43 giant presidents' heads are sitting in the middle of a Virginia field - We Are The Mighty
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43 giant presidents’ heads are sitting in the middle of a Virginia field

Croaker, Virginia is America’s version of Easter Island. In the grassy field that belongs to a farmer named Howard Hankins sit the crumbling heads of 43 U.S. presidents.

 


The heads are eighteen to twenty feet tall, remnants of President’s Park, an open-air kind of museum. First opened in 2004, the Mount Rushmore-inspired park was the product of Everette Newman, a Virginia native, and Houston-based sculptor David Adickes. It cost $10 million to open the park and a lack of visitors caused its bankruptcy six years later.

Newman enlisted Hankins’ help in destroying the heads. Instead, he moved the heads, weighing eleven to twenty thousand pounds each, to his farm ten miles away.  It took him a week and cost upwards of $50,000. The move also substantially damaged the heads.

“I just feel it was very educational,” Hankins told the Daily Press,. “To destroy that stuff didn’t look right to me.”

The heads and necks cracked as cranes moved them onto trucks. Other damages occurred as well, including a large, eerie hole in the back of Abraham Lincoln’s head.

 

Now, the heads are decaying. Ronald Reagan was struck by lighting and still wears the scar from the strike. The ground around the statues is overgrown with vegetation, and frogs now live inside James Madison. There isn’t even a bust of President Obama because the failing park couldn’t afford the sculptor’s $60,000 fee.

Hankins’ field is not currently open to visitors. It’s not intended to be a tourist attraction at all, but people still manage to sneak onto the farm to snap photos. He hopes to one day recreate the park into something people would like to visit, maybe even merging them with an existing museum.

“I think I can build something the kids and the area can benefit from,” he told the Daily Press.

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Israel looking to buy most advanced version of F-15 Eagle

The Israeli Air Force (IAF) has Boeing’s latest and most powerful version of the highly successful F-15 Eagle air superiority fighter on its wishlist, according to the Jerusalem Post.


Funding for this potential purchase will come directly from the new Memorandum of Understanding reached with Israel in September, 2016 that spans 2019 to 2028, allotting $3.8 billion USD  every year for that period. Signed under the Obama administration, this new memorandum which begins when the old one (worth $30 billion over its lifetime versus the new one which is worth $38 billion) expires in 2018, maintains provisions that allow for funding to be used specifically for the acquisition of F-35 Lightning II fifth generation stealth strike fighters, and to update the Israeli Air Force’s slowly-aging fleet.

Related: Watch the F-22 take on 5 F-15s — and dominate

Israel aims to have two squadrons of F-35I Adirs (its own designation for the Lightning II) by 2022, but the Adir is aimed more so towards eventually replacing the F-16C/D/I Barak-2020/Sufa multirole fighters which have formed the backbone of the IAF since the 1980s.

43 giant presidents’ heads are sitting in the middle of a Virginia field
A digital rendering of an F-15 Advanced. (Boeing image, 2017)

There are no planned successors to the F-15 Eagles and F-15I Ra’ams (essentially modified F-15E Strike Eagles) that the IAF currently operates in the air superiority and strike roles, however, and that’s probably where the push for newer, updated F-15s come in. The War Zone reported last February that the IAF was slated to receive 10 F-15Ds (two-seater Eagles) from the United States, all of which were retired US Air Force fleet types.

At the time, Israel had taken delivery of eight of those jets in the deal. But older fighters with significant usage in their airframes are definitely no match for newer freshly-built fighters.

43 giant presidents’ heads are sitting in the middle of a Virginia field
(Boeing photograph, 2017)

What this could possibly mean is Boeing finding its first customer for the most advanced version of its Strike Eagle, based off the F-15B/D two-seater model. Marketed as the F-15 Advanced (very original and creative name, as you can see), it comes with a number of upgrades and new features that the Strike Eagle didn’t originally come with. This includes a Raytheon AN/APG-63(V)3 active synthetically scanned array (AESA) radar, a long-range infrared search and track (IRST) sensor system, allowing for a “first sigh-first shot-first kill” capability, when squaring off against enemy fighters, and a revamped cockpit with large area displays (LAD) with helmet cueing system integration.

Also read: This F-15E scored an air-to-air kill by dropping a bomb on an Iraqi helicopter

Also included in the F-15 Advanced is a fly-by-wire flight control system (FCS), which completely replaces the original electro-mechanical FCS which used to be the standard for all F-15s McDonnell Douglas (and later, Boeing) produced. Conformal Fuel Tanks (CFTs), known as FAST Packs on F-15Es, would be a part of the package, extending operational range without taking up vital space on weapons stations under the wings or belly of the aircraft. “Quad Packs”, attached to said weapons stations, would also allow for expanded weaponry carriage.

43 giant presidents’ heads are sitting in the middle of a Virginia field
Youtube Screenshot from Boeing video

Boeing previously offered Israel, along with a number of other customers, the F-15SE Silent Eagle, an export-only stealth version of the F-15E with internal weapons carriage and a considerably-reduced radar profile, though not much interested was generated. Eventually, this led Boeing to shelve the project and invest more time in the F-15 Advanced, while incorporating technologies and hardware used in the SE into the Advanced.

Boeing also developed the 2040C upgrade package, which it proposed to the US Air Force last year, though 2040C is meant to be an upgrade for existing F-15Cs, adding in all of the hardware mentioned above as well as the ability to sling 16 air-to-air missiles, virtually doubling the Eagle’s combat payload. There’s no word on whether or not Boeing will offer the 2040C package to Israel as well, for its single-seater F-15s still in service with the IAF.

Below is a commercial Boeing produced to market the 2040C, just last year. It’s pretty badass.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xGY2JBuSCU0

Israel’s defense minister, Avigdor Liberman, will more than likely bring up the subject of buying new F-15s when meeting with US defense officials this week, when he visits Washington DC. The F-15 production line recently just got a lifespan boost from Qatar in the form of an order for 70+ Eagles.

A further order from Israel would keep the line active even longer. Additionally, also using funding from the aforementioned Memorandum of Understanding, the Israeli Defense Ministry has also expressed interest in buying new helicopters to replace its Sikorsky CH-53 Yas’urs (Sea Stallions) heavy-lift helicopters, the oldest of which are just a few years away from reaching 50 years of continuous service with the IAF. The US government would probably put the CH-53K King Stallion, the successor to the Sea Stallion, on the table to replace the Yas’ur.

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This military spouse grew her own business despite 2 PCS moves

43 giant presidents’ heads are sitting in the middle of a Virginia field
Lakesha Cole was named the 2014 AFI Military Spouse of the Year in a ceremony in Washington, DC in May, 2014


In many ways, Lakesha Cole is the typical military spouse. A mother and wife, Cole has spent the last five years like many other military spouses: focused on a passion while juggling her family responsibilities.

But it’s the way she’s done it that sets her apart. Recently, Cole and her husband, Gunnery Sgt. Deonte Cole, and their children completed a Permanent Change of Station from Okinawa, Japan, to Camp Lejeune, North Carolina.

And along with their kids and personal effects, the Coles also took their successful business inside the Okinawa Exchange with them.

This was the second time Cole packed up her company, She Swank Too, and hauled it overseas. Two years after debuting their company aboard Camp Pendleton, California, the Cole’s took on a PCS to Okinawa, embarking on a mission to open the first brick and mortar She Swank Too there.

Cole spoke with We Are the Mighty about her experience just trying to get a meeting with the retail manager in Okinawa.

“He was reluctant to do business with me,” she recalled, after waiting for six months to secure a meeting with the manager. He argued that military spouses didn’t believe “the rules apply to them,” citing spouses who formerly ran businesses in the retail space with poor business practices.

Cole says she presented her business plan, complete with financial reports, customer data and testimonials, and samples, to the manager. They agreed to a 30 day trial run of a brick and mortar She Swank Too. Three years later, the store accompanied the Coles on their PCS.

When asked what steps an entrepreneur should take during a PCS, Cole was quick to answer, “Stay active and… communicate with your customers.” Customer interaction is one of the focal points of the company. “We tapped into the hearts and homes of our customers,” Cole said.

The motivation behind the company was simple. “We debuted our first children’s collection … to introduce entrepreneurship to our daughter,” Cole recalled.

Cole’s husband is equally involved in the business. “The least recognized role in a business is … that person’s spouse,” Cole said. Cole’s husband is not only an active participant in the company, but a financial investor as well.

Cole isn’t just a business owner. In addition to She Swank Too, Cole is a military spouse retail coach, the founder, CEO and owner of Milspousepreneur, and an active advocate for military affiliated entrepreneurship in hopes of reversing high milspouse unemployment.

“My focus remains in using this business as a vehicle to give back,” Cole said

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This civilian ‘navy’ is deploying to help Florida after Hurricane Irma

Louisiana’s famous Cajun Navy, the volunteer civilian group that with its small boats helped rescue victims of Hurricane Harvey, wants to assist Florida after Hurricane Irma.


Rob Gaudet, one of the volunteer network’s organizers, spoke Sept 7. to Florida Sen. Marco Rubio to find out how the grassroots group might be of most help.

“They’re ready to go,” Rubio told the Miami Herald.

Irma is not expected to dump as much rain as Harvey, but forecasters worry about storm surge up to 10 feet in the state’s southern peninsula.

43 giant presidents’ heads are sitting in the middle of a Virginia field

The Cajun Navy drove boats into Houston to pick up people stuck in the massive floods — turning into the so-called Texas Navy — but is now back in Louisiana, tracking Irma as it makes its way to Florida.

“There’s already boaters on their way and there already,” Gaudet told the Herald.

Gaudet, a software engineer, founded the Cajun Relief Foundation after boaters came together last year to rescue victims of a no-name flood in his hometown of Baton Rouge. During Harvey, the organization used social media to handle requests for assistance, alleviating crushed emergency responders.

43 giant presidents’ heads are sitting in the middle of a Virginia field
Image from Cajun Relief Facebook.

“There’s a team of dispatchers that dispatch the Cajun Navy, that work from their homes or they work from coffee shops, literally taking request off of social media,” Gaudet said, noting dispatchers can be — and are — anywhere in the country. “We use mobile technology that the boaters carry along with them, and so we dispatch them to perform rescues.”

Rubio’s suggestion: that Gaudet’s volunteers, with their shallow-water boats, consider navigating narrow canals in South and Central Florida to reach victims if Irma’s storm surge leaves wide areas unreachable by car or deeper-water vessels.

“Biscayne Bay is like a basin,” said Rubio, a recreational boater himself. “It’s like a bowl of water that’s going to get potentially pushed inward.”

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Now the White House has to respond to a petition calling for Navy ratings reversal

A petition lobbying the White House to reinstate the official Navy rating titles removed in late September gained more than 100,000 signatures on We the People, a website created by the Obama administration to allow large groups of Americans to directly request changes to public policy.


Petitions that cross the threshold are guaranteed an official response from the administration, but activists are not guaranteed that it will be a “yes” response.

43 giant presidents’ heads are sitting in the middle of a Virginia field

Ratings were essentially job titles in the Navy and they were incorporated into the method of address for most enlisted leaders. Some of the ratings, like those for gunner’s or boatswain’s mates, have remained the same since the Continental Navy instituted them over 240 years ago. Other rates, such as special warfare boat operator, are newer.

Navy officials say that they removed the rating structure to allow sailors to more easily cross-train between jobs or switch career tracks entirely. This increased flexibility in job choices would also, according to comments given to the Navy Times, make it easier for sailors to get specific duty stations.

But the move was deeply unpopular with sailors. The petition to bring that dissatisfaction to the attention of the White House gained 102,614 signatures. The petition description highlights the tradition and history of the rating system.

For 241 Years Navy personnel have been identified by their Job specialty, known as a “Rating.” The oldest rates such as Boatswain Mates, and Gunners Mate predate the founding of this country. Being known by your job title was a sense of pride. A sign of accomplishment. The Secretary of the Navy and Chief of Naval Operations just senselessly erased this tradition.

While the White House promises an official response to successful petitions, it does so by putting the petition in front of the proper policy makers. According to the program’s “about” section:

With We the People, you can easily create a petition online, share it, and collect signatures. If you gather 100,000 signature in 30 days, we’ll review your petition, make sure it gets in front of the appropriate policy experts, and issue an official response.

In this case, that could mean that the petition would land on the desk of Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus or someone on his staff. But Mabus and his staff were the ones who made the decision to get rid of Navy ratings in the first place.

The petition could encourage senior Navy leadership to take sailor feedback more seriously moving forward and possibly even find a plan that accomplishes the leadership’s goals while preserving Navy tradition.

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This crazy rifle grenade allows soldiers to blow through the Taliban’s front door

Getting through the door on an enemy-held compound can be one of the most dangerous parts of a military operation. Luckily, the Simon is a rifle-fired grenade that allows soldiers to blow the door open from 15 to 30 meters away. The weapon, which is currently in testing, is pretty crazy in action.


Check it out below:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TmRxCGskdAI

MORE: The 9 weirdest projects DARPA is working on

AND: Watch ‘The Avengers’ in under 3 minutes | Hurry Up and Watch

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The awesome way the Army gets 70-ton tanks across rivers

Improved Ribbon Bridges are a mobility marvel for the Army, allowing troops to move 70-ton tanks across large rivers of flowing water and take the fight to the bad dudes on the other side.


The IRB is a pontoon bridge that is put in place by multirole bridge companies. The MRBCs use small bridge erection boats to navigate the rivers and position the structure.

43 giant presidents’ heads are sitting in the middle of a Virginia field
(GIF: Gung Ho Vids)

Once the engineers and their boats are in the water, the bridge bays are launched. These are floating sections that are unfolded and propelled into position. Each MRBC is equipped with 42 of the bays and can build up to 210 meters of span.

The bridge bays can be launched by truck or helicopter. The MRBCs have their own trucks, but require support from aviation units to launch by helicopter.

43 giant presidents’ heads are sitting in the middle of a Virginia field
(GIF: Gung Ho Vids)

If there aren’t enough bays to bridge the entire river, the MRBC can use them as rafts. They position the bay on one side of the river and drop the ramp onto the bank. After the vehicles drive on, engineers lift the ramp and begin crossing the river.

43 giant presidents’ heads are sitting in the middle of a Virginia field
(Photo: Gung Ho Vids)

Once near the opposite shore, the engineers drop down a ramp against the bank and the vehicles can drive off.

43 giant presidents’ heads are sitting in the middle of a Virginia field
(Photo: Gung Ho Vids)

Of course, vehicles can cross much faster if the engineers are able to complete and position one unbroken span. In that case, tanks, fighting vehicles, and humvees can simply drive across. Humvee traffic can pass in two directions at once, but tanks and most fighting vehicles have to cross near the center, making it a one-way bridge.

43 giant presidents’ heads are sitting in the middle of a Virginia field
(Photo: Gung Ho Vids)

Watch engineers deploy the bridge and wave tanks across in the video below.

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24 military movies to watch over Fourth of July weekend

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Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc.


Few things have the power to transport people like the cinema.

Who can forget Robert Williams’ “Good morning, Vietnam” or Marine Corps DI Hartman’s memorable quotes?

The following list is of our favorite military movies to watch over Fourth of July weekend.

“The Longest Day” (1962)

43 giant presidents’ heads are sitting in the middle of a Virginia field
20th Century Fox

“The Longest Day” tells the story of heroism and loss that marked the Allies’ successful completion of the Normandy Landings on D-Day during World War II.

The film stands out due to its attention to detail, as it employed many Axis and Allied D-Day participants as advisers for how to depict the D-Day landings in the movie.

“Lawrence Of Arabia” (1962)

43 giant presidents’ heads are sitting in the middle of a Virginia field
Columbia Pictures

Based on the exploits of British Army Lieutenant T. E. Lawrence during World War I, “Lawrence of Arabia” tells the story of Lawrence’s incredible activities in the Middle East.

The film captures Lawrence’s daring, his struggles with the horrific violence of World War I, and the incredible British role in the foundation of the modern Middle East and Saudi Arabia.

“The Great Escape” (1963)

43 giant presidents’ heads are sitting in the middle of a Virginia field
United Artists

“The Great Escape” is based on a novel of the same name, which was a nonfiction account of a mass escape from a German prison camp in Poland during World War II. The film follows several British German prisoners of war as they try to escape from the Nazis and make their way back to Allied-controlled territory.

“The Dirty Dozen” (1967)

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MGM

Extremely loosely inspired by true acts during World War II, “The Dirty Dozen” tells the story of 12 Army convicts trained for a nearly impossible mission deep in Nazi-occupied France before D-Day, and the film follows their exploits in training and beyond.

“MASH” (1970)

43 giant presidents’ heads are sitting in the middle of a Virginia field
20th Century Fox

“MASH” is a black comedy set on the frontlines of the Korean War. The story follows a group of Mobile Army Surgical Hospital officers as they carry out their mission against the bleak backdrop of the seemingly ceaseless conflict miles from their position.

“Patton” (1970)

43 giant presidents’ heads are sitting in the middle of a Virginia field
20th Century Fox

A movie documenting the life and exploits of General George S. Patton.

A wartime hero of World War II, the film covers Patton’s exploits, accomplishments, and ultimate discharge.

“The Deer Hunter” (1978)

43 giant presidents’ heads are sitting in the middle of a Virginia field
Universal Pictures

“The Deer Hunter” follows the story of a trio of Russian-American steelworkers both in Pennsylvania before their service and during the Vietnam War.

The film, which stars Robert De Niro, Meryl Streep, and Christopher Walken, won multiple awards, including the Academy Award for best picture, best director, and best supporting actor for Walken.

“Apocalypse Now” (1979)

43 giant presidents’ heads are sitting in the middle of a Virginia field
Screen grab

Featuring an all-star cast (Marlon Brando, Martin Sheen, Robert Duvall, and Dennis Hopper) and directed by Francis Ford Coppola, “Apocalypse Now” is a modern adaptation of Joseph Conrad’s classic “Heart of Darkness.”

Set in Vietnam in 1970, the film shows to what depths men will sink during wartime.

“Das Boot” (1981)

43 giant presidents’ heads are sitting in the middle of a Virginia field
Neue Constantin Film

“Das Boot” is a German film depicting the service of German sailors aboard fictional submarine U-96. The story has been lauded for personalizing the characters during World War II by showing both the tension of hunting ships, as well as the tedium of serving aboard submarines.

“Top Gun” (1986)

43 giant presidents’ heads are sitting in the middle of a Virginia field
Tom Cruise in ‘Top Gun’ (1986) Paramount Pictures

Starring Tom Cruise and Val Kilmer, “Top Gun” follows Cruise as he attends the Top Gun aviation school. An aggressive but extremely competent pilot, Cruise competes throughout his training to become the best pilot in training. The film was selected in 2015 by the Library of Congress for preservation due to its cultural significance.

“Platoon” (1986)

43 giant presidents’ heads are sitting in the middle of a Virginia field
Orion Pictures

“Platoon,” featuring Charlie Sheen, depicts the horrors and difficulties of the Vietnam War. The movie both shows the difficulty in locating potential insurgents in a civilian population, as well as the strains and struggles war can place on brothers-in-arms.

“Good Morning Vietnam” (1987)

43 giant presidents’ heads are sitting in the middle of a Virginia field
Touchstone Pictures

Loosely based on a true story, “Good Morning Vietnam” is a comedy-drama starring Robin Williams as a radio DJ in Saigon during the Vietnam War.

Williams earned an Academy Award for best actor.

“Full Metal Jacket” (1987)

43 giant presidents’ heads are sitting in the middle of a Virginia field
YouTube/Jimmy Jammz

Directed by Stanley Kubrick, “Full Metal Jacket” follows two new recruits as they enter bootcamp during the Vietnam War. From depicting the struggles of training to the savagery of war, “Full Metal Jacket” remains a timeless classic.

“Glory” (1989)

43 giant presidents’ heads are sitting in the middle of a Virginia field
TriStar Pictures

Featuring Matthew Broderick, Denzel Washington, Cary Elwes, and Morgan Freeman, “Glory” follows the US’s first all African American regiment, the 54th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry.

Denzel Washington won an Academy Award for his performance.

“The Hunt For Red October” (1990)

43 giant presidents’ heads are sitting in the middle of a Virginia field
Youtube/ArousingAdmiration

Based on Tom Clancy’s bestselling novel, “The Hunt For Red October” is set during the last stages of the Cold War.

The film stars Sean Connery as a rogue Soviet naval captain who is attempting to defect to the US with the Soviet Union’s most advanced nuclear missile submarine.

“Schindler’s List” (1993)

43 giant presidents’ heads are sitting in the middle of a Virginia field
Universal Pictures

Directed by Steven Spielberg and starring Liam Neeson, “Schindler’s List” tells the true story of how businessman Oskar Schindler evolves from seeing Jews as nothing but human chattel to doing his best to save as many Jews from Nazi death camps as possible during the Holocaust. The film, based on a true story and painfully told, won the Academy Award for best picture.

“Saving Private Ryan” (1998)

43 giant presidents’ heads are sitting in the middle of a Virginia field
DreamWorks

Directed by Steven Spielberg and featuring Tom Hanks, “Saving Private Ryan” showcases both the brutality of World War II while also paying tribute to the amazing courage and honor that each person can rise to. The movie won Spielberg an Academy Award in 1999 for best director.

“Three Kings” (1999)

43 giant presidents’ heads are sitting in the middle of a Virginia field
Warner Bros.

Featuring Ice Cube, Mark Wahlberg, and George Clooney, “Three Kings” shows a stark depiction of life on the ground in Kuwait and Southern Iraq following the end of the Gulf War.

The movie depicts the brutality that Iraqis faced from the regime of Saddam Hussein after trying to rise up against the government at the end of the war.

“Black Hawk Down” (2001)

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YouTube screenshot

Directed by Ridley Scott, “Black Hawk Down” follows the tragic exploits of US special forces that were sent into Somalia on a peacekeeping mission in 1993. The movie won the Academy Award for best film editing in 2002.

“Jarhead” (2005)

43 giant presidents’ heads are sitting in the middle of a Virginia field
Universal Pictures

“Jarhead,” directed by Sam Mendes and starring Jake Gyllenhaal, depicts a realistic look at the mix of drudgery and tension that exists for soldiers in a war zone.

The movie spans from the late 1980s through the US involvement in the Gulf War.

“Downfall” (2005)

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YouTube/tofumary2

“Downfall” depicts the end of the European stage of World War II from inside Adolf Hitler’s bunker in Berlin. The movie depicts Hitler’s final days as he, and his fellow high-ranking Nazis, realize the futility of their position in the war and the end of the Third Reich.

“Tae Guk Gi: The Brotherhood of War” (2005)

43 giant presidents’ heads are sitting in the middle of a Virginia field
Samuel Goldwyn Films

“Tae Guk Gi” follows the tale of two South Korean brothers during the start of the Korean War. Drafted into combat, the older brother continuously volunteers for the most dangerous missions in exchange for his little brother’s safety. But, as the movie depicts, such constant violence takes the toll of all involved.

“Letters From Iwo Jima” (2006)

43 giant presidents’ heads are sitting in the middle of a Virginia field
Warner Bros. Pictures

Directed by Clint Eastwood, “Letters From Iwo Jima” tells the story of the Battle of Iwo Jima from the Japanese perspective. The film is a companion to Clint Eastwood’s film “Flags Of Our Fathers,” which also tells the story of the Battle of Iwo Jima but from the American perspective.

“Beasts Of No Nation” (2015)

43 giant presidents’ heads are sitting in the middle of a Virginia field
Netflix

Released on Netflix, “Beasts of No Nation” is based on a book of the same name by Uzodinma Iweala. Set in an unnamed West African country, the film depicts the horror of civil war and the use of child soldiers.

The film is told from the point of view of the child soldier Agu, played by Abraham Attah, as he attempts to survive and is forced to fight in the war.

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Star Wars’ connection to WWII-era military aviation

43 giant presidents’ heads are sitting in the middle of a Virginia field
YouTube


The long-awaited seventh movie in the Star Wars saga is close to hitting theaters, and nerds everywhere are beside themselves. While most young males in North America grow up with a love of Star Wars (or Star Trek, if you have poor taste), I didn’t really find myself catching onto the movies in the same way as most of my peers did… In fact, what really lured me to Star Wars was the space battles between sleek and mean-looking X-Wing fighters and the various spaceships of the Empire (the bad guys). That interest was further cemented by something I found out about Star Wars’ connection to aviation of the Second World War, which I’m far more a fan of, if we’re being honest.

If you’ve ever seen the original trilogy (Return of the Jedi, The Empire Strikes Back and A New Hope), you’ve probably seen the infamous Millennium Falcon spaceship in action, piloted by the gruff, sarcastic Han Solo (played by Harrison Ford, a huge aviation buff), and co-piloted by his massive furry beer buddy, Chewbacca. The cockpit of the Falcon, if you pay close attention, actually seems to resemble another flying vehicle, though one from a very long time ago.

I’m talking about the Boeing B-29 Superfortress, one of the US Army Air Force’s strategic bomber workhorses of the Second World War, and the aircraft most famously associated with dropping the atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, decisively ending the war in the Pacific Theater.

43 giant presidents’ heads are sitting in the middle of a Virginia field
Spartan7W | Public Domain

George Lucas, the creator of Star Wars, apparently developed an affection for the B-29 during the time he spent researching aerial dogfights of WWII to enhance the realism of the space battles fought between X-Wings and TIE Fighters of the Rebels and the Empire respectively. He had set engineers design the cockpit of the Falcon such that it matched the view facing forward from the cockpit of a B-29 (peering over the pilots’ shoulders). After viewing over 25 hours of combat footage and gun camera imagery, Lucas included gunner stations aboard the Millennium Falcon, similar to those you’d find on a B-29 or a B-17 Flying Fortress. A few of the characters used such gun (or laser) turrets to good effect against marauding TIE Fighters in a similar manner to how gunners aboard bombers during WWII would engage enemy interceptor fighters sent up to shoot them down.

43 giant presidents’ heads are sitting in the middle of a Virginia field
YouTube

Lucas needed his spaceships to possess unique sounds that were fitting of their futuristic nature, so he once again turned to WWII-era aviation to help with meeting his goals. As sounds couldn’t easily be synthesized in the same way that studios can today, Lucas’ sound engineers needed to record other noises and modify them to get what they were after. One engineer was sent out to the Reno Air Races in Nevada, where he was allowed to lay down near a pylon (something you most certainly cannot do today) and record the noise of P-51 Mustang racers screaming overhead. After slowing down the recorded track, they mated it to movie scenes, and thus, the Millennium Falcon was given its unique and ominous sounds.

More from Tactical Air Network:

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9 true facts about the ‘Nuclear Club’

The “Nuclear Club” is a term used informally in geopolitics for the group of nations who possess nuclear weapons. The Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) of 1968 was designed to prevent the spread of nuclear weapons and limit the Nuclear Club to five members. A few countries declined to sign the treaty and have since joined the club.


Though the NPT restricts weapons tech, it does reserve the right of the peaceful uses of nuclear technology for any country, for things like energy production and medical and scientific advancements.

43 giant presidents’ heads are sitting in the middle of a Virginia field
A lot of energy.

Here are 11 more interesting facts about the world’s most exclusive (and potentially destructive) club.

1. There are eight, maybe nine, members controlling at least 15,600 warheads.

The list of confirmed countries with nuclear weapons includes the United States, Russia, France, China, United Kingdom, India, Pakistan, and North Korea. Israel may or may not have nukes, as they have a policy of making their weapons capabilities purposely ambiguous to the rest of the world.

43 giant presidents’ heads are sitting in the middle of a Virginia field

The first five are permanent members of the UN Security Council. The NPT treaty recognizes these states as weapons states. The latter four aren’t signatories to the NPT.

2. Five other countries host foreign nuclear weapons.

Belgium, Germany, The Netherlands, Italy, and Turkey host American nukes under NATO agreements. 30 other states use nuclear technology to generate energy under the terms of the NPT.

3. South Africa is the only country to dismantle its nuclear arsenal.

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Bomb casings at South Africa’s abandoned Circle nuclear bomb production facility near Pretoria. These most likely would have accommodated a gun-type nuclear package for air delivery

From the 1960s through the 1980’s, apartheid South Africa pursued nuclear weapons. It was able to assemble six weapons with (alleged) help from Israel. Soviet spies discovered their capabilities, which the South Africans denied. When the apartheid government fell and the African National Congress (led by Nelson Mandela) was set to take power, South Africa dismantled its stockpile. It remains the only country ever to destroy its entire WMD program.

4. 59 other nations have the ability to construct nuclear weapons.

Apart from those already in the Nuclear Club, South Africa, Argentina, Mexico, Canada, Australia, Vietnam, Japan, Uzbekistan, Austria, Belarus, Belgium, Czech Republic, Germany, Hungary, Italy, the Netherlands, Poland, Switzerland, Norway, Sweden, and Ukraine all have the technology and material needed for a weapon. Iraq, Libya, Syria, Brazil, South Korea, and Taiwan have all had weapons programs in the past but openly shelved their efforts.

5. Maintaining the worldwide arsenal is a trillion-dollar business.

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Even twenty years after the end of the Cold War, the thousands of nuclear weapons cost the world more than $1 trillion per decade in upkeep costs.

6. By 2020, Pakistan will have the world’s third largest stockpile.

43 giant presidents’ heads are sitting in the middle of a Virginia field

An August 2015 report from the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace and the Stimson Center revealing Pakistan was ramping up production, with numbers as high as 20 per year. The report estimated that by 2020, Pakistan would have 350 warheads. The Pakistanis also tested a ballistic missile in December 2015 with a 560 mile range.

7. Nuclear nonproliferation success far outnumber failures.

43 giant presidents’ heads are sitting in the middle of a Virginia field

India and Pakistan developed nuclear warheads in 1998. In 2003, North Korea withdrew from the NPT and has since tested a number of weapons. At the time of the NPT signing, it was estimated that 20-30 countries would have nuclear weapons by 1985. Despite some proliferation setbacks, only three (maybe four) developed them.

8. Only two countries possess worldwide nuclear capabilities.

Only the United States and Russia have the ability to strike anywhere in the world, either through Intercontinental Ballistic Missiles or from submarine-based weapons. India and Pakistan have regional strike capabilities. The range of Israel’s and North Korea’s weapons are unknown.

9. Three countries actually inherited nuclear weapons.

Belarus, Kazakhstan, and Ukraine inherited stockpiles following the fall of the Soviet Union. They returned the weapons to Russia and signed on to the NPT.

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6 of the most badass US military test pilots of all time

Military test pilots are a rare breed, undertaking the responsibility of flying new aircraft to their design limits . . . and then beyond.  In his classic book The Right Stuff Tom Wolfe puts it this way:


A career in flying was like climbing one of those ancient Babylonian pyramids made up of a dizzy progression of steps and ledges, a ziggurat, a pyramid extraordinarily high and steep; and the idea was to prove at every foot of the way up that pyramid that you were one of the elected and anointed ones who had the right stuff and could move higher and higher and even–ultimately, God willing, one day–that you might be able to join that special few at the very top, that elite who had the capacity to bring tears to men’s eyes, the very Brotherhood of the Right Stuff itself.

Here are six of those who over their test pilot careers proved they were badasses with ample amounts of the Right Stuff:

1. Jimmy Doolittle

43 giant presidents’ heads are sitting in the middle of a Virginia field

Jimmy Doolittle felt the test pilot itch very early in his life. At age 15, he built a glider, jumped off a cliff, and crashed. He stuck the pieces back together and tried again. The second crash was worse, and when he came to rest there was nothing left to salvage.

In 1922, Doolittle made a solo crossing of the continental United States in a de Havilland DH-4 in under 24 hours. Two years later, he performed the first outside loop in a Curtiss Hawk. In 1929, he flew from takeoff to landing while referring only to instruments — a feat The New York Times called “the greatest single step in safety.”

During World War II Doolittle was sent off to train crews for a mysterious mission, and he ended up leading the entire effort. On April 18, 1942, 15 B-25s launched from the USS Hornet and bombed Tokyo. Most ditched off the Chinese coast or crashed; other crew members had bailed out, including Doolittle. Though he was crushed by what he called his “failure,” Doolittle was awarded the title Brigadier General and a Congressional Medal of Honor, which, he confided to General Henry “Hap” Arnold, he would spend the rest of his life earning.

2. Bob Hoover

43 giant presidents’ heads are sitting in the middle of a Virginia field

After his Spitfire was shot down by a Focke-Wulf 190 over the Mediterranean in 1944, Hoover was captured and spent 16 months in the Stalag Luft 1 prison in Barth, Germany. He eventually escaped, stole a Fw 190 (which, of course, he had never piloted), and flew to safety in Holland.

After the war Hoover signed up to serve as an Army Air Forces test pilot, flying captured German and Japanese aircraft. He befriended Chuck Yeager and eventually became Yeager’s backup pilot in the Bell X-1 program. He flew chase in a Lockheed P-80 when Yeager first exceeded Mach 1.

Hoover moved on to North American Aviation, where he test-flew the T-28 Trojan, FJ-2 Fury, AJ-1 Savage, F-86 Sabre, and F-100 Super Sabre, and in the mid-1950s he began flying North American aircraft, both civil and military, at airshows. Jimmy Doolittle called Hoover “the greatest stick-and-rudder man who ever lived.”

3. Chuck Yeager

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As a young Army Air Forces pilot in training, Yeager had to overcome airsickness before he went on to down 12 German fighters, including a Messerschmitt 262, the first jet fighter. After the war, still in the AAF, he trained as a test pilot at Wright Field in Dayton, Ohio, where he got to fly the United States’ first jet fighter, the Bell P-59.

Yeager then went to Muroc Field in California, where Larry Bell introduced him and fellow test pilot Bob Hoover to the Bell XS-1. On October 14, 1947, ignoring the pain of two cracked ribs, Yeager reached Mach 1.07. “There was no ride ever in the world like that one!” he later wrote. The aircraft accelerated so rapidly that when the landing gear was retracted, an actuating rod snapped and the wing flaps blew off.

He test piloted the Douglas X-3, Northrop X-4, and Bell X-5, as well as the prototype for the Boeing B-47 swept-wing jet bomber. And on one December day in 1953, he tried to coax an X-1A to Mach 2.3 to break Scott Crossfield’s Mach 2 record attained in the Douglas D-558-II Skyrocket. At 80,000 feet and Mach 2.4, the nose yawed, a wing rose, and the X-1A went out of control. He managed to recover the airplane at 25,000 feet.

Yeager was sent to Okinawa in 1954 to test a Soviet MiG-15 that a North Korean had used to defect. When he stopped test-flying that year, he had logged 10,000 hours in 180 types of military aircraft.

4. Scott Crossfield

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In 1950 former Navy fighter pilot Scott Crossfield was hired by the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics and sent to Edwards Air Force Base in California to fly the world’s hottest X-planes, including the X-1, the tail-less Northrop X-4, the Douglas D-558-I Skystreak and D-558-II Skyrocket, the Convair XF-92A and the Bell X-5. He made 100 rocket-plane flights in all.

On November 20, 1953, he took the D-558-II to Mach 2.04, becoming the first pilot to fly at twice the speed of sound.

He gained a reputation as a pilot whose flights were jinxed: On his first X-4 flight, he lost both engines; in the Skyrocket, he flamed out; the windshield iced over in the X-1. After a deadstick landing in a North American F-100, he lost hydraulic pressure and the Super Sabre slammed into a hangar wall, which caused Chuck Yeager to proclaim: “The sonic wall was mine; the hangar wall was Crossfield’s.”

In 1955, he quit NACA and started flying the sinister-looking X-15. Crossfield made the first eight flights of the X-15, learning its idiosyncrasies, and logged another six after NASA and Air Force pilots joined the program.

On his fourth X-15 flight, the fuselage buckled right behind the cockpit on landing. But his most serious mishap happened on the ground while testing the XLR-99 engine in June 1960.

“I put the throttle in the stowed position and pressed the reset switch,” Crossfield wrote in his autobiography Always Another Dawn. “It was like pushing the plunger on a dynamite detonator. X-15 number three blew up with incredible force.” Fire engines rushed to extinguish the blaze, and Crossfield was extracted from the cockpit.

“The only casualty was the crease in my trousers,” he told reporters. “The firemen got them wet when they sprayed the airplane with water. I pictured the headline: ‘Space Ship Explodes; Pilot Wets Pants.'”

5. Neil Armstrong

43 giant presidents’ heads are sitting in the middle of a Virginia field

Neil Armstrong’s path to being the first man on the moon was a somewhat circuitous one. He entered Navy flight training right out of high school and wound up flying 78 missions over Korea. He left active duty at age 22 and went to college at Purdue where he earned an engineering degree that, in turn, landed him a job as an experimental research test pilot stationed at Edward Air Force Base.

Armstrong made seven flights in the X-15 from November 1960 to July 1962, reaching a top altitude of 207,500 feet and a top speed of Mach 5.74. He left the Dryden Flight Research Center with a total of 2,400 flying hours. During his test pilot career, he flew more than 200 different models of aircraft.

Then the real work began. In 1958, he was selected for the U.S. Air Force’s Man In Space Soonest program. In November 1960, Armstrong was chosen as part of the pilot consultant group for the X-20 Dyna-Soar, a military space plane under development by Boeing for the U.S. Air Force, and on March 15, 1962, he was selected by the U.S. Air Force as one of seven pilot-engineers who would fly the space plane when it got off the design board.

In the months after the announcement that applications were being sought for the second group of NASA astronauts, Armstrong became more and more excited about the prospects of both the Apollo program and of investigating a new aeronautical environment. Armstrong’s astronaut application arrived about a week past the June 1, 1962, deadline. Dick Day, with whom Armstrong had worked closely at Edwards, saw the late arrival of the application and slipped it into the pile before anyone noticed. 

Astronaut Deke Slayton called Armstrong on September 13, 1962, and asked whether he would be interested in joining the NASA Astronaut Corps as part of what the press dubbed “the New Nine”; without hesitation, Armstrong said yes, which made him the first (technically) civilian astronaut.

Armstrong was ultimately given the nod to lead the Apollo 11 mission because he was generally regarded as the guy with the most analytical mind and coolest under pressure among the astronauts.

(Source: Wikipedia)

6. John Glenn

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John Glenn is best known as the first American astronaut to orbit the earth, but before he was one of the Mercury 7 he was a test pilot. Then-Major Glenn flew an F8U-1P Crusader (BuNo 144608) from NAS Los Alamitos, California nonstop to NAS Floyd Bennett Field, New York at a record speed of 725.55 mph. The flight, which involved Glenn refueling from airborne tankers at waypoints across the country — the only times he pulled the power out of afterburner (besides his final approach to landing) — lasted just three hours, 23 minutes and 8.4 seconds, and that beat the previous record holder (an F-100F Super Sabre) by 15 minutes.

The purpose of the Project Bullet was to prove that the Pratt Whitney J-57 engine could tolerate an extended period at combat power – full afterburner – without damage. After the flight, Pratt Whitney engineers disassembled the J-57 and, based on their examination, determined that the engine could perform in extended combat situations. Accordingly, all power limitations on J-57s were lifted from that day forward.

(An interesting side note is that the Crusader that Glenn used for Project Bullet was reclaimed from the “Boneyard” at Davis-Monthan AFB and made into a Navy RF-8G reconnaissance aircraft.  Following a photo mission over North Vietnam in December of 1972, the jet was lost while trying to land aboard the USS Oriskany operating in the Gulf of Tonkin. The pilot ejected and survived.)

(Source: Flying Leathernecks)

Now: The 18 greatest fighter aircraft of all time

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The Army’s top leadership is pretty worried about how quickly the North Korean threat is growing

US General Mark Milley, chief of staff of the Army, says North Korean missile technology may be advancing faster than expected.


Milley spoke July 27 at the National Press Club in Washington, as North Koreans concluded a day of remembrance to mark the anniversary of the end of the Korean War.

Milley told his audience, “North Korea is extremely dangerous, and more dangerous as the weeks go by.”

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General Mark Milley. Army photo by Sgt. 1st Class Marisol Walker.

‘Never seen before’

Earlier this month, Pyongyang announced it had completed its first successful test launch of an intercontinental ballistic missile, one expert said could travel far enough to reach the westernmost US states of Alaska or Hawaii.

The launch took US defense experts by surprise. Pentagon officials said it was something they had “never seen before.”

There was speculation that North Korea might use the July 27 anniversary to test-launch a new missile, but late in the day, those fears appeared to have been unfounded.

Earlier July 27, North Koreans gathered at the mausoleum of North Korean leaders Kim Il Sung and Kim Jong Il to commemorate the day in 1953 when China, North Korea, and the US-backed United Nations signed an agreement to end the struggle over the Korean peninsula.

43 giant presidents’ heads are sitting in the middle of a Virginia field
Statues of Kim Il-sung and Kim Jong-il. Wikimedia Commons photo by José Fernandes Jr.

Peace treaty never signed

The conflict began in 1950 when the Soviet-ruled North invaded the democratically ruled South.

In the North Korean version of the story, the conflict is known as the Fatherland Liberation War. North Korea blames the United States for starting the war that devastated the Korean peninsula and saw the South Korean capital, Seoul, change hands four times.

Because a peace treaty was never signed, the two nations are technically still at war. Pyongyang uses that fact to justify its concentration on military readiness.

Hong Yong-Dok brought his granddaughters to the Kim mausoleum to pay their respects July 27. He told a French news agency, “Our country is ever-victorious because we have the greatest leaders in the world.”

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8 parting thoughts from one of the Marine Corps’ ‘Chosin Few’

“Consider that, first of all, you are a United States Marine. That is the beginning,” Joseph Owen said just days before his death in August 2015.


He said it as if he were addressing all Marines.

“You are something beyond ordinary people. Now you want to take a step up from there. If you’re not the best, you’re gonna be. If you’re not trying to be the best the Corps has, you’re not worth a sh*t. Why are you here?”

Owen commanded a mortar platoon as a 2nd lieutenant in Baker Company, 1-7 Marines during the Korean War. Owen enlisted during World War II but saw the bulk of his service in Korea. As an officer, he was charged with turning an undisciplined group of reservist mortarmen into a force to confront the enemy.

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Owen near Seoul, ca. 1950. (provided by Joseph Owen)

Related: ‘Anyone trying to kill me, I’m going to kill them’

“You always have to perform to your limit,” he said. “Myself and a fellow officer, we used to sit around and talk about leadership all the time. Combat leadership doesn’t mean a goddamn thing unless you have Marines that will continue the fight no matter what.”

Becoming an officer changed his world.

“I’m not bragging, I’m just saying the facts: two Navy Crosses and a Silver Star – we know what the hell we’re talking about,” he said.

1. His most vivid memories:

“The North Koreans had much more initiative,” he said. “They would come on you tenaciously and keep on the attack until you killed them. And in defensive positions, they were aggressive and used offensive tactics. Even pinned down they would get out and come at you. I had great respect for them. They fought with their brains individually. The Chinese were only tenacious because there was no going back.”

“Some of the Chinese front line soldiers didn’t even have weapons, they had stakes. They would try to get in close and kill you with that. The ones who came after them would try to pick up the burp guns of the first wave. If they got killed the third wave would come and pick up the weapons.”

“The Chinese were wearing sneakers in 30-below-zero temperatures,” he remembered. “Sometimes we came up on them, and some of them would still be in position, frozen solid. They’d put their hands up to surrender. We would take them, pull them out, and find they were just stumbling around on frozen feet.”

2. On racial integration of the military:

“Two Southerners came to request to be in my platoon when they received a black squad leader, a Sgt. Long. When Sgt. Long was killed during a night fight with the Chinese, those two Marines requested to carry Long’s body, because they wanted to pay proper respect to ‘the best damn squad leader in the Corps.’ When the fighting started, everyone was a Marine.”

3. His take on modern American warfare:

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“Today’s troops cannot fight the way I know how to fight. You have to take the battle to the enemy and kill them. These days you have to go through rules of engagement, which ties the hands of soldiers behind their back. You have to keep on going and do not stop. Keep going and kill those bastards. No pity, no mercy, just kill them. As many as you can.”

4. On North Korea today:

“We fought them to a defeat and now they have risen back and are – in effect –  giving us the finger and getting away with it. What are we gonna do? We shouldn’t let that little son of a bitch play around with atomic weapons. That pisses me off.”

5. On harboring ill will toward an enemy:

“Hell no. They were fighting under the same orders I had. They were out to kill me, as I was out to kill them. Hell no. I respect them. I’d love to sit down with one of them and bullshit with them about what they were doing at such and such a time, especially if they were in the same battle as I was.”

6. Why he wrote a book:

“I had been thinking for a long time something should be done to honor the Marines I fought with,” Owen said. “I knew if I wrote about Baker Company it would also cover Able Company. We were all the same, formed up by the numbers, and we bonded very quickly. If I said Baker was the best, they’d say ‘F– you, we’re the best.’ We were the same. So I quit my business and wrote the book. This was a story that needed to be told.”

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1st Lt. Joseph Owen (Retired) bows his head during the invocation of his Silver Star ceremony, 59 years after the actions where he earned it, April 24, 2009. (Marine Corps photo)

“What I wrote about getting to Fox Company after they were under fire for five nights… we came up to Fox Company’s positions. They had stacks of Chinese bodies set up as protective walls against enemy fire. They were using those walls to put down fire on the oncoming Chinese. When we came up on them, I was able to walk 50 yards on just Chinese bodies. There must have been hundreds of them thrown against Fox Company. This is the kind of thing I needed to write.”

7. On life after the Corps:

“Stay active, be proud of what you do. What I say about the pride of being a Marine. That’s all over the place — the rest of your life, make it a good one. Do good things for people to the best of your ability. I had a hell of a life, way beyond the Marine Corps. I look back at night before I go to sleep… I got millions of great, great memories. I remember everything. I think ‘son of a bitch… you were able to get away with that!’ ”

8. Advice for anyone, military or civilian:

“If you’ve never been scared sh*tless, what kind of life have you led?”