Lawrence Mead Jr., Aerospace Engineer Who Helped Design A-6 Bomber, Dies at 94 –

Lawrence Mead Jr., the aerospace engineer who led the design team for the A-6 Intruder, the bulky twin-engine jet that served as the Navy’s primary attack bomber for more than three decades, died on Aug. 23 in New Haven. He was 94.

Lawrence Mead Jr., a senior vice president of the Grumman Aerospace Corporation (now Northrop Grumman).

His son Lawrence Mead III confirmed his death.

Mr. Mead, a senior vice president of the Grumman Aerospace Corporation (now Northrop Grumman), was named design chief for the A-6 Intruder in the late 1950s. Five years after its introduction in 1960, the A-6 was flying bombing missions off aircraft carriers in the Gulf of Tonkin during the Vietnam War.

Lawrence Mead Jr., Aerospace Engineer Who Helped Design A-6 Bomber, Dies at 94 -

via Lawrence Mead Jr., Aerospace Engineer Who Helped Design A-6 Bomber, Dies at 94 –

Well done, Mr. Mead. Thank you.

American MiG

We wrote about Constant Peg a while back, and mentioned Have Donut/Have Drill in that post.

Both programs were pretty much classified up the wazoo, but knowing about the capabilities of enemy airplanes is only really useful if it gets down to the warfighter’s level. Accordingly, classified training films of the evaluations were made and shown to select crews.


Oddly, the MiG-21 was flown under the cover name of “YF-110” which was the Air Force designation for the F-4 Phantom before the 1962 tri-service designation revamp. The Phantom, of course, would be the MiG-21’s primary opponent in the skies above North Vietnam.

You may also recall I posted a video a couple weeks ago about the operational evaluation of the Phantom in the hands of Tactical Air Command. One thing that very plainly struck me was that the entire film focused on the air-to-ground capabilities of the Phantom. TAC saw itself almost entirely devoted to air-to-ground missions. In spite of all their fighter pilot swagger, TAC left the business of serious thought regarding air-to-air combat to the Air Defense Command folks. But ADC faced an very different challenge than the TAC folks. It’s one thing to intercept a TU-95 Bear hundreds of miles away. Swirling around with nimble MiGs over their own territory while you’re trying to bomb the suburbs of Hanoi is an entirely different kettle of fish. And given the emphasis on using the missile armament of Sparrows and Sidewinders, neither of which liked to be fired from a wildly maneuvering jet, the air-to-air skills of the TAC had atrophied to a disastrous state. Where the US shot down about 10 MiGs in Korea for every Sabre they lost, the USAF in the early years of Vietnam saw Phantoms with only a 2-1 kill ratio, and at times, losses among all jets were as bad as 1 to 1.

Restrictive Rules of Engagement also squandered much of the Phantom’s advantages over Vietnamese MiGs.* The best way to shoot down a MiG is to bomb it on the ground. But fears of killing Russian advisors in bombing raids kept North Vietnamese MiG airfields off the target list for long stretches of time, and even when strikes were permitted, they were only allowed in fits and starts, not sufficient to keep the fields closed for more than brief periods.

The dismal performance of the Phantom in the air-to-air regime led the Navy and the Air Force to do a lot of soul searching. AIMVAL/ACEVAL, The Ault Report, Navy Fighter Weapons School (TOPGUN) and later Red Flag were all results the the services tackling head on their earlier failures. Technical improvements to both the Sparrow and Sidewinder greatly improved their performance. More importantly, tough realistic training greatly improved the aircrews ability to fight MiGs and win.

The MiG-21 was designed as a point defense interceptor, optimized for shooting down bomb-laden strike aircraft. It was fast as  a thief. It could also turn on a dime… for a little while**. While its delta-wing planform gave it great initial turning capability, it also had enormous induced drag, causing it to bleed airspeed in a turn like a hemophiliac. And in air combat, speed is life. The Phantom wasn’t nearly as nimble a turning jet. What it did have, however, was two great big thundering J79 engines that gave it a very good ability to sustain its energy levels through a fight. A ham fisted pilot would find himself out of airspeed, altitude and ideas very quickly, but a well trained stick-shaker could manage his energy level to outfly almost any opponent.

The whole point of maneuvering in air combat was to place your jet in optimum firing position, which in those days was very roughly a cone of about 30 degrees from the enemy fighter’s tail, and a range of about half a mile to 1-1/2 miles. Woe betide the Phantom pilot who tried to yank the stick hard enough to turn with the MiG. He’d find that very likely, the MiG would turn the tables, and find the gomer riding in his “saddle.” Instead, US pilots were taught to abandon this “angles” fight, and instead fight an “energy” fight. If you can’t out turn an MiG, how do you do this? By exploiting the vertical. Humans are essentially two-dimensional thinkers.  Most pilots, wanting to turn, instinctively turn in a level turn, parallel to the surface of the earth. As noted, this bleeds airspeed in a MiG. But a well trained Phantom pilot would make turns “out of plane1” A Phantom pilot that wants to execute a tight turn without bleeding a lot of energy would pull into the vertical. This would bleed airspeed, sure. But it would also quickly gain altitude. At the apex of the zoom climb, the Phantom at low speed could quickly tip its nose back earthward, execute a roll (with the practical effect of very rapidly changing its compass heading) and begin pulling out of the dive. And all that altitude is quickly converted back into a high airspeed, leaving the Phantom with reserves of energy to either kill the MiG, escape combat, or make further maneuvers.

Various other maneuvers, such as the “barrel roll attack” or the “lag displacement roll2” capitalized on the Phantom’s strengths, and minimized its weaknesses.  The “high yo-yo” allowed Phantoms to exploit energy for angles, and the “low yo-yo” allowed Phantoms to generate energy or range/angle offsets as appropriate.

With improvement in weapons, and the vastly improved training of aircrews, by the time of Linebacker I in 1972, the US Air Force and US Navy increased their kill ratio to an impressive 12-1. Through the lean years of the 1970s, and on through the early 1990s, both services placed great emphasis on supporting the training in air combat needed to ensure success. Today, while there is still strong support, the emphasis has shifted somewhat to integrating air combat into the strike warfare arena, and using new weapons and sensors to make traditional dogfighting less likely. Many traditionalists decry this, but the fact is, since Desert Storm, most US air-to-air kills have been Beyond Visual Range engagements with little or no dogfighting involved.


*On the other hand, there were some very good reasons for some of the ROE restrictions. The big restriction was that pilots had to make a positive visual identification of their potential targets. That took away the range advantage of the Sparrow missile. But given the large numbers of US aircraft operating over North Vietnam, and the relative paucity of MiGs, without that restriction, the was a very great possibility of fratricide. There’s a good chance this rule saved more jets than it lost.

** The preferred MiG-21 tactic was to attack flights of F-105 bombers by coming up from behind and slightly below. Quickly accelerating to supersonic speeds, the MiG would dash in, fire off its Atoll heatseeking missiles, and dive away for safety. The Atoll was a virtual clone of the early Sidewinder missile.

1. The “plane” here isn’t the Phantom or the MiG, but rather the geometric concept of a plane, this one being the surface of the earth, which, yes, we know the surface is rounded, but for the purposes of aerial combat can be considered as a flat plane.

2. The Lag Displacement Roll lets a Phantom that is overshooting the MiG go outside the turn of the MiG, denying the MiG the opportunity to reverse its turn and attack. Instead of instinctively turning in the direction of the MiG, the Phantom barrel rolls away from the MiG and outside the track of the MiG’s turn. Once outside the MiG’s turn, the Phantom continues an in-plane turn with the MiG. It’s turn radius is
larger than that of the MiG, but it’s turn rate matches well enough.  Essentially, the turn comes to resemble two well matched runners on a track, with one on the inside lane, and one on the outside lane. So while the Phantom may not have a shot, he’s not at risk of becoming defensive either.  Eventually, the MiG will bleed away so much energy that it can’t sustain the turn, allowing the Phantom to gain an angular advantage as well, and set up a shot.

US Army Introduces ‘Revolutionary’ New Woodland Camouflage Uniform To Replace ACU | The Duffel Blog

Fort Belvoir, VA – In a surprise move, the US Army’s Program Executive Office-Soldier has announced that it has selected a “revolutionary” new woodland camouflage pattern to replace the Army’s Universal Camouflage Pattern (UCP).

via US Army Introduces ‘Revolutionary’ New Woodland Camouflage Uniform To Replace ACU | The Duffel Blog.

Marines vs. Zetas: U.S. Hunts Drug Cartels in Guatemala | Danger Room |

The war on drugs just got a whole lot more warlike. Two hundred U.S. Marines have entered Guatemala, on a mission to chase local operatives of the murderous Zeta drug cartel.

The Marines are now encamped after having deployed to Guatemala earlier this month, and have just “kicked off” their share of Operation Martillo, or Hammer. That operation began earlier in January, and is much larger than just the Marine contingent and involves the Navy, Coast Guard, and federal agents working with the Guatemalans to block drug shipment routes.

It’s a big shift for U.S. forces in the region. For years, the Pentagon has sent troops to Guatemala, but these missions have been pretty limited to exercising “soft power” — training local soldiers, building roads and schools. Operation Martillo is something quite different.

via Marines vs. Zetas: U.S. Hunts Drug Cartels in Guatemala | Danger Room |

Interesting. I recall that in the early 1980s, US support for El Salvador, at a much more… discrete… level than this was a cause for much wailing and gnashing of teeth. A few garments were rendered as well. I’m somewhat amazed that this particular deployment is so quiet.

URR will tell you that the Marines have a long, long history of operations in South and Central America. Heck, it’s where they first developed their doctrine of close air support.

The US tries to tread lightly in South America. While any number of governments and large swaths of the population are grateful for US support, there are also any number of people ready to decry Yankee imperialism and American neo-colonialism. Much of South America is something of a basket case, but aside from drug traffic, its problems also tend to be regional, confined to the local arena, and not as immediate a threat to US interests as other international areas such as the Middle East or the Pacific Rim.

It will be interesting to see what comes next here. Will the Zetas lay low, knowing that the Marines can only deploy for  a relatively short time, or will they opt for some level of asymetric resistance?

Salton Sea Stench

Bright sunlight and warm temperatures cause an algae bloom in the Salton Sea. The algae consume oxygen, starving thousands, sometimes millions of talapia fish in the lake. They die, rot, and stink.

I’m a good 30 or 40 miles from the Salton Sea (and over 100 miles from the ocean) and yet it smells like the docks at low tide outside.

Bomb from World War II Detonated in Munich – SPIEGEL ONLINE

Defusing leftover bombs from World War II hidden in the ground beneath German cities has long been routine. The area surrounding the dud is evacuated, experts arrive to defuse the explosive and before long, normality returns. Often, such operations hardly even warrant a mention in the back pages of local newspapers.

That, however, was not the situation in Munich on Tuesday night. Unable to defuse a 250 kilogram (550 pound) bomb found buried one meter (three feet) deep at the site of the former bar Schwabinger 7 in the heart of the Bavarian capital, authorities elected to detonate the explosive on site. The controlled blast, finally carried out just before 10 p.m., sent a fireball into the night sky, shattered windows in the vicinity and resulted in several small fires on surrounding rooftops. Nobody was hurt.

“Almost all the window panes in the immediate area were destroyed,” Diethard Posorski, from the Munich bomb disposal authority, told journalists. A fire department spokesman added: “It looked quite spectacular.”

via Bomb from World War II Detonated in Munich – SPIEGEL ONLINE.

Bomb from World War II Detonated in Munich - SPIEGEL ONLINE

Chemical time delay fuses were notoriously unreliable. Intended to detonate at random times after an attack to disrupt recovery operations, they are also almost impossible to defuse.

Germany and most European nations have quite a bit of experience handling this sort of thing. But everyone should beware any possible unexploded ordnance.

By the way, it isn’t just Europe that has this problem. The eastern half of the US is littered with Civil War era unexploded ordnance, and there are any number of places out west that may have UXO from training ranges or accidents. If you do spot UXO, don’t disturb it, make note of its location, and report it. It may be harmless, but better safe than sorry.

Don't Believe The Report Going Around About Veterans Flocking To Right Wing Extremist Groups – Business Insider

But Reuters published a story Aug. 23 titled “US Army Battling racists within its own ranks.” Inside this report, the only real, hard statistic I could find, and the one fact which the whole story stood upon, was this:

“No one knows how many white supremacists have served since then. A 2008 report commissioned by the Justice Department found half of all right-wing extremists in the United States had military experience.”

For the rest of the story, we’re treated with evidence that’s at best anecdotal, and at worst seems to point at what’s called a “lone wolf” problem; meaning extremists, without any official militant group affiliation or enrollment, take things into their own hands — much as we saw with Wade Michael Page.

via Don’t Believe The Report Going Around About Veterans Flocking To Right Wing Extremist Groups – Business Insider.

Are there disaffected people out there with military experience? Sure.

Has an enormous shadowy militia of tens of thousands of vets formed to fight the coming race wars. No.

And while the media won’t come out and make that claim, they will tend to publish articles that let you infer that.



We’ve talked more than once about the uniforms in the Army.

When you first enlist in the Army, one of the very first things that happens, just about right after the haircut, is the issuing of uniforms.* Four sets of ACUs, two pair of boots, underwear, t-shirts, belts, socks (but not Sox) and various and sundry stuff. All the uniform items every soldier is required to maintain at all times. After that “initial issue” each soldier is responsible for replacing items as they wear out.

But that’s just the basic uniform stuff. Given the wide array of places the Army serves, and the huge array of roles and missions various units fill, specialized clothing and equipment is issued a little differently. For instance, someone working in a recruiting station only needs the basic uniform items prescribed for all soldiers. They don’t need body armor, load carrying equipment, and a helmet.1 So the Army doesn’t issue that stuff to them.

Clothing and equipment issued according to what unit you are assigned to is known in the Army as Organizational Clothing and Individual Equipment. Since allocation of these items is under Table of Allowances TA-50, it is also very often referred to as “TA-50”, particularly individual equipment like load carrying equipment. 2

One oddity is that Organizational Clothing generally isn’t managed at the organizational level. Very roughly, “organizational level” in the Army equals “battalion.”  But instead of making each battalion manage this stuff (especially when there may be as many as 30 or 40 different battalions on a post), the fort will have a single warehouse to manage this stuff for the units. Since this facility is centralized, and issues this stuff, it came to be know as the “Central Issue Facility” or CIF. 3 Some of the staff at CIF usually came from the division support battalion, but most of the folks were civilians hired by Department of the Army. Think DMV workers with less motivation. And less compassion.

As an individual soldier going through CIF, you’d go through a line, and they’d issue you whatever it was your normal outfit of equipment would be, based on whatever unit you were assigned to. Sometimes you’d get new equipment, but most of the time, you’d get some used piece of equipment some previous troop had turned in. At the end of the line, you’d have to sign a “hand receipt” basically acknowledging that you had the equipment, and you were responsible for it. You lose it, you bought it.

Now, you might think this is a tidy little contract between you, the individual soldier, and the CIF. Ah… not so. Your equipment is subject to frequent inspection by your NCOs, your platoon leader, your company commander, and even on rare occasions by the battalion commander. Prepping and displaying TA-50 for inventory and inspection by the various poobahs is, of course, time consuming and tedious. Some senior NCOs worry more about the presentation of how the layout of gear looks than whether the equipment is serviceable. Others, more wisely, spend their inspection time making sure that everything is present and works.

If you’ve got a piece of equipment that, through normal wear and tear, has become unserviceable, you can “DX” it through CIF. That is, a direct exchange. One example. My first unit, the 25th ID, issued two pair of jungle boots as OCIE to all soldiers in the division. I almost always wore them to the field (rather than my basic leather combat boots) as a matter of comfort and personal choice. But the unit commander mandated that when we deployed to the Big Island, ALL troops would wear jungle boots, and not the leather combat boot. The reason was, the volcanic rock of the Big Island would destroy a pair of boots in only a week or two. Since jungle boots could be DX’d, at no cost to the soldier, that was a better deal than having PFC Schmuckatelly ruin a pair of leather boots he’d be required to replace on his own dime.  I think I ended up going through about 10 pair of boots in 19 months in Hawaii.4

So far, so good. But eventually, your tour at any given base comes to an end. And when that happens, you have to give back all the goodies the CIF gave you. When CIF issues you a piece of equipment that looks to be in worse shape than a piece of month old Texas roadkill, they insist it’s serviceable. But when you try to turn in damn near anything not still in its wrapper, they insist that it is suddenly it’s too dirty, and needs to be cleaned. And given that they do DX, why do they get prissy about turning in unserviceable stuff when you’re leaving post? I never figured that out. The problem is, until you have successfully turned in all your TA-50, you can’t clear post and leave. Eventually, you get fed up trying to satisfy the sadists at CIF, go to the post Clothing Sales store, and buy a brand new example of whatever that last piece of equipment is that they’re hassling you about, turn that in (and even then, I’ve had a CIF staff give me grief) and get the heck out of there.

I suspect there’s a line in Heaven where CIF issues new stuff with no hand receipts. Of course, there’s also a turn-in line in Hell. You can imagine how that one works.


*Actually, they hold off a while on the dress uniforms. Your body is going to undergo at least some change during basic. No sense issuing tailored uniforms until those changes are mostly done.

1. There were times when Gary, IN challenged that notion.

2. In the Marines, this stuff is also known as “782 gear” for similar reasons.

3. I presume it is still called that. Though I wouldn’t be the least surprised to learn CIF has succumbed to the mania for renaming in stilted jargon every institution known far and wide through the Army, which is then referred to by  the old name by everyone in the Army.

4. Jungle boots were also a happy exception to the rule about mostly being issued used stuff. Every pair issued were brand new. And you could DX them when they wore out. You had to turn in the old ones when you did that. But that was mostly to make sure you weren’t building a huge collection of jungle boots for sale at surplus stores. When you left the post, you didn’t have to turn in your jungle boots, but could instead keep them, and of course, wear them at your new duty station. See, while in Hawaii, they were OCIE, everywhere else, they were an optional piece of equipment that you could wear, or buy on your own dime. The trick was to replace worn out jungle boots at the last possible moment in Hawaii, which if I recall was something like 30 days before you were scheduled to depart the station.


Normally, in garrison in the Army, Monday’s are devoted to “motor stables” where the vast majority of the company heads to the motor pool and performs weekly Preventative Maintenance Checks and Services on the vehicles and associated equipment. Check the fluid levels, look for rust, loose nuts and bolts, leaks, and update the maintenance records. If any parts on back order have come in, have the maintenance team apply them. Hey, if you want a Bradley or Humvee to last for 25 years or more, you have to take care of it.

I tend to try to do the same thing here at home, with a car, truck and golf cart that require a wee bit of care to keep running. But yesterday was the great bi-monthly battle of the hedge (I trimmed the damn thing down to stumps), so today will have to pretend it is Monday.

And since I’m doing all that fun stuff, I’m not spending a lot of time blogging.