How to send a hero a letter without picking up a pen - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY TACTICAL

How to send a hero a letter without picking up a pen

‘Tis the season for the giving of gifts. ‘Tis also the season of FOMUG (Fear Of Messed Up Gifting). We get it. It’s hard out there for an elf. Team WATM would like to offer you some guidance.


For your pal in the army:

~ Don’t send a salami; send them an actual letter. (There’s an app for that) ~

How to send a hero a letter without picking up a pen
Sandboxx: a digital solution to the analog problem of military morale.

It’s weird.

If you served in the military, then there’s a truth you hold to be self-evident:

There is nothing — nothing — better than getting mail.

How to send a hero a letter without picking up a pen
Shake this one, Gene. I smell salami… (Image via Smithsonian Institution)

Nowhere on earth — outside of elderly care facilities and summer camps — is snail mail so coveted and mail call so anticipated as it is at the boot camps, bases, and outposts of the U.S. military.

But staying in the loop while you’re downrange gets trickier every year as smartphones divorce almost everyone you know from the memory of their own handwriting. And how are they supposed to send you photos? Go out and get them printed? Stop.

How to send a hero a letter without picking up a pen
Its just so… quaint.

Somebody with military experience and a knack for tech entrepreneurship had to come along and fix this problem.

That somebody is Sam Meek, an Idahoan and former U.S. Marine Corps Chemical, Biological, Radiological, Nuclear Defense Specialist, who found that in the civilian sector, the problem-solving mentality instilled in him by the Corps is a very valuable and leverageable asset indeed.

“I found it really fascinating that I was beating out kids… that had college degrees and… could actually articulate a cover letter for a resume. I realized that the experience that we garner in the military brings so much more… to a company than sitting in class for four years.”

–Sam Meek, Cigars and Sea Stories Podcast

 

Working first as Director of Development for a Wall Street hedge fund and then taking a mentor’s Marine Family Readiness platform concept and pivoting it toward present-day Sandboxx, Meek perfected the twin arts of making one’s own opportunities and capitalizing on those that arise from the heat of action.

Though Sandboxx has evolved to serve a number of important networking and communications functions for the modern military — see Units and Travel — its marquee offering is still getting letters to deployed troops.

How to send a hero a letter without picking up a pen
Now there’s an idea…

The app allows friends and family at home to tap out a message on a smartphone, upload a photo, and then have that digital missive converted to physical letter form and sent to their loved ones, wherever in the world they might be deployed. Sandboxx even includes a postage-paid return envelope to make it easy to reply from the field.

It’s military morale made simple and intuitive. It honors a rich American history of supporting our troops, one personally penned and postmarked message at a time.

The 2017 We Are The Mighty Holiday Gift Guide is sponsored by Propper, a tactical apparel and gear company dedicated to equipping those who commit their lives to serving others. All views are our own.

Speaking of Propper, they’re giving away twelve tactical packs filled with gear from our Holiday Gift Guide. Click this link to enter.

How to send a hero a letter without picking up a pen
Articles

This Army Unit Is Responsible For Blasting Crucial Gear For Soldiers Through The Pentagon Bureaucracy

How to send a hero a letter without picking up a pen
Minotaur prototype on display in the Pentagon center courtyard. Photo: US Army


The Rapid Equipping Force (REF) accepts orders to make and deliver custom gear that will help soldiers do their job better.

Anyone from a private to the Chief of Staff of the Army can place a “10-liner,” the shorthand for the unit’s request form. The REF will then evaluate the request and use existing gear or emerging technologies and concepts to build what you need. They will even work with soldiers through the entire process to make sure they get it right; they call this process co-creation.

From submission to completion, the REF can have a solution on the field within weeks instead of years by avoiding the usual Pentagon bureaucracy. They can field as quickly as 90 days according to the official Army website.

To speed up the process, the REF has strategic units around the world near combat zones to be closer to soldiers. For example, at the height of Operations Enduring Freedom and Iraqi Freedom, the REF had teams in Afghanistan, Iraq and Kuwait according to the REF’s website.

How to send a hero a letter without picking up a pen
REF Expeditionary Lab. Photo: US Army

They also have mobile labs that can pack up in a single day and ship it anywhere in the world called REF Expeditionary Labs. According to the REF website, these labs give soldiers access to expert scientists, engineers, and equipment like:

  • 3D printers
  • Global communications suites
  • Fabrication tools
  • Microscopy
  • and more

Some of the REF projects include:

  • Ironman – a 500 round backpack for machine guns
  • Raven – a hand-launched remote control drone for field surveillance
  • Minotaur – robot technology that helps troops safely deal with explosive devices
  • PILAR – a system that locates sniper fire location on an LCD screen
  • and more

How to send a hero a letter without picking up a pen
RQ-11 Raven. Photo: Wikipedia

The REF was founded in 2002 when the Vice Chief of Staff of the Army Col. Bruce Jette was looking for a solution to prevent soldiers in Afghanistan from sustaining casualties from booby traps while searching and clearing caves. He asked the Army:

  • Can robots help Soldiers clear caves?
  • Can a robotic capability be deployed within 90-days?
  • Is there an existing Army unit that can accomplish the task?

Shortly after, Jette was authorized to form the Rapid Integration of Robot Systems (RIRS) to find a solution to his questions. In less than 30 days, they found the answer and deployed it to Afghanistan. Riding on the team’s success, Jette recommended to the Army that the REF should be formed. For the past 12 years, the REF has continued to provide solutions for soldiers, and on January 30, 2014 the Army declared the REF an enduring capability according to the REF site.

The following video is an overview of the REF’s capabilities:

USArmyREF, YouTube

Articles

The US Air Force just sent this nuke-sniffer to Japan

The U.S. Air Force has deployed a nuke-sniffer aircraft at its base in Okinawa, Japan, according to multiple sources.


The Boeing WC-135 Constant Phoenix, capable of collecting samples from the atmosphere after a nuclear explosion, arrived at Kadena Air Base, Stars and Stripes reported.

The aircraft may be being deployed ahead of a possible sixth nuclear test in North Korea.

Recent satellite images indicate ongoing activity at the Punggye-ri nuclear site, where Pyongyang conducted its fifth nuclear test in September 2016.

Satoru Kuba, an Okinawan who keeps track of military aircraft activity at Kadena Air Base, and a senior Japan self-defense forces official, each confirmed the WC-135 aircraft’s arrival.

How to send a hero a letter without picking up a pen
Dennis Wilder,a former CIA deputy assistant director for East Asia and the Pacific, posits that North Korea could have a long-range intercontinental ballistic missile capable of reaching the US west coast within four years. (Image via The Heritage Foundation: 2016)

The Constant Phoenix jet touched down at the air base in Okinawa on April 7, the Nikkei newspaper reported.

The aircraft was scheduled to arrive earlier, on March 24, but engine problems resulted in its delay.

The WC-135 jet has been deployed before to Japan and has been carrying out missions in the region since October 2006, when North Korea conducted its first nuclear test.

The aircraft previously found radioactive debris consistent with a North Korea nuclear test during previous missions.

North Korea continues to allocate more than 15 percent of its national budget to defense expenditures, according to Pyongyang’s Workers’ Party newspaper Rodong Sinmun.

“In order to handle the critical situation of the nuclear threat and endless war provocations of the United States and its followers, we will apportion 15.8 percent of all spending to defense expenditures, in order to strengthen the self-defense and pre-emptive capabilities centered around our nuclear armed forces,” Pyongyang stated April 12.

But North Korea also revived its foreign affairs committee during a meetings of its Supreme People’s Assembly the second week of April, a possible sign Kim Jong Un may be willing to take a step back from escalating tensions with the United States.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Navy wants sub-hunting planes to watch Russia and China

The US Navy is looking at a number of ways to increase its presence in the Arctic around Alaska, including deployments of the service’s advanced maritime patrol aircraft, the P-8A Poseidon, the Navy’s top civilian official said in December 2018.

Asked by Alaska Republican Sen. Dan Sullivan about the US presence in that part of the world, Navy Secretary Richard Spencer told the Senate Armed Services Committee on Dec. 12, 2018, that the Navy was present under the sea and in the air and “looking at how we can get up there” in other capacities.


“If I had a blank check for everything, it’d be terrific, to ice-harden ships, but with the demand that we have right now, it is unaffordable,” Spencer said, adding that it would be possible to send assets up there seasonally as sea ice melts.

“You and I did go look on the coast up there for a potential strategic port,” Spencer told Sullivan. “I think the Coast Guard, in concert with the Navy, we should definitely flesh out what could possibly be done.”

How to send a hero a letter without picking up a pen

A US Navy P-8 Poseidon.

“When it comes to using Alaska in the Arctic area for training, the commandant and I have talked about this — plans to go look at doing something this summer, possibly on Adak, for training,” Spencer added, referring Marine Corps Commandant Gen. Robert Neller, who was also at the hearing.

Spencer said he and Navy Vice Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Bill Moran “have talked about possible P-8 [deployments] up to Adak. There are definite training uses, and there’s definite ability to affect the National Defense Strategy with Arctic activity.”

The Navy and Marine Corps presence in Alaska is currently small, with some sailors and Marines stationed at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson in Anchorage, the latter personnel there as part of a reserve unit.

But as the military reorients itself toward a potential great-power conflict, focus has shifted to the Arctic, where Russian and Chinese activity has concerned US officials.

Marines have been deployed to Norway on a rotational basis since the beginning of 2017, and Oslo recently said that it would ask the US to increase their numbers and move them farther north, closer to that country’s border with Russia.

The Navy has also made moves toward higher latitudes, sending an aircraft carrier above the Arctic Circle for the first time since the early 1990s as part of NATO’s exercise Trident Juncture, which took place in October and November 2018. Navy officials have stressed that they intend to be more active in the Arctic going forward.

Neller has emphasized that his command is focusing on training for harsh conditions.

How to send a hero a letter without picking up a pen

Marines with 3rd Battalion, 6th Marine Regiment disembark an Army CH-47 Chinook helicopter after a simulated raid on Indian Mountain radar system as part of Exercise Arctic Edge 18 at Fort Greely, Alaska, March 12, 2018.

(US Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Brianna Gaudi)

In March 2018, Marines joined soldiers, sailors, and airmen in Alaska for Arctic Edge 2018, where they trained “to fight and win in the Arctic,” the head of Alaskan Command, Air Force Lt. Gen. Ken Wilsbach, said at the time.

A few weeks after that exercise, Neller told Sullivan during a Senate hearing that the Marines “have gotten back into the cold-weather business.” In August 2018, while traveling through Alaska with Spencer, Sullivan said that the Marine Corps was “looking at spending a lot more time in Alaska.”

Adak Island is at the western edge of the Aleutian Islands. The naval facility, which was on the northern side of the island, took up more than 76,000 acres and was an important base for submarine surveillance during the Cold War.

The airstrip there has been in commercial use since the Navy shut down military operations in 1997.

How to send a hero a letter without picking up a pen

Coast Guard commandant Adm. Karl Schultz, left, meets with Navy Secretary Richard V. Spencer and Alaska Sen. Dan Sullivan, right, in Nome to discuss the construction of deep-draft ports in western Alaska, Aug. 13, 2018.

(US Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Jetta Disco)

The Navy is currently grappling with operational and maintenance challenges brought on by more than two decades of continuous operations around the world — a situation that has been complicated by discussions of expansion and by uncertainty about its budget in the future as it builds new supercarriers and designs a new generation of ballistic missile subs that will carry nuclear warheads.

The Navy has already started returning P-8A Poseidons to Keflavikin Iceland, where it had a base from the early 1960s until 2006, when it was shuttered.

The planes have been rotating through Iceland and aren’t there permanently, though they were flying about every other day over the waters around Greenland, Iceland, and the UK — an important chokepoint for submarines in the Atlantic during the Cold War.

Returning to Alaska would present an array challenges, according to Jeffrey Barker, a deputy branch head for policy and posture on the chief of naval operation’s staff.

How to send a hero a letter without picking up a pen

US Navy crew members on board a P-8A Poseidon assigned to Patrol Squadron (VP) 16 man their workstations while assisting in search and rescue operations for Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 March 16, 2014 in the Indian Ocean.

(US Navy photo)

“We want to be agile, but sustainability is key,” Barker said at the beginning of December 2018 during a Wilson Center event focused on the Arctic. “We don’t really want to do anything if we can’t sustain it, so that’s a huge part of that, and the infrastructure to that.”

“When Secretary Spencer went around Alaska, he was asked a lot of questions, and he asked us a lot of questions about how much would it cost to go back to Adak,” Barker said. “He was shocked — gobsmacked is what he said — when the report that we gave him said id=”listicle-2623753290″.3 billion.”

Barker said that Spencer clarified that he only wanted to use the facility “for a couple of weeks here and there,” and when asked about the plan after the hearing on Dec. 12, 2018, Spencer said the base was up to that task.

“The airstrip is in great shape,” he told Breaking Defense, which first reported his comments about a potential P-8 deployment. Spencer added that the Navy may have to pay to clean up one of the hangars.

But the airport, he said, “has a fuel farm up there that Air Alaska is using to fuel its planes. It has de-icing platforms that we could use for fresh water washdowns for the P-8. They have lodging up there that is supposedly coming forward to us on a rental availability, so it really isn’t a big bill.”

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

MIGHTY TACTICAL

China’s military aviation is quickly getting stronger

China continues to emerge as the most dynamic region for defense program development and introductions among the superpowers. In October 2018, photos of their aircraft carrier development and preparations for ongoing sea trials have surfaced; their advanced interceptor claiming to have low-observable capability has reemerged with a new camouflage scheme in an operational unit; they have flown a new long range flying boat amphibious aircraft and shown a new armed, long range remotely piloted aircraft. There are even frequent reports (some of those have been denied already) of a new low-observable strategic heavy bomber ahead of the U.S. unveiling of their new B-21 Raider long range stealth bomber.

All of this new development continues the conversation about China expanding military ambitions beyond their borders in regions such as Africa, the Middle East, and even South and Central America. These ambitions add to their ongoing power projection in the Taiwan Strait and South China Sea.


Perhaps the most significant development is the potential return to a strategic nuclear role for the PLAAF, China’s air force. China’s air delivered nuclear capability has reportedly advanced recently after it was abandoned in the 1980s when China only had air delivered nuclear gravity bombs.

In a Sept. 6, 2018 feature on TheDiplomat.com, analysts Ankit Panda and Prashanth Parameswaran reported that, “The PLAAF once again has a nuclear mission, although we don’t know what that is”. The analysts suggested that an air launched ballistic missile may be an emerging technology China is developing. The missile, thought to be a new version of the CJ-20K long range cruise missile, currently has the capability to strike targets at a range of 1,080 nautical miles (2,000 kilometers) with a conventional warhead after being launched from China’s legacy Xian H-6K heavy bomber.

For the first time ever in early May 2018, the PLAAF flew Xian H-6K heavy bombers to the disputed Woody Island in the Paracel archipelago. The Paracel archipelago, also called “Xisha” by the Chinese, is a disputed chain of low-lying islands in the South China Sea. Although China has maintained a military presence there since 1974 when they forcibly evicted Vietnam, the Taiwanese and Vietnamese both still lay claim to the islands. A Pentagon statement from U.S. Pacific Command spokesman Lt. Col. Christopher Logan said the May landing of Chinese heavy bombers in the island chain is evidence of “China’s continued militarization of disputed features in the South China Sea.”

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=662hEb84goE
China’s Navy Deploys New H 6J Anti Ship Cruise Missile Carrying Bombers

www.youtube.com

The 2018 edition of China International Aviation and Aerospace Exhibition in Zhuhai, Guangdong, will take place from Nov. 6-11, 2018. Photographers already at the show venue have shared a feast of interesting images in social media including photos of the Chengdu J-20A “Mighty Dragon” in a completely new operational camouflage scheme.

The Chengdu J-20As seen at the show are claimed “fifth generation” twin engine, single seat air superiority fighters with a distinctive canard, delta wing and twin tail configuration. They are reported to be operated by the172th Brigade based at the FTTB (Airbase) at Cangzhou according to expert analyst Andreas Rupprecht who maintains the Modern Chinese Warplanes page on Facebook and publishes a series of authoritative reference guides about Chinese military aircraft (and many others) through Harpia Publishing.

How to send a hero a letter without picking up a pen

Several J-20A Mighty Dragons arrived ahead of the Zhuhai Airshow with brand new paint schemes.

(Hunter Chen Photos via Twitter and Facebook)

Rupprecht noted that two of the J-20A aircraft wore serial numbers 78231 and 78232. He also pointed out that the aircraft previously had an angular “splinter” style camouflage scheme but now have a new, rounded pattern camouflage livery.

In conjunction with the timing of the Zhuhai Airshow, Rupprecht’s Harpia Publishing has just released their latest reference book, “Modern Chinese Warplanes: Chinese Air Force – Aircraft and Units”.

Other unique aircraft photographed arriving at Zhuhai for the 2018 China International Aviation and Aerospace Exhibition include a unique J-10B prototype aircraft number ‘1034’ modified to with a special thrust vectoring engine nozzle. The modification is likely a test version according the Andreas Rupprecht that has been retrofitted onto the existing WS-10 jet engine.

How to send a hero a letter without picking up a pen

A unique new version of the J-10B with thrust vectoring arrived at Zhuhai Airshow early this week.

(Modern Chinese Warplanes on Facebook photos)

China’s naval aviation program also arcs forward into a rapidly developing and ambitious future with their aircraft carriers. On Oct. 28, 2018, the new, unnamed Type 002 aircraft carrier sailed away from its construction and maintenance facility at Dalian, China for its third sea trial. Andreas Rupprecht observed on his Modern Chinese Warplanes page on Facebook (Author’s note: this page is worth “Liking”) that the ship’s flight deck had been cleaned and possibly prepared for flight deck trials during this current shakedown cruise.

Of equal interest is a photo that surfaced on Google Earth that is only a few weeks old, taken on Sept. 22, 2018, showing the two Chinese aircraft carriers sitting side-by-side in their maintenance and construction yard in Dalian. Dalian is a modern, rapidly growing port city on the Liaodong Peninsula, at the southern tip of China’s Liaoning Province.

How to send a hero a letter without picking up a pen

Two Chinese carriers in the Dalian Shipyard.

(Modern Chinese Warplanes on Facebook photos)

Video of the new AVIC AG600 Kunlong flying boat making its first ever waterborne take-off and landing were posted to YouTube on Oct. 20, 2018. The impressive four-engine turboprop aircraft is intended for the long range maritime patrol, reconnaissance, search and rescue mission. It is said to be capable of operating in sea state 3 conditions, or waves as high as 6.6-feet (2 meters). With its projected range of 2,796 miles (4,500 km), the AG600 flying boat can reach the contested islands in the outlying regions of China’s sea.

Aerial view: China’s AG600 amphibious aircraft makes maiden flight from water

www.youtube.com

In addition to global power projection in their own interests, an aim of China’s emerging new military aviation push is the export market. In early October 2018, the sale of 48 new Wing Loong II armed, remotely piloted aircraft to Pakistan was announced.

According to analyst Shaurya Karanbir Gurung of India’s Economic Times in a story published on Oct. 10, 2018, “The Wing Loong II is an improved version of the Wing Loong 1 Unmanned Aerial Vehicle. Falling in the category of Medium Altitude Long Endurance, it is manufactured by the Chengdu Aircraft Industrial (Group) Company. The UAV has been developed primarily for People’s Liberation Army Air Force and export. The concept of the Wing Loong II was unveiled at the Aviation Expo China in Beijing in September 2015.”

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KV2BILlhtJ8
All About Wing Loong II: Pakistan’s New Drone From China | Urdu | Hindi |

www.youtube.com

And finally, and perhaps most interestingly, news about an entirely new, long range low observable Chinese heavy bomber has surfaced. According to some reports, the program is claimed to be significantly advanced in its development. The Hong-20 is tipped as China’s new long-range strategic stealth bomber. Official Chinese media has released concept images of the aircraft after teasing shapes earlier in the year in what appeared to be a direct parody of a video touting the upcoming U.S. bomber, the B-21 Raider.

How to send a hero a letter without picking up a pen

A rendering of what China claims is the new Hong-20 low-observable long range bomber.

(Modern Chinese Warplanes on Facebook photos)

Defense World.net reported that, “The Hong-20 official unveiling could be slated for next month’s Zhuhai Air show though there is no confirmation of it as yet.” The report went on to reveal that Russian media outlet Rossiyskaya Gazeta claimed the Hong-20 bomber has been under development at the Shanghai Aircraft Design and Research Institute in China since 2008.

How to send a hero a letter without picking up a pen

Conceptual artwork from earlier this year of new Hong-20 low-observable long range bomber.

(Andreas Rupprecht/Rupprecht_A on Twitter)

Many casual observers of China’s defense and aviation programs have been cynical of China’s ability to produce truly advanced high-end, reliable new military technologies that may compete with western technology. Because of lingering dogma about China’s mass manufacturing being comprised largely of knock-offs from western technology mimicked quickly at lower cost and lower quality by legions of near-slave laborers, this mistaken stereotype has lingered. Anyone who has visited China recently knows this country has vaulted into a new era of economic, technological and now, military development. Given that China is the country that invented gunpowder and revolutionized warfare, any country that underestimates China’s new capabilities does so at their own peril.

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

MIGHTY TACTICAL

A box of gear from Alpha Outpost for the tactical vet in your life

‘Tis the season for the giving of gifts. ‘Tis also the season of FOMUG (Fear Of Messed Up Gifting). We get it. It’s hard out there for an elf. Team WATM would like to offer you some guidance.


For a gift of gear that keeps on giving:

~ The tactical subscription service designed by the guy behind Grunt Style ~

How to send a hero a letter without picking up a pen

“If you’re not selling, you’re not in business. You’re just busy.”

Daniel Alarik, Cigars and Sea Stories Podcast

 

As we’ve reported, thoroughly, from previous fun encounters with Grunt Style founder, Daniel Alarik, the man is a force in the vetrepreneurial sector.

After all, he created one of the premier purveyors of patriotic apparel, standing tall in an extremely crowded field. Alarik and his team didn’t stop at clothing design, however.

Alarik ventured directly into another competitive field: the tactical monthly subscription box sector. His offering: Alpha Outpost.

How to send a hero a letter without picking up a pen

Now, we’re not sure how familiar you are with the bizarre and extensive youTube subculture of subscription box unboxing videos, but believe us when we tell you, folks out there are effing intense about the quality, uniqueness, and overall wow-factor of the various, competing tactical gift boxes they receive in the mail every month.  Suffice to say, the average subscription box customer is a difficult dude to please.

Alpha Outpost must be doing something right. They made over $8 million dollars in revenue in their first year of operation.

The skills Alarik acquired and the systems he perfected through the hard years of launching Grunt Style certainly account for some of Alpha Outpost’s success. But a greater share is surely due to the sheer thoughtfulness evident in each of their monthly offerings.

How to send a hero a letter without picking up a pen

Every month’s box has a theme and that theme poses a problem. The tools in the box make up part of the solution. The other part comes as a result of the skills you build by putting those tools to use as you work through specific challenges Alpha Outpost poses.

They’re not just sending you gear. They’re trying to make you better.

Knowing Alarik’s trajectory, it makes perfect sense that self-improvement lies at the heart of any gift you receive from his his company.

How to send a hero a letter without picking up a pen

As the CEO of two multi-million dollar, veteran-oriented companies, Alarik views kicking ass as a skill that anyone with the right tools can build. In his view, military experience isn’t a magic bullet for veteran success, but it provides a damn fine head start.

Check out the full Cigars and Sea Stories interview with Daniel Alarik and tell us you can’t think of someone who’d love to get a new box of ass-kicking tools every month from Alpha Outpost.

The 2017 We Are The Mighty Holiday Gift Guide is sponsored by Propper, a tactical apparel and gear company dedicated to equipping those who commit their lives to serving others. All views are our own.

Speaking of Propper, they’re giving away twelve tactical packs filled with gear from our Holiday Gift Guide. Click this link to enter.

How to send a hero a letter without picking up a pen

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Blue Angels order awesome new jets for 2021

The U.S. Navy Blue Angels are poised to receive new, retrofitted F/A-18 Super Hornet fighter aircraft in the next few years.

The Navy on Aug. 13, 2018 awarded Boeing Co., the F/A-18’s manufacturer, a $17 million firm-fixed price contract to configure nine F/A-18E and two F/A-18F aircraft to the standard Blue Angels’ aircraft structure. The squadron, which typically maintains 11 aircraft, currently flies the F/A-18C/D models.


While an upgrade, the new aircraft would not house the common nose cannon system used for strike operations. Like the Air Force Thunderbirds, the demonstration team uses “clean jets,” aircraft without missiles or bombs.

However, the Blue Angels’ F/A-18s are “capable of being returned to combat duty aboard an aircraft carrier within 72 hours,” if necessary, according to the team’s fact sheet.

How to send a hero a letter without picking up a pen

The Blue Angels F/A-18 Hornets fly in a tight diamond formation, maintaining 18-inch wing tip to canopy separation.

Boeing will configure the aircraft at its St. Louis facility, according to the contract announcement. The fiscal 2018 budget, once appropriated, will fund the work, the announcement said. The new jets are expected to be completed in December 2021.

The Blue Angels recently announced a new roster of officers for the 2019 show season.

The squadron selected three F/A-18 demonstration pilots, an events coordinator, flight surgeon, and supply officer to replace outgoing team members, the Navy said in August 2018.

This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @militarydotcom on Twitter.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Watch this awesome video of the world’s largest airplane take off

The Antonov An-225 Mriya (“Dream” in Ukrainian language) is the world’s largest airplane. Designed at the end of Cold War, its main purpose was to carry the Soviet “Buran” space shuttle and parts of the “Energia” rocket. Currently, the sole existing example (UR-82060) is used commercially, as an international cargo transporter.


Mriya is not the largest aircraft ever built: this title belongs to the Hughes H-4 Spruce Goose hydroplane, that made only a single flight.

The An-225 is performing a series of flights to deliver boilers for thermal power plant of Bolivia from Iquique, Chile, to Chimore, Bolivia. In each flight Mriya carries the cargo weighing up to 160 tons. This video shows a take off from Chimore.

Enjoy!

www.youtube.com

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

Articles

Who would win a dogfight between a Flogger and a Phantom?

Sure, we all know about the F-16 Falcon, the F-15 Eagle, the Su-27 Flanker, the MiG-29 Fulcrum… all those modern planes.


But in the 1970s and the early 1980s, the mainstays of the tactical air forces on both sides of the Iron Curtain were the Phantom in the west and the Flogger in the east.

The F-4 Phantom was arguably a “Joint Strike Fighter” before JSFs were cool. The United States Air Force, United States Navy, United States Marine Corps, Royal Air Force, Fleet Air Arm, West German Air Force, and numerous other countries bought the F-4.

According to Globalsecurity.org, the F-4 could carry four AIM-7 Sparrows, four AIM-9 Sidewinders, and the F-4E had an internal cannon. The plane could carry over 12,000 pounds of ordnance.

How to send a hero a letter without picking up a pen
Photo: Wikimedia

Like the F-4, the MiG-23 was widely exported — and not just to Warsaw Pact militaries. It was also sold to Soviet allies across the world — from Cuba to North Korea. It could carry two AA-7 radar-guided missiles, four AA-8 infra-red guided missiles, and had a twin 23mm cannon.

Globalsecurity.org notes that the Flogger can carry up to 4,400 pounds of ordnance (other sources credit the Flogger with up to 6,600 pounds of ordnance).

Both planes have seen a lot of combat over their careers. That said, the MiG-23’s record has been a bit more spotty.

According to the Air Combat Information Group, at least 33 MiG-23s of the Syrian Air Force were shot down by the Israeli Air Force since the end of 1973. Of that total, 25 took place in the five-day air battle known as the Bekaa Valley Turkey Shoot. The total number of confirmed kills for the MiG-23s in service with the Syrian Air Force against the Israelis in that time period is five.

ACIG tallied six air-to-air kills by Israeli F-4s in that same timeframe (Joe Baugher noted 116 total air-to-air kills by the Israelis in the Phantom), with four confirmed air-to-air losses to the Syrians. That said, it should be noted that by the late 1970s, the F-4 had been shifted to ground-attack missions, as Israel had acquired F-15s and F-16s.

How to send a hero a letter without picking up a pen
An air-to-air right side view of a Soviet MiG-23 Flogger-G aircraft with an AA-7 Apex air-to-air missile attached to the outer wing pylon and an AA-8 Aphid air-to-air missile on the inner wing pylon. (From Soviet Military Power 1985)

There is one other measure to judge the relative merits of the F-4 versus the MiG-23. The F-4 beats the MiG-23 in versatility. The MiG-23 primarily specialized in air-to-air combat. They had to create another version — the MiG-23BN and later the MiG-27 — to handle ground-attack missions.

In sharp contrast to the specialization of various Flogger designs, the F-4 handled air-to-air and ground-attack missions – often on the same sortie. To give one example, acepilots.com notes that before  Randy “Duke” Cunningham engaged in the aerial action that resulted in three kills on May 10, 1972 – and for which he was awarded the Navy Cross – he dropped six Rockeye cluster bombs on warehouses near the Hai Dong rail yards.

In short, if the Cold War had turned hot during the 1970s, the F-4 Phantom would have probably proven itself to be the better airplane than the MiG-23 Flogger. If anything shows, it is the fact that hundreds of Phantoms still flew in front-line service in the early 21st Century.

Even though the F-4 had retired in 1996, it still flew unmanned missions until this month.

The MiG-23 just can’t match the Phantom.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

The Army is shopping for attack, recon helicopter designs

U.S. Army aviation leaders offered details on Oct. 10, 2018, about recent solicitations to industry designed to advance the attack-reconnaissance and advanced drone aircraft programs for the service’s ambitious Future Vertical Lift effort.

“We had a very good week last week in dropping two [requests for proposal]. … The big one for us was the solicitation on the Future Attack Reconnaissance Aircraft,” Brig. Gen. Wally Rugen, director of the Future Vertical Lift, Cross Functional Team, told an audience at the 2018 Association of the United States Army Annual Meeting and Exposition.

Future Vertical Lift, or FVL, is the Army’s third modernization priority, intended to field a new generation of helicopters such as the Future Long Range Assault Aircraft to replace the UH-60 Black Hawk, as well as the Future Attack Reconnaissance Aircraft (FARA), by 2028.


The FARA will be designed to take targeting information from FVL’s Advanced Unmanned Aerial System and coordinate “lethal effects” such as long-range precision fires to open gaps into a contested airspace, Rugen said.

Released Oct. 3, 2018, the RFP for the FARA asks industry to submit proposals for competitive prototypes.

“All the offerors will basically get us their designs by Dec. 18, 2018; we will down-select up to six in June 2018 and, in 2020, we will down-select to two,” Rugen said.

The Army plans to conduct a fly-off event in the first quarter of fiscal 2023 to select a winner, he added. “It’s a tremendous capability … that we think is going to be the cornerstone for our close combat control of contested airspace.”

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UH-60 Black Hawk.

The service also released a Sept. 28, 2018 Future Tactical Unmanned Aerial Systems RFP for industry to present platforms to conduct demonstrations for Forces Command units.

“Future Tactical UAS is really something that we have been asking for; it’s a [Brigade Combat Team]-oriented UAS,” said Brig. Gen. Thomas Todd III, commander of Program Executive Office Aviation. “It isn’t necessarily a replacement for the [RQ-7] Shadow, but it could be, depending on how it goes with industry … so we are ready to see what you’ve got.”

The Army plans to pick three vendors to provide “future tactical UAS platforms to FORCOM units, and they are going to go and basically demonstrate their capabilities,” Rugen said, adding that the Army is looking for features such as lower noise signature and better transportability.

The service plans to “do a fly-off in the next couple of months and down-select in February,” he said. FORCOM units will then fly them for a year in 2020.

The results of the demonstrations will inform future requirements for the FVL’s Advanced UAS, Rugen said. “If it’s something we really, really like, we may move forward with it.”

This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @militarydotcom on Twitter.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Burning 50,000 pounds of fuel per hour: Aerial refueling from a fighter pilot

The development of aerial refueling was one of the greatest leaps in fighter lethality. A fighter, just like any aircraft, consists of hundreds of tradeoffs—cost, payload, speed, stealth, size, weight, maneuverability, the list goes on and on. But, the Achilles heel of fighters has always been their fuel consumption.

At the heart of a modern jet like the F-16 or F-35 is an afterburning turbofan engine. The turbofan part is similar to an airliner, however the afterburner is a special section fitted to the aft-tailpipe that injects fuel and ignites it, similar to a flame thrower. This rapidly increases thrust, however the tradeoff is that it burns fuel at an incredible rate.


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Members of the 18th Component Maintenance Squadron engine test facility, run an F-15 Eagle engine at full afterburner while checking for leaks and any other issues. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Omari Bernard)

I remember flying in an F-16 in afterburner while supersonic over the Yellow Sea and looking down to see a fuel-flow rate of over 50,000 lbs per hour. To put that into perspective, that’s similar to a fire-hose operating fully open—and that’s just a single engine, a twin-engine jet such as the F-15 or F-22 can double that. The problem is, topped off, I could only carry 7,000 pounds of fuel which was enough for me to fly at that fuel-setting for less than 10 minutes.

The reason we’re able to sacrifice fuel for incredible speed and maneuverability is because we can refuel in the air. The Air Force has over 450 airborne tankers, which are specially modified passenger aircraft that are filled with fuel. The backbone of our tanker fleet, the KC-135 Stratotanker is based on the Boeing 707, which amazingly has been flying aerial refueling operations since the 1950’s.

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A 401st Tactical Fighter Wing F-16C Fighting Falcon aircraft refuels from a KC-135 Stratotanker aircraft as another F-16 stands by during Operation Desert Storm. (USAF Photo)

When we need fuel, we’ll pull up slightly behind and below the tanker. The tanker will then extend it’s boom, which is a 50 foot long tube with small flight control surfaces on it. The boomer, who sits in the back of the aircraft, then steers the boom using those control surfaces into the refueling receptacle of our aircraft.

Once contact is made, a seal forms and fuel starts transferring at several thousand pounds per minute. We’ll then continue to maintain that precise position using director lights on the bottom of the tanker until we’re topped off. The amount of time it takes depends on how much fuel is transferred, but generally takes about 5 to 10 minutes.

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A U.S. Air Force pilot navigates an F-35A Lightning II aircraft assigned to the 58th Fighter Squadron, 33rd Fighter Wing into position to refuel with a KC-135 Stratotanker assigned to the 336th Air Refueling Squadron over the northwest coast of Florida. (USAF photo by MSgt John Nimmo Sr.)

Aerial refueling is a common part of most missions. When we take our jets to different exercises around the country, we’ll use tankers so we can fly nonstop. Tankers also allow us to double our training during a flight—we’ll fly our mission, refuel, and then fly it again. When we deploy, tankers allow us to cross vast swaths of ocean in one hop—I remember topping off 10 times on my way to Afghanistan. But, the most critical benefit of air refueling is it allows us to project and sustain air power.

Tankers allow us to fly indefinitely. Even if I was running my power settings as efficiently as possible, I could only stay airborne for about two hours, which translates into a combat radius of just a few hundred miles. That’s not nearly enough range to project power into another country and return home. With a tanker though, our combat radius can extend into the thousands of miles—we’re primarily limited by pilot fatigue.

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(USAF Photo)

By breaking the fighter range problem into two components—a fighter and a tanker— engineers were able to massively increase the performance and relevance of fighters in combat. A single formation of fighters can have a near strategic level impact on the battlefield.

Make sure to check back in two weeks for an in-cockpit play-by-play of how we rejoin with the tanker and refuel at 350 mph.

Want to know more about life as a fighter pilot? Check out Justin “Hasard” Lee’s video about a day in the life of a fighter pilot below:

Air Force Fighter Pilots | Ep. 5: A Day In The Life Of An Air Force Fighter Pilot

www.youtube.com

This article originally appeared on Sandboxx. Follow Sandboxx on Facebook.

Articles

Russia glosses over ‘Kuznetsov Follies’ in new tribute video

Russia recently announced that it would begin drawing down its deployment to Syria. One of the first major assets to depart will be its lone aircraft carrier, the Admiral Kuznetsov, according to a report by Agence France Press.


The Russian government produced a slick tribute video that harkens back to the 1950s Soviet Union, where the same M-4 Bison bombers were flown past the reviewing stands of the 1955 Aviation Day parade several times to make it look like the Soviets had tons of planes.

The new Kuznetsov video showed crewmen standing watch – some on the carrier’s flight deck with an assault rifle, as well as Su-33 Flankers taking off from the ship.

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The Admiral Kuznetsov in drydock — a place it should never leave.

That said, there is a whole lot of stuff this video has left out. Regular readers of this site are familiar with the Kuznetsov Follies, coverage of the many… shortcomings, this carrier displayed on the deployment.

The highlight of these follies — well, let just say the term lowlight might be more accurate — would be the splash landings Russian Navy fighters made. In November, a MiG-29K made a splash landing shortly after takeoff. The next month, a Su-33 Flanker made its own splash landing. The Flanker wasn’t to blame – an arresting cable on the craptastic carrier snapped.

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Sukhoi Su-33 launching from the Admiral Kuznetsov in 2012. | Russian MoD Photo

The carrier has been known to have breakdowns, too, and as a result, deploys with tugboats. Other problems include a central heating system that doesn’t heat, a busted ventilation system, broken latrines, and a lot of mold and mildew.

So, with all that in mind, here is the Russian video:

MIGHTY TACTICAL

What it’s like to hit the afterburner in an F-16 for the first time

The first time you select afterburner in a fighter is an experience you’ll never forget. Over a decade later, I can still remember every second of it.

I had made it through the attrition of pilot training and was now in the 9-month B-Course learning to fly the F-16. After several months of academics—going over every system on the jet and how to troubleshoot malfunctions, it was time to finally get in the air. 

The way the jet is configured makes a big difference in terms of its performance. Usually, there are several weapons, pods, and fuel tanks hanging off the jet, which makes it much more capable in combat. However, they add a significant amount of weight and drag to the airframe. 

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It is not uncommon for F-16s to fly carrying two 2,000-pound bombs, two AIM-9, two AIM-120 and two 2400-pound external fuel tanks. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Christopher Hubenthal)

The squadron leadership had decided to completely clean off the jets for our initial phase of flying—nothing external would be added, making it the stripped-down hot-rod that John Boyd famously envisioned back in the ’70s. It’s a rare configuration that I’ve only seen a handful of times during my career.

On the day of the flight, after I strapped in, I started the engine and could feel the F-16 coming to life: the slow groan of the engine transforming into a shrieking roar. 

After the ground-ops checks, my instructor and I taxied to the end of the runway—as a wingman, my job was to follow him throughout the sortie. Once we received clearance to take off, he taxied onto the runway and pushed the throttle into afterburner. 

How to send a hero a letter without picking up a pen
(U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Dana J. Cable)

I could see the nozzle of his engine clamp down as the engine spun-up into full military power—the highest non-afterburning setting. The nozzle then rapidly opened as the afterburner kicked in and a 10-foot bluish-red flame shot out of the back of the engine. Looking into the engine, I could only see a few feet of the nozzle before it disappeared into a whitish-yellow fire, similar to the sun. As he rapidly accelerated down the runway, I taxied into position.

After 15 seconds, I pushed the throttle forward until it hit the military power stop. I then rotated the throttle outward, which allowed me to push it further into the afterburner settings. Nothing happened for what seemed like a minute, but in reality, it was only a few seconds. It was enough time for me to look down to make sure nothing was wrong when, suddenly, the thrust hit me in the chest. 

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(U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Joseph Swafford/Released)

Before flying the F-16, I had flown a supersonic jet trainer called the T-38, so I was familiar with high-performance aircraft… But this acceleration was on another level. Before I knew it, a second jolt of thrust hit me, further increasing my acceleration—and the engine wasn’t even at full thrust yet.

There are five rings in the back of the engine that make up the afterburner. Each ring has hundreds of holes, through which fuel is sprayed at high pressure and then ignited. In order to not flood the engine, each ring sequentially lights off. So far, only two of the five rings had started spraying fuel.

The interesting thing about the way a jet accelerates is that as it goes faster, it accelerates faster (to a point). This is unlike a car, which starts off quickly and then slows down. As each afterburner ring lit off, my acceleration further increased. Before I knew it, I was at my rotation speed of 150 knots, or 175 mph. As soon as I was airborne, I began retracting my gear, reducing my drag, which further increased my acceleration. Even though it takes just a few seconds to retract the gear, I came dangerously close to overspending the 300-knot limit.

The one thing that stands out about that takeoff is that even though I was operating way behind the jet, I was smiling the whole time–it was an awesome experience that I’ll never forget.

This article originally appeared on Sandboxx. Follow Sandboxx on Facebook.

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