This is an easy way to help homeless veterans during the holidays - We Are The Mighty
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This is an easy way to help homeless veterans during the holidays

A popular app that connects resellers with buyers for used items just announced an initiative to help the military community fulfill the holiday wishlists of 15 homeless veteran shelters across the country.


The makers of the ReSupply app launched the holiday effort, dubbed Operation ReSupply, which will allow app users to find, acquire, and ship items from a master shelter wish list via their mobile devices through Jan. 1.

Related: This Ranger-veteran Santa granted a dying child’s final wish

How it works in three steps:

1. Verified ReSupply users submit their donations via the app.

2. Next, a ReSupply brand ambassador matches the item with a shelter.

3. Finally, the app provides donors with a prepaid shipping label.

All the proceeds from sales between app users during this period will also be donated to the veteran shelters.

While the ReSupply app only works with veterans and servicemembers verified through ID.me, civilians who wish to participate can help cover shipping costs by donating to #OperationReSupply’s Go Fund Me page.

This short video shows how the app helps homeless veterans:

ReSupply, YouTube
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A UK intelligence source based information about Iraq chemical weapons on a Nicolas Cage movie

This is an easy way to help homeless veterans during the holidays


A UK intelligence agency might have based part of a report on Iraq’s alleged weapons of mass destruction on a movie starring Nicolas Cage, according to a government report released Wednesday.

The report contends that Britain’s involvement in the Iraq war was based on “flawed intelligence and assessments” that were “not challenged” when they should have been. The 2.6-million word document, known as the Iraq Inquiry, or the “Chilcot report,” is the culmination of a huge investigation that former Prime Minister Gordon Brown launched in 2009.

One volume of the inquiry focuses on the UK’s evidence of Iraq possessing weapons of mass destruction. These intelligence assessments turned out to be false, as both the US and the UK discovered after the 2003 Iraq invasion turned up no such weapons.

The inquiry notes that two Secret Intelligence Service (SIS) assessments from September 2002 were called into question months later. Some within the intelligence agency, which is also known as MI6, began doubting the source of the information that was included in the assessments.

The intelligence reports stated that Iraq had “accelerated the production of chemical and biological agents.” Officials believed the source of this information was reputable.

But one of the reports mentioned glass containers that supposedly contained the chemical agents the Iraqi government was supposed to possess.

Here’s the relevant section from the Iraq Inquiry:

“In early October, questions were raised with SIS about the mention of glass containers in the 23 September 2002 report. It was pointed out that:

  • Glass containers were not typically used in chemical munitions; and that a popular movie (The Rock) had inaccurately depicted nerve agents being carried in glass beads or spheres.
  • Iraq had had difficulty in the 1980s obtaining a key precursor chemical for soman [a chemical agent].

“The questions about the use of glass containers for chemical agent and the similarity of the description to those portrayed in The Rock had been recognized by SIS. There were some precedents for the use of glass containers but the points would be pursued when further material became available.”

The movie the report refers to is the 1996 Michael Bay action thriller, “The Rock,” starring Nicholas Cage playing an FBI chemical-warfare expert. Sean Connery plays a former British spy who teams up with the FBI agent to prevent a deranged US general from launching a chemical-weapons attack on San Francisco.

The Iraq Inquiry goes on to state that intelligence officials were meant to do further reporting on the questionable intelligence contained in the September 2002 report.

By December, doubts emerged within SIS “about the reliability of the source and whether he had ‘made up all or part of'” his account.

Later that month, there were still “unresolved questions” about the source of the chemical-weapons intelligence. But the UK was under considerable pressure to produce evidence of these weapons.

Jack Straw, the former foreign secretary for the UK, was reportedly concerned about “what would happen without evidence of a clear material breach” of Iraq’s December 2002 declaration that it did not have weapons of mass destruction.

SIS eventually determined that their source was lying about the supposed chemical agents, but intelligence officials did not inform the prime minister’s office, according to the inquiry.

While chemical weapons are different from weapons of mass destruction, these intelligence reports still informed policy-makers’ opinions of the extent of Iraq’s weapons programs. And the evidence of these weapons programs was eventually used as a justification for going to war in Iraq.

David Manning, a former British diplomat, told former UK Prime Minister Tony Blair in December 2002 that there was “impatience in the US Administration and pressure for early military action” in Iraq, according to the inquiry.

“There were concerns about the risks if the inspections found nothing,” the inquiry noted. UK and US officials also worried about “the difficulties of persuading the international community to act if there were a series of ‘low level and less clear-cut acts of obstruction’ rather than the discovery of chemical or biological agents or a nuclear program.”

The inquiry states that Manning told Blair: “We should work hard over the next couple of months to build our case.”

Blair reportedly said the UK would “continue to work on securing credible evidence” that then-Iraqi President Saddam Hussein “was pursuing [weapons of mass destruction] programs.”

MIGHTY HISTORY

This fighter pilot landed a helicopter on the summit of Mount Everest

To many climbers, mountaineers, and general fans of low oxygen environments, summiting Mount Everest represent the literal peak of physical achievement. But while an impressive feat for a human, it turns out vultures can happily survive exposed to altitudes of 40,000 ft or 12,200 meters above sea level and, indeed, have been seen flying around at this height. (For reference, this is about 11,000 ft or 3,350 meters above the peak of Everest.) Meanwhile tardigrades laugh in the face of the conditions on Everest, able to survive even nakedly exposed to outer space for quite some time with no ill effects. (Although, note: humans can actually survive exposed to the near vacuum of space for about 90 seconds without long term damage, but we have nothing on the tardigrade for durability in just about any environment.) And let’s not even talk about microbes… In the end, there are creatures that can outdo even the best of humans at pretty much any physically intensive task we feel like setting our minds to, no matter how hard we train and how good our genetics.


But you know what no other known living thing can do? Use their minds to create machinery to do an otherwise extremely arduous and dangerous task in about a half an hour, all while kicking back in a very comfy chair. And that’s exactly what French fighter pilot Didier Delsalle did when he conquered Everest in a product of human ingenuity — the Eurocopter Ecureuil AS350 B3 helicopter. Humans: 1, Animal Kingdom: 0.

Although Delsalle is the first and so far only person in history to land a helicopter on the summit of the world’s highest peak, likeminded daredevils and pilots have been trying to do exactly that since at least the early 1970s. One of the most notable of these individuals is Jean Boulet who still holds the record for highest altitude reached by a helicopter at 40,820 ft (12,442 meters), at which point his engine died, though he did manage to land safely. (Yes, contrary to popular belief, helicopters don’t just drop like a rock when the engine dies, and they are relatively safe in this condition. In fact, you have a better chance of surviving in a helicopter when the engine fails than you do in an airplane where the same happens.)

This is an easy way to help homeless veterans during the holidays
Mt. Everest, seen from Tingri, a small village on the Tibetan plateau at around 4050m above sea level.

Like Boulet before him, Delsalle broached the subject of landing a helicopter on Everest with the company he flew helicopters for (in this case Eurocopter) and was similarly stonewalled by killjoy executives who didn’t want to deal with the negative PR if he crashed.

Delsalle didn’t let the subject drop and repeatedly badgered higher ups within the company, using the better-than-expected results from the test of a new engine in 2004 to convince Eurocopter that landing their Ecureuil AS350 B3 helicopter on Everest was entirely possible. The company executives finally relented and gave Delsalle some time (and a helicopter) to test his hypothesis. After all, while a failed attempt would create a lot of negative press, a successful one would be a fantastic marketing move, with their helicopter doing something no other had ever done.

Or as Delsalle himself would state,

The idea was to prove to our customers all the margins they have while they’re using the helicopter in the normal certified envelope, compared to what the helicopter is capable of during the flight test.

Delsalle then took the helicopter and flew it to 29,500 feet, about 6,500 feet above the helicopter’s listed maximum operating altitude and around 500 feet higher than the peak of Everest.

No problem.

After a number of additional tests proved that the helicopter would in theory have no trouble landing on Everest’s peak, Delsalle and his trusty helicopter headed to Nepal.

Once there, while conducting recon on the mountain, Delsalle cemented his reputation as an all round awesome guy by taking the time to rescue two stranded Japanese climbers. When he wasn’t saving lives, he could be found jogging around the hanger in an attempt to drop every gram possible from his body weight. Likewise, he lightened the helicopter slightly be removing the passenger seats- the point of all this was to be able to extend flight time slightly. However, as part of the purpose of this publicity stunt was to show off what the Ecureuil AS350 B3 could do, other than this marginal lightening of its load, no other modifications were made.

And so it was that on the morning of May 14, 2005, Delsalle slipped on two pairs of thermal underwear under his flight suit and took off. As for his choice of under attire, this was needed as he flew the entire distance with his window open… He did this rather than keep things more climate controlled as he was concerned his windows would have iced up in the -31 F (-35 C) temperatures had he not kept the temperatures equalized on both sides of the glass.

As for the ascent, this was not quite as easy as simply rising to the necessary altitude — Delsalle had to deal with some pretty remarkable up and down drafts, which is one of the reasons even today helicopter rescues at extreme altitudes on Everest are a rarity. As he stated,

On one side of the mountain, on the updraft side, I wasn’t able to approach the mountain because even taking out all of the power of the aircraft, I was still climbing. But of course on the other side you had the downdraft side, and on this side even with maybe 60 knots on the airspeed indicator I was going backward . . . and the helicopter at full power was not powerful enough to counteract that.

“Landing”, or more aptly touching down, also wasn’t an easy task.

When you reach the summit you reach the updraft point, and of course the updraft winds have enough force to throw you away as soon as you put the collective down. I had to stick my skids on the summit and push into the mountain to stay on the summit. Another big problem there is that you have no visual of the summit, and you have no specific cues, because you are on the highest point. You are in free air in fact, and you have to try to find where is the summit exactly.

After keeping the skids pressed against the tiny area of land that is the summit for 3 minutes and 50 seconds, Delsalle decided it was time to go, which turned out to be quite simple thanks to the strong updraft: “I had just to pull a little bit on the collective and I went to flying very easily.”

Amusingly, nobody climbing the mountain that day had any idea that Delsalle was planning on doing this and reports later flooded in to Nepalese authorities about a random helicopter seen flying around the summit.

This is an easy way to help homeless veterans during the holidays
Aerial photo from the south, with Mount Everest rising above the ridge connecting Nuptse and Lhotse.

But when Delsalle landed and went to check the recordings documenting his amazing accomplishment, the computer showed zero files where the recordings should have been. Yes, he had no hard evidence he had actually done this, invalidating his record attempt.

Rather than waiting to see if the data could be recovered (and presumably not wanting to endure doubters for any longer than absolutely necessary), Delsalle instead opted to just do it all over again the very next day, this time making sure the recording equipment was functioning. (It should also be noted here that some of the urgency was because no one was summiting on the day in question, but were after. For safety reasons, he could not attempt the touch down if anyone was climbing around the summit.)

If at this point you’re now doubting his story actually happened, we should probably mention that they were later able to recover the first day’s logs and video, proving he had done what he said.

Of course, doubters will persist no matter if you slap them in the face with video evidence, data logs, several Everest climber accounts of spotting the helicopter flying around the summit, his helicopter skid marks that for a time existed in the snow at that hallowed peak, etc. But as for the Federation Aeronautique Internationale and a few other such official bodies, as his evidence of the two touch downs on the summit was incontrovertible, they officially ratified his remarkable achievement, much to the chagrin of many an Everest climber, who almost universally lamented the accomplishment owing to the supposed ease at which summiting the mountain was achieved.

But here again, we feel compelled to point out that humans compiling the knowledge and expertise needed to design/construct a machine that was then extremely skillfully landed on this hallowed, tiny patch of snow covered land isn’t actually easy at all when you think about it. (And don’t even get us started on what it took to compile the knowledge and expertise to make the tools that made the parts for the machine in question… or the tools that made the parts for the more advanced tools, such as mind boggling complex computers used along the whole process…)

One might even posit that summiting Everest in the more traditional way is orders of magnitude easier than the way Delsalle did it, when looking at the big picture.

This article originally appeared on Today I Found Out. Follow @TodayIFoundOut on Twitter.

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Today in military history: Storming of the Bastille

On July 14, 1789, French revolutionaries stormed the Bastille prison in Paris.

The hungry and heavily-taxed people of France were furious with King Louis XVI. Tensions came to a head when 300 revolutionaries and mutinous troops attacked the Bastille, a royal fortress and political prison that symbolized the tyranny of the French king.

The military governor of the Bastille, Bernard-René Jordan de Launay, tried to defend the fortress, but was forced to surrender when a group of military deserters seized cannons and aimed them at the Bastille’s heart. He was then murdered by the angry mob before he could be arrested. 

The fall of the Bastille marked the beginning of the decade-long French Revolution, which would kill tens of thousands of people, including the king and his wife, Marie Antoinette. 

The Bastille was torn down and, in 1792, the monarchy was abolished. Today, Bastille Day is celebrated as a national holiday for the people of France.

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Revenge and duty to country motivated this Vietnam War Marine

By the late 1960s, more than a half a million Americans were serving in Vietnam. Among them was revenge-seeking Marine, Lt. Dan Gannon.


Serving on the front lines was never the plan for this college grad, but after learning his brother had been shot in the arm during a combat operation, Gannon was ready to get in the fight.

“I got to go over and get those suckers for shooting my brother,” Dan humorously states.

Wanting to serve his country honorably, Gannon deployed with the Marines somewhere north of Danang where he would spend over 300 grueling days fighting in the humid jungle.

Related: This video shows the ingenuity behind the Viet Cong tunnel systems

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Dan takes a brief moment for a photo op while serving in the Vietnam jungle. (Source: Iowa Public Television/YouTube/Screenshot)

In order to stay razor-sharp on the battlefield, Gannon chose to defer his RR leave to the end of his tour of duty.

“You don’t stop to think I want to be patriotic right now,” Gannon mentions during an interview. “You have a job to do and I want to do it the best way I can.”

Ganon’s Marines were commonly spread out thin and up to distances of a quarter of a mile. Throughout his dangerous deployment and multiple firefights, Gannon hardly acquired a single scrap — until one fateful day.

This is an easy way to help homeless veterans during the holidays
Proud Marine and Vietnam Veteran, Dan Gannon. (Source: Iowa Public Television/YouTube/Screenshot)

Also Read: Beware the American booby trap rigger in Vietnam

While taking contact, Gannon felt a sting in his arm and had to be told by one of his Marines that he’d been hit. He looked and saw blood streaming down his arm. The wound had to be quickly cleaned by the squad’s Corpsman as the enemy would frequently dip their bullets in feces before they were used.

Soon after, Gannon collapsed when his wound became infected and was evacuated by helicopter for medical treatment.

“I felt bad that I had to leave my Marines. I was that committed,” Gannon says.

Gannon was recommended for the purple heart but decline the accommodation.

Check out Iowa Public Television‘s video how Dan Gannon wanted to get into the sh*t and do his part.

(Iowa Public Television, YouTube)
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B-52s join the fight against ISIS

This is an easy way to help homeless veterans during the holidays
(Photo: DVIDS)


U.S. Air Force B-52 Stratofortress aircraft from Barksdale Air Force Base, Louisiana, arrived at Al Udeid Air Base, Qatar, today, in support of theater requirements and Operation Inherent Resolve, the operation to eliminate Da’esh and the threat they pose to Iraq, Syria and the wider international community.

“The B-52 will provide the Coalition continued precision and deliver desired airpower effects,” said Lt. Gen. Charles Q. Brown Jr., commander, U.S. Air Forces Central Command and Combined Forces Air Component. “As a multi-role platform, the B-52 offers diverse capabilities including delivery of precision weapons and the flexibility and endurance needed to support the combatant commander’s priorities and strengthen the Coalition team.”

The 19-nation air coalition consists of numerous strike aircraft and the B-52s will bring their unique capability to the fight against Da’esh.

The B-52 is a long-range heavy bomber that can perform a variety of missions including strategic attack, close-air support, air interdiction, and maritime operations.

Crews will be available to carry out missions in both Iraq and Syria as needed to support Air Tasking Order requirements.

“The B-52 demonstrates our continued resolve to apply persistent pressure on Da’esh and defend the region in any future contingency,”said Brown.

This deployment is the first basing of the B-52s in the U.S. Central Command area of responsibility in 26 years. The B-52s were based in Saudi Arabia supporting Operation Desert Storm. The B-52s were last flown operationally during Operation Enduring Freedom in May 2006, and during Exercise Eager Lion – a USCENTCOM- led multilateral exercise in Jordan in May 2015.

The coalition conducted more than 33,000 airpower missions in support of OIR. Since the beginning of the operation, the Coalition struck about 459 VBIEDs, 776 mortar systems, 1,933 logistics buildings housing these weapons, 662 weapons caches, and 1,341 staging areas.

(h/t Kevin Baron, DefenseOne.com)

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Russia giving Assad Regime advanced strike aircraft

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Russian SU-24M2. (Photo: Toshi Aoki)


The Syrian Air Force is getting ten new Su-24M2 “Fencer D” all-weather strike aircraft, courtesy of Vladimir Putin. The regime of Bashir al-Assad received two right away, with the other eight coming soon. As a result, the Syrians gain a very capable weapon for use against ISIS or moderate rebels supported by the United States.

The Su-24M2 is the latest version of a plane that first took flight in 1967 – and it has been in service since 1974. The Fencer, comparable to the General Dynamics F-111, was designed to deliver over 17,600 pounds of bombs on target any time of day – or night – and in good weather, bad weather, or any in between. Su-24s are fast (a top speed of just over 1,000 miles per hour) and can reach deep into enemy territory (a combat radius of about 400 miles). The plane has seen action in the Soviet invasion and occupation of Afghanistan, the Iran-Iraq War, over Lebanon, Desert Storm, civil wars in Tajikistan, Libya, and Afghanistan, the South Ossetia war, and the conflict in eastern Ukraine.

The Su-24M2, which first flew in 2001, adds the capability to fire the AS-17 Krypton anti-radar missile, the AA-11 Archer, and the KAB-500Kr television-guided bombs. The plane also received a more advanced “glass cockpit” with new multi-function displays (MFD), GLONASS (Russia’s knockoff of the Global Positioning System), a new heads-up display (HUD), and a helmet-mounted sight, allowing it to use the Archer to its maximum effectiveness.

The Soviet Union built over 1,400 Su-24s from 1967 to 1993. That 26-year production run alone is quite impressive. So was its wide exportation to a number of countries in the Middle East and North Africa, including such responsible regimes like Saddam Hussein’s Iraq, Muammar Qaddafi’s Libya, Hafez al-Assad’s Syria, and the Sudan. Yes, all of them state sponsors of terrorism. A bunch of Iraq’s Su-24s made their way to Iran during Desert Storm. (Iraqi pilots preferring the Ayatollah Khameni’s hospitality to getting blown out of the sky by the allied coalition.)

The transfer comes as part of Russia’s military assistance to Assad’s regime. Syria had 22 Su-24s prior to this deal, 21 of which were bombers, one a reconnaissance plane. The Syrians had been upgrading some of their planes to the Su-24M2 standard. Now, they will be getting another ten very advanced deep-penetration bombers.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Paratroopers get new platform for rapidly deploying equipment

Members of the 900th Contracting Battalion played a key role in revolutionizing the future of airborne operations at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, with the Aug. 10, 2018 contract award for the Caster Assisted A-Series Delivery System.

In recent years, the 900th CBN embedded soldiers from its 639th Contracting Team into the 82nd Airborne Division Headquarters to better support their customer.

“The 639th CT is embedded with 82nd Airborne Division and remains empowered to prudently apply their contracting support expertise to help meet mission readiness,” said Lt. Col. Jason Miles, deputy director of the Mission and Installation Contracting Command-Fort Bragg contracting office and 900th CBN commander.


The Caster Assisted A-Series Delivery System, or CAADS, is a new door bundle dolly system that has been in development and testing since early 2018. Modeled after a similar door bundle system used by French airborne forces, CAADS is specifically designed to increase the number of door bundles that can be rapidly deployed from a DOD transit aircraft while reducing deployment time. The 82nd AD spearheaded the successful testing, and on June 5 interim airdrop rigging procedures and training manuals were published for the innovative system.

This is an easy way to help homeless veterans during the holidays

Capt. Colton Crawford and Capt. Lesley Thomas conduct a technical inspection of the Caster Assisted A-Series Delivery System at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, as representatives from Carolina Material Handling Inc. look on.

(Photo by Staff Sgt. Gregory Gunn)

“The acquisition of the Caster Assisted A-series Delivery Systems for the 82nd Airborne Division will help reduce jumper fatigue as well as triple the amount of supplies and equipment on a drop zone simultaneously with paratroopers exiting an aircraft” said Capt. Colton Crawford, 82nd AD parachute officer.

Equally impressive as the testing was the procurement process. The 639th CT was able to award a contract for the delivery of more than 948 units in less than 14 days after receipt of a funded purchase request. Fully involved in the acquisition planning since late 2017, the contracting team was able to conduct extensive market research and find a number of responsible vendors able meet the requirements the division.

This is an easy way to help homeless veterans during the holidays

Capt. Colton Crawford, third from right, discusses specifications with Cape Terrell during a technical inspection of the Caster Assisted A-Series Delivery System at Fort Bragg, North Carolina.

(Photo by Staff Sgt. Gregory Gunn)

“The 639th Contracting Team and the Acquisition Corps seem to have a unique skill to increase readiness on demand. They are paramount to meeting the Army’s ability to ‘fight tonight and win,'” Crawford added.

As the first samples are delivered and inspected for quality assurance by division parachute riggers, the 82nd AD moves onto the next operation armed with increased delivery capabilities.

“It is always impactful when a requirement you’ve been working on for months satisfies the customers’ needs and directly impacts the mission,” said Capt. Lesley Thomas, a contract management officer for the 639th CT.

This is an easy way to help homeless veterans during the holidays

Contracting Soldiers from the 639th Contracting Team were joined by members of the 82nd Airborne Division and 82nd AD Sustainment Brigade as well as vendor representatives from Carolina Material Handling Inc. to conduct a technical inspection of the Caster Assisted A-Series Delivery System at Fort Bragg, North Carolina.

(Photo by Staff Sgt. Gregory Gunn)


About the MICC:
Headquartered at JBSA-Fort Sam Houston, Texas, the Mission and Installation Contracting Command consists of about 1,500 military and civilian members who are responsible for contracting goods and services in support of soldiers as well as readying trained contracting units for the operating force and contingency environment when called upon. The command is made up of two contracting support brigades, two field directorates, 30 contracting offices and nine battalions. MICC contracts are vital in feeding more than 200,000 soldiers every day, providing many daily base operations support services at installations, facilitate training in the preparation of more than 100,000 conventional force members annually, training more than 500,000 students each year, and maintaining more than 14.4 million acres of land and 170,000 structures.

This article originally appeared on the United States Army. Follow @USArmy on Twitter.

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This was the Air Force’s plan to turn a Boeing 747 into an airborne aircraft carrier

We’ve all see the Avengers movie featuring SHIELD’s massive flying aircraft carrier — you know, the one with the gigantic fans and stealth cloaking?


But what you may not know is that the concept of an actual flying carrier isn’t really anything new, and the US military has investigated it time and time again throughout its history. The most recent proposal for such a vehicle came in the form of a highly modified Boeing 747 called the Airborne Aircraft Carrier.

This is an easy way to help homeless veterans during the holidays
The concept of a flying aircraft carrier isn’t as far fetched as it seems. (Walt Disney Television/ Photo via AgentsofShield WIKIA)

 

While oceangoing aircraft carriers can bring their complements of fighter and attack aircraft quite literally anywhere around the seven seas, areas deeper inland are far less accessible and sometimes require the use of larger numbers of support assets like refueling tankers, which aren’t always available for a variety of reasons.

The AAC concept tried to solve that problem by using a larger aircraft to fly smaller aircraft above or near deployment zones, where it would release its fighters to carry out their missions.

 

This is an easy way to help homeless veterans during the holidays
A Sparrowhawk fighter hanging underneath the USS Macon airship during testing (US Navy)

 

In the 1930s, the US Navy first began exploring the idea of an airborne carrier by outfitting two dirigible airships, the USS Akron and the USS Macon, with a trapeze mechanism for recovering and launching small propeller fighter planes, along with an internal hangar for storage.

Both the Akron and Macon were lost in storms that decade, but not before they were able to successfully demonstrate that with enough practice and patience, aircraft could be deployed from airbases in the sky.

The onset of World War II made the Navy forget about this idea. But during the Cold War, the notion of having an airborne carrier was resurrected — this time by the Air Force.

At first, the Fighter Conveyor project attempted to put a Republic F-84 “parasite” fighter in the belly of a B-36 Peacemaker nuclear bomber, launched in-flight for reconnaissance operations. The creation of the U-2 Dragon Lady spy plane made the FICON project a moot point, sending it to the graveyard after four years of testing.

 

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A B-36 Peacemaker launching an F-84 parasite fighter as part of a FICON test (USAF)

Later on, famed defense contractor Lockheed proposed a gigantic nuclear-powered flying mothership with a crew of over 850 and an aerial endurance of 40+ days. The Air Force, by 1973, decided to go a slightly more conventional route instead.

At the time, the Boeing 747 was easily the largest civilian aircraft in the world, serving as a long-range passenger airliner and a cargo transport for a number of freight companies. It wasn’t wholly unreasonable to suggest that such an aircraft could be converted for use as an airborne carrier, fielding a small group of aircraft inside its cavernous interior.

The Air Force’s Flight Dynamics Laboratory, based out of Wright-Patterson AFB, was put on the case to determine the feasibility of such an experiment.

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Depictions of the microfighters the AAC would carry by the Flight Dynamics Laboratory (Photo from USAF)

The AAC project called for a Boeing 747-200 to be hollowed out and refitted with a two-level internal hangar that would hold “micro fighters”, small short-range fighter aircraft that could fight air-to-air and air-to-ground sorties after being dropped out of the underside of the jumbo jet. Should the fighters need an extension on their range, the AAC mothership could refuel them as needed from a rotating boom on its rear. Upon concluding their sorties, the micro fighters would simply fly underneath the AAC and be picked up by a mechanism, bringing them back into the hangar.

The AAC would also contain storage for extra fuel, spares and parts, as well as a magazine for missiles and bombs for the microfighters. In addition, sleeping quarters for the crew and pilots, and a small crew lounge for breaks in-between missions was also to be part of the hypothetical flying carrier.

All in all, the concept seemed to be absolutely doable and certainly something the Air Force seemed interested in pursuing, given that the report also projected that conventional Navy aircraft carriers would apparently be obsolete by the year 2000.

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The interior layout of the AAC proposal (Photo from USAF)

 

However, the project was stalled when research into the design and development of the AAC’s necessary microfighters went nowhere. An airborne warning and control version of the AAC was also proposed, replete with a pair of reconnaissance micro aircraft for surveillance missions; this was also shot down.

Eventually, the Air Force shelved the concept altogether not long after the Flight Dynamics Laboratory claimed it was possible.

While the US military hasn’t done much, if anything at all, to investigate flying aircraft carriers in the four and a half decades since, this seems to be an idea that just won’t go away. Maybe, just maybe, we might see these bizarre vehicles in the not-so-distant future, as technology advances and mission types evolve!

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The Brit sniper and his record-breaking 1.5 mile kill shot

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Throughout the history of modern warfare, the record for longest confirmed sniper kill is one that has steadily gotten more and more extreme as technology has progressed. At the time of writing this, the holder of that record is British sniper Craig Harrison, who notably broke the previous record twice on the same day by hitting two enemy targets on two consecutive shots an astounding 2,474 metres away.

For our friends across the pond, that’s 8,116.8 feet or 1.54 miles or about 22.5 NFL football fields (including end zones) away. The shot was from such an extreme range that it took the bullet about three seconds to reach the target.

Corporal of Horse Craig Harrison made his record breaking shot in November of 2009 while stationed in the Helmand Province of Afghanistan. Harrison personally didn’t find out about its record breaking nature until after he returned home in 2010. The distance from which he took the shot, which was measured and confirmed via GPS, amazed his superiors in the Ministry of Defence so much that they published the details of his shot almost as soon as he got back to the UK, and even granted him permission to give interviews about it to the world’s media.

If you’re wondering about the circumstances surrounding the shot, Harrison was providing cover fire for his commanding officer and members of the Afghan National Army, who’d been ambushed by two insurgents. According to Harrison, the insurgents were armed with a PKM machine-gun and had pinned down the soldiers, giving him only a short time to assess the situation and subsequently line up a shot to ruin the attackers’ day.

With a help from a spotter, Cliff O’Farrell, and 9 test shots to nail down the exact distance, Harrison lined up his shot and squeezed the trigger for a 10th time, firing a .338 Lapua Magnum round and striking the machine-gunner in the gut, killing him. The remaining insurgent, who wouldn’t have even heard the shot coming, reached out to take command of the now free machine-gun only to be hit by a second round launched by Harrison. With both insurgents down, Harrison pulled the trigger one more time to disable the machine-gun itself.

Thus, Harrison not only broke the previous record (7,972 feet set in 2002 in Afghanistan) held by Canadian Rob Furlong using a McMillan-Tac 50, but he made the shot essentially three times in a row without missing- hitting the two insurgents and their machine-gun. This means he technically broke the record twice within a few seconds of one another.

As if all that wasn’t impressive enough, the actual shots were noted as being about 3,000 feet beyond the L115A3 rifle’s effective range. Needless to say, as Harrison said, “Conditions were perfect, no wind, mild weather, clear visibility.”

Interestingly, despite the interviews he gave over the matter, we shouldn’t really know Harrison’s real name. Official Ministry of Defence rules state that the identities of snipers, regardless of interviews of this nature, should never be disclosed publicly, as they would quickly become prime targets. Harrison was well aware of this rule and reportedly only agreed to speak with the media about his record shot on the understanding that his identity wouldn’t be disclosed or that they’d give him a pseudonym.

However, for reasons that aren’t clear, the MoD never passed this restriction onto any of the media outlets Harrison spoke with and they all released stories crediting Harrison under his real name, with some sources even noting where he lived.

The police quickly warned Harrison and his family that they were in danger after the story was printed. To protect his wife, daughter, and himself, Harrison was left with no choice but to uproot his family, which in turn resulted in his wife losing her job and his daughter being pulled from school mid-year. We’re also guessing that for the following few months, Harrison ensured that his wife and daughter were always within 8000 feet of his location, just in case.

Understandably, Harrison got pretty upset about his identity being printed in the news when he was explicitly told it wouldn’t be. Thus, he asked the MoD for compensation for drawing a bullseye on his family’s backs and to cover moving expenses. He was later awarded £100,000 (about $156,000) for his trouble.

Bonus Facts:

  • Just a few weeks after making the longest kill shot in sniper history, Harrison was shot in the head while under enemy fire, but luckily his helmet took the brunt of the blow and the bullet did not penetrate his skull.  Shortly thereafter, he had both his arms broken when the vehicle he was travelling in drove over a roadside bomb. He not only managed to make a full recovery after this devastating injury, but insisted on being sent back to the front line as soon as he was fit, stating that the explosion hadn’t affected his “ability as a sniper”.
  • The spotter Harrison used to make the shot was a military  driver with no formal training in the spotting, making the shot that much more impressive.

References:

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Watch Russia’s radar-guided surface-to-air missile at work

What’s the first thing you think of when you hear the term, “gadfly?” Do you think of some annoying person you wish you could just smack? Maybe you’re a rancher and you immediately think about an insect that bites your livestock. If you hear an Air Force or Navy pilot say “gadfly,” however, they’re not talking about some nuisance. They’re talking about a very deadly threat to themselves and their fellow aviators.


They’re talking about the SA-11/SA-N-7 “Gadfly,” a radar-guided surface-to-air missile fired from land-based mobile launchers and from a number of Russian, Chinese, and Indian warships. This missile earned infamy in 2014 when it was used by Russian-backed rebels in eastern Ukraine to shoot down Malaysian Airlines flight MH17, killing 298 people.

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A look at the SA-11 system shows a command vehicle and two of the launchers. Each launcher has four missiles and a tracking radar. (Wikimedia Commons photo by Vitaly V. Kuzmin)

The SA-11 is a radar-guided missile with a range of 20 miles. The system entered service with land forces in 1980 and was deployed by the Soviet Navy on the first Sovremennyy-class guided-missile destroyers in 1983.

The missile did not see combat action, however, until 2008, when both Russia and Georgia used it during the South Ossetia War of 2008. Russian forces shot down four Georgian drones. The Georgian military used the SA-11 to down a Tu-22M Backfire and three Su-25 Frogfoot ground-attack planes.

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The Gadfly went to sea as the SA-N-7, used on Sovremenny-class destroyers and other ships in the Russian and Chinese Communist navies. It’s also used on Indian Navy vessels, like the INS Talwar. (Indian Navy photo)

In the 1990s, the system was widely exported for use within a number of land-based and naval-based units. India initially used the SA-N-7 on its Delhi-class destroyers and later went on to use it on Talwar-class frigates. China bought SA-N-7s when it acquired Sovremennyy-class destroyers from Russia, and eventually put together a land-based version they call the HQ-17.

Learn more about this infamous Russian missile in the video below.

 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZcOJyq13rlU
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The most damaging spy in US history just walked free

Jonathan Pollard, the most damaging spy in U.S. history, was sentenced to life in prison in 1987 for passing documents to Israel. After thirty years in jail, he was released on parole to great fanfare from his wife, the government in Israel, and the American pro-Israel lobby. According to Pollard’s lawyers, he will be required to wear an electronic bracelet so his movements can be monitored at all times and his computers and those of any employer who hires him will be subjected to “unfettered monitoring and inspection.”


Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called the release “a dream come true” and that “the people of Israel welcome his release.” The PM’s office restricted celebrations of his release in hopes the American government will allow him to travel to Israel sooner.

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Pollard released this photo with his wife, Esther.

While Israel is an American ally and has access to a lot of American intelligence, the information provided by Pollard to Israel is said to have caused grave damage to the national security of the United States.  The information was so damaging, when President Ronald Reagan’s Secretary of Defense, Caspar Weinberger, presented an assessment of Pollard’s spying to the presiding judge in his trial, the judge threw out Pollard’s plea deal and threw the book at him and his wife.

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Weinberger said he sought to “dispel any presumption that disclosures to an ally are insignificant; to the contrary, substantial and irrevocable damage has been done to this nation.”

The most damaging release included the 10-volume Radio and Signal Intelligence [RASIN] manual, aka “the Bible,” detailing the entire U.S. global listening profile, “frequency by frequency, source by source, geographic slice by geographic slice. RASIN was in effect, a complete roadmap to American signal intelligence.” The manual revealed which communications channels of which powers, in which regions, the NSA was intercepting and in what order of priority, providing insight on where and what actions the U.S. military might take next.

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Pollard caught stealing documents on camera.

The memo said many documents the spy gave the Israelis included details on sourcing and the identifications of U.S. agents abroad. Among other information Pollard admits giving to Israel:

  • Detailed information about a Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) HQ in Tunisia
  • Iraqi and Syrian chemical warfare factory locations and production capabilities
  • Regular PLO operations plans
  • Soviet arms shipments to Arab states unfriendly to Israel
  • Soviet fighter jet information
  • Information about Pakistani nuclear weapons programs

“Unauthorized disclosures to friendly powers may cause as great a harm to the national security as to hostile powers because, once the information is removed from secure control systems, there is no enforceable requirement nor any incentive to provide effective controls for its safekeeping,” the memo read.

The CIA believes the information Pollard gave them might have been traded to the Soviet Union in exchange for looser travel restrictions of Russian Jews trying to emigrate to Israel.

Pollard claimed he was acting in a sense of altruism and loyalty toward Israel. Yet, In an exhaustive 1987 report, NCIS investigator Ron Olive alleged Pollard passed material on to South Africa and tried to pass it on to Pakistan as well. He took intelligence documents about China which his wife used to advance her business interests. He passed No Foreign Access (NOFORN) information on to an Australian Navy officer.The government’s case against Pollard included unsuccessful attempts to broker arms deals with South Africa, Argentina, Taiwan, Pakistan, and Iran. And for all of Pollard’s altruism, he accepted more than $30,000 in cash and luxury items from Israel in exchange for information.

Many former Department of Defense officials are against his release. Some prominent Jewish-American figures are against it. Even once-ardent supporters of Pollard disagree with the timing. Ron Olive, the NCIS investigator who caught Pollard after he handed more than a million documents to Israeli agents over 18 months, believes the spy should stay in jail. So does Vice-President Joe Biden. Then-CIA director George Tenet threatened his resignation if President Clinton released Pollard in the late 1990s.

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Iran’s homegrown fighter design is really just an old F-5 airframe

In August of 2018, Iran’s HESA Kowsar fighter plane took its first flight. The Islamic Republic was particularly happy to highlight this achievement because this jet, it said, was “100% percent indigenously made.” 

Except that it really wasn’t indigenously made. While the HESA Kowsar might have been 100% made in Iran, the design for the fighter is actually based on the Northrop F-5, a plane that has been continuously in use somewhere in the world since 1962.

The F-5, like the Kowsar, is a supersonic light fighter. It is designed for air superiority but is also capable of close-air support roles. The F-5 served the United States Air Force well and even played the role of aggressor aircraft in training exercises. It served in the Air Force until 1990, and the U.S. Navy still flies them as aggressor aircraft in training. 

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So familiar…(U.S. Air Force photo)

In a way, this is bad news for the Islamic Republic of Iran Air Force, because U.S. Air Force and U.S. Navy pilots have been training to kill the F-5 and its Kowsar variant for decades. But that idea either didn’t occur to Iran, it wasn’t enough to deter Iran or the Kowsar has a trick or two up its sleeve – which could be the case.

At the same time it launched the first Kowsar fighter, Iran also happily announced the platform carried advanced, fourth-generation avionics and an advanced fire control system, completely designed in Iran. 

Iran’s longtime enemy, Israel, had no compunction about criticizing the Islamic Republic’s fighter. A spokesman for then-Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu released a statement about Iran’s Kowsar:

“The Iranian regime unveils the Kowsar plane and claims that it is ‘the first 100% locally-manufactured Iranian fighter jet,’” the statement read. “It boasts about its offensive capabilities. But I immediately noticed that this is a very old American warplane.”

The Israelis are likely right to be unconcerned about the Kowsar. The light attack aircraft is primarily used for close-air support and as a training plane. If the Iranians ever really fielded the plane against an Israeli attack, the Israel Defence Forces is flying the latest F-35 Lightning II — the match wouldn’t last long. 

In short, the Kowsar would be much better suited to air shows than to actual air-to-air combat with the latest generation of fighter aircraft. If they are used in combat, there’s a much better chance of them being used to support Iranian-backed militias in Iraq or Syria than launching an attack outside of Iran’s sphere of influence. 

The Islamic Republic actually could end up acknowledging that its design was based on the F-5. Whatever it is, Iran actually has buyers lined up for it. Russia, China and Indonesia have all reportedly ordered the aircraft. 

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What the Kowsar could mean for Iran (outside of combat aircraft) is a chance to rebuild the Iranian Air Force into a formidable fighting force. The Iranians were once some of the deadliest pilots in the air. A new generation of pilots learning to fly a reasonably advanced supersonic attack aircraft could bring back some of its glory days. 

Iran may not be under the weight of crushing sanctions forever, and when it could finally get its hands on fifth-generation or even more advanced aircraft (depending on when those sanctions might end), technology alone won’t do the job. Those advanced planes will still need skilled pilots to fly them.

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