Lamborghini vs. SU-27

Ever wondered who would win a race between Lamborghini Huracán LP610-4 (shown below, all white) and a Sukhoi Su-27 fighter jet (red, white, blue)?

With a 5.2-litre V10 engine producing 448kW of power and 560Nm of torque, the Huracán can go from 0 to 60 in three seconds.

With 12,500kgf of thrust from its twin engines, the Su-27 touches 1,550 mph. But from a standing start? Plus it's an old plane, at 37.

Fortunately some Russians wondered about this, set up the race recently, and videotaped it…

The Favorite War Story of 8-Year-Olds

Ever watched in horror after you've flushed and the water in the toilet bowl is rising? Hopefully your experience wasn't as bad as this one:

It was April 14, 1945. World War II was a couple weeks from over. German's 220-foot U-1206 submarine was eight miles off the coast of Scotland, some 200 feet down. The sub had recently had a bathroom upgrade—new, high-pressure toilets that could be used while running at depth.

In theory.

So, of course, a toilet overflowed, flooding the forward section of the boat, including batteries, causing them to release chlorine gas. That left the captain, whose named was Schlitt, with no choice but to surface, upon which time he was pounded by British bombers. Schlitt then had to scuttle the U-1206, earning it the distinction of the first warship in history to be sunk by a toilet.

The wreck lay on the ocean floor 230 feet down for thirty years until it was discovered by BP workers laying an oil pipeline. U-1206 will be restored and become a permanent exhibit in the Bathroom Hall of Fame, if and when a certain eight-year-old boy I know builds that institution.

Related Links: Personal Submarine Buying Guide, Once a Spy

The Blackbird Turns 50

The SR-71 was a strategic reconnaissance aircraft, but that’s like calling the Taj Mahal a big building. First flown on December 22, 1964 at Air Force Plant 42 in Palmdale, California, the Blackbird replaced the subsonic U-2 spy plane that Russian radar had rendered sitting ducks. Blackbirds could fly record high—90,000 feet—and fast—2,194 miles per hour. And it could sustain such speeds: In 1990, one flew from L.A. to D.C. in an hour and four minutes. That’s 2,144.83 miles per hour. Think about that: six-tenths of a mile per second.

The first SR-71 produced, flown solo by Lockheed test pilot Bob Gilliland on Dec. 22, 1964. Source:

The first SR-71 produced, flown solo by Lockheed test pilot Bob Gilliland on Dec. 22, 1964. Source:

If the Russians fired a missile at a Blackbird, it could simply outran the missile. Said a sign over the entrance to an SR-71 base, “Though I Fly Through the Valley of Death I Shall Fear No Evil—For I am at 80,000 Feet and Climbing.”

An aircraft designer at the Skunk Works—Lockheed’s secret projects division, which developed the Blackbird—said that the technology in the simultaneous Apollo program was much simpler. As it happens, the pilots who tested the Blackbird, fifty years ago, initially thought it was a spacecraft. And a good deal of UFO sightings in the vicinity of Area 51 in the 1960s: you guessed it.

The first SR-71 to enter service was delivered to the 4200th Strategic Reconnaissance Wing at Beale Air Force Base in January, 1966. A total of thirty-two Blackbirds served from 1964 to 1998, flying 3,551 mission sorties whose contribution to national security can’t be understated. Unless you know about the aircraft that succeeded the Blackbird.

One last, slightly relevant bit: video of the actual first flight:

To learn more about the Blackbird, check out this terrific Code One article or the book Sled Driver, the book Sled Driver, or the photo-intensive online Blackbird museum, Not incidentally, the Blackbird also has a cameo in the novel Once a Spy.


The CIA’s Cat Ops

If the CIA's decision to spend $20 million to turn cats into field operatives seems at all strange to you, know that it was the 1960s: The agency was also attempting to deploy psychics, drug dealers, Mafiosos, and prostitutes.

Operation Acoustic Kitty commenced when a veterinary surgeon placed a microphone in the ear canal of the first candidate, along with a radio transmitter at the base of the skull and a wire antenna concealed by the fur.

actual diagram

actual diagram

Screen Shot 2014-12-10 at 2.01.53 PM.png

The first operation entailed eavesdropping on two men outside the Soviet compound in Washington, D.C. The newly-minted feline operative was released across the street, and, while scampering toward the targets, was hit and killed by a taxi.

The Agency deemed the project complete failure and cancelled it, destroying most of the records. One item lost to posterity is the training, other than it was hard because the cats’ hunger often took precedence over the mission. Also it’s hard to train a cat.

Further Acoustic Kitty reading can be found here.

Below, photos of a couple of ops for which cats may be better suited…

Related Links: Cat photos (F-14 Tomcat), Once a Spy

The TR-3B Mystery

I saw the following image of the TR-3B Black Triangle on, a Chinese military news site. The TR-3B is, depending on whom you ask, an alien craft, a classified US system, or complete fiction. Let's get the obvious out of the way:'s TR-3B's shadow falls the opposite way of those of everything else in the picture. Also the thing looks totally fake. Of course these could be the results of alien tech designed to mess with our minds.

Here are a couple of additional TR-3B images (blurry, unfortunately), followed by a German video from June 2014 in which the craft is quite clear.

Shortly after the video went viral, FBI Agent Ben Hansen zoomed in and found frames in which the craft overlapped playground equipment in the foreground [read the story here]. More alien tech? Or terrestrial CGI?

But there are more, courtesy of the Internet, which have yet to be debunked. How cool would it be if they were legit? What do you think of them?



Dispatch from Area 51

In 1968, 31-year-old hypersonic flight specialist Thornton "T.D." Barnes reported to Groom Lake, the remote Southern Nevada military base also known as Area 51.

He began work on the CIA's top-secret Project OXCART. Over the next seven years, he and many of his colleagues knew one another only by aliases. For additional secrecy, several of them lived in California, commuting to work each day by plane.

Barnes' cover permitted him to go home to nearby Beatty, Nevada, but he couldn't tell his wife, Doris, what he did at work. She only knew that it was top-secret. His children knew even less. "They got used to it," he recalls. "They grew up not expecting me to talk shop when I came home. None of them knew until two years ago, when it was declassified."

He means the CIA's September 2007 declassification of its Groom Lake aircraft testing, new information in spite of which questions remain. To say the least. Area 51 still is heard in the same breath as Roswell, Amityville and Loch Ness.


Aerospace historian Michael Schratt suspects that extraterrestrial technology was utilized at Area 51 and remains secret "because it will make every man, woman and child on the planet energy independent." Schratt's theories gained some prominence in July 2007 when he produced the following photograph:

During a recent interview, Schratt told me that the picture in fact is "a computer-generated forensic composite" that he commissioned. Here is the undoctored original photo:

But there were UFOs at Area 51, according to Barnes.

"We were the UFOs," he says. "We were, to a great extent, the sightings being reported."

The flying objects in question include the family of spy planes known as Blackbirds, technological marvels that could fly at heights of 90,000 feet (or about three times the altitude of DC-9s more commonly seen in that era) and speeds near 2,500 mph (think ten football fields in a second), figures that decimated prior records and enabled U.S. reconnaissance photography that arguably tipped the balance of power in the Cold War. Also of note: Although conceived in the 1950s, the sleek jets would not look out of place in the latest George Lucas offering.

So it's little wonder that they were unidentifiable.

Says Barnes, "This posed a great problem to investigators having to explain a sighting without revealing it to be a super secret CIA or Air Force project."

Barnes and company were forced to conceive all manner of cover stories.

Now, with the declassification, he can tell the truth.

Currently President of the Area 51 alumni group Roadrunners Internationale, Barnes has started a website dedicated to the legacy of OXCART and the ensuing Operation Black Shield. "I am trying to make it possible for a lot of people who never got to tell their stories to do so now that the Oxcart project has been declassified," he told me.

Area 51's actual UFO, the YF-12A

Area 51's actual UFO, the YF-12A

For the same reason, he's spearheading an oral history project at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, enabling his fellow Roadrunners to share their experiences in great detail.

Like Barnes, many Roadrunners have children and grandchildren unaware of what they did for a living, let alone their heroics. When the tape starts to roll, Barnes relates, "A lot of them, on finally getting to share their stories, do so with such pent-up emotion that they literally break down in tears."

To hear the interviews, go to the UNLV digital collections. For more of OXCART and other war stories, check out Barnes' own site is

Another YF-12 shot. Click HERE to see tons more.

Another YF-12 shot. Click HERE to see tons more.

Related Links: Blackbird, Once a Spy