Category Archives: ARMY TRAINING

About that M4 Controversy

This one has been flying around the internet today. OMG! The Army is in a conspiracy to keep the M4 carbine and shut down tests of any other possible small arms!

A competing rifle outperformed the Army’s favored M4A1 carbine in key firings during a competition last year before the service abruptly called off the tests and stuck with its gun, according to a new confidential report.

Yeah, well, that’s not terribly surprising. There’s no official word which competing rifle outperformed the M4A1. Rumor Control says it was the FN SCAR series.  

Of course, an FN SCAR tends to cost about twice as much as an M4A1. That’s not an insignificant issue.

Frankly, absent a really radical difference in performance (not reliability, but performance) investing money in an entirely new small arms platform is a very small return investment.

Consistently, surveys of US troops- Infantry troops- have found that they like the M4, are satisfied with the M4, and find it reliable. There simply isn’t a big demand signal from the field to replace the M4 platform.
I’ve fired the M4, but always carried either an M16A1 or M16A2. In a dozen years, I never had a single malfunction with a Colt M16 that wasn’t a magazine problem. Not one.

FN did have a contract to build M16A2s. They were awful. I had repeated problems with them. It wasn’t long before Colt won back the contract. One wonders if the poor quality control of FN rifles lingers in the minds of the Army when looking at future purchases.

If you want to look at a small arm that has consistently had issues with jamming and reliability, look at the M249 SAW family. They’ve been tinkering with it for 30 years, and it still loves to jam.

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Score! Alabama-made SM-6 dials up ‘straight flush’ in flight test |

The Huntsville-made Standard Missile-6 performed right on cue during recent tests that showcased its ability to intercept a subsonic, low-altitude target over land.

Raytheon, which makes the SM-6 and SM-3 at its facility on Redstone Arsenal, said the Aug. 14 flight test – dubbed “Juliet”- was a success.

“Last week’s test was essentially a straight flush. It terms of cruise missile defense, it doesn’t get better than the performance we’re seeing out of the SM-6,” said Mike Campisi, Raytheon’s Standard Missile-6 program director.

“We’ve delivered more than 100 SM-6s to the US Navy from our integration facility in Huntsville, and it continues to prove its capability against a wide range of threats.”

The test, conducted at White Sands Missile Range, is one of 10 planned performance and demonstration events designed to show the Navy SM-6’s ability to detect and engage a slow-moving target, even in the presence of land clutter. The SM-6 obtained operational status last year and is designed to provide an over-the-horizon target engagement weapon when launched from an Aegis warship.

via Score! Alabama-made SM-6 dials up ‘straight flush’ in flight test |

For 60 years, the Standard Missile Family, with its Terrier and Tartar predecessors, have provided the primary area air defense weapons for the US Navy.

For most of that history, the Standard family has been SARH, or Semi-Active Radar Homing. An illuminating radar on the launching ship pours high powered radar frequency energy onto the target, and the seeker head of the missile simply follows the reflected target to intercept.

SARH was an attractive guidance technique for a couple reasons. Unlike command guidance used in Nike Ajax and Hercules, it was fairly resistant to jamming. And because the most complex parts of the guidance system were aboard ship (that is, the illuminating radar), missiles were relatively simple, cheap, and reliable.

Mind you, this was in an age where electronics technology was still largely tube based, and integrated circuits were still in their infancy. Analog computing technology was the rule.

Over the years, the switch to digital technology and increased computing power improved the tracking and fire control capabilities of shipboard mounted missile control systems. And to be sure, the missiles themselves switched to smaller, lighter, more reliable digital electronics. Coupled with ever more powerful solid rocket motors, that greatly increased the range of the Standard missile.

With the SM-2 family of missiles, especially when used with the Aegis/SPY-1 radar/computer, a missile would fly to a computer predicted intercept point. Rather than following the illuminated target the entire time of flight, it would follow the most energy efficient path to the target, with mid-course updates to its autopilot injected in radar signals from the SPY-1 radar. Not until the final moments of an intercept would the target be illuminated by a fire control radar. Among other things, this made it much harder for a target to realize it was under attack. And optimizing the energy profile of the missile’s flight left it with sufficient energy for terminal maneuvers for the intercept.

In fact, the missile itself had such a range that for some situations, the limiting factor became the effective range of the illuminating radar.

SPG-51 Fire Control Radar

For all the improvements in the Standard Missile family, one problem remained. The line of sight limitation of the illuminating radar. The curvature of the earth means that low altitude targets, such as sea skimming cruise missiles, can only be illuminated at depressingly short ranges. That short range means a much shorter engagement time, and increases the likelihood of a saturation attack having some leakers. Even if another radar platform, such as an E-2C Hawkeye, detects targets, without the ability to illuminate them, the Standard family couldn’t engage.

It wasn’t lost on the engineers of Raytheon, nor the operational minds of the Navy, that the AIM-54 Phoenix, and later, the AIM-120 AMRAAM air-to-air missiles used an onboard active radar.

In a remarkably rapid development program, a modified active radar seeker from the AIM-120 was grafted onto the Standard missile, resulting in Standard Missile 6. It can still be used as an SARH missile. But it also has the ability to engage targets outside the line of sight of the illuminator.

Part of the trick is steering the SM-6 close enough to the target for its small radar seeker to pick up the target.  Readers may recall my post on the NTDS giving a common situation picture to a task force. Unfortunately, NTDS wasn’t that accurate. Positional information simply wasn’t available back then. In the era of GPS, however, such information is, and under Cooperative Engagement Capability, one platform can provide fire control quality updates to another. For instance, our hypothetical E-2 Hawkeye can give a clear enough picture to our hypothetical Aegis ship to fire SM-6 at targets still well below the ship’s radar horizon.

In the linked article about test flight Juliet, the target is described as subsonic and overland. Depending on the target’s altitude, that can be an extremely challenging target. For long range, you want your missile to fly as high a profile as possible, to avoid drag from thick low altitude air. But you need a radar seeker capable of discriminating the target against the background clutter of the ground.

SM-6 is in production, and is fielded with the fleet, but is still in such small numbers that the SM-2 is still the primary area anti-air weapon.

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Wut?! White House Says The ISLAMIC State in Iraq and Syria Has Nothing To Do With Islam

Look, it was bad enough that the Bush administration instantly pandered to Islamic sensitivities in the immediate wake of 9/11.  But at least that administration was capable of realizing that our implacable foe claimed to be acting on religious grounds.


Look, who are you going to believe? The White House* or the ISLAMIC State in Iraq and Syria?

H/T to Weasel Zippers.


*With their record of sterling integrity…



Gun Camera Footage

I thought I’d seen just about every scrap of gun camera footage from World War II.  This one is new to me. And the contrast between the violence of action, and the serene music is… jarring. Also, be sure to note  footage of Me163 and Me262 at the end.

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Shooting To Wound and Selling Popcorn – The Truth About Guns

Americans are treated to a steady stream of good guys purposely and casually wounding bad guys, usually in the shoulder. On TV and in the movies, such beyond-Olympic-level shooting always disarms and incapacitates the bad guy, and when the good guy is similarly wounded, they are barely inconvenienced and heal with amazing speed.

Not only is this sort of shooting incredibly dangerous to good guys and innocent bystanders, it’s almost always legally disastrous. In addition, any survivable gunshot wound may have life-long health implications. As regular readers may remember from an earlier article, one shoots to stop an attacker, to immediately–to whatever degree that is possible–cause them to cease the hostile actions that made the use of deadly force legally permissible. For the purposes of this article, we’ll assume that all legal burdens have been met. The good guy, under the laws in force when and where he has to shoot, is legally in the right when he pulls the trigger. But how is he going to accomplish his purpose: stopping the bad guy?

There are three primary means of stopping a human being:

  1. Neural damage

  2. Breaking the skeleton

  3. Exsanguination

via Shooting To Wound and Selling Popcorn – The Truth About Guns.

Even a good center-of-mass hit is rarely instantly incapacitating. Unless you actually hit the heart or break the spine.

Furthermore, almost anytime someone has to shoot, they’re under incredible stress. Guess what? When your fight or flight instinct kicks in, your body dumps a ton of adrenaline into your bloodstream.  Your accuracy is going to plummet.

Police may (or may not) be too quick to resort to shooting, but the idea of demanding anyone to shoot with an attempt to wound is asinine.



Syrian Armor

Maybe not up to our standards, but they’re better than you usually see. Gunners traversing and scanning, occasional TC out of the hatch for situational awareness.

You might have to log in to youtube to see.

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Japanese Live Fire

We don’t really pay much attention to the Japanese Army (technically, the Japanese Ground Self Defense Force). Post-World War II constitutional restrictions on Japan’s armed forces effectively mean its army cannot be deployed outside the country.

But that doesn’t mean they don’t have one. It’s actually the largest of Japan’s forces at about 150,000 troops. It is  not nearly as visible as their air and naval arms, however. But it is quite professional and well equipped.

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UPDATE 2-Belgian Doel 4 nuclear reactor closed till year-end | Reuters

PARIS, Aug 14 (Reuters) – Belgian energy company Electrabel said its Doel 4 nuclear reactor would stay offline at least until the end of this year after major damage to its turbine, with the cause confirmed as sabotage.

On Tuesday, Electrabel had said the plant would remain offline until Sept. 15 as it carried out repairs and investigated an oil leak that forced its closure on Aug. 5. Its French parent company GDF Suez confirmed the closure was due to sabotage.

The shutdown of Doel 4’s nearly 1 gigawatt (GW) of electricity generating capacity as well as closures of two other reactors (Doel 3 and Tihange 2) or months because of cracks in steel reactor casings adds up to just over 3 GW of Belgian nuclear capacity that is offline, more than half of the total.

via UPDATE 2-Belgian Doel 4 nuclear reactor closed till year-end | Reuters.

Well… no telling if it was a disgruntled employee, or something even more nefarious.

The turbine side of a nuke plant is pretty much the same as if it were a coal powered plant.* There’s no radiation hazard or anything like that. Of course, you can’t run the reactor at anything approaching capacity without the turbine section, because you need it to extract heat from the steam, so it can be condensed and returned to the heat exchanger, where it cools the primary coolant loop.

For now, we’re putting this in the “bad, but not panic” bin.


*Let’s not get into superheat and saturated steam and whatnot



I’ve got a question about the TX Public Integrity Unit

The indictment of Texas Governor Rick Perry centers around his line item veto of an appropriation of state funds for the Texas Public Integrity Unit. The PIU is run out of the San Antonio Travis County DA’s office.

Since 1982 under former DA Ronnie Earl’s watch, The Public Integrity Unit had been state-funded under a reimbursement scheme to the county. In June 2013 when Governor Perry ordered the funding shut off, the unit was left to fend for itself.

Among conservatives, the PIU, especially under Ronnie Earles, was seen as primarily motivated toward political witch-hunts designed to attack Republican politicians such as the Hutchinson and DeLay smears.

But here’s my question- what is the authority, statutory or otherwise, that created the PIU? Did Earles just decide to take the role upon himself? Or was a law passed in the state legislature creating it?  My google-fu hasn’t been able to find any answers.

To have a county DA responsible for statewide investigations of public corruption is… weird. Mind you, I don’t mind having an outside agency responsible for policing public officials. But this set up seems odd. Odd enough that at least one lawsuit has been filed challenging the PIU authority to operate statewide.

Any lawyers out there have insight?



Jay Nixon: National Guard to Ferguson – Jonathan Topaz –

Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon is deploying the state National Guard to Ferguson to address the “intensifying violent attacks” in the suburb of St. Louis, he announced early Monday.

The Democratic governor’s announcement came after arguably the most violent night in the Missouri city since unarmed African-American 18-year-old Michael Brown was fatally shot by a white police officer more than a week ago.

via Jay Nixon: National Guard to Ferguson – Jonathan Topaz –

The state police remain in charge, with the Guard slated to provide security to businesses in the area.




Federal officials investigating missing semi-automatic rifles | Fox News

It’s not quite at earplugs/rubber bullets level, but the press again  shows it has absolutely no clue about firearms.


DES PLAINES, Ill. – Federal officials are investigating after two semi-automatic rifles given to the Des Plaines police department more than a decade ago were discovered missing.

The (Arlington Heights) Daily Herald reports the agency that manages the Defense Department’s surplus property program referred the matter to its Office of the Inspector General.

via Federal officials investigating missing semi-automatic rifles | Fox News.

Here’s the problem. Just below this snippet is this:

Des Plaines received a pair of M-16A1 rifles in 2002 through a Department of Defense program that supplies local law enforcement with surplus military equipment.

The M16A1 is not a semiautomatic rifle.  It is a selective fire rifle, capable of either semiautomatic fire, or fully automatic fire. If the rifles in question are truly surplus military M16A1s, losing them is a big deal.

In the Army, if you lose a weapon (any weapon, not just automatic weapons) everything gets locked down. Nobody gets to leave, for as long as it takes. Your 4th amendment rights are… well, not ignored, but certainly constrained. Everything and everybody is getting searched. If it takes a month of lockdown, so be it.





FoxTrot Classics Comic Strip, August 11, 2014 on

FoxTrot Classics

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USS Theodore Roosevelt Conducts Combined Manned, Unmanned Operations

USS THEODORE ROOSEVELT, At Sea (NNS) — The Navy’s unmanned X-47B returned to carrier operations aboard USS Theodore Roosevelt (CVN 71) Aug. 17 and completed a series of tests, operating safely and seamlessly with manned aircraft.

Building on lessons learned from its first test period aboard TR in November 2013, the X-47B team is now focused on perfecting deck operations and performing maneuvers with manned aircraft in the flight pattern.

“Today we showed that the X-47B could take off, land and fly in the carrier pattern with manned aircraft while maintaining normal flight deck operations,” said Capt. Beau Duarte, program manager for the Navy’s Unmanned Carrier Aviation office. “This is key for the future Carrier Air Wing.”

The first series of manned/unmanned operations began this morning when the ship launched an F/A-18 and an X-47B. After an eight-minute flight, the X-47B executed an arrested landing, folded its wings and taxied out of the landing area. The deck-based operator used newly developed deck handling control to manually move the aircraft out of the way of other aircraft, allowing the F/A-18 to touch down close behind the X-47B’s recovery.

This cooperative launch and recovery sequence will be repeated multiple times over the course of the planned test periods. The X-47B performed multiple arrested landings, catapults, flight deck taxiing and deck refueling operations.

via USS Theodore Roosevelt Conducts Combined Manned, Unmanned Operations.

The Navy's unmanned X-47B lands aboard the aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt (CVN 71).

It’s a long, long way from operational deployment, but honestly, I’m impressed by how much they have accomplished.  Hopefully we’ll see some more video soon.

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Boeing’s Phantom Badger packs a lot of combat vehicle into a small package

The US military fields some pretty impressive vehicles, but they aren’t worth much if they don’t fit on the aircraft intended to transport them. Last month, the US Navy removed one obstacle when it cleared the Boeing Phantom Badger combat support vehicle for transport inside a V-22 Osprey tiltrotor aircraft. After a battery of tests, including form-fit checks, pressure tests and structural evaluations of over four G’s, the modular vehicle was a step closer to deployment by the US Marine Corps and US Air Force Special Operations.

via Boeing’s Phantom Badger packs a lot of combat vehicle into a small package.

While the Osprey can carry vehicles via sling load externally, that negates the speed the Osprey is capable of.

You won’t get much of a vehicle inside an Osprey. But for supporting heavy(ish) weapons and carrying ammunition and supplies, you have to have at least some sort of prime mover.  The Phantom Badger, like all light vehicles, will be vulnerable to mines, IEDs, and small arms fire. But in a war of maneuver, the enemy won’t have as much opportunity to emplace mine and IEDs, and terrain can often be used to screen the vehicles from the worst of small arms.

Certainly, seeing Boeing and a NASCAR oriented shop team up is innovative.



Modern Journalism


The Twitchy Team found some great responses.





Compare and Contrast

If you’re an illegal immigrant, your local school district must enroll you.

But if you’re an American teenager, your school can arbitrarily kick you out of class.

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Red Bull- Ascot

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Willie Pete?

War News Updates has a post that claims Ukrainian forces are using white phosphorus shells on Donetsk.

Honestly, I don’t know. I’ve never seen it used at night. But WP produces extremely thick smoke, and I’m not seeing any. That could be an artifact of the video, or it could be something else.

Use of WP against a civilian population is a violation of the Law of Armed Conflict. It’s use against a military target, however, is not. WP is useful primarily as a screening agent, and secondarily as an incendiary. It’s useful as an antipersonnel weapon against troops in the open, but then again, ordinary high explosive is better.



Poland puts on biggest military parade in years – Yahoo News

WARSAW, Poland (AP) — Poland put on its biggest military parade in years Friday to mark its annual armed forces holiday, with the president saying the violence in Ukraine shows that conflict is still a “brutal reality” in Eastern Europe and Poland must be able to defend itself.

Fighter jets and military helicopters flew over Warsaw as tanks rolled through the capital. More than 1,000 Polish soldiers marched, joined by dozens of U.S. and Canadian troops who are in Poland for NATO exercises.

The parade came on the Aug. 15 holiday that honors a stunning Polish victory against Russian Bolsheviks in 1920.

Poland has been occupied or controlled by Moscow for much of the past two centuries, leaving Poles shaken by the current Russian aggression in neighboring Ukraine. The government has reacted with appeals to NATO to set up permanent bases in Poland but is facing resistance from Germany and some other members.

“The Russian-Ukrainian conflict clearly shows that not all of the nations in our region can live in security,” President Bronislaw Komorowski said in a speech before the parade.

via Poland puts on biggest military parade in years – Yahoo News.

Poland is by far the most “westernized” and economically successful of the former Warsaw Pact states now aligned with NATO.

Poland is also the historical dividing line between eastern and western Europe, and as such has historically been attacked by both sides to be used as either a buffer or as an avenue of attack .

For all that, they’re a fiercely independent minded people. They know western Europe poses no threat to them today, and that Putin’s expansionist Russia does. Hence the display of military might.

I don’t think Poland is concerned that Russia will make a move right now. I think they’re concern is that Russia may soon enough digest its gains in Ukraine, and shift its hunger back to its traditional satrap of Poland.

Poland isn’t the only country with that concern. Spill pointed out to me that tiny Estonia also is looking to make itself unattractive as possible to Russia.

TALLINN, August 14 (RIA Novosti) – Estonia’s Defense Ministry has confirmed that a US Army armored infantry company equipped with M1 Abrams tanks, infantry fighting vehicles and armored personnel carriers will be stationed in the country, Postimees newspaper reported Thursday.

Peeter Kuimet, the representative of Estonian Defense Ministry’s press service, confirmed to this to the newspaper, adding that details regarding the exact number of personnel, the date of arrival, home station and the number of tanks and other hardware are being worked out.

Earlier, US Stars and Stripes newspaper reported that in October four companies with a total of 600 troops from the 1st Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry US Army Division, will be moved to Poland and the Baltic states to replace units from the 173rd Airborne Brigade, currently stationed in the region.


A heavy company, or a light battalion, isn’t really combat power. It’s a political statement, however, that any Russian shift to the Baltic will have greater consequences than its actions in Crimea and eastern Ukraine.

Obama won’t be in office forever. It’s quite possible the next administration won’t be as catastrophically bad at foreign policy.



Ukraine Vs. Russia

Kiev and its Western allies have in the past repeatedly accused Russia of arming pro-Moscow separatist rebels in eastern Ukraine, and of sending undercover military units onto Ukrainian soil.

But if it is able for the first time to show the remains of Russian military vehicles captured or destroyed on its territory, that would give extra force to Kiev’s allegations – and possibly spark a new round of sanctions against the Kremlin.

Andriy Lysenko, a spokesman for the Ukrainian military, told a news briefing that Kiev’s forces had picked up a Russian military column crossing the border under cover of darkness.

“Appropriate actions were undertaken and a part of it no longer exists,” Lysenko said.

Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko briefed British Prime Minister David Cameron on the incident and told him a “significant” part of the Russian column had been destroyed, according to statement from Poroshenko’s office.

Did anyone really think the “aid convoy” wasn’t a pretext to get Russian troops into eastern Ukraine?




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The Militarization of the Police and Ferguson, MO

Undoubtedly you’ve seen the news of civil unrest, protest marches, looting and rioting in Ferguson, MO, a suburb of St. Louis. Sparked by the shooting of an unarmed black teenager by the police, we’ve seen several nights of violence.

First, we withhold judgment on whether the shooting of Michael Brown was justified or not. We simply don’t know. But as Popehat has pointed out, there is a double standard at work here. Should you or I in our capacity as private citizens shoot someone, you may be certain that our names would almost instantly be released to the public. Further, we would almost as quickly find ourselves facing questioning by the police. Police officers however, can rest assured that their department will not release their names, nor will they necessarily face questioning under anything like the circumstances you and I would. That arrogation of privilege and assumption of innocence to the police goes a long way to fueling suspicion in the community that the police are simply incapable of conducting a fair investigation into their own actions, or that any wrongdoing will be held accountable, either by the involved officer, or the department.

In a pattern that was all too sadly predictable, a “memorial vigil” for Mr. Brown quickly devolved into looting and a frenzied rampage. Because it was so predictable, there was already a heavy, highly visible police presence. And of course, looting and rioting tends to bring an energetic response from law enforcement. Which begets even greater frustration with the police from the community, especially those who have continued to peaceably assemble and protest the shooting of Mr. Brown.

And of course, that has given us scenes of even more heavily armed police with armored vehicles attempting to impose order on Ferguson.

Police stand watch as demonstrators protest the shooting death of teenager Michael Brown on August 13, 2014 in Ferguson, Missouri. (AFP Photo / Getty Images / Scott Olson)

If it becomes necessary to deploy men in soldiers uniforms, with rifles and body armor, and armored vehicles, into a community to restore order, I would suggest that the increasingly militarized police are the wrong people to use.

There’s another body that has a long history of being so used, and indeed is enshrined in our Constitution with the duty to do so- the militia.

Today’s organized, constitutional militia is the National Guards of the various states.

Article I, Section 8, in part:

To provide for calling forth the Militia to execute the Laws of the Union, suppress Insurrections and repel Invasions;

To provide for organizing, arming, and disciplining, the Militia, and for governing such Part of them as may be employed in the Service of the United States, reserving to the States respectively, the Appointment of the Officers, and the Authority of training the Militia according to the discipline prescribed by Congress;

If you are going to militarize the enforcement of the law, use the military.

Every National Guard unit has a mission of addressing civil disturbance, and the training for that mission.

Further, at this point, the police in St. Louis County have shown an appalling behavior, not simply dispersing crowds, but arresting people who are clearly not in any way engaging in civic unrest. Watching this clip from KDSK news, one can only conclude that the TV news crew was deliberately targeted with tear gas to force them to stop filming the police.  As I started writing this post, news came that Missouri Governor Nixon has ordered the St. Louis County Police to withdraw, and to replace them with Missouri State Police officers.

Sadly, this will have little or no positive effect, as the community has absolutely no faith that any police agency can be trusted.

The National Guard, on the other hand, is a relatively disinterested party here.  Any Guard unit would inevitably become a locus of hate and frustration for some, but for others, perhaps the majority of the community, they would at least be seen as not the same blue line that killed Mr. Brown.



Home Sweet Home

I was lucky enough to grow up here.




We think the MV-22B Osprey is far too expensive a platform for  the Marine medium lift role it fulfills.  But that’s essentially our only real concern with the program. As aviation enthusiasts, we like it.

We were just now sitting outside, and felt a distinctive rumble, more a gentle purring coming up through the soles of our feet than a sound really. That’s the trademark we’ve come to associate with the approach of Ospreys enroute from MCAS Miramar to 29 Palms.  And sure enough, about a minute later:


There really are two MV-22B’s in the pic, just above and to the left of the tree.

Oddly, while we can feel the approach, the Osprey in airplane mode is extremely quiet, far quieter than most turboprop aircraft. And it is a slightly hazy day here, making the Osprey’s ghost gray paint scheme very effective.



Apollo 10 LM

The “dress rehearsal” flight for the first moon landing was Apollo 10. They did everything except land. Launch, TLI, LM rendezvous and extraction, midcourse update, LOI, LM separation and descent burn, and then ascent stage to rendezvous with the CSM, LM jettison, TEI burn, and finally SM jettison and CM reentry. Critically, it was the first flight of the LM in lunar orbit.

What’s surprising is just how roomy the inside of the LM was. You’ll notice there were no seats. The crew simply stood, with straps and harnesses to keep them from floating in a weightless environment.