Month: January 2010

A Good Plan View of the PAK-FA

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H/t ELP Defens(c)e Blog

What is apparrent from this view:
Edge Alignment.

  • Relatively flat central belly area.
  • Straight through engine air path (which implies radar blockers, as in the F-117 and F/A-18E/f).
  • The flaps on the leading edge of the leading edge extensions.
  • Metallic skin on rear portion of engines.
  • Su-27 style “stinger, with a relatively large radome.
  • Landing gear appears robust.
  • Trapazoidal (stealthy) air inlets with splitter plates.

I think that the metal on the rear fuselage around the engines are an indication that whatever signature reduction techniques that they want to apply, they are not all on this model, so it reinforces my earlier assessment that this is not a representative prototype, but rather more of a validation model for the configuration.

Hopefully, This is as Close as I Ever Come to Pledge Week

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Charlie in front of the control room

Pledge drive studio while programming is going on

Pledge drive during requests for donations

Control room for studio

Control room for satellite up and downlink

Server room

Charlie just had a tour of the Maryland Public Television (MPT) studios, courtesy of his cub scout troop.

As the crow flys, it’s only about a mile away from us.

It’s pledge week at MPT, which meant that there was no escaping it on a tour.

We swung by twice. the 1st time, the regularly scheduled program was showing, and the 2nd time, they were in the break doing their pledge fund stuff, and I couldn’t change the channel.

One of the things that I notices, and it really wasn’t much of a surprise, is that the studio is actually rather a lot smaller than it appears on TV.

Seeing as how square footage costs money, this is really not surprising: You see the same thing with the Star Trek bridge in the Smithsonian.

As to Charlie’s thoughts on his visit to MPT, he thought that it was an OK way to kill an hour.

A final note, I need to remember to clean my cell phone camera lens before take pictures.

What Krugman Said

So says the Shrill One, and so say we all:

Put it this way: if our financial system is so high-strung, so manic-depressive, that low rates for a few years can inflate a monstrous bubble, while a few discouraging words from high officials can send them into a tailspin, this doesn’t make the case that policy must walk on eggshells, forgoing any attempt to fight prolonged unemployment. Instead, it makes the case for much, much stronger financial regulation.

I would only add that one of the metrics that should be used in financial regulation is proportion of GDP. There must be a conscious effort by regulators to keep the financial industry from becoming the tail that wags the dog of our economy.

FCS-MGV* Successor to Have Tracks

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Tracks vs wheels

Linked band track

One of the lessons from Stryker in Afghanistan is that they are too road bound which creates regular predictable routes, which makes them more vulnerable to IEDs.

When juxtaposed with their relatively thin armor, the consequences are unfortunate:

What doesn’t work is the Stryker in Afghanistan, says Scales. The 5th Stryker Brigade, operating in southern Afghanistan’s Kandahar area, has taken heavy casualties, losing some 21 of the eight-​​wheeled vehicles and two dozen soldiers killed. “The vehicles have proven to be too thinly armored to survive the very large explosive power of Taliban IEDs and too immobile to maneuver off road to avoid them,” Scales writes.

I would also add that, for a given envelope, tracked vehicles are more space efficient, since the wheels on something like a Stryker are large, have significant travel, and the front (and sometimes rear) wheels sweep out a larger volume as an artifact of their pivoting to steer. (see picture)

Also, tracked vehicles are a lot better in urban conflict, because they can go over something like a junked car road block, while wheeled vehicles cannot, and because they can pivot steer, their maneuverability in close quarters is superior.

The downside of tracks is operational cost and road speed.

It’s why it’s rather cramped in Strykers.

Unfortunately, it appears that they are still fixated on some sort of “very quiet” track system:

“The lesson of contemporary wars is that IEDs can best be defeated by designing a vehicle capable of avoiding them,” he writes, in other words a vehicle that can go off road across rough terrain so that it isn’t limited to predictable routes. That means the future GCV must be tracked. It must also be quiet enough to be somewhat stealthy, Scales argues, which would imply a rubberized band track.

This is an area that I worked on extensively on the FCS-RMV, since, as a recovery vehicle, it would have to perform field repair, and from this perspective, band track, basically a continuous rubber band is a complete disaster.

First, with link track, every vehicle can carry a few extra links, and if there is damage to one, or two, they can repair it themselves. Additionally, they can short track, shorten the track by pulling links, and reroute the it so that one or more road wheels are not in the path.

By contrast, if a band track is broken, the crew can’t repair it, the replacement has to take part as a whole (as opposed to feeding the track a link at a time around the drive and road wheels), and it’s a unit, which when stored is huge, as in large enough that you need a truck to carry it to where ever you need to go to do the repairs.

There is a solution, called segmented band track, which splits the difference, so, for example, as opposed to rigid links, the tread would be made with (for example) 10 flexible treads that are linked together with pins (bottom pic), which splits the difference.

It is hoped that this will combine the simplicity of transport of link track with the light weight, lower noise, lower vibration, less wear on the road, and higher performance of continuous band track.

I will say that one of the things that should be avoided, at least on the basis of my experience with the FRMV specifically and the FCS-MGV generally, is to make a fetish of commonality between different vehicles performing different roles.

In the FCS program, almost every vehicle carried significant weight and cost penalties as a result of having a common chassis.

Commonality in systems is good, but if you take it to chassis design, you have start increasing weight and cost of the systems to attain this.

*Future Combat Systems – Manned Ground Vehicle.

Sikorsky’s X2 Looks to Break 250 MPH Early This Year

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Soon to hit 250 MPH?

Sikorsky is looking at taking the coaxial rotor compound helicopter to more than 250 miles per hour soon:

Sikorsky expects to exceed 250 kt. with its X2 Technology coaxial-rotor compound helicopter demonstrator early in the year, resetting speed expectations for rotorcraft that have been stuck at around 150 kt. for decades.

A modern reinterpretation of Sikorsky’s XH-59A Advancing Blade Concept (ABC) testbed, which reached 238 kt. in the 1970s, the X2 combines fly-by-wire control, integrated engine/rotor/propulsor system, variable-speed rotor, high-lift/drag rigid blades and active vibration control to realize the speed potential of a coaxial rotor while retaining the hover agility of a helicopter.

The ability to auto-rotate in an emergency is a big plus too.

It works by offloading the retreating blade, and so preventing retreating blade stall, which occurs when the relative speed of the blade versus the air at higher speeds falls.

The issue has always been the complexity of the flight controls, the X59A required two pilots, and vibrations, which appear to be satisfactorily addressed through active digital flight control system on the X2.

I’ve always favored it over the tilt rotor concept, it appears to be both simpler and more redundant, and the rotors are not a compromise between lift and propulsion that they are in something like the V-22.

Earlier posts

Why I Prefer Working for the Marine Corps

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Launching the MICLIC

I have done worked for both the US Army, on the recovery vehicle for the now-canceled Future Combat System, and for the Marine Corps on the EFV (Called the AAAV when I worked on it) amphibious landing craft.

I found that the Marine Corps requirements, as well as their personnel, were much more straightforward and matter of fact.

A case in point is the Assault Breacher engineering and mine clearance vehicle, which clears a path through mines launching, the Mine Clearing Line Charge (MICLIC), 1,750 lbs of C4 on a 100 meter rope to clear a path.

It was developed after the Army’s Grizzly was canceled.

The Grizzly was much more sophisticated, with a dozer blade/plough, which would automatically maintain the desired depth, and turn over and predetonate mines, it had an automated turret, and when reviewed by the military, they found over 50 flaws that they thought made the vehicle dangerous, and potentially life threatening.

There was also the problem that creating an automatic plough to clear a lane is a non-trivial operation. The Assault Breacher has a far less ambitious blade on the front, which is not intended for quite that level of speed or automation, and because of this, it actually works.

While the EFV is still a bit of a mess, I think that its goal was too ambitious, in general the Marines look for good enough, as opposed to the ultimate in whiz bang, so they get the job done.

Russia Looks to Joint Venture With Chinese for Mi-26 Successor

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Proposed Mi-46

The Russians make the largest production helicopter in the world, the Mi-26 “Halo”, and they have been considering an updated helo in the same (humongous) size range for some time.

Now, it appears that they are looking to do a joint venture with the Chinese to develope a 20T payload class helicopter. (paid subscription required)

Seeing as how the helicopter originally flew in 1977, and has been in service since 1983, there is a lot of room for improvement.

Just updating the transmission to modern aluminum alloys in the transmission and going with a more modern rotor system would probably add about 10% to payload and range performance, but that would be an upgrade rather than a completely new design.

A completely new variant might be based on the canceled Mi-46, though that was about a 12 tonne class machine.

I think that the reason for a joint venture has more to do with a potential market, they want to sell to the Chinese, than it does to any real technical or development advantage that they might gain.

Death Spiral, JSF Edition

It appears that the UK’s order of JSF’s may be reduced by as much as 50% because of cost and schedule issues:

The Ministry of Defence may be forced to halve its order for the Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) at the next Strategic Defence Review, according to a report in the Guardian.

The UK had ordered 140 of the aircraft for use by the RAF and on the Royal Navy’s proposed new carriers, but the newspaper reports that “a consensus has emerged” that the number of fighters ordered is unsustainable. Delays and cost increases on the JSF programme are said to mean the MoD could be looking to order just 70 of the fighters.

Harrier and Tornado squadrons may also suffer further cuts, the report says, identifying a “huge shift” in spending that is being considered for the Strategic Defence Review following the next general election.

It’s really not surprising.

Given today’s fiscal environment, and the enormous cost of the JSF, it comes down to a choice of between buying the JSF for a military that lacks the resources to do anything with them, or cutting back and allowing the funds to go to things like ground forces.

Some More on the Pak-FA

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H/t Douglas Barrie at Ares

First, is that the wheels are large, and I would assume relatively low pressure, implying, as is consistent with Russian doctrine, that it is intended to operate from poorly prepared fields.

The second is that it has relatively small all moving vertical stabilizers, which implies to me that thrust vectoring might be a part of further development, though there was no evidence of such in the initial videos.

Also, the wheels were never retracted, but this is not a surprise on a first flight.

There is also what appears to be a not-particularly-lo IRST on the nose.

Also, if you look at the somewhat more detailed video, it appears that the leading edge of the leading edge extensions (a mouthful that). Aerodynamically, it appears to me to be rather similar to the leading edges of the inlets on an F-15, which pivot down for better pressure recovery at high angles of attack.

Also, lots of rivets on a closer look in the new video, which implies that this is, as I originally surmised, a demonstrator rather than a true prototype.

Urban Air Mule Demonstrates Hover

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Looks a bit Buck Rogers

So, the Israeli ducted fan cargo UAV concept has finally left the ground.

This appears to have validated the basic control systems, as well as the software.

It appears that the most likely route to success will be on an eventual autonomous ambulance (bottom pic), particularly since the ducted fan arrangement eliminates those pesky rotors which can strike buildings and people.

Here is my original post on this.

Russian R-77 (AA-12 Adder) Upgrade Tests are Complete

Blah, blah, blah!

It appears that the upgrades involve significant changes (paid subscription required):

The upgraded R-77 is both heavier and longer than the basic missile. It weighs 190 kg. (418 lb.) rather than 175 kg., and is 3.71 meters (12.17 ft.), rather than 3.6 meters, in length, according to company data.

The increased range is at least in part due to improved aerodynamics. A company executive says the radome shape has been refined, while a “boat-tail” configuration has been introduced at the rear to help drag reduction. Adapting the missile to fly lofted trajectories would also increase the maximum launch range. The executive adds that the active radar seeker has been improved. The manufacture of the RVV-SD seeker is believed to still be Istok.

It also looks like they may be moving away from the unique lattice fins, so as to improve range, at the cost of a slight loss of agility, and the need for larger actuators to move these surfaces.

Considering that the IR guided R-73 (AA-11 Archer) already out ranges the Sidewinder for dogfight applications, this may be a reasonable trade-off.

A further development of the basic R-77 design, previously associated with the Article 180 designation, is also underway, though manufacturer TRV remains unwilling to discuss the program. It is likely that the missile’s signature lattice fins have been replaced with a conventional design, with further range improvements included. This is possibly based on the introduction of a dual-, rather than a single-pulse, solid-rocket motor.

With a weight of 190 kg, as opposed to the 152 kg, physics would seem to dictate that it would have superior range and terminal energy to the AIM-120 AMRAAM, even with the “egg crate” fins.

The use of a lofted trajectory may very well be something that can be retro-fitted through software, which might allow for significant improvements in range for the existing inventory.

I will suggest that this story seems to indicate that reports of a ramjet powered R-77M1 on Wiki are premature.

Report: Brazilian Military Prefers Gripen

According to this report, the Brazilian President’s first choice, the Dassault Rafale, is actually ranked 3rd:

Brazil’s F-X2 fighter programme could be the subject of further delays, after a summary of the air force’s 30,000-page evaluation report was leaked to one of the country’s leading newspapers.

The Folha de São Paulo newspaper reported that the air force’s F-X2 procurement programme committee has ranked Saab’s Gripen NG as its first-choice candidate for the deal, initially for 36 aircraft, due to its lowest acquisition and operating costs. It is followed closely by Boeing’s F/A-18E/F Super Hornet Block II.

I think that part of this is higher level diplomacy, with President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva believing that closer relations with France are more important than those with Sweden (that’s a no-brainer), and his belief that allying with Dassault will provide more opportunities to the Brazilian aerospace industry.

The Rafale is certainly not the low cost solution, it’s low production numbers mean that acquiring the aircraft will necessarily be expensive, and the Gripen is ½ the size of its competitors, with ½ the number of engines, so it will be much cheaper to operate.

I would also note that, given Swedish requirements for austere field operations, it would likely be better suited to operating from some hole-in-the-wall air strip in the Amazon jungle.

F-35 Update

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H/t ELP Defens(c)e Blog

So, the F-35 B has finally engaged its lift fan in flight, (video below) which is a step toward, but considering the fact the aircraft flew only 10% of the scheduled test flights in 2009, I guess you take what you can.

The bigger news is about the F-35 C model, where a study has been released showing that it will be significantly more expensive to operate than its predecessors:

Moreover, NAVAIR estimates the total of 680 short take-off and vertical landing F-35Bs and carrier-variant F-35Cs, ordered by the US Marine Corps and USN, respectively, will cost $30,700 to fly each hour. This compares to $18,900 for the Boeing AV-8B Harrier II and Boeing F/A-18A-D, the aircraft types the Joint Strike Fighter will replace.

Although NAVAIR projects the F-35 will fly 12% fewer flight hours than the AV-8B and F/A-18A-D fleets, the agency expects the modern aircraft to cost as much as about 25% more to operate at peak rates, the briefing says.

The unexpected cost increases mean the F-35 “will have a significant impact on naval aviation affordability”, the NAVAIR document concludes.

Note that this is competing against an F/A-18 with 2 engines, and roughly the same level of installed thrust and weight.

In fact, it is more expensive to operate than the F-15 Eagle, which is significantly larger, but costs only $30,000/hour to operate and only slightly less than that of the F-22, which is nearly twice the size, and costs $44,000/hour to fly. (scroll down)

When the inevitable costs escalation is included, and part of the hourly cost is the amortization of the initial purchase, I think that the “smaller cheaper” F-35 will be nearly the cost of the F-22.

I do not consider this an argument for the F-22, just an argument for a 2nd tier that costs less (inflation adjusted) than an F-4 Phantom to operate.

The US has air dominance because it dominates the situational awareness in any potential conflict, which is done with things like advanced communications, AWACS, etc., not a plane that can break mach 1 in a vertical climb.

Lockheed-Martin’s response is that the study is “not definitive,” which is defense contractor speak for, “I would have gotten away with it too, if it weren’t for your meddling kids.”

Whiskey Tango Foxtrot?!?!?!? I Agree With Ben Stein?!?!?!

I must be wrong.

But Ben Stein, the most overrated intellect in America is saying that Goldman Sachs has been ripping off its clients, and that it is wrong:

That is, it, Goldman, has a legal duty to not take advantage of the people to whom it acts as a fiduciary. It also has that duty because of the way it presents itself to the world — with all of its leaders’ talk about the Goldman Sachs “culture”. They don’t present that culture as the value system of Louis “Lepkele” Buchalter of Murder, Incorporated or of Meyer Lansky or Bugsy Segal or The Purple Gang. They sell the company as a prestige house with solid, client-driven values. If they act to betray that trust, it’s illegal.

Either something is profoundly wrong with the universe, or Matt Taibbi and I are wrong about the squid.

I’ll go with the universe hiccuping.

I guess that Ben Stein gets to be right once a millennium, but don’t ask me when he was right in the 1900s.

It’s Bank Failure Friday!!!!

And here they are, ordered, and numbered for the year so far.

  1. First National Bank of Georgia, Carrolton, GA
  2. Florida Community Bank, Immokalee, FL
  3. Marshall Bank, N.A., Hallock, MN
  4. Community Bank and Trust, Cornelia
  5. First Regional Bank, Los Angeles, CA
  6. American Marine Bank, Bainbridge Island, Wa

Full FDIC list

BTW, here it is in chart with a handy, dandy least-squares trend line:

[on edit]: Updated with late failure in Washington State and tweaked graph for readability.

Why US Broadband Sucks

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The Phone Company*

Let’s look at Maine, where the terminally incompetent telco Farpoint is aggressively lobbying against Maine accepting a $24.5 million grant from the federal government to build out broadband networks:

Last month, NTIA gave Great Works internet in Maine $24.5 million toward a fiber optic network. The grant is a classic public/private partnership for a middle mile project that includes, among others the University of Maine.

Fairpoint, Maine’s primary rural LEC, has objected to this “undue competition with the private sector.” This would be funny, given how Fairpoint has become the poster child for the failure of the private sector to deliver on its big promises to rural communities. But Fairpoint’s talking points have ended up in legislation filed by Maine State Senator Lisa Marrache (D-Waterville) and Maine State Rep. Stacey Fitts (R-Pittsfield). Despite the fact that middle mile build out will help companies like Fairpoint (while also helping their competitors), we get the usual ideologically-driven nonsense about how the public sector ought to know its place and leave the driving to the all-knowing and super-efficient firms like Fairpoint — assuming Maine’s rural residents like the prospect of waiting for a bankrupt company [Yes, literally. Farpoint went Chapter 11] to satisfy its creditors and bring them broadband.

While this money would improve access and service for everyone, it would make it easier for companies to compete against Farpoint, the incumbent, so they are fighting this tooth and nail, because their service has been so unbelievably horrible that they know that they will hemorrhage customers if anything near free and fair.

That’s what this is all about.

There is more money in locking out competitors than there is in improving service, so US broad band, driven by private interests, is slower, more expensive, less reliable, and less accountable.

Damn, sounds a lot like out healthcare system.

*The President’s Analyst, see IMDB and Wiki.

How About Paying Them More?

Yawn, another day, another report saying that the dearth of US citizens interested in majoring in technical fields is a national security threat:

Sure, we’re all plugged in and online 24/7. But fewer American kids are growing up to be bona fide computer geeks. And that poses a serious security risk for the country, according to the Defense Department.

The Pentagon’s far-out research arm Darpa is soliciting proposals for initiatives that would attract teens to careers in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM), with an emphasis on computing. According to the Computer Research Association, computer science enrollment dropped 43 percent between 2003 and 2006.

Umm ………… Hello?!?!?!?

You are asking how to encourage people who have the proficiencies to go into a technical field to do that, as opposed to, for example, becoming a banker or a stock broker.

But, of course, like the Cylons, they have a plan:

The agency doesn’t offer specifics on what kinds of activities might boost computing’s appeal to teens, but they want programs to include career days, mentoring, lab tours and counseling.

Like that will work: Ignore the poor pay and benefits, and the fact that your barista at Starbucks® used to be in IT, but after he got laid off the last time, he couldn’t find another job, because he only knows C++, not C#, because being a computer programmer or an engineer is just so f%$#ing cool.

By definition, people who have the wherewithal to go into science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) are people who can count.

If you want them to take a technical major, you have to promise better pay and benefits.

Duh …………

Economics Update

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Worst post-Depression recession
H/t Economic Policy Institute

So, US GDP grew at a 5.7% annual rate in the 4th quarter, according to the advance estimate from the Bureau of Economic Analysis.

Some points: First, 5.7% is a spectacularly good number, the best in about 6 years, second, I expect that as more data comes in, future revisions will be downward, third, much of this growth was from a low “deflator” number, basically meaning that the numbers were juiced by the extraordinarily low inflation numbers, and fourth, as Krugman notes, it was an inventory blip, with over half of the growth being restocking of depleted inventories, not real growth.

Even with this number, as the graph pr0n shows, we are still down from peak more than any other recession since WWII.

Still, the Reuters/University of Michigan Surveys of Consumers was up more than forecast, to 74.4, and given that consumer spending is most of our economy, it is a big deal.

As to energy and currency, the GDP numbers did what was expected, with the dollar strengthening, and the stronger dollar pushing oil down.

[on edit]
Just in, in 2009, wages and benefits rose the least since statistics began to be kept in 1982.