Russian President Vladimir Putin declared on Oct. 31, 2019, that the Zircon hypersonic cruise missile will “certainly” be onboard the Russian Navy’s newest corvette, set to enter service next month, according to RT. The Zircon missile, while reportedly still under development, cannot be intercepted by any defense systems currently in use, according to Russian state media outlet TASS.
Putin toured the corvette Gremyashchi on a visit to the northwestern Russian city of Kaliningrad last Thursday. “It will certainly have Tsirkon,” Putin told Defense Minister Sergei Shoyu.
The Zircon missile reportedly travels at nine times the speed of sound; the term “hypersonic” is generally understood to mean an object travels at least five times the speed of sound. The missile was still under development as of February 2019, when Russia-1, the state television station, threatened five US positions including the Pentagon, saying that the Zircon missile could hit the targets in less than five minutes.
Also in February 2019, Putin claimed in his Address to the Federal Assembly that the missile’s development was progressing according to schedule.
Putin used the missile to threaten the US should it deploy any new nuclear missiles closer to Russia as the INF treaty began to unravel in February 2019.
Russia’s most lethal weapon hypersonic ZIRCON missile!
“You work it out: Mach nine, and over 1,000 km,” Putin told Russian media at the time, Reuters reported.
While the claims of Russian state media and Russian leadership are impossible to verify, Putin has said that the Zircon can destroy both sea and land targets.
The Zircon, or Tsirkon, is compatible with the Kalibr missile systems, which are already aboard the Gremyashchiy corvette, according to the Center for Strategic International Studies’ Missile Threat project. TASS reports that the Gremyashchiy is the first corvette in the Pacific Fleet to carry the Kalibr missiles.
A 64-year old civilian passenger was accidentally ejected from a French Air Force twin-seat Rafale B fighter jet as the aircraft was taking off from Saint-Dizier 113 air base on March 20, 2019.
The backseater, whose identity was not disclosed, is said to be a man. He suffered serious injuries, including back injuries and was hospitalized. He’s reportedly in stable conditions and his health is not a cause of concern according to a French Air Force spokesman.
The incident occurred at 13.52 LT as the aircraft was taking off for a training mission. The pilot managed to land the aircraft with minor injuries to his hands (caused by the broken canopy).
A French air force Rafale B aircraft.
What happened is pretty weird: VIPs and journalists (including this Author) are often invited to take part in “orientation” flights, for communication or information purposes. The passenger-for-a-day is always given a detailed briefing that covers standard cockpit operation, emergency procedures, egress etc. You are clearly explained what to touch and what you should not touch in the cockpit. The ejection seat handle is one of those things you should be aware of. For this reason, in a previous post about flying as a backseater in a jet I wrote:
“As for the camera, I strongly recommend removing any type of strap to prevent it from coming into contact with the stick, throttle or, worse, with the ejection seat handle.”
Anyway, we have no clue what activated the ejection: it might have been a voluntary ejection, an involuntary one or even a failure, even though modern ejection seats are extremely reliable and malfunctions are extremely rare.
An investigation is in progress.
This article originally appeared on The Aviationist. Follow @theaviationist on Twitter.
President Donald Trump has engaged China in a trade war that has global markets holding their breath, but his administration recently challenged Beijing on an issue Chinese officials have promised to go to war over.
Buried in the paper, which charts China’s efforts to build up a military fortress in the South China Sea and use its growing naval might to coerce its neighbors, is a reference to Taiwan as a “country.”
“As democracies in the Indo-Pacific, Singapore, Taiwan, New Zealand, and Mongolia are reliable, capable, and natural partners of the United States,” the strategy said. “All four countries contribute to US missions around the world and are actively taking steps to uphold a free and open international order.”
President of the People’s Republic of China Xi Jinping.
China views Taiwan as a breakaway island province that has its own democratic government. Beijing sees this as an existential threat and the factor most likely to upset the Communist Party’s absolute hold on power in the mainland.
In July 2018, China threatened to blacklist airlines that referred to Taiwan as a country. US airlines fell in line, but the White House protested the strong-arm tactic as “Orwellian nonsense.”
But now the US itself has clearly said it: Taiwan is a country, and the US will treat it as such.
‘The Chinese military has no choice but to fight at all costs’
In another unprecedented step, a high-ranking Taiwanese minister was allowed to meet with Trump’s national security adviser, John Bolton, in May 2019. This move predictably enraged China.
At the Shangri La Dialogue, the top defense summit in Asia, Chinese Defense Minister Gen. Wei Fenghe made clear the stakes of China’s Taiwan problem.
“Any interference in the Taiwan question is doomed to failure,” Wei said, according to Channel Asia News. “If anyone dares to split Taiwan from China, the Chinese military has no choice but to fight at all costs.”
Chinese Defense Minister Gen. Wei Fenghe.
Taiwan is “the hot-button issue” in US-China relations, John Hemmings, the director of the Asia Studies Centre at the Henry Jackson Society, told Business Insider.
China has always maintained that it would prefer to reunify with Taiwan peacefully but would do so by force if needed. Additionally, China’s navy has increasingly patrolled the waters around the island and flown nuclear-capable bombers nearby.
But the US has also sailed warships through the narrow strait separating China and Taiwan and has gotten allies to pitch in.
The arms are already moving
The US’s rhetorical escalation follows the Trump administration normalizing arms sales to Taiwan and the news that it will sell billion in tanks, anti-tank weapons, and air defenses to the island.
According to Hemmings, these weapons have a clear purpose: to fight back against a Chinese invasion of the island.
Bonnie Glaser, a senior adviser for Asia and the director of the China Power Project at Center for Strategic and International Studies, told Business Insider that the US had now entered “uncharted territory” by acknowledging Taiwan.
A US Marine Corps M1A1 Abrams tank during Arrow 2019 at the Pohjankangas Training Area near Niinisalo, Finland, on May 12, 2019.
(US Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Scott Jenkins)
The US under Trump has been the most pro-Taiwan administration in decades, Hemmings said. Trump demonstrated this during his presidential transition period when he had a call with Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-Wen.
For years, China has slowly stepped up pressure on the US in areas like forcing companies to transfer technology, building up military sites on artificial islands in the South China Sea, and naval challenges.
Hemmings mentioned a popular anecdote in China, in which a frog is cooked by putting it in a pot of cold water and then slowly turning up the heat. The frog doesn’t realize it’s getting cooked until it’s too late. China’s gradual pressure campaign against the US has been compared to this practice.
With the US now quietly acknowledging Taiwan in a strategy document, it may have found its own small way to turn up the heat on Beijing.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
At first, concentration camp guards during the Nazi regime of World War II were male. However, with the introduction of female guards to Auschwitz and Majdanek, a new era began and German officials soon learned that these incoming women were quite good at their jobs. By the end of the war, more than 3,500 women acted as camp guards, making up almost 7 percent of all Nazi guards employed.
With no special training or particular background, these women either volunteered or were recruited through shrewd marketing techniques. Mostly young women and unmarried, or possibly married to a man who worked in the camp. Many felt they were doing their duty to their country.
1. Maria Mandl
Maria Mandl was one of the head guards at Auschwitz, despite her gender, and was known for her cruelty, which aptly earned her the nickname “The Beast”. It’s supposed that she had her hand in up to half a million deaths. While she was unable to climb the ladder in her field to the very top as a woman, she had absolute control over all the female prisoners and the rest of the female employees. She was only forced to answer to one man. Her tactics vary, but tales of her behavior resonated with prisoners.
Many say she would stand at the entry gate and, if any inmate happened to look over at her, that individual would be taken away, never to be heard from again. She also put together an orchestra at the camp and, after regular work hours were over, the prisoners would be forced to march in time to the music. The orchestra often coincided with executions.
After Auschwitz was liberated, Mandl fled to Bavaria. After her capture, she underwent interrogations, and showed high levels of intelligence. She was turned over to Poland, and was sentenced to death by hanging.
2. Irma Grese
Grese was one of Mandl’s inferiors, who also worked at Auschwitz and served as a warden for female prisoners. Her reign, however, was short and she only made it to the age of 22 before being executed for her war crimes. This was still plenty of time for her to earn her own nickname, just like “The Beast” — her boss. Grese became known as the “Hyena of Auschwitz”.
She managed to earn the second-highest rank available to females, and routinely participated in picking which of the prisoners would go to the gas chamber.
Greece’s actions are immortalized in a memoir that was written by one of the camp prisoners. It says that Grese loved to terrify the women in the camps, and that she specifically picked women who were remotely beautiful, sick, or weak.
During her trial, witnesses said she would allow half-starved dogs to attack prisoners; she also enjoyed shooting prisoners and would beat them to death with a whip. In addition, Grese also had several love affairs at the camp, one of which resulted in a surprise pregnancy; she then entrusted one of the prisoners to give her an abortion. After the war was over, she had hoped to pursue a career in acting.
3. Hermine Braunsteiner
Braunsteines was the first Nazi war criminal extradited from the United States. Working at Majdanek, she was known as the “Stomping Mare”.
Her most infamous actions include lifting children by the hair to throw them onto trucks headed to the gas chambers, hanging young girls, and stomping women to death. She became known for her crazy tantrums and could be expected to lash out with a riding whip at the slightest provocation.
As the Soviets approached, Braunsteiner fled to Vienna, then remained jailed for a year. She was later granted amnesty and lived in Austria, under the radar, until she met an American on vacation. They married, moved to Canada and then later to the United States.
No one knew of her past and she became known as a friendly housewife. A Nazi hunter and a reporter ran across her in Queens and exposed her actions. While her husband said he knew of her work, he did not know exactly to what extent her cruelty ranged.
4. Margot Dreschel
Dreschel headed to Poland in 1942 for the new Auschwitz II-Birkenau concentration camp. She headed up all the camp offices and soon became known as a horrific sight for most prisoners. She often disguised herself as a doctor and went to conduct indoor selections within the camp. With a trained dog in tow, she would make all prisoners undress, take their shoes and then make them stand for hours, naked.
She frequently went to and from various camps to help with the selection of women and children for the chambers. She fled the camp after Germany’s surrender, and while in the Russian zone, several former prisoners abducted her and took her to the Russian Military Police. She was executed by hanging within the month.
5. Ilse Koch
Koch worked at the Sachsenhausen concentration camp and later at Buchenwald. She is mostly known for her participation in an experiment during which she picked out prisoners with tattoos to be murdered and then skinned. The skins would then be used for study, as one of her colleagues was writing a paper on the relation between tattoos and criminality.
She was arrested in 1943 by the Germans for charges of enrichment and embezzlement, then acquitted in 1944; however, she was arrested again by the U.S. in 1945.
The trial process was not easy, though. During her first trial, she announced that she was eight months pregnant, from one of her many affairs. She was given life in prison and then served two years, before her sentence was lessened to four years, due to lack of evidence. However, she was re-arrested and tried again. Witnesses stated they saw her with human-skin lampshades made from the tattooed skin.
She was delusional and thought that her victims were coming back to harm her. Eventually, Koch committed suicide in her jail cell at the age of 60. Her son, who regularly visited her after being born in prison, was shocked by the news. Now, her body rests in an unmarked grave.
Hollywood has suffered yet another loss. Iconic TV and film actor Sam Shepard recently passed away at the age of 73 from complications with ALS. The Oscar-nominated and award-winning playwright’s career lasted almost five decades, and he’s accredited with over 65 movies roles.
The Illinois native was the son of Army officer, Samuel Shepard Rogers Jr., who served during World War II as a bomber pilot — which probably contributed to the longtime actor’s acumen in military roles.
Here are the four times Shepard played an outstanding military officer.
In 2005, Shepard played Capt. George Cummings, a “mission before the man” thinker, in charge of three radical Navy pilots picked to team up with a new fourth wing man — an independently thinking stealth jet.
After a fierce lightning strike, the AI stealth jet begins to create havoc and now must be taken down and destroyed at all costs.
2. Black Hawk Down
In 2001, Ridley Scott decided to cast Shepard as Maj. Gen. William Garrison, the overall commander of Task Force Ranger and the chief of Joint Special Operations Command. According to most accounts, Garrison did everything in his power to retrieve his men from the battlefield after a raid in Mogadishu quickly went south.
3. One Kill
Shepard starred as Maj. Nelson Gray alongside Anne Heche in 2000’s crime drama”One Kill.” The two actors played Marine officers who began an affair with one another in this TV movie directed by Christopher Menaul.
4. The Right Stuff
In 1983, Shepard took on the role of legendary Air Force test pilot Charles Elwood “Chuck” Yeager who became the first man to exceed the speed of sound during flight. In the film, Yeager has to help the original Mercury 7 astronauts get prepared for their upcoming space mission.
The sun has set over the scrubby Savannah. The moon is full. It is time for Ryan Tate and his men to go to work. In camouflage fatigues, they check their weapons and head to the vehicles.
Somewhere beyond the ring of light cast by the campfire, out in the vast dark expanse of thornbushes, baobab trees, rocks and grass, are the rhinos. Somewhere, too, may be the poachers who will kill them to get their precious horns.
The job of Tate, a 32-year-old former US Marine, and the group of US military veterans he has assembled in a remote private reserve in the far north of South Africa is simple: keep the rhinos and the rest of the game in the bush around their remote base alive.
The men are not mercenaries, or park rangers –they work for Tate’s Veterans Empowered To Protect African Wildlife (Vetpaw), a US-based nonprofit organization funded by private donations. All have seen combat, often with elite military units, in Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere.
Though equipped with vehicles, trail bikes, assault rifles, sniper suits, and radios, the most important weapons in the war against poaching, Tate believes, are the skills and experiences his team gained on successive deployments in conflict zones over the last decade and a half.
“We are here for free. We are not going anywhere. Whether it is cold or hot, day or night… we want to work with anyone who needs help,” Tate says.
The initiative is not without controversy. Some experts fear “green militarization” and an arms race between poachers and gamekeepers. Others believe deploying American former soldiers to fight criminals in South Africa undermines the troubled country’s already fragile state.
But the scale of the challenge of protecting South Africa’s rhinos is clear to everyone, with a rise in poaching in recent years threatening to reverse conservation gains made over decades.
Though rhino horns are made of keratin, the same substance as fingernails, a kilo is worth up to $65,000. The demand comes from East Asia, where rhino horn is seen as a potent natural medicine and status symbol, and is met by international networks linking dirt-poor villages in southern Africa with traffickers and eventually buyers. Patchy law enforcement, corruption and poverty combine to exacerbate the problem.
In South Africa, home to 80% of the world’s wild rhinos, only 13 were poached in 2007. In 2015, the total was nearly 1,200, though losses have declined slightly since.
“These criminal gangs are armed to the teeth, well-funded and part of transnational syndicates who will stop at nothing,” a South African government spokesman said in February.
Tate founded Vetpaw after seeing a documentary about poaching and the deaths of park rangers in Africa. His team now works on a dozen private game reserves covering a total of around 200,000 hectares in Limpopo, the country’s northernmost province. One advantage for local landowners is the protection heavily armed combat veterans provide against the violent break-ins feared by so many South Africans, particularly on isolated rural farmsteads. The team has also run training courses for local guides and security staff.
But if one aim of Vetpaw is to counter poaching, another is to help combat veterans in the US, where former servicemen suffer high levels of unemployment and mental illness.
“Everyone gets PTSD when they come back from war … you are never going to get the brotherhood, the intensity again … [There are] all these veterans with billions of dollars of training and the government doesn’t use them. I saw a need in two places and just put them together,” says Tate.
The Vetpaw base in the bush in Limpopo, though considerably less spartan than most “forward operating bases”, is familiar to anyone who has spent time with US forces. There is a rack of helmets and body armor, a detailed map pinned to the wall, and banners with the insignia of US Special Forces hung above a dining table. There is the banter, and the jargon. The team talks of tactical missions, intel, and “bad guys”.
Despite lines on a whiteboard reading, “In the absence of a plan move towards the sound of gunfire and kill everything,” Tate says he has selected combat veterans because they will resist the temptation to use lethal force. Poachers are told to put down their arms, and then handed over to the police.
“This is textbook counterinsurgency here. It’s unconventional warfare,” says Kevin, a British-born veteran who quit US Elite Special Forces last year after a decade and a half largely on active duty, frequently in close quarter combat. “Shooting and killing is easy. The hardest thing is not shooting but figuring stuff out… if you kill someone do you turn a family, a village against you?” Like other members of Vetpaw, Kevin did not want to be identified by his full name.
The thinking is rooted in the “hearts and minds” approach developed by the US military a decade ago when senior officers realized their massive firepower was winning battles, but not campaigns.
Tate says poachers coerce local communities into providing safe houses or other support – much as US army officers once explained assistance given to insurgents in Iraq or Afghanistan.
Francois Meyer, who grew up in northern Limpopo and runs a local conservation NGO that works with Vetpaw, says villages vary. “In some, the poachers are seen as heroes. They give out money. There is a kind of Robin Hood syndrome. Taking from the rich white man to give to the poor. But in others, the poachers get the living shit kicked out of them,” Meyer said.
There is little consensus on what response to the problem of poaching might work best, and fierce debate rages among conservationists, farmers, and officials.
A moratorium on the domestic trade in rhino horn in South Africa implemented in 2009 was controversially overturned by a court in April. Though there has been an increase in arrest of poachers, there are few convictions and “a lack of political will” means many of the “kingpins” remain untouched.
The complexities of the issue seem distant to the veterans out on patrol in remote northern Limpopo, high on a rocky crag, listening to the grunt of a leopard or the cough of the baboons in the gathering night.
“After what I’ve done, I couldn’t just go and do a nine to five. I’ve never had nightmares or flashbacks or anything … [but] after years of doing what I’ve done, this is good for the soul,” says Kevin, the former Green Beret. “It’s in a good cause and you get to watch the African sunset.”
So, if you’re a loyal WATM reader, you’ve probably noticed that, when we’re talking Chinese or Russian aircraft, they’ve got some odd-sounding names. Fishbed, Flanker, Backfire, Bear, Badger… you may be wondering, “how the f*ck did they get that name?” Well, it’s a long story – and it goes back to World War II.
In 1942, Captain Frank McCoy of the Army Air Force was tasked with heading the materiel section of Army Air Force intelligence for the Southwest Pacific. Early on, he realized that pilots could get confused about enemy fighters. To address this potential confusion, the Tennessee native began giving them nicknames. Fighters got male names, bombers and other planes got female names, and transports were given names that started with the letter T. Training planes were named for trees and gliders for birds.
The idea was a good one – and it began to spread across the entire Pacific. All went well until a new Japanese Navy fighter got the nickname, ‘Hap.’ You see, that was also the nickname of the Army Air Force Commander, General Henry “Hap” Arnold. To say Arnold wasn’t happy is an understatement. McCoy was quickly called in to explain it.
When the Cold War started, and both the Soviet Union and Communist China became threats, the United States and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization turned to a version of McCoy’s naming conventions. They adjusted the system. This time, code names for fighters started with the letter F, those for bombers started with B, transport planes start with the letter C, other planes start with M. If the name has one syllable, it’s a prop plane. If it has multiple syllables, it’s a jet. Helicopter names start with the letter H.
The Air Force has just discovered how hot it can be to work in the desert, especially if your work zone requires long periods of time in direct sunlight. This somehow managed to elude Pentagon officials for the past 18 years of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, not to mention all the other Middle East locales which include Air Force flightlines. Now airmen working the line at Nellis AFB, Nev. will get to wear what is no doubt the latest in cargo short technology.
On Nevada’s Nellis Air Force Base, the heat can get deadly, often exceeding temperatures of more than 120 degrees Fahrenheit. For the airmen who are working aircraft maintenance for long hours in what is often direct sunlight, the heat risk can be even more punishing. The wait for ways to beat the heat is now over – the Air Force will issue its maintainers new cargo shorts for wear during these duties.
The look was released on the popular Air Force Facebook Page Air Force amn/nco/snco in the early days of July 2019, and it did not take long for airmen to weigh in on the new look.
The first response from airmen included a prayer to “Enlisted Jesus” (also known as Chief Master Sergeant of the Air Force Kaleth Wright), for hearing their prayers and responding once again. They also predicted new Air Force uniform instructions regarding leg tattoos and shaved legs, extending the program to USAF Security Forces bike patrols, and how hot it’s going to be when someone sits on a piece of metal equipment that has been sitting in the sun itself all day long.
They also mention how the Air Force will no longer get away with skipping “Leg Day” at the gym.
UN inspectors are examining more than 2,500 AK-47 rifles and other guns seized by the crew of a U.S. destroyer off the coast of Yemen to determine whether the weapons originated in Iran or Somalia.
U.S. authorities said they invited the UN inspectors on board on Oct. 25, 2018, to determine whether the weapons provide proof that Iran is smuggling arms to allied Shi’ite Huthi rebels that are battling the Yemeni government in a four-year civil war. Iran has denied providing weapons to the Huthis.
The United States — in debates at the United Nations — has repeatedly charged Iran with illegally smuggling weapons to the Huthis, in violation of UN resolutions against arming the Huthis.
Yet U.S. forces patrolling the waters around Yemen have managed to seize only a handful of weapons caches like the one seized by the USS Jason Dunham in late August 2018.
“It’s one big traffic corridor,” Vice Admiral Scott Stearney, commander of the U.S. 5th Fleet, told reporters on board the vessel on Oct. 25, 2018, speaking of the Gulf of Aden and other waterways around Yemen.
Stearney declined to say if he thought Iran was responsible for the weapons seized by the Dunham’s crew, but he said the UN inspectors were experts on illicit weapons from Iran, Yemen, and Somalia.
The guided-missile destroyer USS Jason Dunham.
(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Deven B. King)
The U.S. destroyer’s crew while on patrol in the region in August 2018 noticed large bags being transferred from a dhow about 70 miles off the coast of Yemen into a smaller skiff. A dhow is a traditional ship that commonly sails the waters of the Persian Gulf region.
The Navy ship intercepted the skiff and, after talking to the crew on board, determined they were smuggling weapons.
The rifles, in bundles of four or five, were wrapped in plastic, then wrapped in styrofoam and hidden in green burlap bags, according to Navy Commander John Hamilton, commander of the Dunham.
A small number of reporters on board the ship were allowed to see the assault rifles, which were heavily rusted after nearly two months at sea. The weapons had been unpacked and piled up, and were ready to be inspected by the UN team.
Hamilton said the crew on the dhow told them they were carrying flour and wheat, but he said none of the foodstuffs were found on board.
Navy Captain Adan Cruz, commodore of U.S. Naval Forces Central Command, said the weapons could have been shipped from Somalia rather than Iran. The UN inspectors, he said, will determine the guns’ origin and “see first-hand the weapons flowing into the region.”
UN Ambassador Nikki Haley, in calling for a crackdown on Iran at the UN, has repeatedly accused Iran of supplying the Huthis. in 2017, she displayed the remnants of missiles that the Huthi rebels fired at Saudi Arabia, which is backing the Yemeni government in the civil war, saying they provided “undeniable evidence” that Iran was illegally supplying weapons to its Yemeni allies.
While we tend to think of drones as a very modern addition to the battlefield, the truth is, America’s Defense Department has long been interested in the concept of unmanned aircraft. In fact, for a short window of time in the 1960s, America’s supersonic, high-flying drones were already attempting reconnaissance flights over China.
In May of 1960, the United States was at a crossroads. A CIA pilot named Francis Gary Powers flying America’s classified U-2 Spy Plane had been shot down over the Soviet Union at the start of the month. The ensuing international incident edged the world one step closer toward nuclear Armageddon, and President Dwight Eisenhower made the decision to cease all manned flights into Soviet Airspace as a result. With reconnaissance satellite technology under development but still years away from providing actionable intelligence, Lockheed’s famed Skunkworks set to work on another possibility: unmanned flights over the Soviet Union.
D-21 Drone with additional rocket booster for launch from a B-52H
In October of 1962, legendary engineer Kelly Johnson, whose career included designing both the U-2 Spy Plane and the SR-71 Blackbird, set to work designing what would come to be called the D-21: a long-range, high altitude drone that leaned heavily on technology developed for the SR-71’s predecessor, the A-12.
The requirements Johnson was given by the CIA and U.S. Air Force were nothing short of extreme: the drone had to reach speeds of Mach 3.3–3.5, an operational altitude of 87,000–95,000 feet, and needed a fuel range of 3,000 nautical miles. Any modern-day engineer would tell you that such a project would still be daunting today, but Johnson had made a career out of accomplishing the seemingly impossible — often with little more than a hand ruler and scratch paper for calculations.
His D-21 design could meet all the requirements set out for him, but in order to achieve such high speeds at such high altitudes, he had to use a ramjet engine that couldn’t function until it was already flying high in the sky. As a result, plans were drawn up to deploy the drone from a variant of the A-12, dubbed the M-21 Blackbird.
Just in case you didn’t think the SR-71 could ever look cooler.
With a wingspan of just over 19 feet and a length of nearly 43 feet, the D-21 looked a lot like someone had just hacked the end off of one of the A-12’s wings, making the M-21 a matching aesthetic choice, if nothing else.
The D-21 carried a single high-resolution camera that would snap photos over a pre-programmed flight path. It would then eject the film canisters, which would drift down via parachute and float in water. The plan was to capture these canisters in the air, with Navy ships positioned to retrieve them from the water as a backup. The drone itself would then self-destruct to avoid being captured and reverse-engineered.
The first three test flights of the D-21 from the M-21 Blackbird went smoothly, but on the fourth attempt, the drone experienced an “asymmetric unstart” passing through the bow wake of its M-21 mothership. The two aircraft collided in mid-air at the blistering speed of Mach 3.25. Both pilots managed to eject, but one ultimately drowned before he could be rescued. The decision was made to scrap the M-21 mothership strategy and instead deploy the D-21 from beneath the wings of the B-52H bomber.
Modified D-21 drones on a B-52H Bomber
After a number of failures, Lockheed’s D-21 completed its first successful B-52H-launched flight in June of 1968 and soon, the program moved into operational reconnaissance flights over China.
In all, four D-21s were launched from B-52Hs and sent into Chinese airspace on reconnaissance missions. Two of the drones completed their flights, but either failed to eject their film, or the film was deemed irretrievable. The other two flights were either shot down or simply disappeared shortly after launch.
Despite their failures over China, the D-21 program was significantly ahead of its time. A Mach-3 capable drone with an operational ceiling of 90,000 feet was an unheard of proposition in its day and remains impressive even in this new era of unmanned aerial vehicles.
The program was ultimately canceled on July 15, 1971, with the B-52s converted for use in the program returned to operational service.
Thousands of Soldiers and their families are traveling home for the holidays, including about 44,000 trainees and cadre from initial-entry training centers.
The Soldiers are participating in a two-week Holiday Block Leave beginning Dec. 18, said Michael Brown, a training analyst at the U.S. Army Center for Initial Military Training’s Initial Entry Division.
These Soldiers are in various training sites across the U.S., going through Basic Combat Training, One Station Unit Training, Advanced Individual Training, the Basic Officer Leadership Course, and Warrant Officer Basic Course, he said.
Normally, about 3 to 5 percent of these Soldiers choose to remain at their installation and not travel home, he added. For those who stay behind, units coordinate several Morale, Welfare, and Recreation activities for them, including attending professional sporting events.
Maj. Gen. Pete Johnson, commander, U.S. Army Training Center and Fort Jackson, South Carolina, was at Charlotte Douglas International Airport in North Carolina Dec. 18, granting media interviews about the holiday travel. Around him were thousands of Soldiers trainees awaiting flights.
Holiday Block Leave gives Soldiers a chance to reconnect with their families, he said. About 7,000 Soldier trainees were traveling out of Fort Jackson on Dec. 18, “by trains, planes, and automobiles” and by buses, too, he added.
Planning for this mass exodus is like planning for the D-Day landings, he added, describing the logistical challenges of packing all the Soldiers out, giving them their safety and Army Values briefings, and getting them to their preferred modes of transportation.
Most of those Soldiers will be telling the Army story back home, he said, and some will even have “embellished war stories.”
Most of them are young, as young as 17, he noted, but sprinkled among them are “elder statesmen,” some as old as 39. They are from every state in the Union.
Johnson praised the volunteers at the airport’s USO lounge, who are particularly busy this time of year giving Soldiers a place to relax while awaiting their flights.
Pvt. Seth Akavickas was at the airport in Charlotte Dec. 18, waiting for a flight to take him home to Wausau, Wisconsin.
Soldiers in training at Fort Jackson were given personalized assistance getting home by ticket vendors, Akavickas said. His ticket vendor got him discounted round-trip tickets for $480, which was a good deal, he noted.
Feb. 28 is when Akavickas began his Basic Combat Training, so he’s experienced life in the Army for some time now. Currently, he is in Advanced Individual Training and will graduate Feb. 1.
Akavickas said he has mixed feelings about Holiday Block Leave. On the one hand, he’ll be able to spend time with his family over the holidays. But on the other hand, he said he’d kind of like to stay and finish training.
However, he added, the vast majority of Soldiers in training whom he’s spoken with are delighted for the break.
After AIT, Akavickas will return to Wisconsin to work as a human resource specialist in the National Guard. He said he plans to attend college through the ROTC program and then try to get commissioned in four years. He wants to make a career in the Army.
Pfc. Madeline Sallee was also at the Charlotte airport Dec. 18. She was heading home to Minnesota, on leave from Basic Combat Training and very happy to see her friends and family.
Sallee said the rest over break will be very good, particularly after some arduous training that included a 15-kilometer rucksack march and a lot of other physical activity.
The hardest part of training, she said, was spending the night outside when the temperature got down to 16F. “We were all shivering,” she added, despite being used to cold in her home state.
Sallee will graduate Feb. 1 and will become a logistical specialist. She said one of the benefits about basic was making a lot of new friends.
Staff Sgt. Domenic Buscemi, a drill sergeant from Fort Jackson, was also at the airport in Charlotte Dec. 18. He said drill sergeants accompany their Soldiers to help facilitate movement through the airport and to ensure standards of discipline are adhered to at all times.
Soldiers in training are required to travel in uniform, which means they are still representing the Army even while they are away, he said.
Buscemi also relayed some of the benefits of Holiday Block Leave. It serves to boost morale and motivation and gives Soldiers a chance to recharge.
It also gives them time to reflect on their experiences and spread their short-but-memorable Army story back in their communities, he said.
When the Soldiers return, Jan. 3, they will have retained about 70 percent of their basic military knowledge, so there will be some re-learning, he said, along with re-establishing their military discipline.
Soldiers don’t get to travel home in the middle of their training cycle during the rest of the year, he noted. On Thanksgiving, they’re given one day off, but that’s not time enough to travel home for most.
Fifteen years ago, Buscemi was a Soldier in training at Fort Benning, Georgia. It was summer and it was hot, he said, much tougher than winter training weather-wise.
Buscemi said he’ll return to Fort Jackson today, take a day of rest, then pile into the car with his wife and drive to her family’s home in Oklahoma where they will spend the holidays.
Brown admitted that the break in the training cycle is tough on drill sergeants, who have to re-teach numerous tasks, including discipline and customs and courtesies, when the Soldiers return from leave.
However, he said “the break is also good for trainees who come back with a little more pride about training to be a Soldier.”
Vietnam claims that a Chinese ship rammed and sank a fishing boat near the disputed Parcel Islands in the South China Sea, while Beijing tells an entirely different story.
The Vietnamese ship was struck by a Chinese vessel marked 44101 near Discovery Reef on March 6, 2019, Vietnam’s official Tuoi Tre newspaper reported March 7, 2019, citing Vietnamese authorities. The Vietnamese National Committee for Incident, Natural Disaster Response and Search and Rescue told VN Express, another Vietnamese outlet the same thing.
The five crew members reportedly clung to the bow of the sinking fishing boat until they were rescued roughly two hours later by another Vietnamese fishing boat.
An Vietnamese official speaking on background confirmed the report to the Associated Press.
Vietnamese fishing boats.
(Flickr photo by Joe Gatling)
Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesman argued that China detected a distress signal from a Vietnamese fishing vessel and dispatched a ship to assist, explaining that upon arrival, the Chinese ship discovered a vessel that was already sinking, the Chinese-language version of the Global Times reported.
Rather than provide assistance, the Chinese vessel reportedly contacted the Chinese Maritime Search and Rescue Center. Chinese media reports that the five fishermen were rescued, without providing any details on who rescued them.
None of the crew were injured in the incident.
The Paracels are a sore spot in bilateral ties between China and Vietnam. China seized these territories by force in the 1970s and has since constructed military outposts on a number of the features in this area.
In recent years, there have been several confrontations.
For example, Vietnam claimed in 2014 Chinese vessels encircled a Vietnamese fishing boat before ramming and sinking it. China argued that the Vietnamese ship was harassing the Chinese vessels. A similar incident occurred two years later.
China has clashed with other countries as well, including the US. In September 2018, a Chinese destroyer challenged a US Navy vessel during a routine freedom-of-navigation operation in the Spratlys, forcing the US warship off course and risking a collision.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.