Here's why the Air Force's B-52 has only gotten better with age - We Are The Mighty
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Here’s why the Air Force’s B-52 has only gotten better with age

If the B-52 was a person it’d be old enough to retire and collect social security, but instead we’re using it to bomb America’s haters in the Middle East.


As the cliché saying goes — it’s like a fine wine, it only gets better with age. And in the case of the B-52, it’s true. Boeing’s B-52 Stratofortress was made in 1952 and was supposed to be in service for only a decade. But constant updates have made it a relevant weapon 60 years later.

Its low operating costs have kept it in service despite the advent of more advanced bombers, such as the canceled B-70 Valkyrie, B-1 Lancer and the B-2 Spirit.

With a payload of 70,000 pounds and a wide array of weapons, including bombs, mines and missiles, the B-52 has been the backbone of the manned strategic bomber force for the U.S. for the past 40 years, according to the U.S. Air Force. The B-52 is expected to serve beyond the year 2040.

Here’s the B-52 Stratofortress throughout the years:

The first B-52H Stratofortress delivered to Minot Air Force Base

Here’s why the Air Force’s B-52 has only gotten better with age

B-52D dropping 500-lb bombs

Here’s why the Air Force’s B-52 has only gotten better with age
A B-52D Stratofortress from the 93rd Bombardment Wing at Castle Air Force Base, California, drops bombs. B-52Ds were modified in 1966 to carry 108, 500-lb bombs while the normal conventional payload before was only 51. (Image: Wikimedia)

A B-52H Stratofortress of the 2d Bomb Wing takes off from Andersen Air Force Base, Guam

Here’s why the Air Force’s B-52 has only gotten better with age
A B-52 Stratofortress takes off from Andersen Air Force Base, Guam, to participate in an exercise scenario Aug. 22. The aircraft, aircrew and maintainers are deployed from Barksdale AFB, La., as part of the continuous bomber presence in the Pacific region. During their deployment to Guam, the bomber squadron’s participation in exercises will emphasize the U.S. bomber presence, demonstrating U.S. commitment to the Pacific region. (U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Master Sgt. Mahmoud Rasouliyan)

The aircrew inside the B-52 cockpit

Here’s why the Air Force’s B-52 has only gotten better with age
Aircrew assigned to the 96th Bomb Squadron participate in a RED FLAG-Alaska 10-2 sortie on a B-52H Stratofortress, April 29, 2010, Eielson Air Force Base, Alaska. The aircrew is assigned to Barksdale AFB, Louisiana. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Christopher Boitz)

A view of the lower deck of the B-52, dubbed the battle station

Here’s why the Air Force’s B-52 has only gotten better with age
Capt. Jeff Rogers (left) and 1st Lt. Patrick Applegate are ready in the lower deck of a B-52 Stratofortress at Minot Air Force Base, N.D., on Aug. 21, 2006. The officers are with the 5th Bomb Wing at Minot AFB. (U.S. Air Force photo illustration/Master Sgt. Lance Cheung)

At the navigation station

Here’s why the Air Force’s B-52 has only gotten better with age
Capt. Michael Minameyer reviews map during a RED FLAG-Alaska 10-2 sortie on a B-52H Stratofortress, April 29, 2010, Eielson Air Force Base, Alaska. RF-A provides participants 67,000 square miles of airspace, more than 30 threat simulators, one conventional bombing range and two tactical bombing ranges containing more than 400 different types of targets. Captain Minameyer is a navigator assigned to the 96th Bomb Squadron, Barksdale AFB, Louisiana. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Christopher Boitz)

Mid-air refueling

Here’s why the Air Force’s B-52 has only gotten better with age
SEYMOUR JOHNSON AIR FORCE BASE, N.C. — A member of the 916th Air Refueling Wing off-loads fuel to a B-52 over the Pacific near Guam.

Refueling over Guam

Here’s why the Air Force’s B-52 has only gotten better with age
SEYMOUR JOHNSON AIR FORCE BASE, N.C. — Airmen of the 916th begin to return to home in early November after a deployment to Guam supporting the bomber mission. Here, a KC-135 tanker refuels a B-52.

Pulling chocks

Here’s why the Air Force’s B-52 has only gotten better with age
A B-52 Stratofortress takes off from Minot Air Force Base, N.D., Aug. 21. The bomber is with the 5th Bomb Wing. (U.S. Air Force photo/Master Sgt. Lance Cheung)

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What it was like in the bunker Hitler died in 72 years ago

Here’s why the Air Force’s B-52 has only gotten better with age


While hiding in a fortified two level 3,000-square-foot underground bunker, one of history’s most brutal tyrants promised the world that his empire would reign for 1,000 years.

Hitler’s Third Reich lasted 12 years, and officially ended on April 30, 1945, when the Führer committed suicide in his bunker with his new wife after learning Allied Forces had surrounded Berlin.

Hitler’s last hours

Here’s why the Air Force’s B-52 has only gotten better with age
Hitler with his long-term mistress, Eva Braun.

The day before his death, 56-year-old Hitler married his long-term mistress, 33-year-old Eva Braun.

After his brief wedding ceremony Hitler began preparing his last will and political statement with his secretary Traudl Junge at approximately 4:00 p.m.

“What I possess belongs – in so far as it has any value, to the Party. Should this no longer exist, to the State; should the State also be destroyed, no further decision of mine is necessary,” Hitler’s will stated.

“I myself and my wife, in order to escape the disgrace of deposition or capitulation, choose death. It is our wish to be burnt immediately on the spot where I have carried out the greatest part of my daily work in the course of a twelve years’ service to my people.”

Later on that day Hitler learned his Italian counterpart Benito Mussolini was executed by a mob of anti-fascist partisans.

Here’s a summary of Hitler’s last day as reported by MentalFloss:

1 a.m.: Field Marshal William Keitel reports that the entire Ninth Army is encircled and that reinforcements will not be able to reach Berlin.

4 a.m.: Major Otto Günsche heads for the bathroom, only to find Dr. Haase and Hitler’s dog handler, Fritz Tornow, feeding cyanide pills to Hitler’s beloved German Shepherd, Blondi. Haase is apparently testing the efficacy of the cyanide pills that Hitler’s former ally Himmler had provided him. The capsule works and the dog dies almost immediately.

10:30 a.m.: Hitler meets with General Helmuth Weidling, who tells him that the end is near. Russians are attacking the nearby Reichstag. Weidling asks what to do when troops run out of ammunition. Hitler responds that he’ll never surrender Berlin, so Weidling asks for permission to allow his troops to break out of the city as long as their intention never to surrender remains clear.

2:00 p.m.: Hitler and the women of the bunker—Eva Braun, Traudl Junge, and other secretaries—sit down for lunch. Hitler promises them that he’ll give them vials of cyanide if they wish to use them. He apologizes for being unable to give them a better farewell present.

3:30 p.m.: Roused by the sound of a loud gunshot, Heinz Linge, who has served as Hitler’s valet for a decade, opens the door to the study. The smell of burnt almonds—a harbinger of cyanide—wafts through the door. Braun and Hitler sit side by side. They are both dead. Braun has apparently taken the cyanide, while Hitler has done the deed with his Walther pistol.

4:00 p.m.: Linge and the other residents of the bunker wrap the bodies in blankets and carry them upstairs to the garden. As shells fall, they douse the bodies in gas. Joseph Goebbels, minister of propaganda, will kill himself tomorrow. Meanwhile, he holds out a box of matches. The survivors fumble and finally light the corpses on fire. They head down to the bunker as they burn.

Hitler’s body

Here’s why the Air Force’s B-52 has only gotten better with age
The bloodstained sofa where Hitler and Eva Braun committed suicide.

itting on a sofa next to each other in the living room of the Führerbunker, Hitler and his new bride Braun poisoned themselves with cyanide pills and then for good measure, the Nazi leader reportedly shot himself in the head.

While various historians dispute the scenario of Hitler actually ending his life with a gunshot, the Russian government claimed they had a portion of Hitler’s alleged skull complete with a bullet hole, The Guardian reports.

The fractured skull, which was reportedly taken from the bunker went on public display in Moscow in 2000. Paired with the skull was what Russian intelligence said is Hitler’s jawbone.

Almost a decade later, American researchers claimed by way of DNA testing that the cranial fragment actually belonged to a woman approximately 40 years old, The Guardian reports.

The orders to be “burnt immediately” were reportedly followed when SS officers wrapped the bodies of the Führer and Braun in blankets and then placed them on a small pyre where SS officer Otto Günsche set the remains ablaze.

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Former US general calls for pre-emptive strike on North Korea

The former top American commander in South Korea on Thursday said the Trump administration must be ready to launch a pre-emptive strike on North Korea before it tests a long-range missile capable of hitting the U.S. mainland.


“I don’t think any talking, any diplomacy, is going to convince Kim Jong-un to change,” retired Army Gen. Walter Sharp said of the North Korean leader in suggesting the possibility of a pre-emptive strike to eliminate the nuclear threat.

Also read: As North Korea gets more ambitious with missiles, Japan looks to US for backup

Should North Korea put a missile such as the three-stage Taepodong 2 on the launchpad, and the U.S. was unsure whether it carried a satellite or a nuclear warhead, the missile should be destroyed, said Sharp, the former commander of U..S. Forces-Korea and the United Nations Command from 2008 to 2011.

Here’s why the Air Force’s B-52 has only gotten better with age

The U.S. also must be ready to respond with overwhelming force if North Korea retaliated, Sharp said. “If [Kim] responds back after we take one of these missiles out,” he should know “that there is a lot more coming his way, something he will fear,” Sharp said.

“I think we’re to that point that we need to have that capability. I am to that point,” he said, adding that the U.S. could not risk relying solely on anti-missile defenses to counter North Korean long-range missiles.

Sharp spoke at a panel discussion on challenges from North Korea at an all-day forum sponsored by the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, D.C., on the national security issues that will confront President-elect Donald Trump.

Others on the panel, while sharing Sharp’s concerns about the North Korean nuclear threat, worried about the aftermath of a pre-emptive strike. Despite North Korea’s nuclear tests, “there is potential in diplomacy,” said Christine Wormuth, the former undersecretary of defense for policy in the Obama administration.

“I’m concerned about pre-emptive action on the launchpad,” Wormuth said. “What does Kim Jong-un do in response? I worry quite a bit about our ability to sort of manage a potential retaliation.”

During the campaign, Trump called Kim Jong-un a “bad dude” and a “maniac,” but also said he might be willing to meet with Kim over a hamburger to defuse tensions on the peninsula.

The panel discussion came a day after the U.N. Security Council imposed new sanctions on North Korea aimed at cutting its export revenues. The latest sanctions were in response to the country’s fifth and largest underground nuclear weapons test, which occurred in September.

Here’s why the Air Force’s B-52 has only gotten better with age
A North Korean propaganda poster depicting a missile firing at the United States. | Via Flickr

The 15-member council unanimously adopted a resolution to slash North Korea’s exports of coal — its main export item — by about 60 percent and also imposed a ban on its export of copper, nickel, silver and zinc.

Samantha Power, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, said that the sanctions would cost North Korea about $800 million annually.

“No resolution in New York will likely, tomorrow, persuade Pyongyang to cease its relentless pursuit of nuclear weapons, but this resolution imposes unprecedented costs,” she said.

In a statement, North Korea’s Foreign Ministry said the sanctions would have no effect on the regime’s pursuit of nuclear weapons and delivery systems.

“There will be no greater miscalculation than to think that Obama and his henchmen can use the cowardly sanctions racket to try to force us to give up our nuclear armament policy or undermine our nuclear power status,” the statement said.

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American troops tried to find Viet Cong tunnels using witching rods

For more than five centuries, farmers, treasure hunters, and others have applied a pseudoscientific practice known as “dowsing” to find water, caves, graves and more.


During the Vietnam War, American troops tried using the method to divine the location of Viet Cong tunnel networks.

It didn’t work.

Continually frustrated by the underground networks, the Pentagon made locating and destroying the subterranean passages a main goal in 1967. A year later, defense contractor HRB Singer told the Office of Naval Research that dowsing might hold the answer.

“Undoubtedly, any system that offers some promise of improving the odds above pure chance of discovering and locating the enemy is worth a try — if nothing else is available,” the scientists explained in a 1968 report. The U.S. Army and Navy had both so far failed to build a machine that could reliably detect the tunnels.

In spite of repeated studies failing to prove any scientific basis for dowsing, the practice has endured to the present day. HRB Singer was optimistic that dowsing could help in South Vietnam.

Debates have raged about whether dowsing works since the practice first evolved in Germany in the 15th century. In 1518, Christian theologian Martin Luther decried the practice as occultic — and an affront to God.

A common understanding surrounding dowsing is that certain people can either innately sense small shifts in Earth’s magnetic fields that indicate open underground areas such as caverns. These individuals can train others to feel these changes. Others have linked the diving to psychic abilities or other factors.

Dowsers may use a Y- or L-shaped wood or metal pole —typically called a “divining rod” or “witching rod” — to help in their search. However, some practitioners don’t use any special tools.

Here’s why the Air Force’s B-52 has only gotten better with age
U.S. Army troops investigate a Viet Cong tunnel. | U.S. Army photo

Despite widespread skepticism, HRB Singer was quick point out dowsing’s clear military applications — if it worked. In South Vietnam, Communist rebels routinely ambushed American troops from camouflaged spider holes and bunkers linked to extensive underground networks.

“The evidence suggests that this network of underground installations which has been under construction for more than 20 years is an even better base for communist guerrilla … than was Castro’s Sierra Maestra range in Cuba,” HRB Singer’s Richard Bossart wrote in the report.

The Pentagon was trying pretty much anything it could think of to close these tunnels. In 1963, the Army tried using anti-tank rockets to blast into the underground pathways.

Three years later, the ground combat branch started working on a handheld device that could accurately measure differences in magnetic fields to find the Viet Cong hideaways. Dogs were another option.

In 1967, the Air Force looking into trying liquids that would change colors if surface temperature was markedly colder from that underground. This could indicate a large heat source such as a mass of people or a cooking fire.

None of these projects were working out. Between 1966 and 1971, the Army spent more than $500,000 on the portable magnetometer — nearly $3 million in 2016 dollars — and only got a dozen prototype devices to South Vietnam for tests.

With few options, American troops had already turned to dowsing in the field before HRB Singer started their research. Around the same time HRB Singer started their research, the U.S. Marine Corps went so far as to “train” a small group to dowse for tunnels.

The Marine Corps Development and Educational Command put the leathernecks through a four-hour course in the practice. In March 1968, Associated Press reporters spotted the troops near their base at Khe Sanh using bent brass rods to find their subterranean foes.

Here’s why the Air Force’s B-52 has only gotten better with age
U.S. Army specialist Marvin Miller drops a smoke grenade into a tunnel. | U.S. Army photo

Bossart and his colleagues hadn’t been able to figure out if the Marines’ had any luck with their witching rods. But it wasn’t enough to dissuade him from moving forward with his own investigations.

“The fact that detecting and locating tunnels is so critical that the niceties of scientific rigor can be de-emphasized, if necessary,” the HRB Singer researcher noted. In his opinion, the fact that American forces were doing it already made objections “somewhat academic.”

After reviewing the available literature, the HRB Singer team — including a number of employees who were amateur spelunkers — kicked off its own experiment. Having already used dowsing in their hobby, these individuals were happy to explore the phenomenon.

The company’s experts worked together with locals and students in and around Pennsylvania State University. The test subjects found a underground cavern in one case and a septic tank in another.

“These experiments are by no means meant to indicate proof of dowsing,” Bossart was quick to acknowledge in his conclusions. “They are in general uncontrolled and subject to reasonable doubt.”

Still, Bossart felt the results showed the potential of dowsing and the need for more and better studies. The key was trying to conclusively prove whether the practice was a science, an art or pure luck.

In the end, neither HRB Singer nor the Marine Corps could prove a scientific underpinning for dowsing. In 1971, with the Vietnam War steadily winding down, the Marines canned their program.

With its continued popularity in certain regions of the United States, the practice continues to pop up in military circles. In 1988, Air Force lieutenant colonel Dolan McKelvy made the case for dowsing among other types of “psychic warfare” as part of an Air War College research project.

The Marine Corps “did not discredit dowsing, but merely pointed out it is a special skill his marines hadn’t mastered,” according to Dolan. “It probably requires more than a four-hour short course for use operationally.”

In 1990, Lewis Carl, a “professional dowser,” tried again to get the Army interested in dowsing. Carl claimed the practice could help solve water problems for American troops rushing to the Persian Gulf following Saddam Hussein’s invasion of Kuwait.

Four years later, David Gaisford conducted his own experiments into the procedure as a student at the Air Force Institute of Technology. In reviewing the historical record, he noted that the Marines had concluded there was no “scientific basis” for the practice.

The ground combat branch wasn’t interested in Carl’s offer. And just like those before him, Gaisford couldn’t find any solid evidence and called for more research.

Today, civilian scientists and engineers and their military counterparts generally rely on advanced magnetometers, radars and lasers to see enemy tunnels and other threats beneath the surface. So far, no one has been able to convince the Pentagon to add witching rods to soldiers’ packs.

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This is what happens when a Navy SEAL becomes an actor

Bravery is a thing you see every day in the military. In all branches, in moments great and small, it’s an expression of the fundamental courage it takes to put your life on the line for love of country and to serve those you swore to protect.

Former Navy SEAL David Meadows proved exemplary in this capacity, serving 11 years in some of the harshest theaters of war throughout the Middle East.


But unlike many of his fellow Oscar Mike alumni, Meadows chose, upon reentry, to translate his habituated bravery into a civilian arena that would, honestly, make most servicemen and women want to crawl out of their natural born skins…

Yeah, he became an actor.

Here’s why the Air Force’s B-52 has only gotten better with age
On the set of Banshee (2016) (Photo from IMDB)

And we can tell you from experience that there are few professions that require a more constant personal brokerage with public shame, mortal embarrassment, insecurity, and rejection — in short, all of the types of feelings that normal people avoid like their lives depend on it.

Being the Special Ops-trained bad ass that he is, though, Meadows surveyed this new theater of war and then dove in head first. Acting for a living takes guts.

“I think that if there is a magic left in the world…it’s really for a person to be affected, to be changed — by one human being actually affecting somebody else on a really human, natural, soulful level. Does that make sense? And performing artists have that power. And I thought…that’s absolutely amazing. And I want to be a part of that.”

To get a taste of the kind of courage an actor has to muster every day, Oscar Mike host Ryan Curtis visited Meadows at his acting studio in Los Angeles and submitted himself to a battery of drills that actors employ to help them behave truthfully under imaginary circumstances.

Each exercise is designed to increase physical sensitivity, dial up emotional availability, and to inure actors to the fear of ridicule that can shut them down at crucial moments. Like all high-stakes training, it’s effective — but it ain’t pretty.

Here’s why the Air Force’s B-52 has only gotten better with age

Today’s lesson is clear: in a successful civilian life, emotional bravery matters. But you don’t have to take our word for it, you can just watch as Curtis cracks under the pressure and and begs to postpone the big payoff in the video embedded at the top.

Watch more Oscar Mike:

This Green Beret will make you a mental commando

The Marine Rapper will make you shake your Citizen Rump

This is why the future of motocross is female

This Iraq vet kayaker will make you rethink PTSD

This is what happens when a SEAL helps you with your lady problems

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The 10 most useless GI Joes of all time

GI Joe is a national treasure and the doll that has made red-blooded American males tough for decades. But not all GI Joes are created equal once the shooting starts. Here are the 10 most useless among them:


1. Altitude

Altitude’s special abilities include making quick sketches while skydiving. It may or may not be relevant that he’s a full-blooded Apache. After the failure of syndicated cartoons, he joined the military. His photographic memory helps his sketches be as accurate as possible. According to his official filecard, he’s the first Joe ever to combine two totally different specialties – Reconnaissance and Combat Artistry.

Here’s why the Air Force’s B-52 has only gotten better with age

2. Dee-Jay

Once the “baddest, hottest disc jockey in Boston,” Dee-Jay is a Communications expert who can work “complicated sound equipment… and coax strange sounds out of it with an infectious beat.” The only person more useless would be Cobra’s Falconer, but at least he knew how to dodge tax laws.

Here’s why the Air Force’s B-52 has only gotten better with age

3. Metalhead

Metalhead is from the short-lived GI Joe EXTREME series. His specialty is computer communications and playing loud rock music in battle. He also has an “in-your-face attitude” (aka “being an asshole”).

Here’s why the Air Force’s B-52 has only gotten better with age

Also, a leather vest and peace symbol necklace aren’t intimidating anyone, least of all Cobra Commander.

4. Bullhorn

GI Joe’s hostage negotiator, Bullhorn is an “intervention specialist… an extremely calm individual, possessing an open and compassionate personality.” He “has the looks of a choirboy and is a good listener!”

Here’s why the Air Force’s B-52 has only gotten better with age

5. Colonel Courage

The Colonel whose military specialty is “administrative strategist,” his filecard quotes him as saying “I’ll never surrender when I’m wearing a tie ’cause I can’t be beat when I’m neat!” His skills include organization and an efficient work ethic.

Here’s why the Air Force’s B-52 has only gotten better with age

Colonel Courage’s filecard even says he rides a desk. Colonel Courage seems like the kind of Colonel who would deny Gung-Ho a promotion because his mustache was out of regs. Also I can’t take him seriously with a name like that.

6. Ice Cream Soldier

I don’t understand why he’s not just called “Ice Cream.” They don’t call Leatherneck “Leatherneck Marine.” Anyway, this seems like a bet between some Hasbro execs to see if they could just sell anything. Ice Cream Soldier is a Fire Operations Expert and BBQ Chef. His filecard says his name is designed to make Cobra underestimate him, but his filecard quote makes that seem like a dodge: “Eating ice cream without hot fudge is like fighting without ammunition!”

Here’s why the Air Force’s B-52 has only gotten better with age

7. Sci-Fi

His card specifically states Sci-Fi “lives in a slow-motion world. He takes everything real easy and is never in a hurry to get anywhere or do anything.” It sounds like Sci-Fi is the biggest Blue Falcon in the whole Joe organization. Also, his specialty is shooting a laser. Forget that everyone shoots lasers, Sci-Fi’s laser takes much longer to be effective so he shoots it miles away from the battlefield.

Here’s why the Air Force’s B-52 has only gotten better with age

Neon green is obviously the go-to color to wear in any small arms situation.

8. Chuckles

Chuckles, with maybe the least threatening name of any GI Joe (keeping in mind that Ice Cream Soldier still has the word “soldier” in his name), is a former insurance investigator whose greatest skill is “likeability.” He works criminal investigations, in case any Joes violate the UCMJ. No one is really sure who Chuckles works for, but he shows up every day in his Hawaiian shirt, “grinning, cracking jokes, and punching Cobras in the shoulders.”

Here’s why the Air Force’s B-52 has only gotten better with age

9. Ozone

An environmental health specialist, Ozone cleans up dangerous chemicals while fixing the holes in Earth’s Ozone layer. “Yo Joe! Ozone is here!” said no Joe ever.

Here’s why the Air Force’s B-52 has only gotten better with age

“Hey, Ozone, buddy… we’re gonna need that Napalm back.”

10. Hardball

Hardball is a failed minor league baseball player who still dresses like he’s going to play baseball at any moment, as if he just can’t accept the fact that he couldn’t make it to the big leagues and joined the military instead. His specialties include being able to judge distances quickly and his ability to be a team player.

Here’s why the Air Force’s B-52 has only gotten better with age

I mean, come on man, let it go. It’s time to move on.

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That time the US stole a Soviet satellite

On an undisclosed night in 1959 or 1960, four CIA agents grabbed their cameras, stripped off their shoes, and climbed into the sexiest thing to ever come out of Soviet Russia during the Cold War: the Luna.


When the night was over, the Soviets were none the wiser and America was sitting on a trove of details about the Russian satellite program.

The opportunity came when the Soviet Union, hoping to tout its technological and economic might, planned a traveling road show that would show off its greatest achievements. Since it had launched the world’s first two satellites and was a pioneer in nuclear technology, people were willing to let the road show in.

 

Here’s why the Air Force’s B-52 has only gotten better with age
The Soviet space program was the pioneer in the first few years of the space race. After launching the first two man-made satellites, Russia began working on the Luna spacecraft, pictured, which were designed to impact the moon. (Photo: Russian Archives)

 

And America wanted a ticket. Agents went to one of the stops to see if maybe, just maybe, the satellite model was actually a real, production satellite. They managed to get to the Luna while it sat, alone and unguarded, in an undisclosed exhibition hall for 24 hours.

The agents learned that the Luna on tour was very much a real satellite; it just wasn’t carrying an engine or certain electronic parts. But it was still a production satellite with markings that would indicate what companies had manufactured parts, and studying it could give Americans a better idea of its capabilities.

And so the CIA wanted to get a better look. When they checked the upcoming tour dates, another visit in an exposition was ruled out because the Soviets were expected to man a 24-hour guard at most future locations. But, there was no guard scheduled while the displays were in transit.

The CIA first went for hijacking a train, hopefully by shunting it off the main tracks and onto a side lane with a warehouse, but the agency didn’t have adequate resources on the rail line to pull it off. That left the possibility of hijacking the truck that took the satellite to the rail yard.

Agents started by getting the Luna scheduled for the last truck out of the fairground after a display. Then, they kept an eye on the Russians in the rail yard and the fairground as well as vehicle traffic on the roads.

The vehicle checker in the rail yard had no way of talking to colleagues at the fairground, so he was unlikely to know how many trucks were supposed to be coming and going, and CIA cars shadowing the truck saw no signs of a Soviet escort.

And so the Americans pounced, forcing the truck to stop and sending the original driver to hang out overnight in a hotel (no word on how they kept him occupied, so we’re going to assume alcohol and other party favors were involved).

Then they used another driver to move the truck to a salvage yard rented for just this purpose. Cars from the CIA station patrolled the area around the yard to ensure no one came knocking.

Four agents went into the yard with portable lights, cameras, metric wrenches, and other tools. They quickly set to removing the roof of the massive crate, 20 feet long, 11 feet wide, and 14 feet tall at the peak.

Then, they lowered ladders into the crate and began photographing the satellite. They removed their shoes to prevent leaving scuff marks on the device. They photographed the payload, a large orb with an attached antenna, as well as all the present electronics and many of the attachments.

 

Here’s why the Air Force’s B-52 has only gotten better with age
Luna satellite schematic as drawn by the CIA. (Image: CIA)

A team opened the engine compartment by removing 130 bolts and then got into the payload basket by cutting a wire with a stamped plastic seal. As the main team photographed the items underneath, cars raced the wire and seal back to the station to get copies made.

In a short time, the agents copied down all relevant data from the engine compartment, nose section, and even the payload basket while taking detailed photos of the same. A roll of film was developed inside one of the cars to make sure that all photo equipment had worked properly.

By then, the replacement seal had arrived and the agents got the whole thing put back together inside its crate. A little after 4 a.m., the original driver was sent back to his truck and he delivered it to the rail yard where no Soviets were present. When the rail checker arrived at 7 a.m., he saw the waiting truck and had the Luna loaded on the train.

As far as the CIA could tell, the Soviets were none the wiser. America was able to identify the major company producing the Luna and at least three companies that produced components for it.

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It looks like Marine infantrymen are getting a new rifle — again

The Marine Corps has gone all in with the Heckler Koch-made M27 rifle, posting an order in August from the gunmaker for over 50,000 of the 5.56mm rifles.


Marine officials have hinted they intend to supply the entire Marine Corps with the pricey, German-made rifle but will start by outfitting Leathernecks in the infantry and eventually combat engineers and LAR Marines, according to multiple sources.

Here’s why the Air Force’s B-52 has only gotten better with age
Marines with Battalion Landing Team, 2nd Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment, 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit, sight-in with M27 Infantry Automatic Rifles at Camp Hansen, Okinawa, Japan, Dec. 16, 2016. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Jorge A. Rosales/ Released)

Most firearms experts, including top infantry officials in the Corps, believe the M27 — a military version of the HK416 rifle — is a superior weapon compared to the M4 and M16A4 issued to most Marines. With a more durable barrel, a modern, free-float handguard and a cleaner gas-piston operating system — as well as a full-auto firing mode — the M27 will deliver more accurate fire over greater distances and with less wear and tear than current rifles, officials have said.

But this is the third time since 9/11 the Corps has changed up its rifle of choice, with the service upgrading to the M16A4 just after 9/11, then changing those over to the shorter M4 for infantry in 2015.

In 2010, the Corps bought a limited fleet of M27s, dubbing it the “Infantry Automatic Rifle” and supplying it in place of the Squad Automatic Weapon in infantry units.

The M27 was so popular among the rank and file, the Corps decided to adopt it for the entire force, with Commandant Gen. Robert Neller shifting more of the Corps into HK’s direction.

Here’s why the Air Force’s B-52 has only gotten better with age
Select Marines have been training with M27s equipped with suppressors. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Autmn Bobby)

“Everything I have seen suggests that the M27s we have been using for some time have been the most reliable, durable, and accurate weapons in our rifle squads,” Neller has said.

For the past year, the Corps has experimented with equipping the bulk of an infantry battalion with the M27, including suppressors and better optics. Those experiments reportedly show the new gear helps Marines do their mission more effectively and are Marine-proof enough to be fielded throughout the fleet.

But some say the M27 — which costs around $3,000 per rifle — is an expensive alternative to simply upgrading existing M4s with new upper receivers.

“It is not that the M27 is a poor weapon, but rather that, in the ten years since the Infantry Automatic Rifle program was made public, substantial commercial off the shelf improvements have been introduced that could provide a weapon of equal or greater capability to the M27, but at lower cost and lower weight,” one small arms expert told The Firearm Blog.

MIGHTY HISTORY

This 50-year-old jet is the starting point for great fighter pilots

For more than 50 years, the Northrop T-38 Talon has been the principal supersonic jet trainer used by the U.S. Air Force. The twin jet-powered aircraft, which has tandem-seats for the instructor and student pilot, is the world’s first supersonic trainer.

Air Education and Training Command is the primary user of the T-38 for joint specialized undergraduate pilot training. Air Combat Command and the Air Force Materiel Command also use the T-38A in various roles.

Its design features swept wings, a streamlined fuselage and tricycle landing gear with a steerable nose wheel. Critical components can be easily accessed for maintenance and the aircraft boasts an exceptional safety record.


More T-38s have been produced than any other jet trainer and have been used by the U.S. Navy, NASA, and many foreign air forces in addition to the Air Force.

More than 1,100 were delivered to the Air Force between 1961 and 1972 when production ended.

Development

In 1953, Northrop Corporation engineers envisioned developing a small twin-engine “hot-rod” fighter. It would be decidedly different from the majority of early jet designs, which tended towards large, single and heavy engines.

Here’s why the Air Force’s B-52 has only gotten better with age

A Northrop YT-38-5-NO 58-1191 in flight over Edwards Air Force Base, Calif., 10 April 1959.

(US Air Force photo)

The N-156 project began in 1954 with the goal of producing small, agile fighters that could operate from the decks of the Navy’s smallest escort carriers. That market disappeared as the Navy focused on large carriers. However, Northrop continued development with the goal of selling the lightweight fighter to allied air forces.

Then, in the mid-1950s the Air Force issued a General Operating Requirement for a supersonic trainer. Northrop entered a modified N-156 and won the competition, receiving an order for three prototypes, the first of which, designated YT-38, flew in April 1959. The first production T-38 Talons were delivered to the Air Force in 1961. By the time production ended in 1972, 1,187 T-38s had been built.

Deployment

AETC utilized the T-38A to train Air Force pilots that would eventually fly diverse operational aircraft, such as the F-4 Phantom II, the SR-71, the KC-135 and the B-52 in the 1960’s and 70’s. At the same time, the AT-38B variant was equipped with a gun sight and practice bomb dispenser specifically for weapons training.

Here’s why the Air Force’s B-52 has only gotten better with age

A T-38 Talon flies in formation, with the B-2 Spirit of South Carolina, during a training mission over Whiteman Air Force Base, Mo., Feb. 20, 2014.

(Photo by Staff Sgt. Jonathan Snyder)

In 2001, most T-38As and T-38Bs were being converted to the T-38C, with its “glass cockpit” of integrated avionics, head-up display and electronic “no drop bomb” scoring system, which has prepared student pilots for flying everything from the A-10 to the B-2 to the F-22.

Advanced JSUPT students fly the T-38C in aerobatics, formation, night, instrument, and cross-country navigation training.
Test pilots and flight test engineers are trained in T-38s at the U.S. Air Force Test Pilot School at Edwards Air Force Base, California.

AFMC uses the T-38 to test experimental equipment, such as electrical and weapon systems.

Here’s why the Air Force’s B-52 has only gotten better with age

Two T-38 chase planes follow Space Shuttle Columbia as it lands at Northrop Strip in White Sands, NM, ending its mission STS-3.

(NASA photo)

Pilots from most NATO countries train in the T-38 at Sheppard AFB, Texas, through the Euro-NATO Joint Jet Pilot Training Program.

NASA uses T-38 aircraft as trainers for astronauts and as observation and chase planes on programs such as the Space Shuttle.

Did you know?

  • In 1962, the T-38 set absolute time-to-climb records for 3,000, 6,000, 9,000 and 12,000 meters, beating the records for those altitudes set by the F-104 in December 1958.
  • A fighter version of the N-156 was eventually selected for the U.S. Military Assistance Program for deployment in allied air forces. It was produced as the F-5 Freedom Fighter, with the F-5G advanced single-engine variant later renamed the F-20 Tigershark.
  • Although upgrades are expected to extend the T-38C’s service life past 2020, the Air Force has launched the T-X Program and is engaged in a prototype competition to replace it.
  • In response to the 1973 OPEC oil embargo, from 1974 to 1983, the U.S. Air Force flight demonstration team, the Thunderbirds, adopted the T-38 Talon, which used far less fuel than the F-4 Phantom.
Here’s why the Air Force’s B-52 has only gotten better with age

The USAF Thunderbirds, T-38A “Talon” aircraft, fly in formation in this autographed picture dating back to 1977.

(US Air Force photo)

General characteristics

  • Primary Function: Advanced jet pilot trainer
  • Builder: Northrop Corp.
  • Power Plant: Two General Electric J85-GE-5 turbojet engines with afterburners
  • Thrust: 2,050 pounds dry thrust; 2,900 with afterburners
  • Thrust (with PMP): 2,200 pounds dry thrust; 3,300 with afterburners
  • Length: 46 feet, 4 inches (14 meters)
  • Height: 12 feet, 10 inches (3.8 meters)
  • Wingspan: 25 feet, 3 inches (7.6 meters)
  • Speed: 812 mph (Mach 1.08 at sea level)
  • Ceiling: Above 55,000 feet (16,764 meters)
  • Maximum Takeoff Weight: 12,093 pounds (5,485 kilograms)
  • Range: 1,093 miles
  • Armament: T-38A/C: none; AT-38B: provisions for practice bomb dispenser
  • Unit Cost: 6,000 (1961 constant dollars)
  • Crew: Two, student and instructor
  • Date Deployed: March 1961
  • Inventory: Active force, 546; ANG, 0; Reserve 0

Source: AF.mil

This article originally appeared on Airman Magazine. Follow @AirmanMagazine on Twitter.

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Iran tests advanced torpedo in Strait of Hormuz

Iran has tested an advanced high-speed torpedo in the Strait of Hormuz. The test is not only a provocation, but the torpedo is also a new threat to vessels in the international choke point.


According to a report by FoxNews.com, the torpedo in question is called the Hoot, and appears to be a variant of the Russian Shkval, a rocket-powered torpedo capable of reaching speeds of 250 miles per hour, with a range of six miles. This torpedo could cover that distance in about a minute and a half.

Here’s why the Air Force’s B-52 has only gotten better with age
A Russian-designed Shkval on display. (Photo from Wikimedia Commons)

According to GlobalSecurity.org, Russia designed the Shkval as a “revenge weapon” for use by submarines to take out a ship or submarine that fired on them. The original Shkval was tipped with a nuclear warhead. The 16th Edition of Combat Fleets of the World notes that an export version has about a 450-pound high-explosive warhead. Combat Fleets reported Iran was developing a variant of the Shkval known as the Dalaam.

The torpedo is a particular threat given the confined nature of the Strait of Hormuz, which is as narrow as 21 nautical miles.

The Shkval can be fired from any 21-inch torpedo tube — which means that the entire Iranian submarine force, three Kilo-class submarines and at least 16 Ghadir-class minsubs based on a North Korean design, plus another class of minisub called the Qa’em, can use this weapon.

Also read: Iranian cruise missile test fails

Iran has engaged in a number of provocations in recent months, including harassment of the Arleigh Burke-class guided missile destroyer USS Mahan (DDG 72) in April and close encounters with the missile-range instrumentation ship USNS Invincible (T AGM 24).

Iran also has handed off advanced weapons like the Noor anti-ship missile to various rebel and terrorist groups — and some of those missiles were subsequently used in attacks, notably against an Israeli corvette in 2006 and multiple attacks on the guided-missile destroyer USS Mason (DDG 87) last year.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Train like you fight with this range-ready gear

This article is sponsored by Propper, the guys dedicated to equipping those who commit their lives to serving others. In addition to the Propper gear that’s perfect for the mission, we’ve scoured the market for the very best from other brands to build out a kit that will have you hitting the range, ready for action.

It’s time to train up. Whether you’re worried about anarchists, cultists, or voodoo priests summoning the living dead, your firearms aren’t doing you any good just sitting in a safe. You gotta train for the competition, for the fight, or just for the fun of it. But if your gear bag is a little light (or maybe you’re lacking the bag itself), here are some great items to get you ready to rock:


Here’s why the Air Force’s B-52 has only gotten better with age

Propper® 36-inch Rifle Case — (.99)

First of all, speaking of that bag, you need something that keeps all your gear tight together if you don’t want to be bobbling your mags, ear protection, gloves, weapon, and coffee while heading out the door. Know what’s good for that? The Propper® 36-inch Rifle Case.

It’s got side pockets for the mags, MOLLE webbing for anything you want to attack, and padding to protect the goods inside. Just remember to store the ammo in another section of the car during the drive if you live in a place that requires that. This bad boy is so easy to schlep around that you might just forget what you’re carrying.

Here’s why the Air Force’s B-52 has only gotten better with age

Awesafe Electronic Shooting Earmuffs — (.99)

At the range, you double-check your gear and start getting ready to fire. Your rifle is in good mechanical condition and you apply a little lubricant to make sure it’ll move freely.

But before you head to the firing line, you want to make sure you have all your protective gear. Gloves if you roll like that, knee pads if you have achy joints (or are just a wuss — you know who you are), and ear protection if you just want to be able to hear your children’s voices at some point in the future. Nothing too crazy, just Awesafe Electronic Shooting Earmuffs for amplifying low sounds and cutting down the little explosions of each shot you take.

Here’s why the Air Force’s B-52 has only gotten better with age

TANTQTourniquet — (.97)

And, just in case of emergency, you pull out your first aid kit and make sure all the components are there. It shouldn’t come up, but trauma care is one of those things you don’t need until you do. So, you pack a simple kit with some gear you grabbed from some medics and corpsmen over the years.

Sure, you’ve got a nasopharyngeal airway and some chest seals that fell off the ambulance, but the things you always carry in your pocket around firearms and potentially treacherous areas are your TANTQTourniquets with windlass and cold-resistant buckles that won’t break just because it’s chilly and you take a fall.

You won’t, shouldn’t, and don’t need ’em… until you do.

Here’s why the Air Force’s B-52 has only gotten better with age

Propper® Carbon Carry Belt — (.99)

You slap the tourniquets into the drop pouch hanging from your Propper® Carbon Carry Belt, the kind of belt you can wear to church or work without raising eyebrows. It’s made to fit any holster, either inside or outside the waistband, meaning it’s good both at the range for doing some quick drills or working security for a VIP who needs to blend in without sacrificing protection. Perfect.

Here’s why the Air Force’s B-52 has only gotten better with age

Wiley X® Valor — (.50)

You’re a couple steps to the door before you mutter, “Ah, crap,” and double back to the driver’s side. With eye protection as comfortable as the Wiley X® Valor, it’s easy to get in the habit of wearing them everyday and keeping them in the car like standard sunglasses.

But you really buy glasses like these to protect your eyes and their sockets from shrapnel, debris, and burning gunpowder if something goes wrong on the range. Ballistic protection isn’t just for when you’re being shot at.

Here’s why the Air Force’s B-52 has only gotten better with age

Pocket Pro Timer II — (1.58)

At your firing position, you pull out the training tools that help you get better, day-by-day, shoot-by-shoot.

Your Pocket Pro Timer II can clip to your belt or sit on the ground or ledge, but it’s easy to program and start in any position, so you’re not fumbling with buttons when you’re trying to start your drill or check your final time. And with a 105dB buzzer, it can make itself heard even if you’re doubling up on hearing protection.

Here’s why the Air Force’s B-52 has only gotten better with age

Sturdy Tiger 12″ Camera Tripod — (.99)

You set the timer up to sit on the ground in front of you, just in front of your Sturdy Tiger 12-inch Flexible Tripod, perfect for holding GoPros, cell phones, or most any other small recording device. You had originally grabbed it, sheepishly, just to record a little video so you could look for the minute mistakes that might be slowing you down or reducing your accuracy.

But once you started watching the videos, you realized that you actually look pretty good some days, and now you’ve shared a couple videos to YouTube and other sites for your friends to watch and critique. There’s even a remote for triggering it from afar, and the flexible legs can hold onto your weapon, a pole or firing stake, or just support it off the ground.

Putting it on the weapon does throw off the balance and weight, though, obviously. But that barrel video is pretty sweet…

Here’s why the Air Force’s B-52 has only gotten better with age

Wild West Shooting Target — (as low as .24 each)

And today’s a good day for it since you’re enjoying yourself, taking shots at outlaws from the Wild West. Pecos Bill, Dirty Doug, Pistol Pete, Slick Nick, and Big Bad Jon have had this coming for some time, strutting around the saloon like they own the place.

Time to go full Deadwood on them. You may not look as good as Timothy Olyphant, but you’re trying to have some fun while taking some shots, not competing with some pretty boy. With everything set up, you start pumping rounds down range, churning through a little ammo and a few hours.

But then, your phone chimes and you check your messages. The spouse needs you back home sooner rather than later, meaning you’re not gonna get as much time to clean up as you would like.

Here’s why the Air Force’s B-52 has only gotten better with age

AIRSSON Bore Cleaner Snake — (.99)

After clearing your weapon and policing up some brass, you make sure to get everything back into your bag and, before you go, run your AIRSSON Bore Cleaner Snake through your barrel a couple times. You may not have time for a full cleaning right now, but you’re still going to get what you can of the worst of the carbon out of the chamber and barrel, and the bore snakes makes that a snap with metal braiding.

You pull out in your car and head toward the house, the lingering smell of nitrocellulose filling your clothes and the car. It might’ve been cut short, but still a pretty good start to the weekend.

This article is sponsored by Propper, the guys dedicated to equipping those who commit their lives to serving others.

To make sure you’re prepared for any mission, check out the other Propper Mission Kits.

MIGHTY TRENDING

The UK will not block death penalty for ISIS fighters

The British government will not block the potential use of the death penalty in the case of two captured fighters of the extremist group Islamic State (IS) who could face trial in the United States, news reports say.

Alexanda Kotey and El Shafee Elsheikh are suspected of being the final two members of a IS foursome labelled “The Beatles” due to their British accents.

The two men, who were captured by Syrian Kurdish fighters in January 2018, were reportedly wanted for allegedly imprisoning, torturing and killing hostages.


They were captured by Syrian Kurdish fighters in January 2018.

Britain, which opposes the death penalty, has been in discussions with the United States about how and where the pair should face justice.

In a letter to the U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions that was seen by the Daily Telegraph, British Home Secretary Sajid Javid said London will not seek “assurances” that the pair will not be executed.

Here’s why the Air Force’s B-52 has only gotten better with age

“I am of the view that there are strong reasons for not requiring a death penalty assurance in this specific case, so no such assurances will be sought,” Javid wrote in June 2018, according to a transcript of the letter published by the newspaper on July 23, 2018.

Amnesty International said the case “seriously jeopardizes the UK’s position as a strong advocate for the abolition of the death penalty.”

“At a time when the rest of the world is moving increasingly to abolition, this reported letter…marks a huge backward step,” Amnesty International UK’s head of advocacy Allan Hogarth said.

A Home Office spokesman said the government would not comment on leaked documents.

Mohammed Emwazi, known as “Jihadi John” became the most notorious of the four after appearing in videos showing the murder of Western and Japanese journalists and aid workers.

He is believed to have been killed in a U.S.-British missile strike in 2015.

Featured image: British Home Secretary Sajid Javid

This article originally appeared on Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. Follow @RFERL on Twitter.

Articles

Today in military history: D-Day — Allies land in Normandy

On June 6, 1944, the Allies invaded Normandy, France, in the largest amphibious assault in history, also known as D-Day.

By then, Europe had been largely controlled by Nazi Germany for four long years. Operation Overlord, as the invasion was known, included 5,000 ships, 11,000 airplanes, and 150,000 Allied troops as they hit five beaches in a synchronized attack across the English channel.

American battalions suffered crippling losses during the Normandy invasion, but the story of A Company, 1st Battalion, 116th Infantry is especially devastating. Tasked with capturing a road that led to the small French village of Vierville, things began to go wrong for the company before it even reached the shore. Rough seas left the men dazed and sea sick. Heavy clouds blocked the view of U.S. bombers, stopping them from taking out the German gunners that waited for the company in the Dog Green Sector of Omaha Beach. When company A finally did run aground, it was overwhelmed by German mortar, artillery and machine gun fire. In under 20 minutes, 60 percent of the company’s men — many of whom had never seen battle before — were dead or wounded.

German forces were greatly outnumbered at Normandy, largely because the details of where the Allied invasion would take place was kept under lock and key until the moment troops hit the beaches on June 6th, 1944. A double agent working for the allies also gave the Germans false information about where the operation would occur, leaving the real locations with little German defense in place. It’s estimated that there were 175,000 allied troops on the beaches that day compared to a measly 10,000 Germans. Which begs the question: Why didn’t Germany just order reinforcements to those locations? Apparently, it was because Hitler was asleep! German officers were too afraid to wake up the Fuhrer, and too scared to send more troops without his permission. 

The Allied advance failed to achieve its inland objectives that first day, but the amazing sacrifice by thousands of men had cracked the Atlantic Wall, dooming Hitler and the Third Reich. Still, another year of heavy fighting loomed between the beaches and Berlin.

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