Korean War veteran Ed Portka, 90, was honored along with his stepson as the Pittsburgh Steelers hosted the Cincinnati Bengals on national television.
Former Maj. David Reeser, who commanded an Army diving company in Europe 28 years ago, accompanied his stepfather, a former first lieutenant, onto the field for the Steelers’ “Salute Our Heroes” recognition during a short break following the third quarter of the game.
“I’m excited about it,” Portka said about his upcoming recognition, just before the game, offering that he was “looking forward to it,” but a little hesitant.
Portka served as a platoon leader in an engineer unit under the 1st Cavalry Division in Korea. He was responsible for breaching minefields and other obstacles during offensive operations and installing minefields to protect U.S. defensive positions.
“We did a lot of dirty work,” Portka said. “It was specialized work.”
He said every chance they got, they detonated mines by firing their M-1 rifles at them rather than risking lives.
Second Lt. Ed Portka, prior to deploying to Korea with an engineering unit under the 1st Cavalry Division, where he was responsible for breaching minefields.
(U.S. Army photo)
Portka served in Korea from 1952-53. One of his memories was of meeting Gen. Matthew Ridgway, 8th Army commander, during a battlefield circulation, just after Portka’s platoon finished clearing a minefield near Pusan, Korea.
“He was down-to-earth,” Portka said of Ridgway.
The Korean War armistice agreement was signed on Portka’s 24th birthday, July 27, 1953, just before he redeployed home. He said it was quite a birthday present.
After the war, Portka was an architectural draftsman with George M. Ewing Company in Washington, D.C. He later managed the firm’s Philadelphia office and was the project manager for the design of Veterans Stadium, home of the Philadelphia Eagles.
Reeser was stationed in Europe in the early 1990s, where he served as a platoon Leader and then as commander of a diving detachment. After leaving the military, he founded an engineering firm, Infrastructure Engineers, that performs underwater bridge inspections.
Reeser now lives in Florida and his stepfather in Atlanta, but said he returns to Pittsburgh every chance he gets to take his stepfather to Steeler games.
At the end of their recognition on the field, both veterans aggressively waved Pittsburgh Steeler “terrible towels.” The Steelers beat the Bengals 27-3.
A watchdog report to the U.S. Congress has warned that Afghanistan is likely to face a health disaster in the coming months brought on by the coronavirus pandemic.
The April 30 report by the U.S. Special Inspector-General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR) has heightened concerns that the pandemic could derail stalled peace efforts brokered by the United States.
The spread of COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus, has significantly impacted Afghanistan.
“Afghanistan’s numerous and, in some cases, unique vulnerabilities — a weak health-care system, widespread malnutrition, porous borders, massive internal displacement, contiguity with Iran, and ongoing conflict — make it likely the country will confront a health disaster in the coming months,” the report concludes.
The pandemic has forced the closure of border crossings, disrupting commercial and humanitarian deliveries.
SIGAR, which monitors billions of dollars spent in Afghanistan by the United States, warns that rising food prices are likely to worsen as the crisis continues.
Afghanistan has confirmed nearly 2,200 coronavirus cases and 64 deaths, according to local news reports quoting the Afghan Health Ministry.
Taliban militants fighting U.S.-led coalition forces in Afghanistan signed a deal with Washington in February — raising hopes that formal peace talks between the militants and Afghanistan’s central government could start soon.
The Taliban committed to severing ties with terrorists and preventing terrorists from using territory under its control to launch attacks against the United States or its allies, including the Afghan government.
In exchange for those guarantees, the United States agreed to withdraw all of its troops from Afghanistan by July 2021.
Since signing the deal, Taliban militants have escalated attacks on Afghan security forces.
Last week, the Taliban rejected a proposal by the Afghan government for a cease-fire during the holy month of Ramadan.
The latest SIGAR report said the international coalition has declined to make data available for public release about the number of Taliban attacks launched during the first three months of 2020.
It was the first time publication of the data has been held back since 2018 when SIGAR began using the information to track levels and locations of violence, the report said.
SIGAR said the coalition justified holding back the information because it is now part of internal U.S. government deliberations on negotiations with the Taliban.
Peace talks are supposed to begin after the Afghan government releases some 5,000 Taliban prisoners from custody.
In return, the Taliban also is supposed to release about 1,000 Afghan troops and civilian government employees it is holding.
As of April 27, the Afghan government had freed nearly 500 Taliban prisoners, while the militant group had released about 60 of its captives.
You never think a medical emergency is going to happen to you, but what if it does? And what if you are on a flight, two hours from your destination and over the Atlantic Ocean?
Hopefully, when the flight attendants ask for medical personnel on the flight to come forward, someone like Rob Wilson, Dental Health Command Europe Patient Safety Manager, is on board.
Wilson, who is also an operating room nurse in the Army Reserves, was recently on a flight from Frankfurt, Germany to Orlando, Fla., when another passenger began having difficulty breathing. When medical personnel were asked to come to the back of the plane, he didn’t hesitate.
“We were over the ocean,” Wilson said, “when they asked for medical personnel. Without any hesitation I went back. I figured there would be a lot of other people and they probably wouldn’t even need me, but when I got back there it was myself and an American doctor.”
Wilson said the passenger who needed help was an older gentleman, who was pale, had clammy skin and was breathing shallow. After a quick assessment, Wilson determined the man’s Pulse oximetry — or oxygen level in the blood — was 60 percent and his heart rate was in the 80s.
Prior to Wilson and the doctor arriving, the flight attendants had already given the man an oxygen mask, however he wouldn’t keep it on. Wilson said with the oxygen mask his “oxygen readings would come up, but as soon as he took it off they would go back down.”
“He did not speak English, and his wife only spoke a little German,” Wilson said.
It turns out when the man was taking off his oxygen mask, he was asking his wife for his emergency inhaler.
“We finally figured out that he was asking his wife to get his emergency inhaler,” Wilson said. “But he wasn’t using it properly so the medication wasn’t getting to his lungs.”
Because the man’s vitals were not improving, Wilson and the doctor began getting ready to intubate, or place a flexible plastic tube into the trachea to maintain an open airway.
“I started getting everything together to do the intubation,” Wilson said, “and at the same time a German provider came back and spoke with the other doctor and they decided to give the man a steroid medication and valium to help calm him down, [rather than intubating].”
After about 30 minutes, the medications began working and the man was feeling well enough to go back to his seat for the rest of the flight.
Wilson’s work wasn’t done yet, however. He helped the flight attendants complete the paperwork to give the paramedics when the plane landed — that included annotating was what was given and when.
As a nurse in the Army Reserves, Wilson said his military training “definitely helped when it came to being able to work on the fly. Having been in the Reserves my whole Army career, we don’t typically have fixed facilities when we do our training, so I think that helped me stay calm and collected.”
Wilson added, “I think that’s my attitude in life too — get it done.”
That attitude has helped him progress since he joined the Army in 1993 as an operating room technician.
“I didn’t want to be in a medical field,” Wilson said. “I wanted to be an architect. I got into a school in Kansas City, but when they sent the bill, my parents said, ‘don’t look at us,’ so I joined the Army reserves to help pay for college.”
Because Wilson was looking to pay for college through his military service, he chose operating room technician for his military occupational specialty because they were getting some of the largest bonuses at the time. “So that is what I went with,” he said.
“Once I got into the field I loved it, and I never ended up going to school for architecture.”
Instead, he was sent active duty for 14 months to become a licensed practical nurse. He continued his education earning his associates degree and finally his bachelor’s degree. Once he had obtained his degree, he transitioned from the enlisted side and was commissioned as an operating room nurse in the Army Reserves.
Wilson said that one of the reasons he enjoys being a nurse is the “satisfaction of helping people and being part of something bigger than yourself.”
Currently, Wilson serves as the patient safety manager for all of the Army dental clinics in Europe. He said his focus is ensuring safe, quality care. That means “making sure we have the right patient, we are doing the right procedure, and on the right tooth,” he said.
Wilson hopes that in sharing his story he can encourage others to step up and help when needed.
“Do something. There is always something you can do. Even if it’s just holding the oxygen tank or reassuring the person. You don’t have to be an expert and do everything perfect, but do something.”
Our family is discovering a new adventure as the pandemic continues and a normal school year is not on the horizon. I never, ever planned to be a homeschool mom. But when the pandemic hit and my boys were home each day, I realized how much I enjoyed their company and oddly how much I missed them each day they went to school. And while it requires a lot of flexibility to continue running my business, I know that homeschooling is the best option for our family. As a family, we have learned a lot about the advantages of homeschooling. And I’m quickly realizing my past life as an Air Force Officer is playing into my strengths when it comes to homeschooling. Here are a few ways the military prepared me to be a homeschool mom.
Moving forward with confidence
The military teaches you to make a choice and move forward. When our school district came out with the options for the upcoming school year, the options laid forward by the district didn’t feel like the right choice for our family. So, my husband and I decided to start looking into homeschooling. The more research we did the more confident we were in the choice to homeschool. Now that school is starting all over the country, I realize homeschooling was the best option for our family and I am thankful we made this choice months ago. I did the research, made a choice and am now moving forward with confidence. Just like the military trained me to do.
Know the Objectives, Create a Mission Plan
When people hear I am homeschooling they often ask what curriculum I am using. My answer: I’m not. I have done enough research on the standards that my boys need to meet by the end of the school year and am working to create tools we need to get there. I guess I have always been part of the unschooled philosophy and find lesson plans too restrictive. We have a schedule and a plan for each week, the military trained me for that too, but I also know where we need to go and don’t need any one person to tell me how to get there. My military background has me focused on the mission and I even have created waypoints throughout the school year to help access where we are, where we are going and I am ready to make adjustments along the way.
Delegate when necessary
While I’m really excited about teaching math and science, oddly enough, even though my job is to write, I don’t feel confident in teaching my son how to read. He is entering second grade and is behind in reading. Most of the homework around reading last year was filled with frustration on both my son’s and my part. So, my husband and I decided to delegate this responsibility. My husband and I did our research and we have started using the Easy Read System. It is a program that helps my son while I work along with him. It is a team effort and the best part? There is no yelling or frustration. It is actually fun, for both of us. He is making progress with reading and writing with this tool and I am excited to see what he learns over the next few months.
We also have been long time subscribers to Kiwi Co Science Crates. Each month we get a new Kiwi Crate for both my seven and four year olds. In the past, we focused on the activity and often didn’t dive into the extra resources provided. But now we are planning to not only enjoy the project that comes each month, but use the additional resources for science learning.
We are also relying on our Disney+ subscription, but not to watch Mickey Mouse. Both our boys also have a love of animals so we have been using Disney+ Natural Geographic Channel to learn about different animals each week. We also are big fans of PBS Kids, Khan Academy Kids and Sesame Street’s Alphabet Kitchen.
Think outside the box
I’m also planning lessons throughout the year for things I have always wanted to do and never have had the time to do. We are planning to use Truth in the Tinsel’s Advent calendar and crafts for the Christmas season. We already planted pumpkins in the Spring and have been using them to learn about how things grow throughout the summer. And we are planning to plant a garden in the Spring. We use the kitchen to expand our classroom by creating yummy treats like Taffy and Blueberry Pie.
Almost every question my boys ask can turn into a classroom adventure. And as long as we stay focused on the standards set by the school, we are finding a lot of flexibility in our home classroom.
Yes, the military training even applies to homeschooling and oddly enough it isn’t as rigid as I expected. What does your school year plan look like? What tools from your life experience are you using to help get through this unsettling time?
The U.S. Army is slowing down its timeline to acquire a fleet of Joint Light Tactical Vehicles, an armored Humvee replacement that some have criticized as being better suited to past wars.
The Army’s $178 billion proposed budget for fiscal 2021 earmarks $894.4 million to buy “1,920 JLTVs of various configurations as well as 1,334 JLTV-T companion trailers,” according to a Feb. 10 Army statement.
“They are reductions; they are not cuts,” Maj. Gen. Paul Chamberlain, director of Army budget, told reporters at the Pentagon. “We are extending the production life for JLTV.”
The Army began slowing its JLTV acquisition strategy last year, announcing it would buy 2,530 JLTVs in fiscal 2020, a significant reduction from its 2019 purchase of 3,393 vehicles.
The JLTV was one of 93 programs the Army cut or reduced last year, putting roughly billion in savings toward the Army’s ambitious modernization effort.
Last April, then-Secretary of the Army Mark Esper said that the JLTV was essentially designed to fight a war with the kind of improvised explosive device (IED) threats that existed in Iraq.
The JLTV became a modernization priority for the Army and Marine Corps in the early days of Iraq, after the Humvee proved unable to protect troops from deadly IEDs.
Army leaders said last year that the service was considering lowering its procurement objective of buying 49,000 JLTVs by the mid-2030s.
Now Army budget officials say that the service has extended JLTV’s production life until 2041.
“The total number remains the same; it’s just over a longer period that it is going to be procured,” Chamberlain said.
Oshkosh Corp. was selected in August 2015 over Lockheed Martin Corp. and AM General LLC to build the JLTV, but Army budget officials said Tuesday that the service may award another competitive JLTV contract in 2022 to get a better deal.
“Normally, we do that to drive price down on the end-state, so if you have competition in the production space, you will eventually get some savings out of it,” John Daniels, deputy assistant secretary of the Army for Plans, Programs and Resources, told reporters at the Pentagon.
More than 120 sailors from Carrier Strike Group (CSG) 3 participated in community service projects at the Tanglin Salvation Army and the Chai Chee Willing Hearts Soup Kitchen in Singapore, Nov. 26-27, 2018.
Sailors who volunteered at the Tanglin Salvation Army sorted donated clothing, electronics, toys, and a variety of assorted household goods.
Lt. Ryan Albano, divisional officer in the Command Religious Ministries Department aboard the Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS John C. Stennis (CVN 74), and one of the event coordinators, said community service is a part of the mission and legacy of the Navy.
“This is perhaps one of the most important things I get to do in the Navy,” said Albano. “We set a high standard everywhere we go that the United States Navy does not simply come to consume. We also show up to give back.”
(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Angelina Grimsley)
The sailors volunteered on Nov. 26 and 27, 2018, which are the days the Tanglin Salvation Army receives the bulk of its weekly donations.
“We are really happy to have extra help on our busiest days. It was a big help to us,” said Benjamin Sim, the location’s human resources manager.
Sailors also volunteered at Willing Hearts Soup Kitchen by breaking down over 300 pounds of fish for stocks and stews and helping to organize the dry storage of more than 500 pounds of rice.
“It’s important to show our host nation that we’re allies and represent ourselves and our nation in a positive light,” said Aviation Administration man 2nd Class Javon Wilkerson, a volunteer at the soup kitchen.
(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Angelina Grimsley)
Willing Hearts cooks, serves lunch, packages, and delivers an average of 6,000 meals a day from sunrise until after sunset to those in need. The meals are distributed to over 60 locations to feed Singaporeans who are unable to leave their homes.
The community service projects were conducted during a scheduled port visit to the island nation by John C. Stennis, the Ticonderoga-class guided-missile cruiser USS Mobile Bay (CG 53), and the Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile cruiser USS Spruance (DDG 111).
The ships moored at Changi Naval Base following a high-end dual carrier strike force exercise in the Philippine Sea with the Ronald Reagan Carrier Strike Group, providing Sailors the opportunity to explore the island and the city.
US military commanders deeply appreciate the autonomy and hands off approach the Trump administration takes to battlefield operations, Operation Inherent Resolve commander Lt. Gen. Stephen Townsend told Pentagon reporters Aug. 31.
Townsend explained that the Trump administration has “pushed decision making into the military chain of command,” as opposed to the widespread micromanagement of military operations seen under the Obama administration. “I don’t know of a commander in our armed forces who doesn’t appreciate that,” he said.
“Our judgment here on the battlefield in the forward areas is trusted. And we don’t get twenty questions with every action that happens on the battlefield and every action that we take,” Townsend said. “I think every commander that I know of appreciates being given the authority and responsibility, and then the trust and backing to implement that.”
US Special Envoy to the counter-Islamic State coalition Ambassador Brett McGurk told reporters in early August that gains against ISIS have “dramatically accelerated” under the Trump administration, highlighting the terror group’s loss of territory.
President Donald Trump repeatedly emphasized that US rules of engagement were too restrictive in the ISIS fight during the 2016 campaign. Throughout the early months of his presidency he has loosened rules of engagement and launched dozens of drone strikes under looser authorities.
“There is a sense among these commanders that they are able to do a bit more — and so they are,” a US defense official told the Wall Street Journal in April in the midst of high tempo operations against the terrorist group.
The following video is pretty impressive. It shows an F/A-18C being hit by a lightning bolt. Along with the flash of light, you can clearly hear a loud bang inside the cockpit, taking the pilot by surprise. Shock aside, the aircraft was probably not really damaged by the bolt.
We have published several articles explaining that close encounters between jets and lightning occur every now and then around the globe, usually causing little to no damage at all to the planes. Usually. Because sometimes, lightning strikes cause significant damaged. As happened on Dec. 19, 2017, when B-52 Stratorfortress (60-0051), with the 93rd Bomb Squadron/307th BW AFRC. The heavy bomber was about to land at Barksdale AFB, Louisiana, when the crew heard something that sounded like a thud coming from the outside of the aircraft. The B-52 landed safely, but once on the ground the crew discovered that the sound they heard was actually a lightning strike that tore a person-sized gash completely through the tail of the aircraft!
Here’s what this Author wrote in one of those stories:
In the 1980s, some F-16 Fighting Falcon jets were lost after being hit by a lightning strike. In one case, the lightning ignited the vapors in the empty centerline tank, which exploded causing extended damage to the aircraft’s hydraulic system.
Since lightning strikes are quite rare (1 event each year on average) these are seldom a real risk to military or civil aviation.
Furthermore, planes are shielded by a so-called Faraday Cage externally made by a conducting material, that blocks out external static electrical fields: charges redistribute on the conduting material and don’t affect the cage’s interior.
Wide bodies are huge flying Faraday Cages: if hit by a lightning they let the current pass through the fuselage until ground, preserving the systems’ integrity.
All commercial and mil planes have to meet several safety lightning-related requirements to get the airwothiness certifications required in the U.S. or Europe.
For instance, they must be able to withstand a lightning strike without suffering significant airframe damage, without any possibility of accidental fuel ignition in the tanks and preserving the avionics and systems failures induced by the electromagnetic field created by the electrical charges of the lightning.
On the Internet, you can find some videos showing civilian planes hit by lightning strikes and continue flying as nothing has happened.
This article originally appeared on The Aviationist. Follow @theaviationist on Twitter.
150327-N-MV308-544 .DAVIS-MONTHAN AIR FORCE BASE, Ariz. (March 28, 2015) An aerial view of retired military planes taken from aircraft 916, a P-3C Orion maritime patrol aircraft from the Golden Eagles of Patrol Squadron (VP) 9, as it circles the 309th Aerospace Maintenance and Regeneration Group (309 AMARG) at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base in Tucson, Ariz. The 309 AMARG is responsible for the storage and maintenance of aircraft for future redeployment, parts, or proper disposal following retirement by the military. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Amber Porter/Released).
Commonly referred to as the “Boneyard,” the 309th Aerospace Maintenance and Regeneration Group at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, Ariz., contains about 5,000 retired military aircraft throughout 2,600 acres.
Crews at the Boneyard preserve aircraft for possible future use, pull aircraft parts to supply to the field, and perform depot-level maintenance and aircraft regeneration in support of Air Force operations. | U.S. Air Force video/Andrew Breese
An F-86 Sabre sits forlorn in the field, in the shadow of its former glory. The old plane is in parts now, its wings detached and lying beside it. The canopy is missing, along with most of the interior parts of the cockpit, and the windshield is shattered – now bits of broken glass hang precariously from a spider web of cracks.
To retired Col. Bill Hosmer, it’s still beautiful. He walks around the old fighter and stares in admiration. He slides a hand over the warped metal fuselage and a flood of memories rush over him.
“I haven’t been this close to one of these in years,” he says. “Of course, that one was in a lot better shape.”
So was Hosmer. Time has weathered and aged them both, the plane’s faded paint and creased body match Hosmer’s own worn and wrinkled skin. Even the plane’s discarded wings stand as a metaphor for Hosmer’s own life now – a fighter pilot who can’t fly, standing next to a fighter jet with no wings.
Age has grounded them both, but they share something else time can’t take away: A love of flight.
“Retiring from flying is not an easy thing,” Hosmer said. “Flying is a bug you just can’t shake.”
Hosmer has done his share of flying, too. He spent more than 20 years in the Air Force, where he flew the F-86, the F-100 Super Sabre and the A-7 Corsair II. He even served a stint with the USAF Thunderbirds, the service’s air demonstration team that chooses only the best pilots.
The Sabre has always had a special place in his heart, though. It was the first plane he flew and his favorite.
“We’ve shared a lot of time together, me and this plane,” he said, patting the plane’s weathered hulk.
Ironically, Hosmer’s favorite plane is also the one that almost made him give up flying. He was in pilot training, learning how to fly the F-86, when he crashed one. The physical injuries weren’t all that bad – a busted mouth, some fractured bones and multiple bruises – and he healed from them without issue.
The damage to his psyche, though, that was a different story.
“I was scared to fly for a while after that crash,” he said. “It took me a long time to get the courage to get back in the cockpit.”
Eventually, his love to fly overtook his desire not to and he hopped back in the cockpit and rekindled his love affair with flight.
So, looking at the old F-86, Hosmer doesn’t see a broken, battered and discarded jet; he sees past glories, feels loving memories and is saying hello to an old friend.
“I made a living flying this plane,” he said. “It seems like just yesterday I was in the cockpit. But, it was really a long time ago.”
Like Hosmer’s memories, the Sabre is also a thing of the past. The plane is replaced with newer, sleeker and more technologically advanced airplanes, and those few that do remain are typically found in museums and airshows.
The one Hosmer is standing next to is different. This one now sits as part of the 309th Aerospace Maintenance and Regeneration Group at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, Ariz. Commonly referred to as “the Boneyard,” the AMARG is basically a 2,600-acre parking lot and storage facility for about 5,000 retired military aircraft.
The planes range from older ones, like the F-86 and B-52 Stratofortress, to newer ones, like the C-5 Galaxy. Though retired from active duty, each aircraft still performs a vital mission.
“Parts,” said Bill Amparano, an aircraft mechanic with the 309th AMARG. “These planes offer parts to the fleet. If a unit can’t find a replacement part for one of their aircraft, they’ll send us a request and we’ll take the part off one of our planes and send it to them.”
In other words, the AMARG is like a giant “pick-and-pull” for the Air Force, offering hard-to-find parts to units around the world. And, while it’s said the Boneyard is where planes go to die, it’s the opposite that’s true.
“They don’t come here to die, they’re just taking a break,” Amparano said.
When a plane arrives at the AMARG, it goes through an in-depth preservation process. Guns are removed, as are any ejection seat charges, classified equipment and anything easily stolen. Workers then drain the fuel system and pump in lightweight oil, which is drained again, leaving an oil coating that protects the fuel system.
A preservation service team then covers all the engine intakes, exhaust areas and any gaps or cracks in the aircraft with tape and paper and plastic. This job can take about 150 hours per aircraft.
Larger openings, such as bomb outlets and large vents, are then covered with a fiberglass mesh to keep out birds.
“If you don’t catch them in time, they can really do some damage,” said Jim Blyda, also an aircraft mechanic with the group.
This preservation process doesn’t just prepare the planes for storage; it also keeps them ready. The fully preserved planes can be called back into military service, be used as firefighting planes or even be sold to customers.
“Although some of them look like they are sitting here dead, if we reverse the process, in a couple of days, they are ready to roll,” Amparano said.
The AMARG also performs depot-level maintenance and aircraft regeneration in support of Air Force operations. Each year, the Boneyard receives and teams preserve nearly 400 aircraft, dispose of nearly another 400 aircraft and pull and ship some 18,000 parts.
Even the AMARG’s location serves a purpose. Because of Tucson’s low rainfall, low humidity and high-alkaline soil, corrosion and deterioration are kept to a minimum.
“The weather here is really perfect for storing all these planes,” said Col. Robert Lepper, 309th AMARG commander. “So if we need them, they’re ready. Some have been sitting here for decades.”
For Hosmer, this is a good thing. Without the AMARG and its preservation of the thousands of planes confined within its fences, he would not be able to stand in a field, rubbing his weathered hands over the warped, aged fuselage of an old F-86.
Neither he nor the jet fly anymore, but just the sight of the old fighter brings back memories Hosmer had long since forgotten.
Remembering them now, the memories are brought back to life – just like many of the planes within the AMARG are waiting silently, patiently, to do.
Ivan Safronov (right), adviser to the Roscosmos State Corporation General Director, remanded in custody for two months on suspicion of treason, leaves a hearing at Moscow’s Lefortovsky District Court.
Russia has arrested a former journalist on a charge of high treason for allegedly passing military secrets to a NATO government in what some are calling a clear attack on press freedoms.
Ivan Safronov Jr., who since May has been working as an adviser to the chief of Russia’s state space agency Roskosmos, was detained and searched by armed officers of the FSB security service outside his Moscow apartment on July 7 before being taken to court, where he entered a not guilty plea. The court ordered him held behind bars until September 6.
Prosecutors accuse him of passing information to the Czech Republic in 2017 about the sale of Russian arms to the Middle East and Africa, his lawyer Ivan Pavlov said. Safronov was working as a journalist at the time covering issues related to the activities of Russia’s military industrial sector. Russia claims the United States was the final beneficiary of the information, Pavlov said.
Safronov could face up to 20 years in prison, if convicted.
His arrest — the latest in a series of law enforcement actions against Russian journalists and researchers — sparked outrage among former colleagues and prompted dozens to protest outside the FSB headquarters in Moscow.
“The experience of the last few years shows that any citizen of Russia whose work is connected with public activities — whether it is a human rights defender, scientist, journalist, or employee of a state corporation — can face a serious charge at any time,” Kommersant, the newspaper where Safronov worked for a decade until last year, said in a statement on its website.
Kommersant called Safronov a “true patriot of Russia” and said the FSB allegations were “absurd.” It also called on prosecutors to make the case as open to the public as possible, saying it’s hard for people accused of treason in Russia to get a fair trial.
Andrei Soldatov, a respected journalist who has written extensively about Russia’s security services, called Safronov’s arrest “a new level of repression” against reporters.
“I can only think of one reason why this is happening – we are being told what other topics of importance for society are now off limits for all except ‘for those who should know,'” he said in a Facebook post.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov denied Safronov’s arrest was linked to his work as a reporter.
“He is accused of high treason, of passing secret data to foreign intelligence. As far as we are informed, the detainment has nothing to do with the journalistic activities Safronov was involved with in the past,” Peskov said.
Pavel Chikov, a top human rights lawyer whose organization, Agora, provides legal support to Russians detained in politically motivated cases, wrote on Telegram that police also searched the apartment of journalist Taisia Bekbulatova, who is believed to be close to Safronov.
According to Chikov, after the search she was questioned as a witness in an unspecified case along with her lawyer Nikolai Vasilyev.
TASS and Interfax both quoted unidentified sources as saying Bekbulatova is being questioned as a witness in the Safronov case.
As a journalist, Safronov mainly covered issues related to the activities of Russia’s military industrial sector, including an accident last year on an atomic submarine and the nation’s military exercises.
His father, Ivan Safronov Sr., also worked for Kommersant, focusing mainly on the military industrial complex’s operations.
Safronov Sr. died at the age of 51 after he mysteriously fell out of a corridor window in his apartment block in Moscow in 2007. Police concluded the death was a suicide, though relatives and friends say they suspect foul play.
Safronov Jr. was fired from Kommersant in May 2019 after writing an article about the possible resignation of Valentina Matviyenko, the chairwoman of the Russian parliament’s upper chamber. Matviyenko continues to serve as its chairwoman.
Safronov’s firing led to a crisis at the paper after all of the journalists in Kommersant’s politics department resigned in protest. He soon joined Vedomosti, then the nation’s leading business newspaper, before quitting following an ownership change that installed a Kremlin-friendly chief editor.
In June 2019, media reports surfaced saying that Kommersant might face administrative lawsuits for making state secrets public.
It was not clear which state secrets had been made public, but one of Safronov’s articles about Russia’s plans to deliver Su-35 military planes to Egypt was removed from the newspaper’s website.
At the time, U.S. State Secretary Mike Pompeo warned of possible sanctions against Egypt if Cairo purchased the planes from Moscow, The Bell website said.
Kommersant Director General Vladimir Zhelonkin told the Open Media group on July 7 that there were no issues with authorities related to Safronov’s article published last year in his newspaper, adding that the article in question did not contain any data that might be classified as a state secret.
Following Safronov’s detainment on July 7, more than 20 journalists were held by police as they staged single-picket protests in front of the Federal Security Service’s headquarters in Moscow. They were demanding “transparency, openness, and detailed information” on Safronov’s case.
Other journalists continued the single-picket protests, which do not require pre-approval from the authorities.
Safronov’s arrest is at least the third of a current or former journalist in the past 13 months that has garnered national attention and raised fears of a further curtailment of media freedom.
Ivan Golunov, an investigative reporter for Meduza, was arrested in Moscow in June on drug charges that were later dropped following street protests.
Police later admitted to planting the drugs on the reporter, who worked on stories about corruption at the highest echelons of the government and security services.
Svetlana Prokopyeva, a freelance contributor to RFE/RL’s Russian Service, was found guilty this month of “justifying terrorism” for a commentary she gave to a radio station.
Prosecutors sought a six-year prison term for Prokopyeva, who linked a suicide bombing with the country’s political climate.
The 1950s was a game-changing decade for the world of military aviation, especially with the rise of jet propulsion in place of propeller engines. It was in this decade that the U.S. Air Force came close to fielding one of the most advanced (for its time) “super fighters” ever conceived.
Known as the XF-108 Rapier, and designed by North American – also known for producing the widely successful P-51 Mustang – it was equipped to fly at more than three times the speed of sound for long distances, hunting down and destroying marauding Soviet bombers out to drop nuclear weapons on the US and its allies during the Cold War.
The XF-108 would also be able to complement its larger sibling, the XB-70 Valkyrie bomber, which itself was capable of achieving speeds in the Mach 3 range. Though the Valkyrie’s insane speed would be too much for Soviet air defense systems to handle, it wouldn’t hurt having a smaller fighter escort nearby that could keep up with the bomber, just in case enemy fighters made it too close for comfort.
North American sought to make its newest fighter extremely deadly, adding a Hughes AN/ASG-18 radar that was coupled to an infrared search and tracking system. Together, this sensor suite would be able to lock onto and track targets at long ranges with solid accuracy.
The XF-108’s primary weapon was the GAR-9 missile, which had a range of over 100 miles, and could fly at more than six times the speed of sound on its way to its target. The Rapier would carry three of these on an internal rotary launcher in its belly.
To give it speed, the XF-108 would use two General Electric afterburning turbojets that could pump out over 29,300 pounds of force apiece with the afterburners lit. In comparison, an F/A-18 Super Hornet’s two GE F414 turbofan engines can put out only 22,000 pounds of force apiece in burner!
However, the Rapier lost its mission rapidly with the advent of intercontinental ballistic missiles and guided cruise missiles — the latter of which could be launched from surface warships and submarines floating off the coast of the United States. Instead of sending swarms of bombers, all of which could hypothetically be shot down if responded to quickly enough, the USSR could mail nuclear weapons to the US with ICBMs, which were much more difficult to destroy.
Sadly, the Rapier never had a chance to even fly.
In late 1959, by the end of the decade, the program was shelved altogether, having only made it to the mockup stage. In a matter of months, the XF-108 was no more. Its sister plane, the XB-70 would meet a somewhat similar fate in the next decade, and would be retired from flight testing after a fatal and highly publicized accident.
Some of the technology and lessons learned in designing the XF-108 were put to use with a later North American product – the A-5/RA-5 Vigilante, which bears a considerable resemblance to its predecessor. The GAR-9 was also developed further into the AIM-47 Falcon missile, which would later be matured into the AIM-54 Phoenix, deployed with the F-14 Tomcat.
Mach 3-capable fighter jets have long since been relegated to the history books as an unnecessary hope of the past, but with improvements in propulsion technology, it’s very possible that future fighters fielded by the US military might be blessed with such incredible speed.
Conrad Heyer crossed the Delaware with George Washington. He was also the earliest-born person, one of only a handful of Revolutionary War veterans, to be photographed. But there is one important historical inaccuracy in the legend of Conrad Heyer that may not add up.
Heyer was born an American in the Massachusetts Bay Colony (now the State of Maine) around 1749. He sat for this photo in 1852, at age 103. In that time, he saw the young republic finish the British off during the American Revolution and fight them, again, to a draw in the War of 1812. He saw President Jefferson purchase Louisiana and watched President Polk and the U.S. Army defeat Santa Anna in the Mexican-American War of 1847.
In his 107 years of life, he saw 15 Presidents of the United States, 31 colonies and territories become U.S. states, and barely missed the start of the Civil War.
Although this is not the earliest photo of an American, Heyer was the earliest-born American to be photographed (and this is actually a daguerrotype — an early kind of photography).
In the telling of Conrad Heyer’s Revolutionary War tale, however, people have been adding one detail for decades that just might not be true: that Conrad Heyer crossed the Delaware with General Washington in 1776.
Washington’s daring plan to attack Hessian mercenaries in Trenton on Christmas, 1776, was audacious and dangerous. Any troop who fell into the icy river would likely die — and two of the three flat boats set to make the crossing didn’t even make it. Somehow, Heyer was counted among those in Washington’s boat, according to the Maine Historical Society.
The Journal of the American Revolution did some digging into Heyer’s story. They went back to the sworn testimony Heyer gave years after the Revolution when applying for a veteran’s pension.
In 1818, Congress allotted funds to give pensions to veterans of the Continental Army who were struggling financially. Applicants had to prove their service either by enlistment documents or sworn testimony of those they served with. Don N. Hagist went back to the National Archives for the Journal of the American Revolution and found Heyer’s original sworn testimony, along with the support of his officers.
Heyer did serve in the Continental Army, but his testimony states he served for a year, starting in the middle of December, 1775. But Heyer says he was discharged in December 1777. This could allow for Heyer to have served at the Battle of Trenton. The records of Heyer’s unit, the 25th Continental Regiment, indicate that the unit served in Canada and was disbanded in New Jersey in 1776.
It looks like the year 1777 was a mistake made by the person who wrote Heyer’s pension deposition, as mentions of Heyer and his unit disappear into history a year earlier.
If he was discharged in Fishkill, New York, as records show, then there is little chance he could have been at the Delaware River crossing in time to join Washington by Christmas, even if he did re-enlist.
But by the time he died, his obituary claimed he’d served three years in the Revolution. Heyer, in reaffirming his pension claim in 1855, swore that he served those three years and was also at the Battle of Saratoga, being present to see General John Burgoyne surrender to Horatio Gates and was later part of Washington’s “bodyguard.”
This is where Heyer could be correct — there is no complete list of members of General Washington’s guard corps. The guard was hand-picked from members of Washington’s field army.
But never once did Heyer ever swear that he was with Washington at the Delaware Crossing.