The B2 Spirit Stealth Bomber looks like one of Batman's rides. In service since the mid-1990s, the B2's distinctive flying wing shape, even after decades in service, still looks like the future – and an expensive future, at that. Each B2 costs $2.1 billion. As such, only 21 of the stealthy aircraft were ever made.
Congress, even in the heyday of "what about potential war with Russia," refused to pay for any more. It's an aircraft with a mystique that comes both from its exotic design and how little information we have on the pilots who fly it, and their experience of flying one of them.
Recently, journalist William Langewiesche was given the opportunity to become familiar with the bomber and those that pilot it. More intriguingly, given that the bomber scarcely has space in its cockpit to accommodate a pilot and co-pilot, Langewiesche, by the sound of things, was allowed to join a B2 flight crew on a mission that would take them all the way from the United States to a bombing run on an ISIS camp in Libya.
From The Atlantic:
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Night came quickly after a short day. Once they passed into the Mediterranean, the pilots used their radar to find three tankers that had come from Germany to meet them for their second refueling, and to map some thunderstorms that were active in the area at the time. Because of its composite structure, the B-2 is particularly vulnerable to static discharges and lightning strikes, and is required to stay 40 miles away from thunderstorms—twice as far as other airplanes.
Hey, remember last month when that group of United States Air Force personnel lost a box of grenades? It apparently fell off the back of a vehicle on a public road while the Airmen responsible for the grenades were being transported between one site and another. These are the guys that are responsible for protecting the nation's nuclear weapons sites. Everything's fine! Did I mention that shortly after, it was discovered that a M240 machine gun was discovered to be missing from the same unit's inventory! That's fine too! What makes it fine is that the Air Force relieved the officer responsible for overseeing the unit responsible for all of the missing military swag, Colonel Jason Beers, of his duties. They also outright fired Chief Master Sgt. Nikki Drago--she was the superintendent in charge of the unit at the time that the weapons went missing. When there's a mess, those responsible either have to clean it up, or suffer for it.
Now for the kicker. After Col. Beers was shitcanned, he failed his way right into a cushy new position.
From Task & Purpose:
Col. Jason Beers has been assigned as chief of the installations division at AFSOC headquarters, said AFSOC spokeswoman Capt. Amanda Farr. His job will include managing funding for security forces and civil engineers and implanting policy for the installations division.
When asked why Beers is taking on this new post after being relieved of command, Farr replied: “We are fully confident in the colonel’s ability to manage our security forces and civil engineer programs for the command.”
Oy. Read the rest
If you want to make a quick $5,000, all you have to do is help the United States Air Force find a box of grenades that some of their employees misplaced.
According to the Washington Post, Airmen from the 91st Missile Wing Security Forces, one of the military units charged with protecting the nation's nuclear launch and storage sites, were traveling down the gravel back roads of North Dakota between one missile site and another when, apparently, a box full of belted MK-19 grenade launcher rounds fell out of the back of their vehicle.
Honestly, who hasn't lost a can full of 40 mike-mike? It could happen to anyone.
Understandably distressed by the loss of their high explosive munitions, the Air Force sent out 100 personnel from Minot Air Force Base to walk the six-mile stretch where it's believed that the grenades up and vanished. No dice.
From the Washington Post:
The Air Force said its Office of Special Investigations does not consider the incident a criminal matter and is seeking public assistance in ensuring the safe return of the explosives. The office has offered the number for an anonymous tip line for any information about the missing grenade rounds and a $5,000 reward for any information leading to their recovery.
What makes the disappearance of the munitions feel particularly special is that, perhaps out of embarrassment or the reasonable belief that maybe telling everyone that there was a big can of boom-boom drifting around the countryside for anyone to pick up, the Air Force didn't bother to inform local law enforcement about the loss for three whole days. Read the rest
Last Tuesday, all wing personnel on the US Spangdahlem Air Base received a warning: "MISSILE INBOUND. SEEK SHELTER IMMEDIATELY!" The warning was recalled eight minutes later. Read the rest
Unknown Fields (UF) is a design studio, originating in London’s Architectural Association, that "ventures out on annual expeditions to the ends of the earth exploring unreal and forgotten landscapes, alien terrains and obsolete ecologies." Right now, Mark Pilkington, author of Mirage Men and publisher of Strange Attractor, is leading this busload of architects, writers, filmmakers and artists in an exploration of the mythic landscape of the American Southwest, and the stories that it has inspired. Their trajectory takes them from Kirtland Air Force Base in Albuquerque New Mexico to Black Rock City, Nevada, via sites of military, architectural and folkloric significance. Mark is sending us occasional postcards from the edge. - David Pescovitz
The Trestle, Kirtland Air Force Base, Albuquerque, New Mexico.
Constructed over four years in the late 1950s at a then-astronomical cost of $58 million, the Trestle is still the largest all-wooden structure in the world, comprising over 6 million feet of timber. Part of the Air Force’s research into the after effects of a nuclear blast, a range of aircraft, including huge B-52 bombers and Air Force One were hauled up onto the Trestle, where they would be bombarded with electromagnetic pulse waves (EMP) fired from an emitter on either side.
EMP waves travel long distances in a very short amount of time and can seriously disrupt electronic systems, as we also know from powerful solar emissions. Understanding how EMP might affect the functioning of retaliatory nukes, bombers or command and control aircraft was therefore an essential part of post-apocalyptic preparations. Read the rest