Month: May 2010

Sikorsky X2 Breaks 181 Kts

Click for full size

Photo: Sikorsky, By Way of Ares

Sikorsky’s X2 advancing blade helicopter has sustained a cruise at 181 kts, and has done so at very low vibration levels, the show stopper for Sikorsky’s XH-59A ABC helo in the 1970s, are a good sign.

This is about 40 kts faster than most conventional helicopters, and faster than almost any other helicopter out there.

They hope to make it to 250 kts, and they have yet to install the center hub fairing, which should further reduce drag, and the transmission is really not optimized for the mission, which implies that with some minor changes, performance could be improved:

The prototype is designed with no clutch between the main rotors and propulsor, which requires the pilot to increase forward speed through the variable pitch control on the six-bladed rear propeller. Once in the 180kt realm, the X2’s computer will automatically slow the main rotors and increase collective pitch to prevent tip speeds from entering high-drag transonic region, with Bredenbeck correspondingly increasing propulsor pitch to increase the X2’s speed as the propulsor also slows.

One of the things that blows my mind here is this vehicle has tested so well, so far, without any wind tunnel testing:

Weiner credits configuration maturity to Sikorsky’s advanced analytical tools given that the company did not perform windtunnel tests of the design before flight-testing. He says windtunnel tests would likely precede the design for a production model, the first of which could be a systems development and demonstration vehicle for the US Army’s potential competition to replace the Bell OH-58D Kiowa Warrior later this decade.

(emphasis mine)

Kirk, Spock, McCoy, and Ensign Liebowitz Beam Down. Who Isn’t Coming Back?

Answer: Al Qaeda’s number 3 guy:

Al-Qaeda’s third-ranking operative, an Egyptian who was a founding member of the terrorist network and a key conduit to Osama bin Laden, has been killed in Pakistan, according to a statement Monday from al-Qaeda that U.S. intelligence officials believe is accurate.

A U.S. official said there is “strong reason” to believe that Mustafa Abu al-Yazid, known as Sheik Saeed al-Masri, was killed, apparently by a CIA drone strike in Pakistan’s tribal belt within the past two weeks.

I’ve seen this episode before.

I’m Not Sure if This is Real, or Just a Corporate Pissing Contest…

But Google is ditching Microsoft® Windows® completely. No one in the enterprise is going to be allowed to have it on their company machines anymore:

Google is phasing out the internal use of Microsoft’s ubiquitous Windows operating system because of security concerns, according to several Google employees.

The directive to move to other operating systems began in earnest in January, after Google’s Chinese operations were hacked, and could effectively end the use of Windows at Google, which employs more than 10,000 workers internationally.

“We’re not doing any more Windows. It is a security effort,” said one Google employee.

“Many people have been moved away from [Windows] PCs, mostly towards Mac OS, following the China hacking attacks,” said another.

New hires are now given the option of using Apple’s Mac computers or PCs running the Linux operating system. “Linux is open source and we feel good about it,” said one employee. “Microsoft we don’t feel so good about.”

Obviously with a bit more than 10,000 employees, one would assume that there somewhere around 20K licenses floating around, which is a small part of Microsoft’s market, but it’s also a poke in the eye.

Obviously, Google will move its employees to its online apps Google Docs at some point in the future, which might be a greater threat to Bill Gates’s revenue streams

What an Unbelievable Clusterf%$#

The Israeli Defense Forces have intercepted a convoy of ships intending to run the Israeli blockade on Gaza, and at least 9 deaths have been reported.

Considering that at least one of the passengers in the convoy was a Nobel Peace Prize winner, it looks like this an absolute disaster for Israel, and a victory for the “Free Gaza Movement”.

My first thought is that, on the part of Israel, “It is worse than a crime: it is a mistake,”* because there will be significant negative repercussions for years on Israel’s foreign policy and public diplomacy.

It’s particularly problematic because the ship was Turkish flagged, and many of the passengers and crew were Turkish, which will serve to further worsen relations with the only majority-Islamic nation which has warm diplomatic relations with Israel.

If there is something that people on both sides of the Israel/Palestinian issue can agree on, it is that Benyamin Netanyahu’s fascination with “looking tough” for his personal political advantage has always resulted in serious damage to the interests of Israel.

The “Free Gaza Movement” is not friend of Israel, nor would I expect them to be, and I think that a significant portion of their leadership has little interest in any potential de-escalation. If this were a significant interest of theirs, they would not have refused to bring letters and a package to Giliad Shalit, but realistically, work toward de-escalation is not really a big consideration for any of the 3rd party non-state actors who choose to involve themselves in the politics of this matter. (AIPAC can go Cheney themselves)

Still, I wonder how much the old saying, “luck is a residue of design,” might figure in the events of this morning in terms of the planning of this convoy.

Certainly, if the report that the boarding party was sent in carrying just pistols and paint ball guns‡ is true, there are any number of people involved in this operation who should be fired by the IDF forthwith.

On a related note, I have had a back and forth on by invitation only Stellar Parthenon BBS, regarding whether the interception itself was illegal, since it took place in international water, and I have concluded that with a formally announced blockade, it probably was.

The interdiction of shipping with armed boarding parties in international waters is routine for both drug smuggling and human trafficking.

Still, it’s a stupid thing, and the deaths are senseless.

*Joseph Fouché
Branch Rickey
And the source (Debka) is a thoroughly unreliable one.

Mark Twain’s Autobiography to be Published

When he died, Samuel Clemens, aka Mark Twain, left instructions that his notes for an autobiography not be published for 100 years.

Well, time’s up, he died in 1910, and plans are being made to publish the 5000 some odd pages of his notes intended for his memoir:

The creator of Tom Sawyer, Huckleberry Finn and some of the most frequently misquoted catchphrases in the English language left behind 5,000 unedited pages of memoirs when he died in 1910, together with handwritten notes saying that he did not want them to hit bookshops for at least a century.

That milestone has now been reached, and in November the University of California, Berkeley, where the manuscript is in a vault, will release the first volume of Mark Twain’s autobiography. The eventual trilogy will run to half a million words, and shed new light on the quintessentially American novelist.

It goes on my to be read pile.

Elections Have Consequences, Lib-Dems in UK Coalition Edition

I’m pretty sure that one of the conditions for the Liberal Democrats to enter into a coalition with the Tories was that a hard date be set for a withdrawal from Afghanistan, and the recent statement by the Defens(c)e Minister would appear to confirm this:

Senior British officials, including new Foreign Secretary William Hague arrived in Afghanistan May 22 with a warning that Britain wants to withdraw its troops as soon as possible.

Hague, Defence Secretary Liam Fox and International Development Secretary Andrew Mitchell are set to meet President Hamid Karzai in their first visit to the country since a new coalition government took power in London this month.


In an interview with The Times newspaper before arriving in Kabul, Fox made clear the visit would focus on speeding up the withdrawal of British troops from Afghanistan, and that no new troops would be deployed.

“We need to accept we are at the limit of numbers now and I would like the forces to come back as soon as possible,” he was quoted as saying.

“We have to reset expectations and timelines.

“National security is the focus now. We are not a global policeman. We are not in Afghanistan for the sake of the education policy in a broken 13th-century country. We are there so the people of Britain and our global interests are not threatened,” Fox said.

Another contributing factor is that the Afghanistan adventure is phenomenally unpopular in Britain, so a continued trip down the path in the Hindu Kush is politically suicidal, notwithstanding any “special relationship”.

OK, Now We Know that He Was Insane

Blah, blah, blah!

We now have a report that George W. Bush told former Argentine President Néstor Kirchner that the Marshall Plan was a screwed up “Democrat plan”, and that the real way to help the economy is to start a war for some reason or other:

KIRCHNER: I said that a solution for the problems right now, I told Bush, is a Marshall Plan. And he got angry. He said the Marshall Plan is a crazy idea of the Democrats. He said the best way to revitalize the economy is war. And that the United States has grown stronger with war.

STONE: War, he said that?

KIRCHNER: He said that. Those were his exact words.

STONE: Is he suggesting that South America go to war?

KIRCHNER: Well, he was talking about the United States: ‘The Democrats had been wrong. All of the economic growth of the United States has been encouraged by wars.’ He said it very clearly.

(emphasis original)

This is why we cannot afford to have a military that is so overwhelming that we can invade any non-nuclear power on earth without a 2nd thought.

It’s like giving an 11 year kid with ADHD a loaded gun, and, if anything, the Sarah Palin/Teabagger wing of the Republican Party is even more delusional than Bush/Cheney.

It is inevitable that the minority party will eventually win, and when they do, these will be seriously disturbed people with a world view that could destroy the nation and the world.

Continuing to maintain a tool, and extending it with something like the “invasion in a box” Sea Basing concepts that are in development is a clear and present danger.

Hemlines Come Way Down, Stock Market to Follow

The latest from the Paris fashion scene

The New York Times reports that hemlines are falling this season, by a LOT, and Calculated Risk reminds us that, “in 1926, economist George Taylor suggested the “Hemline Index”; he observed that hemlines moved with stock prices”.

We are completely screwed.

More after break:

OK, that’s not the real picture, here are some of the actual pictures:

OK, these are the real skirts, and yes, we are screwed:

And here are the models, who raise the universal question, “Who the f%$# pissed in your Cheerios to make you look so unhappy?”:

Another Navy Ship Building Program Has its Cost Soar

The CBO looks SSBN(X), the successor to the Trident boats, and estimates that the cost will increase from $7.2 billion to $8.2 each:

The Congressional Budget Office is out with a new estimate of the Navy’s latest 30-year shipbuilding plan, issued in February. While that new plan reduces the total number of ships purchased between 2011 and 2040, and thus shipbuilding costs, CBO says the annual price tag is still much higher than the total shipbuilding funds the Navy has received in recent years.

The Navy’s new plan calls for buying 276 ships between now and 2040; the previous 30 year plan called for 296 new ships. Still, with the annual shipbuilding budget at around $15 billion (the average for the past three decades), the Navy can’t afford to buy all of those ships, CBO said.

We need to start with cost targets as the most important driving requirement for defense procurement programs, followed by schedule, and any other issues must be secondary, or this sort of cost creep will continue ad infinitum.

The GCV Looks Like the Troubled Child of FCS

Click for full size

Yes, I know that this is a 1/24 plastic model

When the Future Combat System was canceled, it was done for cost growth, schedule slips, and concerns about a number of the technologies.

The army still feels that it needs a vehicle to succeed its Bradley, and so we now have the Ground Combat Vehicle (GCV).

Well, the military has begun the source selection process.

Here’s the kicker, they are expecting it to weigh 50 tons, as versus the 30-35T of the current Bradley.

There are some improvements, most notably the ability to carry a full 9 person infantry squad, but you could do that with the Bradley if you were to retrofit a remotely operated turret, as the current turret takes up about 1/3 of the usable internal space, you could fid a full squad.

With weight comes cost, fuel consumption, and, in the long run, fewer vehicles.

What’s more, it appears that the 50 ton IFV is actually a 70 ton IFV:

Two days before industry proposals were due, Gen. Peter Chiarelli, vice chief of staff of the U.S. Army, provided new details about the Ground Combat Vehicle (GCV) program, saying the new vehicle could weigh up to 70 tons, but only if the threat environment required it.

“We’re looking at a vehicle that ranges in weight between 50 and 70 tons,” Chiarelli said May 19 at the Army’s armor conference.

What he is suggesting is that in a high threat environment, and we know now that this means IEDs, not enemy tanks, you would bolt on armor to improve the survivability of the platform.

This is complete and utter bullsh%$.

If you add 20 tons to a 50 ton vehicle, it means that you have to size the propulsion, transmission, fuel stowage, etc. to accommodate that weight, which means that your 50T vehicle is going to get even heaver.

Otherwise, the vehicle at 70T will have the mobility of a motorized wheel chair.

Just go and fit the Bradley with the CTI 40mm remotely operated turret, and use advantages in non-metallic armor to improve the survivability.

You will probably end up at around 40T, so there would need to be a bit of an upgrade to the engine and suspension, but you will still save at least half the cost.

Once again, the US Army is well into a development death spiral.

X-51 Video Pr0n

Well, the USAF has finally launched the X-51A Waverider to much self-congratulation, claiming it to be the first Mach 6 air breathing aircraft demonstration.

The thing is, it wasn’t for two reasons, the Australians got to Mach 10 on their tests at the Woomera range, and the test was a failure, with the engine appearing to flame out at Mach 5.

X-51 hypersonic scramjet test: Flameout at Mach 5? • The Register:

The X-51A didn’t fulfil that potential yesterday, however. Having lit up it burned for around 200 seconds, reaching approximately Mach 5 and climbing to 70,000 feet. According to a statement issued by Boeing (whose Phantom Works plant built the Waverider):

Something then occurred that caused the vehicle to lose acceleration. At that point, the X-51A was terminated as planned.

It’s possible to speculate that the flame in the Waverider’s SJY61 scramjet, built by Pratt & Whitney Rocketdyne, simply blew out. Project officials are still happy with the test, and seem confident that they will be able to achieve the designed speed before running out of test craft – there are three more.

This may actually be more significant that the folks at the USAF/DARPA are letting on.

The real intended breakthrough for the X-51A was that, unlike the Woomera tests, it used a hydrocarbon fuel, it started on ethylene and switched to JP-7, rather than the hydrogen used in earlier tests.

If there are problems sustaining combustion with hydrocarbon fuels, this could be something that slows down the program a lot.

In either case, here is some video Pr0n.
Actual Launch Video

Computer Animation

This is Amazing

Amazing, The Raven

10 Years ago, if you wanted to come even close to approaching something like this, you would have a team of hundereds, and a budget for a 6 minute short of something north of a million.

If you go to the film-makers channel, they have a “behind the scenes” video, and there are a remarkably small number of people doing this.

I see a fairly large number of computer controlled cameras, including variants/clones of the Stedicam, so it’s more than just CGI.

The ability to use computer controlled stabilized cameras means that you can setup and shoot scenes in an afternoon that would have taken weeks in the past.

According to one source, it was shot on a $5000 budget, which would have been impossible with conventional, non computer controlled cameras.

It reminds me of some of the work I do with castings, where tooling for a complex casting now costs less than $50K, while 15 years ago, in would cost something north of $½ million.

That being said, this is a great short, but I would be very dubious of it being any more enjoyable as a full length movie.

I think that adding character development and exposition would likely weaken the impact.

It’s Bank Failure Friday!!!!

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

  1. Bank of Florida – Southeast, Fort Lauderdale, FL
  2. Bank of Florida – Southwest, Naples, FL
  3. Bank of Florida – Tampa, Tampa, FL
  4. Granite Community Bank, NA, Granite, CA
  5. Sun West Bank, Las Vegas, NV

Full FDIC list

I would assume that these banks of Florida are all affiliated, but it’s still another 4 a 5 bank week.

(Sun West came in late, so I have updated)

So, here is the graph pr0n with trendline (FDIC only):

About Fracking Time

Australia is suing Japan in the International Court of Justice over their whaling:

CANBERRA, Australia — Australia said Friday it will challenge Japan’s whale hunting in the Antarctic at the International Court of Justice, a major legal escalation in its campaign to ban the practice despite Tokyo’s insistence on the right to so-called scientific whaling.

My guess is that they will argue that Japan’s “research” is a fig leaf for a commercial activity.

The Australians are right, of course.

You Know, When a Republican Plagiarizes Barack Hussein Obama

He loses the primary, even when his opponent is a Puerto Rican by birth, which, in the Republican party makes him a despised minority:

State Rep. Raul Labrador handily defeated Vaughn Ward 48%-39% in Tuesday’s Idaho primary, and will go on to challenge Democratic Rep. Walt Minnick this November.

Ward, the establishment favorite, had a six-to-one money advantage over Labrador, and had a heavy television presence while Labrador ran only radio spots. Former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin also campaigned for Ward in the closing days of the race.

(emphasis mine)

And I really love the fact that another of Sister Sarah’s anointed got pasted.


Ward also faced plagiarism allegations on his campaign Web site and in his speeches. Politico reported that Ward’s kick-off campaign speech in January closely mirrored that of President Barack Obama’s 2004 speech at the Democratic National Convention.

He was also dinged by the Pentagon for appearing in uniform in a campaign ad, and was forced to take down the ad.

Truth be told, I’m not sure if Palin would have endorsed Ward but for the fact that his opponent was Hispanic.

There have been enough reports of Sarah Palin’s disdain for minorities, particularly Alaskan Eskimos and Indians to make one wonder about how she feels about non-whites.

Still, heh.