That time the USAF intercepted a pilotless Soviet fighter - We Are The Mighty
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That time the USAF intercepted a pilotless Soviet fighter

On the morning of July 4, 1989, alarm bells blared at Soesterberg Air Base in the Netherlands, home of the US Air Force’s 32d Tactical Fighter Squadron.


Within minutes, a pair of armed F-15 Eagles, manned by Capts. J.D. Martin and Bill “Turf” Murphy, were launched on a scramble order. Their mission was to intercept what appeared to be a lone fighter making a beeline from Soviet-controlled airspace into Western Europe.

Though the Cold War’s end was seemingly not too far away, tensions still ran high between the two sides of the Iron Curtain, and any incursion by an unidentified aircraft would need to be responded to swiftly.

That time the USAF intercepted a pilotless Soviet fighter
F-15Cs of the 32d Tactical Fighter Squadron (US Air Force)

As JD and Turf were vectored in on the aircraft, now identified as a Soviet MiG-23 Flogger supersonic fighter, ground controllers notified them that all attempts to contact the inbound jet had failed and the intentions of its pilot were unknown and potentially hostile.

When they got close the the Flogger, the two Eagles were primed and ready to shoot down their silent bogey if it didn’t respond and carried on its flight path. But when the two F-15 pilots closed in on the aircraft to positively identify it, they noticed that the pylons underneath the Flogger — used to mount missiles and bombs — were empty.

By then, the Flogger was firmly in Dutch airspace, casually flying onward at around 400 mph at an altitude of 39,000 ft.

What JD and Turf saw next would shock them — the Flogger’s canopy had been blown off and there was no pilot to be found inside the cockpit. In essence, the Soviet fighter was flying itself, likely through its autopilot system.

That time the USAF intercepted a pilotless Soviet fighter
A Soviet Air Force MiG-23 Flogger, similar to the one which flew pilotless across Europe (US Air Force)

After contacting ground control with this new development, the two Eagle pilots were given approval to shoot down the wayward MiG over the North Sea, lest it suddenly crash into a populated area. Unaware of how long the pilotless MiG had been flying, and battling poor weather which could have sent debris shooting down the MiG into nearby towns, JD and Turf opted to let the jet run out of fuel and crash into the English Channel.

Instead, the aircraft motored along into Belgium, finally arcing into a farm when the last of its fuel reserves were depleted. Tragically, the MiG struck a farmhouse, killing a 19-year-old. Authorities raced to the site of the crash to begin their investigation into what happened, while the two F-15s returned to base. French Air Force Mirage fighters were also armed and ready to scramble should the MiG have strayed into French airspace.

That time the USAF intercepted a pilotless Soviet fighter
The crash site of the MiG-23 in Belgium (Public Domain)

Details of what led to the loss of the Flogger began to emerge.

As it turns out, the Soviet fighter had originated from Bagicz Airbase — a short distance away from Kolobrzeg, Poland — on what was supposed to be a regular training mission. The pilot, Col. Nikolai Skuridin, ejected less than a minute into his flight during takeoff when instruments in the cockpit notified him that he had drastically lost engine power. At an altitude of around 500 ft, it would be dangerous and almost certainly fatal if Skuridin stayed with his stricken fighter, trying to recover it with its only engine dead. The colonel bailed out with a sense of urgency, assuming the end was near.

But as he drifted back down to Earth, instead of seeing his fighter plummet to its demise, it righted itself and resumed climbing, its engine apparently revived.

The ensuing debacle proved to be thoroughly embarrassingfor the Soviet Union, which was forced to offer restitution to Belgium and the family of the deceased teenager. By the end of the MiG’s flight, it had flown over 625 miles by itself until it ran out of fuel and crashed.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Why the recent strike on Syria might have been illegal

President Donald Trump’s administration for the second time ordered a military strike on the Syrian government without asking for permission from Congress, and it could indicate the legislature has lost its ability to stop the US president from going to war.

The US Constitution, in Article I, Section 8, clearly states that the power to declare war lies with Congress, but since 2001 successive US presidents have used military force in conflicts around the world with increasingly tenuous legality.


Today, the US backs up most of its military activity using broad congressional legislation known as the Authorization for Use of Military Force. The joint resolution, which Congress passed in 2001 after the 9/11 terrorist attacks, allows the president to “use all necessary and appropriate force against those nations, organizations, or persons he determines planned, authorized, committed, or aided the terrorist attacks that occurred on Sept. 11, 2001, or harbored such organizations or persons.”

This has essentially become a carte blanche for the US president to fight terrorism wherever it rears its head.

But on April 13, 2018, the Trump administration attacked Syrian targets in retaliation for an attack on a Damascus suburb the US says involved chemical weapons. Trump ordered a similar punitive strike a year ago, in April 2017.

At Harvard’s Lawfare blog, the law professors Jack Goldsmith and Oona A. Hathaway summed up all of the Trump administration’s possible arguments for the legality of the Syria strikes in an article titled “Bad Legal Arguments for the Syria Airstrikes.”

The article concludes that the US’s stated legal justification, that Article II of the Constitution allows the US to protect itself from attacks, falls short and that other legal arguments are a stretch at best.

Rep. John Garamendi, a California Democrat on the House Armed Services Committee who spoke with Secretary of Defense James Mattis hours before the strike, told Business Insider the strikes were probably illegal.

“The bottom line is I do not believe he has legal authority to conduct those strikes,” Garamendi said.

Congress ‘derelict in its duty’ as Trump doesn’t even try to get approval

That time the USAF intercepted a pilotless Soviet fighter
The Laboon firing a Tomahawk land-attack missile.
(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Kallysta Castillo)

Trump “could have and should have come to Congress and said these facilities and the use of poisonous gas is horrific, it is illegal based upon the international conventions, and I want to take military action,” Garamendi said, adding that he thought “a limited authorization to do that would have passed Congress in one day” if it had been written in a concise, limited way.

But Trump did not ask for permission, and it shows the incredible power of today’s US presidents to start wars.

“I think that Congress was derelict in its duty,” Garamendi said. “Congress clearly has abdicated one of its most crucial functions, and that is the power to take the US into a war. The Constitution is absolutely clear, and it’s for a very important reason.”

Fred Hof, a former US ambassador to Syria who is now at the Atlantic Council, said that while there was some reason for Congress to allow the president leverage in where and when he strikes, the two branches of government still needed to coordinate.

“Most, maybe all, in Congress would concede there are circumstances in which the commander-in-chief must act quickly and unilaterally,” Hof wrote to Business Insider. “But there are reasons why the Constitution enumerates the duties of the Congress in Article One, as opposed to subsequent Articles. I really do believe it’s incumbent on the executive branch to consult fully with the Congress and take the initiative in getting on the same page with the people’s representatives.”

Lawrence Brennan, a former US Navy captain who is an expert on maritime law, told Business Insider “the last declaration of war was in the course of World War II,” adding that Congress had “absolutely” given the president increased powers to wage war unilaterally.

Possibly illegal strikes create a ‘window’ for the US’s adversaries

That time the USAF intercepted a pilotless Soviet fighter
President Donald Trump
(Photo by Gage Skidmore)

The US missile attack had questionable legality, but it wasn’t even Trump’s first time ordering strikes against Syria’s government, as a salvo of 59 cruise missiles targeted a Syrian air base in April 2017.

Before that, the US attacked Libya’s government forces in 2011. The US is also using the 2001 Authorization for Use of Military Force as justification for attacking Islamist militants in the Philippines, among other countries.

Garamendi said that by neglecting to request congressional approval, Trump had “given Syria, Russia, and Iran an argument that never should have happened.” He said by opening an internal US argument over whether the strike was legal, Trump had committed a “very serious error” and “opened a diplomatic attack that could easily have been avoided.”

Trump certainly did not start the trend of presidents ordering military action without congressional approval, and he has enjoyed wide support for his actions against chemical weapons use, but the move indicates a jarring reality — that the US president can go to war with thin legal justification and without even bothering to ask Congress.

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Cyber-attack wreaks havoc on US Internet traffic

That time the USAF intercepted a pilotless Soviet fighter
A large scale cyber-attack was launched yesterday in waves against Dyn, an infrastructor company who monitors 150 companies, 77 of which were impacted


The Department of Homeland Security as well as the FBI are investigating what is being called possibly the largest scale cyber-attack ever, according to Aljazeera.

On the morning of Oct. 21 the first wave of the cyber-attack began on infrastructure company Dyn, based in New Hampshire. The company is responsible for connecting individual internet users to websites by routing them through a series of unique Internet Protocol numbers. CNN reported that the company monitors more than 150 websites.

Friday’s cyber-attack used botnets — or devices connected to the internet that have been infected with malware — to launch a distributed denial of service attack that impacted companies like CNN, the New York Times, Twitter, PayPal, and others, Aljazeera reported.

USA Today explained that denial of service attacks turn unsuspecting devices into weapons by downloading malware to unprotected devices that allows them to be controlled by hackers. Hackers then use these weaponized botnets to overload the traffic to websites by sending hundreds of thousands of requests through the IP address, giving a false signal that the website is too busy to accept normal requests for access to the site.

While the cyber-attack was mostly annoying for internet users, it ultimately impacted the U.S. on a much larger scale, denying the 77 companies affected by the attack up to $110 million in revenue, according to Dyn CEO John Van Siclen.

The greater security concern is the access to individual devices that is granted because the devices were left with their default password intact, according to The Guardian. The devices used in Friday’s cyber-attack were all traced back to one company, the Chinese tech company XiongMai Technologies, which makes, ironically, security cameras.

The cyber-attack was felt as far away as Europe, and across the U.S. Wikileaks suggested in a tweet late Oct. 21 that its supporters were responsible for the breach, sending out a picture of the most affected areas in the U.S.

Military members can help protect their devices from being used as weapons by following their training on cyber awareness. Consistently changing passwords, logging out of accounts when on public computers, and protecting personally identifying information are recommended.

 

That time the USAF intercepted a pilotless Soviet fighter
Wikileaks tweeted this photo along with a plea for supporters to stop the cyber-attack

Articles

8 photos that show how a military working dog takes down bad guys

A dog’s purpose is often for companionship – and they can be loyal friends. But a number of dogs also serve.


Military working dogs have a variety of missions, including bomb detection, security and attack. In a recent photo essay, the Air Force demonstrates how MWDs are trained to take down bad guys. The canine doing this demonstration is Ttoby, a Belgian Malinois.

According to DogTime.com, the Belgian Malinois can reach up to 80 pounds, and can live for up to 14 years. The American Kennel Club website notes that the breed was first recognized in 1959, and that Cairo, a Belgian Malinois, carried out the raid alongside SEAL Team 6 that targeted Osama bin Laden. PetMD.com reports that the dog is very popular among K9 units in law enforcement agencies.

1. It looks like a normal day when Ttoby’s handler tells someone to stop.

That time the USAF intercepted a pilotless Soviet fighter
Military Working Dog Ttoby, 23d Security Forces Squadron, prepares for an MWD demonstration, Feb. 2, 2017, at Moody Air Force Base, Ga. Ttoby is a Belgian Malinois and specializes in personnel protection and detecting explosives. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Zachary Wolf)

2. The guy refuses to comply, so the handler warns the suspected bad guy Ttoby will be turned loose.

That time the USAF intercepted a pilotless Soviet fighter
Air Force Senior Airman Anthony Hayes and Ttoby, a military working dog, take a break during a demonstration at Moody Air Force Base, Ga., Feb. 2, 2017. Hayes is a military dog handler assigned to the 23d Security Forces Squadron. Ttoby is a Belgian Malinois and specializes in personnel protection and detecting explosives, trained as a military dog at Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland, Texas. (Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Zachary Wolf)

3. The bad guy is warned that the dog will be let loose if he doesn’t comply.

That time the USAF intercepted a pilotless Soviet fighter
Senior Airman Anthony Hayes, 23d Security Forces Squadron military working dog handler, pets MWD Ttoby during a demonstration, Feb. 2, 2017, at Moody Air Force Base, Ga. Ttoby returned from his first deployment to Southwest Asia near the end of January. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Zachary Wolf)

4. The bad guy gets his last warning – Ttoby’s ready to chase.

That time the USAF intercepted a pilotless Soviet fighter
Senior Airman Anthony Hayes, 23d Security Forces Squadron military working dog handler, prepares to release MWD Ttoby during a training demonstration, Feb. 2, 2017 at Moody Air Force Base, Ga. The first Air Force sentry dog school was activated at Showa Air Station, Japan, in 1952 and the second school was opened at Wiesbaden, West Germany in 1953. All MWDs are now trained at Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland, Texas, and then distributed throughout the Department of Defense. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Zachary Wolf)

5. Ttoby lunges onto the bad guy.

That time the USAF intercepted a pilotless Soviet fighter
Ttoby, a military working dog, performs a bite attack during a demonstration at Moody Air Force Base, Ga., Feb. 2, 2017. (Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Zachary Wolf)

6. Struggling doesn’t help, as Ttoby has a firm grip.

That time the USAF intercepted a pilotless Soviet fighter
Air Force Senior Airman Anthony Hayes, right, holds Ttoby, a military working dog, as he bites Senior Airman Randle Williams during a demonstration at Moody Air Force Base, Ga., Feb. 2, 2017. Hayes and Williams are military dog handlers assigned to the 23d Security Forces Squadron. Ttoby is a Belgian Malinois and specializes in personnel protection and detecting explosives, trained as a military dog at Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland, Texas. (Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Zachary Wolf)

7. Finally, the bad guy gives up.

That time the USAF intercepted a pilotless Soviet fighter
Air Force Senior Airman Anthony Hayes, left, handles Ttoby, a military working dog, as he bites Senior Airman Randle Williams during a demonstration at Moody Air Force Base, Ga., Feb. 2, 2017. Hayes and Williams are military dog handlers assigned to the 23d Security Forces Squadron. Ttoby is a Belgian Malinois and specializes in personnel protection and detecting explosives, trained as a military dog at Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland, Texas. (Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Zachary Wolf)

8. Ttoby has been told to stand down, but he is ready if that bad guy does something stupid – like try to run or assault the handler.

That time the USAF intercepted a pilotless Soviet fighter
Air Force Senior Airman Anthony Hayes, left, commands Ttoby, a military working dog, to stand down during a demonstration at Moody Air Force Base, Ga., Feb. 2, 2017. Hayes is a military dog handler assigned to the 23d Security Forces Squadron. Ttoby is a Belgian Malinois and specializes in personnel protection and detecting explosives, trained as a military dog at Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland, Texas. (Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Zachary Wolf)

MIGHTY TRENDING

Here’s the app that helps regular Marines become Raiders

Marine Corps Raiders are the U.S. military’s newest group of elite special operators. They can trace their pedigree to World War II, but the modern units and their headquarters, Marine Special Operations Command, were stood up in 2006. And an app helps them prepare.


 

That time the USAF intercepted a pilotless Soviet fighter

Marines with the 1st Special Operations Battalion practice boarding and taking down a ship at night. Photo: US Marine Corps Staff Sgt. Robert M. Storm

So how does the Corps get gung-ho Marines ready to try out for the Raiders and other Marine special ops units? With a smartphone app and .pdf guide.

The 10-week fitness program focuses on getting prospective students ready to complete the Marine Corps Physical Fitness Test, the intermediate swim test, and the MARSOC Assessment and Selection Ruck movement standards, according to the intro that comes up when users download the app.

Marines who do well in these “Three Pillars” are more likely to complete the MARSOC Assessment and Selection and go on to become Marine Corps operators.

Each of the three major events gets at least two days of training each week, and there are detailed explanations of how to safely and effectively do each exercise. This includes everything from proper form for a pull up to the best way to simulate the weight and feel of a weapon while ruck marching off base.

That time the USAF intercepted a pilotless Soviet fighter
MARSOC fitness app screenshot

The app does everything it can to help students succeed. It has an integrated checklist and a notes section so users can track their progress through a workout, and it has a reminder function to give people the nudge out the door to begin training.

That time the USAF intercepted a pilotless Soviet fighter
MARSOC fitness app screenshot

 

The .pdf guide obviously has fewer bells and whistles, but it’s well set up. The exercise regimens are modular and each module is clearly printed on a card. So, to get the materials together for a daily workout, the reader pulls out the assigned cards for that day and then completes each card in order. The same images and workout descriptions that are available in the app are present in the .pdf.

Raider candidates should check out the app and .pdf. And for more on MARSOC go here.

Articles

This Disabled Veteran Describes His Scars Of War With Incredible Slam Poetry

Brian’s poem will give you perspective into how wide the civilian-military divide gap really is.


Related: Watch this Iraq War veteran’s tragic story told through the lens of a cartoon

On December 3, Brian’s mother posted a video of him reciting his poem on her Facebook wall. At the time of this writing, the video had been shared over 103,700 times. The video was intended to be shared with friends and family, but it had such a powerful effect that it was published to YouTube in order to mitigate comments to her Facebook account.

Brian delivers a powerful and sincere peek into his scars of war that were inspired by a grocery bagger’s clueless comments.

Clearly upset, he took to poetry to express his experience.

The video is very touching. Check it out:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u-CE69jv5EY

melanie fay/Youtube

We’ve transcribed Brian’s poem in case you can’t play it out loud:
The other night at the store, check out line with my wife

the bagger asked a question that cut with a knife.

He saw my beanie and tried to make conversation

asked me if I was a member by service or donation.

I looked at him and smiled, I’m used to small talk questions

said that I became a member after serving my nation.

I went to Iraq and to Stan played around did some time in the sand

and he responded with that patented, “oh thanks for your service man.”

Nothing else needed to be said, conversation through

but then he stepped back and looked at me from beanie to shoe.

He asked the question, I swear this is true

he looked at me again and asked, “well what’s wrong with you.”

Taken back by his question I quickly spout an answer, “that’s a little personal man”

then you won’t believe his candor.

“I’m sorry man I didn’t mean to offend,

just looking you over it looks like you have all your limbs”

I walked out the store angry but why?

That was a volatile observation by a dumbass guy

how could he see the blood behind these eyes.

I should have marched back in there and asked if he wanted to see all the scars.

Hey these seem to interest you

take a seat guy you’re about to need a tissue.

See my scars I don’t wear them on the surface of my skin

like most veterans the deepest scars are within.

Sound of screams of brothers dying

tears roll down from mothers crying

bullets hail and fly overhead

watch a bullet leave your best friends head.

Or the hands that I took hold

watched as the grip grew colder

maybe you want to hear about that time I had to shoot a child

or that other time I had to drag my brother’s body a quarter mile

just because I knew he’d be defiled.

See what you fail to understand is that no veteran ever comes back that whole of a man.

Whether it be limbs are gone or internal scars

we all search for answers at the bottom of glasses in the darkest of bars.

Who are you to ask what is wrong with me

are you now the wounded warrior judge and jury?

One thing I want to remind you kids, I’m not mad

as a matter of fact, your dumbass question made me glad.

My invisible injury, I wear with pride

it doesn’t matter that you don’t know my friends who died.

it doesn’t matter that when I go home you don’t see

that I could barely remember what I had to eat.

I also have brain damage you see

been through one too many explosions that shook my head

while you lay quietly at home sleeping in your bed.

And cause of blast of me flying through the air,

oh you want to see where I bounce… everywhere.

But its okay boy stand up let me brush you off

I know it’s impossible for you to understand the cost.

I see that tear, here’s that tissue

maybe next time you’ll just leave it at thank you.

But I didn’t do that, I just let it be

I couldn’t let someone’s ignorance violate me.

Instead I said no problem, don’t worry about it man

It’s something that takes time to understand.

So next time you see a vet don’t think you need to vet him

don’t look for stories of injuries like we all openly display them.

Don’t ask sh–t like, “did you kill anyone”

we share that sh–t when we want, boy don’t be dumb.

Again, I can say blame that those that ain’t been taught

but I will say, “dammit ain’t about time we stop living underneath a rock.”

I’m an American veteran been to Iraq and to Stan

yes I am disabled, no you don’t need to shake my hand.

Yes I’m slightly crazy but who wouldn’t be

just want to let you know exactly why you thank me.

Articles

These are the boats you didn’t know the Army had

The Army is known for its ability to fight on land, and most people know it has plenty of helicopters. But the Army also has an impressive fleet of watercraft that it uses for transportation, engineering, and even special operations platforms. Here are the watercraft that hardly anyone knows the Army has.


1. The landing craft that can be a floating base for special operators

That time the USAF intercepted a pilotless Soviet fighter
Photo: Wikimedia Commons/RadioFan

Most people know landing crafts from World War II movies where ramps dropped, and soldiers rushed out and onto the beaches. Landing craft are still largely the same, with advances in technology allowing for larger, more resilient ships. The Army currently fields 34 Landing Craft, Utility 2000s.

The LCU works by pulling close to a shore, dock, or pier and dropping a ramp to form a bridge for vehicles. Supplies are then carried off by forklift while transported vehicles can roll off under their own power. The LCU-2000 can carry up to 350 tons into water as shallow as 9 feet, meaning it can drop 5 Abrams tanks directly onto a beach.

The LCU-2000s have been historically used as transportation platforms for supplies and armored vehicles, but they also saw service with special operators in Haiti and Operation Iraqi Freedom. In Haiti, the ships were used to transport operators to different fights while avoiding the heavily defended road network. In Iraq, they were used as floating staging bases for operators assaulting offshore oil platforms.

2. The landing craft that can assault beaches, fight fires, and act as a command center

That time the USAF intercepted a pilotless Soviet fighter
Photo: US Navy Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class John Stratton

The Landing Craft, Mechanized 8 is primarily a supply transport ship like the LCU-2000. It is smaller and carries only 53 tons, meaning it can’t lift a single heavy tank. It can carry smaller vehicles though and can operate in waters as shallow as 5 ft.

It is highly customizable though, and it’s used for a variety of purposes. Its shallow draft allows it to operate inland, far away from deep water. It can be fitted with firefighting equipment, diver support equipment, or communications relays. It especially shines in disaster relief since it can deliver to an unimproved beach or damaged dock as much cargo as a C-17 can carry.

The Army has 40 LCM-8s, but it’s looking to replace them. The Maneuver Support Vessel (Light) program calls for a new ship with capabilities above and beyond the LCM-8. It would carry more cargo, be more survivable under attack, and have both fore and aft ramps so vehicles could drive on and off faster.

3. Logistics support vessels that can deploy 24 combat-ready tanks

That time the USAF intercepted a pilotless Soviet fighter
Photo: US Navy Petty Officer 1st Class Elisandro T. Diaz

Though the Army has only eight Logistics Support Vessels, they are heavy lifters. The LSV is capable of carrying 2,000 tons from deepwater boats to shore. Though it needs 12 feet of water to float, it has a longer ramp that allows it to reach the shore on beaches the LCM-8 and LCU-2000 can’t reach.

Its larger deck surface and greater capacity means it can carry 24 M1 tanks directly to a beach and the tanks can roll off, ready to fight. That’s almost enough space to carry an entire armored cavalry troop in one lift.

4. Dredges and cranes for re-shaping the coast

That time the USAF intercepted a pilotless Soviet fighter
Photo: Wikimedia Commons/Mike Baird

Army engineers are in charge of U.S. dredging operations. That’s the removal of silt from the ocean floor to lay communications cable, open clogged shipping lanes, or deepen waterways for larger ships. To accomplish this mission, they maintain 11 dredging vessels that remove silt and sand and dump it out to sea or in pre-planned sites.

The engineers also keep a small fleet of floating cranes used to assist with dredging, repair or build ports, and move supplies onto and off of ships.

5. Tugs that can pull aircraft carriers

That time the USAF intercepted a pilotless Soviet fighter
Photo: US Army Sgt. Edwin Rodriguez

Army tugs are used primarily to maneuver friendly ships in tricky ports or waterways just like civilian tugs. They are also useful for repositioning cranes and moving floating piers or barges into position.

The Army’s tugs are surprisingly capable. The largest six Army tugs are in the Nathaniel Greene class, and each can pull an aircraft carrier in a pinch. There are 24 tugs total in the Army inventory.

NOW: D-Day: The story behind the largest amphibious assault in history

OR: The 4 biggest myths US Marines keep telling themselves

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This is what it’s like to feel zero G aboard NASA’s ‘Vomit Comet’

That time the USAF intercepted a pilotless Soviet fighter


Way back in the early ’90s, when I was a U.S. Navy lieutenant serving as the editor of Approach magazine (Naval Aviation’s Safety review), I was invited by NASA astronaut Bill Shepherd to come down to Houston for a hands-on tour. Along with suiting up in full astronaut gear and flying the shuttle simulator in all regimes of flight, I had the opportunity to ride in NASA’s “reduced gravity aircraft,” better known as the “vomit comet” (because of its tendency to cause passengers to throw up during the zero-G missions).

In those days NASA used a couple of KC-135 Stratotankers as the Vomit Comets, which were big ol’ beasts relative to the contract Airbus 300s and 727s they used later. We launched out of Ellington Field at headed over the Gulf of Mexico. There were about a dozen passengers in the compartment with me, mostly engineers who were testing exercise equipment for future use on the space station.

There was a crew chief who was charged with making sure nobody got hurt, and he explained during his safety brief that the main way to avoid injury was to make sure you had a hand on the padded floor during the transition from zero-G back to 1-G.  He said that passengers had sprained ankles and wrists or twisted neck muscles by getting disoriented while weightless and hitting the deck in an awkward fashion once G came back on the airplane.

The pilot announced “starting the pull,” which meant he was commencing a 1.8 G pull until the aircraft’s nose was pointed 45 degrees up. At that point he pushed the nose forward until the aircraft was right at zero G and held it there until the aircraft was pointed 45 degrees nose down, which resulted in about 30 seconds of weightlessness. At that point he’s start another 1.8 G pull back to 45 degrees nose up into another zero G pushover . . . over and over again.  Each cycle was known as a “parabola,” and a mission consisted of 40 of them – 20 headed eastbound and 20 headed back to the base, westbound.

That time the USAF intercepted a pilotless Soviet fighter

My host Navy Captain Bill Shepherd, a SEAL by warfare specialty who later broke the record for days on the International Space Station, had done the Vomit Comet missions many times. He’d admitted before the mission that he’d become airsick every time and predicted he’d do so on that day’s mission as well.

I was a Tomcat Radar Intercept Officer with more than 1,000 tactical jet hours under my belt at the time, so high-G flight was nothing new to me.  In fact, the parabola profile seemed pretty mild compared to the way a fighter maneuvered during a dogfight. But the engineers weren’t as experienced, and Capt. Shepherd instructed me to watch them as the flight went along.

“Everybody will do the first 10 parabolas very giddy,” he said.  “They’ll flip around and laugh and high five each other.”

The next ten parabolas would have fewer spins and less laughter, he predicted.  The 10 after that would consist of people fighting the urge to throw up. And the last 10 would be a bunch of miserable people wishing the flight would end as they floated for 30 seconds at a time after getting sick.

That time the USAF intercepted a pilotless Soviet fighter

And that’s pretty much what happened. At some point in the flight everybody’s joy wore off as their inner ears said “WTF?” with all the gyrating and weird sensations. Along with Capt. Shepherd the majority of those in the compartment got airsick, and about three-quarters of the way through the mission all of the engineers were so incapacitated that they were unable to test the fitness equipment.  According to former Reduced Gravity Research Program director John Yaniec, anxiety contributes most to passengers’ airsickness. The stress on their bodies creates a sense of panic and therefor causes the passenger to vomit.

The crew chief noticed that I seemed to be doing okay, so he asked if I would jump in and try out the reclined bicycle and the stepper. I did, and we were able to flag that the stepper had a tendency to stick on the down-stroke during zero G.

I’d experience zero G many times before that, but never for 30 seconds at a time. The sensation of being weightless for that long was very cool, relaxing even. Although those suffering airsickness among us certainly didn’t feel the same way, before I knew it we’d done 40 parabolas and we were back on deck at Ellington Field.

My flight on the Vomit Comet was among the most memorable experiences of my 20-year Navy career, and I’m glad I got to do it before the “reduced gravity” program was cancelled in 2014, another casualty of NASA’s dwindling budget.

Now: 17 Signs That You Might Be A Military Aviator

And: 10 Things That Will Remind You About NASA’s Amazing Legacy

MIGHTY TACTICAL

US troops demolish ISIS leader’s compound to keep it from becoming a shrine

US special operations forces who are believed to have killed ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi issued an airstrike on his compound to prevent the location from becoming a shrine, according to Newsweek.

Soldiers from the 1st Special Forces Operational Detachment, or Delta Force, conducted a raid against what they believed to be Baghdadi at the northern province of Idlib, Syria, on Oct. 26, 2019, unnamed US officials said in numerous news reports.

Baghdadi, who fetched a $25 million bounty in the US, is believed to have been killed in the raid. Military officials were still awaiting forensics verification, according to Newsweek, who first reported on the assault.


US troops faced incoming fire once they entered the site, a senior Defense Department official said to Newsweek, adding that the ISIS leader appeared to have killed himself by detonating a suicide vest. Two of Baghdadi’s wives were reportedly killed by their own suicide vests.

Who Is Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi? | Velshi & Ruhle | MSNBC

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Prior to the raid against al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden in 2011, White House officials decided the US would bury him at sea in the event he was killed. Officials reportedly reasoned that it would prevent bin Laden’s gravesite from becoming a shrine. Then-CIA director John Brennan said the administration consulted with Islamic experts and that bin Laden was buried “in accordance with the Islamic requirements,” according to The New York Times.

Baghdadi’s last public sighting was from an April 29 propaganda video, the first visual sighting of him in five years. In September, an audio recording purportedly of Baghdadi issuing orders was released by the terrorist organization. Both of Baghdadi’s appearances followed ISIS’s loosening grip in Syria and Iraq amid the US-led coalition’s campaign to rid the region of the group.

Donald Trump FULL announcement ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi killed in military operation

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In 2018, ISIS militants and Iraqi intelligence indicated that Baghdadi’s son, Hudhayfah al-Badri, was killed in Syria. ISIS’s social media channels claimed Badri was conducting a suicide bombing operation against Russian forces, while Iraqi reports suggested he and 10 others were killed in a Russian missile attack, Voice of America reported.

Baghdadi was previously rumored to have been killed or wounded by airstrikes on numerous occasions in recent years. He became ISIS’s leader in 2010 after two of his predecessors killed themselves before being captured by US and Iraqi forces.

President Donald Trump on Oct. 26, 2019, tweeted vaguely that a “very big” event had taken place, and a White House official said he would make an announcement on Oct. 27, 2019.

The Defense Department did not respond to a request for comment.

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

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Watch a flying tour of Britain’s new aircraft carrier

Great Britain once had the most powerful Navy in the world, but since 2010, they haven’t had a single aircraft carrier.


That changed earlier this week.

The HMS Queen Elizabeth — the largest and most powerful carrier the Royal Navy has ever built — set sail on June 26 for the first time.

That time the USAF intercepted a pilotless Soviet fighter
Photo courtesy of the Royal Navy.

With a price tag of about $3.8 billion, it’s also Britain’s most expensive ship ever built. Still, the juice might be worth the squeeze.

“I think there are very few capabilities, by any country, that are as symbolic as a carrier strike capability,” commanding officer Captain Jerry Kyd told reporters on June 26. “These are visible symbols of power and power projection.”

Manned by a crew of 1,000 sailors, the ship is 919-feet long, weighs 65,000 tons, and can hold 40 jets.

Check out the aerial footage of the ship:

MIGHTY TRENDING

Trump’s IRR Recall Order: What you need to know

You may have heard that President Trump signed an executive order Friday, March 27 allowing the military to recall members of the selected reserve and some former service members to active duty in support of the government’s response to the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak.

While this sounds ominous, the executive order is mainly a formality giving the Pentagon the authority to recall reserve members as necessary. A federal law (10 U.S. Code § 12302) that has been around since 1953 authorizes the president to recall up to one million reservists for up to two years in times of national emergency.


The military branches have also started to gauge interest from recently separated members on volunteering to return to active duty in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. The Army, for example, recently contacted 800,000 retired members asking about their willingness to return to active duty and help the service fight the pandemic. More than 17,000 retirees, representing various specialties, have responded at the time of this writing.

That time the USAF intercepted a pilotless Soviet fighter

Maryland National Guard Transports Citizens During COVID-19 Pandemic.

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Who Will Be The First To Be Recalled?

If the coronavirus pandemic worsens and requires a major military mobilization, an involuntary recall would begin only if there aren’t enough active-duty members, selected reserve and guard members and volunteers returning to active duty. The order of recall is as follows:

  1. Retirees and inactive reservists under 60 who have been off active duty for less than five years
  2. Retirees and inactive reservists under 60 who have been off active duty for five years or more
  3. Retirees and inactive reservists, including those retired for disability, who are over 60 years old

Again, the needs of the service are tantamount, and some military specialties may have different rules than others. A medical officer who has been out of the military for 15 years may be recalled before an aircraft mechanic who separated last month.

That time the USAF intercepted a pilotless Soviet fighter

PA National Guard support COVID-19 test site in Montgomery County.

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10 U.S. Code § 12302 also says that recall consideration will be given to:

  1. the length and nature of previous service, to assure such sharing of exposure to hazards as the national security and military requirements will reasonably allow;
  2. family responsibilities; and
  3. employment necessary to maintain the national health, safety, or interest.

That means if you are a health care professional and can do society more good as a civilian, you may be exempted from recall. Also, if you have serious family responsibilities you may be exempted.

The law may also exempt veterans with some disabilities or medical conditions from any involuntary recall. Those with less than honorable discharges and certain separation codes may also be exempted from involuntary recall.

What Happens If You Are Recalled?

You will most likely get a certified letter from the military directing you to an intake center. If you don’t answer the letter, they will send another one to your home of record. If you still don’t respond, you will be identified as a deserter and possibly face legal action.

If you are recalled, you have the same responsibilities as any active-duty member: no drug use, adherence to grooming and physical readiness standards, support of the needs of the military and obedience to the chain of command.

Even if you meet those obligations, you won’t be eligible for any promotions as a recalled member. Instead, you will be paid at your current rank or the rank at which you separated. Your retirement pay and any VA disability benefits will also stop for the duration of your revitalized active duty service.

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

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America has lost 2 service members in 2 days in Afghanistan

A US service member died in a non-combat incident in Afghanistan Sept. 4, 2018, marking the second American death in two days in the war-torn country.

The incident is currently under investigation, according to an Operation Resolute Support press statement that was decidedly short on details. The fallen’s name will be released 24 hours after the individual’s next of kin have been notified.


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Top brass wants women to register for the draft

Now that women are cleared to join men in all U.S. military combat roles, the service chiefs of the U.S. Army and U.S. Marine Corps think the rules for Selective Service registration should be changed to include women.


That time the USAF intercepted a pilotless Soviet fighter
Gen. Robert Neller (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Shawn Valosin)

Current selective service rules say all male citizens of the United States and male immigrants (and bizarrely, illegal immigrants) have to register for the Selective Service System within 30 days of their 18th birthday. This is not joining the military but registering with the government to be available in a time where conscription would be necessary.

Marine Corps Commandant Gen. Robert Neller and Army Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Milley believe the provisions of Military Selective Service should reflect the new policies of the Department of Defense.

“Every American who’s physically qualified should register for the draft,” Neller told the Senate Armed Services Committee .

That time the USAF intercepted a pilotless Soviet fighter
Gen. Mark Milley

The Supreme Court’s 1981 decision in Rostker v. Goldberg upheld Congress’ decision to exempt women from the draft, saying “training would be needlessly burdened by women recruits who could not be used in combat.”

In order for women to be drafted, Congress would have to update the provisions of the Selective Service Act of 1948.

That time the USAF intercepted a pilotless Soviet fighter

If you’re an American male age 18 or older and forgot to register for Selective Service, there’s no time like the present.

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