Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Nature Note:Red-tailed Hawk

The chunky sentinel of North American roadsides,the red-tailed hawk(buteo jamaicensis),is one of the most common birds of prey on the continent.Tolerant of human activity,this hawk is often noted by motorists as they rush to and fro.
The red-tailed hawk has a rust-colored tail and a white breast with central dark band.It hunts for small mammals up to the size of rabbits either soaring or perched on a tree or telephone pole or wire.Its high-pitched scream is often included in film sound tracks to suggest the wild.
The red-tailed hawk will also feed on roadkill along byways.It breeds as far north as British Columbia and Nova Scotia,and lives year-round down into Mexico.A famous pair of red-taileds has been breeding in New York's Central Park.
They are so widespread,they may serve as an introduction to the raptors for children and adults alike.If you see a hawk while driving ,there's a good chance it is a red-tailed.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Boeing Delivers P-8A Poseidon Aircraft To US Navy

On November 2,Boeing delivered the fifth P-8A Poseidon aircraft  to the US Navy.The plane is part of an initial low-rate production order of 24 of the ultra-sophisticated maritime intelligence,surveillance and reconaissance planes,which also have anti-submarine and anti-surface warfare capability.
It was the final P-8A delivery of 2012;there will be 12 deliveries in 2013,including some P-8I planes to India.Initial operational capability for this P-3C Orion replacement will be reached in 2013.Until then,the Navy is testing the new jet,which is based on the Boeing 737 commercial airliner,at Naval Air Station Jacksonville,Florida.
The sixth P-8A will be delivered to the Navy in early 2013.The Navy plans to purchase a total of 117 of the planes,and Australia has expressed interest in acquiring some as well.Equipped with advanced radar and infrared sensors,the P8-A has a range of 1200 nautical miles radius with 4 hours onstation.It is armed with torpedoes and cruise missiles.
The Poseidon has a ceiling of 41,000 feet.It can fly at up to 490 knots true air speed.

Boeing: News - Media Center - Image Gallery

Boeing: News - Media Center - Image Gallery

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Maine Shipyards Critical To National Security

Maine's Bath Iron Works,with its massive blue cranes,is a bulwark of national security.It is a full service shipyard specialising in the design,building and support of complex US Navy surface combatants.BIW,a part of  leading defence contractor General Dynamics,is currently building the Arleigh Burke and Zumwalt classes of destroyers.
Since 1884,BIW has built tough ships at the right price,the shipyard says.Its slogan is "Bath-built is best built."It has built US Navy ships since 1893,according to Senator Susan Collins(R-Maine),a strong supporter of the facility and winner of the Navy League's Annual Congressional Sea Services Award for 2012.BIW is truly a national asset,the senator said at her award ceremony on Capitol Hill,and the workers there are truly the world's leading builders of surface combatants.
Navy Undersecretary Robert O. Work said that,during Collins' fifteen years in office,BIW has either built or is building a total of 31 ships,which is literally over 10% of the total number of ships that we expect to have in the fleet.That's quite an accomplishment.
She has also been an ardent advocate for Maine's Portsmouth Naval Shipyard and its employees,which ensures our submarine force remains strong and on station,24/7,365 days a year.The Navy-Marine Corps team,the entire national fleet,the shipbuilding industry,is stronger because you have been here for the last fifteen years.
Portsmouth Naval Shipyard is in Kittery,Maine and repairs and overhauls the Navy's nuclear submarine fleet.It is one of four public shipyards in the United States.
Collins stated that every day I think of those men and women who are serving our country on the front lines,and that's why I have always been so committed to making sure that the men and women who serve have all they need from us.We owe them that much.
Bath Iron Works notes that it employs a number of military reservists from all the service branches.It's a tradition at the shipyard.
General Dynamics(GD)

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

US Coast Guard CPO Killed By Drug Smugglers

In the early hours of December 2 near Santa Cruz Island,California,US Coast Guard BMC Terrell Horne III,34,was killed by two drug smugglers,and his shipmate was injured.Master Chief Boatswain's Mate Horne,the equivalent of a Navy Chief Petty Officer,was second in command of patrol boat Halibut(WPB 87340).He was sent from the Halibut in a small rigid-hull inflatable boat to investigate a panga-style vessel,commonly used in the drug trade,that had been spotted by a patrol plane.The suspicious vessel was operating with no lights on in the dark.
As BMC Horne and his colleague approached,the smugglers gunned their engine and rammed the Coast Guard boat,knocking Horne and his shipmate into the water before they fled the scene.The Coast Guardsmen were rescued,but Horne had sustained a severe head injury.He was pronounced dead at the Port Hueneme pier at 2:21 am.His colleague was treated for minor injuries and released.
The two smugglers were later located and apprehended by a helicopter and 45-foot boat.They were charged with BMC Horne's murder.Horne leaves his pregnant wife and a young child,his Redondo Beach neighbors said.
The Halibut is an 87-foot Marine Protector class patrol boat with a crew of 10.It is armed with two .50-caliber machine guns.
BMC Horne was praised for his sacrifice by Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano in a statement.The Coast Guard is part of the Department of Homeland Security.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

New Marine Corps F-35B Fighter Squadron Formed

The world's first operational squadron of F35B Joint Strike Fighters has been formed by the US Marine Corps at Marine Corps Air Station Yuma,Arizona.Marine Fighter Attack Squadron 121 was formally inaugurated at a November 20 ceremony.Its first F-35B aircraft had arrived on the 15th,and a second landed at the base on the 20th.There will ultimately be 16 of the ultra-sophisticated jets in the squadron,slated to arrive within a year's time.
The squadron had formerly flown the F/A-18D Hornet fighter jets for the 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing.The first two members of the new squadron are veteran pilots of 3rd MAW who trained on the F35B at Eglin Air Force Base,Florida.
The Pentagon spent about 500 million dollars on improvements to MCAS Yuma for the new squadron,preparing facilities,hangars and runways for the advanced stealth aircraft.Some had questioned the new squadron's formation on concerns that the new aircraft's bugs had not been thoroughly worked out amid its schedule delays and cost overruns.Prime F35B contractor Lockheed Martin insists the propulsion and structural issues have now been resolved.
Speaking at the ceremony,one of the program's critics,Senator John McCain(R-Arizona),said he was encouraged that the overall program is moving in the right direction.It is finally set up to produce more achievable and predictable outcomes.
The short takeoff and vertical landing aircraft can be launched from smaller ships and land in more confined areas,giving it more tactical flexibility than conventional maritime fighter aircraft.It can be used on a wider variety of missions because of these advantages,as well as its stealthy,radar-evading airframe.
The commanding officer of the new squadron is Lieutenant Colonel Jeffrey B. Scott.
Lockheed Martin(LMT)

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Afghan War Casualty Report:Navy SEAL Killed

According to the Pentagon,as of November 12,2143 had died in the Afghan War,including 3 Department of Defense civilians and several killed in connection with the war in far flung locations from Guantanamo Bay,Cuba, to Yemen.Of the total,1701 died in hostile actions;442 died in non-hostile actions.
Killed in a hostile action on November 1 was Petty Officer 2nd Class Matthew G. Kantor,22,of Gillette,New Jersey.He was a member of a Naval Special Warfare unit based in Virginia Beach,Virginia,and was killed in Zabul Province,Afghanistan.
The following US Army soldiers were also killed in hostile actions in Afghanistan this month:
Spec.Brett E. Gornewicz,27,of Alden,New York.
Spec.Ryan P. Jayne,29,of Campbell,New York.
Staff Sgt, Dain T. Venne,29,of Port Henry,New York.
They were members of 178th Engineer Battalion,412th Theater Engineer Command,based in Oswego,New York,and were killed in Paktia Province on November 3.
Also killed in Paktia Province was Sgt.Matthew H. Stiltz,26,of Spokane,Washington.He was a member of 1st Battalion,28th Infantry Regiment,4th Brigade Commbat Team,1st Infantry Division,based at Fort Riley,Kansas and was killed in a hostile action on November 12.
The following US Army soldiers also were killed in hostile actions from November 5-10:
Pfc.Brandon L. Buttry,19,of Shenandoah,Iowa,in Kandahar Province.
Capt.James D. Nehl,37,of Gardner,Oregon,in Ghazni Province.
Staff Sgt.Kenneth W. Bennett,26,of Glendora,California,in Kandahar Province.
Spec.Daniel L. Carlson,21,of Running Springs,California,died of non-combat injuries.
Your grateful nation remembers.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Marines Evolve Their Australian Presence

The US Marine Corps has established a presence in Australia.There are currently 250 Marines based there.General Joseph F. Dunford,Jr,Assistant Commandant of the Marine Corps,said their presence has been a reinforcement of our already strong partnership with the Australians.They are a key ally,a trusted partner,and we've fought shoulder-to-shoulder with them in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Australia has some great training ranges in the north.Our current teaming effort involves combined training,enhancing our teamwork and building our partnership.
This includes training  and exercising with other nearby nations.We hope to gradually deepen our partnership at a pace both nations are comfortable with.While our training force today is infantry-centric,the desired end state is a Marine Air Ground Task Force,or MAGTF,that includes all elements-ground,air,logisitcs-that flows through this training environment on a rotational basis,General Dunford told Seapower magazine.
When constituted,the MAGTF will bring the total number of Marines in Australia up to 2500.General Dunford is now being considered by the US Senate for the post of commander of International Security Assistance Force Afghanistan,or ISAF.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Nature Note:The White-breasted Nuthatch

The white-breasted nuthatch(Sitta carolinensis) is basically a non-migratory bird,but is most visible in fall and winter,when it frequents bird feeders in wooded yards.Occurring from British Columbia east to Ontario and south to Mexico,this true forest bird nests in tree cavities and often flocks with other woodland types such as titmice,chickadees and woodpeckers in the colder months.
The white-breasted nuthatch scurries up and down tree trunks as it forages for insects or birdseed.Highly active and quick-moving,it has a blue-gray back,white breast and face and black cap.It doesn't eat nuts,despite its name.
This nuthatch is five inches long;by comparison,the American robin is eight-and-a-half inches long.It will snatch a sunflower seed from a feeder,then scurry away.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

The Navy's Electronic Attack Aircraft Transition

The US Navy's successor to the EA-6B Prowler electronic attack aircraft,the EA-18G Growler,had passed the production halfway point as of October 2011 and has continued to move forward this year.The Navy will procure a total of 109 of the advanced jets.The Growlers provide better connectivity to other military assets and accurate hostile emitter targeting for onboard suppression weapons.There will be 10 carrier-based Growler squadrons,as well as three active and one Reserve expeditionary squadrons.
The Growler production team says the aircraft is the dominant electronic force for the joint warfighter,having full-spectrum electronic attack capability.With its advanced jamming pods and communication countermeasures receiver sets,it can penetrate complex layers of air defense and communication systems.It suppresses threats over land and water with anti-radiation missiles including the AGM-88B/C HARM and the new AGM-88E AARGM,protecting the joint warfighter anywhere.The aircraft saw action in the Iraq War,as well as Operations Odyssey Dawn and Uphold Protector over Libya in 2011.Raytheon,Northrop Grumman,General Electric and Boeing comprise the EA-18G Growler production team.
Boeing(BA),Northrop Grumman(NOC),General Electric(GE),Raytheon(RTN)

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

New Amphibious Assault Ship Christened

The US Navy christened the new amphibious assault ship America(LHA 6),the first of its class,on Saturday at Ingalls Shipbuiding in Cascagoula,Mississippi.Ship's sponsor Mrs.Lynne Pace,wife of General Peter Pace,USMC retired,former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff,described the America as being kind of like a mini-aircraft carrier.Mrs.Pace broke a bottle of champagne over the ship's bow,in accordance with naval tradition.
Admiral Mark E. Ferguson III,Vice Chief of Naval Operations,presided at the ceremony.
The America will serve as a platform for the US Marine Corps' MV-22 Osprey transport aircraft,as well as its AV-8B Harrier jump jets;the new F-35B Lightning II joint strike fighter;and helicopters.Homeported in San Diego,the ship will be a sea base for a Marine air-ground task force,or MAGTF.
Able to carry 1687 Marines and their equipment,plus 184 surge,its keel was laid in 2009.Following sea trials,the America is scheduled to be delivered and commissioned in 2013.
Huntington Ingalls Industries(HII)

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Next Generation Warplane in Production and Training:the F-35 Lightning II

The F-35 Lightning II fighter is coming along,in production and being used for training.It is the fifth generation multirole fighter aircraft for NATO nations and other close allies.So far,63 of the state of the art warplane have been produced.
The F-35 comes in three versions:the F-35A conventional version for the US Air Force and others;the F-35B Short Take-off and Vertical Landing version for the US Marine Corps and British forces;and the F-35C Carrier-based version for the US Navy.
The F-35 will be the backbone of tactical airpower for decades to come.It is characterised by extreme agility and a powerful and comprehensive integrated sensor package.A stealth aircraft,it will project power over long distances from any point on the globe,engaging targets deep within enemy territory and returning safely to base.
Lockheed Martin is the F-35's prime contractor,assisted by team members Northrop Grumman and BAE Systems,as well as Pratt and Whitney.
Lockheed Martin(LMT)

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

USS Michael Murphy Joins Fleet

The USS Michael Murphy(DDG 112),the US Navy's newest warship,was commissioned Saturday in New York City.The Arleigh Burke class destroyer is named in honor of a Navy SEAL and posthumous Medal of Honor recipient who was killed in action during Operation Redwing in Afghanistan on 28 June,2005.
Among dignitaries attending the traditional ceremony were New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg;Chief of Naval Operations Admiral Johnathan Greenert;and Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus.Secretary Mabus said the ship honors the courage,service and sacrifice of Lieutenant Michael Murphy.It is designed to counter threats from above and below the surface of the oceans,in the air and on land.
Lieutenant Murphy's mother,ship's sponsor Maureen Murphy,gave the order to man the ship and bring her to life,at which the crew of 279 ran up the gangways and lined up along the rails.The ship's first commanding officer is Commander Thomas E. Shultz of El Cajon,California.
Armed with missiles,a 5-inch gun and torpedoes,the warship is homeported at Pearl Harbor,Hawaii.Lieutenant Michael P. Murphy was a New York native.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Coast Guard District 14:A Vast Expanse Governed by International Law

Among areas where the US Coast Guard is stretched thin is District 14,which encompasses some 12.2 million square miles of ocean.The service is expected to carry out all of its 11 statutory missions in the District,which has two sectors,Honolulu and Guam.The District goes well south of the equator to all the Pacific Island nations of Oceania,and north to the Northern Marianas.
Rear Admiral Charles W. Ray is Commander,District 14.He said we work closely with allied nations and with all the Pacific Island nations.We are no different from the Marine Corps and the Navy in that we are held hostage by the distance and the time required to operate in the Pacific.
We think the Law of the Sea convention is very important for our nation,and especially important for the Coast Guard for multiple reasons.The Coast Guard relies upon international agreements of all sorts to do our duty.We do law enforcement,search and rescue,and all the other things we do based on either bilateral or multinational agreements.All these are based on international law,which has its framework from the Law of the Sea.
When we get to these sticking points,with contested fishing rights,contested continental shelf up in the Arctic,we don't have much of a leg to stand on if we're not party to the main agreement everybody else in the world agrees to,Admiral Ray complained.
Alone among the world powers,the US has failed to ratify the Law of the Sea convention,a fact regarded with chagrin by the State Department and all the US armed forces chiefs,as well as US multinational corporations.They feel we are at a long term competitive disadvantage because of the US Senate's inability to get the job done and approve the Law of the Sea.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

China's Aircraft Carrier Milestone

At a naval base in Dalian,Liaoning Province in Northeast China,the aircraft carrier Liaoning,China's first,was delivered and commissioned Tuesday.Navy contractor China Shipbuilding Industry Commission endorsed a People's Liberation Army flag for the ship and a naming certificate to Senior Captain Zhang Zheng,commander of the new carrier.Zhang had previously commanded a frigate and destroyer.
The Liaoning is a retrofit of a an old Soviet era vessel,the Varyag.New engines and weapons were installed,and a year of sea trials were carried out.The ship's crew includes more than 50 officers with advanced degrees,as well as female sailors.China is the tenth country in the world to have an aircraft carrier in its navy.
China is currently contesting the ownership of what it calls the Diayou Islands with Japan,but Fang Bing,a professor at the PLA's National Defense University,said the commissioning was unrelated to the territorial issue.Chinese President Hu Jintao and outgoing Premier Wen Jiabao attended the ceremony.
The number and types of aircraft on the Liaoning were not disclosed,although foreign military intelligence will ascertain those facts from satellite photos and other sources.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Base Perimeter Breached:Marines Killed;Aircraft Destroyed

Late Friday night,15 Taliban militants penetrated the perimeter of Camp Bastion,a NATO base housing 20,000 British and US troops in Helmand Province,Afghanistan.Armed with rocket-propelled grenades;small arms;and suicide explosive vests,the militants staged an assault that killed 2 US Marines and wounded 9 others,including a civilian.They managed to destroy 6 Harrier jump jets as well,damaging 2 others.The jets are worth 20 million dollars each.
The well-coordinated attack was carried out by three teams of militants dressed in US uniforms.A hole in the perimeter fence was discovered after the three hour-long battle.US Marines were joined by British troops and a US Army unit in defending the base.The US side of the base is called Camp Leatherneck.
Additionally,the militants destroyed 3 refueling stations and damaged 6 hangars.NATO troops killed 14 of the 15 assailants;the other was detained.Prince Harry,an Apache helicopter pilot,is stationed at the camp,but wasn't near the battlefield at the time.His deployment will not be shortened because of the incident.
The militants said it was retaliation for the production of an online video offensive to Islam.
Full operations have resumed at the base.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Nature Note:Meteorological Autumn Well Underway-woolly bear caterpillars active

Since September 1,it has been meteorological autumn.Seasonal change is becoming evident before the autumnal equinox,which occurs on September 22 this year.The Mid-Atlantic region has felt its first truly cool mornings,with lows in the 40sF in some places.
This morning,a woolly bear caterpillar was noted inching across a highway off-ramp,safely making it to the other side at a quiet time of day.The bristly creature's emergence is one of the quintessential marks of autumn nationwide and in Southern Canada.It is black on the ends with an orange central band.Children pick them up and stroke them.
The caterpillars feed on asters;clover;sunflowers;and other plants.
Over the winter months,the woolly bears will shelter among rocks,in logs and under bark.In the spring,they will spin silk for their cocoons,which they also adorn with their own hairs.They will emerge as Isabella tiger moths(Pyrrharctica isabella).
There is no scientific evidence for the folkloric notion that the severity of winter may be predicted by observing the relative length of the woolly bear's color bands.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Shop Talk:Icebreaker and the Environment

Dear Readers,
There's an interesting post below this one.It's about the US Coast Guard Cutter Healy's Arctic Cruise 2012.I think some of you like icebreakers,wlidlife and the environment.You should read the preceding post,then.It's right below this one.I think you'll appreciate it.
Andrew Taylor

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

USCGC Healy Underway in Arctic-icebreaker is on scientific mission

The US Coast Guard Cutter Healy(WAGB 20),an icebreaker,has been underway for 10 days now.It is on Arctic Cruise 2012,a mission to study ocean acidification.The mission is conducted in cooperation with the Extended Continental Shelf Project.
The Healy spotted a polar bear on Labor Day.It was sitting on ice about a mile from the icebreaker.Polar bears are listed as a threatened species under the Endangered Species Act.Ringed seals are their main food.
Ocean acidification is occurring as melted ice results in more sea water being exposed to the atmosphere and its surplus of greenhouse gas carbon dioxide.The ocean absorbs about one quarter of human-produced carbon dioxide.This may affect the oceanic ecosystem,causing reduced shell formation;habitat loss;and less food for predators.The United States Geological Survey is researching such effects in polar and other regions by conducting field assessments;experimental laboratory studies;and existing data evaluation.
Scientists from the USGS and other institutes are aboard the Healy on the 4-week Arctic Cruise 2012.They are measuring baseline seawater chemistry to better understand ocean acidification in polar regions,collecting seawater and mineral samples and analyzing data.
The Healy is homeported in Seattle,Washington.It has a crew of 75 and can carry 45 scientists.The Healy is armed with small arms.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Iranian Super Speed Boats Pose Threat To Navy Ships

The Iranian naval forces have bought super speed boats and armed them with rockets and other weapons.A swarm of the small boats could threaten the US Carrier Strike Groups in the Persian Gulf region.They could saturate US Navy defenses;but some believe modern warships would ultimately be able to prevail against them.
The Iranians purchased the Bradstone Challenger speedboat,which is a stable platform for weapons.Efforts were made to halt the acquisition of the advanced watercraft,but a South African arms dealer managed to sell it to the Iranians anyway.
In a recent wargame,several US ships were sunk by the speedboats.
The USS John C. Stennis(CVN 74) and its Carrier Strike Group deployed to the Persian Gulf on Monday from Bremerton,Washington,four months ahead of schedule to meet any contingency which may arise in the tensed up region.The ships and aircraft will also have to stay at sea for eight months,rather than the usual four.
The Stennis,a Nimitz class nuclear aircraft carrier,is armed with Sea Sparrow missiles,as well as the Vulcan Phalanx Close-In Weapon System,for defensive purposes.

U.S.S. Stennis deploys for 8 months to Persian Gulf

U.S.S. Stennis deploys for 8 months to Persian Gulf

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Militant Attack Damages General Dempsey's Plane-the full story,plus the Blackhawk crash

Afghan militants fired rockets at Bagram air base,damaging the plane of Joint Chiefs Chairman General Martin E. Dempsey,US Army,and wounding two US Air Force maintenance technicians.The general was not in the area at the time.
The attack took place at 2am Monday.Two rockets landed on the air base's flight line,damaging the front and one engine of the C-17 transport aircraft.The two airmen suffered cuts and bruises from shrapnel.A NATO helicopter was also damaged in the assault.
The attack was similar to others launched by Taliban militants against Bagram on a regular basis,coalition spokesman Jamie Graybeal noted.He was sceptical of militant claims that they specifically targeted the general's plane,having exact information as to its location.Bagram is the main coalition air base in Eastern Afghanistan.
General Dempsey was in the country with General James R. Mattis,US Marine Corps,Commander US Central Command.They had met with coalition commander General John R. Allen,US Army and Afghan officials on the status of the war,the longest in US history.
Last Thursday,militants claimed they had shot down a UH-60 Blackhawk helicopter that crashed in a firefight northeast of Kandahar,Afghanistan,killing seven US service members and four Afghans.Two US Navy SEALs were among the dead,along with a Navy explosives specialist and four US Army soldiers.
Blackhawks are a workhorse helicopter in Afghanistan,transporting troops,supplies and dignitaries over the mountainous and explosives-laden terrain.
The crash is under investigation.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Raytheon's Mk-31 RAM Shields Warships

Since 1993,Raytheon's Mk-31 Rolling Airframe Missile system has been in naval use.The shipboard anti-missile weapon features robust firepower and multiple simultaneous engagement capability against incoming fires.
The Mk-31 is comprised of up to 21 Mk-44 Guided Missile Round Packs and a Mk-49 Guided Missile Launching System.Guided by shipboard sensors such as the Aegis system,the Mk-31 engages anti-ship missiles;fixed and rotary wing aircraft;and fast surface vessels.
The Mk-31 has had at least one software upgrade in its career.Countries using the system to safeguard their warships include the US;Germany;South Korea;Egypt;Greece;and Turkey.It was originally developed by the US and Germany.
A link to a photo of the Mk-31 is posted below.

Mk-31 RAM

Mk-31 RAM

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Nature Note:One Opossum Morning-a wildlife encounter

One morning in late July,I saw that the garage was a bit messed up,with snow shovels on the floor and dry leaves scattered about.It must have been a cat fooling around,I thought.When I opened the car hood,I saw what it really was that  had caused the ruckus:an opossum,North America's only marsupial,or pouched mammal.This unique animal even appears in a current TV commercial.
My opossum was lying still on her side on a big nest made of dry leaves and bits of plastic.She was "playing possum" with me,pretending to be dead.The nest was right up against the battery.She was actually a young opossum,born in the spring.I put some work gloves on and lifted her up.She hissed at me and bit me lightly with her many small teeth.I put her back down,fearing rabies.
I called Animal Control for assistance.Meantime,the animal had gotten deep within the engine.An animal control officer responded within an hour and poked her with a plastic baton.This indeed dislodged her.She ambled away across the drive,headed for a pine plantation.My guest the garage opossum hasn't been back since,convinced that engines are really no place for an arboreal mammal.

Opossums, Opossum Pictures, Opossum Facts - National Geographic

Opossums, Opossum Pictures, Opossum Facts - National Geographic

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

USS Somerset:Last of 9-11 Tribute Ships Christened-memorial warship will transport U.S. Marines

The USS Somerset(LPD 25),the last of three amphibious transport dock ships named after sites affected by the 9-11 terrorist attacks,was christened on Saturday.Mrs.Mary Jo Myers,wife of General Richard B. Myers,U.S. Air Force retired,former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff,performed the naval tradition of breaking a bottle of champagne against the new ship's bow at its official naming.Mrs.Myers' participation suggests the closeness of the Navy and Air Force in this era of the Air-Sea Battle Concept and joint basing.
The ceremony was held at  the Avondale shipyard near New Orleans,which is slated to close once the Somerset's final construction is completed.
Somerset County,Pennsylvania was where the passengers of Flight 93 stormed the cockpit in resistance to the terrorists,bringing the plane down in a field there.Twenty-three family members of those who perished in the Somerset County incident attended the christening.The ship includes steel from a crane bucket that was used to recover the Flight 93 wreckage in its bow stem,or leading edge.
The other 9-11 memorial ships are the USS New York(LPD 21) and the USS Arlington(LPD 24).These San Antonio class vessels are for transporting up to 800 U.S. Marines,their equipment and supplies to war zones,unstable regions and humanitarian disaster areas.They have well decks for landing craft and amphibious vehicles,as well as hangars and flight decks for a wide range of helicopters and the Marines' MV-22 Osprey vertical takeoff and landing aircraft.The ships are armed with 2 Mk31 Mod1 RAM launchers;2 Mk46 30mm guns;and 10 .50 caliber machine guns.
Huntington Ingalls Industries built the three memorial ships.Please visit the photo link below this post.
Huntington Ingalls Industries(HII)

Navy.mil - View Image USS Somerset Christening

Navy.mil - View Image

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Maersk Line,Limited Plays Important Role in Military Transport

A.P. Moller-Maersk Group is a Danish global conglomerate that operates in about 130 countries with around 108,000 workers.It is active in fields from shipping and energy,to logistics,retail and manufacturing.Its U.S. subsidiary,Maersk Line,Limited,based in Norfolk,Virginia,is a major U.S. defense contractor,playing an integral role in military transport by U.S. flag merchant vessels.MLL employs about 900 U.S. merchant mariners daily on the largest U.S. flag fleet in commercial service.
MLL's first government contract came in 1983,when it converted and operated five military prepositioning ships.Today,MLL does flexible and end-to-end distribution of U.S. government cargo,including military sustainment and humaintarian aid,as well as complex unit moves and assorted breakbulk items.MLL manages and charters a fleet of tankers and heavy-lift multi-purpose vessels for a wide range of government and commercial cargoes.
With its technical expertise,MLL also applies proven program management and lifecycle strategies to optimise the performance of maritime assets,reducing total ownership costs and increasing operational reliability.The Farrell Lines MLL subsidary provides pure car/truck carriers under U.S. flag for the global distribution requirements of the U.S. armed forces.MLL is deeply committed to the U.S. military,the U.S. Merchant Marine and the maritime industry.Its corporate values include continuous improvement and environmental stewardship.
Rear Admiral Mark H. Buzby is Commander,Miltary Sealift Command,with which Maersk Line,Limited works so closely.MLL is an integral part of military contingency planning.

NASA - Sally Ride, First American Woman in Space

NASA - Sally Ride, First American Woman in Space

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Barton Biggs:Marine,Mountaineer,Investor

Barton Biggs,a financier whose correct market forecasts far outnumbered his mistakes,has died at the age of 79.Mr.Biggs,the son of a Bank of New York money manager,had been ill from a bacterial infection that spread to his organs.He was one of the earliest strategists to realize the importance of the emerging markets while working at Morgan Stanley from 1973-2003.Among his successful calls were the U.S. bull market of 1982;the Japanese crash of 1984;the implosion of the dot com bubble in 2000;and the bottom of the U.S. market in 2009.Along with everyone else,he had failed to predict the onset of the financial crisis in 2008.
Mr.Biggs was a graduate of Yale University with an English major and had a business degree from New York University.After Yale,he served as a U.S. Marine Corps officer for three years during the Cold War era.In his spare time,he took up mountaineering,becoming proficient enough to climb peaks in the 12,000-15,000 foot range such as Mont Blanc;the Matterhorn;and Mount Rainier.He was the author of several books,including "Hedgehogging" and "Wealth,War and Wisdom,"as well as "A Hedge Fund Tale."
Mr.Biggs,a frequent guest on business television,was one of the pioneers of the hedge fund industry at Fairfield Partners in the 1960s.He would later go on to co-found another hedge fund,Traxis Partners,in 2003 at the age of 70.
The divorced father of three and grandfather of nine dressed casually for his TV appearances.He still enjoyed the market game,he told Yahoo's Matt Nesto last year.He dismissed high frequency trading as a threat to the market,however.
Morgan Stanley(MS)

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

From History to Hollywood:Oscar Winner Was WWII Navy Vet

Ernest Borgnine,95,one of the most popular and long-lived actors in Hollywood,passed away on Sunday,July 8 at Cedars Sinai Medical Center,Los Angeles after a brief illness.He was a ten year veteran of the U.S. Navy and lifelong supporter of  fellow veterans and their families.
Borgnine,the son of Italian emigres,was born in Hamden,Connecticut,which named a street in his honor.He enlisted in the Navy in 1935 and served until 1941,but promptly re-enlisted in that year when Pearl Harbor was attacked and served an additional four years.He achieved the rank of Gunner's Mate 1st Class,serving aboard the USS Lamberton(DMS-2),a fast minesweeper that had originally been a WWI era destroyer(DD-119).Indeed,the ship continued to perform the escort duties typical of a destroyer,despite its new classification.His decorations included the Navy Good Conduct Medal;American Defense Service Medal with Fleet Clasp;American Campaign Medal;Asiatic-Pacific Campaign Medal;and WWII Victory Medal.On October 4,2004,he was awarded the honorary Chief Petty Officer rating from Master Chief Petty Officer of the Navy Terry D. Scott for his support of the Navy and naval families worldwide.He had visited a number of veterans hospitals.
After the war,his mother had suggested an acting career for him,noting his exhibitionist tendencies,and he agreed.Borgnine worked in film and TV until the end of his life.He won a Best Actor Oscar in 1955 for the role of Marty in the film of that name.He also appeared in From Here To Eternity;Torpedo Run;Barnabas;The Dirty Dozen;Ice Station Zebra;The Wild Bunch;Willard;and The Poseidon Adventure-more than a hundred films in all.His TV credits include McHale's Navy;All Quiet on the Western Front;Airwolf;ER;Jesus of Nazareth;the long-running voiceover role of the Mermaid Man in SpongeBob SquarePants;and many others.
He is survived by his wife Tova;four children and six grandchildren;and his sister Evelyn.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

U.S. Augments Forces in Persian Gulf Region

The U.S. has doubled the number of  its minesweepers in the Persian Gulf from four to eight and dispatched a special ops staging platform,the USS Ponce(LPD-15),to the region.At the same time,the U.S. Air Force has added F-15C Eagles and F-22 Raptors,which are its most advanced fighters currently in service,to air bases nearby.The U.S. Army,for its part,is keeping an extra combat brigade's worth of troops on station in Kuwait.These moves are to respond to any Iranian attempt to close the strategically vital Strait of Hormuz,which conveys oil tankers from the Gulf of Oman to the Persian Gulf,carrying much of the world's oil supply,and to increase the capablity to conduct deep strikes within Iran.
A senior Defense Department official warned Iran not to even think about it,according to The New York Times.We'll clear the mines.If you send fast boats to harass U.S. vessels or commercial shipping,we'll put them on the bottom of the Gulf,the official promised.Sanctions against Iranian oil exports have just been ratcheted up to pressure Iran to curtail its nuclear program.
The Iranian Revolutionary Guard has been testing a new ballistic missile system that can strike Israel,Turkey and vessels in the Persian Gulf.As well,legislation has been drafted for the Iranian parliament to close the Strait of Hormuz to oil tankers bound for countries participating in the sanctions against it.
The complex build-up of U.S. forces is also meant to rein in Iran's hegemonic ambitions in the Middle East generally;not just its nuclear program,the unnamed Pentagon official said.The USS Ponce,an older ship,was reconfigured for its new mission at the request of U.S. Central Command.With its room for up to six helicopters and well deck for docking small boats and landing craft,the 1970s era ship is ideally suited for special operations support.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Nature Note:Daisy Fleabane

Beside a driveway,a tall white daisy plant is growing this summer.It is daisy fleabane,a native wildflower once believed to have anti-flea properties.The small flowers on this tall plant close at night.When they open in the morning,small native insects visit them.We used to call them sweat bees-tiny pollinating bees or flies of various types.Growing along roads and in fields and lots of the Northeast and North Central regions,and down through the Southern Appalachians,daisy fleabane blooms from May to October.It lends a striking elegance to the scene,such that you don't want to mow it.It's best to leave this native plant alone if you can possibly spare it a bit of space.It contributes to the landscape as an ecological member,as well as having aesthetic value.The little native pollinators rely on its nectar.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Air Defense Briefing:1st Air Force Facts

CONR-1AF(AFNORTH),or 1st Air Force,is the NORAD Continental U.S. Region command and the designated air component command for U.S. Northern Command,providing air defense in the form of airspace surveillance and airspace control.It is responsible for the land areas of the continental U.S.,Puerto Rico and surrounding seas out to approximately 500 nautical miles.It also responds to natural disasters and coordinates search and rescue throughout the lower 48 states,Mexico and Canada.The command emblem features both a bald eagle and a maple leaf.
Nearly 2300 active duty U.S. Air Force,Air National Guard,Air Force Reservists,civilians and contractors support the missions of CONR-1AF(AFNORTH),operating more than 180 aircraft,including F-15s,F-16s and F-22s.The command is based at Tyndall Air Force Base,Florida.It is divided into two air defense sectors:EADS in Rome,New York;and WADS in McChord AFB,Washington state.
1st Air Force works closely with Canadian Forces.Canadian personnel serve at HQ in Tyndall AFB,Florida,as well as at the two regional air defense sectors in New York and Washington states.By the same token,U.S. personnel serve at 1AF Detachment 1,Winnipeg,Manitoba;and at 722nd Air Defense Squadron,North Bay,Ontario in Canada.
The personnel of 1st Air Force include many veterans of Kosovo,Iraq and Afghanistan.Most of them are Air National Guard members,proudly and ably executing all phases of Operation Noble Eagle,the air sovereignty mission of NORAD Continental U.S. Region.
NORAD is the North American Aerospace Defense Command,a binational U.S.-Canadian military organisation that secures the continental airspace.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Special Report:NORAD Announces Test Flights Over DC Area

NORAD,the North American Aerospace Defense Command,has alerted the public that it will conduct a series of test flights over the Washington,DC area between 11pm and 5:30am on Monday and Tuesday nights,June 18-20.The exercises will be coordinated with the Federal Aviation Administration and other authorities.F-16 Fighting Falcon interceptors,as well as a U.S. Coast Guard HH-65 Dolphin helicopter and civilian aircraft,will be participating in the drill.According to NORAD,the flights are a test of interception and identification operations,as well as a certification process for new command and control personnel.Since the 9-11 attacks,NORAD has been routinely patrolling the skies over New York,Washington and other big U.S. cities,as well as over Camp David,the presidential retreat in Maryland's Catoctin Mountain Park.The U.S. Coast Guard contributes heavily armed helicopters to Washington,DC's security.NORAD is the binational U.S.-Canadian military organisation that ensures the sovereignty of the continental airspace.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Shop Talk:New Navy Reconnaissance Drone Rolled Out

Dear Readers,I would just like to point out to you that I have published a link to a fine Aviation Week article by Guy Norris,and its accompanying photo,below this post.It concerns the delivery of the U.S. Navy's new unmanned Broad Area Maritime Surveillance aircraft,or BAMS.The MQ-4C Triton is a critical technological update,so I know my inquisitive readership will want to be informed about it.Northrop Grumman built this futuristic-looking and ultra-sophisticated reconnaissance system at its Palmdale,California skunk works.This is part of my effort to keep you abreast of developments in national security affairs-even outside this blog's normal publication regimen.As always,your loyal support in all its forms is greatly appreciated.Sincerely,Andrew Taylor.Northrop Grumman(NOC)

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Canadian Coast Guard To Receive New Icebreaker

Canada has awarded a design contract for a new polar icebreaker to STX Canada Marine.The vessel is slated to replace the current flagship icebreaker Canadian Coast Guard Ship Louis S. St.-Laurent in 2017.The Canadian Coast Guard operates a number of other light to heavy icebreakers.The new ship will be 140 meters long-or 454.3 feet-and displace 23,000 tonnes.It will be capable of breaking ice about 2.4 meters/8 feet thick.This John G. Diefenbaker class ship will carry out a wide range of Arctic and winter missions for Fisheries and Oceans Canada,the Canadian Coast Guard's parent ministry.These will include everything from scientific research to fisheries and sovereignty enforcement and search and rescue.In the meantime,CGCS Louis S. St.-Laurent will continue to carry out such missions.Since 2008,she has been conducting Arctic research annually with U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Healy(WAGB-20),America's only functional polar icebreaker at this time.The Canada-U.S. Joint Expedition program has been an effort to ascertain the delineation of the extended continental shelf in the Arctic.This is important for the protection,management and use of ocean resources under the Convention on the Law of the Sea,which requires a defintion of rights in concrete geographical terms.The research involves gathering bathymetric data for a 3D map of the ocean floor,as well as seismic reflection data for a cross-section view of beneath the ocean floor.Another American polar icebreaker,USCGC Polar Star(WAGB-10),is currently being reactivated for return to service in 2013.This blog would like to extend hearty congratulations to the Canadian Coast Guard on the occasion of its 50th anniversary year.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Combat Air Patrol Observed Near Camp David

When the president is in residence at the Camp David retreat in Maryland's Catoctin Mountains,the normal restricted airspace over the camp is extended outward from 3 nautical miles,or 6.5 miles,to 10 nautical miles,or about 22 miles in diameter.As the president is at Camp David this weekend,I know that combat air patrols by NORAD military aircraft may be visible.Still,they are more often heard than seen as they carry out their part in Operation Noble Eagle,as the post 9-11 airspace protection mission is known.I indeed hear them as I walk near the Mason-Dixon line,the border between Maryland and Pennsylvania which lies beneath the expanded restricted airspace.The jet engine noise of a sudden becomes very loud.I pause and,looking up,regard the swift low passage of an F-15 Eagle,painted olive drab or gray,hurtling north toward the edge of the security perimeter with jaw-dropping speed.This is better than an air show;it is the real deal,a combat air patrol protecting the President of the United States and his family and guests,as well as their neighbors in Northern Maryland and South Central Pennsylvania.The F-15 banks to the left and the right before vanishing over the horizon.There may be another,unseen fighter aloft at a greater altitude also participating in the patrol.Suffice it to say,the Air National Guard F-15 had made my walk one of the safest in the world on that sunny morning. NORAD,the North American Aerospace Defense Command,is the binational U.S.-Canadian organization that monitors and defends the continent's sovereign airspace.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Land-Based Navy Planes Gather SIGINT

One of the nation's premier signals intelligence collection platforms is the U.S. Navy's EP-3E Aries aircraft,a modified P-3 Orion loaded with SIGINT capabilities.The Lockheed Martin plane intercepts;collects;exploits;fuses;identifies;and disseminates SIGINT in support of joint,theater and fleet command tasking.A crew of 24 on the EP-3E collects and fuses SIGINT information and disseminates it for direct threat warning;information dominance;battlespace situational awareness;air defense supression;and anti-air and anti-submarine warfare applications.The 16 EP-3E Aries aircraft have been thoroughly upgraded over their lifespans through incremental programs that have provided automated electronic surveillance;ForceNET classified network connectivity;and SIGINT sensor capabilities.The aircraft are based at Naval Air Station Whidbey Island,Washington and are operated by two fleet air reconaissance squadrons.Lockheed Martin(LMT)

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

After the Shuttle:Preparing for Orion Flight Tests

Even as progress is made toward turning over routine low earth orbit transport to contractors such as SpaceX and Orbital Sciences,below the radar,NASA'a deep space team is quietly building momentum,preparing the Orion spacecraft for its upcoming Exploration Flight Test-1 in 2014.The EFT-1 will be conducted by Lockheed Martin Space Systems.It is an unmanned mission to evaluate the spacecraft's readiness for a subsequent manned flight test.Orion will be launched on the Delta IV Heavy rocket for EFT-1.The manned test flight to follow will be launched on the new deep space rocket,the Space Launch System,or SLS.The SLS will carry astronauts to the asteroids and beyond,its upper stage powered by the J2X engine.A number of engineering studies and spacecraft fabrication activities,along with Kennedy Space Center renovations,are underway to prepare the Orion spacecraft for EFT-1 and the decades of exploration ahead.Mission Control has also begun to transform itself for this first major step of the Orion program,Exploration Flight Test-1.These preparatory industrial,construction and engineering moves,as well as software integration,parachute and splashdown tests are perhaps not very exciting to the mainstream media,but are the essential underpinnings of the bold new Orion era of manned space flight. Lockheed Martin(LMT),Orbital Sciences(ORB)

NASA - Dragon Fire

NASA - Dragon Fire

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

National Security Cutters Joining the Fleet

The U.S. Coast Guard's National Security Cutter program is right on track.Three of the planned eight vessels have been delivered,and a fourth is under construction. The NSC is the Coast Guard's largest cutter.It is 418 feet long,with a beam of 54 feet.The ship can carry up to two helicopters or unmanned aerial vehicles.With a crew of 108,an NSC can sail at up to 28 knots on its three engines.Its armament consists of a Mk110 57mm gun,as well as a Phalanx Mk 15 CIWS,or Close-In Weapons System,and four M2 .50-caliber machine guns. Some of the missions the NSCs have been on include drug interdiction;Arctic patrol;and operations and exercises abroad in support of the Department of Defense.Huntington Ingalls Industries and Lockheed Martin are the program's prime contractors. The oldest of the NSCs is USCGC Bertholf(WMSL 750),which was commissioned in 2008. Huntington Ingalls Industries(HII),Lockheed Martin(LMT)

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Operation Enduring Freedom:Navy Officer Killed in Action

Lieutenant Christopher E. Mosko,U.S. Navy,was killed while conducting combat operations in Nawa district,Ghazni Province,Afghanistan on 26 April.A member of Navy Explosive Ordnance Disposal Mobile Unit 3,San Diego,he was assigned as a Platoon Commander to Combined Joint Special Operations Task Force,Afghanistan.He was killed by an IED explosion along with two U.S. Army sergeants. Lt.Mosko,28,was a graduate of Eau Claire Memorial High School,Wisconsin and Drexel University,Philadelphia,Pennsylvania,where he was commissioned in 2007 through the Naval Reserve Officer Training Corps.Known as an ardent soccer player and choir member at Eau Claire,he listed his residence as Pittsford,New York,where his family resided in recent years.Besides being qualified in explosive ordnance disposal,he also had ratings as a free fall parachutist and scuba diving instructor:a true special ops man.Lt.Mosko was posthumously awarded the Purple Heart and Bronze Star.In his honor,flags were flown at half staff on New York state buildings. About 90,000 U.S. troops remain in Afghanistan,and most of them are slated for withdrawal by 2014.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Coast Guardsman and Astronaut

Captain Dan Burbank,50,is the second Coast Guardsman to be a NASA astronaut.Born and raised in Connecticut,he graduated from the U.S. Coast Guard Academy in 1985 and became an instructor pilot.Primarily a helicopter aviator,he flew more than 1800 missions,with more than 300 of them being search and rescue.Obtaining an M.S. degree in aeronautical science from Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University,he began his space flight career with two missions aboard the space shuttle Atlantis in 2000 and 2006,respectively.These involved space walks in which Captain Burbank racked up 7 hours and 11 minutes of EVA time.By 2011,he was on International Space Station crews,serving on Expedition 29 and as Commander on Expedition 30,which just concluded on 27 April.His total time in space is 247 days.Captain Burbank has been decorated with the Legion of Merit;the Air Medal;the National Defense Service Medal with two stars;the NASA Exceptional Service Medal;the Coast Guard Commendation Medal with one award star;and several others.A photo of Captain Burbank after touchdown in Kazakhstan is offered in the previous post. Commander Bruce Melnick,U.S. Coast Guard retired,was the first member of his service to fly in space.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Naval Officer Had Three Careers

Captain Bradley Alan Peterson,U.S. Navy retired,died on 7 March from a severe brain injury received when the car he was a passenger in was struck by a speeding car in Albuquerque,New Mexico.He was 53. Captain Peterson was a 1980 graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy.He went on to serve as an officer aboard the nuclear-powered attack submarine USS Grayling(SSN 646)and the ballistic missile submarine USS Alaska(SSBN 732).Following active duty,Captain Peterson served as a high-ranking intelligence officer in the U.S. Navy Reserve.Beginning in 1991,he began his third national security career with the Department of Energy as a nuclear safety engineer.Eventually,Captain Peterson moved into leadership positions in nuclear weapons transport and security with the DOE's National Nuclear Security Administration in Albuquerque. He is survived by his mother,two brothers and three children.Following their father's sterling example of service to the nation,his son will graduate from the U.S. Military Academy in June,while his two daughters recently graduated from the U.S. Naval Academy and U.S. Merchant Marine Academy,respectively.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Shop Talk:A Photo Worth Looking At-a new voyage begins

Dear Readers, Below this post you will find a link to an attractive NASA photo of a recent Orion spacecraft test.The mainstream media did not report prominently on this test;their coverage of the new voyages NASA is quietly embarking on has been generally inadequate,leaving the public in the dark not of space.This blog will not follow suit,but will report what ought to be known.It has always done and will continue to do so. The U.S. Navy and Marine Corps have always been a primary source of the astronaut corps.Countless space explorers have come from their ranks.The same questing spirit that sends men and women to sea and air extends into the heavens.We are pleased to follow this thread of history as warranted. Sincerely, Andrew Taylor, Publisher

NASA - Testing the Orion Crew Vehicle's Parachutes

NASA - Testing the Orion Crew Vehicle's Parachutes

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

After the Shuttle:SpaceX Prepares For ISS Demonstration Mission

Good progress is being made in the successor to the space shuttle program,even as the shuttles are being retired to museums.On May 7,NASA contractor SpaceX is set to launch its unmanned Dragon spacecraft on its Falcon 9 rocket toward the International Space Station.According to NASA,this date now appears unlikely,however,because of a software problem.A firm date will be announced when the issue is resolved.The spacecraft and rocket were successfully sent into low earth orbit in 2010-the first time a commercial entity had achieved low earth orbit,or LEO.
On this mission,the goal is to rendezvous with the ISS.At that point,the ISS will grapple the Dragon,which is a capsule atop a module,draw it close with its robot arm and dock with it.The ISS astronauts will enter the Dragon,retrieve 1200 pounds of cargo,and insert a return load into the Dragon.
The Dragon spacecraft will undock,reenter earth's atmosphere and splash down.The spacecraft and its return cargo are then to be retrieved.Should this mission succeed,SpaceX will begin regular resupply missions to the ISS under its 12 mission contract with NASA that has a renewal option.
SpaceX was founded in 2002 by South African native Elon Musk,a noted engineer and billionaire entrepreneur,who cofounded PayPal.
Another NASA contractor,Orbital Sciences,is to conduct an unmanned demonstration mission with its Cygnus spacecraft later this year.Once the cargo missions are underway and further testing is completed,manned low earth missions with NASA astronauts in commercial spacecraft are slated to begin.SpaceX and Boeing are vying for the manned LEO mission contract.
The low earth orbit contractors allow NASA to husband its resources for deep space exploration with the new Space Launch System and Orion Multi-Purpose Crew Vehicle,which are to be capable of taking astronauts to the asteroids and Mars,as well as the Webb Space Telescope,successor to the Hubble.Initial testing of the SLS and MPCV have been going well.The first launch of the SLS is planned for 2017.
Orbital Sciences(ORB),Boeing(BA)

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Ornament of Spring:The Eastern Redbud

One of the best sights of early spring is the eastern redbud,Cercis canadensis.A lover of moist soils,it is among the finest ornamental trees of North America,besides being a wildland mainstay.At this time,the tree is enlivening many a vista.The bright purple flowers emlazon the landscape from Northern Mexico up to New Jersey and Southeast Nebraska,growing to an altitude of about 2200 feet,or 671 meters.
This slender-trunked tree may reach only 40 feet/12 meters in height.The flowers are followed by flat seed pods that start to fall in late autumn,containing a number of flat,elliptical seeds.Frequently seen along slopes and roadsides,their vivid flowers make for an outstanding April journey.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Inside the Industrial Base:Navy Shipbuilder Has Successful Q4-and what they're doing now

Huntington Ingalls Industries,the former Northrop Grumman Shipbuilding,had outstanding earnings in Q4 2011.Alliance Bernstein gave the stock a price target of 51 dollars on margin expansion and transparency.It closed at 40.00 on Tuesday.The nation's sole builder of aircraft carriers,HII has built more ships in more classes than any other firm.
HII anticipates a new contract to build the John F. Kennedy carrier(CVN 79)in 2013.The JFK would be completed in the 2020-21 time frame.The company is already building five other ships to be delivered by 2015.The next 3-5 years are already under contract.By 2015,the firm will be back to normal business after the Hurricane Katrina disruption in 2005.
CEO Mike Petters said 2012 will be a lot like last year,with maybe a little better return because of retiring risk.Our attrition rates are historically low,Mr.Petters added.
HII is preparing to close its Avondale,Mississippi shipyard in 2013 unless it can find a joint venture partner,despite Mississippi's offer of an incentive package worth more than 200 million dollars to keep it open.Avondale's workforce has gone down from 5,000 to 3,300 workers so far.The yard is currently completing its final projects,which are two amphibious assault ships for transporting U.S. Marines and their equipment,the Anchorage(LPD 23) and the Somerset(LPD 25).
Once Avondale closes,the company will have two remaining shipyards at Newport News,Virginia and Pascagoula,Mississippi,respectively.The Gerald R. Ford aircraft carrier(CVN 78)is currently under construction at Newport News.
Huntington Ingalls Industries(HII)

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

USCGC Healy Prepares For Summer Patrol

The U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Healy(WAGB-20)is in a standard maintenance period at its Seattle,Washington homeport.The Healy is America's only operational polar icebreaker.The Polar Star(WAGB-10)is being reactivated at Vigor Shipyard in Seattle for service in 2013.
Polar Sea(WAGB-11)had an engine failure and is slated for decommissioning.President Barack Obama included initial funding for a replacement icebreaker in his 2013 budget request.
The Healy is mainly used for scientific research with its five labs.It can accommodate up to 50 scientists,along with 85 crew.Cruising at 12 knots,it has a maximum speed of 17 knots and can continuously break 4.5 feet of ice.The Healy became operational in 2000.
As a Coast Guard Cutter,the Healy can also perform other missions,such as logistics;search and rescue;ship escort;environmental protection;and enforcement of laws and treaties in the Polar Regions.Indeed,this past January the Healy escorted the Russian fuel tanker Renda through the Bering Sea ice to deliver urgently needed fuel to Nome,Alaska.Nome had missed its November fuel delivery because of inclement weather and may not have had enough fuel to get through the winter.
That was an unplanned mission.The Healy was to have headed home for Christmas on 17 December.Instead,it completed the escort mission on 29 January.It had left homeport on 27 May,and arrived back on 5 February.
Captain Beverly A. Havlik is Commanding Officer of USCGC Healy.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Internal Look:Secret War Game Held

A classified war game was held earlier this month.The biannual event,known as "Internal Look,"is conducted to test the integration of communications and the battle staff coordination for the U.S. Central Command,all the way from the Pentagon to CENTCOM headquarters and commanders in the field,and to gauge how well U.S. forces would respond to real world crises in the region.CENTCOM covers the Middle East and parts of Central and Southwest Asia.
This particular game was focused on the scenario of an Israeli attack on Iranian nuclear facilities,according to sources familiar with the matter.In this game,Israel bombed the facilities into a one-year setback of the Iranian nuclear program.Iran then attacked a U.S. warship in retaliation,killing 200 U.S. service members.Such an attack could be carried out with an Iranian anti-ship missile,for example.The U.S. subsequently responded in the scenario with its own attack on Iran's nuclear facilities,setting the Iranian program back a further two years.
Israeli intelligence reportedly doesn't believe such an operation would result in a regional conflagration,but the CENTCOM Commander,General James N. Mattis,U.S. Marine Corps,a man with combat experience at every level in the CENTCOM Area of Responsibility,is said to be gravely concerned about what Internal Look revealed regarding the consequences of an Israeli strike on Iran for U.S. forces in the AOR.
The Internal Look war game was used in 2002 to assess the U.S. plan to invade Iraq,which indeed was implemented in 2003.
Besides his combat commands in Operations Desert Shield,Desert Storm,Enduring Freedom and Iraqi Freedom,General Mattis is also a graduate of the National War College.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

The USS Enterprise Begins Final Missions

On Sunday 11 March,the USS Enterprise(CVN-65)departed her homeport of Norfolk,Virginia on her final deployment,the 22nd since being commissioned in 1961.Headed for the Middle East,the Big E will possibly transit the Strait of Hormuz into the Persian Gulf,braving Iranian threats.
The Enterprise served as part of the blockade of Cuba during the Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962.She also participated in the Vietnam War,helping evacuate Saigon in its tumultuous final days as a free city in 1975.In 1986,she was featured in the classic film "Top Gun."The Big E has provided major support to Operations Iraqi Freedom and Enduring Freedom,as she will continue to do on her final missions.
In recent years,the crew have valiantly struggled through innumerable maintenance issues on the vintage warship,plagued by the unavailability of many parts.Upon decommissioning scheduled for 1 December,the Enterprise's eight nuclear reactors will be removed,leaving her riddled with holes prohibitively expensive to repair.
We salute the men and women of the Big E and her carrier strike group past and present,and wish them a safe sunset.

Navy News Service - Eye on the Fleet

Navy News Service - Eye on the Fleet

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Marine General Paints Chilling Picture of Iranian Activity

General James N. Mattis,U.S. Marine Corps,Commander,U.S. Central Command,testified before the Senate Armed Services Committee on Tuesday.Iran presents the most significant threat to regional security,General Mattis said,although al-Qaida is still a threat as well.My overarching goal is to prevent further conflict in the region.
U.S. Central Command includes the Middle East and part of Central Asia.
Our strong presence in the Middle East endures.The military challenge is how to maintain this presence in a fiscally constrained environment.A sustained joint presence with a pronounced naval flavor is needed in the region.I completely support the fiscal year 2013 budget request.
We shouldn't change our Afghan strategy because of the uproar over the Koran.We shouldn't allow a few criminals,malcontents,to revise our policy.We're on track.Treachery has existed as long as there's been warfare.No force is perfect.The Afghan security forces have shown an overwhelmingly positive response to the incident.It has not shaken their trust in us.
Between now and 2015,the 352,000 level for Afghan security forces is a prudent measure.The Afghan local police forces are ethical,and we keep a close watch on them.
I have not seen that the Iranian regime has been disuaded from their nuclear ambition.
Al-Qaida is making a comeback in Iraq-mainly in Western Iraq,but also extending into Baghdad.
I think President Assad of Syria will be there for some time,because I think he will employ heavier weapons on his people.It's gonna get worse before it gets better.Assad's crackdown is gaining physical momentum on the tactical battlefield.It'll be the biggest strategic setback for Iran in 20 years when Assad finally goes.The slaughter in Syria is qualitatively the same as that in Kosovo and Bosnia.
We should be careful about whom we provide arms to in Syria.The longer this goes on,the greater the risk of al-Qaida involvement there.The spectacular IED attacks are evidence of al-Qaida already being involved in Syria.
I have never witnessed it so tumultuous in over 30 years of service in the region.Only one state is actively seeking to destabilize the region,and that is Iran,General Mattis has said.
Iran is working earnestly in Syria,flying in experts and weapons.
It is a full-throated effort to keep Assad in power.Iran is providing listening capability-eavesdropping-and experts in oppression are being flown in.
General Mattis,gray-haired and with a quiet and humble demeanor,said that Iran is fighting a shadow war every day,sending weapons,money and ordnance into Yemen,and also into Sudan,as well as helping the Taliban militants in Afghanistan.It's part of the Iranian regime's modus operandi.They've tried to exploit the Arab Awakening.Though not entirely successful,it's highly concerning.The whole region is becoming aware of Iran and uniting against it,General Mattis observed.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Two Aircraft Carriers Under Construction

Work began on two aircraft carriers of the new Gerald R. Ford class in 2011.The Gerald R. Ford(CVN 78)and John F. Kennedy(CVN 79)are under construction at Newport News Shipbuilding,Virginia.
The Gerald R. Ford class is characterized by reduced manning requirements down to engineering advancements;increased durability;better survivability;advanced aircraft handling and greater sortie rates;new integrated warfare systems and weapons/material handling systems;and new electrical engineering.The new carriers will need about 1,000 fewer crew than the preceding Nimitz class.
The Gerald R. Ford is slated for a 2015 delivery.Newport News Shipbuilding is a division of Huntington Ingalls Industries,which was spun off from Northrup Grumman.
The U.S. Navy will continue to have 11 aircraft carriers in the fleet,once the Gerald R. Ford is completed.Between the imminent retirement of the USS Enterprise(CVN)and that point,however,there will only be ten carriers for two or three years-a subject of controversy in the halls of Congress until it ultimately acceded to the Navy's plan.
Huntington Ingalls Industries(HII)

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

NASA - Memorial for Judith Resnik

NASA - Memorial for Judith Resnik

Fifty Years Later:John Glenn,Marine and Astronaut

Astronaut John Glenn recently concluded his distinguished aviation career when he gave up his pilot's license at the age of 90.It was getting too hard for him to climb into his Beechcraft Baron.Still alert,Senator Glenn,who represented Ohio in the U.S. Senate from 1974-99,attended the fiftieth anniversary commemoration of his first orbital spaceflight by an American on 20 February at the Kennedy Space Center.
Senator Glenn's career in military aviation isn't nearly as well known as his NASA years,yet was outstanding in its own right.He flew 59 combat missions as a U.S. Marine pilot in World War II in an F49 Corsair in the South Pacific.That was followed by 63 combat missions in the Korean War in an F9F Panther jet interceptor,as well as 27 missions in an F-86F Sabre on an exchange program with the U.S. Air Force in that war,downing 3 MiG-15s near the Yalu River just before the truce that obtains to this day.
For his achievements,Senator Glenn was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross with two Gold Stars and two Oak Leaf Clusters;an Air Medal with three Silver Stars and two Oak Leaf Clusters;and an Asiatic-Pacific Campaign Medal with one Bronze Star.He also received two Presidential Unit Citations,one for the United States and the other for Korea.
As well as orbiting the earth three times in a Mercury space capsule in February,1962,Senator Glenn became the oldest astronaut to fly in space when he joined the crew of the space shuttle Discovery in 1998 at age 77.On that flight,he was the subject of a biomedical evaluation of the effect of spaceflight on the elderly,with his 1962 space flight serving as a baseline for the study.Initially opposed to women being astronauts,he changed his mind about that and delivered a stirring tribute to Mission Specialist Judith Resnik,the second American woman in space,who tragically died in the space shuttle Challenger disaster on 28 January,1986.
For his storied accomplishments,Senator Glenn was also honored with the Congressional Gold Medal and the Congressional Space Medal of Honor.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Special Ops Commander

Admiral William McRaven,Commander,U.S. Special Operations Command,seeks more authority to preposition his forces and equipment to sensitive areas as intelligence and open sources dictate,according to The New York Times.This could mean expanding their presence in the underepresented areas of Asia,Africa and Latin America without getting State Department consent or the approval of the other combatant commanders-parties who have a concern about turf being violated,either their own or another nation's.
The admiral,himself a product of the Navy SEALs,personally oversaw their training for the bin Laden capture or kill mission.As a young captain,he had been assigned to the White House since right after 9-11.He has perhaps been the world's chief terrorist hunter ever since,searching globally for both Taliban and al-Qaida militants.
Admiral McRaven is said to occasionally accompany his men on their secret missions.A colleague describes him as possessing the rare attribute of combining the qualities of a great leader and a big thinker.A key figure in the ascent of special ops to their current prominence in this age of infantry downsizing,he may well be regarded with a mixture of admiration and annoyance in the corridors of power.
Emblematic of this ascent is the making of the film "Act of Valor,"which stars actual Navy SEALs in a true to life drama and is slated for release on 24 February.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

New DIA Campus Gets Green Light

The Intelligence Community Campus-Bethesda,a redevelopment project led by the Defense Intelligence Agency and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers,has received design approval by the National Capital Planning Commission.Work on the 300 million dollar facility,an airy office block concept,is expected to begin within a few months,with completion of the rectangular building in just over a year's time.
The DIA currently has facilities spread around the national capital region,as do its counterparts at the Central Intelligence Agency.Just who will be using the campus besides the DIA itself has not been disclosed,but the CIA is a possibility,along with perhaps the sprawling National Security Agency,the DIA's Department of Defense colleagues.
The Bethesda,Maryland complex is located on the former site of the National Geospatial Intelligence Agency,which was relocated to Fort Belvoir,Virgina,as part of the Base Realignment and Closure process in 2005.Neighbors in the affluent Palisades housing estate nearby were none too pleased with the parking garage for the ICC-B,fearing it would block their views of the Potomac River and lay waste a wooded area.The Planning Commission,however,is insisting that the DIA and Army Corps drastically scale the garage footprint back.The Army Corps said it didn't know if it could reach that goal,but it would try.
Some 3,000 intelligence staffers are to work at the sophisticated compound off Macarthur Boulevard,near the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal National Historical Park.The DIA is the principal provider of information on foreign military intentions and capabilities to combatant commanders,defense policy makers,and troops in the field,preventing strategic surprise and delivering a decision advantage to them in the interests of the national security of the United States.Its director is a three star military officer-currently Lieutenant General Ronald L. Burgess,Jr.,U.S. Army.
The DIA has a workforce of about 7,000 military and civilian personnel,who deploy worldwide alongside warfighters and interagency partners in support of military planning,operations and weapons acquisition.

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Red Osier Dogwood Survives Snowtober

The red osier dogwood had gone missing since the rare October snow,Snowtober.It was buried underneath the snow-downed limbs and branches of an Asian pear.Surely it was gone for good,a native planting that had been adapting so very well.
Just the other day,however,a characteristic red twig was spotted in the strengthening late January sun,barely lifting off the ground and emerging from the mass of leaves and dead timber from Snowtober.With careful effort,it was gently extricated from its choking tangle of storm debris with gloved hands and pruning shears.The young shrub was in excellent condition,saved by its flexibility.Indeed,it wasn't damaged at all.Such is the resilience of a native species.
The red osier dogwood,cornus sericea,grows from Alaska east to Newfoundland,and south to West Virginia and California.It is a prized ornamental for its white flowers and fruit,as well as its red twigs in winter.The shrub is well-suited to grow in wetland areas along rivers and streams.Birds eat the white berries,which native Americans also consumed.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

U.S. Navy Status Report-as of autumn 2011

As of autumn 2011,the U.S. Navy had 325,123 personnel on active duty,along with 103,015 in the Ready Reserve.The Department of the Navy employed 203,952 civilian personnel.
The Navy's battle force consisted of 286 vessels,including eleven aircraft carriers and their Carrier Strike Groups,as well as 48 attack submarines and the 14 ballistic missile submarines in the strategic deterrent force.
There were more than 3700 aircraft in the Navy's operational inventory.
The Navy,along with the other armed forces,is gravely concerned about the prospect of the arbitrary spending cuts Congress has set in motion for 2013.These would significantly damage the Navy's global reach and missions across the board.Senator John McCain(R-Arizona)and others are working to halt this sequestration process brought about by budgetary gridlock.
Congress is not bound by this-it's something we passed;we can reverse it,Senator McCain insisted.The former presidential candidate was a Navy officer and POW during the Vietnam War.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Navy Construction Workers Help Young Family

A convoy of U.S. Navy Seabees,the service's legendary construction battalions,happened across an horrific wreck on California 101,north of Santa Barbara,on Thursday.A semi truck had rear-ended a BMW sedan driven by Kelly Lynn Groves,36,a first grade teacher,who was accompanied by her two daughters,Sage,10, and Mila,10 months.The impact crunched the car to practically nothing and pushed it over a concrete retaining wall,leaving first responders with a very precarious task.
The semi truck had careened off the highway and plunged 100 feet into a ravine below,killing the truck driver.As the firefighters and others attempted to rescue the young family in the BMW,it kept slipping little by little over the edge,threatening the mother and daughters with the same fate as the truck driver,Charles Allison.
Incredibly,a convoy of Navy Seabees,clad in their camouflage uniforms,arrived by chance exactly when they were needed,with exactly what was needed-a heavy duty forklift with a telescoping arm.The forklift can lift up to 11,000 pounds.They managed to stabilize the vehicle with it so the first responders could extract Ms.Groves and her girls.
One of the Seabees explained that they are trained to adapt and overcome any obstacle.They once again proved that they are fully capable of doing just that.
The Seabees have a base at Naval Construction Battalion Center Port Hueneme,which is part of Naval Base Ventura County.It is the West Coast homeport of the Seabees.The name "Seabees" is derived from "C.B.s,"for "Construction Battalions."

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

The Bluebird,A North American Favorite

An Eastern Bluebird family of four has been noted along the Pennsylvania-Maryland border.Such a sighting is fairly common in open woods and farms.Bluebirds,which are cavity nesters,stay in the Mid-Atlantic region year-round.It's probably the parents and their two young of the year.
The three bluebird species of North America are some of the most popular birds.There are Western and Mountain Bluebirds as well as Eastern.You really can't mistake them for anything else.As Thoreau noted,they carry the sky on their backs.On a cloudy day,however,they may well go undetected by humans rushing around.Their plumage isn't so obvious in low light conditions.
At this time of year,the bluebird family is looking for berries to eat,as insects are in short supply.The little Asian pears,which are just pits covered by a very thin layer of fruit,are also sustaining them.Their two-note call is often given on the wing.
Building a trail of bluebird boxes has become one of the leading scout and nature center projects.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Air-Sea Battle Concept Moves Forward

With the establishment of the Air-Sea Battle Office on 12 August 2011,which was subsequently announced on 9 November,the U.S. Navy,Marine Corps and Air Force have begun an era of unprecedented collaboration and integration.In response to a recent Quadrennial Defense Review,the office has been stood up by the Pentagon to integrate air and naval combat capabilities in support of emerging national security requirements.
The Air-Sea Battle concept is being developed to counter anti-access/area denial challenges posed by global proliferation of a range of advanced military technologies,including conventional ballistic missiles;long-range precision cruise missiles;advanced integrated air and missile defense systems;electronic and cyber warfare capabilities;submarines;surface warships;and advanced combat aircraft.
The Air-Sea Battle Office will do this by facilitating interservice coordination;influencing war games;fostering development and integration of air and naval capabilities;and collaborating with the joint forces.Furthermore,the ASBO will foster the integration of acquisition strategies and the conceptual approach to warfare as warfighters counter these emerging A2/AD threats.ASBO will ensure the defense of U.S. and allied interests and sustain stability and freedom throughout the global commons.
The joint forces concept has been developing for many years,but has recently been accelerated by both economic necessity and strategic reality.

Navy News Service - Eye on the Fleet

Navy News Service - Eye on the Fleet