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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Russian allies want to be trained by Steven Seagal

Steven Seagal, Actor:


Environmentalist.

Internationalist.

Russia sold its enemy the metal for the greatest spy plane ever
Seagal in Chechnya

Humanitarian:

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

Now, he may extend his resumé to include drill sergeant. He recently spent three days in Serbia as a guest of the Serbian government. While in Belgrade, Seagal met with Serbia’s Prime Minister Aleksandar Vucic and President Tomislav Nikolic. It went much better than the time Seagal met Eastern Europeans in Driven to Kill.

The Serbians had another offer for him. They offered the actor and producer a job training Serbian special police forces in Aikido, the Japanese martial art for which Seagal is famous.

Russia sold its enemy the metal for the greatest spy plane ever
Which is strange, because he doesn’t believe in your authority.

He was in Serbia to be honored for his work with the Brothers Karic Foundation, a Serbian nonprofit dedicated to promoting tolerance and coexistence while promoting Serbian culture abroad.

Russia sold its enemy the metal for the greatest spy plane ever
(Photo: Aleksandar Vucic/Twitter)

The 63-year-old action film actor is one of many celebrities openly socializing with Russian President Vladimir Putin who once received the same honor.

Russia sold its enemy the metal for the greatest spy plane ever
They aren’t shaking hands, they’re both trying to break the other’s arm. (Kremlin photo)

Seagal’s affinity toward the Russians and Serbia — a longtime traditional Russian ally — is well documented. The actor’s response is not known, but the chances of someone’s arm being broken was high.

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A WWI Hungarian soldier turned out to be a serial killer

Imagine being a landlord, finding out your tenant was missing, and then walking into a house of horrors when cleaning out their space. That’s exactly what happened during World War I in Hungary. An unsuspecting landlord found out his tenant had gone MIA. Rather than finding normal personal belongings within the home, he found preserved bodies, all women who had been reported missing in months before. 

At least, that’s one way the story is told. 

Another is that the enlisted soldier, Bela Kiss, was known for stockpiling gasoline in preparation for war rations. While he was away at war, his gasoline was needed and confiscated by said landlord. However, rather than fuel, they found foul odors and blood-less bodies — essentially pickled human remains. In all, 24 metal drums had been sealed in a vat of alcohol. Each victim was strangled, had puncture marks on their necks and were void of blood, leaving authorities to believe he was an aspiring vampire. 

Russia sold its enemy the metal for the greatest spy plane ever
Kiss’ drums, where the landlord found the remains. (Wikimedia Commons)

The victims were almost all female, with one male body. 

Kiss was conscripted (drafted) to the Hungarian Army in 1914. While away, he left his home in the care of his cleaning lady; he also willed her his money. Unfortunately for her, this led police to believe she was involved. However, she showed them around the property, including a locked room that she wasn’t allowed to enter. Inside the room were countless books on strangulation and poisoning. There were also letters from more than 74 women that Kiss was manipulating. Long before “catfishing” was a term, he would put out false marriage requests in the paper and try and woo the women out of their money through letters. He also pretended to be a matrimonial agent or a fortune teller to lure a larger audience of women. He stole money from as many women as he could, but only invited those without family ties to visit. Those women would unfortunately become his victims. Many of the women were reported missing but ultimately never found, until Kiss’s drums were opened.

Russia sold its enemy the metal for the greatest spy plane ever
Kiss’ home (left) (Wikimedia Commons)

Upon the discovery of Kiss’s killings, the Army sent for his arrest. However, he was able to evade arrest for several years. It’s thought that he swapped identities with a deceased soldier. Several sightings were reported in the next several years, but ultimately, he was never caught. 

The last official sighting of Kiss took place in 1932 in New York City, when he was spotted by homicide detective, Henry Oswald. Oswald saw Kiss coming off of a Subway train, but was unable to reach him. They later found that he was working as a janitor, but when they had gone to search for him, he was gone. 

His fate still remains unknown to this day. 


Feature image: Wikimedia Commons

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Before ‘Barney Fife,’ Don Knotts was a ventriloquist in the military

You most likely know him as Barney Fife of the Andy Griffith Show, but that wasn’t Don Knotts’ only claim to fame. The actor is also noted for his stint on Three’s Company and several movies, such as The Ghost and Mr. Chicken and The Incredible Mr. Limpet. For his efforts, he was awarded multiple Emmys and earned titles like one of the best TV stars of all time from TV Guide itself. 

But before he made himself a household name, before he was telling jokes to the masses, Don Knotts got his start in the entertainment industry, not through acting. But as a ventriloquist in the U.S. military. 

During World War II, soldiers could join a variety show in which they traveled around to entertain soldiers. The show was called Stars and Gripes, where he performed with the dummy, Danny “Hooch” Matador. Knotts was assigned to the 6817th Special Services Batallion in the Army. 

Russia sold its enemy the metal for the greatest spy plane ever
Performing his comedy show with dummy, Danny. Public domain

While still in high school, Knotts honed his comedian skills and began practicing as a ventriloquist, working shows at school and church events in his native Morgantown, West Virginia. After graduating, he tried his hand at professional comedy in New York City, but was unsuccessful and returned to his home state. 

He was drafted to the Army in 1943 where he was assigned to a special services unit created for solider entertainment. He traveled around various posts across the west Pacific Islands where he performed a comedy act with Danny.

Supposedly, Knotts disliked the dummy, and his hatred for it only grew with each show. He’s said to have thrown Danny overboard after performing on a military ship. He did so after receiving compliments from older comedians, who reassured him he didn’t need the dummy in his act to be successful. Additionally, Knotts had tired of the dummy act but was still asked to perform it by showrunners. Another account says he left Danny on the beach after a show and then reported him to high-ups as missing in action, likely the only doll to ever be MIA. 

Knotts finished his military stint after nearly three years. He was discharged in January 1946 as a Technician Grade 5 (Corporal). While serving, he was awarded a WWII Victory Medal, the Philippine Liberation Medal, the Asiatic-Pacific Campaign Medal (including four bronze service stars), the American Campaign Medal, the Army Good Conduct Medal and the Army Marksman Badge, complete with an M1 Carbine. 

Don Knotts as Barney Fife in The Andy Griffith Show. Wikimedia Commons.

After his stint in the Army, Knotts married and returned to New York City. He called on show business connections he had made in the Special Services unit to gain frequent gigs, including comedy shows and guest appearances on radio shows where he played characters. One of his best-known roles is Windy Wales on the radio Western show, Bobby Benson and the B-Bar-B Riders. 

His big break came a few years later, with a regular role on the long-running soap opera, Search for Tomorrow. In 1956 he made it back to comedy, appearing in a variety show led by Steve Allen, where he worked until the show’s end in 1960. 

A statue in Knotts’ hometown in West Virginia. Wikimedia Commons.

Knotts took on two notable military acting roles in his early career, playing various roles in No Time for Sergeants, in the Broadway and film versions, the latter was his first on-screen performance with Andy Griffith. The duo starred together on The Andy Griffith Show for five seasons, before Knotts left to pursue his film career.

A statue honoring Knotts’ achievements was unveiled in his hometown of Morganville in 2016, 10 years after he passed away from pneumonia and lung cancer. He was 81 years old.

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That time a US general challenged Teddy Roosevelt’s orders with a 90-mile ride

In today’s Army, you can be the toughest general in the U.S. military, but when you turn 64, it’s time to go.


It’s well known most bodies just can’t take the rigors of duty and deployment beyond that (though Gen. Jim Mattis might be the exception), but history does have examples of military leaders who went well past their sexagenarian limitations.

Russia sold its enemy the metal for the greatest spy plane ever
Though an excellent soldier, Miles was notorious for being stubborn, quarrelsome, overambitious and opinionated. Many, including President Theodore Roosevelt, wanted to see him cast out of the Army once and for all. Those who knew Miles best were aware that he wasn’t going to be forced out of the army without a fight. (Photo from Wikimedia Commons)

 

The 73-year-old Prussian Field Marshal Gebhard Leberecht von Blücher of the Battle of Warterloo fame did it, and so did the 62-year-old Gen. George Sears Greene, whose men fought off repeated Confederate assaults at Culp’s Hill during the Battle of Gettysburg.

Army Lt. Gen. Nelson A. Miles was another one of these timeless warriors who shattered this stereotype and demonstrated that age does not provide a restriction to some men.

Nelson Appleton Miles spent nearly 42 years in the U.S. Army leading up to his 64th birthday in 1903. During the American Civil War, He rose from a lowly lieutenant to the rank of major general of volunteers by the age of 26-years-old. He fought in such notable battles as Seven Pines, Antietam, Cold Harbor, and Petersburg.

At the Battle of Chancellorsville in May of 1863, he earned the Medal of Honor as the colonel of the 60th New York Infantry for his “distinguished gallantry while holding with his command an advanced position against repeated assaults by a strong force of the enemy.” He was severely injured in this action and suffered three other wounds through the course of the war.

Miles decided to remain in the army after the American Civil War. He is best remembered for his service on the western frontier during the 1870s and the 1880s — immortalized for his capture of the famed Apache leader Geronimo. By 1895, he rose to overall command of the Army.

Though an excellent soldier, Miles was notorious for being stubborn, quarrelsome, overambitious and opinionated. Many, including President Theodore Roosevelt, wanted to see him cast out of the Army once and for all. Those who knew Miles best were aware that he wasn’t going to be forced out of the army without a fight.

Miles’ time for retirement crept up in 1903. He felt that he was still fit for soldiering, so he set out to prove that he was still physically fit to endure the hardships of active campaigning.

At dawn on July 14, 1903, Miles, sporting a summer helmet and light blue shirt, rode out of Oklahoma’s Fort Sill headed toward Fort Reno 90 miles away, intending to shatter Roosevelt’s age barrier. He was accompanied by several younger officers and cheered on by a large crowd of observers.

The tanned and muscular Miles knocked out the first 34 miles in a record time of just under 2.5 hours. Only the 34 year old cavalry officer Capt. Farrand Sayre of the Eight Cavalry was able to keep up with the grueling pace Miles set under the punishing sun and sweltering heat.

Miles tackled the 90 mile ride in just over nine hours, arriving at Fort Reno to the salute of gunfire from the soldiers of the garrison showing “no signs of fatigue.” Within 40 minutes of arriving, Miles changed out of his dusty uniform, reviewed the troops of the garrison, and rode another four miles to catch a 4:00 p.m. train back to Fort Riley, Kansas.

Miles boasted afterward to the papers that, “I enjoyed every moment of the trip, and there was one time that I felt particularly good; that was when I came up to the men who had charge of the pack teams just south of the Canadian river. They had lunch ready and I enjoyed it with them. It made me feel extra good.”

Despite displaying that he was still very much fit for active service, Miles was forced to retire in August of 1903. At 77, the Civil War general and Medal of Honor recipient offered his services to Woodrow Wilson’s administration with the American intervention during World War I. The offer was politely refused by the secretary of war who wrote back to Miles, “in time of emergency out government may need to take advantage of your great experience. Please accept appreciation of your most patriotic offer.”

Miles was still spry enough to serve on the battlefield even in 1916. He did not pass away until 60 years after the American Civil War ended in May of 1925 from a heart attack, outliving President Theodore Roosevelt by six years.

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This man in Georgia restores WWII airplane turrets in his garage

Plane turrets got their combat debut in World War II but were nearly obsolete by the time the war ended as jet planes could fly too fast for most gunners to hit them.


Most turrets were scrapped after the war, but one enthusiast in Georgia is collecting those that survived and restoring them to working conditions.

In his workshop in Georgia, Fred Bieser has thousands of turret parts and, as of 2013 when this video was shot, had restored seven turrets. Most of them are kept in his workshop, but some have gone on display at military museums.

Russia sold its enemy the metal for the greatest spy plane ever
American ball turret gunner Alan Magee poses in his station. (Photo: U.S. Army Air Force)

In this video from Tested, Bieser takes a video crew through his workshop and shows the guts of turrets and how they worked.

The video includes a lot of cool history on turrets, like how pilots worked with gunners to ensure accuracy and how Britain and America used different technologies for power and control.

Check out the full video below:

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Here’s who Trump may pick to lead the Pentagon’s nearly 3 million military and civilian personnel

Now that Donald Trump is set to become the 45th President of the United States, everyone is wondering what his potential cabinet will look like.


Perhaps most consequential is who he picks for Secretary of Defense — a civilian leadership position at the Pentagon in charge of roughly 3 million military and civilian personnel.

Also read: 6 weapons systems that are likely to gain from a Donald Trump win

Here’s who it could be, according to reporting from Politico and The Hill:

Lt. Gen. Mike Flynn (Ret.)

Russia sold its enemy the metal for the greatest spy plane ever
Lt Gen. Michael Flynn addresses an audience during a change of directorship ceremony at the Defense Intelligence Agency. | US Department of Defense photo by Erin A. Kirk-Cuomo

A reliable Trump surrogate on the campaign trail, Flynn is seen as a likely choice for the top spot at the Pentagon. He previously served as the head of the Defense Intelligence Agency,retiring in 2014 after 33 years in uniform. Flynn was a career military intelligence officer who served during the Cold War, Operations Desert Storm, Enduring Freedom, and Iraqi Freedom, and others.

“He’s about leading from the front. He’s about taking the hard jobs. He’s about driving change,” Adm. Michael Rogers, the head of the National Security Agency, said of him in 2014. “He’s always about the men and women around him.”

There’s just one problem for Flynn, however. Since he’s only been out of uniform for two years, he’d require a waiver from Congress to serve as Defense Secretary, since the law requires a seven year gap for military officers who want to serve as the Pentagon’s civilian leader. He could still serve in some other spot, such as national security advisor.

Former Secretary of State and retired four-star Gen. Colin Powell is not a fan, however. In leaked personal emails reported by BuzzFeed News, Powell described Flynn as “abusive with staff, didn’t listen, worked against policy” and called him “right-wing nutty.”

Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.)

Russia sold its enemy the metal for the greatest spy plane ever
Alabama Senator Jeff Sessions tours a sensor station inside of a P-3C Orion aircraft. | U.S. Navy photo by Journalist 3rd Class Stephen P. Weaver

Another name being floated is Jeff Sessions, a Republican senator who has been in office since 1996. He supported the 2003 Iraq War and opposed the repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell and the lifting of the ban on women serving in combat roles, foreshadowing major policy reversals he could potentially implement as Defense Secretary.

Sessions has personal military experience, having served as a Captain in the US Army Reserve for 13 years. He currently sits on the Senate Armed Services Committee and has been advising Trump on national security since March. “He would obviously be a very strong fit” for Defense Secretary, said Joe Kasper, the chief of staff for Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-Calif.).

Stephen Hadley

Russia sold its enemy the metal for the greatest spy plane ever
Former National Security Adviser Stephen Hadley chats with Homeland Security Adviser Lisa Monaco and CENTCOM Commander Army General Lloyd Austin in January, 2015 | State Department photo

President George W. Bush’s former national security advisor may reprise that role in a Trump administration, or be tapped to lead the Pentagon as Defense Secretary.

Right now he chairs the United States Institute of Peace, a federally-funded think tank that promotes conflict resolution around the world. He’s also a principal of RiceHadleyGates LLC, a consulting firm he founded with former national security advisor Condoleeza Rice, former Defense Secretary Robert Gates, and Anja Manuel, a former State Department official.

Hadley is a controversial figure. The false allegation that Iraq tried to buy uranium from Niger prior to the invasion made its way into President Bush’s State of the Union speech in 2003, which Hadley later apologized for.

He also sits on the board of defense contractor Raytheon, a potential conflict-of-interest he’d have to remedy should he be tapped by Trump.

He’s been hawkish on Iraq and Iran. He’s also been skeptical of Russian military moves and was critical of the Obama administration’s “Russian reset.” He has also acknowledged the national security implications of climate change.

Sen. Jim Talent (R-Mo.)

Russia sold its enemy the metal for the greatest spy plane ever
Senator Jim Talent (center) of Missouri with the Senate Armed Services Subcommittee on Sea-power in 2003. | U.S. Navy photo by Chief Photographer’s Mate Johnny Bivera

Last but not least is former Sen. Jim Talent. Talent served in the Senate for much of the Bush administration, finally losing to Sen. Claire McCaskill in 2006. He currently serves on the US-China Economic and Security Review Commission, a group created by Congress that examines the US-China relationship and prepares an annual report on its national security implications.

Like Hadley, Talent is also an Iraq War hawk. Though he wasn’t in Congress for the 2002 vote to go to war, he said in 2006 that he still would have invaded Iraq even with the knowledge there were no weapons of mass destruction.

He wants to enlarge the size of the Army, and opposes the release of detainees from Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. He has been critical of Trump’s approach to NATO — setting conditions to automatic defense of NATO countries — writing that such a move could isolate America from its allies.

What they face

Russia sold its enemy the metal for the greatest spy plane ever
U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl Codey Underwood

Whoever gets picked, the next Defense Secretary will face myriad challenges, from the ongoing fight against ISIS and China’s moves in the South China Sea to the ongoing stress on the military imposed by sequestration.

A number of defense secretaries who served under Obama have criticized him for “micromanagement.” Trump, it appears, seems to be more of a delegator who will let the Pentagon chief take the reins of the military.

“He will empower his SecDef to lead the way,” Kasper said.

The next Defense Secretary may also end up dealing with a nuclear-armed North Korea, and Russia is very likely to test the limits of the next President in eastern Europe. He or she also needs to reinvigorate a military plagued by low morale.

Trump will also make appointments for many other positions in the Pentagon and the military services, such as service secretaries, policy undersecretaries, and advisors. Those spots may be filled from his list of retired military officers or outsiders. The current leadership at the Pentagon is already preparing for that transition.

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Mercury 13: The first female astronaut candidates that time forgot

Russia sold its enemy the metal for the greatest spy plane ever
Visiting the space center as invited guests of STS-63 Pilot Eileen Collins, the first female shuttle pilot and later the first female shuttle commander, are (from left): Gene Nora Jessen, Wally Funk, Jerrie Cobb, Jerri Truhill, Sarah Rutley, Myrtle Cagle and Bernice Steadman. (Photo: NASA)


Dr. Randy Lovelace was a Harvard-educated flight surgeon with the U.S. Army who became a pioneer in aeromedicine and aviation physiology — particularly with the issues surrounding high-altitude flight. He was instrumental in developing the first oxygen masks and other adaptive equipment that allowed aviators to survive in low space.

In 1940 Lovelace met Jackie Cochran, a record-holding air racer who petitioned First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt to use women as pilots on the homefront in a variety of non-combat missions. That idea turned into the Women’s Airforce Service Pilots, better known as “WASPs,” during World War II. These female aviators served in crucial roles — test pilots, ferry pilots and maintenance check pilots — that freed up more male pilots to fight the battles that were raging across the globe. A few years later Cochran, by virtue of her friendship with Chuck Yeager, became the first woman to break the sound barrier. After that, she became the first woman to land an airplane on an aircraft carrier.

So when NASA started fielding candidates for what would eventually become the Mercury 7 astronauts, Lovelace and Cochran started a parallel effort that mirrored NASA’s rigorous testing — doable because Lovelace was a key player in designing the official program for the space agency. Along the way they asked another record-breaking female aviator, Jerrie Cobb, to join the effort. The three of them scrubbed the veteran WASP community — a population of over 700 pilots — and came up with 13 qualified females willing and able to go through their NASA-like testing.

Russia sold its enemy the metal for the greatest spy plane ever
Jerrie Cobb with Mercury capsule. (Photo: NASA)

Cobb dubbed the group “Fellow Lady Astronaut Trainees” or “FLATs.” The 13 went through a series of stressful evaluations designed to see if they could hold up under the conditions in space. Ice water was injected into their ears to induce vertigo. Painful electric shocks were administered to test reflexes. Weighted stationary bicycles were used to rapidly push candidates to exhaustion. And that was just Phase I of the testing.

All 13 of the women passed Phase I, but because of family and job commitments, only three of them — Jerrie Cobb, Rhea Hurrle, and Wally Funk — were able to travel to Oklahoma City for Phase II. Phase II involved psychological evaluations — including one that had them sit in an isolation tank for an extended period. All three woman passed.

After Jerrie Cobb passed Phase III, which included actual flights in military jet aircraft, the rest of the FLATs were invited to follow suit. But before they could gather at Naval Air Station Pensacola, the designated location, U.S. Navy officials at the base sent a telegram to the candidates that informed them that support for the project had been withdrawn because the request hadn’t come through NASA channels.

That ruling infuriated Cobb, and in 1962 she flew to Washington, D.C., to petition lawmakers to make the FLATs program an official part of NASA. Her efforts led to Rep. Victor Anfuso, R-NY, convening public hearings before a special Subcommittee of the House Committee on Science and Astronautics. Cobb’s testimony introduced gender discrimination into the Hill’s conversation well before the Civil Right Act of 1964 made it illegal.

But the way forward for the FLATs was plagued by infighting among the principals more than unresponsive congressmen. Jackie Cochran, of all people, sensing she was losing clout among her peers, testified that setting up a special program to help women would hurt NASA. Cochran’s negative view was multiplied by the opinions of a handful of Mercury 7 astronauts, including John Glenn, who said that the absence of women in the program was “a fact of our social order.”

Glenn also pointed out that astronaut candidates were required to be graduates of one of the military’s test pilot schools, something women were not qualified to apply for in 1962, and NASA had already indicated it had no desire to waive the requirement by giving females credit for the massive amount of flight experience they had — in some cases many more flight hours than the Mercury 7 selectees. Although some in congress were sympathetic to the FLATs’ plight, Cobb’s Capitol Hill visit didn’t result in any meaningful support.

Soviet cosmonaut Valentina Tereshkova became the first woman in space on June 16, 1963. In response, “Life” magazine published an article criticizing NASA and American decision makers. The article included photographs of all 13 FLATs, which made the entire group of women public for the first time.

NASA did not select any female astronaut candidates until 1978. Astronaut Sally Ride became the first American woman in space in 1983, and in 1995 Eileen Collins was the first woman to pilot the Space Shuttle. At Collins’ invitation, seven of the surviving FLATs attended her launch.

In 1995, while working on a film adaptation of the FLATs’ story, Hollywood producer James Cross coined the label “Mercury 13” for the FLATs. (Look for that title in a theater near you in the years to come.)

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11 Photos that show why the SR-71 ‘Blackbird’ was all kinds of amazing

When it comes to curb appeal, few airplanes in history can match the look of the SR-71 “Blackbird.” And nothing in the Air Force’s inventory — past or present — can beat its signature performance characteristics. Here are 11 photos that show why the Blackbird remains the standard of aviation cool:


The SR-71 “Blackbird” was a high-speed, high-altitude reconnaissance aircraft developed by Lockheed’s legendary “Skunk Works” team in the 1960s.

Russia sold its enemy the metal for the greatest spy plane ever
(Photo: U.S. Air Force)

The Blackbird was capable of speeds exceeding Mach 3.0. The fuselage was designed to expand at high speeds, which caused the airplane to leak fuel on the ground because the panels fit very loosely when jet was parked.

Russia sold its enemy the metal for the greatest spy plane ever
(Photo: U.S. Air Force)

The Blackbird’s service ceiling (max altitude) was 85,000 feet, which forced crews to wear pressure suits and astronaut-type helmets.

Russia sold its enemy the metal for the greatest spy plane ever
SR-71 pilot Col. ‘Buz’ Carpenter. (Photo: U.S. Air Force)

SR-71s were manned by two aviators: a pilot and a Reconnaissance Systems Officer who monitored surveillance systems from the rear cockpit.

Russia sold its enemy the metal for the greatest spy plane ever
(Photo: U.S. Air Force)

Only 32 Blackbirds were manufactured, and they were in service from 1964-1998. Despite over 4,000 combat sorties, none of the planes were lost due to enemy fire. However, 12 of them were destroyed in mishaps.

Russia sold its enemy the metal for the greatest spy plane ever
(Photo: Lockheed Martin)

Claustrophobic types need not apply. The narrow space between canopy rails didn’t give crews much room to move around. The outer windscreen of the cockpit was made of quartz and was fused ultrasonically to the titanium frame. The temperature of the exterior of the windscreen reached 600 °F during a mission.

Russia sold its enemy the metal for the greatest spy plane ever
Pilot mans the brakes as the SR-71 is towed out of the hangar. (Photo: U.S. Air Force)

Nothing ‘glass’ about this cockpit. The SR-71 presented the pilot with a dizzying array of steam gauges and switches. And visibility out the front wasn’t the greatest.

Russia sold its enemy the metal for the greatest spy plane ever
(Photo: U.S. Air Force)

Although not technically a stealth aircraft, the SR-71 was hard for enemy SAM systems to spot because it was designed with a low radar cross section in mind.

Russia sold its enemy the metal for the greatest spy plane ever
(Photo: U.S. Air Force)

Because of its high approach speed the Blackbird used a drag chute to slow down on the runway after touchdown.

Russia sold its enemy the metal for the greatest spy plane ever
(Photo: U.S. Air Force)

Aerial refueling capability allowed the SR-71 to perform long-range, high endurance missions.

Russia sold its enemy the metal for the greatest spy plane ever
SR-71 refueling from a KC-135. (Photo: U.S. Air Force)

The Blackbird still holds the record for fastest air-breathing manned aircraft (a record it broke in 1976). Although the SR-71 is no longer in service, the legend lives on.

Russia sold its enemy the metal for the greatest spy plane ever
(Photo: U.S. Air Force)

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This is why the JLTV is to the Humvee what the Humvee was to the Jeep

The Humvee (High-Mobility Multi-purpose Wheeled Vehicle) is a classic icon of today’s military, often seen wherever there is a war or a disaster. However, just as the Jeep proved to be not quite what would be needed for World War II, the Humvee proved to have some shortfalls during the War on Terror.


The Joint Light Tactical Vehicle from Oshkosh is intended to at least partially replace the Humvee. The Humvee will be sticking around – possibly until 2050 – in many of the support units, as opposed to fighting in front-line combat situations.

 

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

 

The big difference will be in the level of protection. Humvees, even when up-armored, couldn’t completely protect troops from the effects of roadside bombs and other improvised explosive devices. The JLTV addresses that through providing MRAP-level protection in a lightweight package that can be hoisted by a helicopter like the CH-47F Chinook or a CH-53K King Stallion.

The first of the JLTVs will be delivered to the 10th Mountain Division at Fort Drum, followed by the 173rd Airborne Brigade in Italy. Both units are expected to receive their vehicles in 2019.

 

Russia sold its enemy the metal for the greatest spy plane ever
A Joint Light Tactical Vehicle production model is displayed by Oshkosh on the floor of the AUSA Annual Meeting and Exhibition in the Washington Convention Center Oct. 4, 2016. (U.S. Army photo by Gary Sheftick)

The JLTV has four variants in service, the M1278 Heavy Gun Carrier, the M1279 Utility vehicle, the M1280 General Purpose, and the M1281 Close Combat Weapons Vehicle.

Check the video below to see how the JLTV and the Humvee stack up against each other.

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Vietnam vets meet the soldier who saved them from a VC ambush

Fifty-one years after saving a squad of U.S. Marines from walking into an ambush by Viet Cong, Don Medley walked into a surprise gathering organized to honor him.


Members of the squadron Medley saved May 12, 1966, gathered Friday at Stone Hearth restaurant in Elizabethtown, Kentucky, for a surprise dinner. Medley, a former U.S. Army Warrant Officer, had believed he and his wife, Dianne, were meeting one of the Marine veterans, Earl Davis, and his wife, Claudia, for dinner.

In reality, three other men Medley saved, along with their wives, were waiting to meet him. Those honoring him traveled from South Carolina, Missouri, Georgia and Tennessee.

“I told my wife that one day I’d like to meet some of the guys on the ground that I helped,” Medley said. “This is the day.”

Medley, of Hodgenville, appeared stunned and overwhelmed by the handshakes, hugs and greetings he received as he stood near the doorway of the room reserved for the occasion.

“Thank you, for my wife and kids,” one man said.

The words “thank you” repeatedly resounded in the room that held a dining table adorned with a centerpiece of white flowers highlighted with small U.S. flags. Placemats also were emblazoned with U.S. flags.

“This is such an honor for me,” Medley said, his voice wavering as he received gifts of gratitude. “It’s unbelievable.”

Like other members of Bravo Company of 1st Marine Battalion, 9th Marine Regiment, Earl Davis had wondered over the years who the Cessna pilot who saved them was. After an article was published in Vietnam magazine last year, Medley’s identity became known.

Davis received contact information for Medley on Dec. 26. He decided to coordinate the surprise gathering.

During the gathering, Medley recounted the day he was flying his Cessna over a rice paddy and noticed Marines advancing toward a trench line holding enemy forces. He dropped a smoke grenade on which he had scrawled a brief message warning the Marines, but they continued to advance.

He soon noticed there were more enemies in a tree line, making the number much larger. He dropped a second smoke grenade warning them and included the words, “I’m calling Arty,” referring to notifying artillery. His message saved them, the men said.

“We’ve been looking for this guy for over 50 years,” Ray Maurer said. “I just broke up when I saw him.”

Maurer and his wife, Bernadette, made the trip from Georgia.

Carl Whipple of Tennessee attended the gathering with wife, Myrtle Ruth.

“We all wanted the opportunity to meet him,” he said.

Whipple described the experience as heartfelt and said it was “a God thing” that sent Medley to fly over the squad 51 years ago.

“We’re indebted,” he said.

Dan Ferrell of Missouri said the gathering was a much-needed opportunity to express his thanks to Medley.

“I’ve never been able to put this behind me,” said Ferrell, who has post-traumatic stress disorder.

Medley was presented with a watch that was set at 10:30, the approximate time he dropped the first smoke grenade. He also was given mementos including a framed collection of items, among which was a signed letter of thanks.

Choking up in the process, Davis read the letter during the presentation. Later, he said the emotion he felt at that time summed up what he was feeling and how special the occasion was.

“It means a whole hell of a lot,” he said.

Similarly, Medley visibly was moved during the gathering and said the items he received will be displayed with honor in his den.

“It’s overwhelming,” Medley said. “This vindicates my whole year in Vietnam.”

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

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


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

Russia sold its enemy the metal for the greatest spy plane ever
DoD photo by Staff Sgt. Dean Wagner

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

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

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The 13 funniest military memes of the week

Another week down, another (long) weekend to get through without a major safety incident or an article 15. Good luck.


1. Terrorists have learned to fear American training (via Team Non-Rec).

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

2. When corporals know they’re no longer worth the paperwork (via Marine Corps Memes).

Russia sold its enemy the metal for the greatest spy plane ever
Easier to let him EAS than to bother ninja punching him.

SEE ALSO: 12 signs you may be ‘motarded’

3. When you want those stripes but you’re just a hero, not a college grad (via Sh-t My LPO Says).

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

4. The Navy boot camp honor grads are now labeled with a special ribbon (via Sh-T My LPO Says).

Russia sold its enemy the metal for the greatest spy plane ever
You better stand at parade rest for him, fleet.

5. How the Coast Guard earns their deployment stripes (via Military Memes).

Russia sold its enemy the metal for the greatest spy plane ever
One stripe for every 12 hours on the open sea.

6. “Fully retired? I can finally get around to that education the Army promised me.”(via Team Non-Rec).

Russia sold its enemy the metal for the greatest spy plane ever
College. It’s like 4 years of briefings.

7. Gotta love that Air Force life (via Air Force Memes and Humor).

Russia sold its enemy the metal for the greatest spy plane ever
Airman are the most hardened warriors at the juice and snack bar.

8. Dressing your baby in an adorable sailor outfit has consequences (via Sh-t My LPO Says).

Russia sold its enemy the metal for the greatest spy plane ever
Master Chief Petty Officer of the Navy material right there.

9. “Let me tell you ’bout my best friend …”

(via Team Non-Rec).

Russia sold its enemy the metal for the greatest spy plane ever
Later, those Marines will take a beach trip as well.

10. “Ha ha, lieutenants get people lost.”

(Via Devil Dog Nation.)

Russia sold its enemy the metal for the greatest spy plane ever
How is this not the driver’s fault?

11. Why military travel works so well (via Air Force Memes and Humor).

Russia sold its enemy the metal for the greatest spy plane ever
Pretty sure Lucifer designed more than one thing in the military.

 12. When you have to switch out your camping tents for DRASH tents (via Terminal Lance).

Russia sold its enemy the metal for the greatest spy plane ever
The commander really does just like to see you cry.

13. When your article 15 rebuttal doesn’t go as planned (via Air Force Memes and Humor).

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

NOW: 5 cocktails with military origins

OR: The top 10 deadliest snipers of all time

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