The military has very talented photographers in its ranks, and they constantly attempt to capture what life as a service member is like during training and at war. This is the best of what they shot this week:
Pennsylvania Air National Guardsmen from the 171st Air Refueling Wing near Pittsburgh prepare to deploy a KC-135 aircraft and about 25 Airmen to the Middle East the night of Jan. 5, 2016.
An F-16 Fighting Falcon from the 421st Expeditionary Fighter Squadron taxis on the ramp before departing on a sortie in support of ground operations in Helmand Province, Afghanistan, Jan. 6, 2016. The 421st EFS, based out of Bagram Airfield, Afghanistan, is the only dedicated fighter squadron in the country and continuously supports Operation Freedom’s Sentinel and the NATO Resolute Support mission.
U.S. Army AH-64 Apache helicopter crews, assigned to 16th Combat Aviation Brigade, 7th Infantry Division, land at Wheeler Army Airfield, Hawaii, Jan. 6, 2016. The helicopters and crews are in Hawaii training with U.S. Army Pacific’s 25th Combat Aviation Brigade, 25th Infantry Division.
Soldiers, assigned to U.S. Army Special Operations Command, test the capabilities of all-terrain vehicles in United States Army Europe – USAREUR’s Boeblingen Local Training Area near Stuttgart, Germany, Jan. 5, 2016.
BREMERTON, Wash. (Jan. 4, 2016) Electronics Technician 3rd Class Alice New, from Silverhill, Ala., paints a mural on a door aboard aboard USS John C. Stennis (CVN 74). Stennis’ crew is currently in port training for future deployments.
ARABIAN GULF (Jan. 4, 2016) Sailors transport ordnance on the flight deck of the aircraft carrier USS Harry S. Truman (CVN 75). The Harry S. Truman Carrier Strike Group is deployed in support of Operation Inherent Resolve, maritime security operations, and theater security cooperation efforts in the U.S. 5th Fleet area of operations.
U.S. Marine Corps Cpl. Tyler Huey, squad leader with Charlie Company, 1st Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment, Special Purpose Marine Air-Ground Task Force-Crisis Response-Central Command, provides security during a tactical recovery of aircraft and personnel exercise at an undisclosed location in Southwest Asia, Dec. 28, 2015. SPMAGTF-CR-CC is ready to respond to any crisis response mission in theater to include the employment of a TRAP force.
Recruits of India Company, 3rd Recruit Training Battalion, perform pull-ups during a physical training event at Marine Corps Recruit Depot San Diego, Dec. 28. Annually, more than 17,000 males recruited from the Western Recruiting Region are trained at MCRD San Diego.
It’s just another day at the “office” for USCG Station Noyo River!
We’re ready to crash into another action packed week! Are you?
Lists of awesome history projects include science fair volcanoes with accurate representation of Pompeii added, verbatim delivery of the Gettysburg address while dressed as a shorter Abraham Lincoln, and collections of whatever arrowhead-ish rocks that can be dug from the backyard.
The family had figured the story was probably a tall-tale but decided it might be worth a quick look for the history project. The father-son team went out with shovels, meaning they probably thought they would recover some small parts if they found anything at all.
They used a metal detector to find the site and tried to find artifacts but were unable to recover anything working with the shovels. So they borrowed an excavator from the neighbor and hit paydirt at a depth of approximately 12 feet.
“In the first moment it was not a plane,” Mr Kristiansen told the BBC. “It was maybe 2,000 – 5,000 pieces of a plane. And we found a motor…then suddenly we found parts of bones, and parts from [the pilot’s] clothes.
“And then we found some personal things: books, a wallet with money…either it was a little Bible or it was Mein Kampf — a book in his pocket. We didn’t touch it, we just put it in some bags. A museum is now taking care of it. I think there’s a lot of information in those papers.”
That’s right, they found sections of the plane and pilot which were originally lost 70 years ago.
Of course, once it was confirmed that a crash, including the remains of a pilot and a bunch of fighter plane ammunition that might be unstable, the police took over the crash site.
While the F-35 has been in the headlines and the F-22 is perhaps the most dominant jet in the sky, there are some other advanced jets in the air that are not from the U.S., Russia or China. Two of them are the French-designed Dassault Rafale and the multi-national Eurofighter Typhoon.
The Rafale is a purely French design. The French did face the challenge of coming up with a fighter meant to not only replace older Mirage fighters for the French air force, it also had to operate from the French navy’s aircraft carrier, the Charles De Gaulle, replacing aging F-8 Crusaders and the venerable Super Etendard.
According to MilitaryFactory.com, the Rafale has a top speed of 1,190 miles per hour, a range of 1,150 miles, can carry almost 21,000 pounds of ordnance, and is equipped with a 30mm cannon. Among the ordnance it can carry are Mica air-to-air missiles, the ASMP nuclear cruise missile, the Exocet anti-ship missile, laser-guided bombs, rocket pods, and various dumb bombs.
The Eurofighter Typhoon, on the other hand, is a joint design primarily from the United Kingdom, Germany, and Italy. Those same countries teamed up to create the Panavia Tornado, an aircraft that had air-defense, strike, and “Wild Weasel” versions. The Eurofighter team was a bit larger as this time, Spain joined in.
MilitaryFactory.com notes that the Typhoon has a range of 1,802 miles and a top speed of 1,550 miles per hour. It can carry 16,500 pounds of ordnance, and has a 27mm cannon. It carries a very wide array of weapons, including the AIM-120 AMRAAM, the AIM-132 ASRAAM, the IRIS-T air-to-air missile, the MDBA Meteor air-to-air missile, the S-225 air-to-air missile, the Brimstone anti-tank missile, the AGM-88 HARM, the ALARM, laser-guided bombs, dumb bombs, and even land-attack missiles like the Storm Shadow and KEPD 350.
Perhaps the only thing the Eurofighter can’t carry is the kitchen sink.
Which plane is more likely to win in a head-to-head fight? Given the wider variety of ordnance, including long-range air-to-air missiles like the S-225 and Meteor, the Eurofighter has an edge – at least when it comes to land bases. The Rafale, though, can operate from an aircraft carrier, and that gives France a very potent naval aviation arm.
Check out the video below to see how these planes stack up.
World War II and the Cold War brought out the worst in everyone. So it should be a surprise to no one to find out the Soviet Union developed biological warfare agents almost as soon as the dust from the October Revolution settled.
Despite being a signatory to the Geneva Convention of 1925 – which outlawed chemical and biological weapons – and the 1972 Biological Weapons Convention, the Soviets had dozens of sites to develop eleven agents for use on any potential enemy.
The Russian Bioweapons program would be the most capable, deadliest program in the world. It was complete with viruses and pathogens that were genetically-altered and antibiotic resistant, with sophisticated delivery systems.
Category A agents are easily weaponized, extremely virulent, hard to fight and contain, and/or have high mortality rates. They have the added bonus of being an agent that would cause a panic among the enemy population.
For most of us post-9/11 veterans, Anthrax was the one that could have been all too real. In the days following 9/11, letters containing Anthrax spores were sent to members of Congress and the media. Subsequently, troops deploying overseas to countries like Afghanistan and Iraq were given a course of Anthrax vaccines.
Anthrax can present in four ways: skin, inhalation, injection, and intestinal. All are caused by the Bacillus anthracis bacteria. Before antibiotics, Anthrax killed hundreds of thousands of people, but now there are only 2,000 or so worldwide cases a year.
The mortality rate is anywhere from 24 to 80 percent, depending on which type you get.
Ah, plague. The biblical weapon. This one makes a little bit of sense. Since the Soviet Union would most likely go to war with Western Europe, the best weapon to use would be something that regularly wiped out more Europeans than the Catholic Church.
Plague works fast, incubating in two to six days, with a sudden headache and chills at the end of the incubation period. Gangrene and buboes (swollen lymph nodes in the armpit and groin) are the best indicator of plague.
There are other symptoms too, but after two weeks, it won’t matter. Because you’ll be dead.
Never hear of Tularemia? Good for you. Tularemia is one of the many reasons you shouldn’t touch dead animals. It’s a nasty bug that can survive for long periods outside of a host.
Tularemia can enter the body through lungs, skin, or eyes. It can present as a skin ulcer, but the most dangerous form is when it’s inhaled. Pneumoic tularemia will quickly spread into the bloodstream, killing 30-60 percent of those infected.
This is deadly neurotoxin, the deadliest substance known. It was used as a biological agent by Japan in WWII and was subsequently produced by almost every biological warfare program – for a good reason. Botulism is easy to produce and presents in 12-36 hours once in the body.
In an aerosol infection (like a bioweapon attack), even detecting botulism could be difficult. Treatment is mainly supportive, there is little that can be done once symptoms start to present. The only known antitoxin even produces anaphylaxis, which means it can only be administered in a hospital setting.
Smallpox is the disease that won the new world for the Europeans, more than guns, horses, or booze. It killed off 90 percent of the indigenous population of the Americas, whose immune systems were unprepared for it.
The Marburg Virus is a hemorrhagic fever, in the same family as the Ebola virus, the deadliest of hemorrhagic viruses. In an unprepared population, the mortality rate can be as high as 90-100 percent. So if you’re unfamiliar with Marburg Virus, imagine someone making Ebola airborne and killing you with it.
Category B agents are also easy to transmit and/or virulent among a population, but is less likely to kill or cause panic. Still, they should be taken seriously. Some, like Venezuelan Equine Encephalitis can have lasting effects.
Glanders can enter the body through the skin and eyes, but also via the nose and lungs. The symptoms are similar to the flu or common cold, but once it’s in the bloodstream, it can be fatal within seven to ten days.
I’m not going to include a photo, because it’s really gross to look at.
The bacteria is at the top of the list for potential bioterrorism agents and was even believed to be intentionally spread to the Russian Army by the Germans in WWI. The Russians allegedly used it in Afghanistan during their ten-year occupation.
This is usually caused by drinking raw milk or imbibing other raw dairy products. If an animal has brucellosis, they’re transmitting it to you. It’s also an inhalation hazard that can affect hunters dressing wild game. Symptoms are flu-like when inhaled and soon inflame the organs, especially the liver and spleen. Symptoms can last anywhere from a matter of weeks to years.
Brucellosis was once called both “Bang’s Disease” and “Malta Fever.” It has been weaponized since the 50s, with a lethality estimate of one to two percent. Just kill me with fire if I have the flu for two years.
Like most of the agents on the list, Q-fever is also spread via inhalation or contacts with infected domestic animals – unless the Russians bombed your town with it. The agent can survive for up to 60 days on some surfaces.
When the American Biological Weapons arsenal was destroyed in the early 1970s, the U.S. had just under 5,100 gallons of Q-fever.
10. Viral Encephalitis
The worst part about this agent is that there is no effective drug treatment for it, and that any treatment is merely supportive – meaning that there is no way to treat the cause of the disease, only to manage the symptoms.
The incubation period is fast, one to six days, and causes flu-like symptoms. It can incapacitate the infected for up to two weeks and cause swelling of the brain. Up to 30 percent of infected persons have permanent neurological conditions, like seizures and paralysis.
11. Staphylococcal Enterotoxin
Staph infections are pretty common but as a biological agent, it’s stable to store and weaponize as an aerosol agent. At low doses, it can incapacitate and it can kill at higher doses. The biggest concern is that a mass infection of a population is extremely difficult to treat effectively.
This agent can infect food and water but is deadliest when inhaled. High doses of inhaled Staph can lead to shock and multi-organ failure. Symptoms of any dosage appear within 1-8 hours.
Category C Agents
Category C consists mostly of potential agents, but the Soviet program didn’t use any of the C category as we know it today. This category includes virulent but untested (for biowarfare) agents like SARS, Rabies, or Yellow Fever.
The U.S. Army Ranger history predates the Revolutionary War. In the mid 1700s, Capt. Benjamin Church and Maj. Robert Rogers both formed Ranger units to fight during the King Phillips War and the French and Indian War. Rogers wrote the 19 standing orders that are still in use today.
In 1775, the Continental Congress formed eight companies of expert riflemen to fight in the Revolutionary War. Later, during 1777, this force of hardy frontiersmen, commanded by Dan Morgan, was known as the Corps of Rangers. Francis Marion, “The Swamp Fox,” organized another famous Revolutionary War Ranger element, known as Marion’s Partisans.
During the War of 1812, companies of U.S. Rangers were raised from among the frontier settlers as part of the regular army. Throughout the war, they patrolled the frontier from Ohio to western Illinois on horseback and by boat. They participated in many skirmishes and battles with the British and their Indian allies. Many famous men belonged to Ranger units during the 18th and 19th centuries, including Daniel Boone and Abraham Lincoln.
The Civil War included Rangers such as John Singleton Mosby, who was the most famous Confederate Ranger. His raids on Union camps and bases were so effective – part of North-Central Virginia soon became known as Mosby’s Confederacy.
After the Civil War, more than half a century passed without military Ranger units in America. However, during World War II, from 1941-1945, the United States, using British Commando standards, activated six Ranger infantry battalions.
Then-Maj. William O. Darby, who was later a brigadier general, organized and activated the 1st Ranger Battalion at Carrickfergus, Northern Ireland, June 19, 1942. The 1st Ranger Battalion participated in the North African landing at Arzeu, Algeria, the Tunisian Battles, and the critical Battle of El Guettar.
The 3rd and 4th Ranger Battalions were activated and trained by Col. Darby in Africa near the end of the Tunisian Campaign. The 1st, 3rd, and 4th Battalions formed the Ranger force. They began the tradition of wearing the scroll shoulder sleeve insignia, which has been officially adopted for today’s Ranger battalions.
The 2nd and 5th Ranger Battalions participated in the D-Day landings at Omaha Beach, Normandy, June 6, 1944. It was during the bitter fighting along the beaches that the Rangers gained their motto, “Rangers, lead the way!” They conducted daring missions to include scaling the cliffs of Pointe Du Hoc, overlooking Omaha Beach, to destroy German gun emplacements trained on the beachhead.
The 6th Ranger Battalion operated in the Philippines and formed the rescue force that liberated American prisoners of war, or POWs, from a Japanese POW camp at Cabanatuan in January 1945. The 6th Battalion destroyed the Japanese POW camp and evacuated more than 500 prisoners.
The 75th Infantry Regiment was first organized in the China-Burma-India Theater as Task Force Galahad, on Oct. 3, 1943. It was during the campaigns in the China-Burma-India Theater that the regiment became known as Merrill’s Marauders after its commander, Maj. Gen. Frank D. Merrill. The Ranger battalions were deactivated at the end of World War II.
The outbreak of hostilities in Korea, June 1950, again signaled the need for Rangers. Fifteen Ranger companies were formed during the Korean War. The Rangers went to battle throughout the winter of 1950 and the spring of 1951. They were nomadic warriors, attached first to one regiment and then to another. They performed “out front” work – scouting, patrolling, raids, ambushes, spearheading assaults, and as counterattack forces, to regain lost positions.
Rangers were again called to serve their country during the Vietnam War. The 75th Infantry was reorganized once more, Jan. 1, 1969, as a parent regiment under the Combat Arms Regimental System. Fifteen separate Ranger companies were formed from this reorganization. Thirteen served proudly in Vietnam until inactivation, Aug. 15, 1972.
In January 1974, Gen. Creighton Abrams, Army chief of staff, directed the formation of a Ranger battalion. The 1st Battalion (Ranger), 75th Infantry, was activated and parachuted into Fort Stewart, Ga., July 1, 1974. The 2nd Battalion (Ranger), 75th Infantry, followed with activation, Oct. 1, 1974. The 3rd Battalion, 75th Infantry (Ranger), and Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 75th Infantry (Ranger), received their colors on Fort Benning, Ga., Oct. 3, 1984. The 75th Ranger Regiment was designated during February 1986.
The modern Ranger battalions were first called upon in 1980. Elements of 1st Battalion, 75th Infantry (Ranger), participated in the Iranian hostage rescue attempts.
In October 1983, 1st and 2nd Ranger Battalions spearheaded Operation Urgent Fury by conducting a daring low-level parachute assault to seize Point Salines Airfield and rescue American citizens at True Blue Medical Campus.
The entire 75th Ranger Regiment participated in Operation Just Cause. Rangers spearheaded the action by conducting two important operations. Simultaneous parachute assaults were conducted onto Torrijos/Tocumen International Airport, Rio Hato Airfield and Gen. Manuel Noriega’s beach house, to neutralize Panamanian Defense Forces. The Rangers captured 1,014 enemy prisoners of war and more than 18,000 arms of various types.
Elements of Company B, and 1st Platoon Company A, 1st Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment, deployed to Saudi Arabia, Feb. 12, 1991 to April 15, 1991, in support of Operation Desert Storm.
In August 1993, elements of 3rd Battalion and 75th Ranger Regiment, deployed to Somalia to assist United Nations forces in bringing order to a desperately chaotic and starving nation. The Rangers conducted a daring daylight raid with 1st Special Forces Operational Detachment-Delta, Oct. 3, 1993. For nearly 18 hours, the Rangers delivered devastating firepower, killing an estimated 600 Somalis in what many have called the fiercest ground combat since Vietnam.
The 75th Ranger Regiment deployed Regimental Reconnaissance Detachment, Team 2, and a command and control element to Kosovo in support of Task Force Falcon, Nov. 24, 2000.
After the 9/11 terrorist attacks, Rangers were called upon to lead the way in the Global War on Terrorism. The 3rd Battalion and 75th Ranger Regiment spearheaded ground forces by conducting an airborne assault to seize Objective Rhino in Afghanistan in support of Operation Enduring Freedom, Oct. 19, 2001. The 3rd Battalion employed the first airborne assault in Iraq to seize Objective Serpent in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom, March 28, 2003.
Due to the changing nature of warfare and the need for an agile and sustainable Ranger force, the Regimental Special Troops Battalion, or RSTB, was activated, July 17, 2006. The RSTB conducts sustainment, intelligence, reconnaissance and maintenance missions, which were previously accomplished by small detachments assigned to the regimental headquarters and then attached within each of the three Ranger battalions. The activation of the RSTB signifies a major waypoint in the transformation of the Ranger force from a unit designed for short-term “contingency missions” to continuous combat operations without loss in lethality or flexibility.
Today, Rangers from all four of its current battalions continue to lead the way in overseas contingency operations. The 75th Ranger Regiment is conducting sustained combat operations in multiple countries deploying from various locations in the United States, a task that is unprecedented for the regiment. Rangers continue to conduct combat operations with almost every deployed special operations, conventional and coalition force in support of both Operations Enduring Freedom and Iraqi Freedom. The Ranger Regiment is executing a wide range of diverse operations that include airborne and air assaults into Afghanistan and Iraq, mounted infiltrations behind enemy lines, complex urban raids and rescue operations.
In addition to conducting missions in support of overseas contingency operations, the 75th Ranger Regiment continues to train in the United States and overseas to prepare for future no-notice worldwide combat deployments. The regiment also continues to recruit, assess and train the next generation of Rangers and Ranger leadership.
The Imperial Stormtroopers featured in Star Wars are a big deal. Culturally, they are one of the most recognizable henchmen and foot soldiers in all of American pop culture history. So when we see so many iterations of the iconic armor, it makes sense that so many want to know more about them… and that they care about what lies beneath.
Star Wars: The Force Awakens features new kinds of specialty Imperial troops as well as updates on the original, iconic Imperial Stormtrooper, not to mention Gwendoline Christie’s chrome-plated trooper armor she wears as Captain Phasma.
The First Order Flametrooper is a specialized Stormtrooper. They carry incendiary weapons that “turn any battlefield into an infernal blaze.” Flamethrowers are not exactly a battlefield innovation, though since this was “a long time ago,” it might have been for them. It does speak to the evil nature of the First Order since the weapon was banned by the Geneva Convention.
And then there’s the updated First Order Snowtrooper. Let’s be honest, the Snowtroopers were the only troops from the original trilogy who had any effectiveness on the battlefield. The Snowtroopers captured the Rebel base on Hoth, where regular Stormtroopers couldn’t duck while entering doorways and Imperial Scouts couldn’t even beat Ewoks on a planet they occupied long enough to build the Death Star.
But even though no one in the audience ever saw the faces underneath Stormtrooper armor in the previous films, the idea of a Stormtrooper being a black man caught a few people by surprise when audiences first saw actor John Boyega in the armor. It doesn’t make much sense for people to be surprised since the Armed Forces have historically led the way for racial and other forms of integration.
Finn (played by John Boyega) doesn’t think it’s important either.
“I really don’t care about the black stormtrooper stuff,” he said. “This is a movie about human beings, about Wookiees, spaceships, and TIE fighters, and it has an undertone and a message of courage, and a message of friendship, and loyalty. And I think that’s something that is ultimately important.”
Which is pretty much the same takeaway anyone who served had when President Truman signed Executive Order 9981 in 1948, which abolished racial discrimination in the U.S. military. Three years later, the U.S. was fighting in Korea. In war, as one Korea-era Marine Corps officer once told me, “after you’ve fought alongside a man, it doesn’t matter what color he is, you gotta respect his fighting ability.”
Joe Owen, then a Marine Corps lieutenant and author of Colder Than Hell, a retrospective about his time in the Battle of the Chosin Reservoir, remembered getting two young black men in his mortar company.
“We had some black guys who came to us who were named squad leaders. Some of our people objected to this. Two Marines from the first platoon approached me and asked for a transfer to my outfit because a black guy was their squad leader. They refused to take orderes from him,” Owen recalled. “I told them they were going to take orders from a Sergeant of Marines and that they were to go back to their outfit. After one night of fighting the Chinese, that squad leader was killed. I was on the detail of carrying the dead and wounded to battalion, and as I’m taking my column down, those same two Southerners came up to me and said they wanted to go with their squad leader and carry his body down because they said they wanted to pay proper respect to the best goddamn squad leader in the Marine Corps. That’s how that was settled.”
What the First Order Stormtrooper needs most is the ability to stop and aim. Kylo Ren was a Marine for crying out loud. Empire Fi.
The Orlando Police Department is crediting a Kevlar helmet with saving the life of an officer who responded to the deadliest mass shooting in U.S. history.
The department on Sunday posted a picture of the officer’s helmet showing damage from being struck by a bullet during the incident. The green paint is chipped, parts of the fabric is torn and there appears to be a small hole.
“Pulse shooting: In hail of gunfire in which suspect was killed, OPD officer was hit. Kevlar helmet saved his life,” the department tweeted on its Twitter account. The make and model of the helmet weren’t immediately known.
The officer, who wasn’t identified but was presumably a member of the department’s SWAT team, suffered an eye injury, Danny Banks, special agent in charge of the Florida Department of Law Enforcement’s Orlando bureau, told CNN.
The incident was the deadliest mass shooting in American history, with at least 50 individuals confirmed dead and another 53 injured. The shooting began around 2 a.m. Sunday at a packed Orlando nightclub called Pulse, which caters to the LBGT community.
The gunman, who was shot and killed in a shootout with police, pledged allegiance to the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, or ISIS, during a 911 call, CNN reported. He was identified as Omar Mateen, a 29-year-old U.S. citizen and Muslim who lived in Port St. Lucie, Florida, and whose parents were of Afghan origin, Fox News reported.
“This was an act of terror and an act of hate,” President Barack Obama said during a press conference at the White House.
Obama credited first responders with preventing an even deadlier attack by quickly responding to the scene and rescuing hostages. Mateen reportedly held dozens of people hostage until about 5 a.m., at which point the Orlando Police Department’s SWAT team raided the building using an armored vehicle and stun grenades, and killed him, The New York Times reported.
“Their courage and professionalism saved lives and kept the carnage from being worse,” Obama said. “It’s the kind of sacrifice our law enforcement professionals make every day.”
Aerial refueling has always been risky business. Tankers fly through the sky, loaded to the gills with flammable fuels while dragging long hoses or booms behind them as jets chase after them like hungry mosquitos.
But if that’s risky, the first aerial refueling was straight-up crazy. Wesley Mays, a famous daredevil of the late-1910s and early-1920s, climbed from one biplane onto another with a 5-gallon jug of fuel strapped to his back.
From there, he waited for Daugherty to bring his wingtip in range and grabbed it. Mays lifted himself onto the wing and worked his way between the planes’ wings and into the cockpit. He poured the gas into the engine and strapped himself into his waiting seat, sealing his place in history.
The Army Air Corps got in on the aerial refueling action 2 years later in Jul. 1923, but they needed a way to transfer much more than 5-gallons at a time. So they opted to use a tanker aircraft, a hose, and a receiving aircraft. First Lt. Virgil Hines flew a DH-4B outfitted as the tanker ahead of 1st Lt. Frank W. Seifert’s DH-4B receiver. Hines dangled the hose behind and beneath his aircraft where Seifert could reach it.
The fuel was transported without incident, but engine trouble in Seifert’s plane prevented the duo from achieving a planned endurance record. Still, they developed techniques that allowed another Air Corps team to set the record with a 37-hour, 25-minute flight in Aug. 1923.
We all know Santa’s making a list, checking it twice… probably with some help from the NSA. Meanwhile, North American Aerospace Defense Command is also making a list and checking it twice to ensure their considerable assets are ready to help ensure that Santa accomplishes his mission safely.
This long-running tradition started by accident during the height of the Cold War. But it’s stuck around, even in the post-9/11 era. According to a 2008 Air Force release, the accident occurred in 1955, when NORAD’s predecessor, the Continental Air Defense command, or CONAD, got a call from a kid. A newspaper had misprinted a phone number to allow kids to track jolly old St. Nick. Instead of the local Sears store, they got the operations hotline for CONAD.
Colonel Harry Shoup was the director of operations on that Christmas Eve. Tracking Santa had not been something he’d prepared for or had been briefed to do. But when each kid called, he provided them Santa’s position, saving Christmas for the kids by assuring them that Santa was safe and on the job. The next year, CONAD did it again, and did so the year after that. When NORAD took over for CONAD in 1958, they assumed that Christmas Eve duty – and tradition – as well. In 2015, a DOD release noted that over 1500 volunteers helped carry out the mission.
The official web site, www.NORADSanta.org, includes videos, games, music, and a gift shop. There is also a Facebook page for that in this era of social media. And yes, there are apps for tracking Santa on Windows phones, Android phones, and iPhones. NORAD says that starting at 2:01 AM Eastern Standard Time on Dec. 24, they will have video of Santa making preparations for his mission. At 6 AM EST that day, live phone operators will be available at 1-877-Hi-NORAD (1-877-446-6723) or by sending an email to email@example.com. And check out this video of the history of how NORAD got started.
The F-35 (AKA “the Joint Strike Fighter” or “Lightening II”) is not just the most expensive warplane ever, it’s the most expensive weapons program ever. But to find out exactly how much a single F-35 costs, we analyzed the newest and most authoritative data.
A single Air Force F-35A costs a whopping $148 million. One Marine Corps F-35B costs an unbelievable $251 million. A lone Navy F-35C costs a mind-boggling $337 million. Average the three models together, and a “generic” F-35 costs $178 million.
It gets worse. These are just the production costs. Additional expenses for research, development, test and evaluation are not included. The dollars are 2015 dollars. This data was just released by the Senate Appropriations Committee in its report for the Pentagon’s 2015 appropriations bill.
Except for the possibility that the F-35 Joint Program Office might complain that the F-35A number might be a little too low, these numbers are about as complete, accurate and authoritative as they can be.
Moreover, each of the other defense committees on Capitol Hill agree or-with one exception-think each model will be more expensive. The Pentagon’s numbers for these unit costs-in every case-are higher.
The methodology for calculating these F-35 unit costs is straightforward. Both the president’s budget and each of four congressional defense committees publish the amounts to be authorized or appropriated for each model of the F-35, including the number of aircraft to be bought.
The rest is simple arithmetic: Divide the total dollars for each model by the quantity.
There are just two things F-35 watchers need to be careful about.
First, it’s necessary to add the funding from the previous year’s appropriation act to the procurement money the government allocated for 2015. This is “advance procurement” for 2015 spending, and pays for “long lead” components that take longer to acquire.
Second, we have to add the cost of Navy and Air Force modifications.
For the F-35, these costs are for fixing mistakes already found in the testing process. With the aircraft still in its initial testing, the modification costs to existing aircraft are very low. But the 2015 amounts for modifications are surrogates for what the costs for this year’s buy might be. If anything, this number can be an under-estimate.
The Senate Appropriations Committee sent its report to the printer on July 17, and that data is informed by the latest advice from the Pentagon, which is routinely consulted for the data the committee is working with. The Pentagon is also given an opportunity to appeal to change both data and recommendations.
Accordingly, of the four congressional defense committees, the Senate Appropriations Committee numbers are the most up to date. For the most part, these numbers are also the lowest.
The data from all four defense committees, the Pentagon’s budget request, and the final 2014 appropriations-all for the F-35 program-are in the table at the end of this article. This data is the empirical, real-world costs to buy, but not to test or develop, an F-35 in 2015.
They should be understood to be the actual purchase price for 2015-what the Pentagon will have to pay to have an operative F-35.
It’s very simple, and it’s also not what program advocates want you to think.
In a briefing delivered to reporters on June 9, F-35 developer Lockheed still advertised the cost of airplanes sans engines. Highly respected Aviation Week reported on July 22 that taxpayers put up $98 million for each F-35A in 2013.
In reality, we actually paid $188 million.
Some of these numbers are for the airframe only. In other cases, you get a “flyaway” cost. But in fact, those airplanes are incapable of operative flight. They lack the specialized tools, simulators, logistics computers-and much, much more-to make the airplane useable. They even lack the fuel to fly away.
Here’s another curious fact. The unit costs of the Marines’ short-takeoff, vertical-landing B-model and the Navy’s aircraft-carrier-capable C-model are growing.
The cost of an F-35B grew from $232 million in 2014 to a bulging $251 million by 2015. The cost of the Navy’s F35C grew from $273 million in 2014 to a wallet-busting $337 million by 2015.
The quantity numbers for the F-35B have not changed, remaining at six per year. The number of F-35Cs to be produced has slipped from four to two, but surely learning processes on the F-35 line have not been going so far backward as to explain a 23 percent, $64 million per unit cost increase.
Something else is going on.
That something just might be in the F-35A line. Note the 15 percent decline in the F-35 unit price from 2014: from $174 million to $148 million. The units produced increase from 19 to 26, which Bogdan repeatedly explained will bring cost reductions due to “economy of scale.”
However, is that what’s really occurring in the F-35A line, while F-35B and F-35C costs are ballooning? Should not some of the benefit in F-35A production efficiency also show up on the F-35B and F-35C? Lockheed builds all three on the same assembly line in Fort Worth.
It could be that the F-35B and F-35C are bearing the overheard-or other costs-of the F-35A.
Why else would an F-35B with a stable production rate increase by $19 million per unit, and how else could the cost to build an F-35C-in production for six years-increase by $64 million per unit?
Even those who reject that someone might be cooking the books to make F-35A costs look as good as possible to Congress-and all-important foreign buyers-there should be a consensus that the program needs a comprehensive, fully independent audit.
Surely, an audit will help Congress and Pentagon leadership better understand why F-35B and F-35C prices are going up when they were supposed to be going down-and to ensure there is nothing untoward going on in any part of the program.
The defense world is full of price scams, each of them engineered to come up with the right answer for whoever is doing the talking.
Next time an advocate tells you what the current unit cost is for a program, ask: “What is Congress appropriating for them this year?” And, “How many are we buying?” Then get out your calculator. The result might surprise you.
What does it take to reach the bottom of the world?
For starters, you’ll need a well-designed hull, tapered like a football for maximum maneuverability. Then add a generous supply of horsepower; 75,000 is a good round number. Finally, you’ll need some weight to help break the thick ice, about 13,000 tons. To round this equation out you’ll need experience, especially the understanding that the best way to operate an icebreaker is to avoid ice in the first place.
In short, there’s no single factor that makes the Coast Guard Cutter Polar Star‘s icebreaking possible. It’s an art that began with the first sketches of its blueprint and is still being perfected each time a new ice pilot qualifies to drive the 399-foot cutter. Each winter (summer in the Southern Hemisphere, Polar Star’s normal operating area) the crew is run through an icy gauntlet that tests every element of the ship’s capability.
“We began seeing sea ice near 62 degrees latitude south, but the pack ice we found further down was no real challenge as it was under heavy melting stress, rapidly retreating and further narrowed by a growing polynya, or ice-free area, opening northward from the other side,” said Pablo Clemente-Colón, the U.S. National Ice Center‘s chief scientist, who just happens to be aboard the Polar Star for their 2016 mission. “Then we hit the fast ice, where we are now; where the work starts.”
The work indeed started in McMurdo Sound with 13 miles of ice between the open Ross Sea and the U.S. Antarctic Program’s McMurdo Station 18 days prior to the first supply ship’s arrival.
First, the cutter collides with the edge of the fast ice at about six knots. The 13,000-ton cutter’s 1.75-inch thick steel bow and the aforementioned power and weight come into the equation here, upon initial approach toward McMurdo Station.
“We have diesel electric engines for general open-ocean steaming and some grooming of very light ice, up to six feet of ice,” said Lt. Cmdr. Kara Burns, the Polar Star’s engineer officer. “Then we have what we consider our boost mode, our main gas turbines. They really allow us to get through six feet of ice or upwards to 21 feet of ice when we’re backing and ramming.”
Those gas turbines, enormous pieces of machinery that can each transform jet fuel into 25,000 horsepower, are the key to putting the Polar Star where it needs to be: above the ice. When the cutter rams a thick plate, that power drives the rounded bow up on top of the ice, at which point gravity takes over.
“We carry three times the fuel capacity of a 378 or a [national security cutter],” said Burns, comparing the Polar Star to the Coast Guard’s largest non-icebreaking cutters. “The extra weight on the ship, as far as the liquid load capacity, is used as a cantilever mechanism. As the vessel rides up on the ice, the hydrostatic pressure forces the stern up and pushes the bow down, acting as a hammer on the ice.”
In this case, the world’s biggest hammer.
Rest assured control of such awesome power is not handed out on a whim. It’s only after qualifying to maneuver the cutter in normal open water conditions, and a meticulous review from the commanding officer, that a new ice pilot is able to take the throttles and the helm from the ship’s aloft conn: a small control center five stories above the highest deck.
“They have to understand the different kinds of ice; they have to understand the ship’s capabilities and its limitations, and how to break ice safely,” said Capt. Matthew Walker, commanding officer, Polar Star. “The best way to break ice is to avoid ice, but when we’re down here we can’t do that.”
If the Polar Star crews of years and decades past hadn’t given the ice its due respect, the ship wouldn’t have made it to the 40th birthday it had in January. Before it comes to backing and ramming, the ice pilot has to know to dodge, or at least look for thinner ice when possible.
Carefully navigating through wayward floes in the Southern Ocean and beginning to break only when necessary, the crew accomplished another trip from one side of the planet to another. The grunt work, the supply vessel escort of Operation Deep Freeze 2016, the U.S. military’s logistical support of the NSF’s U.S. Antarctic Program, lies ahead.
With power and weight, with lessons passed down from one crew to the next, and with a hull made particularly for this type of work, the Polar Star moored at McMurdo Station Jan. 18, 2016. They’re as far from their home in Seattle as they could possibly be, but on familiar ground at the bottom of the world.
New documents released by the White House July 15 show both the FBI and CIA found substantial evidence that several of the 9/11 hijackers received assistance from officers with the Saudi Arabian intelligence service while preparing for their attacks on Washington and New York.
While the intelligence described in the documents leaves some doubt on how strong the link between the 19 terrorists and the Saudi government was, it is the first time since 2003 that information on any ties between al Qaida and Saudi Arabian intelligence connected to the 9/11 attacks has been made public.
“While in the United States, some of the September 11 hijackers were in contact with and received support or assistance from individuals who may be connected to the Saudi government,” the report says. “There is information … that at least two of those individuals were alleged by some to be Saudi intelligence officers.”
The newly-released documents are 28 pages from the so-called “9/11 Report” ordered by Congress in the wake of the terrorist attacks that were removed from the final draft in an effort that some say was intended to shield one of America’s most important Middle East allies from embarrassment.
But pressure has been mounting on the Obama Administration to release the formerly classified pages by some in Congress and by attorneys for the families of 9/11 victims who are suing the Saudi government for its alleged role in the attacks.
The documents describe tactical help several of the attackers received from suspected Saudi intelligence operatives here in the U.S., including housing assistance, meetings with local imams and even one case where officials believed a Saudi operative was testing airline security during a flight to Washington, D.C.
“According to an FBI agent in Phoenix, the FBI suspects Mohammed al-Qudhaeen of being [REDACTED],” the report says. “Al-Qudhaeen was involved in a 1999 incident aboard an America West flight, which the FBI’s Phoenix office now suspects may have been a ‘dry run’ to test airline security.”
While the newly-released pages paint a detailed picture of how some suspected Saudi government officials and intelligence agents had ties to the al Qaida attackers and may have helped them plan and execute the attack, it’s unclear whether the effort was officially sanctioned by the Saudi royal family.
Congressional investigators “confirmed that the intelligence community also has information … indicating that individuals associated with the Saudi government in the United States may have other ties to al Qaida and other terrorist groups,” the report says. “Neither CIA nor FBI witnesses were able to identify definitively the extent of Saudi support for terrorist activity globally or within the United States and the extent to which such support, if it exists, is knowing or inadvertent in nature.”
While not necessarily a “smoking gun,” the most damning evidence in the pages deals with Omar al-Bayoumi and Osama Bassnan, alleged Saudi intelligence officers who provided direct assistance to “hijackers-to-be” Kahlid al-Mihdhar and Nawaf al-Hazmi after they arrived in San Diego in 2000. Both men were financed by a Saudi company affiliated with the Saudi Ministry of Defense and they used those funds to secure housing and other incidentals for the future hijackers.
Along with illustrating how protracted the terrorists’ 9/11 planning was — taking place over several years — this newly-released section of the report also shows that the FBI dropped the ball on several occasions, failing to share intelligence between headquarters and the San Diego field office and summarily ending an investigation into the suspicious funding of a mosque construction — an investigation that — in hindsight — may have allowed the FBI to stymie the chain of events that eventually led to the horrific attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.
Editor-in-chief Ward Carroll contributed to this report.