Among the many striking displays at the recent Navy League Sea-Air-Space Exposition was this marvel — an amphibious warfare ship adapted for Ballistic Missile Defense (BMD), with three times the radar size and missile capacity of current BMD vessels, as well an electromagnetic rail gun that can launch shells to the edge of space….
Forward of the superstructure, you see what looks like a standard five inch gun, the kind one finds on the Ticos and Burkes. But an engineer responsible for this design explains that’s not what it represents. In fact, it’s an electromagnetic rail gun.
At least two other companies at the Expo exhibited their work on rail guns. The contractors speak of equipping surface combatants with 30+ mega joule (MJ) systems sometime in the 2020s. Elevated for maximum range, those barrels can throw shells a hundred miles away. Elevated higher, they can shoot projectiles to the edge of the atmosphere and possibly beyond.
That capability has caught the attention of missile defense thinkers because the shells might be able to intercept incoming warheads from ballistic missiles. With muzzle velocities of Mach 7, shells accelerated by 30MJ weapons would retain enough speed to engage re-entry vehicles as they fall back into the atmosphere, and possibly enough to chase maneuvering re-entry vehicles (MaRVs) trying to dodge them.
They’re also relatively cheap. Part of the difficulty of missile defense is economic. BMD interceptors like SM-3 often cost several times more than the missiles against which they defend. Using rail guns for BMD could flip that ratio, allowing multiple rounds to be economically expended on a single target. Even if a MaRV has greater kinetic energy than each round – which would confer a maneuvering advantage – it would face difficulty avoiding multiple interceptors while maintaining a course that ends at its target. This is particularly true if when the rounds approach they explode into clouds of hypersonic shards, which is what Boeing has in mind….
Unfortunately, there’s not enough money in the budget right now even for a handful. Too bad. It’s a fascinating concept, but in today’s fiscal environment, that’s probably all it’ll ever be … that, and the world’s coolest key chain.
Now that vision of Europe is imperiled once more. “I see Ukraine and Crimea in a bigger context,” Mr. Rasmussen says. “I see this as an element in a pattern, and it’s driven by President Putin’s strong desire to restore Russian greatness by re-establishing a sphere of influence in the former Soviet space.”
Destabilizing Eastern Europe and the South Caucasus is a pillar of the Kremlin’s strategy. “It’s in Russia’s interest to see frozen, protracted conflicts in the region, such as in South Ossetia and Abkhazia in Georgia, Transnistria in Moldova, and Crimea,” Mr. Rasmussen says of regions where Moscow has asserted control. “If you look at a map, you will see why it’s of strategic importance for Russia.”…
The Kremlin needs modern weapons systems and well-trained forces to realize its vision, and Mr. Rasmussen is alarmed by the improvements he has seen in the Russian military during the past few years. Contrasting Russia’s military action against Georgia in 2008 with its invasion of Crimea this year, he says, “we have seen an incredible development of the Russian ability to act determinedly and rapidly. We have seen better preparation, better organization and more rapid action. They have also invested in more modern capabilities. We shouldn’t underestimate the strength of the Russian armed forces.” Now 40,000 of those troops are massed on the border of eastern Ukraine.
Moscow boosted military spending by 79% in the past decade, according to a Brookings Institution estimate, and military spending amounted to 4.5% of Russian gross domestic product in 2012, according to the World Bank. Most Western European states, by contrast, began cutting defense long before the recession and have kept doing so even as their economies have stabilized. France spent 1.9% of its GDP on defense in 2013; Denmark spent 1.4%; Germany, 1.3%; and Spain, 0.9%.
"We in Europe have disarmed too much, for too long," Mr. Rasmussen says. "We can’t continue to cut defense budgets deeply while Russia is increasing her defense budget… . It has created a growing gap across the Atlantic between the U.S. and Europe. Today the U.S. spends around 75% of the overall NATO defense investment. I’m concerned that in the long run it will weaken the trans-Atlantic alliance if this trend continues."
Then there is Europe’s reliance on Russian oil and gas.
Assistant Professor Chao-Lin Kuo surprises Professor Andrei Linde with evidence that supports cosmic inflation theory. The discovery, made by Kuo and his colleagues at the BICEP2 experiment, represents the first images of gravitational waves, or ripples in space-time. These waves have been described as the “first tremors of the Big Bang.”
Navy developers are moving into a second phase of testing for an electromagnetic rail gun that Navy leaders hope to mount to surface ships in the future, service officials said Wednesday at the Navy Surface Warfare Association Annual Symposium.
The rail gun is a long-range, high-energy, multi-mission weapon able to fire high-velocity projectiles three times as far as most existing Navy guns….
[T]he rail gun successfully went 8-for-8 in a recent test firing at White Sands Missile Range, N.M…. The rail gun, which can hit ranges of 100 miles or more, uses electricity stored on the ship to generate a high-speed electromagnetic pulse sufficient to propel a kinetic energy warhead. The result is an inexpensive, high-impact and long-range offensive weapon, service officials said.
The Navy, which has been testing the rail gun at the Naval Surface Warfare Center in Dahlgren, Va., plans to integrate it aboard a ship by 2016, service officials said.
The 23-pound hyper-velocity projectile can be fired from a rail gun as well as from Navy 5-inch guns and even 155mm artillery weapons, Klunder added. The round currently has what’s called command guidance but may be engineered for self-guidance in the future.
Out of all the clean energy options in development, it is algae-based biofuel that most closely resembles the composition of the crude oil that gets pumped out from beneath the sea bed. Much of what we know as petroleum was, after all, formed from these very microorganisms, through a natural heat-facilitated conversion that played out over the course of millions of years.
Now, researchers at the U.S. Department of Energy’s Pacific Northwest National Laboratory in Richland, Washington, have discovered a way to not only replicate, but speed up this “cooking” process to the point where a small mixture of algae and water can be turned into a kind of crude oil in less than an hour. Besides being readily able to be refined into burnable gases like jet fuel, gasoline or diesel, the proprietary technology also generates, as a byproduct, chemical elements and minerals that can be used to produce electricity, natural gas and even fertilizer to, perhaps, grow even more algae. It could also help usher in algae as a viable alternative; an analysis has shown that implementing this technique on a wider scale may allow companies to sell biofuel commercially for as low as two dollars a gallon.
Solar Dynamics Observatory Shows Sun’s Rainbow of Wavelengths
This still image was taken from a new NASA movie of the sun based on data from NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory, or SDO, showing the wide range of wavelengths – invisible to the naked eye – that the telescope can view. SDO converts the wavelengths into an image humans can see, and the light is colorized into a rainbow of colors. (via NASA)
A laser beam the size of a quarter fired from the back of a truck successfully shot down football-size mortar rounds and took small drones out of the sky.
In the world of directed-energy weapons, this was a milestone achievement, government and industry officials said. It happened between Nov. 18 and Dec. 10 during tests of the Army “high energy laser mobile demonstrator” at White Sands Missile Range, N.M.
Laser beams that can replace bullets and missiles have been a tantalizing prospect for decades, but the Pentagon has been less than enthusiastic. Directed-energy is what experts consider a “disruptive” technology that upsets the status quo. The notion that military forces would ditch proven kinetic weapons and take chances with light beams has made lasers a tough sell so far.
The Army tested a 10-kilowatt laser and beam director mounted on an eight-wheel 20-ton truck. It engaged more than 90 60mm mortar rounds and several unmanned aerial vehicles from less than two miles away. A surrogate radar was used to queue the laser.
The Boeing Co. is the prime contractor for the demonstration program. The Army has spent about $13 million to $20 million a year on the project since 2006. The 10-kilowatt commercial laser — packaged in a 5x4-foot box — is made by IPG Photonics in Massachusetts.
The recent tests mark a “big step in the proof of high-energy lasers,” said Terry Bauer, program manager at the Army Space and Missile Defense Command in Huntsville, Ala.
The program office has ambitious plans to build 50-kilowatt and 100-kilowatt lasers in the coming years, which, if successful, would offer the military the option of using lasers to defeat larger and faster weapons such as artillery shells and cruise missiles.
[In 1963] the United States launched half a billion whisker-thin copper wires into orbit in an attempt to install a ring around the Earth. It was called Project West Ford, and it’s a perfect, if odd, example of the Cold War paranoia and military mentality at work in America’s early space program.
The Air Force and Department of Defense envisioned the West Ford ring as the largest radio antenna in human history. Its goal was to protect the nation’s long-range communications in the event of an attack from the increasingly belligerent Soviet Union.
During the late 1950’s, long-range communications relied on undersea cables or over-the-horizon radio. These were robust, but not invulnerable. Should the Soviets have attacked an undersea telephone or telegraph cable, America would only have been able to rely on radio broadcasts to communicate overseas. But the fidelity of the ionosphere, the layer of the atmosphere that makes most long-range radio broadcasts possible, is at the mercy of the sun: It is routinely disrupted by solar storms. The U.S. military had identified a problem.
A potential solution was born in 1958 at MIT’s Lincoln Labs, a research station on Hanscom Air Force Base northwest of Boston. Project Needles, as it was originally known, was Walter E. Morrow’s idea. He suggested that if Earth possessed a permanent radio reflector in the form of an orbiting ring of copper threads, America’s long-range communications would be immune from solar disturbances and out of reach of nefarious Soviet plots.
On June 3, 3.9 billion light-years away, two incredibly dense neutron stars— bodies that are each about 1.5 times the mass of the sun but just the size of mere cities—collided. Scientists studying the event say it solves an enduring mystery about the formation of elements in our universe….
[A]nalysis reveals that neutron star collisions are responsible for the formation of virtually all the heavy elements in the universe—a list that includes gold, mercury, lead, platinum and more.
“This question of where elements like gold come from has been around for a long time,” Berger says. Though many scientists had long argued that supernova explosions were the source, he says his team … have evidence that supernovas aren’t necessary. These neutron star collisions produce all elements heavier than iron, he says, “and they do it efficiently enough that they can account for all the gold that’s been produced in the universe.”
“They’re extremely dense—essentially bullets flying at each other at about ten percent the speed of light,” Berger says. The resulting collision brings together so much mass in one location that it collapses on itself, triggering the formation of a black hole. A small amount of matter, though, gets thrown outward, and is eventually incorporated into the next generation of stars and planets elsewhere in the surrounding galaxy. Close observation of this latest neutron star collision has revealed the contents of this ejected matter….
“I’ve spent the last decade of my life trying to address the question of gamma-ray bursts, painstakingly collecting evidence and waiting for that one big event,” Berger says. “It’s so satisfying to finally get that evidence that can tell us what’s going on in a more definitive way.”
The Navy has awarded BAE Systems a contract to develop a next-generation launcher with higher rates of fire for its now-in-development Electromagnetic Railgun, service and industry officials explained.The Office of Navy Research is currently developing an EM Railgun which uses massive “pulses” of electricity to propel a projectile or an explosive at distances greater than 100 nautical miles.
The U.S. Navy’s Science and Technology community is deploying prototypes of electromagnetic rail guns, solid-state laser weapons and underwater unmanned vehicles in operational units with sailors and Marines….
A ship-mounted electromagnetic rail gun is one such prototype being tested on Navy vessels, Klunder said.
The rail gun, which can hit ranges of 100 miles or more, uses electricity stored on the ship to generate a high-speed electromagnetic pulse sufficient to propel a kinetic energy warhead. The result, is an inexpensive, high-impact and long-range offensive weapon, Klunder said.
“Electromagnetics have been around for a long time. How do you harness them and build the rails? We’re big fans of learning how to prototype these technologies for military applications,” he added. “We’ve fired this numerous times through testing. This is showing incredible results, so much so that we are very committed to this for the future.”