Here is some of the best Navy jet footage from 2015 - We Are The Mighty
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Here is some of the best Navy jet footage from 2015

Last year Wing Nut Wick published a compilation of the best Naval aviation footage captured from the cockpits of Navy jets called Hornet Ball 2014. This year a similar video compilation surfaced from Navy West Coast squadrons published by Joe Stephens.


Related:  The best Navy jet footage from 2013

In similar fashion, some of the most incredible Hornet footage was captured in HD and paired with some of the sickest EDM beats (Electronic Dance Music). The latest version features precision video editing and could stand on its own as a music video. Too bad MTV no longer plays that sort of stuff; it would surely give any artist in the top 20 list a run for their money.

It opens with a breathtaking flyover of the USS Ronald Reagan (CVN-76) that perfectly displays the might of a U.S. Navy aircraft carrier. There’s nothing like a floating fortress of freedom that projects power over any horizon.

Here is some of the best Navy jet footage from 2015
USS Ronald Reagan (CVN-76). Joe Stephens/YouTube

It follows the Aviation Ordnancemen (AOs) — the sailors in red jerseys — loading the Hornets with bombs.

Here is some of the best Navy jet footage from 2015
Aviation Ordnancemen take bombs to the F/A-18 Hornets. Joe Stephens/YouTube

The plane captain — sailors in brown jerseys — gives the pilot a greeting salute before the officer proceeds to his final plane check before climbing into the cockpit. It is the plane captain’s responsibility to have the jet ready to fly. These men and women are usually some of the youngest in a squadron.

Here is some of the best Navy jet footage from 2015
A plane captain gives a greeting salute to the pilot. Image: Joe Stephens/YouTube screengrab

After all of the preflight inspections, the Hornet is handed off to the ship’s aircraft handlers in yellow jerseys for launch positioning.

Here is some of the best Navy jet footage from 2015
F/A-18 Hornet getting into launch position. Joe Stephens/YouTube

Final flight systems check.

Here is some of the best Navy jet footage from 2015
Joe Stephens/YouTube

Full afterburners and FIRE!

Here is some of the best Navy jet footage from 2015
F/A-18 Hornet launch. Joe Stephens/YouTube

The footage is awesome! Here’s a screen grab from the cockpit.

Here is some of the best Navy jet footage from 2015
Image: Joe Stephens/YouTube screengrab

Refueling in mid air.

Here is some of the best Navy jet footage from 2015
Image: Joe Stephens/Youtube Screengrab

Refueling up close.

Here is some of the best Navy jet footage from 2015
Image: Joe Stephens/Youtube Screengrab

Rocket launch.

Here is some of the best Navy jet footage from 2015
Image: Joe Stephens/Youtube Screengrab

Super slo-mo firing.

Here is some of the best Navy jet footage from 2015
Image: Joe Stephens/Youtube Screengrab

You’ll never see a sunset quite like this.

Here is some of the best Navy jet footage from 2015
Image: Joe Stephens/YouTube Screengrab

Tailhook down.

Here is some of the best Navy jet footage from 2015
Image: Joe Stephens/Youtube Screengrab

Approaching the flight deck.

Here is some of the best Navy jet footage from 2015
Image: Joe Stephens/Youtube Screengrab

A breakaway into the sunset.

Here is some of the best Navy jet footage from 2015
Image: Joe Stephens/Youtube Screengrab

A missile launch from a destroyer.

Here is some of the best Navy jet footage from 2015
Image: Joe Stephens/Youtube Screengrab

Hornet swarm.

Here is some of the best Navy jet footage from 2015
Image: Joe Stephens/YouTube Screengrab

Flight formation.

Here is some of the best Navy jet footage from 2015
Image: Joe Stephens/YouTube Screengrab

A daring landing in thick fog.

Here is some of the best Navy jet footage from 2015
Image: Joe Stephens/YouTube Screengrab

An incredible flyby viewed from the air.

Here is some of the best Navy jet footage from 2015
Image: Joe Stephens/YouTube Screengrab

A view of Mount Fuji.

Here is some of the best Navy jet footage from 2015
Image: Joe Stephens/YouTube Screengrab

From the flight deck to the insane aerial acrobatics from our finest men and women, this video truly captures the Navy fighter experience. The video is 13 minutes long but it’s worth watching.

Watch:

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New Air Force secretary is a former lawmaker and Academy grad

The Senate has confirmed Heather Wilson as Air Force secretary, making her President Donald Trump’s first service secretary nominee to be approved by the GOP-led chamber after fits and starts for several others.


Senators voted 76-22 Monday to approve Wilson, who represented New Mexico in the House before becoming a defense industry consultant. Her post-congressional work drew scrutiny for several Democrats, who had questioned an arrangement with government laboratories that paid her $20,000 a month. Wilson denied any impropriety.

Sen. Jack Reed of Rhode Island, the top Democrat on the Armed Services Committee, said he voted against Wilson’s nomination because of his lingering concerns with the payments. Reed also cited as troubling a call Wilson made a decade ago while still a member of Congress to a federal prosecutor handling a politically charged corruption probe.

Here is some of the best Navy jet footage from 2015
Secretary of the Air Force Nominee Heather Wilson testifies before the Senate Armed Services Committee, as a part of the confirmation process March 30, 2017, in Washington, D.C. In her opening statement, Wilson said,

Trump’s attempts to fill the other two service secretary jobs have failed so far. His picks for secretaries of the Army and Navy were forced to withdraw from consideration.

Mark Green, Trump’s second choice for Army secretary, stepped aside late last week amid growing criticism over his remarks about Muslims, and gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender Americans.

The president’s first pick to be the Army’s top civilian, Vincent Viola, dropped out in early February because of financial entanglements, and about three weeks later Philip B. Bilden, the Navy secretary nominee, withdrew for similar reasons.

The Trump administration has been slow to fill many other senior civilian posts at the Pentagon, leaving Defense Secretary Jim Mattis short of the support he needs to manage the nation’s vast military enterprise. The Senate Armed Services Committee is holding confirmation hearings Tuesday for three important financial positions at the Defense Department: comptroller, deputy comptroller and director of cost assessment and program evaluation.

After serving five terms in Congress from New Mexico, Wilson collected nearly half a million dollars in questionable payments from federally funded nuclear labs, the Energy Department’s inspector general said in a 2013 report. Wilson failed to provide documentation for the consulting work she did to earn $20,000 a month from the Los Alamos and Sandia national labs in New Mexico from January 2009 to March 2011, the report said.

Wilson deflected questions about the payments, saying during her Senate confirmation hearing that she’d performed the work and that the inspector general had found no fault with her.

The telephone call referenced by Reed, the senator from Rhode Island, was made by Wilson in October 2006 to David Iglesias, a U.S. attorney in New Mexico. Iglesias was one of seven federal prosecutors fired a few months later by the Bush administration. At the time, Iglesias was handling a number of public corruption cases. Reed said the call raised the possibility Iglesias may have felt pressured by Congress in an ongoing investigation. Wilson said she did nothing improper.

Wilson served as an Air Force officer in Europe during the 1980s and was on the National Security Council staff under President George H.W. Bush during the fall of the Berlin Wall. She graduated from the Air Force Academy in 1982 and later earned master’s and doctoral degrees as a Rhodes Scholar at Oxford University in England. Wilson is the first graduate of the academy to hold to hold the service’s top civilian post.

Wilson said that once confirmed she would resign as president of the South Dakota School of Mines Technology. She’d also assured the Defense Department’s general counsel that she would divest of stocks she holds in companies that do work for the U.S. military, including Intel, IBM, Honeywell and Raytheon.

Sen. John McCain of Arizona, the Republican chairman of the Armed Services Committee, called Wilson a “proven leader” and said she would lead the service to a stronger future.

Articles

This D-Day transport still flies like it was 1944

Here is some of the best Navy jet footage from 2015
Whiskey 7 in flight. (Photo courtesy of National Warplane Museum, Geneseo, N.Y.)


Tucked away in a rural corner of western New York is a survivor of D-Day. It is a C-47A Skytrain — an airplane that delivered paratroopers over drop zones around Normandy on June 6, 1944 — that has the distinction of being perhaps one of the few – if not the last – of its kind still in flying condition.

Named Whiskey 7 because of the large W7 painted on its fuselage, the Skytrain was the lead aircraft of the second invasion wave in the skies above France.

“That C-47 is one of our stars,” said Dawn Schaible, media director for the National Warplane Museum, the organization that gives Whiskey 7 a home and maintains it both for flying demonstrations and public viewing.

Skytrains have a storied history.  None other than Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower, the supreme Allied commander in Europe, called the Douglas aircraft one of the four “Tools of Victory” that won World War II for the Allies along with the atom bomb, the Jeep, and the bazooka.

The museum is proud of the fact that the aircraft is a true C-47, not a DC-3 conversion. The twin-engine, propeller-driven aircraft was built in 1943, one of more than 10,000 produced during World War II.

Skytrains like Whiskey 7 were the standard transport aircraft of the old U.S. Army Air Corps but also saw service with the British, who called the plane the Dakota.

The statistics regarding the Skytrain are impressive. When used as a supply plane, a C-47 could carry up to 6,000 pounds of cargo. It could also hold a fully assembled Jeep or 37-mm cannon.

When serving in its role as a troop transport, the C-47 carried 28 soldiers in full combat gear. As a medical airlift plane, it could accommodate 14 stretcher patients and three nurses.

On D-Day, Whiskey 7 transported paratroopers from the 3rd Battalion, 505th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 82nd Airborne Division.

The aircraft was actually one of the few that made it to the drop-zone assigned to the paratroopers: the town of Sainte-Mère-Église.

After D-Day, Whiskey 7 served for the balance of the war. Missions included towing gliders carrying men and equipment during Market Garden, the ill-fated airborne operation in Holland that was the largest airborne battle in history but which ended disastrously for the Allies.

After World War II, a civilian aviation company purchased the plane as surplus and converted it to an airliner. The plane then flew both passengers and cargo for decades.

Purchased by a private collector in 1993, it was eventually donated to the National Warplane Museum where it was restored to its D-Day configuration in 2005.

Here is some of the best Navy jet footage from 2015
Whiskey 7 on the tarmac during a layover on its way to Normandy, 2014. Photo courtesy of National Warplane Museum, Geneseo, N.Y.

In 2014, Whiskey 7 participated in the 70th anniversary of the D-Day invasion when it flew to France so historical re-enactors could jump from the plane.

The group also included Leslie Palmer Cruise Jr., one of the paratroopers the plane carried on D-Day. According to the museum, he was the last surviving member of his unit who jumped from Whiskey 7 when it was above Normandy in 1944.

Now, Whiskey 7 helps educate visitors to the National Warplane Museum about Operation Overlord and World War II.

Located in Geneseo, N.Y., the museum is a labor of love started by a grassroots group of historic aircraft enthusiasts who fly old war birds and restore airplanes. The museum has more than 15,000 visitors a year who come to view exhibits or attend the annual air show.

“We have amazing artifacts here,” said Schaible. “We figure out how we connect those artifacts with people and help them move beyond the idea that it’s just cool stuff. It’s the men and women and the stories behind the aircraft that make them historical.”

Articles

The top 7 videos of ISIS getting blown away

ISIS sucks. That’s a fact. Here are 7 great videos of them turning to ash.


1. ISIS releases footage of its own artillery being blown away

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2Ppd09ATLaA

It seems odd that these videos end up on the internet. If a videographer is filming propaganda for their cause and accidentally captures their own equipment turning into shrapnel, why would they upload it?

2. ISIS suicide bomber becomes a space cadet, fails re-entry exam

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=e9YtppJcH7w

3. Apache drops hellfire and fires multiple bursts of 30mm

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FXvsp8bdDeg

Apache pilots are renowned for a lot of things. Restraint isn’t one of them.

4. AC-130 finds the proverbial barrel of fish, acts accordingly

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lSOG9GHVV0c

AC-130s are great in any environment, but they really distinguish themselves when the area is target rich.

5. U.S. hits explosive-laden vehicle so hard, the computer can’t decide where it ended up

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SSa0UcwI5ZA

It’s always great to see the larger explosion indicating that a target was filled with explosives, but it’s really fun to see the computer try to relay where the vehicle probably is. “Well, it was here when it blew up–but something just flew by over there. Also, there’s a smoldering chunk of metal over here, so maybe it’s the vehicle?”

6. Only the dog escapes

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=L3gECsHEe0Q

Apache pilot: “Engage.”

All targets on the ground, clearly never getting up again.

AP: “Engage again.”

That’s what’s so great about Apache pilots. They always engage again.

7. Jordan’s spectacular retaliation for the execution of its pilot

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

ISIS executed the Jordanian pilot, Moaz al-Kasasbeh. Jordan responded with 56 air strikes and two executions in three days. Jordan was then kind enough to make a video for ISIS to remember them by.

NOW: The 16 best military movies of all time

OR: The 7 best ways to prove your ‘sham shield’

Articles

The Navy wants you to stop bringing drones from home

The Navy has released a message to its entire force telling them to please get their unmanned aircraft systems, or drones, certified before taking them to the skies in any capacity.


Here is some of the best Navy jet footage from 2015
Sorry, drone with its own GoPro. You’ll have to get certified before you can go on missions. (Photo: Don McCullough, CC BY 2.0)

The all Navy administrative message released by the SecNav Ray Mabus reminds all Navy commanders that any aircraft owned, leased, or procured in any way by the Department of the Navy must gain an “airworthiness approval” before it can be flown in any capacity.

So, leave your commercial, off-the-shelf drones at home until you get them certified sailor (or Marine)!

The Naval Air Systems Command told WATM, “The airworthiness assessments of small [commercial off-the-shelf] UAS  focus on the safety of flight, which assesses risks to personnel and property on the ground and in the air, and that the system can be operated safely and safety risks are understood and accepted by the appropriate authority.”

Here is some of the best Navy jet footage from 2015
This is not a chief throwing an unauthorized drone into the sea. This is just a sailor launching a drone that does have an airworthiness approval. (Photo: U.S. Navy Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Bill Dodge)

For everyone hoping that this announcement came because Lance Cpl. Schmuckatelli flew his drone into a Harrier engine while the big bird was attempting a vertical landing, no dice.

In their message to WATM, NAVAIR said that the ALNAV was released to alert UAS operators to existing policies because cheap, commercial drones had allowed Navy organizations who wouldn’t typically buy aircraft to do so.

The Navy is trying to bring these non-traditional aviators up to speed, not responding to Seaman Skippy’s assertion that no one had specifically said he couldn’t fly a drone over the carrier during flight ops.

Commanders with a full inventory of drones without airworthiness approvals don’t have to panic, though. NAVAIR said that it has streamlined the approval process for small, commercial drones and it can take as little as a few days.

Some factors could cause it to take much longer, such as if the drone will be used for an especially challenging purpose or in a dangerous operating environment.

Those who are curious can read the full ALNAV here.

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Congressman and Iraq War veteran Mark Takai dies of pancreatic cancer

A Hawaii lawmaker and Army officer who was serving his first term in the U.S. Congress died July 20 after a nearly year-long battle with cancer.


Congressman and Army National Guard Lt. Col. Mark Takai succumbed to pancreatic cancer at his home in Aiea surrounded by his family, USA Today reported. He was 49.

Takai was born and raised in Oahu, Hawaii. Before being elected to Congress, Takai represented his home district in the Hawaii state House of Representatives for 20 years. He joined the Hawaii Army National Guard in 1999 and was commissioned as a 1st Lieutenant.

The first-term Democrat announced earlier in 2016 that he would not seek re-election due to his condition.

Here is some of the best Navy jet footage from 2015
Takai in an interview.

His military service took him to Kuwait in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom. He first served as a company commander for the 29th Brigade Support Battalion and then as the Camp Mayor for Camp Patriot, Kuwait. He not only served in the military in Hawaii, he also represented the military in Hawaii, as his district included Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam and Fort Shafter.

“To honor those that gave the ultimate sacrifice for our country, we must renew our commitments to those currently serving our nation, many currently in harm’s way around the world,” Takai said in a statement on Memorial Day. “Their willingness to answer the call of duty deserves our unwavering gratitude every day.”

Takai served on the House Armed Services Committee and the House Committee on Small Business. In November 2015, he introduced the Atomic Veterans Healthcare Parity Act, extending government compensation to those affected by cleanup operations after bomb tests on Pacific islands.

Here is some of the best Navy jet footage from 2015

Takai’s military awards include the Meritorious Service Medal, the Army Commendation Medal with one oak leaf cluster, the Army Achievement Medal, the National Defense Service Medal, the Global War on Terrorism Expeditionary Medal and the Global War on Terrorism Service Medal.

“Today, the people of Hawai’i mourn the passing of U.S. Rep. Mark Takai,” Hawaii Gov. David Ige said in a statement. “He proudly served his country in uniform, including 17 years with the Hawai’i Army National Guard. Mark humbly and effectively served the people of his state House and Congressional districts. In the often tumultuous world of politics, he has been a shining example of what it means to be a public servant.”

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These elite Russian special forces want to take over Aleppo

The elite Russian special forces who took over Crimea from Ukraine in 2014 are now doing the same thing in Aleppo, Syria.


The number of Russian special ops troops in Syria is likely in the “low hundreds,” but they are the eyes and ears on the ground to carry out precision airstrikes, and have been used to directly target rebel leaders, according to experts who spoke with the Wall Street Journal.

Here is some of the best Navy jet footage from 2015
Russian Special Forces. (Photo: The Ministry of Defence of the Russian Federation)

Aleppo, Syria’s largest city, has been the site of a bitter battle for control between pro-government forces and rebels since the war broke out in 2011. Meanwhile, millions of innocent civilians have been caught in the middle, recently cut off from receiving aid such as food, water, and medicine, as Assad and his Russian and Iranian allies besieged the city.

There are also anywhere from 100 to 300 US special operations forces operating in Syria and Iraq, though they are focused on advising Iraqi army forces in Mosul, and targeting ISIS leadership.

According to the Journal, Russian military chief Gen. Nikolai Makarov visited the headquarters of US Special Operations Command in 2012 for a meeting, intent on learning how Russia could build a special operations force similar to the United States’.

Makarov previously signed a framework of understanding with then-Navy Adm. Mike Mullen in 2009 that offered military-to-military exchanges and operational events, orientation at the West Point military academy for Russian cadets, and sharing of ideas among both countries’ combined arms academies.

At the time, US military officials were hopeful for the reestablishment of military-to-military bonds with Russia. Four years later, however, that framework and sharing of information may come back to haunt them.

“From the helmets to the kit,” the Russian special forces “look almost identical” to their US counterparts, a US military official told the Journal.

In early 2014, Russian special forces infiltrated Ukraine’s Crimea region and seized control after the pro-Russian government was ousted from power in Kiev. The heavily-armed men — which some nicknamed “little green men” — wore no identifying insignia and denied that they were Russian.

Russian President Vladimir Putin later acknowledged he had deployed the Russian soldiers, and Russia instituted a national holiday called “Special Forces Day” to commemorate the invasion the following year.

Read the full story at the Wall Street Journal

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7 ooh-rah tips from the career of R. Lee Ermey

R. Lee Ermey, better known as “The Gunny”, has had a very impressive film and television career following his 11 years of service in the U.S. Marine Corps. The former drill instructor and Vietnam War veteran acted in numerous films, hosted television shows, and is also an author. Of course, the Gunny is best known for his portrayal of Gunnery Sergeant Hartman in the 1987 Stanley Kubrick classic film “Full Metal Jacket,” a role that earned him a Golden Globe nomination for Best Supporting Actor.


If you scour his body of work closely, Ermey offers some tips that can serve as a guide to living a successful life. Here are some of them:

1. Leadership

Here is some of the best Navy jet footage from 2015

A decade before Ermey played a drill instructor in “Full Metal Jacket,” Gunny donned the brim hat in the 1978 movie “The Boys in Company C.” During the boot camp scenes, Ermey’s character Staff Sgt. Loyce challenges one of the recruits named “Washington” to step up his game and become a leader. Loyce tells Washington he needs him to be the type of leader that fellow Marines can trust and count on in combat. His also stresses the importance of supporting his fellow comrades, not being selfish, and working as a team. He inspires the character to seek his potential as a leader.

2. Loyalty

Ermey lends his voice to the “Toy Story” animated trilogy playing “Sarge,” a leader of plastic Army men. In the first movie, Woody tells Sarge to perform a reconnaissance mission during Andy’s birthday. Woody and his fellow toys fear they will be replaced when Andy gets new toys as birthday presents. Like a loyal team player, Sarge leads his men to scope out the party and report back to Woody. When one of his fellow army men gets stepped on by Andy’s mom, Sarge refuses to leave the man behind and carries the minesweeper to safety saying “a good soldier never leaves a man behind.”

3. Sportsmanship

Here is some of the best Navy jet footage from 2015

In the 2001 comedy “Saving Silverman,” Gunny plays a no-nonsense football coach who gives his players pieces of advice throughout the film. During the locker room scene, his stresses the importance of sportsmanship. He also says some other things that may not suitable for younger audiences.

4. Life-long Commitment

Here is some of the best Navy jet footage from 2015

In his 2013 self-help book Gunny’s Rules: How to Get Squared Away Like a Marine, Ermey talks about being a ‘life-long’ Marine even after retiring for medical injures while in service. In the book, he says “The Marine Corps had retired me, but I kept showing up for work.”

His talks about using his celebrity status to serve his beloved Corps and his desire to contribute any chance he gets. His commitment to serve is still seen today by troops. Ermey makes numerous appearances on bases all over the world helping boost morale and motivation. In 2002, his life-long service was recognized by the Marine Corps, and he was given an honorary promotion to Gunnery Sergeant.

5. Don’t give up

Of course, it wouldn’t be right to have a list about Ermey’s career without talking about “Full Metal Jacket.” However, Ermey was not originally cast to be Gunny Sgt. Hartman. During a 2009 interview, the actor talks about serving as a technical advisor for the film. He took the job to get his foot in the door in hopes to convince director Stanley Kubrick that he should be given the role. After lobbying for the job and impressing Kubrick’s ‘right-hand’ man during an interview session with movie extras where he played the Hartman character, he was offered the role.

In the interview, he said “They had already hired another actor to play Gunnery Sgt. Hartman, but Marines don’t just say ‘Oh’ and give up. We continue to march and we attack until we achieve our goal, and we accomplish our mission.”

6. Embrace your talent

Here is some of the best Navy jet footage from 2015

The former Marine is definitely a typecast actor playing similar authority figures in films. Whether he is the police captain in “Seven or a mean boss in the horror film “Willard,” Gunny uses his acting chops, quick wit, and background to make each character unique. His willingness to harness this talent led the 72-year-old actor to a very successful career. Like Ermey, it’s important to embrace what you’re good at.

7. Don’t forget your roots

Here is some of the best Navy jet footage from 2015
One of then-Cpl. Ermey’s platoons

Despite working beside some of Hollywood’s greatest actors and actress, Ermey seems to be very humble and doesn’t forget where he came from. To this day, Ermey’s military roots are strong and he still embraces the “Gunny” nickname, especially in his latest show on the Outdoor Channel called “Gunny Time.”

Oorah!

Follow Alex Licea on Twitter @alexlicea82

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Must watch: Army ranger’s visual-poem ode to wounded warriors is incredible

One More Wave, the nonprofit that provides wounded and disabled military veterans with customized surfing equipment and community, recently launched Salt Speak, a new space for creative writing. The first installment is an incredibly powerful and poignant poem written and performed by Ranger medic and poet, Leo Jenkins.

“We don’t want to be a Sarah McLachlan charity,” Salt Speak editor-in-chief G.P. Scheppler told Coffee or Die Magazine. “We want people to see what we are doing and say, ‘I want to be a part of that!’”

With a lineup of accomplished veteran poets and writers already in the tube, Salt Speak aims to make waves in the veteran art space. 

Jenkins’ ode to One More Wave is overlaid with a gorgeous video edited by Nick Betts, with amazing footage of Jose Martinez, an Army veteran, triple amputee, and adaptive athlete crushing waves with his custom surfboard. We dare you to watch this transcendent production and not be moved.

Read Next: One More Wave: The Navy SEALs Helping Disabled Veterans Heal with Custom Surfboards

This article originally appeared on Coffee or Die. Follow @CoffeeOrDieMag on Twitter.

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This is why the F-4 Phantom II had so many fans

Here is some of the best Navy jet footage from 2015


As he slides his hands across the edges of the wings and walks from nose to tail, inspecting all aspects of the jet, a wave of emotion begins to hit Jim Harkins.

His weathered features appear calm and determined, but they hide the tears he is fighting back.

While he walks around the aircraft, he greets each maintainer and says, “Thank you.” Harkins rubs and taps the bulging nose of the QF-4 Phantom II, like an aged cowboy saying hello to a trusty steed, and then climbs into the cockpit.

“One last time,” Harkins says and the canopy closes around him.

For Harkins and the F-4, this is a day of lasts. For Harkins, it’s the last time he will fly for the Air Force and, for the Phantom, the last time it will take to the skies.

It’s their final flight.

Here is some of the best Navy jet footage from 2015
Ground crew of 82nd Aerial Target Squadron Detachment 1 perform maintenance on a QF-4 Phantom, left, and its replacement, the QF-16, at Holloman AFB, N.M., Dec. 20, 2016. The final variant of the Phantom II, the primary multi-role aircraft in the USAF throughout the 1960s and 1970s, was the QF-4 unmanned aerial target flown by the 82nd at Holloman AFB. Pilots of the 82nd flew the F-4 for the last time prior to a retirement ceremony for the storied aircraft on Dec. 21, 2016. (U.S. Air Force photo by J.M. Eddins Jr.)

“It’s not really sad, because in the military you get used to a lot of lasts, but it’s humbling,” Harkins said.

Harkins isn’t the only one feeling nostalgic and emotional about the aircraft affectionately referred to as “Old Smokey.” Hundreds of “Phantom Phixers,” “Phantom Phliers” and “Phantom Phanatics” gathered on the flightline at Holloman Air Force Base, New Mexico, to watch the final F-4 flight.

Some used to work on the aircraft, some are just fans and others, like retired Col. Chuck DeBellevue, had the privilege of actually flying the fighter.

Here is some of the best Navy jet footage from 2015

DeBellevue flew the F-4 in Vietnam, where he had six confirmed kills – two against the Mikoyan-Gurevich MiG-19 and four against the MiG-21, the most of any U.S. aviator during the war.

He’s not just saying farewell to an amazing machine, he’s saying goodbye to an old friend.

“A friend who got me home more times than I care to remember,” DeBellevue said. “Being back on the flightline today brought back a lot of memories, not all are good. I lost a lot of friends, but it was a great airplane. I loved to fly that airplane. It’s very honest and it got me out of a lot of tight spots during the war.”

DeBellevue recalls the Navy originally bought the F-4 to be a fleet interceptor and the Air Force bought it in 1963 to do everything – and it did do everything. It served as the primary air superiority fighter for both the Navy and Air Force, but it also served roles in ground-attack and aerial reconnaissance and, once taken out of active service, was designated the QF-4 where it flew as aerial targets.

The F-4 was a workhorse weapons system for the Air Force through the 1990s and it still hold the distinction of being the first multi-service aircraft. During it’s heyday, the F-4 set 16 speed and altitude records and demonstrated its effectiveness time and again throughout its lengthy career.

The Phantom looked cool doing it, too.

“You didn’t get into the F-4, you put it on, it became you,” DeBellevue said. “It was a manual airplane, not like an F-16 or F-15, they were aerodynamic and designed well. The F-4 was the last plane that looked like it was made to kill somebody. It was a beast. It could go through a flock of birds and kick out barbeque from the back.”

Here is some of the best Navy jet footage from 2015

On the flightline at Holloman, the final flight of four F-4s prepare to take off for the last time. The engines rumble and smoke flies.

In his jet, Harkins looks over the crowd, dancing in the cockpit, revving up the on-lookers and saluting those in attendance. Everyone cheers as the final four F-4s begin their last taxi.

Harkins is first to pass the crowd, followed by pilots Eric “Rock” Vold, Jim “Boomer” Schreiner and finally Lt. Col. Ronald “Elvis” King, the last active duty F-4 pilot and commander of Det. 1, 82nd Aerial Target Squadron. Together these men will fly the Phinal Phlight demonstration before King officially retires the QF-4 program during a ceremony following the flight.

Here is some of the best Navy jet footage from 2015

“I don’t want to sound cheesy, but every time I get into the F-4 I can’t help but think of all the stories of all the pilots and all the maintainers who made this aircraft great,” King said. “The history and the heritage to me is the biggest satisfaction of flying the airplane.”

King had no concept when he became the squadron commander he would be the last active duty pilot. It didn’t really set in until he and Harkins began taking the F-4 on a farewell tour during to air shows and aviation expos last year. King felt obligated to take the F-4 on the road, to give admirers the chance to see it, touch it and share their stories one last time. It was then he realized this tour piloting the F-4 would be something special.

“It’s going to be sad to shut those engines down for the last time, but she’s served our country well,” King said of the F-4. “It’s exciting too, because our mission is to provide full scale aerial targets and we are going to be able to do that now with an airplane that’s better suited, provides higher performance and is more representative of the threats we face today in the QF-16.”

Here is some of the best Navy jet footage from 2015
Two McDonnell Douglas F-4 Phantom IIs of the 82nd Aerial Target Squadron Detachment 1 steak over the flightline during the final military flight of the storied aircraft at Holloman AFB, N.M., Dec. 21, 2016. The F-4 Phantom II entered the U.S. Air Force inventory in 1963 and was the primary multi-role aircraft in the USAF throughout the 1960s and 1970s. The F-4 flew bombing, combat air patrol, fighter escort, reconnaissance and the famous Wild Weasel anti-aircraft missile suppression missions. The final variant of the Phantom II was the QF-4 unmanned aerial targets flown by the 82nd at Holloman AFB. (U.S. Air Force photo by J.M. Eddins Jr.)

King said it was getting more and more difficult to keep the F-4’s in the air, and the only reason the QF-4 lasted as long as it did was because of the maintainers of the 82nd ATS.

Unfortunately, he says, there is no longer a need for the F-4. All remaining aircraft will be de-militarized at Holloman and used as ground targets at the White Sands bombing range.

King says most people don’t like to hear the fate of the last F-4s, and he understands, but it’s too costly to maintain as a heritage piece or to preserve them for museums.

“At the end of the day, the Air Force isn’t real sentimental,” King said. “It will have a warrior’s death.”

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Engines roar and a flume of dust and smoke signals to the crowd the final four F-4s are off. The first two jets, piloted by King and Schreiner take off in a two-ship formation. Harkins follows in the third position and Vold in fourth. The last two jets perform an unrestricted climb, staying low to the ground in afterburner before pulling into a vertical climb at the end of the runway. The crowd goes crazy.

The sound of the F-4 is distinct. As Harkins passes over the crowd in a low-altitude turn it sounds like the jet is ripping the sky.

Multiple passes are made in four-ship, two-ship and stacked formations over the crowd of hundreds in attendance. Camera shutters clicking at a furious pace can be heard down the tarmac.

Here is some of the best Navy jet footage from 2015
A McDonnell Douglas QF-4 Phantom II of the 82nd Aerial Target Squadron Detachment 1 steaks over the crowd gathered to witness the final military flight of the storied aircraft at Holloman AFB, N.M., Dec. 21, 2016. The F-4 Phantom II entered the U.S. Air Force inventory in 1963 and was the primary multi-role aircraft in the USAF throughout the 1960s and 1970s. The F-4 flew bombing, combat air patrol, fighter escort, reconnaissance and the famous Wild Weasel anti-aircraft missile suppression missions. The final variant of the Phantom II was the QF-4 unmanned aerial targets flown by the 82nd at Holloman AFB. (U.S. Air Force photo by J.M. Eddins Jr.)

Out of nowhere, the sky cracks open and multiple booms shake the ground, buildings and cars, setting off alarms across the base. The concussions signal the F-4s going supersonic high above.

Harkins swoops down out of the sky passing over the crowd multiple times, and makes his final approach. As his wheels touch back to Earth, Harkins enters the history books as the last pilot to fly 1,000 hours in the F-4.

“I can’t imagine a better way to go out than with the F-4, it’s a special moment and a special jet and then … done,” Harkins said. “Although I flew F-16s and I went down to the F-4, but I consider myself going out on top.”

As climbs down from his jet he’s doused with water from his comrades and sprayed with champagne. In the distance, King lands his F-4 and with the front landing gear touching the asphalt, the history books close on the aircraft’s legacy.

But while the Phantom’s time in the sky may be over, the tales of its exploits are far from done. For those who flew the F-4, there is always time to wax poetic about the good ‘ole days, tearing across the wild blue yonder on “Old Smokey.”

AirmanMagazineOnline, YouTube

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Here are 3 things the VA needs from Congress right now

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(Photo: VA)


Current VA Secretary Bob McDonald and former VA Secretary James Peake just posted an op-ed at The Hill listing the things they believe Congress needs to do to help the VA right now:

While the Department is making significant progress, VA needs Congress’ help to achieve all of the breakthrough priorities on behalf of veterans . . . particularly in three pressing areas:

1. Untangle the seven different ways VA provides care in the community today

Today’s rules make the process inefficient, they cause confusion for both the veterans and providers, they are in place because of legislation added over the years, and they must be legislatively corrected.

2. VA needs the authority to enter into partnerships

VA needs the authority to enter into partnerships to make needed changes to our West Los Angeles campus and more quickly end veterans’ homelessness in the city with the largest concentration of homeless veterans.

3. VA needs Congress’s help to finally fix the claims appeal process

VA needs Congress’s help to finally fix the broken process by which veterans appeal unfavorable claims decisions—a process conceived over 80 years ago that is unlike any other appeals process in the federal government. Over the decades, layers of additions to the process have made it more complicated, more unpredictable, less clear, and less veteran-friendly.

Read the entire story at The Hill.

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This gunner fell 22,000 feet without a parachute and lived

Paratroopers make a big deal about jumping out of planes from 800 feet, but U.S. Army Air Force Staff Sgt. Alan Magee fell out of a plane at 22,000 feet without a parachute while the plane was on fire.


And he lived.

Magee was a ball turret gunner in a B-17 named “Snap! Crackle! Pop!” after the three mascots for Rice Krispies cereal. That plane, along with others from the 360th Squadron, was sent to bomb German torpedo stores in St. Nazaire, France on Jan. 3, 1943.

During the mission, the plane was shot by anti-aircraft guns and became a ball of flames. Magee climbed into the fuselage to get his chute and bail out, but it had been shredded by the flak. As Magee was trying to figure out a new plan, a second flak burst tore through the aircraft and then a fighter blasted it with machine gun fire.

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Magee was knocked unconscious and thrown from the aircraft. When he woke up, he was falling through the air with nothing but a prayer.

Magee told God, “I don’t wish to die because I know nothing of life,” according to reports from the 303rd Bomb Group.

Magee, struggling with a shortage of oxygen and likely in shock from the events of the past few minutes, passed out again and God seemingly answered his prayer. The young noncommissioned officer fell into the town of St. Nazaire and through the glass roof of the train station. He was later found dangling on the steel girders that supported the ceiling.

The glass had slowed his fall and he regained consciousness as German soldiers took him to medical care. Magee’s right leg and ankle were broken, he had 28 wounds from shrapnel and glass, and his right arm was cut nearly the whole way off. He had also suffered numerous internal injuries.

“I owe the German military doctor who treated me a debt of gratitude,” Magee said. “He told me, ‘we are enemies, but I am first a doctor and I will do my best to save your arm.'”

Magee was able to keep his arm and eventually made a full recovery. He spent most of the rest of the war as a POW.

In 1995, Magee was invited back to France as part of a ceremony sponsored by French citizens to thank Allied service members for their efforts in the war. Magee was able to see monuments to the crew of Snap! Crackle! Pop!, including the nose art which had been used as a Nazi trophy until after the war when a French man recovered it. It was restored in 1989.

Magee died in 2003.

(h/t War History Online)

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Benedict Arnold’s crypt is now a kindergarten classroom

The crypt below St. Mary’s of Battersea, a Georgian-era stone church overlooking the River Thames in London, is a quiet place, a world away from London’s bustling streets. St. Mary’s Sunday school is held in the basement level; during the week, it’s rented by a private kindergarten.


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(photo courtesy of Military History Travel)

The low ceiling in places may feel cramped, but the crypt has all the adornments of the average kindergarten classrooms: desks, drawings, and a fish tank. But one thing this classroom has that others don’t: the body of Benedict Arnold, America’s most notorious traitor.

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(photo courtesy of Military History Travel)

His headstone reads: “Benedict Arnold, 1741-1801, Sometime general in the army of George Washington. The two nations whom he served in turn in the years of their enmity have united in enduring friendship.” It was donated in 2004 by an anonymous patron who felt Arnold deserved credit for his efforts during the American Revolution.

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(photo courtesy of Military History Travel)

The church also has a stained glass window dedicated to Arnold. The window was donated (also anonymously) during the American bicentennial in 1976.

Here is some of the best Navy jet footage from 2015
(photo courtesy of Military History Travel)

 

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