Here's a look inside America's amazing blast-proof super-fortress - We Are The Mighty
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Here’s a look inside America’s amazing blast-proof super-fortress

According to legend, Colorado’s Cheyenne Mountain is a sleeping dragon that many years ago saved the Ute Mountain Ute Tribe. In the Native American story, the Great Spirit punished the people by sending a massive flood, but after they repented, it sent a dragon to drink the water away. The dragon, engorged by the massive amount of water, fell asleep, was petrified and then became the mountain.


Unlike the dragon of legend, the Cheyenne Mountain Complex has never slept during 50 years of operations. Since being declared fully operational in April 1966, the installation has played a vital role in the Department of Defense during both peacetime and wartime.

Here’s a look inside America’s amazing blast-proof super-fortress
Cheyenne Mountain is about 9,500 feet tall, and the tunnel entrance sits about 2,000 feet from the top. | U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Andrew Lee

Though the complex may have changed names during the past five decades, its mission has never strayed from defending the U.S. and its allies. Today, it is known as Cheyenne Mountain Air Force Station, with a primary role of collecting information from satellites and ground-based sensors throughout the world and disseminating the data to North American Aerospace Defense Command, U.S. Northern Command and U.S. Strategic Command — a process Steven Rose, Cheyenne Mountain AFS deputy director, compares to the work done by the stem of the human brain.

“Those sensors are your nerves out there sensing that information,” Rose said, “but the nerves all come back to one spot in the human body, together in the brain stem, entangled in a coherent piece. We are the brain stem that’s pulling it all together, correlating it, making sense of it, and passing it up to the brain — whether it’s the commander at NORAD, NORTHCOM or STRATCOM — for someone to make a decision on what that means. That is the most critical part of the nervous system and the most vulnerable. Cheyenne Mountain provides that shield around that single place where all of that correlation and data comes into.”

 

Here’s a look inside America’s amazing blast-proof super-fortress
U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Andrew Lee

In the 1950s, the DOD decided to build the installation as a command and control center defense against long-range Soviet bombers. As the “brain stem,” it would be one of the first installations on the enemy’s target list, so it was built to withstand a direct nuclear attack.

Cheyenne Mountain’s 15 buildings rest on more than 1,300 springs, 18 inches from the mountain’s rock walls, so they could move independently in the event of a nuclear blast and the inherent seismic event. In addition, an EMP, being a natural component of a nuclear blast, was already considered in Cheyenne Mountain’s original design and construction features, Rose said.

Here’s a look inside America’s amazing blast-proof super-fortress
U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Andrew Lee

“Back then, it was just part of the effect of a nuclear blast that we were designed for at Cheyenne Mountain,” he added. “If you fast forward 50 years from our construction, the EMP threat has become more important to today’s society because of the investment that has been made into electronics. Just by sheer coincidence, since we were designed in the 50s and 60s for a nuclear blast and its EMP component, we are sitting here today as the number one rated EMP protected facility. The uniqueness of the mountain is that the entire installation is surrounded by granite, which is a natural EMP shield.”

The station, built 7,000 feet above sea level, opened as the NORAD Combat Operations Center. When NORAD and the newly stood up NORTHCOM moved their main command center to Peterson Air Force Base in 2008, many believed Cheyenne Mountain had closed. Today, Cheyenne Mountain hosts an alternate command center for NORAD and is landlord to more than a dozen DOD agencies, such as the Defense Intelligence Agency.

“When I bring official visitors up here, not only are they surprised that we’re still open,” said Colonel Gary Cornn, Cheyenne Mountain AFS Installation Commander. “Many are impressed by the original construction, the blasting of the tunnels, how the buildings are constructed inside, and some of the things we show them, such as the survivability and capability we have in the blast valves, the springs, the way we do our air in the Nuclear, Biological and Chemical (NBC) filtering and the huge blast doors. It’s funny to see senior officers and civilians become sort of amazed like little kids again.”

Here’s a look inside America’s amazing blast-proof super-fortress
Photo by Staff Sgt. Andrew Lee

The threats and sources have drastically changed from when the station opened at the height of the Cold War, but the station’s iconic 25-ton steel doors remain the same, ready to seal the mountain in 40 seconds to protect it from any threat. The underground city beneath 2,000 feet of granite still provides the protection to keep the station relevant as it begins its next half-century as “America’s Fortress.”

Longtime Cheyenne Mountain employees like Rose and Russell Mullins, the 721st Communications Squadron deputy director, call themselves “mountain men.” Mullins’ time in the mountain goes back to the Cold War era, about halfway through its history to 1984.

Although the Soviet Union’s nuclear arsenal was the main focus, today’s Airmen conduct essentially the same mission: detect and track incoming threats to the United States; however, the points of origin for those threats have multiplied and are not as clearly defined.

Here’s a look inside America’s amazing blast-proof super-fortress
Photo by Staff Sgt. Andrew Lee

“The tension in here wasn’t high from what might happen,” Mullins said. “The tension was high to be sure you could always detect (a missile launch). We didn’t dwell on the fact that the Soviet Union was the big enemy. We dwelled on the fact that we could detect anything they could throw at us.

“There was a little bit of stress back then, but that hasn’t changed. I would say the stress now is just as great as during the Cold War, but the stress today is the great unknown.”

The 9/11 attacks added another mission to NORAD and the Cheyenne Mountain Directorate – the monitoring of the U.S. and Canadian interior air space. They stand ready to assist the Federal Aviation Administration and Navigation Canada to respond to threats from the air within the continental U.S. and Canada.

Airplane icons blot out most of the national map on the NORAD/NORTHCOM Battle Cab Traffic Situation Display in the alternate command center. To the right another screen shows the Washington, D.C., area, called the Special Flight Restrictions Area, which was also added after 9/11.

Here’s a look inside America’s amazing blast-proof super-fortress
Photo by Staff Sgt. Andrew Lee

Whenever a crisis would affect NORAD’s vulnerability or ability to operate, the commander would move his command center and advisors to the Battle Cab, said Lt. Col. Tim Schwamb, the Cheyenne Mountain AFS branch chief for NORAD/NORTHCOM.

“I would say that on any given day, the operations center would be a center of controlled chaos; where many different things may be happening at once,” Schwamb said. “We’re all trying to ensure that we’re taking care of whatever threat may be presenting itself in as short an amount of time as possible.

“I would describe it as the nerve center of our homeland defense operations. This is where the best minds in NORAD and U.S. Northern Command are, so that we can see, predict, and counter any threats that would happen to the homeland and North American region. It’s really a room full of systems that we monitor throughout the day, 24-hours a day, seven-days a week, that give us the information to help us accomplish the mission.”

Protecting America’s Fortress is a responsibility that falls to a group of firefighters and security forces members, but fighting fires and guarding such a valuable asset in a mountain presents challenges quite different from any other Air Force base, said Matthew Backeberg, a 721st Civil Engineer Squadron supervisor firefighter. Firefighters train on high-angle rescues because of the mountain’s unique environment, but even the most common fire can be especially challenging.

Here’s a look inside America’s amazing blast-proof super-fortress
Photos by Staff Sgt. Andrew Lee

“Cheyenne Mountain is unique in that we have super challenges as far as ventilation, smoke and occupancy,” Backeberg said. “In a normal building, you pull the fire alarm, and the people are able to leave. Inside the mountain, if you pull the fire alarm, the people are depending on me to tell them a safer route to get out.

“If a fire happens inside (the mountain), we pretty much have to take care of it,” Backeberg added. “We’re dependent on our counterparts in the CE world to help us ventilate the facility, keep the fire going in the direction we want it to go, and allow the occupants of the building to get to a safe location – outside the half mile long tunnel.”

Although Cheyenne Mountain, the site of movies and television series such as “WarGames,” “Interstellar,” “Stargate SG-1” and “Terminator,” attracts occasional trespassers and protesters, security forces members more often chase away photographers, said Senior Airman Ricardo Pierre Collie, a 721st Security Forces Squadron member.

“The biggest part of security forces’ day is spent responding to alarms and getting accustomed to not seeing the sun on a 12-hour shift when working inside the mountain,” Collie said.

Here’s a look inside America’s amazing blast-proof super-fortress
Photos by Staff Sgt. Andrew Lee

Security forces must also be ready to respond at a moment’s notice because, when charged with protecting an installation like Cheyenne Mountain AFS, the reaction time is even more crucial. Airmen like Collie feel their responsibly to protect America’s Fortress remains as vital today as it was during the Cold War.

“The important day at Cheyenne Mountain wasn’t the day we opened in 1966,” Rose said. “The next important date isn’t in April 2016 (the installation’s 50-year anniversary), it’s about all those days in between. The Airmen who come here to Cheyenne Mountain every day will be watching your skies and shores in (the nation’s) defense.”

As Cheyenne Mountain AFS enters its next 50 years, the dragon remains awake and alert to all threats against the U.S.

 

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The 1991 Gulf War ‘Highway of Death’ could still keep killing

Authorities say unexploded bombs from what was known as the “Highway of Death” in the 1991 Gulf War have been uncovered in Kuwait.


On July 5, Kuwait’s Public Authority of Housing Welfare said a military bomb squad would defuse the ordinance found along Kuwait’s Highway 80, which connects Kuwait City to the Iraqi border.

Here’s a look inside America’s amazing blast-proof super-fortress
DoD photo by Staff Sgt. Dean Wagner

Construction crews working on a $950 million housing project in the area found the bombs. The state-run Kuwait News Agency said “finding explosives on the site is not surprising” and contractors had been warned they could be there.

The “Highway of Death” got its name when U.S.-led coalition aircraft bombed a convoy of fleeing Iraqi forces, killing hundreds and leaving behind hundreds of burned-out vehicles.

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How China established its own version of DARPA

China has established a new agency to develop advanced weaponry for China’s changing military force.


The Scientific Research Steering Committee, established earlier this year but revealed to the public this week, is modeled after the Pentagon’s Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), which strives to “make pivotal investments in breakthrough technologies for national security,” according to DARPA’s website.

Here’s a look inside America’s amazing blast-proof super-fortress
The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency is the American military’s futuristic research lab. Now China has established its own. (Photo: DARPA)

The new agency falls under the control of the Central Military Commission, which is chaired by Chinese President Xi Jinping, according to the South China Morning Post. Since he took power a few years ago, the president has been putting the military through an intense modernization program designed to strengthen the quality of the armed forces while reducing quantity. China is investing heavily in its aviation and naval forces, as well as its strategic support and rocket forces.

“As everyone knows, the internet, global positioning systems, stealth fighters, electromagnetic guns, laser weapons as well as ­other advanced technologies – most are DARPA-related,” CCTV, a Chinese state broadcaster, said in a recent broadcast revealing the new weapons development agency.

“We should make greater efforts to promote scientific technology in our army if we want to win the competitive ­advantage,” Chinese state media added.

Here’s a look inside America’s amazing blast-proof super-fortress
The crew of a Chinese navy patrol plane. (Photo from People’s Liberation Army)

The new agency, together with the CMC Science and Technology Commission will spearhead technological innovation for the military, such as the development of electromagnetic cannons and elite stealth fighters.

“The PLA sees technological innovation as a core aspect of military competition and seeks to draw upon DARPA’s model to achieve comparable successes,” Elsa Kania, an independent military analyst, explained to  the Financial Times. China has been spending more on its military while cutting thousands of personnel. The Chinese defense budget is expected to hit $150 billion this year and soar to $220 billion by 2020. American defense spending still vastly outpaces China, but the latter is rapidly closing the gap.

The Scientific Research Steering Committee will pursue a path of “civilian-military integration,” which suggests that the program will bring private companies into the fold to develop new technology for the military.

China has made several major technological breakthroughs in recent months. The Chengdu J-20 stealth fighter entered active service in March. The rising Asian giant launched its first independently-produced aircraft carrier in April and an indigenous guided-missile destroyer in June.

Here’s a look inside America’s amazing blast-proof super-fortress
China exhibited its new combat drone at a recent international air show. (Photo from Globalsecurity.org)

Last week, a Chinese company, a leader in unmanned systems, announced that the new CH-5 combat/reconnaissance drone is ready for mass production.

China has not reached technological and military parity with the U.S., but its capabilities are improving as it seeks to establish itself as a superpower.

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6 weapons that allow the US to strike anywhere in the world

When America decides to strike back at a threat, it has a lot of response options. Here are 6 of the weapons that allow the U.S. to hit an enemy from across the planet:


1. Nuclear submarines

Here’s a look inside America’s amazing blast-proof super-fortress
Photo: US Navy

The Navy uses three kinds of stealthy nuclear submarines to carry out missions around the world. Attack submarines hunt enemy vessels but can also launch cruise missiles at land targets, guided missile subs carry up to 154 cruise missiles to strike land targets, and fleet ballistic missile submarines carry nuclear missiles that can wipe out entire cities.

2. B-2

Here’s a look inside America’s amazing blast-proof super-fortress
Photo: US Air Force Staff Sgt. Bennie J. Davis III

The B-2 stealth bomber is capable of piercing enemy air defense networks because of its stealthy design. Even if enemies do spot it, missiles have trouble engaging the aircraft due to its reduced infrared, acoustic, electromagnetic, visual, and radar signatures.

3. Aircraft carriers

Here’s a look inside America’s amazing blast-proof super-fortress
Photo: US Navy Lt. j.g. David Babka

Always a favorite, aircraft carriers are floating bases that launch strike aircraft and provide a command center for naval forces. As the Navy likes to brag, they are “So big they carry their own zip code.” The Navy currently has 10 Nimitz-class carriers in active service and is bringing the first of the larger, more capable Ford-class carriers online this year.

4. Minuteman III missiles

Here’s a look inside America’s amazing blast-proof super-fortress
Photo: US Air Force Airman 1st Class Yvonne Morales

The Air Force’s Minuteman III missiles are focused on one mission: nuclear strikes. They have a range of 6,000 miles and each can carry up to three 335-kiloton warheads. Under the START II treaty, the 400 active missiles are currently equipped with one warhead each. There are another 50 unarmed missiles held in reserve.

5. Special operators

Here’s a look inside America’s amazing blast-proof super-fortress
MARSOC Raiders conduct swim training. Photo: US Marine Corps Sgt. Donovan Lee

While special operators aren’t a weapon per se, their skills give America a useful option when it comes to striking enemy targets. Operators are capable of swimming, jumping, or rucking to target areas and conducting high stakes missions on short notice. Green berets rode horses into Afghanistan when the U.S. began the war there and SEALs flew into Pakistan in helicopters to get Osama Bin Laden.

6. B-1 “BONE” Lancer

Here’s a look inside America’s amazing blast-proof super-fortress
Photo: US Air Force Airman First Class Keven Tanenbaum

The B-1 Lancer began its career as a nuclear bomber but switched to a conventional role during the 1990s. Ground troops know it as the “BONE” and love it for its huge bomb bays, long loiter times, and ability to quickly drop bombs on target when requested.

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Former flight attendant honors 9/11 by pushing beverage cart from Boston to NYC

On the left side of Paulie Veneto’s shorts is an American flag. He pins it there every morning after getting dressed, prepping to push an airline beverage cart from Boston to Ground Zero, a 220-mile journey.

The former United Airlines flight attendant is doing so to honor his former coworkers, as well as other airline employees who lost their lives on September 11th. 

The flag has its own importance; it was presented by Dave McGillivray, executive director of the Boston Marathon. 

“​​His mother gave him that flag 42 years ago and he wore it running across the country,” Paulie told WATM. “Even telling you this I get emotional … I get up every morning and pin it on.”

Along the way, Paulie has met countless followers. Supporters, sponsors, fans, those of all ages who want to support his cause … or find their own peace in the process.

“There’s no division,” he said. “It’s crazy. People — all they care about is shaking my hand. I know they’re getting some type of relief from it; how could I not be grateful?” he said. “The stories are endless. It’s crazy. I never dreamed it would get this much support.”

Paulie’s beverage cart is strapped with a camera that takes a picture every 30 seconds and sends live updates so fans can pinpoint his location and follow along online. Image: @PauliesPush Instagram

Alternating between two beverage carts — one for the road and a more rugged version for off-road terrain — Paulie planned his big push with only one goal in mind: to honor the fallen. 

“They were the first responders. They weren’t trained to fight terrorism but they did it anyway. They did the best they could and they did it to protect others,” he said. “Their relatives need to know they were heroes. It’s amazing what they were able to accomplish under those conditions.” 

Paulie adds that he wishes the nod wouldn’t have taken 20 years, but he had his own battles to win out. His regular route took Boston to L.A.; Tuesday, September 11, 2001 was his day off. He returned to work, but masked it, eventually becoming addicted to opioids. 

“If you don’t quit five minutes before the miracle, you’ll be on the other side of it, too. I’m living proof of that,” said Paulie Veneto. He says this of his wardrobe choice. Every day, pairing his flag with a shirt that says miracle, reminding himself, and others just how far he’s come.

In 2015, Paulie got sober, coming out of that “dark dark place that a lot of people have gone.” Now, with his newfound freedom, he plans to do something he said he should’ve done long ago: recognize the airplane crew members who died in 9/11.

Here’s a look inside America’s amazing blast-proof super-fortress
Paulie’s team follows along in an RV where he can stop and take breaks. Photo @PauliesPush Instagram.

“A lot of these remaining family members, no one has told them their relative is a hero. They got overshadowed because it was so big,” he said. “As Americans, I feel like we should all be recognizing them. That’s what we’re supposed to do is comfort their families.” 

Paulie’s Push has been funded by donations and sponsors. Additional funds will be divided between the airline workers’ families and their respective charities and Power Forward, a nonprofit company helping those with addiction. 


Averaging 10-20 miles per day, Paulie and entourage will arrive at Ground Zero on September 11th. Follow his journey on Instagram at or at PauliesPush.com.

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These sisters were children at the Pentagon daycare center on 9/11. Now they’re in the military.

Thousands of service members and civilians were working at the Pentagon on 9/11. Just 30 yards away, 140 infants and toddlers played at the Child Development Center when American Airlines Flight 77 struck the DoD Headquarters. At the daycare were the Born sisters: 3-year-old Hanna and 4-month-old Heather. Twenty years later, they’re both in uniform.

Here’s a look inside America’s amazing blast-proof super-fortress
Child Development Centers are a vital resource for military parents (U.S. Air Force)

2nd Lt. Hanna Born graduated from the Air Force Academy and commissioned as an officer in 2019. Heather is a midshipman in the Naval Academy Class of 2023. Although Heather was too young to remember the events of 9/11, Hanna has some partial memories of the infamous day.

“I was in the daycare center playing and dancing with some of my classmates,” Hanna told CBS. “We were playing with those dance ribbons, and then the next thing I can remember was kind of being in the hallway.” Luckily, no children were killed or injured in the terror attack. The Child Development Center was housed in a separate building on the Pentagon campus across from where Flight 77 impacted. However, the daycare was closed in 2004 out of concern for the safety of the children.

Here’s a look inside America’s amazing blast-proof super-fortress
First responders extinguish the fires following the attack on the Pentagon (FBI)

Hanna remembers service members arriving to help the daycare workers – many of whom were elderly – evacuate the children. “I began to feel sensory overload, especially after exiting the building. Because that’s when you really saw just a groundswell of people coming out of the building,” she recalled. “Obviously, you had the noises from the fire alarms, you had basically every type of emergency vehicle, the sirens from that, and you had jets and helicopters from overhead making noise, and on top of that, just a really acrid smell from the burning jet fuel and smoke.” With the infants loaded and carried in cribs, all of the children were evacuated to a park next to the Potomac River.

Here’s a look inside America’s amazing blast-proof super-fortress
The smoke from the crash site could be seen for miles (9/11 Memorial Museum)

The Born sisters’ parents, both of whom have military backgrounds, were not in the Pentagon during the attack. Their mother, retired Brig. Gen. Dana Born, was at Joint Base Anacostia-Bolling while their father, a retired Marine, was previously stationed at the Pentagon. In the days following 9/11, their father took them to a hill overlooking the Pentagon to watch the recovery efforts and tried to explain what had happened to them.

Brig. Gen. Born says that Hanna spent hours drawing pictures of her experience, trying to understand what happened on 9/11. “We sat by her side the entire time to support and comfort her while also answering questions as she attempted to ‘process’ exactly what happened,” Born recounted to CBS. “The more she drew, the less anxious she appeared, since she was gradually piecing things together from that horrific day that was difficult for even adults to comprehend.”

Here’s a look inside America’s amazing blast-proof super-fortress
Hanna (left) and Heather (right) after the 2019 Air Force-Navy football game (Born Family photo)

In addition to spending their childhoods on military bases, the Born sisters were inspired by the courage and heroism shown on 9/11 and followed their parents into the military. “There’s been so many lives that have been forever changed by the events of that day and everything that has ensued afterwards, so I think for us, it’s just constantly about remembering and figuring out what we can do to best honor them,” Hanna said.

In 2008, a memorial was dedicated on the Pentagon campus to the victims of the attack. One hundred and eighty four benches were erected with the names of the people killed that day. The benches are arranged by the victims’ ages; from 3-year-old Dana Falkenberg to 71-year-old Navy veteran John Yamnicky, both of whom were passengers on Flight 77. Surrounding the memorial is the Age Wall which grows one inch each year, relative to the ages of the victims. Eighty five Crape Myrtle trees were also planted among the benches when the memorial was dedicated.

Here’s a look inside America’s amazing blast-proof super-fortress
Lights illuminate the memorial benches at night (DoD)

The Born sisters recently visited the memorial to the event that had such an enormous impact on their lives. “When we had moved away from D.C., the trees were pretty small that they planted, and since then they’ve grown, so it’s just kind of striking to see how much life is rising in that area,” Hanna said. Although the memorial is usually open to the public 24/7, it is currently closed and will reopen once the Pentagon resumes public tours.

Here’s a look inside America’s amazing blast-proof super-fortress
Hanna (left) and Heather (right) at the Pentagon 9/11 memorial (Born Family photo)
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How close is North Korea to being a nuclear threat really?

While a leaked US intelligence report suggests North Korea now can build warheads small and light enough to fit inside its intercontinental ballistic missiles, nuclear weapons experts doubt that Pyongyang can develop an operational ICBM with a reliable warhead capable of hitting the US mainland.


Reports about the intelligence community’s consensus on North Korea’s weapons capability came this week as Pyongyang and Washington exchanged war threats.

The July 28 analysis from the Pentagon’s Defense Intelligence Agency, disclosed August 8 by The Washington Post, concludes that Pyongyang has “produced nuclear weapons for ballistic missile delivery, to include delivery by ICBM-class missiles.” On August 10, NBC News quoted unnamed US officials as saying the CIA and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, as well as other intelligence agencies, agreed with the assessment.

Here’s a look inside America’s amazing blast-proof super-fortress
US Air Force photo by Senior Airman Kyla Gifford

Key questions unanswered

Miniaturization technology was one of the major hurdles in Kim Jong Un’s nuclear and missile programs. If the DIA assessment holds true, the regime is now closer to achieving its ambition: striking the continental US with a nuclear-tipped ICBM.

Determined as North Korea is to become a full-fledged nuclear power, experts say several important questions about its capabilities remain.

David Albright, a former UN nuclear inspector, told VOA’s Korean service the DIA assessment appeared to have ignored “uncertainties and caveats” about the reliability of the miniaturized warhead, once it is loaded atop an ICBM, and little is known about the chances that the payload will reach its target.

Pyongyang already can miniaturize nuclear warheads and mount them on its medium-range Rodong missiles, which have been test-launched repeatedly since the early 1990s. Albright said it might be possible, but less likely, that they could do the same with an ICBM.

Here’s a look inside America’s amazing blast-proof super-fortress
Image from Wikimedia Commons

Difficulties only begin at launch

Albright, president of the Institute for Science and International Security, explained that a nuclear warhead must survive the entire ICBM mission – the rigors of blastoff, possibly from a mobile launch vehicle, the flight into space and then a blazing re-entry into the atmosphere – before it can detonate above its target.

Failures can occur, Albright noted, because of the much more exacting requirements of the Hwasong-14 ICBM missile system, which has been tested only twice, and just within the past month – not enough to establish its reliability.

“Countries spend a lot of time working this problem to try to build up what they call the reliability of the warhead in a delivery system, and it just takes time,” Albright said. “I think I would be skeptical that North Korea can do it right now.”

Michael Elleman, senior fellow for missile defense at the International Institute for Strategic Studies, had similar views. But in terms of volume, he said, if a warhead can fit inside the payload bay of Pyongyang’s Scud-type short-range missile, which has a relatively narrow diameter, any of the regime’s other missiles, including the Hwasong-14, certainly could accommodate it.

Here’s a look inside America’s amazing blast-proof super-fortress
Hwasong missile (North Korean variant). (Photo: KCNA)

Lighter warheads travel farther

It is not yet clear by how much the North Koreans can lighten their missiles’ payloads, which would extend their range.

“It is still a question mark as to whether they can threaten deep into the United States,” Elleman said.

However, he told VOA, it appears the North Koreans’ rockets could deliver a 500-kilogram warhead as far the western portions of the continental US

Further undercutting confidence in the North’s technical capabilities is a lack of clarity about the Kim regime’s mastery of atmospheric re-entry technology for the warhead, a crucial requirement for operational ICBMs.

For long-range flights, Elleman said, “the re-entry velocity, when it comes back into the Earth’s atmosphere, is much higher, and so the protection mechanisms for the re-entry vehicle [must be] more rigorous, to survive the much greater amount of heat and the vibrations as it slows down, passing through … thicker and thicker [air] as you get closer to the surface.”

Tests show ‘substantial progress’

Siegfried Hecker, a former director of the Los Alamos National Laboratory, is now a professor at Stanford University’s Center for International Security and Cooperation, and he has visited North Korea seven times and toured its nuclear facilities.

Hecker said in an interview with The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists that making miniaturized warheads robust enough to survive the extreme conditions of ICBM flight “is very demanding and takes time, particularly because warheads contain materials such as plutonium, highly enriched uranium, high explosives and the like.”

“These are not,” he added, “your ordinary industrial materials.”

However, Hecker added in a separate interview this week, Pyongyang’s latest two missile tests, of their ICBMs, “demonstrate substantial progress, and most likely mean they will be able to master the technology in the next year or two.”

Here’s a look inside America’s amazing blast-proof super-fortress

The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, founded in 1945 by scientists who worked on the US Manhattan Project and built the first atomic bomb, has for 70 years published the “Doomsday Clock,” intended as a measure of how close the world is to a thermonuclear war – or to midnight, on the clock, because that could lead to a worldwide cataclysm.

The Doomsday Clock stood at three minutes to midnight in 2016. The scientists involved advanced it in late January this year, and it is now just two minutes and 30 seconds short of midnight.

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Watch Russian and Chinese marines invade the South China Sea together

The Russian and Chinese militaries set the news world buzzing last September when they conducted a bilateral exercise in the South China Sea that, among other things, saw hundreds of Marines conducting beach landings and air assaults to take over an island.


Here’s a look inside America’s amazing blast-proof super-fortress
(GIF: WarLeaks – Daily Military Defense Videos Combat Footage)

While the week-long exercise also featured anti-submarine warfare and other naval operations, most of the news coverage was of the Marines hitting the island. (In their defense, getting good footage of submarine battles is kinda tough).

Sure, pundits wrung their hands about the ramifications of a China and Russia conducting joint operations. But the fear may have been a bit overblown. After all, China participates in a lot of naval exercises with the U.S. as well.

Here’s a look inside America’s amazing blast-proof super-fortress
(GIF: WarLeaks – Daily Military Defense Videos Combat Footage)

The location and the activities in the exercise are important, though. Portions of the hotly contested South China Sea are claimed by a few nations, including the Philippines, China, Malaysia, Brunei, and Taiwan. If China were to try to edge other countries off their claims by force, this is the exact exercise they would need to do to get ready.

And the Chinese marines do look good in the video below, working with landing craft, tanks, and air assets to quickly take and hold the island alongside their Russian counterparts in green. See more footage of them in the full video from War Leaks below:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yCc2rh74mHM
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US-led forces executed the largest single airstrike of the year against ISIS’ oil business

In one fell swoop, a series of aerial strafing and bombing runs destroyed 83 oil tankers belonging to ISIS forces in Syria.


USA TODAY reports that after a pilot witnessed a gaggle of vehicles in the oil-rich, ISIS-held region of Deir ez-Zor province, US-led coalition forces sent a surveillance aircraft to provide intelligence on the area. After confirming the targets, A-10s and F-16s were scrambled to dispense more than 80 munitions against the vehicles.

After the dust settled, an estimated $11 million worth of oil and trucks were destroyed in the largest single airstrike against ISIS forces in Syria this year.

Here’s a look inside America’s amazing blast-proof super-fortress
A convoy of ISIS-owned fuel tankers burn after being targeted by a Russian airstrike. | Screenshot via Guerrilla TV/YouTube

“You’re going to have multiple effects from this one strike,” said Air Force commander Lt. Gen. Jeffrey Harrigian.

The vehicles, which were reported to have been out in the open, may be indicative of the declining state of ISIS’ leadership and control. After a series of devastating airstrikes from both coalition and Russian forces, ISIS militants have grown accustomed to evade aerial threats by avoiding traveling in large convoys; however, this latest lapse in judgment could be a sign of worse things to come for the militants.

“This is a very good indication that they’re having trouble commanding and controlling their forces,” Harrigian explained to USA TODAY.

The bombing campaign, otherwise known as Tidal Wave II, was enacted to wipe out ISIS’ oil market that was generating more than $1 million a day during its peak.

At the beginning of this operation, coalition aircraft would drop leaflets on the oil tankers prior to their bombing runs to provide the option for drivers to escape. However, after new military rules were implemented, leaflets are no longer required to be dropped.

Instead, pilots are now firing warning shots to indicate their arrival.

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Robot soldiers are coming! Robot soldiers are coming!

Boston Dynamics has come out with a new version of its Atlas robot that is more mobile, more agile, lighter, quieter, and doesn’t require a power tether.


The new robot was introduced in a YouTube video this morning where it was shown escaping a building and marching through the snow:

Here’s a look inside America’s amazing blast-proof super-fortress
GIF: YouTube/Boston Dynamics

Then it stacked boxes like some sort of Robo-POG:

Here’s a look inside America’s amazing blast-proof super-fortress
GIF: YouTube/Boston Dynamics

Like other POGs, the Atlas was bullied pretty harshly on the job:

Here’s a look inside America’s amazing blast-proof super-fortress
GIF: YouTube/Boston Dynamics

The new generation Atlas weighs only 180 pounds, approximately half the weight of its 330-pound predecessor. It is powered by onboard batteries and can navigate obstacles that tripped up earlier Atlas robots at the DARPA Robotics Challenge.

Boston Dynamics has withdrawn from the DARPA challenge to focus on building commercially-viable robots, meaning they might try to sell the robot to the military or other buyers within the next few years.

Still, the Atlas is far from reaching the battlefield. The new improvements could get it ready to serve behind the lines, but it’s about as noisy as the BigDog robot which was shelved by the Marine Corps for being too loud. And there are no signs that it’s ready to carry its own weapon.

For now, developers will probably continue to target disaster response and similar missions.

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This heroic Coastie, WWII resistance fighter, and POW died at 101

Florence Finch was born with the heart of a American warrior. Her father was a U.S. Army veteran of the Spanish-American war who opted to stay in the the Philippines after the war, where he met his wife.


Finch worked as a civilian for the Army headquarters in Manila before World War II broke out. That’s where she met her first husband, a Navy sailor in 1941. Later in life she joined the Coast Guard Women’s Reserve (also known as SPARS) “to avenge her husband’s death.”

Finch would distinguish herself in the Japanese occupation of the island chain. She was the first woman to receive the Asiatic-Pacific Campaign Ribbon and was later awarded the Medal of Freedom. She died in December 2016 at age 101 and was given a burial with full military honors on Apr. 29, 2017.

Her husband was killed in action six days after Manila fell to Japan. She hid her American lineage from the occupiers and found herself managing fuel rations in Philippine Liquid Fuel Distributing Union. Finch began to covertly divert those supplies to the Philippine Underground while helping coordinate sabotage operations with other resistance fighters.

Here’s a look inside America’s amazing blast-proof super-fortress
Japanese light tanks moving toward Manila on the day the city fell. (U.S. Army photo)

For two years, Florence Smith (her first married name) managed to help fight the Japanese occupation. Her former Army employers, now Japanese POWs, managed to get word to her of their mistreatment and suffering in prison. She immediately began smuggling food, medicine, and other supplies to them. This was a much trickier operation and she was caught in October 1944.

The Japanese arrested, imprisoned, and tortured her until she was liberated by American troops in February 1945. They wanted her to give them everything she knew about the resistance movement. She never broke. Finch weighed only 80 pounds when she was freed.

According to the Troy Record-News, she repeatedly told herself: “I will survive.”

Here’s a look inside America’s amazing blast-proof super-fortress

Soon after, she moved to upstate New York, where she joined the SPARS. The war ended shortly after, but when her superiors in the Coast Guard found out about her wartime activities, they awarded her the Asiatic-Pacific Campaign Ribbon. She served honorably for two years.

That’s when her former U.S. Army boss in the Philippines, Lt. Col. E.C. Engelhart, penned this testimonial to award her the Medal of Freedom:

For meritorious service which had aided the United States in the prosecution of the war against the enemy in the Philippine Islands, from June 1942 to February 1945.  Upon the Japanese occupation of the Philippine Islands, Mrs. Finch (then Mrs. Florence Ebersole Smith) believing she could be of more assistance outside the prison camp, refused to disclose her United States citizenship.  She displayed outstanding courage and marked resourcefulness in providing vitally needed food, medicine, and supplies for American Prisoners of War and internees, and in sabotaging Japanese stocks of critical items. . .She constantly risked her life in secretly furnishing money and clothing to American Prisoners of War, and in carrying communications for them.  In consequence she was apprehended by the Japanese, tortured, and imprisoned until rescued by American troops.  Thought her inspiring bravery, resourcefulness, and devotion to the cause of freedom, Mrs. Finch made a distinct contribution to the welfare and morale of American Prisoners of War on Luzon.

Here’s a look inside America’s amazing blast-proof super-fortress
Florence Finch in 2016. (U.S. Coast Guard photo)

After the war, she married U.S. Army veteran Robert Finch and moved to Ithaca, New York, where she lived until age 101. She worked as a secretary at Cornell University, where no one knew about her life as a war hero.

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WWII vet running across the country to honor the fallen

Here’s a look inside America’s amazing blast-proof super-fortress


Veterans and staff members at the Biloxi VA Medical Center hosted a special visitor earlier this year. Ernest Andrus stopped by the hospital at the end of January, one of his days off, to attend a reception in his honor.  These days it’s not so easy to get on Andrus’ calendar as the 92-year-old WWII Veteran runs across the country four days a week to raise awareness of the sacrifices the men and women of the military made during World War II and the many conflicts since that time.

“Freedom isn’t free,” Andrus said.  “We can’t forget our comrades that were injured or killed serving and protecting our country.  That’s what I hope I can achieve with this run.  Plus I always wanted to do this.”

Once Andrus made up his mind to run across the country, he spent several months planning the trip.  In October 2013 he touched the Pacific Ocean near San Diego, turned east and began jogging.  He’s been running ever since, and in January, as he ran along the Mississippi Gulf Coast, VA staff jumped at the chance to invite him over.

“As you can see from this large turnout,”  said Anthony Dawson, the director of the Gulf Coast Veterans Health Care System, “we are all in awe of what you are doing and honored to have you here today for a visit. If we switched the numbers of your age making you 29 it would still be an amazing accomplishment.  But at 92, wow!”

Here’s how Andrus came to running across the country at age 92.

Ernest Andrus was a corpsman in the Navy, joining at the start of the war.  He left the Navy when the war ended in 1945, and enrolled in college on the VA GI Bill, found a job and went on with his life.  He didn’t spend a lot of time dwelling on his experiences during the war, as some did. He said it was too hard to do.

“I wasn’t right in the middle of the action,” Andrus said, “but I saw enough. I found it easier to just not spend a lot of time thinking about those that didn’t come back. Not like some of my crewmates did. Not for a long time.”

As a corpsman aboard a LST (Landing Ship, Tank), Andrus said he stayed busy tending to the wounds and illnesses associated with war.  He assisted in surgeries, and to this day recalls an amputation that was performed aboard his ship.  As the surgeon began the procedure, the patient needed blood.  Andrus was the same blood type so he rolled up his sleeve, while he was holding the IV bag (they didn’t have a pole), and gave blood.  He had to do this several times throughout the night.  He remembers feeling light headed and weak.

“We all did what we had to do,” Andrus said.  “I didn’t do anything that any other man in our crew wouldn’t have done.”

Andrus’ life ticked along at a normal pace for the next 60 years or so.  One day he received a phone call from some of his former crew members, to include the skipper, and nothing was ever the same after that.

“We were at a point in our lives when our families were grown, our careers were over and now we had time to think.  So we began reminiscing about our time in the service.  And one thing we all agreed on was we wanted the younger generations to understand the sacrifices so many made which made America the country it is today,” he said.

“We wanted the younger generations to understand the sacrifices so many made which made America the country it is today,” Andrus said.

So the group of about 30 got together and decided they could preserve the memories of life aboard a Navy LST by finding and refurbishing a decommissioned ship and turning it into a floating memorial.  They located the USS LST-325 in Greece, got it back to America and it now is available for tour in Indiana.  The refurbishment took years of red tape, fundraising and countless hours of coordination, but the group persevered.  The effort serves as a testimony to Andrus’ sheer grit and determination as he treks across the country to share the message that America should acknowledge and appreciate all that Veterans have done to preserve freedom.

“We have a great country,” Andrus said.  “We can’t forget how we got here.”

If all goes as planned, Andrus will arrive on the east coast of Georgia, near Brunswick, on Aug. 20, 2016, one day after his 93rd birthday.

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13 steps to putting U.S. Navy warheads on ISIS foreheads

We see a lot of FLIR footage showing bad guys blowing up, but what really goes into schwacking ISIS on a regular and persistent basis?  Here’s a quick look at the life of a bomb from birth to boom.


1. After the bomb is manufactured it is trucked to a military ammo depot.

Here’s a look inside America’s amazing blast-proof super-fortress

2. When the aircraft carrier is ready to go to sea, it loads some of the ordnance — tailored for the planned mission — pierside.

Here’s a look inside America’s amazing blast-proof super-fortress
(Photo: U.S. Navy)

3. The rest of it is loaded closer to the war zone using underway replenishment.

Here’s a look inside America’s amazing blast-proof super-fortress
USS Harry S. Truman (CVN 75) in the middle of an ammo onload (using both vertrep and unrep). (Photo: U.S. Navy)

4. As the aviators plan the strikes in the carrier’s intelligence center, the “ordies” in the magazine many decks below build the bombs they’ve requested, adding the appropriate fin kits and fuses to the bodies of the weapons.

Here’s a look inside America’s amazing blast-proof super-fortress
(Photo: U.S. Navy)

5. Once built, the bombs are wheeled to the ordnance elevator and taken up to the hangar bay.

Here’s a look inside America’s amazing blast-proof super-fortress
(Photo: U.S. Navy)

6. The bombs are inventoried and then taken to the flight deck and staged behind the carrier’s island.

Here’s a look inside America’s amazing blast-proof super-fortress
(U.S. Navy photo by Photographer’s Mate Airman Stephen Early)

7. As launch time approaches, squadron ordies wheel the ordnance to their jets.

Here’s a look inside America’s amazing blast-proof super-fortress
(Photo: U.S. Navy/Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Apprentice Kelly M. Agee)

8. Bombs are uploaded onto the airplane’s weapons racks using good ol’ fashioned muscle power.

Here’s a look inside America’s amazing blast-proof super-fortress
(Photo: U.S. Navy/Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Tim D. Godbee)

9. Aircrew check with the ordies to make sure everything’s good-to-go before cranking the jets up for launch.

Here’s a look inside America’s amazing blast-proof super-fortress
Cmdr. Chad Vincelette, executive officer of the Swordsmen of Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 32, speaks with an aviation ordnanceman aboard the aircraft carrier USS Harry S. Truman (CVN 75) before his flight to support Operation Enduring Freedom. (Photo: U.S. Navy/Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Kilho Park)

10. Once the jet is positioned on the catapult for launch, pilots show their hands above the canopy rail while ordies pull the arming pins.

Here’s a look inside America’s amazing blast-proof super-fortress
Ordie pulls the pin arming a laser Maverick hanging from an F/A-18 Super Hornet. (Photo: U.S. Navy)

11. Launch ’em!

Here’s a look inside America’s amazing blast-proof super-fortress

12. “Pickle, pickle, pickle . . .”

Here’s a look inside America’s amazing blast-proof super-fortress
An F/A-18C (also loaded with Sidewinder and AMRAAM air-to-air missiles and HARM anti radar missiles) dropping a 1,000-pound bomb. (Photo: U.S. Navy)

13. Special delivery for Mr. ISIS!

Here’s a look inside America’s amazing blast-proof super-fortress

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