Coast Guard turned down an Arctic icebreaker mission - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY TRENDING

Coast Guard turned down an Arctic icebreaker mission

Countries are jockeying for position as the changing climate makes the Arctic more amenable to shipping and natural-resource extraction.

Conditions in the high north are still formidable, requiring specialized ships. That’s felt acutely in the US, mainly because of the paucity of its ice-breaking capability compared with Arctic countries — particularly Russia.


Moscow, which has the world’s largest Arctic coastline, has dozens of icebreakers, some of which are heavy models for polar duty, and others that are designed to operate elsewhere, like the Baltic.

The US has just two, only one of which is a heavy icebreaker that can operate in the Arctic and Antarctica.

Coast Guard turned down an Arctic icebreaker mission

The Coast Guard cutter Polar Star cuts through Antarctic ice.

(US Coast Guard photo by Chief Petty Officer David Mosley)

That heavy icebreaker, the Polar Star, is more than 40 years old and clinging to service life — something former Coast Guard commandant Paul Zukunft was well aware of when he was asked to send the Polar Star north.

“When I was the commandant, the National Security Council approached me and said, ‘Hey, we ought to sent the Polar Star through the Northern Sea Route and do a freedom of navigation exercise,'” Zukunft, who retired as an admiral in 2018, said December 2018 at a Wilson Center event focused on the Arctic.

“I said, ‘Au contraire, it’s a 40-year-old ship. We’re cannibalizing parts off its sister ship just to keep this thing running, and I can’t guarantee you that it won’t have an catastrophic engineering casualty as it’s doing a freedom of navigation exercise, and now I’ve got to call on Russia to pull me out of harm’s way. So this is not the time to do it,'” Zukunft said.

The Polar Star was commissioned in 1976 and refurbished in 2012 to extend its service life. It’s the Coast Guard’s only operational heavy icebreaker, and it can chop through ice up to 21 feet thick. (The Healy, the service’s other icebreaker, is a medium icebreaker that is newer and bigger but has less ice-breaking capability.)

Coast Guard turned down an Arctic icebreaker mission

The Polar Star is more than 40 years old.

(US Coast Guard photo by Rob Rothway)

The Coast Guard’s other heavy icebreaker and the Polar Star’s sister ship, the Polar Sea, was commissioned the same year but left service in 2010 after repeated engine failures.

Like Zukunft said, the service has been stripping the Polar Sea of parts to keep the Polar Star running, because many of those parts are no longer in production. When they can’t get it from the Polar Sea, crew members have ordered second-hand parts from eBay.

The icebreaker makes a run to McMurdo Station in Antarctica every year. On its most recent trip in January 2018, the ship faced less ice but still dealt with mechanical issues, including a gas-turbine failure that reduced power to the propellers and a failed shaft seal that allowed seawater into the ship until it was sealed.

Harsh conditions wear on the Polar Star — it’s the only cutter that goes into drydock every year. It also sails with a year’s worth of food in case it gets stuck. As commandant, Zukunft said the Polar Star was “literally on life support.”

Coast Guard turned down an Arctic icebreaker mission

Contractors work on the hull of the Polar Star while the cutter undergoes depot-level maintenance.

(US Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Matthew S. Masaschi)

The Coast Guard has been looking to start building new icebreakers for some time.

In 2016, Zukunft said the service was looking to build three heavy and three medium icebreakers. Along with the Navy, it released a joint draft request for proposal to build a new heavy icebreaker in October 2017.

The Homeland Security Department, which oversees the Coast Guard, requested 0 million in fiscal year 2019, which began Oct. 1, 2018, to design and build a new heavy polar icebreaker. (That request included million for a service-life extension project for the Polar Star.)

But the department is one of several that have not been funded for 2019, and it’s not clear the icebreaker money will arrive as lawmakers focus on other spending priorities, such as a wall on the US-Mexico border.

Coast Guard turned down an Arctic icebreaker mission

The Coast Guard cutter Healy approaches the Russian-flagged tanker Renda.

(US Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Sara Francis)

The 0 million was stripped by the House Appropriations Committee summer 2018 — a move that was protested by House Democrats. The Coast Guard commandant, Adm. Karl Schultz, said early December 2018 that he was “guardedly optimistic” that funding for a new polar icebreaker would be available.

The need for Russian assets to support the US in the high north would not be unprecedented, however.

When asked what infrastructure was needed in the Arctic to support US national defense, Zukunft stressed that much of it, like ports, would be dual-use, supporting military and civilian operations.

“But the immediate need right now is for commercial [operations], and that was driven home when we didn’t get the fuel delivery into Nome,” Zukunft said, likely referring to a 2012 incident in which the Alaskan city was iced-in and a few weeks away from running out of fuel.

“At that point in time we were able to call upon Russia to provide an ice-capable tanker escorted by the Coast Guard cutter Healy to resupply Nome.”The need for Russian assets to support the US in the high north would not be unprecedented, however.

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

MIGHTY HISTORY

The story of the iconic 1st Marine Division ‘White House’ at Pendleton

The building has withstood the test of time. It has seen generations of Marines enter and leave its halls. It has seen Marines off to several wars from the shores of Pacific Islands, the mountains of North Korea, the jungles of Vietnam, and the deserts of the Middle East. It has served as the operational and cultural epicenter of the 1st Marine Division — the most storied and consequential Division in the United States Marine Corps. It has seen its share of history both for the division and the Corps.

The building has even been reviewed as a historical site, still bearing the simple style and white paint associated with World War II era buildings, which were originally meant to be temporary. Few of its kind are still standing across the nation, yet it remains, bold in both color and design, while its peers have been replaced over the decades. If you walk through the musty halls that were once treaded by the likes of Chesty Puller and James Mattis, you can see the artwork — paintings of past commanders, old battle scenes ripped from the pages of history and photos of Marines from modern wars.


“It’s a unique building,” said Colonel Christopher S. Dowling, former Chief of Staff of the 1st Marine Division. “When it was built in 1942-1943 it was supposed to only last five years, five years — that was it.”

Coast Guard turned down an Arctic icebreaker mission

U.S. Marine Corps Col. Christopher S. Dowling.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Audrey M. C. Rampton)

Humanity creates things that last; tools which pass through dozens of hands before becoming worn beyond use, structures that stand strong for decades, centuries and even several millennia. There are also occasions where we make things for a simple and easy use, where they are only meant to last for short periods of time. Building 1133 of Camp Pendleton, better known as “the white house” was one such structure. Acting as both a headquarters and administration building for the growing conflict in the Pacific, it even expanded to accommodate the needs of the 3rd, 4th and 5th Marine Divisions that also participated in World War II’s Pacific Theatre.

“The sergeant major’s office is my favorite room,” said USMC Sgt. Maj. William T. Sowers, former sergeant major of the 1st Marine Division. “The amount of detail in the wood and the fire place gives it that really old feeling and gives off the air of a museum.”

In the early years it did not have the nickname “the white house”. It stood amongst many buildings that were painted the same cheap, bare off-white and was not unique beyond its purpose. Styled like many of the buildings to ensure the security of the command, it served many Marines throughout the Pacific for the course of World War II.

Coast Guard turned down an Arctic icebreaker mission

The 1st Marine Division Headquarters Building on Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, California.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Joseph Prado)

The structure grew upon the Marines that called it home and in 1946 it was officially ordained the 1st Marine Division Headquarters building. This would lead to it being modified decades later, not once, but twice to ensure the building could continue to function and support the many Marines that passed through its halls. Though the renovations have ensured the building has stayed with both the times and technology of the era from phone wiring to internet within its walls, its overall structure and design are still the same as it was when first built.

“It was not as iconic to us during our time,” said U.S. Marine Corps Retired General Matthew P. Caulfield. “We never knew it as ‘the white house’. We never thought about the fact it was the division command post during World War II. We simply knew it as the place we work, though we sometimes referred to it as ‘the head shed’.”

Due to the era in which ‘the white house’ was made, there were many developmental needs required of it during that time. One of the largest was the need to withstand a possible attack. A Japanese invasion of the U.S. was a realistic threat in the 40s. To ensure the safety of the command staff, the building was meant to be indistinguishable from the rest. To those born in the last 40 years, the very concept of a military attack on the U.S. is simply something that would not and could not happen. But in 1940, when Camp Pendleton was officially opened, thousands of Marines marched up from San Diego for combat exercises against a fake enemy. It caused a panic within the civilian population. People initially thought a Japanese invasion had occurred. The base’s presence even led to a drop in the housing market, a fact that is inconceivable to most Southern California home owners today.

Coast Guard turned down an Arctic icebreaker mission

The main gate of Camp Pendleton.

The threat of attack from the skies influenced much of what would become Camp Pendleton as we know it today. The camps on base are spread wide across the camp’s more than 195 square miles, originally designed to protect the base from being crippled in one decisive airstrike, according to Dowling. In the attics of the White House and other buildings from the era, there is still evidence of the original plywood roofing used. Pressed wood was used at the time for two reasons: actual wood planks were in immediate need to build and replace decks of Navy ships, and pressed wood was less likely to create deadly wood debris if the buildings were stuck by a Japanese bomber.

“The white house” was designed by Myron B. Hunt, Harold C. Chambers and E. L. Ellingwood. Their firms handled the development of several buildings across Camp Pendleton during the 1940s. Based on the U.S. Navy B-1 barracks, which was a common design to further make the building indistinguishable from other building on base at the time, making it less of a target for Japanese bombers after Pearl Harbor. Few of these barracks are still left standing after the 70 plus years since their development. The B-1, much like its sibling structure, “the white house” was only a temporary design meant to last for the duration of the war. In 1983 congress would pass the Military Construction Authorization Bill of 1983, which demolished many of the older temporary structures of World War II in favor of new designs. Some structures were renovated due to their historical significance. “The white house” interior was included in these renovations. The building underwent changes to its exterior but maintained its current shape with only a few minor changes.

Since its construction many people have entered “the white house” and many more have driven past it. It is an iconic symbol of the 1st Marine Division with dozens of memorials surrounding it, capturing the sacrifice of every Marine who fought with the Division during its many battles through our history. From officers arriving at its doors in 1940 Ford staff cars, to 1968 Volkswagen Beatles, and even more recently, a 2018 name your make and model. When one steps out of their vehicle, they would gaze up at the white building marked by the iconic blue diamond and the battle streamers the division has earned.

Coast Guard turned down an Arctic icebreaker mission

The 1st Marine Division Headquarters Building on Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, California, May 17, 2018.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Joseph Prado)

In the old days it would support the entire command staff, but now much of the command is spread out across Camp Pendleton. Many Blue Diamond alum have even thought of making it into a museum, given the many historical pieces that already line its halls. It gives off that feeling of having entered a place engrained with history.

“The iconic building of the ‘Blue Diamond,’ it is the division,” said Sowers. “Many people assume that this is the main command post for the Marine Expeditionary Force or even the Marine Corps Installations West.”

Many of the older veterans were not using to dealing with the commands of the 1st Marine Expeditionary Force, said Sowers. When they thought of “the white house” they’d think of the commanding general who presided over all they knew of the Marines on the West Coast at that time.

Generals, majors, sergeants and lance corporals have walked its halls over the last 70 years. Some still live amongst us while others have given the ultimate sacrifice. Their memories and actions live through both the 1st Marine Division and “the white house” itself, which has been an unchanging monument to the Marines of the 1st Marine Division. No matter the age in which one served the Division, all have known that building in one way or another. It is a testament to both the Division and the Marines that have served. Our ideals have become engrained into its very structure and it has become a permanent member in both the hearts and minds of the Marines of the 1st Marine Division.

This article originally appeared on the United States Marine Corps. Follow @USMC on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

How North Korea announced the Trump-Kim summit to its people

North Korea broke its silence March 21, 2018, on its surprise peace overtures, including a tentative summit between President Donald Trump and Kim Jong-un, while denying that U.S. pressure led to the breakthrough.


The Korean Central News Agency, a North Korean propaganda outlet, said the sudden conciliatory moves were an “expression of self-confidence” by a regime that already “has acquired everything it desires,” a possible reference to the buildup of its nuclear and ballistic missile arsenals.

Also read: War with North Korea will either be all out or not at all

Without directly referring to the Trump-Kim summit, KCNA noted the recent “great change in the north-south relations,” as well as a “sign of change also in the DPRK [North Korea]-U.S. relations.”

KCNA denied that the openings came about “as a result of sanctions and pressure.”

Coast Guard turned down an Arctic icebreaker mission
President Donald Trump. (Photo by Gage Skidmore)

Charges that the “maximum pressure” campaign of the U.S. led to the potential for dialogue were “just as meaningless as a dog barking at the moon,” KCNA said.

North Korea had been silent on the proposed Trump-Kim summit since Trump agreed to the talks on March 8, 2018.

Related: Trump hints at breaking with generals on Iran

The North Korean statement came amid reports that the annual Foal Eagle military exercises in South Korea could be cut short to avoid coinciding with the tentative Trump-Kim summit at the end of May 2018.

South Korean media reported March 21, 2018, that the exercises could run for just a month, rather than the traditional two, in what may be an effort cut a wide berth around the proposed dialogue.

Articles

This Navy plane is causing ‘physiological episodes’ in pilots

The U.S. Navy on April 15 said it will allow a fleet of its training jets to fly again under modified conditions while it determines what’s causing a lack of oxygen in some cockpits.


Vice Adm. Mike Shoemaker said in a statement that its nearly 200 T-45C aircraft will resume flights as early as April 17 after being grounded for more than a week.

Its pilots had become increasingly concerned late March after seeing a spike in incidents in which some personnel weren’t getting enough oxygen. The concerned pilots had declined to fly on more than 90 flights.

Coast Guard turned down an Arctic icebreaker mission
Student pilots prepare to exit a T-45C Goshawk assigned to Carrier Training Wing (CTW) 2 on the flight deck of the aircraft carrier USS Dwight D. Eisenhower (CVN 69). (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Zach Sleeper)

Instructors and students will now wear modified masks in the two-seat trainers. They will also fly below 10,000 feet to avoid use of on-board oxygen generating systems.

The planes train future Navy and Marine fighter pilots. Shoemaker said students will be able to complete 75 percent of their training flights as teams of experts, including people from NASA, “identify the root cause of the problem.”

Two T-45s are now at Naval Air Station Patuxent River in Maryland where the teams are taking them apart to figure out what’s gone wrong.

“This will remain our top safety priority until we fully understand all causal factors and have identified a solution that will further reduce the risks to our aircrew,” Shoemaker said.

The Navy operates the training planes at three naval air stations in the Southern United States. They are NAS Meridian in Mississippi, NAS Kingsville in Texas, and NAS Pensacola in Florida.

Related: Navy grounds T-45 Goshawk fleet after pilot protests

Since 2015, the number of “physiological episodes” has steadily increased among personnel who fly in the plane.

Symptoms of low oxygen can range from tingling fingers to cloudy judgment and even passing out, although Navy officials said conditions in the trainer jets haven’t been very severe.

Cmdr. Jeanette Groeneveld, a Navy spokeswoman, told The Associated Press on April 17 that nine people out of more than 100 affected since 2012 have been required to wear oxygen masks after a flight.

The T-45C was built by Boeing based on a British design. It has been operational since 1991. Production stopped in 2009, according to Groeneveld.

Each plane cost $17.2 million to produce, according to the Navy’s website.

MIGHTY MOVIES

How bringing Carrie Fisher back to the screen ‘was a gigantic puzzle’

Fans get to see Carrie Fisher one last time in “Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker,” and it was no easy feat to bring her to the screen one more time.

“It was a massive kind of problem, I mean, puzzle really. It was a gigantic puzzle,” visual effects supervisor Roger Guyett told Insider of the challenge the Industrial Lights & Magic team at Lucasfilm faced.

Fisher died in December 2016 after her filming for the last “Star Wars” movie, “The Last Jedi” wrapped. At first, Lucasfilm president Kathleen Kennedy told “Good Morning America” the actress wouldn’t appear in “Episode IX.” But, in July 2018, Disney announced unused footage from “The Force Awakens” would be utilized to bring Fisher to life to close out the Skywalker saga.


How exactly do you repurpose footage from a previous film to work for “Episode IX”? Very carefully.

Guyett and creature effects supervisor Neal Scanlan spoke with Insider Monday on the Walt Disney Studios lot in Burbank, California, about the difficulty of bringing Fisher’s scenes to the screen and the importance of making sure her performance came across as authentic.

Coast Guard turned down an Arctic icebreaker mission

General Leia Organa is seen in “The Last Jedi,” above.

(Lucasfilm)

‘TROS’ director J.J. Abrams originally thought they could do Leia digitally. They realized that wasn’t going to work.

Back in January 2017, Lucasfilm denied that Fisher would be recreated digitally in “The Last Jedi.” The topic was, at least, broached during a discussion for her appearance in “Episode IX.”

“The first conversation I had with [Abrams] about it was that he thought we could just do a digital version of Leia,” said Guyett.

That wasn’t going to work.

“So say you went along that path. The issue that he had with that was that the performances that she gave at any moment would just be authored by some other actress or actor,” he added. “[Abrams] didn’t want that. He wanted to be able to look at this movie and say, ‘That’s Carrie Fisher playing Leia.'”

The team accomplished that with a stand-in, a mix of Fisher’s past performances, and a digital character.

Coast Guard turned down an Arctic icebreaker mission

That’s not all footage of Fisher moving around in “TROS,” but it’s very convincing.

(Lucasfilm)

What are we looking at when we see Leia in ‘The Rise of Skywalker’? Fisher’s face was put onto a digital character.

“When you see Leia in ‘Episode IX,’ basically it’s a live-action element of her face with a completely digital character,” explained Guyett of what the audience is seeing.

This was done because they wanted to make sure that Leia’s look in “The Rise of Skywalker” was distinct from her look in the previous two films.

“The reality of doing this is that you want her to have a new costume,” said Guyett. “It would be weird if she just looked like she did in ‘Episode VII’ or ‘Episode VIII.’ You want her to have a new hairstyle because she’s very specifically part of ‘IX.’ So we knew that we were going to have to do all of that.”

If you’re imagining that ILM simply cut and pasted Fisher’s face onto a body, it wasn’t that simple. ILM visual effects supervisor Patrick Tubach told Eric Eisenberg at Cinemablend the team tracked Fisher’s posture and body movements from “The Force Awakens” to apply to their new scenes in “TROS.”

One of the biggest challenges was matching Fisher’s voice to specific scenes in ‘Episode IX’

This is where the puzzle comes into play. Abrams and co-screenwriter Chris Terrio wrote scenes based off of the dialogue available to them from Fisher’s unused footage.

“The mechanics of that then became very much in J.J.’s court, initially, about writing scenes using lines that we knew we had access to so you can break it down in this massive pre-plan thing where you write the script, and you base it around deliveries,” explained Guyett of how Leia started to come together.

Coast Guard turned down an Arctic icebreaker mission

There were times where they found the right dialogue, but it wasn’t the correct intonation. They had to just move on.

(Disney/Lucasfilm)

“We went back through all that footage and you can see, ‘Oh, how did she deliver this line?’ You know, ‘Never underestimate a droid.’ Once you’ve got whatever the line is, once you’ve got that kind of library, you can start feeling the emotional quality,” he continued.

Imagine sifting through footage to figure out the perfect place to utilize a line of dialogue or a particular delivery. It had to be just right. There were times where they found the right dialogue, but it wasn’t the correct intonation. They had to just move on.

“Some things just didn’t work,” said Guyett. “Even though [Fisher] might be saying the right thing, she’s saying it the wrong way. So sometimes we’d abandoned certain ideas within the script. But basically the premise is now you have to stage the scenes and integrate her into those scenes, which is a massive undertaking.”

Coast Guard turned down an Arctic icebreaker mission

Daisy Ridley was looking at someone dressed up to look like Princess Leia while performing scenes with the character.

(Lucasfilm)

There was a stand-in for Fisher on set so the actors had someone to play against

When you see Daisy Ridley, Kelly Marie Tran, or any other cast member acting next to Fisher in “TROS,” there was always someone acting opposite them.

“There was great effort made to represent Carrie in those moments as well,” Scanlan told Insider. “There was a huge respect. It’s not just a visual effect. It wasn’t, ‘Oh, she doesn’t exist.’ There was actually a person there and the hairstyle and straight makeup. [We] found a place for [the cast] to feel comfortable and to feel that there’s some way we were representing Carrie in some physical entity.”

“We had a fantastic stand-in for Princess Leia who looked at all the footage and tried to learn the lines and represent Carrie as best as possible so that if you’re acting against her you’re not just looking at an empty space, you’re looking at a human being who’s delivering the line,” added Guyett.

There wasn’t a lot of wiggle room to fix things after filming

“The thing that I reiterated to [Abrams] about a million times was we had to get it right on the day we shot it,” said Guyett.

Coast Guard turned down an Arctic icebreaker mission

Roger Guyett (left) is seen on the set of “The Rise of Skywalker.”

(Lucasfilm)

“When you do something, quite often, you might do something and go, ‘OK, well we can fix that.’ We can change the timing of that explosion of something or whatever later on in post [production] or maybe that creature’s moving too fast or whatever. This was something we couldn’t do that with. We had to get it right on a day.”

During production, when the team looked at a moment with Leia, they made sure it had elements that they were going to use. Test composites of scenes were done to make sure everything would fit right and then they would go back and re-edit the scene together to make sure it felt authentic and correct.

“Having been through this process, you can put your hand on your heart and you can say every one of those performances is delivered by Carrie Fisher,” said Guyett.

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

Read more:

MIGHTY TRENDING

The Saudis want their longtime adversary’s missile defenses

Saudi Arabia has been on a buying spree as of late, acquiring a lot of high-end weaponry. Much of it has come from the United States, with a focus on dealing with the threat from Iran. However, the Saudis are also looking elsewhere, including an effort purchase the SA-21 Growler from Russia. But that search could lead to a very surprising conclusion — for the Saudis.


According to a report by Swiss Journal, the Saudis are looking at acquiring a third missile defense system. Their choice: Iron Dome, a system developed by Rafael Advanced Defense Systems, a defense technology company with origins in Israel — a country that, historically, hasn’t had good relations with Saudi Arabia.

Coast Guard turned down an Arctic icebreaker mission
A launcher for the Iron Dome system is displayed. It holds 20 Tamir missiles, with a maximum range of 37 nautical miles. (Raytheon photo)

According to Raytheon, an Iron Dome battery consists of a battlefield radar and three or four launchers, each of which carries 20 Tamir missiles. Israel has deployed ten of these batteries to protect its major cities against rocket attacks.

The radar is able to determine whether a rocket will hit or miss a city. If not deemed a threat, the rocket is ignored. If it is a threat, a Tamir missile is fired to intercept. The Tamir has a maximum range of 37 nautical miles and uses electro-optical guidance to home in on its target.

Coast Guard turned down an Arctic icebreaker mission
An Iron Dome launcher deployed near Ashkelon, Israel. (Israeli Defense Forces photo)

Despite poor relations, Saudi Arabia and Israel do operate a number of weapon systems in common. Both countries operate the MIM-104 Patriot, acquired during and after Operation Desert Storm to counter SS-1 Scud missiles fired by Saddam Hussein’s regime. The two countries also are both operators of the F-15C/D Eagle and F-15E Strike Eagle.

The Swiss Journal reported that Saudi officials examined the system during an air show in Dubai. The Israelis also recently have offered to work with moderate Arab countries in order to counter the Iranian threat. In the past, Iran has vowed to wipe Israel off the map.

MIGHTY HISTORY

The original stealth fighter absolutely destroyed in Desert Storm

When we talk about stealth fighters today, the Lockheed F-22 Raptor and the F-35 Lightning II usually spring to mind. There was one plane, though, that started it all, paving the way for all future stealth aircraft — and did so over a quarter-century ago. That plane was the Lockheed F-117 Nighthawk.


The Nighthawk was actually a hard sell to legendary aeronautical and systems engineer Kelly Johnson, the man behind aviation hallmarks, like the P-38 Lightning (the plane Tom Lanphier flew to kill Isoroku Yamamoto), the SR-71 Blackbird, and the U-2 Dragon Lady. Lockheed’s website reports that Johnson famously told Ben Rich the plane would “never get off the ground.” But the F-117 wasn’t designed to look pretty or to have high performance. It was meant to be invisible.

Coast Guard turned down an Arctic icebreaker mission
The F-117 Nighthawk, the world’s first attack aircraft to employ stealth technology, retired after 27 years of U.S. Air Force service. The aircraft made its first flight at the Tonopah Test Range, Nev., in June 1981, just 31 months after full-scale development was authorized. The Nighthawk program remained classified until November 1988, when a photo of the jet was first unveiled to the public. (U.S. Air Force photo)

The F-117 first flew in 1981 and became operational in 1983. The plane was flown only at night to keep prying eyes away — and many of the RD efforts were done in the Nevada desert. In 1989, the plane took some heat after its involvement in Operation Just Cause, where it dropped what were to be, essentially, 2000-pound stun grenades. It didn’t work.

But it was Desert Storm that made the F-117 a legend. On the opening night, F-117s, each with a radar cross-section the size of a marble, slipped into Baghdad and hit vital command and control targets. Saddam’s thugs had no idea that these planes were coming — they had left the city’s lights on.

Coast Guard turned down an Arctic icebreaker mission
An F-117 Stealth Fighter takes off for a mission from the flightline. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Michael R. Holzworth)

F-117A.com notes that even though only 36 F-117s were in the theater of operations, they hit 31 percent of the targets. There was no other plane the coalition dared to send over downtown Baghdad.

The F-117 serves for 17 years after Desert Storm, seeing action in Operation Allied Force and the Global War on Terror. It was retired in 2008, arguably too soon for this legend to fade away.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Russia is buying more of these ‘Fullback’ fighter jets — and they’re pretty impressive

The Russian Ministry of Defense said on Tuesday that its air force has received a new batch of fourth-generation Sukhoi Su-34 bombers.


While the Russian Ministry of Defense did not say how many planes were delivered, it did say that it was slated to get a total of 16 in 2017.

The Su-34, dubbed “Fullback” by NATO, is one of Russia’s most capable aircraft — able to engage targets on the ground and in the air — and has been used extensively in Syria.

Coast Guard turned down an Arctic icebreaker mission
Russia’s Sukhoi SU-34 Bomber. (Image Spunky Warriors Youtube grab)

Here’s what it can do.

  • The Su-34 Fullback, which made its maiden flight in 1990, was built to replace the Su-24.
  • It was also modeled off the Su-27 Flanker, as were the Su-30, Su-33, and Su-35.
  • It’s normal takeoff weight is 39 tons, and its maximum takeoff weight is 44.4 tons.
  • It runs on two Saturn AL-31F turbofan engines, each capable of about 27,500 pounds of thrust.
  • It has a maximum speed of about 1,181 mph and a maximum range of about 2,485 miles. It can also reach an altitude of about 10.5 miles.
  • Its two-person cockpit has a nearly 0.7-inch thick armored covering.
  • The Su-34 cockpit displays show flight parameters, tactical data, and operational status.
  • The cockpit even has a urinal, as well as a small kitchen.
  • It carries a variety of air-to-air and air-to-ground missiles. It is believed to be able to hit air targets 75 miles away and ground targets 60 miles away.

    Coast Guard turned down an Arctic icebreaker mission
    Russia’s Sukhoi SU-34 Bomber. (Image Spunky Warriors Youtube grab)

  • It carries short-range R-73 and long-range radar-guided R-77 air-to-air missiles. It also carries Kh-59ME, Kh-31A, Kh-31P, Kh-29T, Kh-29L, and S-25LD air-to-ground missiles.
  • The Fullback can also be armed with rockets as well as guided and unguided bombs, like the RBK-500 and SPBE-D cluster bombs.
  • The video below shows the Flanker dropping KAB-500 bombs in Syria in 2015.
  • The graphic gives a very thorough breakdown of the Flanker’s capabilities, including which ordnance it carries and where it hangs on the wings.
  • Russia first deployed four Su-34s to Syria in September 2015, and Moscow is now believed to have six in the war-torn country.
  • While Russia likes to tout how many terrorists it kills in air strikes, their figures are often exaggerated and fail to mention civilian casualties.
  • By March 2016, after just six months of military operations in Syria, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported that Russian airstrikes had killed about 5,800 civilians.
  • Russia has used Syria to test and showcase its weaponry but has sold the Fullback to only one country, Algeria.
  • Russia plans to maintain a fleet of 92 Fullbacks until 2020.
MIGHTY CULTURE

The 13 funniest military memes for the week of July 19th

The Top Gun 2 trailer dropped, and I have to say that I am so f*cking pumped. The first was a bit of a guilty pleasure, and this seems to be the right way to make a long-awaited sequel. There’s a lot of suspension of disbelief when it comes to military films, but Maverick honestly seems like the kinda guy to stay in the Navy for 30 years and only make Captain.

I guess he really was flying a cargo plane full of rubber dog sh*t out of Hong Kong for all these years…


Just think. Now there’s going to be an entirely new generation that overlooked the fact that Maverick was a Naval Aviator and not in the Air Force! Here are some memes.

There were so many Storming Area 51 memes this week across the military community. Check out this article for those so we’re not double dipping…

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(Meme via Army as F*ck)

Coast Guard turned down an Arctic icebreaker mission

(Screengrab via The Army’s Fckups)

Coast Guard turned down an Arctic icebreaker mission

(Meme via Infantry Follow Me)

Coast Guard turned down an Arctic icebreaker mission

(Meme via Not CID)

Coast Guard turned down an Arctic icebreaker mission

(Meme by Call for Fire)

Coast Guard turned down an Arctic icebreaker mission

(Meme via Team Non-Rec)

Coast Guard turned down an Arctic icebreaker mission

(Meme via Valhalla Wear)

Coast Guard turned down an Arctic icebreaker mission

(Meme by We Are The Mighty)

Coast Guard turned down an Arctic icebreaker mission

(Meme via Decelerate Your Life)

Coast Guard turned down an Arctic icebreaker mission

(Meme via PNN – Private News Network)

Coast Guard turned down an Arctic icebreaker mission

(Meme via The Salty Soldier)

Coast Guard turned down an Arctic icebreaker mission

(Meme via Pop Smoke)

Coast Guard turned down an Arctic icebreaker mission

(Meme via Air Force amn/nco/snco)

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Aging bomber may have to switch up the way it flies

The B-1B Lancer bomber, a plane designed with the ability to fly fast and low to the Earth in order to avoid enemy radars, might find itself operating at higher altitudes for the rest of its days in service, as officials weigh options to extend its lifespan.

The move is one of several being considered to keep the aircraft flying for years to come because low-altitude missions increase the wear and tear on the aircraft’s structure, Military.com has learned.

“We’re closely working with aircrews, maintenance, industry engineers and combatant commands to identify and determine what, if any, changes may be made as we balance operational necessity today with the longevity of the B-1 airframe for the future,” said Air Force Global Strike Command spokesman Lt. Col. David Faggard.


Specifically, officials are weighing whether to tell pilots to stop using the B-1’s low-altitude terrain-following capability, known as TERFLW mode, during training. The mode is operated by a basic switch on the plane’s avionics.

Coast Guard turned down an Arctic icebreaker mission

A B-1B Lancer bomber.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Brian Ferguson)

“The B-1 and our airmen have consistently and professionally provided close-air support in the counterterror fight for decades, a mission the aircraft was never designed to fly,” Faggard said. The B-1 was designed for a range of activities, most notably its TERFLW capability, but instead has been used for years in Middle East conflicts — a role for which it was not designed.

“We’re building a viable transition plan to get us from the bomber force we have now to the bomber force of the future. We can change tactics — altering, bringing back or avoiding any tactics or procedures as necessary on any bomber at any time in the future,” Faggard said Friday.

TERFLW, which allows the plane to operate at low altitudes like a jet ski skimming water, was created to allow the B-1 “to sneak in low below enemy radars into Russia during the Cold War, employ nuclear weapons, and get out,” said Maj. Charles “Astro” Kilchrist, then-chief of training for the 9th Bomb Squadron at Dyess Air Force Base, Texas, in a 2017 interview.

Kilchrist, also a pilot, showed off the maneuver when Military.com visited the base that year.

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Four B-1B Lancers assigned to the 9th Expeditionary Bomb Squadron.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Richard P. Ebensberger)

Fatigue testing on the bomber has shown that low-altitude training may put additional stress on the airframe, according to two Air Force sources familiar with the discussions. Thus, the argument to limit TERFLW flights in future.

It’s not uncommon for bombers to switch up how they fly.

For example, B-52 Stratofortress pilots already tend to avoid low-altitude flights because of the additional stress on the venerable bomber’s airframe, according to Alan Williams, the B-52 deputy program element monitor at Global Strike Command. Williams has been involved in the B-52 community since 1975.

“When I first started flying in the B-52, we went down to 300 to 500 feet above the ground,” he said in an interview in August. “Two o’clock in the morning, we’d fly over western Wyoming and we’d pop out four hours later over eastern Wyoming. That was hard on the aircraft.”

He continued, “Low-level is hard on aircraft. There’s a lot of forces — atmosphere, turbulence, all those things. [But] over the last 30 years, the B-52 has returned to what it was designed to be: a high-altitude bomber.”

Officials haven’t totally forbidden B-52 crews to fly low, especially if they’re testing new weapons, according to a bomber weapons system officer, who asked not to be identified due to not being authorized to speak publicly on the matter.

Coast Guard turned down an Arctic icebreaker mission

A B-52H Stratofortress.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Greg Steele)

While the B-52 is sticking around into the 2050s, keeping the B-1 viable until its 2036 sunset date has been a priority for Air Force Global Strike Command.

Gen. Tim Ray, head of the command, announced in September that the Air Force had proved it can modify the Lancer to hold more ordnance — a step that may pave the way to future hypersonic weapons payloads as the bomber seeks new missions.

In tests with the 419th Flight Test Squadron, teams at Edwards Air Force Base, California, demonstrated how crews could fasten new racks onto the external hardpoints of the B-1, and reconfigure its internal bomb bays to hold heavier weapons.

“The conversation we’re having now is how we take that bomb bay [and] put four, potentially eight, large hypersonic weapons on there,” Ray said during the annual Air Force Association Air Space and Cyber conference.

“Certainly, the ability to put more JASSM-ER [Joint Air-to-Surface Standoff Missile Extended Range] or LRASM [Long Range Anti-Ship Missile] externally on the hardpoints as we open those up,” he said, as reported by Defense News. “There’s a lot more we can do.”

This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @militarydotcom on Twitter.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

4 reasons why 360-degree cameras should be on the battlefield

Within the last few years, 360-degree cameras have hit the market and they’re changing the way we record our favorite memories. They may also have implications for how our nation fights its enemies.

When it comes to fighting a ground war, having as many sets of surveilling eyes as possible is a good idea — an idea that could save lives.


Although the infantrymen that patrol hostile streets on a daily basis are highly-trained, it’s near impossible to recount every single detail exactly as it happened after the fact.

In the event that something abnormal happens on a trip outside the wire, having footage from a 360-degree camera can provide you with all the analysis you need.

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It could help with your disability claim

A lot of sh*t can happen while you’re outside the wire in a short amount of time.

In the event that something bad happens and the platoon doc wasn’t there to witness it, there’s a good chance that it was captured clearly with the 360-degree camera. That dramatic footage will come in handy when you’re battling the VA for compensation.

You could update your terrain maps

One of the most significant issues with serving in a war that takes place in a developing country is that enemies can quickly take down and rebuild their dried-mud structures.

With the help of a 360-degree camera, if a structure is, in fact, rebuilt after being wiped away via airstrike, the new footage will help you update terrain maps. By simply carrying one of these versatile tools, you’ll record new information without even trying.

It’s called surveillance, people.

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We thought so.

The footage could be better than any war trophy

Who here wants to document an awesome firefight where you kick enemies’ asses from all angles?

It can help identify high-value individuals

This may come as a shocker, but when the bad guys interact with allied forces, they typically lie about their identities. Having a 360-degree camera on deck can help analysts identify potential threats, even if the allied troop isn’t looking.

Intel

5 bugs you can actually eat to survive

The idea of chowing down on some insects doesn’t sound too appetizing, but when you’re on the brink of starvation, it might be your best option. When you’re stuck out in the middle of nowhere, food sources can get pretty scarce. On top of all that, even if you were to catch a small game animal while enduring the elements, you’d still have to start a fire and cook that sucker to avoid ingesting any nasty parasites.

On the contrary, if you find a source of edible insects, you can just pop them into your mouth and get some lifesaving nutrition. Keep an eye out for these bugs if you find yourself in a bind.


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Ants

These are probably the most popular insects to munch on. In fact, you’ve probably had a few crawl into your mouth while camping without even knowing it — don’t worry, it happens. You can efficiently collect these nutritious little bugs from their hills. Sure, you’re invading their personal space, but you have to eat, too.

Just make sure they’re not the painful kind first.

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That’s good eatin’!

Grasshoppers

No, we’re not referring to young individuals who are learning martial arts. We’re talking about those little ugly things that jump from seemingly nowhere and land on your arm.

Packed with the protein you need to sustain yourself until you can find help, grasshoppers can be easily collected and stored for a quick snack throughout the day.

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Stink bugs

Though their name may have you believe otherwise, you can actually eat these suckers if you’re super desperate. Although they don’t look all that enjoyable, like most insects, they’re packed with the energy-providing protein you need to push yourself out of a desolate area.

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It’s dinner time!

Termites

Another excellent source of protein and energy, termites can be found devouring large pieces of wood. These six-legged pests aren’t know for being filled with parasites, which means they’re good to eat. Once you find a log that’s been hollowed out by these eager eaters, give it a shake and watch them crawl out.

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Bon appetit!

Wood Lice

Also known as the “potato bug,” this little thing isn’t technically an insect — it’s actually a terrestrial isopod crustacean. Sure, maybe it doesn’t belong on list of bugs, but it does tastes similar to shrimp. They can be boiled in hot water just before being enjoyed by a struggling camper that’s to hold on for dear life.

Maybe we’re exaggerating a bit, but they do taste better than they look. Trust me.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Your fitness tracker might be giving the enemy valuable intel

A company called Strava, a social network for people who want to track their workouts, updated an online map showing the routes of 1 billion workouts in 2017.


But in doing so, it seems to have exposed secret US military bases in Turkey, Syria, and Yemen.

Strava drew on data from devices like Fitbits or smartphones that people use to track workouts such as runs or bike rides. But fitness-tracker users skew Western, young, and active. In countries like Niger, the heat map appears to highlight the activity of US troops on military bases keeping fit.

Related: Hackers crack Pentagon’s cyber walls more than 130 times

The result is potentially damning for the US military’s operational security.

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A bright spot indicating activity in Agadez, Niger, where the US has a drone base.

Previously covert bases may have been exposed, and highly trafficked locations within known bases have been highlighted.

Additionally, some users may have left the trackers on while going about normal business. Important supply routes and key daily routines have most likely been picked up by the heat map.

“In Syria, known coalition (ie US) bases light up the night,” the military writer and analyst Tobias Schneider wrote.

“Some light markers over known Russian positions, no notable colouring for Iranian bases … A lot of people are going to have to sit through lectures.”

But the most dangerous element of the heat map isn’t the aggregated lines — it’s the potential to determine which person drew which line. Anyone who gains access to Strava’s data, legally or otherwise, can then track a specific person’s movement, Jeffrey Lewis points out at the Daily Beast.

A user who works out frequently at a known military base, say a missile base, and then uses the app at another location may draw attention to a previously unknown site of interest.

This data could inform both state and nonstate actors as to where to attack in the case of war.

Also read: This former top-secret missile base is being slowly exposed

The US is not alone in being exposed — apparent Chinese joggers in the South China Sea contributed data to the Strava map, as did workers on Taiwan’s secret missile bases. But the US’s larger presence around the globe means it has more to lose.

After the map came out, internet users in short order identified some of the most sensitive US military sites around the world.

Here Lewis seems to think US troops are running around the US’s nuclear weapons in Turkey.

Here a Twitter user cross-referencing other open-source analysis seems to think he’s spotted a CIA “black site,” or somewhere that unacknowledged covert work is taking place, in Djibouti.

Whatever is going on here in the desert of Yemen is likely to come under increased scrutiny.

But interestingly enough, the Pentagon, which is the headquarters of the Department of Defense, the biggest office building in the world, and the best-known US military command center in the world, is dark.

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The Pentagon goes dark somehow.