Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Chuck Schumer Watch: Vol. 1, Ch.1

In a bid to become the Senior Ranking Clown on the Senate Select Committee for Hybris, Chuck Schumer trots out yet another, horrible, ill-conceived, moronic and yes even 'stupid' idea. 'Former Spook' has the whole sad story.

...And yes! I've decided to give Chuckie his very own special ''watch' category for a while.

Monday, January 17, 2011

50 Years Later: WHAT Military Industrial Complex?

Today is the 50th Anniversary of President Dwight D. Eisenhower’s 'Farewell Address'. A speech most famous for coining the now trite phrase: "Military-Industrial Complex".

A vital element in keeping the peace is our military establishment. Our arms must be mighty, ready for instant action, so that no potential aggressor may be tempted to risk his own destruction. Our military organization today bears little relation to that known of any of my predecessors in peacetime, or, indeed, by the fighting men of World War II or Korea.

Until the latest of our world conflicts, the United States had no armaments industry. American makers of plowshares could, with time and as required, make swords as well. But we can no longer risk emergency improvisation of national defense. We have been compelled to create a permanent armaments industry of vast proportions. Added to this, three and a half million men and women are directly engaged in the defense establishment. We annually spend on military security alone more than the net income of all United States corporations.

Now this conjunction of an immense military establishment and a large arms industry is new in the American experience. The total influence -- economic, political, even spiritual -- is felt in every city, every Statehouse, every office of the Federal government. We recognize the imperative need for this development. Yet, we must not fail to comprehend its grave implications. Our toil, resources, and livelihood are all involved. So is the very structure of our society.

In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persist. We must never let the weight of this combination endanger our liberties or democratic processes. We should take nothing for granted. Only an alert and knowledgeable citizenry can compel the proper meshing of the huge industrial and military machinery of defense with our peaceful methods and goals, so that security and liberty may prosper together.

Times change. Eisenhower’s warning was actually against too much government spending – spending which suppresses the private sector activity which actually generates revenues. It was just at the time, the defense budget had not yet wound down from WW2 and Korean War levels, and the post war consumer spending was very low. Replace Eisenhower-Era spending threats with modern day ones and you would have to rewrite this speech warning against the Social Spending-Entitlement Complex. This new complex has managed to fence itself largely from that most deceptive category: discretionary spending. Yet it is still there, waiting for some people of courage to whittle it down to size.

To commemorate this anniversary, I’ve updated information from a past posting. Once again, we ask: What Military –Industrial Complex? It doesn’t exist. Even if some of these rubes might insist that it does.

What Military Industrial Complex?: 2010 Edition

Here's a graphic showing the 2010 Fortune 500 Companies and their 2010 revenues. Included are defense and non-defense companies and revenues.

See a M-I Complex sitting there? Neither do I. Let's look closer.....

Here's a closer look at just the Fortune 100. Lockheed Martin is the Number 1 defense contractor. So we have to go down the list of America's largest companies about half way (#44)and well into the long-tail of the listing to get to the biggest of the defense contractors. Only 6 of the top 10 defense contractors even make it into the Fortune 100, and about half of those wouldn't be there without their non-defense revenues.

Update 22 Jan 2011: I should have also mentioned some things you probably don't know about the makeup of the current (2010) list of the Top 100 US Defense Contractors.

1. Ten of the Top 100 'defense industries' are energy/oil companies. (The GWOT burns a lot of gas, eh?)

2. Five of the Top 100 'defense industries' are Health Care/Managment companies. (TriCare Anyone?)

3. Four of the Top 100 'defense industries' are Governments: Canada, Germany, and two Native Alaskan "corporations".

4. The combined 2010 revenues of JUST the top ten Fortune 500 companies that have NO "Top 100" defense revenues is nearly TEN POINT EIGHT TIMES (~10.72963255)
greater than the combined defense revenues of all 100 top defense companies ($2,616,482.90M vs. $243,856M).

5. Walmart revenues alone are about 1.6 times the total defense revenues of the Top 100 Defense Contractors.

6. Warren Buffet's Berkshire Hathaway has 46+% the revenues of the defense revenues of the Top 100 Defense Contractors. How many shareholders does Berkshire Hathaway have? How many have 'control' of the company? 20? 10? 1? I'd say any of those choices could be called a concentration of economic influence and power.

...and don't forget we've got a war on boys and girls.

Time for the social-engineering/anti-defense crowd to get a new Bogeyman. I repeat: WHAT Military-Industrial Complex?

Friday, January 14, 2011

Stealth References

It seems like we're starting to see even more misinformation (or is it dezinformatsia?) on the JSF than usual on the web. It almost feels like a concerted movement to undermine the whole program. I'll give a specific example of such disinformation: "The F-35 is Very Low Observable (or Low Observable) from the front (or similar limited qualification)". I've run into this kind of statement more frequently ever since a certain Australian website published some cartoons of the F-35 with drawn patterns illustrating guesses at RF signature patterns based upon eyeball estimation of the effects of the F-35's Outer Mold Line shaping....and called it a 'study'.

There is absolutely nothing official and available on the F-35's RF signature (surprise? duh!) that would support such an assertion. All that I have been able to locate as sources for such information are speculation, allusions and inferences. While at the same time, one can find multiple 'official' programmatic sources stating the F-35 RF signature characteristics are described as "Very Low Observable"(VLO), "All Aspect"*, or "All Aspect VLO". I have an idea these misconceptions come from a basic ignorance of what 'Stealth' is, how it 'works', and how it now shapes the battlespace where radar once dominated.

*Note: The F-22 is commonly described as 'all aspect' as well, but in using this term for fighters it often excludes/excuses the signature an angle, as narrow as possible, to the direct rear of the aircraft.

The following commentary is taken almost verbatim from a comment I made on another site a while back, concerning what you need to know - as a minimum - to even begin intelligently discussing the fundamentals of Low Observables (Stealth). I'm posting it here now because I have a feeling I'm going to need to point people to this kind of information more and more.

If one insists on discussing or opining on Low Observable "technology", one would do well to begin by reading Paterson. In his Survivability Benefits from the Use of Standoff Weapons by Stealth Aircraft(AIAA 1999-0105503), Figure 2 is a nice graphic with a range of objects, their estimated signature return in flat plate square meters and equivalent dBsm. On the high end we find a warship with 10000 sq meter return (about 40 dBsm). On the low end we have a small insect at .0001 sq meter return equivalent (about -40 dBsm). In Paterson's 1997 paper Measuring Low Observable Technology's Effects on Combat Aircraft Survivability (AIAA 97554) his figure 3 has a 'notional' Radar Cross Section (RCS) listing for various aircraft from Howe's Introduction to the Basic Technology of Stealth Aircraft: Part 1 & 2 (see Paterson for full citation) There we see that Howe estimates the B-1B return at .75 sq meter, or over an order of magnitude less than has been speculated on elsewhere.

Reading these resources will give one some proper perspective on how one should think about the effects of the relative RCS of different objects on their detectability. If you have the time and the math background, get a copy of Radar Cross Section by Knott, Shaeffer & Tuley. This resource will also give you some background on how RCS objectives are selected, optimized and implemented in an aircraft's design to satisfy mission requirements.

But none of the above actually tells us what the challenges are in operating in a threat environment. I only know of one public source that deals with it, and we're in luck: RAND has been really expanding its ".pdf file" archives online of late and the little Route Planning Issues for Low Observable Aircraft and Cruise Missiles is once again available, although somewhat dated. [Update from original: Dr. Rebecca Grant's The Radar Game has been reissued online under the auspices of the AFA's Mitchell Institute. The Radar Game should be considered a standard primer on the history and development of radar and it's antithesis: 'Stealth' for the general readership.]

Now turn to Ball's AIAA classic textbook on 'Survivability': The Fundamentals of Aircraft Survivability Analysis and Design. You can get the first edition used cheap these days, but as it predates the public arrival of Stealth, LO is not a separate topic - you have to read between the lines. The second edition gives an overview but does not focus on stealth per se, but it is covered. Most importantly, both editions thoroughly examine and explain the 'kill chain' which will provide one some perspective on what all this 'low observability' actually does to disrupt the kill chain. LO can break the chain at every link, and be used to exploit even the smallest bit of RF clutter, confusion, or gap, as well as natural perturbations in the environment.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

F-35B Status, Challenges

If you want to acquire some useful information on the current state of the F-35B 'technicals' skip fact-free speculation and simple handwringing and go read Stephen Trimble's piece at Flight Global. It's still got a little gloom in it, but the facts presented make an old engineer feel more upbeat about the F-35B's future.

Ain't nothing in there I can see that can't be fixed with reasonable time and dollars: two years and the announced budget should cover it. Let's just hope there are no show-stoppers yet to be uncovered.

Friday, January 07, 2011

Getting Helos Back in the Fight

'Solomon' at SNAFU! has an interesting post covering the return to service of two HH-60 Seahawks that had a little 'accidental contact' in late 2008. Interesting story and photos.

The Crash of Moccasin 02.
Snafu's post reminds me of a mishap a buddy of mine had on a H-53 Pave Low III after Desert Storm. This bird already had repaired combat damage from the SS Mayaguez rescue operation on it's logs (Most people have no idea how many times the Pave Low III airframes had been 'remanufactured' and had seen action from Vietnam to their retirement).

Initially, this was listed as a Class A mishap. By the final review of the accident and through judicious scrounging in the Boneyard, it had been revised down to a 'Class B'. I checked the records again years later and a miracle had occurred: it was then listed as a 'Class C'. A lot is broken with the Air Force, but the Pilot Protection System is apparently running just fine.

File this under "I got my 1000hrs 'Pave Low'. I got my war. I got my crash. - I'm outta here!"

This little meeting with a sand dune broke the boom off, scattered a lot of piece parts, rolled the FLIR ball backwards into the belly.

This episode provided me with enough material for three term papers on Human Factors, System Safety, and Cockpit Resource Management while pursuing two different college degrees. I probably know more than I should about this crash, not because I know one of the survivors, but because somebody did an awful redaction job in response to a FOIA request.

When I'm certain all the parties are no longer flying anywhere, I'll publish the whole, sad tale.

Thursday, January 06, 2011

Long Range Strike Moves Forward.....Finally?

...and is it in the right direction? Tech. Sgt. Shane A. Cuomo / Air Force

I'll reserve judgement until after the details inevitably emerge.

In today's announcement President Obama's
Most Useful Idiot (why there seems to always be someone who until asked is NOT-generally-a-tool willing to be the front-man giving cover to Administrations that are malevolent and destructive to the national defense , I'll never understand) had this to say at least:
Finally, a major area of new investment for the Air Force will be a new long-range, nuclear-capable penetrating bomber. This aircraft, which will have the option of being remotely piloted, will be designed and developed using proven -- using proven technologies, an approach that should make it possible to deliver this capability on schedule and in quantity.

It is important that we begin this project now to ensure that a new bomber can be ready before the current aging fleet goes out of service. The follow-on bomber represents a key component of a joint portfolio of conventional deep-strike capabilities, an area that should be a high priority for future defense investment, given the anti-access challenges our military faces.
Of what was explicitly stated, I would only call the 'optionally-manned' criteria as 'gross stupidity' - and probably a product of an internal AF/DoD political schism . Being of a highly suspicious nature on this topic for some reason, we'll see what the emphasis on 'existing technology' means: could be 'good' but with this crowd one never knows.

The issue as to what kind of long range platform is needed and the open questions surrounding it were covered fairly well in a recent Air Force (Air Force Association) magazine
article. The same source has a pretty good backgounder on the status quo here.

I might comment on the remaining gems and turds in this punchbowl of an announcement elsewhere. Alas, there's a few of the former and piles of the latter.