Category Archives: planes

Dash 80 First Flight- 60 Years Ago Today

Not the first commercial jet transport, but certainly a game changer. The Boeing Model 367-80, commonly referred to as the Dash 80, was the prototype for what became the Boeing 707, 720, and C-135 families of aircraft. Even today, the descendants of the Dash 80 serve throughout the world.

 

Model 367-80, The Dash 80

And yes, Tex Johnson really did barrel roll the Dash 80 over Lake Washington.

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Harmonizing

When’s the last time you saw an actual P-51D firing actual .50cal machine guns? Well, here’s your chance. Parrothead Jeff sent this along.

 

You’ll notice not a lot of rounds were actually hitting the target. The best aerial marksmen in the world won’t do well if the guns aren’t “harmonized.” You’d expect the guns in the wing of a fighter to point straight ahead. But in fact, you want them to point inward ever so slightly. Ideally, the stream of fire from all six guns would converge at a point 250 to 300 yards ahead of the fighter. That was typically considered the maximum range a pilot could effectively shoot in aerial combat in World War II. And of course, the idea was to have the greatest possible weight of fire hitting the enemy at once.

The mounts in the wing of fighters allowed both for the guns to be securely and firmly mounted, while also allowing the direction of the gun to be dialed in. The process was straightforward, if rather time consuming. The plane would be placed on the range with the tail elevated as shown, at the distance desired, let’s say 250 yards from the target. Then one by one, each gun would be fired for a very short burst, with the armorers noting the point of impact, then adjusting the guns until they were on target, center mass. After all six guns were adjusted, a final burst would confirm the guns were harmonized.

Each plane had small differences in tolerances, so each plane had to be individually adjusted. However, once the actual adjustments were known (say, for instance, gun #1 needs 4 clicks up and 7 right to be on target) each time the guns were removed for cleaning and reinstalled, the same clicks could be applied. An occasional confirmation firing would suffice to ensure the guns were still harmonized.

Note also that while the Browning .50cal is externally quite similar to the gun used by ground forces, it’s been designed to have a significantly higher rate of fire, about 750rpm, versus 500-550 for the ground version.

Even today, the guns of fighters have to be fired on an actual range to ensure they’re pointed where the pilot thinks they are.

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USS Ranger Flight Ops Off Vietnam 1972

From the good old days. The heart aches for the variety of aircraft on the flight deck in those days (ok I wasn’t born in ’72 but still).

 

 

 

 

SPOILER ALERT: Yeah, you can have that Viggie trap at the end. That quite frankly scared me a little and gave me a few gray hairs.

h/t to Comm Jam for the Facebook post.

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Cutaway Thursday: McDonnell Douglas F-4X-VG

The McDonnell Douglas F-4X-VG was a design proposal to improve the carrier landing characteristics of the venerable F-4 Phamtom 2 in US Navy service. This eventually lost out to Grumman’s F-14 Tomcat but like the Tomcat the F-4X-VG has a variable geometry wing. The Navy passed on this proposal due to the VG-X’s apparent inablility to carry the AWG-9/AIM-54 Phoenix weapons system suite.

F-4X-VG

 

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Cutaway Thursday: Convair B-36J Peacemaker

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Bronco Monday

A pair of OV-10G+ Broncos in Black Pony markings stopped by this weekend to visit the Fort Worth Air Museum for the museum’s Founders Day.

 

Now, the Navy’s been pretty quiet about just what they’re currently doing with the Broncos, but you may have noticed that the pilots were wearing expeditionary camouflage uniforms, rather than the more conventional flight suit.

Not sayin’… just sayin’…

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Intrepid Tiger II – EW in the USMC

USMC EA-6B Prowler

USMC EA-6B Prowler

The primary asset for electronic warfare in the USMC has been the venerable Grumman EA-6B Prowler (and to a lesser extent, recently, RQ-7 Shadow UAVs). These airframe utilize the ALQ-99 Tactical Jamming System (TJS) to monitor and disrupt threat radars and communications on the battlefield. Lately during Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom, the Prowler (in addition to US Navy and Airforce EW assets) to jam cell phone integrated improvised explosive devices (IEDs). The Prowler has been in USMC service since the early 1970′s and due to airframe age have very recently been replaced by the EA-18G Growler, in US Navy service. The USMC has no plans to operate the Growler and will gradually phase the Prowler out to opt for an EW version of the F-35 Lightning 2. As for 2013, the USMC operated 4 squadrons (called VMAQs-) of Prowlers.

The decision of the USMC to opt for an EW version of the F-35 is already pretty controverisal. The USMC will operated the F-35B (the STOVL) version. It’s unknown whether or not the USMC will develop an “electronic attack” version of the F-35B (perhaps EF-35B) or add EW as another task for the F-35 to d0. The later would be possbile in terms of hardware given the AESA radar but in high threat environs, the single pilot would likely become task saturated. Most likely, the USMC would depend on the Navy’s Growlers and the USAF EC-130 aircraft. In a high threat “day-one” area either aircraft wouldn’t be able to escort the F-35. Most likely, both the EC-130 and Growler provide jamming coverage in at a relatively safer distance from a target area i.e “stand-off jamming.”

Meanwhile facing IED threats in Afganistan, the gradual drawdown of the USMC’s Prowler fleet, and continued delays in the F-35, the USMC would be left without an organic EW capability. It was recently revealed in 2008 that the USMC has developed a “podded” EW solution, called the Intrepid Tiger II for it’s Harrier fleet:

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In 2008 the USMC took dealing with the improvised explosive devices threat into their own hands and what they ended up with was a cost effective and highly adaptable jamming and communications intelligence pod that should be a model of how to satisfy future urgent “niche capability” needs.

It is called the Intrepid Tiger II and it looks very much like a ALQ-167 threat simulation podused for training by NAVAIR and its “Red Air” contractors. The pod itself is about the same size as a AIM-7 Sparrow air-to-air missile, with various aerials emitting from its tubular body. This configuration makes the pod capable of being deployed aboard the AV-8B Harrier jump-jet and its aerodynamic impact on the jet’s performance is so anemic that the aircraft’s flight computer does not even need a software update to carry it, it just treats it as an AGM-65 Maverick missile.

During the system’s rapid design phase, engineers made use of off the shelf parts in order to bring the program’s costs down and shorten the urgently needed pod’s developmental time-span. The first eight pods cost about a million dollars each, which is a bargain considering that anything with the words “new” and “military” next to it usually has an appalling price tag. When you look at what the Corps gets for that million bucks, Intrepid Tiger II is an all-out steal.

RTWT

The Intrepid Tiger is also highly automated (there’s only one pilot in the Harrier) and can, interestingly be operated either by the pilot and/or a remote ground station via datalink. The USMC hope to integrate the pod with other airborne platforms (Hornet and Cobra chiefly). While Intrepid Tiger does provide a limited solution in the face of the drawdown of the Prowler, and it also provides theather commanders with another EW asset option as current options aviable are “low density, high deman” meaning there aren’t enough to go around. The downside is that the Harrier doesn’t have much of a loiter capability (if someone needs on-station coverage) and you aren’t getting the same capability in terms of jamming coverage and power as you would from a dedicated EW platform.

But hell, something is better than nothing and the USMC deserves kudos for coming up with something.

Intrepid Tiger has already been test flown on Harriers from VMA-214 and is expected to be deployed with VMA-211 when they return to Afganistan later this year. 

 IMO, for the USMC to maintain an organic EW capabilty, they should opt for the Growler (an EW F-35 is a naive pipe dream and pointless gamble). The training infastructure is already there in the Navy and additional purchases would lower the unit costs. That said, because of the very high optempo of current national EW assets, Intrepid Tiger is a decent “ad hoc” organic EW platform and could develop into something useful for other services.

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Old School Carrier Jet Ops

Mostly from a British perspective.

A lot of folks around the naval centric blogs roll their eyes at the Chinese aircraft carrier, and reassure themselves that it took the US 50-60-70 years to learn to operate carriers.

No.

It took about a decade.

Take a look at carrier aviation circa 1950. Sure, there were early jets, but most everything else operated just as it did in World War II. Straight decks, hydraulic cats for the jets, but everything else was a deck run take-off, the flat approach via an LSO with actual paddles leading to a “cut.”  Cyclic operations weren’t the norm, but rather the deck load strike was the usual operation. Night operations were still limited to a select group of specialty planes in each air group.

Fast forward a decade, and virtually all that had changed. The prop plane was most assuredly on the way out. The angle deck was in the fleet. The steam catapult was in service, allowing vastly heavier jets to be safely launched. The flat approach to a cut had been replaced by the constant rate of descent to a controlled crash type approach, with the paddles of the LSO being replaced by the “meatball” mirror landing system. Cyclic operations were the norm, and every carrier aviator was expected to fly and fight day and night.

The US accident rate in this period of technical and procedural change was appalling. But we learned. And while the Chinese may not be the most innovative people around, they’re smart enough to study what we have done. Of course, they too will face a steep learning curve. But if they are willing to pay the price, there’s no reason they cannot establish a quite credible carrier aviation ability in a similar time period as we did.

Back to the video, yes, yes indeed that is a jet landing on a giant rubber mat with no landing gear.

The three big innovations in post-World War II carrier technology are generally seen as the angled deck, steam catapults, and the mirror landing system. And all three were British inventions. But as you can tell by the rubber mat, not all British carrier innovations were all that successful, or even well thought out.

I have no doubt that it was quite expensive to refit the carrier with the flex deck for trials. And of course, some sort of dolly would be needed for deck handling and launching. And of course, the time needed to lift the jet from the deck and put it on the dolly would considerably slow the cycle of landing operations.

Still, it is a  fun video, and great to see some lesser known British birds, and some planes better known for their land based operations running the deck.

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Why can’t we build a new airplane?

Spill and I were mulling it over the other day, talking about the CH-53K and the F/A-18E/F, versus the MV-22 and the F-35. 

Today, virtually all successful aviation acquisition programs are evolutions of existing aircraft, while every new airframe is a developmental hell.

Off the top of my head, I can’t really think of any successful, well managed new airframes (that is, started on a fresh sheet of paper) since the Teen Series fighters, and the H-60 family of helicopters.

What say you?

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Iron Birds

Static test airframes, or more commonly called, “iron birds” are partially built, non-flying airframes or old formerly flying airframes that are used by agencies and manufacturers to test either the strength of than airframe, various design components or aircraft subsystems (avionics, flight control, engines, etc).

The iron birds used for strength testing are typically full-scale representations of the aircraft that are rigged to giant gantry cranes with weights and strain gauges attached. See the pic:

Lockheed's F-35 test airframe installed on gantry cranes with strain gauges.

Lockheed’s F-35 test airframe installed on gantry cranes with strain gauges.

Once installed on the cranes the airframe is literally pulled and pushed to properly simulate all the aerodynamic forces that the aircraft will encounter throughout it’s flying career.  Often the iron birds are tested till destruction.

This is a VC-10 undergoing wing fatigue testing. Note the bending wing.

This is a VC-10 undergoing wing fatigue testing. Note the bending wing.

Some iron birds are formerly flying airframes that have accumulated too many flying hours and are no longer consider safe to fly. These aircraft are typically stripped of most equipment (engines mostly) and used to test various aircraft subsystems in support of other programs.

This NASA's F-8 Crusader iron bird that was used to test software for NASA's Digital Fly-By-Wire program in the 1960s,

This NASA’s F-8 Crusader iron bird that was used to test software for NASA’s Digital Fly-By-Wire program in the 1960s,

 

As the latest example of NASA's iron bird, this is an F/A-18 Hornet used by NASA to support many of the F/A-18 test programs.

As the latest example of NASA’s iron bird, this is an F/A-18 Hornet used by NASA to support many of the F/A-18 test programs.

Iron birds aren’t limited to NASA. The US military also used them for the same purposes.

This B-2 at the National Museum of the USAF was never an actual flying airframe. This "aircraft" appropriately named "Fire and Ice"was used for fatgiue and climatic testing.

This B-2 at the National Museum of the USAF was never an actual flying airframe. This “aircraft” appropriately named “Fire and Ice”was used for fatgiue and climatic testing.

A close up of "Fire and Ice's" nose gear door.

A close up of “Fire and Ice’s” nose gear door.

You can learn more about that particular aircraft here.

As an aside, old airframes are also typically used as maintainance trainers in the military. These are called ground instructional airframes:

images 080613-F-1322C-001

 

 

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Hizzoner’s Last Flight

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There’s something that you’ll want to go read over at I don’t know; ask the skipper:

It wasn’t necessarily his last flight evah. It was his last flight in that particular tour of duty, in that squadron, on that boat. Then again, there was certainly no guarantee of another sea-based sortie. This fella – if I remember the callsign correctly – we will refer to as Tex from this point forward. His call sign sounded similar. It might have even rhymed.

Go read the rest.

Make sure to add the blog to you daily read too. Lots of great stuff there.

What a great way to hang up the spurs.

 

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RC XC-142

So, a while back, we posted on the experimental vertical take off cargo plane, the XC-142. Five were built and tested, but the type was never ordered into production or service (though it came a good deal closer to that than many other VTOL products of the day).

It is a rather obscure aircraft. But wouldn’t you know it, some Radio Control modeller liked the challenge of building and flying one.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZOtVyxwNHQg

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Cutaway Thursday: HAL Tejas

The HAL Tejas is a 4+ generation single seat, single engine multirole fighter built primarily for the Indian Airforce and Navy. Slightly smaller than the F-16 the Tejas first flew on 4 January 2001 as the technology demonstrator called the LCA.

Here you can learn more about the Tejas.

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The Indian Government has it’s own website on the Tejas. Lots of interesting inside info here.

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Infographic: U.S. Navy Fighters 1917 – 2010

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by | April 30, 2014 · 1:51 pm

Flying Boats

Grab your coffee. At 51 minutes, this is a long one. But for me, a real treat. The best part is toward the end when you see quite a bit of the interior of the JRM Mars flying boats.

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Flying the F-35B

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Lockheed Martin’s online magazine, Code One, has a very interesting article on flying the F-35B. For those in Rio Linda, the B-model is the STOVL variant of the F-35, designed for use by the United States Marine Corps.

Flying the F-35B isn’t at all like flying the Harrier from the previous generation. As a matter of fact the flight control system in STOVL mode is completely different from the Harrier:

Capt. Brian Miller, who came from the F/A-18D, explained the transition in simple terms: “In a Hornet, we had a center stick. In the F-35, we have a sidestick. I don’t even think about the difference now. Once I landed and took off in the simulator a couple of times, I was comfortable the stick location.”

Learning the F-35B’s short takeoff/vertical landing procedures:

“You would think former Harrier pilots would have an advantage with the F-35B STOVL modes since they have experienced those modes before,” continued Miller. “They may be more versed in the engineering dynamics and physics of STOVL operations. But in terms of cockpit controls, STOVL mode in the F-35 is almost completely backwards from the Harrier. So F-18 pilots may have an advantage since they don’t have to unlearn STOVL habits.”

…and from another pilot Capt. Jonathan Thompson, a former Harrier pilot now with the VFMA-121: “The F-35B is designed to be very intuitive in hover mode,” he explained. “To a pilot coming from a conventional fighter, hover mode is intuitive. Push down on the stick and the aircraft goes down. Pull back on the stick and the aircraft goes up.” Hover mode control in a Harrier, however, is a little different. Up and down movement is controlled with the throttle. Left and right movement is controlled with the stick.

“Whereas I used to pull back on the stick to point the thrust down to land the Harrier in hover mode, I push forward on the stick to land the F-35 in hover mode,” Thompson continued. “That said, the F-35B hover technique is just as easy to learn and just as easy to become second nature. Former AV-8 pilots just have to be more deliberate until STOVL mode operations become more routine. Short takeoffs and vertical landings are some of skills and habit patterns we develop in the simulator.”

The fact that transitioning from the F/A-18 to the F-35B may be easier than going from the AV-8B to the F-35 struck me as counterintuitive. As with most of aviation, transitioning between different types involves unlearning potentially bad or unsafe habits.

Go read the rest.

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The Maces made a video you have to see to believe…

It IS a good video.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JnsxWrPUHN8&feature=youtu.be

Stolen from Bill, who posted it over at The Lexicans.

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First Flight of the Intruder

Spill was kind enough to remind me that today marks the anniversary of the first flight of the Grumman A2F-1 Intruder, more popularly known by its post-1962 designation, the A-6.

Given that our dad was flying in an A-6A the very day we were born, we’ve always had a strong affinity for the Intruder.

And as someone not overly blessed in the looks department, we’ve also liked that the Intruder may have been ugly, but it got the job done.

To borrow a pic from Tailspin Tommy

And of course, there’s plenty of videos of the old gal.

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The Return of the Flying Dorito? Or “What the heck was that over Texas?

Planespotters in Texas and now Kansas have recently been seeing some very unusual looking aircraft overhead. The shape of these high flying mystery jets is similar too, but NOT the same as, the B-2 Spirit bomber, better known as the Stealth Bomber.

These sightings have, of course, cranked up the rumors and theories.

Today we have new pics that are the clearest yet.

A mysterious flying object was snapped flying over Wichita, Kansas by Jeff Templin. It resembles a similar unidentified aircraft streaking across the skies of Texas last month

The triangular shape certainly calls to mind one of the biggest procurement failures of the latter half of the 20th Century, the Navy’s failed A-12 Avenger II program.

The A-12, planned successor to the fabled A-6 Intruder attack aircraft, was eventually cancelled before the first was ever built due to staggering cost overruns and the massive weight gain of the design.

http://aviationintel.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/01/A-12-Avenger-II-Experimental-Stealth-Bomber-Side-View-Angle.jpg

But you can see from the picture above, the triangular shape of the mystery jet is certainly very, very similar to the A-12.

Who knows if the jet over Texas is manned or a drone, or what?

What say you?

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Cutaway Thursday: Boeing 2707

2707-sst

 

Last week we did the Boeing Model 733 which evolved in to the Boeing 2707 (the 2 perhaps indicating that it was a mach 2 capable airplane). Anyway, this is a far better cutaway of the similiar aircraft AND it gives an indication of just how complex the actual airplane would have been.

The most recognizable difference between the 733 and the 2707 is the position of the variable geometry wing in relation to the horizontal stabilator. As you can see here, in full sweep, the is flush to the stab making it a delta shape simlar to the F-14 Tomcat. The 733 also features a variable geometry wing but at full sweep the aircraft resembles the B-1 Lancer in planform.

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Today I Learned…

Or, as they say on Twitter, “TIL.”

The Grumman EA-6B Prowler is a four place electronic warfare plane that specializes in jamming enemy radars and communications.

Like virtually all tactical jets, the crew rides on ejection seats.

 

In the video above, you’ll see all four seats fire at intervals of about half a second. If you look carefully, you see that they fire the back seats first, then the front seats. Additionally, the seats fire at a very slight angle outboard from the aircraft to generate separation between the seats. To cause the seats to angle outboard, the rocket motor is very slightly off centerline of the seat. Having the thrust line off centerline causes the angle of flight.

Here’s a picture of a test of the S-3B Viking, with a similar 4 seat ejection.

http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/5/54/S-3A_escape_sys_China_Lake_NAN1-72jpg.jpg

What I learned today was that the firing handles of the various seats in the Prowler were color coded so the seat maintainers could ensure the proper seat was installed in the proper location in the cockpit.

  The GRUEA-7 Ejection Seats are simply superb—all I did was attach brass handles.  On the Prowler, the firing mechanisms on top of the ejection seats are color coded to help the aviators ensure that the correct seat has been installed.  The seats were painted the appropriate colors, (white for the left rear seat; orange for the right rear seat; purple for the right front seat; brown for the left front seat) and installed.

Sadly, in the video above, the pitching motion of the Prowler as it went off the bow caused the pilot’s seat to collide with another seat, killing the pilot. The three Electronic Countermeasures Officers (ECMOs) were recovered.

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Cutaway Thursday: Boeing Model 733

Boeing 733 SST

The Boeing Model 733 was the never-to-be-built US counterpart to the European Concorde and Soviet TU-144. Subsequent research is unclear whether the design started at a delta wing planform or started as a swing-wing that was eventually dropped due to increased weight and complexity.

You can learn more here.

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Cutaway Thursday: IL-76MF “Candid”

Apologies to reader but I’ve been a little overwhelmed with other (read personal) things over the past few weeks. Anyway this week’s cutaway is Ilyushin’s IL-76 (NATO codenamed “Candid”).

The Candid first flew 2 days ago in 1971 and is the primary tactical transport aircraft for Russian military forces. Quite a few Candids were involved in moving Russian forces to Crimea and continues to support Russian forces in theater.

IL-76 CutawayYou can learn more about the IL-76 here.

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Youthly Puresome

Growing up in a NavAir family, one of the pleasures every quarter was the arrival of The Hook, the magazine of the Tailhook Association. A collection of sea stories, historical monographs, and updates on people, places and goings on in the world of carrier aviation, it had fantastic pictures and interesting news.

And for about 20 years, it also featured the Further Adventures of Youthly Puresome, the humorous tales of derring do of Jack Woodall, as a young carrier pilot. Sadly, in a reshuffle of the Tailhook site, the archives were lost. But Jack finally has a website, and the archives of his fantastic sea stories is available for all.

They’re in .pdf format, but don’t let that stop you from some great writing.

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Russians Claim US Drone Captured While Flying Over Crimea

hunter_1

Stop me if you heard the one about anything with an uplink/downlink being vulnerable to MIJI and capture.  From Yahoo news, via Drudge.

“The drone was flying at about 4,000 metres (12,000 feet) and was virtually invisible from the ground. It was possible to break the link with US operators with complex radio-electronic” technology, said Rostec in a statement.

The drone fell “almost intact into the hands of self-defence forces” added Rostec, which said it had manufactured the equipment used to down the aircraft, but did not specify who was operating it.

“Judging by its identification number, UAV MQ-5B belonged to the 66th American Reconnaissance Brigade, based in Bavaria,” Rostec said on its website, which also carried a picture of what it said was the captured drone.

Super.   Perhaps President Obama will take the strong-arm stance he took when Iran did a similar thing.  Ask politely for them to return it.  Yeah, that’ll show ‘em.   One has to wonder when this actually occurred, and if this information was released specifically to discredit Kerry on the day of his meeting with Lavrov in London.   But that would be strategic messaging, which is part of Information Dominance.   And WE have Information Dominance, dammit!

Our foreign policy is being dictated by nincompoops and imbeciles.  We are screwed.

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