Thursday, December 13, 2007

US Soldiers, Weapons, and Boeing

Anti-War Radicals Attack US Soldiers via Mail
According to television news today, the US Post Office at the request of the Pentagon is no longer accepting holiday packages for "Any US Soldier" during the holiday season. This ban includes cards as well, all of which will either be returned to the sender or thrown away. Why is this happening? Last year, the Pentagon received numerous complaints by soldiers within the US military that stated that anonymous packages sent from the US included vile and hate-filled messages to the random US military personnel that received them. Also, tainted products like cookies, mouthwash, and toothpaste were also sent using this system. Urine filled mouthwash bottles and toothpaste with hot sauce and mace inside were sent to random soldiers using the popular "To Any US Soldier" system and hate-filled left-wing anti-war activists were to blame. While the Pentagon said that it also wanted to avoid Al Qaeda being able to send US military personnel lethal Christmas gifts, the real effort behind the ban was to stop vicious anti-war activists from trying to hurt or discourage US military personnel during the holiday season. These sorts of left-wing attacks are just despicable and unjustified, but something we are now coming to expect from the radical leftist haters here in America.

Finish First, Fix Later
Does the Navy need a lesson from its own history? Cancellation of the second General Dynamics Littoral Combat Ship, "LCS-4," on November 1st points up a problem that has plagued innovative American military technology development programs since the 1950s. The ship was cancelled because of "cost overruns." The original estimated cost per LCS was $220 million, but it kept rising as the first General Dynamics ship, the USS Independence (LCS-2), began construction. In response, the Navy tried to get General Dynamics to change the contract from "cost plus" to "fixed cost." In a "cost plus" contract, the Navy pays whatever the ship costs, plus a profit to the builder, while a "fixed cost" contract has the Navy pay a set amount, and any the cost over that has to be eaten by the builder. General Dynamics refused. Meanwhile the rose to $350 million, and kept going; When it hit $375 million the Navy pulled the plug.

Why did the costs rise? Well, one reason is that the General Dynamics design is pretty innovative. Among other things, it's an aluminum trimaran, a three-hulled vessel with a whole lot of new ideas and technologies. But that's only part of the problem. The main problem with the LCS, and with most post-1950s innovations in military equipment, is that the military keeps changing the specs. Even small changes may have "cascading" effects, as existing plans have to be changed. In some cases completed work may have to be modified or even ripped out, to accommodate the new idea. Sometimes changes follow on changes, and work may have to be redone several times, to insure that the latest nifty innovations are included in the ship. Naturally this costs money, in labor and materials, and also takes time, so that the ship is delivered later than planned.

There's a simple solution to this problem, one that worked very well during World War II, when the Navy was buying ships in huge lots. It was simply this; no new idea gets put into a vessel already under construction. During World War II the Navy determined that it was easier to complete a ship, even an aircraft carrier, to the original design, rather than interrupt work to allow changes. Once completed to the original design, a ship could be sent to a shipyard for the modifications needed to adapt it to the new, improved design (unless she was desperately needed with the fleet, and then her "boring old design" was probably perfectly suited to the mission anyway). Experience proved that doing things this way took less time and less money than trying to introduce modifications during construction. After the war, unfortunately, this intelligent approach was quickly forgotten.

Other examples of the services' penchant for shoving more and more nifty new stuff into a design, thereby causing the costs to go out of control, and often leading to the cancellation of a project: American tank development since the 1950s, ditto aircraft, etc., etc. Sometimes old ideas work best.

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US jet intercepts ballistic missile for first time
Dec 4, 2007
A US F-16 fighter used an air-to-air missile to destroy a sounding rocket in its boost phase for the first time this week in a test of a new missile defense concept, US spokesmen said Tuesday. The system -- named the Net-Centric Airborne Defense Element (NCDE) -- breaks new ground in that it would arm fighter aircraft or drones with missiles fast enough to intercept a ballistic missile as it lifts into space. The aircraft would have to get to within a 100 miles of the launch site to catch the ascending missile in the first two to three minutes after launch. But it could be very useful in a short range combat situation against short and medium range missiles, said Rick Lehner, a spokesman for the US Missile Defense Agency.

The Pentagon has two other better known boost phase intercept systems under development -- the Airborne Laser and the Kinetic Energy Interceptor -- but those are still years away from being ready, he said. "So it does give us an initial boost phase capability even though it is a much shorter range missile, and you have to be in the area of the missile launch to be effective," Lehner said. The test Monday at White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico involved an F-16 fighter that fired two modified AIM-9X missile at an Orion sounding or research rocket. The first destroyed the rocket and the second recorded the interception, the Pentagon's missile defense agency said.

The missile seekers' relayed images of the rocket at close range, demonstrating the capability to acquire and track the target, the Pentagon's missile defense agency said. "Although not unexpected, the subsequent intercept destroyed the target," it said. "A second AIM-9X launched during the test observed through its seeker the intercept of the target by the first and was also on a trajectory to intercept the target," the agency said. Besides special seekers, AIM-9X and AIM-20 AAMRAM are fitted with a new liquid propellant second stage to give it the burst of speed needed to catch a ballistic missile in its boost phase.

Lehner said the missiles were heavily instrumented during the test, but otherwise conditions were "pretty realistic."

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Boeing Installs High-Energy Laser On Laser Gunship Aircraft
St. Louis MO (SPX) Dec 11, 2007
The Advanced Tactical Laser (ATL), which Boeing is developing for the U.S. Department of Defense, will destroy, damage or disable targets with little to no collateral damage, supporting missions on the battlefield and in urban operations.

Boeing has installed a high-energy chemical laser aboard a C-130H aircraft, achieving a key milestone for the Advanced Tactical Laser (ATL) Advanced Concept Technology Demonstration program. Boeing completed the laser installation Dec. 4 at Kirtland Air Force Base, N.M. The laser, including its major subsystem, a 12,000-pound integrated laser module, was moved into place aboard the aircraft and aligned with the previously-installed beam control system, which will direct the laser beam to its target.

With the laser installed, Boeing is set to conduct a series of tests leading up to a demonstration in 2008 in which the program will fire the laser in-flight at mission-representative ground targets to demonstrate the military utility of high-energy lasers. The test team will fire the laser through a rotating turret that extends through the aircraft's belly.

"The installation of the high-energy laser shows that the ATL program continues to make tremendous progress toward giving the warfighter a speed-of-light, precision engagement capability that will dramatically reduce collateral damage," said Scott Fancher, vice president and general manager of Boeing Missile Defense Systems. "Next year, we will fire the laser at ground targets, demonstrating the military utility of this transformational directed energy weapon."

The program achieved two other major milestones earlier this year. "Low-power" flight tests were completed in June at Kirtland; the ATL aircraft used its flight demonstration hardware and a low-power laser to find and track moving and stationary ground targets. The flight demonstration hardware includes the beam control system; weapon system consoles, which display high-resolution imagery and enable the tracking of targets; and sensors.

The low-power laser, a surrogate for the high-energy laser, hit its intended target in each of more than a dozen tests. Also, in late July, the high-energy laser concluded laboratory testing at the Davis Advanced Laser Facility at Kirtland, demonstrating reliable operations in more than 50 firings.

ATL, which Boeing is developing for the U.S. Department of Defense, will destroy, damage or disable targets with little to no collateral damage, supporting missions on the battlefield and in urban operations. Boeing's Advanced Tactical Laser industry team includes L-3 Communications/Brashear, which made the laser turret, and HYTEC, Inc., which made various structural elements of the weapon system.

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In journalism, there has always been a tension between getting it first and getting it right. Ellen Goodman

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