Archive for February, 2009

Will the Raptop production stop?


Raptor_Airshow-2

Originally uploaded by Lockheed Martin

The President has a decision to make by this weekend. Whether or not to start shutting down the production of the F-22 Raptor, or to buy some additional planes.

It is a decisive issue – not just for the military and the government, but also the economy;

  • It is the most expensive fighter plane ($191 million apiece) ever
  • It has no use in the conflicts in Iraq or Afghanistan
  • Service Chiefs want more
  • DOD needs to cut new acquisition programs to fund on-going combat operations
  • Congress supports buying more
  • Allies (Australia and Japan) want to buy it
  • Suppliers or factories for the plane are in 44 of 50 states
  • Estimates are 40,000 people would be affected by shutdown of program

Read the entire story – on USAToday.com.

 

What a Sniper feels….


Funny Sniper

Originally uploaded by pablolopez26

 

HMS Vanguard vs Le Triomphant


HMS Vanguard

Originally uploaded by forargyll

Earlier this month – and first reported this morning (since both sub’s are now back at base) – the British and French SSBN’s on deterrent patrol collided with each other.

Unlike the larger US SSBN fleet – the UK and France each have a small SSBN fleet, such that usually only ONE boat is at sea at a time.

The SSBN fleet are the only strategic nuclear force that either country still maintains. The French decommissioned their land based missiles (S-3’s) in 1996, and the British bomber force lost their nuclear role in 1970 (when the first British Polaris SSBN was commissioned).

Besides the general uproar when something happens to a nuclear asset – what else does this event tell us?

– The British and French SSBN’s have overlapping area’s of operation

Beyond that – everything else is a guess – and will probably never be known publically;

– Were both submarines trying to avoid detection by a 3rd submarine or other ship?
– Was either submarine trying to ‘hide’ behind the other?
– Was either submarine able to detect the other?
– Did they forget that they drive on different sides of the road?

 

SR-71 Blackbird – sn/17951

This was the original reason that I was going to go down to Pima on the photo trip.  I hadn’t been to the museum since the new ‘Spirit of Freedom’ (Hanger 1 South) had opened up.  And it was the new home to the museum’s SR-71 Blackbird.

The pictures in this slideshow documents the progression of the Blackbird’s display at Pima.  From being tucked under a temporary sun shade/car port, to being out in the middle of the Arizona sun, to finally being inside and showcased in the new hanger.

This is the last set of pictures from the January photo-safari.  If you would like to explore more of my pictures from different trips to Pima – please click HERE.  If you are interested in learning more about the Pima Air & Space museum – click HERE.

If you would like to see all of my posts about Pima – click HERE.

 

Pima – Convair B-36 Restoration

This was the reason that most of us had come on the trip. A chance to photograph the Convair B-36 Peacemaker that the Museum staff had been working on reassembling for over three years now.

[This slideshow/picture set is of ALL of my B-36 pictures from Pima.  Not only my trip in January 2009, but from trips in 2006 and 2007.  So you can see the visible progress.  For a more current and up close status of the restoration of the Peacemaker, take a look at the project page on the Pima website]

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F-22 Raptor – details coming out




F-22 Raptor

Originally uploaded by Rob Shenk

In an attempt to position additional purchases of the F-22 Raptor as either an ‘economic recovery project‘ or for sales to performance details of the plane have been released by Lockheed-Martin.

  • Radar Cross section – -40 dBsm., the equivalent radar reflection of a steel “marble.”
  • Supercruise – Mach 1.78 rather than Mach 1.5
  • Acceleration – 51 seconds rather than 54 seconds (did not disclose what speed/altitude this performance metric is for)
  • Altitude – non-afterburning/full military – above 50,000 feet (even though reports have the Raptor’s ceiling at 65,000 feet)
  • Radar range – 5% greater than expected (ranges on AESA radar‘s are classified, but is estimated to be above 100 miles)

    In support of potential foreign sales – the Raptor will make its Paris Air Show debut later this year. The Raptor was not sent to Paris in 2007, due to the way that French officials handled a previous visit by the F-117 Nighthawk (routing the F-117 over several French military establishments – so they could conduct electronic intelligence gathering).

    Cross your fingers – maybe we will still have enough Air Superiority fighters in 10 years to control the skies over a battlefield.

 

[UPDATED] Red Bear Rising

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After years of living with the Cold War, many of us were surprised and chagrined to see Russia’s more relaxed, apparently friendly stance towards the world.  For a while, Russia almost dropped off the news map, as Russia became rather self-absorbed with their charismatic new leader, Vladimir Putin.  Clearly, however, that was not a time of narcissicsm; rather, it was a time of internal growth, stabilization, and unification. And it seems, now, that we may be starting to see the fruits of that growth.

Most of the world knows about the gas row in Ukraine last month, resulting in the cut off of Russian natural gas to the EU.   Not to mention the whole conflict with Georgia that was in the news last year. These incidents represent a much more aggressive stance than that which we’ve experienced from our global neighbor in past years.

Indeed, the indications seem to be that Russia is trying to return to what it perceives as its remembered time of greatness as a world leader.

Consider:

  • Last week, when the EU hinted about concerns over the murders of two Russians who were speaking out against the government, Russia responded not by trying to deny, feign ignorance, or cover up, but rather by accusing the EU of its own human rights abuses.
  • And today, Nikolai Bordyuzha, former KGB leader who is now the general secretary of the ODKB (or, in western alphabet, CSTO – think: Russian version of NATO), announced that Russia and its allies will be creating a joint-air defense system of its own, running the entire breadth of Russia, and encompassing Belarus, and most likely the other member countries of the ODKB.

For a long time, Russia has directed anger at NATO, condeming it for both its actions and for being what Russia calls “a puppet of the U.S.”  Now it seems Russia wants to play the same game.  Given the growing desire of Russia to return to the world stage, combined with the continuning problems in the middle east, and the ongoing struggles in Europe, the ODKB (which indicated some time ago that they would welcome an application from Iran to join its ranks) may well be a much larger player in the coming months and years.

Not to mention Russia itself.

UPDATE – Threat Watcher here – and let’s not forget the sudden development that Kyrgyzstan is closing Manas Airbase to the US.  Don’t know where Kyrgyzstan is?  Or why this is important?  Manas is the primary US supply point for getting men and material (food, bullets, etc) in and out of Afghanistan.

According to the New York Times;

The United States has leased the Central Asian base since after the 2001 invasion of Afghanistan, but American officials said they believed that Russia was using an offer of more than $2 billion in loans and grants to Kyrgyzstan to force the United States out of the region, colloquially referred to as “the Stans.”

Now that the Russian economy is back on its feet (thanks to sales of gas & petroleum to the West), the Russians can reassert control over the former Soviet Republics via ‘soft’ power.  No longer does the Kremlin need to deploy a Guards Shock Army to maintain power – all they have to do is to keep the money flowing.

 

Boeing X-48B Blended Wing Body demonstrator


X-48B

Originally uploaded by cherbro1

When I first blogged about the X-48 a year and a half ago – the radio controlled scale model had just taken its first flight.

This program hasn’t died yet – but its focus has changed. In a AvWeek article published on-line earlier this week – NASA now believes that the Hybrid Wing Body (HWB, its generic term for BWB shapes) is key to reaching its agressive environment targets (for both fuel economy and radiated noise).

Boeing’s Phantom Works has supposedly even talked to two large shipping companies (believed to be FedEx and UPS) about the BWB, causing internal problems with Boeing Commercial Airplanes (who normally handles cargo aircraft).

The US Air Force is still in the mix – looking for tanker/cargo aircraft with the best fuel efficiencies possible, which leads to……

NASA’s lead investigator said they are looking to partner w/ the Air Force Research Lab on a large scale structural demonstrator in the next couple of years. That would then lead to a manned flight demonstrator approximately the size of a 737.

 

Iran’s Satellite launch – real or Photoshop?

By now – everyone should be aware that the Iranian’s launched a small Sputnik type of satellite into low Earth Orbit yesterday.  But what was suprising – was the time that it took for the it to be publicized by the mainstream press.

My daily newsletter from Spaceflightnow.com – had this launch as their lead item when I got up in the morning (6am MST).

The headline about the launch from the BBC showed up a couple of hours later – in my crawl bar across the browser.

And then pulling up the rear – was CNN late in the day finally decided they had enough info to publish.  I guess CNN wanted to make sure that they were reporting a real story – and weren’t about to be had by a Photoshop’d picture – like during the Iranian’s Missile test last October (picture below);

Iranian Missile test - enhanced by Photoshop

Iranian Missile test - enhanced by Photoshop

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Boeing E-4B – National Airborne Operations Center

With the change of Administration last month, the National Geographic Channel ran a special on Air Force One, calling it America’s Airborne Command Post.

Unfortunately – that statement was just PR. As the documentary showed (in a recap of the flight during 9/11), Air Force One is not a ‘command post’ per se. It is a VIP transport, with a very secure communications system.

[For more commentary about the NatGeo documentary – check out “In From the Cold”]

The ‘real’ Airborne Command Post is currently a set of four Boeing 747-200 aircraft that were modified/enhanced, and are currently designated by the US Air Force as E-4B’s.

The history of this program;

  • ordered – Feb 1973
  • first delivered – Dec 1974
  • fleet upgraded to E-4B standard – 1985
  • Expected to continue in service to 2015

The E-4B modification consisted of EMP hardening of the aircraft electronics and systems, and replacing the original engine’s.

The four airplanes are based at Offut AFB in Nebraska, and will rotate through Andrews AFB (outside of Washington DC) and Wright Patterson AFB (Dayton, OH). Since the US no longer keeps the bomber force on alert – the E-4’s are one of the few aircraft that are maintained on a 24-hour alert status.

During the attacks on 9/11 – people had reported seeing a large, 4 engine plane overflying Washington, DC and this turned out to be an E-4B, even though the DOD never admitted it was theirs. According to later reports – there was an E-4B at Andrews AFB, participating in Exercise “Global Guardian” that was cancelled when the first plane hit the World Trade Center (and the E-4B was sent airborne).