A pair of skydivers nearly had an unfortunate run-in with two US Air Force F-15 fighter jets in the skies above southern England earlier this year, a British air safety board reports.
The US fighters out of RAF Lakenheath, home to the US 48th Fighter Wing, were flying at 345 mph above Cambridgeshire on April 17, 2019. Above Chatteris airfield, a popular skydiving location the fighter pilots were not aware was active, two parachutists were in freefall at roughly 120 mph, Stars and Stripes reported, citing a UK Airprox Board report released this past summer.
The skydivers captured video footage of the fighters passing beneath them.
“The Board was shown Go-Pro footage filmed from the helmet of one of the parachutists and could clearly see the F15s passing beneath,” the report read, further explaining that “once the parachutists had seen the F15s there was very little they could do to avoid the situation, having no control over their speed or direction whilst in freefall.”
An F-15E Strike Eagle.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Jason Couillard)
There was a debate about how close the fighters actually came to the skydivers, Airprox explained, adding that the board eventually concluded that “safety had been reduced much below the norm.” The pilots did not see the parachutists, nor were they aware of any planned jumps.
Chatteris airfield, according to the Airprox report, notifies Lakenheath every morning of its planned activities. The board agreed that “there was very little more that Chatteris could have done from an operational perspective to prevent” this near-miss, which was the result of problems both on the ground and in the air.
In response to this incident, the 48th Fighter Wing is briefing crews again and reminding everyone of the need to steer clear of the Chatteris skydiving site.
An Air Force F-15C Eagle.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Christopher Hubenthal)
RAF Lakenheath is “using this incident to reinforce the vital importance of situational awareness and attention to detail for all of our air traffic controllers and aircrew,” Col. Will Marshall, commander of the 48th Fighter Wing, told Stars and Stripes.
“UK airspace is incredibly complex and often congested, and the safety of our aircrew as well as those we share the skies with is our number one priority,” he added. The Airprox report noted that prior to the near-miss with the skydivers, the F-15s had been forced to change course to avoid a KC-135 refueling tanker that was determined to be “on a collision course with the formation.”
It was apparently that course change, combined with various other influencing factors, that sent the fighters over Chatteris and put the skydivers in danger.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
Remember back when they first announced that the 1st Security Forces Assistance Brigade would be a thing and everyone lost their collective sh*ts because they’re conventional troops that wear berets like special operations, rock a unit patch that looks like special operations, and even share their first two initials (SF) with special forces?
Yeah. Well, they’re currently deployed doing grunt things with the Green Berets while your ass is setting up a Powerpoint presentation on how to teach drill and ceremony.
Funny how that works out, huh? Anyways, have some memes before you get too butthurt.
Arguments about weapons systems tend to be circular and hard to win. The discussion about close air support, the retirement of the aging A-10 Thunderbolt II and the entry of the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter along with the relevance of the recent Light Attack Experiment continue to swirl. But one thing that cannot be argued is the lethality and spectacle of the A-10’s GAU-8 Avenger 30mm, seven-barrel Gatling-type cannon.
This video was released on Jan. 24, 2018 from the U.S. Air Force Central Command Public Affairs office. It is credited to the 94th Airlift Wing which, oddly enough, is primarily an airlift wing. The Defense Video Imagery Distribution System (DVIDS) gave no reason why this video was released through an airlift wing, but it is likely due to logistics.
The video, shot from an unknown camera platform, shows an Air Force A-10 Thunderbolt II conducting a strike on a Taliban vehicle fleeing the scene of an attack in Kandahar province on Jan. 24, 2018. The insurgents in the vehicle were armed with a DShK 12.7 mm heavy machine gun, which had been used moments earlier during the attack on Afghans.
The video is relevant to the close air support discussion for a number of reasons. Firstly, it showcases the accuracy of the GAU-8 weapons system, at least in this single instance. You can see that two 30mm rounds penetrate the hood of the vehicle, then one penetrates the roof of the driver’s compartment and a fourth round goes through the roof of the passenger area of the vehicle. Considering the speed of the vehicle and that the A-10 was, of course, moving also, this is a noteworthy degree of accuracy.
Needless to say more than rounds left the cannon, and there appears to be two separate firing passes shown in the video.
The video also suggests an interesting scenario where, if the A-10 attacked from above 5,000 feet or even much higher (especially if required to remain outside the envelope of anti-aircraft systems like MANPADS), this imagery may have been collected from another aircraft, not the A-10 conducting the strike. A likely candidate would be a remotely piloted aircraft providing intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) and then maybe even target designation for the attacking aircraft. While we do not know if this was the case with this video, it is a common enough practice to suggest in this instance.
While it’s unlikely proponents on either side of the “Save the A-10” movement will be swayed by videos like this one, and these videos date back to the A-10s first operational deployment of the A-10 in 1991, they remain compelling. During its first operational deployment in the Gulf War the A-10 was credited with destroying approximately 900 Iraqi tanks, 2,000 non-armored military vehicles and 1,200 artillery pieces according to a 1993 report.
U.S. troops are all but guaranteed a 3% pay raise next year under legislation that passed the Senate Thursday.
The Senate passed its version of the fiscal 2021 National Defense Authorization Act Thursday. The $740 billion bill contains numerous personnel initiatives, including the second consecutive 3% pay raise for service members, and hazardous duty pay for troops responding to the COVID-19 pandemic.
If signed into the law, the legislation would also make changes designed to standardize the military services’ Exceptional Family Member Programs, improve housing for military families and halt a planned reduction of teachers within Department of Defense Education Activity schools.
The measure also includes incentive pay to retain military health officers, increases funding for child care facilities, adds money for research on industrial chemicals used in firefighting foam and packaging and expands the list of diseases linked to Agent Orange exposure.
“The NDAA gives our military the personnel, equipment, training and organization needed to implement the National Defense Strategy and thwart any adversary who would try to do us harm,” said Sen. Jim Inhofe, R-Oklahoma, chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee.
Sen. Jack Reed of Rhode Island, the committee’s ranking Democrat, called the bill an “important step” toward wise investment for the future.
“Mindful of new risks, as well as unfolding and unprecedented unemployment and budget challenges, Congress must wisely invest every defense dollar in a cost-effective and forward-looking manner,” he said.
The bill would create a commission to study removing Confederate names from Defense Department assets within three years — a measure that will need to be sorted out when the House and Senate meet to develop the final version of the bill that will go to President Donald Trump for a signature.
The House bill would force the military to take action to change the names of bases and facilities named after Confederates within a year. The Senate version of the bill incorporates similar provisions to remove Confederate names from bases over three years.
Hiroshi Miyamura was born to Japanese immigrants in Gallup, New Mexico, in 1925. This made him Nisei — Japanese for “second-generation.”
At the outbreak of World War II, Miyamura witnessed many of his fellow Nisei being shipped off to internment camps. Gallup, however, was not located within the relocation zone, and even if it was, the townspeople were ready to stand up for their Japanese neighbors.
Safe from the internment camps, Miyamura enlisted in the US Army volunteering to serve with the famed Nisei 100th Battalion, 442nd Regimental Combat Team. Unfortunately for Miyamura, by the time he reached Europe to join the unit, Germany had surrendered.
He returned home, stayed in the Army Reserve, and married a fellow Nisei woman who had been interned in Arizona.
Recalled to active service, Miyamura joined the 3rd Infantry Division’s 7th Infantry Regiment in Japan as it prepared to join the combat on the Korean peninsula.
Landing on Korea’s east coast, Miyamura and the rest of the 3rd Infantry Division stormed into North Korea before being driven back by the Chinese intervention.
The 7th Infantry Regiment helped cover the retreat from the Chosin Reservoir and was the last unit to leave Hungnam on December 24, 1950.
Miyamura and his comrades were then placed on the defensive line around the 38th Parallel where they actively repelled numerous Chinese Offensives.
The war then became a bloody stalemate with each side battling across hilltops trying to gain an advantage.
One such hilltop, located at Taejon-ni along a defensive position known as the Kansas Line, was occupied by Miyamura and the rest of Company H, 2nd Battalion, 7th Infantry Regiment.
After dark on April 24, 1951, Miyamura quietly awakened his men – a trip flare had gone off in the valley below their position. In the faint light of the flare, the Americans could make out large masses of Communist troops advancing on their position.
The Chinese 29th Division smashed into the entire 7th Infantry Regiment. The hardest hit was the 2nd Battalion holding the right flank. By 2:30 the next morning, they were surrounded by the Chinese.
Miyamura, leading a machine-gun squad, ordered his men to open fire. As the American guns roared to life, the Chinese fell in droves. But still they kept coming.
After two hours of relentless fighting, Miyamura’s machine-guns were down to less than 200 rounds of ammunition. He gave the order to fix bayonets and prepared to repulse the next wave of Chinese attackers.
When that attack came, Miyamura jumped from his position and savagely attacked the enemy. He blasted off eight rounds from his M-1 Garand before dispatching more Chinese with his bayonet.
He then returned to his position to give first aid to the wounded. When he realized they could no longer hold, he ordered his squad to retreat while he gave covering fire.
He shot off the last of the machine-gun ammunition and rendered the gun inoperable before pouring another eight rounds into the advancing Communist.
According to Miyamura’s Medal of Honor citation, he then “bayoneted his way through infiltrated enemy soldiers” until he reached a second position and once again took up the defense. During his withdrawal, Miyamura was wounded by a grenade thrown by a dying Chinese soldier.
The attacks grew fiercer against the second position. Elsewhere along the line, the rest of the battalion had been ordered to begin a withdrawal south to a more tenable position. Miyamura, realizing their position was in danger of being overrun, ordered the remaining men to fall back as well while he covered their retreat.
Miyamura was last seen by friendly forces fighting ferociously against overwhelming odds. It is estimated he killed a further 50 Chinese before he ran out of ammunition and his position was overrun.
Exhausted and depleted from blood loss, Miyamura and numerous other men from the 7th Infantry Regiment were captured by the Communists.
Despite his heroic efforts, Miyamura’s ordeal was far from over.
After being captured, the men were marched North for internment camps. Miyamura set out carrying his friend and fellow squad leader, Joe Annello, who had been more severely wounded. Others who fell out of the march were shot or bayoneted. At gun point, the Chinese forced Miyamura to drop his friend. Miyamura initially refused but Annello convinced him. They said goodbye and Miyamura marched on.
He would spend over two years as a prisoner of war at Camp 1 in Changson.
While he was there, the decision was made to award him the Medal of Honor for his actions on the night of April 24 and 25. However, due to his staunch defense and the large numbers of enemy he killed, it was decided to keep his award classified he could be repatriated for fear of retaliation by his captors.
Finally, on August 20, 1953 Miyamura was released from captivity as part of Operation Big Switch. When he arrived at Allied lines, he was taken aside and informed that he had been promoted to Sergeant and also that he had received the Medal of Honor.
Miyamura returned to Gallup after the war and settled down.
Then, in 1954, over a year after the war ended, a man walked into Miyamura’s work – it was his old friend Joe Annello. Both had been sure that the other had died in captivity until Annello read Miyamura’s story and traveled all the way to New Mexico to see if it was true.
Miyamura is still in Gallup, in the same house he bought all the way back in 1954.
As far as weapon systems are concerned, having the best available can be key to success on the battlefield.
But with rapid changes in technology, some weapons come and go rather quickly. Other times, weapons are so well designed and so effective, they stay in service for decades.
Here are 10 of the longest-serving weapons ever used by the United States military.
1. M1903 Springfield .30 Cal Rifle
The M1903 was one of the first rifles to use the famous .30-06 round and was the standard American infantry rifle during World War I. Although officially replaced by the M1 Garand in 1937, it was still in service due to insufficient numbers of Garands. The Springfield .30 cal was retained as a sniper rifle through the Korean War and even into Vietnam before finally being retired after over 60 years of service.
2. M1911 .45 Cal Pistol
The M1911 is a creation of the legendary gunmaker John Browning, and it endured in service for over 100 years. The pistol became an icon for its strength in battle and by those who used it. The M1911 was phased out in favor of the Beretta M9 9mm pistol in the late 1980s but has stayed in service with Marine Special Operations units and is now designated as the M45.
3. M1919 .30 Cal Machine Gun
The M1919 was another one of John Browning’s successes. An air-cooled version of the M1917 that served U.S. troops well in World War I, it saw extensive use in World War II and Korea. The M1919 was phased out in favor of the new M60 in the late 1950s. However, the Navy, having a surplus of the weapons, converted many to 7.62 mm and used them on gun boats patrolling the rivers of Vietnam.
4. M2 .50 Cal Machine Gun
The “Ma Deuce” is a weapon system loved by the troops who use it and feared by those it targeted. The gun was designed near the end of World War I, too late to see service, and entered full production in 1921. Also designed by John Browning, the weapon is so well-built that in 2015 a 94 year old example was found still in service. Though numerous other designs have been proposed, the military has no plans to stop using the M2 anytime soon.
5. B-52 Stratofortress
The B-52 was designed to deliver nuclear weapons against the Soviet Union during the height of the Cold War. Despite never having to conduct this mission, the B-52 has been the workhorse of conventional bombing campaigns for more the 60 years. The Air Force plans to keep it in service into the 2040s.
6. M60 .30 Cal Machine Gun
The M60 entered service in 1957, just in time to see heavy use in the jungles of Vietnam. The M60 served as the standard machine gun for the U.S. military until the 1990s when the M240 was adopted. However, more than 50 years later, the M60 continues to serve with some SEAL teams and as helicopter armament.
7. M14 .30 Cal Rifle
Gunner’s Mate 1st Class Marcus Wrice fires an M14 rifle during a weapons qualification aboard the Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Nicolas C. Lopez)
The M14 had a short service life as the standard American infantry rifle from 1959 to 1964 when it was replaced by the M16. But the rifle never left service and was the basis for the M21 and M25 sniper rifles before making a serious comeback during the Global War on Terror when it was upgraded to the M14 Enhanced Battle Rifle.
8. M16 5.56 mm Rifle/ M4 Carbine
Since replacing the M14 in 1964, the M16/M4 family of rifles has become the longest-serving standard rifle for the U.S. military. Despite its troubled beginning, the M16 and M4 have earned a hard-fought reputation as reliable and effective weapons. Despite numerous attempts to replace it, no competition has yielded a better rifle.
9. LGM-30 Minuteman Ballistic Missile
The Minuteman intercontinental ballistic missile has served as part of the U.S. nuclear triad since entering service in 1962. The Minuteman was the first ICBM to employ multiple independent reentry vehicles, allowing each missile to deploy three separate warheads for greater chances of target destruction. The Air Force, responsible for the missiles, currently operates 450, down from the peak of 1,000 during the 1970s.
10. M61 Vulcan 20 mm Cannon
An AC-130A Spectre gunship’s 20mm Vulcan cannon ammo belt. This is the earlier belted M61. (U.S. Air Force photo)
The M61 is the United States’ primary armament for fixed-wing aviation. After entering service in 1959, the gun saw extensive use in Vietnam by all branches fighting in the skies. The gun was credited with shooting down 39 MiGs during the war. After over 50 years of service, the M61 is still found on American fighters and in the Navy’s Phalanx CIWS.
“Every Thanksgiving our culinary specialists take on the huge task of feeding our Sailors, and every year they succeed,” said NAVSUP Director of Navy Food Service Cmdr. Scott Wilson. “Being away from family and friends during this time of year isn’t easy, but that motivates our Culinary Specialists to provide a quality meal to our Sailors. The joy we see on Sailors’ faces makes all of the effort worth it.”
Thanksgiving Day will be observed as a federal holiday for most Department of the Navy personnel Thursday, Nov. 23.
NAVSUP’s mission is to provide supplies, services, and quality-of-life support to the Navy and joint warfighter. With headquarters in Mechanicsburg, Pennsylvania, and employing a diverse, worldwide workforce of more than 22,500 military and civilian personnel, NAVSUP oversees logistics programs in the areas of supply operations, conventional ordnance, contracting, resale, fuel, transportation, and security assistance. In addition, NAVSUP is responsible for food service, postal services, Navy Exchanges, and movement of household goods.
Okay, when you first saw the headline, you were probably wondering how the heck a howitzer can be a sniper rifle. Sniper rifles are precision instruments, designed to dish out extremely concentrated hurt while howitzers are meant to do big damage — it seems like a contradiction, right? Wrong.
With the right ammo, there’s a howitzer out capable of being a giant sniper rifle with an extremely long reach. How long? Try 22 miles.
The M777 Ultralight Field Howitzer is a towed 155-millimeter gun that’s been in service since 2005 and is capable of hitting targets from remarkable distances. Over the last decade, it’s been slowly replacing the M198 towed 155-millimeter howitzer.
But here’s where the M77 has the M198 beat: It weighs in at just 8,256 pounds, according to MilitaryFactory.com. That might sound like a lot, but it’s nothing next to the 15,792 pounds of the M198. That’s a nearly 50 percent reduction in weight, making the M777 a superb option for units like the 82nd Airborne Division and the Marines.
Marines fire a M777 howitzer at 29 Palms to prepare for the real thing.
(USMC photo by Sgt. Jose E. Guillen)
Now, to achieve that 22-mile reach and sniper-rifle accuracy, the shell of choice is the M982 Excalibur round. This GPS-guided round can hit within about 30 feet of the aim point — a level of precision that’s proved extremely useful.
Australian troops fire their M777 to support Marines during a training mission.
(USMC photo by Sgt. Sarah Anderson)
In 2012, the Marines manning a M777 howitzer received word that some Taliban were up to no good. So, the artillery crew fired a round from their base, which was in Helmand Province, and hit the Taliban who were in Musa Qala. The Taliban were accurately dispatched from miles away before any of their plans could take root.
Soldiers with Battery C, 1st Battalion, 321st Airborne Field Artillery Regiment, 18th Fires Brigade, 82nd Airborne Division from Fort Bragg, N.C., fire 155mm rounds using an M777 Howitzer.
(US Army photo by Specialist Evan D. Marcy)
The M777 is currently in service with the United States Army and United States Marine Corps. Saudi Arabia, Canada, Australia, and India have all bought this cannon as well.
Learn more about this over-sized sniper rifle in the video below!
A Canadian sniper operating in Iraq set the world record for a long-distance confirmed kill at 3,450 meters, or 2.14 miles just last month.
According to Robert Fife of the Globe and Mail, this soldier functions as part of Canada’s contribution to the war against ISIS, and serves as a member of Joint Task Force 2, the country’s top-tier special operations unit.
Fife reports that the shot was part of a response to an ISIS attack on Iraqi security forces. To break up the attack, coalition forces, including sniper teams, engaged the enemy element from a distance, picking out targets and dropping them from afar. The JTF2 sniper’s kill shot took around 10 seconds to reach its mark after exiting the barrel of the rifle.
Yet-to-be-released video footage of the shot apparently further adds credence to the claims surrounding this incredible feat.
It may surprise you that this isn’t the first time Canadians have held the record for a longest confirmed kill. In 2002, Cpl. Rob Furlong, a marksman with 3rd Battalion, Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry set a record for a kill at 1.5 miles breaking the previous record set at 1.43 miles, held by… you guessed it, another Canadian – Master Cpl. Arron Perry, also of the same unit.
Soldiers of 2nd Battalion, Royal Canadian Regiment, during a 2017 military exercise. Photo by Sgt JF Lauzé (Canadian Army)
Furlong’s shot was exceeded in 2009 by a British army sniper, Craig Harrison, who dropped a pair of Taliban machine gunners while serving in Helmand Province, Afghanistan.
The JTF2 sniper reportedly used a McMillan Tac-50 rifle, known as the C15 Long Range Sniper Weapon in Canadian service. The C15 is chambered to fire the same .50 caliber round the M2 heavy machine gun utilizes, though for shots that require considerable amounts of precision.
Interestingly enough, the record prior to Perry’s 2002 kill stood at 1.42 miles, held by legendary US Marine sniper Carlos Hathcock, who actually used a modified M2 outfitted with a scope to take his shot in early 1967. Both Furlong and Perry used the C15 for their long-distance shots in 2002.
The secretive JTF2 exists in the same vein as the US Navy’s Special Warfare Development Group, also known as DEVGRU. Like its American counterpart, the Canadian unit is primarily tasked with counterterrorism, though it can be used for direct action, high value target capture, and reconnaissance operations as needed. It’s also one of the smallest units of its kind in the world, recruiting very selectively from the three branches of the Canadian military.
Potential JT2 “assaulters” are put through a difficult selection and training phase, designed to weed out candidates quickly so that only the toughest remain. Following selection, assaulters can be assigned to various specialties within two operational fields, air/land and sea. The unit regularly cross-trains with foreign partners around the world and at home in Canada.
Though JTF2, in comparison with similar units like the Special Air Service and DEVGRU, is very young in its history, it has already racked up a number of commendations for its actions on the battlefield, especially with its service in Afghanistan over the past 15 years.
In 2004, members of the unit were awarded the Presidential Unit Citation because of their actions as part of Task Force K-Bar, the first Canadian unit to hold such an honor since the Korean War.
Very little is known today about what JTF2 does in Iraq. It is known that the unit was first deployed late last year to the beleaguered country, supplementing other coalition special operations units currently active in the area.
Though it’s possible that JTF2 has carried out direct action assaults, it’s generally understood that their primary mission in-country is to serve in a training and advisory role with Kurdish fighters in the battle against ISIS.
On Sept. 20, 2011, Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell was repealed. The policy served as a sort of compromise between people who wanted to continue to ban gay men and women from serving in the military, which had been the case prior to 1993, and those who felt that Americans should be eligible to serve regardless of sexual orientation.
In other words, until Sept. 20, 2011, service members were punished and even discharged with prejudice for being gay or bisexual. Now, it’s time to restore their honor and give them the benefits they deserve. Here’s how:
Honorable — For service members who meet or exceed the required standards of service. An honorable discharge comes with four major benefit programs, including disability compensation and medical care as well as pension programs and education.
General — For service members whose performance is satisfactory but is marked by a considerable departure in duty performance and conduct. A general discharge will also come with the benefit programs available to those honorably discharged.
Other Than Honorable — The most severe form of administrative discharge, representing a serious departure from the conduct and performance expected of military members. The majority of veterans’ benefits are not available to individuals who receive an Other Than Honorable discharge.
Bad Conduct — A punitive discharge that can only be given out by a court-martial. Virtually all veterans’ benefits are forfeited by a Bad Conduct Discharge.
Dishonorable — A punitive discharge handed out by a court-martial for the most reprehensible conduct, including sexual assault and murder.
Downgraded discharges not only result in the loss of benefits, they carry with them shame and stigma, as well.
As reported by The Bay Area Reporter, “Advocates for LGBT veterans estimate that roughly 114,000 U.S. service members were “involuntarily separated” from the military due to their sexual orientation between the end of World War II and the repeal in 2011 of the homophobic “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy that barred LGBT people from serving openly in the military. While many of those veterans could likely qualify to correct or upgrade their discharges, just 8% had done so as of 2018, according to a report presented that April at a conference held at the Legal Services Center of Harvard Law School.”
Vets can also receive help from non-profit organizations like Modern Military Association of America, dedicated to advancing fairness and equality for the LGBTQ military and veteran community, or Swords to Ploughshares, which provides assessment and case management, employment and training, housing, and legal assistance to veterans.
The wreckage of the USS Conestoga, a Navy tug that also served as a minesweeper and fleet tender in World War I, has been found off the coast of California 95 years after the ship was lost with all hands. It was found 2,000 miles from where it was presumed lost.
Conestoga was laid down in 1903 in Maryland and launched in Nov. 1904 as a civilian tug. In 1917, the Navy purchased and commissioned the ship for minesweeping duties.
During the war Conestoga served on the East Coast, transporting supplies and guns, escorting convoys to the Caribbean, and taking part in patrols. She carried a 3-inch deck gun to use against enemy ships.
After the war she continued to serve in the Atlantic until she received orders to American Samoa. Unfortunately, the ship would never make it there.
Conestoga underwent alterations and a refit in 1920 in preparation for the long trip to American Samoa, then headed for Mare Island, arriving Feb. 17, 1921 after a stop in San Diego. At Mare Island Conestoga received final repairs and supplies and headed for Pearl Harbor on Mar. 25, the final scheduled stop en route to American Samoa.
This was the last time the ship was seen afloat. It was scheduled to arrive Apr. 5 at Pearl Harbor and was erroneously reported to have arrived Apr. 6. On Apr. 26, it was clear that something had happened to the ship and the Navy launched a search.
After the Navy gave up Conestoga as lost, a mystery hung over the fate of the ship for nearly 95 years. But an Aug. 2009 coastal survey by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration spotted a wrecked ship near Southeast Farallon Island. The Farallon Islands form an island chain 30 miles from the San Francisco Coast.
In Sep. 2014, a remotely operated vehicle was used to photograph the site and an Oct. 2015 survey collected more information. Some details of the wreck, including the lack of a 3-inch gun on the deck, made researchers think it wasn’t the Conestoga. When a researcher went through the footage carefully, he spotted the mount for the weapon and a hole where it probably fell through the deck.
The USS Conestoga‘s 3-inch, 50-caliber deck gun. U.S. Naval History and Heritage Command Photograph
The mount, combined with distinct features of the engines and boilers, finally allowed the Navy to say with certainty that they had found their lost ship, 2,000 miles from the original search area.
The ship’s wreckage and the remains of the 56 sailors lost when it sank are now protected by the Sunken Military Craft Act. Officials have said they have no plans to recover the wreckage or otherwise disturb it.
It served with the United States military from 1964-1998, and with NASA until 1999. The SR-71 had been developed from the A-12 OXCART (no relation to the A-12 Avenger), a single-seat plane capable of making high-speed recon runs as well.
It was thought satellites and drones could replace the SR-71. The problem was that satellites are predictable, and too many drones just don’t have the performance or reliability. But Lockheed’s Skunk Works, which created the A-12/YF-12/SR-71 family, is now developing a SR-72, and they promise it will be faster than the Blackbird.
Lockheed noted that the SR-71 was designed on paper with slide rules. Even without the benefit of high-technology, the SR-71 proved to be superb at its role.
NASA has selected two finalist concepts for a robotic mission planned to launch in the mid-2020s: a comet sample return mission and a drone-like rotorcraft that would explore potential landing sites on Saturn’s largest moon, Titan.
The agency announced the concepts Dec. 27, following an extensive and competitive peer review process. The concepts were chosen from 12 proposals submitted in April under a New Frontiers program announcement of opportunity.
“This is a giant leap forward in developing our next bold mission of science discovery,” said Thomas Zurbuchen, associate administrator for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate in Washington. “These are tantalizing investigations that seek to answer some of the biggest questions in our solar system today.”
The CAESAR mission seeks to return a sample from 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko, a comet that was successfully explored by the European Space Agency’s Rosetta spacecraft, to determine its origin and history. Led by Steve Squyres of Cornell University in Ithaca, New York, CAESAR would be managed by NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland.
Dragonfly is a drone-like rotorcraft that would explore the prebiotic chemistry and habitability of dozens of sites on Saturn’s moon Titan, an ocean world in our solar system. Elizabeth Turtle from the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory (APL) in Laurel, Maryland, is the lead investigator, with APL providing project management.
The CAESAR and Dragonfly missions will receive funding through the end of 2018 to further develop and mature their concepts. NASA plans to select one of these investigations in the spring of 2019 to continue on to subsequent mission phases.
The selected mission will be the fourth in NASA’s New Frontiers portfolio, a series of principal investigator-led planetary science investigations that fall under a development cost cap of approximately $850 million. Its predecessors are the New Horizons mission to Pluto and a Kuiper Belt object known as 2014 MU69, the Juno mission to Jupiter, and OSIRIS-REx, which will rendezvous with and return a sample of the asteroid Bennu.
NASA also announced the selection of two mission concepts that will receive technology development funds to prepare them for future mission competitions.
The concepts selected for technology development are:
Enceladus Life Signatures and Habitability (ELSAH)
The ELSAH mission concept will receive funds to develop cost-effective techniques that limit spacecraft contamination and thereby enable life detection measurements on cost-capped missions. The principal investigator is Chris McKay of NASA’s Ames Research Center in California’s Silicon Valley, and the managing NASA center is Goddard.
Venus In situ Composition Investigations (VICI)
Led by Lori Glaze at Goddard, the VICI mission concept will further develop the Venus Element and Mineralogy Camera to operate under the harsh conditions on Venus. The instrument uses lasers on a lander to measure the mineralogy and elemental composition of rocks on the surface of Venus.
The call for concepts was limited to six mission themes: comet surface sample return, lunar south pole-Aitken Basin sample return, ocean worlds (Titan and/or Enceladus), Saturn probe, Trojan asteroid tour and rendezvous, and Venus in situ explorer.
New Frontiers Program investigations address NASA’s planetary science objectives as described in the 2014 NASA Strategic Plan and the 2014 NASA Science Plan. The program is managed by the Planetary Missions Program Office at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama, for the agency’s Planetary Science Division in Washington.