It’s rare that I get the What We’re Reading story filed prior to our traditional 10:13 a.m. Eastern post publication time, but today, I’ve been more diligent than usual.
- HMAS Perth stuck in drydock for want of a crew – For whatever reason, a software industry friend of mine in Australia is now also a certified general hand for near-shore vessels. Maybe time for a career change?
- Via Kilo Sierra, proceedings of the Robotics Capabilities Conference – Feel free to drop interesting articles in Discord or in comments throughout the week, and we’ll consider them for inclusion here.
- How the Navy plans to break Big E – The plan is that there aren’t really any solid plans yet. Also, the cost to break Big E alone is going to be about the cost of fielding a carrier group for a year.
- Taiwan to get tanks, Javelins, TOWs, &c., but no Vipers yet
- Those are the wrong weapons, though – With all the ink spilled about China’s A2/AD capabilities making it a headache to operate near Taiwan, maybe Taiwan should invest in A2/AD capabilities to make it a headache to operate near Taiwan the other direction.
- The Navy’s chance to return to Subic Bay – Given the difficulties in reloading VLS systems at sea (namely, we don’t have a way to do so right now), a good port close to China seems like it should be a gimme.
- In photos: the near-collision between USS Chancellorsville and Admiral Vinogradov
- Analysis of the Future Helicopter Engine competitors and selection
- Is cyber where radar was in 1942? – Yes, in the sense that nobody really understands it. No, in the sense that ‘radar’ actually described a specific technology, whereas ‘cyber’ is a meaningless buzzword.
- Understanding the F-15X purchase – I’m still for it, if only on the grounds that it behooves us to have two aircraft manufacturers with active fighter production lines. Also, jamming will be more important than stealth in the middle of the 21st century. You heard it here first.
Science and Technology
- PC games: the original creators of Star Control, Paul Reiche and Fred Ford, reached an amicable settlement with the current owner of the Star Control trademark, Brad Wardell of Stardock, by having a friendly phone call – The settlement also involves exchanges of honey (from Wardell’s beehives) and mead (from Reiche’s homebrewery), proving that end runs around lawyers are always worthwhile. I pity whoever, at the law firms involved, had to go tell everyone that the long, drawn-out IP case with billing expected to go on for years is suddenly resolved because the clients talked it out.
- Books: Barnes and Noble purchased by Waterstones – Buried lede: even with their Nook miscue and all the difficulties faced by traditional retailers, Barnes and Noble has been reliably profitable over the last few years.
- Music: in 2008, when Universal caught fire, almost 200,000 masters burned
- PC games: the official John Wick video game is an innovative take – If you asked me to write a brief for a John Wick game, I would have maybe sent back a Max Payne clone, or if I were having a creative day, a Superhot clone. A top-down, paused-real-time strategy game like Frozen Synapse would not have crossed my mind.
A new heading! It was originally ‘Finance’, but then I realized that every finance-related story I had was also commodities-related in one way or another.
Lots of headings today.
It’s almost but not quite the anniversary of D-Day, and is precisely the anniversary of my marriage.
Between that, travel, finishing Britain’s Future Navy (depressing) and starting Massie’s Dreadnought (exciting), it’s a short one this week.
- LockMart withdraws the Freedom-class from FFG(X) – Good. Let the other defense contractors have a go. Parvusimperator and I still think the F105 is the best choice, but also not the most likely (I think). Probably time for a re-handicapping, now that the field has narrowed.
- CDR Salamander writes at USNI blog about the FFG(X) voluntary downselect and the perishable nature of industrial capacity – Put another way: don’t go the way of the Dutch.
- Reintroducing theater-range missiles in a post-INF world – It’s a brave new world.
- In pictures: the best Harrier on a merely average carrier – Spain’s Juan Carlos I, to be exact. The Harriers are the American Plus model, the only extant variant with a radar and AIM-120 capability, which makes them almost real fighters.
- Congress upset over the Ford class’s inability to deploy with F-35s – Because Congress imposed cost caps on the first two Fords, there’s been an awful lot of ‘fit for but not with’ going on. For instance, one of them is deploying with two of eleven weapons elevators operational.
- USAF has a solid lead in number of operational F-35s – 400 F-35s of all types have been delivered, and they’ve also now passed 200,000 flight hours.
- USAF also thinking about laser missile defense
- Superconductor degaussing system to be installed on some Navy vessels – I really, really want to know what kind of superconductor we’re talking about here, but the story does not relate. It does, however, suggest that the weight savings are substantial: 10 to 100 tons, depending on the size of the hull.
- Corvette carriers: a littoral combat strategy – Missile boats are awesome, but short-legged. So, build a ship to fuel them and shepherd them to wherever you want them to be. Britain’s Future Navy had a similar idea, although built to merchant standards rather than military, and for minesweepers/pirate hunters/subchasers/etc. with a logistics support/helicopter carrier mothership.
- For missile boats, the Skjald-class is a good buy; for patrol craft, why not buy the German Gepard design? – Well, because it’s retired? On the other hand, an updated, NSM-equipped design would be pretty cool, and a Gepard (at 437 tons) outguns an LCS by several times already. Both?.
- Wouldn’t you know it, the Navy already planned to do a missile ~boat~ hydrofoil with a logistics support ship! – Also, the support ship was to be a repurposed LST, which is a cool class of ship.
- Big Army wants to modernize its ammunition plants… – Most of which date to the 1940s.
- USAF has 62 Lancers, of which often only ‘single digits’ are mission-ready at any given time – Not great. B-21 isn’t here yet, guys!
Science and Technology
- Another open-source project switches to a license which excludes resellers – An interesting problem. The norm in the software industry used to be this: if you develop an open-source project, you have dibs on selling that project as a service. The Big Three cloud providers (Amazon, Microsoft, and Google) broke that norm, reselling open-source-projects-as-a-service. The open source projects have now fired back with a new breed of open-source licenses that permit users to do everything but that.
WWRW falls on a Thursday again, because I was working from home yesterday, and that always throws off my groove.
This is the 32nd one of these. Yay, powers of two!
- Turkey says it’ll manufacture the S-500 locally – I must be behind on my air defense reading, because I can’t even tell you what an S-500 is. (Carlo Kopp can, though.) Also, Russia promises to sell Turkey Su-57s if the F-35 deal falls through. Growing up with teen-series fighters as I did, the two preceding paragraphs scan like something out of Next Sunday A.D. sci-fi.
- Pentagon threatens to withhold half of the $728 million LockMart requested for F-35 spare parts – Not out of spite, but rather because the Pentagon wants technical data so they can buy spares from other, more reliable suppliers.
- Upgrading the Chinook is the correct answer to the heavy-lift helicopter program – Approved.
- Speaking of, Boeing is going to flight-test the Chinook with the engines from the CH-53K – (Thanks to Kilo Sierra for the link.) Remember, in terms of lifting power, helos are pretty much universally power-bound, so add more oomph and you can add more collective before the engine governors stop you.
- Humvee vs. JLTV – Fun fact: I got in trouble at the Pittsburgh Auto Show for taking a picture of the JLTV dashboard.
- Still using Russian or Chinese weapons? The US will pay you to ditch them and buy American
- Young people are unqualified for everything – Including military careers. Apparently, a mere 29% of American youngsters hit the requirements, which amount to 1) don’t be obese 2) don’t have a criminal record and 3) finish high school. I find those numbers a little hard to believe, which is usually a good indication that they’re misleading or wrong somehow, but I’m already a day late with this and don’t have time to chase it down.
- Some call sign controversy brewing at VFA-106 in Virginia – A number of black aviators were given insulting call signs with some racial overtones, maybe? On the one hand, cool call signs are an invention of the film industry. They’re all insulting if you know the story behind them. On the other hand, the fact that the white pilots in VFA-106 talked about their black compatriots in a WhatsApp group called ‘Pure Bloods’ does rather speak to motive, doesn’t it?
- Airships for the military – Oh hey, the same article someone writes literally every five years, and nothing ever comes of it. I really like airships. Over at Many Words Main, I frequently write what amounts to airship fan fiction. I still don’t think they’re very much good for most modern uses. We have airplanes and helicopters now. The only thing a rigid airship buys you is fuel economy.
- Terrain-following radar for MC-130J special ops transports – Terrain-following radars are cool. There isn’t one in DCS yet to play with, though, so I can’t tell you just how cool.
- A report to Congress on airborne EW programs – Parvusimperator’s link. I haven’t read it, but I surmise that it’s mostly going to be, “We have airborne EW programs. No, Senator, that’s classified.”
- Remembering the attack on the USS Stark – Be sure to click through to the JAG investigation at the bottom of the article.
- FN’s going to unveil its MK 48 6.5mm machine gun at SOFIC 2019 – Which is currently ongoing. Perhaps some news for next week?
- Shipbuilders study adding more punch to LCS – Hmm. I wonder why? It was so well-equipped! An interesting, non-sarcastic point is that phase 2 might involve a Mk-41 8-pack, or newly-developed single Mk-41 cells spread around the ship (i.e., wherever they can cram one in).
- Laser weapons and rail guns and gun-launched guided projectiles, oh my – Another Congressional report, so don’t expect too much.
- Two presentations, one on the 2018 national defense strategy and the other a report from NSWC Corona on munitions – I think I’ve probably said it before, but a good way to win bar bets is to ask people where in the US the Navy’s largest facility is located. It’s NSWC Crane, in south central Indiana, notably far from oceans, or indeed large bodies of water at all.
- Rule the Waves 2 is out – Rule the Waves, the 1900-1925 naval arms race/tactical battle simulator, is a Soapbox favorite. Does the sequel, which expands the scope to 1955 and adds aircraft carriers, stack up? The short answer is yes, and I’m very much enjoying trying some oddball ideas in my Japan game. The long answer is you’ll have to wait until I get through a game or two and can write a full review.
WWRW falls on a Thursday this week. Yesterday was busy at work, then Avengers night at home, and today featured some dental work in the morning, so here we are, at last, with a somewhat lighter post than usual.
Science and Technology
- Hackers steal almost $41 million in Bitcoin from a crypto exchange – On the one hand, enormous virtual bank robberies! On the other hand, I have a hard time believing you’d find ready buyers for $40.7 million in Bitcoin on short notice, so it’s very much paper wealth.
- Could quantum mechanics explain the existence of space-time? – Interesting conjecture (that entanglement is what makes space-time space-time), but very little attempt to support that claim in a way the layman can understand. If I see a Quanta article on it, I’ll share that too.
- Saudi oil stations attacked by drones – First those oil tankers, now this. Iran? Definitely Iran.
- China launches a pair of Type 052Ds – What’s that, like one a week now?
- Plans for the Virginia Block VI – Special operations, unmanned systems.
- A silent mortar for Russia – Piston-launched for quiet operation with little muzzle flash or smoke. Nifty. 1.2km range. Not as nifty.
- Raytheon’s SPY-6 is a gallium nitride radar, with huge sensitivity gains over previous radars – They say 100 times more sensitive. Assuming that’s only counting received power, it’s still something like a four-fold increase in range.
Parvusimperator’s Open gun has indeed finally come in, so all we have to do is find a match which doesn’t fall on a holiday weekend.
The Continental loadout post from yesterday is a new Soapbox game, as you might have guessed from the achievements at the bottom. Mine should land tomorrow.
Headline Link: The Long Way Round
- The story of Pan-Am’s California Clipper – En route to New Zealand at the outbreak of the Second World War, one of Pan-Am’s twelve Boeing 314 flying boats found itself cut off from its South Pacific island-hopping route. Short on fuel, spare parts, and friendly bases, its intrepid crew had to make their way back to American shores the hard way.
Has this been turned into a movie? If not, why not? Who do I call about that?
- Cold launch is great until it isn’t
- Russia’s defense industry falls on hard times
- But Russia’s defense spending hasn’t fallen as far as it seems – The argument is that for a defense buyer like Russia, which buys from Russian manufacturers in rubles, purchasing power parity is a much better rubric than a conversion to US$. By that measure, Russia is still the third-largest defense spender in the world.
- Big Army wants a Chinook replacement – After many happy years of service, perhaps it’s time. Then again, the Chinook is the definition of Just Works.
- Will the J-20 be ready this year? – This guy says yes.
- The case for small airlift… – … ignores the existence of large helicopters.
- F-22s and F-35s having trouble meeting 80% readiness goals – Fancy planes always have that issue.
- Doing better than V-22s, anyway – Sorry about the paywalled article. I can’t read the whole thing either.
- Iron Dome knocks down some Palestinian rockets – It’s a pretty sensational system, Iron Dome.
- Zumwalts to get missile armament – On the one hand, hooray, they’re useful! On the other hand, I’m going to miss that classic twin-turret silhouette.
- LockMart concept art shows an F-35 carrying HAWCs – That’s a hypersonic cruise missile, if you aren’t up on the lingo (like I wasn’t until just now), whose acronym is straight from military science fiction.
- Other services expressing interest in the T-X – A modern trainer is on everyone’s shopping list, but only the Air Force had the clarity of purpose to buy one.
- But not in a sixth-generation joint fighter
- Navy watch stations apparently have built-in chatrooms? – As someone with a chatroom on his daily watch station, I have to say, it’s not great for focus.
- India’s artificial reef construction program continues – But really, they actually launched one of their Project 75 submarines.
- Chinese war plans still pay close attention to Taiwan – Not that I thought they’d stopped, but even so, it’s worth the reminder that the PLA sees capturing Taiwan as one of its major objectives.
- Speaking of which, here are some satellite photos of China’s Type 002 carrier in initial production – I love that we have commercial imaging satellites out there for the amateur spies and think tanks to play with.
- Pratt & Whitney’s F135 seems like a success story – You hear a lot about problems with F-35s, but very little about problems with their engines.
- The F-35 will probably never be cheap to fly – $35,000 an hour is the expected floor. I wonder what an F-15EX flight hour costs. … $27,000 an hour. Jane’s rates the Gripen at $4,700 per hour and the F-16 at about $7,000 per hour, as of 2012.
- US military depots are in bad shape – Some are undermanned or underfunded. Some are just poorly designed.
Science and Technology
Abusing Web Services
Spring has definitively sprung here. Coming soon is the first USPSA match report of the season from me. Parvusimperator might join in on the reports a little later into the summer when his Open gun finally comes in, but at the very least we’ll be shooting matches at the same time again.
- VT Halter Marine to build a new Coast Guard icebreaker – The first of six, three medium and three heavy. The picture in the article shows a gratifyingly large vessel, just what the doctor ordered for an era of enhanced Arctic competition.
- Remember that MiG-31 crash from a while back? Friendly fire – Red-on-red, I suppose you’d call it, given the Russian propensity to use red to mean ‘friendly’.
- Sen. James Inhofe recommends another review of the King Stallion program – The first of several items this week which don’t make LockMart look great.
- Seen on Twitter: you can fit two Type 23s side-by-side inside Queen Elizabeth‘s hangar – Obviously not from the keel to the tallest mast, but the footprint works out. There’s even a bit of room fore and aft. For the record, the twin superstructures still look weird.
- The first-ever video filmed in a B-2 cockpit in flight – Snazzy.
- China’s navy is big enough to control its coastal waters now
- Venezuela: a test of the Monroe Doctrine – Teddy Roosevelt would have invaded by now.
- F-35A makes combat debut, conducting an airstrike on an IS tunnel complex
- More photos, courtesy of The Aviationist – Also, they’re running the radar reflectors there.
- An F-35B does its first full air show demo – See also: radar reflectors.
- Stryker’s semi-automatic anti-drone targeting system – It’s a sensor fusion system which combines radar returns and camera data to identify drones and blow ’em up. Still man-in-the-loop, though, so we aren’t quite to Skynet.
- Mike Pence agrees with our comments section: no early retirement for Truman – And so the drama comes to a close.
- USAF no longer bombing Afghan drug labs with F-22s – Overmatch!
Science and Technology
- SpaceX lowers planned orbits on some of its high-altitude Starlink constellation – The FCC (which apparently has jurisdiction here) was unsure about SpaceX’s debris mitigation plans for the bits of its constellation planned to orbit at about 1,000km. So, SpaceX moved some of those satellites down to about 500km, where the orbital lifespan for a dead satellite is on the order of a decade rather than a century. For the record, the currently-approved constellation is 2,800 satellites at about 1,000km, 1,600 satellites at 500km, and 7,500 satellites at 340km. Launches are supposed to start this year.
- Facebook uses just-in-time compilation of C++ to use it like a super-fast scripting language – That’s certainly one way to handle scripting languages being too slow.
- Netflix, on the other hand, is a Python shop – Presumably because Python is the language of machine learning.
- Flash memory manufacturers to cut production in the face of a glut – Put another way, buy that big SSD you were looking for now.
- The French government had a homemade encrypted messaging service, which was found to be vulnerable to impersonation attacks – If your name doesn’t start with ‘B’ and end with ‘ruce Schneier’, you probably aren’t qualified to roll your own encryption system.
- Continued pushback on the Air Force’s maddening two-operator-only five-year launch contract – As I said last time I linked to a story on this subject, it’s catastrophically stupid to prebuy five years of launches at a time when the space launch industry is in the middle of being upended and turned in a dramatically cheaper direction.
- Testing of 30mm Strykers went well, so Big Army is going to upgun them all
- LockMart having trouble keeping up with F-35 spares demands – That’s not a great sign. The F-35 fleet is tiny compared to the size it will eventually be.
- The 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit lays out some of its plans for moving to USS America – They’ve been playing around with the Lightning Carrier concept on Wasp, too, but their usual fit-out is ten Ospreys, six F-35s, and four CH-53s, plus the LCACs in the well deck. Given that America does not have a well deck, they throw in two more Ospreys. (It’s nice to have extras, too, because the Osprey is the only thing aboard that can bring an F-35 engine with it.)
- B-2 pilots looking forward to the T-X – B-2 pilots spend a significant minority of their flight time in T-38s working on stick and rudder skills, because the B-2 is a) too expensive for very much practice flying and b) notably deficient in rudders.
As you might have noticed, we’re taking Holy Week a bit easier than usual—parvusimperator is traveling for Easter; I’m in the church choir, have had spring yard work to do, and am preparing for the first USPSA match of the season on Saturday.
Happily, there’s been a lot going on in the world, so we have a longer-than-usual WWRW (unless I miss my guess, the longest ever, in fact) to tide you over until we return to our usual pace.
- China releases pictures of a sailless submarine – Which buys you one or two knots of speed in exchange for a whole host of technical problems. This one’s about 150 meters long by 15 across the beam, which is small for anything beyond a technical demonstrator, but proportioned the same as e.g. the Virginias.
- Anti-jamming GPS antennas: how do they work? – A cogent explanation fit for laymen such as myself.
- XM913 50mm cannon test firing – Nifty.
- F-35C readiness rising – Clearly, my joke from last week about how the Marines would whip the project into shape is coming true.
- Speaking of F-35s, the ALIS maintenance/logistics system just doesn’t work – The story says something along the lines of, “Alice won’t be a popular name for children of Air Force technicians.”
- Letters of censure for Fitzgerald‘s officers, but no criminal charges – So, a big old torpedo going off under the keel of career aspirations, but no jail time.
- The Navy’s past decisions on holding off on building Columbias leaves no margin for error – At present, we build two Virginias per year. The ramp-up plan is for four Virginias and one Columbia per year, which (since shipbuilders estimate a Columbia is twice as much work as a Virginia) represents a request to triple submarine-building output. That’s fraught with risk.
- Book review review: The Hundred-Year Marathon – The book lays out a theory that China has a long-term plan to build itself up to a global hegemon. I don’t think this is all that controversial. The controversial parts, per the reviewer, are that 1) the book suggests that China’s long-term plan can be discerned by diving deep into Chinese history and legend, and 2) that it’s written like a Dan Brown thriller, with the author searching hidden archives for ‘secrets’ which turn out to be readily available in translated-to-English form in university libraries across the country. 2) is a valid critique. I’m not so sure about 1)—one or two thousand years ago, China already was a global superpower, for its definition of global at the time, and was dealing with similar problems to a modern superpower, and the ancient Chinese outlook on life is nearer the modern Chinese outlook than, say, the Roman and European outlooks. Chinese folklore from the Han dynasty bears more directly on modern Chinese problems than either Caesar’s Commentaries or Arthurian legend does on, say, England.
- Counterpoint to an article from last week: the USAF should not buy F-15EX – My counterarguments: 1) 22 AMRAAMs. 2) The most important form of stealth in the mid-21st century is going to be EW, not shaping, because it’s only a matter of time before someone works out the math for getting targeting-quality information out of a few long-wave radars working in concert. The fact that the F-35 is stealth-shaped and the F-15EX is not will matter less than the relative qualities of their EW fits.
- On that note, the USAF is refocusing on EW
- “Snipers are a bloody nuisance” – An ex-Commando of the British Army discusses spotting snipers.
- The Hellfire-replacing (and Maverick- and TOW-replacing) Joint Air-to-Ground Missile is coming soon – They made it to LRIP last year. Now they’re aiming to acquire 3,000 missiles in 2020 and 1,500 in 2021. Parvusimperator wrote about the predecessor project, the AGM-169. JAGM is the same project, just delivered over a longer period of time for annual-cost reasons and renumbered to fool the Congressional committees.
- UK recycles Greatest Hits Names, dubs next-gen fighter ‘Tempest’ – The actual story is that the project is attracting some potential partners.
- Cutting nuclear deterrence funding: unwise, and not a big savings in the first place
- Camo netting: a new spin on a classic technology – Namely, modern camo netting should not block vision alone, but also thermal and RF emissions.
- If USAF retires B-1s, give them to the Navy – A supersonic bomber with room for 24 LRASMs? Yes. Yes, I think that will do nicely. Parvusimperator says you could fit more if it weren’t for “some dumbass treaty”, too. Also, he’s written on LRASM before, too.
- A nifty picture of the M270 integrated crane
- The V-280 Valor tiltrotor (i.e., the next Blackhawk) hits a few milestones – 300 knots in flight, 200 hours of rotors-turning testing, 100 hours of flight testing.
- More on the Lightning Carrier concept – It doesn’t rhyme, but it’s still a cooler name than ‘Harrier carrer’.
Science and Technology
- Amazon contractors listen to Alexa conversations – Feeling real good about my lack of smart home technology right about now. Until I can run my smart home entirely on a server in my basement under my direct control, we’ll get up and turn lights on and off with switches, like cavemen.
- Wifi’s new WPA3 standard is… already badly insecure – Oops. Maybe if they’d developed the standard out in the open, like security researchers suggested…
- Intelsat 29e exploded? – It’s a geostationary communication satellite, which looks to have flared up on telescope views, then shed a bunch of debris. Also, evidently there’s a company out there which points telescopes at objects in geostationary orbit. Also also, the comments mention a Russian accusation of an American satellite which roams geostationary orbit, photographing things there. Not necessarily implausible—such a thing would be easy to build, and a cell phone camera at 1km has better resolving power than a 10-meter telescope peering from ground level to geostationary orbit, so it would have its uses, too.
- SpaceX sticks the Falcon Heavy landing, but loses a booster to the sea – The barges have grabbers which can snag the booster by the ‘octaweb’, the bit of framework which holds all the engine nozzles in their appropriate places, but the Falcon Heavy center core has a different octaweb, so the grabbers can’t get a good grip. The barge encountered 10-foot swells on the way back home, and the center core went over the side.
- More people streaming movies rather than buying physical copies – See my above Luddite-hood on smart homes for my opinion on this practice; see parvusimperator’s DVD stack for his.
- The future is here, and it’s a cyberpunk dystopia – Satellite-based advertising is on its way, courtesy a Russian company and PepsiCo.
- Pepsi clarifies: we’re only testing the technology, by running an orbital ad once – Pardon me for not jumping for joy. The only good thing about this is that it’s a Russian space company, and they never deliver on their promises.
- Declassified U-2 photographs are helping archaeologists find canals, roads, and other features hard to spot from the ground – In terms of count per unit area, there wasn’t a lot of military interest to find in Central Asia, but evidently there’s at least something of historical interest.
- Don’t call it PlayStation 5 yet, but Sony releases details on their next console – The spec list may look like an ordinary gaming computer, but remember that one of the huge advantages with console hardware is the integrated memory architecture—there’s no conception of separate graphics memory like there is on your average computer, so you don’t have to worry about getting something from system memory to video memory like you do on a PC. (That’s why bus width is so important on computers and not really mentioned for consoles; it isn’t really a concept worth bringing up for the latter.)
- Google Fiber’s divorce from Louisville is complete – In other words, don’t trust Google with your stuff in the long term, because they don’t care enough about marginal products to bother keeping them around. I read a good article on that subject this week, but didn’t stick it in our WWRW chat, so I can’t link it here.
- OpenAI’s Dota 2 bot beats human players, but shows the weaknesses of machine learning – See the section titled, ‘A rudimentary Chinese room’.
- Stratolaunch takes flight – We have a new record-holder for ‘largest wingspan on an airplane’! I would even go so far as to say that it’s not useless, either, which is a bit of a spicy take. There are two main arguments against the flying-booster-launcher: 1) it doesn’t save you much fuel; 2) reusable rockets make it moot. In re 1), the bit which takes the most fuel is precisely getting off the ground and to altitude, because your rocket is the heaviest and you’re moving through the densest atmosphere. Skipping the densest atmosphere lets you design your first-stage nozzles for more nearly vacuum conditions, which means your first stage can burn effectively for longer. In re 2), reusable rockets still require a lot of launch infrastructure, whereas a plane-launched rocket can dodge weather and get you on track for nearly any orbital direction or inclination with minimal steering losses.
- A security researcher drops three 0-days against… WordPress plugins… – Just a minute. … Okay, we’re good. … drops three 0-days against WordPress plugins to protest “the moderators of the WordPress Support Forum’s continued inappropriate behavior.” Grudge-based webserver-pwning! What a world we live in.
- Baseball twitter is usually good for a few laughs
- Baseball should end service time manipulation – Unfortunately, doing so would require both the players and the teams to sacrifice something for the benefit of Baseball As A Whole, which is not the typical aim in CBA negotiations.
- Sports leagues embrace gambling – It’s fan engagement! Pennsylvania is one of the states which legalized sports betting; the local sports talk hosts have lately been singing the praises of the sports book at the local casino. A showdown between the gambling operators and the leagues is brewing; the NBA, MLB, and the PGA Tour want a percentage fee on every bet placed on their games—initially, they said 1%; lately, they’ve said 0.25%. Of course, illegal sports gambling was recently estimated as a $150 billion industry, so…
- Restaurants are too loud – As it turns out, the modern industrial-chic style absorbs zero sound, which is unpleasant. There’s a sushi joint near my mother’s house that has some sort of magical sound-dampening technology—every seat can be full, and yet it’s never loud enough to disrupt conversation at your table, and it’s one of the most pleasant dining experiences in the area.
We’ve been doing this for half a year now (slightly more, given that we took a Christmas break; 26 entries in total).
- Civilian on Rafale fly-along ends up getting the ejection seat experience – “Merde, I cannot take zis guy any longair…”
- Some information on the Navy’s shipyard modernization plans
- Putin’s security detail routinely spoofs GPS – Joke’s on them; INS- and laser-guided munitions still work just fine.
- USAF accelerating B-21 buys – I’ll believe it when I see it. “Let’s build a bunch of B-2s, but cheaper!” seems to be the rallying cry here, and I’m not sure how that’s going to work. Anyway, we’ll get them delivered just in time for Russia to announce some kind of synthetic aperture longwave radar that renders shape-based stealth obsolete.
- Sea Stallion-K deficiencies are fixable, say Marines – parvusimperator observes that almost every deficiency is technically fixable. The two big ones called out in the article are exhaust gas ingestion, which is not great for helicopters, and not having enough airframes to do testing, which doesn’t bode well for future availability.
- A little more on the Sea Stallion-K program – And also on the reductions in readiness the extant Sea Stallions are working through.
- USAF working on a gender-neutral physical assessment – There’s no way to do that which doesn’t either let in wimpy men or exclude fit women, but I suspect 1) they’ll err in the former direction, and 2) nobody will notice, because most Air Force jobs aren’t especially physically demanding.
- Congress should fund another National Security Cutter – As we discussed in the comments a week or two ago, there’s nothing wrong with the idea of a cheap hull you can pack a bunch of technology into later. The Legend class is a good candidate, as is the other modern Coast Guard cutter project, whose name escapes me right now. Medium something or another.
- Virginia procurement plans change – Rather than buying 9 of the next 10 with the extra Tomahawk VLS section, we’re buying 8 of the next 11 that way. It’s funny that we ended up with the same pattern as the 688s: “Ooh, land attack missiles are great; let’s add more.”
- Lake City ammo plant prepares to make 6.8 – parvusimperator observed over coffee that this is most likely just calling up Union Lead Castings Co. and Consolidated Swage Products LLC to make sure they have the right stuff on hand or in stock.
- Having whipped the F-35B into shape, the Marines shift focus to the F-35C – “Commander Smith, Captain Johnson, this is Sergeant Sledge. He’s in charge of the program now.”
- F-16 service life extension program details – Structural repairs to get airframe expected lifespans from the current 8,000 hours to 12,000, along with packing the F-35’s radar in. The Viper flies on.
- Is this the end for Big Kuz? – After his drydock sank, Russia doesn’t have much in the way of repair options. They’re openly discussing scrapping him, which is new.
- The Columbias may cost more than expected – Cost inflation? On a boomer project? Perish the thought!
- More on Textron’s cased-telescoped ammunition – It’s basically a sales brochure, but cool to see nevertheless. Is that the 6.8 that the ammo plant is gearing up for? In thirty years, will all the cool kids be building the civilian version of the 6.8 cased-telescoped rifle?
- The USMC’s aviation plans – The SHORAD section is nifty. They’ve got a Leonardo/MOOG Stinger/gun system on a JLTV, and they’re buying Iron Dome. Evidently the Marines get all the best toys. Except the cased-telescoped squad machine gun, that is.
- Dutch F-16 hits itself with cannon fire during training exercise – Oops. The article notes this kind of thing has happened before.
- One of Japan’s F-35As has crashed
- Teach the controversy: don’t retire Truman, mothball her! – The author references Ian Toll’s excellent Six Frigates in support of reviving the ‘laid up in ordinary’ status, to include building a new laid-up-in-ordinary drydock for Truman. Easier said than done, I say, especially since (as a nuclear-powered vessel) Truman‘s skeleton crew requirements are probably larger than, say, Constellation‘s were.
Science and Technology
- Arizona Cardinals: revolutionizing the draft? – Taking a page from baseball’s book, the Cardinals seem to be of the opinion that players on rookie contracts are better than expensive players at the same position, which seems sensible. They’re stockpiling draft picks and aiming to take some players in high-impact positions even if they don’t need them, on the theory that they’re either trade bait or the next man up when the current guy hits free agency.
- Baseball records: Chris Davis sets the new mark for most consecutive at-bats without a hit – He’s up to 49 right now. His last hit was September 14, 2018; he’s only walked four times this year. And they say the record book is closed!