The SR-71 Blackbird


Originally uploaded by Lockheed Martin

I have been trying for it seems weeks to write a post to do this picture (and the Blackbird) justice, but I just haven’t had the time.

The picture dates from 1990 just after the Air Force had decided to retire the Blackbird from active service.

The current Air & Space/Smithsonian magazine included this same picture in their article about Lockheed’s famed designer Kelly Johnson where they also discussed the development of the Blackbird (but if you are a fan of the Blackbird, then you know that lots of books have already been written about its development and past glories).


Inside Whiteman AFB, home of the B-2

Northrup B-2 Stealth Bomber

Originally uploaded by rob-the-org

I came across two articles on-line from the week before last this morning. Both were written by a British journalist who got permission to visit Whiteman AFB – the home of the B-2 ‘Spirit’ Stealth Bomber.

Here is the article that got published – Daily Mail [] and the overflow material that was published in the journalist’s blog [].

Both articles are worth reading. One of the highlights of the Daily Mail article was the too small picture of the cockpit (which basically looks like the glass cockpit in any modern airliner). The 2nd story was a closer look at the people who are involved with the B-2, including two RAF exchange pilots (one who is just joining the squadron, and one about to rotate out – and the justification for allowing a British journalist to come onto the base).


UAV’s in the news

Several interesting stories have been published in the last week about UAV’s (Unmanned Air Vehicles).

MSN/New York Times – Military is deluged in intelligence from drones Duh – I think the NSA has suffered from this for years.

AviationWeek/Ares – Caught on Film: UCAS Taxi Test (UCAS is Northrup-Grumman’s X-47 which is being designed to work from the Navy’s Carrier’s)

Combat Aircraft/ – RQ-170 Clear Daylight Photo (the RQ-170 is the UAV that was nicknamed ‘the Beast of Khandhar’)

If all of this doesn’t show that we are inevitably moving towards the an unmanned air force – I don’t know what will.


NAF El Centro

Last month I was part of a photography group trip to the Naval Air Facility in El Centro, California. NAF El Centro is a training field – and doesn’t have any aircraft or squadron’s based at it. It provides someplace for other Navy squadron’s (or even Allied countries) to send their aircraft for training in a different environment.

We were allowed access to the LSO shack area – right on the edge of the runway (not your normal distant airport vantage point).

The slideshow link below goes to the highlights of the trip. Mainly F/A-18 Hornets (from the East and West Coast Fleet Replacement squadron’s) practicing air to ground on the ranges, but also some T-45 Goshawk’s practicing their landings.

[There were no incidents (i.e. we didn’t do anything we shouldn’t) so maybe they will let us go back again in the future]


Pearl Harbor

Sixty-eight years ago today the US Naval Base at Pearl Harbor (Hawaii) was attacked and brought America into the Second World War.

Since then countless politicians have attempted to use the attack when warning against another suprise attack in other areas.

A ‘bolt from the blue’ attack – that Pearl Harbor has come to symbolize – could be seen more as a bookmark in history when warface has dramatically changed. Look at the Pearl Harbor attack. It basically signalled the end of the battleship as the dominant player in naval warfare, and heralded the rise of the aircraft carrier.

Taken in this context – the terrorist attacks on 9/11 (2001) could be seen as another ‘Pearl Harbor’ – and with it, announced the rise of ‘asymmetric’ warfare.

What happens next? Only time will tell.



The staff at ThreatAxis was appalled today to learn of the fatal shooting of four police officers in a Washington State coffee shop that the BBC and others are calling an Execution.


The report said that at least one gunman walked into a coffee shop and started shooting. A sheriff’s spokesman said the attack was "like an execution".  The four officers were working on their laptops, minding their own business, probably just doing paperwork, when the attack occurred.  Only the officers were shot by the assailant, nobody else was targeted or injured. It is clear that this was an open attack on local law-enforcement officers.


It seems to this correspondent that the United States already has enough troubles with threats abroad, and doesn’t need this type of behavior from its own citizens. Of course, such an assertion would fall upon deaf ears: the assailant clearly didn’t even care about those people working to protect him and his town on just a local level; how could such a one care about his country or the larger problems that threaten us all? 


This type of apathetic, sociopathic behavior feeds right in to the terrorists’ mindsets and goals.  By striking out without warning, without provocation, in a place where there was an expectation of safety, this person has lowered himself to the level of terrorist, and has struck a blow against the people of Washington and the people of the United States, on behalf of the radical terrorist organizations worldwide who seek to destroy the United States completely.


We were fighting enemies from without, how tragic that we must also look for enemies within.


Our hearts and condolences go out to the people of Parkland, Washington, their police department, and the families of the four officers who were senselessly killed today.


Incursions 2

The BBC has posted a short photo survey of the aftermath of the Fort Hood shooting incident.


It is well worth the quick view.


Watcher One


Der Spiegel article on Israeli raid on Syrian “site”

A little over two years ago – Israeli jets destroyed a suspicious complex in eastern Syria, that was thought to have ties to a possible nuclear weapons program.

With all of the attention on Iran’s nuclear program – the details of this raid are still few and far between (unlike the Israeli 1981 raid on Iraq’s nuclear reactor).

The German magazine “Der Spiegel” published an article earlier this week attempting to pull together more of the details on the raid, as well as the aftermath. At first glance – it appears to be worth the time to read it.


Incursions 1

It has not been a very good day for Muslims.


In Somalia, the BBC reported, a 33-year-old man was stoned to death for adultery.  Witnesses reported seeing blood spouting from his head during approximately seven continuous minutes of stoning, before the man finally died. While this may not raise too many eyebrows, try this one on:  the girl – presumably younger – who is pregnant with the man’s child, has been sentenced to death as well, as soon as she gives birth.  Still not strong enough for you? Last year they stoned to death another girl for the same thing.  She was 13.


On the other side of the world, a U.S. Army Major reportedly started shooting at a military base, killing 13 and injuring 28 others in a spree apparently prompted by his upcoming orders to go to Afghanistan.  See it coming? That’s right, the Major was Muslim.  Not only that, but he was a devout, practicing Muslim, born in America to Palestinian parents. He was reportedly wearing full religious clothing at the time of the shooting, and was heard screaming the Arabic phrase "Allahu Akbar!" [God is great] before he started shooting.


Not a good day for Muslims at all.


Islam is not, of course, the only religion to suffer from prejudice caused by a few bad apples… or even the only group. Intermountain west Mormons are all branded as closet polygamists thanks to the FLDS matter last year.  Catholic leaders are all suspected of being closet molesters, thanks to the failures of a few.  Even your regular law enforcement officer is disliked by most, even though most people don’t even know any officers personally.


However, you won’t find a police department that has a published goal of killing everyone who isn’t an officer like them.


The incidents in Somalia prove that religious fervor trumps law and morality with almost no contest. The incident at Fort Hood shows that religious belief trumps loyalty to country, patriotism, and military order – again with almost no contest.  And while there are many religious groups that could be called "fervent", none of them link that fervor with global killings as easily as radical Muslims apparently do.


Of course, the Major’s family is claiming that he was "being harassed" because of his religion. But it’s quickly becoming clear that the shooting wasn’t about harassment. The Major didn’t kill the people who were harassing him. He opened fire in a public area of Fort Hood – just down the hall from a graduation ceremony for new soldiers! Make no mistake – this was no victim of harassment. This was a man who wanted to punish others for daring to try to send him to Afghanistan. And he accomplished this punishment using indirect yet highly effective means: killing innocents.  Which is, if I’m not mistaken, a rather common thread in the world of radical Islam.


One soldier at Fort Hood pointed out that this was going to make everyone look at Muslims – and especially Muslim soldiers – in a more negative light.  Indeed it will, and should. Because nobody ever thought that the Muslim Major could kill at least 13 people in cold blood… until after he actually did it.  This is not a case of prejudice. Judgement wasn’t passed until after the act occurred.  As long as people choose to associate with a group noted for their willingness and eagerness to enforce their religious views with violence, those people will be subject to deeper scrutiny.  Because it is from that group of people that the threats clearly and consistently seem to emerge.


Luke (AFB) – not dead … yet

Big news out of Washington at the end of last week – at least as far as Arizona is concerned. Luke AFB made the first cut – and is still in the running to be considered as the primary training base for the F-35 (Joint Strike Fighter).

Read the rest of this entry »


Somali Islamists claim to have shot down US drone

According to the BBC – the Somali Islamist’s have shot down a US drone of the Somali coast.

And this is exactly why a drone is supposed to go into area’s that would normally be questionable for a manned aircraft. Without a crew being killled or captured – there is little chance for a politically minded escalation.

[this story might not make CNN – because no one in the US seems to care about Somalia any more. Which will just about guarantee that this is the next global hotspot.]


AWACS – key to the modern Air War

Every modern airforce has Airborne Radar and Command & Control aircraft to not only direct offensive operations – but to also control their air defenses. But these aircraft are not cheap. Up until recently – only the major powers (US, NATO & Russia) could afford a fleet of these highly specialized aircraft.

The Western powers have standardized on the US Boeing E-3 Sentry (based on the Boeing 707 airliner), while the Russian’s based their AWACS on the Ilyusin IL-76 transport, refered to as the Beriev A-50 ‘Mainstay’.

RAAF 737 Wedgetail

[As technology has advanced and electronics have shrunk – Air Forces have no longer needed the size and capacity of a four engined aircraft. Newer AWACS-type aircraft are based on smaller aircraft – like the Boeing 737 pictured above undergoing shakedown tests before being delivered to the Royal Australian Air Force.]

One of the side affects of the Gulf War (I and II) was that the world saw the effect of a quality command and control system (and what happens when you don’t have one), so many countries have tried to add this capability to their own armed forces.

One of the most watched countries in the world – Iran – had recently upgraded its sole large AWACS aircraft. It was a hand me down IL-76 that originally came from Iraq (before the first Gulf War kicked off several Iraqi Air Force aircraft were ‘evacuated’ to Iran, rather than being shot down by Coalition forces), and was upgraded by the Russian’s last year.

Il-76/A-50 Mainstay

Read the rest of this entry »


One less SSBN cruising the high seas

During a speech the UN today – British Prime Minister Gordon Brown proposed taking one of the four UK Trident ballistic missile nuclear submarines out of service to jump start Nuclear Non-proliferation talks.

Will this change the UK deterrent posture? Probably not. The normal cycle – is one on active patrol, one just coming back from patrol, and two in workups ready to go out on patrol. So instead of two in workups – there would be only one in workups.

It makes sense from a budgetary standpoint – one less submarine (and crew) to have to maintain (i.e. pay for). And in that the Trident’s on both sides of the Atlantic (American and British) are nearing their end of life (the first US Ohio class is scheduled to be decommissioned in 2029, and the design studies for the next generation SSBN have already begun) – reducing the requirement for the follow-on class will reduce the money required for that project.

[It is possible that this has been something that has been under consideration since earlier this year – when HMS Vanguard was involved in an ‘incident’ with a French SSBN. It is possible that the damage from that ‘incident’ along with the current economic crisis has just made the decision to reduce the force – more politically viable]

What is disconcerting about this – is that with only one boat on patrol – and one boat close to patrol – the UK deterrent force is vulnerable.

But let’s be clear. Today’s announcement really doesn’t change the vulnerability in any way. It just may be the first step in its elimination at the hands of a future government.


Air Force shoots down its own Reaper

According to reports over on Ares (Aviation Week’s blog site) – the US Air Force had to shoot down one of their own Reaper’s – after communication/control over the UAV was lost and it was about to leave Afghan airspace.

I wonder whose airspace it was about to violate – when they took it out?


Once you sell a weapon – you lose control over it.

Harpoon – jet engine

Originally uploaded by rob-the-org

The BBC is reporting that the US is unhappy with Pakistan’s supposed modification of the Harpoon Anti-Ship missile (that Pakistan purchased from the US back in the 1980’s).

What have they supposedly done? Converted the anti-ship missile to a land attack missile, in violation of the US Arms Control Export Act

Its ironic that the US is complaining – in that the US Navy has already successfully adapted the Harpoon for land attack – and call it the SLAM-ER (Standoff Land Attack Missile – Expanded Response).

Just like a Gun Store owner selling a handgun to someone – the minute you sell it – you lose control over how it is used (or adapted). When these missile were originally sold to Pakistan 20+ years ago – the political/military situation was dramatically different in SW Asia than it is today.


Soviet Juliett – ready to be scrapped

Sitting tied to a pier in Providence Rhode Island – is a ex-Soviet “Juliett” class cruise missile submarine – waiting to either be restored or stripped in preparation to be scrapped.

This sub has had a interesting post-Cold War history. It was originally acquired by a Finish businessman in 1993 to be used as a off-beat restaurant/bar and tourist attraction in Helsinki. This attempt did not generate the $$$ that the promoter had hoped for – so in 1998 the boat was leased to a Canadian promoter who wanted to set the boat up as a tourist attraction in Tampa Bay Florida. The intended location did not have the depth needed to moor the Juliett – so it was moved to a more remote location. Lack of business caused the Canadian promoter to declare bankruptcy and the ownership of the sub reverted to the original Finnish owner.

But he didn’t want the submarine back and tried to sell it on Ebay for $1 million dollars. No takers. The submarine ended up being chartered for use in the filming of the Harrison Ford movie “K-19: The Widowmaker” and was towed to Nova Scotia, Canada.

In 2002 – the submarine was purchased by the USS Saratoga Museum Foundation and towed from Nova Scotia to Providence Rhode Island, and was on display there from August 2002 until April 2007 when it sunk in a storm (while tied to the pier).

Read the rest of this entry »


US Navy Maritime Patrol enters the Jet Age

US Navy 167953

Originally uploaded by Drewski2112

While the British have been flying a jet powered maritime patrol aircraft (MPA) in the Nimrod’s for years now – the US Navy has finally started production of their own Jet MPA in the Boeing P-8 Poseidon.

Earlier this spring – the first test planes rolled out of Boeing’s Renton production facility, the same facility that the commercial/passenger carrying 737’s come out of (albeit a different building). The P-8 incorporates the body of the latest 737-800, w/ the wings from the 737-900 (the wings include ‘raked wingtips‘, instead more conventional winglets).

Once the testing of these new planes is completed – they will join an active duty squadron and the Navy’s current MPA – the Lockheed P-3 Orion – will head off to storage at the ‘Boneyard’ / Davis-Monthan AFB (outside of Tucson, AZ).

Where some Orion’s are already sealed up and waiting to be used in the future.

P-3 Orion's in Storage


Video – Top Gear U-2 flight

This is a YouTube video of James May (one of the Host/Presenter’s on BBC’s “Top Gear”) taking a flight in a U-2 Trainer up to 60,000 feet.

If you have never seen the BBC program “Top Gear” – I strongly suggest looking for it on your Cable or Satellite schedule (on either BBC or BBC/America).  It is a motoring (car junkie) program with an occasional humorous or off-beat take on things.


Raptor tidbits

Empty bay

Originally uploaded by rob-the-org

Let’s see what’s new with the current Air Force golden child – the F-22 Raptor;

But probably the most interesting piece has been this press release out of Edwards AFB that announced that a team of their personnel had completed the Increment 3.1 upgrade two months early. The Increment 3.1 upgrade included;

With this upgrade complete – does this mean we can really start calling it the F/A-22 now?


Not a (war)ship


Originally uploaded by sirakwftvnews

The USNS General Hoyt S Vandenberg was sunk today to become an artificial reef off of Key West.

Contrary to some reports she was NOT a WARSHIP. She was a former Liberty troop transport during World War 2, and was saved from the scrapyard in the 60’s to become a range support ship for the DOD and then supported NASA.

If you want to dive on a real ‘warship’ – go farther north from Key West towards Pensacola. The World War 2 Essex-class aircraft carrier, the Oriskany, was sunk 20 odd miles off shore – and its island is accessible to recreation certified divers.