Tag Archives: military

F-35A Lightning II fighter gets new gun

Ultra advanced stealth, fighter jet speed … and now the military’s F-35 has a new weapon.

The F-35 Lightning II is a truly fifth-generation fighter jet. This advanced powerful single-seat and single-engine fighter is designed to be capable of a range of missions with just one aircraft.

Test pilot Maj. Charles “Flak” Trickey recently fired the F35A’s internal Gun Airborne Unit -22/A 25mm Gatling gun system in three airborne gunfire bursts. A success, this first aerial gun test was conducted out at the China Lake, Calif., test range on Oct. 30 2015.

Raw video of first aerial gun test above the China Lake, California, test range

Related: 11 stunning F-22 fighter jet images

This is a key step in certifying the gun for use in the F-35A and the aircraft is on track to enter initial operational capability with the U.S. Air Force next year.

The F-35 is the result of collaboration between prime contractor Lockheed Martin and principal partners Northrop Grumman and BAE Systems.

Next-Gen Air Dominance

Stealth was built into this aircraft from the very start. The F-35 also possesses other fifth-generation features like integrated avionics, sensor fusion and incredibly powerful sensor packages.

The Pratt & Whitney F135 propulsion system gives the aircraft phenomenal power – it is able to reach speeds of over 1199 mph.

With this new gun, pilots will have the ability to engage air-to-ground and air-to-air targets. The 25mm gun is embedded into the F-35A’s left wing in a way that keeps the aircraft stealthy.

Over the next year, testing will continue with the gun integrated into the fighter’s sensor fusion software. The software will provide targeting data to the pilot through the pilot’s state of the art helmet-mounted display.

Related: 11 amazing A-10 Warthog images

Even the helmets on this aircraft are next generation. Pilots wearing them can see through the aircraft and the heads up display provides unprecedented data. Each pilot gets a personalized version.

Rather than deploy different aircraft specializing in different things, the F-35 can tackle a range of tasks by itself. Highly versatile, the F-35 can handle missions like air-to-air combat, electronic attack, intelligence, surveillance, reconnaissance and air-to-ground strikes.


The F-35 gives pilots the ability to penetrate deep into enemy areas without being detected. The advanced materials and airframe design mean that F-35s can evade radars that other fighters cannot. The plane can get through highly defended air spaces without ever being detected and then clear the way for U.S. forces.

Using weapons like precision-guided munitions and air-to-air radar-guided missiles, the pilots can engage long-range ground targets without being detected and tracked by the enemy.


When faced with enemy fighter aircraft, the F-35s have a number of advantages. For starters, the F-35 pilots will be able to detect the enemy aircraft long before they are detected themselves. In aerial combat, this means the F-35 can take lethal action first. The fighter’s weapons systems will also give it a big advantage over enemy aircraft.

Related: What you need to know about the new U.S. Air Force stealth bomber

Pilots can leverage the aircraft’s advanced electronic warfare abilities to

locate and track enemy forces. To reach highly protected targets, pilots can jam enemy radars and disrupt attacks on their aircraft using the advanced avionics system.

In an F-35, pilots have 360-degree real time battlespace data. The sensor package is state-of-the-art and any data the sensors collect can be securely shared with commanders all over the world, giving them a more complete picture of operations as they unfold.

The aircraft has a core processor that can perform a mind-blowing 400 billion operations per second.

This helps enable next-gen electronic warfare and intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance, but also helps to recommend the next target to attack and the best weapon to use.

Replacing Classic Fighters

Over the years, U.S. fighter fleets have been aging and becoming smaller.

There are three variants of the F-35, all of which will be replacing military aircraft. F-35A takes off and lands conventionally. The F-35B is capable of short-take off and vertical-landing and the F-35C is carrier-based.

For the U.S. Air Force, the F-35 variants will replace the A-10 Thunderbolt II and F-16 Fighting Falcon. For the U.S. Navy, they will replace the F/A-18 Hornet. The U.S. Marine Corps will be replacing the F/A-18 and AV-8B Harrier with F-35s.

Ballet dancer turned defense specialist Allison Barrie has traveled around the world covering the military, terrorism, weapons advancements and life on the front line. You can reach her at wargames@foxnews.com or follow her on Twitter@Allison_Barrie.

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Futuristic warship design takes shape

What will warships look like in three decades? Meet the next-generation HMS Dreadnought.

The British Ministry of Defence and Royal Navy challenged young scientists and engineers to design a future warship and the results may surprise you. Defense procurement specialist Startpoint has released stunning images of what the futuristic ship could look like.

This cutting-edge ship concept has been dubbed Dreadnought 2050 in honor of the 1906 HMS Dreadnought, a Royal Naval battleship that eclipsed all other warships at the time.

Dreadnought 2050, made of futuristic material, features state of the art weapons, command center and more. The ship’s structure is made of ultra-strong acrylic composites that can be turned translucent so that crew can see through it.

This means that from the Ops Room, commanders could see through the hull and watch close-in battles play out.


The new Dreadnought would be equipped with a range of state-of-the art weapons like high-velocity torpedoes, speed-of-light weapons and drones constructed on the ship using 3D printers.

The graphene coated acrylic hull would be super strong.

At the bow, Dreadnought 2050 has an electromagnetic railgun that can fire projectiles as far as long-range cruise missiles can go today.

Along the sides of the ship there are missile tubes. These tubes can launch missiles faster than Mach 5 – a hypersonic speed. The futuristic vessel is also equipped with directed energy weapons to thwart incoming threats.

Related: CTruk taps THOR for new military workboats

In the outrigger hulls, there are torpedo tubes that fire supercavitating torpedoes that travel at more than 300 knots.  Supercavitating torpedoes can travel at such whopping speeds because they move through water in a sort of air bubble that reduces drag and friction.

Instead of a standard mast, Dreadnought 2050 has a tethered quadcopter that flies above the ship.

The quadcopter is equipped with multi-spectral sensors that provide critical data. But it is also armed with a laser to take out threats like enemy aircraft, missiles and more.

To provide the significant power these capabilities require, the quadcopter’s tether is made of carbon nanotubes that are cryogenically cooled.


A floodable dock, or “moon pool,” is incorporated into the design so that amphibious teams like SEALs or Royal Marines can rapidly deploy. The moon pool could also be used to deploy unmanned underwater vehicles on missions such as searching for explosive devices.

Above the dock there is an extendable flight deck and hangar that can be used for a fleet of weaponized drones.

A similarly-sized warship operating today would require about 200 crew, but the innovative warship would require less than half as many personnel. A current Ops Room, for example, could require 25 sailors to run it. Dreadnought 2050’s Ops Room could be run by as few as five Sailors.

Command Table

Dreadnought 2050 features an Ops Room with a 3-D holographic command table. The holographic image can be rotated and commanders can zoom in on specific parts of the battlefield.

From the Ops Room, five or six people can control all operations from the deepest parts of the ocean through to outer space. From underwater and sea surface through to land and air, all areas of operation can be displayed and reviewed. Crew can use smaller holographic pods to manage specific areas of operation.

Real time data can be transmitted including secure voice, video or data to wherever it is needed.


The Dreadnought 2050 warship is powered by a fusion reactor or highly efficient turbines. The turbines drive silent electric motors to water jets.

The graphene coating on the hull helps reduce drag and enhance speed. And the Dreadnought will have a low profile to ensure it is stealthy and hard to detect.

Ballet dancer turned defense specialist Allison Barrie has traveled around the world covering the military, terrorism, weapons advancements and life on the front line. You can reach her at wargames@foxnews.com or follow her on Twitter@Allison_Barrie.

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9 Military Technologies That Will Soon Change Warfare

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U.S. Navy photo

The technological revolution in modern warfare isn’t just about airborne drones silently scouting the battlefield from 30,000 feet. We’ve already looked at some developments in the works, but more technologies are on the way from the Pentagon’s Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), working with defense contractors and other private companies. Though some of these blueprints look like they’re right out of a futuristic summer blockbuster movie, most are just a few years away from deployment. Some have the potential to save combat soldiers’ lives. They all will change the face of war. Take a look:

A “Flying Humvee”

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DARPA Illustration

This rugged transporter would take off like a helicopter and fly like a cargo plane. When they land, some versions under study by Lockheed Martin, United Technologies and Textron would even be able to drive off like, well, a Humvee. The concept vehicle, dubbed the ARES, would be similar to a small version of a V-22 Osprey transport, which already provides the Army and Marines with a huge operational advantage in difficult terrains. One of its most promising capabilities: quickly moving soldiers and gear over minefields and past roadside booby traps without having to call in a bomb squad first. The military wants the air-to-land vehicle to be extremely rugged, utilitarian in design, easy to operate and simple to fix.

Silent-Running Motorcycles

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Image courtesy BRD Motorcycles

Imagine off-road dirt bike engines that make no sound. They would be powered by tough, powerful battery packs, allowing warriors to sneak up quickly on an unsuspecting enemy.Such designs are in the works at Logos Technologies and electric bike maker BRD. The electric two-wheelers would have just a small reserve of gasoline in case of an electric failure, plus a secondary fuel source, if needed, to escape danger.

Lasers on the High Seas

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Laser Weapon system (LaWS) aboard the USS Ponce.
U.S. Navy photo by John F. Williams.

Easier to turn, aim and fire than today’s heavy shipboard antiaircraft weaponry, laser guns will give sailors a more precise bead on the enemy. So precise, in fact, that naval vessels will be able to zap and disable an approaching enemy boat’s engine, allowing sailors to capture and interrogate their combatants rather than killing or wounding them. This technology will be especially useful in close-to-shore patrols, where ships are more vulnerable to attacks from small boats. Several companies are involved in building the so-called Laser Weapons System, including Raytheon and San Diego-based defense contractor Kratos. It will be tested soon aboard the USS Ponce, one of the workhorses of the U.S. Atlantic Fleet.

Doctors Inside Bodies

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DARPA/Northwestern University photo

Early research is promising for development of medical “nanobots” that could be introduced into a soldier’s bloodstream or tissues, capable of releasing treatments for everything from a sore throat to malaria or maybe even the effects of chemical or biological weapons The nanobots, part of an area of research called In Vivo Nanoplatforms, would work at the molecular level, hitching rides on a natural protein in the body. One day they might save the lives of soldiers where combat medicine or medevac services are lacking, and they could eventually find their way into civilian applications, too.

The Mach 7 Navy Gun

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Office of Naval Research photo

Using electromagnetic energy instead of gunpowder or other combustible fuel, this rail gun fires 23-pound shells a distance of 100 miles or more at seven times the speed of sound — Mach 7. The Navy expects to conduct seaside trials in 2016, after more limited testing in defense labs. A rail gun projectile will cost as little as $25,000 — far less than the current cost of an attack missile, $500,000 to $1.5 million. And one warship could hold hundreds of projectiles. Multiple rail gun shells could also be fired in sequence to blow apart incoming missiles.

Water Drones

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U.S. Navy photo

Unmanned seacraft, ranging in size from a Jet Ski up to a small yacht, will be joining the Naval arsenal in the coming years. Operated remotely, they’ll be used to patrol coastlines or perform mine sweeps. Some vessels could be equipped with weapons. This all may sound like a simpler proposition than airborne drones; not so. Unmanned surface boats have to negotiate currents, riptides, debris, other boats and even cope with the occasional rogue wave. Plus the elaborate electronic components need to stand up to corrosive saltwater conditions.

Satellite “Slingshots”

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The Air Force and Boeing are working on a device that can launch satellites from airborne vehicles more quickly and cheaply than via a conventional rocket launch. The way it works now, small spy and defense-related satellites often piggyback on larger spacebound payloads blasting off from the ground. This complicated process can cost tens, even hundreds of millions of dollars. Instead, a special high-altitude jet would be used to vault satellites into orbit, using a small rocket attached to the wing or underbelly of the jet. Cost estimates then drop to around $1 million per launch. As satellites get smaller and more powerful, this type of launch will gain popularity with the military, which wants the option to deploy satellites quickly and anywhere.

War Room on a Table Screen

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DARPA image

A portable device will allow commanders to visualize the battlefield using holography and interactive maps — no 3-D glasses needed. The Urban Photonic Sandtable Display condenses the giant war room screen that’s become a movie cliché to the size of a dinner table. Zebra Imaging of Austin, Texas, is a leader in the development field and has been working on 3-D military maps of varying sophistication for several years. Possibilities for commercial applications are many, including uses for engineering and architecture.

Google Glass-like Eyegear for Soldiers

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DARPA image

Troops one day will receive vital, real-time cues about their location, surrounding terrain, danger zones and much more with “augmented reality” holographic glasses. Called ULTRA-Vis, the transparent eye screen covers one eye and provides visual pop-ups keyed to a wearer’s exact location, plus directional signs and alerts to enemy locations. Yes, it’s like Google Glass, but featuring a mini war room map with sensors and live data. Applied Research Associates in Arlington, Virginia, and Britain’s BAE Systems are developing the eyewear with DARPA. As the technology is refined, future applications could easily be found for police, firefighters and even commercial pilots.

Read more at http://www.kiplinger.com/slideshow/business/T057-S010-9-military-technologies-that-will-change-warfare/index.html#fvCV3Hcpbcdz3PLR.99


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Special ops chief McRaven expects ‘Iron Man’ suit by 2018

Special ops chief McRaven expects ‘Iron Man’ suit by 2018

Sgt. 1st Class Matthew Oliver suits up in a futuristic combat uniform with a Tactical Assault Light Operator Suit-like look at the 2012 Chicago Auto Show.
U.S. Army
By                                                                                                                                                                                                                 Jon Harper

Stars and Stripes
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Published: February 11, 2014


The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency is working on the Warrior Web Project, which has many of the attributes of the Army’s Tactical Assault Light Operator Suit concept.
U.S. Army photo

WASHINGTON — Adm. William McRaven, the commander of U.S. Special Operations Command, expects special operators to be wearing Tactical Assault Light Operator Suits by 2018, he told attendees of a National Defense Industrial Association symposium Tuesday.

The TALOS, dubbed the ‘Iron Man’ suit, is the brainchild of McRaven. It is designed to enhance the survivability of personnel in the line of fire, and to enhance their physical capabilities.

“Several years ago during a hostage rescue operation in Afghanistan, a SOF (special operations forces) warrior was killed going through the door. Afterwards, one of the young officers asked me a question I couldn’t answer. He said, ‘after all these years in combat, why don’t we have a way to protect our operators going through the door?’ With all the advance in modern technology, I know we can do better. Consequently, at SOCOM we have established a program called … TALOS,” McRaven said.

TALOS is a collaborative effort involving 56 corporations, 16 government agencies, 13 universities, and 10 national laboratories.

“This unique collaboration effort is the future of how we should do business,” McRaven said.

Three unpowered prototype suits are being assembled and are scheduled to be delivered to SOCOM in June. The prototypes will inform the development of a deployable combat suit that should be ready by August 2018, McRaven said.

“That suit, if done correctly, will yield a revolutionary improvement in survivability and capability for special operators,” he said. “If we do TALOS right, it will be a huge comparative advantage over our enemies and give the warriors the protection they need in a very demanding environment.”

McRaven said that going forward, a greater portion of SOCOM funds should go to technology development and acquisitions at the expense of operations and training funds.

“Because of the nature of the fight over the last dozen-plus years, the [Operations and Maintenance] money has provided us the readiness, the training money. We had more of that, we focused more on that … but we got a little bit out of balance in terms of our long-term procurement [and] our long-term [Research and Development],” he said. “We’ve got to put this back into balance in terms of the share of the pie … We’ve got to be prepared to prepare for the future.”

Pivoting to personnel topics, McRaven said preserving the strength and health of the force is SOCOM’s highest priority, noting that a special emphasis will be placed on education and family programs, as well as decreasing the length of deployments and increasing the dwell time for special operators between overseas deployments.

McRaven said that by August, six-month deployments should be standard for tactical units. He wants the dwell time to decrease to a 1:2 ration, meaning when a special operator returns home from a deployment, he or she won’t have to deploy again for 12 months.

In terms of the future in Afghanistan, McRaven said the drawdown in SOF this year will be commensurate with the drawdown of U.S. and NATO conventional forces.

“No matter the size of our presence there next year, our future [military-to-military] engagements with the Afghans will remain vital in the region,” he said.

McRaven said the main focus of SOF going forward will be on training, advising and assisting the Afghan security forces.

When asked if any consideration was being given to training Afghan forces in other countries if the Afghan government doesn’t sign the Bilateral Security Agreement that would allow U.S. forces to stay beyond the end of this year, McRaven demurred.

McRaven said the drawdown in Afghanistan will enable SOCOM to send more special operators to other theaters, including Africa.

“We’ll be able to redistribute that force to support the geographic combatant commanders better; AFRICOM is no exception,” he said.

McRaven said that he wants to recruit people from communities that historically have been underrepresented in the SOF community.

“I don’t care what your gender is, what your orientation is, what your ethnic background is, if you meet the [SOF] standard, we welcome everybody. In today’s environment, frankly I am looking for more and more minorities,” he said. “In Africa, I would like to have some native Africans that are part of the U.S. military come and be part of the program. In Latin America, in Asia, where I can orient folks, I want to be able to do that.”

McRaven also wants to increase the number of women in SOF.

“We saw the great work that the women did for us in Afghanistan and Iraq,” he said. “I think we need to grow that number because I think we need more women as we begin to engage again in a lot of — in a lot of areas around the world” where it is considered inappropriate for men to interact freely with women … “You don’t want to eliminate our engagement with well over 50 percent of the population. That would be a bad approach tactically and strategically.”

Despite the budget challenges that the Defense Department faces, McRaven suggested that SOCOM will have enough money to do all the things it wants to do in the years ahead.

“We’ve spent the last, kind of, six or eight months making an argument to the Joint Staff and OSD on why we need to maintain a certain level of SOF support, and I think that argument resonates,” he said.

SOCOM accounts for 1.7 percent of the Defense Department budget.

McRaven said he goes to Capitol Hill about once a month to meet with lawmakers and promote SOCOM programs. He said his staffers are there every week.

“We’ve had great support from the Hill,” he said.

harper.jon@stripes.com Twitter: @JHarperStripes

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Successor to the SR-71 Blackbird

The Switch

This is the successor to the SR-71 Blackbird, and it is gorgeous

(Photo by Lockheed Martin)

(Photo by Lockheed Martin)

The SR-71, arguably the country’s most recognizable spy plane after the U-2, was retired in 1998. But like many human retirees of the same generation, what became known as the Blackbird has had a healthy post-retirement career. From appearances in the “X-Men” franchise to cameos in the “Transformers” series, this super-speedy jet has taken off in modern popular culture.

So it’s only natural that the Blackbird’s successor might inspire similar appeal. More than a decade after the last SR-71 was decommissioned, Lockheed Martin has unveiled the gorgeous-looking SR-72. It flies just as far and twice as fast as its predecessor — and, in a twist, it’s now lethal, according to Aviationweek:

The SR-72 is being designed with strike capability in mind. “We would envision a role with over-flight ISR, as well as missiles,” Leland says. Being launched from a Mach 6 platform, the weapons would not require a booster, significantly reducing weight. The higher speed of the SR-72 would also give it the ability to detect and strike more agile targets. “Even with the -SR-71, at Mach 3, there was still time to notify that the plane was coming, but at Mach 6, there is no reaction time to hide a mobile target. It is unavoidable ISR,” he adds.

The jet accelerates by way of a two-part system. A conventional jet turbine helps boost the aircraft up to Mach 3, at which point a specialized ramjet takes over and pushes the plane even faster into hypersonic mode.

From Lockheed’s mock-ups, there doesn’t appear to be a bubble for the pilot — which suggests a windowless cockpit or fantasies about a future unmanned version of the plane. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves.

Brian Fung
Brian Fung covers technology for The Washington Post, focusing on electronic privacy, national security, digital politics and the Internet that binds it all together. He was previously the technology correspondent for National Journal and an associate editor at the Atlantic. His writing has also appeared in Foreign Policy, Talking Points Memo, the American Prospect and Nonprofit Quarterly.

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Thank You Fellow Veterans Past and Present

Veterans Day is an opportunity for all of us to thank those who have risked it all to uphold the Constitution and the nation.  Here is the oath I took when I entered the United States Air Force:

The Oath of Enlistment 

“I, Michael Bradley, do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; and that I will obey the orders of the President of the United States and the orders of the officers appointed over me, according to regulations and the Uniform Code of Military Justice. So help me God.”


There is no expiration date on the oath.  It does not say as long as I am active duty or in uniform.  As a disabled veteran, I can tell you that helping veterans is very important.  Battlefield medicine has become so good that I saw a recent statistic that 98% of wounded now survive.  Unfortunately, stateside VA care is abysmal.  There are wait lines for disability approval that can last years.  Mental health, financial help and family help are often lacking.

Veterans Day_1

So at least for this day, join me in supporting those who have served, past and present.  See if you can reach out to at least one veteran in your life and say thank you.  It really does mean a lot.  Try writing or emailing your Congressman and Senators as well.  Our veterans deserve a whole lot better treatment when they return home.  These are young men and women, mostly 18 to 22 who join our military VOLUNTARILY to serve.  They serve so that you don’t face a draft or danger from other nations.  That alone should be reason to say thanks.



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A Day That Will Live in Infamy

Today is the anniversary of Pearl Harbor Day, when America was attacked by surprise by the Japanese, bringing us completely into World War 2.  A week later, Hitler declared war on America to back up his Axis partners.  That day, Churchill said he would get his first night’s sleep in ages, because he knew with America in the war on his side, they would eventually win.

I was in the United States Air Force from 1984 to 1990, active duty until 1989.  I worked at Hickam Air Force Base in Hangar 11.  I was with the 15th Air Base Wing as an Avionics Guidance Control Systems Specialist.  Every day, I saw the markings on the wall from the Japanese attack, and one day, while searching the roof for leaks, found more bomb damage that had to be repaired, along with memorabilia that is now in the museum.

Let us never forget, peace if fleeting, evil is ever present, and our military are the ones who pay the price to keep us free.

I will show you what Hangar 11 looked like then and now:

Hangar 11 then.

Hangar 11 then.

Hangar 11 when I worked there.  Bullet marks from the strafing.  I played basketball on a court there at work, beneath a B-18 hoist and instructions.

Hangar 11 when I worked there. Bullet marks from the strafing. I played basketball on a court there at work, beneath a B-18 hoist and instructions.

Hangar 11 on December 7th after attack.

Hangar 11 on December 7th after attack.

Hangar 11 today, what it looked like when I worked there is very similar.

Hangar 11 today, what it looked like when I worked there is very similar.

Base Entrance

Base Entrance


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December 7th, a Day that will Live in Infamy

During my service in the United States Air Force I was lucky enough to avoid being in the action.  I almost went to Lebanon, almost to Korea, almost to Grenada, almost to Panama, but never actually had to go to a shooting zone.  The closest was when I had my full green dufflebag – a 90lb field load,  on my back and was boarding the cargo plane when they called my unit back.  Among our unit, there was only one kid around 17 that looked forward to battle.  The rest of us were willing to go fight for our country, but preferred to stay home with our families on a stateside base.

I was stationed for most of my career at Hickam Air Force Base Hawaii.  I was in a hangar that was covered in pock marks from the machine gun fire of Japanese planes from December 7th.  If you see the movies and see a huge aircraft hanger explode, I worked in the one right next to that one.  All around me each day were reminders of that fateful day, when other airmen such as I were peacefully going about their duties when they were sneak attacked.

One day there was rain coming in to our ceiling.  The hangar had a modern drop ceiling with the ubiquitous white chalk squares.  Above that was another ceiling, the original one, forty feet higher and made of wire frame, clay and asbestos.  Above that was the inside of the roof, another thirty feet higher.  I was sent up rickety ladders to find the source of the leak.  What I aslo found was structural damage from the original attack.  Huge, multi-ton iron I-beams were dangling, waiting for the moment to fall through the weak plaster below and crush those working beneath.  I told my Commander and the whole place was evacuated and the beams secured.

In the process, the construction crews found old parachutes, manuals and other items stored in the attic of the hangar dating to pre-1941.  They are now on display at the museum on base.  My last impression was when my wife and I visited the Arizona Memorial, which we could see every day from our lanai, or patio of our apartment in Aiea.  It was sobering to see the names of the fallen and to look over the edge and see the sunken USS Arizona, which still entombs so many fallen sailors.  That day a tour of Japanese was there as well.  They were laughing and taking pictures.  I felt like beating some sense into them.  I would never laugh at the Hiroshima memorial, what was going through their minds?

That day still sticks with me for the outright disrespect for the fallen.  Please join with me and take a moment to remember all of those who have fallen to preserve our freedoms and for those who are still alive but would have answered the call had it rang out.

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The Mystique of Silence

When I was in the Air Force I was stationed at Hickam AFB in Hawaii for most of my career.  I was an Avionics Guidance Controls and Systems Specialist level 9.  That meant I worked on all the cool electronics on the aircraft.  I was trained on every aircraft in the Air Force inventory, one of three people at the time, so they put me in Hawaii because so many different planes go through there.  All of that is in my service record, and I freely tell it to people.  Occasionally, people want more.  Last week I had to tell a person that I couldn’t really say any more.  They continued to press, so I made it clear that I REALLY could not say anymore because what I did was top secret.  There were many missions and things I worked on that I swore upon pain of imprisonment never to talk about.  I imagine some 50 years from now they will be declassified, but for now that still holds.

Many military people face the same situation, but the funny thing for me was the reaction of the people who heard me.  When I was younger, people would smirk and laugh like I was trying to sound important.  Now, people conjure up that I was a spy or sniper or some such thing.  The reaction and the sudden mystique threw me for a loop.  I thought about it for a long time before I realized that when you are secretive or silent about anything, people fill in the void with really interesting theories.  The reality is I was a glorified aircraft mechanic, which is pretty much the same job as an auto mechanic but with a bigger vehicle.  You hook up diagnostic computers, you replace parts, you test drive stuff.  Mainly you get cut on jagged metal, get bruised and doing a boring job.  Sure, people’s lives depend on you, but its no different than the guy that replaces the brake pads on your car, and when did you think they were glamorous?

I did work in an area with red lines on the ground.  If you crossed the red lines without your top secret clearance badge, you would be shot.  No kidding.  By saying that, people again are probably thinking it was some glamorous place.  It was an old hangar that still had bullet marks from the Pearl Harbor attack, coated with paint some 50 years thick.  Yes, we did things I can never talk about, but they were not worthy of any “knowing” looks or smiles.

The reaction did teach me something about writing though.  Let the reader fill in the silent blanks.  They will fill them with more wonder than you can.  It’s one reason the movie is never as good as the book.  The movie is limited by budget, time, acting ability, and ultimately reflects someone else filling in the blanks.  They rarely fill them in the way the reader did when they imagined it.  So, I will revel in the respect I receive for my boring military service simply because I can’t talk about it.

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