Month: September 2008

Oh My God Economics Update

I normally don’t note stock market swings, but 778 points after House ‘Phants kill the Paulson bailout bill?

Surprisingly, the dollar is up and oil is down.

Money with half a brain should be fleeing in the other direction, but it appears that European banks are in real trouble too, because their governments are bailing a bunch of them out.

Not that US banks are doing much better, with Citi getting the bits of Wachovia for magic beans.

So not both the US Federal Reserve and various foreign central banks are shoveling money out the door.

Meanwhile, Iceland did what Paulson should have, when it nationalized the Glitnir bank, as has the UK, which has nationalized mortgage lender Bradford & Bingley.

Obituary: Paul Newman

My mom’s favorite actor, she could never say Long Hot Summer, with Paul Newman, without saying, “Yum!

He is also at the center of my story about how someone can be too concerned about politics.

My Mom’s 1st Cousin, Joy, (does that make her my 2nd cousin, or my 1st cousin once removed?) was and is involved in the Washington DC scene, and at one large event, was asked to point out someone in the crowd.

She said, “See the tall handsome man with the striking blue eyes, she is standing to his left.”

The person then replied, “So, she’s standing next to Paul Newman?”

My mom teased Joy about that one.

More Tanker Mishugas

First, it appears that Northrop-Grumman is entitled to an as yet undetermined cancellation fee, which is yet another reason to think that the entire tanker process is completely fracked.

But here is the kicker, Northrop Grumman’s bid was $2.9 billion cheaper:

John Young, the undersecretary for acquisition, technology and logistics, said in an interview at the Pentagon yesterday that under the tanker proposal from Northrop Grumman and its partner European Aeronautic Defence & Space, developing the first 68 aircraft would have cost $12.5 billion, compared with $15.4 billion under Boeing’s plan.

So, the tanker version of the A330 had longer range, greater fuel offload capability, the ability to tank and carry cargo, and it was $2.9 billion cheaper.

Let’s also note that it was already flying, as Australia’s A330 MRTT, as versus Boeing’s proposal, an as yet unconstructed model with, “767-200 airframe; over-wing exits from the -300; floors, doors and structurally enhanced wings from the -300F; a cockpit, and the tail section and flaps from the -400ER”.


OK, Me Bad. Maybe the Navy DOES Care About Piracy

At least when it involves a ship carrying $30 million worth of, “grenade launchers, piles of ammunition, even battle tanks.”

Looks like the Russians are pursuing the pirates too, in the spirit of international cooperation…or maybe just because it was their schwag that got taken.

But according to diplomats and the Russian Interfax news agency, the cargo was 33 T-72 refurbished tanks, “quite a significant amount of ammunition” and grenade launchers. The supplier was a state-owned Ukrainian company. Ukrainian and Kenyan officials emphasized that the arms deal was perfectly legal.

To be fair, three of the crewman were Russian, and I’m sure that the Russians were offended…After all, no one gets to steal and threaten the citizens and businesses of their former republics but them.

JSF Program Managers Get Stroppy

It appears that in some computer simulations of the JSF versus late model SU-35 fighters, the F-35 got clubbed like baby seals.

All in all, this is not particularly surprising. It’s a redux of the F-105 (Lead Sled) vs. the MiG-21 of the Vietnam era.

The MiG-35 has a better power to weight ratio, wing loading, and air to air weapons load out, the F-35 carruing only 2 AMRAAMs because the USAF doesn’t want a comparison with the F-22, a white elephant that they are still lobbying for.

Needless to say, the Airforce brass is thoroughly unamused by these reports, and they are mounting a PR counteroffensive, including claims that the simulation was an apples to oranges comparison, because the F-35 was carrying all of its weapons internally.

Dude, you carry the stuff on pylons, and you lose stealth. If you lose stealth, you will be clubbed like a baby seal, it’s the only advantage that the F-35 has.

My favorite bit of this counter-offensive is this patently absurd claim:

“Advanced stealth and sensor fusion allow the F-35 pilot to see, target and destroy the adversary and strategic targets in a very high surface-to-air threat scenario, and deal with air threats intent on denying access — all before the F-35 is ever detected — then return safely to do it again,” said Tom Burbage, a Lockheed Martin vice president.

Considering that he is presenting what is called a “flaming datum”, so named because a ship burning or sinking was how U-Boats, an early form of stealth vehicle, were determined to be in the area, and then suggesting that he can return to the area and make another attack, is absurd.

Something like 50% of all sub sinkings followed a flaming datum.

In any case, it appears that as part of planning for the dual role missile, A2A weapons carriage will be improved (paid subscription required):

The U.S. Air Force and Navy have begun talks to define the Joint Dual-Role Air Dominance Missile (JDRADM) intended to replace both air-to-air AIM-120 Amraam and anti-radar AGM-88 Harm beyond 2020 and allow the F-35 to defend itself against both opposing fighters and air defenses.

Separately, studies into “super-packing” the JSF’s bays to increase the number of weapons carried have come up with a way of loading six Amraam-sized missiles internally, according to the program office. This could be an option for later F-35 capability blocks.

So my guess is that the boyz in blue have seen the same simulations, and are looking to rectify the problem.

Updated PAC-3 Looking at 2009 Test

It looks like Lockheed-Martin Missiles and Fire Control* and the Missile Defense Agency are looking at testing an upgrade to the PAC-3 Patriot SAM in 2009. (paid subscription required)

It looks like the sensor for the hit-to-kill weapon will be much the same as its predecessor, but that range will be doubled and effective altitude increased by a larger diameter motor with a two pulse motor, giving generally improved kinematics.

To do this, they will put the missile in a PAC-2 cannister, the PAC-3 fits 4 missiles in the space of a PAC-2 now, and use folding fins for greater volumetric efficiency, and LM is hopingto be competitive in naval applications too.

*Full Disclosure, in 1999-2000 and 1996-1998, I worked as a mechanical engineer for what is now Lockheed Martin Missiles and Fire Control, and I have some claim to actually being a rocket scientist.
Yes, I have worked everywhere. Maybe I can’t hold down a job, but more likely this has been my role as “technical hit man”, where you are parachuted in to take care of a specific need.

Next Man Makes a Move, and the N*gg*r Gets It

If you’ve ever seen Blazing Saddles,* you remember the scene where Cleavon Little, realizing that the citizens of Rick Ridge are about to lynch him, holds a gun to his own neck, and then holds himself hostage until he can extricate himself from the situation.

Well, it appears that EADS, parent company of Airbus has watched Blazing Saddles many, many times, because this is the stratagem that they are using to deal with the penalty clauses in their contracts for late delivery:

Aerospace giant EADS has threatened to freeze production of its Airbus subsidiary’s flagship military airlifter if clients do not drop penalty clauses for late delivery, a German news report said Sept. 20.
The A400M airlifter. (EADS)

Der Spiegel weekly, trailing its Sept. 22 publication, cited a letter sent by Louis Gallois, the French chief executive of both companies, to the governments of seven countries who have ordered the A400M plane.


*If you’ve never seen Blazing Saddles, you need to rent it and watch it today.

F-35B Opens Doors in Flight

So, they’ve finally gotten the doos open of the vertical lift system open in flight, hopefully this means a full STOVL flight in the next few weeks, though these wheels seem to be grinding awfully slowly.

To my mind, it is the F-35B, with it’s STOVL capabilities, that is really the only variant that brings anything particularly necessary to the table.

It’s clear that for a number of reasons, the Harriers in service really do need to be replaced.

Because the USAF Has WAY too Much Free Time

Well, we now know just how seriously the USAF takes Iraq and Afghanistan, because they just rolled out new dress uniforms.

The uniforms are inspired by those of General “Hap” Arnold.

To be fair, the current leader of the USAF, Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Norton Schwartz, inherited this matter, his predecessor was the one who pushed the new dress blues, which may explain why he got his ass fired.

Price tag: $125 million. Complete confirmation that the making USAF an independent was a total mistake: Priceless.

Economics Update

With upwards of 70% of the US Economy being consumer spending driven, it’s not good news that the final for consumer confidence missed expectations, 70.3, as opposed to the forecast 71.0, but it does reflect the fact that the final number for economic growth in the 2nd quarter was revised downward.

The fact that August new home sales are the lowest since 1982, which was not a great year for the economy either, points to the fact that the economy sucks in the real world too.

Of course, while all this is going on, Congress is still fighting over bailing out Wall Street, which has lead to a muddled picture for the dollar.

That beins said, it’s clear that the energy markets are banking on a recession with both oil and retail gasoline heading lower.

All this uncertainty is why 30 year mortgage rates exploded this week, going from 5.78% last week, to 6.09% this week.

31 basis points in a week….Ouch.

FWIW, the central banks are shoveling cash out the door, which will eventually start devaluing the currency (inflation).