These crop dusters were converted into deadly attack aircraft - We Are The Mighty
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These crop dusters were converted into deadly attack aircraft

The Thrush 710P aircraft is a perfectly capable — and kind of hum drum — agriculture crop duster. It carries a large load of chemicals and is easy to maintain and fly in rural conditions.


Which makes it a great plane.

But some mad engineers looked at crop dusters and wondered what would happen if the payload was changed from pesticides and fertilizers to bombs and missiles.

That’s how the Iomax Archangel was made. It’s a lightweight, cheap to maintain, easy to fly, deadly strike aircraft currently in service with the United Arab Emirates and the Philippines.

Iomax buys the crop dusters from the Thrush aircraft factory in Albany, Georgia, and upgrades them to military specifications in a North Carolina facility.

Once fully upgraded to the Archangel configuration, the planes are pretty awesome. A two-person crew can keep the plane in the air for 10.5 hours and can carry intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance pods or weapons on each of seven external hardpoints.

The Archangel can carry 12 Hellfire missiles, 10 GBU-58 Mk-81 bombs, six GBU-12 Mk-82 bombs, 48 laser-guided rockets, 12 UMTAS laser-guided missiles, or a mix of the above.

These crop dusters were converted into deadly attack aircraft
(Photo: Courtesy Iomax)

Basically, it can put a lot of hurt on a lot of people before the crew comes down for a quick lunch break.

And because of the Archangel’s crop duster roots, the plane can be landed and parked nearly anywhere, even grassy fields.

The company even offers upgraded armor for the cockpit and engine compartment, self-sealing fuel tanks, and an electronic warfare system for the plane.

Of course, the U.S. military isn’t looking for a low-end strike or close-air support platform, but some of its allies are. America has bought a few combat Cessnas to bolster allied air forces against ground threats, but the Cessnas can only carry two Hellfires, a far cry from the Archangel’s dozen.

These crop dusters were converted into deadly attack aircraft
(Photo: Courtesy Iomax)

The UAE military has doubled down on the Archangel, purchasing a batch of them in 2014. The UAE had previously purchased 24 Archangels in 2009 that had been modified from Air Tractor 802 aircraft, but Air Tractor refused to make requested changes to the basic aircraft and Iomax started using the Thrush 710P instead of the AT-802.

The Philippines also bought Archangels modified from the 710P as replacements for its aging OV-10 Bronco fleet.

MIGHTY FIT

5 motivational videos will make you run out and join a gym

You need to be motivated to get and stay in shape. Whether that inspiration is rooted in making money, being attractive, or simply maintaining good health, everyone needs a reason to continue to push themselves to their physical limits.

Unfortunately, more than half of those who start a workout routine will give up on it in just a matter of weeks. We’ve seen it hundreds of times: On January 1st, the gym is packed. On January 14th, that surge of newcomers has completely tapered off. This is especially troubling because, according to Army veteran and fitness expert Jennifer Campbell, “veterans have a 70 percent higher chance of developing obesity than the general public.”

So, to help our fellow brothers- and sisters-in-arms find the motivation they need to build, complete, and maintain a routine, we put together a collection of videos that will get you hyped on your journey of returning to military shape.


Also Read: 4 reasons why veterans make the best fitness trainers

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“Effort is so important’ — C.T. Fletcher

This U.S. Army veteran is considered by many to be the godfather of the YouTube fitness community. His commanding presence has motivated a countless number of veterans to get back in the gym. He’s out to inspire self-confidence and help you put 100% effort into every workout.

Remember, you are your biggest critic — overcome self-doubt.

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WWE training with John Cena

This wrestler-turned-actor is known for his roles in military films, like The Marine and The Wall. When Cena isn’t killing bad guys on the silver screen, you can usually find him at Hard Nock’s Gym, where he constantly trains his body to reach its full potential.

Cena gains motivation his failures. He continuously strives to beat the obstacles that once defeated him.

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‘Wonder Woman’ — Cassandra Martin

For all of our sisters looking to get into shape, we present to you Cassandra Martin, one of the prime figures in the world of female bodybuilding. Her strong work ethic and constant drive to be better than she was yesterday shows as she battles each rep to the very end.

Martin’s strength and strict workout routines motivate countless aspiring women and men on their journeys to reach their fitness goals.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1H_fL_IFUgw

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The Rock’s ultimate workout motivation

Known for his outstanding charm and sense of humor, Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson has motivated countless people of all ages to make goals and smash through them. Johnson’s constant workout routines are what enable him to do some insane stunts for his films. His amazing career and top-tier physique remind us that hard work does pay off.

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Marky Mark will inspire you

It’s no secret that Mark Wahlberg is a staunch military supporter — he’s visited troops all over the world in his downtime. Although he’s not a young as he once was, Wahlberg continues to hit the gym and prove that age doesn’t mean sh*t — it’s all about your drive.

Articles

These are weird Navy traditions and their meanings

A recent Navy Times article notes that the crew of the Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Ross (DDG 71) joined the “Order of the Blue Nose” — a distinction reserved for ships and crew that crossing the Arctic Circle.


Most people have not heard of such a mystical Navy order, and there are others that are equally shrouded in seafaring lore, according to a list maintained by the Naval History and Heritage Command.

That list includes both well-known orders and not-so-well known orders. They are for notable feats — and in some cases, dubious ones.

These crop dusters were converted into deadly attack aircraft
Command Master Chief of aircraft carrier USS George Washington (CVN 73) Spike Call plays the role of King Neptune during a crossing the line ceremony aboard the ship. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Clemente A. Lynch/Released)

Perhaps the most well-known is the “Order of the Shellback,” given to those sailors who have crossed the equator. The “Crossing the Line” ceremony has been portrayed both in the PBS documentary series “Carrier,” as well as being the plot point for an episode of “JAG” in the 1990s.

But there is more than one kind of shellback.

If you cross the equator at the International Date Line (about 900 miles east of Nauru), you become a “Golden Shellback” (since those who cross the International Date Line are called Golden Dragons).

If you cross the equator at the Prime Meridian (a position about 460 miles to the west of Sao Tome and Principe), you become an “Emerald Shellback.”

These crop dusters were converted into deadly attack aircraft
Crewmembers aboard the Coast Guard Cutter Mohawk (WMEC 913) line up on the flight deck and make sounds like a whale to call to the whales as part of their shellback ceremony. (U.S. Coast Guard photo by OS3 Vicente Arechiga)

Now, we can move to some lesser-known, and even dubious orders.

The “Order of the Caterpillar” is awarded to anyone who has to leave a plane on the spur of the moment due to the plane being unable to continue flying. You even get a golden caterpillar pin.

The eyes of the caterpillar will then explain the circumstances of said departure. The Naval History and Heritage Command, for instance, notes that ruby red eyes denote a midair collision.

These crop dusters were converted into deadly attack aircraft

Then, there is the becoming a member of the “Goldfish Club.” That involves spending time in a life raft. If you’re in the raft for more than 24 hours, you become a “Sea Squatter.”

These crop dusters were converted into deadly attack aircraft

Using the Panama Canal makes you a member of the “Order of the Ditch.”

These crop dusters were converted into deadly attack aircraft

Oh, and in case you are wondering, crossing the Antarctic Circle makes you a “Red Nose.”

MIGHTY MOVIES

Iranian state TV used a photo of an actor from ‘Zero Dark Thirty’ to spread a wild theory that a senior CIA official was killed in a plane crash in Afghanistan

Iran’s state TV broadcast a photo of an actor from”Zero Dark Thirty” to illustrate a claim that the CIA officer that inspired the character had been killed.


On Monday, the US military confirmed an E-11A surveillance plane crashed in Ghanzi, eastern Afghanistan. The Taliban, who control the region, say several top CIA operatives were killed, and have since denied access to the crash site.

One of those CIA operatives was Michael D’Andrea, state TV said, according to BBC Monitoring, which first reported the claims made on Iranian TV.

Iranian TV did not provide any evidence for its claim that D’Andrea was killed Monday.

These crop dusters were converted into deadly attack aircraft

But instead of airing a photograph of the real D’Andrea, Iran’s Channel One chose to show the face of Fredric Lehne, a US actor who played a character inspired by D’Andrea in the 2012 movie “Zero Dark Thirty.” The movie is a dramatization of the US assassination of al-Qaeda leader Osama Bin Laden.It is not know if the choice of photo was an error, or a last resort due to a lack of available photographs of D’Andrea.


These crop dusters were converted into deadly attack aircraft

The network also said D’Andrea “had a key role in killing Iranian general Qasem Soleiman,” according to BBC Monitoring.

The movie details the decade-long hunt for al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden following the 9/11 attacks that killed nearly 3,000 people.

The real D’Andrea is the head of the CIA’s activities concerning Iran, according to The New York Times.

The CIA declined to comment on Iranian TV reports when contacted by Business Insider.

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

MIGHTY MOVIES

Why ‘Saving Private Ryan’ captured the dark side of war

2018 marks the 20th anniversary of Steven Spielberg’s Saving Private Ryan, an iconic film that remains one of the most honest depictions of war.


“It was a mentally demoralizing experience for us,” Spielberg told film critic Roger Ebert. Nevertheless, it was important for the director “to show America the dark side of the face of war.”

These crop dusters were converted into deadly attack aircraft
Director Steven Spielberg on set during the filming of ‘Saving Private Ryan.’
(Photo by DreamWorks Studios and Paramount Pictures)

Spielberg made many deliberate decisions to ensure the authenticity and the truth of war portrayed in this film, and the behind-the-scenes footage is riveting. The D-Day invasion scene took over two weeks to shoot and involved thousands of extras — including Irish Army reservists and real amputees.

Even the camera movements and lenses were all designed to follow the movement of combat and obscure the viewer’s vision, replicating the chaos and confusion of battle. Spielberg shot the film chronologically, which is an unusual choice for filmmakers.

“We shot in continuity, from beginning to end. We were all reliving the story together…but I didn’t realize how devastating that was going to be for the whole cast to actually start off with Omaha Beach and survive that as a film team, and then move into the hedgerows, move into the next town, as we all began to get whittled down by the storytelling.”

It was important for Spielberg to honor those who fought in World War II. “I think it is the key — the turning point of the entire century. World War II allowed my generation to exist.” His own father, Arnold Spielberg, enlisted in the U.S. Army after the attacks against Pearl Harbor.

These crop dusters were converted into deadly attack aircraft
Behind-the-scenes image of Tom Hanks in the iconic D-Day invasion scene of ‘Saving Private Ryan.’
(Photo by DreamWorks Studios and Paramount Pictures)

Saving Private Ryan perfectly balanced the inhumanity of war with the very-human warfighters, and continues to be one of the most celebrated films of all time.

To honor the 20th anniversary, the film is now available on 4K UltraHD™ as well as Blu-Ray™ and Digital. Check out the video below for a deeper look at how it was made:

MIGHTY TRENDING

The US just named Iran’s Revolutionary Guard a foreign terror group

The White House has decided to designate Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps as a foreign terrorist organization, as the Trump administration steps up its maximum-pressure campaign against Iran.

This is the first time the US has applied the designation to part of a foreign government, which the White House on April 8, 2019, said “underscores the fact that Iran’s actions are fundamentally different from those of other governments.”

“This unprecedented step,” President Donald Trump said in a statement April 8, 2019, “recognizes the reality that Iran is not only a State Sponsor of Terrorism, but the IRGC actively participates in, finances, and promotes terrorism as a tool of statecraft.”


“This action sends a clear message to Tehran that its support for terrorism has serious consequences,” the president added.

Designating the Revolutionary Guard as a foreign terrorist organization clears the way for US prosecutors to target those who provide material support to it. Conducting business with the group will now be considered a criminal offense punishable by law.

These crop dusters were converted into deadly attack aircraft

President Donald Trump.

(Photo by Michael Vadon)

“This designation is a direct response to an outlaw regime and should surprise no one,” Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said April 8, 2019, further commenting that the Quds Force, which is also being identified as a foreign terrorist organization, was responsible for the deaths of hundreds of US troops in Iraq.

“The Middle East cannot be more stable and peaceful without weakening the IRGC,” a senior administration official said on background before April 8, 2019’s announcement. “We have to diminish their power. The IRGC has been threatening American troops and our operations almost since the time it was formed.”

The Pentagon said that Iran-backed militants killed 603 US troops from 2003 to 2011, meaning that Iran is held responsible for 17% of all US deaths in Iraq during that window. “This death toll is in addition to the many thousands of Iraqis killed by the IRGC’s proxies,” the State Department added, according to Military Times.

Iran, responding to rumors before the White House announcement, has already threatened to retaliate.

“We will answer any action taken against this force with a reciprocal action,” Iranian lawmakers said in a statement April 7, 2019, Fox News reported. “So the leaders of America, who themselves are the creators and supporters of terrorists in the [Middle East] region, will regret this inappropriate and idiotic action.”

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

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The US will build a version of this massive Russian sub

The Russian Oscar-class nuclear-powered guided-missile submarine, also known as an SSGN, is one of the most fearsome adversaries a carrier strike group could face. When one goes out to sea, NATO dedicates a lot of assets to finding it. Why? It may have something to do with the fact that an Oscar-class submarine packs 24 SS-N-19 Shipwreck cruise missiles, which can go Mach 2 and pack a 1,000-kilogram warhead (or a nuclear warhead), in addition to powerful 650mm torpedoes.


These crop dusters were converted into deadly attack aircraft

NATO spent a lot of time tracking Oscar-class submarines.

(DOD photo)

The United States has never had a true counterpart to the Oscar. Four Ohio-class nuclear-powered ballistic missile submarines (or SSBNs) were modified to pack 154 Tomahawk cruise missiles each, but the Tomahawks in question are land-attack missiles. Furthermore, these submarines, to some extent, still operate like the “boomers” they were, often finding a spot to park their very powerful arsenal.

These crop dusters were converted into deadly attack aircraft

USS Georgia (SSGN 729) is one of four Ohio-class submarines converted to carry BGM-109 Tomahawk cruise missiles.

(US Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class James Kimber)

This is because, when it comes down to it, the SSBN isn’t exactly intended to sink an enemy ship. Yes, they carry torpedoes, but those are only for self-defense. Their real purpose is to keep 24 UGM-133 Trident II D-5 ballistic missiles, each loaded with as many as 14 375-kiloton W88 nuclear warheads, safe and ready for use.

Well, those Ohios are getting old and now, there’s a need to replace them. What this also means is that the U.S. Navy will soon have a true answer to the Oscar in the form of the Block V Virginia-class nuclear attack submarine. According to a handout obtained at the SeaAirSpace 2018 expo in National Harbor, Maryland, these subs will be somewhat longer than the earlier Virginia-class due to the addition of a plug that will hold 28 additional Tomahawks. Since some Tomahawk variants are capable of targeting ships, this makes the Block V Virginia-class sub a more versatile SSGN than the Oscar was.


A 2012 Congressional Budget Office report indicated the Navy planned to buy 20 of these submarines. With the increase in defense budgets in recent years, however, there’s no telling just how high that total can go.

MIGHTY TRENDING

The first Muslim Green Beret was also in Iran’s Special Forces

The first time Changiz Lahidji joined a Special Forces unit, his loyalty was to Reza Pahlavi, the Shah of Iran. But he found himself guarding lavish parties in the middle of the desert, protecting the opulent ruler of Imperial Iran and his guests. It wasn’t exactly the life of adventure that John Wayne movies led him to believe he could have.

He didn’t stay in service to the Shah for very long. It seemed like a waste. So, he moved to California, working in family-owned gas stations until November, 1978. That’s when he joined the Army and became an instrument of destruction — for the United States.


These crop dusters were converted into deadly attack aircraft
Master Sergeant Changiz Lahidji in Afghanistan in the early 2000s. He was the first Muslim Green Beret and longest-serving Special Forces soldier in history with 24 years of active service. (Changiz Lahidji)

The late 1970s were not a good time to be from the Middle East and living in the U.S., even if you’re in the Army. He had to constantly endure racism from his fellow soldiers, even though they couldn’t tell the difference between an Arab and a Persian. It didn’t matter, Lahidji pressed on and finished Special Forces training. Less than a year later, he was wearing the coveted Green Beret and by December 1979, he was on his first mission.

He was on his way back to Iran.

These crop dusters were converted into deadly attack aircraft
Changiz Lahidji standing guard during the Shah’s celebration of the 2,500th anniversary of the Persian Empire. (Changiz Lahidji)

In November, 1979, students in Tehran seized the U.S. embassy there, taking 52 federal employees and U.S. troops hostage. Lahidji wasn’t about to wait for the military to get around to assigning him to help. He wrote a letter to President Jimmy Carter, offering his unique skills, knowledge of Tehran, and native Farsi to the task. He wanted to choose his A-Team and get to Iran as soon as possible.

The U.S. military was happy to oblige. He wasn’t going to lead an A-Team, but he had an Iranian passport and he went into Tehran ahead of Operation Eagle Claw in order to get advance knowledge of the situation on the ground and to rent a bus to drive hostages and operators out after they retook the embassy. After the disaster at Desert One, he was forced to smuggle himself out aboard a fishing boat.

These crop dusters were converted into deadly attack aircraft
Master Sgt. Changiz Lahidji, U.S. Army. (Changiz Lahidji)

After Iran, he didn’t have to worry about being accepted by his fellow Green Berets. He was one of them by then.

He writes about all of his worldly adventures in some 33 countries in his memoir, Full Battle Rattle: My Story as the Longest-Serving Special Forces A-Team Soldier in American History. In it, you can read about him helping to bust drug rings in Spain, capture the mastermind behind the 1993 World Trade Center Bombing, and what it was like on the ground during the “Black Hawk Down” debacle in Mogadishu, Somalia. He was there for all of it.

But it wasn’t the only time his Iranian background would come to the aid of U.S. forces. In 2003, some 24 years after the failure of Eagle Claw, Lahidji was in Tora Bora, dressed as a farmer and working for a U.S. private contractor. There, he would personally identify Osama bin Laden. When he went to the American embassy to report his finding, the U.S. seemed to take no action.

Lahidji does a lot of private contractor work these days. After spending so much time traveling and in service to the United States — he’s done more than 100 missions in Afghanistan alone — he looks back on his time in the service as a privilege. Army Special Forces gave Changiz Lahidji the brotherhood and adventure he always dreamed of as a secular, middle-class child growing up in Iran.

MIGHTY HISTORY

Veterans are writing eulogies to ‘the buddy they’ll never forget’

Few things in this world are stronger than the bonds forged by troops who fought together in combat. Those who survive life-threatening ordeals on the battlefield become closer in ways that others may never understand. When one of them loses their closest friend, it’s a tragedy that hurts forever.

What could be a more fitting for the coming Memorial Day than to write about what that friend means to you?


This memorial day, AARP is collecting stories about the friendships forged in war. Close friendships forged on the front lines of Vietnam and in the Nazi POW camps of World War II all the way to the remote combat outposts of Iraq. Veterans are writing stories of the best friends they met during these trying times. Two crewman stationed aboard the ill-fated USS Indianapolis, Marines fighting in the frozen wastes around the Chosin Reservoir, a young lieutenant and his radioman in the jungles of Vietnam.

Some survived the war. Many did not. What they have in common is that they’ll never be forgotten. Corporal Charles Thomas was that buddy for Lt. Karl Marlantes.

These crop dusters were converted into deadly attack aircraft
Marlantes in Vietnam after an eye injury.
(Courtesy of Karl Marlantes)

If that name sounds familiar, it’s because Marlantes is the author of two books, What It Is Like to Go to War and the critically-acclaimed Matterhorn.

Marlantes was a newly-christened Marine in Vietnam when Thomas was assigned to be his radioman. Like any good young officer, Marlantes listened to his more experienced corporal when he made suggestions. The young man even saved his lieutenant’s life on a mission in the mountains near the DMZ. Marlantes told AARP The Magazine:

“In early December 1968, we were on a long mission, high in the mountains, and it was monsoon time. We couldn’t get resupplied and were without food for three or four days. It was also cold, but we had no extra clothes, just the stuff rotting on us. One night I got hypothermic, really hypothermic. I couldn’t think and started shivering. Everybody knew hypothermia kills you. And Thomas just laid me on the ground and wrapped a quilted poncho liner around us and hugged me. And then his body heat got me back. Saved my life.”

These crop dusters were converted into deadly attack aircraft
Marlantes receiving the Navy Cross.
(Courtesy of Karl Marlantes)

Corporal Thomas was an outstanding Marine in combat and a talented radioman. Sadly, during an assault on an NVA position in 1969, Marlantes had to send Cpl. Thomas around the hill to set up an ambush. Following his orders, Thomas left the safety of his cover and made a dash for the objective with his squad. That’s when three rocket-propelled grenades struck, killing him and one other. Marlantes, now 73, recalled the moments afterward for AARP:

“I had to go through all the guys’ bodies to pull out, if you can believe this, anything like pictures of naked girls, so their parents wouldn’t be upset — it’s bad enough that their kid comes home in a body bag. And I pulled a letter out of Thomas’ pocket from his mother and remember it said, “Don’t you worry, Butch.” We knew each other only by last names and nicknames. I never knew he was Butch, that his mother called him that. “Don’t you worry, Butch, you’ll be home in just 11 more days.”

Watch Karl Marlantes look back and tell the story of Cpl. Charles Thomas.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Here’s why the Army is buying fewer JLTVs next year

The U.S. Army is slowing down its timeline to acquire a fleet of Joint Light Tactical Vehicles, an armored Humvee replacement that some have criticized as being better suited to past wars.


The Army’s $178 billion proposed budget for fiscal 2021 earmarks $894.4 million to buy “1,920 JLTVs of various configurations as well as 1,334 JLTV-T companion trailers,” according to a Feb. 10 Army statement.

“They are reductions; they are not cuts,” Maj. Gen. Paul Chamberlain, director of Army budget, told reporters at the Pentagon. “We are extending the production life for JLTV.”

The Army began slowing its JLTV acquisition strategy last year, announcing it would buy 2,530 JLTVs in fiscal 2020, a significant reduction from its 2019 purchase of 3,393 vehicles.

The JLTV was one of 93 programs the Army cut or reduced last year, putting roughly billion in savings toward the Army’s ambitious modernization effort.

Last April, then-Secretary of the Army Mark Esper said that the JLTV was essentially designed to fight a war with the kind of improvised explosive device (IED) threats that existed in Iraq.

The JLTV became a modernization priority for the Army and Marine Corps in the early days of Iraq, after the Humvee proved unable to protect troops from deadly IEDs.

Army leaders said last year that the service was considering lowering its procurement objective of buying 49,000 JLTVs by the mid-2030s.

Now Army budget officials say that the service has extended JLTV’s production life until 2041.

“The total number remains the same; it’s just over a longer period that it is going to be procured,” Chamberlain said.

Oshkosh Corp. was selected in August 2015 over Lockheed Martin Corp. and AM General LLC to build the JLTV, but Army budget officials said Tuesday that the service may award another competitive JLTV contract in 2022 to get a better deal.

“Normally, we do that to drive price down on the end-state, so if you have competition in the production space, you will eventually get some savings out of it,” John Daniels, deputy assistant secretary of the Army for Plans, Programs and Resources, told reporters at the Pentagon.

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

Navy ships back up Taiwan before important summit

The US Navy sent two warships through the Taiwan Strait Nov. 28, 2018, just days ahead of a planned meeting between President Donald Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping.

The Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Stockdale, accompanied by the Henry J. Kaiser-class underway replenishment oiler USNS Pecos, transited the strait, US Pacific Fleet explained to Business Insider in an emailed statement.


“The ships’ transit through the Taiwan Strait demonstrates the U.S. commitment to a free and open Indo-Pacific,” Dave Werner, a Pacific Fleet spokesman, told BI. “The U.S. Navy will continue to fly, sail and operate anywhere international law allows.”

The move could be seen as a message to China, which the US has accused of intimidation and coercion in the region, behavior that runs contrary to the US vision of a “free and open Indo-Pacific.” The US military has used similar rhetoric for freedom-of-navigation operations, bomber overflights, and other activities in that area that have at times run afoul of Chinese interests.

These crop dusters were converted into deadly attack aircraft

The Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Stockdale.

The US Navy sent two warships — the destroyer USS Curtis Wilbur and the cruiser USS Antietam — through the strait in October 2018. A similar operation was carried out in July 2018, when the destroyers USS Mustin and USS Benfold sailed between mainland China and Taiwan.

Beijing is extremely sensitive to US military maneuvers near Taiwan, which it considers a breakaway province.

The US Navy’s moves through the Taiwan Strait come just before Trump is expected to sit down to dinner with Xi at the G20 summit in Buenos Aires, Argentina.

The two leaders are expected to discuss a number of different issues, ranging from trade to tensions at sea, during their meeting.

In recent months, the US Air Force has repeatedly flown B-52 bombers over the South China Sea. In September 2018, a US Navy destroyer conducted a freedom-of-navigation operation near the contested Spratly Islands, where it was challenged by a Chinese warship that forced the American vessel off course.

Despite some goodwill gestures, such as the recent port call by the USS Ronald Reagan in Hong Kong, tensions between Washington and Beijing persist.

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

MIGHTY HISTORY

Howard Hughes’ Spruce Goose was actually a marvel of engineering

It was a cool California November afternoon in 1947 when the HK-4 Hercules, also known as the Spruce Goose, finally flew. It was supposed to be a simple taxi test, nothing more than motoring through the water of Long Beach Harbor to show off its speed and test out the plane in open water. But having endured years of people mocking the project and himself for trying to build a plane so massive it had no hope of flying, Howard Hughes decided to take the opportunity to extend his middle finger at them all in the most poignant way he could.

No doubt with a twinkle in his eye as the Hercules cruised through the water, Hughes turned to the 30 year old hydraulic engineer, David Grant, who he had chosen as his co-pilot that day despite him not actually being a pilot, and unexpectedly told him to “lower the flaps to 15 degrees” — the take off position.


Not long after, the massive, few hundred thousand pound (250K lb / 113K kg empty, 400K lb / 181K kg gross), 218 ft (67 m) long aircraft with a still record holding wingspan of just shy of 321 feet (98 m) was out of the water. It was airborne for under a minute, went less than a mile, and only about 70 feet in the air, but it had done the impossible — the Spruce Goose flew.

Given the rather innovative use of a hydraulic system, landing was a bit abnormal for planes of the age in that the plane had to be landed under power, as Grant would instruct Hughes to “fly it into the water.”

When it finally settled back down in the water, Grant stated, “It was ecstasy all the way. It was like walking on air. It wasn’t underpowered at all, and it performed exactly like it was designed to.”

These crop dusters were converted into deadly attack aircraft
Internal view of the Hughes H-4 Hercules fuselage.

As to why Hughes didn’t fly it further, besides elements of the aircraft still needing tweaked and the potential danger of taking media aboard a test flight in which even the pilot wasn’t quite sure how the plane would handle, they’d been taxiing around for some time at this point and the plane hadn’t been fueled much to begin with. As such, Hughes didn’t want to risk running out of fuel in open ocean before he’d have a chance to circle back around and land.

Now, the original plan for this aircraft was a lot more grandiose than a brief publicity flight. In 1942, the United States — along with much of the rest of the world — was in the midst of WWII. Being across an ocean from where the fighting was taking place was a problem when transporting supplies, weapons, and soldiers en masse.

At the time, efforts on this front weren’t going well. German U-boats were patrolling Atlantic waters and torpedoing anything that was perceived to be helping the Allied war effort. According to one estimate, between January 1942 and August 1942 alone, German U-boats had sunk 233 ships and killed more than 5,000 Americans. It was clear that a better way was needed for transporting things safely across the Big Blue.

It was Henry J. Kaiser who first proposed an idea of an airboat. Running one of the most important construction companies in modern American history, Kaiser was responsible for building quite a lot of the infrastructure of the American west at the time (including the Hoover Dam). He also created a system for fast, high-quality shipbuilding during World War II that became world renownd.

These crop dusters were converted into deadly attack aircraft
Henry J. Kaiser

Kaiser thought that a massive airboat packed to the gills with supplies and troops that could fly over German U-boats was the answer to the problem. However, he was a shipbuilder and not an expert on airplanes… But he knew someone who was.

By 1942, Hughes was already a famed figure in America. Exceedingly wealthy, he first gained widespread fame as a Hollywood producer who was most prominently known for producing and directing Hell’s Angels, a World War I epic about aerial combat that was (at the time) the most expensive movie ever made.

In 1934, he formed the Hughes Aircraft Company. A year later, he helped design and build the H-1, or as he liked to call it, the “Racer.” In September 1935, he broke the world land speed record in it with an average of 352.322 mph. In sort of a precursor of the future, during the flight the plane ran out of gas — something Hughes didn’t anticipate — forcing him to crash in a beet field, narrowly avoiding serious injury.

He broke another land speed record when he flew to New York from Los Angeles in a mere 7 hours, 28 minutes, and 25 seconds (averaging 332 mph). In 1938, he shattered the world record for quickest time flying around the globe, needing just 3 days, 19 hours, 14 minutes, and 10 seconds, almost 4 days quicker than the previous world record set in 1933 by Wiley Post.

His prowess as an aviation engineer and pilot quickly earned him a reputation as one of the most innovative aviators in the world- someone that Kaiser thought would help the Allies win the war.

Together, Kaiser and Hughes convinced the War Production Board to finance the construction of 500 flying boats, a project that was deemed in the press as the “most ambitious flying aviation program in the history of the world.”

For months, the old-school industrialist and the new-age aviator worked together to put together plans that would wow.

In late August, they submitted to the government blueprints for a seaplane with eight engines, a wingspan longer than a football field, and a hull taller than a five-story building.

Beyond being the largest plane ever built by far at the time, it would be able to transport 750 troops or two M2 Sherman tanks. It had a gross weight of about two hundred tons, which was nearly three times heavier than any other airplane ever built. And, due to wartime metal restrictions, it was to be built nearly entirely of wood. Hughes and Kaiser called it the HK-1, naturally named after themselves.

These crop dusters were converted into deadly attack aircraft

While hesitant at first, the federal government gave the pair $18 million (about $250 million today) to develop and build a prototype.

It didn’t go well from the very beginning. The Hughes Aircraft Company was not a big company in 1942 and struggled with staffing, expenses, and deadlines. Hughes himself was unfocused, taking on too many projects while underestimating how much attention was needed to build a plane that would eclipse anything anyone had ever attempted to make fly. Four months in and the best thing that could be said was that they built a 750-foot long hanger, also made out of wood.

By mid-1943, construction had begun on the plane itself, but it was incredibly slow-moving. Working with wood proved to be an enormous issue, presenting a variety of challenges that had to be overcome to make a reliable sea-plane. Beyond the aforementioned then innovative hydraulic system for manipulating the control surfaces, each piece of wood (which was mostly birch, not spruce, owing to birch being quite resistant to dry rot) had to be weighed and analyzed for quality assurance before being used.

In addition, each sheet had to be laminated with a waterproof glue in order to prevent it from being damaged by water, heat, and fungus. Along the way, besides needing to purchase the rights to the Duramold laminating process, which in a nutshell involved stacking shapable ultra-thin strips of wood and applying a glue, Hughes and his teem also had to develop a variation of the process for their particular application.

As late 1943 approached, the first prototype was due to the government but it was clear that wasn’t going to happen. What’s more, they had spent nearly half of the budget on “engineering re-tooling” and rumors were swirling that the first plane wasn’t going to be done until 1945. It turned out to be much worse than that.

At this point, Kaiser had had enough and bailed out of the project. Several times, the feds threatened to shut the whole thing down, willing to cut their losses. The contract that had originally been given to Hughes and Kaiser went from 500 planes to 3 planes to, finally, just one for the original $18 million.

By 1944, $13 million of that money was spent and, yet, the plane was less than half done. Then the war ended and any hope that the now-called H-4 Hercules (renamed after Kaiser left the project) was ever going to help the war effort was gone.

The contract with the federal government was swiftly canceled, but Hughes was determined to finish the plane. As he stated before the Senate War Investigating Committee in 1947 during an inquiry on whether he’d mismanaged tax payer dollars during the project,

The Hercules was a monumental undertaking. It is the largest aircraft ever built. It is over five stories tall with a wingspan longer than a football field. That’s more than a city block. Now, I put the sweat of my life into this thing. I have my reputation all rolled up in it and I have stated several times that if it’s a failure, I’ll probably leave this country and never come back. And I mean it.

And so it was that he paid for the project’s completion himself. The H-4 Hercules was finally finished in June of 1946 with $22 million of the government’s money and, while figures vary from otherwise reputable sources, according to Boeing, $18 million of Hughes own personal wealth chipped in, for a grand total of $40 million (about $450 million today). It should also be noted here that, subtracting initial research and development costs, had they decided to build a second plane, it probably would have only cost about $2.5 million (about $28 million today).

It took a little over a year more for Hughes to it fly. At this point given the massive scale of the plane, the incredible weight, the fact that it was made of wood, and the perpetual delays, the media had taken to mocking the plane, calling it the Spruce Goose — a nickname that Hughes and his team hated owing to it demeaning what was otherwise a marvel of engineering.

But on that fateful November day, the Hercules finally did what it was intended, proving many a critic wrong.

In the aftermath, there was some wrangling over who actually owned the plane given how much money Hughes himself had sunk into the project. But the U.S. government eventually gave up its rights to it in exchange for the Smithsonian Institute’s National Air and Space Museum getting the Hughes’ H-1 Racer plane and a portion of the Spruce Goose’s wing, as well as in exchange for a relatively small payment of $700,000 (about $3 million today).

These crop dusters were converted into deadly attack aircraft
Howard Hughes

For years afterward, Hughes, now moving on to other projects, kept the plane in the hanger he built specifically for it, seemingly originally with the intent of eventually flying it again. In fact, he kept a full-time crew of, at its peak, hundreds of people on hand to make sure the plane was ready to fly at any given moment, costing him millions of dollars over the years to do that.

Howard Hughes died in 1976 and the Spruce Goose immediately was under threat of being dismantled owing to the cost of maintaining it in its massive hanger. But the Aero Club of Southern California acquired the legendary plane in 1980 and put it in their own hanger next to the Queen Mary in Long Beach, right near where the plane did its maiden and final voyage.

The Walt Disney Company bought the property in 1988 and, after a few tense years, given Disney wanted the plane gone, the Evergreen Aviation Museum in McMinnville, Oregon won the right to acquire the Spruce Goose.

For the last 26 years, that’s where it has remained, meticulously maintained. In fact, it’s generally thought that the maintenance over the years has been so good that, with some upgrades, particularly to the wiring and electronic components as well as going through the engines, it could possibly fly just fine today. Of course, because of its historical significance, nobody has seriously suggested anyone make those upgrades and try.

This article originally appeared on Today I Found Out. Follow @TodayIFoundOut on Twitter.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

US B-52 bombers upgraded to carry even more bombs

US Air Force B-52 Stratofortress bombers — America’s longest-serving bomber aircraft — are expected to get an upgrade that will allow them to drop bombs like never before.

The service is currently testing a major upgrade for the decades-old bombers, as well as the revolutionary Conventional Rotary Launchers (CRLs). The upgrade will increase the number of munitions a single B-52 bomber can drop at one time, the Air Force revealed in a recent statement.


CRLs are rotating munition systems located inside the bomb bay that allow the heavy, long-range bombers to carry a larger and more varied payload of conventional smart bombs and other guided munitions.

“Before these launchers, the B-52 was not capable of carrying smart weapons internally,” Air Forces Strategic (AFSTRAT) Armament Systems manager Master Sgt. Adam Levandowski said when the first CRLs were delivered to the service in November 2017. “Now each CRL allows for internal carriage, which adds an additional eight smart bombs per aircraft,” he further explained.

These crop dusters were converted into deadly attack aircraft
(U.S. Air Force photo by Gerald R. Willis)

The addition of the new CRLs increased the B-52’s smart weapon carrying capacity by 67 percent.

B-52 bombers flew into battle with the new launchers for the first time in December 2017, setting a new record for largest number of bombs ever dropped from the airframe, Military.com reported at the time.

A long-standing issue with the CRLs has been that power could only be supplied to four munitions at a time. The planned upgrade will provide full power to all internal munitions at once. In the past, aircrews could only power four munitions on one pass, as anything more might risk blowing the circuit breakers mid-flight.

“Now, a B-52 going into a war zone has the ability to put 20 munitions on a target area very quickly,” Senior Master Sgt. Michael Pierce, 307th Maintenance Squadron aircraft armament superintendent, said, referring to the eight internal weapons and the 12 additional munitions stored under the wings.

These figures refer to the AGM-158 Joint Air-to-Surface Standoff Missiles (JASSMs) used in testing. The bombers can carry potentially larger quantities of other munitions.

“The entire effort to modify the CRL moved pretty quickly,” Pierce said. “The bottom line is yesterday we had the capability to deliver 16 weapons at one time and today we can deliver 20 of them.”

The Air Force is expected to upgrade all B-52s once testing is complete.

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

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