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commentary on Politics and a little bit of everything else

The old U-2 Spy plane just Keeps on…. Keeping on…….

[ The U-2 spy plane, the high-flying aircraft that was often at the heart of cold war suspense, is enjoying an encore. Lt. Col. Rob Wehner brought one in for a landing at Beale Air Force Base in California. ]

It’s old and slow….having outlasted it’s faster bother the SR-71 which the Air Force has retired……its long wings…..black shape and unsteady take-off and landings are still happening……

It flys so high its pilots have to wear NASA like space suits……The aircraft were looked on as relics by the Air Force…whcih likes to have new toys to strap its pilots into….but somehow…with Congress’s push and shove….the U-2’s are  still up there..taking pictures, Signit (Signals Intell -radio traffic), and Humit (Pictures of Humans ) intel for the troops in spite of the ever more reliance on its unmanned cousin the Global Hawk which can leave from an airfield in the US fly to a country…loiter around for 10 hours vacuuming up Signit , pictures and radar pictures …bouncing that info down to ground commanders and up to satellites and back to the US…..

The Global Hawks and Predators are the  heavy lifters these days….but the good ole’ U-2 …..with a person on board still is needed……..

And flying these birds can be dangerous…….

The U-2 spy plane, the high-flying aircraft that was often at the heart of cold war suspense, is enjoying an encore.

Four years ago, the Pentagon was ready to start retiring the plane, which took its first test flight in 1955. But Congress blocked that, saying the plane was still useful.

And so it is. Because of updates in the use of its powerful sensors, it has become the most sought-after spy craft in a very different war in Afghanistan.

As it shifts from hunting for nuclear missiles to detecting roadside bombs, it is outshining even the unmanned drones in gathering a rich array of intelligence used to fight the Taliban.

All this is a remarkable change from the U-2’s early days as a player in United States-Soviet espionage. Built to find Soviet missiles, it became famous when Francis Gary Powers was shot down in one while streaking across the Soviet Union in 1960, and again when another U-2 took the photographs that set off the Cuban missile crisis in 1962. Newer versions of the plane have gathered intelligence in every war since then and still monitor countries like North Korea.

Now the U-2 and its pilots, once isolated in their spacesuits at 70,000 feet, are in direct radio contact with the troops in Afghanistan. And instead of following a rote path, they are now shifted frequently in midflight to scout roads for convoys and aid soldiers in firefights.

In some ways, the U-2, which flew its first mission in 1956, is like an updated version of an Etch A Sketch in an era of high-tech computer games.

“It’s like after all the years it’s flown, the U-2 is in its prime again,” said Lt. Col. Jason M. Brown, who commands an intelligence squadron that plans the missions and analyzes much of the data. “It can do things that nothing else can do.”

One of those things, improbably enough, is that even from 13 miles up its sensors can detect small disturbances in the dirt, providing a new way to find makeshift mines that kill many soldiers.

In the weeks leading up to the recent offensive in Marja, military officials said, several of the 32 remaining U-2s found nearly 150 possible mines in roads and helicopter landing areas, enabling the Marines to blow them up before approaching the town.

More…….

Slideshow….

March 22, 2010 Posted by | Aircraft, Counterpoints, Government, Men, Military, Other Things, Space, Travel, Updates | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Sometimes you get lucky…..this Marine stepped on a IED and lives to move on…..

SHOSHARAK, Afghanistan — If luck is the battlefield’s final arbiter — the wild card that can trump fitness, training, teamwork, equipment, character and skill — then Lance Cpl. Ryan T. Mathison experienced its purest and most welcome form.

On a Marine foot patrol here through the predawn chill of Friday morning, he stepped on a pressure-plate rigged to roughly 25 pounds of explosives. The device, enough to destroy a pickup truck or tear apart several men, was buried beneath him in the dusty soil.

It did not explode.

Lance Corporal Mathison’s weight triggered the detonation of one of the booby trap’s two blasting caps. But upon giving an audible pop and tossing small stones into the air, the device failed to ignite its fuller charge — a powerful mix of Eastern Bloc mortar rounds and homemade explosives spiked with motorcycle parts, rusty spark plugs and jagged chunks of steel.

Lance Corporal Mathison and several Marines near him were spared. So began a brief journey through the Taliban’s shifting tactics and the vagaries of war, where an experience at the edge of death became instead an affirmation of friendship, and in which a veteran Marine reluctantly assumed for a morning one of the infantry’s most coveted roles: that of the charmed man.

Here’s the link. for the rest of the story……..

War IS Hell…….Especially in a landscape from right out of the Moon…thousands of miles from home……

January 24, 2010 Posted by | Government, Health, Media, Men, Military, Other Things, PoliticalDog Calls, Politics, Travel, Updates | , , , , | 8 Comments

IED hunters….who are they?… and can they be replicated?

The Army and The Marines have found out a little secret…..they have among their ranks male and female solders that have a very good ability in finding IED’s (mines or roadside bombs) in combat area’s…..

The military becoming aware of the fact did a study on the phonomenone…The three-year study, done by the Army Research Institute, the Air Force Research Lab, and the Army Research Lab, is finished. But the results are on close hold.

While they don’t want the bad guys knowing the results and the media publishing them…information from the study could be sent out to the troops in war zones and used by local law enforcement in the states and agencies like the Secret Service and State Department protective people in doing their jobs…..

If the skills are teachable…. it could be a major breakthrough in cutting casualties ( IED casualties since 2001  2,451 dead, 23,650 wounded, in Iraq and Afghanistan as of Dec. 5) resulting from the IED’s…..

December 29, 2009 Posted by | Education, Government, Health, Men, Military, Women | , , , | Leave a comment