Flightline Friday: F-35 Debuts at Red Flag February 3, 2017Posted by Tantumblogo in Admin, awesomeness, Flightline Friday, fun, non squitur, silliness, Society, technology.
Red Flag – the world’s premier and most realistic air combat exercise – 17-1 began last week at Nellis AFB, NV. As usual, participants are many and varied – F-22s from the 1st FW at Langley AFB, VA, B-1s from the 28th Bombardment Wing at Ellsworth AFB, SD, and marking their operational debut, F-35s from the 414th Combat Crew Training Squadron (CCTS), 388th TFW, Hill AFB, UT.
Everyone knows, it’s been a long slog for the F-35. I have certainly never been a big supporter of this badly compromised design. From a standpoint of aerodynamic performance, it will always be a very middling performer. Crippled by the Marine requirement for STOVL capabilities, it will be badly hamstrung in the visual air-to-air arena. In addition – and also because of the Marine requirement – it’s internal storage volume, required to maintain low-observability – is also badly limited. It can only carry two air to air missiles internally when engaged in the high-end fight. This wouldn’t have been a big deal, had Obama and Gates (who also destroyed the Boy Scouts), not crippled US air superiority by capping F-22 production at 187 aircraft. The F-22 has turned out to be all that was promised and more in the air-to-air arena, but there simply are not enough of them. As such, should disaster happen, like a war against a near-peer competitor in China or Russia (God forbid this should happen), the US would be badly underequipped in the air supremacy regime and F-35s would likely be pressed into the fight be default. This is not something it was designed to do.
Having said that, however, in the air-to-ground role for which it was primarily designed, the F-35 is finally starting to come along. The sensors and sensor fusion of the type are simply amazing. Once the real meaty software comes out later this year – Block 3F – the type will have extremely impressive capabilities in finding, fixing, sharing, and prosecuting all manner of ground targets. In addition, the aircraft will have very advanced means to avoid both ground-based and airborne threats, all projected instantaneously on the pilot’s all-important helmet visor., with the threats appearing as 3-D volumes to be avoided. Thus far, capabilities are limited but all reports are that the F-35 will take visual spectrum, infrared, ultraviolet, and radio-frequency sensors, and the fusion of all the above, to the next level.
Whether all this will be enough to overcome its fundamental aerodynamic limitations, the shortfalls in other areas of US airpower, and to deal with the rising Chinese threat remains to be seen. Whether it is worth the (falling but still) astronomical cost is infinitely debatable. But, unfortunately, due to policy decisions of three different presidential administrations, it is now the only game in town (whereas, had the F-22 been kept in production, as it should have been, the types could have been competitively evaluated and the best – the F-22 – chosen) and it would be 10-15 years, minimum, to field a replacement. If it turns out to be a turkey, we’ll be stuck with it. Cancellation really isn’t an option at this point, the Marines and Air Force are nearly utterly dependent on this type.
More than likely, what will happen is that US crews will make it work, and work well, warts and all. It’s just what they do. And hopefully sanity will prevail and the F-35 won’t ever have to come up against a serious competitor.
Now for airplane video pr0n. Check out how much the F-35 resembles the F-22 on approach:
I don’t know what the Air Force was thinking with these new velvetine looking crew sweaters. They look awful.
Taking off. That 43,000 lbst engine makes terrific noise:\
As I said, Red Flag brings a wide variety of participants. There are Navy and Marine F-18s and EF-18s and British Typhoons from a squadron I am hoping someone will identify. Video courtesy 99th ABW PAO:
See what I mean by those velvetine sweaters? WTH? As if people in other branches didn’t make fun of Air Force softness enough, now they have to look like a stuffed animal?
And now for something a bit different – an awesome 360 degree video from inside the cockpit of the Boeing T-X entry’s first flight. External view in the second video. I wish it had come out with more F-23 in it as originally planned. Looks more like a shrunken Super Hornet.
I like Boeing for the win in this large program. The only real competition left is Lockheed since Raytheon has already bailed and it seems Northrop Grumman isn’t real serious about it. Lockheed’s only advantage might be price, but will a Trump administration buy hundreds of new jets largely fabricated in Korea? Doubt it.
That’s it. Enjoy your much belated Flightline Friday.
This Stinks: Gene Cernan dead at 82 January 16, 2017Posted by Tantumblogo in Four Last Things, General Catholic, history, manhood, sadness, Society, technology, Victory.
The old Apollo guys are going to their reward one by one. Who is left at this point that walked on the moon? Buzz Aldrin, Al Bean, Dave Scott, John Young, Charlie Duke, and Jack Schmitt. All are in their 80s.
But today the last man to walk on the moon died. Gene Cernan, who lived outside Kerrville, was 82:
Gene Cernan, an early NASA astronaut who was the last man to set foot on the moon, died Monday, NASA announced in a tweet. He was 82.
Cernan was the commander of Apollo 17 in December 1972 – the last lunar mission and one of the final Apollo flights. When Cernan stepped out from lunar module “Challenger” he became the 11th person to walk on the moon. His lunar module pilot, Jack Schmitt, was the 12th. But as commander, Cernan was the last to re-enter the module, making him the last person to walk on the lunar surface.
Cernan had previously served as the lunar module pilot on Apollo 10 and was a pilot on the Gemini IX mission.
Cernan logged 566 hours and 15 minutes in space, of which 73 hours were spent on the surface of the moon, according to NASA.
Cernan was one of only three men to travel to the moon twice. The other two were Jim Lovell (still alive) and John Young.
There was a big row in NASA in the first half of 1970 when Nixon foolishly decided to gut the Apollo program (although, in his defense, most all of NASA management wanted it gutted, too). After it was announced that Apollos 18-20 would be cancelled, even though the hardware was already almost entirely built (everything but the LMs for Apollo 19 and 20), the scientific community got all fired up because the then-current crew rotation would mean that no scientist would fly to the moon if Apollo 17 was the last mission. The first scientist scheduled to go was Jack Schmitt to the Tycho Crater on Apollo 18 with Commander Dick Gordon. No Apollo 18 meant no scientist on the moon.
But not so fast. The science guys raised a big enough ruckus that NASA management was “encouraged” to change the crew rotation. Gordon and Schmitt had been training together for 6 months at that point so Gordon hoped the entire crew for 18 would just replace Gene Cernan’s crew for 17. That would have left Cernan out in the cold. But instead, the awesomely skilled former X-15 pilot Joe Engle was bumped as LMP from Apollo 17 in favor of Schmitt, and Dick Gordon had to watch his chance to be the somewhat famous last man on the moon go up in smoke.
Gene Cernan was a bit of an anomaly among early Apollo astronauts in not being a test pilot. He was an attack aviation guy in the Navy, flying Skyhawks, when he found out he had been accepted into the third round of astronaut selectees. Cernan was generally viewed as a competent straight shooter who perhaps had the flaw of being a bit aggressive in his self-promotion. There was quite a bit of that among the Apollo astronauts, of course. After his time in NASA and almost de rigeuer collapse of his first marriage, Cernan became a bit of a sad creature, a sort of a caricature of his salad days version of himself, always Captain Cernan, always the former astronaut, not Geno or Gene anymore.
Still, they rarely make men like this anymore. We’re much too soft to produce such steely eyed missile men as those who flew to the moon in a delicate, lowest-cost government-run contraption. Engineering was done on slide rules back then, with no 3-D solid modeling and with less computing power in the entire NASA basement than one smart phone today. And yet they did it, and the engineers of back then were probably far, far better than those of today, man for man.
Gene Cernan was at least a nominal Catholic most of his life. Not sure if he died one. I pray for the repose of his soul.
Few know Cernans’s most dangerous mission was not Apollo 17, was not on Apollo at all, but was on Gemini 9A. During the mission he was to perform only America’s second spacewalk, the first since Ed White briefly flew outside Gemini 4. What most people did not know at that time, is that White barely made it back inside the spacecraft. His inflated pressure suit did not want to fit in the cramped capsule and he and commander Jim McDivitt struggled mightily to get it closed. As a result, White got quite severely overheated.
Well, White’s walk lasted perhaps 20 minutes, whereas Cernan’s was scheduled to last several hours. However, he also ran into problems with inadequate cooling in his spacesuit, especially when in the 250 degree temperatures on the sunny side of the world. Physical exertion, of which there was plenty, made him sweat profusely. Then, when the capsule went around the night side of the earth, all that moisture inside his suit froze. His visor was almost completely frosted over and Cernan was blind. He barely managed to make it back inside the ship, and probably had a heat stroke trying to get the hatch shut.
Cernan and Stafford repeated their two-man team on Apollo 10, when another accident could have killed them both. An incorrect setting on a guidance computer caused their Lunar Module to tumble out of control while practicing the landing maneuvers that Apollo 11 would perform on the first lunar landing. The telemetry showed the LM “Snoopy” doing three 360s before Stafford flipped the switch to go from backup abort guidance to the Apollo Guidance Computer. That fixed it.
Non Sequitur But Awesome: Massive New Oil Discoveries in Texas November 17, 2016Posted by Tantumblogo in awesomeness, fun, It's all about the $$$, non squitur, shocking, Society, technology, Victory.
Two massive new oil discoveries in West Texas, to the tune of nearly 30 billion barrels, have now increased Texas’ likely recoverable reserves to around 100 billion barrels, putting the state in the same ballpark of recoverable reserves as such petrochemical giants as Iraq and the UAE. Massive recoverable deposits in shale beneath the already heavily produced Permian Basin are coupled with a new find in an area long considered unsuitable for oil fields, the Davis Mountains region of far West Texas. That’s great news for a part of the state that has long been economically depressed and very sparsely populated.
Anyhoo, good news for the oil patch, which always has a spillover effect on the entire economy of the state. There will be – God willing – a lot of very good paying jobs and careers opened up by this, for the people most ignored and left behind in our free trade manufacturingless economy; blue collar whites, the same people largely responsible for electing Trump:
The US Geological Survey said Tuesday that it assessed what could be the largest deposit of untapped oil ever discovered in America.
An estimated average of 20 billion barrels of oil and 1.6 billion barrels of natural gas liquids are available for the taking in the Wolfcamp shale, which is in the Midland Basin portion of Texas’ Permian Basin. [But reserve growth may see this find exceed 20 billion barrels by a large margin, if it is economically recoverable]
Based on a West Texas Intermediate crude oil price of $45 per barrel, those deposits are worth about $900 billion.
US oil exploration companies have flocked to the superrich Permian Basin in recent years and used shale-drilling technology to create an oil boom that simultaneously helped trigger a price crash two years ago. The count of active oil rigs fell with prices, but has risen over the past few months, mostly in the Permian. Bloomberg noted that the Wolfcamp, where this deposit was found, has been one of the primary targets of shale drillers.
“The fact that this is the largest assessment of continuous oil we have ever done just goes to show that, even in areas that have produced billions of barrels of oil, there is still the potential to find billions more,” Walter Guidroz, program coordinator for the USGS Energy Resources Program, said in a statement.
The other find, from last September:
The Houston oil exploration company Apache has made one of the biggest U.S. oil and gas discoveries in years, finding the equivalent of more than 15 billion barrels of oil in a relatively unknown quadrant of West Texas’s Permian Basin, the company said Wednesday………
………..Apache said it’s new field holds more than 3 billion barrels of oil – nearly the equivalent of an entire year of U.S. crude production – and 75 trillion cubic feet of natural gas, making it the company’s biggest U.S. discovery ever and one of its most important worldwide. The field, which sits in the western subsection of the Permian known as the Delaware Basin, surpasses Apache’s gas finds in British Columbia of more than 50 trillion cubic feet in 2012 and of about2 trillion cubic feet in Egypt’s Qasr field in 2003.
Man, that is literally middle of nowhere, Texas. Between Fort Stockton and Van Horn is one of the most sparsely populated regions of the entire lower 48.
This is also potentially extremely good news for US energy independence. While we presently import very little oil and gas from the Mideast, we do import quite a bit from other sources. That’s a huge outflow of money, and always a potential security risk. Fortunately, our number one oil provider, Canada, rarely gets frisky.
A nice, long, 30 year oil boom would surely be a wonderful thing for lots and lots of people. At least with Obama leaving office and no Shillary we won’t have to worry much about an EPA-induced termination of fracking, which is behind all these discoveries.
Late n’ Rare Flightline Friday: The World’s Worst Carrier, Kuznetsov October 24, 2016Posted by Tantumblogo in Admin, asshatery, disaster, Flightline Friday, foolishness, fun, non squitur, pr stunts, silliness, Society, technology.
A lot of folks apparently got excited last week when, for the 7th time in its nearly 30 year history the broken down, way too small, horribly designed (and only) Russian carrier the Admiral Kuznetsov put to sea to ostensibly conduct combat operations off of Syria. If the carrier makes it to the Eastern Med – which is by no means certain, given its deplorable history – Kuznetsov will take party in combat operations for the first time with its tiny fixed wing fleet of 16 Su-33 aircraft.
But first she (or, as the Russians say, he) has to get there. And that’s been the problem in the past. Even when Kuznetsov made it to Eastern Med, she was generally in too poor condition to actually do anything remotely military. Her freshwater condensers constantly crap out, meaning they can’t run the turbines, meaning the ship has to be towed back to port. Why else do you think the Russians never let Kuznetsov put to sea without the world’s largest tug as escort? Does the US Navy do this, with their carriers? The Japanese? Italians? Spanish? Even the Brazilians? No, no they do not.
Kuznetsov was a product of two disastrous characteristics: inexperienced, frankly incompetent design, and late-Soviet-era build standards. Coupled together, and you have one of the most poorly designed and built ships ever to slide down the ways. Her horrific design and shoddy workmanship are legendary. The phased array antennas on the island? – they’re concrete ballast, as the real radar was never made functional. The plumbing is worthlessly rusted out in half or more of the ship. Basically half of the ship is unlivable. The ship is only marginally large enough to handle the huge Su-33 tactical aircraft, and can only carry a handful of them, really barely enough to protect the carrier (if that), let alone project power anywhere. And her power plant…….a large steam unit……….has always been her most pronounced weak point.
It appears to have gotten even worse. While passing through the English Channel, Kuznetsov belched forth such hideous, thick plumes of smoke from her oil fired engines that I seriously doubt she could conduct flight operations under such conditions. See, carriers, when they do flight ops, always turn into the wind. Pilots trying to land on Kuznetsov would be rendered almost totally blind by these clouds of incredibly dense smoke emanating from the ship and flowing straight into their approach path to land. And this was while cruising at a leisurely 7-8 knots, not the 25+ generally required for flight operations. I would wager she can’t come close to that speed with engines in such dire shape*. If she can, her pilots will probably be splattered all over the round down trying to land.
Wow. They are either using incredibly dirty, unrefined oil, or those engines have unbelievable problems. Likely a bit of both.
This is not made up stuff. How to deal with carrier smokestack emissions prior to the advent of gas turbines and nukes was a huge issue. That’s one reason US carriers wound up with their islands so far back, which generally prevented the gasses from spreading so much they seriously affected visibility. On earlier Essex class carriers, with islands roughly midship, this was much more of a problem. The Japanese, on their WWII carriers, actually vented the boiler gasses downward, below the level of the flight deck, to try to deal with this.
Of course, US and allied pilots go through the training hell of learning to make night traps using only mirror, ball, and the screams of the LSO. Those landings are dang near blind, so it was generally less of a problem for US naval aviators even when we still had oil-fired carriers (which, we don’t. The last were retired nearly 10 years ago).
So don’t get too worked up over Putin’s latest bluster. This one is much more show than go. That’s all any combat operations conducted from Kuznetsov will be, if there are any – show. And it will be another hellish cruise for her crew, which despises the ship to the extent they mutinied a short while back. This is a ship that has spent over 95% of her 30 year career tied up pierside or in drydock. She’s a floating disaster, and the Chinese were probably suckers to gain most of their carrier knowledge, and their currently only operational carrier, from the incompleted hulk of Kuznetsov’s sister, now finished and called Laioning by the Red Chinese. She has all the same engines and other design flaws of the original, and to date hasn’t put to sea very often at all, by Western standards.
I loved the jokes on Ace: the world’s first wood-, or possibly peat-, burning aircraft carrier. I don’t think Lexington put out that much smoke after taking multiple Jap torpedoes at Coral Sea.
*- In fact, Kuznetsov has apparently never come close to her design speed of 29 kts
Non Sequitur Post of the Week – NIJ Standards for Body Armor October 12, 2016Posted by Tantumblogo in Admin, blogfoolery, Dallas Diocese, firearms, fun, non squitur, silliness, technology.
Totally non sequitur, just an FYI for those who have no idea what we’re talking about in some other comment threads, the National Institutes of Justice body armor rating levels. I wonder if Bishop Farrell would have ever gotten around to impugning those of his flock who make use of passive defense, as he did so often against active defense (firearms)?
Drat, I guess we’ll never know now. Keep praying for our new bishop, whoever he may be.
BTW, Camper, this list more or less confirms that you are correct, Level IIIA is generally considered proof against most submachine gun rounds, which makes sense, since most subs fire 9 mm, .45, or similar handgun rounds, though at somewhat higher velocity than standard hand guns. Also remember that all soft body armor is pretty much useless against pointy weapons like knives, swords, battleaxes, broad-point arrows, etc.
|NIJ LEVEL I:
This armor protects against .22 caliber Long Rifle Lead Round Nose (LR LRN) bullets with nominal masses of 2.6 g (40 gr) impacting at a minimum velocity of 320 m/s (1050 ft/s) or less and 380 ACP Full Metal Jacketed Round Nose (FMJ RN) bullets with nominal masses of 6.2 g (95 gr) impacting at a minimum velocity of 312 m/s (1025 ft/s) or less.
|NIJ LEVEL IIA:
(Lower Velocity 9mm, .40 S&W). This armor protects against 9mm Full Metal Jacketed Round Nose (FMJ RN) bullets with nominal masses of 8.0 g (124 gr) impacting at a minimum velocity of 332 m/s (1090 ft/s) or less and .40 S&W caliber Full Metal Jacketed (FMJ) bullets with nominal masses of 11.7 g (180 gr) impacting at a minimum velocity of 312 m/s (1025 ft/s) or less. It also provides protection against Level I threats. Level IIA body armor is well suited for full-time use by police departments, particularly those seeking protection for their officers from lower velocity .40 S&W and 9mm ammunition.
|NIJ LEVEL II:
(Higher Velocity 9mm, .357 Magnum). This armor protects against .357 Magnum jacketed soft-point bullets with nominal masses of 10.2 g (158 gr.) impacting at a velocity of 425 m/s (1,395 ft/s) or less and against 9mm full-jacketed bullets with nominal velocities of 358 m/s (1,175 ft/s). It also protects against most other factory loads in caliber .357 Magnum and 9mm as well as the Level I and IIA threats. Level II body armor is heavier and more bulky than either Levels I or IIA. It is worn full time by officers seeking protection against higher velocity .357 Magnum and 9mm ammunition.
|NIJ LEVEL IIIA:
(.44 Magnum; Submachine Gun 9mm). This armor protects against .44 Magnum, Semi Jacketed Hollow Point (SJHP) bullets with nominal masses of 15.55 g (240 gr.) impacting at a velocity of 426 m/s (1,400 ft/s) or less and against 9mm full-metal jacketed bullets with nominal masses of 8.0 g (124 gr.) impacting at a velocity of 426 m/s (1,400 ft/s) or less. It also provides protection against most handgun threats as well as the Level I, IIA, and II threats. Level IIIA body armor provides the highest level of protection currently available from concealable body armor and is generally suitable for routine wear in many situations. However, departments located in hot, humid climates may need to evaluate the use of Level IIIA armor carefully.
|NIJ LEVEL III:
(High-powered rifle). This armor, normally of hard or semirigid construction, protects against 7.62mm full-metal jacketed bullets (US military designation M80) with nominal masses of 9.7 g (150 gr.) impacting at a velocity of 838 m/s (2,750 ft/s) or less. It also provides protection against threats such as 223 Remington (5.56mm FMJ), 30 Carbine FMJ, and 12-gauge rifled slug, as well as Level I through IIIA threats. Level III body armor is clearly intended only for tactical situations when the threat warrants such protection, such as barricade confrontations involving sporting rifles.
||NIJ LEVEL IV:
(Armor-piercing rifle). This armor protects against .30–06 caliber armor-piercing bullets (US military designation APM2) with nominal masses of 10.8 g (166 gr.) impacting at a velocity of 868 m/s (2,850 ft/s) or less. It also provides at least single-hit protection against the Level I through III threats.
Level IV body armor provides the highest level of protection currently available. Because this armor is intended to resist “armor piercing” bullets, it often uses ceramic materials. Such materials are brittle in nature and may provide only single-shot protection since the ceramic tends to break up when struck. As with Level III armor, Level IV armor is clearly intended only for tactical situations when the threat warrants such protection.
Frightline Friday: Lockheed to Develop Mach 20 Strike System September 23, 2016Posted by Tantumblogo in Admin, Flightline Friday, fun, history, non squitur, silliness, technology.
DARPA has been working on this for over a decade, with not exactly stellar success. Called originally Prompt Global Strike, as people began to wrap their heads around the “Global War on Terror” in the early 00s, they began to comprehend how useful a weapon system that could be launched from CONUS and hit a target anywhere in the world within 30-40 minutes.
Some bright folks at the Air Staff exclaimed: “Why, we have ICBMs that can do that! We just need to put a conventional warhead (or not) on an ICBM and, voila!, capability created!” Someone then said……how would the Russians or Chinese feel about an ICBM launch from the US, even if told about it in advance? How would they feel about ICBM warheads sailing overhead in route to a target in Afghanistan or Yemen? Back to the drawing board……..
So began what has turned into a long-term effort to develop what amounts to a sort of hypersonic cruise missile, launched from a bomber or perhaps a sub and carried aloft to a high, but nowhere near orbital, altitude, and flying to the target at speeds between Mach 5 (3500 mph) and Mach 20 (14,000 mph).
There have been a number of programs – Hypersonic Test Vehicles HTV-1, HTV-2, X-43, X-51, and the Advanced Hypersonic Weapon. Their success rate has been around 50% so far. HTV really never quite worked and seems to have been cancelled. AHW seem to be ongoing. All of these follow a “depressed,” atmospheric trajectory deliberately, to prevent other nuclear armed powers from believing they are being attacked with ballistic missiles. How excited they will become at a Mach 20 scramjet coming in their general direction remains to be seen.
The US is hardly the only country pursuing this technology. China and Russia both are, and the Chinese program may be more advanced than the US at this time.
Perhaps to redress that, DARPA awarded a $150 million contract to Lockheed to develop a new Tactical Boost Glide weapon. $150 is probably chicken feed to develop something so radically advanced, but perhaps that’s just for starters:
Lockheed Martin just won a $147 million contract to build a vehicle capable of flying at speeds of Mach 20. The goal is to create a high-speed delivery system that could bomb targets thousands of miles away in an hour or less. It’s similar to what other countries, including Russia and China, are working on.
Tactical Boost Glide (TBG) will be an air-launched boost glide weapon system. The TBG itself is a aerodynamic, arrowhead-shaped vehicle fitted on the nose of a rocket. The rocket in turn is carried by a large aircraft such as a B-52 bomber, which would carry the rocket to high altitude and then launch it. The rocket boosts TBG to an evenhigher altitude, whereupon a scramjet or ramjet kicks in and quickly accelerates it up to hypersonic speeds. TBG then glides unpowered the rest of the way to the target.
How fast will TBG go? A nearly identical program concluded in 2011 reached speeds of Mach 20. At that speed, a hypersonic vehicle could travel from New York City to Los Angeles in 12 minutes, or London to Sydney in 49 minutes.
Hypersonic is the next frontier in weaponry. The super-fast speeds could make it possible to destroy a faraway but time-critical target—say, a North Korean missile fueling on the launch pad or a terrorist meeting in a remote location. Hypersonic speed also makes interception very difficult—and makes the actual vehicle a weapon when the kinetic energy of an object traveling at Mach 20 is transferred to a target.
Meh. Prompt Global Strike, like unmanned systems, is more of a politician’s dream than what I suspect will become a real military capability. Politicians love unmanned systems for the promise of being able to fight wars without much risk of loss of US life. I pray to God they never become really capable, or we’ll be killing people around the world without end at a far higher rate than we do now. There’d be no end to it.
Don’t get me wrong, hypersonics have great utility and I think they will eventually come along, but I think Mach 20 is quite a reach. The temperatures and pressures at that altitude (~200,000 ft) are fantastic – hundreds if not thousands of PSI, 3500 degrees F. Mach 5-8 seems much more reasonable, and the technology to handle those temps and pressures has been around a long time.
The earlier X-43:
A successful hypersonic weapon, whether an air-breathing scramjet powered vehicle, or one that glides after initial boost to terrific speed, can be much more difficult to intercept than an ICBM RV because they are not on a fixed ballistic profile, and will likely be capable of something like aircraft like maneuvers, albeit, at enormous speeds.
Long ago, the Air Force had a project for a replacement to the venerable B-52. The replacement was called the XB-70. It was killed largely due to McNamara’s inveterate dislike for bombers, which stemmed from several reasons, most of them faulty. The XB-70 was killed because it was designed to fly at Mach 3.2 at 70-80,000 ft. With the shootdown of Francis Gary Powers U-2 in 1960, some felt that high altitude was too dangerous, due to the proliferation of surface-to-air missiles that could reach the same or higher altitudes.
However, one massive bit of the equation McNamara missed was the difference in performance. At 70,000 ft, the U-2 cruised at about 400 mph. That’s all it could do. The B-70 would have been 5 times as fast. While the B-70 had a much larger radar cross section and could thus be detected sooner, 30 years of operation with the SR-71 proved that the high-altitude domain had not been rendered implausible due to surface to air missiles. Flying at the same speeds and altitudes, the SR-71 was targeted and fired upon by SAMs literally hundreds of times, but not one was ever shot down or even damaged.
The reason is that even very large SAMs have very little energy left when they get to that kind of extreme altitude, and the aircraft are often about as maneuverable (if not more) than the SAM way up there in the up there. Also, the enormous speed of the SR-71 (or B-70) means that even a slight change in course results in a displacement of the flight path on the order of miles within a minute or less. So, the SAM, targeted to a particular spot in the sky where the fast, high-altitude aircraft is expected to be, winds up missing by a huge distance when the aircraft turns to avoid. Really no air defense systems of the 60s-90s timeframe could react quickly enough, or had missiles with high enough flight performance, to hit a maneuvering target at those speeds and altitudes.
And that doesn’t even begin to factor in the very advanced electronic countermeasures an aircraft like the B-70 or SR-71 would have or did carry. An ICBM RV is simple to shoot down by comparison, being on a fixed ballistic trajectory – albeit very, very fast – it WILL be at a certain point in the sky at a certain point in time and there is nothing that can be done to change that. Get an interceptor to that same point at the right time, and you have a kill.
The Russians now purport to have “maneuverable” RVs (with attached rockets or lift devices to deviate from the fixed ballistic trajectory) able to defeat missile defense systems, but they a) drastically exaggerate their capabilities, and b) fail to note that they are so heavy and cumbersome that they have a huge negative impact on the ICBM’s limited payload/range capabilities.
The prototype XB-70 #2 reached a peak speed of Mach 3.07 and an altitude of 72,800 ft during it’s test program. The production B-70s would have been equipped with more powerful engines and able to fly faster and quite a bit higher.
But I guess that’s a story for another day.
Flightline Friday: Naval Aviation in the Mekong Delta, 1967-1972 September 15, 2016Posted by Tantumblogo in Admin, awesomeness, Flightline Friday, fun, history, non squitur, silliness, Society, technology.
One of the relatively little-known aspects of the massive, never-ending air war over Southeast Asia (1964-1973) was the US Navy’s role in it. I do not refer, in this instance, to the numerous carriers and carrier air wings that served throughout the war, involving essentially every attack carrier the Navy had in service in that timeframe, and pretty much every air wing, as well. That’s a separate subject from this post, and, really, one that was so vast it would be impossible to encapsulate in a single blog post.
What I am referring to is something a bit different. These were two land-based squadrons operated in support of the “Brown Water Navy” that patrolled the Mekong Delta and other rivers of Vietnam, seeking to interdict communist supplies flowing down these vast, largely unpoliced waters. The two squadrons in question were Helicopter Attack Squadron (Light) Three -HA(L)-3 – and Light Attack Squadron Four – VAL-4. The former was equipped with Huey gunships (generally UH-1E) and known as the Sea Wolves, and the latter with OV-10A and -10D Broncos and known as the Black Ponies.
HA(L)-3 served from 1967 through 1972, and VAL-4 from 1969 – 1972. Both were focused on defending US and South Vietnamese Navy riverine craft from communist attack, providing close air support to allied troops conducting operations in the region, and also flying armed reconnaissance missions attacking targets of opportunity. VAL-4 flew from Vung Tau (hometown of a friend of mine, once a sleeping fishing village, now a major resort city) and Binh Tuy. HA(L)-3 was nominally based at Vung Tau and Binh Tuy, as well, but operated numerous detachments from floating logistics bases within the Delta itself, using converted WWII LSTs and other ships for this purpose.
Both squadrons were fairly large in terms of equipment and personnel and hit well above their weight in terms of the impact they had on the war. Both flew outrageous numbers of sorties, as did so many units in Vietnam (but these even more), and dropped an incredible amount of munitions. Both have proud and storied legacies well deserving of more remembrance than they have received. This post may hopefully serve to slightly rectify their relative historical anonymity.
A few videos below on both squadrons. First up, a truly excellent history of VAL-4, which not only details personnel and day-to-day operations, but also the squadron’s place in the larger war effort and the many transitions it underwent as its mission set changed due to the American withdrawal and Vietnamization. There is some really amazing air-to-air footage below of numerous OV-10 strike missions, as well as its just plain silly maneuverability (pulling 7-8G at 180kts makes for an amazingly tight turn):
Short, silent, but excellent footage of two Black Pony OV-10s carrying a load of twelve 5″ Zuni rockets (a few with fuze extenders) each on a mission over South Vietnam. The Zuni really packed a punch and has always been a favorite of the Marine Corps, which continues to use it to this day:
One major use of both VAL-4 and HA(L)-3 was as a quick-reaction force to provide air support for allied units that ran into trouble. Thus the intro to the second video below, “Scramble the Seawolves,” the first of which gives you an idea of the quick reaction missions flown, as well as a little overview of the unit, which is the most decorated Naval flying unit of all time. This first video is pretty danged good, showing a lot of combat footage and with some sound added in so it’s not just silent or with an overbearing 60s soundtrack, though you do start to get that some way in:
You’ll have to forgive the psychedelic soundtrack. Eh, it was a product of the times:
Gun run. I can’t believe those door gunners hit very much but who am I to judge?
Some pretty cool stuff. The aircraft used by both squadrons carried similar armament – the OV-10 had four built-in 7.62 mm M60D machine guns and generally carried 2.75″ and 5″ rockets, while the UH-1 could carry 7.62 mm machine guns and 2.75″ rockets, but occasionally had 12.7 mm (.50 cal) M2 machine guns in the doors.
If you’re a glutton for punishment here’s one more:
Non Sequitur: A little Dallas History August 30, 2016Posted by Tantumblogo in Admin, awesomeness, Dallas Diocese, demographics, fun, history, non squitur, silliness, Society, technology.
This post is more for the locals. In the summer of 1991, my parents and I moved from central Plano, near US75, to what was then far west/northwest Plano. This was well before Dallas North Tollway had been expanded north of Keller Springs Rd. It was just a two lane blacktop.
There was our brand-new subdivision, and nothing else for miles. You could see the brand-new EDS headquarters about 3 miles north, but that was it. It was prairie and cows. There was a large ranch just to the east (still there, soon to become a large nature preserve). A lot of wildflowers. Our house was the fifth to be built in this new subdivision and the 2nd to be occupied. Literally across the street would be some black angus grazing. For a couple of years, it felt like country living.
It’s been almost completely built up around there for years, now. Which just goes to show how fast the Dallas area continues to grow.
For a little more historical evidence of that, some photos from DFWFreeways.com, showing the old and the new.
Back in the mid-50s, Dallas pretty much stopped at Northwest Highway. Even much of the land along Northwest Highway was quite country. Lovers Lane was still used as its name suggests, at least the eastern part was. The photo below shows the newly completed Central Expressway looking north from Walnut Hill towards Northwest Highway. There was a Ford Tractor dealership just out of frame to the lower left. As you can tell, this area was still completely undeveloped. Within 10 years, however, it would be almost completely built up, making room for hundreds of thousands of new residents:
US75/Central Expressway looking north at the Northwest Highway interchange. Nice traffic level!
Northwest Highway and US75/Central Expressway as it appeared 11 years ago, in 2005 (looking from the opposite direction as the first photo above, but covering the same stretch of road). 50 years makes quite a difference. That is the world’s first mall, Northpark, at right. It is still one of the most successful malls in the world:
Incomplete Central Expressway in tiny, sleepy Plano in 1955. The town population was about 2000 but was poised for explosive growth. By 1970 the population was 17,000, and 1980, 72,000.
Perhaps the most amazing comparo of all, Preston Road at Valley View, which would become LBJ freeway, in 1958. The more modern scene is shown below:
Man there was just whole bunch of nothin’ out there in 1959! Looks like Phillipsburg.
By 1970, however, Dallas had expanded to fill in virtually all of the northern territory up to LBJ freeway. Richardson was almost built out, and Plano was starting the growth that would make it the fastest growing city in the US in the 1970s, 80s, and 90s. It, too, in turn has become built out. And the slow process of decay begins.
Irving had enjoyed that explosive growth in the 50s and 60s. A little closer to home for me today, a then 2 lane SH183 at Britain Rd in Irving in 1954:
Lots of interesting stuff on this site. It’s one reason you haven’t had much from me today. It’s worth checking out.
Linebacker II was the most intensive period of aerial bombardment of the Vietnam War. It was the culmination of 7+ years of desultory, on-again, off-again bombing campaigns conducted with ludicrous limitations that rendered the United States single largest military advantage – overwhelming air power – almost neutered. Thousands of men died, hundreds more languished for years in hellish North Vietnamese prisons, as politicians in Washington dithered, committing just enough forces to kill numerous North Vietnamese and Americans, but never enough to be decisive. It was the worst aerial campaign in US history.
Linebacker II was, in essence, the final conducting of the air war the Joint Chiefs had been calling for since 1965. In 12 days of bombing, they rendered North Vietnam defenseless, crippled, and ready to end the war on terms the US at that time found acceptable, even if those terms were as false and illusory as the entire war had been. That is to say, it allowed the US to get (most? some?) of the POWs home, to save face, and to more or less abandon the South Vietnamese to a grim fate, especially after a hyper-liberal Congress was elected in 1974 in the wake of Watergate, which cut off almost all US aid to the beleaguered nation. But it was seen as very preferable to simply an out and out surrender, or an even more cold-hearted and open abandonment of a long-proclaimed vital ally.
What is presented in the video below is a series of cockpit recordings of internal B-52 intercoms and inter-aircraft radio chatter during the Linebacker II mission of Dec. 26, 1972. The aircraft where the recording was made was B-52D Lilac 2 out of Andersen AFB, Guam. The campaign had begun on December 18, then the Nixon Administration imposed a 36 hour bombing halt for Christmas. This allowed the North Vietnamese to reconstitute their almost depleted defenses a bit, and made the mission of Dec. 26 one of the harriest of them all. By Dec. 30, the lat night of the raids, the North was out of SAMs, most of their radars were destroyed, and they had no effective way to respond. But that was not the case this night, when several aircraft were lost.
The video includes a map which shows the aircraft which are involved, their call signs, and their slow progress over North Vietnam. It is really an impressive piece of work, and a valuable contribution to the historical record.
Kinda Non Sequitur – An Interesting Biopic on William Colby August 10, 2016Posted by Tantumblogo in foolishness, fun, history, huh?, non squitur, pr stunts, Society, technology.
William Colby was Director of Central Intelligence from 1973-76. He was one of the last of the old-line Office of Strategic Services WWII vets to run the Agency. He served in Norway and France in WWII and killed quite a few Germans. Later, under CIA, he helped keep Italy from falling to the communists (a lot of people forget CIA’s many, many early successes, before it became bureaucratized), then got sucked into the quagmire that was Vietnam.
He was also a devout Catholic and father of 5, having a child baptized in St. Peter’s and another two receiving First Communion there. He also tragically seemed to have gotten caught up in the post-conciliar zeitgeist, leaving his wife of over 40 years in 1984 to marry someone much younger, and kinda-sorta falling away late in life.
The conclusion of the documentary below is somewhat controversial. Carl Colby’s, the late director’s son, felt his dad was wracked by guilt over some of the things he had done, or ordered others to do, in his tenure at CIA, had grown tired of living, and thus committed suicide somehow while out canoeing. Many others who knew Colby well dispute this, claiming he was never suicidal and was not overwrought with guilt over his CIA activities.
At any rate, early portions of the film show some nice (if unfortunately partially cropped) scenes of the pre-conciliar Church, including Pius XII on sede gestatoria and various scenes of Catholic Italy. I know some of you are interested in history, and especially the clandestine activities of the US which some believe continue to this day in the form of trying to construct a “New World Order.” I thought it worth posting, since this is kind of a slow news day: