Professions throughout the world all have their own unique terminology. Although the U.S. military is a unique organization, in this respect, it works in the same way. We’ve coined terms and created acronyms for just about anything you can imagine.
But what’s more interesting than the terms themselves is the original of each. While some terms have a clear origin, how others began is clouded in mystery. Military terms are sometimes seen as mildly derogatory, such as the term “boot,” or, in this case, “POG,” which means “Person Other than Grunt.”
So, where did the term “POG” come from? Well, we’re glad you asked.
The term comes from the word “pogue,” which is Gaelic for “kiss.”
It was started by disgruntled Navy sailors of Irish descent who served during the American Civil War. They were upset that others, would never leave shore, would get to stay home and get all the kisses from the ladies while they were out fighting.
Then, Marines caught wind of the term, adopted it, and began using it themselves to describe anyone who wasn’t involved in any type of combat. The term eventually found its way into the Army.
The baddest bad guy in all of Star Wars is also, perhaps, the most famous fictional father of all time: Darth Vader AKA Anakin Skywalker. But, after Vader was out of the picture in Return of the Jedi, newer Star Wars movies have struggled to introduce family drama into the saga that was as meaty and as frightening. Since 2015’s The Force Awakens, the primary villain of new Star Wars has mostly been Kylo Ren, previously known as Ben Solo, before he turned evil and killed his dad, Han Solo. But, back in 2015, it was hinted that Kylo Ren had some muscle to help with his dirty work; the mysterious Knights of Ren. Now, like the Spanish Inquisition on Monty Python, they’re back! Nobody expects the Knights of Ren!
Thanks to newly released photos from The Rise of Skywalker, it finally looks like we’ll get some answers about who the hell these dark knights really are.
On May 22, 2019, Vanity Fair released its latest cover story, a huge preview of The Rise of Skywalker written by Magicians novelist, journalist and all-around cool dad, Lev Grossman. As with most Star Wars films, this feature was accompanied by beautiful photos from legendary photographer Annie Lewbowitz. Chewbacca is reunited with Lando, Luke Skywalker’s ghost (maybe?) stands proudly with R2-D2 and Rey and Kylo Ren duke it out again with their lightsabers. But, for fans thinking about the villains of the new saga, one minor detail was confirmed by the photos, which has major implications: The Knights of Ren are back!
In one early photo, evildoers, dressed all in black are depicted with the following caption:
“J.J. Abrams, alongside Stunt Coordinator Eunice Huthart, directs the Knights of Ren; elite fearsome enforcers of Kylo Ren’s dark will.”
Up until this point, it wasn’t entirely clear if the Knights of Ren would actually return in The Rise of Skywalker, or, like, at all. After being introduced in a flashback in The Force Awakens, hardcore fans and regular people alike have been scratching their heads for four years now about who these people could be. Like Kylo Ren, are they also former students of Luke Skywalker’s turned to evil? Are all of them men? Could another, long-lost member of the Skywalker/Solo family be chilling under those creepy masks? How come they don’t all get lightsabers?
Not, it looks like The Rise of Skywalker is poised to answer this question. It may be a small thing, but considering the fact that Kylo Ren could seemingly turn back to the light side of the Force at any point, then it feels likely any of the Knights of Ren could become the latest scum and villainy in the Star Wars universe. (We don’t know who Kylo is fighting in those trailers, after all.)
Star Wars loves to have a good role reversal when it comes to evildoers. In the original trilogy, Darth Vader was revealed to be Luke’s father. In, the prequels, a kindly senator was really a Sith Lord. Even in Solo: A Star Wars Story, a dreaded gang leader — Enfys Nest — is secretly a revolutionary woman in disguise.
So, now that we know the Knights of Ren are back, we should be prepared for some answers about them, but also, some twists, too.
This article originally appeared on Fatherly. Follow @FatherlyHQ on Twitter.
The U.S. Military drops big bucks for all sorts of equipment, supplies, and software. But while we spend millions to upgrade computers when better software comes out, we also spend millions to keep older software because, if we don’t, it could actually cost lives in combat.
Why The US Military Can’t Upgrade From Windows XP?
The Infographics Show has a good primer on this, available above, but the broad strokes of what’s going on are pretty simple to understand.
The Department of Defense is always developing new weapons and programs, and each piece of mission-essential software was originally written for a specific operating system. This is often Windows, the most commonly used operating system for laptops and desktops on the planet.
But, of course, Windows comes out with a new version every few years. So, every few years, the military waits for the worst of the bugs to get worked out of the system, and then it starts upgrading its systems with the newest operating system.
Navy pilots really want the computer to get the thrust right for the catapults since they can be crushed by G-forces or dropped into the ocean if the math is wrong.
(U.S. Navy Petty Officer 3rd Class Ryan Carter)
When computers are being upgraded, though, systems with specialized, mission-essential software are often held back from the software upgrade. If say, the major software controlling the USS Gerald R. Ford’s magnetic launch system is optimized for Windows 7, then it would be extremely risky to upgrade to Windows 10 without extensive testing, which the Ford can’t do while conducting its mission.
(Note: We couldn’t find what software the USS Ford is running for EMALS. This is just a for-instance.)
If the software is changed overnight while the Ford is conducting missions, there’s a decent chance that some of the ship’s systems won’t work properly with the new operating system. That could result in pilots getting pitched off the deck either too fast or too slow for safe flying. Ship defense systems may fail to track an incoming plane or missile, or they could fire defensive countermeasures at a friendly target or when no target is present.
Abrams tanks and many other weapon systems run their own special software and operating systems, but even many of these systems are actually built on top of a Windows OS.
(U.S. Army Mark Schauer)
And this problem exists for all systems that use Windows. And while many weapons, like the F-35 Lightning II and M1 Abrams tank, use special operating systems special-built for aircraft and armored vehicles, some weapons use software that run on “Windows boxes,” computers that run specialty software but are built on top of Windows software.
So, you can’t safely upgrade the underlying Windows OS without getting new versions of all that bespoke software in the box.
And there are plenty of systems that run in a standard Windows environment. They run programs that control surveillance systems, or that allow troops to pass mission information, or that facilitate training and briefings. Plenty of important briefings run on PowerPoint.
While having your chat windows hacked during combat may not be as dramatic as having your tank hacked, it actually is a dangerous possibility. After all, chat windows are filled with sensitive information during combat and include, things like troop locations, dispositions, armament, etc. And you don’t want your enemy hacking into that or stealing it.
So it’s probably worth dealing with Windows XP if it makes it easier to prevent intrusion.
But, since the military is using these old software, it needs companies like Microsoft to keep updating security patches for them to prevent intrusions. And the military is often the only customer that needs these fixes, so it single-handedly pays Microsoft to maintain the necessary computer engineers and software coders to do this. And that costs big bucks.
The U.S. Navy issued a warning to China’s Navy over Instagram this week, telling China that it doesn’t want to “play laser tag” with the U.S. Navy with their destroyer-based laser weapons.
Last month, a Chinese People’s Liberation Army-Navy destroyer pointed a military grade laser weapon at a U.S. Navy P-8A Poseidon, which is an aircraft designed specifically for various types of sea-based warfare, including anti-submarine operations. According to Defense Department reports, the P-8A was flying approximately 380 miles west of Guam when it encountered a Chinese destroyer believed to have been the Hohhot, among the latest and most advanced destroyers in China’s fleet.
The destroyer reportedly shined a laser weapon at the P-8A, though the laser caused no injuries or immediately recognizable damage. The aircraft is being inspected further for issues. Despite the low level of threat the laser posed, the U.S. Navy has been taking this attack quite seriously, recognizing it as a test, both of their weapon’s efficacy and of the American response.
While the Navy’s warning on Instagram seems almost playful, the U.S. Navy isn’t messing around when it comes to freedom of navigation in the South China Sea, nor are they kidding about their laser weapons. The U.S. currently has a number of laser weapons under development, and just recently deployed one aboard the USS Dewey aimed at “dazzling” or blinding and confusing drones.
This isn’t the first time the U.S. has had reports of being engaged with Chinese lasers, nor is it the first time these two naval powers have found themselves in a staring contest over China’s claims of sovereignty throughout the region. The United States and the international community recognize China’s claimed ownership of the South China Sea as illegal, but China’s Navy has been rapidly expanding to enforce their claims in recent years.
China’s claims over the South China Sea are shown in red.
With neither China nor the U.S. backing down in the Pacific, and laser weapons becoming more commonplace by the day, it seems entirely likely that this won’t be the last round of laser tag between our two navies.
Disney World 2018 Armed Forces Salute Prices (Valid through Dec. 19, 2018)
Four-Day Park Hopper Tickets for 6.00
Four-Day Park Hopper Plus Tickets for 6.00
Five-Day Park Hopper Tickets for 6.00
Five-Day Park Hopper Plus Tickets for 6.00
Disney World 2019 Armed Forces Salute Prices (Valid Jan. 1, 2019 through Dec. 19, 2019)
Four-Day Park Hopper Tickets for 1.00
Four-Day Park Hopper Plus Tickets for 1.00
Five-Day Park Hopper Tickets for 7.00
These tickets can be purchased at Shades of Green, your local Base Ticket Office, or Disney Theme Park ticket booths (Sales tax will be added at Disney World ticket booths), through Dec. 15, 2018, for 2018 tickets and purchase 5-Day Military Promotional Tickets now through Dec. 15, 2019 and 4-Day Military Promotional Tickets now through Dec. 16, 2019 for the 2019 Salute offer.
Disneyland Ticket Blockout dates (Dates that these tickets may not be used):
March 23, 2019 through April 8, 2019
California rates have not yet been announced! More to come for the West Coasters. Also, note the Disney Armed Forces Salute benefit is for the member only. While spouses may use their member’s benefit, they are not entitled to a benefit of their own. They only use the discounts in place of the member. Non-spouse dependents (kids) are not eligible.
This article originally appeared on Military Spouse. Follow @MilSpouseMag on Twitter.
The mission of the Nellis Air Force Base Honor Guard is to represent the Air Force in a variety of ceremonial functions in Southern Nevada, California, Arizona and Utah. They are responsible for rendering military honors for funeral services and various Air Force ceremonies, as well as provide their services at various opening ceremonies.
For the guardsmen, excellence is the only way “to honor with dignity.” Every day they are fine-tuning their skills, or tweaking the slightest hesitation or shift until they can no longer get it wrong.
Devotion to duty
Under the hot desert sun, a group of airmen stand motionless. In two rows of three, they’re positioned opposite of each other, where the only sound is coming from a gentle wind passing through the formation. Between them rests an unfurled American flag draped over a spotless white casket.
Without so much as a whisper, they simultaneously grip the flag and, with each motion as precise as the next, they begin folding it. As the flag reaches the final fold, the last airman bearing the folded flag breaks the silence.
“Again,” he says.
He hands the flag back to the formation for the airmen to unfold and repeat the movements. The airmen didn’t make a mistake, but in their line of work, they don’t practice until they get it right; they practice until they can’t get it wrong.
Airman 1st Class MaryJane Gutierrez, Nellis Air Force Base honor guardsman, salutes during after playing taps during a military honors funeral at the Southern Nevada Veterans Memorial Cemetery, Sept. 14, 2018.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Andrew D. Sarver)
Before any guardsman is put on a detail, they have nearly a month of training to learn the basic movements. Afterwards, they continue to meticulously work out the slightest imperfections.
“Most of us will have put in about 80 hours of training in the weeks prior to a detail because we have to be perfect. We can’t afford to mess up,” said Airman 1st Class David Diez, Nellis AFB honor guardsman. “Every funeral we do should be as perfect as we would want our funerals to be.”
Grit for greatness
In the distance, the repeated percussion of hands smacking against wood and metal escapes the open doors of the Honor Guard practice room. Inside, three airmen stand shoulder-to-shoulder, staring into a mirror to analyze their every movement.
The airmen lift their rifles with both hands then remove one hand, hit it against the stock and hold the rifles vertically in front of them.
“Port arms!” commands Spegal.
Again, they hit their rifles then position them diagonally across their chests. After taking a brief moment to pause and discuss what needs to be fixed, the airmen pick up their rifles and start again.
Nellis Honor Air Force Base Guardsmen march in formation after presenting the colors at the South Point 400 NASCAR race opening ceremonies at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway, Sept. 14, 2018.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Andrew D. Sarver)
“Honor Guard is pure teamwork,” said Tech. Sgt. Leon Spence, Nellis AFB Honor Guard Non-commissioned officer in charge. “You can’t go to a funeral or a colors presentation and do everything by yourself. You have to be confident in your abilities and confident in your fellow guardsmen’s abilities to execute each detail as precise as possible.”
Passion for perfection
Down a hallway, the soft brushing of lint rollers against freshly pressed uniforms competes with the sound of gentle laughter from a poorly delivered dad joke.
In a room, Staff Sgt. Victoria Schooley and Airman 1st Class Ashley Libbey, Nellis AFB honor guardsmen, sit eye-level with their uniforms. With a ruler in one hand and a butterfly clutch in the other, Libby is aligning her ribbons. Across the room, Schooley is running her fingers up and down every seam of her ceremonial dress uniform, combing for loose strings to cut away with nail clippers or melt down with a lighter.
For them, looking sharp is just as important to having a successful detail as performing the actual maneuvers.
“I joined because I wanted to do a lot more than my regular day-to-day job. I wanted to feel like I had a bigger purpose in the Air Force and a bigger picture of our impact as a whole,” Diez said. “It will teach you to pay attention to detail, when you realize something as little as a crease in the uniform or a slight hesitation in a facing movement can be the difference between precision and failure.”
“We’re here to serve our community and I want to challenge people to come by and tell us what we could do better or to just learn about us and see what it is we do,” echoed Spence.
If you haven’t played
Red Dead Redemption II, we highly recommend it. The game has some great storytelling and features some amazing characters. The most notable of the cast is the protagonist and player-character, Arthur Morgan. Easily one of the best characters in video game history, Arthur Morgan’s set of skills puts him in line with special operators around the world.
Special operators must be equipped to carry out the most dangerous missions the country has to offer. This is why they’re required to undergo rigorous training. Arthur Morgan, on the other hand, developed his skills while trying to survive in the days of the American frontier, a.k.a. The Wild West.
While there’re plenty of things to say about Arthur Morgan, here are some of the top reasons he’s operator AF:
Oh, and before we begin, this is your official spoiler warning.
Yes, he can even use a bow.
He can use just about any weapon
From your standard lever-action rifle to a tomahawk, Arthur can pick up any weapon and use it with deadly proficiency. He’s also a very skilled boxer and knife-fighter. His previous life as an outlaw put him through numerous fights against all sorts of enemies, and he learned from those experiences.
Being outnumbered is actually fun in this game.
He fights against overwhelming odds
Not unlike our very own Green Berets, who are trained to take on entire battalions with a single team, Morgan is no stranger to being outnumbered and still managing to shoot his way out of the situation, relatively unscathed.
In fact, on several occasions throughout the game, you fight around 20 people by yourself. That may not seem like a lot, but when your fastest firing weapon is a lever-action, it’s quite a challenge.
You’re alone most of the game anyway.
He goes on covert missions
Numerous times throughout the game, you’re sent on missions to steal or destroy things without being detected. Hell, there’s even a mission where you and another character, the famous John Marston, secretly blow up a railroad bridge. Another mission takes you into an Army camp to steal some items.
Of course, you can choose to make some noise, but when you do it quietly, you really get the feeling that Arthur is a true operator of his time.
Look at that thing!
He can grow a sick beard
While it may not be a requirement, most operators are definitely capable of growing nice, thick beards. If you choose to let it grow, Arthur’s beard can challenge even the most operator beards.
It’s honestly heartbreaking, though.
He gets tuberculosis… and keeps on fighting
The man gets diagnosed with TB and is even told by a doctor to get plenty of rest, but what does Arthur do? He goes about living his life as though nothing has changed. He struggles, sure, but he doesn’t let the sickness become a liability and fights all the way to the very end.
The Air Force recently announced its plan for when the B-21 Raider enters service, and it is not good news for two of the strategic bombers currently on inventory. While the B-52 will continue to serve until 2050, marking nearly a century of service, the B-1B Lancer and the B-2A Spirit will be retired as the B-21 comes online.
The Pentagon’s plan gives the B-52 an incredible 98 years of service from first flight to a planned retirement. An Air Force fact sheet notes that there are currently 58 B-52H Stratofortress bombers in active service, with another 18 in the Air Force Reserve.
The Air Force is planning to buy as many as 100 Raiders, which could see initial operating capabilities in the middle of the 2020s. Given the Air Force’s history of bomber purchases, that number could be concerningly low.
The original production run of the B-2 Spirit was slated to reach 132 airframes but was stopped at 21. Currently, the Air Force has 20 B-2s in the active force. The B-1A, a predecessor to the Air Force’s essential B-1B Lancer, was scheduled for a production run of 270 planes at $102 million each to replace the B-52 in the late 1970s. Then-President Jimmy Carter canceled the B-1A in favor of air-launched cruise missiles, but his successor, Ronald Reagan, had 100 B-1Bs built. Currently, the Air Force has 62 B-1Bs in service.
The Air Force used to have a larger force. “At the end of Desert Storm, in 1991, we had 290 total bombers,” the commander of Global Strike Command, General Robin Rand, said in an Air Force release.
Today, that force has dropped to 157 bombers at five bomb wings and 15 total force bomb squadrons. That’s a 46 percent decrease in our bomber force while we have conducted continuous combat operations, such as Allied Force, Enduring Freedom, Iraqi Freedom, Odyssey Dawn, Inherent Resolve, and Freedom’s Sentinel, in addition to continuous bomber rotations in the (U.S. Central Command) and (U.S. Pacific Command) areas of responsibility.
North Korea’s leader, Kim Jong Un, presided over the launch of a new anti-ship cruise missile system on June 8 in Wonsan, on North Korea’s east coast. And though the missiles performed well and struck their target, it was a pretty weak showing.
The missiles flew about 125 miles, South Korea said, and fired from tracked launchers with forest camouflage. The missiles themselves were not new, according to The Diplomat, but they showed off a new launcher that can fire from hidden, off-road locations within moments of being set up.
But those are about the only nice things you could say about these missiles.
In the photos released by North Korean media, it’s clear the missiles are striking a ship that isn’t moving.
The ship appears anchored, with no wake. Photo by Rodong Sinmun
In a combat situation, the ships would move and take countermeasures. For the US, South Korean, and Japanese navies, that often means firing an interceptor missile.
North Korea also lacks the ability to support these missiles with accurate guidance. The US would use planes, drones, or even undersea platforms to observe and track a target.
Photo by Rodong Sinmun
North Korea waited to test these missiles until two US aircraft carrier strike groups armed to the teeth with missile defense capabilities left its shores, perhaps to avoid embarrassment should the US knock them down.
Unlike its practice with ballistic-missile tests, which are banned under international law, the US did not publicly comment on this launch. North Korea is well within its rights to test a cruise missile in international waters.
Photo by Rodong Sinmun
But despite the rudimentary technology used in the launch, North Korea did show that it poses a real threat. Not only do the missile launchers leverage the element of surprise, but they represent yet another new missile capability.
In a few short months, North Korea has demonstrated a range of capabilities that has surprised experts and military observers. Though the missiles don’t pose a threat to the US Navy, Kim showed he’s serious about fighting on all fronts.
In the days following the 2001 American invasion of Afghanistan, one combatant shocked the United States after his capture on an Afghan battlefield. His birth name was John Walker Lindh and he was fighting for the other side. After being sentenced to twenty years in prison, he’s on his way to being released.
The wounds from the September 11th attacks were still very fresh in America, as a wave of patriotic sentiment swept the country from sea to shining sea. For the first time in a long while, the country was reminded that it could band together during trying times. The pro-American sentiment made it all the more shocking when the United States invaded Afghanistan and found one of their own fighting for the other side, California native John Walker Lindh.
Dubbed the “American Taliban” by the media, Lindh had actually converted to Sunni Islam at age 16 and moved to Yemen to learn Arabic. In 2000 he was trained at an al-Qaeda training camp in Afghanistan, where he received lectures from Osama bin Laden himself. When the United States invaded in the wake of 9/11, Lindh, named Sulayman al-Faris in Afghanistan, was already fighting the anti-Taliban Northern Alliance. According to Lindh, he never wanted to be in a position where he would fight the U.S.
Johnny Michael “Mike” Spann spent eight years as a Marine Corps officer before joining the CIA.
Lindh was captured by the Northern Alliance at Kunduz with the rest of his band of Mujahideen and turned over to the CIA for questioning. CIA officer Mike Spann interviewed Lindh because he was identified by one of the other Taliban as an English speaker. He originally claimed to be Irish. But that was the only time Spann would get an opportunity to interrogate Lindh. Later that same day, a planned prisoner uprising killed the CIA officer along with 300 Afghan Northern Alliance fighters, in one of the largest POW camp uprisings ever, now known as the Battle of Qala-i-Jangi.
It took the Northern Alliance and U.S. air support, along with both British and American Special Forces six days to quell the uprising. Hundreds died on both sides of the fighting and Lindh was wounded by a bullet to the thigh. From there, Lindh was taken to Camp Rhino, where his wounds were tended and he recovered enough to eventually be sent back to the U.S. to face a grand jury.
Now you know why detainees were shipped in tight controls – because hundreds of people died when the CIA was lenient.
Unlike other combatants, Lindh was never sent to Guantanamo Bay. Instead, he was indicted on ten charges by a federal grand jury. The Bush-era justice department offered a plea if Lindh copped to only two of them: supplying services to the Taliban and carrying an explosive during the commission of a felony. Lindh took the deal and a 20-year sentence. With time off for good behavior, John Walker Lindh will be walking free from the Federal Correction Institution in Terre Haute, Ind. any day now, to finish his last three years on strict probation.
Gunnery Sgt. Carlos Hathcock is a legend of Marine Corps history. One of the most lethal snipers in history, he even repeatedly succeeded in killing snipers sent to hunt him. In one of his last missions on a tour in Vietnam, he crawled nearly two miles to kill a Vietnamese general and escape.
Check out WATM’s podcast to hear the author and other veterans discuss the legend of Gunny Carlos Hathcock:
When the mission came down, he didn’t have all the details but he knew tough missions at the end of a tour were a recipe for disaster. Rather than send one of his men, he volunteered for the mission himself.
“Normally, when you take on a mission like that, when you’re that short, you forget everything,” Hathcock said in an interview. “Ya know, tactics, the whole ball of wax, and you end up dead. And, I did not want none of my people dead, and so I took the mission on myself.”
Hathcock was flown towards the objective, but was dropped well short of the target so he wouldn’t be given away. He made his way to a tree line, but still had 1,500 yards to move from the tree line to his final firing position. So, he started crawling.
“I went to my side. I didn’t go flat on my belly, because I made a bigger slug trail when I was on my belly. I moved on my side, pretty minutely, very minutely. I knew I had a long ways to go, didn’t want to tire myself out too much.”
As he crawled, he was nearly discovered multiple times by enemy soldiers.
“Patrols were within arm’s reach of me. I could’ve tripped the majority, some of them. They didn’t even know I was there.”
The complacency of the patrol allowed Hathcock to get 700 yards from his target.
“They didn’t expect a one-man attack. They didn’t expect that. And I knew, from the first time when they came lolly-gagging past me, that I had it made.”
The talented sniper made his way up to his firing position, avoiding patrols the whole way and slipping between machine gun nests without being detected.
He arrived at his firing position and set up for his shot.
“Seen all the guys running around that morning, and I dumped the bad guy.”
Hathcock took his shot and punched right through the chest of the general he was targeting. At that moment, he proved the brilliance of firing from grass instead of from the trees.
“When I made the shot, everybody run the opposite direction because that’s where the trees were,” he said. “That’s where the trees were. It flashed in my mind, ‘Hey, you might have something here.”
Per his escape plan, Hathcock crawled to a nearby ditch and crawled his way back out of the field. For the first time in four days, he was able to walk.
“So, I went to that ditch, little gully, and made it to the tree line, and about passed out when I stood up to get a little bit better speed.”
On Aug. 1, 1955, a prototype of the U-2 spy plane sprinted down a runway at Groom Lake in Nevada, and its massive wings quickly lifted it into the sky.
That wasn’t exactly how it was supposed to go. It was meant to be a high-speed taxi test, but the prototype’s highly efficient wings pulled it into the air unexpectedly. The plane’s first official flight happened three days later.
Lockheed Martin footage captured the moment the venerable Dragon Lady started its 64-year career.
The U-2 was developed in secrecy by Lockheed in the early 1950s to meet the US government’s need to surveil the Soviet Union and other areas from a height enemy aircraft and anti-aircraft systems couldn’t reach.
Renowned engineer Kelly Johnson led the project at Lockheed’s advanced development lab, Skunk Works.
“Johnson’s take was all right, I need to get as high as I can to overfly enemy defenses, and how do I do that? Well I put big wings on there; big wings means higher. I cut weight; cutting weight means higher, and then let me just strap a big engine on there, and that’s it,” U-2 pilot Maj. Matt “Top” Nauman said at an Air Force event in New York City in May 2019.
One thing Johnson ditched was wing-mounted landing gear. On takeoff, temporary wheels called “pogos” fall away from the wings.
Master Sgt. Justin Pierce, 9th Maintenance Squadron superintendent, preforms preflight checks on a U-2 at Beale Air Force Base in California, April 16, 2018.
(US Air Force/Senior Airman Tristan D. Viglianco)
“So [Johnson] basically took a glider with parts and pieces from other Lockheed aircraft and strapped an engine to it and delivered it before the anticipated delivery date and under budget,” Nauman said.
The plane Johnson and Lockheed produced was well suited for flight — as the Groom Lake test showed, it didn’t take much to get it off the ground.
“The pilot was out there taxing around, and [during] a high-speed taxi — we’re talking about 30ish miles an hour — the plane actually lifted off on its own, completely unexpected,” Nauman said.
“And they thought, ‘OK, hang on, let’s go back and make sure we’re approaching this test phase the right way.’ And they found the thing just wants to get off the ground.”
A U-2 on the flight deck of the aircraft carrier USS America.
Same name, new-ish plane
Throughout its career, the U-2 has been reengineered and redesigned.
The plane that took off at Groom Lake was a U-2A. The next version was the U-2C, which had a new engine; a U-2C on display at the National Air and Space Museum flew the first operational mission over the Soviet Union on July 4, 1956.
The U-2G and U-2H, outfitted for carrier operations, came in the early 1960s. The U-2R, which was 40% larger than the original and had wing pods to carry more sensors and fuel, arrived in 1967.
The last U-2R arrived in 1989, and most of the planes in use now were built in the mid-1980s.
Since 1994 the US has spent id=”listicle-2639718396″.7 billion to modernize the U-2’s airframe and sensors. After the GE F118-101 engine was added in the late 1990s, all U-2s were re-designated as U-2S, the current variant.
US Air Force Maj. Sean Gallagher greets his ground support crew before a U-2 mission, at an undisclosed location in Southwest Asia, Nov. 24, 2010.
(US Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Eric Harris)
The Air Force now has about 30 single-seat U-2 for missions and four of the two-seat TU-2 trainers. Those planes have a variety of pilot-friendly features, but one aspect remains a challenge.
“It’s extremely difficult to land,” Nauman said.
“You could YouTube videos of bad U-2 landings all day and see interview sorties that look a little bit sketchy,” he said, referring to a part of the pilot-interview process where candidates have to fly the U-2, adding that the landings were done safely.
Despite its grace in flight, getting to earth is an ungainly process that takes a team effort.
Another qualified U-2 pilot in a high-performance chase car — Mustangs, Camaros, Pontiacs, and even a Tesla — meets the aircraft as it lands.
A U-2 pilot drives a chase car behind U-2 during a low-flight touch and go at Al Dhafra Air Base in the United Arab Emirates, March 15, 2019.
(US Air Force photo by Senior Airman Gracie I. Lee)
“As the airplane’s coming in over the runway, this vehicle’s chasing behind it with a radio, and [the driver is] actually talking the pilot down a little bit, just to help him out … ‘Hey, raise your left wing, raise your right wing, you’re about 10 feet, you’re about 8 feet, you’re about 2 feet, hold it there at 2 feet,'” U-2 pilot Maj. Travis “Lefty” Patterson, said at the same event.
As the plane “approaches a stall and it’s able to land, you have that experienced set of eyes in the car watching the airplane, because all [the pilot] can see is right off the front,” Patterson said.
The absence of wing landing gear means that once it’s slows enough, the plane leans to one side and a wingtip comes to rest on the ground.
“The lifespan of the U-2, the airframe, [is beyond] 2040 to 2050 … because we spend so little time in a high-stress regime,” Patterson added. “Once it gets to altitude it’s smooth and quiet and it’s very, very nice on the airplane. The only tough part is the landing.”
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
The Viktor Leonov has patrolled international waters flanking Florida, Georgia, and South Carolina, every year since 2014, but since its arrival this week, it has sailed with no warning lights and ignored other ships, the US Coast Guard said in a marine safety information bulletin, according to CNN.
“The United States Coast Guard has received reports indicating that the RFN Viktor Leonov (AGI-175) has been operating in an unsafe manner off the coast of South Carolina and Georgia,” the notice said.
“This unsafe operation includes not energizing running lights while in reduced visibility conditions, not responding to hails by commercial vessels attempting to coordinate safe passage and other erratic movements.”
(U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Charles Mark Barney)
The notice warned local vessels to steer clear, advising they “maintain a sharp lookout and use extreme caution when navigating in proximity to this vessel.”
The US Navy destroyer USS Mahan is patrolling in the same area, an unnamed defense official told CNN.
It is entirely normal for Russian surveillance ships to patrol international waters near US Naval outposts like Naval Station Norfolk, Virginia, Naval Station Mayport, Florida, and Naval Submarine Base Kings Bay, Georgia, but the erratic behavior of the Viktor Leonov is not.
“We are aware of Russia’s naval activities, including the deployment of intelligence collection ships in the region,” a US Northern Command spokesperson told The Washington Times.
USS Mahan steams in company with USS George Washington in the Atlantic Ocean during Exercise Mediterranean Shark.
(U.S. Navy photo by Photographer’s Mate Airman Rex Nelson)