An E-2C Hawkeye, attached to the "Screwtops" of Carrier Airborne Early Warning Squadron (VAW) 123, performs a fly-by for family and friends of crew members during an air power demonstration held by the nuclear-powered aircraft carrier USS Enterprise (CVN-65) during a three-day Tiger Cruise on December 16, 2007. (U.S. Navy/Mass Communications Specialist 1st Class George R. Kusner)

WASHINGTON — On night missions in the 1980s, when the beam from the E-2 Hawkeye's radar swept over the cockpit, pilots could generate electrical arcs by holding the metal base of their flashlights close to the metal paneling around them.

The arcs "would kind of light up the cockpit at night every time the radar went by," said retired Hawkeye pilot Navy Capt. Ralph Ricardo.

The Hawkeye is an early warning aircraft that is highly recognizable by the large dome-shaped radar on top of the plane. It is used to protect aircraft carriers, detect enemy aircraft or missiles, and act as an airborne command station for the Navy's fighter jets.

In flight, the Hawkeye's dome would complete a full rotation and the beam would sweep above the cockpit about every 10 seconds.

Some pilots at that time wondered what the radar was doing to them when swept past, if it could create such electrical arcs.

"Then, about halfway through my tour, all the sudden they decided to put the gold coating on all of the windows and the escape hatches," Ricardo said. After that, the pilots couldn't create the same electrical arcs, he said.

"It was obviously to keep the radar out of the cockpit," Ricardo said. "I thought … I've been flying for years without it, what's been happening to me in the meantime?"

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Staff Sgt. Levi Eck, 193rd Special Operations Wing and Sgt. Stephen Brown, Chemical, Biological, Radiological, and Nuclear Specialist with the Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 55th Maneuver Enhancement Brigade, 28th Infantry Division, both with the Pennsylvania National Guard work on the tank of a M149 water trailer. They are also known as 'water buffaloes'. The Pennsylvania National Guard members assisted residents of U.S. Army Carlisle Barracks by supplying potable water Aug. 5 during the installation's water ban. (U.S. Army National Guard/Sgt. 1st Class Matthew Keeler)

A multimillion dollar federal study on toxic chemicals in drinking water across the country is facing delays due to a dispute within the Trump administration, according to several sources involved in the study or who have knowledge of the process.

The dispute has implications for more than half a dozen communities where drinking water has been heavily contaminated with per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS). Concerns about the chemicals have exploded nationally in recent years, following decades of PFAS use in products including non-stick cookware, water-resistant clothing, food packaging, carpets and military firefighting foams. Scientists say significant delays could limit the effectiveness of the study.

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U.S. Secretary of Defense Dr. Mark T. Esper speaks to members of the press during his first joint press conference with Chairman of the Joint Chief of Staff Gen. Joseph F. Dunford at the Pentagon, Washington, D.C., Aug. 28, 2019. (DoD/ Staff Sgt. Nicole Mejia)

WASHINGTON — The Department of Veterans Affairs will take the lead on improving access to medical care for military members exposed to potentially cancer-causing compounds during their service, Defense Secretary Mark Esper told reporters Wednesday.

In response to a question from McClatchy on the rising number of cancers in the military that could be connected to compounds service members were exposed to while deployed overseas or during training, Esper acknowledged the role of both the Pentagon and VA may grow.

"That is one of the areas where I want to improve and make sure we are doing everything we can to assist soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines as they transition out of the service into the VA system," Esper said.

"VA has the lead on this," he added.

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U.S. Air Force Col. Jeannie Leavitt, the outgoing commander of the 4th Fighter Wing, pilots an F-15E Strike Eagle aircraft over North Carolina May 29, 2014. (U.S. Air Force/Senior Airman John Nieves Camacho)

WASHINGTON — Former Air Force and Navy fighter pilots are calling on the military to begin cancer screenings for aviators as young as 30 because of an increase in deaths from the disease that they suspect may be tied to radiation emitted in the cockpit.

"We are dropping like flies in our 50s from aggressive cancers," said retired Air Force Col. Eric Nelson, a former F-15E Strike Eagle weapons officer. He cited prostate and esophageal cancers, lymphoma, and glioblastomas that have struck fellow pilots he knew, commanded or flew with.

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(DoD/Senior Airman Matthew Lancaster)

WASHINGTON — The Air Force has begun to look at whether there's increased risk for prostate cancer among its fighter pilots. A new investigation by McClatchy shows just how serious the problem may be.

The fighter pilot study was requested by Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David Goldfein after he was contacted by concerned veterans service organizations in 2018, according to the report obtained by McClatchy.

At the heart of the Air Force study was a question of whether extended exposure in the cockpit to radiation may be linked to increased risk of prostate cancer.

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Roger Sundberg Photography

Six years ago, 31-year-old Swedish pilot Emelie Bonin was given the kind of devastating news that every human being dreads. She was told she had cervical cancer — a potentially fatal disease that stole the lives of nearly 270,000 women around the world in 2012. But last year, she received a diagnosis that all cancer patients and their loved ones desperately hope for: After a years-long fight, she was in remission.

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