What happens when lightning tears a giant hole in the tail of a B-52 - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY TRENDING

What happens when lightning tears a giant hole in the tail of a B-52

On Dec. 19, 2017, B-52 Stratorfortress (60-0051), with the 93rd Bomb Squadron/307th BW AFRC was about to land at Barksdale AFB, Louisiana, when the crew heard something that sounded like a thud coming from the outside of the bomber. The aircraft landed safely, but once on the ground the crew discovered that the sound they heard was actually a lightning strike that tore a person-sized gash completely through the tail of the aircraft.


“Close encounters” between civil and military aircraft and lightnings occur every now and then around the globe.

In the 1980s, some F-16 Fighting Falcon jets were lost after being struck by lightinings. In one case, the lightning ignited the vapors in the empty centerline tank, which exploded causing extended damage to the aircraft’s hydraulic system.

Since lightning strikes are quite rare (1 event each year on average) these are seldom a real risk to military or civil aviation.

Also read: How the 65-year old B-52 Stratofortress just keeps getting better with age

Furthermore, planes are shielded by a so-called Faraday Cage made by a conducting material, that blocks out external static electrical fields: charges redistribute on the conducting material and don’t affect the cage’s interior.

All commercial and mil planes have to meet several safety lightining-related requirements to get the airworthiness certifications required in the U.S. and Europe. For instance, they must be able to withstand a lightning strike without suffering significant airframe damage, without any possibility of accidental fuel ignition in the tanks and preserving the avionics and systems failures induced by the electromagnetic field created by the electrical charges of the lightning.

What happens when lightning tears a giant hole in the tail of a B-52
The old tail from aircraft 60-051, a B-52 Stratofortress assigned to the 307th Bomb Wing, bears a gaping hole from lightning damage incurred at the end of a routine training mission. The tail could not be repaired and had to be replaced. Changing an entire tail on the B-52 is an uncommon and difficult task, but maintainers from the 307th Maintenance Squadron were able to accomplish the feat in about 10 hours of work time. (U.S. Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Ted Daigle)

After assessing the damage, it was determined that the tail was damaged beyond repair and would have to be replaced: a large-scale, and uncommon, repair.

The B-52 is equipped with a lightning arrester designed to mitigate damage from lightning strikes, but this one was too strong even for the jet’s safeguards. “We see a handful of strikes every year, but out of all the maintainers we have, no one had seen lightning damage that bad,” said Lt. Col. George P. Cole, III, 307th Maintenance Squadron commander in a public release.

“I’ve been with the unit for fifteen years and this is the first time we have had to change a tail,” said Senior Master Sgt. Michael Nelson, 307th MXS flight maintenance superintendent. “We only had one other maintainer on our team that has ever changed one.”

Related: This is how the B-52 rained fire in Vietnam

According to the U.S. Air Force, Master Sgt. Eric Allison, 307th MXS B-52 aircraft mechanic, was the only maintainer on the eight person team with experience replacing a tail prior to the lighting strike. “It’s challenging because you have to position the tail just right and it is a two-thousand pound piece of metal,” he said. “It is like lining up the hinges when replacing a door,” said Tech. Sgt. David Emberton, 307th MXS B-52 aircraft mechanic. “You have to line it up correctly and the whole time it is twisting and flexing.”

Another possible obstacle was finding a replacement but instead of ordering it from the 309th AMARG (Aerospace Maintenance and Regeneration Group), the maintainers from the 307th Maintenance Squadron found that one tail was available from a retired jet.

More: Wing commander praises crew of wrecked B-52 for averting a larger catastrophe

“Having that tail on hand saved us a great deal of time because ordering it from AMARG would have taken months,” Nelson said.

So, the 307th MXS completed the works and made the B-52 available for flight operations in just a couple of weeks. Sporting a different tail reclaimed from another decommissioned B-52, still able to take to air again.

By the way, the Stratofortress has already proved it can fly with damages to the tail: actually, even with a detached vertical stabilizer, as happened 54 years ago, when a B-52H involved in a test flight lost its tail at about 14,000 feet over New Mexico. Six hours later, the civilian test pilot Chuck Fisher and his three-man crew managed to perform the first and only Stratofortress’s tailless landing.

MIGHTY MILSPOUSE

Everything you need to know about startup accelerators for vet-owned businesses

If someone told you the only way for you to survive the coming recession unscathed would be to start your own business, would you even know where to begin? Would you be able to afford the startup costs on your own? Can you handle the workload that might come with such a venture? For most people, especially veterans, that answer is no. That’s what startup accelerators are for – access to knowledge, access to capital, mentorship, connections, talent – all these things can be acquired through these programs.


Vets have some unique skills and traits that make them natural entrepreneurs. And that’s why a startup accelerator like Bunker Labs has big plans for those who are ready to take the first steps toward entrepreneurship.

What happens when lightning tears a giant hole in the tail of a B-52

When some of the most powerful brands get together for vets, big things happen.

Veterans are an interesting slice of Americans, especially where entrepreneurship is concerned. Time and again, veterans show they have the work ethic and drive it takes to start their own enterprises. Of the 200,000 separating veterans every year, 25 percent of those are interested in starting their own businesses but only 4.5 percent of those 50,000 vets are actually able to pursue their own entrepreneurial vision. The reason is because starting your own business takes knowledge veterans may not have and capital most definitely do not have.

That’s where a veteran-owned business accelerator can come into play. If you don’t know where to begin but you have a great idea, an accelerator like Bunker Labs is a great place to start. Starting a business isn’t obvious – there’s a lot that goes into it that you will just not know. Bunker Labs is a non-profit startup accelerator for the military-veteran community comprised of veteran volunteers with the tools and resources to help their fellow vetrepreneurs start their business.

Bunker Labs has helped create more than 1,000 veteran jobs in the United States and helped raise some million in startup capital. This accelerator captures the ambition and innovation veterans bring to startups and equips them with knowledge, mentorship, and opportunities they might otherwise not have had access to. There are labs online, labs in-residency for vets, and when the ball really gets rolling, a cadre of CEO vetrepreneurs who are taking their work to the next level. Bunker Labs is even a partner with the 2019 Military Influencer Conference, a three-day entrepreneurial workshop which brings together the brightest and most inspiring veteran entrepreneurs to teach and share their lessons learned and best practices.

What happens when lightning tears a giant hole in the tail of a B-52

To get started with Bunker Labs, vets simply have to start with registering for their Launch Labs Online, fill out some quick demographic information and from there you can connect with other new members, find a mentor, engage the Facebook group, and more. After activating your account, you can start taking classes with Bunker Labs right away. The core classes include knowing yourself, knowing your customers, and how to make money. From there, the sky could be the limit.

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

MIGHTY MILSPOUSE

Mighty MilSpouse: Meet Nikki James Zellner

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.

What happens when lightning tears a giant hole in the tail of a B-52

“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.
What happens when lightning tears a giant hole in the tail of a B-52

“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.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Former Army Ranger saves man’s life on commercial jet

Before his flight left from Charlotte, Norvel Turner Jr. heard a fellow passenger yell for help.

After running to catch the flight heading to Columbia, South Carolina, a 59-year-old man had collapsed in the aisle a few rows behind Turner.

Not sure what had happened, Turner, a former Army Ranger instructor, watched as another passenger rushed over and started to do chest compressions.

Turner’s military training then kicked in. He went over and noticed the man, Mark Thurston, was not moving and his skin had turned purple and mouth was frozen shut.


Turner, currently the safety director at Army Central Command, grabbed a mouth-to-mouth resuscitation device from a nearby first aid kit and pried open Thurston’s mouth.

“I was able to get his mouth open, get the tube in there and then blow into his chest while the other guy did compressions,” Turner said in a recent interview.

Safety first

Long before he found himself on this flight, Turner had spent over 30 years in the Army.

He retired in 2004 after serving as an 82nd Airborne Division command sergeant major in Afghanistan. He now travels throughout the Middle East to help reduce risks across ARCENT’s area of operations.

On June 27, 2019, he was flying home from a work trip in Florida where he attended safety meetings at the U.S. Central Command headquarters.

Safety has been paramount throughout Turner’s life.

What happens when lightning tears a giant hole in the tail of a B-52

Norvel Turner Jr., left, safety director for Army Central Command, poses for a photograph with Mark Thurston, the man he helped save June 27, 2019, while on a commercial jet awaiting to depart from Charlotte.

(Candy Thurston)

In the military, he attended several CPR and combat lifesaver courses like many other soldiers do. He was also a Ranger instructor, responsible for his students who sometimes got hurt or passed out from the grueling tasks.

“If someone goes down, you got to be able to administer basic lifesaving skills,” he said.

Turner recalled that while he and other soldiers were in Rhode Island for paratrooper training in 1980 they came across a car that had just crashed into a tree on a nearby road.

They stopped, got out and saw two teenagers pinned inside the vehicle.

Turner attended to the driver, a girl whose chest was pressed up against the steering wheel. After he pulled her out, he performed CPR on her until emergency crews arrived.

About a month later on Thanksgiving Day, Turner received a heartfelt letter in the mail.

“I received a letter from the mother thanking me for saving her daughter’s life,” he said, “and as a result of that she was able to spend Thanksgiving with her daughter.”

Flight to Columbia

After a short time performing CPR, Turner began to feel a faint pulse from Thurston.

“Every once in a while we would get a pulse, but then it would go out,” he said.

Turner continued giving lifesaving breaths to Thurston as the other passenger did the chest compressions. He also tilted Thurston’s head back to open up his airway.

About 15 minutes later, emergency medical technicians arrived and used a defibrillator to electrically shock Thurston to life. His pulse grew steady, he took breathes on his own and he was rushed to the hospital.

The diagnosis: a massive heart attack.

That hit close to home for Turner. In 2012, Turner’s wife convinced him to get a thorough physical. Once the stress test and other data came back, the doctor told him he had three blocked arteries.

What happens when lightning tears a giant hole in the tail of a B-52

(Photo by Suhyeon Choi)

At first, Turner said he couldn’t believe it since he was an avid runner and ate healthy. He later discovered his collateral blood vessels near his arteries had grown to compensate the blood flow.

“So I had no problems,” he said, “but in order to fix it they had to go in and do a triple bypass on me.”

Thurston, now back from the hospital, called Turner and invited him to his home near Columbia on Tuesday so he could thank him in person.

“He wanted to give me a hug and sit down and talk to me,” said Turner, who considers himself a quiet professional who sought no gratitude for what he did. “At first, it was very emotional that one would do that.”

A little more than a month after his heart attack, Thurston said he is now walking, driving and expected to make a full recovery.

If it wasn’t for the quick action of Turner and the others on the plane, Thurston said it would have been a different story.

“I was told later on by the doctors that had they not started CPR when they did, that would have been it. I would not have survived,” Thurston said. “They seriously saved my life.”

Turner said he just reacted instinctively, using what he had learned as a soldier.

“All those skills and training that I had just kicked in automatically,” he said. “That was amazing to me. I never really thought about it until it was over. We were able to save this gentleman’s life and there were no previous rehearsals or anything.”

This article originally appeared on United States Army. Follow @USArmy on Twitter.

Articles

Goodbye Ivan! US expels 35 Russians, shutters 2 spy stations over hacking allegations

The United States says it is expelling nearly three dozen Russian diplomats as it announced new economic sanctions and other punitive measures in response to alleged Russian hacking during the presidential election.


The moves, announced on December 29 by the White House, had been widely publicized ahead of time, including by President Barack Obama in an interview earlier this month.

But the moves also come less than a month before Obama leaves office and his successor, Donald Trump, assumes the presidency. Trump has repeatedly brushed aside intelligence assessments and White House statements about the alleged Russian hacking, raising the question about whether the new sanctions will remain in place after his inauguration on January 20.

A White House statement said two Russian diplomatic compounds in Maryland and New York, believed to be involved in intelligence gathering, were ordered closed, and 35 Russians, identified as intelligence operatives, were being expelled from the country.

Additionally, nine top officials and entities associated with the Russian military intelligence agency, the GRU, and the main Russian security agency, the FSB, were being hit with new financial and travel sanctions.

“These actions are not the sum total of our response to Russia’s aggressive activities. We will continue to take a variety of actions at a time and place of our choosing, some of which will not be publicized,” Obama said in a statement.

The CIA, the FBI, and the broader U.S. intelligence community have concluded that hackers, likely operating with the authority of the highest levels of the Russian government, broke into Internet servers and e-mail accounts belonging to the U.S. Democratic Party, and other officials during the election campaign.

On December 9, The Washington Post reported that the CIA had determined the intent of the Russia hackers was to help Trump win the presidency, not just to undermine confidence in the U.S. electoral system.

The New York Times also reported that intelligence officials had concluded Russian hackers accessed Republican Party computers but didn’t release potentially damaging e-mails or other materials.

That led analysts to conclude that the intent of the Russian hacking was to in fact help propel Trump to the White House. He ultimately prevailed in the November 8 election, defeating Democrat Hillary Clinton.

Those conclusions have been repeatedly dismissed by Trump. In a December 11 television interview, he asserted that the CIA conclusions were being used by Democrats to undermine his electoral victory.

But Trump has also faced growing pressure in Congress, including by top Republican lawmakers, who have called for a full inquiry into the extent of Russian hacking.

At least three separate Senate committees are slated to launch investigations in January.

The Kremlin has repeatedly denied it was behind any hack of the Democratic Party or U.S. electoral systems, though President Vladimir Putin has also made cryptic comments suggesting possible involvement of Kremlin officials.

Articles

US Air Force Veteran Caught Trying To Join ISIS

An Air Force veteran has been caught and charged with trying to provide support to ISIS.


Tairod Nathan Webster Pugh, an American citizen, was a former avionics specialist and Air Force veteran.

“Pugh, an American citizen and former member of our military, allegedly abandoned his allegiance to the United States and sought to provide material support to ISIL,” Assistant Attorney General Carlin said in a press release from the Department of Justice.

“Identifying and bringing to justice individuals who provide or attempt to provide material support to terrorists is a key priority of the National Security Division.”

“As alleged, Pugh, an American citizen, was willing to travel overseas and fight jihad alongside terrorists seeking to do us harm,” said Assistant Director in Charge Rodriguez.

“U.S. citizens who offer support to terrorist organizations pose a grave threat to our national security and will face serious consequences for their actions.  We will continue to work with our partners, both here and abroad, to prevent acts of terrorism.  This investigation demonstrates the importance of law enforcement coordination and collaboration here and around the world.”

Pugh flew from Egypt to Turkey in order to cross the border into Syria; however, Turkish authorities denied him access to the country and he was forced to return to Egypt. He was subsequently deported from Egypt back to the US.

In the US, Joint Terrorism Task Force agents conducted a search of Pugh’s electronic devices on January 14, 2015. On his laptop, the agents found internet searches for information pertaining to how to cross into Syria, parts of the Turkish border controlled by ISIS, and downloaded ISIS propaganda videos.

Pugh was arrested on January 16, 2015 in Asbury Park, New Jersey. He has been in custody since his arrest.

The US has been leading a military coalition against ISIS since August 2014. The anti-ISIS coalition has carried out airstrikes against the militant organization in both Syria and Iraq.

ISIS has recorded brutal execution videos of its captives since it conquered vast swathes of territory in Syria and Iraq in June 2014. In August 2014, ISIS released a video showing the execution of US journalist James Foley. This was the first video the group released of the execution of a western hostage.

SEE ALSO: Lockheed Just Built A New Laser That Can Fry Large Targets From A Mile Off

More from Business Insider:

This article originally appeared at Business Insider Defense Copyright 2015. Follow BI Defense on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Air Force preparing for furloughed commercial pilots to request return to duty

Nearly 200 pilots have chosen to stay in the U.S. Air Force as major airlines operate in a limited capacity during the COVID-19 outbreak, sharply reducing the number of commercial flights around the world.

While the service is still gathering data, “171 pilots have been approved to stay past their original retirement or separation dates” since March, Air Force spokeswoman Maj. Malinda Singleton said in an email Thursday. She did not provide a breakdown of the types of pilots — fighter, bomber, airlift, etc. — who have extended their duty.


The service is also preparing for the possibility that furloughed airline pilots will submit requests to return to active duty in the Air Force come Oct. 1, the spokeswoman said. Under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security, or CARES, Act, passed in late March, airline jobs have been safe as companies are prohibited from cutting their workforces until that date. However, experts foresee a dramatic reduction in airline jobs when the restriction is lifted.

“At this time, it is too early to tell what those impacts may be as the CARES Act prohibited layoffs and furloughs in the airlines until Oct. 1,” Singleton said. “We are keeping a close watch on the situation; recognizing the challenges the airline industry is facing, we are providing options for rated officers to remain on active duty who otherwise had plans to depart.”

Airline hiring efforts had been the biggest factor driving problems in pilot retention and production in the services, officials said in recent years. Commercial airlines became the military’s main competitor during a nationwide pilot shortage.

The Air Force came up 2,100 pilots short of the 21,000 it needed in fiscal 2019. In February, the service said it would also fall short of its goal to produce 1,480 new pilots across the force by the end of fiscal 2020.

But in April, the head of Air Education and Training Command said the COVID-19 pandemic might slow the rate of pilots leaving the force.

“We tend to see those [service members who] may be getting out, or those [who] have recently gotten out, want to return to service inside of our Air Force,” Gen. Brad Webb told reporters during a phone call from the Pentagon. “I expect that we will see some of that to a degree, which will help mitigate [the pilot shortage].”

Webb compared the pandemic to the 9/11 attacks, after which many service members returned to duty or extended their tours. The military also saw a surge in new recruits after the attacks.

“This is another [scenario] that we’re going to be assessing on a weekly, if not daily, basis,” he said, referencing the outbreak’s possible effect on retention and recruiting.

“While it’s too early to know the full effects of COVID-19 on the flying training pipeline, we know it will be impactful,” Webb said.

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

Articles

Here’s what the Pentagon thinks about those bases China keeps building around the globe

China’s construction of a military outpost in Djibouti is just the first of what will likely be an ongoing expansion in friendly foreign ports around the world to support distant deployments, a new Pentagon report concludes, predicting that Pakistan may be another potential location.

The annual assessment of China’s military might also notes that while China has not seized much new land to create more man-made islands, it has substantially built up the reefs with extended runways and other military facilities. It has also increased patrols and law enforcement to protect them.


The Djibouti base construction is near Camp Lemonnier, the U.S. base in the Horn of Africa nation. But American military leaders have said they don’t see it as a threat that will interfere with U.S. operations there.

“China most likely will seek to establish additional military bases in countries with which it has a longstanding friendly relationship and similar strategic interests, such as Pakistan, and in which there is a precedent for hosting foreign militaries,” the Pentagon report said. “This initiative, along with regular naval vessel visits to foreign ports, both reflects and amplifies China’s growing influence, extending the reach of its armed forces.”

What happens when lightning tears a giant hole in the tail of a B-52
A Chinese destroyer pulls into Pearl Harbor, Hawaii in 2006. (Photo by: US Navy Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Ben A. Gonzales)

The military expansion ties into a broader Chinese initiative to build a “new Silk Road” of ports, railways and roads to expand trade across an arc of countries through Asia, Africa and Europe. Countries including Pakistan and Afghanistan welcome it as a path out of poverty.

But India and others would be unhappy with additional Chinese development in Pakistan, particularly anything linked to the military.

China has cited anti-piracy patrolling as one of the reasons for developing what it calls a naval logistics center in Djibouti. Construction began in February 2016. Beijing has said the facility will help the army and navy participate in United Nations peacekeeping operations and provide humanitarian assistance.

But the expanded presence around the world would align with China’s growing economic interests and would help it project military power further from its borders.

The report cautioned, however, that China’s efforts to build more bases “may be constrained by the willingness of countries to support” the presence of China’s People’s Liberation Army in one of their ports.

What happens when lightning tears a giant hole in the tail of a B-52

Unlike previous reports, the new assessment doesn’t document a lot of new island creation by China in the East and China Seas. Last year’s report said China had reclaimed 3,200 acres of land in the southeastern South China Sea.

Instead, the new report focuses on the military build-up on the Spratly Islands in the South China Sea.

It said that as of late last year, China was building 24 fighter-sized hangars, fixed-weapons positions, barracks, administration buildings, and communication facilities on each of the three largest outposts — Fiery Cross, Subi and Mischief Reefs. Each has runways that are at least 8,800 feet long.

Once complete, the report said China will be able to house up to three regiments of fighters in the Spratly Islands.

China has also built up infrastructure on the four smaller outposts, including land-based guns and communications facilities.

The report added that, “China has used coercive tactics, such as the use of law enforcement vessels and its maritime militia, to enforce maritime claims and advance its interests in ways that are calculated to fall below the threshold of provoking conflict.”

MIGHTY TRENDING

Coast Guard struggling to keep up with surge of narco subs

Through September 2018, Colombia’s navy had captured 14 “narco subs” on the country’s Pacific coast — more than triple the four it captured in 2017 and another sign of drug traffickers’ ingenuity.

Colombia is not alone. The US Coast Guard reported in September 2017 that it had seen a “resurgence” of low-profile vessels, the most common kind of “narco sub,” capturing seven of them since June 2017.


“We’re seeing more of these low-profile vessels; 40-plus feet long … it rides on the surface, multiple outboard engines, moves 18, 22 knots … and they can carry large loads of contraband,” Coast Guard commandant Adm. Karl Schultz told Business Insider in October 2018 during an interview aboard the Coast Guard cutter Sitkinak in New York harbor.

“They’re very stealthy in terms of our ability to see them from the air [and] to detect them by radar,” Schultz added.

What happens when lightning tears a giant hole in the tail of a B-52

US Coast Guardsmen sit on a narco sub in the Pacific Ocean in early September 2016.

(US Coast Guard photo)

‘Era of experimentation’

Low-profile vessels were the earliest kind of narco sub, a category that includes self-propelled semi-submersibles, which use ballast to run below the surface, and true submarines, which are the most rare.

They emerged in the early 1990s, as traffickers who had made a fortune moving drugs into the US — like George Jung and members of Pablo Escobar’s Medellin cartel — encountered more obstacles.

“In the ’80s, the drug traffickers … were using go-fast boats, they were using twin-engine aircraft, and those were very easily detected by radar systems that we had,” particularly in the Caribbean and the southeastern US, said Mike Vigil, former chief of international operations for the US Drug Enforcement Administration.

“So they started to counter those efforts by building submarines or semi-submersibles, because they were much more difficult to detect,” Vigil added. “They were made out of … wood, fiberglass, and then sometimes they had a lead lining that would reduce their infrared signature.”

The early 1990s was “the era of experimentation,” for Colombian narco subs, according to Vigil, who was stationed on the country’s Caribbean coast at the time and recalls encounters with them on the Magdelena River, which stretches nearly 1,000 miles from southwest Colombia to the Caribbean.

“They were not full-fledged submarines. They would float … just slightly underneath the water, but you could still see the tower, and they were not sophisticated at all,” he said. “Their navigational systems were poor; communications systems were poor.”

There are varying figures for how many narco subs have been caught over the years.

The first such vessel seen at sea by US law enforcement was intercepted in 2006, carrying 3 tons of cocaine about 100 miles off Costa Rica’s Pacific coast. The first one encountered in the Caribbean was stopped in summer 2011 — despite efforts to scuttle it, US authorities were able to recover 14,000 pounds of cocaine.

Criminal groups in Colombia continue to churn out homemade narco subs — 100 a year, according to Vigil — building them in the interior and using the country’s extensive river network, where law enforcement is scarce, to get them to sea.

The technology has advanced, and criminal groups, flush with profits from Colombia’s booming cocaine production, have been able deploy more sophisticated vessels for covert runs to Central America and Mexico, where cargos then move overland to the US. The routes have also grown more circuitous, likely to avoid detection at sea.

Better technology “has upped the chess game” between criminals and the military and law enforcement, Vigil said.

What happens when lightning tears a giant hole in the tail of a B-52

Suspected drug-smuggling routes in the eastern Pacific Ocean in 2016.

(US Southern Command)

‘A drop in the bucket’

The recent increase in low-profile vessels intercepted by authorities indicates traffickers will adjust their tactics.

“There was certainly an uptick where the semi-submersibles were being utilized quite frequently, and then we had a lot of success against them,” Lt. Cmdr. Devon Brennan, head of the Coast Guard’s Maritime Safety and Security Team in New York, said during an interview aboard the Sitkanik.

“The drug-trafficking organizations are very agile and adept organizations, so they try to shift back,” Brennan said. “For one reason or another, they thought [low-profile vessels] might be a better option because of the success we’ve had against the [self-propelled semi-submersibles], so we have seen an increase in them.”

“This thing called the low-profile vessel, it’s evolutionary,” Schultz said. “The adversary will constantly adapt their tactics to try to thwart our successes.” The increase “reflects the adaptability, the malleability” of traffickers, he added.

Schultz and Brennan both emphasized that the Coast Guard is having success capturing narco subs. And Colombian officials have said that intercepting those vessels at sea — along with arresting traffickers on land — lands a serious blow to criminal organizations.

What happens when lightning tears a giant hole in the tail of a B-52

A abandoned low-profile vessel found by the Guatemalan coast guard on April 22, 2017.

(Guatemalan army / US Southern Command)

Vigil was skeptical of the true impact, saying the DEA estimated at least 30% to 40% of drugs coming to the US were moving on narco subs, but authorities were likely only intercepting 5% of those vessels.

“They may be capturing more but, again, that’s because there’s a hell of a lot more being using to smuggle drugs,” Vigil said. (Coast Guard Vice Commandant Adm. Charles Ray has said the service faces “a capacity challenge” in trying to patrol trafficking routes through the eastern Pacific, an area the size of the continental US.)

Vigil also noted that the costs seemed to favor the traffickers.

“The submarines cost id=”listicle-2611789516″ million or million … depending on the communications systems, the engine, the materials used in them, the navigational systems,” Vigil said. Even though many are likely only used once, he added, “they have absolutely no economic impact on the cartels.”

Each kilogram of cocaine is worth only a few thousand dollars in Colombia. But the multiton cargos narco subs can carry are worth hundreds of millions of dollars once they’re broken up and sold in the US or Europe.

The cost to build a narco sub is “a drop in the bucket compared to the payload that they carry,” Vigil said. “So a million, million is nothing to them.”

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

Articles

The hilarious way an Israeli spy convinced Syria to help Israel

There’s nothing funny about the tragic way Eli Cohen’s life ended. Shortly after returning to Israel to see the birth of his third child, he was caught in the act of transmitting intelligence by radio from his apartment. He was then hanged in May, 1965. His life as a spy put him at constant risk of discovery and execution. But before he was caught, Cohen changed the game for the IDF in the Middle East. He did it by convincing Syria its troops were too hot.


For four years, Eli Cohen sent valuable intelligence to Israel, either via radio from his Syrian apartment, by letter, or in person on flights to Israel routed through European capitals. Considered a master spy, the Egyptian-born Jewish agent who came to Syria as a businessman from Argentina became the chief advisor to Syria’s Defense Minister in that short time.

In Syria, Cohen was Kamel Amin Thaabet, a successful businessman who held fantastic parties (which often turned into orgies) and let his high-ranking Syrian military friends use his apartment for trysts with their mistresses. Had he not been caught, he might even have been considered to fill a post as a Deputy Minister of Defense.

What happens when lightning tears a giant hole in the tail of a B-52
Eli Cohen (in the middle) with his friends from the Syrian army at the Golan Heights overlooking Israel. Civilians were not allowed to the Golan Heights since it had been heavily guarded military area.

One of his greatest achievements as an advisor came on a trip to the Golan Heights. He convinced the Syrian military that the troops were too hot and tired. He told them the soldiers would benefit from the shade of trees, a welcome respite from the oppressive Syrian sun. In doing so, he had the trees planted at specific locations — locations used as targeting markers for the Israeli Defense Forces.

Cohen also made extensive notes and took photos of all the Syrian defensive positions and sent them back to his handlers in Tel Aviv.

Sadly, Syria’s military intelligence apparatus was onto a mole in the Syrian military and was on the lookout for spies. Cohen was caught while radioing to Tel Aviv during a Syrian radio blackout. He was tried and executed and his remains were never returned to Israel.

What happens when lightning tears a giant hole in the tail of a B-52
Eli Cohen on trial in Syria.

But his work lived on. In 1967, two years after Cohen was hanged, Israel launched a massive pre-emptive strike on Egypt, capturing the Gaza Strip and destroying Egypt’s air forces on the ground. Egyptian leader Gemal Abdel Nasser convinced Syria and Jordan to join the fight against Israel. When Syria did, Israel pounced on the Golan Heights using the information (and the trees) provided by Eli Cohen.

They captured the Golan Heights in two days and have held it ever since.

MIGHTY MILSPOUSE

WATCH: MilSpouse in quarantine performs hilarious coronavirus balcony concert

Emily Krieger Cabana is the military spouse hero we need right now and don’t deserve. Her impromptu balcony performance of Andrew Lloyd Weber’s ‘Think of Me’ from Phantom of the Opera is quite simply put: magical. Oh, and also, incredible. Emily has a musical theater degree and was working professionally in New York City before she met her husband, a Marine pilot, during Fleet Week.

Emily rewrote many of the lyrics to reflect her family’s mandatory quarantine and how they’re handling it: “Remember me, once in a while, please promise me you’ll try. When you find that once again you long to share your wine or booze with me, if you ever find a moment, to share a glass with me.”


We saw this video and knew we needed to talk to this woman. When we reached out to Emily to talk about her incredible performance, Emily laughed and said she couldn’t believe that this many people were interested. She gave us the scoop on how it all transpired from base housing stairwell apartments at Patch Barracks in Stuttgart, Germany, where their family has been stationed for almost three years.

WATM: What prompted this?

Emily: My family is actually in quarantine because we came in direct contact with someone who tested positive for the virus. So we can’t leave our apartment until next Friday at 2:00, not that I’m counting!

I was informing my moms on the street in our group message [that we were quarantined] and one of them happens to know I am a singer and she said they now expected balcony performances, after seeing all the posts from other countries.

Well, with lots of moms agreeing and a bit of pressure put on, I said ‘why not!’ So, I couldn’t do just any song … I had to make it humorous and relatable to our situation.

One of my mom friends on the street was so excited to go and see Phantom of the Opera in London. She was so excited. And since everything is cancelled, I kind of got the idea of using one of those songs and making it humorous to lift our spirits. I believe laughter and music are incredible healing tools!

So I got on a ball gown, gave my moms message thread a 15 minute warning, and never ever expected it to be appreciated as much as it was.

And better yet, I got beer and booze delivered and placed outside our door!

What happens when lightning tears a giant hole in the tail of a B-52

Photo courtesy of Emily Krieger Cabana

WATM: You have an incredible voice. Tell us about your background in music.

Emily: I have a Musical Theatre degree and was working professionally in New York when Fleet Week happened. That’s how I met my Marine pilot. Yes, an actual Fleet Week success story!

So I put my career on hold and focused on family life and Marine Corps spouse life. I still teach voice lessons and help direct shows whenever the time allowed in whatever duty station we were at.

What happens when lightning tears a giant hole in the tail of a B-52

Photo courtesy of Emily Krieger Cabana

WATM: You are amazing! How is quarantine going?

Emily: Hearing we were in direct contact actually wasn’t super surprising to us. This is such a small community and we figured it was going to happen to quite a lot of people we knew. No need for us to worry as nobody has any underlying conditions. We are just trying to stick with the guidelines of sanitizing and also trying to be as healthy as can be. We tend to live our lives more in the moment and try not to stress about what could be. Stress doesn’t help anyone!

Our neighbors and friends have completely gone out of their ways to help with shopping or just dropping off meals or treats for us. The military community takes care of each other and they are coming out in full force during this time. It’s really humbling. And makes us proud to be a military family in such a supportive community.

WATM: Any advice for other military spouses facing quarantine life?

Emily: Well, I think the booze and wine requests speak for themselves.

What happens when lightning tears a giant hole in the tail of a B-52

Photo courtesy of Emily Krieger Cabana

MIGHTY TRENDING

Veterans Crisis Line has answered more than three million calls

Since its launch in 2007, the Veterans Crisis Line has been an invaluable resource for Veterans nationwide — answering more than 3 million calls and initiating the dispatch of emergency services to callers in crisis nearly 78,000 times.


Veterans Crisis Line responders have also engaged in nearly 363,000 chats through the anonymous online chat service added in 2009, and we’ve answered more than 81,000 texts since our text messaging service began in November 2011.

I say all of this to show that from the start, the Veterans Crisis Line staff has consistently looked for more opportunities to better serve Veterans, and that desire to expand our services hasn’t slowed down.

Related: 9 ways the VA says it’s joining the modern world

The No Veterans Crisis Line Call Should Go Unanswered Act took effect in 2016, and we’ve responded with steps designed to provide the best support possible. From employing staggered shift scheduling for better coverage during periods of high call volume to formalizing our intensive training program and incorporating the latest evidence-based practices, we are always working to enhance our ability to serve Veterans.

New call center in Kansas

Most recently, we implemented an automatic transfer system: With the push of a button, a local VA Medical Center can directly connect a Veteran to the Veterans Crisis Line. Soon, we will greatly expand call capacity with the opening of a third call center in Topeka, Kan.

What happens when lightning tears a giant hole in the tail of a B-52
(Photo courtesy of VA)

The results of these efforts have already begun to show, as virtually every call we receive is answered by a Veterans Crisis Line responder with specific training to provide support to Veterans and Service members. In 2017, just 0.3 percent of calls to the Veterans Crisis Line were rolled over to non-VA crisis line operators, and that percentage fell to 0.07 in December.

We’re committed to providing the support that our Veterans have earned. If you’re experiencing a crisis or having thoughts of harming yourself, the Veterans Crisis Line can help. More than 500 responders are ready to answer your call, because they believe no Veteran should be without support in a time of need. You served your country, and we’re here to serve you.

If you or a Veteran you know is in crisis, call 1-800-273-8255 and Press 1, text to 838255, or chat online at www.VeteransCrisisLine.net to get immediate help.

For more information about the Veterans Crisis Line, visit www.VeteransCrisisLine.net. For more information about VA’s mental health resources, visit www.mentalhealth.va.gov.

Articles

One of the Soviet Union’s top Cold War spymasters just died

Yuri Drozdov, the Soviet spymaster who oversaw a sprawling network of KGB agents abroad, died on June 21. He was 91.


The Foreign Intelligence Service, a KGB successor agency known under its Russian acronym SVR, didn’t give the cause of Drozdov’s death or any other specifics in a terse statement.

Drozdov, a World War II veteran, joined the KGB in 1956 and was dispatched as a liaison officer with the East German secret police, the Stasi. In 1962, he took part in the exchange of Soviet undercover agent Rudolf Abel, convicted in the US, for downed American spy plane pilot Francis Gary Powers.

What happens when lightning tears a giant hole in the tail of a B-52
Photo of the former chief of KGB Directorate “S” general Yuri Drozdov and a former soviet NOC Sergey Zhirnov at the office of consulting firm Namakon in Moscow. (Photo via of Wikimedia Commons)

The story was made into Steven Spielberg’s blockbuster “Bridge of Spies” in 2015 as well as the Soviet movie “The Shield and the Sword,” a 1968 classic that Russian President Vladimir Putin once said inspired him to join the KGB.

On June 21st, Putin himself offered condolences to Drozdov’s wife and two sons in a message published on the Kremlin’s website. Drozdov was “a legendary spy and an outstanding professional” who was also “an incredible person and true patriot,” Putin said.

What happens when lightning tears a giant hole in the tail of a B-52
Photo courtesy of Russian State Media

Working under diplomatic cover, Drozdov served as the KGB resident in China in 1964-1968, and in the United States in 1975-1979.

In 1979, he came to head a KGB department overseeing a network of undercover agents abroad, the job he held until resigning in 1991. The agents who lived abroad under false identity were called “illegals” and were considered the elite of Soviet intelligence.

In December 1979, Drozdov led an operation to storm the palace of Afghan President Hafizullah Amin that paved the way for the Soviet invasion.

Drozdov also founded the KGB’s Vympel special forces unit intended for covert operations abroad.

The SVR praised Drozdov as a “real Russian officer, a warm-hearted person and a wise leader.”

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