13 new photos from the Air Force's D-Day flyover - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY HISTORY

13 new photos from the Air Force’s D-Day flyover

Seventy-five years ago, tens of thousands of men were churning their way through the hedgerows of Normandy, fighting tooth and nail to liberate French towns and to ensure the security of the tenuous toehold that the Allies had opened against Germany in Operation Overlord on D-Day. This toehold would grow until it was a massive front that made it all the way to Berlin in less than a year.


Now, 75 years later, the U.S. and Allied militaries are celebrating their forebears’ success with a series of events in the U.K. and France. As part of these celebrations, the U.S. Air Force flew two F-15E Strike Eagles with special, heritage paint jobs over the fields and hedgerows of modern day Normandy on June 9, 2019. Here are 13 photos from an Air Force photographer sent to document the event:

13 new photos from the Air Force’s D-Day flyover

(U.S. Air Force Tech. Sgt. Matthew Plew)

The special Strike Eagles are part of the 48th Fighter Wing and took off from Royal Air Force Base Lakenheath, England, for the flyover. During the D-Day invasion, U.S. Army Air Corps fighters and bombers took off from English air bases to support the landings on the beaches, pushing back the Luftwaffe screens and reducing the number of bombers and dive bombers that troops on the ground would have to endure.

13 new photos from the Air Force’s D-Day flyover

(U.S. Air Force Tech. Sgt. Matthew Plew)

The Army Air Corps’ bombs softened targets and reduced enemy artillery positions and other defenses, but the fight in the hedgerows was still bloody and vicious. And the German coastal artillery had to be eliminated to keep as many pilots in the sky as possible.

13 new photos from the Air Force’s D-Day flyover

(U.S. Air Force Tech. Sgt. Matthew Plew)

But the pilots who preceded the modern Air Force began the important preparations for D-Day months ahead of time, sending increased bomber formations against Germany, including Berlin, for five months ahead of D-Day. These bomber formations doomed the Luftwaffe, Germany’s air force, in two ways.

13 new photos from the Air Force’s D-Day flyover

(U.S. Air Force Tech. Sgt. Matthew Plew)

First, there’s the obvious. The bombers destroyed German factories and war machines, annihilating German equipment and crippling the country’s ability to rebuild it. But Germany responded by sending up their fighters to stop the bombers, and that’s where new American fighters came into the fray.

13 new photos from the Air Force’s D-Day flyover

(U.S. Air Force Tech. Sgt. Matthew Plew)

The P-47s with drop tanks led the charge in 1943, but other fighters joined the fray at the end of ’43 and start of ’44. The P-51B, along with other fighters including the British Spitfires and Typhoons, slayed the German fighters that rose to counter the bombers. By June 1944, the Luftwaffe was a shadow of its former self.

13 new photos from the Air Force’s D-Day flyover

(U.S. Air Force Tech. Sgt. Matthew Plew)

Army Air Corps pilots gave their lives to prepare for June 6, 1944, and other pilots would make the ultimate sacrifice on D-Day and in the weeks and months that followed. But that perseverance and sacrifice paid dividends, allowing for the Allied defeat of Nazi Germany in May 1945.

13 new photos from the Air Force’s D-Day flyover

(U.S. Air Force Tech. Sgt. Matthew Plew)

13 new photos from the Air Force’s D-Day flyover

(U.S. Air Force Tech. Sgt. Matthew Plew)

13 new photos from the Air Force’s D-Day flyover

(U.S. Air Force Tech. Sgt. Matthew Plew)

13 new photos from the Air Force’s D-Day flyover

(U.S. Air Force Tech. Sgt. Matthew Plew)

13 new photos from the Air Force’s D-Day flyover

(U.S. Air Force Tech. Sgt. Matthew Plew)

13 new photos from the Air Force’s D-Day flyover

(U.S. Air Force Tech. Sgt. Matthew Plew)

13 new photos from the Air Force’s D-Day flyover

(U.S. Air Force Tech. Sgt. Matthew Plew)

MIGHTY TACTICAL

This workhorse of Army aviation is over 40 years old

The UH-60 Black Hawk has been a mainstay of the United States Military since it was first delivered in 1978. This highly versatile helicopter has since served with all five branches of the armed services and has even found a home with other agencies, like U.S. Customs and Border Protection, as well.

The primary purpose of the Black Hawk is to haul troops — at least 11 of them — but it’s also very capable of hauling cargo — it can support 9,000 pounds hanging from a cargo hook. Versions of this helicopter also serve as medevacs, in command and control capacities, and as support to special operations forces. Some even pack a lot of firepower and take to the skies as gunships.


13 new photos from the Air Force’s D-Day flyover

UH-60A Black Hawks land at Point Salinas Airfield in Grenada. Operation Urgent Fury was the Black Hawk’s baptism by fire.

(US Army)

Some have even done their share of counter-smuggling. H-60 Black Hawks with the Customs Service have busted their share of folks running marijuana — not to mention a host of other drugs — and enough cash to buy a good chunk of Miami. The drugs get torched and the money gets handed over to the authorities.

The Black Hawk has seen decades of action since its combat debut as part of Operation Urgent Fury, the American invasion of Grenada. Since then, the Black Hawk has seen action in every American conflict, from the invasion of Panama to the War on Terror. It’s done very well in every one of those conflicts.

13 new photos from the Air Force’s D-Day flyover

UH-60 Black Hawks with the 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault) during Operation Iraqi Freedom.

(US Army)

The Black Hawk will likely be around for a very long time. In fact, orders are still coming in for brand-new Black Hawk helicopters — and not just within the United States. These birds have been exported around the world, to countries ranging from Chile to Sweden. Over 2,600 Black Hawks have been produced, and this total doesn’t reflect other H-60 airframes, like the Navy’s Seahawk family and the Air Force’s HH-60 Pave Hawk family.

Learn more about this versatile helicopter that’s sure to stick around for at least 40 years in the video below.

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

www.youtube.com

MIGHTY TRENDING

Iran just shot down one of the US military’s most advanced drones

Iranian forces took out a US unmanned aerial vehicle June 19, 2019, with a surface-to-air missile, US Central Command confirmed. The drone the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) shot out of the sky happens to be one of the US military’s most advanced high-altitude unmanned aircraft.

The Iranians shot down a US Navy Broad Area Maritime Surveillance (BAMS-D) intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance aircraft, specifically a RQ-4A Global Hawk high-altitude, long-endurance (HALE) drone, which the military uses to conduct recon operations over oceans and coastal waterways, among other areas.

The US military called the incident “an unprovoked attack on a US surveillance asset in international airspace” over the Strait of Hormuz, the entrance to the Persian Gulf. The Iranians have accused the US drone of entering Iranian airspace, an allegation Central Command characterized as completely false.


The RQ-4, which informed the development of the newer MQ-4C drones, is one of the most advanced high-altitude drones being employed operationally, The War Zone said. These aircraft, Northrop Grumman aircraft that have been used extensively in the Persian Gulf, rely on a suite of high-end electronic sensors and other intelligence-gathering systems to peer into other countries.

13 new photos from the Air Force’s D-Day flyover

MQ-4C prototype.

The aircraft, which is used by both the US Air Force and the US Navy, has a price tag higher than the US military’s new F-35 stealth fighters. A Global Hawk has a unit cost of roughly 3 million, while an F-35A Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter costs only million.

“This isn’t a throwaway drone whose loss the US will just shrug off,” Ulrike Franke, a drone expert with the European Council on Foreign Relations, said on Twitter. But it’s not just the price tag that makes the loss of this drone a big deal. The drone is designed to be harder to hit, she said, because they fly at altitudes beyond the reach of some air defense defense systems.

“The RQ-4 flies at upwards of 65,000 feet,” Tyler Rogoway, the editor of The War Zone, wrote. “So this would have been a sophisticated radar-guided surface-to-air missile that shot the aircraft down, not a shoulder-fired, heat-seeking missile.”

13 new photos from the Air Force’s D-Day flyover

F-35A Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Samuel King Jr.)

Iran said the IRGC shot down the US drone with an upgraded Khordad missile-defense system, which can detect and track targets 95 miles away and down them at a distance of 30 miles, Breaking Defense reported. The system can target enemy aircraft flying as high as 81,000 feet, or roughly 15 miles.

The Global Hawk does not have any stealth capabilities or high-end countermeasures for penetration missions, leaving it vulnerable to any air defense systems that can hit high-altitude targets.

The latest incident comes just days after the crew of an Iranian boat fired an SA-7 surface-to-air missile at a MQ-9 Reaper drone, a roughly million drone, but missed. Wednesday’s shoot-down marks a serious escalation in tensions between the US and Iran.

“If the Iranians come after US citizens, US assets or [the] US military, we reserve the right to respond with a military action, and they need to know that,” Gen. Paul Selva, the vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told reporters earlier this week.

This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.

MIGHTY CULTURE

This is how the military gets ready to deploy anywhere in the world in 18 hours

Typically, troops get their orders to deploy many months in advance. In times of stability, you’re looking at twelve months gone and then twelve months at home. Everyone in the unit has ample time to get their ducks in a row before heading off to war.

But when sh*t hits the fan, the United States Armed Forces can gear up entire brigade-sized elements of troops and put boots on the ground in just under eighteen hours.

Now, getting troops ready to go isn’t the hard part — troops usually keep a rucksack packed and a rifle on standby in the arms room. It’s the logistical nightmare that comes with transporting all of the required gear that makes this feat truly impressive.


13 new photos from the Air Force’s D-Day flyover

At any moment, the Currahee are ready to drop in like it was D-Day all over again.

(U.S. Army photo by Major Kamil Sztalkoper)

In the Army, brigades that are officially ready to deploy are called Division Ready Brigades. In the Marine Corps, they’re called Marine Expeditionary Units. To be certified as one of these units, there are several requirements, including pre-deployment training, gear staging, and mountains of paperwork.

The 506th Regimental Combat Team, 101st Airborne Division out of Fort Campbell, KY, earned “reactionary force” status in 2007 and, impressively, has maintained it ever since.

“The purpose of the division ready brigade is to quickly move Soldiers and equipment to support emergency situations requiring DoD support,” said Col. Thomas Vail, the then-506th RCT commander told the Fort Campbell Courier. “We are well prepared for this task in terms of leadership, Soldier discipline, and staff expertise. The 506th RCT has conducted rehearsals and back briefs just like any combat mission tasked to the brigade.”

They earned this by staging a mock deployment to get everyone, including their gear and vehicles, ready to go to Fort Irwin’s National Training Center. All vehicles needed to be staged, all artillery guns needed to be prepped, and all connexes had to be packed with everything they’d need within 72 hours of landing.

13 new photos from the Air Force’s D-Day flyover

These Marines are always on call… Ready to be tagged in.

(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Scott Pittman)

To remain ready, some units have pre-staged gear that they never touch. As you can imagine, having and stashing gear only to be used for rapid deployment requires cash — which, unfortunately, isn’t in excess for many units.

The Marines, however, have always been known for doing more with less. In this case, they do this by keeping their Marines on a fifteen month cycle: they spend nine months training stateside and six months aboard a Navy vessel offshore.

They strategically place their Marines on the Naval vessels nearest to where they expect to be fighting and stay ready to hop onto landing crafts at any moment. The Marines of the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit take this one step further by remaining permanently forward-deployed out of Okinawa.

Maj. Jacob R. Godby, the 31st MEU assistant operations officer, said,

“The size of our AO requires us to train for a wide variety of missions which requires an extensive range of equipment and the best trained Marines anywhere. In Okinawa, we have the resources and training grounds that allow us to train for almost any mission we could be tasked with. MEUEX allows us to begin putting the pieces together as we move closer to embarking for our next patrol.”

It’s a logistical headache, but it’s a challenge that only the most intense units have been able to successfully pull off. If there’s crisis in need of the U.S. Armed Forces, these guys can be there within the day, letting other troops bring in the rest of the gear after them to establish a more permanent presence.

MIGHTY MILSPOUSE

Put the homeschool schedules down until you read this

And just like that, all of America became homeschoolers.

As resources are furiously pinned to social media, it quickly becomes overwhelming to newbie parent-teachers trying to choose what tools to fill their children’s long days with. Rather quickly, most of you will hit walls. Walls that I too hit, full of rookie mistakes made trying to recreate the actual school day or classroom schedule within my home.


I’m here to tell you to throw that all away. To slowly and happily sip your morning coffee and read this.

13 new photos from the Air Force’s D-Day flyover

Whatever you do, don’t try to recreate the school day at home.

As a former public school teacher turned travel schooling mom (google that in your spare time), the first mistake typically made is both the course load and daily schedule. Classrooms educate on average 20-30 children simultaneously at various levels of learning. At home, you have one student-yours. He or she will accomplish a school day’s worth of work in far less time.

The beauty of homeschool is that it is meant to be flexible, individual, and guided by learner’s passions. You will learn to “do school” at times when your child is the most focused. This may mean 1-2 lessons first thing in the morning, then creative passions, exploration, and fun until later in the evening when they finish up a few “core lessons.” At this very moment, homeschoolers are on thousands of varied schedules. The best part? There’s no wrong answer. So spend the first week or so tuning into your home and child’s rhythms before charging forcefully ahead into a schedule.

Pursuing interests is the best form of education

What’s the best modality for educating your children? Good conversation. I could start and end this article there.

Once you realize “core curriculum” takes up only a tiny fraction of time, something else will begin to fill the days…passion. The deep pursuit of self-interest is the beautiful gem of homeschooling. Now is the best time for your children to take up a love of art study, Claymation, geology, gardening, or marine biology via the unlimited library of content available online. Allow them to spark a new interest or immerse themselves completely in a passion for discovering a world they never knew existed.

The simplest, yet effective way to spark passion is to discover the world around you through intricate observation. On the way to the beach, my children noticed several tsunami hazard zone signs. A series of questions, answers, and google results led to over an hour of becoming mini experts at 4 and 8 years old. The subject was tangibly relevant to them; thus, they pursued the study fiercely. Experiences like this are worksheet free. Developing a love of learning is the ultimate goal of education.

13 new photos from the Air Force’s D-Day flyover

Let them participate in what we are all going through

Knowledge is empowering. Your children are aware the world is changing around then, no matter how innocent they may be. Each new day we experience a global pandemic forcing the world into quarantine, shutting down schools, and infringing upon our way of life, which is a time worth documenting.

Allow your children to become historians and reporters. Generations all go through something, and this is something noteworthy. Invite your children to document what they see in the world around them and how they feel or what they understand is going on. Not only is this highly educational (spelling, grammar, creative writing, history, etc.), but it is also helpful to frame an otherwise scary situation for young minds. Together, each day you can go over their journals to help shape or clarify things for them. It is also an opportunity to solidify in their minds how you are doing all you can to keep your family safe.

This time is a gift. A gift to stop and reengage with your children all over again. To get to know them deeply as individuals in this season of life. To make the memories and connections necessary to sustain them into adulthood.

Take a breath, take it easy, and simply enjoy discovering each day together.

MIGHTY HISTORY

This hero WWII destroyer was reached in the world’s deepest shipwreck dive

On October 25, 1944, the Japanese navy launched an all-out counterattack against the U.S. invasion of the Philippines. The Japanese were able to lure Admiral Halsey and the Third Fleet away from the Philippines by exposing the last of their aircraft carriers. With the departure of the Third Fleet, the small task force defending the island landings were left to face down the real Japanese attack.

13 new photos from the Air Force’s D-Day flyover
USS Johnston (DD-577) in 1943 (U.S. Navy)

The Japanese Center Force consisted of eleven destroyers, eight cruisers, and four battleships, one of which was the super battleship Yamato. With Halsey drawn away by the Japanese carriers, Task Unit 77.4.3 was all that stood in the way of the Japanese Navy destroying the invasion force. Known by their radio call-sign “Taffy 3”, the small U.S. naval element consisted of just six escort carriers, three destroyers, and four destroyer escorts. It would take an incredible amount of bravery and courage for the Americans to repel the huge Japanese offensive. Luckily, the crew of USS Johnston (DD-577) had both in spades.

Johnston was commanded by Cdr. Ernest E. Evans. On the day of the ship’s commissioning, Evans set the tone for his command. “This is going to be a fighting ship,” he fortuitously declared. “I intend to go in harm’s way, and anyone who doesn’t want to go along had better get off right now.” Seeing the mass of enemy ships bearing down on them, Evans ordered the Fletcher-class destroyer to charge.

Johnston‘s frontal assault was met with heavy Japanese gunfire. Multiple shells struck the ship, causing heavy damage and casualties. Evans himself was wounded, but ordered a second charge. The crew had expended all of their torpedoes on their first charge. The guns that were still fightable were low on ammo, but the brave sailors of USS Johnston charged again.

13 new photos from the Air Force’s D-Day flyover
Lt. Cdr. Evans at the Johnston‘s commissioning in Seattle in 1943 (U.S. Navy)

On the second attack run, Johnston shot a total of 30 more rounds into a much larger Japanese battleship. When the enemy ships turned their attention to the escort carrier USS Gambier Bay (CVE-73), Evans didn’t hesitate to issue new orders. “Commence firing on that cruiser,” he commanded. “Draw her fire on us and away form Gambier Bay.” Luckily for the escort carrier, the distraction worked. However, Johnston was not so lucky.

After two-and-a-half hours of courageous and ruthless fighting, USS Johnston sat dead in the water. With Japanese ships closing in, Evans gave the order to abandon ship at 0945 hours. Twenty-five minutes later, Johnston rolled over and began to sink. Only 141 sailors of the 327-man crew survived the battle; Evans was not one of them. He was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor for his heroic command of the USS Johnston. Cdr. Evans became the first Native American in the U.S. Navy and one of only two destroyer captains during WWII to receive the honor.

The valiant head-on attacks by the crew of USS Johnston and the other sailors of Taffy 3 were able to route the Japanese attack. Their attacks were so fierce that the Japanese believed they were fighting a much larger force and decided to retreat.

75 years after she sunk, Johnston was discovered by the Vulcan Inc. research vessel Petrel. However, most of the wreck was too deep for their remotely operated submersible to reach. It was not until March 2021 that Caladan Oceanic was able to send a manned submersible down to Johnston‘s wreck. “Just completed the deepest wreck dive in history, to find the main wreckage of the destroyer USS Johnston,” tweeted Caladan Oceanic founder and submersible pilot Victor Vescovo. “We located the front 2/3 of the ship, upright and intact, at 6456 meters. Three of us across two dives surveyed the vessel and gave respects to her brave crew.” The Caladan Oceanic crew also laid a wreath in the vicinity of the battle site to honor the sailors who paid the ultimate sacrifice that day.

13 new photos from the Air Force’s D-Day flyover
Johnston‘s bow featuring her ship number (Caladan Oceanic)
MIGHTY HISTORY

This top-secret supersonic drone was found in the Arizona desert

Most of what is lying around in the dusty expanse of the aircraft graveyards around Tucson, Arizona is readily identifiable and not entirely remarkable.

Ejection seats from old F-4 Phantoms. An old CH-53 helicopter hulk. An interesting find over there is a fuselage section of a Soviet-era MiG-23 Flogger. No idea how it got here. Other than that, it’s just long rows of old, broken, silent airplanes inside high fences surrounded by cactus, dust, sand and more sand. An errant aileron on a dead wing clunks quietly against the hot afternoon breeze as if willing itself back into the air. But like everything here, its days of flying are over.


But there… What is that strange, manta-ray shaped, dusty black thing lying at an angle just on the other side of that fence? It may be an old airfield wind vane or radar test model. But it also may be…

13 new photos from the Air Force’s D-Day flyover
Lockheed D-21B at the National Museum of the United States Air Force.
(U.S. Air Force photo)

I had only read about it and seen grainy photos of it. I know it’s impossible. The project was so secret not much information exists about the details even today. But I stand there gawking through the chain link fence as the ruins of the other planes bear silent witness. It’ like the corpses of the other airplanes are urging me to look closer. To not leave. Their silent dignity begs me to tell this story.

After nearly a minute of studying it through the fence I realize; I am right. It is right before my eyes. Ten feet away. Despite the 100-degree heat I get goosebumps. And I start running.

I quickly locate a spot where the entire fence line opens up. I skirt the fence and in a couple minutes running around the sandy airplane corpses I’m inside. There, sitting right in front of me on its decrepit transport cart and dusted with windblown sand, abandoned in the Sonoran Desert, is one of Kelly Johnson and Ben Rich’s most ambitious classified projects from the fabled Lockheed Skunk Works.

13 new photos from the Air Force’s D-Day flyover
A previously classified photo of the Lockheed D-21 drone at the Skunkworks manufacturing facility.
(Lockheed Martin photo)

I just found the CIA’s ultra-secret Mach 3.3+ D-21 long-range reconnaissance drone. The D-21 was so weird, so ambitious, so unlikely it remains one of the most improbable concepts in the history of the often-bizarre world of ultra-secret “black” aviation projects. And now it lies discarded in the desert. The story behind it is so bizarre it is difficult to believe, but it is true.

July 30, 1966: Flight Level 920 (92,000 ft.), Mach 3.25, Above Point Mugu Naval Air Missile Test Center, Off Oxnard, California.

Only an SR-71 Blackbird is fast enough and can fly high enough to photograph this, the most classified of national security tests. Traveling faster than a rifle bullet at 91,000 feet, near inner-space altitude, one of the most ambitious and bizarre contraptions in the history of mankind is about to be tested.

“Tagboard” is its codename. Because of the catastrophic May, 1960 shoot-down of Francis Gary Powers’ Lockheed U-2 high altitude spy plane over the Soviet Union the CIA and is in desperate need of another way to spy on the rising threat of communist nuclear tests. Even worse, the other “Red Menace”, the Chinese, are testing massive hydrogen bombs in a remote location of the Gobi Desert near the Mongolian/Chinese border. It would be easier to observe the tests if the Chinese did them on the moon.

The goal is simple, but the problem is titanic. Get photos of the top-secret Red Chinese hydrogen bomb tests near the Mongolian border deep inside Asia, then get them back, without being detected.

Lockheed Skunkworks boss Kelly Johnson and an elite, ultra-classified small team of aerospace engineers have built an aircraft so far ahead of its time that even a vivid imagination has difficulty envisioning it.

Flat, triangular, black, featureless except for its odd plan form as viewed from above, like a demon’s cloak, it has a sharply pointed nose recessed into a forward-facing orifice. That’s it. No canopy, no cockpit, no weapons. Nothing attached to the outside. Even more so than a rifle bullet its shape is smooth and simple. This is the ultra-secret D-21 drone.

13 new photos from the Air Force’s D-Day flyover
An Air Force photo of the D-21 mounted on the M-21 launch aircraft. The M-21 launch aircraft was a special variant of the SR-71 Blackbird. Only two were produced.
(U.S. Air Force photo)

The D-21 is truly a “drone”, not a remotely piloted aircraft (RPA). Its flight plan is programmed into a guidance system. It is launched from a mothership launch aircraft at speed and altitude. It flies a predetermined spy mission from 17 miles above the ground and flashes over at three times the speed of sound. It photographs massive swaths of land with incredible detail and resolution. And because of its remarkably stealthy shape, no one will ever know it was there.

Today the D-21 rides on the back of a Lockheed M-21, a specialized variant of the SR-71 Blackbird, the famous Mach 3+ high altitude spy plane. The M-21 version of the SR-71 carries the D-21 drone on its back up to launch speed and altitude. The it ignites the D-21’s unique RJ43-MA20S-4 ramjet engine and releases it on its pre-programmed flight.

Chasing the M-21 and D-21 combination today is a Lockheed SR-71, the only thing that can keep up with this combination of aircraft. It is the SR-71’s job to photograph and film the test launch of the D-21 drone from the M-21 launch aircraft.

There have been three successful launch separations of the D-21 from the M-21 launch aircraft so far. In each of these flights, even though the launch was successful, the D-21 drone fell victim to some minor mechanical failure that destroyed the drone, because, at over Mach 3 and 90,000 feet, there really are no “minor” failures.

Today Bill Park and Ray Torick are the flight crew on board the M-21 launch aircraft. They sit inside the M-21 launch aircraft dressed in pressurized high altitude flight suits that resemble space suits.

Once at predetermined launch speed and altitude the M-21/D-21 combination flies next to the SR-71 camera plane. Keith Beswick is filming the launch test from the SR-71 camera plane. Ray Torick, the drone launch controller sitting in the back seat of the tandem M-21, launches the D-21 from its position on top of the M-21’s fuselage between the massive engines.

Something goes wrong.

The D-21 drone separates and rolls slightly to its left side. It strikes the left vertical stabilizer of the M-21 mother ship. Then it caroms back into the M-21’s upper fuselage, exerting massive triple supersonic forces downward on the M-21 aircraft. The M-21 begins to pitch up and physics takes over as Bill Park and Ray Torick make the split-second transition from test pilots to helpless passengers to crash victims.

The triple supersonic forces rip both aircraft apart in the thin, freezing air. Shards of titanium and shrapnel from engine parts trail smoke and frozen vapor as they disintegrate in the upper atmosphere. There is no such thing as a minor accident at Mach 3+ and 92,000 feet.

Miraculously, both Bill Park and Ray Torick eject from the shattered M-21 mother ship. Even more remarkably, they actually survive the ejection. The pair splash down in the Pacific 150 miles off the California coast. Bill Park successfully deploys the small life raft attached to his ejection seat. Ray Torick lands in the ocean but opens the visor on his spacesuit-like helmet attached to his pressurized flight suit. The suit floods through the face opening in his helmet. Torick drowns before he can be rescued. Keith Beswick, the pilot filming the accident from the SR-71 chase plane, has to go to the mortuary to cut Ray Torick’s body out of the pressurized high-altitude flight suit before he can be buried.

The ultra-secret test program to launch a D-21 drone from the top of an M-21 launch aircraft at over Mach 3 and 90,000 feet, is cancelled.

The D-21 program does move forward on its own. Now the drone is dropped from a lumbering B-52 mothership. The D-21 is then boosted to high altitude and Mach 3+ with a rocket booster. Once at speed and altitude the booster unit drops off and the D-21 drone begins its spy mission.

After more than a year of test launches from the B-52 mothership the D-21 drone was ready for its first operational missions over Red China. President Nixon approved the first reconnaissance flight for November 9, 1969. The mission was launched from Beale AFB in California.

Despite a successful launch the D-21 drone was lost. In the middle of 1972, after four attempts at overflying Red China with the D-21 drone and four mission failures, the program was cancelled. It was imaginative. It was innovative. It was ingenious. But it was impossible.

So ended one of the most ambitious and outrageous espionage projects in history.

1604 Hrs. December 20, 2009. In the Back Storage Yard of the Pima Air Space Museum Outside Tucson, Arizona.

I pet airplanes when I can. I’m not exactly sure why, maybe to be able to say I did. Maybe to try to gain some tactile sense of their history. Maybe to absorb something from them, if such a thing is possible. Maybe so that, when I am old and dying, I can reflect back on what it felt like to stand next to them and touch them. I don’t know why I touch them and stroke them, but I do.

13 new photos from the Air Force’s D-Day flyover


The fully restored Lockheed D-21 drone at the Pima Air Space Museum outside Tucson, Arizona.

(Pima Air Space Museum photo)

The D-21 is dusty and warm in the late afternoon Arizona sun. Its titanium skin is hard, not slightly forgiving like an aluminum airplane. It gives away nothing. Silent. Brooding. After I touch it my hand came away with some of the dust from it. I don’t wipe it off.

Sometime later in the coming years, the D-21B drone, number 90-0533, is brought inside the vast restoration facility at the Pima Air Space Museum and beautifully restored. Now it lies in state, on display inside the museum.

But when I first found it sitting abandoned in the storage yard, dusty and baking in the Sonoran Desert sun, it felt like its warm titanium skin still had some secret life left in it.

This article originally appeared on The Aviationist. Follow @theaviationist on Twitter.

Military Life

5 reasons your troops are more important than promotion

If there’s one complaint common across the military, it’s that commanders too often care more about their careers than the well-being of their troops. It’s problematic when higher-ups are willing to put lower enlisted through hell if it means they look good at the end of the day.


Troops are quick to recognize this behavior but, unfortunately, commanders don’t see it in themselves or they just don’t care. There are plenty of cases, though, in which a leader will stick their neck out for the sake of their subordinates at the risk of their own career — because they understand what it means to be a leader.

This doesn’t mean you should be soft. It means that you should think about being in your troops’ shoes and understand the sheer magnitude of unnecessary bullsh*t they go through.

Here’s why leaders need to care more about their troops and less about their promotion.

13 new photos from the Air Force’s D-Day flyover

Tough love without the love is tough.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Emmanuel Ramos)

They’re essentially your children

No one like to feel unwanted — and that’s exactly what it feels like to have a commander who cares more about their career. It just results in unnecessary misery across the board.

13 new photos from the Air Force’s D-Day flyover

They’ll even charge into battle behind you.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Ally Beiswanger)

Troops respond to care with motivation

As previously mentioned, troops know when you’re only after a promotion. Once they pick up on it, they’re going to be reluctant to follow you anywhere. When it becomes clear that you do care, it motivates them to want to work for you. When your troops are motivated, they’ll follow you anywhere.

13 new photos from the Air Force’s D-Day flyover

Respect is a two-way street.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Chief Warrant Officer 2 Pete Thibodeau)

You gain more respect

If you rely on your rank to get your respect, you’re going to have a bad time. Your goal as a leader should be to earn the respect of your subordinates by being the commander who gives a sh*t.

Here’s a tip: if a troop comes to you with a problem that doesn’t need to be reported to someone above you, handle it in-house. Your goal should be to do everything you can to avoid having your troops crucified if they don’t deserve it.

13 new photos from the Air Force’s D-Day flyover

Maybe your sign will look less and less like this over time.

(Terminal Lance)

They’ll follow the rules

This may not always be true but when troops respect you, they’ll go out of their way to make sure you look good because they want you to succeed and climb through the ranks. After all, kids want to impress their parents by doing good things.

13 new photos from the Air Force’s D-Day flyover

They’ll be happy to do things like this for you, but only after you earn respect…

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Alejandro Pena)

They’ll understand when they have to do something stupid

If your troops know you’re the type who won’t ask them to needlessly do stupid tasks, they won’t blame you when you have to. Instead, they’ll blame someone above you for giving you such a task to pass down and understand that you aren’t trying to make their lives miserable.

In fact, they may even start to take initiative for minor tasks so you won’t have to ask them to do it.

MIGHTY TRENDING

12 awesome photos of the Army pounding ISIS then playing baseball

About a mile from the Iraqi-Syrian border is a US military fire base where approximately 150 Marines and soldiers are still hammering ISIS in Syria with artillery.

“To get to the firebase, you fly by helicopter over Mosul,” NPR’s Jane Arraf reported on July 2, 2018.

“And then just a little more than a mile from the Syrian border, there’s a collection of tents and armored vehicles in the desert,” Arraf said, adding that the US troops have been at the remote, temporary base for about a month.

In early June 2018, the US Army released a dozen photos showing the base and the troops firing M777 howitzers and M109 Paladins to support the Syrian Democratic Forces clearing ISIS from the Euphrates River Valley.

Then a few weeks later, the Army released photos of the troops playing an improvised game of baseball as dusk sets in and smoke clouds billow in the background.

Check them out below:


13 new photos from the Air Force’s D-Day flyover

(U.S. Army photo)

Here’s part of the base, which appears to be surrounded by a sand barrier for protection.

It’s about 100 degrees at the camp, and is crawling with scorpions and biting spiders, NPR reported.

13 new photos from the Air Force’s D-Day flyover

U.S. Army Soldiers with the 3rd Cavalry Regiment fire artillery alongside Iraqi Security Force artillery at known ISIS locations near the Iraqi-Syrian border, June 5, 2018.

(U.S. Army photo)

And US troops are firing M777 howitzers.

Read more about the M777 here.

13 new photos from the Air Force’s D-Day flyover

Iraqi Security Forces fire at known ISIS locations near the Iraqi-Syrian border using an M109A6 Paladin Self-Propelled Howitzer, June 5, 2018.

(U.S. Army photo)

As well as M109 Paladins.

Read more about the Paladin here, and watch a demo video of it firing from inside here.

13 new photos from the Air Force’s D-Day flyover

(U.S. Army photo)

Here’s a wide shot of how the M777s are set up.

But US troops are not alone at the base as they’re operating alongside Iraqi forces.

“Iraqi commanders normally select the targets,” NPR’s Arraf said. “The strikes are mostly in remote areas. The U.S. military says it takes care to avoid civilian casualties.”

13 new photos from the Air Force’s D-Day flyover

Iraqi Security Forces are ready to fire at known ISIS locations near the Iraqi-Syrian border using an M109A6 Paladin Self-Propelled Howitzer, June 5, 2018.

(U.S. Army photo)

13 new photos from the Air Force’s D-Day flyover

U.S. Army Soldiers with the 3rd Cavalry Regiment fire artillery alongside Iraqi Security Force artillery at known ISIS locations near the Iraqi-Syrian border, June 5, 2018.

(U.S. Army photo)

13 new photos from the Air Force’s D-Day flyover

(U.S. Army photo)

The 155mm rounds “weigh about a hundred pounds each,” Sgt. Jason Powell told NPR. “And sometimes we get up to 12-round fire missions. So with your gear on and hauling these rounds, these guys are fricking animals.”

Source: NPR

13 new photos from the Air Force’s D-Day flyover

U.S. Army Sgt. Juan Vallellanes-Ramos, 3rd Cavalry Regiment, prepares to bat during an improvised game of baseball near the Iraqi-Syrian border, June 23, 2018.

(U.S. Army photo)

Here’s the first shot of the troops playing baseball.

“I think Fourth will be good spent playing ball,” Private Clayton Mogensen told NPR. “We’ve got a few baseballs here, and we take the handle from a pickaxe and set bases up and just have a good time.”

13 new photos from the Air Force’s D-Day flyover

(U.S. Army photo)

13 new photos from the Air Force’s D-Day flyover

U.S. Army Sgt. Peter Scaion, 3rd Cavalry Regiment, swings an improvised bat during a fun game of baseball near the Iraqi-Syrian border, June 23, 2018.

(U.S. Army photo)

13 new photos from the Air Force’s D-Day flyover

(U.S. Army photo)

13 new photos from the Air Force’s D-Day flyover

U.S. Marine Lance Cpl. Michael England, rounds the bases during a fun game of baseball near the Iraqi-Syrian border, June 23, 2018.

(U.S. Army photo)

But it’s unclear if he scored.

This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.

MIGHTY HISTORY

This one simple factor is why the US Allies won World War II

At first glance, it might seem obvious why Japan would choose to take on a country like the United States. While Americans were still struggling with the Great Depression, Japan’s economy was growing and hot. Japan had hundreds of thousands of men in uniform and a string of military victories under its belt. The U.S. was a third-rate military power whose day had come and gone in World War I – and Americans weren’t thrilled about another war.

But the Japanese seriously underestimated one important factor: The American Worker.


13 new photos from the Air Force’s D-Day flyover

Up yours, Japanese Empire.

Judging the United States’ capacity for war during the 1930s was Japan’s fatal mistake. Sure, we’d had a little too much fun at the speakeasy during the 1920s, but we were poised for the most incredible puke and rally the world had ever known, and anyone looking for it would have been able to see it. Unfortunately, the Japanese were a little high on their own supply at the time. Convinced of Japanese superiority, they thought themselves nigh-invincible and that the U.S. would crumble if it needed to unify or die.

In reality, things were much different. The U.S. had twice the population of Japan and 17 times more tax revenues. Americans produced five times more steel, seven times more coal, and could outproduce the Japanese automobile industry by a factor of 80:1. The American worker had the highest per capita output of any worker in the world.

What’s more, is we were one of very few countries willing to let women work in our very modern factories.

13 new photos from the Air Force’s D-Day flyover

So don’t f*ck with the Arsenal of Democracy.

Even before the war, U.S. industrial capacity was greater than all of the Axis countries combined. As a matter of fact, the United States’ output was almost greater than all the other major powers involved in the war. And that was before the U.S. declaration of war allowed the President to take control of American industry. By the time the U.S. entered the war, the Lend-Lease Act had already pulled America out of its depression and was basically supplying the Allied powers with American-built equipment and vehicles as it had for years.

All we had to do was start using them ourselves.

As time went on, the U.S. economy was growing by 15 percent annually, while every other belligerent saw a plateau in growth or the destruction of their economies altogether. By the end of the war, American industrial output wasn’t even close to overheating – we were just getting started.

MIGHTY CULTURE

4 reasons why grunts should read books

So, you joined the grunts. From this day forward, everyone will make fun of you because some of your friends eat crayons and the others eat rocks. You, however, have never tasted the sweet nectar of Tide Pods and you’re out to break the mold. You’re on a mission to change the common perception that grunts’ brains are about as meaningful as Certificates of Appreciation.

So, how can you do it? How can a grunt convince another person that they’re actually intelligent and informed on the philosophies of the war-fighting profession? Easy: Read books.

We know, we know — you’d rather be getting drunk, but what are you going to do when you’re sitting in a burning-hot, metal tube for ITX? Or when you’re stuck on ship? We’re not tell you to take a book to the armory line with you, but you know damn-well there’s plenty of downtime to fill. These are the major reasons you should be reading, grunt.


13 new photos from the Air Force’s D-Day flyover

Being good at your job is imperative.

(U.S. Marine Corps)

1. To get better at your job

Reading a good book, especially one from the Commandant’s Reading List, can help you learn new concepts and ideas that are relevant to your job in one way or another. Even if it’s not The Art of War, reading military-themed novels can help put you in the right mindset to perform at a higher level.

13 new photos from the Air Force’s D-Day flyover

You can learn quite a bit from the mistakes of the past.

(U.S. Marine Corps)

2. To learn from history

Those who don’t learn from the past are doomed to repeat it. So, why not read up on past failures and get a sense of things you can do differently?

13 new photos from the Air Force’s D-Day flyover

He probably read a new book every week.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo Cpl. Zachary Dyer)

3. To learn leadership skills

All the greatest military leaders read books. If you think that our Lord and savior, General Mattis (blessed be his name), spent his whole career playing Battlefield and drinking Natty Lights, you’re sadly mistaken. No doubt he read plenty of books.

13 new photos from the Air Force’s D-Day flyover

If you sound like Adam Sandler in Waterboy, your life will be difficult.

(U.S. Army)

4. To get better at articulating thoughts

When you eventually find yourself in a position where you have to write a five paragraph order (you know, a battle plan), being able to communicate your thoughts clearly in writing is of utmost importance. Reading the greats will help expand your threshold of written expression.

Plus, if you decide to push far and beyond the first four years, you don’t want to become that Staff NCO who can’t make it through the first paragraph of a promotion warrant or award certificate.

MIGHTY CULTURE

That time when Green Berets who avenged 9/11 on horseback recreated this legendary WWII jump

Before D-Day, on June 5, 1944, some 90 teams of two to four men parachuted into Nazi-occupied France. They were members of the Office of Strategic Services, the predecessors of both the CIA and the modern-day Army Special Forces. These OSS teams were called “Jedburgh” teams and were highly skilled in European languages, parachuting, amphibious operations, skiing, mountain climbing, radio operations, Morse code, small arms, navigation, hand-to-hand combat, explosives, and espionage. They would need all of it.

The OSS teams’ job was to link up with resistance fighters in France, Belgium, and the Netherlands to coordinate Allied airdrops, conduct sabotage operations, and roll out the red carpet for the Allied advance into Germany. D-Day was to be the “Jeds'” trial by fire.


13 new photos from the Air Force’s D-Day flyover

The Jedburghs preparing to jump before D-Day.

Fast forward to 75 years later: Europe is no longer a fortress and the OSS has since evolved into both the CIA and the US Army’s Special Forces. To honor that tradition, a team of Army Special Forces veterans, including SOF legend and 2017 Bull Simons Award Winner CSM Rick Lamb, are planning to recreate the Jedburghs’ famous nighttime jumps into Europe in June 2019 and those veterans just happen to be members of the ODA that rode into Afghanistan on horseback in the days following the 9/11 attacks — they are Team American Freedom.

If the name “American Freedom” sounds familiar, it’s because they’re also the founders of American Freedom Distillery, a Florida-based premium spirits brand, makers of Horse Soldier Bourbon and Rekker Rum. And it’s not only the Special Forces veterans jumping from the lead aircraft on June 5th, they’re in good company. Joining them in the jump will be retired Army Ranger Bill Dunham, who lost a leg in Panama in 1989, the Gold Star mother of another Army Ranger and some of her late son’s fellow Rangers, and a 97-year-old World War II veteran.

13 new photos from the Air Force’s D-Day flyover

The American Freedom Distillery Team

“This group will represent every major known and unknown conflict for the past 30 years – every group who inserted early and fought with little recognition,” says American Freedom co-founder and Special Forces vet Scott Neill. “This is the last big World War II anniversary (other than VJ Day) that World War II vets and these generation will share. The very special part is that we will also share this with our families. Our wives who took care of the home front and our kids who watched daddy go away again and again. It’s a way to show our family why we did it.”

For the entire summer of 2019, France and England will be celebrating the D-Day landings and the start of the liberation of Europe. The D-Day airdrop is just the beginning, other events will include parades, military encampments, and showcases featuring World War II uniforms.

13 new photos from the Air Force’s D-Day flyover

Good work if you can get it.

The team is set to stage out of Cherbourg, France and tour some of the areas where the most intense fighting occurred. On June 5th, they will jump out of a C-47 Skytrain, just like their forebears did 75 years ago, and hit the dropzone at around 11a.m. They won’t be coming empty-handed. They will also be dropping a barrel of their Horse Soldier Bourbon to support the festivities on the ground as 200 more jumpers hit the drop zone throughout the day.

13 new photos from the Air Force’s D-Day flyover

(Image courtesy of Scott Neil, American Freedom Distillery)

If you want to support Team American Freedom as they remember the brave men who landed behind enemy lines a full day before the Allied invasion of Europe, you can help by contributing to their GoFundMe page. You will be enabling generations of special operators, CIA veterans, and Gold Star Families, many of who have lead insertions into modern day areas of operations attend this historic event.

13 new photos from the Air Force’s D-Day flyover
MIGHTY HISTORY

This attack plane turned the enemy into grease spots

When you hear “Sandy,” maybe you think about Olivia Newton-John’s character in Grease, unless you’re in the Search-and-Rescue community. Even then, most people don’t associate the word with one of the best attack planes of all time. But the Douglas A-1 Skyraider was also a “Sandy” — and one that turned many enemies of the United States into…well…grease spots.


13 new photos from the Air Force’s D-Day flyover
An A-1 Skyraider in 1966, when four planes assigned to USS Intrepid shot down at least one MiG-17. (U.S. Navy photo)

“Sandy” was the callsign A-1s operated under when they escorted the combat search-and-rescue helicopters. You may have seen Willem Dafoe’s character in Flight of the Intruder talking to “Sandy Low Lead.” Well, he was talking to a pilot flying a Skyraider when he called in an air strike on his own position.

13 new photos from the Air Force’s D-Day flyover
An A-1 Skyraider escorts an HH-3C rescue helicopter as it goes in to pick up a downed pilot in Vietnam in 1966. (Photo from the National Museum of the USAF)

The A-1 had been started in World War II, when it was called the BT2D-1. The Navy, though, was realizing that the air wings on the carriers needed to change. Part of the reasoning was the presence of the kamikaze, which required the presence of more fighters. The Navy even put a plane it rejected, the Vought F4U Corsair, on carrier decks. As such, the plan was to replace the SB2C Helldiver and the TBF/TBM Avenger. The plane later became the AD.

13 new photos from the Air Force’s D-Day flyover
An Air Force A-1E Skyraider loaded with a fuel-air explosive bomb. (U.S. Air Force photo)

The Skyraider had 15 hardpoints, allowing it to haul 8,000 pounds of bombs, rockets, torpedoes, or gun pods. It also packed two or four Mk12 20mm cannon. The latter weapons helped the Skyraider score five air-to-air kills, including two MiG-17 “Fresco” fighters over North Vietnam.

13 new photos from the Air Force’s D-Day flyover

 

Some of those “Sandys” were Air Force, incidentally — one of a number of Navy bombers used by that service. The Air Force had wanted a version of the plane, which proved excellent at close-air support, since 1949. The Air Force used the A-1 over Vietnam, as did Vietnam, Cambodia, and a number of countries in Africa. The last A-1s were retired by Gabon in 1985.

The A-10 has become a primary airframe flying the “Sandy” CSAR missions, which is one of the reasons the hog is so beloved.

Do Not Sell My Personal Information