down fire to the southeast. I told him I wanted a tourniquet on my right leg. He helped put the tourniquet on my right leg, and went back to fighting.

Then, at that time, Spc. Stafford, who had been wounded, crawled into the southern position and starting giving me a disposition on what was going on elsewhere — that Gunnar, Zwilling, and Matt Phillips had been killed. He thought that the [enemy] had been throwing hand grenades.

My line of thinking was, if they can throw hand grenades, so can we. So I crawled to the northern position, where we kept the hand grenades and proceeded to throw hand grenades into the dead space to the north, knowing that it wasn’t a terribly far distance, and so I cooked the grenades off for three to four seconds, essentially letting the fuse run, so they wouldn’t have time to pick it up and throw it back into our position.

This is only the part of the of events that occurred at Vehicle Patrol Base Kahler in the vicinity of Wanat Village, July 13, 2008. In that event, US forces had deployed 48 soldiers which have been engaged by around 200 Anti-Afghan forces. The battle has also been described as Battle of Wanat. Full story and other material can be found here.

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Notable events

The Day When The Serbs Shot Down An ‘Invisible’ F-117 Nighthawk

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The Lockheed F-117 Nighthawk was a stealth fighter that was so advanced for its time that it remained a secret for a long time. What made it so deadly was not only its extreme maneuverability but also its ability to be invisible. The Serbs didn’t know that, however, which is why they were able to shoot one down in 1999 – reputedly the only time such a plane had ever been destroyed.

It all began in 1999. The Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (FRY) had been fragmenting as various ethnic groups tried to carve out separate states for themselves. Among these were the Serbs who didn’t want Albanians sharing their slice of the pie. This resulted in the former expelling and attacking the latter.

The North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) ordered it to stop, but Yugoslavia told them where to stick it – never a good idea. So NATO asked the United Nations (UN) for permission to intervene, but Russia and China said “no way.”

That didn’t stop the press from bombarding the world with pictures of dead and fleeing Albanians. President Bill Clinton reacted by comparing the situation to the Holocaust. NATO, therefore, told the UN where to shove it (a first) and launched airstrikes against Yugoslavia.

Called Operation Noble Anvil, it lasted from March 24th to June 10th, 1999. To make a long story short, Yugoslavia became extinct, and the independent country of Serbia was eventually born.

The North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) ordered it to stop, but Yugoslavia told them where to stick it – never a good idea. So NATO asked the United Nations (UN) for permission to intervene, but Russia and China said “no way.”

That didn’t stop the press from bombarding the world with pictures of dead and fleeing Albanians. President Bill Clinton reacted by comparing the situation to the Holocaust. NATO, therefore, told the UN where to shove it (a first) and launched airstrikes against Yugoslavia.

Called Operation Noble Anvil, it lasted from March 24th to June 10th, 1999. To make a long story short, Yugoslavia became extinct, and the independent country of Serbia was eventually born.

It happened on the evening of March 27th, 1999. Dale Zelko was to take out several targets within and around the city of Belgrade. Previous sorties had failed because the targets were protected by sophisticated Russian Integrated Air Defense Systems (IADS).

S-125 Neva air defense system used to shoot down the F-117A. (Photo: Wiki)

He was to fly as part of a larger sortie, but the weather turned foul, forcing other planes to stay grounded. This made him uneasy, but since he’d be flying a state-of-the-art F-117, they gave him the green light.

No F-117 had been downed since their first operational flight in 1983, after all, so why worry? Besides, NATO knew that while the Yugoslavs had an effective Integrated Air Defense System, they were still using radars that were equally state-of-the-art… back in the 50s and 60s.

And F-117s were invisible. Well, not to the naked eye, admittedly, but to radar. Their shape scattered radar waves, while their material absorbed the rest, making them extremely tricky to detect on screens. As such, they’re not officially “invisible.” They instead use “low-observable technology.” They do have one major weakness, however. Every time the pilot opens the wheel well or bomb bay doors, their low-observability rate decreases.

Or so the Americans thought till much later. Fortunately for the desperate Serbs, they figured it all out much earlier.

Lieutenant Colonel Dale Zelko

Without getting too technical, the F-117’s shape and material work well against modern, short wavelength radars – “short” being shorter than the object they’re trying to detect. Imagine throwing pebbles in the dark to find something by listening for the thud.

But when it comes to the primitive long wavelength radars that the Serbs used… it’s like prodding for something in the dark using a long stick. Once you find it, it doesn’t really matter if your stick slides off, now does it?

So the Serbs extended their wavelengths to make the “stick” even longer. Goodbye, invisibility cloak! As an added bonus, they were able to intercept and decipher NATO communications, so they had a good idea of when and where to expect their unwelcome guest. Zelko couldn’t have known that, of course.

But Colonel Zoltán Dani did. Commander of the 3rd Battalion of the 250th Air Defense Missile Brigade of the Army of Yugoslavia, he was waiting.

To avoid giving away their own positions to NATO, the brigade would use their equipment for a maximum of 17 seconds. Despite this, they were able to get a lock on Zelko’s approach at around 8:15 PM while he was some 31 to 37 miles away.

The moment of truth came when Zelko opened his bomb doors. That increased his radar signature, allowing the brigade to lock him in their sites and fire two missiles. According to Zelko, the first one came so close that it buffeted his plane. To his surprise, it didn’t explode – but he wasn’t so lucky with the second. Out at sea, the NATO forces saw the impact.

Despite this, Dale couldn’t help thinking, “Nice shot!”

The F-117 plummeted, subjecting Zelko to so many Gs that he found himself amazed by yet another thought – why wasn’t he passing out? Although he was able to eject, he later claimed to have had no memory of doing so, only that he felt a serene calm as he found himself in mid-air.

Zoltán Dani in 2003 (Photo: Wiki)

But it wasn’t over yet – he was going down in enemy territory. Against protocol, he radioed his superiors to give them his location, hoping that his controlled plummet would make it hard for the Serbs to pinpoint his transmission.

Landing in a village field south of the town of Ruma, he buried his parachute and looked for a place to hide. Masking his tracks, he found a drainage ditch covered with thick vegetation. Before going in, he smeared himself with mud to hide his exposed skin and dull his scent.

The F-117 crashed a mile from him, but locals saw him land. Despite an intensive manhunt involving soldiers, the police, villagers, and sniffer dogs, none found him. NATO launched another set of attacks that were so close, he could feel the detonations from his hiding place. Eight hours later, he was rescued by helicopter.

In 2009, one of Dani’s sons saw Zelko online when he had an idea. The teen contacted Zeljko Mirkovic – a Serbian documentary film-maker. Mirkovic contacted the US Air Force, and that’s how Dani and Zelko started talking.

In 2011, Zelko flew to Serbia and met up with Dani, who had given up shooting down planes to become a baker. The men have since become friends, as have their families, something Mirkovic documented.

And the name of his documentary? “The Second Meeting.”

The article originally appeared on War History Online.

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B-2 ‘Spirit of Kansas’ – the most expensive crash in USAF history

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On 23 February 2008, B-2 “AV-12” Spirit of Kansas crashed on the runway shortly after take-off. The aircraft was one in a flight of four B-2s that was returning to Whiteman AFB, Mo., following a deployment that began Oct. 5, 2007. It’s considered as the most expensive crash in the USAF history.

A B-2 stealth bomber crashed at an air base on Guam but both pilots ejected safely and were in good condition, the Air Force said. Thick black smoke could be seen billowing from the wreckage at Andersen Air Force Base, said Geanne Ward, a resident in the northern village of Yigo who was on the base visiting her husband. The aircraft was completely destroyed, a hull loss valued at US$1.4 billion.

The Northrop (later Northrop Grumman) B-2 Spirit, also known as the Stealth Bomber, is an American heavy penetration strategic bomber, featuring low observable stealth technology designed for penetrating dense anti-aircraft defenses; it is a flying wing design with a crew of two. The bomber can deploy both conventional and thermonuclear weapons, such as eighty 500 lb (230 kg)-class (Mk 82) JDAM Global Positioning System-guided bombs, or sixteen 2,400 lb (1,100 kg) B83 nuclear bombs. The B-2 is the only acknowledged aircraft that can carry large air-to-surface standoff weapons in a stealth configuration.

Each B-2 bomber costs about $1.2 billion to build.

The B-2 bomber can evade most radar signals making it difficult for defensive systems to detect, track and attack. It has a range of 6,000 nautical miles (9,600 kilometers) without refueling. The B-2 bombers have been used for missions in Afghanistan, Iraq and Serbia.

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