This fully customized Dodge Challenger was built by Galpin Auto Sports of Van N California, and is outfitted with special gullwing doors, a carbon fiber body kit, and a “stealth” exhaust system that, when activated, allows the Vapor to run almost silently. Its features include cutting edge technology used by the , such as a forward looking infrared system for night operation and a high-resolution 360-degree surveillance camera with 1/4 mile range.
In addition, the car’s blacked-out “command center” interior is equipped with aircraft style controls, a passenger side steering wheel, and a windshield head-up display with both night and thermal vision capability, and its advanced computer system allows remote operation from anywhere in the world with an internet connection.
The Vapor Supercar toured the for more than seven years with the Recruiting Service, educating the public on opportunities for officers and enlisted airmen by showcasing ingenuity, state-of the-art technology, and innovation.
According to National Museum of the Deputy Director and Senior Curator Krista Strider, having the Vapor Supercar on display at the museum will not only allow visitors to appreciate the advanced technology and unique aspects of the car, but could also lead to some extended mileage for its recruiting mission.
“The special features and innovative technology associated with the Vapor Supercar is really interesting for visitors to see,” said Strider. “A major part of the museum’s mission is to inspire our youth toward an or STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) career, and the Vapor Supercar is another asset that we can utilize to help accomplish that goal.”
And in 2016, the Kuznetsov cruised through the English channel belching black smoke on its way to the Mediterranean.
This series of accidents and problems leads to one inevitable conclusion: The Russian Navy has a maintenance problem.
Bryan Clark, senior fellow for the Center of Strategic and Budgetary Studies, said that when it comes to maintenance, “You can’t live on older ships. After 20 to 25 years, all you have is what’s left on the shelf.”
The Admiral Kuznetsov.
Though many of the incidents plagued their submarine force, even more telling than its history of catastrophes is the routine reliance on oceangoing tugs, which accompany its surface vessels on every deployment.
On Oct. 22, 2018, two Russian corvettes, a tanker, and a tug set sail for the North Atlantic.
Experts say Russia’s dependence on tugs is an indication of an aging, insufficient surface fleet.
While Russia can boast impressive littoral capabilities, for blue-water operations it leans heavily on its Cold War-era platforms, an influential naval expert said.
This is problematic for several reasons, according to Clark. Maintenance becomes more difficult as ships age, and as decades pass their parts become harder, if not impossible, to obtain. It is impossible, then, to manage the eventual breakdown of equipment, which results in a loss of redundancy for crucial systems.
This redundancy — secondary, tertiary and even quaternary systems — is what keeps ships afloat and ready to fight.
For the Russian Navy, the idea of tug as escort has become standard. For the rest of the world, Clark thinks there is a lesson to be learned.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
North Carolina National Guard soldiers escorted four WWII veterans and their families to 75th-anniversary liberation celebrations Sept. 11-17, 2019.
The veterans served in the 30th Infantry Division, known as Old Hickory, and helped to liberate Belgium and the Netherlands from German occupation in September 1944.
Throughout the week, the Old Hickory veterans were honored with ceremonies, dinners, hugs, and a parade through Maastricht in the Limburg Province.
The soldiers and WWII veterans enjoyed the festivities, as well as the smaller, more personal moments.
“The most emotional part for me was when George Ham visited the spot where his battle buddy was killed,” said Maj. Kevin Hinton, deputy commander for the NCNG’s Recruiting and Retention Battalion. “George served in Charlie Company, 120th Infantry Regiment, 30th Infantry Division, and that’s who I served with in Iraq in 2004.”
WWII Veterans who served in the 30th Infantry Division, and North Carolina National Guard soldiers visit the graves of 30th Inf. Div. soldiers buried at the Netherlands American Cemetery in Margraten, the Netherlands on Sept. 12, 2019.
(Photo by Staff Sgt. Mary Junell)
Hinton, vice president of the 30th Infantry Division Association, said he felt a connection to what the WWII veteran was going through.
“Part of George’s emotion is that he was supposed to be that guy, but he switched positions,” Hinton said. “There’s probably some survivor’s guilt on his part, and I’ve been there. I understand that feeling.”
The N.C. Guard soldiers were all veterans of the same unit, having served in Iraq with the now reorganized 30th Armored Brigade Combat Team, and acted as representatives of the Guard and the 30th Infantry Division Association, a membership group for veterans of the unit.
The trip affected not only the 30th Infantry Division veterans but also currently serving soldiers who were part of the liberation celebrations.
“It gives value to my own sense of service and what I’m doing now by serving,” said Col. Wes Morrison, the North Carolina Army National Guard chief of staff. “I see that folks appreciate, across the world, what the United States Army has done for the world at different times. Your service means something and it means something to not just Americans, but people across the world.”
WWII Veterans who served with the 30th Infantry Division were honored with a ceremony and parade through the City of Maastricht in the Limburg Province of the Netherlands that ended in a festival on Sept. 14, 2019, in celebration of 75th anniversary of the liberation of the Limburg Provence by 30th Inf. Div. soldiers in September of 1944.
(Photo by Staff Sgt. Mary Junell)
The group was able to visit the same places where the 30th Infantry Division fought back the German occupation and other places where they were able to rest after almost 90 days of being on the front lines.
One of those places was the Rolduc Abbey in Kerkrade, a rest center for soldiers after the liberation. While there, some of the current Soldiers took a photo in the same courtyard where a formation of Old Hickory soldiers took a photo 75 years ago.
Hinton hoped this trip would help build a bond between the new generation of Old Hickory veterans and the people of the Limburg province to continue the tradition.
“It’s a part of the history of the 30th and the North Carolina National Guard,” Hinton said. “We need to educate our young soldiers on the history of what the 30th has done. When the WWII veterans are long gone, the U.S. and the Netherlands will still exist, and we have to maintain this and remember what they did. Like someone said in one of the speeches, the beginnings of the European Union started with the liberation and the desire for Europe to never go through that again.”
WWII Veterans who served with the 30th Infantry Division, visit the Henri-Chapelle American Cemetery and Memorial in Belgium on Sept. 15, 2019, where more than 300 Old Hickory soldiers who died during WWII are buried.
(Photo by Staff Sgt. Mary Junell)
As the soldiers, veterans, and their families prepared to travel home, many were heard to say “see you in five years,” anticipating the 80th anniversary of the liberation.
Even though the WWII veterans may no longer be able to make the trip, Morrison thought it was important the tradition continues.
“If we honor the veterans of the past, we bring more value to the service that we have today,” Morrison said. “You wear the uniform in the current unit, you’re wearing Old Hickory. You now have the responsibility of that lineage and history of that unit on your back. We can’t let them down. The history they created here, the high bar, high standard for performance of duty and what they did here, 75 years ago is something we have to keep in the back of our minds all the time.”
The British Army has laid to rest three soldiers killed in World War I 100 years after their deaths fighting Imperial German troops in France at the Battle of Cambrai. The human remains were discovered in 2016, and the British government has worked for three years to identify the remains using a combination of archival research and DNA identification.
British soldiers with the 23rd Battalion present folded flags to the families of Pvts. Paul Mead and Chris Mead.
The three men were recovered by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission in 2016. But the only identifying artifact found with them was a single shoulder title for the 23rd Battalion based out of the Country of London. The Joint Casualty and Compassionate Centre went to work narrowing down the possible identities of the unknown soldiers.
Historical research gave them a short list of nine names and they conducted DNA testing of both the recovered remains and of descendants and family members of nine lost soldiers. That research identified privates Henry Wallington and Frank Mead, but did not identify the third set of remains. Wallington and Mead were killed Dec. 3, 1917.
So the JCCC organized a funeral for the men at the Hermies Hill British Cemetery near Cambrai, France, just a few miles from where the remains were originally found at Anneux, France. The ceremony was held with full military honors provided by the 23rd Battalion, London Regiment. The deceased soldiers had served in an earlier version of the London Regiment that was disbanded in 1938.
Family members of Pvts. Paul Mead and Chris Mead lay flowers on their family members’ graves during a ceremony in France in June 2019.
Three family members attended the ceremony and were surprised at the modern soldiers’ support for comrades killed over a century ago.
“We have never been to a military funeral before,” said Margot Bains, Wallington’s niece. “It was beautifully done with military precision and it was so moving and to see the French people here too.”
“I am absolutely amazed the time and the trouble the [Ministry of Defence] JCCC, the soldiers, everybody involved have gone to has been fantastic,” Chris Mead, great nephew of Pvt. Meade, said. “We couldn’t have asked for any more. It has been emotional.”
The JCCC has said that it will continue to pursue identification of the third deceased soldier.
France continues to host the remains of many Allied troops killed in World War I and World War II. The U.S. is currently celebrating the 75th Anniversary of D-Day along with its French and British allies from World War II.
When We Are The Mighty sat down with Sylvester Stallone, Sly revealed some truly astonishing things about one of action movie history’s most beloved characters: John Rambo. Most of us blacked out when Stallone revealed that Rambo didn’t originally join the Army but came to in time to learn a few great things that make the character much deeper than we ever imagined.
That was just info from Stallone. It turns out there’s much more, so we dove a little deeper.
Somehow, the character of John Rambo has entered the folklore of the Kamula people on the island nation of Papua New Guinea, despite limited access to film and television. The Rambo of folklore is said to be a gunrunner who fought in the 10-year civil war in nearby Bougainville, and will come back to defend Papua New Guinea in case of World War III. In Kamula culture, along with other tribes, Rambo is said to symbolize peak masculinity.
Rambo’s trademark knife wasn’t supposed to exist
In the book First Blood, on which the movie and character John Rambo is based, Rambo never had a survival knife of any kind, let alone a giant one to use to bring down the entire police force of Hope, Wash. Stallone added the knife for effect, hoping to make the weapon a character all on its own.
Rambo wasn’t a killer – originally.
John Rambo never actually kills anyone in First Blood. There is only one death in the entire movie, and that happened as an accident when an overzealous cop falls from a helicopter while shooting at Rambo. In subsequent movies, that all changes of course. Rambo’s body count is 76 in First Blood: Part II, and 132 in Rambo III. In Rambo, he appears to kill the entire Burmese Army with one .50-cal.
Stallone hated the first cut of First Blood.
The first time Stallone saw the edit for First Blood, he hated it. It was three and a half hours long, and Rambo’s dialogue was terrible. At first, Stallone wanted to buy the film so he could burn it. Instead of that, he re-cut the film to 93 minutes with most of his dialogue removed, which is what you see when you watch it today.
Without ‘Rambo’ there would be no ‘Predator’
When Rocky Balboa took on Ivan Drago in Rocky IV, no one in Hollywood was quite sure who Rocky’s next opponent could possibly be. The joke was made that Rocky would have to fight some kind of Alien in Rocky V. After a while, Screenwriters Jim and John Thomas began to take the idea seriously and wrote a Rocky-Rambo Hybrid movie that we call Predator.
In Rocky V, Rocky fought a former student named Tommy Gunn. In the street. Outside a bar. In case you were wondering.
John Rambo was almost played by John Travolta
Imagine how different action movie lore would be today if Sylvester Stallone hadn’t been in the writing and casting process. John Travolta was considered for the role of the former Green Beret and one-man wrecking crew before Stallone stepped in and nixed the idea.
Travolta also almost became Forrest Gump and Pete “Maverick” Mitchell of Top Gun fame.
Arthur John Rambo of Lincoln County, Mont. gave his life to save his fellow soldiers in Tay Ninh, Vietnam.
There actually is a John Rambo on “The Wall.”
Arthur John Rambo was an artilleryman with the 11th Armored Cavalry in Vietnam. He was mortally wounded by multiple hits from rocket-propelled grenades on Nov. 26, 1969. As he and his fellow artillerymen came under heavy mortar fire, a nearby self-propelled howitzer took an RPG hit and caught fire. Rambo cleared his fellow soldiers out of the way and attempted to drive the vehicle, still burning, away from the area where it wouldn’t be a threat. He did so successfully, but the vehicle took two more RPGs. The last, killing Rambo in action. Arthur John Rambo was posthumously awarded the Silver Star.
“Nothing is over!” Damn right.
Rambo commits suicide. In the book.
… and in the original cut of the movie. Remember when Sylvester Stallone re-edited the entire movie? Rambo killing himself didn’t make the final cut, even though that’s what happens in the book. Instead, Stallone asked a few Vietnam vets what troubles they face, and Stallone wrote a speech at the end of the movie to let the world know.
That original movie sounds awful. Thank god for Sylvester Stallone.
The U.S. Marines put supermodel Kate Upton through her paces on Aug. 22 during a workout in Detroit to promote the upcoming Marine Week celebration in the city.
Upton struggled a bit at the end, but was able to complete the training routine that involved a series of aerobic exercises and running as her fiance, Detroit Tigers pitcher Justin Verlander, watched from afar. Upton joined several other Tigers players’ wives and significant others in the session at Wayne State University’s athletic complex that was led by Gunnery Sgt. Sara Pacheco, a Marine Corps fitness instructor.
“It was (a) very hard workout,” Upton said following the exercise session, which she concluded by collapsing to the grass in an exhausted embrace with a fellow workout warrior. “I knew it was going to be hard. The Marines are very tough.”
Verlander, a former American League most valuable player and winner of the Cy Young award as the league’s top pitcher, said afterward that he was proud of Upton for her efforts.
“I think it’s easy to show your support with words. I think going out there and doing that workout I think really shows how much she supports (the military),” Verlander said. He is the founder of the Wins for Warriors charity that supports military service members and their families.
Upton, a world-famous model who has appeared three times on the cover of the Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue, was on hand to promote Marine Week, which runs Sept. 6-10, and is designed to provide the public with a better understanding of the Corps and its mission and the chance to connect with hundreds of Marines.
Twin suicide bombings rocked Baghdad on Jan. 14, killing 38 people in the deadliest attack since Iraq declared victory over the Islamic State group last month, and raising fears ahead of national elections planned for May.
The bombers targeted the bustling Tayran Square, in the heart of the capital, setting off their explosive vests among laborers and street vendors during the morning rush hour. More than 100 people were wounded, according to police and hospital officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to talk to the media.
No one has claimed the attacks, but they bore the hallmarks of IS.
Iraqi forces have driven IS from all the territory the extremists once held, but the militant group has proven resilient in the past and is likely to continue carrying out insurgent-style attacks. That could undermine Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi, who hopes to extend the country’s newfound sense of pride and unity in order to lead a diverse coalition to power in May.
Ambulances rushed to the scene as security forces sealed off the area with yellow tape. Slippers could be seen scattered about on the blood-stained pavement as cleaners hurried to clear the debris.
“It was a tremendous, I felt the ground shaking under my feet,” said Munthir Falah, a secondhand clothes vendor whose chest and right leg were pierced by shrapnel. He said he fell to the ground and lost consciousness before later waking up in a hospital.
The father of three said government forces had failed to secure the capital. “They think that Daesh is done,” he said, referring to IS by an Arabic acronym. “They don’t bother themselves to exert efforts to secure Baghdad.”
Einas Khalil, a Baghdad housewife, blamed the security breakdown on the country’s feuding politicians, many of whom are connected to different state-sanctioned militias or branches of the security forces.
We were expecting this because of the upcoming elections,” she said. “Every four years we have to live through this suffering because of political differences and disagreements.
Iraqi Parliament Speaker Salim al-Jabouri denounced the attack as a “cowardly act against innocent people” and called on the government to take all necessary security measures. Al-Abadi met security officials in charge of Baghdad, ordering them to root out militant sleeper cells, according to a brief statement issued by his office.
A deterioration in security could undermine al-Abadi’s claim to have vanquished IS and create an opening for his main rival, former Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, to return to power.
Al-Maliki, who stepped down after IS swept across northern and central Iraq in 2014, was widely accused of pursuing sectarian policies that alienated the country’s Sunni minority during his eight years in power. Many of Iraq’s Sunnis, fed up with al-Maliki’s rule, initially welcomed IS as liberators from the Shiite-dominated government in Baghdad.
The government has proposed holding elections on May 12, but parliament must approve the date. Sunni leaders have called for the vote to be delayed until the 3 million people still displaced from the fighting can return to their homes.
Victory over IS has come at an almost incalculable cost in Iraq, where entire neighborhoods in several cities and towns were completely destroyed in the fighting.
2:20 p.m. on February 20, 2020, is not a time Nikki James Zellner will soon forget.
Zellner received an emergency notification from the daycare her two sons, Ronan and Owen, attend in Virginia Beach, where the Navy family is stationed. The facility alerted parents to come pick up their children due to a carbon monoxide leak.
“When we arrived, the children and staff had been evacuated and I was starting to hear stories related to what was going on behind the scenes,” she said. “The one that gave me the biggest pause was that a teacher’s husband had to bring in a detector because the teachers and students were getting sick after hours of symptoms, and there was no detector on site, because there was no Virginia law requiring them to be.”
At that moment, the narrative for Zellner went from “this happened to my child” to “I’m not going to let this happen to anyone else’s child.”
She started by communicating directly with the daycare, asking direct questions, and refusing to jump to conclusions.
“While waiting for their feedback, I got busy researching,” Zellner explained. “I learned that carbon monoxide (CO) detectors weren’t required in Virginia schools, regardless of if they had a source for CO on-site (common sources are fuel-fired sources like furnaces, HVAC systems, kitchen appliances), if the school was built prior to 2015. It wasn’t part of the state code – and in Virginia, it wouldn’t be retrofitted to existing unless legislation was passed to make it apply.”
But Zellner’s research also uncovered a scary reality nationwide.
“Only five states require CO detectors in educational facilities like daycares, public schools, private schools and any place where children are taken care of,” she said. “How many kids and educators aren’t being protected because people just assume carbon monoxide detectors are on site?”
Zellner’s first points of contact were Senators, Representatives and Delegates that represent Virginia and her district. Then, she spoke to the Director of State Building Codes at the Department of Housing and Community Development to make sure she had a firm understanding exactly of the law and when it applied.
“I also started a petition making folks aware of the situation,” she shared. “Within three days, we had 1,000 signatures. Within the week, we had a breaking news story and a commitment from one of the Delegates to work with us on possibly introducing legislation in the 2021 session.”
To date, Zellner’s petition has more than 1,200 signatures, and her determination landed her on the front page of the Sunday edition of Virginia’s leading newspaper.
“There’s this strange feeling that comes over you when you know that you’re the person that’s supposed to do something,” Zellner emphasized. “That you have the means to do something, and you have the unique perspective to tell the story on why something needs to change. I have a background in media relations and content development, I know how to investigate and ask direct questions, I know how to navigate the political landscape after working in a nonprofit and I’m not afraid to put myself in the line of fire and make a ruckus about it. These are our children. These are our educators. It’s too big of a risk. I feel compelled to raise awareness about it – I can’t explain it any other way. All stakeholders are accountable for solving this – hopefully before it upgrades from close call to tragedy.”
What inspires you about the military community?
The most inspiring thing to me about the military community is their ability to problem solve any situation. What’s today’s mission? How can we help each other? What’s our end goal? This isn’t just the service members – these are the wives, the mil-kids, the support givers – it truly is a community of givers. And it’s up to each member of the community to give more than they take – and I think that really sets the military community apart.
What piece of advice would you give to fellow military spouses?
The biggest piece of advice I have for military spouses is to share your stories. Get comfortable talking about the uncomfortable. Humanize your experiences and make those connections. If we as a group want people to understand our lives, we have to share our lives not just inside but outside of the military community.
What is your life motto?
“What’s the point of having a voice if you’re going to stay silent in those moments you shouldn’t be?”
If you could pick one song as the theme song of your life, what would it be and why?
‘No Hard Feelings’ by The Avett Brothers. The Avett Brothers have some of the most honest music out there – and this one just really hits home for me. For me, it’s really about forgiving and being forgiven – and just being able to distinguish what’s important and what’s not so you can live a meaningful life. I think it’s my theme song because even after some really impossible hardships, I’m still able to take gifts from those moments instead of just pain.
What’s your superpower?
I have a fierce love for my people. I will turn superhuman when it comes to their needs – regardless of how much time I have or what’s going on in my life. If you’re someone I trust and love, I will spring into action for you in the biggest way possible.
Born in a bar, raised on an island, honed on the rifle range, refined in combat, there is no better friend, no worse enemy than a United States Marine. After 242 years of adapting and overcoming, evolved the most elite organization of barrel-chested freedom fighters the world has ever witnessed.
It is said that there are only a select few who will ever truly understand the U.S. Marine Corps: the Marines themselves and their enemy. Well, there may be one more group: Spartans. Sparta was a city-state of ancient Greece, best known for producing a warrior class that has become the gold standard of the subject. Notorious for their training styles and battlefield effectiveness, Spartans earned their reputation.
After exploring a little further, one can appreciate why Marines are often referred to as “America’s Spartans.”
1. Beauty Standards/Fat Shaming
Spartan soldiers had strict diets because they were focused on remaining physically fit – as both a point of pride and to avoid beatings. Every ten days, young men had to stand naked in public so their bodies could be inspected. Those who failed to meet standards of physical fitness were censured and/or beaten, and anyone who was overweight was ridiculed in public or banished.
The USMC is renowned for the look of its Marines, showcasing the high fitness standards in posters and commercials, but it doesn’t stop there. Consistent uniform inspections as well as physical fitness tests complete with a height and weight standard keep them that way.
If a Marine is found to be outside these height and weight standards, his body mass index will be measured shirtless with a tape measurer. If the leatherneck fails this, he will be visually inspected by the commanding officer, who will then determine whether the Marine is within regulations. If not, the Marine will be assigned to a Body Composition Plan controlling his/her diet and exercise routine until fit again.
In basic training, we call these recruits Fat Bodies because “your feelings do not matter.”
2. Fighting Tooth and Nail
During the famous Battle of Thermopylae, the events of which were depicted in the film 300, Spartan soldiers continued to fight despite losing their weapons, resorting to using their nails and teeth in an attempt to bite and scratch their way to victory.
Marines are well-documented warriors with plenty of hand-to-hand combat on the books. Most notable perhaps was in Okinawa during World War II where E-tools were turned 90 degrees and unleashed on the brave Japanese soldiers who soon died for the emperor.
Spartans sported the Crimson tunic; Crimson (red) represents Spartan pride in their women. In 1925 gold and scarlet became the official colors of the Marine Corps. While there is no direct representation for the colors, this Marine likes to think scarlet red represents blood and blood, as every Devil Dog knows, makes the grass grow.
4. Low Reg Haircuts
Spartans were famous for having very long hair. The Spartans viewed long hair as the symbol of a free man. Marines have a strong and ferociously enforced standard regarding hair length. Only those with very special permission can even dream to grow their hair to any length that could ever be considered “long.”
Any Marine with actual long hair EAS’d years before, therefore long hair represents a free man in the Corps as well.
5. Two Kings
Sparta had two kings from two different ruling dynasties. Their explanation was that during the fifth generation after the demi-god Heracles, from whom legend claimed all Spartan kings descended, twin sons were born which formed the bloodline for the two royal houses, Agiad and Eurypontid. The two rulers would share the duties of king.
The USMC has a Commandant and a Sergeant Major of the Marine Corps and while they do not share the same authority, they do both lead in respective ways.
The conversations about who the best warrior class is, much like the fights, always end with U.S. Marines and Spartans as the winners, and that is just what they are, winners. When being the best is a lifestyle, victory becomes ancillary. Spartans have secured their legacy but Marines are still writing theirs, and if history is an indicator, those legacies will be similar as well.
“Raven 08, Deci Tower, cleared for take-off, wind calm.”
I’m in the backseat of a Tornado IDS belonging to the 154° Gruppo (Squadron) of the 6° Stormo (Wing) from Ghedi, currently deployed to Decimomannu airbase, Italy, for the yearly training activity in the Sardinian firing ranges. The words of the controller, that I can hear quite clearly before the noise will spread through the cockpit making all the subsequent communications barely readable, have a double meaning to me: first, they give the “go ahead” to the most exciting part of my flight in a Tornado (the very first one on this kind of aircraft); second, they mark the end of the long and delicate stage of the jet flight preparation; a preparation that determines either the success or failure of the sortie from the journalistic point of view.
Italian aircraft IDS Tornado flies over a live fire range in exercise Eager Centaur II in an undisclosed location, Southwest Asia, March 14, 2016. Eager Centaur II is conducted to complete initial joint terminal attack controller training and exercise the SPMAGTF-CR-CC Fire Support Coordination Center, to include combined arms live-fire tactics, techniques, and procedures. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Clarence A. Leake)
A flight in a jet usually lasts between 45 and 110 minutes (longer if it includes aerial refueling, but it’s not the case): in my case, fully exploiting the (short) time available to “observe” a mission from the inside and collect all the photos and video material for both aviation magazines, this blog and its connected social networks, is paramount. A flight in a combat aircraft represents an almost unique opportunity and it is important to make the most out of it. If something in the backseat goes wrong, if a camera body fails or a lens proves to be unsuitable for the photo session, there will hardly be a second chance. In about 20 years I’ve had this opportunity quite a few times, hence here are a few suggestions based on my little (if compared to others) experience in a combat aircraft. If you are going to fly in a fast jet for the first time, because you were invited or simply because you’ve paid for a ride, maybe the following few tips will help you maximize your experience.
Even though the thrill of flying in a jet fighter is always the same, learning from the past mistakes as well as the experience gained over the years, have been pivotal to perfecting the preparation of the mission so as to minimize the risk that something unexpected can jeopardize the reportage’s success. For example, during one of my first jet flights, to have a back-up in case of problems with the main camera, I decided to put a compact camera in one of the pockets of the flight suit, the one located more or less over the right’s lower leg. Fortunately, I did not need it. In fact, I hadn’t taken into account that the anti-G suit, dressed over the normal flight suit, would have made the “emergency” camera inaccessible during the flight! Since then, I only use the pockets of the anti-G pants for all those small accessories I might need in the cockpit.
With regard to the flight gear, in addition to my mask, I always try to use my own helmet, which is also easily recognizable by the bright yellow-green checkerboard on the cover. However, this is not always possible: for instance, in the case of the Eurofighter, the aircrews have to use the specific flight equipment designed for the Typhoon flight line which differs from that used on any other Italian Air Force aircraft and includes, among the other things, a Gentex ACS (Aircrew Combat System) helmet and an EFA / ACS mask. For my flight in the Tornado, I had to use to an HGU-55G helmet, with the characteristic 154th squadron’s “red devil” symbol painted on the cover, that I was lent by the unit.
Back to the preparation of the mission, once the flight gear’s check and fitting have been completed, I think the most important thing is the inspection of the rear cockpit of the aircraft: it is essential to know how to “move” in the backseat, where to attach the GoPro so that it is both stable and reachable (to modify some settings or move it), evaluate the size of any storage compartment to see if it can be used to accommodate a camera body or lens. In fact, digital cameras have greatly simplified life in a jet: when I was still using color slide films I needed to change the rolls several times during the flight. This forced me to continuously estimate the number of photographs I could take so that I didn’t run out of shots during a maneuver: in order to replace the finished roll with a new one, it was necessary to remove the gloves, be more or less stable (that is, in level flight) and have the time to safely remove and store the used roll before inserting a new one; an operation that would take just a few seconds in other conditions but, performed in a very narrow space, strapped into the ejection seat, wearing the heavy helmet, the mask, the Secumar, etc., was, especially at the beginning, quite challenging. With the advent of digital photography, this problem has been solved.
Returning to the preparation of the flight, once understood how to move (or not move) in the rear cockpit, it is important to discuss with the crews that will take part in the mission and determine which phases of the missions will be suitable for some aerial shots. Although I have had the opportunity to arrange “pure” air-to-air photo sessions, I usually prefer to take part in missions that bring me in the aircraft’s operational environment: I am a journalist and I find it much more interesting for my readers (and for myself) to see and recount the mission from a privileged point of view, focusing on both the tactical aspects of the flight and the technical details of the employed weapon systems. This means that the time available for photography is normally reduced to about ten minutes: during the transition to the operating zone or during the RTB (Return To Base) phase.
Obviously, a sortie with well-defined operational goals leaves little room for aerobatics or formations flying in favor of light: if you are part of a 3-ship that is acting as “Red Air” in a 4 vs 3 supersonic training mission, as in my flight in the Eurofighter, the aircraft will fly towards the operational area in fighting wing, with a significant spacing from one another, and the time for close formation will be reduced to a few minutes. However, as I have already explained, I prefer a few clicks from a realistic operational situation rather than taking part in a sortie that is particularly cool from a photographic point of view, but “poor” from the operational one. Generally, “how to arrange the aircraft” and “when to take photographs” are topics discussed with the aircrews during the briefing and reviewed, if necessary, during the flight, asking the pilot in the front seat to assume a specific attitude so as to obtain a particular shot.
Dealing with the photographic equipment, in addition to the GoPro and camera, I bring with me what I need inside a large removable pocket that comes with velcro to be attached to the anti-G at the thigh: here is where I put spare batteries or extra lenses, like fisheye and zoom for the iPhone, used to take short videos or photos that complement the work of the DSLR camera. 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. From 1999 to today, I have carried several camera bodies with me, but the lens I prefer in the back seat is almost always the Canon 28-135 USM, an extremely reliable, versatile and lightweight lens, more than adequate for my needs. If you do not have hundreds of flights under your belt, photographing air-to-air from the cockpit of a military aircraft is not an easy task: properly framing the other jets during some maneuvers requires some physical effort (the camera is subject to the same accelerations as aircraft meaning that in a 5 g turn the camera weighs five times its weight on the ground …) and gives very nauseous feelings, too. Luckily, I have never needed it, but I always bring a bag for nausea in the anti-G pocket; I also drink a lot of water and limit carbohydrates, alcohol, or spicy foods ahead of flying. Anyway, pro photographers, with hundreds if not thousands of flight hours in fast jets, such as Katsuhiko “Katsu” Tokunaga, Jamie Hunter, or Frank Crebas (to name but few), may provide much more expert advice about air-to-air photography and related tips and tricks.
The opportunity to fly in a high-performance aircraft every now and then has given me some exciting and long-lasting memories: the formation aerobatics with the TF-104, the BBQ (Ultra-low level flying) with AMX, the LIFT (Lead In Fighter Trainer) sortie with the T-346A or the supersonic BVR (Beyond Visual Range) interception flown as Aggressor with the Eurofighter.
Hours before the rise of the very star it will study, NASA’s Parker Solar Probe launched from Florida on Aug. 12, 2018, to begin its journey to the Sun, where it will undertake a landmark mission. The spacecraft will transmit its first science observations in December, beginning a revolution in our understanding of the star that makes life on Earth possible.
Roughly the size of a small car, the spacecraft lifted off at 3:31 a.m. EDT on a United Launch Alliance Delta IV Heavy rocket from Space Launch Complex-37 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. At 5:33 a.m., the mission operations manager reported that the spacecraft was healthy and operating normally.
The mission’s findings will help researchers improve their forecasts of space weather events, which have the potential to damage satellites and harm astronauts on orbit, disrupt radio communications and, at their most severe, overwhelm power grids.
“This mission truly marks humanity’s first visit to a star that will have implications not just here on Earth, but how we better understand our universe,” said Thomas Zurbuchen, associate administrator of NASA’s Science Mission Directorate. “We’ve accomplished something that decades ago, lived solely in the realm of science fiction.”
The United Launch Alliance Delta IV Heavy rocket launches NASA’s Parker Solar Probe to touch the Sun.
(NASA / Bill Ingalls)
During the first week of its journey, the spacecraft will deploy its high-gain antenna and magnetometer boom. It also will perform the first of a two-part deployment of its electric field antennas. Instrument testing will begin in early September 2018 and last approximately four weeks, after which Parker Solar Probe can begin science operations.
“Today’s launch was the culmination of six decades of scientific study and millions of hours of effort,” said project manager Andy Driesman, of the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory (APL) in Laurel, Maryland. “Now, Parker Solar Probe is operating normally and on its way to begin a seven-year mission of extreme science.”
Over the next two months, Parker Solar Probe will fly towards Venus, performing its first Venus gravity assist in early October 2018 – a maneuver a bit like a handbrake turn – that whips the spacecraft around the planet, using Venus’s gravity to trim the spacecraft’s orbit tighter around the Sun. This first flyby will place Parker Solar Probe in position in early November 2018 to fly as close as 15 million miles from the Sun – within the blazing solar atmosphere, known as the corona – closer than anything made by humanity has ever gone before.
Throughout its seven-year mission, Parker Solar Probe will make six more Venus flybys and 24 total passes by the Sun, journeying steadily closer to the Sun until it makes its closest approach at 3.8 million miles. At this point, the probe will be moving at roughly 430,000 miles per hour, setting the record for the fastest-moving object made by humanity.
Parker Solar Probe will set its sights on the corona to solve long-standing, foundational mysteries of our Sun. What is the secret of the scorching corona, which is more than 300 times hotter than the Sun’s surface, thousands of miles below? What drives the supersonic solar wind – the constant stream of solar material that blows through the entire solar system? And finally, what accelerates solar energetic particles, which can reach speeds up to more than half the speed of light as they rocket away from the Sun?
Renowned physicist Eugene Parker watches the launch of the spacecraft that bears his name – NASA’s Parker Solar Probe – early in the morning on Aug. 12, 2018, from Launch Complex 37 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida.
(NASA / Glenn Benson)
Scientists have sought these answers for more than 60 years, but the investigation requires sending a probe right through the unrelenting heat of the corona. Today, this is finally possible with cutting-edge thermal engineering advances that can protect the mission on its daring journey.
“Exploring the Sun’s corona with a spacecraft has been one of the hardest challenges for space exploration,” said Nicola Fox, project scientist at APL. “We’re finally going to be able to answer questions about the corona and solar wind raised by Gene Parker in 1958 – using a spacecraft that bears his name – and I can’t wait to find out what discoveries we make. The science will be remarkable.”
Parker Solar Probe carries four instrument suites designed to study magnetic fields, plasma and energetic particles, and capture images of the solar wind. The University of California, Berkeley, U.S. Naval Research Laboratory in Washington, University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, and Princeton University in New Jersey lead these investigations.
Parker Solar Probe is part of NASA’s Living with a Star program to explore aspects of the Sun-Earth system that directly affect life and society. The Living with a Star program is managed by the agency’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate in Washington. APL designed and built, and operates the spacecraft.
The mission is named for Eugene Parker, the physicist who first theorized the existence of the solar wind in 1958. It’s the first NASA mission to be named for a living researcher.
A plaque dedicating the mission to Parker was attached to the spacecraft in May 2018. It includes a quote from the renowned physicist – “Let’s see what lies ahead.” It also holds a memory card containing more than 1.1 million names submitted by the public to travel with the spacecraft to the Sun.
Everyone knows about the famous 4077th MASH, or Mobile Army Surgical Hospital. But if you ever wanted to see the kind of docs that Michael Bay or Jerry Buckheimer would do a movie about, look at the Air Force’s Special Operations Surgical Teams, or SOSTs.
According to the U.S. Army, a MASH unit usually had about 113 people, while a 2006 Army release about the last MASH becoming a Combat Support Hospital, or CSH, notes that the CSH has about 250 personnel.
According to the Air Force web site, the SOST is much smaller. It has six people: an ER doctor, a general surgeon, a nurse anesthetist, a critical care nurse, a respiratory therapist, and a surgical technician.
The MASH and CSH have trucks and vehicles to deliver their stuff. SOSTs only have what they can carry in on their backs. Oh, did I mention they are also tactically trained? Yep, a member of a SOST can put lead into a bad guy, then provide medical care for the good guys who got hit.
In one Air Force Special Operations Command release, what one such team did while engaged in the fight against ISIS is nothing short of amazing. They treated victims who were suffering from the effects of ISIS chemical weapon attacks, handled 19 mass casualty attacks, and carried out 16 life-saving surgical operations. A total of 750 patients were treated by these docs over an eight-week deployment.
Again, this was with just what they carried on their backs.
At one point, the team was treating casualties when mortar rounds impacted about 250 meters away. The six members of the team donned their body armor, got their weapons ready, and went back to work. Maj. Nelson Pacheco, Capt. Cade Reedy, Lt. Col. Ben Mitchell, Lt. Col. Matthew Uber, Tech. Sgt. Richard Holguin, and Maj. Justin Manley are all up for Bronze Stars for their actions.
It takes a lot to get into a SOST. You can download the application here. One thing for sure, these are the most badass folks with medical degrees!