Russia sold its enemy the metal for the greatest spy plane ever - We Are The Mighty
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Russia sold its enemy the metal for the greatest spy plane ever

In the ultimate irony of Cold War-era surveillance, one of America’s most effective spy planes — and literally the fastest plane ever built — could never have happened without the help of its intended target, the Soviet Union.


Turns out the Americans bought the metal it needed to help the SR-71 Blackbird withstand the temperatures of supersonic travel from its longtime rival Russia. These are just a few of the fun facts the Smithsonian revealed in a recent video on the plane.

The documentary features a tour of the SR-71 at the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum. Former Blackbird pilot Buz Carpenter joins the tour, giving the lowdown on what kept the stealthy plane up in the air. Carpenter flew the SR-71 hundreds of times during its time in service, and he even flew the airplane that now resides at the Smithsonian.

The SR-71 had three nose options: A training nose, a radar nose, and a camera nose capable of taking a 72-mile wide photo. The film in that camera was 5 inches wide and 2 miles long. It had to be processed in 500-foot rolls.

The radar nose wasn’t required for navigation. The SR-71 had a pod that read the location of the stars in the sky and, as long as you gave the plane its initial position on the planet, the plane would know where it was anywhere in the world. This was 12 years before the global positioning system was first imagined by the U.S. military.

While the radar nose could assist with avoiding enemy ground fire, the Blackbird’s jamming and missile countermeasures usually meant — not to mention its 2,200 miles-per-hour speed — enemy surface-to-air missiles missed by a mile. Literally.

Russia sold its enemy the metal for the greatest spy plane ever
Photo: US Air Force

That top speed meant the average temperature of the plane’s skin was upwards of 600 degrees. At that temperature, it couldn’t be built with aluminum, so it had to be built with 93 percent titanium – and that titanium came from Russia.

The Russians never knew to whom they were selling the titanium, but they sold enough to build 32 SR-71 Blackbirds — planes used primarily to spy on the Soviet Union. The windows were made of quartz and the plane was built with intentional gaps in the wings and fuselage to account for heat expansion during flight. The airplane grows about 2 inches in width and 4 inches in length because of the frictional heat. The hottest part of the plane could get to 1,200 degrees.

Russia sold its enemy the metal for the greatest spy plane ever

The plane’s engines are unique to the Blackbird because no jet engine can absorb supersonic air. So they were specially designed to expand and contract with the airspeed. The extremely high airspeed gave the jet a unique sonic boom as it broke the sound barrier, and the Air Force routinely overflew foreign heads of state to remind them the U.S. could see them.

During the Vietnam War, President Richard Nixon ordered SR-71 pilots to fly over Hanoi and go supersonic to create a sonic boom as a signal to POWs held at the Hanoi Hilton. The booms let the downed pilots in the prison know that if they could escape, Navy SEALs were waiting on the North Vietnamese coast to help them.

Of the 12 Blackbirds rendered unserviceable (none were shot down), four of those came from tire failure. Engineers solved this by cutting the amount of fuel the plane carried during takeoff. A normal mission would see one or two in-flight refuelings. The plane had to refuel every two hours, either in air or on land.

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The most ridiculous weapons used throughout history

Russia sold its enemy the metal for the greatest spy plane ever


From homemade tanks to nuclear land mines kept warm by chickens, war brings out the engineers in people. When a weapons system works, it’s made by the thousands, and sometimes used for decades. But when it doesn’t, it’s quickly added to the dustbin of bad ideas. Many of these ridiculous, odd, and exceptionally weird weapons were developed by militaries all over the world, but either proved impractical, or never even got past the prototype stage.

These spectacularly ridiculous weapons systems, vehicles, and concepts all made it at least to prototype, though whether they proved to be effective is up for debate. Most of these strange weapons are from World War II, when desperate countries threw together whatever they had to rally their people. The United States, Japan, Germany, and the Soviet Union all had their fair share of oddball ideas they each thought could help win the war. In all historical fairness, there were also no shortage of stupid weapon ideas during The Civil War. A few items on this list are modern weapons that are actually in use today.

What are the weirdest military weapons ever built? From weaponized animals to square bullets, engineers and weapons designers have come up with some crazy stuff over the years. Some of these weapons are so absurd, it’s funny to think that anyone ever thought they could work. Other weapons, while impractical, were inventive and innovative attempts to give soldiers a unique advantage. Either way, these weapons are strange. But what were the strangest weapons made? Read on to find out!

The Most Ridiculous (Real) Weapons Used Throughout History

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The last surviving witness of Lincoln’s assassination was a contestant on a celebrity game show

Russia sold its enemy the metal for the greatest spy plane ever


Samuel J. Seymour was present at Ford’s Theatre the night — April 14, 1865 — that President Lincoln was assassinated by John Wilkes Booth. Seymour ended up being the longest survivor witness of this tragically historic moment, living long enough to be interviewed on television. On on February 9, 1956, he appeared on an episode of the CBS show I’ve Got a Secret at the age of 95 — Seymour incorrectly states he is 96, but when you’re that old, you’re allowed to say whatever you want — in which celebrity panelists try to determine each contestant’s secret by asking a series of “yes-or-no” questions.

The panelists — Bill Cullen, Jayne Meadows, Henry Morgan, and Lucille Ball — figure out Seymour’s secret without much difficulty, allowing host Garry Moore to summarize Seymour’s memory of that fateful evening. Moore explains that, at the age of five, Seymour did not understand that the president was shot, and therefore was only concerned about the well-being of the man who fell from the balcony. Seymour died shortly after on April 12 of that same year. Watch the video below.

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The critics are lining up against the VA’s PTSD pot study

Cannabis advocates are criticizing the Department of Veterans Affairs for wasting time and resources on recently published research that produced inconclusive results on the effects of medical marijuana in treating pain and post-traumatic stress disorder.


“I find the funds spent on regurgitating these studies to be worthless,” said Sean Kiernan, a veteran and advocate for the Weed for Warriors project.

Russia sold its enemy the metal for the greatest spy plane ever
Logo courtesy of Weed for Warriors Project.

VA researchers last week published two studies that reviewed previous analyses and evaluations of the effects of marijuana on treating chronic pain and PTSD. The meta-analysis was led by researchers at the VA Portland Health Care System.

Mr. Kiernan, a combat veteran who served in Central America in the 1980s and ’90s, has advocated for access to medical marijuana for veterans since 2013. Today, he works with Arizona-based physician Dr. Suzanne Sisley, who is enrolling veterans in a clinical trial evaluating cannabis in treating PTSD.

He accuses the VA of frustrating Dr. Sisley’s efforts to recruit veterans for her trial.

“Couple that with the active blockade the VA has undertaken with [Dr. Sisley’s] study and one is left scratching one’s head on what is really going on. It doesn’t make sense unless the screams for research are intended to be words only,” he said. “They say, ‘We don’t have research,’ and then they’re blocking the rigorous research.”

Dr. Sisley said the published article was “not helpful.”

Russia sold its enemy the metal for the greatest spy plane ever
Dr. Suzanne Sisley. Photo from High Times.

“[The VA researchers are] just retreading all the same material. There’s been so many meta-analyses. The fact that government money was wasted, again…” she said, her voice trailing off.

“These aren’t controlled trials, they’re all observational studies fraught with tons of human bias,” Dr. Sisley said of the research.

The VA researchers reached the same conclusion, writing that the available studies were insufficient to make recommendations on the medical benefits of marijuana. The researchers were barred from talking with the media to discuss their results.

Media inquiries were directed to a previous statement made by Veteran Affairs Secretary David Shulkin during a White House press conference in May. At that time, he tread lightly on endorsing medical marijuana because of its status as an illegal substance under federal law.

Russia sold its enemy the metal for the greatest spy plane ever
Dr. David J. Shulkin. VA Photo by Robert Turtil.

“My opinion is, is that some of the states that have put in appropriate controls, there may be some evidence that this is beginning to be helpful,” Mr. Shulkin said. “And we’re interested in looking at that and learning from that. But until the time that federal law changes, we are not able to be able to prescribe medical marijuana for conditions that may be helpful.”

The National Institutes of Health lists at least 18 completed clinical trials with results that analyze the effects of cannabis on pain. For cannabis and PTSD, Dr. Sisley’s is one of about 10 studies underway, but hers is the only study evaluating military veterans and specifically those with chronic and treatment-resistant PTSD.

“It’s the most rigorous kind of science you can do — triple blind, everybody’s blinded in the study. Vets don’t know what they’re getting, I don’t know what anybody’s on, the independent raters don’t know what anybody is getting, so that way we eliminate any chance of human bias,” she said.

Russia sold its enemy the metal for the greatest spy plane ever
Photo from public domain.

Completion of the phase two trial and positive results will set researchers on the path of phase three — replicating the findings in a larger test pool. But that’s years down the road and Dr. Sisley first is concerned with what the science will show in this study.

“I don’t know what this data will show. As much as I believe, there are certain studies that suggest cannabis could be helpful, we know we’re on the right track with this,” she said. “Until there’s a controlled trial, you can’t make any definitive conclusions.”

About 10 percent to 11 percent of veterans from the Iraq and Afghanistan wars have PTSD, with similar numbers of Vietnam-era veterans, according to the VA. At least 20 veterans kill themselves every day.

Advocates for marijuana say bureaucratic and legal barriers hinder access for a substance that could have immeasurable benefits for this population.

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China is trying to expand its military reach with the biggest plane in the world

A recent deal between Beijing and Ukraine’s Antonov Company to restart production of the largest-ever cargo plane could potentially remedy the logistical woes of China’s People’s Liberation Army.


China’s military, still largely dependent on railroads for moving troops and heavy freight, could gain a lot from having the gigantic aircraft.

The plane, the AN-225 Mriya, holds 240 world records for its size and strength. It has six massive engines creating over 300,000 pounds of thrust, and the plane can reportedly carry a 200-ton load nearly 2,500 miles.

Russia sold its enemy the metal for the greatest spy plane ever
An-225 Mriya | Creative Commons photo by Dmitry A. Mottl

Such capability would be game-changing for the People’s Republic of China.

“It would provide China with the large and global lift that not even the US has possessed, except by rental,” wrote Peter Singer, an avid China watcher on Popular Science. “It’s large enough to carry helicopters, tanks, artillery, even other aircraft.”

For the most part, as Singer mentioned, China will rent the massive planes, but the agreement does allow for China to domestically build An-225s.

Additionally, the Center for Strategic and International Studies uncovered the fact that China has been developing large, military-grade runways, as well as military hardened hangars on it’s reclaimed islands in the South China Sea. Having massively improved freight dynamics in the region could greatly benefit China.

But the herculean plane lends itself to civil applications too. China could easily use it to move construction supplies, to offload its glut of steel, or to bring supplies to its several building projects as part of the “One Belt, One Road” initiative.

As Marcus Weisgerber at DefenseOne points out, the adoption of old, soviet-era technology from Ukraine is an instance of history repeating itself, as China’s sole aircraft carrier, the Liaoning, is also a refurbished Ukrainian hull.

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Here is how Russia could shoot down a North Korean missile

North Korea’s latest missile test, carried out this past weekend, ended about sixty miles off the Russian coast. Russia is not happy about the test, as one might imagine. In fact, they may get angry. Of course, we should note that Putin has options aside from sending Kim Jong-un a letter telling him how angry Moscow is.


Russia has long pushed the development of surface-to-air missiles, and the Soviets put that system on the map in 1960 by downing the Lockheed U-2 flown by Francis Gary Powers. In one sense, Russia needs to have good air defenses since their fighters tend to come out second-best when tangling with American or Western designs.

Russia sold its enemy the metal for the greatest spy plane ever
A USAF Lockheed U-2 Dragon Lady. When Russia shot one down in 1960 with a SA-2 Guideline, it proved the surface-to-air missile was a factor in warfare. | U.S. Air Force photo

So, what options does Russia have to shoot down a North Korean missile? Quite a few – and it can be hard to tell them apart.

1. SA-10 Grumble

This is probably the oldest of Russia’s area-defense systems capable of downing a ballistic missile. Like the Patriot, it was initially intended to provide air defense for important targets by shooting down the strike aircraft. It eventually began to cover the tactical ballistic missile threat as well – much as the Patriot made that evolution.

According to GlobalSecurity.org, the baseline SA-10, or S-300PMU, now exported to a number of countries (including Iran), had a maximum range of 124 miles. A navalized version of this missile, the SA-N-6, is used on the Kirov and Slava-class cruisers.

Russia sold its enemy the metal for the greatest spy plane ever
The SA-10 Grumble system. (DOD image)

2. SA-12 Gladiator

The Russians consider the SA-12 to be a member of the S-300 family. While the S-300 was initially designed to handle planes, the SA-12 was targeted more towards the MGM-52 Lance. Designation-Systems.net notes that the Lance’s W70 warhead could deliver up to a 100-kiloton yield. That could ruin your whole day.

But the development of a conventional cluster munition warhead for the Lance really bothered the Russians, who expected to see a many as 400 Lances launched in the early stages of a war in Europe. GlobalSecurity.org credits the SA-12 with a range of about 62 miles – not as long a reach as the SA-10 but more than enough to take out an incoming missile before it can do harm.

Russia sold its enemy the metal for the greatest spy plane ever
The SA-12 Gladiator system at an arms expo. (Photo from Wikimedia Commons)

3. SA-20 Gargoyle

This is an improved version of the SA-10, according to GlobalSecurity.org. It has the same maximum range as the SA-10 version (about 124 miles), but there is a capability to engage faster targets than the baseline SA-10, which usually translates into neutralizing ballistic missiles launched from further away.

The system, also uses several types of missiles — including in the 9M96 family (9M96E1 and 9M96E2) that are smaller than baseline SA-10 missiles. Like the SA-10, there is a naval version, called the SA-N-20, which is on the Pyotr Velikiy and China’s Type 51C destroyers.

Russia sold its enemy the metal for the greatest spy plane ever
The SA-20 Gargoyle – an improved version of the SA-10. (Photo from Wikimedia Commons)

4. SA-21 Growler

This is also known as the S-400. The system made headlines when it deployed to Syria after Turkey shot down a Su-24 Fencer jet. The system is often compared to the American Terminal High-Altitude Area Defense system, but unlike THAAD, it is also capable of hitting aircraft and cruise missiles. GlobalSecurity.org credits the SA-21 with a range of about 250 miles.

Russia sold its enemy the metal for the greatest spy plane ever
Launch vehicle for the SA-21, which has a range of about 250 miles. (Photo from Wikimedia Commons)

5. SA-23 Giant

What the SA-20 is to the SA-10, the SA-23 is to the SA-12. This is a substantially improved version of the SA-12, and is intended to deal with longer-range ballistic missiles than the MGM-52 that the SA-12 was intended to take out. The SA-23, also known as the Antey 2500, has a range of 124 miles according to GlobalSecurity.org.

Russia sold its enemy the metal for the greatest spy plane ever
SA-23 launch vehicles. (Photo from Wikimedia Commons)

Russia’s born-of-necessity work on surface-to-air missiles has lead to some very capable options in air defense. The real scary part is that Russia has been willing to export those systems – and that could mean they will face American pilots sooner rather than later.

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This is how the F-35 is being tested against Russian and Chinese air defenses

Russia sold its enemy the metal for the greatest spy plane ever
Courtesy of Lockheed Martin


The Air Force wants the F-35 to be able to elude the best enemy air defenses well into the 2030s and 2040s.

 The Air Force F-35 is using “open air” ranges and computer simulation to practice combat missions against the best Chinese and Russian-made air-defense technologies – as a way to prepare to enemy threats anticipated in the mid-2020s and beyond.

The testing is aimed at addressing the most current air defense system threats such as Russian-made systems and also focused on potential next-generation or yet-to-exist threats, Harrigian said.

Air Force officials have explained that, looking back to 2001 when the JSF threat started, the threats were mostly European centric – Russian made SA-10s or SA-20s. Now the future threats are looking at both Russian and Chinese-made and Asian made threats, they said.

 “They have got these digital SAMS (surface-to-air-missile-systems) out there that can change frequencies and they are very agile in how they operate. being able to replicate that is not easy,” Maj. Gen. Jeffrey Harrigian, former Director of the F-35 Integration Office, told Scout Warrior in an interview.Surface threats from air defenses is a tough problem because emerging threats right now can see aircraft hundreds of miles away, service officials explained.

Furthermore, emerging and future Integrated Air Defense Systems use faster computer processors, are better networked to one-another and detect on a wider range of frequencies. These attributes, coupled with an ability to detect aircraft at further distances, make air defenses increasingly able to at times detect even stealth aircraft, in some instances, with surveillance radar.

Russia sold its enemy the metal for the greatest spy plane ever
Lt. Col. Christine Mau, 33rd Operations Group puts on her helmet before taking her first flight in the F-35A at Eglin Air Force Base, Florida. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Marleah Robertson)

Russian media reports have recently claimed that stealth technology is useless against their air defenses. Russian built S-300 and S-400 air defenses are believed to be among the best in the world; in addition, The National Interest has reported that Russia is now working on an S-500 system able to destroy even stealthy targets at distances up to 125 miles.

While the Air Force aims to prepare for the unlikely contingency of a potential engagement with near-peer rivals such as Russia or China, Harrigian explained that there is much more concern about having to confront an adversary which has purchased air-defense technology from the Russians or Chinese. Harrigian emphasized that, while there is no particular conflict expected with any given specific country, the service wants to be ready for any contingency.

Harrigian explained that the F-35 is engineered with what developers call “open architecture,” meaning it is designed to quickly integrate new weapons, software and avionics technology as new threats emerge.

“One of the key reasons we bought this airplane is because the threats continue to evolve – we have to be survivable in this threat environment that has continued to develop capabilities where they can deny us access to specific objectives that we may want to achieve. This airplane gives us the ability to penetrate, deliver weapons and then share that information across the formation that it is operating in,” Harrigian explained.

While training against the best emerging threats in what Harrigian called “open air” ranges looks to test the F-35 against the best current and future air defenses – there is still much more work to be done when it comes to anticipating high-end, high-tech fast developing future threats. This is where modeling and simulation play a huge part in threat preparation, he added.

“The place where we have to have the most agility is really in the modeling and simulation environment – If you think about our open air ranges, we try to build these ranges that have this threats that we expect to be fighting. Given the pace at which the enemy is developing these threats – it becomes very difficult for us to go out and develop these threats,” Harrigan explained.

Russia sold its enemy the metal for the greatest spy plane ever

The Air Force plans to bring a representation of next-generation threats and weapons to its first weapons school class in 2018.

In a simulated environment, F-22s from Langley AFB in Virginia could train for combat scenarios with an F-35 at Nellis AFB, Nevada, he said.

The JSF’s Active Electronically Scanned Arrays, or AESA’s, the aircraft is able to provide a synthetic aperture rendering of air and ground pictures.  The AESA also brings the F-35 electronic warfare capabilities, Harrigian said.

Part of the idea with F-35 modernization is to engineered systems on the aircraft which can be upgraded with new software as threats change. Technologies such as the AESA radar, electronic attack and protection and some of the computing processing power on the airplane, can be updated to keep pace with evolving threats, Harrigian said.

Engineered to travel at speeds greater than 1,100 miles per hour and able to reach Mach 1.6, the JSF is said to be just as fast and maneuverable at an F-15 or F-16 and bring and a whole range of additional functions and abilities.

Overall, the Air Force plans to buy 1,763 JSF F-35A multi-role fighters, a number which will ultimately comprise a very large percentage of the service’s fleet of roughly 2,000 fighter jets.  So far, at least 83 F-35As are operational for the Air Force.

Russia sold its enemy the metal for the greatest spy plane ever
The F-35 can connect to most any friendly force on the battlefield, feeding information from its sensors to freindlies and grabbing information from other planes and sensors. (Graphic: Lockheed Martin)

4th Software Drop

Many of the JSF’s combat capabilities are woven into developmental software increments or “drops,” each designed to advance the platforms technical abilities. There are more than 10 million individual lines of code in the JSF system.

While the Air Force plans to declare its F-345s operational with the most advanced software drop, called 3F, the service is already working on a 4th drop to be ready by 2020 or 2021. Following this initial drop, the aircraft will incorporate new software drops in two year increments in order to stay ahead of the threat.

The first portion of Block IV software funding, roughly $12 million, arrived in the 2014 budget, Air Force officials said.

Block IV will include some unique partner weapons including British weapons, Turkish weapons and some of the other European country weapons that they want to get on their own plane, service officials explained.

Block IV will also increase the weapons envelope for the U.S. variant of the fighter jet.  A big part of the developmental calculus for Block 4 is to work on the kinds of enemy air defense systems and weaponry the aircraft may face from the 2020’s through the 2040’s and beyond.

In terms of weapons, Block IV will eventually enable the F-35 to fire cutting edge weapons systems such as the Small Diameter Bomb II and GBU-54 – both air dropped bombs able to destroy targets on the move.

The Small Diameter Bomb II uses a technology called a “tri-mode” seeker, drawing from infrared, millimeter wave and laser-guidance. The combination of these sensors allows the weapon to track and eliminate moving targets in all kinds of weather conditions.

These emerging 4th software drop will build upon prior iterations of the software for the aircraft.

Block 2B builds upon the enhanced simulated weapons, data link capabilities and early fused sensor integration of the earlier Block 2A software drop. Block 2B will enable the JSF to provide basic close air support and fire an AMRAAM (Advanced Medium Range Air-to-Air Missile), JDAM (Joint Direct Attack Munition) or GBU-12 (laser-guided aerial bomb) JSF program officials said.

Following Block 2B, Block 3i increases the combat capability even further and Block 3F will bring a vastly increased ability to suppress enemy air defenses.

Block 3F will increase the weapons delivery capacity of the JSF as well, giving it the ability to drop a Small Diameter Bomb, 500-pound JDAM and AIM 9X short-range air-to-air missile, service officials explained.

The AIM 9X is an Air Force and Navy heat-seeking infrared missile.

In fact, the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter fired an AIM-9X Sidewinder infrared-guided air-to-air missile for the first time recently over a Pacific Sea Test Range, Pentagon officials said.

The F-35 took off from Edwards Air Force Base, Calif., and launched the missile at 6,000 feet, an Air Force statement said.

Designed as part of the developmental trajectory for the emerging F-35, the test-firing facilities further development of an ability to fire the weapon “off-boresight,” described as an ability to target and destroy air to air targets that are not in front of the aircraft with a direct or immediate line of sight, Pentagon officials explained.

The AIM-9X, he described, incorporates an agile thrust vector controlled airframe and the missile’s high off-boresight capability can be used with an advanced helmet (or a helmet-mounted sight) for a wider attack envelope.

Russia sold its enemy the metal for the greatest spy plane ever
Watch the Marines’ F-35 fire an 80-round burst from its gun pod.

F-35 25mm Gun

Last Fall, the Pentagon’s F-35 Joint Strike Fighter recently completed the first aerial test of its 25mm Gatling gun embedded into the left wing of the aircraft, officials said.

The test took place Oct. 30, 2015, in California, Pentagon officials described.

“This milestone was the first in a series of test flights to functionally evaluate the in-flight operation of the F-35A’s internal 25mm gun throughout its employment envelope,” a Pentagon statement said several months ago.

The Gatling gun will bring a substantial technology to the multi-role fighter platform, as it will better enable the aircraft to perform air-to-air attacks and close-air support missions to troops on the ground.

Called the Gun Airborne Unit, or GAU-22/A, the weapon is engineered into the aircraft in such a manner as to maintain the platform’s stealth configuration.

The four-barrel 25mm gun is designed for rapid fire in order to quickly blanket an enemy with gunfire and destroy targets quickly. The weapon is able to fire 3,300 rounds per minute, according to a statement from General Dynamics.

“Three bursts of one 30 rounds and two 60 rounds each were fired from the aircraft’s four-barrel, 25-millimeter Gatling gun. In integrating the weapon into the stealthy F 35Aairframe, the gun must be kept hidden behind closed doors to reduce its radar cross section until the trigger is pulled,” a statement from the Pentagon’s Joint Strike Fighter said.

The first phase of test execution consisted of 13 ground gunfire events over the course of three months to verify the integration of the gun into the F-35A, the JSF office said.

“Once verified, the team was cleared to begin this second phase of testing, with the goal of evaluating the gun’s performance and integration with the airframe during airborne gunfire in various flight conditions and aircraft configurations,” the statement added.

The new gun will also be integrated with the F-35’s software so as to enable the pilot to see and destroy targets using a helmet-mounted display.

The gun is slated to be operational by 2017

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These Air Force ‘rods from God’ could hit with the force of a nuclear weapon

The 107-country Outer Space Treaty signed in 1967 prohibits nuclear, biological, or chemical weapons from being placed or used from Earth’s orbit. What they didn’t count on was the U.S. Air Force’s most simple weapon ever: a tungsten rod that could hit a city with the explosive power of an intercontinental ballistic missile.


During the Vietnam War, the U.S. used what they called “Lazy Dog” bombs. These were simply solid steel pieces, less than two inches long, fitted with fins. There was no explosive – they were simply dropped by the hundreds from planes flying above Vietnam.

Lazy Dog projectiles (aka “kinetic bombardment”) could reach speeds of up to 500 mph as they fell to the ground and could penetrate nine inches of concrete after being dropped from as little as 3,000 feet

The idea is like shooting bullets at a target, except instead of losing velocity as it travels, the projectile is gaining velocity and energy that will be expended on impact. They were shotgunning a large swath of jungle, raining bullet-sized death at high speeds.

That’s how Project Thor came to be.

Instead of hundreds of small projectiles from a few thousand feet, Thor used a large projectile from a few thousand miles above the Earth. The “rods from God” idea was a bundle of telephone-pole sized (20 feet long, one foot in diameter) tungsten rods, dropped from orbit, reaching a speed of up to ten times the speed of sound.

Russia sold its enemy the metal for the greatest spy plane ever
A concept design of Project Thor.

The rod itself would penetrate hundreds of feet into the Earth, destroying any potential hardened bunkers or secret underground sites. More than that, when the rod hits, the explosion would be on par with the magnitude of a ground-penetrating nuclear weapon – but with no fallout.

It would take 15 minutes to destroy a target with such a weapon.

One Quora user who works in the defense aerospace industry quoted a cost of no less than $10,000 per pound to fire anything into space. With 20 cubic feet of dense tungsten weighing in at just over 24,000 pounds, the math is easy. Just one of the rods would be prohibitively expensive. The cost of $230 million dollars per rod was unimaginable during the Cold War.

Russia sold its enemy the metal for the greatest spy plane ever
Like lawn darts, but with global repercussions.

These days, not so much. The Bush Administration even considered revisiting the idea to hit underground nuclear sites in rogue nations in the years following 9/11. Interestingly enough, the cost of a single Minuteman III ICBM was $7 million in 1962, when it was first introduced ($57 million adjusted for inflation).

The trouble with a nuclear payload is that it isn’t designed to penetrate deep into the surface. And the fallout from a nuclear device can be devastating to surrounding, potentially friendly areas.

Russia sold its enemy the metal for the greatest spy plane ever

A core takeaway from the concept of weapons like Project Thor’s is that hypersonic weapons pack a significant punch and might be the future of global warfare.

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24 photos that show the honor and loyalty of the Marine Corps

Russia sold its enemy the metal for the greatest spy plane ever
Todd Heisler photo


This is a gallery of a Pulitzer Prize winning story that centers around one single photo and the powerful Marine actions that led to that unforgettable image. These pictures were taken by photographer Todd Heisler. He captured the following images of fallen U.S. Marine 2nd Lt. James Cathey and his wife Katherine.

Russia sold its enemy the metal for the greatest spy plane ever
Todd Heisler photo

Major Steve Beck was tasked with the sad task of telling a wife that her husband was killed by an IED explosion. Above is a Marine walking to fallen James Cathey’s home in Brighton, Colorado just before knocking on the door to deliver the news to a soon to be widow, Katherine Cathey.

Russia sold its enemy the metal for the greatest spy plane ever
Todd Heisler photo

Russia sold its enemy the metal for the greatest spy plane ever
Todd Heisler photo

Fallen James Cathey’s final “Angel Flight” ends at the Reno, NV airport.

Russia sold its enemy the metal for the greatest spy plane ever
Todd Heisler photo

Katherine was only 23 years old when she learned of her husband’s death.

Above, she is being held by Major Steve Beck. Mr. Beck’s actions along with his team of Marines will be an integral part of the story behind the Pulitzer Prize winning photo.

Russia sold its enemy the metal for the greatest spy plane ever
Todd Heisler

At the airport, she was given a letter that her husband wrote a few days before he passed, it reads:

“there are no words to describe how much I love you, and will miss you. I will also promise you one thing: I will be home. I have a wife and a new baby to take care of, and you guys are my world.”

Russia sold its enemy the metal for the greatest spy plane ever
Todd Heisler photo

Russia sold its enemy the metal for the greatest spy plane ever
Todd Heisler photo

The IED explosion was so devastating that James body was wrapped in a shroud. Major Beck simply placed Katherine’s hand on the body and said the following:

“He’s here. Feel right here”.

Russia sold its enemy the metal for the greatest spy plane ever
Todd Heisler photo

The night before James’ burial, Katherine refused to leave the casket.

She simply wanted to sleep with her husband one last time.

Two Marines made a make-shift bed for her.

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Todd Heisler photo

Above is the photo that would earn Todd Heisler the Pulitzer Prize.

Notice the Marine standing to the left of the photo.

One of the Marines, who had never met James in his whole life, asked if he could stand watch over Katherine through the night.

Katherine replied with the following:

“I think it would be kind of nice if you kept doing it,” she said. “I think that’s what he would have wanted.”

Before falling to sleep, she opened her laptop and began playing songs with memories of the times she spent with James.

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Todd Heisler photo

For three days in a row…all day and all night…a group of Marines took turns watching over the body.

Photo above shows the Marines taking shifts during those days.

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Todd Heisler photo

During those same hours, Katherine draped herself in James’ favorite perfume and prepared herself to place final personal items in the casket.

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Todd Heisler photo

On the day before the funeral, James’ friend 2nd Lt. Jon Mueller would practice for hours folding and re-folding the Flag.

In the words of Maj. Steve Beck:

“That will be the last time his flag is folded, ” Said Maj. Steve Beck, as he instructed them. “It has to be perfect.”

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Todd Heisler photo

A shadow is cast as the Marines prepare to deliver posthumous medals to the Cathey family members.

Russia sold its enemy the metal for the greatest spy plane ever
Todd Heisler photo

During that night’s ceremony, a Marine friend’s mother embraces her son.

Russia sold its enemy the metal for the greatest spy plane ever
Todd Heisler photo

Russia sold its enemy the metal for the greatest spy plane ever
Todd Heisler photo

Russia sold its enemy the metal for the greatest spy plane ever
Todd Heisler photo

In the words of Jeff Cathey’s father:

“Someone asked me what I learned from my son,” he said. “He taught me you need more than one friend.”

Russia sold its enemy the metal for the greatest spy plane ever
Todd Heisler photo

Russia sold its enemy the metal for the greatest spy plane ever
Todd Heisler photo

Russia sold its enemy the metal for the greatest spy plane ever
Todd Heisler photo

Before the burial, his casket was covered with the Marines’ gloves that had carried James Cathey to his final place of rest. They also placed a single rose and sand that one of them had collected from the WW2 beaches of Iwo Jima.

Russia sold its enemy the metal for the greatest spy plane ever
Todd Heisler photo

Russia sold its enemy the metal for the greatest spy plane ever
Todd Heisler photo

Seven days after her husband’s body landed in America, Katherine would find out that they would be having a boy.

Russia sold its enemy the metal for the greatest spy plane ever
Todd Heisler photo

Above is the full photo that earned Todd Heisler a Pulitzer Prize. Mr. Heisler’s collection submitted to the nomination is titled “Final Salute”.

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Meet the rebel kids who danced in defiance of the Nazis

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A propaganda poster for the Hitler Youth Photo: Twitter


The rise of Nazism in Germany was for many Germans a terrifyingly swift deviation in the nation’s moral compass.

The most famous example of Hitler’s attempt to make his plans for the establishment of a master race a little more commercial is undoubtedly the Hitler Youth program. In 1935, over 60% of the country’s young people were involved in the program, and in 1936, all other youth groups were banned, making the Fuhrer’s brainchild the best kids’ club by default. Awesome.

Program membership was mandatory for kids over 17, but Hitler knew that if he wanted to shape the younger generation, he would have to start small. Kids as young as ten years old were encouraged to join the movement, which was similar to Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts, except instead of teaching valuable skills about friendship and forest survival, Hitler was making sure the kids became bigoted military minions.

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The Hitler Youth marches military style Photo: alternatehistory.com

 

Russia sold its enemy the metal for the greatest spy plane ever
Young members of the Girls for Germany League, the female equivalent of the Hitler Youth Photo: skimonline.com

An entire generation of  ordinary people was seduced by this mythos, and parents eagerly sent their children to become young men and women of the “Thousand Year Reich“, excited to watch their sons become soldiers and their daughters demure, obedient mothers who would populate the master race.

Not all kids were down with this idea, however. And because the program was compulsory and very restrictive, they had to get creative with their rebellion. Enter the Edelweiss Pirates — a teenage protest group with the classiest rebel name ever.

Comprised mostly of working class boys, the gang was not shy about it’s anti-authority, down-with-Hitler ideologies. The Pirates refused to wear the military-inspired uniforms of the Hitler Youth, opting instead for bohemian ensembles with a ton of fringe and cool-factor. Their defiance extended to all aspects of their lives, and the rebel kids could be heard singing banned songs, playing banned jazz music and dancing with the opposite sex — completely unapproved by the Nazi party.

These song lyrics, which served as the groups anthem, were particularly unwelcome:

Hitler’s power may lay us low,

And keep us locked in chains,

But we will smash the chains one day,

We’ll be free again.

We’ve got the fists and we can fight,

We’ve got the knives and we’ll get them out.

We want freedom, don’t we boys?

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Members of the Edelweiss Pirates Photo: pinterest.com

At first they were just considered an annoyance that needed to be weeded out and further indoctrinated into the party, nothing a fifteenth reading of “Mein Kempf” couldn’t fix.

Once WWII began, however, the teens started to appear like more and more of a legitimate threat to the state.

In 1942 Heinrich Himmler, the head of SS operations, wrote Reinhard Heydrich to discuss the rebellious boys and “worthless girls” who formed the resistance group:

“The youth should first be given thrashings and then [be] put through the severest drill and set to work. It must be made clear that they will never be allowed to go back to their studies. We must investigate how much encouragement they have had from their parents. If they have encouraged them, then they should also be put into a concentration camp and [have] their property confiscated.”

This didn’t stop the Pirates, but disdain for their antics was not limited to the higher ups of the Nazi regime. The Hitler Youth Patrol Service, made up of the same kids who participated in the Nazi group, were particularly brutal towards these rebellious outliers. The mini-police force, who were literally above the law, raided movie theaters, coffee shops and billiard halls looking to bust the Edelweiss Pirates and beat them up in the streets.

The Pirates existed in several different cities under different names, but their desire to undermine the fascism was uniform.

As the war raged on, many of the Pirates, now adults, joined the underground resistance movement. In Cologne, Edelweiss Pirates members offered aid and shelter to Nazi deserters and refugees who had escaped from concentration camps. Members even went so far as to raid military depots and supply reserves, sabotaging war production.  They also continued their usual hi-jinks, graffitiing bridges and walls with the words “Down with Hitler”.

In response, the Nazis intensified their opposition to the fringe group. Pirates who were caught were sent to jail, reform schools, labor camps and psych wards, all in an effort to stamp out resistance. If caught in public, “defectors” were often humiliated in front of a crowd, and were beaten and shaved before being taken away. In 1944 Heinrich Himmler even ordered the public execution of thirteen Pirate members in Cologne, pictured below.

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Photo: Wikipedia

For the duration of the war these brave young people continued to stand firm in the face of overwhelming resistance and power, and continued to fight for the freedoms they believed in.

NOW: 4 of the weirdest things the Nazis ever did

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6 urban legends about Wright-Patterson Air Force Base

Wright-Patterson Air Force Base — affectionately called “Wright-Patt” for short — is located just outside of Dayton, Ohio. If you ask the locals or the airmen stationed there, they will tell you about the Air Force Museum, the Oregon District, and maybe even the Dayton Dragons baseball team.


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But if you get a couple of beers in them or earn their trust by shouting “O-H,” the locals may even tell you about all the alien bodies, ghosts, and secret tunnels the Air Force hides there.

Related video:

1. The Roswell Aliens (and their ship) are there.

Many Americans believe a UFO – and its extraterrestrial crew – crash-landed in the New Mexico desert near Roswell on July 2, 1947. They also believe the site was cleaned up by the Air Force from nearby Roswell Army Air Force Base.

Eyewitnesses reported that 3-foot tall, grey-skinned aliens died in the crash. According to Loren Coleman, the co-author of “Weird Ohio,” they and their space vessel were shipped off to Wright-Patterson Air Force Base’s notorious “Hangar 18.”

Everyone else has been trying to get in there ever since.

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Senator Barry Goldwater supposedly asked USAF Gen. Curtis LeMay if he could see what was inside. LeMay told the Senator that not only could he not get in, but he should never ask again.

2. The tunnels under a Wright State University were originally meant for the Air Force.

Just down the street from Wright-Patterson Air Force Base is Wright State University. The school has a convenient system of underground tunnels that allow students and faculty to make their way to class despite the sometimes chilly weather outside. There are almost two miles of tunnels.

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Some locals believe that during the Cold War the base was a prime target for Soviet ICBMs. So naturally they assumed the tunnels were part of the base’s plan to escape nuclear blasts and radioactive fallout. Others think the tunnels are part of an abandoned, separate military facility.

The truth, as usual, is far less interesting. According to Wright State’s newsroom, the first building on campus was basically “off the grid.”

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When the next building went up two years later, the electrical systems of the two needed to be merged, so they built a simple tunnel between the two buildings. Eventually, they started allowing everyone to use the maintenance tunnels to move between buildings.

3. Hap Arnold’s house is haunted…

Henry H. “Hap” Arnold was the only person ever to be dubbed “General of the Air Force.” As a major, he once lived on a house near Huffman Prairie, where the Wright Brothers worked on their planes – now on Wright-Patt Air Force Base.

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Many commanders lived in the house, but the Arnold House (as it’s called today) is named for its most famous resident. For years, visitors reported strange noises, objects moving on their own, odd shadows, and other phenomena.

The SyFy Network show “Ghost Hunters” visited the Arnold House and found that at least five “entities” live in the house.

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The ghost hunters heard sounds from the bathroom, girls laughing in the dining room, spectres turning on lights (at the request of the show’s hosts). One of the hosts even interacts with a ghost through a series of taps as responses to questions.

4. … and so is the Air Force Museum.

Chris Woodyard, author of “Haunted Ohio,” believes she is constantly followed while walking through the cavernous museum as she tries to read the information panels. She writes that many airmen were very attached to their planes and some of the pilots seemingly live in them still.

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“The Hopalong” is a Sikorsky UH-19B that would medevac troops in Korea and Vietnam. The museum staff say they see the pilot in the seat, flipping switches and “trying to get home.” The seat is actually still stained with that pilot’s blood.

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A young Japanese boy is said to hang around “Bockscar,” the B-29 that dropped the “Fat Man” atomic bomb on Nagasaki, Japan. He supposedly comes out at night, when few people are around.

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The “Black Mariah” is a Sikorsky CH-3E helicopter transport used for classified missions. It sits at the museum, still filled with bullet holes. People say you can hear the moans and voices of the troops it carried.

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Parts from the “Lady Be Good,” a B-24 that disappeared during a bombing run on Italy, are said to rearrange themselves. The POW exhibit is supposed to make visitors feel an inexplicable sense of “sick dread” as they approach. Some airmen report that the ghosts actually “show up for work,” by walking in the doors, opening lockers, and going into the break room. Even Nazis are reported to show up to the WWII exhibit.

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And finally, the museum’s “Strawberry Bitch” supposedly houses the only malevolent spirits at the USAF museum. Reports of rattles and clanks, shadowy figures, and strange lights are common. One former janitor claims a ghost from the B-24D even slapped him in the face.

5. The Air Force is engineering alien technology.

The Roswell Crash wasn’t the only extra-terrestrial crash in the U.S. — depending on who you ask. Some allege there were more before 1952, and all the debris and their pilots (with blue-green skin this time) were all taken to Wright-Patt. One of the crashes held as many as 16 alien bodies.

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When there were any survivors, American medicine killed the aliens trying to save them. Cellular genetic research is supposedly conducted by the Air Force there.

Another crash yielded a ship made of lightweight material, impenetrable by any earthly means. Whenever a UFO crash happens, the wreckage is sent to Wright-Patt to be reverse engineered, or so the story goes.

Some believe technologies gleaned from UFOs at Wright-Patt include fiber optics, lasers, night vision, the integrated circuit, and particle beams.

6. The whole base is pretty much haunted.

The “Ghost Hunters” crew actually had their hands full at Wright-Patt. Building 70 in Area A houses a “waxy” figure clad in a blue polyester dress with a ruffled white shirt.

Others reported footsteps, electronics turning themselves on, and unexplained whispers in the same building.

In building 219, an old hospital converted to an office, children running and playing interrupted a Judge Advocate General’s meeting in the basement — which used to be the morgue. The doors on the third floor once slammed shut all at the same time.

Children are creepy.

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Watch out for these 9 vets rocking the Mixed Martial Arts world

The military and Mixed Martial Arts go hand-in-hand. Both cultures are bloody, sweaty, and violent.


So it’s no wonder that MMA is rife with military veterans fighting in anything from the Ultimate Fighting Championship to little MMA promotions around the country.

Former UFC light heavyweight champion and all around MMA legend, Randy Couture, is an Army veteran and former middleweight contender. Brian Stann is a former Marine officer who enjoyed a great deal of success in the sport.

Other veterans include UFC stand outs Brandon Vera, Tim Credeur, and Jorge Rivera.

With Army veteran Neil Magny fighting at UFC 207 on Dec. 30th, we decided it was time to take a look at the best veterans actively fighting in MMA.

1. Tim Kennedy.

Though he lost his last two fights (one under controversial circumstances), Tim Kennedy is the most successful veteran in the sport today. Kennedy spent 10 years on active duty with multiple deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan and continues to serve his country in the Texas National Guard as a Special Forces sniper.

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Kennedy is having a good day. (Photos courtesy of the author)

Kennedy challenged for the Strikeforce middleweight championship and has enjoyed several years in the biggest MMA promotion, The UFC.

2. Liz Carmouche.

Former Marine helicopter mechanic Liz Carmouche once challenged Ronda Rousey for the women’s bantamweight championship and nearly submitted her in the first round.

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Don’t pick a fight with Carmouche.

A tenacious bantamweight with bags of cardio endurance, Carmouche could make another run at a title fight. She’s currently 15-6 and recently defeated Kaitlyn Chookagian at UFC 206.

3. Neil Magny.

An Army veteran with an 18-6 record, Magny is the #8 ranked welterweight in the world and will fight former lightweight champion Johnny Hendricks at UFC 207 on Dec 30.

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Magny recently had an impressive 7-fight win streak and has won 10 of his last 12 with big wins over well-known fighters Hector Lombard and Kelvin Gastelum.

Still, he’ll have his hands full with the heavy handed knockout artist Hendricks on Dec 30.

4. Andrew Todhunter.

Undefeated fighter and former Green Beret, Andrew “The Sniper” Todhunter has only fought twice in the last two years, but at 8-0 (all by submission) it’s hard to deny the potential and success he’s had in MMA. When it comes to ground fighting, he’s a prodigy.

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Looking sharp, Smith.

5. Colton Smith.

The sky was the limit for Army Staff Sergeant (and Iraq veteran) Colton Smith in December 2012 when he won The Ultimate Fighter season 16. But three loses in a row in the octagon forced him back down to the minor leagues where he rattled off four wins in a row. Smith could be poised to make another run at the UFC and realize some of that potential that got everyone excited about him a few years ago.

6. Caros Fodor.

A Marine veteran of six years, Fodor has fought for just about every major MMA promotion from the UFC to Strikeforce to One FC and now the World Series of Fighting.

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Fodor’s about to bring the pain.

In May, 2016, Fodor fought and defeated his adopted brother, Ben Fodor in 3 emotionally charged rounds.

7. Matt Frevola.

He’s only 4-0, but Army Reservist Matt Frevola is turning heads and is about to make his debut in Titan Fighting Championships where the management team is excited to see what he can do.

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The look on Frevola’s face is enough knock someone out.

8. Robert Turnquest.

With a record of 6-3 after only two and a half years in MMA, 14-year Navy veteran Rob Turnquest has a bright future ahead. He recently lost a decision to MMA legend, JZ Cavalcante, but that’s nothing to be ashamed of.

9. Sharon Jacobson.

She’s only 4-1 and didn’t fight in 2016, but Jacobson, an Army veteran, ran off 3 impressive wins in a row in 2015 and made a name for herself in the strawweight division.  

Will we ever see a military veteran wearing a UFC championship belt around his or her waist in the octagon? Odds are yes. With some determination and a little window of opportunity, it could be one of these nine.

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Navy names Arleigh-Burke destroyer after World War II Marine hero

Navy Sec. Ray Mabus announced the service would name its next Arleigh-Burke class destroyer (DDG 122) after a Marine gunnery sergeant who held off a fierce assault by as many as 3,000 Japanese troops during the Battle of Guadalcanal and was later awarded the Navy Cross and Medal of Honor.



Gunnery Sgt. John Basilone was in charge of two machine gun sections during the Battle of Guadalcanal in October 1942 when the Japanese attacked his lines, cutting him off from resupply and killing or wounding all but two of his remaining machinegunners. Basilone repaired and manned another machine gun and fought off a Japanese regiment for nearly three days and nights until the enemy capitulated.

“Moving an extra gun into position, he placed it in action, then, under continual fire, repaired another and personally manned it, gallantly holding his line until replacements arrived,” his Medal of Honor citation reads. “A little later, with ammunition critically low and the supply lines cut off, Sgt. Basilone, at great risk of his life and in the face of continued enemy attack, battled his way through hostile lines with urgently needed shells for his gunners, thereby contributing in large measure to the virtual annihilation of a Japanese regiment.”

Basilone later fought in the Battle of Iwo Jima where he was killed by mortar fire trying to help a stranded tank navigate a Japanese minefield.

“Consistently daring and aggressive as he fought his way over the battle-torn beach and up the sloping, gun-studded terraces toward Airfield Number 1, he repeatedly exposed himself to the blasting fury of exploding shells and later in the day coolly proceeded to the aid of a friendly tank which had been trapped in an enemy mine field under intense mortar and artillery barrages, skillfully guiding the heavy vehicle over the hazardous terrain to safety, despite the overwhelming volume of hostile fire,” his Navy Cross citation read. “In the forefront of the assault at all times, he pushed forward with dauntless courage and iron determination until, moving upon the edge of the airfield, he fell, instantly killed by a bursting mortar shell.”

Basilone is the only enlisted Marine to receive both the Medal of Honor and the Navy Cross in World War II, the Navy says.

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A photo illustration announcing that Arleigh-Burke class destroyer, DDG 124, will be named USS John Basilone. (U.S. Navy Photo Illustration/Released)

An iconic Marine, his name has been attached to several landmarks on Marine bases, including a section of highway and a drop zone at Camp Pendleton in California. The Navy previously named a Gearing class destroyer after the gunnery sergeant, but that ship was decommissioned in 1977.

“It is a great honor to name this ship in recognition of John Basilone,” Mabus said at the naming ceremony August 16. “I have no doubt that all who serve aboard her will carry on the legacy of service and commitment exemplified by this Marine Corps hero.”

This is the seventh ship that Secretary Mabus has named honoring a Medal of Honor recipient. Others have included Harvey C. Barnum Jr. (DDG 124) John Finn (DDG 113), Ralph Johnson (DDG 114), Thomas Hudner (DDG 116), Daniel Inouye (DDG 118), and Woody Williams (T-ESB 4).

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