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What we know about the next version of the legendary SR-71 Blackbird

The Lockheed SR-71 Blackbird is rightly viewed as a legend. Best known as a recon plane that nobody could hit, it even was considered as the basis for a fighter and was the second-fastest manned plane in history.


It served with the United States military from 1964-1998, and with NASA until 1999. The SR-71 had been developed from the A-12 OXCART (no relation to the A-12 Avenger), a single-seat plane capable of making high-speed recon runs as well.

What we know about the next version of the legendary SR-71 Blackbird
Blackbird pilots in front of an SR-71.

It was thought satellites and drones could replace the SR-71. The problem was that satellites are predictable, and too many drones just don’t have the performance or reliability. But Lockheed’s Skunk Works, which created the A-12/YF-12/SR-71 family, is now developing a SR-72, and they promise it will be faster than the Blackbird.

Lockheed noted that the SR-71 was designed on paper with slide rules. Even without the benefit of high-technology, the SR-71 proved to be superb at its role.

The new SR-72, though, is going to leverage technology from the Falcon Hypersonic Technology Vehicle 2 to help it fly at speeds exceeding Mach 6. The HTV-2 hit Mach 20 during its flights.

What we know about the next version of the legendary SR-71 Blackbird
The factory floor of Skunk Works, where the SR-71 was manufactured. (CIA photo)

According to a report by Popular Mechanics, the SR-72 will also have a strike mission. While the exact weapons are unknown at this time, Aviation Week and Space Technology reported that plans call for a “Flight Research Vehicle” to be constructed in the early 2020s, with a full-scale version to be in service sometime in the 2030s.

As for the lucky pilots who get to fly this plane, they will not need the very bulky suits that Blackbird pilots wear. That’s because the initial plans call for the SR-72 to be a drone.

Well, no successor to the Blackbird can be perfect.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

This is the weapon NASA will use to fight Earth-ending asteroids

It has nothing to do with oil-rig workers, but it has a lot to do with America’s biggest nuclear weapon; NASA has a plan to deflect asteroids that could end all life on earth. It starts with an enormous, experimental, developing launch vehicle and ends with a massive six-shooter of America’s largest nuclear weapons.

The “Cradle,” as it is called, is out to target any near-Earth object that might get too close. And the first test could come in 2029.


What we know about the next version of the legendary SR-71 Blackbird

Behold the quintessential devil in these matters, the asteroid Apophis.

On Friday, Apr. 13, 2029, the 1,100-foot asteroid Apophis is going to pass just 19,000 miles away from the Earth. That may not seem very close, but in terms of space stuff, that’s a hair’s breadth away, uncomfortably close. Scientists are pretty sure it won’t hit Earth, but it will be close enough to knock out some satellites. What the close call does bring into question is this: what if there are other near-Earth objects out there that definitely will hit Earth?

That’s where NASA started wargaming with the cosmos. Assuming the asteroid has a mass of a million kilograms and was headed directly for Earth’s center mass, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration decided to figure out what it would take to deflect – not destroy – such a mass.

What we know about the next version of the legendary SR-71 Blackbird

That’s where nukes come in to play, specifically these B83 nuclear weapons.

Anywhere from two to five years before the projected impact, NASA would send a probe to the asteroid’s surface to read the effects of a possible impact with the another object, test its possible trajectory, and determine the best method of rerouting the celestial projectile from Earth. When the best course of action was determined, the U.S. would launch a series of missiles aboard one of its spiffy new Ares V rockets. There would be three kinds: kinetic, nuclear and solar.

The solar option would be fired into the asteroid’s orbit with a parabolic collector membrane that would focus the sun’s energy onto the object, acting as a kind of thruster to disrupt its path or destroy it into smaller, less destructive versions of itself. The kinetic war head would have an inert warhead on it, and would be designed to literally push the object away using force. The nuclear option would send the largest warhead America has, a 1.2 megaton device in a B83 warhead that can produce a mushroom cloud taller than Mount Everest. They would be detonated close to the object but not right on it or into it.

The idea is to turn its surface into an expanding plasma to generate a force to deflect the asteroid.

What we know about the next version of the legendary SR-71 Blackbird

There’s the boom.

The reason NASA can’t just outright destroy a near-Earth object was the discussion of a report from NASA and was explored in the early stages of developing this planetary defense.

“The Hollywood scenario solution of shooting several intercontinental ballistic missiles at the incoming rock is fraught with danger. It probably would not be sufficient to prevent impact, raising the additional hazard of radioactive materials from the blast being introduced into the atmosphere,” the report reads.

Hence, the plan is to give it a little push instead.

MIGHTY TRENDING

A soldier home for the holidays died trying to save people in the deadly Bronx fire

A National Guard soldier who was home for the holidays died while saving people from the massive apartment fire in the Bronx borough in New York City on Dec. 28, according to several news reports.


Emmanuel Mensah, a 28-year-old who immigrated from Ghana five years ago, returned to his apartment for the first time after joining the Army a year ago, according to The New York Times. He was among the 12 people killed in the blaze that consumed an apartment building near the corner of East 187th Street and Prospect Avenue.

Mensah lived with friends of his father — a married couple and their four children. He got that family out of the burning building safely before pulling four more people from the fire, said Twum Bredu, his uncle who lived next door. Witnesses cited in the Times’ report say Mensah disappeared after going back into the building to look for more victims.

What we know about the next version of the legendary SR-71 Blackbird
NewYork Army National Guard Pvt 1st Class Emmanuel Mensah who died during a fire in an apartment buiilding in the Bronx, New York City on Dec. 28, 2017.  (Photo courtesy New York Army National Guard Recruiting and Retention Battalion )

“He brought four people out,” Bredu told The Times. “When he went to bring a fifth person out, the fire caught up with him.”

 

Mensah is believed to have died of smoke inhalation, authorities said.

Mensah had just begun his military career, based on photos which indicate he held the rank of a private first class.

“I thought maybe he was coming back,” said his father, Kwabena Mensah, according to CBS News. “Unfortunately, it turns out the other way.”

Kwabena, who reportedly searched for his son at nearby hospitals, said he was not surprised by his son’s final act.

“That’s what I think, because it was in his nature,” Kwabena said. “He wanted to help people out.”

Four children were among the 12 people who died in the fire, which is suspected to have occurred a few minutes before 7 p.m., after a 3-year-old boy played with burners on a stove inside an apartment on the first floor, New York Fire Department’s commissioner, Daniel Nigro, said during a news conference.

Also Read: This Afghanistan vet and victim of the Las Vegas shooting posted about firefights — months before his death

Four people were critically injured from the fire and were “fighting for their lives,” Nigro said.

“It seems like a horrible, tragic accident,” Mayor Bill de Blasio said in an interview with WNYC radio.

The fire quickly spread upward in the five-story building. Over 160 firefighters responded to the incident. By 10 p.m., the fire was under control.

The fire is believed to be New York City’s deadliest since a 1990 blaze at a Bronx nightclub that killed 87 people.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

F-16XL: The F-16 with hardpoints for 27 weapons

For more than forty years, the F-16 Fighting Falcon has served as the backbone of the U.S. Air Force’s fighter fleet, but one year before the first F-16 entered service, the team behind its development had already developed a better F-16, in the F-16XL. The fighter was so capable, in fact, that it went from being nothing more than a technology demonstrator to serving as legitimate competition for the venerable F-15E in the Air Force’s Advanced Tactical Fighter program. Ultimately, it would lose out to the F-15E based on production cost and redundancy of systems, but many still contend that the F-16XL was actually the better platform.

While that assertion may be subject to debate, there’s little debate as to whether the F-16XL could have been one of the most capable 4th generation fighters on the planet.

SCAMP: The Supersonic Cruise And Maneuver Prototype

What we know about the next version of the legendary SR-71 Blackbird
Model 400 design team, starting left: Harry Hillaker, Andrew Lewis, Kenny Barnes, Jim Gordon (WikiMedia Commons)

In 1977, some three years after the first F-16 took to the skies and one year before it would enter service, its designer began work on what would come to be called the F-16 SCAMP, or the Supersonic Cruise And Maneuver Prototype. The effort wasn’t about fielding another production fighter–General Dynamics had no intention of trying to sell SCAMP once it was complete. Instead, the entire premise behind the program was to quickly (and cheaply) field a platform they could use to test the concept behind supersonic cruising, or as we’ve come to call it today, “supercruising.”

While that may sound like a capability found only on Transformers or Harleys so expensive only lawyers can buy them, the idea behind supercruising was simple, even if its execution was complex. Modern fighters like the F-16 all come equipped with afterburners they can use to dramatically increase the amount of thrust their engine produces, but it comes at a serious cost. Using the afterburner to break the sound barrier and then sustain that speed depletes an aircraft’s fuel very quickly, but if a jet could kill the afterburner at supersonic speeds and still maintain them, it would mean covering more ground at high speed, while still having enough fuel left over for a fight and the return trip home.

What we know about the next version of the legendary SR-71 Blackbird
Like literally riding an explosion. (U.S. Air Force photo)

“I remember flying in an F-16 in afterburner while supersonic over the Yellow Sea and looking down to see a fuel-flow rate of over 50,000 lbs per hour,” F-16 and F-35 pilot Justin “Hasard” Lee explained in a piece for Sandboxx News.

“To put that into perspective, that’s similar to a fire-hose operating fully open—and that’s just a single engine. A twin-engine jet such as the F-15 or F-22 can double that. The problem is, topped off, I could only carry 7,000 pounds of fuel which was enough for me to fly at that fuel-setting for less than 10 minutes.”

In order to accomplish their goal, the F-16 design would require a pretty thorough revamp. First, the wings were modified to incorporate a cranked-arrow wing shape, creating 25% more lift while allowing for effective control at both high and low speeds. Working in conjunction with NASA (and using the company’s own funds), engineer Harry Hillaker, the same man responsible for the original F-16 design, experimented repeatedly with slightly different iterations of the wings until they came to a version they referred to as Model 400.

What we know about the next version of the legendary SR-71 Blackbird
(WikiMedia Commons)

This new wing design, which saw a 50-degree angle near the root of the wing for supersonic performance and a 70-degree angle where the wings extended for subsonic handling, offered more than double the surface area of the F-16’s wings. Incredibly, Hillaker and his team were able to manage that without any increase in drag on the airframe–thanks to more than 3,600 hours of wind tunnel testing.

What we know about the next version of the legendary SR-71 Blackbird
An F-16 SCAMP model at 4% scale being tested in the NASA Basic Aerodynamics Research Tunnel (Facility 1214) at the Langley Research Center. (WikiMedia Commons)

This new design wasn’t necessarily practical, with all-moving wingtips and an all-moving vertical tail meant for control that performed poorly at low speeds. The wing design also didn’t allow for any hardpoints to mount bombs or missiles.

However, impractical as it may have been for a tactical fighter, the new wing design led to a significant increase in fuel range–and that increase could be further bolstered by leveraging the massive amount of internal space these new wings offered.

The F-16 SCAMP becomes the F-16XL

What we know about the next version of the legendary SR-71 Blackbird
An F-16XL (top) flies alongside a conventional F-16 (WikiMedia Commons)

Citing the promising results of the F-16 SCAMP effort, the U.S. Air Force chose to buy into the idea of an even-more capable version of the F-16. They provided Hillaker with two early F-16 airframes for conversion into a SCAMP-like design they dubbed the F-16XL. Although this new jet would be largely based on the existing F-16, the changes were dramatic, including two fuselage sections added near the front and back of the aircraft, increasing its length by some 56 inches. The cranked-arrow wings that had proven so effective in SCAMP were also added, along with a new form of wing skin made using carbon fiber that saved some 600 pounds in the design.

Those massive wings, now fully realized, gave the F-16XL a nearly doubled fuel capacity, and the additional lift coupled with 633 square feet of underwing space to leverage allowed for the addition of an astonishing 27 hardpoints for ordnance. Remarkably, the F-16XL seemed to outperform its smaller predecessor in nearly every way, prompting the Air Force to take an interest in the idea of actually building this new iteration fighter.

What we know about the next version of the legendary SR-71 Blackbird
An air to air left underside view of an F-16XL aircraft. The aircraft is armed with two wing tip mounted AIM-9 Sidewinder and four fuselage mounted AIM-7 Sparrow missiles along with 12 500-pound bombs. (WikiMedia Commons)

“To say that Hillaker’s design team achieved its objectives is an understatement,” wrote F. Clifton Berry Jr. in 1983. Berry was an Air Force veteran and the editor-in-chief of Air Force Magazine at the time.

As Berry pointed out, an F-16XL conducting an air-to-surface mission could carry twice the payload of the standard F-16 and still fly as much as 44% further–all without external fuel tanks and while carrying a full suite of air-to-air weapons (four AMRAAMs and two AIM-9 Sidewinders) for the fighter to defend itself. If you were to equip the F-16XL with the exact same payload as an F-16A on such a mission, the F-16XL could fly nearly twice as far as its predecessor.

But it wasn’t just about extended range and added payload. The F-16XL was capable of supersonic speeds at high or low altitudes, all while carrying its mighty payload, and had no trouble climbing quickly with bombs underwing. And even despite the added wing, fuel, and ordnance loads, the aircraft still somehow managed to fly 83 knots faster than the F-16 using military power at sea level, and more than 300 knots faster on afterburner at high altitudes, even while carrying a full bomb load.

What we know about the next version of the legendary SR-71 Blackbird
The two F-16XL prototypes carrying different weapon loadouts. (U.S. Air Force photo)

“With the heavy bomb load aboard, the F-16XL is cleared for maneuvers up to +7.2 Gs, compared with 5.58 Gs in the F-16A,” Berry wrote. “This demonstrates how the designers were able to increase the aircraft weight while maintaining structural integrity and mission performance.”

All that time in the wind tunnel clearly paid off for the F-16XL design.

The F-16XL takes on the F-15E

What we know about the next version of the legendary SR-71 Blackbird
(U.S. Air Force photo)

General Dynamics ultimately built two prototype F-16XLs for testing, but as testing progressed, it was clear that this new iteration of the F-16 design was worth more than simply demonstrating technology. In search of a useful place to put the new jet’s capabilities, the Air Force decided to enter it into the Enhanced Tactical Fighter (ETF) competition, which aimed to field a capable replacement for the F-111 Aardvark.

“The F-16XL flight-test program has conclusively demonstrated that the XL performs as predicted. This performance level represents a significant increase in mission capability for USAF,” D. Randall Kent, Vice President and Program Director for the General Dynamics F-16XL program, said at the time.

“Coupling this with the affordability and low risk of the F-16XL presents USAF with a viable way to increase mission capability while simultaneously growing to a forty-wing TAC force structure.”

Soon, the ETF program changed names to the Dual-Role Fighter program–but despite the shift in titles, the goal was the same: To field an aircraft capable of penetrating deep into enemy airspace for interdiction missions without the need for fighter escorts. The F-16XL, with its significant fuel range, good performance, and hardpoints for 27 weapons, seemed like a perfect fit for the job… But it wasn’t the only aircraft competing for the contract. Standing between the F-16XL and operational service was another highly capable platform: The F-15E Strike Eagle.

What we know about the next version of the legendary SR-71 Blackbird
The second TF-15A, AF Ser. No. 71-0291, used as an F-15E demonstrator (WikiMedia Commons)

Like the F-16XL, the Strike Eagle was a modified version of an existing fighter: The F-15 Eagle. The Eagle represented America’s top-of-the-line air superiority fighter, boasting an undefeated record in dogfights that holds to this very day. Unlike the F-16XL, however, the F-15E shared the vast majority of its design with the two-seater F-15D that was already in production.

There was no doubt that the F-16XL would likely be the more expensive option, thanks to its significant design departure from the F-16 it was based on. But it also offered a great deal of capability. Its massive wings made it more stable than the F-16 it was based on, while its wind-tunnel-tested design made all that wing area serve no detriment to the fighter’s handling.

“We climbed at more than 20,000 feet per minute, leaping from 4,000 to 27,000 feet in sixty-seven seconds. Jim eased the power back while turning into the supersonic corridor and getting cleared by Edwards Control to begin a supersonic run,” F. Clifton Berry wrote after riding in the F-16XL.

What we know about the next version of the legendary SR-71 Blackbird
General Dynamics F-16XL (S/N 75-0749) in flight. (U.S. Air Force photo)

“Jim applied afterburner and the aircraft accelerated smoothly from Mach 0.95 through 1.0 and to 1.2 in seconds. Even with the heavy bomb load aboard, the aircraft went supersonic without a tremble. Handling characteristics at mach 1.2 with the heavy ordnance load were remarkably similar to those of the standard F-16 without bombs.”

The F-15E, on the other hand, offered only 15 hardpoints–which it’s important to note, is still a lot. The F-15E also delivered a higher top speed (Mach 2.5 versus 2.05) and a higher service ceiling at 60,000 feet (compared to the F-16XL’s 50,000). Most importantly, however, the F-15E leveraged not one, but two engines. Because these aircraft were intended to fly deep into enemy airspace without much support, the Air Force believed it was likely that these planes would see a great deal of anti-aircraft fire. Having two engines meant one could be damaged by enemy fire, but the aircraft could still limp home on the other.

The F-16XL may have been one of the most capable fighters to never make it into production

What we know about the next version of the legendary SR-71 Blackbird
(WikiMedia Commons)

It was likely the perceived survivability of two engines, in conjunction with the lower cost of development, that saw the F-15E win the contract. But many within the Air Force saw the F-15E’s win as bittersweet. The Strike Eagle was indeed an incredibly capable platform, but the F-16XL’s fans felt as though the fighter wasn’t meant to compete with the Strike Eagle, so much as support it–much like the F-16 and F-15 support one another today. Like the YF-23 that lost to Lockheed Martin’s F-22 Raptor, the F-16XL has since been remembered as an aircraft that might have been better than the jet we ultimately got… with concerns about dollars and cents making the decision, rather than maximum capability.

What we know about the next version of the legendary SR-71 Blackbird
(U.S. Air Force photo)

Of course, that may not be an entirely fair assessment. The F-16XL was indeed a capable aircraft, but the F-15E has since proven itself in combat time and time again. The Strike Eagle was clearly not a bad choice, but with the F-16XL’s incredible chops in mind, there could be little doubt that the Air Force would have been better off with both of these capable fighters in their stable… if only money truly were no object.

What we know about the next version of the legendary SR-71 Blackbird
The F-16XL flying under NASA (NASA photo)

Instead of fighting alongside the Strike Eagle as many hoped, the F-16XL program found its way to NASA, where both prototypes participated in a number of aeronautical research projects. In fact, some of the tests conducted using the F-16XL would go on to play a role in developing the supercruise capability for America’s top-tier air superiority fighter of today, the F-22 Raptor.

This article originally appeared on Sandboxx. Follow Sandboxx on Facebook.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Manhattan terrorist asked to fly ISIS flag in hospital

The man who allegedly killed eight people on Oct. 31 in the worst terror attack New York City has seen since 9/11 had planned to continue his rampage down the West Side Highway and onto the Brooklyn Bridge, according to a criminal complaint released Wednesday.


Federal prosecutors charged Sayfullo Saipov, a 29-year-old immigrant from Uzbekistan, with providing support to the terrorist group ISIS. He is also facing charges of violence and destruction of motor vehicles.

Saipov, who is in police custody and recovering from his injuries at Bellevue Hospital, waived his Miranda rights verbally and spoke to law enforcement officials about the attack, the complaint said.

What we know about the next version of the legendary SR-71 Blackbird
NYPD Counterterrorism officers are investigating an attack that killed 8 and injured more in lower Manhattan on October 31, 2017. The attack is being considered a terrorist attack.

He told authorities he began planning an attack in the US roughly one year ago, and decided two months ago to use a truck “in order to inflict maximum damage against civilians.” He also said he chose the date of Oct. 31 because it was Halloween — a date he believed would draw more civilians out onto the street.

Saipov’s original plan was to plow the rented truck into civilians near the West Side Highway and the drive on to the Brooklyn Bridge to continue the bloodshed. Saipov never made it to the Brooklyn Bridge as he crashed the truck into a school bus near the West Side Highway’s bicycle path.

Also Read: This is what makes the NYC attacker a terrorist

From there, Saipov exited the truck while yelling “Allahu Akbar,” Arabic for “God is great,” and brandished a paintball gun and pellet gun. According to the complaint, Saipov also had a bag of knives, but left them in the truck before exiting.

He also admitted to writing the note found by authorities, which they said was written in Arabic and said the Islamic State would endure forever.

What we know about the next version of the legendary SR-71 Blackbird
Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. Still from an image released by Al-Furqan media group.

Saipov said he was was motivated to carry out the attack after watching a video featuring ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi asking what Muslims in the US were doing to respond to the killing of Muslims in Iraq.

Saipov also told authorities he had intended to display the black-and-white ISIS flags in the front and rear of his truck, but eventually decided against it so as not to draw attention to himself.

The complaint also noted that Saipov had asked during his interview with authorities if he could display the ISIS flag in his hospital room. He told them that “he felt good about what he had done,” the complaint said.

MIGHTY CULTURE

This entrepreneur wants you to know military veterans are more than the uniform

It’s easy to see American military members in uniform and sort of lump them all in together as a single unit – that’s kind of the point of part of their lives. But it’s only a part of their lives. Once the uniform is off or they’re out of the military, what remains is a person. The Military Fresh Network aims to show that U.S. military members can serve their country while being the unique individuals they were created to be.


The Military Fresh Network provides them a platform to promote their real passions. From music to fitness, active military members and veterans alike turn to the Military Fresh Network to join a family and put their talents to work for them.

What we know about the next version of the legendary SR-71 Blackbird

(Military Fresh Network)

If you look at Hank Robinson’s (above) ten years of Army infantry service, with his three Bronze Stars and Combat Infantryman Badge, you might be quick to lump him in with the stereotypical infantry grunt and all the baggage which might come along with it. But get to know the person and you’ll see a man who became enamored with metal work – so enamored he started his own engraving business after spending years perfecting his chosen art form. This is a man who now helps others work through PTSD via art therapy.

Then you realize you were too quick to judge. We all are. It’s sometimes hard to see past the decorations and the uniform. The Military Fresh Network is here to help change all that. Jimmy Cox, the founder of the Military Fresh Network, is as passionate about the talents of the people on the network as he is about his own.

What we know about the next version of the legendary SR-71 Blackbird

Gabrielle Torres funded her college education through Miss America scholarships, but the dual-bachelors student will also be an Army officer upon graduation.

(Military Fresh Network)

“This is finally something we can do and show for ourselves,” says Cox, a 23-year veteran of the U.S. Army. “The reason so many people don’t join the military today is the same reason they didn’t join ten years ago – they don’t want who they are to get lost. But it doesn’t have to be that way. Your life does not have to be on hold while you wear the uniform. The Military Fresh Network shows them that. “

On the Military Fresh Network’s website, you can see the stories of dozens of America’s finest troops, officer and enlisted, who took the oath to support and defend the Constitution of the United States out of uniform and in their natural habitat. There, you can read their stories, see the faces of the men and women who serve, and realize their talents and skills in a way never before seen – ordinary people doing extraordinary things.

What we know about the next version of the legendary SR-71 Blackbird

Air Force veteran, Navy spouse, and fitness professional Tarryn Garlington is also a civilian working for the Army.

The site is broken down by branch of service and by the kind of skills and talent on display. Here you can see military members at their finest, playing musical instruments, bodybuilding, giving fitness tips, even showing off their street art and business savvy. It truly is a way to get to know America’s vets as real people, to interact with them, and appreciate people on a new level.

“I had my own following when I started in graphic design,” says Ana Valencia, a U.S. Army senior NCO who is also a Military Fresh Network volunteer. “The Military Fresh Network provided me with a huge platform for my work, so I became a huge advocate.”

In 2019, the Military Fresh Network will even be joining the ranks of the Military Influencer Conference sponsors. If you’re interested in starting your own business and don’t know where to begin, the Military Influencer Conferences are the perfect place to start. There, you can network with other veteran entrepreneurs while listening to the best speakers and panels the military-veteran community of entrepreneurs can muster. Visit the Military Influencer Conference website for more information.

Then you can post your own business skills on The Military Fresh Network.

Articles

5 differences between the Navy and Coast Guard

What we know about the next version of the legendary SR-71 Blackbird
(Photo: USCG)


When people consider joining the military, many times they get confused about the differences between branches, especially when those branches have missions that, at a glance, seem similar. In the case of the Navy and the Coast Guard, they both have boats and airplanes and operate around the water. So how are they different?

Well, here are five major ways:

1. Size

The Navy has a $148 billion budget for Fiscal Year 15. The Navy has around 325,000 active service members and 107,000 reserve service members.

The Coast Guard has a $9.8 billion budget for fiscal year 2015. The Coast Guard has 43,000 active service members and 8,000 reserve service members.  In terms of size, the U.S. Coast Guard by itself is the world’s 12th largest naval force.

What we know about the next version of the legendary SR-71 Blackbird

 (U.S. Navy photo by Photographer’s Mate Airman Apprentice Patrick Gearhiser)

2. Assets

The U.S. Navy has 272 deployable combat ships and more than 3,700 aircraft in active service (as of March 2015).

The Coast Guard operates nearly 200 cutters, defined as any vessel more than 65 feet long, and about 1,400 boats, defined as any vessel less than 65 feet long, which generally work near shore and on inland waterways. The service also has approximately 204 fixed and rotary wing aircraft that fly from 24 Coast Guard Air Stations throughout the contiguous United States, Alaska, Hawaii, and Puerto Rico.

What we know about the next version of the legendary SR-71 Blackbird

3. Mission

The Navy is a warfighting force governed by Title 10 of the U.S. Code and is part of the Department of Defense. The mission of the U.S. Navy is to maintain, train, and equip combat-ready naval forces capable of winning wars, deterring aggression and maintaining freedom of the seas.

The Coast Guard is a maritime law enforcement and search and rescue entity governed by Title 14 of U.S. Code and is part of the department of homeland security. (Prior to 2004 it was part of the Department of Transportation.) However, under 14 U.S.C. § 3 as amended by section 211 of the Coast Guard and Maritime Transportation Act of 2006, upon the declaration of war and when Congress so directs in the declaration, or when the President directs, the Coast Guard operates under the Department of Defense as a service in the Department of the Navy.

What we know about the next version of the legendary SR-71 Blackbird

4. Career

The Navy is organized into eight different warfare communities: Surface, Amphibious, Undersea, Air, Special Operations (SEALS), Expeditionary Warfare (EOD, Construction, Riverine), Cyber Warfare/Information Dominance, and Space.  These communities offer a number of career options for those interested in driving and maintaining ships, airplanes, or submarines or fighting the nation’s bad guys in direct ways.  The Navy also needs doctors and lawyers and supply types as well as a host of other support jobs that are both rewarding in uniform and sought after on the civilian side.

The Coast Guard’s 11 mission areas — ports, waterways, and coastal security; drug interdiction; aids to navigation; search and rescue; living marine resources; marine safety; defense readiness; migrant interdiction; marine environmental protection; ice operations; and other law enforcement — also give myriad career options to those interested in ships (albeit smaller ones) and airplanes.  The main difference is the USCG’s overall mission is not to wage war but to enforce maritime law.  That’s not to say that Coast Guardsmen aren’t ever involved in trigger-pulling – quite the contrary.  In fact, those involved in mission areas like drug interdiction and other law enforcement operations are arguably more likely to use their weapons than the average fleet sailor.

Coast Guard aviation candidates go through the U.S. Navy’s flight school curriculum.  (There have even been two USCG astronauts.)

Despite the fact the Coast Guard falls under DHS, members are subject to the Uniform Code of Military Justice and receive the same pay and allowances as members of the same pay grades in the other four armed services.

What we know about the next version of the legendary SR-71 Blackbird
(Photo: U.S. Navy)

5. Duty stations

The U.S. Navy has bases worldwide and assignments are based primarily on warfare specialty.  For instance, if you’re an aviator you’ll be based at an air station in places like San Diego or Virginia Beach as well as deployed aboard an aircraft carrier that can cruise anywhere around the world the situation demands.

Coast Guard has air stations for helicopter and other aircraft, boat stations for launching small boats, and sectors and districts to coordinate the activities of all those assets. Coast Guard stations are located at intervals along the coast of the continental US-based on the response time for search and rescue missions. Those same units also perform coastal security missions.

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Warriors in their Own Words: the Wild Weasels cleared enemy skies over Vietnam

During the Vietnam War, the Republic F-105 Thunderchief — affectionately known as the “Thud” — was one of the U.S. Air Force’s primary strike aircraft. But amidst mounting losses from North Vietnamese surface-to-air missiles and anti-aircraft artillery, the Thud took on a new role — the Wild Weasel.

The Wild Weasels of the United States Air Force were some of the most courageous pilots in Vietnam. In a deadly game of cat and mouse, they flew fighter jets like the F-100, F-105 and F-4s deep into hostile airspace to coax the enemy into opening fire with their surface-to-air missiles. Once the Weasels located the site, other fighter bombers were called in to destroy the installations. In this episode of Warriors in their Own Words, Jerry Hoblit, Bill Sparks, Mike Gilroy, and Tom Wilson tell dramatic stories of their days as Wild Weasels.


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F-105s take off on a mission to bomb North Vietnam, 1966.

(USAF)

A history of the Wild Weasels

The F-105 was originally conceived as a single-seat, tactical nuclear strike-fighter. In the early days of the war, these single-seat variants, F-105D’s, flew strike missions with Combat Air Patrol provided by F-100s to defend against MiG fighters.

However, during Operation Rolling Thunder in 1965, North Vietnamese air defenses improved with the addition of Soviet-made SA-2 Guideline missiles.

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F-105 with Wild Weasel tail code carrying AGM-45 Shrike anti-radiation missile.

(USAF)

As American losses mounted from North Vietnamese SAMs and AAA, the decision was made to employ specialized F-100F two-seat fighters in a suppression role code-named “Wild Weasel.”

When the idea of flying directly into enemy air defenses was first briefed to the men flying the mission, an Electronic Warfare Officer gave the Wild Weasels their first motto by exclaiming,

“You gotta be sh*ttin’ me!”

After heavy losses in just seven weeks, it quickly became apparent that the F-100 was an insufficient aircraft to carry out the missions. The first Wild Weasel unit flying F-100’s was declared combat ineffective.

As luck would have it, Republic had produced two-seat trainer variants of the F-105 shortly before the end of the production run in 1964. These were quickly modified as the F-105F and rushed into the Wild Weasel role.

The newest Thud was also equipped to carry the first ever anti-radiation missile, the AGM-45 Shrike. These initial aircraft were designated Wild Weasel II.

Even with the improved F-105F, the tactics often remained the same as with the F-100. Using hunter-killer teams, a Wild Weasel aircraft would guide a flight of Thuds loaded with bombs and rockets to find the SAM sites and destroy them.

The Wild Weasel was essentially the bait.

Using their advanced radars and warning devices — or sometimes good ol’ drawing enemy fire — the Wild Weasels would “ferret out” the SAM sites, which then allowed the Thuds to come in and pulverize the position. This was often accomplished by simply following the missile’s smoke trail back to its launch site.

As the F-105F models were upgraded to G-models, known as Wild Weasel III, the Air Force began to change the tactics employed. The Wild Weasels would fly in ahead of a strike package to clear the area of SAMs, stay over the target during the bombing raid in order to attack any other SAMs or AAA that appeared, and then maintain their position until the bombers left the area, at which time they themselves would head for home as well.

This led to incredibly long, dangerous missions for the Wild Weasel crews–often three to five hours of intense flying in hostile air space. It also led to another motto for the Wild Weasels: “First In, Last Out.”

The Wild Weasel mission was exceedingly dangerous, but there was no shortage of brave, if not slightly crazy, volunteers willing to carry it out. Two Wild Weasel Thud pilots would be awarded the Medal of Honor for their gallantry in the air.

The first was awarded to Maj. Merlyn Dethlefsen for his actions on March 10, 1967.

Dethlefsen was flying number 3 in a Wild Weasel flight codenamed Lincoln assigned to protect a strike package of F-105Ds on a mission to hit the Thai Nguyen steel factory.

As his flight entered the target area, the lead engaged in a duel with a SAM site but was shot down while his wingman, Lincoln 02, was put out of action by flak. This left Dethlefsen and his wingman, Lincoln 04, to deal with the SAMs in the area. As Dethlefsen dove for an attack on the SAM site, he was jumped by two MiG-21 fighters.

Dodging two enemy missiles, he fled for cover in the enemy’s flak zone, betting that his pursuers wouldn’t follow. He again pressed the attack on the SAM and was again driven off by the fighters, his Thud absorbing several 37mm cannon shells.

As the strike package egressed from the area Dethlefsen decided to try one more time to destroy the SAM site. Leading his wingman in, he fired his AGM-45 and destroyed the radar. With the defenses down, the two Thuds pummeled the site with their bomb loads.

For good measure Dethlefsen rolled over and strafed the site with his 20mm cannon.

The second Medal of Honor was awarded to Lt. Col. Leo Thorsness for his actions on April 19, 1967. While leading a Wild Weasel mission of F-105’s, Thorsness and his wingman attacked and destroyed a SAM with missiles. Spotting another SAM, they proceeded to move in and destroy it with their bomb loads.

However, Thorsness’ wingman was shot down in the attack. The two crewmen bailed out and as they descended, Thorsness circled them to provide protection and maintain sight for the inbound rescue crews. As he did this, a MiG-17 approached.

Thorsness quickly responded and blasted the MiG with his 20mm cannon, sending it to the ground. As the rescue crews approached the scene, Thorsness peeled off to refuel; however, hearing of more MiG-17’s in the area, he quickly returned to the fight. Seeing the enemy fighters attempting a wagon wheel maneuver, he drove straight in and raked a MiG as it crossed his path.

Thorsness bugged out on afterburners at low-level to avoid the pursuing fighters. Eventually Thorsness was forced to return to base, almost out of fuel. He put his plane into a “glide” and landed at a forward air base with empty tanks.

Eventually high losses and improving technology would see many F-105’s replaced by the newer F-4 Phantom II in the Wild Weasel and strike roles, though F-105G’s continued to operate as Wild Weasels through the end of the war.

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From cheeseburger pizza to custard pie: the favorite foods of US presidents

It’s not easy leading a country through wars and economic strife. All that hard work can in fact, make any man or woman hungry.


From cheeseburger pizza to custard pie, these are some of the favorite meals of US presidents.

Harry S. Truman

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Public Domain

Famous chefs, including the easily-irritable Gordon Ramsay, have been known to criticize awell-done steak. Not Harry S. Truman though — he was once quoted as saying, “only coyotes and predatory animals eat raw beef.”

The 33rd President also enjoyed chocolate cake, chicken and dumplings, custard pie, and fried chicken.

Source: Food and Wine, First We Feast

Dwight D. Eisenhower

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National Public Radio

Who could be surprised that as a military man, President Dwight D. Eisenhower had a sweet side.

Once First Lady Mamie Eisenhower came out with her fudge recipe, it became a newfound favorite.

His staff eventually came out with the President’s cookbook that contained a slew of different recipes.

Source: Fox News, Eisenhower Presidential Library

John F. Kennedy

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Public Domain

Hailing from Bah-stan, John F. Kennedy was known to be inseparable from Bostonian dishes. According to his chef, one of his favorite dishes included New England chowder.

At one of his favorite oyster restaurants he used to frequent, they even have “The Kennedy Booth”,  a table that was dedicated to him.

Source: Food and Wine, First We Feast

Lyndon B. Johnson

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National Public Radio

As the President, you have at your disposal a button to send the world into a nuclear ice age. Fortunately, Lyndon B. Johnson used that power to instead install a button that was dedicated to have an aide bring him some Fresca.

Earlier in his political career, he was reported to have a hamburger for lunch every day.

Source: Food and Wine, First We Feast

Richard Nixon

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File photo

If something smelled rotten in the White House, it may not have just been a White House scandal. President Richard Nixon was well-known to love his cottage cheese. It didn’t just end there though — the only President to resign in US history loved to have ketchup with his beloved cottage cheese.

Source: First We Feast

Gerald Ford

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Creative Commons

President Gerald Ford’s favorite food was a savory pot roast and butter pecan ice cream.

As the president to pardon Nixon for his scandal, he seemed to have also forgave him for his offensive choice of food.

Source: Gerald R. Ford Presidential Library and Museum

James Carter

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The White House

As a Southerner born and bred, President Jimmy Carter loved his corn bread. In addition, the 39th president and Nobel Peace Prize recipient had a fondness for sirloin steak, and nuts.

Source: MSN, Nobel Prize

Ronald Reagan

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Ronald Reagan Presidential Library Museum

As a hero for many in the Republican party, President Ronald Reagan’s economic policies has been debated for decades. However, he seldom showed his conservative side when it came to his favorite food: Jelly Belly jelly beans.

As a voracious consumer of these little treats, over three tons were consumed during his presidential inauguration in 1981.

He even had a special cup-holder designed for Air Force One so his jar of Jelly Belly beans wouldn’t spill during turbulence.

Source: Jelly Belly, First We Feast

George H. W. Bush

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History.com

During an interview with Time magazine in 1988, George H. W. Bush mentioned one of his favorite foods was pork rinds with Tabasco sauce.

Afterwards, pork rind sales increased by 11-percent, and he was subsequently awarded ‘Skin Man of the Year’ by the pork-rind industry. Talk about being influential.

Source: Food and Wine

Bill Clinton

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YouTube

Just like a hot, juicy sex scandal, President Bill Clinton loved his hot and greasycheeseburgers. 

Adorned with lettuce, tomato, mayonnaise, pickles and onions, his love for burgers was evenportrayed on an episode of Saturday Night Live. After health complications, he decided he would become a vegan in 2011.

Source: Food and Wine

George W. Bush

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YouTube

In July 2007, then-White House chef Cristeta Comerford revealed that President George W. Bush loves his “home-made cheeseburger pizzas,” which is a Margherita pizza topped with minced meat, cheese, lettuce, and pickles (ew!).

President Bush also enjoys home-made chips, peanut butter, cinnamon bread, and pickles.

Source: SkyNews, The Guardian

Barack Obama

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Flickr

When asked what his favorite snack food is by comedian Jerry Seinfeld on the latest season of “Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee,” President Obama quickly said, “nachos.”

“That’s one of those where I have to have it taken away. I’ll have guacamole coming out of my eyeballs.”

Source: Comedians In Cars Getting Coffee, Food Wine

 

MIGHTY CULTURE

Check out this footage of life on a 1960’s aircraft carrier

The footage below is taken from “Flying Clipper,” a “monumental documentary about the adventures of a Swedish sailing ship, which travels into the Mediterranean in the early 1960s.”

Filmed in 1962 with specially designed 70mm cameras, “Flying Clipper” was the first German film produced in this high-resolution large format. The documentary was recently scanned in 4K and digitally restored, so that it could be marketed as 4K UHD, Blu-Ray and DVD.

Besides the Côte d’Azur, the Greek islands and the pyramids of Egypt, “Flying Clipper” included also more than 5 minutes of footage from aboard USS Shangri-La (CVA-38), one of 24 Essex-class aircraft carriers completed during or shortly after World War II for the United States Navy.


With the CVG-10 on board, the USS Shangri-La was involved in a 6-month Mediterranean Sea cruise with the 6th Fleet Area Of Responsibility between February and August 1962. The clip shows with outstanding details the “blue waters operations” of the F4D-1 Skyray fighters with the VF-13; the A-4D Skyhawks of the VA-106 and VA-46; and the F-8U Crusaders of the VMF-251 and VFP-2.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JROmHzavjA8
USS Shangri-La

www.youtube.com

You can also spot some AD-6 Skyraider of the VA-176 while the opening scene shows the vivid colors of one of the HUP-3 helicopter of the HU-2.

There was much less technology aboard to launch and recover aircraft, and “bolters” (when the aircraft misses the arresting cable on the flight deck) and “wave-offs” (a go around during final approach) were seemingly quite frequent.

By the way, don’t you like the high-visibility markings sported by the aircraft back then?

This article originally appeared on The Aviationist. Follow @theaviationist on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Air Force says no plan to recall retired pilots

An amended executive order gave the Defense Department the authority to recall up to 1,000 retired pilots to address a personnel shortage.


The Air Force says it doesn’t currently intend to recall those pilots however.

The Air Force says it doesn’t plan to use new authority granted by an amended executive order to recall retired pilots to correct an ongoing personnel shortage.

“The Air Force does not currently intend to recall retired pilots to address the pilot shortage,” Air Force spokeswoman Ann Stefanek said on Oct. 22. “We appreciate the authorities and flexibility delegated to us.”

Trump signed the order on Oct. 20, granting additional authority to the Defense Department under Executive Order 13223.

A Pentagon spokesman said on Oct. 20 that Defense Secretary Jim Mattis requested the move.

Mattis was expected to delegate to the Air Force secretary the authority to recall up to 1,000 retired pilots for up to three years.

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US Air Force by Senior Airman Kenny Holston

The Air Force is currently about 1,500 pilots shy of the 20,300 it is mandated to have. About 1,000 of those absent are fighter pilots. Some officials have deemed the shortage a “quiet crisis.”

Under current law, the Air Force was limited to recalling 25 pilots; the executive order temporarily lifts that cap.

The Air Force has already pursued a number of new policies to retain current pilots and train new ones. In August, the service announced that it would welcome back up to 25 retired pilots who elected to return to fill “critical-rated staff positions” so active-duty pilots could continue in their current assignments.

MIGHTY TRENDING

ISIS is staging attacks to send a message: We’re back

An ISIS attack on an Iraqi oil field checkpoint that killed at least two members of the Iraqi security forces sends a clear message: ISIS sees itself making a comeback, and it wants the world to know.

Earlier this week, ISIS attacked security forces at a check point near Allas oilfield, in Iraq’s Salahuddin province — a site that was one of the terror group’s main sources of income during the territorial caliphate.

“The important thing to note here is that ISIS attacked a checkpoint near the oil field,” said Brandon Wallace, a counterterrorism researcher at the Institute for the Study of War, who said it’s an indication that ISIS is going after symbolic or economically vital targets likely to be guarded by security forces.


The group is also trying to disrupt the social fabric in Iraq by going after village leaders, Wallace told Insider.

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Iraqi army soldiers.

(Public domain)

“If you take out the right guy in a village in one area, that can have much longer-lasting impact on the stability of the community,” he said, creating an environment in which ISIS is actually a viable alternative.

The group seeks to do the same across the porous border in Syria.

Over the past month, ISIS has made or attempted attacks in Raqqa, the former capital of its caliphate. Raqqa was liberated by the SDF and coalition forces in 2017, but ISIS could be attempting to destabilize the area, according to The International Crisis Group.

“The group is thought to have more sophisticated clandestine networks in al-Raqqa and al-Hasaka provinces, where it perpetrates relatively complex and ambitious attacks,” according to a report titled, “Averting an ISIS Resurgence in Iraq and Syria.” Alleged attacks in Raqqa city, the report says, indicate that Raqqa’s security situation is declining, which could be further precipitated by the Turkish incursion.

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Destroyed neighborhood in Raqqa, August 2017.

(Public domain)

“The ISIS attacks in Raqqa, you could think of them destabilizing the security forces in that area because ISIS is intending to destabilize Raqqa,” Wallace told Insider. “A stable Raqqa is a political alternative to ISIS” — something the group seeks to eliminate. Vehement protests against regime troops, now making their way into the area around Deir Ezzor and other former SDF-held areas, could also open up potential for ISIS recruitment, according to Jason Zhou, the Hertog War Studies Fellow at the Institute for the Study of War.

But while ISIS attacks may be growing in sophistication, “the operational environment has changed,” Wallace told Insider. Less sectarian fighting in Iraq and a stronger security environment there — not to mention the visceral memories of people living under the caliphate — would make it harder for the group to resurge.

But continued chaos in Syria — demonstrated by Syria envoy James Jeffrey’s admission on Oct. 23, 2019, that more than 100 ISIS prisoners had escaped since the Turkish incursion and that the US has no idea where they are — will inevitably affect Iraq, too.

One thing is for certain, Wallace told Insider.

“ISIS absolutely intends to rule terrain again.”

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

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This is why you don’t pretend to be blind to collect benefits

He pretended to be blind so that he could receive benefits. But the Reno County man was spotted driving his car in Wichita, and on Sept. 6 he was sentenced in federal court.


Billy J. Alumbaugh, 62, of Turon, was sentenced to three years of probation and must also repay $70,000 in benefits he received, US Attorney Tom Beall said in a prepared statement. Alumbaugh pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to defraud the government. His ex-wife, Debra Alumbaugh, 58, pleaded guilty to concealing the crime.

In his plea, Alumbaugh admitted he falsely represented to the Veterans Administration that he was blind and home-bound in order to receive monthly pension benefits. In truth, he was able to drive and engage in other routine life activities without assistance.

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Justice may be blind, but Billy J. Alumbaugh is not. Photo from public domain.

His wife accompanied him to medical visits during which they pretended he was blind and depended on her for help. Alumbaugh, who served in the US Army from 1973 to 1976, received the supplemental assistance from 2009 to 2016, according to the federal indictment that charged him.

Billy Alumbaugh was seen with his ex-wife arriving at the VA hospital in Wichita last October, according to the indictment. Debra Alumbaugh was seen driving the car and she went on to help Billy Alumbaugh out of the car and into the complex.

After the appointment, they left in the vehicle with Debra Alumbaugh behind the wheel. After she drove for a few blocks, she pulled over and they switched seats, according to the indictment.

She was sentenced to a year of probation.

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