President promises record war games in Korea if they resume - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY TRENDING

President promises record war games in Korea if they resume

President Donald Trump canceled joint military exercises with South Korea as a concession to the North for the complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula during his summit with Kim Jong Un in June 2018, but a White House statement released on Aug. 29, 2018, warned that, if he decides to restart the drills, the war games “will be far bigger than ever before.”

Negotiations between the US and North Korea have hit a snag. Aug. 24, 2018, the president canceled what would have been Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s fourth trip to Pyongyang after receiving a reportedly “belligerent” letter that warned that talks are “again at stake and may fall apart.”


In the White House statement, Trump put the blame for the breakdown in bilateral negotiations on China, which the president accused of providing the North with assistance that Trump characterized as “not helpful!” He suggested that China is pressuring North Korea to act out due to Beijing’s dissatisfaction with the ongoing trade spat with Washington.

A report from Vox on Aug. 29, 2018, however, suggested that North Korea may be expressing frustration with the Trump administration’s failure to make a good on a reported promise Trump made to Kim in Singapore, a promise to sign a declaration ending the Korean War.

The president explained that, despite setbacks, he considers his relationship with North Korea to be a “warm one,” adding that he sees no reason to spend “large amounts of money on joint U.S.-South Korea war games.”

He is apparently optimistic that his administration will be able to resolve disputes with both China and North Korea in an acceptable manner.

Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis explained Aug.28, 2018, at the Pentagon that the US suspended several large joint exercises in 2018 to provide space for American diplomats to negotiate with their North Korean counterparts to address key issues.

He left the door open for the possibility that joint drills with South Korea could resume should conditions require such an action.

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

MIGHTY TACTICAL

5 reasons why paracord is one of the most useful items in supply

Paracord, commonly known as “550-cord,” is a simple, nylon, kernmantle rope that was originally used by paratroopers in World War II for suspension lines. The tiny bit of fabric is designed to have a minimum breaking strength of 550 lbs — hence the unofficial name.

But the usefulness of paracord has extended far beyond Airborne units. Throughout the decades that’ve followed its introduction, troops have found many creative and ingenious uses for the cord. Here’s what makes it such a versatile tool:


President promises record war games in Korea if they resume

Just ask — they’ve got more than they know what to do with.

(Photo by Senior Airman Nathan Clark)

It’s abundant in nearly every supply room

The main reason why so troops use paracord for virtually everything is that supply rooms have spools of it laying around. If you ask nicely, they can toss you a bunch off the hand receipts.

On a post-9/11 deployment, the cord (and ponchos that are rarely used in the desert) is used to zone tents, marking off the area “owned” by each troop.

President promises record war games in Korea if they resume

It can technically hold your weight, but that’s on you…

(Photo by Spc. Abigail R. Graham)

It can secure anything

The cord can support up to 550 pounds before you run the risk of snapping it. For most tasks, this is more than enough. Because of its strength, it’s the go-to tie-down strap for many military operations.

It’s used for everything, from acting as a stand-in shoelace or belt to securing sensitive equipment, like NVGs and rifle optics. The U.S. Army trusts paracord.

President promises record war games in Korea if they resume

Never underestimate the power of bored troops.

(Photo by EJ Hersom)

It’s perfect for arts and crafts

On a deployment, you’ll have plenty of downtime. Troops get pretty ingenious when coming up with ways to pass that extra time. It’s not uncommon to see troops learning how to make key chains, rosaries, and survivalist bracelets out of 550-cord.

The idea here is that if a troop ever needs some cord, they can snap off the plastic that holds their little doll together and unwind several feet of it for good use. When a troop doesn’t need some cord, they have a toy. Joy!

President promises record war games in Korea if they resume

You know a veteran was up there when they came up with this idea.

(NASA Courtesy Photo)

It can be used everywhere

The cord is remarkably durable. The strength comes from the interwoven braids and the outer cord protects those braids from withering in the elements, making it water and sand resistant. 550-cord can easily hold together a radio antennae through a hot Afghan summer.

But it really has been used everywhere. In a 1993 repair of the Hubble Space Telescope, senior engineer Mark Neuman fixed things up with thermal blankets with 35 feet of paracord. This means that the -billion-dollar astrological marvel was fixed using about of paracord.

President promises record war games in Korea if they resume

So, why not just keep a key chain or bracelet made of paracord? It’s also a great way of identifying other veterans in the civilian world.

(Photo by Jean Paul Gibert)

It can become a makeshift anything

If you’re in a bind and all you have is your trusty paracord bracelet, you’re in luck because this stuff can be made into anything. The cord’s guts can be great for sewing, fishing, and starting a fire while the outside can make a great shoe lace or trap.

Some have even saved lives by using it as an impromptu tourniquet.

MIGHTY HISTORY

The spy who gave nukes to the USSR applied for a veteran’s pension

In 1999, a U.S. Army World War II veteran applied for his Social Security pension. There would have been nothing out of the ordinary for any other vet down on his luck. He knew that any veteran of WWII was able to apply at the Social Security office for special benefits for Army vets during that war. Later that year, 1999, he received a notification by mail, with just one line:

“We are writing to tell you that you do not qualify for retirement benefits.”

The veteran applying for that bit of extra cash every month applied from the U.S. Embassy in Moscow. His name was George Koval, and just 50 years prior, he was giving the Soviet Union the information it needed (and couldn’t produce itself) to build an atomic bomb.

President promises record war games in Korea if they resume

What a tool.

The American-born Koval actually moved to Russia in his early years with his family. It was there he was recruited by Soviet intelligence to return to the United States and work as a spy. He came back to the mainland U.S. by way of San Fransisco, moved to New York, and became an electrical engineer for a company subcontracting to General Electric. Except this company was a front company owned by Soviet spies. Koval soon became the head of his own GRU-led cell.

Then, he was drafted to fight in World War II. But instead of fighting in the Infantry, he was sent to the City Colleges of New York to study more and prepare for his real assignment – the Manhattan Project.

President promises record war games in Korea if they resume

George Koval (middle row, first from the right) and classmates at CCNY.

Koval was transferred to Oak Ridge, Tenn. where he became the projects public safety officer. He had unfettered access to everything in the Manhattan Project, especially the radioactive elements necessary to trigger the fission that would create the world’s largest explosions. He sent everything back to the Soviet Union, including production processes for plutonium, uranium, and polonium. The coup de gras, however, was the polonium initiators that triggered the fission reaction. The Soviets got those designs too.

Agent DELMAR, Kovals code name, was given unrestricted access to all the top sites of the Project. He freely walked around the halls of the Dayton, Ohio facility where polonium triggers were manufactured. He had free access to the Los Alamos National Laboratory where the triggers were integrated into the greater design. Koval was basically able to guide Soviet scientists through the process, step-by-step. He sent information back to the Soviets for three years, between 1943 and 1946.

President promises record war games in Korea if they resume

Koval, later in life.

Eventually, the heat started getting to Koval, so he decided to apply for a passport. He told friends and colleagues he was going to Europe or Israel, but he left one day and never returned. Koval escaped to the USSR, where he was discharged from the Soviet military as an unskilled rifleman and given the appropriate pension… which probably wasn’t much. That’s likely the first step in what led him to apply for special benefits at the U.S. Embassy in Moscow that day in 1999. The United States never suspected his involvement until the mid-1950s. By 1999, he was an FBI legend.

Koval lived until 2006 when President Vladimir Putin posthumously declared him a Hero of Russia for being the only spy to ever get into the Manhattan Project – much too late to get that pension.

MIGHTY TRENDING

These are the new ‘most-wanted’ al-Qaeda terrorists

Osama bin Laden is dead. ISIS has been disbursed to the winds. Al-Baghdadi saw the wrong side of Army Special Forces. That means it’s open season on terrorists’ most-wanted leaders. Since no one usually wants to carry this mantle, the United States government sometimes has to decide for them. In the weeks following the death of ISIS’ first caliph, the State Department announced a $10 million reward for two members of our old enemy, al-Qaeda.


President promises record war games in Korea if they resume

If you’re looking for a cool couple of million and have some spare time…

Michael Evanoff, the assistant secretary for diplomatic security, told reporters that the State Department was announcing a reward for two senior members of al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula. It’s offering million for information on Sa’ad bin Atef al-Awlaki and up to million for Ibrahim Ahmed Mahmoud al-Qosi. The United States alleges the two terror group members have encouraged its membership to make attacks against the United States and its citizens.

Al-Qosi is a Sudanese national who was Osama bin Laden’s driver and cook from 2006 to 2010. He was captured by American forces and imprisoned in Guantanamo Bay, where he was sentenced to 14 years in prison. The former driver and cook was released to Sudan in July 2012 in exchange for his cooperation. Al-Awlaki is a senior commander for AQAP who was also a field commander for AQAP fighting the Saudi-led invasion of Yemen.

President promises record war games in Korea if they resume

Which means he’s probably as good at war as the Saudis.

Ibrahim Ahmed Mahmoud al-Qosi is not any kind of field commander or operative, at least not that the United States has released. The Supreme Court has since ruled material support for terrorism is not a war crime and therefore cannot be prosecuted under the Guantanamo military tribunals, but he has not challenged his previous convictions. Instead, he turned to advocating support for attacks on American nationals and American military forces worldwide, which put him in the State Department crosshairs.

At the Second Battle of Mukalla in 2015, Sa’ad bin Atef al-Awlaki was a field commander who led troops against the Saudi coalition. American troops were stationed near Mukalla, but not much is known about the interactions between U.S. and AQAP forces during the battle. AQAP was forced to abandon the town.

Articles

Homeless man’s funeral attended by hundreds of fellow vets who didn’t know him

President promises record war games in Korea if they resume
(Photo courtesy of Des Moines Register)


Hundreds gathered at Iowa Veterans Home Cemetery this afternoon to pay their respects to a once homeless Korean War Navy veteran named Charles ‘Chuck’ Lanam.  They didn’t know Lanam — and they didn’t know each other — but today on the burial hill the strangers came together as family.

“This man would have been buried on his own,” said Simon Conway, Des Moines resident and radio host at 1040 WHO. “There was literally nobody coming to this … this man had nobody, no family, no friends. There was no one to carry his casket, there was no one to give the flag to … no one to tell us about our grateful nation. Today, Chuck was laid to rest with full military honors and around 400 Iowans in attendance. We make a difference.”

See footage from the funeral here.

Lanam was born September 16, 1934 in Fairfield, Iowa. He was the son of Christopher and Marian (Byers).  He attended school in the Fairfield area. He served four years in U.S. Navy aboard USS Valley Forge during the Korean conflict. After retiring from the military, Lanam resided in Tennessee and Iowa and did electrical contracting. He never married. He was homeless for a number of years until February 2015, when moved into the Iowa Veterans Home. He remained there until he passed away.

This veteran, who never owned a computer, much less a had Facebook page, posthumously became a viral topic on the social media platform last week. Mitchell Family Funeral Home director Marty Mitchell reached out to his friends and community after Lanam’s death asking for their help in honoring this veteran’s life with this post

I’m sitting in my office right now and contemplating the rest of the week- and really struggling with one thing that I would like to open up and share with all of you- and no, not a joke, something real. On Monday, we are going to bury a man who served our country honorably, and probably before many of us were born. He has no family – absolutely no family, so our staff and the chaplain from IVH will gather on a quiet hillside at IVH and put this man to rest. No pallbearers, no mourners, no flowers, no one to even present a flag to saying his service was recognized. If you so desire and it’s in your hearts, we are having a service at 1:30 p.m. at the cemetery at IVH. Even though you did not know him, this man Charles Lanam, you are welcome to come and honor his life or serve as a pallbearer or even as important, send your prayers. Death equalizes us in the end, but before that time, appreciate that you do have a family. God bless you all my friends!

That request was shared over 1,700 times. It attracted Patriot Riders and members of the Veterans of Foreign Wars and the American Legion. A suit was donated for Lanam to be buried in, and pallbearers volunteered. In response, Mitchell posted the following to his page:

“I truly think Mr. Lanam is smiling down at all of you for caring about him. He might be overwhelmed, but I do think he is happy. He now gets to rejoin his mom, his dad and his sister who went on before. Thanks to the Iowa Veterans Home for making his last years a home and family- a change he deserved from being homeless, and thanks for making his resting spot available. God bless all of you for focusing on what is important in life…”

This afternoon, Lanam’s coffin was draped in a flag with hundreds in attendance.  “Last Wednesday, I expected to be standing on a lonely hill overlooking the veteran’s zone with Marty and a few staff members saying a quiet farewell to Chuck today,” Chaplain Craig Nelson said before beginning the eulogy. “Instead, I find myself surrounded by those who were moved by his story and wanted to come out so he might not be laid to rest alone.”

Mary Drake, business manager at Mitchell Family Funeral Home said any donations they receive in Charles’ honor will be sent to Iowa Veteran’s Home.

Humor

The fascinating beginning of the term ‘POG’

Professions throughout the world all have their own unique terminology. Although the U.S. military is a unique organization, in this respect, it works in the same way. We’ve coined terms and created acronyms for just about anything you can imagine.


But what’s more interesting than the terms themselves is the original of each. While some terms have a clear origin, how others began is clouded in mystery. Military terms are sometimes seen as mildly derogatory, such as the term “boot,” or, in this case, “POG,” which means “Person Other than Grunt.”

So, where did the term “POG” come from? Well, we’re glad you asked.

Related: 5 ways to skate in Marine Corps boot camp

The term comes from the word “pogue,” which is Gaelic for “kiss.”

It was started by disgruntled Navy sailors of Irish descent who served during the American Civil War. They were upset that others, would never leave shore, would get to stay home and get all the kisses from the ladies while they were out fighting.

President promises record war games in Korea if they resume
Sailors always seemed to get the cute nurses back in the day…

Then, Marines caught wind of the term, adopted it, and began using it themselves to describe anyone who wasn’t involved in any type of combat. The term eventually found its way into the Army.

Also Read: 5 reasons why Luke Skywalker was operator AF

The Air Force doesn’t typically use this term since they’re all pogues — for the most part.

As time progressed, the term became associated with any non-combat military occupational specialties and, eventually, it was shortened to the acronym “POG.”

It’s since been classified as a derogatory term, and its usage is frowned upon by those in leadership positions — especially if they’re POGs.

President promises record war games in Korea if they resume
Although every Marine is a rifleman, not every Marine is an infantryman. Some are POGs. (Image via U.S. Department of Defense)

If someone tries telling you that the word is spelled “pogue,” they’re wrong. It’s “POG,” and you should refer them this article right away before commanding them to do some push-ups.

Articles

US Army says 500 soldiers will deploy to Afghanistan this summer

President promises record war games in Korea if they resume
US Army photo


The U.S. Army on Tuesday announced 500 soldiers will deploy to Afghanistan this summer as part of a scheduled troop rotation.

The service in a release said the soldiers from the 1st Cavalry Division Headquarters and Sustainment Brigade, based at Fort Hood, Texas, will replace the headquarters of the 10th Mountain Division at Bagram Airfield in the northeastern part of the country.

The unit will support Operation Freedom’s Sentinel at the location as the national support element, according to the statement.

“The 1st Cavalry Division has once again been called by our nation’s Army,” Maj. Gen. John C. Thomson, III, commander, 1st Cavalry Division, said in the release. “First Team troopers are trained, well-led, and ready to accomplish assigned missions in support of Operation Freedom’s Sentinel.”

The Army had previously announced that about 1,000 others from the 3rd Cavalry Regiment, 1st Cavalry Division, also based at Fort Hood, are also preparing to deploy to Afghanistan.

The soldiers were also expected to switch out with a number of U.S. troops in Afghanistan and aren’t likely to change the overall American military presence in the country of about 9,800 service members.

At the time of the previous announcement, Lt. Col. Sunset Belinsky, a spokeswoman for the 1st Cavalry Division, said the regiment will probably deploy in May or June. Soldiers were returning from the National Training Center at Fort Irwin, California, and planned to take a week or two of family leave before heading overseas, she said.

Belinsky said at least some of the soldiers may join colleagues from the 10th Mountain Division in the southern part of the country, but added that planners were still “looking at the mission closely, so it may not be exactly there.”

The Defense Department announced in February that about 500 soldiers from 2nd Battalion, 87th Regiment, 10th Mountain Division, based at Fort Drum, New York, would be sent to Helmand Province to shore up an Afghan Army Corps battered by the Taliban.

In recent weeks, American F-16 fighter jets have “significantly increased pressure and the number of strikes” in eastern Nangarhar province bordering Pakistan, where fighters pledging allegiance to the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, or ISIS, were believed to number 1,000-3,000, according to Army Brig. Gen. Wilson Shoffner, chief spokesman for U.S. Forces-Afghanistan.

President Barack Obama last year adjusted plans for U.S. troop levels in Afghanistan.

Rather than reduce the military footprint in the country to a nominal embassy presence in Kabul by the end of 2016, Obama said the U.S. will maintain 5,500 troops and a small number of bases, including at Bagram and Jalalabad in the east and Kandahar in the south into 2017 to continue the mission of training and providing support to Afghan security forces, according to the Pentagon.

MIGHTY HISTORY

15 photos of the first black Marines in US history

The U.S. Marine Corps didn’t allow black men into its ranks until 1942, months after America joined World War II and decades after the Army and Navy began accepting black troops. But that delayed start means that cameras were common when the first black Marines earned their Eagle, Globe, and Anchors. Here are 15 photos from those first pioneers.


(Writer’s note: These images come from the National Archives which have a whole section dedicated to black troops in World War II with over 250 images. The captions below were updated for language and clarity, but the information contained comes from that archive. You can find more images and historical context by visiting them here.)

President promises record war games in Korea if they resume
President promises record war games in Korea if they resume
President promises record war games in Korea if they resume
President promises record war games in Korea if they resume
President promises record war games in Korea if they resume
President promises record war games in Korea if they resume
President promises record war games in Korea if they resume
President promises record war games in Korea if they resume
President promises record war games in Korea if they resume
President promises record war games in Korea if they resume
President promises record war games in Korea if they resume
President promises record war games in Korea if they resume
President promises record war games in Korea if they resume
President promises record war games in Korea if they resume
President promises record war games in Korea if they resume
Articles

Chinese naval engineers claim they’ve developed a super quiet sub to track US ships

China is planning to install new propulsion technology on its newest classes of submarines, making them much harder for American sonar systems to detect and track.


According to a Chinese media report, Beijing is developing pump-jet propulsion for its subs. The system has been widely used on American and British submarines since it offers much more noise reduction than conventional submarine propellers.

President promises record war games in Korea if they resume
The Virginia-class attack submarine USS Hawaii (SSN 776) enters Apra Harbor for a scheduled port visit. The Virginia-class submarines use pump-jet propulsion systems. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Corwin Colbert/Released)

One of the People’s Liberation Army Navy’s top engineers, Rear Adm. Ma Weiming, told China Central Television that the Chinese propulsion technology “is now way ahead of the United States, which has also been developing similar technology.”

Ma is said to be held in very high regard by navy brass. At one point, a photo posted on social media showed the commander of the People’s Liberation Army Navy holding an umbrella over Ma’s head, a sure sign his expertise is revered in Beijing.

President promises record war games in Korea if they resume
A 1993 photo of a Chinese Han-class submarine. These vessels were very noisy, and thus, easy to track. (US Navy photo)

The Chinese are reportedly slated to introduce the technology on some of their Type 095 submarines, known to NATO as the Sui-class, as well as the Type 096 class of nuclear-powered ballistic missile submarines. According to GlobalSecurity.org, the Type 095 displaces about 7,900 tons, and is armed with a number of 21-inch torpedo tubes, and the ability to fire land-attack cruise missiles and YJ-83 anti-ship missiles.

China’s current nuclear submarine fleet includes a mix of Type 091 Han-class and Type 093 Shang-class attack submarines and Type 092 Xia-class and Type 094 Jin-class attach submarines. The Han-class submarines were particularly noted for their noisiness while operating, while the Shang-class submarines are considered to be comparable to the Soviet-era Victor III-class vessels.

Articles

BB King was booted out of the Army for being a tractor driver

President promises record war games in Korea if they resume


Legendary blues guitarist B.B. King died today at the age of 89. King was renowned for his signature playing style and his singing voice. He was also one of the first blues “crossover” artists, making a big dent on the rock music charts with his cover of “The Thrill is Gone,” which became a hit for him in 1969. Over the years King shared the stage with many major acts including Aerosmith, the Rolling Stones, and U2.

King was also a military veteran, although he only served for a short time. He was inducted into the U.S. Army toward the end of World War II but released immediately following boot camp after officials ruled him as “essential to the war economy” based on his experience as a tractor driver.

Here’s a great video about King’s life:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mqUhdBAJfsk

MIGHTY HISTORY

The ‘Jedburghs’ were the best anti-Nazi commandos of WWII

In World War II, months before D-Day, a loudspeaker on military bases played a short recruitment message. The few men who answered it would become heroes after tackling one of the deadliest and most complicated missions of D-Day.


President promises record war games in Korea if they resume

Jedburghs train on an obstacle course in World War II.

(Office of Strategic Services)

The loudspeaker message went:

Wanted: Volunteers for immediate overseas assignment. Knowledge of French or another European language preferred; Willingness and ability to qualify as a parachutist necessary; Likelihood of a dangerous mission guaranteed.

Men who volunteered had a chance to be selected for a Jedburgh Team. The teams typically featured a mix of Canadian, British, French, and American troops, but they were tiny, typically with two to four members. So, obviously, there was just one man of each nationality in each team.

So, that was one reason that knowledge of European languages was preferred, the other was that these tiny teams would fight directly alongside resistance forces in Nazi-occupied Europe, mostly in France but also in the Netherlands and Belgium. Their motto summed up the mission well: “Surprise, kill, and vanish.”

President promises record war games in Korea if they resume

Jedburgh team members in World War II.

(via CIA.gov)

Very few people were selected. A post-war accounting put the number at 276 of which 83 were Americans. There were also 90 British and 103 French troops. The most typical team size was three, but all teams were required to have at least a commander and a radio operator.

The most common third member was an officer from the country in which the team was deployed. So, French members rounded out teams in France, Dutch in the Netherlands, and Belgian in Belgium.

The Jedburghs trained hard and wanted to go into Europe two to six weeks before the D-Day invasion, but Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower restricted the Jedburgh insertions until June 5, 1944—the night before D-Day—so the sudden presence of international troops wouldn’t clue in the Nazis to the coming invasion.

So, on June 5, the teams began their insertions, and these few hundred men brought lots of extra weapons with them and rallied the resistance fighters of Europe. The Jedburghs and their allies fought far ahead of the invasion forces, in some cases taking and holding key infrastructure that the rest of the Allied forces wouldn’t reach for weeks.

The Jedburghs severed Nazi supply and reinforcement lines, and they protected key infrastructure like bridges that would be needed by the tanks and trucks of the invasion force. As volume two of the OSS War Report says:

Will well-trained, capable radio operators, the Jedburghs represented, wherever they were, a strong radio link between FFI (French Forces of the Interior) leaders and other Allied groups in the field, such as the SAS (Special Air Services) and headquarters in London … Besides the all-important task of making available … arms and supplies to the resistance and preparing landing and dropping fields, they acted as translators and interpreters, assisting in surrender arrangements, helped lead sabotage and ambush operations, provided intelligence on resistance and enemy strength and other information as well, and worked to coordinate separate resistance forces under a unified command.
President promises record war games in Korea if they resume

Members of the Jedburgh teams prepare to insert via parachute in World War II.

(US Army Signal Corps via CIA.gov)

And yes, the rest of the Allied forces saw and appreciated these efforts. While the Jedburghs complained after the invasion that they wished they were allowed to insert earlier and do more, Allied commanders were just grateful that so many resistance members were well-armed and organized, breaking up Nazi forces and tying up German units, and that so much infrastructure survived the Wehrmacht’s destruction efforts.

The Jedburghs were broken up, but some special operation units are spiritual successors to the Jedburghs. For instance, the Army’s first operation Special Forces group, the 10th Special Forces Group, was commanded by Col. Aaron Bank, a former Jedburgh. And one of the Special Forces’ primary missions is to deploy overseas, train up and help arm indigenous forces, and then fight alongside them.

But at least ODAs typically have 12 members. Jedburghs were running around in a Three’s Company configuration, slaughtering Nazis with just their closest friends to rely on.

Fun side note: The name Jedburgh was selected because it was the name of a town near where the men trained and where Scots had conducted guerilla operations against England in the 1100s.

MIGHTY HISTORY

This top-secret supersonic drone was found in the Arizona desert

Most of what is lying around in the dusty expanse of the aircraft graveyards around Tucson, Arizona is readily identifiable and not entirely remarkable.

Ejection seats from old F-4 Phantoms. An old CH-53 helicopter hulk. An interesting find over there is a fuselage section of a Soviet-era MiG-23 Flogger. No idea how it got here. Other than that, it’s just long rows of old, broken, silent airplanes inside high fences surrounded by cactus, dust, sand and more sand. An errant aileron on a dead wing clunks quietly against the hot afternoon breeze as if willing itself back into the air. But like everything here, its days of flying are over.


But there… What is that strange, manta-ray shaped, dusty black thing lying at an angle just on the other side of that fence? It may be an old airfield wind vane or radar test model. But it also may be…

President promises record war games in Korea if they resume
Lockheed D-21B at the National Museum of the United States Air Force.
(U.S. Air Force photo)

I had only read about it and seen grainy photos of it. I know it’s impossible. The project was so secret not much information exists about the details even today. But I stand there gawking through the chain link fence as the ruins of the other planes bear silent witness. It’ like the corpses of the other airplanes are urging me to look closer. To not leave. Their silent dignity begs me to tell this story.

After nearly a minute of studying it through the fence I realize; I am right. It is right before my eyes. Ten feet away. Despite the 100-degree heat I get goosebumps. And I start running.

I quickly locate a spot where the entire fence line opens up. I skirt the fence and in a couple minutes running around the sandy airplane corpses I’m inside. There, sitting right in front of me on its decrepit transport cart and dusted with windblown sand, abandoned in the Sonoran Desert, is one of Kelly Johnson and Ben Rich’s most ambitious classified projects from the fabled Lockheed Skunk Works.

President promises record war games in Korea if they resume
A previously classified photo of the Lockheed D-21 drone at the Skunkworks manufacturing facility.
(Lockheed Martin photo)

I just found the CIA’s ultra-secret Mach 3.3+ D-21 long-range reconnaissance drone. The D-21 was so weird, so ambitious, so unlikely it remains one of the most improbable concepts in the history of the often-bizarre world of ultra-secret “black” aviation projects. And now it lies discarded in the desert. The story behind it is so bizarre it is difficult to believe, but it is true.

July 30, 1966: Flight Level 920 (92,000 ft.), Mach 3.25, Above Point Mugu Naval Air Missile Test Center, Off Oxnard, California.

Only an SR-71 Blackbird is fast enough and can fly high enough to photograph this, the most classified of national security tests. Traveling faster than a rifle bullet at 91,000 feet, near inner-space altitude, one of the most ambitious and bizarre contraptions in the history of mankind is about to be tested.

“Tagboard” is its codename. Because of the catastrophic May, 1960 shoot-down of Francis Gary Powers’ Lockheed U-2 high altitude spy plane over the Soviet Union the CIA and is in desperate need of another way to spy on the rising threat of communist nuclear tests. Even worse, the other “Red Menace”, the Chinese, are testing massive hydrogen bombs in a remote location of the Gobi Desert near the Mongolian/Chinese border. It would be easier to observe the tests if the Chinese did them on the moon.

The goal is simple, but the problem is titanic. Get photos of the top-secret Red Chinese hydrogen bomb tests near the Mongolian border deep inside Asia, then get them back, without being detected.

Lockheed Skunkworks boss Kelly Johnson and an elite, ultra-classified small team of aerospace engineers have built an aircraft so far ahead of its time that even a vivid imagination has difficulty envisioning it.

Flat, triangular, black, featureless except for its odd plan form as viewed from above, like a demon’s cloak, it has a sharply pointed nose recessed into a forward-facing orifice. That’s it. No canopy, no cockpit, no weapons. Nothing attached to the outside. Even more so than a rifle bullet its shape is smooth and simple. This is the ultra-secret D-21 drone.

President promises record war games in Korea if they resume
An Air Force photo of the D-21 mounted on the M-21 launch aircraft. The M-21 launch aircraft was a special variant of the SR-71 Blackbird. Only two were produced.
(U.S. Air Force photo)

The D-21 is truly a “drone”, not a remotely piloted aircraft (RPA). Its flight plan is programmed into a guidance system. It is launched from a mothership launch aircraft at speed and altitude. It flies a predetermined spy mission from 17 miles above the ground and flashes over at three times the speed of sound. It photographs massive swaths of land with incredible detail and resolution. And because of its remarkably stealthy shape, no one will ever know it was there.

Today the D-21 rides on the back of a Lockheed M-21, a specialized variant of the SR-71 Blackbird, the famous Mach 3+ high altitude spy plane. The M-21 version of the SR-71 carries the D-21 drone on its back up to launch speed and altitude. The it ignites the D-21’s unique RJ43-MA20S-4 ramjet engine and releases it on its pre-programmed flight.

Chasing the M-21 and D-21 combination today is a Lockheed SR-71, the only thing that can keep up with this combination of aircraft. It is the SR-71’s job to photograph and film the test launch of the D-21 drone from the M-21 launch aircraft.

There have been three successful launch separations of the D-21 from the M-21 launch aircraft so far. In each of these flights, even though the launch was successful, the D-21 drone fell victim to some minor mechanical failure that destroyed the drone, because, at over Mach 3 and 90,000 feet, there really are no “minor” failures.

Today Bill Park and Ray Torick are the flight crew on board the M-21 launch aircraft. They sit inside the M-21 launch aircraft dressed in pressurized high altitude flight suits that resemble space suits.

Once at predetermined launch speed and altitude the M-21/D-21 combination flies next to the SR-71 camera plane. Keith Beswick is filming the launch test from the SR-71 camera plane. Ray Torick, the drone launch controller sitting in the back seat of the tandem M-21, launches the D-21 from its position on top of the M-21’s fuselage between the massive engines.

Something goes wrong.

The D-21 drone separates and rolls slightly to its left side. It strikes the left vertical stabilizer of the M-21 mother ship. Then it caroms back into the M-21’s upper fuselage, exerting massive triple supersonic forces downward on the M-21 aircraft. The M-21 begins to pitch up and physics takes over as Bill Park and Ray Torick make the split-second transition from test pilots to helpless passengers to crash victims.

The triple supersonic forces rip both aircraft apart in the thin, freezing air. Shards of titanium and shrapnel from engine parts trail smoke and frozen vapor as they disintegrate in the upper atmosphere. There is no such thing as a minor accident at Mach 3+ and 92,000 feet.

Miraculously, both Bill Park and Ray Torick eject from the shattered M-21 mother ship. Even more remarkably, they actually survive the ejection. The pair splash down in the Pacific 150 miles off the California coast. Bill Park successfully deploys the small life raft attached to his ejection seat. Ray Torick lands in the ocean but opens the visor on his spacesuit-like helmet attached to his pressurized flight suit. The suit floods through the face opening in his helmet. Torick drowns before he can be rescued. Keith Beswick, the pilot filming the accident from the SR-71 chase plane, has to go to the mortuary to cut Ray Torick’s body out of the pressurized high-altitude flight suit before he can be buried.

The ultra-secret test program to launch a D-21 drone from the top of an M-21 launch aircraft at over Mach 3 and 90,000 feet, is cancelled.

The D-21 program does move forward on its own. Now the drone is dropped from a lumbering B-52 mothership. The D-21 is then boosted to high altitude and Mach 3+ with a rocket booster. Once at speed and altitude the booster unit drops off and the D-21 drone begins its spy mission.

After more than a year of test launches from the B-52 mothership the D-21 drone was ready for its first operational missions over Red China. President Nixon approved the first reconnaissance flight for November 9, 1969. The mission was launched from Beale AFB in California.

Despite a successful launch the D-21 drone was lost. In the middle of 1972, after four attempts at overflying Red China with the D-21 drone and four mission failures, the program was cancelled. It was imaginative. It was innovative. It was ingenious. But it was impossible.

So ended one of the most ambitious and outrageous espionage projects in history.

1604 Hrs. December 20, 2009. In the Back Storage Yard of the Pima Air Space Museum Outside Tucson, Arizona.

I pet airplanes when I can. I’m not exactly sure why, maybe to be able to say I did. Maybe to try to gain some tactile sense of their history. Maybe to absorb something from them, if such a thing is possible. Maybe so that, when I am old and dying, I can reflect back on what it felt like to stand next to them and touch them. I don’t know why I touch them and stroke them, but I do.

President promises record war games in Korea if they resume


The fully restored Lockheed D-21 drone at the Pima Air Space Museum outside Tucson, Arizona.

(Pima Air Space Museum photo)

The D-21 is dusty and warm in the late afternoon Arizona sun. Its titanium skin is hard, not slightly forgiving like an aluminum airplane. It gives away nothing. Silent. Brooding. After I touch it my hand came away with some of the dust from it. I don’t wipe it off.

Sometime later in the coming years, the D-21B drone, number 90-0533, is brought inside the vast restoration facility at the Pima Air Space Museum and beautifully restored. Now it lies in state, on display inside the museum.

But when I first found it sitting abandoned in the storage yard, dusty and baking in the Sonoran Desert sun, it felt like its warm titanium skin still had some secret life left in it.

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

Articles

Navy adds new regulation after ‘Marines United’ cyber bullying scandal

Acting Secretary of the Navy Sean Stackley has just issued a new regulation that now gives the Navy’s Judge Advocate General Corps a new weapon to use against those who post private nude photos.


Related: The 5 military laws that nearly everyone breaks

According to a report in the Navy Times, Article 1168 has been added to Navy Regulations, prohibiting the “wrongful distribution or broadcasting of an intimate image.” The addition of this regulation means that Article 92 of the Uniform Code of Military Justice can be brought into play against the next “Marines United” scandal participants.

President promises record war games in Korea if they resume
(U.S. Navy photo)

“The addition of Article 1168 ‘Nonconsensual distribution or broadcasting of an image’ to Navy Regulations serves to underscore leadership’s commitment to eliminating degrading behaviors that erode trust and weaken the Navy and Marine Corps Team,” Rear Adm. Dawn Cutler, the Navy’s chief of information, said in a statement quoted by the Navy Times. “It provides commanders another tool to maintain good order and discipline by holding Sailors and Marines accountable for inappropriate conduct in the nonconsensual sharing of intimate imagery.”

“This article adds the potential charge of Article 92 ‘Failure to obey [an] order or regulation’ to the possible charges that can be used against an alleged perpetrator. Each case of alleged misconduct will be evaluated on its own facts and circumstances,” Cutler added.

According to an ALNAV message sent out on April 17, the addition of Article 1168 is an “interim change” pending formal amendment to the Uniform Code of Military Justice.

President promises record war games in Korea if they resume
Photo: Marine Corps Sgt. Rebekka Heite

Article 92 of the UCMJ makes it illegal to disobey a lawful order. Violators of that who fail to follow any “lawful general order or regulation” are to be “punished as a court-martial may direct.”

Also read: 6 weird laws unique to the US military

Previously, the Marines had been relying on Articles 133 and 134 of the Uniform Code of Military Justice, according to a March 5 release by the Marine Corps. Article 120c was also seen as a possible option in some cases.

Articles 133 and 134 are seen as “catch-all” provisions for “conduct unbecoming.” According to the UCMJ, violations of Article 133 “shall be punished as a court-martial may direct.” Violations of Article 134 are to be “punished at the discretion of that court” while taking into consideration “according to the nature and degree of the offense.”