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.
Wow! It’s not very often someone manages to catch a classified aircraft ‘in the wild’ but it appears that’s exactly what happened to veteran interceptors Steve Douglass and Dean Muskett in Amarillo on March 10th. Their story has made headlines in Aviation Week and The Aviationist blog among other news outlets. So what exactly have Steve and Dean snapped a photo of here? There are several theories being floated at the moment, so let’s take a look at each one.
Mystery Aircraft Over Texas || Ares
… the basic shape - while it resembles Boeing’s Blended Wing Body studies or the Swift Killer Bee/Northrop Grumman Bat unmanned air system - is different from anything known to have flown at full size, lacking the notched trailing edge of Northrop Grumman’s full-size designs.
The aircraft seen here was accompanied by two others. This and the fact that Steve picked up some apparently related voice traffic suggests that the aircraft is piloted: I doubt that you’d dispatch three large, classified unmanned aircraft anywhere in formation. The risk of a midair would be present, and such an event would be non-career-optimal.
It’s not merely logical to expect that numerous classified aircraft programs exist: it’s almost a necessity under the principle of Occam’s Razor, because if they don’t, you have to contrive some sort of explanation for what Area 51 has been up to all these years.
[I love aviation geeks so much]
“This is pretty unprecedented,” Thornberry tells National Defense in a recent interview. “There are Republicans and Democrats in the House and the Senate, plus [officials] in the Obama administration and in industry who have all agreed to work together on this.”
All parties have committed to help flick through giant stacks of procurement regulations and laws, and identify the points of failure. The task is daunting, at best, Thornberry says. “It doesn’t mean everyone is going to agree on every proposal. But having everybody on the same page in this day and age is significant.”
The goal is to identify the most pressing issues that need reform and include them in next year’s defense authorization bill. Congress is going to have to fight the urge to write massive pieces of legislation that keep piling up over existing laws and don’t really fix the root causes of military procurement failures, says Thornberry.
“We are determined to not just pass a new law, or create another oversight office or new regulations,” he says. “We are going to take time to understand what the problems are and why previous efforts have not been successful.”
Informal surveys have confirmed what Thornberry and other lawmakers already suspected: Reforms will never work unless procurement managers in the mid-level bureaucracy are incentivized to make smart decisions and are also held accountable for those decisions. Thornberry would support giving program managers more flexibility to make decisions, but he would also expect them to be held accountable when they make bad ones.
National security is often synonymous with secrecy. But when it comes to software development, the U.S. defense and intelligence establishment can be surprisingly open.
This week, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency — or DARPA, the research arm of the U.S. Defense department — published a list of all the open source computer science projects it has funded, including links to source code and academic papers that detail the code’s underlying concepts.
Anyone is free to not only peruse the source code and add to it, but actually use it to build their own software — and that includes foreign governments. The belief is that because anyone can contribute to these projects, the quality of the code will only improve, making the software more useful to everyone. It’s an approach that has paid off in spades among web companies from Google and Facebook to Twitter and Square, and the government has now realized that it too can benefit from the open source ethos.
RevMedx recently asked the FDA to approve a pocket-size invention: a modified syringe that injects specially coated sponges into wounds. Called XStat, the device could boost survival and spare injured soldiers from additional pain by plugging wounds faster and more efficiently than gauze.
The team’s early efforts were inspired by Fix-a-Flat foam for repairing tires. “That’s what we pictured as the perfect solution: something you could spray in, it would expand, and bleeding stops,” says Steinbaugh. “But we found that blood pressure is so high, blood would wash the foam right out.”
So the team tried a new idea: sponges. They bought some ordinary sponges from a hardware store and cut them into 1-centimeter circles, a size and shape they chose on a whim but later would discover were ideal for filling wounds. Then, they injected the bits of sponge into an animal injury. “The bleeding stopped,” says Steinbaugh. “Our eyes lit up. We knew we were onto something.” After seeing early prototypes, the U.S. Army gave the team $5 million to develop a finished product.
But kitchen sponges aren’t exactly safe to inject into the body. The final material would need to be sterile, biocompatible, and fast-expanding. The team settled on a sponge made from wood pulp and coated with chitosan, a blood-clotting, antimicrobial substance that comes from shrimp shells. To ensure that no sponges would be left inside the body accidentally, they added X-shaped markers that make each sponge visible on an x-ray image.
The sponges work fast: In just 15 seconds, they expand to fill the entire wound cavity, creating enough pressure to stop heavy bleeding. And because the sponges cling to moist surfaces, they aren’t pushed back out of the body by gushing blood. “By the time you even put a bandage over the wound, the bleeding has already stopped,” Steinbaugh says.
The dispute began in 1991, when then-Defense Secretary Dick Cheney canceled the $4.8 billion stealth attack aircraft, run by General Dynamics and McDonnell Douglas, which has since been acquired by Boeing. It was terminated in part due to the government’s conclusion that contractors were not meeting cost and schedule targets. The Navy demanded that contractors repay $1.3 billion to the government.
The prime contractors sued the government, arguing the government should make penalty payments because the contract was canceled for “convenience,” not a failure to perform. The case festered in the court system, eventually reaching the Supreme Court.
In 1999, as the case was bound for federal claims court, Michael Mancuso, who was General Dynamics’s chief financial officer at the time, said he was “optimistic that a settlement could be reached soon.” That settlement never came to be.
Fourteen years later, another opportunity to resolve the case presented itself. At that time, all three parties had been shackled with significant legal costs for more than a decade. The Pentagon was budgeting $10 million annually for legal fees in this case alone.
[Emphasis added. $10 million times 23 years equals $2.3 billion, which is more than the contractors wanted when they filed their suit (if I recall correctly). In Pentagon dollars, $10 million is a rounding error, and I’m not sure how to account for inflation, but still.]
Boeing and General Dynamics finally have reached an agreement in the longstanding dispute over the cancellation of the U.S. Navy’s A-12 Avenger stealth aircraft program.
The nearly $400 million agreement would bring the case to an end in exchange for in-kind payments from the companies to the Navy. The three parties will ask the U.S. Court of Federal Claims to dismiss the case, according to the Justice Department.
Under the settlement agreement, General Dynamics will provide $198 million in credits to the Navy toward the design, construction and delivery portions of the DDG-1000 destroyer program, according to the company’s third-quarter 2013 earnings statement….
The agreement was contingent upon Congress providing authorization for the deal. That was provided by the fiscal 2014 National Defense Authorization Act passed by lawmakers late last year.
The A-12 case is one of the largest and longest-running military procurement disputes. In 1991, then-Defense Secretary Dick Cheney canceled the $4.8 billion stealth attack aircraft, run by General Dynamics and McDonnell Douglas, which has since been acquired by Boeing, in part due to the government’s conclusion that contractors were not meeting cost and schedule targets. The Navy demanded that contractors repay $1.33 billion to the government.
The prime contractors sued the government, arguing that they were due penalty payments because the contract was canceled for “convenience,” not a failure to perform, and the court case has festered in federal dockets. In 2011, the Supreme Court weighed some secrecy and contracting elements of the litigation and sent it back to lower courts.
Viking warriors storm into the torch-lit camp of a rival clan. Outnumbered, the ambushed Norsemen are far from their boats. Their one goal: flee to a nearby castle while keeping their king alive.
At first glance, Hnefatafl (prounounced “nef-ah-tah-fel”) might just look like a knock-off version of chess with Norse helms and impressive beards, but the game is at least 600 years older—already well-known by 400 A.D.—and is perhaps a lot more relevant to the conflicts of the 21st century.
“I love the asymmetry in this game. To win in this game, you absolutely have to think like your opponent,” emails Kristan Wheaton, a former Army foreign area officer and ex-analyst at U.S. European Command’s Intelligence Directorate. “Geography, force structure, force size and objectives are different for the two sides. If you can’t think like your opponent, you can’t win. I don’t know of a better analogy for post-Cold War conflict.”
The game is similar to chess, but with several important differences. Instead of two identical and equal opponents facing each other, Hnefatafl is a game where one side is surrounded and outnumbered—like a Viking war party caught in an ambush.
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.
1940s. “Arlington County, Virginia. War Department. Pentagon, aerial view.”
I’m thinking South Parking is in the upper left corner? In the bottom left, you can see where the bus tunnels start! The Strategic Defense Initiative Organization took residence in the former bus tunnels in the 1980s.
(Safety negative by Theodor Horydczak; via Shorpy)
Ancient Chinese stone armor, from the tomb of China’s First Emperor, Qin Shihuangdi, who ruled from 221 B.C. to 210 B.C.
(Photos taken by Kevin Harber at the National Geographic Museum exhibit ‘Terra Cotta Warriors: Guardians of China’s First Emperor’; via ancientart)
If you are an American male younger than 66, you should take a moment and give thanks to economist Walter Oi. Walter died on Christmas Eve 2013. Even though you probably haven’t heard of him, he has had a profound effect on your life. He helped end military conscription in the United States.
Between 1948 and 1973, if you were a healthy young male in the United States, here’s what you knew: the government could pluck you out of almost any activity you were pursuing, cut your hair, and send you anywhere in the world. If the United States was at war, you might have to kill people, and you might return home in a body bag.
Walter did not think that was right, and it wasn’t because of his own age or health. He was born in 1929. When he started writing about the draft in the mid-1960s, he was well beyond the draft-eligible age range of 18 to 26. (The draft-eligible age for doctors and dentists was even higher.) Moreover, he was blind, having gradually lost all his eyesight in the 1960s. Nor did he choose his position against the draft because he had sons who were at risk. Walter had two daughters, and when he was writing on the issue, almost no one was advocating the conscription of women.
No. Walter thought the draft was wrong because he thought that people should be able to make such an important choice—whether to join the military or not—for themselves.
His passion for free labor markets was what motivated his work on the draft. His contribution was to point out—and estimate—two costs. First, there was the hidden cost imposed on draftees and “draft-induced” or “reluctant” volunteers. The fact that this cost didn’t show up in the U.S. government budget was irrelevant. Walter pointed out that the correct way to measure the cost to the draftees and the reluctant volunteers was to take the difference between the low wages they were paid and the minimum amount they would need to be paid to get them to volunteer. He estimated this cost at between $826 million and $1.134 billion. While this number might seem low today, Oi was working with mid-1960s dollars. Inflation-adjusted to 2013, the losses would range from $6.1 billion to $8.4 billion. The second cost Oi estimated was the increased annual budget outlay needed to eliminate the draft.
Walter presented his results at the Conference on the Draft, held between December 4 and 7, 1966 at the University of Chicago…. Writing some 30 years later, Friedman noted that the 74 invited participants “included essentially everyone who had written or spoken at all extensively on either side of the controversy about the draft, as well as a number of students.” Friedman’s other comment about the event is worth citing:
I have attended many conferences. I have never attended any other that had so dramatic effect on the participants. A straw poll taken at the outset of the conference recorded two-thirds of the participants in favor of the draft; a similar poll at the end, two-thirds opposed. I believe that this conference was the key event that started the ball rolling decisively toward ending the draft.
This year’s list focuses more on policy, budget and strategic issues, and less on personnel and veterans issues.
The list also includes a number of foreign leaders, notably the most influential person in US defense: Chinese Premier Xi Jinping. Since foreign leaders — including Xi, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani and others — have such a strong impact on US defense spending, we felt it appropriate to include them on this list.
Another major change is including members of the Joint Chiefs Staff as individuals, as opposed to grouping them into a single entry. Service chiefs distinguish themselves and their services to varying degrees. All of the chiefs made the top third of the list….
- Xi Jinping President, People’s Republic of China
- Susan Rice National Security Adviser
- Chuck Hagel Secretary of Defense
- John Kerry Secretary of State
- John Brennan Director, Central Intelligence Agency
- Army Gen. Martin Dempsey Chairman, Joint Chiefs of Staff
- Hassan Rouhani President, Islamic Republic of Iran
- Michael Vickers Undersecretary of Defense for Intelligence
- Army Gen. Keith Alexander Commander, US Cyber Command; Director, National Security Agency
- Navy Adm. William McRaven Commander, US Special Operations Command