What it's like to be strapped into the U-2 Dragon Lady - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY TACTICAL

What it’s like to be strapped into the U-2 Dragon Lady

The Air Force needs new spy pilots, especially for the Cold War-era U-2 Dragon Lady that has flown since 1955, but piloting the U-2 is different from nearly any other aircraft in the world right now. Pilots are strapped into the plane by a dedicated crew and then fly at the edge of space, capturing photographs and signals intelligence.

Here are 13 photos that show what that’s like:


What it’s like to be strapped into the U-2 Dragon Lady

U.S. Air Force Senior Airman Reynato Acncheta, 99th Expeditionary Reconnaissance Squadron, and Senior Airman Willy Campos help Maj. Sean Gallagher don his helmet before a mission in a U-2 Dragon Lady at an undisclosed location in Southwest Asia, November 23, 2010.

(U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Eric Harris)

First, it really is a team effort to get pilots suited up. Flying at the edge of space exposes pilots to all sorts of hazards, from extreme cold to solar radiation. The extensive gear required would be nearly impossible for the pilot to put entirely on themselves, so enlisted airmen help them get in gear.

What it’s like to be strapped into the U-2 Dragon Lady

U.S. Air Force Senior Airman Willy Campos, 99th Expeditionary Reconnaissance Squadron, helps Maj. Sean Gallagher don his flight suit before a mission in a U-2 Dragon Lady at an undisclosed location in Southwest Asia.

(U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Eric Harris)

The pilot’s entire body is covered by the suit, and it helps regulate their blood pressure, even at high altitudes. The pilots also have to breathe in pure oxygen for a while before the flight to get the nitrogen out of their blood. Otherwise, they would develop decompression sickness, similar to when divers get the bends.

What it’s like to be strapped into the U-2 Dragon Lady

U.S. Air Force Maj. Sean Gallagher, 99th Expeditionary Reconnaissance Squadron, gets in a vehicle to take him to his aircraft before a mission in a U-2 Dragon Lady.

(U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Eric Harris)

The pilots leave the prep room and ride to the plane in trucks converted for the purpose. The airmen bring the pilot’s gear along, including the hoses and pumps that feed air to the pilot. The pilot will also receive liquid food, water, Gatorade, and caffeine through hoses as missions can be very long.

What it’s like to be strapped into the U-2 Dragon Lady

U.S. Air Force Maj. Sean Gallagher, 99th Expeditionary Reconnaissance Squadron, greets his ground support crew before a mission in a U-2 Dragon Lady.

(U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Eric Harris)

The U-2 is an ungainly beast on the ground, necessitating a ground crew. But once pilot and plane are together, the possibilities are great.

What it’s like to be strapped into the U-2 Dragon Lady

U.S. Air Force Senior Airman Willy Campos, 99th Expeditionary Reconnaissance Squadron, ensures that Maj. Sean Gallagher’s flight suit is properly connected before a mission in a U-2 Dragon Lady.

(U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Eric Harris)

The crew straps the pilot into the bird and plugs them into the systems in preparation for taxiing and takeoff.

What it’s like to be strapped into the U-2 Dragon Lady

U.S. Air Force Airman 1st Class Colin Cortez, a U-2 Dragon Lady crewchief assigned to the 380th Expeditionary Aircraft Maintenance Squadron, signals a U-2 aircraft as it taxis to a parking spot after flying a mission while deployed to an undisclosed location in Southwest Asia on November 23, 2010.

(U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Andy Kin)

The jet taxis on permanent gear that sits under the fuselage as well as two sets of wheels that are placed under the plane’s wings.

What it’s like to be strapped into the U-2 Dragon Lady

A U-2 Dragon Lady flies over the Golden Gate Bridge near San Francisco, California, March 23, 2016.

(U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Robert M. Trujillo)

Once they’re in the air, though, they’re graceful and sleek with large wings supporting a thin fuselage. They can zip through the air at low altitudes, but they specialize at high-level flight, taking photos and collecting signal intelligence from up to 70,000 feet in the air or higher.

What it’s like to be strapped into the U-2 Dragon Lady

A U-2 Dragon Lady flies above the Sierra Nevada Mountain Range, California, March 23, 2016.

(U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Robert M. Trujillo)

When flying at high altitudes, the plane’s lightweight construction and powerful engines allow it to continue even when the air gets thin and oxygen is scarce. This was vital in the 1950s when satellites didn’t yet exist. The Air Force thought they could retire the plane in 1969, but the date has been continuously pushed off or canceled. Most recently, the Air Force decided to cancel a 2019 retirement.

What it’s like to be strapped into the U-2 Dragon Lady

Ice forms around the canopy glass of a U-2 Dragon Lady flying over California, March 23, 2016.

(U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Robert M. Trujillo)

This allows the U-2 to fly above the range of many air defenses and even the engagement altitudes of many jets. During the Cold War, some U-2s were caught in Soviet airspace and escaped simply because MiGs and Sukhois of the time couldn’t reach them. This isn’t quite immunity, though. As the war dragged on, the Soviets developed weapons that were quite capable of reaching near space, and China and Russia can both reach U-2s in flight.

What it’s like to be strapped into the U-2 Dragon Lady

U-2 Dragon Lady pilot lands on the runway at Al Dhafra Air Base, United Arab Emirates, Nov. 16, 2017.

(U.S. Air National Guard Staff Sgt. Colton Elliott)

When U-2s land, the pilots have a very limited visibility, so the Air Force assigns chase cars to follow the planes and radio guidance to the pilot. Sometimes the pilots can make do with very little guidance, but the chase cars are needed in case anything goes wrong. This is especially true after long missions where the pilots may be exhausted form 12 hours or more in the air.

What it’s like to be strapped into the U-2 Dragon Lady

A U.S. Air Force maintainer from the 380th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron runs to the wing of a U-2 Dragon Lady from the 99th Expeditionary Reconnaissance Squadron to install a pogo support at an undisclosed location.

(U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Eric Harris)

Once its back on the ground, the U-2 is again limited by its paltry two sets of wheels which are lined up like a bicycle’s. So maintainers are sent out with “pogos,” the small sets of wheels that prop up the wings and keep the plane stable on the ground.

What it’s like to be strapped into the U-2 Dragon Lady

A U-2, flying from the 380th Air Expeditionary Wing at an undisclosed location in Southwest Asia, approaches the maintenance hangar after the final sortie for one of its mission systems, December 15, 2016.

(U.S. Air Force Tech. Sgt. Christopher Carwile)

If the plane is landing at a new base or has flown through possible contamination, the pilot may have to take it through a wash down. This is also traditionally done when an airframe or a mission module has flown its final mission.

What it’s like to be strapped into the U-2 Dragon Lady

U.S. Air Force Major Sean Gallagher, 99th Expeditionary Reconnaissance Squadron, explains the U-2 Dragon Lady’s mission after landing at an undisclosed location in Southwest Asia, November 23, 2010.

(U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Eric Harris)

Pilots then climb down from the high-flying bird, exhausted. But their missions ensure American safety and security by collecting intelligence that might otherwise be impossible to garner. Its sensors have collected data of enemy air defenses, troop deployments, and technology.

MIGHTY TRENDING

These are the China and Taiwan dueling propaganda videos

Mainland China made a video of its fighter jets flying around Taiwan, so Taiwan returned fire with a video of its forces preparing to a repel a Chinese invasion.

The People’s Liberation Army Air Force released a music video titled “My War Eagles Are Flying Around The Treasured Island” on Feb. 3, 2019. The upbeat video released ahead of the Chinese New Year calls for reunification with Taiwan, a priority for the Chinese military.


Taiwan has formally protested. “This approach aims at reunifying Taiwan with force and will only have counterproductive results as Taiwanese will find it repulsive and distasteful,” Taiwan’s Mainland Affairs Council argued in a statement on the matter.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6zyFpYRyOY0
《我的战鹰绕着宝岛飞》

www.youtube.com

Watch Mainland China’s video below:

In addition to the sharp rebuke, Taiwan’s Ministry of National Defense released its own video, a 90-second video named “Freedom Isn’t Free” that features clips from 2018’s military exercises.

“Many men and women serving in the armed forces will miss New Year’s Eve dinners with their families, but they will not be absent from standing on guards to protect the country,” the ministry said in its statement on Facebook.

“Our resolve to protect every inch of the nation’s territory has never wavered, our constant efforts to strengthen the military’s combat ability has never changed.”


onstandby24/7

www.facebook.com

Watch Taiwan’s response video here:

In an earlier address, Chinese President Xi Jinping refused to rule out the use of force to secure the reunification of Taiwan. Shortly thereafter, a Chinese general warned a top US admiral that “if anyone wants to separate Taiwan from China, the Chinese military will safeguard the national unity at all costs so as to protect China’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.”

The Chinese military regularly conducts so-called “encirclement drills” around Taiwan, a self-ruled democratic territory that Beijing perceives as a renegade province.

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

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The 10 most dangerous military jobs

“No catalogue of horrors ever kept men from war. Before the war you always think that it’s not you that dies. But you will die, brother, if you go to it long enough.” ― Ernest Hemingway

Jocko Willink, a retired Navy Seal Officer who led SEAL Team 3, Task Unit Bruiser, in Iraq during the 2006 Battle of Ramadi, says that war is the ultimate human test. “When people from both sides of a conflict are trying to kill each other, it’s life or death.” Not every station of military service bears that intensity, but some do. There are jobs in which the choices you make spell out the difference between going home safely or never going home at all. These ten jobs are some of the highest-risk jobs in the U.S. military.

  1. Explosive Ordnance Disposal

Immortalized in pop culture with The Hurt Locker and broadening awareness of the conditions on the ground in Iraq, these military bomb squad techs clear mines and inspect malfunctioning munitions. The proliferation of IEDs (improvised explosive devices) in our current conflicts make the career conditions of these warriors extremely precarious. 

  1. Pararescue

An elite ambulatory care team in the USAF that not only operates in war zones, but in severe conditions due to weather and natural disasters, and even as support for NASA missions. Called PJs (Pararescue Jumpers), they’re tasked with flying, climbing, and marching into high-risk areas to save those isolated or wounded by war or disaster.

dangerous military jobs
Pararescuemen, combat rescue officers, and SERE specialists from the 83rd Expeditionary Rescue Squadron at Bagram Airfield, Afghanistan performed jump training Dec. 1, 2018.
  1. Special Operations

Encompassing a broad range of units including Army Rangers, Navy Seals, and Green Berets, Marine Raiders, Special Ops soldiers are culled through rigorous training and selection processes. Working in all terrains, they are often equipped with better gear and additional training than their counterparts in the regular infantry, but they’re also put in much more challenging situations that can amount to greater casualties.

dangerous military jobs
BAGHDAD – U.S. Army Brig. Gen. Patrick B. Roberson, the deputy commanding general of Special Operations Joint Task Force
  1. Motor Transportation

The rise in the usage of IEDs during our “forever wars” in the Middle East expose truck drivers and other vehicle transport to intense risk. Though there is a greater supply of up-armored vehicles for the units in places such as Afghanistan and Iraq than there was fifteen years ago, there’s no avoiding the exposure to bombings that many of these drivers face.

  1. Aviation

Due to the tremendous support aircraft provides to the battlefield, their pilots and crews are valuable targets to the enemy in battle. Helicopter crews in particular often have to move in and out of hostile territories while under fire to transport people and ordnance.

  1. Combat Medics (Corpsman)

The job of a medic is to move alongside friendly forces to aid the wounded and dying while under fire. Though medics are protected under the Geneva Convention, they are still susceptible to mortars, artillery, and air strikes just as their infantry support is. 

dangerous military jobs
Sgt. Kirsten Wroblewski along with Spc. Riley Martinez both medics with the 313th Medical Company Ground Ambulance unit based in Lincoln, Nebraska, perform first-aid on a patient during a mass casualty exercise at Northern Strike 19. 
  1. JTAC

JTAC, or joint terminal attack controllers, are in charge of directing offensive air operations. Basically, they’re responsible for controlling the chaos of battle in the air. They’re responsible for directing attacks, and it’s a complicated and dangerous job. While joint terminal attack controllers are usually observing and directing the action rather than acting it out themselves, they’re still in close proximity to gunfire, bomb detonations and a number of other life-threatening hazards.

  1. Artillery

These troops are subject to a lot of attention from the enemy because of their vital task of launching heavy rounds beyond the range of typical infantry. Not only are they called upon to breach fortifications and larger targets, but enemy formations as well. They are also sometimes called upon to move to infantry or cavalry positions, where they’ve received less training and can by more susceptible to danger.

  1. Aircraft carrier ground crew

You don’t have to be in a combat role to be in harm’s way. Aircraft carriers are inherently dangerous. Planes land on them while they’re in motion; it’s comparable to landing a plane on top of a skyscraper during an earthquake. Aircraft carrier ground crew members are subject to multiple hazards. Combine thousands of gallons of fuel, jet engines and intentional crash landings, and you have a pretty risky job– even if no bullets or bombs are involved.

  1. Infantry

As the primary force deployed in conflicts to take and hold enemy territory, it should come as no surprise that an infantry man or woman, now as always, is a high-risk profession. They perform all of the most common battle operations, and are host to the greatest number of casualties.


The price paid by many of our military service members is the steepest there is, and we should all strive to treat them with grace and respect. For further information on finding support after the death of a loved one, www.militaryonesource.mil is just one of the many resources available. 

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3 life-saving skills still worth practicing as a civilian

All troops, regardless of branch or service length, will one day receive a DD-214 restoring the privileges of being a civilian. This newfound freedom will allow one the opportunity to succeed or fail based on individual effort. While troops train themselves in defense of the principles that keep our country free, naturally, some training fades away.

Life-saving skills are some of the most important skills we have developed, and they continue to pay dividends years after our service has ended. Muscle memory can only go so far when the practical application is no longer scheduled. Thankfully, it doesn’t take much to remove the rust and be confidently prepared to act when our family or community needs us most.


Stop the Bleed
www.youtube.com

 

Use of tourniquets

Tourniquets are one of the few pieces of gear not required to turn into supply upon discharge and are worth keeping at home or in your glovebox when you enter the 1st Civilian Division. The importance of these devices cannot be understated and can be used in the event of a catastrophic car accident.

Personally, I have taught every member of my household to use a tourniquet. The youngest knows to use the sealed ones for real life and the opened ones for practice. Tourniquets lose their elasticity and may fail when you need them most if you don’t keep them fresh.

A belt or t-shirt can also be used a substitute if a proper tourniquet is not within a reasonable distance and the situation is dire. The video below comes straight from The National Center for Disaster Medicine and Public Health to raise awareness among the U.S. population.

You’re considered paranoid if nothing happens, but if something does and you’re prepared: you’re not paranoid, you’re smart.

Marines Run From Barracks To Carry Elderly From Burning Building, Then Featured on Fox and Friends
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Fireman’s carry

The fireman’s carry is one of the best exercises to maintain for civilian life. It’s simple and can be integrated into a workout every once in a while to refresh muscle memory. It will keep you toned and fit, but its true purpose is to remove someone from a dangerous area when they are unable to do so on their own. These emergencies can range from a friend who has had too many drinks to full-on evacuation scenarios.

How to do the Heimlich maneuver
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Heimlich maneuver

The Heimlich maneuver was developed by Dr. Henry J. Heimlich in 1974 and has saved countless lives since its inception. It is defined, by Merriam-Webster, as:

The manual application of sudden upward pressure on the upper abdomen of a choking victim to force a foreign object from the trachea.

Active duty personnel have been taught the Heimlich maneuver in numerous first aid classes, and have practiced on colleagues or state-of-the-art dummies. The procedure is simple to teach yet you do not want to leave this period of instruction for the moment when every second counts. A few moments of practice with family members can keep everyone sharp for when the unexpected happens at home or to a stranger out in town.

MIGHTY TRENDING

ISIS has been beaten from its caliphate to caves

At one time, the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria controlled a self-proclaimed caliphate that stretched from Syria to Iraq, but now that force in Iraq has been degraded so much that the remnants are hiding in caves, deep wadis, and tunnels in the desert and hills of western Iraq’s austere terrain, the commander of Task Force Rifles told Pentagon reporters Dec. 11, 2018.

Army Col. Jonathan C. Byrom, who also serves as deputy director of Joint Operations Command Iraq, spoke via video teleconference from Baghdad.

Kurdish peshmerga and Iraqi security forces are conducting continuous clearance operations against these small pockets, the colonel said.


Checkpoints along the Iraq-Syria border have now been reopened, and Iraq’s border guard and security forces are operating along that border to prevent ISIS from crossing, he said. That includes “intense cross-border fires” by Iraqi and coalition forces in consultation and coordination with Syrian Democratic Forces, he added.

What it’s like to be strapped into the U-2 Dragon Lady

U.S. Marines with Weapons Company, 3rd Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment, attached to Special Purpose Marine Air-Ground Task Force, Crisis Response-Central Command fire 120mm mortars in support of Combined Joint Task Force – Operation Inherent Resolve operations Sept. 18, 2018. CJTF-OIR is the military arm of the Global Coalition to defeat ISIS in designated parts of Iraq and Syria.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Gabino Perez)

Iraqi security forces are large-scale clearance operations and are hunting ISIS leadership and trying to take out the terrorist group’s media, propaganda, and financial capabilities, Byrom said.

Assistance from U.S., coalition forces

U.S. and coalition forces are advising, assisting, and enabling Iraqi forces, he said, support that includes providing them with joint fires, intelligence, aerial surveillance, and training, along with some equipment. “It’s a good partnership” that’s preventing a resurgence of ISIS and continues to degrade their numbers and effectiveness, the colonel said.

Byrom emphasized that the Iraqis are conducting their own missions and making the decisions. “They are effectively targeting ISIS and regularly conducting operations that disrupt ISIS and preventing their resurgence,” he said.

Asked how many ISIS fighters remain in Iraq, Byrom said he doesn’t focus on the number. “What we’re really focused on is the capability and whether they can translate this capability into destabilizing or resurging,” he explained.

The good news story, he said, is that ISIS attacks “are not having that much of an impact on the population.”

This article originally appeared on the United States Department of Defense. Follow @DeptofDefense on Twitter.

Articles

These are the 7 finest pieces of flair on US military uniforms

In the 1999 film Office Space, one of the most quotable scenes is when Joanna (Jennifer Aniston), is confronted by her boss Stan, portrayed by the film’s writer/director Mike Judge, about her lack of “flair” on her work uniform.


Pieces of flair are quirky buttons and other accessories with funny, light-hearted phrases or pictures on the uniforms of characters working in a fictional TGI Friday’s rip-off.

When it comes to “flair,” the U.S. military has some cool looking badges. Unlike the cheesy buttons from the movie, military badges are earned through intense training and personal dedication.

While we acknowledge tabs such as Special Forces and Ranger (among others) awards are pretty awesome, the focus of this list is with pin-on badges that aren’t only difficult to earn but require a certain level of expertise.

They are also aesthetically pleasing from all branches of the Armed Forces – that is to say, they just look cool.

7. Space Operations Badge

This badge looks straight out of the Star Trek movies with its slick and futuristic design. It’s certainly a badge that will make you look twice when you see military personnel wearing it.

What it’s like to be strapped into the U-2 Dragon Lady

Members of the U.S. Air Force and Army who complete specialized training and performed space and missile operations over a period of time are eligible to wear it.

6. Military Freefall Parachutist Badge

First awarded in 1994, service members must complete a four-week freefall course in order to earn the coveted badge — commonly known as HALO Wings (High-Altitude Low-Opening).

What it’s like to be strapped into the U-2 Dragon Lady

The badge design features a dagger, arched tab, parachute, and wings. The knife represents infiltration techniques, and the parachute is a seven-celled MT1-X, which is the first parachute adopted for military freefall operations. Members of the Army and Air Force are qualified for the badge.

5. Guard, Tomb of the Unknowns Identification Badge

What it’s like to be strapped into the U-2 Dragon Lady

One of the highest honors in the U.S. military is to serve as a Sentinel at the Tomb of the Unknowns. The badge features a wreath representing mourning and three figures representing Peace, Valor, and Victory on the east face of the Tomb.

What it’s like to be strapped into the U-2 Dragon Lady
(U.S. Army photo)

In order to be selected as a Tomb Guard and wear this badge, U.S. Army Soldiers must volunteer and be accepted into training. The position is so hihgly regarded that less than 700 badges have been awarded since it was established in 1958.

4. Master Diver insignia (U.S. Maritime Services)

The Master diver badge is a shared by the Navy, Marine Corps, and Coast Guard. A master diver is an individual who typically has the most experience in all aspects of diving and underwater salvage.

What it’s like to be strapped into the U-2 Dragon Lady

The unique feature of this badge are the seahorses. The symbolism of the seashores goes back to the Greek god Poseidon who used them to pull his chariot. The double tridents represent the diver’s ability to master the ocean.

3. Expert Rifle Marksmanship Badge

What it’s like to be strapped into the U-2 Dragon Lady

A big perk of getting a high score during the Marine Corps Weapons Qualification test is that you get to wear the Expert Rifle Marksmanship badge. Having this “flair” on your uniform just makes the Marine dress blue uniform that much better.

2. Explosive Ordnance Disposal Badge

The Explosive Ordnance Disposal Badge is a universal badge awarded across all five branches of the U.S. military. Like many badges, there are three levels: Basic, Senior, and Master.

What it’s like to be strapped into the U-2 Dragon Lady

The meaning of the badge is also very descriptive. The wreath represents the achievements of EOD personnel. It also serves as a symbol to those EOD members who gave their lives while conducting EOD duties. The unexploded bomb serves as the main weapon of an EOD attack. The lightning bolts signify the power of a bomb and the bravery of EOD personnel. Lastly, the shield embodies the EOD mission: to prevent detonation and protect personnel and property.

1. SEAL Trident

The U.S. Navy SEAL Trident is probably one of the most recognized badges in the U.S. military, worn by the elite U.S. Navy SEALs. When you see this piece of flair, it deserves the ultimate respect.

What it’s like to be strapped into the U-2 Dragon Lady

What piece of flair did you earn that lets you “express yourself” or represents your military service?

Let us know in the comments section.

Follow Alex Licea on Twitter @alexlicea82

MIGHTY TRENDING

China threatens US bombers with anti-aircraft drills

Beijing has carried out anti-aircraft drills with missiles fired against drone targets over the South China Sea after the US challenged it by flying B-52 bombers across the region.

China’s drills were intended to simulate fending off an aerial attack on unspecified islands within the waterway. Beijing lays unilateral claim to almost all of the South China Sea, a passage that sees trillions in annual shipping.

Chinese missiles, deployed to the South China Sea despite previous promises from Beijing not to militarize the islands, fired at drones flying overhead to simulate combat, the South China Morning Post reported.


China struggles with realistic training for its armed forces and has been criticized for overly scripted drills. Beijing’s lack of experience in real combat exacerbates this weakness.

What it’s like to be strapped into the U-2 Dragon Lady
A B-52 Stratofortress

The US and Beijing frequently square off over the South China Sea, where Beijing operates in open defiance of international law after losing an arbitration against the Philippines in 2016. In late May 2018, the US military issued a stark warning to Beijing when a general reminded China that the US military has “has had a lot of experience in the Western Pacific, taking down small islands.”

Typically, the US carries out its challenges by sailing warships, usually guided missile destroyers, near the shores of its islands in a signal that the US does not recognize China’s claims. China always reacts harshly, accusing the US of challenging its sovereignty, but the US challenged the excessive maritime claims of 22 nations in 2016.

The flight of the B-52s, one of the US’s nuclear bombers, represented an escalation of the conflict, and came after China landed nuclear bombers of its own on the islands.

China’s coast guard and navy police the waterway and unilaterally tell its neighbors what activities they can undertake in the international waters.

The US maintains this is a threat to international order, but has struggled to reassure its regional allies that Chinese hegemony won’t win out against an overstretched US Navy.

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

China holds surprisingly short opening of massive bridge

After 10 years and 420,000 tons of steel, and at a devastating cost in lives and renminbi, the Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macau bridge is officially open — and the announcement came by a strangely curt Chinese President Xi Jinping in the port city of Zhuhai.

The opening ceremony was shrouded in some of the trademark confusion that has dogged the megaproject since its inception in 2009, with the big day having only just been announced in late October 2018.

In an unexpected and breathtaking display of brevity, Xi declared the world’s longest sea crossing — a 35-mile (55-kilometer) bridge and underwater tunnel connecting Hong Kong, Macau, and the mainland Chinese port city of Zhuhai — as open with an abrupt two-second speech that, it is fair to say, was not what everyone was expecting.


“I announce the Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macau bridge is officially open,” Xi said.

With those accurate, though perhaps less-than-memorable words, China’s strongest leader since Mao Zedong caught the 700-strong audience, which included media members and dignitaries, on the hop.

It was an exercise in concision from a president who, almost a year ago to the day, opened the Communist Party congress in Beijing with a granular 3-hour, 23-minute speech summarizing his thoughts on a new era in socialism with Chinese characteristics.

What it’s like to be strapped into the U-2 Dragon Lady

Chinese President Xi Jinping.

Instead, before an audience of top officials including Chinese Vice Premier Han Zheng and Hong Kong’s chief executive, Carrie Lam, Xi said his piece at the strategically located port of Zhuhai and left the podium as electronic fireworks flailed about on a television in the background.

Reporters on the ground, including Bloomberg’s Fion Li, were quick to express their surprise and disappointment.

Rhetorical revelry is a party tradition

Chinese leaders have a proud tradition of ponying up when history calls for it.

Deng Xiaoping, who while diminutive in stature was a political juggernaut in the 1980s, made a career with pithy insights that Chinese speakers around the world still quote and reexamine.

And while Mao Zedong may have presided over some of the least poetic policies of the 20th century, the Great Helmsman could turn a phrase when he had to, like this brutal and blunt firecracker from 1957.

As president, general secretary of the Central Committee of China’s Communist Party, and chairman of the Central Military Commission, Xi has quickly and effectively concentrated influence into his sphere.

And Oct. 23, 2018’s event seemed tailor-made for a long-winded reflection on China’s increasingly successful exercise of soft power, its sheer engineering audacity, and the political genius of building a 55-kilometer crossing that continues to grow the mainland’s security apparatus and authority on both the semiautonomous gambling enclave of Macau and the city-state financial powerhouse of Hong Kong.

But in the end, the president perhaps decided to let the massive, looming achievement speak for itself.

It’s all part of the plan

The bridge is part of China’s ambitious “Greater Bay Area Master Plan” to integrate Hong Kong, Macau, and the manufacturing powerhouse Guangdong province’s nine biggest cities to create a combined id=”listicle-2614804819″.5 trillion tech and science hub intended to rival even Silicon Valley.

The 55-kilometer megastructure is a typically intimidating, awe-inspiring, and slightly pointless statement of state authority and universal purpose. It rises from the Sun and Moon Bay in the Zhuhai port like some giant, disoriented concrete serpent, snaking off mercurially into the distance.

The air is very thick too, with southern Chinese humidity and the ever-present eerie gray-brown pollution that wafts in blooms from heavy manufacturing out of the Pearl River Delta — the factory floor of the world — ensuring the megabridge in all its glory will be largely obscured from view year-round.

What it does provide, however, is direct access to both potentially wayward semiautonomous regions, binding the gambling enclave and the city-state tighter to the breast of the motherland. Indeed, it may be the angst of an ever-encroaching China that has tilted the president to such a rare and unexpected pithiness.

What it’s like to be strapped into the U-2 Dragon Lady

Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macau Bridge Site under construction in 2015.

Commentators have been quick to describe the project as a white elephant, noting that the lightly traveled crossing can hardly be a push for convenience but rather another covert expansion by Beijing as it extends its reach back into the supposedly autonomous enclaves of Hong Kong and Macau.

The Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macau bridge is the second major infrastructure project binding Hong Kong to the mainland opened in just a few weeks, following a new high-speed rail connection that opened in September 2018 — the first time Chinese security were stationed on and bestowed authority in Hong Kong territory.

Certainly, there is anxiety in Hong Kong, with critics fearing the increasing inroads into the special administrative region’s territory by an ever-assertive mainland, while some local media has suggested that drivers on the bridge will be closely scrutinized by cameras that examine even their physical condition and how fatigued a driver is becoming.

The issues of territoriality may dominate the project for years to come; most of the bridge is considered mainland territory and Hong Kong vehicles and drivers, already hit by restricted access, will be traveling under the laws of the mainland, Hong Kong’s transportation department has warned.

“The Hong Kong government is always out of the picture and is under the control of the Chinese government,” the Hongkonger lawmaker Tanya Chan told AFP last week. Construction of the bridge began in 2009 and was targeted for completion two years ago.

According to the South China Morning Post, 10 workers died and 600 were injured in the construction of the typhoon-proof, two-way, six-lane expressway bridge that the government expects to carry 29,100 vehicles and 126,000 single-day passenger trips by 2030.

But for now, the bridge is open to some traffic, including certain buses, freight, and selected permit-holding passenger vehicles.

It’s also a gorgeous trip by ferry.

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

MIGHTY TACTICAL

This radar could make it very hard to hide – even on land

Radars have long been used to track targets in the air or at sea but, traditionally, radar isn’t known for its ability to track targets on land. Despite its reputation, radar has been used for exactly that purpose as far back as Operation Desert Storm.


Electronics have advanced rapidly since then, however. In the last 25 years, we’ve gone from clunky desktop computers that ran up to 16 megabytes of RAM and a 250 megabyte hard drive to using laptops that hold 32 gigabytes of RAM and have terabytes of storage space. Today, the cell phone you hold in your hand is arguably more powerful than a top-of-the-line gaming PC of 25 years ago.

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The E-8C JSTARS had to be based on the Boeing 707.

(USAF photo)

Well, that electronics revolution has helped radars, too. Previously, you needed a jumbo jet, like the 707, to carry a radar system around. Modern radars, however, are a lot smaller. One such radar is the APS-134G from Telephonics. According to an official handout, the radar weighs just under 450 pounds!

Despite being lightweight, this radar can do a lot. Among its capabilities is a ground moving target indicator, synthetic aperture radar imaging, wide-area surveillance, coastline mapping, weather mapping, and an aircraft detection and location mode that can simultaneously process over 300 targets!

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The HU-25 Guardian used an earlier version of the APS-143.

(USCG photo)

The small size of this system means that you no longer need a jumbo jet to get a powerful eye in the sky. Among the planes capable of carrying this radar are Beech King Air planes, Bombardier Global business jets, and the CP-140 Aurora maritime patrol aircraft.

In short, this radar will make it very hard for bad guys to hide.

Humor

That time NASA totally beat the Navy at epic graffiti

The skies over Okanagon, Wash. got a little more hilarious in 2017 when naval aviators on a training flight drew a giant penis in the sky using contrails. It’s now known forever as the “skydick” incident and the pilots responsible were immediately grounded. It was an epic troll, at best. It was well short, however, of the graffiti record set by NASA four years prior.


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Good effort, Top Gun.

“The American people rightfully expect that those who wear the Wings of Gold exhibit a level of maturity commensurate with the missions and aircraft with which they’ve been entrusted,” said Vice Admiral Mike Shoemaker after the incident. “Naval aviation continually strives to foster an environment of dignity and respect. Sophomoric and immature antics of a sexual nature have no place in Naval aviation today.”

Meanwhile, over at NASA, there was a Mars Rover who made history by accidentally drawing its own phallic tracks on the red planet. The NASA rover Spirit landed on Mars in 2004 and was declared dead in 2010. But in 2013, NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory released an image taken by Spirit of its tracks after making a turn on the planet’s surface.

Even though the photo was almost nine years old, the internet still had a field day.

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NASA’s Spirit Mars rover created these tracks shortly after touching down in 2004 to execute a turn, not deface the surface like a Marine Corps bathroom.
(NASA/JPL/Cornell)

While NASA totally outdid the Navy in epic penis-drawing, they both received the same, polarized replies. When NASA released the image, the internet-wide response was either one of juvenile glee or calls for people to “grow up.” The response from the Navy’s “sky dick” equally contrasting — the brass were outraged while veterans and civilians were largely amused.

That’s one way to bridge the civilian-military divide.

MIGHTY HISTORY

Stalin tried to blame the massacre of Katyn on the Nazis

On April 13, 1943, Nazi Germany announced the discovery of a series of mass graves containing the bodies of thousands of Polish officers who had been arrested and then executed by the Soviet Army. Seventy-five years later, the Katyn massacre is still a sensitive issue between Poland and Russia.


MIGHTY TRENDING

Take a closer look at Russia’s new ‘Star Wars’ combat suit

Russia’s new Star Wars-like combat suit is apparently getting a nuclear-resistant watch, according to Newsweek, citing Rostec, the Russian defense contractor building the suit.


The third-generation Ratnik-3 suit “comprises five integrated systems that include life support, command and communication, engaging, protection and energy saving subsystems,” according to Tass, a Russian state-owned media outlet.

In total, the suit comes with 59 items, Tass said, including a powered exoskeleton that supposedly gives the soldier more strength and stamina, along with cutting-edge body armor and a helmet and visor that shields the soldier’s entire face.

The suit also has a “pop-up display that can be used for tasks like examining a plan of the battlefield,” Andy Lynch, who works for a military company called Odin Systems, previously told MailOnline.

Now it’s apparently being fitted with a watch that “retains its properties upon the impact of radiation and electromagnetic impulses, for example, upon a nuclear blast,” according to Rostec’s chief designer of the suit, Oleg Faustov.

The first-generation Ratnik suit was reportedly given to a few Russian units in 2013, and some pieces of the suit were spotted on Russian troops in Crimea, according to The New York Times.

 

The third-generation Ratnik suit will supposedly be ready for service in 2022, according to Russian Col. Gen. Oleg Salyukov.

Russia even unveiled a video of the suit in late June, but it only showed a static display of the suit, so it’s unknown if it actually has any of the capabilities that are claimed.

Russia is also not the only country developing such technology, Sim Tack, a Stratfor analyst, previously told Business Insider.

The US hopes to unveil its own Tactical Light Operator Suit, also known as the “Iron Man” suit, in 2018. France is working on one too, the Integrated Infantryman Equipment and Communications system, or FELIN.

Nevertheless, many problems still exist with these suits, such as bulky batteries that power the exoskeletons, Tack said.

And while Salyukov recently said that they’ve been able to reduce the Ratnik-3’s weight by 30%, Russia is known to make wild claims about its military equipment that it doesn’t back up.

MIGHTY CULTURE

7 ways police officers have fun on the job

Our men and women in blue are just like our men and women in green. They both hold very serious jobs that come with an often misunderstood lifestyle. The similarities don’t end there; police officers have pretty much the same sense of humor as troops, too.

Trust me, police officers don’t join the force with high aspirations of sitting on the side of the road to passively deter people from speeding. They definitely don’t get joy out of writing tickets for folks they catch going three miles per hour over the limit. No, most cops want to get out there and make a difference in their communities.

This sentiment is mirrored by the troops that enlist as infantrymen and end up spending most of their deployment sweeping sand off sandbags or scrubbing d*ck doodles off porta-john walls. Neither troops nor police officers sign up for monotony, but it finds a way in nonetheless.

So, how do cops deal with the daily grind? In the exact same way that troops do. They mess around with each other while between missions. The moments police officers spend sitting around with their partner, waiting for their next call, is often filled with comedy gold.


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If you can’t laugh at yourself… am I right?

(Bath Township Police Department)

Showing their lighter sides to the community

Nobody hates bad cops more than the astronomical amount of good cops. Their entire livelihood depends on maintaining a mutual trust between themselves and the people they’ve sworn to protect. When one as*hole goes off the rails and does something stupid, it distorts their image in the eyes of the people. They can’t effectively serve and protect the people with a tarnished reputation.

Police officers can’t be everywhere at once. They rely on that mutual trust so the people can tell them when and where they’re needed most. So, officers will often bend over backwards to prove to the people that their trust isn’t misplaced. Good officers will often show their lighter side — even if that means playing sports with kids or letting themselves be the butt of a joke.

Dancing in traffic

Think of the most mind-numbing detail in the military. That’s the police equivalent of being the dude who stands in traffic just waving people on. So, instead of just pointing and waving at lanes of traffic, some cops will make it fun and dance along to the music in their head.

It sounds like that scene in The Other Guys, but when traffic cops are faced with the choice of either embracing the silliness of directing traffic or going insane, most pick the former.

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Cops take National Doughnut Day very seriously.

Going all in on the doughnut jokes

Who doesn’t love doughnuts? That sweet, soft bread with a sugary glaze can be eaten whenever, wherever. It’s the perfect sweet treat to perk you up after a long day. Police officers, however, have been stuck with the stereotype of being doughnut-obsessed, like Officer Wiggum from The Simpsons.

Since it’s a lighthearted joke at their expense — that often leads to getting free boxes of doughnuts from local shops — they go all in. And can you blame them? If someone made a joke about troops drinking too much beer and it lead to people giving beer away, you know troops would have fun with it, too.

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Cops really don’t like being the asshole in the situation unless they have to.

Having fun with “teaching moments”

If you ask nearly any police officer what their favorite cop movie is and why, nine times out of ten, it’s going to be Hot Fuzz — mostly because it nails the stupid amount of paperwork required by the job.

If a cop stops you for something minor, you might get lucky and get off with a warning. They’re probably not doing it out of the goodness in their hearts, though. It’s more likely because issuing that fine involves a lot of paperwork on their end. In some cases, it’s more effective to just tell you why speeding on streets where kids often play is a bad idea.

This is great on so many levels. The officers get less paperwork, the citizen doesn’t have to pay money for doing something stupid, and the cop gets to call you out for being an idiot.

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Sheesh, can’t an officer just eat?

(Gruntworks)

Trolling people on Waze

Waze is a real-time navigation app that allows users to report things like traffic jams, accidents, and even “hidden police.” The intent here is to let people who may be speeding know that there’s a cop nearby — ready to pull them over. Most of the times, however, the cop isn’t trying to hide. They’re just parked there, filling out paperwork or enjoying their lunch break.

Users are able to comment on any reports made — and cops get in on the action, too.

Participating in the Lip Sync challenge

The law enforcement community is not immune to social media trends. Right now, the lip sync challenge is the hot-ticket item and entire departments are uploading their videos to YouTube and Facebook for the world to see.

Typically, the videos feature macho officers pretending to sing along with some female pop singer. Sometimes you’ll see two cops singing show tunes to one another. Occasionally, you’ll get some officers who have a little too much fun with it…

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And that’s just from dispatch. Chances are they’ve well-crafted a response to the same four jokes they always hear.

Messing with suspects

The biggest perk of being a police officer is that sweet, sweet moment of catching the bad guy. The world is made a little bit better, the paperwork is worth the result, and the officers can enjoy that brilliant moment where they can finally tell the perpetrator that they f*cked up.

Remember, cops spend their entire careers dealing with people who think they can out sh*ttalk them. Needless to say, they’ve got practice in throwing that shade right back.

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