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.
Google knew that Project Maven, its contract to supply AI to US military drones would be unpopular, but they were chasing hundreds of millions of dollars in follow-on contracts, and even though dozens of engineers quit over the project, at least they got a snazzy mission patch. Read the rest
The Washington Post reports that the NSA "is losing its top talent at a worrisome rate as highly skilled personnel" because of a mix of low-pay, uninspiring leaders, and a bureaucratic re-org that everyone hates. Read the rest
The New York Times has an article about "Glowing Auras and ‘Black Money’: The Pentagon’s Mysterious U.F.O. Program." $22 million spent on the Advanced Aerospace Threat Identification Program, there are 2 declassified released videos that the reader is left to assume is proof of alien visitors (one of the authors of the articles is promoting a UFO book at this time). It has a lot of facts the NYTimes left out like the CEO of the newly formed crowdfunded company via the CROWDFUND ACT, Tom DeLonge. If you’re wondering if it’s that Tom DeLonge, yes! DeLonge was the guitarist and co-lead vocalist of the band Blink-182. It was reported that DeLonge allegedly left Blink-182 in 2015 because of aliens and national security. Read the rest
The US lost -- as in, can't account for -- $6 trillion fighting disastrous wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, a fact that Trump was quick to point out during his speech to both houses of Congress, just before announcing that he planned on giving the same government department that literally claims not to know what happened to that money billions more. Read the rest
In 2014, the US Office of Personnel Management was hacked (presumably by Chinese spies), and leaked 22,000,000+ records of Americans who'd applied for security clearance, handing over the most intimate, compromising details of their lives (the clearance process involves disclosing anything that could be used to blackmail you in the future). This didn't come to light until 2015. Read the rest
In June, the Defense Department’s Inspector General released a report on the US Army's accounting, revealing that the Army had invented $6.5 trillion in "improper adjustments" ($2.8T in one quarter!) to make its books appear balanced though it could not account for where the funds had gone. Read the rest
More than 71 US agencies -- mostly under the DoD and State Department -- run expensive, unaudited, chaotic, overlapping military and police training programs in more than 150 countries on every continent except Antarctica, with no real oversight and only pro-forma checks on the recipients of this training to ensure that they aren't human rights abusers or war criminals. Read the rest
The military surveillance devices known as "Dirtboxes" have been in secret operation for more than a decade, tracking citizens' locations and intercepting their calls, breaking the encryption on hundreds of calls at once. Read the rest
An engineer at Boeing's Insitu subsidiary proposed that the disgraced malware company Hacking Team should add spyware-delivery tools to Insitu's drone platform. Read the rest
Michael from Muckrock says, "After months of legal wrangling, MuckRock has finally received the complete list of military gear given to local police departments under the Pentagon's 1033 program, including bomb disposal robots, infrared gun sights, small aircraft and rocket launchers." Read the rest
On a train from Portland to Oakland last week, my husband and I were startled to pass the rotting carcasses of dozens of battleships, moored together in clusters in a still, reedy bay north of San Francisco.
Turns out, our Navy stockpiles warships the same way we stockpile nuclear weapons. These boats were, originally, meant to be waiting in reserve, ready to go fight when needed. At the peak, there were 400 of them in Suisun Bay. But that was a long time ago. Today, the ships rusted hulks that leech heavy metals and other contaminants into the surrounding water. Their numbers have been shrinking in the last few years as ships were moved and dismantled for recycling. Fewer than 55 remain today. By 2017, they should all be gone.
In 2011, photographer Scott Haefner published a series of photos taken over the course of two years as he and two other photographers managed to slip past the ships' security detail and document the ruins, inside and out. At his site, you can see the photos (obviously much better than mine, above) and read the story of how the shots were taken (it involves reconnaissance missions and the purchase of an inflatable raft — not to mention whole weekends spent living aboard the ghost ships). The results are fantastic.
Thanks to Graham Coop for the link to Scott Haefner's photos!
After World War II and the toppling of the Nazi regime, the Soviets laid claim to much of Germany's highly-advanced metallurgy industry. In so doing they got a head start on the Cold War race for supersonic air superiority. Unwittingly, they also set in motion a larger, and largely forgotten, industrial revolution that shaped the second half of the 20th century and will shape the 21st. This is the story of the birth of the Jet Age — but it’s anchored firmly to the ground.