'107 feet of fire-breathing titanium': A US Air Force major describes flying the fastest plane in history - We Are The Mighty
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‘107 feet of fire-breathing titanium’: A US Air Force major describes flying the fastest plane in history

In the 1960s, when a single military incident had the potential to spark a nuclear war, the US government needed a surveillance plane that absolutely could not be detected, intercepted, or shot down.


The answer was the SR-71.

The Lockheed Martin SR-71, or the “Blackbird” as it is commonly known, flew at the upper 1% of earth’s atmosphere at altitudes of 80,000 feet and speeds of over 2,000 mph — much faster and higher than any plane before it.

‘107 feet of fire-breathing titanium’: A US Air Force major describes flying the fastest plane in history
Photo: YouTube screengrab

And every inch of the aircraft was meticulously designed to baffle radar detection.

The SR-71 was a marvel of engineering that flew in the US Air Force for more than 30 years. The plane holds records for speed and distance that stand to this day. It was so fast that the plane’s common protocol for avoiding missiles was to simply outrun them.

Former US Air Force Major Brian Shul describes his career as a pilot of iconic Blackbird in his book “Sled Driver.” He describes one incident in particular that he would never forget — something that reveals just how intense and difficult piloting the SR-71 could be.

As a Blackbird pilot, Shul is often asked about the plane’s top speed.

“Each SR-71 pilot had his own individual ‘high’ speed that he saw at some point on some mission,” Shul explains in the book.

Because the planes are so precisely engineered, and so costly, no pilot ever wanted to push the Blackbird to its absolute operating limits of temperature and speed. But you could fall short of those limits and still be going astonishingly fast: “It was common to see 35 miles a minute,” says Shul.

‘107 feet of fire-breathing titanium’: A US Air Force major describes flying the fastest plane in history

As far as his personal high speed goes, Shul says, “I saw mine over Libya when Ghaddafi fired two missiles my way, and max power was in order. Let’s just say that the plane truly loved speed and effortlessly took us to Mach numbers we hadn’t previously seen.”

Tales of the Blackbird’s speed and achievements in espionage are unsurpassed, but Shul’s most amazing anecdote in “Sled Driver” is the story of his slowest-ever run, which started off as a simple flyby to show off for friendly troops. It ended up the stuff of military legend.

While returning from a mission over Europe, Shul received a call from his home base in Mildenhall, England, requesting that he do a flyby of a small RAF base. An air cadet commander in that base was himself a former Blackbird pilot. Knowing what a spectacular sight the plane could be, he thought that a low-altitude flyby might give his troops a morale boost.

The Blackbird made its way to the RAF base, ripping through the skies over Denmark in just three minutes, and slowing down only to refuel midair.

Using the sophisticated navigation equipment aboard the Blackbird, Shul’s navigator, Walter, led him toward the airfield. He slowed the lightning-fast ship to sub sonic speeds and began to search for the airfield, which like many World War II-era British airbases had only one tower and very little identifiable infrastructure around it.

‘107 feet of fire-breathing titanium’: A US Air Force major describes flying the fastest plane in history

As the two got close, they were having trouble finding the small airfield. Shul describes the moments leading up to the flyby: “We got a little lower, and I pulled the throttles back from 325 knots we were at. With the gear up, anything under 275 was just uncomfortable. Walt (the navigator) said we were practically over the field — yet there was nothing in my windscreen.”

As the airfield cadets assembled outside in anticipation of catching a glimpse of the Blackbird, Shul and his navigator eased off the accelerator and began circling the forest looking for any sign of the base.

During the search, the Blackbird’s speed had fallen well below advisable or even safe levels.

“At this point we weren’t really flying, but were falling in a slight bank,” recalls Shul.

With the engines silent on the low-flying Blackbird, the cadets on the ground couldn’t see or hear anything. There was simply no way they could have expected what would happen next: “As I noticed the airspeed indicator slide below 160 knots, my heart stopped and my adrenalin-filled left hand pushed two throttles full forward.”

Shul describes what happened next as a “thunderous roar of flame … a joyous feeling.”

‘107 feet of fire-breathing titanium’: A US Air Force major describes flying the fastest plane in history

The cadets must have seen “107 feet of fire-breathing titanium in their face as the plane leveled and accelerated, in full burner, on the tower side of the infield, closer than expected, maintaining what could only be described as some sort of ultimate knife-edge pass.”

Shul and his navigator returned to base in silence. They were both shocked by the momentary lapse in speed that nearly saw their Blackbird plummeting towards the hard ground. They had come close to a full-on catastrophe — much too close for comfort.

The pair felt sure that their commander would have had a panic attack, and would be furiously waiting at base to ream the pilots and take their wings.

Instead, they were greeted by a smiling commander who told them that the RAF had reported “the greatest SR-71 fly-past he had ever seen.”

The spectators had taken their near-fatal mistake as an especially brave and well-executed stunt carried out by erudite professionals. The commander heard about the “breathtaking” flyby, and heartily shook both Shul and Walter’s hands.

Apparently, some of the cadets watching had their hats blown off from the extremely close passage of the Blackbird in full thrust. The cadets were shocked, but only the two pilots knew just how close a call the flyby had been.

As the pilots retired to the equipment room, they still looked at each other in a dazed silence. Finally, they broached the subject of the perilously low speeds.

‘107 feet of fire-breathing titanium’: A US Air Force major describes flying the fastest plane in history

“One hundred fifty-six knots (180 mph). What did you see?” The co-pilot Walter asked Shul, “One hundred fifty-two (175 mph),” he responded. These speeds are fast for a car, but in an aircraft designed to travel in excess of 2,000 mph, they are disturbingly slow and unsafe.

A year later, as Shul and Walter ate in a mess hall, he overheard some officers talking about the incident, which by then had become exaggerated to the point where cadets were being knocked over and having their eyebrows singed from the Blackbird’s raging thrusters.

When the younger officers noticed the patches on Shul’s uniform, indicating that he flew the SR-71, they asked him to verify that the flyby had occurred. Shul replied, “It was probably just a routine low approach; they’re pretty impressive in that plane.”

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This article originally appeared at Business Insider Defense. Copyright 2015. Follow BI Defense on Twitter.

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5 times the US was attacked at home during WWII (besides Pearl Harbor)

For decades before 9/11, Americans talked about how they hadn’t been attacked at home since Pearl Harbor, but that actually wasn’t true.


The California coast was attacked less than three months later, and two additional attacks were launched in 1942 alone. Here are five times that America was attacked at home in World War II after Pearl Harbor:

1. Japanese submarines shell California oil refinery

‘107 feet of fire-breathing titanium’: A US Air Force major describes flying the fastest plane in history
Japanese submarine I-19. (Photo: Public Domain)

In February 1942, Japan landed its first attack on the American mainland. Submarine I-17 surfaced off the coast of California and proceeded to shell oil processing facilities in Ellwood, a city north of Santa Barbara. The Ellwood attack was believed to have been intentionally timed to take place during one of President Franklin Roosevelt’s fireside chats.

The attack did little real damage. An oil derrick and a pump house were both hit but no personnel were injured or killed and refining operations continued throughout the war.

2. Nazi commandos land in New York and Florida

‘107 feet of fire-breathing titanium’: A US Air Force major describes flying the fastest plane in history
The German sabotage ring commandos assigned to attack New York and the surrounding area. (Photos: FBI)

The following June, the Axis powers struck again as specially trained Nazi commandos were delivered by submarine to beaches in New York and Florida. They came heavily armed with crates of explosives and lists of targets including aluminum plants and power production.

Luckily for America, the commandos had been recruited from the civilian population and the Nazi party and they were inept. One of the team leaders had slept through much of the 18 days of special training.

The first team was spotted by the Coast Guard while burying their supplies on the New York beach. They got away, but both teams were hunted down by the FBI before they launched any successful operations.

3. A Japanese submarine shells military defenses in Oregon

An I-25 submarine ordered to patrol the American coast surfaced during the night of June 21, 1942, and shelled the coastal defenses at Fort Stevens, Oregon. Most of the rounds buried themselves in the sand on the shore and the damage to the U.S. was mostly on morale.

4. A Japanese plane drops bombs on a logging town

‘107 feet of fire-breathing titanium’: A US Air Force major describes flying the fastest plane in history
(Photo: Public Domain)

In September 1942, the submarine I-25 tried again, this time with a plane equipped with incendiary bombs. Many submarines at the time carried a single float plane used to search for targets or collect battle damage assessments.

The pilot assigned to I-25, Nobuo Fujita, had proposed that these planes could be used in an offensive capacity.

The Imperial Navy brass agreed to the plan and he was allowed to drop incendiary bombs deep in the forests of southern Oregon. The attack was launched on Sept. 9, 1942, and the early stages were successful. The pilot delivered two incendiary bombs that detonated and spread small fires across hundreds of square yards.

‘107 feet of fire-breathing titanium’: A US Air Force major describes flying the fastest plane in history
Nobuo Fujita stands with his E14Y plane, the same model he used to bomb Oregon. (Photo: Public Domain)

Unfortunately for the Japanese, they had little knowledge of the weather conditions in their target area. The woods had been unseasonably wet from recent rains and thick fogs, so the fires failed to spread.

Still, the FBI and the U.S. Army worried that another attack would be more successful.

The Japanese did indeed try again on Sept. 25, but the fires failed to spread once again.

Fujita was hailed as a hero at home and served out the war training kamikaze pilots. Oddly enough in 1962, the town of Brookings, Oregon, invited Fujita to the city he tried to destroy. This resulted in a friendship that lasted the rest of the man’s life.

He gave his family’s ceremonial sword to the city and, after his death, some of his ashes were spread at the bomb crater.

5. Almost ten thousand fire balloons are floated across the Pacific

‘107 feet of fire-breathing titanium’: A US Air Force major describes flying the fastest plane in history
This was the first intercontinental weapon in military history — the fūsen bakudan, or fire balloon. Japan produced 9,300 of them. (Youtube Screenshot)

In Operation Fu-Go in 1944, the Japanese military tried to set America aflame by floating 9,300 incendiary bombs across the Pacific Ocean. The bombs were expected to travel on the wind for three days and then drop, setting large fires.

Only 350 bombs actually made it to the states and spread far and wide, hitting states like Michigan, Iowa, and Kansas. Most failed to start large fires. The only known fatalities from the weapon was when a pregnant woman and her five children came across an unexploded bomb in Oregon.

It exploded while the family was looking at it, killing all six.

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The US military’s air conditioning bill for deployed troops allegedly tops $20 billion

A former Pentagon official says the U.S. spends $20.2 billion a year on air conditioning for U.S. troops in Iraq and Afghanistan – the same amount of money it would take to train, fund, and equip Afghan security forces for a full five years.


‘107 feet of fire-breathing titanium’: A US Air Force major describes flying the fastest plane in history
U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Russell Dutcher, 455th Expeditionary Civil Engineer Squadron HVAC technician, repairs an air conditioning unit June 30, 2015, at Bagram Air Field, Afghanistan.  (U.S. Air Force photo By Senior Airman Cierra Presentado)

To put it in perspective, that $20 billion is also the cost of a new Trump border wall every year, the price tag for supporting fledgling democracies in North Africa for five years, and the amount BP will pay in its settlement for the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill.

(The movie looks awesome, by the way)

Retired Brig. Gen. Steven Anderson was the head of logistics for Gen. David Petraeus in Iraq. He told NPR’s All Things Considered that everything required to get A/C to the troops – escorts, transportation, medevac support … everything – tops out at $20 billion.

The Pentagon has denied his claims.

The $20 billion air conditioning bill estimate includes the wars in both Iraq and Afghanistan, a number that has steadily risen with every passing year. By 2014, the Afghan War cost as much as $2.1 million dollars for every soldier deployed there. Some experts say even the U.S. government doesn’t know for sure where all the money is going.

‘107 feet of fire-breathing titanium’: A US Air Force major describes flying the fastest plane in history
Airmen from the 27th Special Operations Communications, Contracting and Comptroller Squadrons helped build up an exercise area, including fully functioning tents and offices. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Eboni Reams)

In 2013, Harvard economist Linda Bilmes calculated what she calls the “true cost” of the wars, counting “long-term medical care and disability compensation for service members, veterans and families, military replenishment and social and economic costs.”

Bilmes, who’s the former CFO of the Department of Commerce, predicted that the final bill for the wars will be as much as $6 trillion. Brown University estimates the cost to be upwards of $7 trillion.

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Watch these skydivers jump out of a B-17’s bomb bay door with wingsuits and Ol’ Glory

Recently, four skydivers from FullMag decided to step up their game by jumping out of the bomb bay doors of a World War II B-17 bomber using wingsuits.


The skydivers are all equipped with go-pros, parachutes, and the American flag.

The B-17 Flying Fortress has lived up to its name. Primarily, it saw combat during WWII for allied bombing runs in Europe. Originally developed for the U.S. Army Air Corps, this behemoth had as many as 13 machine guns attached.

But what its known for is the devastating 9,600-pound bomb load that it could bring into battle.

Related: This is what you need to know about the B-17 Flying Fortress

‘107 feet of fire-breathing titanium’: A US Air Force major describes flying the fastest plane in history

The 14 men of the ‘Memphis Belle’ were among the most famous B-17 Bomber crews. It was one of the first bombers to complete 25 combat missions and bring all of her men back.

The tales of this beauty have been made into a documentary in 1944 and a feature film in 1990. In May 2018, the aircraft will be restored and placed in the National Museum of the United States Air Force. This will be done in celebration of the 75th anniversary of it’s final combat mission.

Out of the 12,000 built, only 11 remain airworthy to this day.

“Commercial skydiving isn’t without it’s risks” says Richard Ryan of FullMag. “When doing a demo jump, there are many variables to take into consideration.”

When jumping out of the B-17, the skydivers must work within the narrow space of the bomb racks. When they jump, they have to make sure that their suits don’t catch anything upon exit.

Yet the biggest concern that they had was with the machine gun turret on the belly. If the aircraft’s speed isn’t slow enough, their suits could pressurize and strike it.

They avoided it by back flying the exit into a gainer — or by watching the jumper ahead of them.

To check out the jump or for more content, check out FullMag on the video below.

(FullMag, YouTube)

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6 reasons Communists were the ultimate movie villain

The 1980s were a great time for movies. Hollywood could make any movie about anyone anywhere and it could feature this one built-in, believable villain: Communists.


No matter what the story was about, Commies could be counted on to try and stop American heroes from saving the day. They were the greatest gift to villainy since the handlebar mustache.

‘107 feet of fire-breathing titanium’: A US Air Force major describes flying the fastest plane in history
Which lets you know who the most evil men are.

Not only did we get an all-purpose, worldwide villain, we got a bad guy every red-blooded American could cheer on to take down. A Communist movie villain was the perfect foil for any hero.

‘107 feet of fire-breathing titanium’: A US Air Force major describes flying the fastest plane in history
Unless that hero spent most of the series fighting Nazis.

Sure, they weren’t all bad. Most Communist citizens probably just wanted to get on with their lives. But when their governments were bad, they were spectacular. There are many reasons for this.

1. Any wacky plan the Reds came up with was believable.

Whether they were doing something practical like creating a super quiet submarine or something stupid like trying to embarrass the United States by making Rocky Balboa fight Ivan Drago, we believed they would. Because they’re evil, right? Whatever it takes.

‘107 feet of fire-breathing titanium’: A US Air Force major describes flying the fastest plane in history

In a way, we legitimately believed they would make that plan, because why not? We’re the center of the Universe and they’re trying to be number one, so they had to constantly one-up America in every way. The Russians are the people who built an actual doomsday device, after all.

2. There was nothing you could do about them.

Because what are you really going to do about it, start a nuclear war? Shut up.

We can’t have an all-out war, that would end civilization as we know it. So America just had to foil all of their insane little plots one by one, or hatch some harebrained scheme of our own, and you knew it would never go too far.

The CIA and KGB would just pretend it never happened.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sYh9_QmNwRA

If you’re not familiar with the movie “Firefox,” it was about a jet built by the Russians that could fly six times the speed of sound and had weapons that could be controlled WITH YOUR MIND. Spoiler Alert: Clint Eastwood straight up STOLE IT from a Russian air base, shot down the second prototype, killing the pilot and the Russians didn’t do sh*t.

Only in the Cold War.

3. It made for interesting alliances.

‘107 feet of fire-breathing titanium’: A US Air Force major describes flying the fastest plane in history
Everyone’s least favorite Bond, working with the Muj.

The enemy of my enemy is my friend right? The U.S. intelligence community didn’t realize what they were building or how far Osama bin Laden would go with his new network. The entertainment community had no idea either, so we got to see Britain’s most popular spy working with the Afghan Mujahideen.

‘107 feet of fire-breathing titanium’: A US Air Force major describes flying the fastest plane in history
The end of Rambo III then (left) and now (right)

Also, Rambo: America’s greatest movie fighting force dedicated the third act of his saga to the Mujahideen. Ouch. Talk about regretting the morning after…

4. It was cathartic.

After spending more than a decade with the struggle and subsequent stigma of the Vietnam War — coupled with the Détante-era perception that the U.S. was somehow losing the arms race, along with every other problem that plagued America – something had to give.

‘107 feet of fire-breathing titanium’: A US Air Force major describes flying the fastest plane in history

A win against some commie scum was a welcome respite from the drudgery of real-world geopolitics, especially if you could do it with your high school classmates — which was apparently the mid-80s Gen-X American Dream.

5. The stakes were really high.

The contest is so much more satisfying to win when there’s something on the line. We’re only talking about world domination here.

6. No one could accuse you of being racist.

Being PC is difficult. Let’s face it, we all want to be respectful. There’s just a lot to keep straight.

Being part of a worldwide ideology, bent on taking over the Free World, Communists weren’t limited to Russia. They could be Chinese, Cuban, Vietnamese, Korean, African, or Latin American.

Anyone could be a Commie, it didn’t matter what color their skin was, every Communist was red.

‘107 feet of fire-breathing titanium’: A US Air Force major describes flying the fastest plane in history

This also worked for Nazis, Fascists, and pretty much anyone James Bond ever faced — who were all thoroughly evil. Hollywood needs a bad guy, and the Communists were the perfect fit. In America’s current politically correct culture, you can’t use an entire race or religion as the villain, even if Aaron Sorkin says it’s their turn.

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SEAL Team 6 vet agrees to pay feds profit from bin Laden raid book

‘107 feet of fire-breathing titanium’: A US Air Force major describes flying the fastest plane in history


After a four-year legal battle, Matthew Bissonnette, a former member of the elite SEAL Team 6 who participated in the raid that killed Osama bin Laden, has agreed to forfeit to the Justice Department all of the proceeds from “No Easy Day,” his first-person account of the raid written under the pen name “Mark Owen.”

“I acted on the advice of my former attorney, but I now fully recognize that his advice was wrong,” Bissonnette wrote in a formal apology, as reported by NPR. “It was a serious error that I urge others not to repeat.”

“No Easy Day,” co-written by military journalist Kevin Maurer, was the first public account from someone who actually participated in the high-profile raid to kill the al Qaeda leader. That impact was enhanced by the fact that not only did it deal with the killing of the terrorist mastermind, but it was written by a member of SEAL Team 6, the one of the nation’s top special operations units whose methods and techniques are highly classified and seldom written about.

The book was a bestseller, and that as much as anything is what got the author in trouble with the Pentagon. Officials claimed that Bissonnette had violated a non-disclosure agreement he’d signed as a Navy commando and also failed to have the book’s manuscript reviewed by proper authorities before it was published.

“Ironically, Matt didn’t want the book to be about him,” co-author Maurer said in an exclusive interview with WATM. “He always intended for it to be a tribute to his teammates and one that would allow readers to truly understand what SEALs do. It was also supposed to be a nod to the CIA, helicopter pilots, and Rangers — all the elements of these sorts of missions.”

‘107 feet of fire-breathing titanium’: A US Air Force major describes flying the fastest plane in history

Maurer, who sat down with Bissonnette in Virginia Beach five days a week for a month recording the story before writing it out, said the former SEAL was focused on security.

“He was never cavalier about the details,” Maurer said. “We talked a lot about things we weren’t going to include. It was a conscious decision.”

After experiencing firsthand the hew and cry from veterans — as well as members of the special operations community displeased that one of their own had broken ranks by socializing their tactical world on a grand scale — Maurer said he understood the Justice Department ruling. But he added that “the real travesty is that the money [estimated at more that $6 million according to court documents, as reported by NPR] is now going to the government instead of veteran charities as Matt had always intended.”

Bissonnette’s current lawyer, Robert Luskin, hinted that his client had been made a scapegoat by government officials embarrassed by the information that has come out about the bin Laden raid and other operations in the wake of “No Easy Day” landing on shelves.

“The government has a right to keep its secrets and to enforce procedures that are designed to protect them from inadvertent disclosure,” Luskin said in a statement. “But it is shameful that — of all the people who leaked, talked, whispered and backgrounded about the mission — Matt Bissonnette, who risked his life to make it a success, is the only one to pay a price.”

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The first American shots in WW1 were actually fired in Guam

After receiving information that war was near, German Vice-Adm. Maximilian Von Spee sent a message to his Imperial navy colleagues in the Pacific to rally up for a fight.


Spee was aboard the SMS Scharnhorst docked near the Pacific island of Pohnpei when he sent his message to Tsingtao,  at the time the administrative center for the German Pacific colonies.

The battle damaged German ship SMS Cormoran geared up and was ordered to disrupt enemy supply lines. But after months at sea and under constant pressure by the Japanese, the Cormoran began running low on coal and needed a safe place to dock.

The Cormoran reached Apra Harbor in Guam — which had recently become a U.S. protectorate — on Dec. 14, 1914, hoping for some aid by the neutral Americans there.

Related: Here’s why flamethrowers were so deadly on the battlefield for both sides

‘107 feet of fire-breathing titanium’: A US Air Force major describes flying the fastest plane in history
The Naval officer stationed in Guam sitting with the natives. (Source: The Great War/YouTube/Screenshot)

Interestingly, until the 1950s, Guam’s governor’s office was held by American naval officers.

Guam’s Gov. William Maxwell initially refused to help the Germans because America wanted to stay neutral in the war, but since the Cormoran nearly was out of fuel, the ship wouldn’t leave.

The two sides finally came to an agreement and the German could stay but must live under restriction. The Cormoran’s crew had to stow their weapons on the ship, and the firing pins of the 10.5 cm guns had to be removed from service.

‘107 feet of fire-breathing titanium’: A US Air Force major describes flying the fastest plane in history
The Germans were allowed to live on the ship or could stay in these tents featured in the image above. (Source: The Great War/YouTube/Screenshot)

Letting the Germans live on the island was extremely risky as the small amount of Americans were now outnumbered.

But during the time the Germans inhabited the small island alongside their soon to be American enemy, there weren’t any known reports of violent incidents — but that peace wouldn’t last forever.

Also Read: The Browning Automatic Rifle cut down enemies from WWI to Vietnam

In 1916, Guam’s new governor received a message that the US just entered the war. A small group of Marines assembled and demanded the German’s surrender right away. When the Germans refused, the Marines fired two warning shots across the Cormoran’s bow.

The warning shots were fired just two hours after the US entered the Great War, thus making history as the first shots fired by Americans at their new German enemy happened in Guam.

Check out The Great War‘s video to learn about this incredible story.

(The Great War, YouTube)
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No one is allowed to know your name at the CIA’s Starbucks

At the Starbucks at the Langley headquarters of the Central Intelligence Agency it might be best to just remember your drink order because the baristas won’t remember your name.


‘107 feet of fire-breathing titanium’: A US Air Force major describes flying the fastest plane in history
They’re not known for getting names right anyway.

“They could use the alias ‘Polly-O string cheese’ for all I care,” a food services supervisor at the CIA, told the Washington Post. “But giving any name at all was making people — you know, the undercover agents — feel very uncomfortable. It just didn’t work for this location.”

The agents don’t have to leave the building to get their daily fix, but they won’t get stars to add to their gold card requirements either. Tracking the agents preferences is strictly prohibited, as the Agency fears its data could be used to out secret agents. The receipts just say “Store Number 1.”

The baristas for what is now known as the “Stealthy Starbucks” go through a rigorous background investigation, but still can’t leave the Starbucks without a handler. They are frequently briefed about security risks. During the day, the vanilla latte is the winner. For agents working long hours and night shifts, double espressos and Frappuccinos are what the agents of the world’s most secret intelligence agency need to keep going.

‘107 feet of fire-breathing titanium’: A US Air Force major describes flying the fastest plane in history
There might be more secretive agents. Somewhere.

“There’s caramel-macchiato guy” and “the iced white mocha woman,” one barista said. “But I have no idea what they do, I just know they need coffee. A lot of it.”

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7 awesome things you didn’t know the Coast Guard has

The U.S. Coast Guard doesn’t always get the respect it’s due, mostly because it’s the only branch that doesn’t always fall under the Department of Defense. But that technicality doesn’t mean the Coast Guard doesn’t have some cool stuff.


1. Open ocean ships

‘107 feet of fire-breathing titanium’: A US Air Force major describes flying the fastest plane in history
Photo: US Department of Homeland Security

Despite their nickname of “Puddle Pirates,” the Coast Guard does have ships that can operate in the open ocean. The largest and most advanced are the National Security Cutters.

The Coast Guard just accepted its sixth NSC. Each ship carries two helicopters, two boats that can be launched from the stern, and an automated weapons suite. Based out of South Carolina and California, they are used primarily in the Bering Sea, the Pacific Ocean, and the Arctic.

2. Counter-terrorism special operators

‘107 feet of fire-breathing titanium’: A US Air Force major describes flying the fastest plane in history
Photo: US Coast Guard Petty Officer 3rd Class Barry Bena

The Coast Guard’s Maritime Safety and Security Teams (MSST) and Maritime Security Response Teams (MSRT) are both anti-terrorism organizations filled with the Coast Guard’s best and are intended for use near port facilities or along coastlines.

MSSTs primarily deploy to potential targets of terrorists in order to prevent or stop an attack while MSRTs primarily deploy to terrorist attacks and hostage situations in progress. Either can be deployed anywhere in the world.

3. The only operational heavy icebreaker in the U.S. inventory

‘107 feet of fire-breathing titanium’: A US Air Force major describes flying the fastest plane in history
Photo: US Coast Guard

The U.S. has only one heavy icebreaker in operation, the USCGC Polar Star. Polar Star was originally commissioned in 1976 and has 75,000 horsepower. The Coast Guard has another heavy icebreaker that it was forced to cannibalize for parts and an operational medium icebreaker.

President Barack Obama recently pledged to close the icebreaker gap between Russia and the United States. Russia currently has about 40 operational icebreakers including the world’s only nuclear-powered icebreakers.

4. Jets

‘107 feet of fire-breathing titanium’: A US Air Force major describes flying the fastest plane in history
Photo: US Coast Guard

The Coast Guard currently has two jets. Both are C-37As, the Department of Defense version of the Gulfstream V. They are used to ferry senior Coast Guard officials and the Secretary of Homeland Security at speeds of up to Mach .80.

Until recently, the Coast Guard also had a small fleet of HU-25s, jet aircraft used to chase drug smugglers and scan the surface of the water during search and rescue missions. The HU-25s were replaced with turboprop aircraft that are much slower but cheaper to operate.

5. C-130s

‘107 feet of fire-breathing titanium’: A US Air Force major describes flying the fastest plane in history
Photo: USCG Petty Officer 1st Class Kelly Parker

While most people think of the Air Force when they hear C-130, both the Coast Guard and the Marine Corps also operate the beloved airframe. The Coast Guard uses the planes for search and rescue, cargo transport, law enforcement, and international ice patrol.

6. A Medal of Honor recipient

‘107 feet of fire-breathing titanium’: A US Air Force major describes flying the fastest plane in history
US Coast Guard

Most Coast Guard missions are ineligible for the Medal of Honor since they don’t take place “in action against an enemy of the United States.” But, Coast Guardsmen have fought in every major American war and, in World War II, one was awarded the Medal of Honor.

Signalman First Class Douglas Munro volunteered for service supporting the U.S. Navy and was a pilot of boats at Guadalcanal. A large force of Marines was attempting to evacuate a beachhead that came under a heavy Japanese counterattack. Munro led the plywood boats that rescued the Marines under fire and he placed his own boat in the hottest part of the battle to protect the Marines.

After getting the Marines back out to sea and rescuing another boat that had run aground, Munro was shot in the head by a Japanese machine gunner. He was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor.

7. A former Nazi sailing vessel

‘107 feet of fire-breathing titanium’: A US Air Force major describes flying the fastest plane in history
Photo: US Coast Guard Petty Officer Sherri Eng

The Coast Guard trains all of its academy cadets on the USCGC Eagle, a sailing vessel that was originally christened the SSS Horst Wessel by Adolf Hitler.

The Wessel was captured after the German surrender in 1945 and the British won it as a spoil of war. An American officer convinced the British to trade it to the U.S. and the ship was renamed the Eagle. She has served as a training vessel and goodwill ambassador vessel ever since.

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These hilarious memes show how #veteransexplaindisney

Disney entertainment is full of relatively safe and wholesome content for the whole family … unless you have the plot synopses written by some of the world’s saltiest veterans.


‘107 feet of fire-breathing titanium’: A US Air Force major describes flying the fastest plane in history
Meme courtesy of Pop Smoke

The guys over at Pop Smoke, a popular Facebook entertainment page that shares awesome military memes, created a series of memes tagged #veteransexplaindisney that are hilarious.

‘107 feet of fire-breathing titanium’: A US Air Force major describes flying the fastest plane in history
Meme courtesy of Pop Smoke

The memes combine the Disney story and military life in a variety of ways. Some highlight the necessity of training for military operations …

‘107 feet of fire-breathing titanium’: A US Air Force major describes flying the fastest plane in history
Meme courtesy of Pop Smoke

… while others narrow the story to a single trait that the military and the movie share.

‘107 feet of fire-breathing titanium’: A US Air Force major describes flying the fastest plane in history
Meme courtesy of Pop Smoke

Others pitch the entire movie as a cliche military punchline:

‘107 feet of fire-breathing titanium’: A US Air Force major describes flying the fastest plane in history
Meme courtesy of Pop Smoke

All thirteen memes created for the series so far are split between this Facebook album and this one. Check them out over at Pop Smoke.

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Australia to resume bombing of ISIS targets in Syria

Australia will resume air combat missions against Islamic State targets in Syria after the Australian Defense Force lifted a temporary suspension initially sparked by Russian threats to shoot down coalition planes.


The Australian Defense Force is fighting IS in both Syria and Iraq under the name ‘Operation OKRA.’ Australian Defense Force Chief Mark Binskin said on June 21st the operations were halted while the Australians examined what was happening in what he had described as a “complex piece of airspace” over Syria.

“Australian force protection is uppermost in our minds” in deciding when to resume missions over Syria. The fighter jets had been occupied recently supporting Iraqi security forces in retaking the city of Mosul, so the suspension had little effect on their operations, The Guardian quoted defense minister Marise Payne, as saying.

Australia had suspended air strikes over Syria ‘as a precautionary measure’ after Russia threatened that it would consider any plane from the US led coalition flying west of Euphrates as potential targets.

‘107 feet of fire-breathing titanium’: A US Air Force major describes flying the fastest plane in history
Three Royal Australian Air Force F/A-18 Hornets. USAF photo by Senior Airman Matthew Bruch

The threat was seen as retaliation for the US downing of a Syrian air force jet, as tensions in the region rose.

The Australian Defense Force, which includes about 780 personnel, including 300 service members working in its air group, has announced it would resume airstrikes against Islamic State targets in Syria and Iraq.

Australia has six fighter jets based in the United Arab Emirates that strike targets in Syria and Iraq. Australia said its sorties in Iraq would continue as part of the coalition.

Australian defense force personnel are closely monitoring the air situation in Syria and a decision on the resumption of ADF air operations in Syria will be made in due course,” Guardian quoted the spokesman for the Department of Defense .

The tensions between Moscow and Washington escalated after United States Navy F-18 attacked Syrian Su-22 government warplane on June 18th, which was carrying out operations against the Syrian Democratic Forces positions south of Tabqah.

‘107 feet of fire-breathing titanium’: A US Air Force major describes flying the fastest plane in history
Australian army soldiers from the 2nd Battalion, Royal Australian Regiment. (USAF photo by Tech. Sgt. Jeremy Lock)

Consequently, the Russian military halted cooperation with its US counterparts in the framework of the Memorandum on the Prevention of Incidents and Ensuring Air Safety in Syria.

The US military failed to use the communication line with Russia concerning this attack, despite the fact that Russian warplanes were also on a mission in Syrian airspace at the time, the Russian Defense Ministry said.

Russia’s defense ministry said the US had given it no warning, following which Moscow was also suspending coordination over “de-confliction zones” that were created to prevent incidents involving US and Russian jets engaged in operations in Syria, reports the Guardian.

However, the Pentagon states that the Syrian jet had dropped bombs near US partner forces involved in the fight to extract Raqqa from Islamic State control.

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Pentagon “Arsenal Plane” likely to be modified B-52

‘107 feet of fire-breathing titanium’: A US Air Force major describes flying the fastest plane in history
The B-52 and the 70,000 pounds of munitions it can carry. | Photo: U.S. Air Force


The Pentagon’s emerging “Arsenal Plane” or “flying bomb truck” is likely to be a modified, high-tech adaptation of the iconic B-52 bomber designed to fire air-to-air weapons, release swarms of mini-drones and provide additional fire-power to 5th generation stealth fighters such as the F-35 and F-22, Pentagon officials and analysts said.

Using a B-52, which is already being modernized with new radios and an expanded internal weapons bay, would provide an existing “militarized” platform already engineered with electronic warfare ability and countermeasures designed to thwart enemy air defenses.

“You are using a jet that already has a military capability. The B-52 is a military asset, whereas all the alternatives would have to be created. It has already been weaponized and has less of a radar cross-section compared to a large Air Force cargo plane. It is not a penetrating bomber, but it does have some kind of jamming and countermeasures meant to cope with enemy air defenses. It is wired for a combat mission,” said Richard Aboulafia, Vice President of analysis at the Teal Group, a Virginia-based consultancy.

Flying as a large, non-stealthy bomber airplane, a B-52 would still present a large target to potential adversaries; however, Defense Secretary Ashton Carter said part of the rationale for the “Arsenal Plane” would be to work closely with stealthy fighter jets such as an F-22 and F-35, with increased networking technology designed to increase their firepower and weapons load.

Such a scenario would likely rely upon now-in-development manned-unmanned teaming wherein emerging algorithms and computer technology enable fighter jets to control the sensor payload and weapons capability of nearby drones from the cockpit of the aircraft. This would enable Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance assets to more quickly relay strategic or targeting information between fighter jets, drones and “Arsenal Planes.”

Aboulafia explained that air fighters being developed by potential adversaries, such as the Chinese J-20 and other fighters, could exist in larger numbers than a U.S. force, underscoring the current U.S. strategy to maintain a technological edge even if their conventional forces are smaller.  An “Arsenal Plane” could extend range and lethality for U.S. fighters, in the event they were facing an enemy force with more sheer numbers of assets.

“There is a concern about numbers of potential enemies and range. When you are dealing with a potential adversary with thousands of jets and you’ve got limited assets with limited weapons payloads, you have got to be concerned about the numbers,” he said.

An effort to be more high-tech, if smaller in terms of sheer numbers, than rival militaries is a key part of the current Pentagon force modernization strategy.

“In practice, the “Arsenal Plane” will function as a very large airborne magazine, networked to fifth generation aircraft that act as forward sensor and targeting nodes, essentially combining different systems already in our inventory to create wholly new capabilities,” Carter told reporters. Aboulafia added that an idea for an “Arsenal Plane” emerged in the 1980s as a Cold War strategy designed to have large jets carry missiles able to attack Soviet targets.

Carter unveiled the “Arsenal Plane” concept during a recent 2017 budget drop discussion at the Pentagon wherein he, for the first time, revealed the existence of a “Strategic Capabilities Office” aimed at connecting and leveraging emerging weapons and technology with existing platforms. This effort is aimed at saving money, increasing the military’s high-tech lethality and bringing new assets to the force faster than the many years it would take to engineer entirely new technologies.

“I created the SCO (Strategic Capabilities Office) in 2012, when I was Deputy Secretary of defense to help us to re-imagine existing DOD and intelligence community and commercial systems by giving them new roles and game-changing capabilities to confound potential enemies — the emphasis here was on rapidity of fielding, not 10 and 15-year programs,” he said.

Carter said “Arsenal Plane” development would be funded through a $71 billion research and development 2017 budget request.

‘107 feet of fire-breathing titanium’: A US Air Force major describes flying the fastest plane in history
Photo: US Air Force Senior Airman Brittany Y. Bateman

While Carter did not specify a B-52 during his public discussion of the new asset now in-development, he did say it would likely be an “older” aircraft designed to function as a “flying launchpad.”

“The last project I want to highlight is one that we’re calling the “Arsenal Plane,” which takes one of our oldest aircraft platforms and turns it into a flying launchpad for all sorts of different conventional payloads,” Carter added.

The Air Force is already surging forward with a massive, fleet-wide modernization overhaul of the battle-tested, Vietnam-era B-52 bomber, an iconic airborne workhorse for the U.S. military dating back to the 1960s.

Engineers are now equipping all 76 of the Air Force B-52s with digital data-links, moving-map displays, next-generation avionics, new radios and an ability to both carry more weapons internally and integrate new, high-tech weapons as they emerge, service officials said.

The technical structure and durability of the B-52 airframes in the Air Force fleet are described as extremely robust and able to keep flying well into the 2040s and beyond – so the service is taking steps to ensure the platform stays viable by receiving the most current and effective avionics, weapons and technologies

Weapons Upgrade

Aboulafia said the new B-52 “Arsenal Plane” could, for the first time, configure a primarily air-to-ground bomber as a platform able to fire air-to-air weapons as well – such as the Advanced Medium Range Air to Air Missile, or AMRAAM.

The integration of air-to-air weapons on the B-52 does not seem inconceivable given the weapons upgrades already underway with the aircraft.  Air Force is also making progress with a technology-inspired effort to increase the weapons payload for the workhorse bomber, Eric Single, Chief of the Global Strike Division, Acquisition, told Scout Warrior in an interview several months ago.

The 1760 Internal Weapons Bay Upgrade, or IWBU, will allow the B-52 to internally carry up to eight of the newest “J-Series” bombs in addition to carrying six on pylons under each wing, he explained.

B-52s have previously been able to carry JDAM weapons externally, but with the IWBU the aircraft will be able to internally house some of the most cutting edge precision-guided Joint Direct Attack Munitions and Joint Air-to-Surface Standoff Missiles, among others.

‘107 feet of fire-breathing titanium’: A US Air Force major describes flying the fastest plane in history
Image: Wikimedia

“It is about a 66 percent increase in carriage capability for the B-52, which is huge. You can imagine the increased number of targets you can reach, and you can strike the same number of targets with significantly less sorties,” said Single.

Single also added that having an increased internal weapons bay capability affords an opportunity to increase fuel-efficiency by removing bombs from beneath the wings and reducing drag.

The first increment of IWBU, slated to be finished by 2017, will integrate an internal weapons bay ability to fire a laser-guided JDAM. A second increment, to finish by 2022, will integrate more modern or cutting-edge weapons such as the Joint Air-to-Surface Standoff Missile, or JASSM, JASSM Extended Range (ER) and a technology called Miniature Air Launched Decoy, or MALD. A MALD-J “jammer” variant, which will also be integrated into the B-52, can be used to jam enemy radar technologies as well, Single said.

IWBU, which uses a digital interface and a rotary launcher to increase the weapons payload, is expected to cost roughly $313 million, service officials said.

The B-52 has a massive, 185-foot wingspan, a weight of about 185,000 pounds and an ability to reach high sub-sonic speeds and altitudes of 50,000 feet, Air Force officials said.

Communications, Avionics Upgrades

Two distinct, yet interwoven B-52 modernization efforts will increase the electronics, communications technology, computing and avionics available in the cockpit while simultaneously configuring the aircraft with the ability to carry up to eight of the newest “J-Series” precision-guided weapons internally – in addition to carrying six weapons on each wing, Single said.

Eight B-52s have already received a communications (coms systems) upgrade called Combat Network Communication Technology, or CONECT – a radio, electronics and data-link upgrade which, among other things, allows aircraft crews to transfer mission and targeting data directly to aircraft systems while in flight (machine to machine), Single explained.

“It installs a digital architecture in the airplane,” Single explained. “Instead of using data that was captured during the mission planning phase prior to your take off 15 to 20 hours ago – you are getting near real-time intelligence updates in flight.”

Single described it key attribute in terms of “machine-to-machine” data-transfer technology which allows for more efficient, seamless and rapid communication of combat-relevant information.

Using what’s called an ARC 210 Warrior software-programmable voice and data radio, pilots can now send and receive targeting data, mapping information or intelligence with ground stations, command centers and other aircraft.

“The crew gets the ability to communicate digitally outside the airplane which enables you to import not just voice but data for mission changes, threat notifications, targeting….all those different types of things you would need to get,” Single said.

An ability to receive real-time targeting updates is of great relevance to the B-52s close-air-support mission because fluid, fast-moving or dynamic combat situations often mean ground targets appear, change or disappear quickly.

‘107 feet of fire-breathing titanium’: A US Air Force major describes flying the fastest plane in history
Capt. Jeff Rogers (left) and 1st Lt. Patrick Applegate are ready in the lower deck of a B-52 Stratofortress at Minot Air Force Base, N.D., on Aug. 21. The officers are with the 5th Bomb Wing at Minot AFB. | Photo: Master Sgt. Lance Cheung/U.S. Air Force

Alongside moving much of the avionics from analogue to digital technology, CONECT also integrates new servers, modems, colored display screens in place of old green monochrome and provides pilots with digital moving-map displays which can be populated with real-time threat and mission data, Single said.

The new digital screens also show colored graphics highlighting the aircraft’s flight path, he added.

Single explained that being able to update key combat-relevant information while in transit will substantially help the aircraft more effectively travel longer distances for missions, as needed.

“The key to this is that this is part of the long-range strike family of systems — so if you take off out of Barksdale Air Force Base and you go to your target area, it could take 15 or 16 hours to get there. By the time you get there, all the threat information has changed,” said Single. “Things move, pop up or go away and the targeting data may be different.”

The upgrades will also improve the ability of the airplane to receive key intelligence information through a data link called the Intelligence Broadcast Receiver. In addition, the B-52s will be able to receive information through a LINK-16-like high-speed digital data link able to transmit targeting and Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance, or ISR information.

The CONECT effort, slated to cost $1.1 billion overall, will continue to unfold over the next several years, Single explained.

Twelve B-52 will be operational with CONECT by the end of this year and the entire fleet will be ready by 2021, Single said.

B-52 History

Known for massive bombing missions during the Vietnam War, the 159-foot long B-52s have in recent years been operating over Afghanistan in support of military actions there from a base in Guam.

The B-52 also served in Operation Desert Storm, Air Force statements said.  “B-52s struck wide-area troop concentrations, fixed installations and bunkers, and decimated the morale of Iraq’s Republican Guard,” an Air Force statement said.

In 2001, the B-52 provided close-air support to forces in Afghanistan during Operation Enduring Freedom, service officials said. The B-52 also played a role in Operation Iraqi Freedom. On March 21, 2003, B-52Hs launched approximately 100 CALCMs (Conventional Air Launched Cruise Missiles) during a night mission.

Given the B-52s historic role in precision-bombing and close air support, next-generation avionics and technologies are expected to greatly increase potential missions for the platform in coming years, service officials said.

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This Marine rapper spits lyrics that veterans know all too well

If you’ve ever surfed the internet looking for military rap songs, chances are you’ve come across the unique sound of “The Marine Rapper.”


Known for sporting a red mohawk and wearing an American flag bandana, TMR served 10 years in the Marine Corps as a Combat Correspondent where he earned a Combat Action Ribbon and two Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medals during his service.

After successful tours in Iraq and Afghanistan, TMR left the Marine Corps in February 2014. After entering back into civilian life, TMR began focusing on music as a profession and for cathartic expression.

‘107 feet of fire-breathing titanium’: A US Air Force major describes flying the fastest plane in history
TMR has performed and hosted numerous live shows from Los Angeles to San Diego. (Source: The Marine Rapper)

Related: This incredible rap song perfectly captures life in Marine Corps infantry

Since then, TMR’s music has been featured on the Range 15 Movie Soundtrack, the Oscar Mike TV series on Go90 network, and Apple Music.

“Star-Spangled Banger has many meanings,” TMR tells WATM. “It is a new Star-Spangled Banner, it is my moniker and a way of saying veterans made a banger.”

TMR’s music recounts personal war stories over hip-hop and rock inspired beats. He strives to motivate others and to use his rhythmic talents to immortalize his fallen brothers and sisters through music.

Check out The Marine Rapper‘s music video to watch “Star-Spangled Bangar” for yourself.

(YouTube, The Marine Rapper)