US allies are 'back in the big carrier business,' but the US isn't so sure how many flattops it'll have in the future - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY TACTICAL

US allies are ‘back in the big carrier business,’ but the US isn’t so sure how many flattops it’ll have in the future

While the US’s new aircraft carrier, USS Gerald R. Ford, was undergoing testing off the East Coast last month, the Royal Navy’s new carrier, the HMS Queen Elizabeth, was landing and launching jets in UK waters for the first time in a decade and the venerable French carrier Charles de Gaulle was setting off on its first deployment since its 18-month-long midlife overhaul ended late last year.


That activity is a sign the French and the British “are now back in the big carrier business,” Vice Adm. Andrew Lewis, commander of the Navy’s recently reestablished 2nd Fleet, said this month in Washington, DC.

“Having that global carrier force is real beneficial. That helps our operational dilemma quite a bit,” Lewis added in response to a question about his command’s partnerships with European navies.

The Queen Elizabeth and its sister carrier, Prince of Wales, have a long life ahead of them, and France is wrapping up studies on a potential future carrier of its own. The Ford and the two carriers following it will also serve for decades, but changes could be coming for the size and role of the US carrier fleet.

Lewis deployed as an exchange pilot aboard the British carrier HMS Invincible, which was sold for scrap in 2010, and while on the USS Harry S. Truman, he sailed with the carrier HMS Illustrious, which was sold for scrap in 2016.

The Illustrious had already turned in its airplanes, “so we actually used US Marine AV-8Bs,” Lewis said, referring to the AV-8B Harrier short takeoff and vertical landing jet, which is being replaced by the F-35B.

“They used US Marine AV-8Bs on that ship then, and it’s something that’s pretty easy to do,” Lewis said. “The Queen Elizabeth is a pretty nifty ship because … it was basically designed around the F-35.”

The F-35B’s first landing on the Queen Elizabeth was in September 2018, as it sailed off the US coast. The Queen Elizabeth has since landed and launched British F-35Bs, but its first operational deployment, in 2021, will be with a US Marine Corps F-35 squadron.

“We’ll be sailing through the Mediterranean into the Gulf and then to the Indo-Pacific region with F-35B variants, both UK and US Marine Corps,” Edward Ferguson, minister counsellor defense at the British Embassy in Washington, DC, said this month.

“This is a really powerful, interoperable US-UK capability that has huge potential that hasn’t yet been tested in the high north, but I think we certainly see potential in the North Atlantic, up into the high north, as well as globally,” Ferguson said at an Atlantic Council event. “This is a 50-year capability. It’s been designed to be flexible.”

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MH-60S Sea Hawk helicopters on the Ford’s flight deck, January 16, 2020.

US Navy/Mass Comm Specialist 2nd Class Indra Beaufort

Time to think about the other things

The first-in-class Ford finished aircraft compatibility testing at the end of January, successfully launching and landing five kinds of aircraft a total of 211 times. The second-in-class carrier, John F. Kennedy, was launched in December.

The next two Ford-class carriers have been named — Enterprise and Doris Miller, respectively — but won’t arrive for years, and it’s not certain what kind of fleet they will join.

“The big question, I think at the top of the list, is the carrier and what’s the future going to look like and what that future carrier mix is going to look like,” acting Navy Secretary Thomas Modly said on January 29 at a Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments event. Modly spoke as the Navy conducted its own force structure assessment.

The carrier and its strike group are now the Navy’s centerpiece, with the carrier air wing as the main offensive force and the strike group’s destroyers and cruisers mostly in a defensive role.

The future fleet will have to be “more distributed to support distributed maritime operations,” its sensors and offensive weapons spread across different and less expensive ships, Modly said.

Modly pointed to the Indo-Pacific region as one where the Navy has to be a lot of places and do a lot of things at once, and the Navy has experimented with breaking those escort ships away from the carrier to act in a more offensive role as surface action groups.

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An F/A-18F Super Hornet, left, and an E/A-18G Growler on one of the Ford’s aircraft elevators before being lifted from the hangar bay to the flight deck, January 21, 2020.

US Navy/Mass Comm Specialist Seaman Jesus O. Aguia

The Ford-class carrier “is going to be an amazing piece of equipment when it’s done,” but those carriers are billion apiece, Modly added, “and that’s not including the cost of the air wing and everything else.”

“I think we agree with a lot of conclusions that [carriers are] more vulnerable,” Modly said. “Now of course we’re developing all kinds of things to make it less vulnerable, but it still is a big target, and it doesn’t give you that distribution.”

The Navy is required by law to have at least 11 carriers in service, and plans for a 355-ship fleet include 12 carriers, a number the Navy is set to reach by 2065. But Modly said the focus should be on the coming years rather than planning to 2065, when “we’ll all be dead.”

“You should think about what we can actually do,” he added, “and I think that number is going to be less” than 12.

Such a shift could spark backlash like when the Navy broached plans to cancel the Truman’s mid-life refueling, which would have cost billion and kept it in service for 25 years, in order to pay for unmanned vessels and other emerging technologies to counter the carriers’ vulnerabilities to new weapons, like long-range Chinese missiles.

The Navy relented on that, but Modly admitted the changes he mentioned would require further discussion with lawmakers.

“We’d have to talk to them about this, and I think this … can’t be a discussion that we just have inside the walls of the Pentagon,” Modly said. “I think as many people that get involved in this, the better. Congress obviously has interest. Our shipbuilding industry has interest. We all do.”

The carrier’s future will have to be considered when formulating the acquisition and building plan for the carrier after the Miller, the as-yet unnamed CVN-82, Modly said, adding that such thinking will be influenced by changes in the surface fleet and the threat environment.

But the Miller likely won’t arrive until the early 2030s.

“Thankfully, we have some time to think about that,” Modly said. “We don’t have time to think about the other things, like the unmanned systems, the smaller [amphibious ships], that amphib mix,” he added. “We’ve got to start getting answers to those now.”

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

MIGHTY MOVIES

Fans gather with wary excitement for new ‘Watchmen’ teaser trailer

If you’re a fan of Watchmen and you’re worried about the upcoming series from HBO, rest assured: it is in the hands of a true fan as well.

Set in the same alternate history as the graphic novel, Damon Lindelof’s (Lost, Star Trek) series will take place in the modern day where superheroes are mistrusted and the vigilante Rorschach appears to have made quite the impact.

The teaser runs against the ‘tick tock’ of a timeline we can’t yet understand, but it sets a gritty and intense tone:


Watchmen | Official Tease | HBO

youtu.be

‘Watchmen’ | Official Teaser Trailer

In anticipation of fan’s reactions (and also to address the reactions of original creators Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons), Lindelof penned a lengthy (and amazing — seriously, read the whole thing) missive, which he shared on Instagram in 2018:

[instagram https://www.instagram.com/p/BjFsj6JHEdq/?utm_source=ig_embed expand=1]Damon on Instagram: “Day 140.”

www.instagram.com

“Day 140”

“We have no desire to ‘adapt’ the twelve issues Mr. Moore and Mr. Gibbons created thirty years ago. Those issues are sacred ground and they will not be retread nor recreated nor reproduced nor rebooted. They will, however be remixed.”

Lindelof goes on to assert that “Watchmen is canon. Just the way Mr. Moore wrote it, the way Mr. Gibbons drew it and the way the brilliant John Higgins colored it.” (By the way, the omission of an Oxford Comma here is just as Mr. Lindelof wrote in his letter, which I will discuss with him when I get the chance.)

That being said, he goes on to say that neither is this series a sequel. It will take place in the world the creators built, but it will be entirely its own — including a contemporary (albeit alternate) time period.

US allies are ‘back in the big carrier business,’ but the US isn’t so sure how many flattops it’ll have in the future

“Tick tock.”

Rorschach isn’t the only character hinted at in the teaser. The ticking time clock itself harkens to Dr. Manhattan (whose father was a watchmaker) and the Doomsday Clocks that appear in the original graphic novels, counting down to catastrophe.

As for the rest, well, most of them are Oklahoma cops, who also wear masks.

The cast includes Regina King, Jeremy Irons, Don Johnson, Jean Smart, Tim Blake Nelson, and Adelaide Clemens. Produced for HBO by White Rabbit in association with Warner Bros. Television, based on characters from DC. It is set to debut on HBO in the fall of 2019.

MIGHTY TRENDING

How vets answer the ridiculous ‘have you ever killed someone’ question

Have you ever been asked whether you have ever killed someone?


If you are a military veteran, chances are you probably have — and it’s always been awkward. Because honestly, what are you really supposed to say? It’s not a question that most troops want to answer: If it’s a yes, it was likely in combat and just part of your job. If it’s a no, should you feel bad that you weren’t one of the cool kids on your block with a confirmed kill?

From a civilian perspective, most simply don’t know it’s an inappropriate question. In their eyes, troops are taking out bad guys all day long, and they are genuinely curious about how that goes. And for veterans who end up on the receiving end of this question, it’s important to remember this ignorance — and that you were once this clueless too.

So how do vets respond? There are a few ways, ranging from the super-serious to the sarcastic as hell.

1. The super-serious: “That’s not an appropriate question to ask.”

If you want to shut it down right here, you can answer back with this. Because really, it’s hardly ever appropriate to ask that question. No one runs up to World War II vets and asks whether they killed anyone. They are just thanked for their service and left alone, not burdened with potentially rough memories.

2. The serious: “Yes/No, but that’s not something I want to talk about.”

You’ve given the answer to that morbid question, but made it clear that’s all they are going to get. If pressed,  you  can always revert to explaining that it’s inappropriate.

3. The uncomfortably silent: “Yes/No [pause for dramatic effect]”

If you want to flip the uncomfortableness around on the person asking the question, respond with a simple yes or no and then just look straight back at them, with unblinking eye contact. Talk about awkward.

4. Answering the awkward question with a awkward question: “Have you ever slept with your sister?”

With this one, you can effectively turn the tables and demonstrate just how awkward the question made you. The questioner will likely recoil when asked — similarly to your reaction — and you can then add, “No, huh? Ok let’s talk about something else then.”

5. The True Lies answer: “Yeah, but they were all bad.”

Take a page out of Arnold’s playbook from the film “True Lies.” If you haven’t seen it (what?!), Schwarzenegger plays an international spy but his wife has no clue. When she finds out and starts asking him questions, she gets to the killing question. He tries to soften the blow of this shocking news. I think it went ok.

 

6. The funny: “You mean today, or in total?”

You could always give an unexpected answer dripping with sarcasm. Go with this one, dramatically saying “not yet,” or give a ridiculous number: Like 67.

“Well my official number if 67, but that’s only confirmed. Pretty sure I’ve gotten a lot more than that.”

So how do you respond? Let us know in the comments.

SEE ALSO: 30 ‘facts’ about World War II that just aren’t true

MIGHTY CULTURE

This moto kid singing ‘The Army Song’ will make you want to join

A small child is going viral on social media for his awesome rendition of The Army Song, the song performed at Army ceremonies around the world to celebrate the service and its history. And the fact that the kid is wearing a comically oversized helmet with night-vision goggle mount and full camo paint is just gravy.



Toddler brings down the house with Army song

www.facebook.com

Gonna be honest, I watched this and then found “Army prior service recru” in my Google search bar before I could get myself back under control. Become one of the millions like me by just clicking the play button above.

(And you can go ahead and stop reading here. We have to put about 300+ words in articles to get search engines to see them properly, so I’m going to write some stuff about The Army Song below, but the big attraction is the adorable singing child, so you can scroll back up and watch that. Seriously, the rest of this is aimed at robot readers anyway. Go look at the adorable kid. Seriously, I haven’t hidden any cute kid stuff below. It’s all just history.)

The Army Song was adopted by the U.S. Army as its official song in 1956, but it’s based on a song written by a brigadier general in 1908. Brig. Gen. Edmund Louis ‘Snitz” Gruber wrote The Caissons Go Rolling Along as a way of expressing his experiences serving with an artillery unit in the Philippines.

US allies are ‘back in the big carrier business,’ but the US isn’t so sure how many flattops it’ll have in the future

Field artillery pieces and caissons on a parade ground in 1914 during border clashes between the U.S. and various forces involved in the Mexican Revolution.

(Library of Congress)

Caissons were horse-drawn supply wagons designed to carry ammunition for artillery units, and the song as a whole is about the inexorable power of a column of artillery marching to the battlefield. The first verse and the refrain are:

Over hill, over dale
As we hit the dusty trail,
And those caissons go rolling along.
In and out, hear them shout,
Counter march and right about,
And those caissons go rolling along.

Then it’s hi! hi! hee!
In the field artillery,
Shout out your numbers loud and strong,
For where e’er you go,
You will always know
That those caissons go rolling along.

When the Army adopted a broader version in 1953 as The Army Song, they simply changed out some phrases to reflect Army history and make the song less field artillery specific. The first chorus and refrain now go:

First to fight for the right,
And to build the Nation’s might,
And the Army goes rolling along.
Proud of all we have done,
Fighting till the battle’s won,
And the Army goes rolling along.

Then it’s hi! hi! hey!
The Army’s on its way.
Count off the cadence loud and strong;
For where’er we go,
You will always know
That the Army goes rolling along.

The full song has additional cadences not often sang at ceremonies that can be seen here at the Army website.

MIGHTY CULTURE

These are all the assets that would become the new Space Force

Ever since the announcement of the Space Force left us with so few details about what the service would look like, how it would be comprised, and even what its mission would be, we’ve been left to wonder about all those little details. Military personnel are wondering how to transfer to the new service, veterans want to know what the culture might look like, and civilians want to know what a new branch of service even means for the military.

All this, of course, adds up to one thing:


US allies are ‘back in the big carrier business,’ but the US isn’t so sure how many flattops it’ll have in the future
Memes.

Okay, all that adds up to two things: Memes and speculation. And the more someone knows about the military, the more they’re able to speculate about literally anything related to what could one day be a Space Force asset. Luckily for us, someone took a moment to break it all down.

Avid space enthusiast and filmmaker TJ Cooney runs a YouTube show called, “I Need More Space.” There, he fills his hunger for exploring and explaining space concepts while presenting them in an easy-to-understand show. Cooney is a prolific, accomplished video producer whose work includes incredible documentary shorts for AARP, many of them featured on We Are The Mighty.

Read More: This documentary captures the Battle of Ia Drang with stunning 4K footage

With all his work on veterans and the military combined with a true enthusiasm for all things space-related, TJ Cooney broke down everything in the existing space structure that could soon be folded into the new Space Force, in a new video called “The Space Force: Is it Crazy or Actually Genius?”

US allies are ‘back in the big carrier business,’ but the US isn’t so sure how many flattops it’ll have in the future

Signing the 1967 Outer Space Treaty.

(United Nations)

President Trump believes Space is a war-fighting domain, just like the air, land, and sea. The video opens with criticism of the Space Force idea, just to show the immediate knee-jerk reaction to the creation of the service — but stick around, the devil is in the details.

The video answers a number of by-now familiar questions raised about the Space Force from all sides. Isn’t NASA the space force? What about the Air Force Space Command? What weapons can we have? What treaties cover the militarization of Space?

It details how the U.S. military evolved from a group of daring aviators supporting ground combat in World War I to the importance of air power in World War II and how the Department of Defense evolved to fully cover the latest theater of war, the air, in 1947.

The Air Force Space Command regulates the two United States space ports and satellite launches, and how the Air Force manages the nation’s nuclear weapons. Aside from the Air Force, there are a number of civilian entities, Army and Navy assets, as well as national intelligence and defense agencies that may benefit from integrating into the new Space Force.

The Space Force would “put all these assets under one roof and create a culture and centralized vision for space defense.” For incoming military personnel, it would create new uniforms, new boot camps, and distinct customs and traditions within the branch, just like the ones the Air Force evolved from the Army nearly 70 years ago.

The Trump Administration hopes that the new service would boost the development and testing of new defense technologies from current ones, especially anti-satellite missiles and cyber-warfare capabilities. While the United States currently enjoys space dominance, keeping up with other countries’ space developments is a hard job, and somehow the U.S. has to maintain that leadership while abiding by the Outer Space Treaty of 1967.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Army celebrates anniversary of the ‘first successful military jump’

As the national anthem played, the audience held hands over hearts and watched as a U.S. Army parachutist glided down from an unbroken blue sky, pulling a U.S. flag behind him.

So opened the Maneuver Center of Excellence and Fort Benning’s National Airborne Day observation Aug. 16, 2019, at Fryar Drop Zone at Fort Benning. The first paratrooper test jump took place 79 years ago, Aug. 16, 1940, at Fort Benning.

The first test of a U.S. Army paratrooper drop occurred at Fort Benning Aug. 16, 1940, when Lt. (later Col.) William T. Ryder and Lt. (later Lt. Col.) James A. Bassett led the Airborne Test Platoon. The platoon jumped onto Lawson Field (later Lawson Army Airfield), completing the first successful military parachute jump.


After the national anthem, members of the U.S. Army Parachute Team, nicknamed the Golden Knights, from Fort Bragg, North Carolina, and members of the Silver Wings parachute team from Fort Benning performed a freefall parachute jump demonstration from a UV18 Viking Twin Otter plane onto Fryar Drop Zone. The Golden Knights jumped in with golden parachutes, and the Silver Wings jumped in with black parachutes.

US allies are ‘back in the big carrier business,’ but the US isn’t so sure how many flattops it’ll have in the future

An Army Silver Wings parachutist wraps his legs into the line of the Golden Knights parachute as if he were sitting atop the parachute, and a Golden Knight parachutist carries below him a weighted tether and a flag emblazoned with the black-and-gold Army star.

(Photo by Mr. Patrick Albright)

The final two parachutists to land — one from the Golden Knights, one from the Silver Wings — came in one literally on top of the other. The Silver Wings parachutist wrapped his legs into the line of the Golden Knights parachute as if he were sitting on the parachute, and the Golden Knight carried below him a weighted tether and a flag emblazoned with the black-and-gold Army star.

“This is where I started jumping out of airplanes, all the way back in 2006,” said Staff Sgt. Houston Creech of the Golden Knights. “Just being here this day, with all the progression I’ve gone through and the skills I’ve gained through the Army’s training — being able to be here on this specific day is a tremendous honor.”

US allies are ‘back in the big carrier business,’ but the US isn’t so sure how many flattops it’ll have in the future

A Soldier with the U.S. Army Parachute Team jumps onto Fryar Drop Zone.

(Photo by Mr. Patrick Albright)

“It’s the pride and history of the unit and the organization,” said Staff Sgt. Joshua Porter, on jumping as part of the Silver Wings for National Airborne Day. “Our legacy and our history build the future of what we are right now.”

“We’re celebrating both those that came before us, those that are currently training and defending our nation, and those that come after,” said 199th Infantry Brigade Command Sgt. Maj. Roy Young, who jumped as part of the Silver Wings jump team.

The Liberty Jump Team made two jumps of 14 and 16 volunteer parachutists following the Golden Knights and the Silver Wings demonstration. Their members were dressed in period Army uniforms, displaying what soldiers would have worn during World War II, the Korean War, the Vietnam War, and Operation Desert Storm. The team jumped from a restored C-47 Skytrain. The particular plane to drop them over Fryar Drop Zone holds the moniker “Greenland Gopher,” and participated in D-Day and Operation Market Garden during World War II as well as in the Berlin Airlift.

US allies are ‘back in the big carrier business,’ but the US isn’t so sure how many flattops it’ll have in the future

One round of volunteer parachutists from the Liberty Jump Team jump onto Fryar Drop Zone.

(Photo by Mr. Patrick Albright)

Retired Sgt. 1st Class Jim Micko, member and senior rigger of the Liberty Jump Team, said his team’s jump was in recognition of the “courage and foresight of the people that took that first step,” referring to the U.S. Army soldiers who pioneered airborne operations before and during World War II.

“The fact that they were able to make it work and make it work in time for the war is a phenomenal thing,” said Micko.

US allies are ‘back in the big carrier business,’ but the US isn’t so sure how many flattops it’ll have in the future

Two members of the Liberty Jump Team, a commemorative team of volunteer parachutists, jump out of a restored C-47 Skytrain.

(Photo by Mr. Patrick Albright)

The Golden Knights are part of the U.S. Army Recruiting Command, the mission of which is to “recruit America’s best volunteers to enable the Army to win in a complex world.” Creech made a practical recommendation to anyone who aspires to become a U.S. Army paratrooper:

“Run,” he said. “Practice running a lot. You need very strong legs. Do a lot of squats. If you’re going to be jumping out of airplanes, those legs are going to need to be able to support that weight coming.”

To learn more about Airborne School or to see more photos from this event, visit the “Related Links” section on this page.

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

MIGHTY TACTICAL

The US Navy just sunk an old warship with new ship-killer missile

The littoral combat ship USS Gabrielle Giffords launched a Naval Strike Missile on Oct. 1, 2019, marking the first time the NSM has been fired in the Indo-Pacific region, the Navy told Insider.

The NSM, along with additional firepower from US and Singaporean forces, sank the decommissioned frigate USS Ford as part of an exercise with Singapore’s navy in the Philippine Sea on Oct. 1, 2019.

The Gabrielle Giffords, along with US Navy helicopters, ships, and submarines, and Singaporean navy ships, conducted the exercise as part of Pacific Griffin, a biennial exercise in the Pacific near Guam.


“LCS packs a punch and gives potential adversaries another reason to stay awake at night,” Rear Adm. Joey Tynch said in a statement. “We are stronger when we sail together with our friends and partners, and LCS is an important addition to the lineup.”

The NSM, made by Raytheon, is a stealthy long-range missile capable of hitting targets up to 100 nautical miles away. It flies at low altitudes and can rise and fall to follow the terrain, and it can evade missile-defense systems.

Read on to learn more about the Pacific Griffin exercise and the sinking of the USS Ford.

US allies are ‘back in the big carrier business,’ but the US isn’t so sure how many flattops it’ll have in the future

Independence-class littoral combat ship USS Gabrielle Giffords.

(US Navy photo by Mass Comm. Specialist 3rd Class Abby Rader)

This is the first time an NSM has been deployed to the 7th Fleet area of responsibility, and the Gabrielle Giffords is the first littoral combat ship to deploy with an NSM on board.

Eventually, the entire littoral-combat-ship (LCS) fleet will have NSMs aboard, CNN reported. The LCS fleet and NSMs will allow the US Navy to engage with China in the South China Sea.

With the NSM, “You can hit most areas in the South China Sea if you’re in the middle” of the sea, Bryan Clark, a senior fellow at the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments, told Insider.

Compared with China’s DF-21 “carrier-killer” missile, the NSM has a shorter range but better precision targeting, enabling it to destroy an enemy vessel rather than just damage it, as the DF-21 is built to do, Clark said.

US allies are ‘back in the big carrier business,’ but the US isn’t so sure how many flattops it’ll have in the future

An MH-60S Seahawk fires an AGM-114 Hellfire missile at the former USS Ford.

(US Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Christopher A. Veloicaza)

An MH-60S Seahawk helicopter fired Hellfire missiles at the USS Ford.

The Hellfire missile is a precision-strike weapon and can be fired from airborne systems, like the MH-60S Seahawks used in Oct. 1, 2019’s SINKEX, or from vessels like an LCS.

B-52 bombers from the US Air Forces’ Expeditionary 69th Bomb Squadron also dropped ordnance during the exercise, and the Republic of Singapore multirole stealth frigates RSS Formidable and RSS Intrepid fired surface-to-surface Harpoon missiles at the Ford.

US allies are ‘back in the big carrier business,’ but the US isn’t so sure how many flattops it’ll have in the future

The USS Gabrielle Giffords launches a Naval Strike Missile at the decommissioned USS Gerald Ford.

(Screenshot via US Navy)

The Gabrielle Giffords is the first LCS to perform an integrated NSM mission in the Indo-Pacific region.

Littoral combat ships can carry MH-60R/S Seahawk helicopters and unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) aboard, as well as Mark 110 57 mm guns and .50-caliber machine guns.

Many littoral combat ships have Harpoon missiles aboard, which don’t have the long range of the NSM.

Littoral combat ships are designed for use in the open ocean and closer to shore, in littoral waters. They typically perform mine countermeasures, anti-submarine warfare, and surface warfare, but they are capable of performing a variety of missions, according to the Navy.

US allies are ‘back in the big carrier business,’ but the US isn’t so sure how many flattops it’ll have in the future

The decommissioned USS Ford during a sinking exercise as part of Exercise Pacific Griffin 2019.

(Commander, Logistics Group Western Pacific / US Navy)

The Navy follows very specific protocols when performing a so-called SINKEX.

Decommissioned vessels that are used in these kinds of exercises, like the Ford, are referred to as “hulks.”

They must be sunk in at least 6,000 feet of water and at least 50 nautical miles from land.

Before they’re sunk, they’re cleared of transformers and capacitors, as well as of trash, petroleum, and harmful chemicals like polychlorinated biphenyls and mercury, and materials containing fluorocarbons, according to a Navy release.

Watch the full video here:

USS Gabrielle Giffords (LCS 10) launches a Naval Strike Missile during exercise Pacific Griffin.

www.youtube.com

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

Articles

These stunning photos show supermodel Kate Upton doing some PT with Marines

The U.S. Marines put supermodel Kate Upton through her paces on Aug. 22 during a workout in Detroit to promote the upcoming Marine Week celebration in the city.


Upton struggled a bit at the end, but was able to complete the training routine that involved a series of aerobic exercises and running as her fiance, Detroit Tigers pitcher Justin Verlander, watched from afar. Upton joined several other Tigers players’ wives and significant others in the session at Wayne State University’s athletic complex that was led by Gunnery Sgt. Sara Pacheco, a Marine Corps fitness instructor.

US allies are ‘back in the big carrier business,’ but the US isn’t so sure how many flattops it’ll have in the future
Model Kate Upton was put through her paces to help the Corps promote a local event. (Photo from AP via News Edge)

“It was (a) very hard workout,” Upton said following the exercise session, which she concluded by collapsing to the grass in an exhausted embrace with a fellow workout warrior. “I knew it was going to be hard. The Marines are very tough.”

US allies are ‘back in the big carrier business,’ but the US isn’t so sure how many flattops it’ll have in the future
Marine Corps fitness instructors bang out some squats with supermodel Kate Upton. (Photo from AP via News Edge)

Verlander, a former American League most valuable player and winner of the Cy Young award as the league’s top pitcher, said afterward that he was proud of Upton for her efforts.

“I think it’s easy to show your support with words. I think going out there and doing that workout I think really shows how much she supports (the military),” Verlander said. He is the founder of the Wins for Warriors charity that supports military service members and their families.

US allies are ‘back in the big carrier business,’ but the US isn’t so sure how many flattops it’ll have in the future
Time to ruck up Miss Upton! (Photo from AP via News Edge)

Upton, a world-famous model who has appeared three times on the cover of the Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue, was on hand to promote Marine Week, which runs Sept. 6-10, and is designed to provide the public with a better understanding of the Corps and its mission and the chance to connect with hundreds of Marines.

Articles

These 4 aircraft were the ancestors of the powerful SR-71 Blackbird

The SR-71 Blackbird is the arguably the most popular and easily recognizable airframe ever used by the U.S. Air Force. It maintains the speed record it set back in 1976 (even with a broken engine). The Blackbird’s missile evasion technique is legendary; it simply flew faster than the whatever was chasing it.


Not one SR-71 was ever shot down.

US allies are ‘back in the big carrier business,’ but the US isn’t so sure how many flattops it’ll have in the future

It could take a full photo of the entire country of North Korea in seven minutes and fly across the entire United States, lengthwise, in just over an hour.

Not bad, but that capability didn’t happen overnight. The Air Force actually developed more than one supersonic plane for its reconnaissance and strike missions.

1. XB-70 Valkyrie

Only 2 of North American Aviation’s B-70 bombers were ever built, and the program only lasted for the five years between 1964 and 1969. The Valkyrie was a six-engine bomber, capable of flying Mach 3, designed to outrun enemy interceptor aircraft with speed and altitude. At the time, interception was the only defense against bombers.

Surface-to-air missiles changed the game.

US allies are ‘back in the big carrier business,’ but the US isn’t so sure how many flattops it’ll have in the future
The XB-70 is shown climbing out during take-off. Most flights were scheduled during the morning hours to take advantage of the cooler ambient air temperatures for improved propulsion efficiencies. The wing tips are extended straight out to provide a maximum lifting wing surface. The XB-70A, capable of flying three times the speed of sound, was the world’s largest experimental aircraft in the 1960s. (NASA photo, 1965)

The XB-70 was still fast enough to fool radar, but its limited range and expense made the B-52 a more economically efficient choice for production. Though short-lived, the Valkyrie did blaze a trail for the structural dynamics that would be so crucial to the SR-71.

The last XB-70 is on display at the National Museum of the United States Air Force in Dayton, Ohio.

2. Lockheed A-12 “Archangel” or “Oxcart”

Not to be confused with the later naval stealth fighter proposal dubbed the A-12 Avenger II, the A-12 Archangel was a recon aircraft developed by Lockheed for the CIA between 1962 and 1967. The defense giant’s “Skunk Works,” the nickname given to its Advanced Development Programs department, developed the A-12 for the CIA’s Oxcart Operation.

US allies are ‘back in the big carrier business,’ but the US isn’t so sure how many flattops it’ll have in the future
An A-12 in flight. This aircraft was lost over the South China Sea on June 6, 1968.

Oxcart was the agency’s effort to replace the U-2 spy plane after it became increasingly susceptible to Soviet SAMs. They were wildly successful – the planes boasted a host of new technologies designed just for the program. They were built with titanium to handle hypersonic speeds (strangely obtained from the Soviet Union).

Though designed to fly over Cuba and the USSR, the Lockheed A-12 never executed that mission. It flew over North Vietnam and North Korea during the Pueblo Crisis.

The North Vietnamese were able to track the A-12 via radar, and routinely launched missiles at it. It never took a direct hit from a SAM but did get debris from an exploding missile lodged in its fuselage.

Since the A-12 was never going to fly over the Soviet Union and the use of satellite photography was on the rise, the program was scrapped almost as soon as it had begun. The A-12s were either stored in Palmdale, California, or sent to museums.

US allies are ‘back in the big carrier business,’ but the US isn’t so sure how many flattops it’ll have in the future
A-12s in storage in Southern California. (CIA photo)

The A-12 could fly higher and faster than the SR-71, but the Blackbird’s side-looking radar and cameras could see enemy territory without penetrating their airspace.

3. M-21 Drone Carrier

The M-21 variant of the A-12 was designed to carry the Lockheed D-12 Drone. This variation had a cockpit for the drone’s launch control officer who released the autonomous drone which was mounted on the back of the M-21 airframe.

US allies are ‘back in the big carrier business,’ but the US isn’t so sure how many flattops it’ll have in the future
Modified A-12 (codename M-21) carrying D-21 drone (Project Tagboard – CIA photo)

The D-21 was launched from the back of the A-12. Once its mission was complete, the drone would eject the data it collected at a preprogrammed point and then self-destruct. The ejected data was caught in mid-air by a C-130.

This program was canceled in 1966 when a drone collided in midair with its launcher. The M-21 crew all bailed out, except for the LCO. From then on, the D-21 would be launched from under the wing of a B-52.

US allies are ‘back in the big carrier business,’ but the US isn’t so sure how many flattops it’ll have in the future
A B-52 carrying a D-21 reconnaissance drone and rocket booster. This photo was taken by a crewman in the tail of a tanker aircraft. (U.S. Air Force photo)

4. Lockheed YF-12

The YF-12 was a twin-seat version of the A-12. Designed to be an interceptor, the YF-12 set the speed records that would only be surpassed by the legendary SR-71. It also has the distinction of being a publicly announced aircraft, which had benefits of keeping the A-12 a secret because the public couldn’t tell the difference.

US allies are ‘back in the big carrier business,’ but the US isn’t so sure how many flattops it’ll have in the future
The YF-12 (U.S. Air Force photo)

The cost of the Vietnam War kept the YF-12 from the Air Force inventory. And by the time the funds were available, the YF-12 wasn’t necessary to defend the mainland U.S., so the program was scrapped.

The aircraft did successfully test the AIM-47 Falcon missile, which was the predecessor to the Phoenix missiles. The YF-12 also tested how AWACS could command bombers in a tactical environment, which later helped the development of the B-1 Bomber.

The YF-12 also tested how engine inlet performance affected airframe for NASA, as well as issues related to propulsion interaction, boundary layer noise, heat transfer under high-mach conditions, and altitude hold at supersonic speeds – all necessary to develop the SR-71, not to mention the Space Shuttle program.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Need some inspiration? This military nonprofit wants to send it to you – in a box filled with goodies

The Inspire Up Foundation launched their Spark and Inspire boxes for 2021. There are 100 free boxes that are up for grabs, each filled with over $100 worth of items said to empower, uplift and encourage the recipient.

Eligibility for the box requires those who register to be a military member, veteran, first responder or be a spouse of one. Their title sponsor for the quarterly boxes is the Military Lending department of Caliber Home Loans, it’s thanks to them that the boxes increased from 50 to 100 for 2021. Previous boxes included items like $100 Lowe’s gift cards, coffee mugs, t-shirts, blessing bags to give to the homeless and books written by prominent military community members.

In each box the organization works hard to feature a veteran-based business and this next one is no exception. They’ve partnered with Black Rifle Coffee company to provide each recipient with a bag of their original and much loved grind for the winter Activate box.

Spark and inspire summer boxes
Spark and Inspire 2020 summer box

The reason behind the creation of the initiative was simple according to Inspire Up’s Chief Financial Officer and WATM writer, Jessica Manfre. “What initially prompted it was watching military spouses around us struggling during the pandemic,” she explained. After partnering with an Air Force spouse who teaches resiliency, the idea was born. “We know we can’t solve the world’s problems with a box of stuff, but it is our hope that it sparks and inspires the recipient to keep going and find joy even in the midst of hardship.”

Spark and Inspire is an initiative run by five military spouses, all affiliated with different branches of service. It was their hope that by continually creating conversation around empowerment, service to others and living a purpose-filled life – they could create a ripple of change.

“We recognize that the pandemic and all of the negative impacts it comes with is going to be around for a while. Our non-profit is committed to continually seeking out ways we can connect our communities with each other and help create spaces to come together,” Manfre said. Inspire Up has hosted a number of virtual opportunities for military spouses with partners like Military Families Magazine. Through these events they talk about the issues weighing on the military community and work on solutions together to target them.

While this may all be virtually – for now – the organization hopes to expand to in-person mini events later in 2021. The boxes of “joy” as Manfre called it, is just the beginning for what the team hopes to accomplish.

So how do you get your hands on one of these for yourself or someone you know? It’s simple, click here to visit their website and simply follow their social media channels @inspireupfdtn to look for your chances to win.

Articles

These are the airmen who fly to the coldest places on Earth

“Pole to pole.”


These three words are the motto of the 109th Airlift Wing – at Stratton Air National Guard Base in Scotia, New York – and though short, it is an accurate synopsis of the unit’s mission.

“We fly missions to Greenland, which is near the North Pole, and Antarctica, which is the South Pole,” said Maj. Emery Jankford, the wing’s chief of training. “So, we literally fly pole to pole.”

During the spring and summer months, the 109th AW operates out of Kangerlussuaq, Greenland, and flies scientific researchers with the National Science Foundation and their materiel to remote field camps across the Arctic Ice Cap. In the fall and winter months, the unit conducts similar missions out of McMurdo Station, Antarctica, as part of Operation Deep Freeze.

US allies are ‘back in the big carrier business,’ but the US isn’t so sure how many flattops it’ll have in the future

Antarctica and Greenland are among the coldest, windiest, and most inhospitable places on the globe and they provide a challenging opportunity to demonstrate the reach and flexibility of airpower, the capabilities of the joint force, and the integrated support of active-duty, Guard, and Reserve military personnel.

“Basically, we go from cold to really cold,” Jankford said. “The Greenland operating season helps us train and prepare for when we operate in Antarctica.”

Each year, the 109th AW flies more than 800 hours during the Greenland support season and transports 2.1 million pounds of cargo, 49,000 pounds of fuel, and nearly 2,000 passengers.

“If it got there, we brought it,” said Maj. Justin Garren, the wing’s chief of Greenland Operations.

US allies are ‘back in the big carrier business,’ but the US isn’t so sure how many flattops it’ll have in the future
Air Force aircrews assigned to the New York Air National Guard’s 109th Airlift Wing conduct a combat offload of cargo off a 109th Airlift Wing LC-130 Skibird transported to the East Greenland Ice Core Project. US Air National Guard photo by Senior Master Sgt. William Gizara

To accomplish this, the unit flies the world’s only ski-equipped LC-130s, called “skibirds,” which allows the planes to land on and take off from ice and compacted snow runways.

“We do have some traditional “wheelbirds” in our unit, but the LC-130s give us the unique capability of being able to land in snowy arctic areas,” Garren said.

While the LC-130s are able to operate without a traditional runway, the arctic environment does present challenges the crews must overcome long before the planes’ skis touch down on the ice.

“Our biggest challenges are weather and navigation,” said Capt. Zach McCreary, a C-130 pilot with the 109th AW.

Because most of Greenland is within the Arctic Circle near the North Pole and Antarctica surrounds the South Pole, there is a lot of magnetic interference when flying in these areas. This interference makes GPS navigation difficult, so the aircrews have to resort to old-school tactics.

US allies are ‘back in the big carrier business,’ but the US isn’t so sure how many flattops it’ll have in the future
Airmen approach DYE-2, an abandoned radar site near Raven Camp that was one of 60 set up during the Cold War as part of an early-warning system that stretched across the far north of Alaska, Canada and Greenland. Photo by Tech. Sgt. Greg C. Biondo.

“Our navigators are some of the only ones in the military who still use celestial navigation,” Jankford said. “We still break out the charts and formulas to determine our positions and headings.”

Weather is another challenge. It can change quickly and it can get nasty, so aircrews try to stay as up to date as possible when flying missions.

“We receive regular weather briefings, before we leave and while we’re in the air,” McCreary said. “But there are times the weather changes quickly and you have to react and adapt to it on the fly.”

In some cases, usually with cloud cover, this means landing with limited to no visibility. At times the land and sky blend together with no visible horizon line.

“It’s like flying inside of a ping pong ball,” McCreary said. “Everything is white and it all looks the same.”Capt. Zach McCreary, C-130 pilot, 109th AW

US allies are ‘back in the big carrier business,’ but the US isn’t so sure how many flattops it’ll have in the future

In these situations, the aircrew uses a spotting technique where the copilot and loadmasters will look for flags lining the runway and help the pilot line up the aircraft during its approach.

“It’s a very unique airlift wing,” Garren said. “We’re landing on snow and ice, we’re using the sun and stars to navigate, and we’re using our eyeballs to land – I’m not sure there’s another unit that flies like this.”

Because the 109th AW operates in such unique environments, utilizing dated techniques, effective training is only possible within the areas of operation.

“We can only train for these missions when we’re in Greenland and Antarctica,” Garren said. “We can’t train at home, so new crewmembers are learning and being signed off on tasks while they’re landing and taking off from the ice.”

US allies are ‘back in the big carrier business,’ but the US isn’t so sure how many flattops it’ll have in the future

The uniqueness of the polar mission is one reason it was given to the 109th AW. Being a guard unit, its members stay in place longer and are able to train, develop, and enhance their skills and experience without having to move or relocate every few years like their active duty counterparts.

“We have guys here who have been flying this mission for 30 years,” Garren said. “That amount of experience is invaluable and the knowledge they pass on to the junior guys is irreplaceable.”

Also irreplaceable are the capabilities of the wing’s unique “skibirds.”

“We can fly into an austere area and land with our skis with no runway somewhere no one has ever been,” Garren said. “That’s why we’re here and that’s what we train to do.”

MIGHTY TACTICAL

The Demise of a US Air Force C-121G ‘Super Constellation’ — and the Arizona trail that honors it

Just before 2 p.m. on Saturday, Feb. 28, 1959, in the clear sky 5 miles north of Prescott, Arizona, something went wrong aboard an Air Force C-121G Super Constellation aircraft. The pilots, Navy Lt. j.g. Theodore Rivenburg and Cmdr. Lukas Dachs, had mere seconds to react as their large transport plane stalled 1,500 feet above the rough granite and cactus-covered ground below.

Rivenburg and Dachs throttled up their four-radial piston engines and tried to raise the nose as the silver plane made a right turn 2 miles south of the Prescott Municipal Airport. As the turn tightened, the bank steepened and the Super Connie snap rolled into a near-vertical dive.

The pilots had no time to recover.


US allies are ‘back in the big carrier business,’ but the US isn’t so sure how many flattops it’ll have in the future

March 1, 1959, cover of the Arizona Republic with news of the Constellation Crash outside Prescott, Arizona. Courtesy of Newspapers.com.

Witnesses driving on state Route 89 told an Arizona Republic reporter that the plane “exploded ‘like an atom bomb’ as it slammed into the ground alongside the highway.”

In addition to Rivenburg and Dachs, the crash killed everyone else on board, including Lt j.g. Edward Francis Souza, Petty Officer 2nd Class James Miller, and Petty Officer 2nd Class Calvin Coon.

Sixty-one years later, the reasons behind the accident remain a mystery. The Air Force investigated, but the plane wasn’t equipped with a flight data recorder, so investigators had limited information about those terrifying final moments. The Air Force’s redacted crash report, released via a Freedom of Information Act request, notes good weather and no mechanical issues, and describes the crash’s cause as “undetermined.”

US allies are ‘back in the big carrier business,’ but the US isn’t so sure how many flattops it’ll have in the future

Remnants of wreckage from the C-121G that crashed near Prescott, Arizona, on Feb. 28, 1959. Photo by Brandon Lingle/Coffee or Die Magazine.

Over the years, scrub brush and manzanita grew over the blackened scars of the accident site. Monsoon thunderstorms and winter winds veiled the scraps of aluminum and wiring beneath sand and gravel. The bright Arizona sun turned the relics a pale gray. With each year, fewer and fewer of those who remember the crash remain. The tragedy might have faded completely if the city of Prescott hadn’t purchased 80 acres that included the crash site in 2009 to create a recreation area on the land.

By chance, the Prescott trail manager and some concerned citizens recovered the lost saga, and the city of Prescott dedicated the Constellation Trails to the memory of the crew in a powerful combination of history and outdoor recreation.

The vision for Lockheed’s Constellation aircraft began in a 1939 meeting between Howard Hughes and corporate brass. Hughes wanted a fleet of commercial aircraft for moving passengers and cargo across the country, and Lockheed wanted his business. The result was a first-of-its-kind commercial plane that, according to Lockheed, featured the industry’s first hydraulic power controls, cruising speeds faster “than most World War II fighters at 350 mph,” and a pressurized cabin for 44 passengers that allowed the plane to fly above most bad weather, creating a smooth and comfortable ride.

US allies are ‘back in the big carrier business,’ but the US isn’t so sure how many flattops it’ll have in the future

The Lockheed VC-121A Constellation 48-0614 Columbine was the personal aircraft of Dwight D. Eisenhower when he was commander at Supreme Headquarters Allied Powers Europe in the early 1950s. It is now preserved at the Pima Air Space Museum in Tucson, Arizona. Photo courtesy of Wikipedia.

By 1942, the military saw the Constellation as a potential transport, and in 1944 Hughes broke cross-country speed records in the olive-green military version called the C-69. After World War II, TWA bought the military’s C-69s and converted them into commercial aircraft. In 1951, Lockheed introduced the Super Constellation, which featured “air conditioning, reclining seats and extra lavatories,” as well as unheard-of fuel efficiency.

From the 1950s through the 1970s, Super Constellations crisscrossed the globe as commercial and military workhorses. They saw action in Korea and Vietnam. In addition to hauling troops and cargo, Super Connies ran rescue missions, mapped Earth’s magnetic field, acted as the earliest airborne early warning platforms, hauled scientists to Antarctica, served as the Navy Blue Angels’ support plane, and even became the first Air Force One under President Dwight D. Eisenhower.

The crew of the ill-fated Super Connie, tail number 54-4069, was assigned to Navy logistics support squadron VR-7 at Moffett Field, California. The unit — part of the joint Military Air Transport Service, or MATS — moved people, patients, cargo, and mail throughout the Pacific. As part of the MATS, precursor to Military Airlift Command, the Navy operated and maintained the aircraft that belonged to the Air Force. According to a 1959 Naval Aviation News magazine feature on the unit, VR-7 helped maintain a supply line from California to Asia and the Middle East.

THE LAST LOG ENTRY CAME AT 1:44 P.M. […] MINUTES LATER, WHILE FLYING NORTH, AF 4069 MADE THAT RIGHT TURN INTO OBLIVION 2 MILES SOUTH OF THE PRESCOTT AIRPORT.

The southern route passed “through Hawaii, Kwajalein, Guam, and the Philippines. From Manila, the Embassy route continues on to Saigon, Bangkok, Calcutta, New Delhi, Karachi, ending in Dhahran.” And the northern route ran from “California west to Hawaii, Wake Island, thence to Tokyo, returning by way of Midway Island to Hickam.”

The magazine said that the aircraft could carry 76 passengers or 67 litter patients or a payload of more than 10 tons. And in terms of size, “the big Connie exceeds two railroad boxcars in length. If upended, its wings would easily tower higher than a 10-story building.”

The crew was on a nine-day temporary duty trip for training to orient themselves around Naval Air Station Litchfield Park, now Phoenix Goodyear Airport. The Prescott airport’s tower logs show AF 4069 practiced approaches and touch-and-go landings at the airport the day before the crash. Around 8:45 a.m. the following morning, the plane arrived in the area for more practice. At 11:32 a.m., AF 4069 left the area, returned to NAS Litchfield Park, switched aircrews, and took off again at 12:45 p.m.

US allies are ‘back in the big carrier business,’ but the US isn’t so sure how many flattops it’ll have in the future

The No. 1 Wright R-3350 engine starts on Lockheed Super Constellation Southern Preservation of Australia’s Historical Aircraft Restoration Society at Illawarra Regional Airport. The aircraft is an ex-US Air Force C-121C (Lockheed Model 1049F), c/no. 4176, s/no. 54-0157. Photo courtesy of Wikipedia.

After departure, the crew most likely conducted high-altitude training, “basic air work and emergencies” until 1:30 p.m. The last log entry came at 1:44 p.m. when the crew reported a forest fire 20 miles south of Prescott. Minutes later, while flying north, AF 4069 made that right turn into oblivion 2 miles south of the Prescott airport.

“The nose came up and a roar of power was heard,” the Air Force crash report states. “The right wing dropped sharply as the plane entered a near vertical dive to the ground, with the right wing leading at time of impact.”

The report continues, “Witness states the gear and flaps were up,” and the next two lines are blacked out.

The “Findings” section says, “The primary cause of this accident is undetermined,” and “investigation of the wreckage revealed no material or mechanical failure.” The last line before a redacted paragraph of recommendations says, “the aircraft apparently stalled too close to the ground to effect recovery.”

The reason for the stall is unknowable.

US allies are ‘back in the big carrier business,’ but the US isn’t so sure how many flattops it’ll have in the future

Constellation Trails. Photo by Brandon Lingle/Coffee or Die Magazine.

The FOIA response came with scanned copies of 23 black-and-white photos of the crash scene. It’s tough to make out much in many of them. The images show big splotches of black and gray with hand-drawn dashed lines and explanations. One photo stands out: Two men stand on the highway looking into a hole, hands tucked in their pockets and fedoras tilted on their heads. In the top middle of the frame, a bucket from a ’50s-era backhoe hangs ready to dig. The text on the photo says: “Location of #4 prop dome 6’2″ depth under highway.”

Chris Hosking, Prescott Trails and Natural Parklands coordinator, had no knowledge of the accident when he began planning the area’s trails. While performing an archeological survey to check for Native American ruins and other historic artifacts, he noticed “all these aluminum shards everywhere.”

So he reached out to Cindy Barks, a reporter at the local paper, the Prescott Daily Courier, who helped him figure out that an airplane had crashed there decades before. He knew then that the community should do something special to honor the fallen aviators.

The city chose to name the trail system after the fallen Constellation. One of Hosking’s son’s friends, Cody Walker, read about the project and stepped up to lead an effort to build a monument and host a dedication ceremony as part of an Eagle Scout project.

US allies are ‘back in the big carrier business,’ but the US isn’t so sure how many flattops it’ll have in the future

The memorial plaque dedicating the trails to those who died in the Super Constellation crash of 1959. Photo by Brandon Lingle/Coffee or Die Magazine.

“He went the extra mile,” Hosking says. “He contacted some of the families of the five airmen who were lost in that crash.”

Several of the aircrew’s children, other family members, and unit alumni came to Prescott for the ceremony.

“It was really emotional, you know, because some of these kids were too young to know their dads,” he says. “They knew their dads died in Arizona, but they didn’t know where or why or what happened, so that was a cool way to put some closure on that whole event for them.”

The Constellation Trails weave through sublime rock formations called the Granite Dells. The red granite boulders look like the backdrop of an old Western movie and have served as the set for many early Westerns and other films since 1912.

US allies are ‘back in the big carrier business,’ but the US isn’t so sure how many flattops it’ll have in the future

Constellation Trails. Photo by Brandon Lingle/Coffee or Die Magazine.

Hosking designed a trail system with an outer loop and multiple cut-throughs to the center. Near the trailhead, scrub oak passageways filter the sunlight, and as the trail gains elevation, the rock formations become more and more impressive.

With names like North 40, Ham and Cheese, Hully Gully, Hole in the Wall, Lost Wall, Ridgeback, and Ranch Road Shortcut, the routes in the Constellation Trail system sound like amusement park rides.

“I usually come up with the names,” says Hosking, an avid mountain biker. “Usually it’s a landmark or a view or something that happened there.”

Carving the trails among granite boulders and navigating rock walls and cacti is hard work. While the community funds the projects, there’s no dedicated workforce to actually build the trails, so Hosking depends on a local volunteer group composed primarily of local retirees called the “Over the Hill Gang.”

US allies are ‘back in the big carrier business,’ but the US isn’t so sure how many flattops it’ll have in the future

The Over the Hill Gang volunteers building the Constellation Trails in 2011. Photo
courtesy of Chris Hosking.

“We get about 10,000 hours of volunteer time out of those guys,” says Hosking of the group, which started with four volunteers and now has 60 or 70 active members. “I come up with a crazy plan and design, and then those guys come out and we build trail.”

They built the trails in the Dells with hand tools because they couldn’t get heavy machinery past the boulders. Doing so takes significantly more time and effort.

John Bauer, a retired Air Force navigator, has volunteered with the Over the Hill Gang for more than 10 years, and the Constellation Trails were the first he helped build.

“I loved building those trails,” says the former F-4 weapons systems officer, who also served as a navigator on C-130s and C-141s.

These days, Bauer loves to move boulders, and with the rocky topography of the Dells, he was in luck.

US allies are ‘back in the big carrier business,’ but the US isn’t so sure how many flattops it’ll have in the future

The Over the Hill Gang volunteers building the Constellation Trails in 2011. Chris
Hosking is on the left and John Bauer is second from left. Photo courtesy of Chris Hosking.

“Some of the trails in other areas are not as interesting — scraping the weeds off a piece of dirt,” the retired lieutenant colonel says. “I’ve done a lot of that, but it doesn’t give me the same amount of joy as moving rocks.”

The trailhead sits at the north end of the park, and the trails gain elevation as they work their way south. According to Bauer, the high ground near the back of the trail system proved the most challenging to build.

“There was a short little connection that went through a very narrow and steep canyon,” he says. “That was probably one of the most difficult parts because working in those little canyons, it’s hard to move the boulders around.”

With rock bars, leverage, sweat, muscle, and grit, the crew cleared an awe-inspiring trail.

US allies are ‘back in the big carrier business,’ but the US isn’t so sure how many flattops it’ll have in the future

Chris Hosking uses a backhoe to build the Badger Mountain trail near Prescott, Arizona.
Photo courtesy of Chris Hosking.

“The bigger the boulder, the more people we need to move them,” Bauer says. “We’ve moved some pretty gigantic boulders.”

Small pieces of the aircraft still lie scattered throughout the area. The crew gathered the pieces they found and placed them next to the memorial near the trailhead.

“If you went out and off the trails, off into the shrubs and stuff there, you could still find pieces of that airplane even after all these years,” Bauer says.

The Constellation Trails are just a few miles of trail in an area that features 104 miles of city-owned trails, as well as hundreds of additional miles of trail on nearby Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management land. Easy access and the variety and number of trails has made this stretch of northern Arizona a hiking and mountain biking destination.

US allies are ‘back in the big carrier business,’ but the US isn’t so sure how many flattops it’ll have in the future

Chris Hosking. Photo courtesy of Chris Hosking.

To understand the Constellation Trails, and the larger Prescott Trail System, it’s important to understand a bit about their creator.

Hosking, originally from the United Kingdom, trained as an industrial designer and spent time in the Silicon Valley working for Apple. One day the lifelong outdoorsman realized, “I didn’t really like that living — that particular lifestyle — so I kind of went freelance and moved up to Mammoth Lakes up in the Sierras.”

While in the Sierras, he delved into trail design. Eventually, Hosking and his wife wanted a bigger town to raise their kids in, and after some research, Prescott ended up No. 1 on both their lists. They arrived in Prescott in 2006, and soon after he became Prescott’s trail master.

In 14 years, he’s taken Prescott from 24 miles of trails to more than 100.

“I would put Prescott up against any community in the country as far as the quality of trails, the variety of trails, the access,” he says. “I wouldn’t put it in the same category as Moab. Moab’s like Disneyland — you go there and it’s got every type of trail. We’re not that, we’re a real town with a great trail system.”

US allies are ‘back in the big carrier business,’ but the US isn’t so sure how many flattops it’ll have in the future

Chris Hosking mountain biking at the Constellation Trails, near Prescott, Arizona. Photo
courtesy of Chris Hosking.

Hosking attributes the success to the area’s excellent topography, a variety of vegetation, and a volunteer work crew “who don’t mind busting their ass to get things done.”

“I see Prescott as kind of the whole package because it’s a great place for people who live here, and it’s got a huge variety of very easy trails, and then it’s got very technical trails, and everything in between,” he says.

Gil Stritar, a Prescott Valley resident who hikes nearly every day, says the Constellation Trails are his favorite in the area because of the ease of access and excellent views.

“There’s beautiful photo ops in the narrows sections,” he says. “Most trails in the Granite Dells have big drop-offs and are more remote, so this is a good family choice. Also, this is the most scenic trail in the Dells in my opinion.”

According to Hosking, all the years of hard work, purchasing land, working agreements, and designing and building trails have come into focus this year as the COVID-19 pandemic has spiked visits to trails sometimes by 200 percent to 300 percent. The Constellation Trails have seen 100 percent more traffic.

US allies are ‘back in the big carrier business,’ but the US isn’t so sure how many flattops it’ll have in the future

Constellation Trails. Photo by Brandon Lingle/Coffee or Die Magazine.

“When you have gyms closed and everything is closed, the only way people can really get out and exercise is by going on trails,” Hosking says. “It’s helped us realize what we’ve done and what a benefit it’s been to the community because now people can get out and go hike and get away from things, so we have a lot of stuff to be thankful for.”

Prescott has a large hiking and mountain biking community that’s growing thanks to the National Interscholastic Cycling Association.

“We’ve got seven teams in the area,” says Hosking, including the top two teams in Arizona. “All those kids getting into mountain biking means their parents are getting into mountain biking.”

While some ride their mountain bikes on the Constellation Trails, Hosking says there are usually more hikers due to the rocky terrain and challenging aspects of the trails.

He likes to ride there when he feels like beating himself up and says his favorite trail is “the one I’m on!”

This article originally appeared on Coffee or Die. Follow @CoffeeOrDieMag on Twitter.

MIGHTY CULTURE

This is what a Marine can expect from IRR muster

So, you’ve been navigating the vast ocean of civilian life, all while growing an impressive beard and wearing that veteran’s hat to places. Suddenly, one day, you get a letter — orders for Individual, Ready Reserve Muster. But at this point, you’ve been out for so long, and you’re wondering why they’re calling you back. Well, the Marine Corps wants to check in and make sure you’re still ready to be called back into active service should they need you back in the rain, dealing pain.

It may seem like an inconvenience and, sure, it might be, but it’s really not that bad. It’s only a few hours on the weekend, and you can choose to go in the morning or the afternoon. On top of that, you’ll get paid somewhere around $250, for three hours of time. You might show up and hear a bunch of fellow Marines complain, but it’s not a field op. It’s not raining. You just sit in a few rooms, fill out some paperwork, and then you’re on your way.

Overall, here’s what you can expect:


US allies are ‘back in the big carrier business,’ but the US isn’t so sure how many flattops it’ll have in the future

It almost brings a tear to your eye. Almost.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Lucas Vega)

You get treated like a human being

There’s going to be a ton of staff NCOs and officers hanging around muster. None of them are going to yell at you for your lack of shave, haircut, or proper greeting of the day. Not a single one will hit you with a, “hey there, Devil Dog,” just to chew your ass for not saying good morning.

Furthermore, when you talk to the admin clerks and other Marines running the muster, they won’t even require you to address them by rank. Here’s the thing: they know you’re a Marine, but they actually just treat you like another person, which is an improvement.

Waiting in lines

Did you expect anything different? Most of your time at muster will be spent in lines… go figure. Waiting to leave rooms, waiting to have someone look at a medical form, etc. You know the drill. Honestly, it’s not as bad as any other line you’ve been through in the Marines. Not even close.

The only thing that makes those lines bad is the fact that you’re trying to get out of there to go do civilian things, like eat real food, not shave, and not worry about formation.

US allies are ‘back in the big carrier business,’ but the US isn’t so sure how many flattops it’ll have in the future

It’s seriously not bad.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Daniel Hughes)

Briefs

No, not your underpants — you know what we mean. You’re going to get two briefs for a max of, like, 20 minutes, tops. One is from the VA and the other is to tell you about your options in the Reserve. It’s definitely not anywhere near as bad as annual training briefs, which span the course of several days, and last for about eight hours each.

Medical screening

Right after you go through the briefs, you’ll fill out a medical form to list any ailments you may have. If you do have some medical issues, you’ll wait to go into a room for a screening where they’ll decide whether or not you’re still in good enough condition to deploy if necessary. Otherwise, you go straight to the administrative room.

US allies are ‘back in the big carrier business,’ but the US isn’t so sure how many flattops it’ll have in the future

It doesn’t take long, honestly.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Daniel Hughes)

Administrative tasks

This part probably takes the longest, and it’s mostly just waiting (again, go figure). You’re just there to verify that your contact information is correct as well as your Record of Emergency Data and other things. It’s just a quick scan, sign, date, and then you verify your bank information, turn in the paperwork, and you’re out of there.

A lot of other people might complain but, realistically, IRR Muster is not the worst thing you could do on a Saturday — especially when you compare it to your Saturdays spent as a Marine.

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