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The Boneyard

The other day, Don told me that the US Airforce has finally allowed Google Maps to show the 309th Aerospace Maintenance and Regeneration Group, often referred to simply as the Boneyard. It’s an aircraft storage and reclamation facility in Tucson, Arizona. I’ve heard of it and even seen some photos, but there’s nothing like a satellite photo to really show you what a collection of 5000 aircraft really looks like. See for yourself.

The Boneyard serves both as a storage facility and a place where aircraft go to be disassembled and recycled. This dual purpose is why old and new aircraft are both well-represented. It’s not just a parking lot, however. Even aircraft in storage are stripped of their engines and avionics. All the engine and fuselage openings are covered and coated with ‘spraylat.’ This is a white latex liquid that seals the aircraft from the elements and reflects the heat of the sun.

20100321_boneyard

On the north side of Coolidge Street you see a B‑52 Stratofortress, a B‑1B, and C‑141 StarLifter. I can’t identify all of the aircraft on the south side of the street but I believe I see an F‑4 phantom, a Cessna O‑2 Skymaster, an EC-135, an F‑16 Falcon, and two T‑33 aircraft.

In this image is a formation of C‑5 Galaxy transports:

20100321_c5_galaxies

Although the C‑5 is still in use by the air force, you can see that some of the aircraft have been cannibalized for parts. Most have been stripped of their control surfaces and one is even missing its nose and most of one wing!

When looking at these images, it’s so easy to not realize the scale. The C‑5 Galaxy is 75.5 metres (248 feet) long. Both the nose and the tail open so vehicles can be loaded and unloaded “first-on, first-off.” The length of the cargo bay is 121 feet … a foot longer than the first flight of the Wright Flyer at Kitty Hawk in 1903. Another type of scale that’s easy to lose track of is cost. A new C‑5 costs $168 million.

The Boneyard would be on my ‘places to visit if I were rich’ list but the public cannot access it. There is a bus tour but I can’t imagine one would get the opportunity to take many good photos.

Tsutomu Yamaguchi

Tsutomu Yamaguchi died on January 4 at the age of 93. I hadn’t heard of him before reading of his death, as I suspect you haven’t.

According to Wikipedia, he was on a business trip to Hiroshima, on August 6, 1945. As he stepped off a tram, an atomic bomb detonated three kilometres away. He was deafened, temporarily blinded, and half his upper body was burned. He spent the night in bandages in an air-raid shelter and returned home the following day.

Three days after the bomb, he was explaining to his boss how close he’d come to death when, three kilometres away, another atomic bomb detonated. His home was in Nagasaki.

According to the Washington Post article, “Double Atomic bomb survivor dies in Japan,” “Yamaguchi was the only person certified by the Japanese government as having been in both cities when they were attacked, although other dual survivors have also been identified.” I can find no information on why he alone received this certification despite more than a hundred others sharing a similar experience.

Yamaguchi suffered radiation-related health problems throughout his life and stomach cancer caused his death. He was a lifelong proponent of the banning of nuclear weapons.


Hat tip: Boing Boing

Longest kill

One thing I enjoy about the Web is how you can look up one specific thing, then begin following links and end up somewhere you never would’ve gone directly.

One of those places is the Wikipedia article about the .50 calibre Browning Machine Gun cartridge. Though it was first used in 1921, the cartridge is still in use today. It was designed for use in machine guns, but it’s also used in sniper rifles. The longer the bullet is in the air, the more it can be affected by the movement of the air it is travelling through. A heavier bullet will minimize this interference.

The bullet itself is 13 mm (0.510″) in diameter but the cartridge is 20.5 mm (0.804″) in diameter at its widest point. The cartridge is also 138 mm (5.45″) long. I can’t imagine a cartridge nearly an inch in diameter and six inches long being used in a rifle. But it gets worse. The Browning M2 .50 calibre machine gun uses the same cartridge and can fire more than 800 rounds per minute. Aircraft mounted M2 guns with electric feed mechanisms can fire 1200 rounds per minute. That’s 20 per second, for goodness sakes.

That’s putting an incredible volume of metal into the air, but when accuracy counts, it’s strictly one bullet at a time.

In 2002, an extremely skilled gentleman named Rob Furlong used a McMillan Tac-50 sniper rifle and a .50 BMG cartridge to break a record. Furlong was a Corporal with the Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry stationed in Afghanistan. What he did was kill an enemy combatant at a distance of 2430 meters (7971 feet).

Talk about reaching out to touch someone.

What makes this all the more remarkable is that the muzzle velocity for the .50 BMG is in the 800 – 900 metres per second range, depending on the exact ammunition and weapon used. Even ignoring the bullet’s reduction in speed due to air resistance, Corporal Furlong’s record shot reached the target three seconds after he pulled the trigger! Given acceleration due to gravity, the bullet would have dropped about 45 metres because of the Earth’s pull in the three seconds it was in the air. Furlong had to account for this when aiming.

Even worse is the annoying habit people have of moving around. He had to know where his target would be three seconds in the future.


I used the three linked Wikipedia articles as source material for this entry.

Long-rod penetrator

From the “it sounds dirty, but it’s not” file, I’m please to introduce you to the long-rod penetrator.

According to the Wikipedia, it’s one type of kinetic energy penetrator, which itself should be another entry in the “sounds dirty” file:

A kinetic energy penetrator … is a type of ammunition which, like a bullet, does not contain explosives and uses kinetic energy to penetrate the target.

The term can apply to any type of armour-piercing shot but typically refers to a modern type of armour piercing weapon, the armour-piercing fin-stabilized discarding sabot (APFSDS), a type of long-rod penetrator (LRP)

Despite the fancy-sounding technical description, I still giggle inside.

Memorial Hall

IMG_5832.CR2: 30D, EF-S 10-22mm 1:3.5-4.5 @ 10mm, 6s, f/11, 100 ISO

IMG_5832.CR2: 30D, EF‑S 10 – 22mm 1:3.5 – 4.5 @ 10mm, 6s, f/11, 100 ISO

“Pause and reflect here upon the service and the sacrifice of thousands of Canadians in war and peace. Inside, the headstone from the First World War grave of Canada’s Unknown Soldier is a tangible reminder of the human cost of war.”

Located in the foyer of the Canadian War Museum, Memorial Hall is a quiet public space for rest and reflection. Accessed via a narrow walkway, the room rests at the intersection of two axes that form the basis of the Museum’s orientation. The east-west axis extends to the Peace Tower, while the north-south axis parallels the path of the sun across the building on November 11 (Remembrance Day).

The concrete walls, grooved with large offset rectangles, are reminiscent of the rows of white grave markers in Allied war cemeteries. The headstone of the Unknown Soldier is the lone artifact, a simple bench the only furniture. On Remembrance Day at 11:00 a.m., sunlight refracts through a single window on to the headstone of the Unknown Soldier. A reflecting pool, which is also visible from the Foyer, instills an atmosphere of tranquil silence. A peaceful and undecorated space, Memorial Hall is a place for quiet remembrance of the sacrifices made by those who have and continue to serve Canada.

The text in quotes appears on a plaque outside Memorial Hall. The remainder is a slightly edited version of the Canadian War Museum web page about Memorial Hall.

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