An Israeli pilot only known as “Lt. H” was flying at a low level near 350 knots in an A-4 Skyhawk one day. He was flying over the desert near the Dead Sea in September 1985. He was flying straight and level when the next thing he knows he is laying on the floor of the valley near where he was previously flying. All he knows is that he has a massive headache and no memory of how he got there.
Eventually, H did remember seeing a small object coming at him at a high speed. As he approached, he instinctively ducked to avoid hitting the object, but to no avail.
“I couldn’t tell what it was,” he told the New York Times. ”As it got closer, instinctively I ducked. That’s all I remember. I woke up on the ground with a parachute around me and my neck broken.”
His command knows exactly what happened – he ran head-on into a migrating flock of birds. One of those birds penetrated the canopy and flew into the cockpit, then hit H in the head, knocking him unconscious. What happened next was nothing short of miraculous.
This wasn’t an ordinary bird, it was a Honey Buzzard.
The Israelis found H laying in the desert, as H remembers. But they also found feathers and blood on the helmet of their young IDF lieutenant. They sent the evidence to a lab in Amsterdam to get some answers. That’s how they discovered what kind of bird the Skyhawk hit and how it was able to break into the jet’s canopy. It turns out Israel in the 1980s was smack-dab in the center of a migration corridor for storks, pelicans, and predatory birds like the Honey Buzzard.
It turns out the bird crashed through the front windshield and eventually hit the pilot’s ejection seat lever after knocking him out. Lieutenant H’s parachute opened on its own, and that’s how H ended up on the ground with a headache.
The bird, however, probably went down with the Skyhawk.
This may seem like blasphemy to some, but Popeye started his professional career as a civilian mariner and then Coast Guardsman. The famous sailor did join the Navy, but as of 1937, Popeye was firmly in the Coast Guard. A two-reel feature titled Popeye the Sailor meets Ali Baba’s Forty Thieves introduces Popeye serving at a Coast Guard station. The sailor man’s creator did not live to see the United States enter World War II, but it was in 1941 that his creation joined the Navy and the legend of Popeye the rough and tumble U.S. Navy sailor was born.
Popeye the Sailor meets Ali Baba’s Forty Thieves wasn’t Popeye’s first feature. He started life as a character in the comic strip Thimble Theater in 1929, a comic actually centered around his off-and-on girlfriend, Olive Oyl. When it became obvious that Popeye was the real star, he made a jump to feature films. In the aforementioned 1937 film is when we see Popeye in the Coast Guard, on guard duty and deploying to intercept “Abu Hassan” (aka Bluto), who is terrorizing the Middle East.
It was during WWII that Popeye reached his incredible popularity. After enlisting in the Navy in 1941’s The Mighty Navy, Popeye’s clothing changed and reflected his status as a U.S. Navy sailor, wearing the distinctive white crackerjack uniform. Popeye would remain in uniform until 1978, when new cartoons put him back in his original outfit, with one exception: the white yachting cap he used to wear was replaced with a standard issue Navy “Dixie Cup” cap.
It should be noted that Popeye and Bluto once attempted to join the Army in a 1936 film short called I’m In the Army Now, but they really just ended up fighting in the recruiter’s office. Popeye left the office after beating Bluto to a surrender, but without actually joining. Popeye also regularly beats Bluto to the tune of “The Army Goes Rolling Along.”
Despite his dedication to service, Popeye never once tried to join the Air Force.
The Battle of Verdun lasted for nearly ten months in 1916 and according to some estimates, resulted in almost 950,000 casualties. In essence, it was perhaps the epitome of the trench warfare that dominated World War I.
Indeed, trench warfare really didn’t end until the emergence of the early tanks at the Battle of the Somme. Could some of America’s most modern armored fighting vehicles do better? Specifically, the Stryker family of wheeled armored fighting vehicles.
The Germans committed over a million troops to the battle. The Stryker Brigade would have roughly 4,500 troops and 300 vehicles, most of which are M1126 Infantry Combat Vehicles. The vehicles couldn’t roam in the enemy rear — resupply would be very difficult at best. But those vehicles have technology that would enable them to decisively rout the German offensives.
The key to what the Stryker would use, would not be in mobility, but in the M151 Protector Remote Weapons Station. The Strykers primarily use the M2 heavy machine gun and Mk 19 automatic grenade launcher. These outclass the MG 08 by a significant margin. Furthermore, they can be fired from within the Stryker, which negates one of Germany’s most powerful weapons in 1916: poison gas.
This is the second advantage the Stryker would have. The NBC protection capabilities in the Strykers would enable the defense to hold despite German chemical weapons. In essence, rather than facing incapacitated – or dead – defenders, the German troops would be going across “no man’s land” into mission-capable defenders.
Worse for them, the M2 heavy machine gun and the Mk 19 automatic grenade launcher would tear massed infantry attacks apart. The optics of the Protector remote weapons stations would allow the Americans to pick out the guys with flamethrowers first. In essence, the Strykers would be able to bleed the Germans dry.
It gets worse for the Germans when the inevitable counter-attack comes. The same optics what would let a Stryker gunner pick out a machine gun position and take it out. Here, the M1128 Mobile Gun Systems and M1134 Anti-Tank Guided Missile Vehicles would also come into play, destroying bunkers. The M1129 Stryker Mortar Carrier Vehicles would be able to lay down a lot of smoke and high-explosive warheads on targets.
In essence, the Stryker would drastically alter Verdun, not by its mobility, but by virtue of being a poison gas-proof pillbox.
In January 2007, a group of Royal Marines threw together a crazy mission to rescue a wounded Marine trapped inside the compound. To get him back, four Marines strapped themselves to the outside of Apache helicopters and rode back into the compound.
The situation arose after an attack on Jugroom Fort went sour quickly. The Brits assaulted in armored vehicles with artillery and Apache support, but the insurgents returned a heavy volume of fire when the Marines dismounted. Poor communication during the raid led to a friendly fire incident and another miscommunication led to the Marines withdrawing without Lance Cpl. Mathew Ford.
After rallying back up, the Marines quickly realized Ford was missing and one of the two Apaches on the battlefield spotted what appeared to be a human silhouette just inside the compound with his infrared sensors. The Royal Marines quickly devised the plan to strap two Marines each to two Apaches and have them land just outside the compound. They would recover Ford, who appeared to be severely wounded, and then ride back out.
The men called for nearby NATO assets to assist and American A-10s and a B-1 came in to help. The B-1 kicked off the assault by dropping four JDAMs onto the opposite side of the compound from Ford. According to a report published in War is Boring, the American pilots were shocked by what they saw during the mission.
“As I passed ahead of one Apache,” an unnamed pilot wrote, “I glanced high left to see a man, leaning over the stubby helicopter wing, unloading his rifle on the enemy. We matched with 30-millimeter and rockets.”
That’s right, the Marines were firing their rifles while strapped to the helicopters.
As the A-10s provided fierce covering fire, the Brits found Ford and carried him back to the helicopters. They managed it just in time. At three minutes after landing, the insurgents had recovered enough to begin firing on the parked Apaches. The Marines and pilots got away at five minutes without suffering further casualties.
The Apaches rushed Ford to medical aid before returning to base, barely making it before they ran out of gas. Unfortunately, Ford had died of his wounds sometime before the rescue attempt.
The Air Force announced April 23, 2019, new rules on Operational Camouflage Pattern uniforms that aim to better fit the needs of airmen and the jobs they do while also holding fast to tradition.
The changes highlighted include authorization of the two-piece Flight Duty Uniform in garrison and updated patch guidance for the OCP uniform.
“During the initial rollout of the OCP, we originally matched our sister services regarding patch configurations as we sought to emphasize our role as a joint warfighting force,” said Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David L. Goldfein.
“In response to overwhelming feedback received from airmen, we will make an easy ‘sleeve swap’ of the patch configuration to further elevate our focus on honoring the heritage of squadrons as the war-fighting units of the world’s greatest Air Force. We will now place the squadron patch on the right sleeve along with the U.S. flag and move the higher headquarters patch to the left sleeve of the OCP.”
OCP uniform guidance.
Additionally, to provide commanders with expanded uniform options to fit myriad missions, on April 15, 2019, the two-piece flight suit, otherwise known as the 2PFDU, will be authorized to be worn in both garrison and deployed locations. The 2PFDU continues an effort to provide airmen with improved form, fit and function to perform their duties in any environment.
The traditional flight duty uniform will also continue to be an option. Squadron commanders will now have the flexibility to make combat uniform decisions based on what is best for their airmen to meet mission requirements.
“The new unit patch configuration of the OCP and 2PFDU also aligns with the traditional FDU, elevating the significance of squadron focus and identity, which supports CSAF’s intent to revitalize squadrons,” said Lt. Gen. Mark D. Kelly, Headquarters Air Force deputy chief of staff for Air Force operations.
In May 2018, Air Force leaders decided to transition to the OCP following feedback from airmen that it is the best, battle-tested utility uniform available. It will also eliminate the need to maintain two separate uniforms – one for in-garrison and one for deployments.
The service expects to fully transition to OCPs by April 1, 2021.
Look, this whole article is basically a rant written because we’re getting tired of seeing comments about this every time we talk about NASA and/or Roscosmos. Somewhere in the comments on those articles, on our videos, or really anywhere across the internet as a whole, you’ll see someone sharing that same stupid story of NASA investing millions in space pens while Russia sensibly used pencils instead.
Nearly all of that story is complete and utter nonsense.
NASA astronaut and former Air Force test pilot Col. Gordon Fullerton, wearing communications kit assembly mini headset, watches a free-floating pen during checklist procedures on the aft-deck of Space Shuttle Columbia during the third shuttle mission, STS-3, in 1982.
A few quick things: First, neither NASA nor Roscosmos spent a single dime developing the space pen. NASA and Roscosmos both gave their spacefarers pencils and both of them hated to do so because floating graphite flakes can cause fires in sensitive electronics in zero gravity.
NASA, to cut down on the chance of a fire destroying their multi-million dollar spacecraft and killing their priceless astronauts, invested in insanely expensive mechanical pencils. The pencils were 8.89 each, or a grand total of ,382.26 for 34.
Man, imagine having to go to the supply sergeant for a box of those every time the major loses a few.
Astronaut Walter Cunningham writes with a space pen during the Apollo 7 mission in 1968.
Taxpayers, predictably, freaked out. They felt like pencils shouldn’t cost over 0 — fair enough.
So, NASA went back to cheaper pencils, but remained worried about their spacecraft and astronauts. Russia, in a similar vein, was worried about their cosmonauts.
Thus concludes NASA’s total sunk costs for the first delivery of pens. They paid in development or research costs. None.
Now, the Fischer Pen Company did spend a lot of money developing the pens — about id=”listicle-2608414142″ million, but they’re a private company counting on future sales to make up for the development costs.
And that was a sound bet. After all, lots of industries and the military need pens that can write in any situation. Miners, loggers, divers, soldiers, and a ton of other people in other professions need to be able to write in wet environments. So, Fischer would earn their research money back regardless.
So, please, when you want to make fun of the military or the government for wasting money, point to something else. The multi-million dollar space pen is and has always been bupkis.
Retired Gen. James Thurman recently told Army aviation officials they’ve got to “quit apologizing” to the Pentagon and ask for what they need to win the next war.
“The Air Force doesn’t apologize, the Navy doesn’t apologize, so don’t apologize. You’ve got to go forward and put the bill on the table, and you’ve got to have the analytical data to back it up. That’s what happens in the Pentagon,” he said during a panel discussion last week at the Association of the United States Army’s Hot Topic event on aviation.
Thurman, who commanded U.S. Forces Korea from 2011 to 2013, made his comments during a discussion on the Army’s effort to track training and readiness against the backdrop of the service’s six-priority modernization effort.
Future vertical lift is the Army’s third of six modernization priorities. Aviation officials must compete for the same resources advocates of the other priorities — long-range precision fires, the next generation combat vehicle, a mobile network, air and missile defense, and soldier lethality — are vying for if the service is going to field a new armed reconnaissance aircraft and a new long-range assault aircraft by 2028.
“You’ve got to fight for it … if we don’t modernize this force, we are going to lose the next fight. It’s as simple as that,” Thurman said, warning of the progress potential adversaries are making in battlefield technology. “If you look at what the Russians are doing and what the Chinese are doing, in my mind, the Chinese are number one right now.”
The Lockheed-Boeing SB-1 Defiant.
In addition to modernizing, Army aviation officials say the branch needs to use training resources more effectively to ensure units are at the appropriate readiness levels.
“I think we do ourselves a disservice anytime we are funded to a certain level and under-execute for multiple reasons,” said Maj. Gen. William Gayler, commander of the Aviation Center of Excellence and Fort Rucker, Alabama. “If we fly less and we still call ourselves trained, that is doing a disservice to us … because the Army will resource us at a lesser level.”
Army aviation accounts for 25 percent of the service’s budget for training and sustainment, said retired Lt. Gen. Kevin Mangum, vice president for Army Aviation Programs, Rotary and Mission Systems at Lockheed Martin. But, he said, “aviation is the only branch where the number of [Training and Doctrine Command] seats is limited by budget.”
“For every other branch, we determine how many seats are required and fund it,” he said. “For aviation, seats are based on funding available.”
Mangum said he agrees with Thurman’s advice. “Don’t apologize, but we’ve got to use that 25 percent of the Army budget as effectively and efficiently as we can.”
This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @militarydotcom on Twitter.
In the summer of 1944, the Red Army was approaching Warsaw and Nazi Germany was preparing to retreat all along the Eastern Front. That’s when the Polish Resistance launched Operation Tempest, an all-out effort to shake off five years of Nazi occupation before the Germans could destroy the city or round up dissidents.
For 63 days, Poles fought their occupiers in the streets of the Polish capital in the largest European resistance uprising of the war. Although the effort ultimately failed when the Soviets stopped their advance to allow the Nazis to crush the resistance, there were bright spots.
The brightest being the liberation of the Gęsiówka Prison by the Zoska scouting battalion — essentially a hardcore group of eagle scouts — who kept the Nazis from liquidating the Jewish population there.
Members of the Polish Home Army, the main resistance force in occupied Poland during World War II, started the Warsaw Uprising on Aug. 1, 1944. Almost immediately, members of the Nazi SD, the intelligence arm of the SS, began to liquidate the Warsaw Concentration Camp known as Gęsiówka.
To prevent them from finishing their dirty work, a group of teenage Polish scouts known as Battalion Zoska, organized an assault on the camp and its guards. The battalion wasn’t exactly what Americans would call Eagle Scouts, but it’s the closest description that fits. They were more than eagle scouts, but not quite a military unit.
Still, these young scouts had been fighting Nazis as resistance fighters and partisans since 1942, so they had a lot of time to learn. When Operation Tempest was launched, Zoska had 520 soldiers in Warsaw. On the second day of fighting, Battalion Zoska captured a Nazi panzer tank and integrated it into their attack plan for Gęsiówka.
With their new armored platoon, Battalion Zoska began its assault on the concentration camp on Aug. 5. The Nazis were no match for the hardened eagle scout paramilitary force. The full force of Battalion Zoska descended with ferocity on the camp guards. Almost 500 Polish teenagers supported by the main gun of a panzer tank made for a formidable force.
Within 90 minutes, the Germans broke off their defense of the camp. Those who survived the Polish attack (there weren’t many) were scattered into the city or took refuge in a nearby prison still held by the occupiers. The attacking Poles lost only two men in the fight.
Thousands of Polish Jews died in the days leading up to Battalion Zoska’s attack on Gęsiówka., but there were still 348 Jewish prisoners still alive in the camp after it was liberated. The Zoskas armed them and they joined the rest of Warsaw’s citizens in fighting Nazis to the death.
The Warsaw Uprising would go on for another nine weeks as the Red Army looked on, hoping the Germans would crush the Polish resistance. Most of the liberated prisoners would die in the fighting, as would most of Battalion Zosk — 70% died in the Warsaw Uprising.
Those who survived the Nazis were imprisoned in the Gęsiówka camp and other secret prisons by the communist regime in Poland.
Today, the prison has been replaced by a museum dedicated to the history of Poland’s Jewish people and a plaque honoring the Polish Jews who died in the camp, along with a memorial to the Polish Home Army and to Battalion Zoska.
The Manhattan Project, America’s nuclear bomb program, was one of the most expensive research and development undertakings of WWII. In total, the program cost about $2 billion, or nearly $30 billion in 2021 adjusted for inflation. However, there was one program that was 50% more expensive than the Manhattan Project. It was pushed through though because it was necessary for the Manhattan Project to work and the war to be won.
Since 1937, China had been fighting the Japanese largely on its own. By 1943, President Roosevelt feared that China would pull out of the war amidst mounting losses and free up a large portion of Japan’s military to refocus its efforts against the U.S. At the Cairo Conference in November 1943, Roosevelt pledged his support to Chinese General Chiang Kai-shek and his fight against the Japanese. Roosevelt committed America’s newest bomber, the Boeing B-29 Superfortress, to bomb Japan from bases in China and India by the spring of 1944.
When Roosevelt made his promise to the Chinese, less than 100 B-29s had been built, and only 15% of them were actually flyable. The revolutionary long-distance high-altitude bomber was incredibly complex and required extensive testing and evaluation to make it combatworthy. Moreover, wartime pressure and Roosevelt’s promise only further strained the bomber’s development.
Additionally, the sophisticated aircraft needed highly trained crewmembers to fly it. By the time of the Cairo Conference, less than 75 pilots were checked out in the B-29 and very few aircrews were fully trained and certified on it. Workers also had to be trained on how to build the B-29. With its pressurized cabin, central fire-control system, and four massive 18-cylinder 2,200 horsepower engines, among other complexities, the B-29 was not an easy plane to build. Initially, over 150,000 man-hours were needed to build one aircraft.
The B-29 was needed to fulfill Roosevelt’s promise because it exceeded the range of America’s existing B-17 Flying Fortress. While a capable bomber in its own right, the B-17 just didn’t have the legs for a roundtrip bombing run to the Japanese mainland. It was also incapable of carrying and delivering the atomic bomb being developed by the Manhattan Project. Only the B-29 could deploy the nuclear weapons in development.
So, hurried development of the B-29 was pressed on with little regard for cost, monetary or labor wise. Though B-29s and their components were assembled across the country from Washington to Georgia, the majority of B-29 work was done at Boeing’s plants in Wichita, Kansas. With production so rushed, much of the assembly line was located outdoors. The workforce battled heavy snowfall and negative temperatures during the winter of 1943-1944 to keep B-29s flowing into the hands of aircrews. On some days, workers could only operate in 20 minute stretches before they had to retreat to the warmth of one of the gasoline heaters laid out on the flight line.
Despite the best efforts of everyone involved, Roosevelt’s promise was not met, though he determined that it was close enough. The first 130 B-29s made the 11,500-mile journey from the U.S. to airbases in China and India by May 8, 1944. On June 15, 68 B-29s took off for the first bombing of the Japanese mainland since the Doolittle Raid of 1942. Unfortunately, the mission failed to hit its target and resulted in the loss of six aircraft. This was a huge blow to the B-29 program which cost the American taxpayer $3 billion, or just over $44.5 billion in 2021. Furthermore, the remote bases in China and India could only be resupplied by air which was risky and limited in capacity.
In January 1945, General Henry “Hap” Arnold placed General Curtiss LeMay in charge of operations against Japan. LeMay switched the B-29’s tactics from high-altitude precision bombing, which was largely ineffective, to low-level firebombings. These proved to be deadly against Japan since its cities were made largely of wood. Moreover, the capture of the Marianas gave the U.S. a base from which to launch B-29s with easier and more consistent supply access by ship. With the delivery of two atomic bombs on August 6 and 9, the B-29 proved its worth as a strategic bomber. Under LeMay’s leadership, the aircraft’s image changed from over-budget governmental waste to a symbol of American airpower in the nuclear age.
On our first trip to Saigon we unsuccessfully searched for a villa, called House 10, that had been used during the war. It was initially a Central Intelligence Agency property that was used to support clandestine activities in Vietnam and other locations in Southeast Asia. Over a period of time, it morphed into something else and began to be used as an operations and logistics center for MACV-SOG activities.
During my tours, MACV-SOG had established their headquarters on Pasteur Street and House 10 became a safe house for personnel who were assigned to one of the activities of MACV-SOG outside Saigon. We stayed at House 10 when we came to town for mission debriefings and mission prep.
Its location on a broad, tree lined boulevard was very tranquil and quiet. At that time it was run much like a hotel – with individual rooms, laundry service, a grill (where you could get hamburgers etc.), a small bar and an activities room with a pool table. They had listings for local restaurants for various types of food – from French Cuisine to Thai and Japanese as well as local – and they knew which bars catered to US Special Forces personnel.
Before leaving Saigon I did some additional research on the location and address for House 10 – without much hope of finding it – figuring we’d give it one more try. Low and behold, we did find it! The accompanying video says volumes.
If you find yourself in Saigon, here’s the location.
The flags that fly in front are not what they were the last time I was here, the building is apparently not in use at the moment, and they offer a different kind of ‘Tough Service’, but that’s OK. Vietnam, House 10, and all of us — we have to keep reinventing ourselves.
It was very emotional to return to a location that I remembered so well. My thinking turned to those I knew during those times – fine men all – some who returned and some who paid the ultimate price for freedom.
This article originally appeared on GORUCK. Follow @GORUCK on Twitter.
In April 1978, an Afghan tank commander rushed to tell President Mohammed Daoud Khan of a coming coup attempt. The President ordered his tank commander to circle to the presidential palace. Khan did not want to be caught off guard. He had only taken the reins of power from the King of Afghanistan five years before and didn’t want the monarchists coming back to power.
But when the critical moment to stop the coup came, the tank commander, with tanks surrounding the president, turned his guns on the palace. He was part of the coup all along.
The day after the revolution.
As coup attempts go, it was relatively bloodless, and thankfully short. But this coup would set Afghanistan on a path that would destroy it from within for the next fifty years or more. Daoud Khan and his family were killed in the palace that day, and the Communists under Nur Muhammad Taraki would ascend to the presidency of Afghanistan. Daoud was himself not a member of the Communist party, but the Communists did help him overthrow the monarchy. Once in power, the new president tried to keep Afghanistan non-aligned in the Cold War.
But when you share a border with the Soviet Union, that just doesn’t seem likely to happen.
Khan, on the right, shaking hands with senior Afghan military leaders
The problem with being non-aligned is that you can really lean one way or the other. When you ask for favors from a superpower, they expect you to fall in line. So it went for Daoud, who asked for help from the Soviets to settle a border dispute with Pakistan. He struggled to keep the USSR out of Afghan foreign policy thereafter. When a rivalry in the Afghan Communist Party ended with the murder of a faction leader, the Afghans were convinced it was Daoud whose hands were dirty – and that they were next. He didn’t have any of them assassinated, but he did have them arrested after protesting the government.
That sealed his fate.
The palace on the day of the coup.
It was on April 27, 1978, that Daoud’s trusted tank commander turned on him. He had already defected to the Communist party. By noon, more tanks were rumbling to the palace, the Army occupied important areas of the city, and the Afghan Air Force took to the skies, all against Daoud and his supporters. When the rebels captured the radio station Radio Afghanistan, they announced to the people what was happening.
By the next morning, the President and his family were dead, the palace was lit up like swiss cheese, and the Communists were in control of the country. It turns out Daoud and his brother charged out of the palace toward the army, guns blazing, like a scene out of Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid.
Which eventually led to a Soviet invasion.
The reforms implemented by the Communists were mixed, as was the public reaction to the change in power. The new regime was brutally repressive, executed political prisoners, and brutally put down any resistance from the countryside. This repression turned the people against their Communist government, which triggered the Soviet Union’s Brezhnev Doctrine – any threat to Communist rule in any Communist government is a threat to all Communism everywhere.
The Soviets invaded and occupied Afghanistan for some nine years. The war was a brutal stalemate that severely set back the development of both countries and may have led to the downfall of the USSR.
While it may sound cliché, it’s a common motto within the tanker community. For more than 60 years of continuous service, the KC-135 Stratotanker has been the core aerial refueling capability for U.S. operations around the world.
The KC-135 provides the Air Force with its primary mission of global reach, but it also supports the Navy, Marine Corps and allied nations in assisting training, combat and humanitarian engagements.
The aircraft is also capable of transporting litters and ambulatory patients using patient support pallets during aeromedical evacuations.
A Cold War-era image of B-52D refueling from a KC-135A.
(U.S. Air Force photo)
The stratotanker was the Air Force’s first jet-powered refueling tanker, replacing the KC-97 Stratofreighter. It was originally designed and tasked to support strategic bombers, but has been heavily used in all major conflicts since its development, extending the range and endurance of U.S. tactical fighters and bombers.
The KC-135 is a mid-air refueling aircraft with a telescoping “flying boom” tube located on the rear of the plane. A boom operator lays prone and guides the boom insert into a receptacle on the receiving aircraft. With a single boom, aircraft refuel one at a time.
The mid-air refueling capability changed the landscape of air dominance during the Vietnam War and enabled tactical fighter-bombers of the Air Force, Navy and Marine Corps to stay on the front lines for hours rather than minutes due to their limited fuel reserves and high fuel consumption.
For bombers, all targets were now within reach without the need of hopping from base to base until striking their targets. No longer are lives at stake to build airstrips to support bombing campaigns, as they were in WWII.
Development and design
The Boeing Company’s model 367-80 jet transport, commonly called the “Dash-80,” was the basic design for the commercial 707 passenger plane as well as the KC-135A Stratotanker.
In 1954, the Air Force purchased the first 29 of its future 803 aerial refueling tanker fleet. The first aircraft flew in August 1956, and the initial production Stratotanker was delivered to Castle Air Force Base, California, in June 1957. The last KC-135 was delivered to the Air Force in 1965.
The aircraft’s KC identifier stands for (K) tanker (C) transport.
The aircraft is powered by four turbofan engines mounted on 35-degree swept wings, has a flight speed of more than 500 mph and a flight range of nearly 1,500 miles when loaded with 150,000 lbs. of fuel.
The KC-135 has been modified and retrofitted through the years with each update providing stronger engines, fuel management and avionics systems. The recent Block 45 update added a new glass cockpit digital display, radio altimeter, digital autopilot, digital flight director and computer updates.
Of the original KC-135As, more than 417 were modified with new CFM-56 engines.
The re-engined tanker, designated either the KC-135R or KC-135T, can offload 50 percent more fuel, is 25 percent more fuel efficient, costs 25 percent less to operate and is 96 percent quieter than the KC-135A.
In 1981 the KC-10 Extender was introduced to supplement the KC-135. The KC-10 doubles the fuel carrying capacity of the KC-135, which is critical in supporting mobility operations of large cargo aircraft like the C-5 Galaxy and the C-17 Globemaster III.
Airmen of the 86th Aeromedical Evacuation Squadron perform lifesaving procedures to a patient in a KC-135 Stratotanker, at Ramstein Air Base, Germany, March 26, 2015. Aircrew and a KC-135 from Royal Air Force Mildenhall, England, spent multiple days at Ramstein performing aerial refueling missions, which also gave AES Airmen the opportunity to train on their mission inside a different airframe.
(Photo by Damon Kasberg)
Through the years, the KC-135 has been altered to do other jobs ranging from flying command post missions to reconnaissance. RC-135s are used for special reconnaissance and Air Force Materiel Command’s NKC-135As are flown in test programs. Air Combat Command operates the OC-135 as an observation platform in compliance with the Open Skies Treaty.
The KC-135R and KC-135T aircraft continue to undergo life-cycle upgrades to expand their capabilities and improve reliability. Among these are improved communications, navigation and surveillance equipment to meet future civil air traffic control needs.
There have been 11 variants or models through the years of the C-135 family.
The aircraft carries a basic crew of three, a pilot, co-pilot and boom operator. Some missions require the addition of a navigator.
An A-10C Thunderbolt II receives fuel from a KC-135 Stratotanker over Afghanistan Oct. 2, 2013. The A-10 is deployed from Moody Air Force Base, Ga., to the 74th Expeditionary Fighter Squadron in support of Operation Enduring Freedom. The KC-135 is assigned to the 340th Expeditionary Air Refueling Squadron.
(Photo by Stephany Richards)
Nearly all internal fuel can be pumped through the flying boom. A special shuttlecock-shaped drogue attached to and trailing behind the flying boom may be used to refuel aircraft fitted with probes. Some aircraft have been configured with the multipoint refueling system, which consists of special pods mounted on the wingtips. These KC-135s are capable of refueling two receiver aircraft at the same time.
In 2007 the Air Force announced plans for the KC-X tanker replacement program for the KC-135. In 2011, the Boeing KC-46 Pegasus was selected as the winner of the program.
The first 18 combat-ready Pegasus tankers are expected for delivery by 2019.
The KC-135 E and R models are expected to continue service until 2040 when they will be nearly 80 years old.
A KC-135 Stratotanker flies through storm clouds on its way to refuel a C-17 Globemaster III off Florida’s east coast, July 12, 2012. The KC-135 was the Air Force’s first jet-powered refueling tanker and replaced the KC-97L Stratofreighter.
(Photo by Jeremy Lock)
Operation and deployment
Air Mobility Command manages the current inventory of 396 Stratotankers, of which the Air Force Reserve and Air National Guard fly 243 aircraft in support of AMC’s mission.
While AMC gained the control of the aerial refueling mission, a small number of KC-135s were also assigned directly to U.S. Air Forces in Europe, Pacific Air Forces and the Air Education and Training Command.
All Air Force Reserve Command KC-135s and most of the Air National Guard KC-135 fleet are operationally controlled by AMC, while Alaska Air National Guard and Hawaii Air National Guard KC-135s are operationally controlled by PACAF.
Did you know?
The Stratotanker is constructed with almost 500,000 rivets. The installed cost of these rivets range from 14 cents to id=”listicle-2595814234″.50 each.
The KC-135 as 23 windows, nearly all of which are heated electrically or with hot air to prevent fogging.
The tanker has a cargo area easily capable of holding a bowling alley, with enough room left over for a gallery of spectators. The cargo area is almost 11 feet wide, 86 feet long and 7 feet high: the equivalent of 220 automobile trunks.
The KC-135 transfers enough fuel through the refueling boom in one minute to operate the average family car for more than one year.
It can transfer more fuel in 8 minutes than a gas station could pump in 24 hours.
A U.S. Air Force B-52 Stratofortress leads a formation of aircraft including two Polish air force F-16 Fighting Falcons, four U.S. Air Force F-16 Fighting Falcons, two German Eurofighter Typhoons and four Swedish Gripens over the Baltic Sea, June 9, 2016. The formation was captured from a KC-135 from the 434th Air Refueling Wing, Grissom Air Force Base, Indiana as part of exercise BALTOPS 2016.
(Photo by Erin Babis)
KC-135 Stratotanker fact sheet:
Primary function: Aerial refueling and airlift
Builder: The Boeing Company
Power plant: CFM International CFM-56 turbofan engines
Thrust: 21,634 pounds of thrust in each engine
Wingspan: 130 feet, 10 inches (39.88 meters)
Length: 136 feet, 3 inches (41.53 meters)
Height: 41 feet, 8 inches (12.7 meters)
Speed: 530 mph at 30,000 feet (9,144)
Range: 1,500 miles (2,419 kilometers) with 150,000 pounds (68, 039 kilograms) of transfer fuel; ferry mission, up to 11,015 miles (17,766 kilometers)
Ceiling: 50,000 feet (15,240 meters)
Maximum takeoff weight: 322,500 pounds (146, 285 kilograms)
Maximum Transfer Fuel Load: 200,000 pounds (90,719 kilograms)
Maximum Cargo Capability: 83,000 pounds (37,648 kilograms), 37 passengers
Crew: 3 (pilot, co-pilot and boom operator. Some KC-135 missions require the addition of a navigator. The Air Force has a limited number of navigator suites that can be installed for unique missions.)
Aeromedical Evacuation Crew: A basic crew of five (two flight nurses and three medical technicians) is added for aeromedical evacuation missions. Medical crew may be altered as required by the needs of patients.
Initial operating capability: 1956
Unit cost: .6 million
This article originally appeared on Airman Magazine. Follow @AirmanMagazine on Twitter.
A mysterious explosion at a Russian weapons testing site August 2019 released various radioactive isotopes, creating a cloud of radioactive gases that swept across a nearby town, the country’s state weather agency said Aug. 26, 2019, and experts said the mixture removes all doubt about what blew up.
The deadly Aug. 8, 2019, blast at the Nyonoksa military weapons testing range released a handful of rapidly decaying radioactive isotopes — strontium-91, barium-139, barium-140, and lanthanum-140 — which have half-lives ranging from 83 minutes to 12.8 days, the Roshydromet national weather and environmental monitoring agency said in a statement.
“These are fission products,” Joshua Pollack, a leading expert on nuclear and missile proliferation, told Insider. “If anyone still doubts that a nuclear reactor was involved in this incident, this report should go a long way toward resolving that.”
Alexander Uvarov, the editor of the independent news site AtomInfo.ru, told the news agency RIA Novosti that these isotopes were products of nuclear fission involving uranium, Agence France-Presse reported Aug. 26, 2019. This collection of radioisotopes could be released by a reaction involving uranium-235.
Russia Missile Explosion: Govt tells Nyonoksa residents to leave village
Nils Bohmer, a Norwegian nuclear-safety expert, told The Barents Observer that “the presence of decay products like barium and strontium is coming from a nuclear chain reaction,” adding that it was evidence that it “was a nuclear reactor that exploded.”
Edwin Lyman, an expert with the Union of Concerned Scientists, told The Guardian that the fission products detected pointed to a reactor release.
Russia has been cagey with the details of the accident, which killed at least five and as many as seven people and triggered a radiation spike in nearby Severodvinsk, a detail Russia has flip-flopped on acknowledging.
In the aftermath of the explosion, Russia’s explanation of the accident and its risks varied, several nuclear monitoring stations in Russia mysteriously went offline, doctors treating the wounded said that they were forced to sign nondisclosure agreements and that hospital records were destroyed, and one doctor was found to have a radioactive isotope in his muscle tissue. Russia has insisted that the cesium-137 detected was the result of something the doctor ate.
Russian authorities claimed that the incident happened “during tests of a liquid propulsion system involving isotopes,” but Bohmer argued that short-lived radioactive isotopes would not have been produced by that sort of test.
Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Rosatom, Russia’s state nuclear agency, said Russia was working on new weapons when the explosion occurred, but it did not offer any details, simply saying that tragedy sometimes “happens when testing new technologies.”
Russian President Vladimir Putin recently said that Russia was not hiding the details of the accident. He then said that “this is work in the military field, work on promising weapons systems,” adding that “when it comes to activities of a military nature, there are certain restrictions on access to information.”
US experts and intelligence officials suspect that Russia tested the 9M730 Burevestnik nuclear-powered cruise missile, a superweapon that NATO calls the SSC-X-9 Skyfall. In a tweet about the incident, President Donald Trump called it the “Skyfall explosion.”
Andrei Zolotkov, a chemist who spent more than three decades working on Russia’s nuclear icebreaker fleet, told the Guardian that the nuclear reactor involved in the recent failed test appeared to be an unusual reactor, which would make sense if Russia was, as is suspected, working with a compact reactor for a new nuclear-powered missile.
Putin has boasted that the Burevestnik will be “invincible,” with “an unlimited range, unpredictable trajectory and ability to bypass interception.” But right now, it doesn’t actually work and might be a greater threat to the people of Russia than any adversary.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.