Remembering the last flight of the world's fastest plane - We Are The Mighty
Articles

Remembering the last flight of the world’s fastest plane

Remembering the last flight of the world’s fastest plane


On October 9, 1999, the storied run of the Lockheed Martin SR-71 came to an end after more than 30 years of carrying out covert surveillance missions at an altitude three times as high as Mount Everest.

The SR-71, or “Blackbird” as it’s commonly known, was developed by Lockheed Martin’s legendary Skunk Works crew. It was a triumph of engineering that combined the most advanced technology available at the time in a way that hasn’t been replicated since.

The SR-71 flew in the US Air Force for more than 30 years, breaking records for speed and distance that stand to this day. In the photos below, relive the stunning legacy of the world’s fastest plane.

“Everything had to be invented,” Skunk Works’ Kelly Johnson said of creating the SR-71. The insane heat and speed of the Blackbird necessitated titanium construction, which was a first. Tools needed to be invented to deal with the brittle titanium alloy.

Remembering the last flight of the world’s fastest plane

To manage the intense temperatures of Earth’s upper atmosphere, and to help baffle radar detection, the plane had to be painted jet black.

Remembering the last flight of the world’s fastest plane

The plane also featured an extremely low cross section and swooping angles, which made it a nightmare for radar detection devices.

Remembering the last flight of the world’s fastest plane

Because of the stratospheric altitudes the Blackbird traversed, pilots needed to wear fully pressurized space suits.

Remembering the last flight of the world’s fastest plane

The SR-71 was operated by a pilot and a reconnaissance systems officer. The purpose of the plane was to photograph hundreds of thousands of miles of terrain for analysis.

Remembering the last flight of the world’s fastest plane
A pilot mans the brakes as the SR-71 is towed out of the hangar.

Here’s a look at the cockpit of the world’s fastest plane. The SR-71 was equipped with twin jet engines that were most comfortable flying at over three times the speed of sound.

Remembering the last flight of the world’s fastest plane

And again, because the plane was flying at 80,000 feet and its sole objective was surveillance, the SR-71 was unarmed.

Remembering the last flight of the world’s fastest plane

And because the SR-71 had no missile defense, the standard operating procedure was to simply crank the throttle and outrun any enemy. In the history of the Blackbird, not a single one was shot down. Twelve were lost due to mishaps, however.

Remembering the last flight of the world’s fastest plane

The Blackbird family logged 3,551 sorties by 1990 and 11,675 hours above Mach 3.

Remembering the last flight of the world’s fastest plane

Though it has now been out of service for 16 years, the SR-71 remains a point of pride for the US military and a popular attraction at museums around the country.

Remembering the last flight of the world’s fastest plane

Articles

This VA doctor pioneered modern heart surgery

Remembering the last flight of the world’s fastest plane


Dr. Michael E. DeBakey was one of the most influential and innovative heart doctors in the United States. The man whom the Journal of the American Medical Association once called “the greatest surgeon ever” lived to be 99 years old. In that time, he served his country, saved tens of thousands of lives (including his own), and completely revolutionized the way surgeons work on the human heart.

While a surgeon in World War II, he urged that doctors be moved from hospitals to the front, where medics were usually the only aid available. He created what would become known in the Korean War as the Mobile Army Surgical Hospital (or “MASH”) unit. The Army awarded him the Legion of Merit for this innovation.

Remembering the last flight of the world’s fastest plane

DeBakey developed medical programs to care for returning veterans. President Truman asked him to transfer the Houston Navy Hospital to the VA. That hospital, still named after DeBakey, was Baylor University’s first affiliate and first surgical residency program.

The doctor invented many heart-related surgical devices, including the roller pump, which he invented while still in medical school. That pump became the centerpiece of the heart-lung machine, which takes over the functions of the heart and lungs during surgery by supplying oxygenated blood to the brain. Dr. DeBakey’s other surgical innovations, like grafting, bypasses, and the use of mechanical assistance devices are now common practice.

Remembering the last flight of the world’s fastest plane
The Original Operator.

He also was the first to make the link between smoking cigarettes and lung cancer. The idea that inhaling smoke may hurt one’s lungs may seem like an obvious one to us today, when DeBakey and Dr. Alton Ochsner made the connection in 1939, their work was ridiculed by the medical community. The Surgeon General officially documented it in 1964.

Conventional practitioners also ridiculed DeBakey’s idea about using Dacron (polyester) grafts to repair damaged arteries, a procedure that was used to save his life in 2006 when he had a torn aorta.

Remembering the last flight of the world’s fastest plane

In 1969, President Johnson awarded Dr. DeBakey the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest honor given a United States citizen. In 1987, President Ronald Reagan awarded him the National Medal of Science. In 2008, he received the Congressional Gold Medal, Congress’s highest civilian honor, in a ceremony attended by President Bush. He died in 2008 and was granted ground burial in Arlington National Cemetery by the Secretary of the Army.

Dr. Michael E. DeBakey was the heart surgeon for the last Shah of Iran, of King Edward VIII of England, Marlene Dietrich, Joe Louis, and Presidents Johnson and Nixon. More than that, he was the surgeon who cared about saving the lives of regular troops. In combat he reformed the way the Army manages casualty care, and as a civilian he reformed the way America takes care of its veterans.

Articles

5 crimes involving a lot of troops that were forgiven by the United States

We all make mistakes. Sometimes we all make mistakes together. And when we all make mistakes sometimes punishing us isn’t worth the time, effort and money. Depending on the severity of the crime, it might be more efficient to just give us all a mulligan and call the whole thing off.


The U.S.Department of Defense is familiar with this sort of calculus. Between Selective Service (aka “The Draft”) with civilians and the crimes unique to military personnel, problems with the application of laws involving the military are bound to happen. Sometimes they happened en masse. In those instances, the government has decided it would be better not to prosecute or the law became unenforceable because so many people committed the crime. It’s rare, but it happened. Here are five times where we were forgiven our trespasses:

1. Adultery (by the masses)

The list of email addresses released by hacktivists The Impact Group included thousands of .mil addresses. This means military members actually used their military email accounts to sign up for Ashley Madison, a site designed to facilitate adultery, which is a crime under the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ), punishable by a year in confinement and a dishonorable discharge.

Remembering the last flight of the world’s fastest plane
Among these were 250 addresses from various aircraft carriers, addresses from every destroyer and amphibious assault ship in the Navy, 1,665 navy.mil and 809 usmc.mil addresses, 54 af.mil addresses, and 46 uscg.mil addresses. The Army was the most impressive, with 6,788 army.mil addresses signed up. At first, Defense Secretary Ash Carter said DoD would investigate but the Pentagon has since decided not to, since there would be no proof of actual adultery and simply signing up for a website isn’t a crime.

2. Homosexuality

After 18 years, the policy governing homosexuality in the U.S. military known as “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” (DADT) was repealed. In response to the repeal, the Army issued a statement saying simply “the law is repealed” and reminded soldiers to treat each other fairly.

Remembering the last flight of the world’s fastest plane
(Official White House Photo by Chuck Kennedy)

The thing is being gay is not in itself a crime under the UCMJ, but the way homosexuals have sex is, under Article 125. Homosexuals were simply given an “Other than Honorable” discharge. With more than 66,000 gay and lesbian men and women in uniform, trying to control the way they have sex becomes problematic after a while. Now with the DADT repeal, former service members are allowed to reenlist, but their cases will not be given priority. Officials have so far failed to address how all of this affects Article 125 of the UCMJ.

3. Dodging the draft

On January 21, 1977, newly-elected President Jimmy Carter granted a full pardon to hundreds of thousands of American men who evaded the Vietnam War draft by fleeing the country or not registering. Carter campaigned on this promise in an effort to help heal the country from the cultural rift the war created.

Remembering the last flight of the world’s fastest plane

Most fled to Canada, where they were eventually welcomed as immigrants. Exempt from the pardon were deserters from the U.S. Army who met their obligation and then fled. 50,000 Americans became Canadian during the draft, facing prosecution if they returned home.

4. Seceding from the Union

In the most egregious example of getting away with flaunting the rules (to put it mildly), in 1872 Congress passed a bill signed by then-President Ulysses S. Grant which restored voting rights and the right to hold public office to all but 500 members of the Southern Confederacy during the Civil War.

Remembering the last flight of the world’s fastest plane

The original act restricting the rights of former Confederates was passed in 1866. The act covered more than 150,000 former Confederate troops. The 500 who were still restricted were among the top leadership of the Confederacy.

5. Illegal Immigration

This one hasn’t happened yet but the discussion is very serious. The current version of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) contains a controversial plan to allow illegal immigrants with deportation deferments to enlist in the U.S. Armed Forces. U.S. military veterans currently serving in the House of Representatives offer bipartisan public support for the provision.

Remembering the last flight of the world’s fastest plane
(Photo: TA4.org)

The NDAA as is faces significant challenges in the entire Congress. Last year, Representatives Jeff Denham (R-Calif.), a Desert Storm veteran and Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.), an Iraq War veteran entered a similar bill, called the ENLIST Act, which would have had the same provisions but it was quickly sidelined.

 

NOW: 6 Weird laws unique to the U.S. military

OR: The 5 military laws that nearly everyone breaks

Articles

This study of Iraq fighters reveals what makes people prepared to die for a cause

When ISIS launched its attack on Mosul in 2014, they were outnumbered by opposition forces by almost 40 to one – yet they took the city. Now a group of scientists working on the frontline in Iraq have analysed what motivates such fighters in research they say could help combat extremists.


While predicting the will to fight has been described by the former US director of national intelligence James Clapper as “imponderable,” researchers say they have begun to unpick what leads members of groups, including ISIS, to be prepared to die, let their family suffer, or even commit torture, finding that the motivation lies in a very different area to traditional ideas of comradeship.

“We found that there were three factors behind whether people were willing to make these costly sacrifices,” said Scott Atran, co-author of the research from the University of Oxford and the research institution Artis International.

Those factors, he said, are the strength of commitment to a group and to sacred values, the willingness to choose those values over family or other kin, and the perceived strength of fighters’ convictions – so-called “spiritual strength” – over that of their foes.

Remembering the last flight of the world’s fastest plane
Kurdish PKK Guerilla. Photo from Flickr user Kurdishstruggle

The findings support the idea, put forward by previous research, that the will to fight lies not in rational action but in the idea of the “devoted actor” – individuals who consider themselves strongly connected to a group, fighting for values considered to be non-negotiable, or “sacred.”

Writing in the journal Nature Human Behaviour, Atran and an international team of colleagues describe how they came to their insights by travelling to the frontline in Iraq.

As well as speaking to captured ISIS fighters, the team carried out in-depth interviews with Arab Sunni combatants, as well as Kurdish fighters from the PKK, Peshmerga, and members of the Iraqi army. The frontline approach, the authors note, was crucial to capturing the sacrifices individuals actually make for their values, rather than merely what they claim they might do.

The results revealed that all followed the model of “devoted actors”, but that the level of commitment to making costly sacrifices, such as dying, undertaking suicide attacks, or committing torture varied between groups. With the sample size of fighters small, the team also quizzed more than 6,000 Spanish civilians through online surveys.

Remembering the last flight of the world’s fastest plane
February 15, 2015 – ISIS militant stands with a knife. Photo credit: News Pictures/Polaris

The results revealed that the majority of civilians placed their family above a value they considered sacred. However, in a finding that echoed evidence from the frontline, the team discovered that those who placed their sacred value above their group said they were more willing to make dramatic, costly sacrifices such as dying, going to prison or letting their children suffer.

Surveys of the Spanish population also revealed that they made links between spiritual – but not physical – strength and the willingness to make sacrifices.

But the team stress that decisions made by devoted actors on the frontline were not made without emotional turmoil.

“One particular Peshmerga fighter had to make a decision when the Islamic State guys decided to enter his village – he wasn’t in a position to take his family with him and escape and get in front of the ISIS fighters, and so what he did was he left his family behind,” said Richard Davis, co-author of the research from the University of Oxford and Artis International.

Remembering the last flight of the world’s fastest plane
Photo from Flickr user Kurdishstruggle

While being interviewed, the fighter received a phone call from his wife behind ISIS lines, knowing the penalty if caught would be death. “You could see the man getting emotional, and as he gets off the phone, he begins to lament the decision that he had to go through to leave his family behind, but he indicated that fighting for Kurdistan was more important, and that he hoped that God would save his family,” said Davis. “When you hear things like that and you see a broken man – then you recognise how difficult this was for people.”

The team note that understanding the willingness to fight and die among devoted actors could prove valuable in fostering forces against ISIS, including in exploring ways to elicit deeper commitment to, and willingness to sacrifice for, values such as democracy and liberty.

“Instead of just taking volunteers into an army, we might be able to screen who we put into the army based upon the types of values they commit to, and this would create an entirely different fighting force than the one that melted in Mosul in 2014, ” said Davis, adding that the study could also inform efforts attempting to prevent fighters from joining ISIS.

Stephen Reicher, professor of social psychology at the University of St Andrews welcomed the research, adding that it contributed to the understanding of terrorists as “engaged followers”. “The fundamental finding is that those prepared to kill – and die – for a cause are to be understood not in terms of a distinctive personality but in terms of their immersion in a collective cause and their commitment to the ideology of that cause,” he said.

Articles

US Army gives heroic Marine a posthumous medal upgrade to Silver Star

Remembering the last flight of the world’s fastest plane
Staff Sgt. Nicholas Sprovtsoff in Afghanistan in 2011. (Photo: U.S. Marine Corps, Cpl. Joshua Murray)


The family of a decorated special operations Marine killed in Afghanistan in 2011 received his Silver Star after the U.S. Army took the unusual step of upgrading one of his prior medals.

Staff Sgt. Nicholas Sprovtsoff, 28, an explosive ordnance disposal technician with MARSOC’s 1st Marine Special Operations Battalion earned the Bronze Star with combat valor device in 2011 for working heroically to disarm a bomb in Afghanistan before an explosion left him fatally wounded.

But a prior deployment to Afghanistan with an Army unit in 2007, Sprovtsoff had already distinguished himself as a hero. While serving as a sergeant with Marine Corps Embedded Training Team 5-1, attached to the Army’s 2nd Battalion (Airborne), 503rd Infantry Regiment, Sprovtsoff had conducted himself with distinction during a 48-hour firefight.

According to a medal citation obtained by Military.com, he fought with “disregard for his own safety and in spite of wounds sustained in combat,” coordinating his unit’s defense during the long fight.

The medal was approved and awarded as a Bronze Star, but upgraded to a Silver Star last year, said Capt. Barry Morris, a spokesman for MARSOC. The news was first reported by Marine Corps Times Friday.

“[Sprovstoff’s] command at the time nominated him for a Bronze star with “V,” Morris explained. “As it went up the chain, his actions were so heroic, the Army upgraded him to a Silver Star; but at the end of the day, when someone hit the approve button, it was approved as a Bronze Star, rather than a Silver Star.”

Morris said the Army ultimately caught the error and coordinated with the Marine Corps to upgrade the award.

Calls from Military.com to the Army’s awards branch, which oversaw the medal upgrade, were not returned Friday.

The commander of MARSOC, Maj. Gen. Joseph Osterman, presented Sprovstoff’s widow, Tasha, with the award in a ceremony in Colorado Springs, Colorado, according to Marine Corps Times.

“[Sprovtsoff’s] courage, dedication and sacrifice inspire us on a daily basis to help others, to cherish our freedom, and to try to make a positive difference in the world,” Osterman said in a statement. “Also, the individual sacrifices [his] family have made is extremely important for MARSOC to recognize. We will always be inspired by the actions of our fellow Raiders and we will strive to operate at a level that honors them and their family.”

Sprovtsoff was killed Sept. 28, 2011 in Helmand province, Afghanistan and buried in Arlington Cemetery Oct. 6 of the same year.

According to his Bronze Star citation from that deployment, Sprovtsoff had fearlessly and safely led a team of Marines through a region filled with improvised explosive devices following an enemy ambush. His work during the deployment had led to the elimination of 40 IEDs.

Sprovstoff and his wife Tasha are featured in Oliver North’s 2013 book “American Heroes on the Homefront.”

While Sprovtsoff’s award upgrade appears to be an outlier due to an administrative error, there could be more upgrades coming for American troops who fought in Iraq and Afghanistan.The Pentagon announced in January that it would review all Silver Stars and service crosses awarded after Sept. 11, 2001 — some 1,100 awards — to determine whether a higher upgrade is warranted. The military services have until Sept. 30, 2017, to turn their recommendations in to the secretary of defense.

Articles

How the US Navy wants to handle Iran’s naval provocations in the Persian Gulf

At a recent conference at the Center for American Progress, Chief of Naval Operations John M. Richardson discussed at length naval operations in Asia and the Pacific, touching on how he’d like to deal with the Iranian navy, which has made a habit of harassing US Navy ships in the Persian Gulf.


Throughout the conference, Richardson praised the Code of Unplanned Encounters at Sea (CUES) that has helped Chinese and US naval vessels operate safely and at a distance in the South China Sea.

Also read: Why Iran is ‘playing with fire’ in the Persian Gulf against US Navy ships

However, the US and Iran have no such agreements, or even a diplomatic relationship for establishing them.

In fact, Iran seems rather content to provoke the US.

Remembering the last flight of the world’s fastest plane
Iranian fast-attack boats during a naval exercise in 2015. | Wikimedia photo by Sayyed Shahaboddin Vajedi

In January of this year, Iranian fast attack craft surrounded a broken down US Navy ship and captured 11 sailors. The incident was shown on Iranian TV and has been consistently milked for propaganda purposes. Reports indicate that Iran plans to build a statue commemorating the incident as a tourist attraction.

Iran has threatened, though not credibly, to close the Strait of Hormuz, and thereby access to the Persian Gulf. The country has threatened to shoot down US surveillance aircraft flying near Iran. Most recently, Tehran unveiled a new 180 foot naval vessel with a banner that read”America should go to the Bay of Pigs, the Persian Gulf is our house.”

While Cliff Kupchan, chairman of Eurasia Group and an expert on Iran, told Business Insider that Iran’s naval posturing and provocations are “one of the ways the Iranian political system lets off steam,” the threat of miscalculation, fatalities, and escalation remains very real.

How the Navy wants to deal with Iran

When asked what the Navy is prepared to do when being harassed by Iranian vessels, and if there were any limits on the way it could respond, Richardson responded unequivocally.

“Nothing limits the way they can respond,” said Richardson, leaving kinetic, or shooting solutions to this problem firmly on the table.

Remembering the last flight of the world’s fastest plane
The amphibious assault ship USS Bataan transits the Strait of Hormuz. | U.S. Navy photo by Quartermaster 1st Class Thomas E. Dowling

When asked what the Navy is prepared to do when being harassed by Iranian vessels, and if there were any limits on the way it could respond, Richardson responded unequivocally.

“Nothing limits the way they can respond,” said Richardson, leaving kinetic, or shooting solutions to this problem firmly on the table.

As far as capabilities go, the US wields the greatest Navy in the world, which Iran couldn’t really hope to challenge in a conventional fight.

“Is our navy ready to respond? Yes. In every respect.”

“In some super dynamic situations, and you’ve seen some of these unfold in video, the decisions are often made in extremely short periods of time,” said Richardson, referencing videos that have been released of close encounters at sea with swarming and harassing Iranian speedboats.

“We always strive to make sure that our commanders have the situational awareness, the capability, and the rules of engagement that they need to manage those situations.”

So essentially, in any given incident, if a ship’s commander makes the choice to sink an Iranian vessel, he’s well within his rights to do so, as the fast, unexpected incidents don’t “allow time to phone home to get permission.”

However, sinking and likely killing Iranians at sea doesn’t represent a diplomatic or stabilizing solution, and as such it isn’t Richardson’s preferred route.

In this case, what the US Navy can do and what it would like to do couldn’t be more starkly different. Richardson repeatedly stressed the need for the US and Iran to come to an understanding about encounters at sea, like the US and China have established.

The incidents at sea are “destabilizing things, and risking tactical miscalculations,” that could result in injury, the loss of ships, and the loss of life, Richardson said.

“Nothing good can come from it,” Richardson said of the incidents. “This advocates for the power of a leader to leader dialogue, we’re working to see our way though to what are the possibilities there.”

Articles

How the Marine Corps took money from this charitable gunny

Six years ago, Marine Gunnery Sgt. Jared Coons grappled with the grief of the death of his father. Mark Coons, 54, left part of his estate to his son, who in turn has taken that gift to help wounded troops, children and families.


Coons gave some $25,000 to the Marine Corps’ Wounded Warrior Regiment and Navy-Marine Corps Relief Society. A $100,000 check covered two-thirds of the cost to build a playground for special-needs kids at the YMCA in his hometown of Hannibal, Missouri. An $85,000 donation benefitted local schools.

Smaller but still sizable donations funded outdoor camps and horse therapy programs.

Remembering the last flight of the world’s fastest plane
Marine Staff Sgt. Jared C. Coons receives the 2012 U.S. Marine Corps Spirit of Hope Award during the 2012 Spirit of Hope Award Ceremony at the Pentagon Library, Nov. 19, 2013. (DoD Photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Daniel Hinton)

The Marine Corps also recognized Coons for his charity. At a November 2013 ceremony at the Pentagon, it gave him the 2012 Spirit of Hope Award for his “extraordinary philanthropic contributions” of over $238,000 and noted his “generous and philanthropic character epitomizes the spirit of Bob Hope and was in keeping with the highest traditions” of the services.

But last year, Coons found himself in legal hot water. Why? He dug into his wallet several times in 2014 while serving as the logistics chief with a Japan-based Osprey squadron, VMM-262.

Tempo was high, he said, as the squadron was preparing to chop to another command for a shipboard deployment and prepping for training exercises in the region. Logistics are complicated business in the western Pacific, where units are further from military supply lines and stateside support.

Once, crunched for time, Coons spent about $1,400 to rent three large trash bins to haul away another unit’s property left in a Futenma Marine Corps Air Station hangar on Okinawa. Another time, he paid $1,450 to fund commercial Internet services from a contingency supply vendor for an exercise deployment to Clark Air Base in the Philippines.

The unit needed internet access so the Marines could track flight activities and do their daily work to meet the mission, he said. But there wasn’t enough time to wait for the waiver from Washington, which would likely come too late. So he decided to cover the cost and file for reimbursement.

Coons, a 15-year veteran, said it wasn’t the only times the squadron came up short with getting supplies and equipment the Marines needed.

“We had a very high mission tempo and we rarely received the support we needed,” he said. Higher-ups “should have supported the squadron better than it did.”

Coons contends he had the OK from his boss to get those mission-essential purchases. But he saw no reimbursement. Instead, the squadron, with a new commander in charge, in July 2015 ordered an investigation into his 2014 purchases. Coons was counseled for “unauthorized commitment of personal funds.”

But it didn’t end there. After a contingency mission to Nepal following an earthquake there, the squadron blamed Coons for several general-purpose tent poles in palletized GP tents, which he initially had signed out for but which later had missing parts. The Marine Corps valued those poles at $2,288 – his attorney says the parts are worth less than $100 — and it garnished his pay to cover that bill.

Jane Siegel, a retired colonel and Marine Corps judge advocate now in private practice near San Diego, said the Marine was “pressured” to sign a form that he’d agree to the garnishment from his military pay. He did it so he could take requested leave, which she said was subsequently wrongly cancelled and meant the loss of $1,147 airline ticket for his short trip to the U.S.

The money garnished was “20 times the amount he actually owed” for the missing poles, Siegel wrote in an appeal to Marine Corps Forces Pacific command in Hawaii to right the wrongs, order a new investigation and reimburse the gunnery sergeant for $6,276, in all.

“This is about fundamental fairness and admission that the red tape does not keep up with the mission tempo,” she wrote. “When the mission absolutely, positively has to be done, call the Marines. This is what the gunny was trying to ensure.”

Coons has few options left for redress. Last year he rotated back to the states and is stationed at the Marine Corps Mountain Warfare Training Center in California and he’s spent this year trying to recoup the money for things he said the squadron needed overseas. Commanders up the chain agreed with the investigation, blaming Coons for requesting reimbursement.

He’s hit dead ends with 1st Marine Aircraft Wing and III Marine Expeditionary Force’s Inspector General, all which have rejected his appeals to reinvestigate. Most recently, the Defense Department’s IG refused to reopen the case.

“We want someone to investigate. He wants a fair hearing – and he hasn’t gotten one,” Siegel said, calling Coons “an outstanding” Marine. “It’s not so much about the money. To him, it’s about the fact that he had to do these things. He had to outlay the money for the Internet, because he’s just that kind of a Marine.”

Articles

Foreign misinformation in American media will make you question everything

Just four days into September, a story out of Iraq caught the attention of Western media. Burqas, the traditional, full-body covering on Muslim women living under some Islamic traditions, were reportedly banned by Islamic State commanders.


According to the story, women in burqas opened up on Islamic State fighters with pistols hidden under their thick garments.

The only problem was, it never happened.

We took the bait, as did many other media sites — The Daily Caller, the UK’s Daily Mail, U.S. News and World Report, and Foreign Policy were among the many news outlets that posted stories on the bad information.

Katie Zavadski at the Daily Beast tracked exactly how the story came to the West. Women in ISIS-controlled territory are routinely forced to wear the niqab, a gown-like garment that covers the head and includes a veil for covering the face. They are also forced to wear gloves and other accessories – but never a burqa.

Remembering the last flight of the world’s fastest plane
Afghan women wait outside a USAID-supported health care clinic.

There is also the question of an Iranian news source in the reporting.

“I’m thinking, why would anyone in Mosul contact an Iranian [news] agency,” Rasha al-Aqeedi, a Mosul native and research fellow at the al-Mesbar Studies and Research Center in Dubai, told The Daily Beast.

These planned campaigns of “covert influence” are more common than one might think.

It is widely believed Russia is trying to tamper with the November elections in the United States by manipulating American media. Recent hacks to the Democratic National Committee and to Hillary Clinton’s email server are said to be providing “propaganda fodder” to disrupt U.S. democracy-building policies worldwide.

During the Cold War, the United States had its own foreign influence machine. The CIA program dubbed “Mockingbird” placed reports from the agency to unwitting reporters in over 25 major newspapers and wire agencies, including the New York Times, Washington Post, CBS, and Time magazine.

Mockingbird was very influential in the overthrow of Guatemalan President Jacobo Arbenz Guzmán in 1954.

The Guatemalan military never fully trusted Guzmán. So when a shipment of arms bound from Soviet-dominated Poland arrived in the country, it was outed by The New York Times, who quoted “Guatemalan Army officers” saying “some of the arms … were duds, worn out, or entirely wrong for use there.” It was the first anyone in the Guatemalan military knew of the secret shipment and created even more mistrust in the government.

Remembering the last flight of the world’s fastest plane

In addition, the now-defunct U.S. Information Agency wrote hundreds of articles based on CIA reports, distributing them throughout Latin America.

Even though agencies in the U.S. are prevented by law from influencing American media, this doesn’t mean wire stories don’t end up there. And some misinformation campaigns can become real in the minds of people, regardless of how true the stories are.

In the early years of the AIDS epidemic, the KGB planted a story in an Indian newspaper, The Patriot, that AIDS was a product of a U.S. biological warfare program. That story has since shifted to include other diseases and has even traveled to the United States itself. Similar stories evolved about Sickle Cell Anemia and even crack-cocaine.

Propaganda stories like these work for a number of reasons. First and foremost, they represent a fear that is logical. They also play to the core values of the target country; people want to believe these stories.

The West wanted to believe that women under ISIS domination would use the tools of their oppression to strike back at their oppressors. Some would like to believe they would do the same in similar situations.

Remembering the last flight of the world’s fastest plane
Another false story is that ISIS fighters believe they go to hell if they’re killed by a woman. (YPG photo)

Iran’s goal with stories like these is to limit the scope of our discussion in Iraq and Syria, to remind us that ISIS is evil and any action in support of ending their reign of terror should generally be seen as a good thing, some experts claim.

It is also to remind the West that secular and Shia-dominated countries like Iran, Iraq, and Syria are not as oppressive of women as Sunni areas of the Middle East. Where ISIS and Saudi Arabia (Iran’s chief foes in a greater ideological war) force women to wear full-body coverings, face veils, and even gloves, Syrian and Iraqi women are not forced to do these things. In Iran, a simple head scarf and loose coverings are sufficient.

Remembering the last flight of the world’s fastest plane
Women in Iran.

The important thing to remember – for all of us to remember – is the old adage that sometimes what seems “too good to be true” probably isn’t.

Articles

Here are the best military photos of the week

The military has very talented photographers in the ranks, and they constantly attempt to capture what life as a service member is like during training and at war. Here are the best military photos of the week:


AIR FORCE:

Retired U.S. Marine Corps Cpl. Jorge Salazar reacts to scoring a point in the gold medal wheelchair rugby match during the 2016 Invictus Games in Orlando, Fla. May 11, 2016.

Remembering the last flight of the world’s fastest plane
DoD photo Edward Joseph Hersom II

Members of the U.S. Air Force Air Demonstration Squadron “Thunderbirds” perform an aerial demonstration during the Shaw Air Expo and open house, “Thunder Over the Midlands” at Shaw Air Force Base, S.C., May 21, 2016.

Remembering the last flight of the world’s fastest plane
U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Kelsey Tucker

ARMY:

An Army flight medic, assigned to the Arizona National Guard and currently attached to U.S. Army Europe, assembles an M4 carbine, while a thick cloud of smoke limits his visibility during the stress shoot portion of the Multinational Battle Group-East’s Best Warrior Competition held on Camp Bondsteel, Kosovo, May 21- 22, 2016.

Remembering the last flight of the world’s fastest plane
U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Thomas Duval

Soldiers assigned to 2nd Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 2nd Infantry Division, fire an M777A2 howitzer during an exercise at the National Training Center, Fort Irwin, California, Jan. 29, 2016.

Remembering the last flight of the world’s fastest plane
U.S. Army photo by 1st Lt. Evan M. Cain

NAVY:

NEW YORK CITY (May 25, 2016) – Sailors and Marines aboard the amphibious assault ship USS Bataan (LHD 5) man the rails as the ship pulls in for 2016 Fleet Week New York. The event, now in its 28th year, is the city’s time-honored celebration of the sea services. It is an unparalleled opportunity for the citizens of New York and the surrounding tri-state area to meet Sailors, Marines and Coast Guardsmen, as well as witness firsthand the latest capabilities of today’s maritime services. The weeklong celebration has been held nearly every year since 1984.

Remembering the last flight of the world’s fastest plane
U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Julie Matyascik

GULF OF ADEN (May 23, 2016) Aviation Boatswain’s Mate (Handling) 3rd Class Chase Coker launches an AV-8B Harrier II, attached to Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron (VMM) 166 (Reinforced), off the flight deck of amphibious assault ship USS Boxer (LHD 4). Boxer is the flagship for the Boxer Amphibious Ready Group and, with the embarked 13th Marine Expeditionary Unit, is deployed in support of maritime security operations and theater security cooperation efforts in the U.S. 5th Fleet area of operations.

Remembering the last flight of the world’s fastest plane
U. S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Jose Jaen

MARINE CORPS:

Lance Cpl. Zach King, left, and Cpl. Derick Sammonek, assaultmen with the 13th Marine Expeditionary Unit, brace themselves as an 60mm mortar exits the tube of an M224 mortar system as part of sustainment training during Exercise Eager Lion, May 15, 2016. Exercise Eager Lion 2016 is a bilateral, scenario based exercise with the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan and the U.S., designed to exchange military expertise and improve interoperability among partner nations.

Remembering the last flight of the world’s fastest plane
U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Paris Capers

Marines endure light debris from a UH-1Y Venom helicopter at a landing zone outside of Robertson Barracks, Northern Territory, Australia, on May 20, 2016. Marines with Marine Rotational Force – Darwin simulated causality evacuations with a UH-1Y Venom helicopter. MRF-D is a six-month deployment of Marines into Darwin, Australia, training in a new environment. The Marines are with Company B, 1st Battalion, 1st Marine Regiment, MRF-D and Marine Light Attack Helicopter Squadron 367, MRF-D.

Remembering the last flight of the world’s fastest plane
U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Mandaline Hatch

COAST GUARD:

Two Response Boats-Medium from Station New York underway for fleet week NYC security.

Remembering the last flight of the world’s fastest plane
US Coast Guard photo by PA3 Iannazzo-Simmons

Two Response Boats-Medium from Station New York escort the USS Bainbridge (DDG-96) as she passes under the Verrazano Bridge for the fleet week NYC Parade of Ships.

Remembering the last flight of the world’s fastest plane
US Coast Guard photo

Articles

Spend some range time with a SEAL Team 6 frogman who helped kill bin Laden — Video

Love him or hate him, Matt Bissonnette (aka Mark Owen) is a certified badass.


As part of the legendary SEAL Team 6, Owen (we’ll use his pen name) was a top-tier special operator who knew how to kick in doors, snatch HVTs and dispatch tangos with precision marksmanship.

Remembering the last flight of the world’s fastest plane
Mark Owen throws some .308 downrange for a personal pew-pew party in the desert. (Photo screenshot from YouTube)

In fact, he was part of the daring raid that snuck into Pakistan and landed on terror mastermind Osama bin Laden’s lair to bring Public Enemy #1 to justice.

His story is chronicled in two awesome books, including “No Easy Day,” which delivers a blow-by-blow of the mission to kill bin Laden, dubbed “Operation Neptune Spear,” and “No Hero,” which chronicles his extensive career as a senior NCO in the SEAL teams.

In the years since the May 2010 raid, Own has remained in the shadows, posting some cool pics to Instagram and doing some trigger pulling on the side for a couple companies in the shooting sports industry. He’s still all secret squirrel about his true identity, so it’s rare to see him out in the wild.

But this video shows the ST6 frogman’s still got it, slinging lead with several ARs and dinking close-range steel with a dialed out Glock.

He’s even throwing some hate in the dark, decked out with NODs and loaded up with tracers that just make you want to shout “‘Merica!”

And the best part: Owen’s sporting a rare pair of Vans DEFCON high tops patterned in AOR1 (these things are going for $200+ on eBay).

There’s a lot of ballistic goodness going on here with a true American hero…

Articles

Here’s how China’s heavily-armed islands could wreak havoc in the South China Sea

If you were wondering about why China didn’t bother to show up to that hearing at the Hague on their South China Sea island claims — when their boycott of the process only made the adverse ruling a guarantee — well, now you know why.


China, like Cersei Lannister from “Game of Thrones,” had no intention of accepting the consequences for their failure to take part.

Remembering the last flight of the world’s fastest plane
China’s military installations in the South China Sea create a huge area that could possibly be turned into an air identification and defense zone. | CSIS ASIA MARITIME TRANSPARENCY INITIATIVE

According to reports from the Wall Street Journal and CBSNews.com, China has deployed weapons to at least seven of the artificial islands it has built in the South China Sea, despite a promise from Chinese president Xi Jingpin.

The report from the Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative noted that satellite photos showed various anti-aircraft weapons on the islands. These join the 10,000-foot airstrips on the islands, which have operated J-11 Flankers. Two such locations in the Spratly Islands are Mischief Reef and Fiery Cross Reef, located about 650 nautical miles from the northernmost point of Hainan Island.

China has landed airliners on those islands – and if you can land airliners, you can land other sorts of heavy aircraft, like tankers, airborne radars, and H-6 Badger bombers like the one used to assert China’s “nine-dash line.”

Remembering the last flight of the world’s fastest plane
Fiery Cross Reef air base. This air base and others could help bolster China’s aircraft carrier, the Liaonang. (Image taken from Google Earth)

In essence, China has turned these islands into unsinkable, albeit immobile, aircraft carriers. China’s J-15, for instance, has a combat radius of about 540 nautical miles, according to GlobalSecurity.org. By getting those unsinkable aircraft carriers, the J-15s (as well as J-11 and J-16 Flankers in the Chinese inventory) can now carry more weapons, and less fuel, and spend more time dogfighting their adversaries.

When combined with China’s aircraft carrier Liaoning, these bases greatly increase the striking power of the Chinese in the region. The Liaoning, like its sister ship, the Russian Admiral Kuznetsov, has a very limited aircraft capacity (about 18 Su-33 Flankers or MiG-29K Fulcrums for the Russian carrier, and a similar number of J-15 Flankers for the Chinese ship).

That alone cannot stand up to a United States Navy aircraft carrier (carrying 36 F/A-18E/F Super Hornets and 10 F-35C Lightnings). The islands also provide alternate bases, to avoid those embarrassing splash landings that are common with the Kuznetsov.

Remembering the last flight of the world’s fastest plane
Sukhoi Su-33 launching from the Admiral Kuznetsov in 2012. | Russian MoD Photo

However, these island bases, if each had a squadron of J-11, J-15 or J-16 Flankers, suddenly change the odds, especially if the Philippines refuse to host land-based fighters. Now, the Chinese could have a numerical advantage in the region against one carrier group, and inflict virtual attrition on the United States Navy.

The forward bases have caused concern from other countries, like the Philippines.

“It would mean that the Chinese are militarizing the area, which is not good,” the Philippine defense secretary told CBSNews.com.

The Philippines have been trying to modernize their forces, including with the recent purchase of a dozen KA-50 jets from South Korea, and the acquisition of second-hand Hamilton-class high-endurance cutters from the U.S. Coast Guard.

They still are badly out-classed by Chinese forces in the region.

The U.S. Navy has conducted freedom of navigation exercises in the South China Sea. In one of the recent operations, the USS John S. McCain (DDG 56) “conducted routine operations” while transiting the region, which is claimed by China. Navy surveillance and maritime patrol aircraft in the region had had a series of close calls with Chinese fighters, including an Aug. 2014 intercept where a J-11 came within 20 feet of a U.S. Navy P-8 Poseidon.

Remembering the last flight of the world’s fastest plane
Sailors aboard the guided-missile destroyer USS John S. McCain (DDG 56) man the rails while pulling into Cam Ranh Bay, Vietnam, during a Naval Engagement Activity with the people of Vietnam, Oct. 2. (U.S. Navy photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Allen Michael McNair)

Tensions with China increased when President-elect Donald Trump accepted a congratulatory phone call from Taiwanese president Tsai Ing-wen after winning the Nov. 8 presidential election. Trump had taken a tough line on trade with China during the campaign.

Articles

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

Remembering the last flight of the world’s fastest plane
Photo: US Air Force

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

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

Remembering the last flight of the world’s fastest plane

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

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

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

Do Not Sell My Personal Information