FOD Fireball’s Observations of the Day March 5th through 12th 2018

Friends of FOD

I’m hearing the periodic message sent you subscribers out there is not reaching you in a timely manner.  You might check your junk mail and see if it’s there or another folder.  Sometimes recurring messages get sent there.  I’m getting my best FOD IT guy working on it to see if I can make some changes from this end.  Thanks.  And I know I’m a bit late getting this edition out.  I’ve been writing, just not publishing.


FOD Saying of the Day

Any man who can drive safely while kissing a pretty girl is simply not giving the kiss the attention it deserves. Albert Einstein



Xi Secures Power In Perpetuity

The path was cleared on Sunday for China’s Xi Jinping to rule the country indefinitely as its rubber-stamp parliament passed a constitutional amendment removing presidential term limits.  The amendment was passed almost – but not quite – unanimously, with two “no” votes and three abstentions, against 2,957 in favor. I don’t think those “no voters” are around anymore.  Party members’ loyalty belied a wave of criticism of the move among internet users, a wave which censors have taken care to extinguish. The amendment was revealed by the Communist Party just last month.  Delegates to the National People’s Congress, at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, applauded after each vote in what comes as China’s first constitutional amendment in 14 years. Had members rejected it, it would have been the first time a party diktat had ever failed to pass.  Xi, 64, has consolidated power since 2012, when he was appointed party general secretary, the country’s top office. The position has no term limits, but his two predecessors both gave it up after two terms as part of the “orderly process” established by Deng.  The presidency is a largely ceremonial office, but the now-abolished constitutional limits meant Xi would have had to give it up in 2023. Before Sunday’s vote, US President Donald Trump had joked that Xi was “now president for life.”  As the holder of the top offices of party, state and military, Xi is also referred to as China’s “paramount” leader; and, in 2016, he was officially designated “core” leader by the party. His accumulation of titles has also earned him the nickname “Chairman of Everything.”  Under Xi’s leadership, China has experienced tighter restrictions on civil society, including detentions of activists and lawyers, and ever-stricter internet controls. Simultaneously, he has purged many officials, and sidelined potential rivals, by means of a relentless ‘crackdown on corruption’ that seems yet to have run its course.  “I think that during the past five years, he has been carrying out a soft coup, including making the Politburo a mere figurehead,” Chinese political commentator Wu Qiang told AFP, referring to the 25-member Communist Party body one notch under the ruling council.  “He wants to prevent power from falling into the hands of technocrats like Jiang (Zemin) and Hu (Jintao),” Wu added, referring to Xi’s two predecessors.  So what does it all mean for the Chinese people?  Dissenting is becoming even more risky.  The room for debate becomes narrower.  The risk of a policy mistake becomes higher.  Correcting a flawed policy will take longer.

Continue reading “FOD Fireball’s Observations of the Day March 5th through 12th 2018”

FOD Fireball’s Observations of the Day February 25th through March 4th 2018

Friends of FOD

Where does the time go?   Sorry for the delay in getting this edition on the street.  A lot to cover – let’s get to it!


FOD Saying of the Day

“Two things are infinite: the universe and human stupidity; and I’m not sure about the the universe.” — Albert Einstein 


Trump, Boeing Reach Handshake Agreement to Cap Air Force One Program at $3.9B

Defense News is reporting the White House and Boeing have reached an informal deal on the new Air Force One planes that will cap the cost of developing and producing the aircraft at $3.9 billion.  CNBC and Fox News both reported the handshake agreement on Tuesday, which was confirmed to Defense News by officials with knowledge of the negotiation. According to a Boeing official, the price includes all previously definitive contracts — including a $600 million contract for design work and a still-undisclosed contract for two Boeing 747 planes — as well as the engineering, manufacturing and design contract, which has not yet been awarded.  “Boeing is proud to build the next generation of Air Force One, providing American presidents with a flying White House at outstanding value to taxpayers. President Trump negotiated a good deal on behalf of the American people,” Boeing said in a statement. The White House claims the deal will save taxpayers $1.4 billion, as the original total cost for two new presidential transport aircraft was originally estimated at more than $5 billion.  However, it is not immediately clear where that $5 billion figure was derived. When President Donald Trump, then the president-elect, tweeted in December 2016 that he would cancel the program if costs did not come down, he stated that the program was worth more than $4 billion. Experts and officials with knowledge of the budget told Defense News at the time that the $4 billion estimate was accurate.  Last February, Trump claimed he had already shaved $1 billion from the program. Subsequent reporting by Defense One shed light on many cost-saving cuts, including a requirements changethat stripped a mid-air refueling capability and the decision to buy two 747s that were built — but never owned — by a Russian airliner.  However, budget documents continued to show an estimated $4 billion total cost estimate. Experts said Trump would be hard-pressed to cut $1 billion from the Air Force One program, where the price is driven by the design work needed to transform two commercial airliners into highly-fortified flying White Houses, complete with advanced communications and hardening that would protect the president against nuclear attacks.  Under the Air Force’s Presidential Aircraft Recapitalization program, Boeing will produce two new Air Force Ones and is expected to start aircraft modifications in 2019. The new Air Force One planes could begin replacing the aging VC-25A models as early as 2024.



DARPA Program Turns Creatures Into Sensors

The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) is an agency of the United States Department of Defense responsible for the development of emerging technologies for use by the military.  Navy Times is reporting A new program launched by the agency that brings you stealth technology is looking to use living sea creatures, from mollusks and crustaceans to certain types of fish, as part of a sensor network to monitor what threats to U.S. naval vessels are lurking beneath the waves.  But DARPA made clear that not every creature will be studied, specifically those who are protected or on endangered lists such as many sea-dwelling mammals.  “DARPA expressly forbids the inclusion of endangered species and intelligent mammals, such as dolphins and whales, from researchers’ proposals on the PALS program,” said Jared Adams, DARPA spokesman.  The Persistent Aquatic Living Sensors, or PALS, program will “study natural and modified organisms to determine which ones could best support sensor systems that detect the movement of manned and unmanned underwater vehicles,” according to the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency website.  The program, run by Lori Adornato in the DARPA Biotech Office, will study the responses of living organisms in the ocean to vehicles, and use a network of hardware devices to relay, capture and interpret the data.  Current hardware-based ocean sensor systems require a wealth of resources, so they can only be used for specific assets such as an aircraft carrier, Adornato said.  “If we can tap into the innate sensing capabilities of living organisms that are ubiquitous in the oceans, we can extend our ability to track adversary activity and do so discreetly, on a persistent basis, and with enough precision to characterize the size and type of adversary vehicles,” Adornato said in the DARPA release.  Living organisms could give researchers advantages over hardware, according to the release. They adapt and respond to their environment, and they can sense stimuli such as optical, chemical, tactile, acoustic and electrical, according to the release.  The hardware systems that researchers aim to create will collect data from a 500-meter distance to avoid disturbing the sometimes-delicate environments.  “Our ideal scenario for PALS is to leverage a wide range of native marine organisms, with no need to train, house, or modify them in any way, which would open up this type of sensing to many locations,” Adornato said.  But, researchers will leave open opportunities to “tune organisms’ reporting mechanisms” while using appropriate environmental safeguards, according to DARPA.  The organization made clear it will not be testing these methods or equipment in the open ocean, opting to do so instead in “contained, bio secure facilities.”  Those with ideas for how to begin this living sensor research project will have a chance to share ideas this week at a “Proposer’s Day” event in Arlington, Virginia.  In early January, DARPA held a similar exhibition, launching a program that would create an “Ocean of Things” sensor project that seeks to create environmentally-safe sensors to deploy in strategically sensitive areas of the ocean.


USAF T-6 Texans To Resume Flying After Their Own Physiological Events

FOD has reported the latest of what we know regarding OBOGS on Naval platforms.  The USAF has been conducting their own independent investigations into their physiological events.  Air Force Times is reporting The Air Force resumed flying its T-6 Texan II training aircraft Tuesday after a rash of hypoxia-like scares grounded them for nearly a month.  But while the Air Force is homing in on what led to the physiological problems, the final root cause has not yet been determined.  The 19th Air Force grounded its T-6 fleet Feb. 1 after 13 pilots at three bases experienced “unexplained physiological events” during the last week of January.  AETC said that the incidents were different from “classic hypoxia” ― a condition that occurs when someone has too little oxygen in their body, putting them at risk of becoming confused, faint or even passing out. But the release did not offer any more details about the events pilots experienced, and how they differed from hypoxia.  Maj. Gen. Patrick Doherty, commander of the 19th Air Force, ordered the grounding lifted after the Air Force ― along with experts from the Navy, NASA and medical specialties ― collected and analyzed data from pilots who experienced the problems and their aircraft. The Air Force also studied the Navy’s similar experiences with its T-45 Goshawk.  “The operational pause was required to provide a robust and intrusive look at every component on every aircraft connected to or critical to the On-Board Oxygen Generating System,” or OBOGS, Doherty said in the release. “Our intent was to ensure aircrew awareness of UPEs, as well as newly-required aerospace physiology training, checklist procedures, and flight equipment modifications that ensure aircrew safety.”  AETC spokesman Master Sgt. Joshua Strang said there are no known flight restrictions at this time.  But the 19th will conduct new and recurring inspections of the OBOGS components to catch problems and, AETC hopes, reduce the number of hypoxia or hypoxia-like incidents in the future.  So we have two services experiencing similar problems with OBOGS and neither one has found evidence of a cause, but yet we’re still going back to flying these aircraft.



Xi Jinping Extends Power, and China Braces for a New Cold War

One new wrinkle over there in China will allow Xi Jinping to serve for life.  Asia Pacific is reporting China is bracing for relations with the United States to enter a dangerous period under the continuing leadership of President Xi Jinping, intending to stand firm against President Trump and against policies it sees as attempts to contain its rise, according to Chinese analysts.  Even before the announcement on Sunday that he could rule for the foreseeable future, Mr. Xi had ordered the Chinese military to counter the Pentagon with its own modernization in air, sea, space and cyber weapons, the analysts said, partly in response to Mr. Trump’s plans to revitalize American nuclear forces.  Rather than beginning a final term next month as a lame duck, Mr. Xi will govern with new authority to pursue his agenda of making China a global power even if it risks putting Beijing in conflict with Washington and triggering a new Cold War after 40 years of mutual engagement, the analysts said.  “In the Asia-Pacific, the dominant role of the United States in a political and military sense will have to be readjusted,” said Cui Liru, former president of the China Institutes of Contemporary International Relations, a think tank under the Ministry of State Security that often reflects official thinking. “It doesn’t mean U.S. interests must be sacrificed. But if the U.S. insists on a dominant role forever, that’s a problem.”  Asked if conflict was likely in the region, Mr. Cui said: “I don’t exclude that possibility. In this transitional period, it depends on how the two sides handle it.”  He added that it was “not normal for China to be under U.S. dominance forever. You can’t justify dominance forever.”  Mr. Xi appears to share the view of many Chinese analysts and military officials that the United States is a superpower in decline — and that China must step into the vacuum it leaves behind.  He has accelerated the military’s plans to build a blue-water navy, increased spending on weaponry in outer space, and established China’s first military bases abroad. He has promoted a global infrastructure program to extend Beijing’s influence and ignored Western concerns about human rights, which have diminished under the Trump administration.  The move in Beijing to scrap constitutional limits on presidential terms comes as former officials in Washington have expressed growing remorse about the longstanding bipartisan push for trade with China — which they now worry has allowed Beijing to prosper at America’s expense.  Mr. Xi’s emergence as a strongman has driven home the disappointment among American policymakers that China has not become more open and democratic as it has become more wealthy. At the same time, Beijing has rejected pleas for fairer terms of trade, angering both Democrats and Republicans.  President Trump himself has veered between sharp criticism of China on trade and lavish praise of Mr. Xi. He congratulated Mr. Xi on his “extraordinary elevation” at a leadership congress in October and likened him to a “king.”  Mr. Xi’s attitude toward China’s place in the world was echoed Tuesday in the state-run newspaper, Global Times, which proclaimed in an editorialthat “the country must seize the day, must seize the hour.”  “Our country must not be disturbed by the outside world or lose our confidence as the West grows increasingly vigilant toward China,” it said.  In some respects, Mr. Xi’s move to extend his rule in tandem with his drive to make China a dominant global power should not have surprised the United States, Chinese analysts said.  “It is now clear Xi’s agenda to rebuild an Asian order with China at its center is here to stay,” said Hugh White, a scholar and former defense official in Australia who has argued that the United States must be prepared to share power with China in the Asia-Pacific region.  “I think Xi is impatient,” Mr. White added. “He wants China to be the predominant power in the Western Pacific. He wants to do it himself and for it to go down in history as his achievement. That makes him formidable.”  At the same time, analysts said, Mr. Trump has shown little interest in global institutions and ripped up an ambitious trade pact that included more than a dozen Asia-Pacific nations as one of his first acts in office.  “Xi is exploiting the space that America voluntarily abandoned,” said Shi Yinhong, a professor of international relations at Renmin University. In contrast, he said, “China speaks again and again of globalization as a good thing.”  Most worrying for the United States, analysts said, was the strategic competition emerging in Asia, where China is seeking to challenge American military dominance that has been the status quo since World War II.  “China’s military objective is to break through the first chain of islands,” said Mr. Cui, referring to the waters beyond Japan and Taiwan where the Chinese military wants to establish a presence.  Chinese military experts have also emphasized the importance of dominating nuclear, space and cyber technologies, said Phillip C. Saunders, a China expert at the National Defense University in Washington.  Their views mirror those of American strategists who also see these fields as critical to success in modern war, he said.  The Trump administration announced this month a new nuclear policy calling for revitalization of the nation’s nuclear arsenal to counter Russia and to a lesser degree China — an approach that has upset Beijing.  “Trump is obsessed with strategic forces,” Mr. Shi said. “He is determined to maintain American military predominance in face of China’s strategic buildup. That will make the relationship more profoundly confrontational.”  The United States has also tried to build a stronger “Indo-Pacific” coalition with Australia, India and Japan as a counterweight to China’s rise. The four democracies would increase military cooperation and invest in infrastructure to compete with Chinese projects in the region.  But Chinese analysts said that Beijing did not believe the effort would amount to much because the United States was unwilling to spend money on the projects.  “In the short term,” Mr. Shi said, “China does not care about it because the ability to form a real coalition is limited.”


Sir Roger Bannister Passes

Roger Bannister was the first human to break what was long thought to be impossible – the four minute mile.  In the 1952 Olympics in Helsinki, Bannister set a British record in the 1500 meters and finished fourth. This strengthened his resolve to be the first 4-minute miler. He achieved this feat on 6 May 1954 at Iffley Road track in Oxford, with Chris Chataway and Chris Brasher providing the pacing. When the announcer, Norris McWhirter, declared “The time was three…”, the cheers of the crowd drowned out Bannister’s exact time, which was 3 minutes 59.4 seconds. Bannister’s record lasted just 46 days. He had reached this record with minimal training, while practising as a junior doctor.  Bannister went on to become a distinguished neurologist and Master of Pembroke College, Oxford, before retiring in 1993. When asked whether the 4-minute mile was his proudest achievement, he said he felt prouder of his contribution to academic medicine through research into the responses of the nervous system and his family. His attitude is much the same as Archibald “Moonlight” Graham in the movie Field of Dreams played by Burt Lancaster where he assures us all that living an honorable and productive life was more important than sporting accomplishments.  Bannister was patron of the MSA Trust. He was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease in 2011.  He passed away on March 3, 2018.  The four minute mile has since been broken by many male athletes, and is now the standard of all male professional middle distance runners. In the last 50 years the mile record has been lowered by almost 17 seconds, and currently stands at 3:43.13



Russell Wilson News

Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson is in Yankees camp for spring training. At least for a week or so. Originally the idea was just for him to work out and hang out, but he made an unexpected appearance in a pre-season game on 02 March against the Braves.  The good news: though it’s been a while since he actually played baseball for real, he looked like an actual hitter up there. The bad news: he struck out. The good news: he at least worked the count a bit and fouled a good pitch off.  He got a warm reception from the crowd.  Wilson played football and baseball for North Carolina State University from 2008 to 2010 before transferring to Wisconsin. Wilson also played minor league baseball for the Tri-City Dust Devils in 2010 and the Asheville Tourists in 2011 as a second baseman.  I don’t expect he’ll be changing careers as he’s currently the second highest rated NFL passer of all time behind Aaron Rodgers.


Claims That Baseballs Have Changed Is Likely True

For years MLB officials have claimed repeatedly that nothing has changed regarding the baseball used, but no one can deny its going a lot further.  Last year two different studies — one by Ben Lindbergh and Mitchel Lichtman for The Ringer, and another by FiveThirtyEight’s Rob Arthur — found evidence that baseballs were altered at some point around the middle of the 2015 season. In 2015, 4,909 home runs were hit across the league. That wasn’t an alarming number. However, in 2016, 5,610 homers were hit, which was then the second-highest total of all time, trailing only 5,693 in 2000. In 2017, 6,105 home runs were hit, vastly eclipsing 2000’s all-time record.  The upshot of those studies was that the outside of the ball had changed to increase bounciness, to lower the seams and thus to reduce wind resistance, which could increase the distance a ball could fly. On March 01 Arthur and Tim Dix of FiveThirtyEight have a new report about baseballs which show that something inside the ball has changed too: the core. The core of the balls used since the 2015 All-Star break — when homers suddenly and simultaneously spiked around baseball — is less dense than the core used before, which could add additional distance onto the flight of balls.  Arthur and Dix note that homers have increased 46% since 2014 and suggest that the changed ball could account for over half of that, while uppercut swing strategies recently adopted by hitters could account for the rest.  Major League Baseball continues to be cagey about all of this, declining comment on these sorts of stories and offering disingenuous excuses for increased homers in order to avoid blaming the ball. The league is reportedly now studying the matter itself and is supposed to issue some sort of report about it all at some point.  If the league’s report does not deal with the above-mentioned studies and observations head-on and, instead, reads like a position paper denying such claims without providing underlying evidence and testing methodologies, it should be dismissed out of hand.  Maybe it’s all fake baseball news.




Legal Tender Act

To finance the Civil War, the federal government on February 25, 1862 passed the Legal Tender Act, authorizing the creation of paper money not redeemable in gold or silver. About $430 million worth of “greenbacks” were put in circulation, and this money by law had to be accepted for all taxes, debts, and other obligations—even those contracted prior to the passage of the act.  A few years later, in Hepburn v. Griswold (Feb. 7, 1870), the Court ruled by a four-to-three majority that Congress lacked the power to make the notes legal tender. Chief Justice Salmon P. Chase, who as secretary of the Treasury during the Civil War had been involved in enacting the Legal Tender Act, wrote the majority opinion, declaring that the congressional authorization of greenbacks as legal tender violated Fifth Amendment guarantees against deprivation of property without due process of law.  On the day the decision was announced, a disapproving President Grant sent the nominations of two new justices to the Senate for confirmation. Justices Bradley and Strong were confirmed, and at the next session the court agreed to reconsider the greenback issue. In Knox v. Lee and Parker v. Davis (May 1, 1871), the Court reversed its Hepburn v. Griswold decision by a five-to-four majority, asserting that the Legal Tender Act of 1862 represented a justifiable use of federal power at a time of national emergency.



Two National Parks Created

On 26 February, two national parks were established in the United States 10 years apart–the Grand Canyon in 1919 and the Grand Teton National Park in 1929.  Located in northwestern Arizona, the Grand Canyon National Park is the product of millions of years of excavation by the mighty Colorado River. The chasm is exceptionally deep, dropping more than a mile into the earth, and is 15 miles across at its widest point.  The canyon is home to more than 1,500 plant species and over 500 animal species, many of them endangered or unique to the area, and it’s steep, multi-colored walls tell the story of 2 billion years of Earth’s history.  In 1903, President Theodore Roosevelt visited the site and said: “The Grand Canyon fills me with awe. It is beyond comparison—beyond description; absolutely unparalleled through-out the wide world… Let this great wonder of nature remain as it now is. Do nothing to mar its grandeur, sublimity and loveliness. You cannot improve on it. But what you can do is to keep it for your children, your children’s children, and all who come after you, as the one great sight which every American should see.”  I completed a raft trip through the Grand Canyon a few years ago.  I recommend it highly.  The Grand Teton National Park includes the major peaks of the 40-mile-long (64 km) Teton Range as well as most of the northern sections of the valley known as Jackson Hole. It is only 10 miles (16 km) south of Yellowstone National Park, to which it is connected by the National Park Service-managed John D. Rockefeller, Jr. Memorial Parkway. Along with surrounding National Forests, these three protected areas constitute the almost 18,000,000-acre (7,300,000 ha) Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem, one of the largest intact mid-latitude temperate ecosystems in the world.  The Lewis and Clark Expedition (1804–1806) passed well north of the Grand Teton region. During their return trip from the Pacific Ocean, expedition member John Colter was given an early discharge so he could join two fur trappers who were heading west in search of beaver pelts. Colter was later hired by Manuel Lisa to lead fur trappers and to explore the region around the Yellowstone River. During the winter of 1807/08 Colter passed through Jackson Hole and was the first Caucasian to see the Teton Range.  John Colter is widely considered the first mountain man and, like those that came to the Jackson Hole region over the next 30 years, he was there primarily for the profitable fur trapping; the region was rich with the highly sought after pelts of beaver and other fur bearing animals. Between 1810 and 1812, the Astorians traveled through Jackson Hole and crossed Teton Pass as they headed east in 1812.   After 1810, American and British fur trading companies were in competition for control of the North American fur trade, and American sovereignty over the region was not secured until the signing of the Oregon Treaty in 1846. One party employed by the British North West Company and led by explorer Donald Mackenzie entered Jackson Hole from the west in 1818 or 1819. The Tetons, as well as the valley west of the Teton Range known today as Pierre’s Hole, may have been named by French speaking Iroquois or French Canadian trappers that were part of Mackenzie’s party.  Earlier parties had referred to the most prominent peaks of the Teton Range as the Pilot Knobs. The French trappers’ les trois tétons (the three breasts) was later shortened to the Tetons.  Leave it to the French to notice that.  The Colter Stone pictured here has a story as well. Sometime between 1931 and 1933, an Idaho farmer named William Beard and his son discovered a rock carved into the shape of a man’s head while clearing a field in Tetonia, Idaho, which is immediately west of the Teton Range. The rhyolite lava rock is 13 inches (330 mm) long, 8 inches (200 mm) wide and 4 inches (100 mm) thick and has the words “John Colter” carved on the right side of the face and the number “1808” on the left side and has been dubbed the “Colter Stone.”  Its authenticity has not been verified.


Getty Museum Gets Its Cash

And on February 28, 1982, the J. Paul Getty Museum became the most richly endowed museum on earth when it received a $1.2 billion.  The bequest followed years of legal wrangling over his fortune by his children, ex-wives and of course lawyers who kept his will in probate for the six years following his death.  During that period of time the original $700 million bequest nearly doubled.  The Getty Center, in Los AngelesCalifornia, is a campus of the Getty Museum and other programs of the Getty Trust. The $1.3 billion Center opened to the public on December 16, 1997 and is well known for its architecture, gardens, and views overlooking Los Angeles.  Located in the Brentwood neighborhood of Los Angeles, the Center is one of two locations of the J. Paul Getty Museum and draws 1.3 million visitors annually. (The other location is the Getty Villa in the Pacific Palisades neighborhood of Los AngelesCalifornia.) The Center branch of the Museum features pre-20th-century European paintings, drawings, illuminated manuscripts, sculpture, and decorative arts; and 19th- and 20th-century American, Asian, and European photographs.  In addition, the Museum’s collection at the Center includes outdoor sculpture displayed on terraces and in gardens and the large Central Garden designed by Robert Irwin. Among the artworks on display is the Vincent Van Gogh painting Irises.  Designed by architect Richard Meier, the campus also houses the Getty Research Institute (GRI), the Getty Conservation Institute, the Getty Foundation, and the J. Paul Getty Trust. The Center’s design included special provisions to address concerns regarding earthquakes and fires.  Both facilities are well worth your time to visit.




LBJ Reveals Top Secret Plane

And since this year is not a leap year, we might remember that on 29 February 1964,  President Lyndon B. Johnson  publicly revealed the existence of the Top Secret Lockheed   YF-12 prototype interceptor, a Mach 3+ interceptor designed and built by Clarence L. “Kelly” Johnson’s “Skunk Works.” President Johnson referred to the interceptor as the “A-11.”  The reason for President Johnson’s announcement of the existence of the YF-12A prototypes was to conceal the existence of the Central Intelligence Agency’s fleet of Lockheed A-12 Oxcart reconnaissance aircraft based at Groom Lake, Nevada. Any sightings of CIA/Air Force A-12s based at Area 51 in Nevada could be attributed to the well-publicized Air Force YF-12As based at Edwards Air Force Base in California.  The YF-12 was a twin-seat version of the secret single-seat Lockheed A-12 reconnaissance aircraft, which led to the U.S. Air Force’s Lockheed SR-71 Blackbird twin-seat reconnaissance variant. The YF-12 set and held speed and altitude world records of over 2,000 mph (3,200 km/h) and over 80,000 ft (later surpassed by the SR-71), and is the world’s largest manned interceptor to date.  On your next visit to the National Museum of the USAF, you can view one.


Beech Baron First Flight

And on February 29, 1960, Beech Aircraft Corporation test pilot S.Little made the first flight of the Beechcraft 95-55 Baron, serial number TC-1.  One of the most popular light twin airplanes, the original production variant was flown by a single pilot and could carry 3 to 4 passengers. This was the time of a great many developments in light civil aircraft.  The direct predecessor of the Baron was the Beechcraft 95 Travel Air, which incorporated the fuselage of the Bonanza and the tail control surfaces of the T-34 Mentor military trainer. To create the new airplane, the Travel Air’s tail was replaced with that of the Beechcraft Debonair, the engine nacelles were streamlined, six-cylinder engines were added, and the aircraft’s name was changed. In 1960, the Piper Aztec was introduced, utilizing two, 250 hp Lycoming O-540 engines; Cessna too had improved their 310 with two Continental IO-470 D, producing 260 hp.  Meanwhile, Beechcraft’s Bonanza had been improved with a Continental IO-470-N, but the answer to competition was to make a true Twin Bonanza. The first model, the 55, was powered by two, six-cylinder IO-470-L engines, producing 260 hp at 2,625rpm; it was introduced in 1961. It included the fully swept vertical stabilizer of the Debonair, while still retaining the four to four+five place seating of the Travel Air.  The T-42A Cochise is a military version of the Baron 95-B55 for use by the United States Army as an instrument training aircraft. The Army Aviation School took delivery of 65 aircraft.


First Guy To Jump Out Of A Perfectly Good Airplane


1 March 1912: At Jefferson Barracks, St. Louis, Missouri, Captain Albert Berry, United States Army, made the first parachute jump from an airplane.  Pilot Antony H. Jannus and Captain Berry took off from Kinloch Field, a balloon-launching field in Kinloch Park, (now, Lambert–St. Louis International Airport, STL) and flew aboard a 1911 Benoist Type XII School Plane, 18 miles (29 kilometers) to the drop zone at Jefferson Barracks. The airplane was a pusher biplane which was based on a Curtiss pusher, and is also called the Benoist Headless.  Barry had his parachute packed inside a conical container mounted beneath the airplane’s lower wing. They climbed to an altitude of 1,500 feet (457.2 meters).  When the reached the desired altitude and were over the barracks’ parade grounds, Berry attached the parachute to a harness that he was wearing, then lowered himself on a trapeze-like bar suspended in front of the wings. He pulled a lanyard which released him. The parachute was opened by a static line.


Grant Nominated for Lieutenant General


On March 02, 1864, President Abraham Lincoln promoted Ulysses S. Grant  to lieutenant general, giving him command of all Union Armies, answering only to the President.  At the time he was only the second general in US history to hold that rank, the first having been George Washington.  In late March 1865, Grant’s forces finally took Petersburg, then captured Richmond that April. Grant, Sherman, Admiral Porter, and Lincoln held a conference on the River Queen to discuss the surrender of Confederate armies and Reconstruction of the South.  Lee’s troops began deserting in large numbers; disease and lack of supplies also diminished the remaining Confederates. Lee attempted to link up with the remnants of Joseph E. Johnston‘s defeated army, but Sheridan’s cavalry were able to stop the two armies from converging, cutting the line of advance to the Confederate supply trains. Lee and his army surrendered to Grant at Appomattox Court House on April 9, 1865. Going beyond his military authority, Grant, in effect, gave Lee and his men amnesty; Confederate troops surrendered their weapons and were allowed to return to their homes, on the condition that they would not take up arms against the United States.



Concorde Makes Its First Flight


2 March 1969: At Aéroport de Toulouse – Blagnac, Toulouse, France, the first supersonic airliner prototype, Aérospatiale-BAC Concorde Aircraft 001, registration F-WTSS, made its first flight. On the flight deck were Major André Edouard Turcat, Henri Perrier, Michel Retif and Jacques Guinard. The flight lasted 29 minutes.  During its testing, 001 flew a total of 812 hours, 19 minutes, including 254 hours 49 minutes supersonic.  Concorde was jointly developed and manufactured by Aérospatiale and the British Aircraft Corporation (BAC) under an Anglo-French treaty. Twenty aircraft were built, including six prototypes and development aircraft. Air France (AF) and British Airways (BA) were the only airlines to purchase and fly Concorde. The aircraft was primarily used by wealthy passengers who could afford to pay a high price in exchange for Concorde’s speed and luxury service. Among other destinations, Concorde flew regular transatlantic flights from London’s Heathrow Airport and Paris’s Charles de Gaulle Airport to John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York, Washington Dulles International Airport and Grantley Adams International Airport in Barbados; it flew these routes in less than half the time of other airliners.  You can see one at the Boeing Museum of Flight.


National Anthem Day

Hey, FOD hasn’t included many National Days lately.  March 3rd the US National Anthem Day.  “The Star-Spangled Banner” was made the US national anthem by a congressional resolution on March 3, 1931 (46 Stat. 1508, codified at 36 U.S.C. § 301), which was signed by President Herbert HooverThe lyrics come from “Defense of Fort McHenry”, a poem written on September 14, 1814, by the 35-year-old lawyer and amateur poet Francis Scott Key after witnessing the bombardment of Fort McHenry by British ships of the Royal Navy in Baltimore Harbor during the Battle of Baltimore in the War of 1812. On September 3, 1814, following the Burning of Washington and the Raid on Alexandria, Francis Scott Key and John Stuart Skinner set sail from Baltimore aboard the ship HMS Minden, flying a flag of truce on a mission approved by President James Madison. Their objective was to secure an exchange of prisoners, one of whom was Dr. William Beanes, the elderly and popular town physician of Upper Marlboro and a friend of Key’s who had been captured in his home. Beanes was accused of aiding the arrest of British soldiers. Key and Skinner boarded the British flagship HMS Tonnant on September 7 and spoke with Major General Robert Ross and Vice Admiral Alexander Cochrane over dinner while the two officers discussed war plans. At first, Ross and Cochrane refused to release Beanes, but relented after Key and Skinner showed them letters written by wounded British prisoners praising Beanes and other Americans for their kind treatment.  Because Key and Skinner had heard details of the plans for the attack on Baltimore, they were held captive until after the battle, first aboard HMS Surprise (see note) and later back on HMS Minden. After Fort McHenry’s bombardment, certain British gunboats attempted to slip past the fort and affect a landing in a cove to the west of it, but they were turned away by fire from nearby Fort Covington, the city’s last line of defense.  Key was inspired by the large American flag, the Star-Spangled Banner, flying triumphantly above the fort during the American victory.  The poem was set to the tune of a popular British song written by John Stafford Smith for the Anacreontic Society, a men’s social club in London. “To Anacreon in Heaven” (or “The Anacreontic Song”), with various lyrics, was already popular in the United States. Set to Key’s poem and renamed “The Star-Spangled Banner”, it soon became a well-known American patriotic song. With a range of one octave and one fifth (a semitone more than an octave and a half), it is known for being difficult to sing. Although the poem has four stanzas, only the first is commonly sung today.  “The Star-Spangled Banner” was recognized for official use by the United States Navy in 1889.  The next time you find yourself in Baltimore, its well worth your time to visit Fort McHenry.  Note: HMS Surprise was the ship named in the film version of film version of the nautical historical novel by the English author Patrick O’Brian, entitled Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World. They sail in HM Sloop Sophie in the book however.


Turkish Airlines 981

Turkish Airlines Flight 981 was a regularly scheduled flight from Istanbul Yesilköy Airport to London Heathrow Airport with an intermediate stop in Paris at Orly Airport. On 3 March 1974 the McDonnell Douglas DC-10 operating the flight crashed into the Ermenonville forest outside Paris, killing all 346 people on board. At the time, it was the deadliest plane crash in aviation history. It still remains the fourth-deadliest plane crash in aviation history, is the deadliest involving a DC-10, the second deadliest with no survivors, the deadliest to have occurred on French soil, and the second worst aviation accident in Europe. The crash was also known as the Ermenonville air disaster, from the forest where the aircraft crashed.  The crash was caused when an improperly secured cargo door at the rear of the plane broke off, causing an explosive decompression which severed cables necessary to control the aircraft. Because of a known design flaw left uncorrected before and after the production of DC-10s, the cargo hatches did not latch reliably, and manual procedures were relied upon to ensure they were locked correctly. Problems with the hatches had occurred previously, most notably in an identical incident that happened on American Airlines Flight 96 in 1972, the so-called “Windsor Incident”. Investigation showed that the handles on the hatches could be improperly forced shut without the latching pins locking in place. It was noted that the pins on the hatch that failed on Flight 981 had been filed down to make it easier to close the door, resulting in the hatch being less resistant to pressure. Also, a support plate for the handle linkage had not been installed, although manufacturer documents showed this work as completed. Finally, the latching had been performed by a baggage handler who did not speak Turkish or English, the only languages provided on a warning notice about the cargo door’s design flaws and the methods of compensating for them. After the disaster, the latches were redesigned and the locking system significantly upgraded.



Abraham Lincoln’s First Inaugural Address

Abraham Lincoln‘s first inaugural address was delivered on Monday, March 4, 1861, as part of his taking of the oath of office for his first term as the sixteenth President of the United States. The speech was primarily addressed to the people of the South, and was intended to succinctly state Lincoln’s intended policies and desires toward that section, where seven states had seceded from the Union and formed the Confederate States of America.  Written in a spirit of reconciliation toward the seceded states, Lincoln’s inaugural address touched on several topics: first, his pledge to “hold, occupy, and possess the property and places belonging to the government”—including Fort Sumter, which was still in Federal hands; second, his argument that the Union was undissolvable, and thus that secession was impossible; and third, a promise that while he would never be the first to attack, any use of arms against the United States would be regarded as rebellion, and met with force. The inauguration took place on the eve of the American Civil War, which began soon after with the Confederate attack on Fort Sumter.  Lincoln denounced secession as anarchy, and explained that majority rule had to be balanced by constitutional restraints in the American system of republicanism:  “A majority held in restraint by constitutional checks and limitations, and always changing easily with deliberate changes of popular opinions and sentiments, is the only true sovereign of a free people.”  Desperately wishing to avoid this terrible conflict, Lincoln ended with this impassioned plea: “I am loath to close. We are not enemies, but friends. We must not be enemies. Though passion may have strained it must not break our bonds of affection. The mystic chords of memory, stretching from every battlefield and patriot grave to every living heart and hearthstone all over this broad land, will yet swell the chorus of the Union, when again touched, as surely they will be, by the better angels of our nature.”  While much of the Northern press praised or at least accepted Lincoln’s speech, the new Confederacy essentially met his inaugural address with contemptuous silence. The Charleston Mercury was an exception: it excoriated Lincoln’s address as manifesting “insolence” and “brutality,” and attacked the Union government as ‘a mobocratic empire.  The speech also did not impress other states who were considering secession from the Union. Indeed, after Fort Sumter was attacked and Lincoln declared a formal State of Insurrection, four more states—VirginiaNorth CarolinaTennessee and Arkansas—seceded from the Union and joined the Confederacy.  Modern writers and historians generally consider the speech to be a masterpiece and one of the finest presidential inaugural addresses, with the final lines having earned particularly lasting renown in American culture. Literary and political analysts likewise have praised the speech’s eloquent prose and epideictic quality.



FDR’s First Inaugural Address

The first inauguration of Franklin D. Roosevelt as the 32nd President of the United States was held on Saturday, March 4, 1933. The inauguration marked the commencement of the first four-year term of Franklin D. Roosevelt as President and John Nance Garner as Vice President. It was the last inauguration to be held on the constitutionally prescribed date of March 4; the 20th Amendmentratified in January 1933, moved Inauguration Day to January 20. As a result, Roosevelt’s first term in office was shorter than a normal term (as was Garner’s) by 43 days.  The inauguration took place in the wake of Democrat Roosevelt’s landslide victory over Republican incumbent Herbert Hoover in the 1932 presidential election. With the nation in the grip of the Great Depression, the new president’s inaugural speech was awaited with great anticipation. Broadcast nationwide on several radio networks, the speech was heard by tens of millions of Americans, and set the stage for Roosevelt’s urgent efforts to respond to the crisis.  The swearing-in ceremony took place on the East Portico of the United States Capitol, with Chief Justice Charles Evans Hughes administering the oath of office. Roosevelt wore a morning coat and striped trousers for the inauguration, and took the oath with his hand on his family Bible, open to I Corinthians 13. Published in 1686 in Dutch, it remains the oldest Bible ever used in an inaugural ceremony, as well as the only one not in English, and was used by Roosevelt for his 1929 and 1931 inaugurations as Governor of New York as well as for his subsequent presidential inaugurations.  After taking the oath of office, Roosevelt proceeded to deliver his 1,883-word, 20 minute-long inaugural address, best known for his famously pointed reference to “fear itself” in one of its first lines:  “So, first of all, let me assert my firm belief that the only thing we have to fear is…fear itself — nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror which paralyzes needed efforts to convert retreat into advance. In every dark hour of our national life a leadership of frankness and of vigor has met with that understanding and support of the people themselves which is essential to victory. And I am convinced that you will again give that support to leadership in these critical days.”  Addressing himself to the causes of the economic crisis and its moral dimensions, Roosevelt placed blame squarely on the greed and shortsightedness of bankers and businessmen, as seen in the following excerpts:  “…rulers of the exchange of mankind’s goods have failed through their own stubbornness and their own incompetence, have admitted their failure, and have abdicated. Practices of the unscrupulous money changers stand indicted in the court of public opinion, rejected by the hearts and minds of men.  The money changers have fled from their high seats in the temple of our civilization. We may now restore that temple to the ancient truths. The measure of the restoration lies in the extent to which we apply social values more noble than mere monetary profit.  Recognition of the falsity of material wealth as the standard of success goes hand in hand with the abandonment of the false belief that public office and high political position are to be valued only by the standards of pride of place and personal profit; and there must be an end to a conduct in banking and in business which too often has given to a sacred trust the likeness of callous and selfish wrongdoing.  Restoration calls, however, not for changes in ethics alone. This Nation asks for action, and action now.”



F-104 Starfighter’s First Flight

4 March 1954: Lockheed test pilot Anthony W. LeVier takes the prototype XF-104 Starfighter, 53-7786, for its first flight at Edwards Air Force Base in the high desert of southern California. The airplane’s landing gear remained extended throughout the flight, which lasted about twenty minutes.  The Lockheed F-104 Starfighter is a single-engine, supersonic interceptor aircraft which later became widely used as an attack aircraft. It was originally developed by Lockheed for the United States Air Force (USAF), but became widely used by US Allies around the world, and produced by several other NATO nations. One of the Century Series of fighter aircraft, it was operated by the air forces of more than a dozen nations from 1958 to 2004. Its design team was led by Kelly Johnson, who went on to lead or contribute to the development of the Lockheed SR-71 Blackbird and other Lockheed aircraft.  The F-104 set numerous world records, including both airspeed and altitude records. Its success was marred by the Lockheed bribery scandals, in which Lockheed had given bribes to a considerable number of political and military figures in various nations in order to influence their judgment and secure several purchase contracts; this caused considerable political controversy in Europe and Japan.  When I was a young pup, flying F-8 Crusaders at NAS Miramar, Lockheed test pilot Darryl Greenamyer showed up one day with a F-104 built from parts he had collected. The aircraft, N104RB, first flew in 1976. On 2 October 1976, trying to set a new low-altitude 3-km speed record, Greenamyer averaged 1,010 miles per hour (1,630 km/h) at Mud Lake near Tonopah, Nevada. A tracking camera malfunction eliminated the necessary proof for the official record. On 24 October 1977 Greenamyer flew a 3 km official FAI record flight of 988.26 miles per hour (1,590.45 km/h).  On 26 February 1978, Greenamyer made a practice run for a world altitude record attempt. After the attempt, he was unable to get a lock light on the left wheel; after multiple touch-and-go tests at an Edwards Air Force Base runway, he determined that it was not safe to land. He ejected, and the N104RB crashed in the desert.  There was always speculation that perhaps there was an insurance motive involved.  I always wanted to fly the Zipper, but never had the opportunity.

Legendary aircraft designer Clarence L. “Kelly” Johnson shakes hands with test pilot Tony LeVier after the first flight of the XF-104 at Edwards Air Force Base. (Lockheed via Mühlböck collection)



“Jackie” Robinson Day

04 March 2004:  Commissioner Bud Selig announces major league baseball will celebrate “Jackie Robinson Day” in every ballpark on April 15, the anniversary of the debut of the first black player in the major leagues. Jackie’s number (42) was retired for all time in a ceremony at Shea Stadium in April of 1997 to mark the 50th anniversary of Robinson’s achievement.  Robinson broke the baseball color line when the Brooklyn Dodgers started him at first base on April 15, 1947. The Dodgers, by signing Robinson, heralded the end of racial segregation in professional baseball that had relegated black players to the Negro leagues since the 1880s.  Robinson was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1962.Robinson had an exceptional 10-year baseball career. He was the recipient of the inaugural MLB Rookie of the Year Award in 1947, was an All-Star for six consecutive seasons from 1949 through 1954, and won the National League Most Valuable Player Award in 1949—the first black player so honored.

Robinson played in six World Series and contributed to the Dodgers’ 1955 World Series championship.  In 1997, MLB “universally” retired his uniform number, 42, across all major league teams; he was the first pro athlete in any sport to be so honored. MLB also adopted a new annual tradition, “Jackie Robinson Day“, for the first time on April 15, 2004, on which every player on every team wears No. 42.  Robinson’s character, his use of nonviolence, and his unquestionable talent challenged the traditional basis of segregation which then marked many other aspects of American life. He influenced the culture of and contributed significantly to the Civil Rights Movement.  Robinson also was the first black television analyst in MLB, and the first black vice president of a major American corporation, Chock full o’Nuts. In the 1960s, he helped establish the Freedom National Bank, an African-American-owned financial institution based in Harlem, New York. In recognition of his achievements on and off the field, Robinson was posthumously awarded the Congressional Gold Medal and Presidential Medal of FreedomRachel Robinson (holding the award) accepts the posthumous Congressional Gold Medal for her husband from President George W. Bush in a March 2, 2005 ceremony in the Capitol Rotunda. Also pictured are Nancy Pelosi and Dennis Hastert

FOD Fireball’s Observations of the Day February 21st through 24th 2018

FOD Saying of the Day

There is food value in beer, but no beer value in food!


I should have mentioned some other events from February 20:


Friendship 7 and John Glen Orbit the Earth

20 February 1962, 14:47:39 UTC: At 9:47:39 a.m., Eastern Standard Time, NASA’s Mercury-Atlas 6 lifted off from Launch Complex 14 at Cape Canaveral,   The Mercury spacecraft, named Friendship 7, was carried to orbit by an Atlas LV-3B launch vehicle the first time that launch vehicle was used . Aboard the spacecraft was Lieutenant Colonel  John Glenn, United States Marine Corps, an experienced fighter pilot and test pilot. After several delays in the countdown over several days for various systems pre-launch malfunctions and system component replacements, the launch button was depressed and then capsule communicator Scott Carpenter uttered the famous phrase “Godspeed, John Glenn.”  Glenn received word that the Atlas had boosted the MA-6 into a trajectory that would stay up for at least seven orbits. Meanwhile, computers at the Goddard Space Flight Center in Maryland indicated that the MA-6 orbital parameters appeared good enough for almost 100 orbits.  As Friendship 7 crossed Cape Canaveral at the start of its second orbit, flight systems controller Don Arabian noticed that “Segment 51”, a sensor providing data on the spacecraft landing system, was giving a strange reading. According to the reading, the heat shield and landing bag were no longer locked in position.

Color photograph of John Glenn in space featuring a view of the control panel of the Friendship 7 spacecraft, taken by the onboard camera during NASA’s Project Mercury MA-6 mission, February 20, 1962

If this were the case, the heat shield was only being held against the spacecraft by the straps of the retro package. Mercury Control was still undecided on the course of action to take. Some controllers thought the retrorocket pack should be jettisoned after retrofire, while other controllers thought the retro pack should be retained, as added assurance that the heat shield would stay in place. Flight Director Chris Kraft and Mission Director Walter C. Williams decided to keep the retro pack in place during reentry. Walter Schirra, the California communicator at Point Arguello, relayed the instructions to Glenn: the retro pack should be retained until the spacecraft was over the Texas tracking station. After the mission was over, the “Segment 51” warning light problem was later determined to be a faulty sensor switch, meaning that the heat shield and landing bag were in fact secure during reentry.  Throughout the flight Friendship 7 used greater than expected the attitude controlling rockets actuations and hence used greater than expected fuel.  The spacecraft splashed down in the North Atlantic at coordinates near 21°20′N 68°40′W, 40 miles (64 km) short of the planned landing zone.  Retrofire calculations had not taken into account spacecraft weight loss due to use of onboard consumables. USS Noa, a destroyer code-named “Steelhead”, had spotted the spacecraft when it was descending on its parachute. The destroyer was about 6 miles (9.7 km) away when it radioed Glenn that it would reach him shortly. Noa came alongside Friendship 7 seventeen minutes later. The Mercury Friendship 7 capsule is on display in the Boeing Milestones of Flight Hall, just inside the Mall-side doors at the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum in Washington, D.C.





Neil Armstrong Sets Five More Records

19–20 February 1979: Professor  Neil Armstrong of the University of Cincinnati College of Engineering, member of the Board of Directors of Gates Learjet Corporation, former United States Navy fighter pilot, NACA/NASA research test pilot, Gemini and Apollo astronaut, and The First Man To Set Foot On The Moon, set five Fédération Aéronautique Internationale(FAI) and National Aeronautics Association class records for time to climb to an altitude and altitude while flying the prototype Learjet 28, serial number 28-001.  Armstrong, with Learjet program test pilot Peter Reynolds as co-pilot, and with NAA observer Don Berliner aboard, flew the Learjet 28 to 15,000 meters (49,212.598 feet) in 12 minutes, 27 seconds at Kittyhawk, North Carolina on 19 February. On the same day, during a flight from Wichita, Kansas, to Elizabeth City, New Jersey, Armstrong flew the Learjet to 15,584.6 meters (51,130.577 feet), setting records for altitude and for sustained altitude in horizontal flight.  The following day, 20 February 1979, flying from Elizabeth City to Florence, Kentucky, Armstrong again set altitude and sustained altitude in horizontal flight, in a different class, by taking the Learjet to 15,585 meters (51,131.89 feet).  I was very fortunate to sit next to Neil Armstrong at a luncheon for the Society of Experimental Test Pilots a few years before he passed.



BGEN Jimmy Stewart Flies His Last Combat Mission

20 February 1966: Brigadier General James M. Stewart, United States Air Force Reserve, flew the last combat mission of his military career, a 12 hour, 50 minute “Arc Light” bombing mission over Vietnam, aboard Boeing B-52 Stratofortress of the 736th Bombardment Squadron, 454th Bombardment Wing. His bomber was a B-52F-65-BW, serial number 57-149, call sign GREEN TWO. It was the number two aircraft in a 30-airplane bomber stream. Stewart enlisted as a private in the United States Army 22 March 1941, just three weeks after winning the Academy Award for Best Actor for his performance in “The Philadelphia Story.”  Concerned that his celebrity status would keep him in “safe” assignments, Jimmy Stewart had repeatedly requested a combat assignment. His request was finally approved and he was assigned as operations officer of the 703rd Bombardment Squadron, 445th Bombardment Group, a B-24 Liberator unit soon to be sent to the war in Europe.

Mar. 22, 1941: Actor James “Jimmy” Stewart being sworn into the U.S. Army.

Three weeks later, he was promoted to commanding officer of the 703rd.  The 445th Bombardment Group arrived in England and after initial operational training, was stationed at RAF Tibenham, Norfolk, England. The unit flew its first combat mission on 13 December 1943, with Captain Stewart leading the high squadron of the group formation in an attack against enemy submarine pens at Kiel, Germany. On his second mission, Jimmy Stewart led the entire 445th Group.  He flew missions with the 445th, 453rd, 389th Bomb Groups, and with units of the 20th Combat Bomb Wing. After being promoted to the rank of Colonel on 29 March 1945, he was given command of the 2nd Bombardment Wing. He had risen from Private to Colonel in four years. He received a second Distinguished Flying Cross and was presented the Croix de Guerre avec Palme by France.  Following World War II, Jimmy Stewart remained in the U.S. Air Corps as a Reserve Officer, and with the United States Air Force after it became a separate service in 1947. He commanded Dobbins Air Reserve Base, Marietta, Georgia. In 1953, his rank of colonel was made permanent, and in 1959, Jimmy Stewart was promoted to Brigadier General. During his active duty periods, Colonel Stewart remained current as a pilot of Convair B-36 Peacemaker, Boeing B-47 Stratojet and B-52 Stratofortress intercontinental bombers of the Strategic Air Command.


Latest Word on Transgender Troops – No News – Yet

Military Times is reporting Defense Secretary Jim Mattis missed a Wednesday deadline to provide President Donald Trump guidance on transgender service members, which the Pentagon said reflected the complexity of the issue.  “The secretary is taking his time to consider the information he’s been given,” Pentagon Press Secretary Dana White told reporters Thursday.  Based on direction from the White House, Mattis had a Feb. 21 deadline to provide Trump his recommendations on whether allowing transgender service members to serve negatively impacted readiness, and whether those already in the military should be allowed to continue to serve.  Mattis has received and considered internal recommendations from a DoD study and panel looking at the issue, White said. However he is not obligated to follow their advice and is evaluating the issue “through the lens of lethality,” White said.  Outside the Pentagon, the courts have already weighed in on key aspects of the policy.  “Things are at a very confusing moment right now,” said Shannon Minter, who is representing transgender personnel in two of the four federal lawsuits challenging Trump’s ban.  “The Secretary of Defense, after consulting with the Secretary of Homeland Security, may advise me at any time, in writing, that a change to this policy is warranted,” Trump said in the August 2017 memo.  The Pentagon is likely to provide guidance to the White House by the end of the week, White said.  The guidance is not expected to be made public, several defense officials told Military Times.  The White House is not obligated to accept Mattis’ recommendations, and the August memo said that barring any decisions to the contrary, on March 23, 2018, the White House intends to reinstate a ban on transgender service members and allow no additional funds to be spent on sex-reassignment surgeries.  It was not clear if on that date the White House would also make Mattis’ February recommendations public. In addition, parts of Trump’s August directive have already been overturned in the courts, further muddying what exactly the transgender policy will be.  In the August memo, Trump also directed that no new transgender recruits be allowed to enlist in the military, upending earlier direction from Mattis that set a six-month delay that expired Jan. 1. Multiple federal courts have also ruled against that limitation, and transgender personnel were allowed to join the military as of Jan. 1, 2018.  In a statement issued in late December as the Jan. 1 ban expired, the Justice Department pointed to the anticipated guidance, supported by a study Mattis directed last August, as reason not to further pursue that angle of the ban. The courts are still weighing in on the wider issue of whether any restrictions on transgender service are constitutional. In the two federal cases that Minter is involved with, administration attorneys have pointed to the anticipated policy from Mattis as a reason for delay. The cases are also in a heated discovery phase where attorneys for the transgender plaintiffs are trying to determine on what basis Trump made his July decision, and in consultation with whom.


Navy Looking At Radical New Career Paths

The traditional days of a 20- to 30-year Navy career may be numbered, as service officials are looking into ways to challenge the traditional stovepipe “up-or-out” career paths.  And now Congress wants to help.  According to Navy Times, With the need to increase manpower and the new blended retirement system potentially leading to retention challenges down the line, Navy officials want services and lawmakers to take a long look at how a military career is defined — and executed by sailors.  That means in the years to come, the old 20-year career model could end up looking more like putting in 20 over a span of 40 years, or even 30 over 50.  After an office discussion with Chief of Naval Personnel VADM Robert P. Burke, Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass) is asking all the service personnel chiefs how Congress could help the services make these alternative career paths a reality.  “We talked about new ways of thinking about an individual’s lifecycle in service,” she said during a Feb. 14 hearing of the Senate Armed Services Subcommittee on Personnel.  Warren also floated the idea of “potentially making it easier for someone who has to leave military service for either personal or professional reasons to be able to return to uniform later in life.” The Navy has been working on this idea all the way back to at least 2005, when it began investigating how to quickly bring a reserve sailor back to active duty in less than 72 hours.  And the service succeeded — at least on the enlisted side.  In 2009, The Navy began their RC to AC Program that has been regularly bringing qualified reservists back to active duty ever since.  It takes much longer on the officer side, however, due to current laws governing officer personnel policies for all the services.  “We can fairly quickly bring folks back in that were on the reserve side, bring them back into the active component,” Burke told lawmakers at the hearing. “We’re filling…hundreds of gaps to sea with reservists that we brought back into the active component.”  But Warren would like to see it go a step further and make it easier for those who are now on the street to get back into the fleet, and has asked the services to share with lawmakers what additional changes in the law are needed to make the system more flexible.  Burke outlined to the subcommittee a possible future Navy gameplan under such a scenario.  “We’re thinking in terms of a longer career, making our people pyramid narrower at the base, so we bring in fewer people, giving them opportunities to move around,” Burke said. “But as importantly, with this commitment to family readiness, which is important to sailor readiness and fleet readiness, we have to let people step off the treadmill occasionally or they’re not going to hang out for a 40-year career.”  But getting to a point where someone can serve off and on over a lifetime will require changes in the law, individual service policies and culture.  For example, right now, the military has a mandatory retirement age of 62.  With people staying fit longer than ever before, Congress should consider changing the law to allow a person’s fitness level — not an arbitrary age cutoff — to determine length of service, a familiar source expressed to Navy Times.  Current Department of Defense and Navy medical standards and policies would have to be changed as well.  If a sailor leaves the service today, for instance, and doesn’t affiliate directly with the reserve, that sailor may face greater challenges when trying to get back in under the current rules, the source said.  Those rules require a person who is completely separated from all military obligations to meet the same initial entry physical and medical standards as someone entering the service for the first time, standards significantly more strict than those faced by service members already in the system.  A sailor with a medical condition that would still allow for re-enlistment, for example, may be denied re-entry into the service if trying to come back as a civilian.  “So we’ve got to have an alternative to out,” Burke said. “So that option could be into the reserves…or the other alternative would be…a horizontal career track where they can keep flying…go into her research job, whatever it may be. We need alternatives to out and right now there are none.”



Follow What China Does Not What They Say

Eleven Chinese warships sailed into the East Indian Ocean this month, a Chinese news portal said, amid a constitutional crisis in the tiny tropical island chain of the Maldives now under a state of emergency.  Japan Times is reporting a fleet of destroyers and at least one frigate, a 30,000-ton amphibious transport dock and three support tankers entered the Indian Ocean, news portal said, without linking the deployment to the crisis in the Maldives or giving a reason.  “If you look at warships and other equipment, the gap between the Indian and Chinese navy is not large,” said Sunday.  It did not say when the fleet was deployed or for how long.  Rivalry between old foes India and China for influence in the Maldives became evident after President Abdulla Yameen signed up to Beijing’s Belt and Road initiative to build trade and transport links across Asia and beyond.  India, which has had long-standing political and security ties to the islands about 400 km (250 miles) away, has sought to push back against China’s expanding presence in the overwhelmingly Muslim country of 400,000 people. Maldivian opposition leaders have urged New Delhi to intervene in the crisis.  China’s Ministry of Defense did not respond to requests for comment.  Friday, the People’s Liberation Army posted photos and a story on rescue training exercises taking place in the East Indian Ocean on its official Twitter-like Weibo account.  China earlier this month advised Chinese citizens to avoid visiting the Maldives, famous its luxury hotels, scuba-diving resorts and limpid tropical seas, until political tensions subside.  China has been striking deals with countries in Asia and Africa in line with its Belt and Road initiative to improve imports of key commodities, upgrade infrastructure and trade routes in the region and boost its diplomatic clout.  Yameen imposed the emergency Feb. 5 for 15 days to annul a Supreme Court ruling that quashed convictions against nine opposition leaders and ordered his government to free those held in prison. He sought parliamentary approval to extend the emergency for 30 days Monday.  China has drawn criticism in the West for its perceived military buildup of the neighboring South China Sea, where it has built and expanded islands and reefs.  China claims most of the sea where neighbors Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines, Taiwan and Vietnam also have claims.



New Requirement For Baseball’s Baseballs

Spring baseball is underway with the Grapefruit and Citrus League play getting started!  Tom Verducci of Sports Illustrated reports that Major League Baseball will mandate that teams store baseballs in “an air-conditioned and enclosed room[s]” this season. He adds that the league will install climate sensors in each room to measure temperature and humidity during the 2018 season, with such data being used to determine if humidors — like the ones being used in Colorado and Arizona — are necessary for 2019.

DENVER, CO – APRIL 7: A detail photograph of a locked basket of baseballs seen in a hallway within the stadium after a game between the Colorado Rockies and the San Diego Padres at Coors Field on April 7, 2013 in Denver, Colorado. The Rockies beat the Padres 9-1. (Photo by Dustin Bradford/Getty Images)

This move comes a year after Major League Baseball’s single season, league-wide home run record was shattered, with 6,105 dingers being hit. It also comes after a year in which two different studies — one by Ben Lindbergh and Mitchel Lichtman for The Ringer, and another by FiveThirtyEight’s Rob Arthur — found evidence that baseballs were altered at some point around the middle of the 2015 season which coincided with home run numbers spiking in the middle of that year, quite suddenly.  Also coming last year: multiple player complaints about the baseball seeming different, with pitchers blaming a rash of blister problems stemming from what they believed to be lower seams on the baseballs currently in use than those in use in previous years. Players likewise complained about unusually smooth and/or juiced baseballs during the World Series, which some believe led to a spike of home runs in the Fall Classic.  To date, Major League Baseball has steadfastly denied that the balls are a problem, first issuing blatantly disingenuous denials, and later using carefully chosen words to claim nothing was amiss. Specifically, Major League Baseball claimed that the balls were within league specifications but failed to acknowledge that league specifications are wide enough to encompass baseballs which could have radically different flight characteristics while still, technically, being within spec. 


Onward in history:


Battle of Iwo Jima Rages

On 21 February 1945 and during the Battle of Iwo Jima, (mentioned in the previous issue of FOD), two Japanese kamikazes hit the USS Bismarck Sea (CVE-95).  The Bismarck Sea is   Casablanca class escort carrier, She was launched on 17 April 1944 by Kaiser Co., Inc., Vancouver, WashingtonThe first kamikaze aircraft strikes the starboard side under the first 40 mm gun (aft), crashing through the hangar deck and striking the ship’s magazines. The fire was nearly under control when the second plane struck the aft elevator shaft, exploding on impact and destroying the fire fighting salt water distribution system, thus preventing any further damage control. Shortly after, the order was given to abandon ship. The USS Bismarck Sea sank with the loss of 318 men, and was the last US Navy aircraft carrier to be lost during World War II.  Three destroyers and three destroyer escorts rescued survivors over the next 12 hours, between them saving a total of 605 officers and men from her crew of 923. Survivors were then transferred to Dickens and Highlands.  Additionally five kamikaze aircraft strike the USS Saratoga (CV-3).  Saratoga participated in the Battle of Iwo Jima as a dedicated night fighter carrier.  Saratoga was assigned to provide fighter cover while the remaining carriers launched the strikes on Japan, but in the process, her fighters raided two Japanese airfields. The force fueled on 18 and 19 February, and the ship provided CAP over Iwo Jima on 19–20 February.  The following day, Saratoga was detached with an escort of three destroyers to join the amphibious forces and carry out night patrols over Iwo Jima and nearby Chichi Jima. Taking advantage of low cloud cover and Saratoga‘s weak escort, six Japanese planes scored five bomb hits on the carrier in three minutes; three of the aircraft also struck the carrier. Saratoga‘s flight deck forward was wrecked, her starboard side was holed twice and large fires were started in her hangar deck; she lost 123 of her crew dead or missing as well as 192 wounded. Thirty-six of her aircraft were destroyed. Another attack two hours later further damaged her flight deck.  Slightly over an hour later, the fires were under control, and Saratoga was able to recover six fighters; she arrived at Bremerton on 16 March for permanent repairs.



Miracle On Ice

In one of the most dramatic upsets in Olympic history, the underdog U.S. hockey team, made up of college players, defeats the four-time defending gold-medal winning Soviet team at the men’s ice hockey tournament at the 1980 Winter Olympics in Lake Placid, New York on February 22, 1980. The Soviet squad, previously regarded as the finest in the world, fell to the youthful American team 4-3 before a frenzied crowd of 10,000 spectators. Two days later, the Americans defeated Finland 4-2 to clinch the hockey gold.  The victory became one of the most iconic moments of the Games and in U.S. sports. Equally well-known was the television call of the final seconds of the game by Al Michaels for ABC, in which he famously declared in the final seconds, “Do you believe in miracles?! Yes!” In 1999, Sports Illustrated named the “Miracle on Ice” the top sports moment of the 20th century.   As part of its centennial celebration in 2008, the International Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF) named the “Miracle on Ice” as the best international ice hockey story of the past 100 years.  I remember completing two back to back ACM flights and had the opportunity to watch the third and final period.  It was a great, great moment in sports.


Battle of Verdun Begins

At 7:12 a.m. on the morning of February 21, 1916, a shot from a German Krupp 38-centimeter long-barreled gun—one of over 1,200 such weapons set to bombard French forces along a 20-kilometer front stretching across the Meuse River—strikes a cathedral in Verdun, France, beginning the Battle of Verdun, which would stretch on for 10 months and become the longest battles of the First World War on the Western Front between the German and French armies.  The Battle of Verdun lasted for 303 days and became the longest and one of the most costly battles in human history. An estimate in 2000 found a total of 714,231 casualties, 377,231 French and 337,000 German, for an average of 70,000 casualties a month; other recent estimates increase the number of casualties to 976,000, during the battle, with 1,250,000 suffered at Verdun during the war.



George Washington Born

On February 22, 1732, George Washington was born.  He went on to serve as the first President of the United States from 1789 to 1797 and was one of the Founding Fathers of the United States. He served as Commander-in-Chief of the Continental Army during the American Revolutionary War, and later presided over the 1787 convention that drafted the United States Constitution. He is popularly considered the driving force behind the nation’s establishment and came to be known as the “father of the country,” both during his lifetime and to this day.  Washington was widely admired for his strong leadership qualities and was unanimously elected president by the Electoral College in the first two national elections. He oversaw the creation of a strong, well-financed national government that maintained neutrality in the French Revolutionary Wars, suppressed the Whiskey Rebellion, and won acceptance among Americans of all types. Washington’s incumbency established many precedents still in use today, such as the cabinet system, the inaugural address, and the title Mr. PresidentHis retirement from office after two terms established a tradition that lasted until 1940 when   Franklin Delano Roosevelt won an unprecedented third term. The 22nd Amendment (1951) now limits the president to two elected terms.  Washington presided over the Constitutional Convention in 1787, which devised a new form of federal government for the United States. Following his election as president in 1789, he worked to unify rival factions in the fledgling nation. He supported Alexander Hamilton‘s programs to satisfy all debts, federal and state, established a permanent seat of government, implemented an effective tax system, and created a national bank.  In avoiding war with Great Britain, he guaranteed a decade of peace and profitable trade by securing the Jay Treaty in 1795, despite intense opposition from the Jeffersonians. He remained non-partisan, never joining the Federalist Party, although he largely supported its policies. Washington’s Farewell Address was an influential primer on civic virtue, warning against partisanship, sectionalism, and involvement in foreign wars. President Trump would do well to read his Farewell Address.  He retired from the presidency in 1797, returning to his home and plantation at Mount Vernon.



Theodore Roosevelt Welcomes Home Great White Fleet

In this photo, President Theodore Roosevelt (on the 12-inch (30 cm) gun turret at right) addresses officers and crewmen on Connecticut, in Hampton Roads, Virginia, upon her return from the Fleet’s cruise around the world, 22 February 1909.  The Great White Fleet was the popular nickname for the United States Navy battle fleet that completed a journey around the globe from December 16, 1907, to February 22, 1909, by order of United States President Theodore Roosevelt. It consisted of 16 battleships divided into two squadrons, along with various escorts.  Roosevelt sought to demonstrate growing American martial power and blue-water navy capability. Hoping to enforce treaties and protect overseas holdings, the United States Congress appropriated funds to build American sea power. Beginning with just 90 small ships, over one-third of them wooden, the navy quickly grew to include new modern steel fighting vessels. The hulls of these ships were painted a stark white, giving the armada the nickname “Great White Fleet.”  The purpose of the fleet deployment was multifaceted. Ostensibly, it served as a showpiece of American goodwill, as the fleet visited numerous countries and harbors. In this, the voyage was not unprecedented. Naval courtesy calls, many times in conjunction with the birthdays of various monarchs and other foreign celebrations, had become common in the 19th century.  Roosevelt’s stated intent was to give the navy practice in navigation, communication, coal consumption and fleet maneuvering; navy professionals maintained, however, that such matters could be served better in home waters. In light of what had happened to the Russian Baltic Fleet, they were concerned about sending their own fleet on a long deployment, especially since part of the intent was to impress a modern, battle-tested navy that had not known defeat. The fleet was untested in making such a voyage, and Tsushima had proven that extended deployments had no place in practical strategy.



Marines Raise Flag On Mount Suribachi

The photograph below was taken on February 23, 1945, by Joe Rosenthal. It depicts six United States Marines raising a U.S. flag atop Mount Suribachi, during the Battle of Iwo JimaAs mentioned in earlier FOD thoughts, the photograph was first published in Sunday newspapers on February 25, 1945. It was extremely popular and was reprinted in thousands of publications. Later, it became the only photograph to win the Pulitzer Prize for Photography in the same year as its publication, and came to be regarded in the United States as one of the most significant and recognizable images of the war.  Three Marines depicted in the photograph, Sergeant Michael Strank, Corporal Harlon Block, and Private First Class Franklin Sousley were killed in action over the next few days. The three surviving flag-raisers were Corporals (then Private First Class) Rene GagnonIra Hayes, and Harold Schultz who first received Marine Corps recognition in June 2016.  The image was later used by Felix de Weldon to sculpt the Marine Corps War Memorial which was dedicated in 1954 to all Marines who died for their country past and present, and is located in Arlington Ridge Park, near the Ord-Weitzel Gate to Arlington National Cemetery and the Netherlands Carillon. The original mold is located on the Marine Military Academy grounds, a private college preparatory academy located in Harlingen, Texas.




Salk Vaccine

On February 23, 1954, children at Arsenal Elementary School in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, receive the first injections of the new polio vaccine developed by Dr. Jonas Salk.  Polio vaccines are vaccines used to prevent poliomyelitis (polio).  There are two types: one that uses inactivated poliovirus and is given by injection (IPV), and one that uses weakened poliovirus and is given by mouth (OPV). The World Health Organization recommends all children be vaccinated against polio.  The two vaccines have eliminated polio from most of the world, and reduced the number of cases each year from an estimated 350,000 in 1988 to 74 in 2015.  The inactivated polio vaccines are very safe. Mild redness or pain may occur at the site of injection. Oral polio vaccines result in vaccine-associated paralytic poliomyelitis in about three per million doses.  This compares with one in two hundred who are paralysed following a polio infection.  Both are generally safe to give during pregnancy and in those who have HIV/AIDS but are otherwise well.  The first polio vaccine was the inactivated polio vaccine.  It was developed by Jonas Salk and came into use in 1955.  The oral polio vaccine was developed by Albert Sabin and came into commercial use in 1961.  They are on the World Health Organization’s List of Essential Medicines, the most effective and safe medicines needed in a health system.  The wholesale cost in the developing world is about 0.25 USD per dose for the oral form as of 2014.  In the United States it costs between 25 and 50 USD for the inactivated form.




The Great One

Jesus saves!  He passes to Gretzky and Gretzky scores. On 24 February 1984, Wayne Gretzky scores his 77th goal in one season, a record thought to have been unbeatable.  He played twenty seasons in the National Hockey League (NHL) for four teams from 1979 to 1999. Nicknamed “The Great One,” he has been called “the greatest hockey player ever,” by many sportswriters, players, and the league itself. He is the leading scorer in NHL history, with more goals and assists than any other player. He garnered more assists than any other player scored total points, and is the only NHL player to total over 200 points in one season – a feat he accomplished four times. In addition, he tallied over 100 points in 16 professional seasons, 14 of them consecutive. At the time of his retirement in 1999, he held 61 NHL records: 40 regular-season records, 15 playoff records, and six All-Star records.  He still holds 60 NHL records.






United 811 Remembered

On February 24, 1989, United Airlines Flight 811 a Boeing 747-122 was on a regularly scheduled airline flight from San Francisco to Sydney, with intermediate stops at Los AngelesHonolulu, and Auckland.   16 minutes after takeoff, about 60 miles (97 kilometers) south of Honolulu, the 747 was climbing through an altitude of 22,000 feet (6,705 meters) at 300 knots (345 miles per hour/556 kilometers per hour) when, at 02:09:09 HST, the cargo door on the lower right side of the fuselage, just forward of the wing, failed, blowing outward. Explosive decompression blew a huge hole in the fuselage. Ten passenger seats were carried away along with nine passengers. A flight attendant was nearly lost, but was dragged back inside by passengers and crew.   serving the flight experienced a cargo door failure in flight shortly after leaving Honolulu. The resulting explosive decompression blew out several rows of seats, resulting in the deaths of nine passengers. Debris damaged the two engines on the right wing, causing them to lose power. Flames were visible. Both engines had to be shut down. Flight 811 declared an emergency, began descending and dumping fuel to reduce the airliner’s weight for an emergency landing. The 747 turned back toward Honolulu.  The wing had also been damaged, such that the flaps could not be fully extended and this necessitated a much higher than normal approach speed. The 747 touched down at approximately 200 knots (230 miles per hour/370 kilometers per hour). After coming to a stop, Flight 811 was completely evacuated within 45 seconds. Every flight attendant suffered some injury.  The cause of the cargo door failure was determined to be a faulty design, combine with a short in the 747’s electrical system. Based on developments after it issued its original report, NTSB issued a superseding accident report on March 18, 1992.  In its superseding report, the NTSB determined that the probable cause of the accident was the sudden opening of the cargo door, which was attributed to improper wiring and deficiencies in the door’s design. It appeared in this case that a short circuit caused an uncommanded rotation of the latch cams, which forced the weak locking sectors to distort and allow the rotation, thus enabling the pressure differential and aerodynamic forces to blow the door off the fuselage, ripping away the hinge fixing structure, the cabin floor and side fuselage skin, causing the explosive decompression.  The door (photo above right) was recovered by a U.S. Navy manned deep sea submersible Sea Cliff from a depth of 14,100 feet (4,298 meters).

FOD Fireball’s Observations of the Day February 18th through 20th 2018

FOD Saying of the Day

When people tell me “You’re going to regret that in the morning,” I sleep in until noon because I’m a problem solver.


Update On USN Cockpit Oxygen Issues

The advent of Onboard Oxygen Generating Systems (OBOGS) on US military aircraft have had mixed benefits.  Prior to OBOGS, military aircraft used Liquid Oxygen (LOX) systems.  LOX systems required complex handling architectures so as to be able to handle LOX and LOX systems safely.  LOX systems were expensive to operate, entailed risk to aircraft servicing personnel but they were dependable in delivering breathable levels of O2 to aircrew members.  On occasion missions were limited by onboard LOX availability.  OBOGS promised the elimination of expensive LOX systems, a decrease in personnel risk and an inexhaustible supply of breathable air to aircrews.   Aircraft equipped with OBOGS have seen an increase in physiological episodes (PE) over the last decade and those episodes have seemed to increase as the age of these systems have increased.  I’ve addressed several FOD articles to what’s being done to decrease the number of PE and more importantly to address the concerns of aviators.  Studies, equipment inspections, engineering analyses have been completed, but no specific system deficiencies have been identified.  It has been frustrating and points to the need to a major aircraft system redesign which would cost big bucks and would take years to retrofit.  Now the latest from Navy Times: It has been nearly a decade since the Navy’s aviation community saw a dramatic spike in physiological episodes, or PE.  High in the sky, in several air frames, more and more pilots were getting dizzy in the cockpit. They were disoriented, they couldn’t breathe and they became confused, imperiling lives, multimillion dollar jets and readiness in the process.  The Navy has in the past year redoubled its efforts to disentangle the complex causes behind PE, which primarily involves oxygen loss in the cockpit, but can include decompression sickness and other problems.  Pilots can lose consciousness in the grimmest scenarios, but symptom severity varies.  While long-term fixes remain distant, officials say progress is being made on several fronts.  But that effort has come under fire from lawmakers and other federal agencies in recent months. From the House Armed Services Committee to NASA, the Navy is facing criticism that it came at the crisis in a half-cocked fashion.  A unified, service-wide effort to assess and solve PE did not start in earnest until last year, when the Physiological Episodes Action Team, or PEAT, was stood up.  Rear Adm. Sara Joyner, a career aviator, and former CAG, (on the right in photo below) was tapped as the PEAT’s first commander. (Fireball note:  I’ve heard this was just a stash job for her while she awaited further assignment in a flag billet.)  But the Navy has announced she will leave that position this summer, after less than a year on the job, an abrupt transition that some lawmakers fear could imperil the team’s progress.  PEAT acknowledges Naval Aviation Medicine was not brought into the fold until the team was formed.  At the same time, the F/A-18, arguably the backbone of the service’s fighter world, has fundamental life support problems in the cockpit, issues that can only be fully solved by retrofitting every Hornet, Super Hornet and Growler with new parts, something that will take years.  PE concerns among pilots in the T-45 community sparked a refusal to fly last spring and subsequent operational pause.  These concerns are echoed in other airframes as well, leading rank-and-file pilots and jet maintainers to lose faith that leadership will listen to their concerns and solve the problem, according to NASA officials and lawmakers.  Rep. Michael Turner, who chairs the House Armed Services Committee’s subcommittee for tactical air and land forces, chided the “failure of the leadership of the Navy” on PE during a hearing this month.  “Navy leadership was initially slow to respond to this issue that is having a direct effect on overall readiness and affecting the confidence of our pilots, as well as their ability to perform their missions,” the Ohio Republican said, according to a transcript.  Naval Air Systems Command, or NAVAIR, was tasked by Congress to assess the service’s PE efforts in 2016, and the command brought NASA in to help with the assessment.  NASA delivered a report to Congress late last year that pillories the Navy’s efforts on several fronts.  Turner lauded the report’s insight, but bemoaned that it was full of “things that aren’t happening after things that aren’t happening after things that aren’t happening.  “This has got to be fixed,” Turner said. “This has got to stop. And I don’t have confidence that we’re getting nearer to that. I believe that there are a number of things that are being done, and a number of things that are not being done, that are now being done because the (NASA) report said to do them.”  Physiological episodes are not a new phenomenon. Pilots have in the past experienced side effects from the unnatural rigors of flying at such height and speed.  To date, PE plague the Navy’s F/A-18 Hornets and Super Hornets, EA-18G Growlers and T-45C Goshawks, as well as versions of the Air Force’s T-6 and F-35.  While final solutions to prevent dangerous changes in a cockpit’s pressure or oxygen remain a work in progress, mitigation steps taken in the past year have been fruitful, according to officials.  Tweaks in the T-45 fleet resulted in a drop in PEs, but the root causes and solution are still being studied, according to the team.  (Fireball note: My sources tell me they increased the min engine RPM at altitude by 2% to allow for greater bleed air pressure and thus bleed air availability at altitude, which effect air flow into the OBOGS.)  “The mitigations put in place to date have greatly reduced the PE rate, improved warnings and cautions for the aircrew and fully restored confidence in the T-45,” the PEAT fact sheet states.  On the Hornet and Growler side, PE related to breathing gas have “decreased significantly” in the past year, according to PEAT, while “aircrew concerns have increased as a result of rising trends in pressure-related PEs.”  Before the establishment of PEAT, efforts were largely “stove-piped,” according to the NASA report, and there was no unifying entity to bring the initiatives together and compare notes.  “Until recently, the absence of a single leader to coordinate and prioritize the Navy’s physiological episodes efforts resulted in organizational stove-piping and the exclusion of key stakeholders,” Clinton Cragg, a former submariner and NASA engineer who led the agency’s assessment, told Congress. “Investigations have been structured as if the physiological episodes were isolated events, rather than a series of related events.”  Cragg said it was “unfortunate” that the Navy’s medical community was not part of the search for a PE solution until last year. Much of the medical effort to combat PE was taking place at the flight line level, with no guidance from higher command, the NASA report found.  “They weren’t asked, so they didn’t participate,” Cragg said. “We were actually very surprised to hear that.”  Rep. Niki Tsongas, the subcommittee’s ranking Democrat, called that shortcoming “particularly troubling.”  “I think most members would assume that the Navy’s medical community would be tightly interested in all aspects of addressing the PE issue,” she said. “Those of us here certainly would be.”  There have been 655 reported PE cases in the past five years, according to Navy figures, mostly involving Hornets and Super Hornets.  PEAT officials said the severity of PE runs the gamut, and 75 percent are classified as low to moderately severe.  While the service contends that PE rates are falling, officials did not provide a yearly breakdown of that data by Navy Times’ deadline.  PEAT has for the first time established Navy protocols that warn aircrews of problems and fix the afflicted machines, Joyner told the House subcommittee this month.  The team’s effort has brought not only Navy medicine and other service entities into the fold, but industry and academic experts as well, she said.  Joyner noted that while jets keep going farther, faster and for longer, “we have encountered challenges in how to best support the human in the cockpit in an ever more dynamic environment.”  .) (Fireball note:  That’s BS CAG.  We’re not flying aircraft farther, faster or longer.)  The impact of such operations on the human body are not fully understood, she said. “Today, we benefit from oxygen systems that no longer limit prolonged operations,” Joyner told Congress. “Rather, it’s limited by the constraints of fuel, ordnance and human endurance.”  The Navy’s renewed push to get on top of the PE problem exploded in earnest after T-45 instructor pilots refused to fly the jet last year, citing safety concerns they said were being ignored or downplayed by leadership.  Such issues are not limited to those flying the T-45, the NASA report states.  “There has been a breakdown of trust in leadership within the pilot community,” the report found. “This has been precipitated by the failure to find a definitive cause for the PEs, the implementation of ‘fixes’ that do not appear to work … and the belief that Navy leadership is not doing enough to resolve the issue.”  A lack of information led aviators to seek other, unofficial insight on the PE problem, the report states.  As a result, pilots reported to NASA that they sought PE information from maintainers, fellow pilots and engineers, instead of through official information channels.  “Gathering information this way leaves room for inaccuracies and misinformation to spread quickly and gather consensus,” the NASA report notes. “Without trust in leadership, information produced in videos, testimonials, and (situation reports) makes little difference in the population’s perspective on PE progress.”  The Navy’s PEAT now works to ensure that pilots receive updates on the cause of PE events they report up the chain, Joyner said.   “The feedback loop has been strengthened, and we’re making sure that we’re getting that back down to the deck plates, to the aviators, site by site,” she told lawmakers.  A multidisciplinary team now falls on malfunctioning jets to root out the PE’s cause.  “That’s all communicated back to the pilots,” Joyner said.  Before the T-45 pilot strike last spring, aircrews expressed “considerable dissatisfaction” with the lack of information they were receiving from NAVAIR, according to the Navy review.  Aircrews were submitting documentation on PE incidents but hearing nothing back, the review found.  NAVAIR briefed training wing personnel in early April, a few days after the first pilots opted not to fly.  “It was not well received,” the Navy’s review found. “The (instructor pilots) felt the NAVAIR team lacked urgency and discounted the severity of a rapid onset hypoxia or the histotoxic condition by telling the (instructor pilots) they were probably hyperventilating.”  Previous commitments prevented Naval Air Training and Naval Air Forces leadership from visiting the affected T-45 wings during those NAVAIR briefings.  “During those dates, (the chief of Naval Air Training) was in Pensacola for the selection of the next Blue Angel Commanding Officer and (the Naval Air Forces commander) was participating in talks with the United Kingdom followed by travel to Yuma, Arizona,” the review states. “Despite their scheduling conflicts, both CNATRA and CNAF remained heavily engaged on the emerging issue.”  Since then, Joyner said the Navy has “turned the curve” on the T-45 issues.  An oxygen flow problem was determined as the likely cause of the jet’s PE incidents, and the PE rate stands at roughly a fifth of what it was right before the pilots went on strike, Joyner told Congress. (See my comment above.) On the Hornet and Growler side, the PEAT is aiming to replace several parts of the breathing and pressurization systems for those jets, according to Joyner’s testimony.  The entire F/A-18 fleet will eventually see their oxygen generation, cabin pressure monitor and alert and pressure regulator valves replaced, according to Joyner.  Still, that remains years away.  (Fireball note:  My sources are telling me some components are being redesigned so as to report potential system anomalies, but none are being developed to improve OBOGS partial pressure of O2 within the gas mixture being supplied to aircrew.  Currently the component redesigns have not been finalized and hence there is no airframes change (AFC) that can be applied to the F/A-18 platforms.)  PEAT officials said they anticipate that a production contract worth about $85 million for the work will not be awarded until 2020 (Fireball note:  You have to have an AFC before you can negotiate it being incorporated into the assembly line process).  Unlike the T-45, the Navy does not plan to install an automatic backup oxygen system in the F/A-18s, Joyner told Congress.  (Fireball note:  There’s no real estate available for a backup system.)  While those permanent fixes remain years away, Joyner said the Navy has been able to make improvements to the F/A-18 that are resulting in a more stable system.  “We see now that we are able to influence the pressure response on the aircraft,” Joyner told Congress. “We’ve been able to make noticeable and observable, measurable changes to the F/A-18, which are resulting in a better, more stable (environmental control system).”  Tsongas noted that new F/A-18s continue to roll off Boeing’s production line.  “At some point, paying $69 million for an aircraft we know has serious problems with its life support systems needs to be questioned,” Tsongas said. “I’m not calling for stopping production, but it seems clear that the Navy and Boeing need to work together and come up with improvements to the F/A-18 that make them safer … and to make sure every single new F/A-18 has those improvements built in from day one and we’re not back here a good number of years hence revisiting these same problems yet again.”  During her days in the cockpit, Joyner said she experienced symptoms that fall on the spectrum of PE effects.  “There were days when I came back and didn’t feel great,” she said in an interview. “The culture we were in, we didn’t point at the aircraft.  Joyner said she is confident that the work of PEAT, and the infrastructure she guided in to place during her less than 12 months in command of the team, will continue after she moves on this summer.  The Navy has not named her replacement and declined to comment as to why she is being moved so soon.  Tsongas lamented Joyner’s fast departure and transfer to a Joint Staff gig.  “Making the change so soon sends an unfortunate message to the entire Navy aviation community, including their families,” Tsongas said.  Hopefully, Joyner’s successor won’t be rotated out so quickly, Tsongas said.  “Because we know change does lead to setbacks,” she said. “And we can’t afford to lose any more time.”  What does all this mean?  PEAT doesn’t have the answers, they’re better at reporting back to pilots their concerns, but they don’t have a smoking gun.



US And China Projecting A New ‘Sharp Power’ In Asia

Japanese leaders and media are much closer to the action for influence in Southeast Asia.  This from Nikkei Asian Review:  As the world’s two largest economies compete to expand their spheres of influence, the U.S. and China are pushing separate development initiatives centered around the Indian Ocean.  China has its Belt and Road Initiative, proposed in 2013 by President Xi Jinping, which aims to build infrastructure spanning from Asia to Europe and incorporating overland and maritime elements. The country has already spent a fortune building land routes and ports.  Washington, for its part, has embarked on its own initiative to maintain the existing international order, the Free and Open Indo-Pacific Strategy.  In early January, experts on national security and economics from the right-leaning Hudson Institute, as well as former senior U.S. officials, got together to discuss the situation at the Washington-based think tank.  “We need to keep our eyes wide open,” Daniel Twining, the president of the International Republican Institute, said of what China is aiming to do in the Indian Ocean. On top of soft power, such as Chinese opera, and hard power, as represented in its military buildup, Twining warned of a third form of power that is taking shape.  “There is now this emerging form of sharp power,” he said. Countries like China gain “undue leverage” through massive infrastructure investments. The targets of these influence operations are not limited to small nations in need of aid, but also strong democracies such as Australia and New Zealand.  Twining described this as a new tool kit of power and influence. “We need to catch up. There is conversation about our own competitiveness and how we sharpen the tools in that tool kit.” A similar debate is heating up behind the scenes at the White House, according to people familiar with the matter. The National Security Council met several times from November to December last year, after President Donald Trump returned from a five-nation Asian tour.  The debate centered on how to counter the China’s growing exercise of power through the Belt and Road, and in other ways, and culminated in official approval of a U.S. riposte: the Free and Open Indo-Pacific Strategy. Documents compiling specific measures were also greenlighted.  The idea originated with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s government; the Trump administration piggybacked on it. Although the White House documents are confidential, they have three main points, insiders say.  The first urges the U.S. to work with its allies and friendly nations to maintain order based on freedom and the rule of law in the East China Sea, the South China Sea, the Indian Ocean and the Arabian Sea. The second, has to do with means: The U.S., Japan, Australia and India should strengthen their maritime patrols and work with the coast guards of other littoral countries to ensure that they can protect their own waters.  The third calls on the U.S., Japan, Australia, India and other nations to assist in securing the sea lanes from Asia to the Middle East, and to develop ports in key areas — Southeast Asia, Sri Lanka, and the Bay of Bengal.  The strategy is led by U.S. Defense Secretary James Mattis and Trump’s national security adviser, Lt. Gen. H.R. McMaster.  A leading thinker at the U.S. Defense Department said Mattis and McMaster are concerned that the Belt and Road is the avenue through which China intends to pursue its goal of becoming the world’s top power by 2049, as Xi proclaimed during last autumn’s Communist Party congress, posing a serious challenge to the U.S.-dominated geopolitical order.  Like people, countries have certain DNA. It is rooted in the country’s history and culture.  The U.S. has an instinctive urge to extend its sphere of influence westward. In 1620, English pilgrims on the Mayflower arrived at what would later become the U.S. East Coast. Having gained their independence a century and a half later, Americans slowly made their way across the continent and into the Pacific Ocean. In the 19th century, Hawaii was annexed and the Philippines became an American colony. Japan’s surprise attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941 triggered an all-out war between the two countries.  The same thing is happening now on the other side of the Pacific. China has its own instinct to extend its sway, so as to encompass its neighbors. This is symbolized by the Great Wall. China’s race to build the Belt and Road shows this awakening instinct.  As a superpower, the U.S. has a survival instinct that will not countenance the emergence of a stronger rival. To ensure that, the U.S. will be have to counter a river of concrete, steel and money that China is using to build its Belt and Road.  In the Maldives, former President Mohamed Nasheed has warned that the debt the island nation owes China is unpayable and that China will be in a position to take over infrastructure assets.   Without firing a single shot, China has grabbed more land than the East India Company at the height of the 19th century,” he told the Nikkei Asian Review in an interview.  As the Trump administration hones its new tools, it may find that the battle of sharp power is a draining one.


A Report From The South China Sea

Navy Times reports a Naval officer aboard a mammoth U.S. aircraft carrier brimming with F18 fighter jets said Saturday that American forces would continue to patrol the South China Sea wherever “international law allows us” when asked if China’s newly built islands could restrain them in the disputed waters.  LCDR Tim Hawkins told The Associated Press on board the USS Carl Vinson that the Navy has carried out routine patrols at sea and on air in the strategic waters for 70 years to promote regional security and guarantee the unimpeded flow of trade that’s crucial for Asian and U.S. economies.  “International law allows us to operate here, allows us to fly here, allows us to train here, allows us to sail here, and that’s what we’re doing and we’re going to continue to do that,” Hawkins said on the flight deck of the 95,000-ton warship, which anchored at Manila Bay while on a visit to the Philippines.  When President Donald Trump came to power, Southeast Asian officials were uncertain how deep the U.S. would get involved in the issues in the South China Sea, where his predecessor, Barack Obama, was a vocal critic of China’s increasingly aggressive actions to assert its territorial claims.  “We’re committed,” Hawkins told reporters. “We’re here.”  In December, the Trump administration outlined a new security strategy that emphasized countering China’s rise and reinforcing the U.S. presence in the Indo-Pacific region, where Beijing and Washington have accused each other of stoking a dangerous military buildup and fought for wider influence.  Washington stakes no claims in the disputed region, but has declared that the peaceful resolution of the long-raging disputes, along with the maintenance of freedom of navigation and overflight, are in its national interest. U.S. officials have said American warships will continue so-called freedom of navigation operations that challenge China’s territorial claims in virtually the entire South China Sea, including on seven artificial islands China built mostly from submerged reefs in the Spratly archipelago. That places Washington in a continuing collision course with China’s interests in the volatile region.  In January, China accused the U.S. of trespassing in its territorial waters when the U.S. guided missile destroyer USS Hopper sailed near the Chinese-guarded Scarborough Shoal, which is disputed by Beijing and Manila. After voicing a strong protest, China said it would take “necessary measures” to protect its sovereignty.  The nuclear-powered Carl Vinson patrolled the disputed sea prior to its Manila visit but did not conduct a freedom of navigation operation, Hawkins said. “That’s not to say that we won’t or we can’t, but we have not, up to this point,” he said.  China has also opposed the Philippine military’s deployment of a Japanese-donated Beechcraft King Air patrol plane in late January to Scarborough, a Philippine official said on condition of anonymity because of a lack of authority to discuss the issue publicly. Chinese officials have relayed their objection to their Philippine counterparts, the official said.  China and Japan have their own territorial rifts in the East China Sea.  There was no immediate comment from Philippine military officials about China’s opposition to the surveillance flights at Scarborough using Japanese or even Philippine aircraft.  U.S. and Chinese officials have declared they have no intention of going to war in the disputed sea, but their governments have projected their firepower and clout in a delicate play of gunboat diplomacy and deterrence.  “We’re prepared to conduct a spectrum of operations, whether that’s providing humanitarian assistance, disaster relief in the time of an emergency, or whether we have to conduct operations that require us to send strike fighters ashore,” Hawkins said. “We don’t have to use that spectrum, but we’re ready to, in case we need to.”  The U.S. Navy invited journalists Saturday on board the 35-year-old Carl Vinson, which was packed with 72 aircraft, including F18 Hornets, assault helicopters and surveillance aircraft. President Rodrigo Duterte has tried to back down from what he said was a Philippine foreign policy that was steeply oriented toward the U.S., but has allowed considerable engagements with his country’s treaty ally to continue while reviving once-frosty ties with China in a bid to bolster trade tries and gain infrastructure funds.  U.S. Navy officials flew some of Duterte’s Cabinet officials as well as journalists Wednesday on board the carrier, where they viewed F18 jets landing and taking off as the ship patrolled the South China Sea. There are reports that the Carl Vinson will also visit Vietnam in its current deployment in the region, but Hawkins declined to provide details of future trips.  China, the Philippines, Vietnam, Taiwan, Malaysia and Brunei have long contested ownership of the South China Sea, where a bulk of the trade and oil that fuel Asia’s bullish economies passes through.



Two DDGs Now In Black Sea

USNI News reports Under cover of darkness, U.S. Navy guided-missile destroyer USS Ross (DDG-71) slipped through the Bosporus Strait and into the Black Sea on Friday. The next day USS Carney (DDG-64) joined Ross.

BOSPHORUS STRAIT (Feb. 17, 2018) Ð The Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Carney (DDG 64) transits the Bosphorus Straits, Feb, 17, 2018. Carney, forward-deployed to Rota, Spain, is on its fourth patrol in the U.S. 6th Fleet area of operations in support of regional allies and partners, and U.S. national security interests in Europe. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class James R. Turner/Released)

(Fireball note: I don’t know why the author thought the under the cover of darkness was emphasized as the Turkish Government is always informed and must approve all such passages through the Bosporus Strait.  Likely a Russian Akula or Victor sub was within 10,000 yards with a firing solution dialed in and also likely a USS Los Angeles SSN had firing solutions dialed in on them).  The ships are operating are part of an unspecified regional “proactive” presence mission in the sea bordered by Russia, according to the Navy.  “Our decision to have two ships simultaneously operate in the Black Sea is proactive, not reactive,” U.S. 6thFleet commander Vice Adm. Christopher Grady said in a statement. “We operate at the tempo and timing of our choosing in this strategically important region. By nature, ships are flexible, mobile forces.”  While the U.S. didn’t specify a reason for the patrol, the destroyers arrive at a particularly tense period between Moscow and Washington. On Friday, federal prosecutors indicted 13 Russian citizens for being part of a systemic operation to spread misinformation during the U.S. 2016 presidential campaign. The patrol also follows a Feb. 7 incident in Syria in which pro-Bashar al Assad forces and Russian contractors attempting to assault a rebel headquarters were killed by U.S. airstrikes.  The destroyers also arrived in the Black Sea during the fourth anniversary of the Sochi Winter Olympics in Russia. Russia’s success hosting the games is thought to have helped President Vladimir Putin win the nationalist support he needed to proceed with Moscow’s forced annexation of Crimea from Ukraine.  “The last time two U.S. ships operated in the Black Sea was July 2017, during U.S.-Ukraine co-hosted exercise Sea Breeze,” read a statement from the 6th Fleet.  “U.S. 6th Fleet ships regularly conduct bilateral and multilateral patrols with our Black Sea partners and allies, including Bulgaria and Turkey, and to conduct exercises with other partners and allies.”  Ross and Carney are two of four U.S. ballistic missile defense-capable destroyers that are forward deployed to Naval Station Rota, Spain and routinely patrol the Mediterranean and the Black Sea.  Ross and fellow forward deployed destroyer USS Porter (DDG-78) fired almost 60 Tomahawk land attack missiles in April in a retaliation strike against pro-Assad forces after the regime used chemical weapons against civilian targets.



Adventures of Huckleberry Finn Published

On this day February 18, 1885, Mark Twain publishes his famous–and famously controversial–novel  Adventures of Huckleberry Finn .  Twain (the pen name of Samuel Clemens) first introduced Huck Finn as the best friend of Tom Sawyer, hero of his tremendously successful novel The Adventures of Tom Sawyer (1876). Though Clemens saw Huck’s story as a kind of sequel to his earlier book, the new novel was far more serious, focusing on the institution of slavery and other aspects of life in the antebellum South.  Even in 1885, two decades after the Emancipation Proclamation and the end of the Civil War, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn landed created instant controversy.  And that controversy continues; for as late as 1950s, the book came under fire from African-American groups for being racist in its portrayal of black characters, despite the fact that it was seen by many as a strong criticism of racism and slavery. As recently as 1998, an Arizona parent sued her school district, claiming that making “Twain’s” novel required high school reading made already existing racial tensions worse.  Aside from its controversial nature and its continuing popularity with young readers, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn has been hailed by many serious literary critics as a masterpiece. No less a judge than Ernest Hemingway famously declared that the book marked the beginning of American literature: “There was nothing before. There has been nothing as good since.”


Pluto Discovered

Pluto was discovered by Clyde Tombaugh in 1930 and was originally considered to be the ninth planet from the Sun.  Pluto is a dwarf planet in the Kuiper belt, a ring of bodies beyond Neptune.  It was the first Kuiper belt object to be discovered.  In September 2016, astronomers announced that the reddish-brown cap of the north pole of Charon is composed of tholinsorganic macromolecules that may be ingredients for the emergence of life, and produced from methanenitrogen and related gases released from the atmosphere of Pluto and transferred over about 19,000 km (12,000 mi) distance to the orbiting moon.  In 1906, Percival Lowell—a wealthy Bostonian who had founded the Lowell Observatory in Flagstaff, Arizona, in 1894—started an extensive project in search of a possible ninth planet, which he termed “Planet X“.  She theorized that wobbles in the orbits of Uranus.and Neptune were caused by the gravitational pull of an unknown planetary body. Lowell calculated the approximate location of the hypothesized ninth planet and searched for more than a decade without success. However, in 1929, using the calculations of Powell and William H. Pickering as a guide, the search for Pluto was resumed at the Lowell Observatory in Flagstaff, Arizona. On February 18, 1930, 23-year-old Clyde Tombaugh discovered the tiny, distant planet by use of a new astronomic technique of photographic plates combined with a blink microscope. His finding was confirmed by several other astronomers, and on March 13, 1930–the anniversary of Lowell’s birth and of William Hershel’s discovery of Uranus–the discovery of Pluto was publicly announced.  The debate came to a head on August 24, 2006, with an IAU resolution that created an official definition for the term “planet”. According to this resolution, there are three conditions for an object in the Solar System to be considered a planet:

  1. The object must be in orbit around the Sun.
  2. The object must be massive enough to be rounded by its own gravity. More specifically, its own gravity should pull it into a shape defined by hydrostatic equilibrium.
  3. It must have cleared the neighborhood around its orbit.

Pluto fails to meet the third condition, because its mass is only 0.07 times that of the mass of the other objects in its orbit (Earth’s mass, by contrast, is 1.7 million times the remaining mass in its own orbit).  Poor Pluto!



The New Search For A Ninth Planet

Despite Pluto being demoted, a new search is underway for a new ninth planet.  Planet Nine is a hypothetical planet, in the outer Solar System. Its gravitational influence could explain the abnormal orbits of a group of distant trans-Neptunian objects (TNOs) found mostly beyond the Kuiper belt in the Scattered Disc region, that region of our solar system beyond Pluto. This undiscovered super-Earth-sized planet would have an estimated mass of ten Earths, a diameter two to four times that of Earth, and an elongated orbit lasting approximately 15,000 years.  Speculation about the possible existence of a ninth planet began in 2014. Astronomers Chad Trujillo and Scott S. Sheppard wrote in the journal Nature and compared the similar orbits of trans-Neptunian objects Sedna and 2012 VP113.  In the photo below you see the planet Nine and in the distance you can barely see the orbit of Neptune around the Sun.  In early 2016, Konstantin Batygin and Michael E. Brown described how the similar orbits of six TNOs could be explained by Planet Nine and proposed a possible orbit for the planet.  Michael Brown has been professor of planetary astronomy at the California Institute of Technology (Caltech) since 2003.  His team has discovered many trans-Neptunian objects (TNOs), notably the dwarf planet Eris, the only known TNO more massive than Pluto.  He has referred to himself as the man who “killed Pluto,” because he furthered Pluto being downgraded to a dwarf planet in the aftermath of the discovery of Eris and several other probable trans-Neptunian dwarf planets. (Be sure to watch this annimation file I was able to include). This hypothesis could also explain TNOs with orbits perpendicular to the inner planets and those with an extreme tilt, as well as the tilt of the Sun’s axis.  Planet Nine is presumed to be the core of a primordial giant planet that was ejected from its original orbit, after encountering Jupiter, during the genesis of the Solar System.  Others have proposed that the planet was either captured from another star, or its orbit may have been influenced by a distant encounter with a passing star.


Battle of Iwo Jima Begins

U.S. Marines landed on Iwo Jima, on February 19, 1945.  During naval operations around Iwo Jima and Chichi Jima on February 18, U.S. Navy destroyers engage Japanese vessels off Iwo and Chichi Jima. USS Waldron (DD 699) is damaged after intentionally ramming a gunboat; USS Dortch (DD 670) sinks auxiliary submarine chaser Ayukawa Maru north-northwest of Iwo Jima; USS Barton (DD 722), USS Ingraham (DD 694), and USS Moale (DD 693) operating near Chichi Jima, sink Japanese guardboats No.35 Nanshin Maru, No. 3 Kyowa Maru, and No.5 Kukuichi Maru.  The invasion followed three days of pre-invasion naval gunfire and aerial bombardment.  Iwo Jima was pronounced secured on March 16.  Fleet Admiral Chester W. Nimitz, described the invasion, and the Battle of Iwo Jima, for which 27 Medals of Honor are given, as one where uncommon valor was a common virtue.  Iwo Jima was initially thought to be strategically important: it provided an air base for Japanese fighter planes to intercept long-range B-29 Superfortress bombers, and it provided a haven for Japanese naval units in dire need of any support available. In addition, it was used by the Japanese to stage air attacks on the Mariana Islands from November 1944 through January 1945. The capture of Iwo Jima would eliminate these problems and provide a staging area for Operation Downfall – the eventual invasion of the Japanese Home Islands. American intelligence sources were confident that Iwo Jima would fall in one week. In light of the optimistic intelligence reports, the decision was made to invade Iwo Jima and the operation was given the code name Operation Detachment.  American forces were unaware that the Japanese were preparing a complex and deep defense, radically departing from their usual strategy of a beach defense. Lieutenant General Tadamichi Kuribayashi (below left) was assigned to command the defense of Iwo Jima. Kuribayashi knew that Japan could not win the battle.  He had no hopes of being able to be resupplied with additional manpower, supplies or ammunition.  He could not expect naval support, nor did he have any internal or external air support available to him.  He hoped only to inflict massive casualties on the American forces, so that the United States and its Australian and British allies would reconsider carrying out the invasion of Japan Home Islands.  The Imperial Japanese Army positions on the island were heavily fortified, with a dense network of bunkers, hidden artillery positions, and 11 mi of underground tunnels.  The American ground forces were supported by extensive naval artillery, and had complete air supremacy provided by U.S. Navy and Marine Corps aviators throughout the entire battle.  So successful was the Japanese preparation that it was discovered after the battle that the hundreds of tons of Allied bombs and thousands of rounds of heavy naval gunfire had left the Japanese defenders almost undamaged and ready to inflict losses on the U.S. Marines. Japanese combat deaths numbered three times the number of American deaths although, uniquely among Pacific War Marine battles, American total casualties (dead and wounded) exceeded those of the Japanese.  Of the 21,000 Japanese soldiers on Iwo Jima at the beginning of the battle, only 216 were taken prisoner, some of whom were captured because they had been knocked unconscious or otherwise disabled.  The vast majority of the remainder were killed in action, although it has been estimated that as many as 3,000 continued to resist within the various cave systems for many days afterwards, eventually succumbing to their injuries or surrendering weeks later.  Joe Rosenthal‘s Associated Press photograph of the raising of the U.S. flag on top of the 169 m (554 ft) Mount Suribachi by six U.S. Marines has become iconic and is captured in the Marine Corps War Memorial.  The Medal of Honor was awarded to 27 U.S. Marines and U.S. sailors (14 posthumously), during the battle of Iwo Jima. 22 medals were presented to Marines (12 posthumously) and 5 were presented to sailors, 4 of whom were hospital corpsmen (2 posthumously) attached to Marine infantry units.  Those 22 Medals of Honor were 28% of the 82 awarded to Marines in World War II.  Hershel W. Williams (Marine Corps) is the only living Medal of Honor recipient from the Battle of Iwo Jima. Williams (age 93) is one of seven living Medal of Honor recipients of World War II; five soldiers and two Marines.  One other Marine worth noting here is William D. Kelly.  Commissioned a 2nd LT in 1944, he served as an infantry platoon commander during the Battle of Iwo Jima.  He went on to serve as a company commander during the Korean War and as a battalion commander during the Viet Nam War.  He retired in 1969 and has since passed.  His son, Sean Kelly was my USNA plebe summer roommate and a friend of FOD.  Sean notes his dad never discussed his combat experiences on Iwo Jima or in other conflicts, even though Sean became a fellow Marine.  Sean forwarded me the enclosed a letter William wrote to his brother Kevin, shortly after Iwo Jima in which he refers to a $5  Hawaii overprint note he carried in his pocket during the Iwo Jima Campaign.  2015 commemorated the 70th anniversary of Iwo Jima.  That same year Sean decided to honor his dad’s service by running in the Marine Corps Marathon (MCM).  In subsequent MCMs Sean has worn the gold aviator wings of our close friend and classmate Chuck “Hogger” Peterson.  Hogger served as a Marine and he too has passed.  Sean also includes the names of other friends who have served and passed as a way to honor their service.  This year Sean was able to raise of $25,250 for the Semper Fi Fund (the most of any single entrant).  And here’s Sean with General John Kelly, White House Chief of Staff.  The MCM is a great event.  It’s now the fourth largest Marathon in the US and the ninth in the world.  At its conclusion, the MCM course unfurls alongside the Arlington National Cemetery then offers a final, up-hill challenge to the finish at the Marine Corps War Memorial. This finish has remained unchanged since the inaugural running of the MCM in 1976.  Thank you William Kelly and thank you Sean.





Lieutenant General Promotion List of 1777

On February 19, 1777 the promotion list for Lieutenant General in the Continental Army  was released.  Benedict Arnold found himself passed over for promotion by the Continental Congress.  Despite the fact George Washington  generally supported Arnold’s skill in the field, but regardless Arnold felt he had been slighted.  He served with distinction with Ethan Allen and his men in the capture of Fort Ticonderoga. But he got into many disagreements with his fellow generals and thought they were claiming credit for his efforts.  This reminded me of a poem I learned as a plebe from the U.S. Naval Academy’s Reef Points, entitled, The Laws of the Navy, which starts off with:

Now these are Laws of the Navy,
Unwritten and varied they be;
And he that is wise will observe them,
Going down in his ship to the sea;

Among other verses is this one:

Take heed what ye say of your Seniors,
Be your words spoken softly or plain,
Lest a bird of the air tell the matter,
And so ye shall hear it again.

While a general on the American side, Arnold obtained command of the fortifications at West Point, New York (future site of the U.S. Military Academy after 1802) overlooking the cliffs at the Hudson River (upriver from British-occupied New York City), and planned to surrender it to the British forces. The plan was exposed in September 1780.  Benedict escaped to the British lines and was later commissioned into the British Army as a brigadier general.  He died in London, ten years later, penniless.


B-757 Takes Flight

Boeing test pilots John H. Armstrong and Samuel Lewis (“Lew”) Wallick, Jr., made the first flight of the prototype Model 757 airliner, FAA registration N757A, serial number 22212 on February 19, 1982, one week ahead of schedule.  The B-757 was intended to be more capable and more efficient than the preceding B-727.   The focus on fuel efficiency reflected airline concerns over operating costs, which had grown amid rising oil prices during the Yom Kippur War of 1973. As development progressed, the 757 increasingly departed from its 727 origins and adopted elements from the 767, which was several months ahead in development.  To reduce risk and cost, Boeing combined design work on both twinjets, resulting in shared features such as interior fittings and handling characteristics.  Computer-aided design, first applied on the 767, was used for over one-third of the 757’s design drawings.  In early 1979, a common two-crew member glass cockpit was adopted for the two aircraft, including shared instrumentation, avionics, and flight management systems.  In October 1979 the nose was widened and dropped to reduce aerodynamic noise by six dB, to improve the flight deck view and to give more working area for the crew for greater commonality with the 767, as the T-tail was substituted by a conventional tail earlier in the year.  Cathode-ray tube (CRT) color displays replaced conventional electromechanical instruments, with increased automation eliminating the flight engineer position common to three-person cockpits.  After completing a short conversion course, pilots rated on the 757 could be qualified to fly the 767 and vice versa, owing to their design similarities.  A new aft-loaded shape which produced lift across most of the upper wing surface, instead of a narrow band as in previous airfoil designs, was used for the 757’s wings.  The more efficient wings had less drag and greater fuel capacity, and were similar in configuration to those on the 767.  A wider wingspan than the 727’s produced less lift-induced drag, while larger wing roots increased undercarriage storage space and provided room for future stretched versions of the aircraft.  The 757 was produced in two fuselage lengths. The original 757-200 entered service in 1983; the 757-200PF, a package freighter (PF) variant, and the 757-200M, a passenger-freighter combi model, debuted in the late 1980s. The stretched 757-300, the longest narrow-body twinjet ever produced, began service in 1999. Boeing still owns that original B-757 N757A.  I’ve got a lot of time B-757 having flown both the -200 and the -300 for more than 4000 hours at NWA and in this first B-757aircraft as it was converted to a Flying Test Bed supporting the F-22 aircraft and does other research work as well. as a testbed for Lockheed Martin F-22 Raptor avionics and sensor integration.   The Boeing-owned aircraft was fitted with a canard above its cockpit to simulate the jet fighter’s wing sensor layout, along with a forward F-22 fuselage section with radar and other systems, and a 30-seat laboratory with communication, electronic warfare, identification, and navigation sensors.



LT “Butch” O’Hare Navy’s First Flying Ace

On February 20, 1842 LT Edward “Butch” O’Hare, became the Navy’s first flying ace when he single-handedly attacked a formation of nine heavy bombers approaching his the USS LexingtonHe shot down five and seriously damaged a sixth.  Previously to this historic flight, Lieutenant John Thach, then executive officer of VF-3, discovered O’Hare’s exceptional flying abilities and closely mentored the promising young pilot.  Thach, who would later develop the Thach Weave aerial combat tactic, emphasized gunnery in his training. Photo above is of John Thach in the lead with Butch O’Hare on his wing.  In 1941, more than half of all VF-3 pilots, including O’Hare, earned the “E” for gunnery excellence.  Even though he had a limited amount of ammunition, he managed to shoot down or damage several enemy bombers. On April 21, 1942, he became the first naval recipient of the Medal of Honor in World War IIHe was promoted to LCDR.  In a mere four minutes, O’Hare shot down five Japanese G4M1 Betty bombers–bringing a swift end to the Japanese attack.   With his ammunition expended, O’Hare returned to his carrier, and was fired on accidentally but with no effect by a .50-caliber machine gun from the Lexington. O’Hare’s fighter had, in fact, been hit by only one bullet during his flight, the single bullet hole in F4F-3 Wildcat port wing disabling the airspeed indicator. According to Thach, Butch then approached the gun platform to calmly say to the embarrassed anti-aircraft gunner who had fired at him, “Son, if you don’t stop shooting at me when I’ve got my wheels down, I’m going to have to report you to the gunnery officer.”  O’Hare’s final action took place on the night of November 26, 1943, while he was leading the U.S. Navy’s first-ever nighttime fighter attack launched from an aircraft carrier. During this encounter with a group of Japanese torpedo bombers, O’Hare’s Grumman F6F Hellcat was shot down; his aircraft was never found. In 1945, the U.S. Navy destroyer USS O’Hare (DD-889) was named in his honor.  On September 19, 1949, the Chicago, Illinois airport was renamed Chicago’s commercial airport O’Hare International Airport to honor O’Hare’s bravery. The airport displays a Grumman F4F-3 museum aircraft replicating the one flown by Butch O’Hare during his Medal of Honor flight. The Grumman F4F-3 Wildcat on display was recovered virtually intact from the bottom of Lake Michigan, where it sank after a training accident in 1943 when it went off the training aircraft carrier USS Wolverine (IX-64). In 2001, the Air Classics Museum remodeled the aircraft to replicate the F4F-3 Wildcat that O’Hare flew on his Medal of Honor flight.  The restored Wildcat is exhibited in the west end of Terminal 2 behind the security checkpoint to honor O’Hare International Airport’s namesake.  I always go see it when I’m passing through KORD.

FOD Fireball’s Observations of the Day February 16th and 17th 2018

FOD Saying of the Day

I prefer my kale with a silent k in a pint frosted mug


Navy Likely To Offer Greater Pay For Aviators

In some previous editions of FOD I have mentioned the USAF is offering greater financial incentives to their pilots to stay on active duty.  Now Navy Times is reporting the Navy is struggling to retain experienced aviators and may need to offer aviation incentive pay and aviation bonuses to help remedy the problem, Vice Adm. Robert P. Burke told Congress in a written statement submitted to the Senate Armed Services Committee on Wednesday.  “We continue to face challenges within some historically retention-challenged communities, particularly among aviators in specific model/type/series platforms,” Burke said in his statement.  The communities at risk include strike fighter (VFA), electronic attack (VAQ) and helicopter mine countermeasure (HM) squadrons. Burke said these squadrons did not retain enough O-4 pilots to meet operational department head requirements.  The reserves are facing aviator shortages in the same communities, as well as in maritime patrol (VP) and fleet logistics (VR) squadrons.  Burke told Congress that aviation incentive pay and bonuses are the most effective incentives for retaining pilots, but the Navy is also considering non-monetary incentives like geographic stability for orders and training and educational opportunities.  Aviation readiness has been a persistent problem for the Navy. Last October, only one-third of the Navy’s Super Hornet fighter jets were fully mission-capable and ready to fight.  Last March, Burke spoke before Congress about the need to increase retention bonuses for O-4 fighter, electronic attack and mine countermeasure pilots, the same communities facing retention shortfalls today.  From experience aircraft availability and monthly flight time increase job satisfaction and that leads to increased pilot retention.


Navy’s Stealth Destroyers Getting A New Mission – Killing Ships

I’ve mentioned here a couple times the new Zumwalt-class destroyers needed a new munitions round to replace the Long Range Land Attack Projectile that was cancelled because of its completely ridicules cost per round.  Now Defense Times is reporting  the Navy has a new vision for what its enormous high-tech destroyers will do: Killing enemy warships at extended ranges.  The Navy is asking Congress to fund a conversion of its 600-foot stealth destroyers from primarily a land attack ship to an anti-surface, offensive strike platform, according to budget documents released Feb. 12.  The service’s 2019 budget request includes a request for $89.7 million to transform its Zumwalt-class destroyers by integrating Raytheon’s long-range SM-6 missile, which can dual hat as both an anti-air and anti-surface missile, as well as its Maritime Strike variant of the Tomahawk missile.  Converting DDG-1000 into a hunter-killer is a win for the surface warfare community’s years-long drive to beef up the force’s offensive capabilities. It also answers the bell for U.S. Pacific Command, which has been pushing for the Navy to add longer range weapons to offset the increasing threat from Chinese long-range missile technology.  The SM-6 is a versatile missile that the Navy has been excited about. In August, the Navy shot down a medium-range ballistic missile target with the SM-6, which uses a fragmenting explosion near its target as the kill mechanism. This is different from the SM-3 Block IIA in development that hits its target directly. It can also be used to hit surface targets at sea and on land from hundreds of miles away.  The Navy is planning to buy 625 of the SM-6 over the next five years.  For the Maritime Tomahawk, Raytheon is integrating a new seeker into its tried-and-true strike missile for long-range ship-on-ship engagements.  The decision to switch the requirements from a land-attack platform to an anti-surface platform came in November following a review of the requirements, according to the documents.  “After a comprehensive review of Zumwalt class requirements, Navy decided in November 2017 to refocus the primary mission of the Zumwalt Class Destroyers from Land Attack to Offensive Surface Strike,” the documents read. “The funding requested in [FY19] will facilitate this change in mission and add lethal, offensive fires against targets afloat and ashore.”  USNI News first reported in December that the Navy was eyeing converting the Zumwalt to a surface strike platform.  The lead ship in the class, Zumwalt, is currently getting an overhaul and combat systems installation in San Diego. The Michael Monsoor, the second in the class, completed acceptance trials this month.  Getting a surface strike platform in the Pacific fits snugly in with the distributed lethality concept that was championed by former Naval Surface Force Pacific commander Vice Adm. Thomas Rowden. Rowden argued that surface ships can and should be used in an offensive capacity, not just be relegated to the defense of the aircraft carrier.  By adding long-range systems to every kind of ship, Rowden argued, it forces potential adversaries to expend resources looking not just for destroyers and cruisers but also littoral combat ships and even amphibious ships that have not had a strike role in the past.  In testimony submitted Feb. 14 to the House Armed Services Committee, PACOM commander ADM Harry B. Harris Jr.USN said China’s advancing capabilities made investing in long-range systems for his theater is a must. All three of the Zumwalt-class destroyers will be based in the Pacific.  “I need increased lethality, specifically ships and aircraft equipped with faster and more survivable weapons systems,” Harris wrote. “Longer range offensive weapons on every platform are an imperative.”  The money requested in 2019 also funds a combat systems refresh, a datalink upgrade and some new signals intelligence collection equipment. It also goes after some cyber-security hardening and replacing components of the ship’s computing systems that are becoming obsolete. Funds will also be expended replacing displays for consoles that run the ship’s computing systems, known as the Common Display System . There are about 40 consoles that use the display per hull and 22 on the class’s shore trainer.  “The CDS variant on Zumwalt class are unique configuration based on a 10 year old design and should be aligned with ongoing modernization efforts in the Fleet.”  One thing the budget isn’t funding is a new round for the ship’s purpose-built Advanced Gun System. In late 2016, the service canceled its Long Range Land Attack Projectile, which cost about a million dollars per round, and has struggled to come up with a replacement round for the gun.  “The Advanced Gun Systems will remain on the ships, but in an inactive status for future use, when a gun round that can affordably meet the desired capability is developed and fielded,” the documents read.  In January, Zumwalt’s former commanding officer, Capt. James Kirk, said the Navy was in a holding pattern on the guns. While the service is keeping an eye on a couple key technologies that could fill in the gap left by LRLAP, “there is not a plan right now for a specific materiel solution for the replacement round,” Kirk told reporters at the Surface Navy Association symposium.  “We continue to monitor industry’s development and technical maturation. An example of that is the Hyper Velocity Projectile,” he said, referring to a high speed guided munition made by BAE Systems and originally developed for use in electromagnetic rail guns.  “We’re monitoring that technical maturation to see do we get there to get the kind of ranges and capabilities we want, that’s the right bang for the buck, cost to capability, for the Navy. We’re monitoring that, but we have not made a decision for that yet.”  The Navy got in its present pickle with the 155mm/62-caliber gun with automated magazine and handling system because the service cut the buy from 28 ships, to seven, and finally to three.  The AGS, the largest U.S. naval gun system since World War II, was developed specifically for the Zumwalt class, as was the LRLAP round it was intended to shoot. There was no backup plan so when the buy went from 28 to thee, the costs stayed static, driving the price of the rounds through the roof.  “We were going to buy thousands of these rounds,” said a Navy official familiar with the program told Defense News at the time. “But quantities of ships killed the affordable round.”


‘US Presence Matters’ Says Admiral on Carrier in the South China Sea 

I spend considerable effort pointing out the emerging battle for influence and control of communication and navigational freedom between China and the US now playing out in the South China Sea.  It’s not being covered in the mainstream media, but it is a growing struggle and a mission the US military will have to deal with over the next few years.  Well at least our military leaders are realizing the importance of being there, of maintaining freedom of navigation rights for the US as well as all countries is vitally important for the future.  Military Times is reporting with a deafening roar the fighter jets catapulted off the US aircraft carrier and soared above the disputed South China Sea, as its admiral vowed that the mighty ship’s presence was proof America still had regional clout.  “US presence matters,” Rear Admiral John Fuller (USNA ’87) told reporters on board the USS Carl Vinson. “I think it’s very clear that we are in the South China Sea. We are operating.” The Carl Vinson, one of the US Navy‘s longest-serving active carriers, is currently conducting what officials say is a routine mission through the hotly contested waters where years of island reclamation and military construction by Beijing has rattled regional nerves.  Following criticism that the Trump administration’s commitment to the Asian region has been distracted by North Korea, reporters were flown onto the ship Wednesday as it sailed through the sea.  In a rapid series of take-offs and landings, F-18 fighter jets roared off the deck, travelling from zero to 290 kilometers (180 miles) per hour in a dizzying two seconds.  Fuller, commander of the Carl Vinson Strike Group, said the thousand-foot-long ship’s presence was a way to reassure allies.  “The nations in the Pacific are maritime nations,” he said. “They value stability … That’s exactly what we are here for. This is a very visible and tangible presence. The United States is here again.”  But the location of the strike group — which includes a carrier air wing and a guided-missile cruiser — is also a very direct message to China, whether US officials admit it or not.  Its voyage comes just a month after the Pentagon’s national defense strategy labeled China a “strategic competitor” that bullies its neighbors while militarizing features in the South China Sea.  Beijing claims most of the South China Sea — believed to hold vast oil and gas deposits and through which $5 trillion in trade passes annually — and has rapidly built reefs into artificial islands capable of hosting military planes.  The Philippines, Vietnam, Taiwan, Malaysia and Brunei also have claims in the sea.  Compared to the 11 active aircraft carriers in the US Navy, China currently boasts just one carrier. But the rising Asian superpower has made no secret of its desire to build up its naval forces and become much more regionally assertive.  Last month Beijing said it had dispatched a warship to drive away a US missile destroyer which had “violated” its sovereignty by sailing close to a shoal in the South China Sea.  Major naval nations like the US, Britain and Australia are determined not to let China dictate who can enter the strategic waters.  They have pushed “freedom of navigation” operations in which naval vessels sail close to Chinese-claimed militarized islets in the South China Sea.  “We will follow what international rule says and we will respect (it), even if there are disputes there,” Fuller said.  The nuclear-powered USS Carl Vinson — the ship that took Osama Bin Laden’s body for burial at sea — began a regular deployment in the Western Pacific last month.  The carrier is home to 5,300 sailors, pilots, and other crew members as well as 72 aircraft.  Washington has announced plans for it to dock in Vietnam — a first for the communist nation which is rattled by China’s expansionism in the sea and has forged a growing alliance with its former foe the US.  Britain said on Tuesday it will sail its own warship from Australia through the South China Sea next month to assert freedom of navigation rights in support of the US approach.  But alliances are shifting.  The Philippines, a US treaty ally, was once the strongest critic of Beijing’s expansionism in the South China Sea, successfully winning a tribunal case in The Hague over their claims.  But it has changed course under President Rodrigo Duterte in a bid for billions of dollars worth of Chinese investment.  Duterte last week said it was not time to fight China over the row, adding the Philippines should “not meddle” with Washington and Beijing’s competition for superpower status.  In Wednesday’s trip, the USS Carl Vinson hosted top Duterte aides and key Philippine military officers.  Duterte’s communications secretary Martin Andanar described the carrier as “very impressive” and its equipment “massive”.  Asked if Manila welcomed US patrols in the disputed area, Andanar told reporters: “The United States has been a big brother of the Philippines, a military ally.”



Most Bold and Daring Act of the Age

When Thomas Jefferson was inaugurated in March of 1801, he inherited troubled relations with the Barbary states — the Ottoman Regencies of Algiers, Tunis, and Tripoli, along with independent Morocco. The United States had treaties with all four, but tension was high and rising.  American representatives in the region wanted an American naval presence. They regularly, if less eloquently, echoed the 1793 view of their colleague in Lisbon: “When we can appear in the Ports of the various Powers, or on the Coast, of Barbary, with Ships of such force as to convince those nations that We are able to protect our trade, and to compel them if necessary to keep faith with Us, then, and not before, We may probably secure a large share of the Medit trade, which would largely and speedily compensate the U. S. for the Cost of a maritime force amply sufficient to keep all those Pirates in Awe, and also make it their interest to keep faith.”  Commodore Edward Preble  (left) assumed command of the U.S. Mediterranean Squadron in 1803. By October of that year Preble had begun a blockade of Tripoli harbor during the First Barbary War (1801–1805). The first significant action of the blockade came on 31 October 1803 when USS Philadelphia cruised off Tripoli gave chase and fired upon a pirate ship.  Philadelphia ran aground on an uncharted reef two miles off Tripoli Harbor. The captain, William Bainbridge, tried to refloat her, first laying the sails aback, and casting off three bow anchors and shifting the guns aft. But a strong wind and rising waves drove her further aground. Next they jettisoned many of her cannons, barrels of water, and other heavy articles overboard in order to make her lighter, but this too failed. They then sawed off the foremast in one last desperate attempt to lighten her. All of these attempts failed and Bainbridge, in order not to resupply the pirates, ordered holes drilled in the ship’s bottom, gunpowder dampened, sails set afire and all other weapons thrown overboard before surrendering. Her officers and men were made slaves of the Pasha (or Bashaw).   Philadelphia was eventually refloated by her captors and converted to a gun battery within the Tripoli harbor, as they attempted to make her serve as a fighting ship once more.  Thus she was too great a prize to be allowed to remain in the hands of the Tripolitans, so a decision was made to recapture or destroy her. The U.S. had captured the Tripolitan ketch Mastico, renamed her Intrepid, and re-rigged the ship with short masts and triangular sails to look like a local ship. On February 16, 1804, under the cover of night and in the guise of a ship in distress that had lost all anchors in a storm and needed a place to tie up, Intrepid was sailed by a volunteer assaulting party of officers and men under Lieutenant Stephen Decatur, Jr. (right) next to Philadelphia. The assault party boarded Philadelphia, and after making sure that she was not seaworthy, burned the ship where she lay in Tripoli Harbor. Lord Horatio Nelson, known as a man of action and bravery, is said to have called this “the most bold and daring act of the Age.”   Even Pope Pius VII stated, “The United States, though in their infancy, have done more to humble the anti-Christian barbarians on the African coast than all the European states had done.  Her anchor was returned to the United States on April 7, 1871, when the Bashaw presented it to the captain of the visiting Guerriere.






Some Other Events From February 16:

1923 Archaeologist opens tomb of King Tut

1997 Jeff Gordon becomes youngest Daytona winner

1945 Bataan recaptured


Remember The Maine

Remember the Maine!  A massive explosion of unknown origin sinks the battleship USS Maine (ACR-1) in  Havana Harbor, (photo is of Maine arriving in Havana Harbor) killing 260 of the fewer than 400 American crew members aboard.  One of the first American battleships, the Maine weighed more than 6,000 tons and was built at a cost of more than $2 million. Sent to protect U.S. interests during the Cuban revolt against Spain, she exploded suddenly, without warning, and sank quickly, killing nearly three quarters of her crew. The cause and responsibility for her sinking remained unclear after a board of inquiry investigated. Nevertheless, popular opinion in the U.S., fanned by inflammatory articles printed in the “yellow press” by William Randolph Hearst and Joseph Pulitzer, blamed Spain. The phrase, “Remember the Maine, to Hell with Spain”, became a rallying cry for action, which came with the Spanish–American War later that year. While the sinking of Maine was not a direct cause for action, it served as a catalyst, accelerating the approach to a diplomatic impasse between the U.S. and Spain.  Admiral Hyman G. Rickover became intrigued with the disaster and began a private investigation, in 1974. Using information from the two official inquiries, newspapers, personal papers and information on the construction and ammunition of Maine, it was concluded that the explosion was not caused by a mine. Instead, spontaneous combustion of coal dust in the bunker, next to magazine, was speculated to be the most likely cause. Rickover published a book about this investigation, How the Battleship Maine Was Destroyed, in 1976.  The Maine‘s foremast resides at the U.S. Naval Academy.


“Billy the Kid” Takes First American Gold Medal in Downhill

I haven’t commented on the Olympics in FOD, but generally I’d like to see more of the other events (well maybe not curling).  But looking back a bit, William Dean “Bill” Johnson (March 30, 1960 – January 21, 2016) was an American World Cup alpine ski racer. He was the first American male to win an Olympic gold medal in alpine skiing, winning the downhill at the 1984 Winter Olympics in Sarajevo, Yugoslavia. He was the first racer (of either gender) from outside the Alps to win an Olympic downhill.  He moved with his family to Boise, Idaho, when he was seven. He learned to ski at Bogus Basin in the late 1960s.  After a run-in with the law at age 17, the juvenile defendant was given the choice between six months in jail or attending the Mission Ridge ski academy in central Washington State, and he chose the latter.  In 1984 at age 23, Johnson challenged the long-established European domination of downhill ski racing. Even some of his teammates considered the 23-year-old Mr. Johnson a brash upstart, as he reveled in his image as the bad boy of skiing. He was called “Billy the Kid.”  “Basically, any downhill skier is a daredevil, and I’m no exception,” he said before the Winter Games in the former Yugoslavia. “I like to drive cars faster than 100 [miles per hour]. I like to go over bumps in my car and get airborne. I like to drink. I chase girls full time, but I only drink part time.”  A month later at the 1984 Winter Olympics in Sarajevo, Yugoslavia (now Bosnia), he had promising downhill training runs on a course that favored his gliding style. He boldly predicted his Olympic victory, evoking comparisons to Joe Namath and Muhammad Ali, and irking his European competitors.  His gold medal win at Bjelašnica in a time of 1:45.59 edged out silver medalist Peter Müller of Switzerland by 0.27 seconds. True to form, when asked in the post-race press conference what his victory meant to him, he exclaimed, “Millions, man, we’re talkin’ millions!”  His career faded abruptly after the Olympics and his attempted comeback ended abruptly on March 22, 2001, when Johnson crashed during a training run prior to the downhill race of the 2001 U.S. Alpine Championships, held at The Big Mountain near WhitefishMontana.  He sustained serious injury to the left side of his brain, nearly bit off his tongue, and was comatose for three weeks.  He required continual care thereafter and passed fifteen years later at age 55.


The Beach Boy’s Good Vibrations

From the very beginning, brothers BrianDennis, and Carl Wilson, their cousin Mike Love, and their friend Al Jardine distinguished themselves by their vocal harmonies and early surf songsThey are one of the most influential acts of the rock erathe Beach Boys.  Emerging at the vanguard of the “California Sound“, they performed original material that reflected a southern California youth culture of surfing, cars, and romance. I once heard it said, the Beach Boys were so famous because they never ventured into greater depth than a beautiful girl, a fast car or the perfect wave.  And in the 60’s, what more did you need?  After 1964, they abandoned the surfing aesthetic for more personal lyrics and multi-layered sounds. In 1966, the Pet Sounds album and “Good Vibrations” single vaulted the group to the top level of rock innovators and established the band as symbols of the nascent counterculture eraBrian Wilson rolled tape on take one of “Good Vibrations” on February 17, 1966. Six months, four studios and $50,000 later, he finally completed his three-minute-and-thirty-nine-second symphony, pieced together from more than 90 hours of tape recorded during literally hundreds of sessions.


YF-104 First Flight

The first YF-104A flew on 17 February 1956, and with the other 16 trial aircraft, were soon carrying out aircraft and equipment evaluation and tests. Modifications were made to the aircraft including airframe strengthening and adding a ventral fin. Problems were encountered with the J-79 afterburner; further delays were caused by the need to add AIM-9 Sidewinder air-to-air missiles. Test pilot Herman Richard (“Fish”) Salmon made the first flight of the Lockheed YF-104A service test prototype, Air Force serial number 55-2955 (Lockheed serial number 183-1001) on February 17, 1956. This airplane, the first of seventeen pre-production YF-104As, incorporated many improvements over the XF-104 prototype, the most visible being a longer fuselage.  The two photos below show the fuselage differences.

Lockheed XF-104 (S/N 53-7786, the first XF-104) on Rogers Dry Lake, Air Force Flight Test Center, Edwards Air Force Base, Calif. The XF-104 is easily distinguished by the lack of inlet shock cones and the short fuselage. (U.S. Air Force photo)

On 28 February 1956, YF-104A 55-2955 became the first aircraft to reach Mach 2 in level flight.  The YF-104A was later converted to the production standard and redesignated F-104A.  One of the Century Series of fighter aircraft, it was operated by the air forces of more than a dozen nations from 1958 to 2004. Its design team was led by Kelly Johnson, who contributed to the development of the Lockheed P-38 LightningLockheed U-2Lockheed SR-71 Blackbird and other Lockheed aircraft.  A total of 2,578 F-104s was produced by Lockheed and under license by various foreign manufacturers.

(Right) Lockheed test pilots Anthony W. (“Tony”) LeVier, on the left, and Herman R. (“Fish”) Salmon, circa 1957. An F-104 Starfighter is in the background. (Jet Pilot Overseas)




Some Events From February 17:

1904 Madame Butterfly premieres

1972 Beetle overtakes Model T as world’s best-selling car

1947 Voice of America begins broadcasts to Russia

1801 Deadlock over presidential election ends