This was the Air Force's plan to turn a Boeing 747 into an airborne aircraft carrier - We Are The Mighty
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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 was the Air Force’s plan to turn a Boeing 747 into an airborne aircraft carrier
The concept of a flying aircraft carrier isn’t as far fetched as it seems. (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 was the Air Force’s plan to turn a Boeing 747 into an airborne aircraft carrier
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.

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

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

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

Why the Army should consider bringing back the Pathfinders

There’s an old saying: “It’s better to have it and not need it than to need it and not have it.” This perfectly sums up the role of the U.S. Army Pathfinders — that is, until Big Army cut sling load on them.

As of Feb. 24, 2017, the last Pathfinder company in the active duty United States Army, F Company, 2nd Assault Helicopter Battalion, 82nd Combat Aviation Brigade, cased their colors, putting an end to decades of highly trained soldiers quickly inserting themselves into hostile territory to secure sites for air support. Before that, the provisional pathfinder companies across the Army quietly cased their colors as well.

The decision to slowly phase out the Pathfinders was a difficult one. Today, the responsibility resides with all troops as the need for establishing new zones in the longest modern war in American history became less of a priority. Yet that doesn’t mean that there won’t be a need for their return at any given moment.


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

It’s not an understatement to say that there is a bunch of math you’ll need to do on the fly. Hope you’re well-versed in trigonometry.

(U.S. Army photo by Lori Egan)

The Pathfinder schools are still at Fort Benning and Fort Campbell today, but they’re largely just seen as the “go-to” schools for overzealous officers trying to stack up their badges. Still, the training received there gives graduates many essential skills needed to complete Pathfinder operations.

To be a Pathfinder, you need to satisfy several prerequisites. Since their primary focus is on establishing a landing site for airborne and air assault troops, you must first be a graduate from either or both schools. The training leans heavily on knowledge learned from both schools, such as sling-load operations, while also teaching the fundamentals of air traffic control.

All of this comes in handy because Pathfinders in the field need to know, down to the foot, exactly what kind of area makes for a suitable, impromptu paratrooper drop zone or helicopter landing zone. These tasks are delicate, and human lives and hundreds of thousands of dollars are often on the line. That’s why Pathfinders need to know specifics, like how far apart glow sticks must be placed, to get the job done. Details are crucial.

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

If only there were a unit, typically a company sized element within a Combat Aviation Brigade, that has spent years mastering the art… Oh well…

(U.S. Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Jeremy Lock)

These are skills that simply cannot be picked up on the fly. A typical Joe may be able to cover the physical security element of the task, but establishing a landing zone requires some complex math and carefully honed assessments. Creating drop zones for paratroopers is less mission-critical, as the paratroopers themselves are also less mission essential.

Still, the job of establishing landing zones is now put in the hands of less-qualified troops. Pilots can typically wing it, yes, but the job is best left to those who’ve been specifically trained for the specialized task.

Hat tip to our viewer Tim Moriarty for the inspiration.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Army Futures Command experiments with putting robots in combat

Imagine if a robot could go ahead of troops, by a kilometer or more, to assess a situation and relay information back that would help commanders know what’s ahead and know how to respond?

Army Futures Command isn’t just imagining that- they’re already building it.

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

“This isn’t about robots or technology, this is about soldiers and this is about commanders on the battlefield, and giving them the decision space and reducing the risk of our men and women when we go into the nastiest places on the planet,” Brig. Gen. Ross Coffman, director of the Army’s Next Generation Combat Vehicle-Cross Functional Team, told reporters during a virtual discussion about the Robotic Combat Vehicle Soldier Operational Experiment.

A platoon of soldiers from the 4th Infantry Division at Ft. Carson, CO spent much of this summer sending two-person crews out in modified Bradley fighting vehicles to control robotic surrogate vehicles that were built from M113 armored personnel vehicles. The goal of the experiment was to observe the vehicles and to collect and analyze feedback from the soldiers working with them on the feasibility of integrating robots into ground combat formations.

The modified Bradleys are known as Mission Enabling Technologies Demonstrators (MET-Ds) and the modified M113s are known as Robotic Combat Vehicles (RCVs).

The goal of the program is to eventually build a collection of vehicles that can be used to provide reconnaissance capabilities and standoff distance or to replace soldiers in high-risk activities like combined arms breaches and chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear and explosives (CBRNE) reconnaissance.

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

Coffman emphasized that this summer’s experiment at Ft. Carson was just that, an experiment, and not a test and that there is still much work to be done before soldiers will be able to use robots downrange.

“Right now, it’s difficult for a robot, when it looks at a puddle, to know if it’s the Mariana Trench or two inches deep,” said Maj. Corey Wallace, RCV lead for the Next Generation Vehicle-Cross Functional Team. “The RCV must be able to sense as well as a human. It needs to hear branches breaking around it. It needs to know when it’s on soft sand or an incline. We still need to work on that.”

Jeffrey Langhout, director of the Army’s Combat Capabilities Development Command’s Ground Vehicle Systems Center, acknowledged that the robots still have a ways to go and noted that there are particular challenges involved in designing a robot vehicle for combat.

“Right now, we don’t have the sensors to tell us if a puddle is something we can drive through. In the auto industry, high-tech cars are operating on pavement and in a generous GPS environment. We are looking at how to operate in a denied environment, where things can go bad quickly,” Langhout said.

Earlier this year, the Army selected two companies, QinetiQ North America and Textron, to build the eventual vehicles. QinetiQ North America will build four prototypes of the Robotic Combat Vehicle-Light and Textron will build four prototypes of the RCV-Medium. Coffman said that the Marine Corps is also using QinetiQ to build an RCV-Light and the two services and working together on the designs.

All in all, Coffman said the experiment was “100% successful.”

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

“We learned where the technology is now and how we can fight with it in the future,” Coffman said.

And just how far in the future are we talking? Unfortunately, pretty far.

Coffman said a second experiment is planned for Ft. Hood, Texas in the first part of the fiscal year 2022 using the same M113 robot vehicles and Bradley control vehicles in company-size operations. After that, an experiment will be held to test the vehicles in more complex situations. And after that, the Army will decide if robot vehicles are worth further investment.

This is to say that, cool as the robots are, for now, most soldiers and military families will have to be content just imagining them.

This article originally appeared on Military Families Magazine. Follow @MilFamiliesMag on Twitter.

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A-10 looks like it’s here to stay after new Air Force upgrades

In another positive sign for the beloved A-10, Air Force maintainers at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base in Arizona have outfitted the Warthog with an upgrade for combat search and rescue missions, or CSAR.


Dubbed the lightweight airborne recovery system, the upgrade helps A-10 pilots “communicate more effectively with individuals on the ground such as downed pilots, pararescuemen, and joint terminal attack controllers,” according to an Air Force statement.

Also read: F-35 fighter pilot says he can take on any stealth fighter in the world

Of all the fixed-wing aircraft in the US Air Force’s inventory, no plane carries out CSAR missions like the A-10.

CSAR missions jump off with little warning and often involve going deep into enemy territory, so becoming certified to perform CSAR missions takes tons of training, which only A-10 pilots undergo.

This was the Air Force’s plan to turn a Boeing 747 into an airborne aircraft carrier
Senior Airman Clay Thomas, a 355th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron load crew member, loosens paneling screws from an A-10C Thunderbolt II at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, Ariz. | U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Ashley N. Steffen

The A-10’s rugged survivability, massive forward firing power, newly acquired communication capabilities, and long loiter times at low altitudes make it ideal for flying low and slow and finding the lost person.

According to the Air Force, an “urgent operational need arose in August” for increased CSAR capabilities. Within a few months, the “massive logistical challenge” that required the Air Force to “build a production machine, find facilities, manpower, equipment, tools, and make material kits (to) execute the requirement” came together, and now 19 A-10s sport the upgrade, according to the Air Force.

“A-10 pilots take the combat search and rescue role very seriously,” said Lt. Col. Ryan Hayde, 354th Fighter Squadron commander and A-10 pilot, according to the Air Force statement. “While this is just one tool, it can assist us in bringing them back to US soil safely.”

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

While the A-10 still faces the chopping block in 2018, new investment in the Warthog and the reopening of the production lines in October bode well for the plane’s future protecting American interests and infantry soldiers.

MIGHTY HISTORY

Celebrate freedom with a real Revolutionary War cocktail

One of the reasons Prohibition failed in America is probably because America was founded on and was fueled by booze from the get-go. The Pilgrims stopped at Plymouth Rock because they ran out of beer. The U.S. Marine Corps was founded in a bar. There just isn’t a lot Americans won’t do to keep the party going a little longer. The best example of this is the legendary Revolutionary War leader Ethan Allen and his Green Mountain Boys.


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

That face when you decide to take a British fort just because you can.

Vermont’s Green Mountain Boys were the first to deliver a crushing defeat to the British during the American Revolution. They captured the guns at Fort Ticonderoga, along with two other forts in the area. Ticonderoga was the key to Lake Champlain, which denied the British entry from that point and became the staging area for patriot incursions into Canada. More importantly, the cannons seized at the fort were moved to Boston, where the British occupied much of the city since April 1775. Despite inflicting heavy casualties on the redcoats at places like the Battle of Bunker Hill, the Continental Army needed the help.

In November 1775, Ethan Allen and his Vermonters moved the forts supplies and guns overland to Boston, where General George Washington and his artillery commander Henry Knox used them to force the British to withdraw from Boston after holding it for almost a full year.

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

This is the fort they wanted to take.

What prompts a gaggle of armed good-ol’ boys from Vermont to take on a heavily armed and fortified position of professional soldiers in the world’s largest, best-equipped, and seasoned army of veterans? Alcohol, of course. The night before Allen and the boys seized the fort, they all met at Remington’s Tavern in Castleton, Vermont. There, they sat down with Benedict Arnold who was sent by the Continental Congress to capture the fort and its guns. The Green Mountain Boys were there because they were going to take the fort anyway, sanctioned or not – so Arnold and his regulars might as well join in.

The liquid courage being poured at the tavern was what was common for the area during that time period: hard cider. Colonists planted apples in the new world primarily for the purpose of drinking it. The crop thrived here and kept people healthy, as it was often safer than the drinking water. In fact, cider was pretty much used as currency. But back then, drinking men needed more of a kick, so they added shots of rum to their cider, two shot of it to every pint of cider. They called the drink a “stone fence” because it felt like you were running down a hill into one.

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

For America.

After the ragtag group downed enough bravery, the two commanders led the crossing of Lake Champlain in the early morning hours, with 83 of the Green Mountain Boys. But dawn was coming fast, and Allen and Arnold worried that if they waited for the whole force, they might lose the element of surprise. So with just 83 Vermonters, they stormed Fort Ticonderoga, catching the garrison completely by surprise, capturing the guns for use elsewhere in the Revolution.

If they hadn’t captured them, the rebellion might have died in its cradle by diminishing hopes and expectations for the Continental Army’s chances. So down a few of these spiked ciders for Ethan Allen and the Green Mountain Boys, who might have just saved the future U.S., fueled by liquid courage.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

The Air Force put some guys in a freezer to test out new survival gear

US airmen assigned to the 354th Fighter Wing tested a new arctic survival kit for the F-35A Lightning II in downtown Fairbanks, Alaska, Nov. 5, 2019.

A team of airmen from the 356th Fighter Squadron, F-35 Program Integration Office, 354th Operation Support Squadron Aircrew Flight Equipment and 66th Training Squadron, Detachment 1, used a subzero chamber to replicate the extreme temperatures of interior Alaska.

The test was performed because the current arctic survival kit won’t fit in the allotted space under the seat of an F-35A. The 354th FW is expecting to receive its first F-35A in April of 2019.


“We are testing the kit that Tech. Sgt. John Williams, Tech. Sgt. Benjamin Ferguson and myself have developed over the last year in preparation for the integration of the F-35,” said Tech. Sgt. Garret Wright, 66th TS, Det. 1 Arctic Survival School noncommissioned officer in charge of operations.

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

US Air Force Staff Sgt. Zachary Rumke tests an F-35A Lightning II survival gear kit in Fairbanks, Alaska, Nov. 5, 2019.

Four members of the team, to include Lt. Col. James Christensen, commander of the reactivated 356th Fighter Squadron, stepped into two separate chambers, one at minus-20 and the other at minus-40, wearing standard cold-weather gear issued to pilots. Once inside the chambers, the test observers timed how long it took them to don the specialized winter gear from their survival kit.

After the gear was on, the Icemen lived up to their name and stayed in the chamber for six hours. Wright recorded their condition every 30 minutes to ensure the safety and accuracy of the test.

Approximately five hours into the test, Wright noticed the temperature on the digital thermometer didn’t seem accurate in one of the chambers. He found a mercury-based thermometer and discovered the temperature one of the chambers was at minus-65 and the other was minus-51.

“After realizing that the ambient room temperature was at minus-65 at the five-hour mark, I knew that we had accomplished far more than we originally set out to,” Wright said. “Wing leaders wanted a product that would keep pilots alive at minus-40 and although unplanned, the findings were clear that the sleep system could far surpass this goal.”

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

Wright holds a thermometer beside Rumke during an F-35A Lightning II survival kit test in Fairbanks, Alaska, Nov. 5, 2019.

(US Air Force photo by Senior Airman Beaux Hebert)

After six cold hours, the Icemen stepped out of the subzero chamber and spoke with the survival, evasion, reconnaissance, and escape specialists and the AFE team to address discrepancies and better ways to utilize the equipment.

“The gear was great. There were a couple of minor tweaks that I think we could make to it to improve it but overall it was solid,” said Staff Sgt. Zachary Rumke, 66th TS, Det. 1, Artic Survival School instructor.

After the debrief, the four Icemen agreed the equipment is more than capable of withstanding the harsh temperatures of the Alaskan landscape and said they would feel safe knowing they had this gear to help them survive in one of the world’s most extreme environments.

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

Navy sailors help rescue the stranded crew of a seaplane

The Norfolk-based, guided-missile destroyer USS Mason (DDG 87) took part in the transport of passengers from a damaged seaplane that was adrift at sea in the Western Atlantic Ocean Aug. 25, 2018.

Mason was conducting operations in the Atlantic with Carrier Strike Group 12, when the U.S. Navy diverted the ship to rendezvous with the container ship M/V Polar Peru to transport the rescued passengers back to the United States.

“It was a great team effort to safely rescue the seaplane crew,” said Cmdr. Stephen Aldridge, Mason’s commanding officer. “Those who go to sea have a special bond to help fellow mariners in distress. From the team ashore, to the U.S. Coast Guard, to the merchant ship in the area, the ‘destroyermen’ and naval aviators aboard Mason, it was great to see the collaboration that resulted in locating, rescuing, and returning the stranded passengers ashore.”


The seaplane had departed Elizabeth City, North Carolina, early Aug. 25, 2018, morning when it was forced to make an emergency landing after striking an object during takeoff, which damaged the aircraft’s front node. The plane landed approximately 460 miles southeast of Cape Hatteras, North Carolina.

Watchstanders at the Coast Guard’s 5th District received notification of the distressed plane by the International Emergency Response Coordination Center. An HC-130 Hercules aircraft was launched from Air Station Elizabeth City to monitor the situation while the Coast Guard used the Automated Mutual Assistance Rescue System to contact the Polar Peru, which was transiting nearby. The Polar Peru recovered the passengers until the Mason could arrive on scene.

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

US Coast Guard HC-130 Hercules.

Mason launched two rigid-hull inflatable boats and picked up the five passengers, which included the seaplane’s flight crew and an oceanography researcher. Once aboard, the passengers were able to contact their families.

“There was an excitement on the deck plates for the opportunity to help fellow Americans in trouble at sea,” said Command Master Chief Maurice Purley. “It was a reminder to the crew of Mason why we love being in the U.S. Navy.”

“Although not a frequently-executed mission, search and rescue is a mission that Navy destroyers train for,” added Aldridge. “In fact, just days ago, Mason conducted integrated rescue training with our small boats and helicopters to practice rescuing survivors from the sea and into the helicopter.”

Additional search and rescue mission aircraft aboard Mason include an embarked MH-60R helicopter of Helicopter Maritime Strike Squadron (HSM) 46, based out of Naval Station Mayport, Florida.

This article originally appeared on the United States Navy. Follow @USNavy on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

One of the Navy’s newest ships is finally free from Canadian ice

The USS Little Rock, a US Navy littoral-combat ship commissioned in late December 2017, finally left the port of Montreal late March 2018, more than three months after docking there for a short stop on its maiden voyage.

The Little Rock was commissioned in Buffalo, New York, on Dec. 16, 2017, but its journey to Mayport Naval Station in northeast Florida was delayed when the ship became stuck in Montreal a few days after Christmas. Unusually cold temperatures, icy conditions, and a shortage of tugboats to guide it out of port all contributed to the Little Rock staying in Canada.


The Navy said in January 2018 that the Little Rock would remain in Montreal “until wintry weather conditions improve and the ship is able to safely transit through the St. Lawrence Seaway.”

That stay lasted until 6:15 on the morning of March 31, 2018, port officials told the CBC. Navy spokeswoman Lt. Cmdr. Courtney Hillson confirmed the departure. “Keeping the ship in Montreal until weather conditions improved ensured the safety of the ship and crew,” Hillson told Business Insider.

The Little Rock is expected to reach Florida later in April 2018, making several stops along the way.

The decision to keep the ship at Montreal was made on Jan. 19, 2018. Hillson told Business Insider at the time that the Little Rock’s crew was carrying out routine repair work and focusing “on training, readiness, and certifications.”

This was the Air Force’s plan to turn a Boeing 747 into an airborne aircraft carrier
US Navy littoral combat ship USS Little Rock heading toward Montreal, December 27, 2017.
(Photo via USS Little Rock Facebook)

The ship was outfitted with temporary heaters and 16 de-icers to prevent ice accumulation on the hull and its roughly 170-person crew given cold-weather clothing in response to the delay, according to the CBC.

“We greatly appreciate the support and hospitality of the city of Montreal, the Montreal Port Authority and the Canadian Coast Guard,” the Little Rock’s commanding officer, Cmdr. Todd Peters, said in a statement. “We are grateful for the opportunity to further enhance our strong partnerships.”

Canadians living near the port complained about constant noise coming from the ship’s generators. The Port of Montreal dimmed lights illuminating the ship and adjustments were made to the soundproofing around the Little Rock’s generators.

The Little Rock was the fifth Freedom-class littoral combat ship to join the US Navy. It is 389 feet long with a draft of 13.5 feet, according to the US Navy. It has a top speed of over 45 knots and displaces about 3,400 tons fully loaded. The ship is scheduled for more training and combat-systems testing in 2018, its commander said in late December 2017.

Littoral combat ships are designed to operate near shore, and their modular design is meant to enable them to perform a variety of surface missions, mainly against small, fast attack craft as well as anti-mine and anti-submarine missions.

The LCS program has struggled with accidents and been criticized for cost overruns. The Navy said in January 2018 that LCS mission modules, designed to allow the ships to perform their three mission types, will enter service in 2019, 2020, and 2021.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Unique Russian Tu-134 UBL nicknamed “Black Pearl” intercepted over the Baltic

Four Belgian Air Force F-16AM jets are deployed to Siauliai, Lithuania, to support NATO BAP (Baltic Air Policing) mission in the Baltic region since September. As part of their mission to safeguard the airspaces over Estonia, Lithuania, Latvia and the Baltic Sea, the Belgian Vipers (just like the fighters of all the other air forces which support the BAP mission with rotational deployments to the Baltic States) are regularly scrambled to intercept Russian/non-NATO aircraft that fly in international airspace near NATO airspace.


While Il-76s, Su-27s and other interesting “zombies” are often escorted over the Baltic, the Russian Navy Tu-134 UB-L, RF-12041 nicknamed “Black Pearl”, that the BAF F-16s intercepted last week is a real first. The Belgian Air Force shared an IR image (most probably taken by the F-16’s SNIPER Advanced Targeting Pod used in air-to-air mode for long range identification) of the rare bird, along with a file photo of the same aircraft taking off in 2019:

The Tu-134UB-L, NATO reporting name Crusty-B, is a variant of the civilian Tu-134B aircraft designed to train Tu-160 and Tu-22M3 strategic bombers aircrews (in particular, the Tu-134 was chosen because of the thrust to weight ratio and landing/takeoff characteristics were similar to those of the Tu-22M). The Tu-134UB-L (Uchebno-Boyevoy dla Lyotchikov, Russian for combat trainer for pilots) is indeed a Tu-134B airframe with a Tu-22 nose. According to Russia’s Warplanes Vol. 2 by Piotr Butowski, a total 109 Tu-134UB-L were built, with the first one making its maiden flight in March 1981.

Noteworthy, according to some sources, the “Black Pearl” is no longer used as a trainer, but was converted to be used for transportation tasks in 2017.

Whatever its current mission is the Tu-134UB-L RF-12041 is an extremely interesting and rare aircraft. Let’s just hope the BAF will release more images of this beauty!!

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

Articles

This Soviet colonel managed a crazy escape from the KGB after he was exposed as a spy

Oleg Gordievsky, British spy and former Russian Soviet Colonel, is congratulated by Baroness Thatcher following his investiture by the Queen on 18th October 2007. Photo: Wikimedia Commons/ Sergei66


The KGB colonel knew his cover was almost blown.

He had been suspiciously summoned to Moscow. They had got him drunk on cognac while a KGB general grilled him for four hours. He’d be executed if they could catch him. They seemed to be closing the net. But the MI6 double agent couldn’t risk openly fleeing.

After he sobered up at home, Oleg Gordiyevsky turned to his last resort — an emergency escape plan devised by the British intelligence services that was hidden in invisible ink in a collection of Shakespeare sonnets.

Pulling bed sheets over his head to elude surveillance cameras in the ceiling and walls of his Moscow apartment, Gordiyevsky soaked the book cover in water, revealing a set of instructions. He set about memorizing them.

The plan sketched out a risky rendezvous with two British diplomatic cars at the bend of a road near Finland. From there, Gordiyevsky would be smuggled across the border in the trunk of a car right under the nose of Soviet guards.

If the plan failed, the British security services would lose a prized asset, sometimes considered the West’s most valuable Cold War intelligence source. The plan was backed by Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher: if uncovered it would spark a major diplomatic incident; for Gordiyevsky it would mean certain death.

Recruited in 1974 in Copenhagen by MI6, Gordiyevsky, a KGB colonel, was an unparalleled source within the secretive Soviet state, passing reams of information to the British, who shared it with the CIA. It led to him being compromised. Gordiyevsky blames Aldrich Ames, a KGB mole in the CIA, who he says told Moscow there was a leak in the KGB London station where Gordiyevsky was posted.

‘Toward Death’s Embrace’

Gordiyevsky was summoned to the KGB’s Lubyanka headquarters in Moscow, ostensibly so that he could be confirmed as station chief. But Gordiyevsky suspected something was up.

“I realized I was going toward death’s embrace. But I still decided to go to show that I’m not scared,” he said. He took with him a backup escape plan written by British spy John Scarlett, the man who went on to become “M,” the head of MI6.

“It was all arranged ahead of time,” Gordiyevsky said 30 years later in an interview with RFE/RL’s Russian Service at his two-floor house in a town near London.

All he had to do was inform the British of the proposed date of his extraction. But even that proved hard.

A first “control” meeting arranged at Kutuzovsky Prospekt was botched. A second rendezvous was planned at St. Basil’s Cathedral, where he was meant to pass a note to a British spy on the narrow staircase leading up to the iconic tourist site’s second floor.

But after walking for three hours to shake off his KGB tail, Gordiyevsky arrived to find the plan had been foiled — the whole of Red Square was closed for renovations.

Finally, a third control meeting was successful. The plan was on.

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

At five o’clock on a Friday afternoon on July 19, 1985, a short, thick-set man in a worn jacket and corduroy trousers stepped out of a west Moscow apartment. Staying close to the bushes to avoid detection by a surveillance vehicle, he quietly slipped across to an adjacent street.

Within an hour Gordiyevsky was at Moscow’s Leningrad train station, where he bought tickets to Leningrad before travelling by suburban electric train to Zelenogorsk. From there, he jumped on a bus to Vyborg.

Hours Of Waiting

The meeting place was somewhere along the way, but he had only a description of the meeting place and no precise location.

Unsure exactly where to get off but having passed a big bend in the road that resembled the meeting place, he feigned sickness and nausea to convince the driver to let him off, and walked back along the road until he found the designated meeting place.

“I was surrounded by woodland where I laid down waiting for the diplomatic car of the [British] embassy. I lay there three hours waiting for the moment when the car was meant to come. At 2:20 a.m. two cars with two drivers arrived. They managed to hide around the bend for a few minutes away from the KGB car following them from Leningrad.”

“I dived into the trunk of one of the cars. The whole operation took no longer than a minute, we managed to get going again before the KGB tail appeared round the corner.”

Luckily, a slow goods train chugging through a railway crossing had separated the British diplomats from the KGB tail and put considerable distance between them. The KGB sped forward to catch up, but the British cars had waited by a small hill out of sight and the KGB overshot them.

“Our pursuers, having reached a traffic police post, asked the police: ‘Where are the English cars?'”

“‘What cars? No one has passed,’ [they answered]. And then our cars appeared. They surrounded the English: ‘Right, that’s it, now they’re going to arrest us,’ they thought. But the KGB were also tired. It was half past five, Saturday, end of the working day. They’d been on duty since about 7 that morning and let us go through to the border point without checking us.”

From the trunk of the car, all Gordiyevsky could hear was the driver turn on a piece of music by Sibelius called Finlandia.

“That’s how I realized we were on Finnish territory.”

In Finland, Gordiyevsky was let out of the stuffy trunk of the car and met by a young British diplomat named Michael Shipster. He called MI6, Gordiyevsky recalls, and announced: “The luggage has arrived. It’s all in order.”

Also from Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty:

This article originally appeared at Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty Copyright 2015.

Copyright (c) 2015. RFE/RL, Inc. Reprinted with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave NW, Ste 400, Washington DC 20036.

MIGHTY CULTURE

The top 10 perks of being an Army wife

Deployments, moving, nights in the field, hardship tours – there are lots of reasons to hate the Army. No one promised that Army life would be easy, in fact, everyone said it would be hard. But if it were all bad, if there were no perks, so many of us wouldn’t have opted to stay in for ‘life’ – if by ‘life’ we mean about 20 years.

In fact, for some of us now nearing that magical 20-year mark, a future spent as something other than an Army spouse is actually kind of scary.


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

10. It’s easy to find your underwear

Stay with me. You know the really pretty Victoria’s Secret thong you spent on just to wear to meet him when he got home from Afghanistan (and you’ve worn for all the ‘good’ date nights since)? Yeah, that one. It’s on his shoulder, stuck to the velcro on his ACUs, probably as he gets called in to a very serious meeting with his CO.

Same goes for you, male spouses. Your Frederick’s of Hollywood elephant trunk thongs will get stuck, too – ugh. Never mind. Let’s all try to get that image out of our heads…

Bottom line (pun intended): Every delicate unmentionable you will own as an Army spouse will get stuck to and shredded by the velcro – and mentioned by all the other soldiers – if you wash your clothes with your soldier’s. Honestly, just be glad it was the sexy ones. It could have been the granny panties you save to wear during deployments.

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

9. Woobies

‘Cause without them you ‘would-be’ cold. Take a look at your couch. There’s no lovely chenille throw and no handmade quilt spread across the end. Oh no, you’re an Army spouse. That means you have a green camouflage poncho liner, better known as a “woobie”, adorning your relaxing space.

No one is quite sure where woobies come from, they just appear, and then they multiply – like Bebe’s kids, or maybe gremlins. Pretty soon you realize that there’s one on each of your kids’ beds, at the foot of your own bed and even in the dog’s bed. But there’s no better blanket for sneaking in an afternoon nap and, should you dare to argue that the woobie is inferior in any way, your soldier will set you straight.

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

(U.S. Army Europe photo by Spc. Joshua Leonard)

8. Eye candy

For reals. We’re not supposed to talk about it, but you know you look, we all do. We get to live in towns where the male to female ratio makes sports bars look like wine cafes. And, though there are nowhere near as many female soldiers, mandatory PT tests mean that there’s eye candy for the male spouses, too.

Soldiers have to work out for their jobs. Every year at Fort Bragg the entire 82nd Airborne Division runs together, all 22,000 of them, for the Division Run. And you know what the spouses do? We bring folding chairs, snacks and drinks, and get there early so we can nab a good viewing spot. Then we watch.

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

(U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Robert Jordan)

7. Way off base

We get to correct the other branches when they call ours a ‘base’. One of these kids is not like the others – and it’s us. The others have “bases” we have “posts”. Why? Who knows? Who cares? Maybe it’s so we can annoy everyone else when we call their Base Exchange a “PX”.

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

(Photo by Staff Sgt. Russell Klika)

6. Dibs on ‘soldiers’

Along the same lines, we get to watch the others cringe when civilians refer to all service members as “soldiers”. Even though everyone in the military world understands that the word ‘soldier’ only applies to a member of the Army, this little drop of wisdom hasn’t managed to trickle down to our civilian friends – and we in the Army family think that’s just hilarious.

“How’s your ‘soldier’ doing on his cruise, Navy wife?”; “There are a lot less ‘soldiers’ in the Marine Corps, no?”; And, “It must be hard to be on that Air Force Base all by yourself when your ‘soldier’ is gone.” Comments like these always make us chuckle – because we know that a soldier by any other name is, well, not a ‘soldier’ at all.

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

5. Size matters

Okay, so maybe the Navy, Coast Guard and Marine Corps families get to live by the ocean and the Air Force families get better, well, everything (don’t act like you haven’t noticed). We’re the biggest. By far. (O’Doyle Rules!) The Army is about the same size as the Navy, Marine Corps and Coast Guard – combined.

In fact, the entire Coast Guard could fit on just one Army post – with room left over for a few Army brigades. Fort Bragg even has an Air Force installation fully contained inside the Army post. So take pride in knowing that we’re the biggest. Maybe that knowledge will help you get through a long winter in middle of nowhere, because most Army posts seem to have all been built on the largest piece of crap land the federal government could afford.

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

(Photo by Hiro Chang)

4. The military balls

(And, no, this is not a rehash of number 8.) Most people get to go to the prom once, maybe twice in their lifetimes. (Three or four times if they were the freshman high school hussy who dated seniors.) We get to go every year. And there’s booze. And decent food.

And we can slow dance without being separated by a chaperone, and we’re even encouraged to get a hotel room. Military balls give us excellent reasons to go shopping, get our hair and nails done, and have our pictures taken with our spouses. Or, if nothing else, to give the yoga pants a night off.

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

3. We’ve got friends EVERYWHERE

Ever have this conversation? “Oh, you’re from Jeezbekneez, Kansas? I have a friend who lives there.” And one in Japan, and one in Hawaii, three in Alaska, two in Italy, four in Germany, one in Korea, and so forth and so on. Grade school classes could use our Facebook friends’ lists for geography lessons. Army families move. A lot. The upside: On a lonely night during a deployment we know we can get on Facebook and find one of those friends online, because 3 a.m. our time is 9 a.m. in Germany.

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

2. Never-ending hijinks

When kids play war, they play Army. Well, guess what? People who join the Army tend to never let go of that wild (ahem) spirit. The Army: Where the boys are men, the men are boys, and the women aren’t afraid of snakes. If you’re reading this, it’s probably because you already love a wild man or woman and are likely to view living somewhere surrounded by jokesters as an adventure.

(Note: This also applies to the Marine Corps, but it does not apply to the other branches. Those who volunteer for boots-on-the-ground duty tend to be a bit more devil-may-care.)

The soldiers around you will be the sweetest, most helpful versions of Steve-O and Johnny Knoxville imaginable, and that makes life very fun – and very funny. Living in an Army town means you will never have to open a door for yourself; you won’t linger on the side of the road with a broken down car; and if a disaster strikes there will be more volunteers than there is need.

But it also means your daily commute will resemble a NASCAR race and you shouldn’t be surprised when you stumble upon stupid human tricks involving nakedness, port-a-potties, 100-mile-an-hour tape, 550 cord and, occasionally, explosives.

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

(Photo by Elizabeth Alexander)

1. Family

Whether you come from a big family, a small family or no family at all, rest assured that you just joined the biggest family in America. Really. Your family is now more than a million strong – Army strong. There is no black, white, brown, red or yellow in the Army – just Green. It doesn’t matter if you’re from the north, south, east or west, educated or not so much, fresh out of high school or edging towards retirement.

I come from a big, tight-knit, family – and I love my family – but more than once I’ve cut short my visits “home” to go back to my Army home because I needed the support and understanding only my ‘Big Green Machine’ family could provide. My Army wife sisters were my newborn daughter’s first hospital visitors, they met her months before her own father did.

They opened their arms wide to me when I told them my dad was dying of cancer. They sent flowers to his funeral. They’ve helped me pack, clean and hold yard sales. They’ve, quite literally, picked me up when I was too weak to stand on my own. And they have laughed with me – oh, how they have laughed with me. We have watched each other’s babies grow, sometimes from afar, and we have shared so much of each other’s lives that the word ‘friend’ is simply not enough anymore. We are family.

A single thread is easy to break, but when you weave a bunch of threads together you get 550 cord, which is strong and secure enough for parachutes. That’s the Army. And we are Army Strong – because none of us stands alone.

This article originally appeared on Military Spouse. Follow @MilSpouseMag on Twitter.

Articles

Hawaii just released a guide on how to survive a nuclear attack from North Korea

Hawaii’s Emergency Management Agency released an ominous statement on how to survive and proceed in the event of a nuclear attack.


Citizens of Hawaii are advised to look out for emergency sirens, alerts, wireless notifications, or flashes of “brilliant white light” that will indicate that a nuclear detonation is incoming or underway.

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

From there, the agency instructs citizens to get indoors, stay indoors, and stay tuned via radio as “cell phone, television, radio, and internet services will be severely disrupted or unavailable.” Instead, expect only local radio stations to survive and function.

If indoors, citizens should avoid windows. If driving, citizens should pull off the road to allow emergency vehicles access to population centers. Once inside, Hawaiians should not leave home until instructed to or for two full weeks, as dangerous nuclear fallout could sicken or kill them.

Read the full release below:

This was the Air Force’s plan to turn a Boeing 747 into an airborne aircraft carrier
Courtesy of Hawaii Emergency Management Agency

Humor

6 different types of machine-gunners you’ll meet in the infantry

After spending two to three months in boot camp, young troops who are looking to serve in the infantry must move onto additional grunt training at other various grounds.


Once they graduate from that, some head off to their first units, where they’ll encounter some interesting personalities.

Some of these exciting personalities exist in the diverse troops who carry the “big guns” — aka, the machine-gunners.

Related: 6 types of enlisted ‘docs’ you’ll meet at sick call

1. The “Marksman”

An infantryman works and trains hard to one day deploy their weapon system and score an accurate kill shot. For machine-gunners, scoring a precise kill from a distance is highly unlikely.

This isn’t because the shooter is incapable; that weapon system wasn’t designed to nail an enemy combatant square between the eyes but, rather, to take their head clean off.

However, some gunners still strive to make that perfect shot with their heavy-ass weapon.

This was the Air Force’s plan to turn a Boeing 747 into an airborne aircraft carrier
Lance Cpl. Eric Lewis (left) shouts out commands to machine gunners during a platoon-size live fire range as part of Exercise Desert Scimitar 2014 aboard Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center Twentynine Palms, Calif. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Luis A. Vega)

2. The “Napoleon”

This one refers to the French military leader, Napoleon Bonaparte, because of his height. This gunner gets looked at differently because of the contrast between their smaller body and the massive size of the M240 they’re holding.

However, they always manage to carry it and fire the weapon like a seasoned pro.

3. The “Screamer”

Machine-gunners are trained to whisper the words “die motherf*cker, die” while firing their weapon. In the time it takes to finish saying the words to themselves, they’ve shot roughly between four to six rounds. The “screamer” chooses to shout that sh*t out loud.

This repeated mantra is designed to prevent the gunner from overheating their barrel and causes them regularly adjust their fire for more accuracy.

This was the Air Force’s plan to turn a Boeing 747 into an airborne aircraft carrier
U.S. Marine machine gunners provide cover during a live-fire and maneuver exercise as part of sustainment training at D’Arta Plage, Djibouti. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Gunnery Sgt. Rome M. Lazarus)

4. The “Barrel-burner”

As previously stated, machine-gunners are trained to only discharge four to six rounds at a time to avoid overheating their barrels. The “barrel-burner” tends to forget the shooting cycle and fires more than intended — which can cause the barrel to warp.

This was the Air Force’s plan to turn a Boeing 747 into an airborne aircraft carrier
Army infantrymen change barrels on an M240 Bravo machine gun during a live-fire exercise at Fort Stewart, Ga. (U.S. Army photo by Pfc. Jordan Anderson)

5. The “Freeloader”

This gunner tends to ask other members of his squad to carry his extra ammo so that they can haul more Rip-Its. What’s hilarious about this type of gunner is the nice way they go about asking you.

It makes you feel good about yourself for helping out a brother.

Also Read: 5 of the sneakiest ways people try to fool the front gate MPs

6.  The “Animal Mother”

If you’ve ever served in the infantry, you probably had one or two “Animal Mothers” in your company. Just like in the movie, Full Metal Jacket, he’s the trigger-happy badass who is more than thrilled to shoot into an enemy compound and then ask questions later.

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