This Air Force unit caught spy satellite photos as they fell from space - We Are The Mighty
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This Air Force unit caught spy satellite photos as they fell from space

When the Cold War was at its peak, America began spying on the Russians from space with the Corona Program. Corona used a system of satellites that flew over Russia, taking photos of sensitive and classified areas.


The problem with the early spy satellites was that digital photography had not been invented yet and digital scanning was in its infancy. The earliest spy satellites had to take their photos with film and then send the film back to earth.

This Air Force unit caught spy satellite photos as they fell from space
Graphic: National Reconnaissance Office

So, the Air Force set up the 6593rd Test Group and then the 6594th Test Squadron at Hickham Air Force Base, Hawaii. These units flew under the path of the satellites and caught the film that the satellites dropped to earth. Some of the first objects ever designed to re-enter the atmosphere, the canisters were about the size of a garbage can and carried large parachutes to slow their descent.

When they first entered the atmosphere, the canisters would resemble falling stars as the air around the fast-moving object compressed and began to burn. After the chute deployed, the canister slowed down and 6594th and 6593rd pilots would have to spot the canisters and snag them with a recovery system installed on modified cargo planes. They originally used the C-119 Flying Boxcar but switched over to C-130s.

This Air Force unit caught spy satellite photos as they fell from space
Photo: US Air Force

The canisters used a Mark 8 parachute with a cone that up from the center of the parachute. The pilots would spot the canisters and crews would then deploy a “loop” made of nylon rope with brass hooks. The loop trailed beneath the aircraft as the pilot flew directly over the chute, hopefully catching the chute. Using a winch, the crew would then pull the chute and canister into the modified C-119 or C-130 aircraft.

“I liked to recover a parachute close up to the belly of the airplane,” said Lt. Col. Harold E. Mitchell, pilot of the first successful midair film recovery, Discoverer 14. “They didn’t like that because you could invert the parachute… Many times when the parachute went through, though, it passed close under the belly of the airplane, and went over the top of the loop and it wouldn’t deflate. It became a drag chute.”

This Air Force unit caught spy satellite photos as they fell from space
Photo: US Air Force

When the pilot missed the chute or it slipped off the hooks, the canister would fall into the Pacific ocean. For these instances, the units employed rescue swimmers who would deploy off of helicopters to retrieve the capsules.

Each successful recovery provided a treasure trove of imagery. The first successful recovery documented 1,650,000 square miles of the Soviet Union, more than 24 U-2 missions provided.

Over the course of the Cold War, the Corona Program was key in tracking Russian military developments. One of their most important discoveries was showing that the “missile gap” worried over by U.S. planners, a belief that the Soviet Union had drastically more missiles than the U.S., was backward. The U.S. had the larger and more capable stockpile.

The 6593rd deactivated in 1972 and the 6594th followed suit in 1986.

Blake Stilwell contributed to this article.

NOW: That time a US Navy aircraft carrier was shut down by a race riot

OR: Crazy photos from the WWII battle in the Arctic that you’ve never heard of

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Army lab integrates Future Soldier Technology

This Air Force unit caught spy satellite photos as they fell from space
YouTube


Lighter weight protective body armor and undergarments, newer uniform fabrics, conformal wearable computers and integrated sensors powered by emerging battery technologies — are all part of the Army’s cutting-edge scientific initiative aimed at shaping, enhancing and sustaining the Soldier of the Future.

The U.S. Army has set up a special high-tech laboratory aimed at better identifying and integrating gear, equipment and weapons in order to reduce the current weight burden placed on Soldiers and give them more opportunities to successfully execute missions, service officials said.

A main impetus for the effort, called Warrior Integration Site, is grounded in the unambiguous hopef reducing the weight carried by today’s Army infantry fighters from more than 120-pounds, down to at least 72-pounds, service officials explained.In fact, a Soldier’s current so-called “marching load” can reach as much as 132-pounds, Army experts said.

“We’ve overloaded the Soldier, reduced space for equipment and tried to decrease added bulk and stiffness. What we are trying to do is get a more integrated and operational system. We are looking at the Soldier as a system,” Maj. Daniel Rowell, Assistant Product Manager, Integration, Program Executive Office Soldier, told Scout Warrior in an interview during an exclusive tour of the WinSite facility.

Citing batteries, power demands, ammunition, gear interface, body armor, boots, weapons and water, Rowell explained that Soldiers are heavily burdened by the amount they have to carry for extended missions.

“We try to document everything that the Soldier is wearing including weight, size and configuration – and then communicate with researchers involved with the Army’s Science and Technology community,” he added.

The WinSite lab is not only looking to decrease the combat load carried by Soldiers into battle but also identify and integrate the best emerging technologies; the evaluation processes in the make-shift laboratory involve the use of computer graphic models, 3-D laser scanners, 3-D printing and manequins.

“This is not about an individual piece of equipment. It is about weight and cognitive burden – all of which contributes to how effective the Soldier is,” Rowell said.

This Air Force unit caught spy satellite photos as they fell from space
U.S. Soldiers assigned to 3rd Platoon, Fox Company, 2nd Squadron, 2nd Stryker Cavalry Regiment provide security during a village meeting near Combat Outpost Mizan, Zabul province, Afghanistan. U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Nathanael Callon

The 3-D printer allows for rapid prototyping of new systems and equipment with a mind to how they impact the overall Soldier system; the manequins are then outfitted with helmets, body armor, radios, water, M-4 rifles, helmets, uniforms, night vision, batteries and other gear as part of an assessment of what integrates best for the Soldier overall.

In addition, while the WinSite is more near term than longer-term developmental efforts such as the ongoing work to develop a Soldier “Iron Man” suit or exoskeleton, the Army does expect to integrate biometric sensors into Soldier uniforms. This will allow for rapid identification of health and body conditions, such as heart rate, breathing or blood pressure – along with other things. Rapid access to this information could better enable medics to save the lives of wounded Soldiers.

Lighter weight fabrics for uniforms, combined with composite body armor materials are key elements of how the Army hope to reach a notional, broad goal of enabling Soldier to fight with all necessary gear weighing a fraction of the current equipment at 48-pounds, Rowell explained.

WinSite is primarily about communication among laboratory experts, scientists and computer programmers and new Soldier technology developers – in order to ensure that each individual properly integrate into the larger Soldier system.

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This city ended veteran homelessness in just 100 days

The La Crosse Collaborative to End Homelessness (Collaborative) announced today [Monday, Dec. 19, 2016] that it met the ambitious goal they set in September of this year: to end homelessness for veterans in the City within 100 days (by Christmas Day). This makes La Crosse the first city in Wisconsin to end homelessness among veterans.


This Air Force unit caught spy satellite photos as they fell from space
First, La Crosse. Next, the country? (Photo: Tomah VA Medical Center)

Over the 100 days, the Collaborative increased its monthly housing placement rate for veterans by 400%, demonstrating what’s possible when multiple agencies join forces and focus on clear, measurable goals.

This goal was not accomplished by doing business as usual. It was accomplished by unprecedented cross-agency collaboration between over thirty agencies, including: the Tomah VA Medical Center, Couleecap, Salvation Army, Catholic Charities, La Crosse Police Department, and the Wisconsin Department of Veterans Affairs (full list of Design and Leadership Team members).

This effort elevated action-oriented problem-solving over traditional planning.

Also read: This is an easy way to help homeless veterans this holiday season

With the support of Gundersen Health System’s Office of Population Health, the Collaborative is using a proven innovation and improvement model (adapted from one developed by Community Solutions and the Rapid Results Institute for the 100,000 Homes Campaign) to accelerate housing placements and profoundly improve system performance.

“The key to our success has been the amazing collaboration within our initiative and a strong shared focus from everyone on the team”, said Kim Cable, Design Team member and Housing and Community Services Director at Couleecap). “This is just the beginning of our journey to end all homelessness in the City of La Crosse. We are excited and inspired by our initial success and the support from the community.”

“I am so proud of the La Crosse Collaborative’s incredible efforts to end veteran homelessness here in our community”, said Mayor Tim Kabat, a Leadership Team member.

“La Crosse signed on to the national effort, as part of the Mayor’s Challenge, to work together and provide permanent housing for our homeless veterans and it is awe-inspiring to see this dream realized.  We are so fortunate to live in such a caring, compassionate, and hard-working community.”

“This is a tremendous achievement and milestone for our community,” said Victoria Brahm, Acting Director of the Tomah VA Medical Center. “I am extremely proud of our staff members who worked with the Collaborative. This is the result of a lot of hard work – getting to functional zero was a tough challenge, but one that we were never going to give up on.”

“Gunderson’s Office of Population Health is focusing on elevating the health of the community by engaging beyond the health system walls, and partnering with organizations in communities who are going upstream to prevent illness, disease, injury, and crisis”, said Sandy Brekke, Senior Consultant, Office of Population Health, Gundersen Health System.

“It’s hard to be healthy when you go to sleep hungry, homeless, or in substandard housing. As an institution, GHS recognizes that safe, secure housing is foundational to the health of individuals and families in our community and are proud to support the effort to end homelessness in La Crosse. We are grateful to the Design Team of the La Crosse Collaborative to End Homelessness, they have brought the community together and have worked incredibly hard to make sure that our Veterans have a warm place to call home.”

Related: 5 ways to support veterans all year long

The Collaborative will celebrate its success tomorrow afternoon, December 20th, at the Waterfront Banquet Room, hosted by Don Weber, CEO of LHI and Leadership Team member, who said: “Veteran homelessness is our nation’s silent shame. It goes without saying that any who has served and protected our nation should not have to worry whether they will have a roof over their heads. In dedicating ourselves to ending Veteran homelessness in our region, our community has proven that the story does not have to end here. Our Veterans deserve our lifelong commitment to returning to them the same comfort and safety they’ve so selflessly secured for us through their service.”

For more information on what it means to end homelessness (defined nationally as reaching “functional zero”), visit the FAQ section on the Collaborative’s website. On the website, you can also donate to ongoing efforts to end homelessness, sign up to volunteer or—if you are a landlord­—offer housing to others who are homeless in La Crosse.

For more information on the La Crosse Collaborative to End Homelessness, contact Kim Cable, Design Team Member, Housing and Community Services Director, Couleecap, at kim.cable@couleecap.org or  608-787-9890. See more here.

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This horse racing track used to be a WWII Japanese Internment Camp

Arcadia, California’s beautiful Santa Anita Racetrack had a different name in 1942: The Santa Anita Assembly Center.  It was the largest assembly point for Japanese-Americans on the U.S. West coast as they were forced into internment camps. 19,000 people passed through here on their way to the camps.


This Air Force unit caught spy satellite photos as they fell from space
Track Today (Photo: Rennett Stowe, Wikimedia Commons)

In February 1942,then-President Franklin D. Roosevelt issued Executive Order 9066, ordering Japanese Americans to be interned in camps along the west coast. While these camps were being built, those who would be interned were housed at assembly centers like Santa Anita, living in converted horse stalls and other hastily built structures. Santa Anita was guarded, surrounded with barbed wire and filled with searchlights to light the dark nights. In all 110,000 Japanese-Americans were interned on short-notice, closing farms and businesses and abandoning their homes. Eventually, some even enlisted in the Army.

This Air Force unit caught spy satellite photos as they fell from space
Living quarters were made out of abandoned horse stalls (LA Public Library Photo)

Internees at Santa Anita were told to bring blankets and linens, toiletries, clothing, dishes and cookware, and anything else they could carry. They were forbidden from having anything written in Japanese. The people of Santa Anita developed a large internal economy, complete with jobs, businesses, and a local newspaper. They developed a unique culture of music, arts, and softball teams.

This Air Force unit caught spy satellite photos as they fell from space
The $2 betting window becomes the circulation desk for the camp library (LA Public Library)

In September 1942, those in Santa Anita were moved to other camps. By November 1942, Santa Anita was completely emptied of internees and then became an Army training camp.

This Air Force unit caught spy satellite photos as they fell from space
Lily Okuru, an internee, poses with the Seabiscuit statue at Santa Anita Recetrack in 1942 (US government photo)

In 1944, the Supreme Court struck down the government’s ability to hold Americans indefinitely and the internees were released. The last of all the camps closed in 1946 and the U.S. government has since paid $1.6 billion in reparations. Now, a simple plaque near the track’s entrance is the only reminder of its place in the history of WWII.

In the video below, James Tsutsui of Laguna Woods, California discusses his experiences at Santa Anita Racetrack during World War II.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?t=257v=RjVcZLNiCKU

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F-35s may fly with loaded up B-52s as ‘arsenal planes’

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


It is also possible that the emerging arsenal plane could be a modified C-130 or combined version of a B-52 and C-130 drawing from elements of each, Pentagon officials said.

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

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

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

An “Arsenal Plane” networked to F-22 and F-35 stealth fighters would enable the fighter aircraft to maintain their stealth properties while still having substantial offensive bombing capability. If stealth fighters attach weapons to their external pylons, they change their radar signature and therefore become more vulnerable to enemy air defenses. If networked to a large “flying bomb truck,” they could use stealth capability to defeat enemy air defenses and still have an ability to drop large amounts of bombs on targets.

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

This Air Force unit caught spy satellite photos as they fell from space
China’s J-20 | Chinese Military Review

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

This Air Force unit caught spy satellite photos as they fell from space
Did you bring enough for the rest of the class?

Weapons Upgrade

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

This Air Force unit caught spy satellite photos as they fell from space
B-52s in the Pacific. | US Navy photo

Communications, Avionics Upgrades

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

B-52 History

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

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

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

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

WATCH: B-52s are blasting ISIS targets

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This slave escaped to join the Union Navy then bought his former master’s house

If there’s such a thing a revenge served warm, the story of Robert Smalls best describes it. Smalls was born into slavery in 1839 Beaufort, South Carolina. He was hired out by his master in Charleston by the age of 12, working the hotels, docks, and wharves of Charleston Harbor.


It was while he was working in the hotel he met his wife, Hannah Jones, whom he married in 1856. She had a daughter already, and the two had a son and daughter. At the outbreak of the Civil War in 1861, Smalls was pressed into service on board the CSS Planter, a Confederate transport. This is where he would make history.

While the Planter’s three white officers were ashore, the seven slave crewmen decided to make a break for the Union blockade. The slave escape wasn’t just a spur-of-the-moment decision. They planned the escape meticulously, even picking up their families, who were hiding near the southern wharf.

He brought the ship and its cargo of cannon and ammunition to the Union, as well as the Confederate Navy’s code book and the map of Charleston’s harbor defenses.

This Air Force unit caught spy satellite photos as they fell from space
From a spread about Smalls in Harper’s, ca. 1862

President Lincoln and the U.S. Congress would award the prize money for the capture of the Planter to Smalls and his crew. Smalls’ bravery and skill became the instrumental argument for allowing black troops to fight for the Union.

“My race needs no special defense, for the past history of them in this country proves them to be equal of any people anywhere,” Smalls said. “All, they need is an equal chance in the battle of life.”

Smalls himself enlisted with the Union as a Naval pilot, eventually ending up back on the Planter, now a Union transport, as a free man. He piloted the USS Keokuk during a major attack on Fort Sumter in Charleston Harbor.

When the Keokuk’s skipper wanted to surrender during the failed assault, Smalls took command and got the ship to safety. For this, he was promoted to the Keokuk’s captain. When the war ended, Smalls took the Planter back to Charleston for the ceremonial raising of the American flag at Fort Sumter.

This Air Force unit caught spy satellite photos as they fell from space
The raising of the Union flag at For Sumter, 1865.

He returned to Beaufort, S.C. as a freeman during Reconstruction. He opened a store for newly-freed slaves and purchased his old master’s house. He eventually allowed his old master’s wife to move back into the house shortly before her death. The house still stands.

511 Prince Street – The Robert Smalls House from Lowcountry Real Estate on Vimeo.

Smalls went on to serve in the South Carolina House of Representatives and Senate as well as the South Carolina militia as a major general. He was eventually elected to represent South Carolina in the U.S. House of Representatives and served for four years before his death in 1915.

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Here’s how microwaves and micro-robots could stop North Korea

With the apparently successful test of an ICBM by North Korea, questions arise about what can be done about the regime of Kim Jong Un. This is understandable. After all, he did threaten Sony over the 2014 movie “The Interview.”


Also, the whole humanitarian crisis thing.

This Air Force unit caught spy satellite photos as they fell from space
Photo from North Korean State Media.

According to an op-ed in the Washington Times, there are some high-tech options that could shut down the North Korean threat. Investigative reporter Ronald Kessler stated that the Pentagon was looking at a cruise missile that could fry electronics. He reported that the Pentagon is also exploring micro-robots capable of delivering a lethal toxin to the North Korean dictator.

The cruise missile is known as the Counter-electronics High-powered Microwave Advanced Missile Project, and it comes from Boeing’s Phantom Works — a lesser-known advanced aerospace projects division than the Lockheed Skunk Works. The missile uses microwaves to knock out radios and other electronic equipment. Boeing released a video about a 2012 test that you can see here.

According to army-technology.com, CHAMP is capable of knocking out electronics in specific buildings. This means that the effects on civilians would be minimized. FlightGlobal.com reported that the Air Force has chosen the AGM-158B JASSM-ER to deliver the CHAMP warhead. The system is capable of firing 100 shots.

This Air Force unit caught spy satellite photos as they fell from space
The AGM-158 JASSM in action (YouTube: Lockheed Martin)

Kessler also mentioned the use of insect-sized robots as potential weapons. While assassinations are currently prohibited by an executive order signed by President Gerald R. Ford, such a policy could be reversed by President Trump “with a stroke of the pen.” The advantage of using the micro-drones to bump off Kim Jong Un would be the fact that no American lives would be put at risk for the operation.

This Air Force unit caught spy satellite photos as they fell from space
U.S. Pacific Command has deployed the first elements of the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense system, known as THAAD, to South Korea, implementing the U.S.-South Korean alliance’s July 2016 decision to bring the defensive capability to the Korean Peninsula. (DoD photo)

FoxNews.com reported that since the North Korean test, the United States tested the Terminal High-Altitude Air Defense system in Alaska. The system continued a perfect record on tests when a battery stationed in Alaska took out a missile launched from Hawaii. Two launchers from a battery of six have been deployed in South Korea.

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‘Charlie Mike’ gets it right for the new greatest generation

Journalist Joe Klein, author of Primary Colors and writer for The New Yorker, The New York Times, The Washington Post and Time, (among others) now brings us Charlie Mike: A True Story of Heroes Who Brought Their Mission Home.


The book’s quick description says it’s “the true story of two decorated combat veterans linked by tragedy, who come home from the Middle East and find a new way to save their comrades and heal their country.” But this book is more than that.

This Air Force unit caught spy satellite photos as they fell from space

Charlie Mike tells the story of Jake Wood of Team Rubicon and Eric Greitens of The Mission Continues along with those who assisted them and helped build these monumental veterans’ service organizations.

“Service” is the key word in this book, and in the cases of Wood and Greitens, the service is from the veterans. Charlie Mike, as the name implies (Charlie Mike is military speak for “Continue the Mission”) is as much about the needs of communities around veterans as it is about veterans. Like a The Mission Continues fellows says, these are challenges, not charities.

Eric Greitens is a Truman Scholar, Rhodes Scholar, and Navy SEAL whose SEAL service was (unofficially) cut short after exposing fellow SEALs drug use on an exercise in Thailand. He was inspired after visiting injured Marines at Bethesda Naval Hospital in Maryland to found an organization which would help veterans heal themselves by continuing to serve, even if they could no longer serve in the military. He founded The Mission Continues with the help of Kaj Larsen, a fellow SEAL whose story is also covered in the book. The Mission Continues gives fellowships to veteran to help “redeploy” them into their communities.

This Air Force unit caught spy satellite photos as they fell from space
Eric Greitens

Jake Wood and William McNulty are two former U.S. Marines who were frustrated with the way disaster relief organizations handled enlisting volunteers in the aftermath of the 201o Haiti Earthquake. They decided to just go and do whatever they could, and with a little help and guidance from Jesuits on the ground in Haiti, doctors they met along the way, and their good friend Clay Hunt, they did just that. Their efforts there became the model for Team Rubicon, an non-profit organization that uses the skills and work ethic of American veterans and teams them with experienced first responders to deploy emergency teams to disaster areas. Wood was one of The Mission Continues first fellows.

This Air Force unit caught spy satellite photos as they fell from space
Jake Wood

These organizations, their founders, and the veterans who staff them are prime examples of the attitude of the post-9/11 community of American veterans. The tales of their lives and how these organizations came to be are ones of integrity, personal sacrifice, tragedy, and brotherhood. Their stories are inspiring, and their legacy is already legendary. They represent the newest greatest generation.

Joe Klein does justice to these amazing stories, and that makes Charlie Mike one of the best military books of the year.

 

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That time a Confederate regiment was ordered to guard bat guano

There are bad guard details, horrible guard details, and then guard details where you and the bulk of your regiment are ordered to guard caves filled with bat shit.


This Air Force unit caught spy satellite photos as they fell from space
(Photo: National Park Service, Nick Hristov)

Gunpowder is made up mostly of saltpeter, a chemical powder generally mined from deposits on cave walls or extracted from urine and bat guano. When the South found itself under naval blockade early in the war, it had to find a way to make many of its necessities.

To make the saltpeter necessary to manufacture gunpowder, the Confederacy turned to large bat guano deposits near Austin, Texas. One deposit area was later estimated to contain at least one-thousand tons of guano.

The Confederate government ordered the deposits guarded to ensure wartime production was secured, but it’s unclear how much saltpeter was actually manufactured before the end of the war. The caves were later put back into production during World War I.

Modern ammunition uses cleaner-burning propellants, but the nitrates in guano are still valuable for fertilizers. The descendants of the bats that provided the guano are now famous in Austin. Spectators line up on bridges to watch the bats depart for their nightly feeding.

NOW: That time a US Navy aircraft carrier was shut down by a race riot

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Friendly fire kills 18 US allies

At least 18 members of the American-backed Syrian Democratic Forces were killed in a U.S.-led coalition air strike that mistakenly targeted them in Syria’s Raqqa province.


In a statement released on April 13, U.S. Central Command said 18 SDF fighters died in the air raid south of the city of Tabqa on April 11. The attack was believed to be hitting members of Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant ( ISIL, also known as ISIS).

This Air Force unit caught spy satellite photos as they fell from space
Syrian girls, carrying school bags provided by UNICEF, walk past the rubble of destroyed buildings on their way home from school on March 7 in al-Shaar neighborhood, in the rebel-held side of the northern Syrian city of Aleppo. (IZEIN ALRIFAI/AFP/GImages)

SDF was founded in Syria’s mainly Kurdish northeastern region in October 2015, and is made up of at least 15 armed factions, mostly fighters from the Kurdish People’s Protection Units and the Free Syrian Army.

“The strike was requested by the partnered forces, who had identified the target location as an ISIS fighting position. The target location was actually a forward Syrian Democratic Forces fighting position,” CENTCOM said.

“The coalition’s deepest condolences go out to the members of the SDF and their families. The coalition is in close contact with our SDF partners who have expressed a strong desire to remain focused on the fight against ISIS despite this tragic incident.”

The coalition added it is assessing the cause of the friendly fire attack.

The U.K.-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said on April 13 at least 25 other SDF fighters were killed in clashes against ISIL in the suburbs of Tabqa.

The incident occurred as U.S.-backed Syrian forces prepare to retake Raqqa, ISIL’s stronghold in Syria, as they move in from the city’s north.

SDF captured the strategic Tabqa airbase from ISIL in March. The airbase is 28 miles west of Raqqa,

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US Ambassador to UN calls Syrian president a ‘War Criminal’

Nikki Haley, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, says Syrian President Bashar al-Assad is “a war criminal” and that the United States would not accept that he could again run for election again in the war-torn country.


Haley on April 3 told a news conference that Assad has been “a hindrance to peace for a long time” and that his treatment of Syrians was “disgusting.”

“We don’t think that the people want Assad anymore,” she said. “We don’t think that he is going to be someone that the people want to have.”

Assad’s future has been the key barrier in negotiations aimed at ending the six-year civil war in Syria.

In August 2011, U.S. President Barack Obama said Assad must leave power. In 2015, then-Secretary of State John Kerry said Assad must go, but that the timing of his departure could be a subject of negotiation.

This Air Force unit caught spy satellite photos as they fell from space
Putin with president of Syria Bashar al-Assad. This should tell you all you need to know. (Russian government photo)

Haley on March 31 said the Trump administration was not pursuing a strategy to push Assad out of power, echoing comments made by other U.S. officials who said the focus for now is ending Syria’s six-year civil war and defeating Islamic State (IS) militants.

U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson on March 30 said that Assad’s future was up to the Syrian people.

Reporters asked Haley at the April 3 news briefing if that meant Washington would accept that Assad could again run for the presidency in elections.

“No, it doesn’t mean that the U.S. will accept it,” she said.

UN-brokered talks in Geneva have failed to make progress toward ending Syria’s civil war, which began in March 2011 when protests broke out against Assad’s government.

Since then, at least 300,000 people have been killed and millions of others have been displaced.

The United States and Turkey support various groups fighting the government, while Russia and Turkey back Assad.

Islamic State fighters have also entered the conflict and are opposed by both sides.

With reporting by AFP and AP.

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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:

A special missions aviator from the 41st Rescue Squadron looks out from an HH-60G Pave Hawk over Grand Bay Bombing and Gunnery Range at Moody Air Force Base, Ga., May 20, 2016. Airmen simulated different combat and rescue situations to synchronize efforts between a variety of Air Combat Command airframes.

This Air Force unit caught spy satellite photos as they fell from space
U.S. Air Force photo/Airman Daniel Snider

An F-15E Strike Eagle soars above Grand Bay Bombing and Gunnery Range at Moody Air Force Base, Ga., May 20, 2016. Multiple Air Combat Command aircraft conducted joint aerial training, showcasing the aircraft’s tactical air and ground maneuvers, as well as their weapons capabilities.

This Air Force unit caught spy satellite photos as they fell from space
U.S. Air Force photo/Airman Daniel Snider

ARMY:

A soldier conducts physical training while deployed with Task Force Red Wolf during Exercise Beyond The Horizon 2016 at San Marcos, Guatemala, May 30, 2016.

This Air Force unit caught spy satellite photos as they fell from space
United States Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Phillip Butterfield

A soldier observes a Bradley Fighting Vehicle maneuver on an objective during a U.S. Army Central combined arms live-fire exercise, part of Exercise Eager Lion, at the Joint Training Center, Jordan, May 24, 2016. Eager Lion is an annual two-week interoperability exercise that aims to increase the partnership ties between the U.S. and Jordanian militaries.

This Air Force unit caught spy satellite photos as they fell from space
U.S. Army photo by Sgt. David N. Beckstrom

NAVY:

NORFOLK, Va. (June 1, 2016) Master Chief Ship’s Serviceman Alberto Sanchez, center, judges a barber competition as part of Surface Line Week Atlantic. Held annually in Norfolk, Surface Line Week brings Sailors and federal civilians together for friendly athletic and professional competitions.

This Air Force unit caught spy satellite photos as they fell from space
U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Justin Wolpert

NORFOLK, Va. (June 1, 2016) Seaman Tristen Blair, assigned to the USS Monterey (CG 61), hugs his mother Karla Blair before the ship departs Naval Station Norfolk with the USS Dwight D. Eisenhower Carrier Strike Group (CSG). The ships are deploying in support of maritime security operations and theater security cooperation efforts in the U.S. 5th and 6th Fleet areas of operation as well as the Great Green Fleet initiative. While deployed, CSG ships and aircraft will employ operational procedures and energy conservation measures in order to enhance operational capabilities, enabling strike group units to go farther, stay longer and deliver more firepower without having to refuel.

This Air Force unit caught spy satellite photos as they fell from space
U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Shelby M. Tucker

MARINE CORPS:

Marines assigned to Officer Candidate School (OCS) participate in the Combat Course aboard Marine Corps Base Quantico, Virginia, May 11, 2016. The mission of OCS is to educate and train candidates in order to evaluate and screen individuals for qualities required for commissioning as a Marine Corps officer.

This Air Force unit caught spy satellite photos as they fell from space
U.S. Marine Corps Combat Camera photo by Cpl. Laura Mercado

Marines assigned to Officer Candidate School participate in the Montford Point challenge aboard Marine Corps Base Quantico, Virginia, May 19, 2016. The challenge consisted of a supply run where the Marines went through obstacles and faced similar physical challenges as the Montford Point Marines.

This Air Force unit caught spy satellite photos as they fell from space
U.S. Marine Corps Combat Camera photo by Cpl. Laura Mercado

COAST GUARD:

This Memorial Day we honor and remember those who made the ultimate sacrifice for their country and our freedom.

This Air Force unit caught spy satellite photos as they fell from space
U.S. Coast Guard Photo

Pictured here is USCG Cutter Marcus Hanna anchored near the Isle of Shoals in New Hampshire. Photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Kenny Galanif.

This Air Force unit caught spy satellite photos as they fell from space
U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Kenny Galanif.

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This rifle makes posting your kills to Facebook easier

This Air Force unit caught spy satellite photos as they fell from space
Image: TrackingPoint


TrackingPoint’s rifle technology is known for making the marksman equation easier. However, one of their little-known features is the onboard streaming technology.

Related: This rifle can turn anyone into an American Sniper

With wearable technology, such as Google Glass or Recon Jet, shooters can stand behind a corner and still aim at a target. Not only does the sight stream from the rifle to wearable device, it also streams to mobile phones, tablets, and computers to anyone in the world over the Internet. This makes it easier to share your kills to Facebook rather than tasking your spotter to record video. Just sayin’.

Of course, while TrackingPoint makes real-life shooting seem easier than video game sniping, one should never take skills for granted. After all, it is technology, and technology breaks.

Here’s TrackingPoint’s streaming technology in action:

TrackingPoint, YouTube