FOD Fireball’s Observations of the Day June 7 through 9, 2017

‘Summer of Comey’ Underway

I watched the public portion of the James Comey’s hearing today.  I didn’t hear any great new information that had not been released ahead of time or that would rise to the level of obstruction of justice.  While it appears so far President Trump likely acted inappropriately, it would seem unlikely any legal effort could be put forth that would attempt to prove he acted illegally, since obstruction of justice requires proving intent.  And since presidents are not charged in a court of law, but rather in Congress through the impeachment process, the question will likely rage on as a political one, rather than a legal one.  Likely it fits into the Trump pattern of actions as political naiveté.  We had a president who we knew perjured himself before a grand jury under oath and he wasn’t found guilty.  The questioning itself was somewhat interesting in that both political parties attempted to add their spin to the proceedings by shaping their questions so as to support their political interests.  Secondarily it will be important to see what republican capital the President has remaining in Congress.  That will play out over the summer and as the Former FBI Director Robert Mueller, investigation into Russia’s involvement during the US elections gets down to business.  Also significant was that Comey said without a doubt Russia attempted to interfere with the last presidential elections and they would do it again and again.  Their goal is to degrade American’s trust in our institutions at any turn and to degrade America’s influence abroad.  Well that’s not new, just their methods.


DoD Provides Assessment of China’s Information Capabilities

Speaking of cyber warfare with Russia, The Department of Defense made public this week its  annual report to Congress on China’s military developments, shedding some light on information-based capabilities including cyber, electromagnetic spectrum operations and space operations. The report offers greater details about China’s Strategic Support Force, created in 2015. The military organization garnered less than 30 words in the DoD’s report last year, as it was in its infancy at the time of production.  This organization appears to link the Chinese People’s Liberation Army’s (PLA) space, cyber and EW missions. The report makes note that the SSF may represent the PLA’s first step in developing a cyber force that combines cyber reconnaissance, attack and defense capabilities under one hat. Importantly, it appears the PLA has taken note of U.S. Cyber Command’s structure that consolidated cyber functions under a single entity.  The PLA also seems to make a clear distinction between peacetime cyber operations and wartime cyber operations, the report notes. Peacetime operation include the defense of the electromagnetic space and cyberspace given China’s increasing reliance on the information economy, while wartime capabilities could help the PLA understand enemy trends, plan combat operations and ensure battlefield victories.



China Expanding Overseas Bases to Include Pakistan

Defense News reports, China is continuing the rapid development of its military and power-projection capabilities, with Pakistan being touted as the likely location of its second overseas base, according to the Pentagon’s newly released report on trends and developments on China’s military.

You’ll recall back on February 28th FOD noted China is constructing its first overseas military base there — just a few miles from Camp Lemonnier, one of the Pentagon’s largest and most important foreign installations.  And that Camp Lemonnier is a United States Naval Expeditionary Base, situated at Djibouti‘s Djibouti–Ambouli International Airport and home to the Combined Joint Task Force – Horn of Africa (CJTF-HOA) of the U.S. Africa Command (USAFRICOM).  It is the only permanent US military base in Africa. Again according to Defense News, overseas bases will “better position the PLA to expand its participation in non-combatant evacuation operations, search-and-rescue, humanitarian assistance/disaster relief (HA/DR), and SLOC security,” the report added. Although it also warned that China’s ability to build overseas bases “may be constrained by the willingness of countries to support a PLA presence in one of their ports.” The report also noted that “China’s leaders remain focused on developing the capabilities to deter or defeat adversary power projection and counter third-party intervention,” with the PLA’s modernization program becoming more focused on missions including power projection beyond China’s periphery.  This included complex exercises that saw the People’s Liberation Army Air Force deploy “more than 40 aircraft to the East China Sea and through the Miyako Strait into the Philippine Sea in its most complex long-distance strike training to date” in September 2016. The deployment included Xian H-6K cruise missile carriers, which the report notes would put the U.S. base in Guam within range of Chinese air-launched cruise missiles.


USAF To Send B-1B to Europe for BALTOPS

Air Force Times reports, the US Air Force has deployed B-1B Lancer bombers to Europe as part of the Saber Strike and BALTOPS exercises there with NATO allies, according to a release Wednesday from U.S. European Command.  The release did not specify how many Lancers have deployed from Ellsworth Air Force Base in South Dakota to Royal Air Force Fairford in the United Kingdom. In a follow up email, a EUCOM spokesman would only say that “several” Lancers were involved. They are joining three B-52H Stratofortresses from Barksdale Air Force Base in Louisiana, and about 800 airmen in the European theater. BALTOPS (Baltic Operations) is an annual military exercise, held and sponsored by the Commander, United States Naval Forces Europe, since 1971, in the Baltic Sea and the regions surrounding it.  The purpose of BALTOPS is to train gunneryreplenishment at seaanti-submarine warfare (ASW)radar tracking & interception, mine countermeasuresseamanshipsearch and rescuemaritime interdiction operations and scenarios dealing with potential real world crises and maritime security.



No Solution Yet for T-45 Oxygen System Problems

As noted in earlier editions of FOD, the Navy is having problems with the On-Board Oxygen Generating System (OBIGS) on the T-45 Goshawks.  In testimony before the House Armed Services Tactical Air and Land Forces Subcommittee, Vice Admiral Paul Grosklages admitted specific problem area has not been identified and that failure to find a problem and then a solution has now clogged the new pilot pipeline for both the Navy and the Marine Corps.

ATLANTIC OCEAN (March 20, 2017) A T-45C Goshawk training aircraft assigned to Carrier Training Wing (CTW) 1 approaches the aircraft carrier USS Dwight D. Eisenhower (CVN 69). The ship is conducting aircraft carrier qualifications during the sustainment phase of the optimized fleet response plan. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Nathan T. Beard/Released)

The issue has prevented the full operation of the T-45 Goshawk since the partial stand-down in late March.  Reports of illnesses and negative physiological effects from T-45 Goshawk instructors and students spiked to 47 incidents per 100,000 flight hours in 2016 – a four-fold increase over 2012 numbers, according to figures provided in the Navy’s written testimony (see below).  A tandem effort to both identify the OBIGS issue(s), and their solution, coupled with a plan to develop and incorporate an “alerting and protective measures” is being initiated.  Replacing OBIGS with a conventional LOX System (Liquid Oxygen) could become a long term solution but such a plan would take months to incorporate.  USNI News previously reported that LOX, or bottled oxygen, has helped cease the physical symptoms of hypoxia – headache, tingly fingers, grogginess – during physiological episodes on the F/A-18A-D Hornets, F/A-18E-F Super Hornets and EA-18G Growlers, giving pilots about 10 minutes to safely land the jet. When hypoxia occurred on a T-45, though, the use of bottled oxygen didn’t always end the symptoms, meaning that LOX is not a valid solution for T-45s right now. We’ll see what develops.



First Machine Gun on An Aircraft

On 07 June 1912, then Lieutenant Roy C. Kirtland, flying a Wright Model B at College Park, Maryland, Captain Charles deForest Chandler was the first person to fire a machine gun mounted on an aircraft. The weapon was a prototype designed by Colonel Isaac N. Lewis.  Kirtland Air Force Base in Albuquerque, New Mexico was named for him. He was among the first American military aviators and he recommended Henry “Hap” Arnold for aviation training.




X-15 First Flight

8 June 1959: At Edwards Air Force Base, California, North American Aviation’s Chief Engineering Test Pilot, Scott Crossfield , made the first flight of the X-15A hypersonic research rocketplane.  56-6670 was the first of three X-15s built for the U.S. Air Force and NASA. It was airdropped from a Boeing B-52 Stratofortress, NB-52A-1-BO 52-003, at 37,550 feet (11,445 meters) over Rosamond Dry Lake at 08:38:40 a.m, Pacific Time. This was an unpowered glide flight to check the flying characteristics and aircraft systems, so there were no propellants or oxidizers aboard other than hydrogen peroxide which powered the pumps and generators.  The aircraft reached 0.79 Mach (522 miles per hour, 840 kilometers per hour) during the 4 minute, 56.6 second flight. The North American X-15 was a hypersonic rocket-powered aircraft operated by the United States Air Force and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration as part of the X-plane series of experimental aircraft. The X-15 set speed and altitude records in the 1960s, reaching the edge of outer space and returning with valuable data used in aircraft and spacecraft design. The X-15’s official world record for the highest speed ever recorded by a manned, powered aircraft, set in October 1967 when William J. “Pete” Knight flew Mach 6.72 at 102,100 feet (31,120 m), a speed of 4,520 miles per hour (7,274 km/h), has remained unchallenged as of June 2017.  The X-15 was a research program and changes were made to various systems over the course of the program and between the different models. The X-15 was operated under several different scenarios including attachment to a launch aircraft, drop, main engine start and acceleration, a ballistic flight into thin air/space, re-entry into thicker air, and an unpowered glide to landing. Alternatively, if the main engine was not started the pilot went directly to a landing. The main rocket engine operated only for a relatively short part of the flight, but was capable of boosting the X-15 to its high speeds and altitudes. Without main engine thrust, the X-15’s instruments and control surfaces remained functional, but the aircraft could not maintain altitude. Because the X-15 also had to be controlled in an environment where there was too little air for aerodynamic flight control surfaces, it had a reaction control system (RCS) that used rocket thrusters.  There were two different X-15 pilot control setups: one used three joysticks; the other, one joystick.  The X-15 type with multiple control sticks for the pilot included a traditional rudder and stick, and another joystick on the left which sent commands to the reaction control system.  A third joystick on the right side was used during high-G maneuvers to augment the center stick.  In addition to pilot input, the X-15 “Stability Augmentation System” (SAS) sent inputs to the aerodynamic controls to help the pilot maintain attitude control.  The Reaction Control System (RCS) could be operated in two modes, manual and automatic.  The automatic mode used a feature called “Reaction Augmentation System” (RAS) that helped stabilize the vehicle at high altitude.  The RAS was typically used for approximately three minutes of an X-15 flight before automatic power off.  The second setup used the MH-96 flight control system which allowed one joystick in place of three and simplified pilot input.  The MH-96 could automatically blend aerodynamic and rocket controls depending on how effective each system was at controlling the aircraft.  The initial 24 powered flights used two Reaction Motors XLR11 liquid-propellant rocket engines, enhanced to provide a total of 16,000 pounds-force of thrust as compared to the 6,000 pounds-force that a single XLR11 provided in 1947 to make the Bell X-1 the first aircraft to fly faster than the speed of sound. The XLR11 used ethyl alcohol and liquid oxygen.  By November 1960, Reaction Motors was able to deliver the XLR99 rocket engine, generating 57,000 pounds-force of thrust. The remaining 175 flights of the X-15 used XLR99 engines, in a single engine configuration. The XLR99 used anhydrous ammonia and liquid oxygen as propellant, and hydrogen peroxide to drive the high-speed turbopump that delivered propellants to the engine.  It could burn 15,000 pounds of propellant in 80 seconds.  The X-15 reaction control system (RCS), for maneuvering in low-pressure/density environment, used high-test peroxide (HTP), which decomposes into water and oxygen in the presence of a catalyst and could provide a specific impulse of 140 seconds.  The HTP also fueled a turbopump for the main engines and auxiliary power units (APUs).  Additional tanks for helium and liquid nitrogen performed other functions, for example the fuselage interior was purged with helium gas, and the liquid nitrogen was used as coolant for various systems.  Albert Scott Crossfield was an American naval officer and test pilot. In 1953, he became the first pilot to fly at twice the speed of sound.  One year to the day after his first X-15 flight, on June 8, 1960, he had close call during ground tests with the XLR-99 engine. He was seated in the cockpit of the No. 3 X-15 when a malfunctioning valve caused a catastrophic explosion. He was uninjured as Dr. Toby Freedman, NAA Medical Director, pried open the cockpit to save him and despite being subjected to a later calculated acceleration force of near 50 Gs (although Crossfield stated in the Discovery Channel’s series Frontiers of Flight that he began to have debilitating issues with his night vision after the accident) and the airplane was completely rebuilt. On November 15 of the same year, he completed the X-15’s first powered flight with the XLR-99 engine. Two flights later, on December 6, he brought North American’s demonstration program to a successful conclusion as he completed his final flight in the X-15. Although it had been his hope to eventually pilot one of the craft into space, the USAF would not allow it, and gave strict orders which basically amounted to “stay in the sky, stay out of space.”  From 2001 to 2003, Crossfield trained pilots Terry Queijo, Kevin Kochersberger, Chris Johnson and Ken Hyde for The Wright Experience, which prepared to fly a reproduction Wright Flyer on the 100th anniversary of the Wright Brothers‘ first flight on December 17, 1903. The training was successful, but the re-creation of the flight on December 17, 2003 was ultimately not successful due to low engine power and the flyer’s rain-soaked fabric covering which added considerably to its takeoff weight. The Wright replica did fly successfully at Kill Devil Hills, NC after the Centennial jubilee but without media coverage. On April 19, 2006, a Cessna 210A piloted by Crossfield was reported missing while flying from PrattvilleAlabama toward ManassasVirginia.  On April 20, authorities confirmed his body was found in the wreckage of his plane in a remote area of LudvilleGeorgia. There were severe thunderstorms in the area when air traffic monitors lost radio and radar contact with Crossfield’s plane.  Scott Crossfield was the first member of the Society of Experimental Test Pilots to welcome me to the organization at a new members happy hour in 1991.  I also sat next to him at lunch at an SETP Symposium several years later.  He was always interesting, always engaged and very personable.  When asked to name his favorite airplane, Crossfield replied, “the one I was flying at the time,” because he thoroughly enjoyed them all and their unique personalities.


Secretariat Wins Triple Crown

On June 9, 1973, Secretariat, becomes the first horse since Citation in 1948 to win the first Triple Crown winner in 25 years. His record-breaking win in the Belmont Stakes, where he left the field 31 lengths behind him, is widely regarded as one of the greatest races of all time. During his racing career, he won five Eclipse Awards, including Horse of the Year honors at ages two and three. He was elected to the National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame in 1974. In the List of the Top 100 U.S. Racehorses of the 20th Century, Secretariat is second only to Man o’ War (racing career 1919–1920), who also was a large chestnut colt given the nickname “Big Red”. Only twelve horses have won the Triple Crown: Sir Barton (1919), Gallant Fox (1930), Omaha (1935), War Admiral (1937), Whirlaway (1941), Count Fleet (1943), Assault (1946), Citation (1948), Secretariat (1973), Seattle Slew (1977), Affirmed (1978), and American Pharoah (2015).


Porsche No. 1 Completed

In 1948, building cars in post war Germany was a risking proposition at best.  The Austrian automotive engineer Ferdinand Porsche debuted his first design at the World’s Fair in Paris in 1900.

The electric vehicle set several Austrian land-speed records, reaching more than 35 mph and earning international acclaim for the young engineer. He became general director of the Austro-Daimler Company (an outpost of the German automaker) in 1916 and later moved to Daimler headquarters in Stuttgart. Daimler merged with the Benz firm in the 1920s, and Porsche was chiefly responsible for designing some of the great Mercedes racing cars of that decade. Porsche left Daimler in 1931 and formed his own company. A few years later, Adolf Hitler called on the engineer to aid in the production of a small “people’s car” for the German masses. With his son, also named Ferdinand (known as Ferry), Porsche designed the prototype for the original Volkswagen (known as the KdF: “Kraft durch Freude,” or “strength through joy”) in 1936. During World War II, the Porsches also designed military vehicles, most notably the powerful Tiger tank.  At war’s end, the French accused the elder Porsche of war crimes and imprisoned him for more than a year. Ferry struggled to keep the family firm afloat. He built a Grand Prix race car, the Type 360 Cisitalia, for a wealthy Italian industrialist, and used the money to pay his father’s bail. When Porsche was released from prison, he approved of another project Ferry had undertaken: a new sports car that would be the first to actually bear the name Porsche. Dubbed the Type 356, the new car was in the tradition of earlier Porsche-designed race cars such as the Cisitalia. The engine was placed mid-chassis, ahead of the transaxle, with modified Volkswagen drive train components.  On June 8, 1948, a hand-built aluminum prototype labeled “No. 1″ becomes the first vehicle to bear the name of one of the world’s leading car manufacturers: Porsche (photo above top left).  I bought my first car, a Porsche 1969 911E, in 1971 and since then, have always owned a Porsche 911.