The Air Force's latest challenge: getting 2 Dodge muscle cars across the Atlantic to help U-2 spy planes land

Military Tech

VIDEO: The U-2 Dragon Lady spy plane at the edge of space

A squadron of airmen are currently grappling with an unusual task: sending a pair of Dodge Charger chase cars from their current home in New Jersey to the United Kingdom to help U-2 Dragon Lady spy planes land safely.

The Air Force announced last week that personal at 305th Aerial Port Squadron at Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst are currently working to certify a pair of chase cars and a transportation truck for overseas transport to Royal Air Force Mildenhall — a time-consuming (and apparently unexpected) process that ensures cargo can be safely transported by aircraft.

Chase cars are employed to assist the spyplanes during takeoff and landing given both the aircraft's unique design and the limited peripheral vision of U-2 pilot pressure suits. Why RAF Mildenhall couldn't fine local alternatives remains unclear.

A 99th Expeditionary Reconnaissance Squadron U-2 Dragon Lady pilot drives a high-performance chase car on the runway to catch a U-2 performing a low-flight touch and go at Al Dhafra Air Base, United Arab Emirates, Mar. 15, 2019 (U.S. Air Force/Senior Airman Gracie I. Lee)

"The chase vehicles we received have no Air Transportability Test Loading Agency certification," 305th APS load planning supervisor Staff Sgt. Ryan Murray, said in an Aug. 21 Air Force news release."They have no fixed area to be restrained or tied down in the aircraft, so there's no black and white way on how to transport them."

"When they arrive to our area like that, they are deemed non-airworthy and that's when we have to figure out how we can load them safely or we may have to make the call that we can't load it," he added.

The chase vehicles at Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, New Jersey on Aug. 16, 2019(U.S. Air Force photo)

This isn't just a matter of measuring the cargo. Personnel from the 305th APS have to coordinate with ATTLA at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Ohio to actually translate the data into a certification that ensures the transportation process doesn't damage both the vehicles and the C-17 Globemaster III or KC-10 Extender aircraft that, according to The War Zone, are the likely choices to ferry them overseas.

"We have to do a full inspection of the vehicle to see how much weight is on each individual tire, both axles weighed together, the total weight of the vehicle, ground clearance and check the overhang on the front and rear of the vehicle to see if it can go up an aircraft ramp or not," Murray said. "Once we have those measurements, an ATTLA engineer takes the info to create a certification on how to move that cargo."

The risk of shifting cargo is no joke. In 2015, the National Transportation Safety Board determined that the crash of a Boeing 747-400 plane just after takeoff from Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan occurred after an Mine-Resistant Ambush Protected (MRAP) broke free of its restraints and plowed into the aircraft's hydraulic systems. Six crew members were killed.

And this isn't just a complicated lift, but a relatively costly one: As The War Zone points out, using a C-17 or KC-10 to lug a pair of chargers across the Atlantic could cot the Air Force as much as $190,000 just to get the vehicles RAF Mildenhall. Wouldn't it be a bit cheaper to simply source a similar vehicle from the unit handling U-2 operations at RAF Fairford?

Maybe! There is another crew that could do it cheaper — or should I say, a family:

Seven of the twelve Soldiers participating in the Army National Guard Military Funeral Honors Level 2 course at Fort Indiantown Gap practice folding the flag April 25. (U.S. Army National Guard photo by Staff Sgt. Zane Craig)

Retired Army Master Sgt. Mark Allen has died 10 years after he was shot in the head while searching for deserter Pvt. Bowe Bergdahl in Afghanistan.

Allen died on Saturday at the age of 46, according to funeral information posted online.

Read More Show Less

For U.S. service members who have fought alongside the Kurds, President Donald Trump's decision to approve repositioning U.S. forces in Syria ahead of Turkey's invasion is a naked betrayal of valued allies.

"I am ashamed for the first time in my career," one unnamed special operator told Fox News Jennifer Griffin.

In a Twitter thread that went viral, Griffin wrote the soldier told her the Kurds were continuing to support the United States by guarding tens of thousands of ISIS prisoners even though Turkey had nullified an arrangement under which U.S. and Turkish troops were conducting joint patrols in northeastern Syria to allow the Kurdish People's Protection Units, or YPG, to withdraw.

"The Kurds are sticking by us," the soldier told Griffin. "No other partner I have ever dealt with would stand by us."

Read More Show Less
Defense Secretary Mark Esper (Associated Press photo)

Defense Secretary Mark Esper said Sunday he and the Pentagon will comply with House Democrats' impeachment inquiry subpoena, but it'll be on their own schedule.

"We will do everything we can to cooperate with the Congress," Esper said on CBS' "Face the Nation." "Just in the last week or two, my general counsel sent out a note — as we typically do in these situations — to ensure documents are retained."

Read More Show Less

Most of the U.S. troops in Syria are being moved out of the country as Turkish forces and their Arab allies push further into Kurdish territory than originally expected, Task & Purpose has learned.

Roughly 1,000 U.S. troops are withdrawing from Syria, leaving a residual force of between 100 and 150 service members at the Al Tanf garrison, a U.S. official said.

"I spoke with the president last night after discussions with the rest of the national security team and he directed that we begin a deliberate withdrawal of forces from northern Syria," Defense Secretary Mark Esper said on Sunday's edition of CBS News' "Face the Nation."'

Read More Show Less

BEIRUT/ISTANBUL (Reuters) - Women affiliated with Islamic State and their children fled en masse from a camp where they were being held in northern Syria on Sunday after shelling by Turkish forces in a five-day-old offensive, the region's Kurdish-led administration said.

Turkey's cross-border attack in northern Syria against Kurdish forces widened to target the town of Suluk which was hit by Ankara's Syrian rebel allies. There were conflicting accounts on the outcome of the fighting.

Turkey is facing threats of possible sanctions from the United States unless it calls off the incursion. Two of its NATO allies, Germany and France, have said they are halting weapons exports to Turkey. The Arab League has denounced the operation.

Read More Show Less