Category Archive 'Weapons Systems'
25 Feb 2009

Raptor on the Chopping Block

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F-22 Raptors

One might think that if one believed it appropriate to spend federal money just to create jobs that jobs for Lockheed Martin workers would be at least as worthy of creation as jobs for community organizers and social workers. It could be argued as well that investing in long-term American Air Supremacy is far more likely to contribute to the welfare of the nation than funding uneconomic energy projects or pouring more dollars into Amtrak. Of course, as decisions on spending priorities are made, it isn’t very likely that Barack Obama is going to look at it that way.

In the Atlantic, Mark Bowden discusses the meaning and consequences of the probable termination of F-22 purchases.

[US] complete dominance is eroding. Some foreign-built fighters can now match or best the F‑15 in aerial combat, and given the changing nature of the threats our country is facing and the dizzying costs of maintaining our advantage, America is choosing to give up some of the edge we’ve long enjoyed, rather than pay the price to preserve it. The next great fighter, the F‑22 Raptor, is every bit as much a marvel today as the F‑15 was 25 years ago, and if we produced the F-22 in sufficient numbers we could move the goalposts out of reach again. But we are building fewer than a third of the number needed to replace the older fighters in service. After losing hope of upgrading the whole F‑15 fleet, the Air Force requested 381 F‑22s, the minimum number that independent analysts said it needs to retain its current edge. Congress is buying 183, and has authorized the manufacture of parts for 20 more at the front end of the production line, enough to at least keep it working until President Obama decides whether or not to continue building F-22s. Like so many presidential dilemmas, it’s a Scylla-and-Charybdis choice: a decision to save money and not build more would deliver a severe blow to a sprawling and vital U.S. industry at a time when the nation is mired in recession. And once the production line for the F-22 begins to shut down, restarting it will not be easy or cheap, even in reaction to a new threat. Each plane consists of about 1,000 parts, manufactured in 44 states, and because of the elaborate network of highly specialized subcontractors needed to fashion its unique airframe and avionics, assembling one F-22 can take as long as three years. Modern aerial wars are usually over in days, if not hours. Once those 183 to 203 new Raptors are built, they will have to do. Our end of the fight will still be borne primarily by the current fleet of aged F‑15s.

When Obama unveiled his national-security team in December, he remarked that he intended “to maintain the strongest military on the planet.” That goal will continue to require the biggest bill in the world, but the portion that bought aerial dominance for so long may have become too dear. …

The Air Force fears that the dominance of U.S. airpower has been so complete for so long that it is taken for granted. The ability of the United States to own the skies over any battlefield has transformed the way we fight. The last American soldier killed on the ground by an enemy air attack died in Korea, on April 15, 1953.

Russia, China, Iran, India, North Korea, Pakistan, and others are now flying fourth-generation fighters with avionics that match or exceed the F‑15’s. Ideally, from the standpoint of the U.S. Air Force, the F‑22 would gradually replace most of the F‑15s in the U.S. fleet over the next 15 years, and two or three more generations of American pilots, soldiers, and marines would fight without worrying about attacks from the sky. But that isn’t going to happen.

“It means a step down from air dominance,” Richard Aboulafia, an air-warfare analyst for the Teal Group, which conducts assessments for the defense industry, told me. “The decision not to replace the F‑15 fleet with the F‑22 ultimately means that we will accept air casualties. We will lose more pilots. We will still achieve air superiority, but we will get hurt achieving it.”

23 Dec 2008

Russian Sea-Based Missile Fails Fifth Test

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The current Russian government, emboldened by a tremendous windfall of revenue from recently surging petroleum and other commodity prices, has been flexing its muscles and promising to update Russia’s strategic weapons arsenal. After all there’s nothing like pointing a missile loaded with multiple thermonuclear warheads at the rest of the world’s civilian population centers to give a backward country with a dismal record of self government a major voice in world affairs.

Now with the world economy contracting, production, demand, and commodity prices falling, Russia is going to be experiencing a shortage of cash, so competing with the US on a strategic triad (land, air, and sea-based strategic weapons) is going to be much more difficult. And things haven’t been going all that satisfactorily right now.

SF Chronicle:

Russia’s new sea-based ballistic missile has failed in a test launch for the fifth time, signaling serious trouble with the highly advertised key future component of the nation’s nuclear forces.

The Bulava “self-destructed and exploded in the air” after a launch from the Dmitry Donskoy nuclear submarine beneath surface of the White Sea, said Navy spokesman Capt. Igor Dygalo.

Russia has been making an aggressive effort in recent years to upgrade its missile forces after years of post-Soviet underfunding and a lack of testing.

The Kremlin has hailed the missile as capable of penetrating any prospective missile defenses. …

The Bulava is reportedly designed to have a maximum range of about 6,200 miles (10,000 kilometers) and carry six individually targeted nuclear warheads. It is expected to equip three new Borei-class nuclear submarines that are under construction.

“This is a serious blow to Russia’s military plans to deploy the Borei submarines,” said independent military analyst Pavel Felgenhauer. “The failure delays (Bulava’s) production and deployment indefinitely.”

Russian news agencies said that Tuesday’s test was the fifth failure out of 10 launches since 2004.

23 Nov 2008

US Nuclear Weapons Program Currently Moribund

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General Kevin Chilton, in the Wall Street Journal, has alarming news about the state of America’s nuclear arsenal. Two American presidential administrations have responded to the end of the Cold War by completely abandoning the modernization and replenishment of the US stockpile of nuclear weapons.

Since the end of the Cold War, the U.S. nuclear weapons program has suffered from neglect. Warheads are old. There’s been no new warhead design since the 1980s, and the last time one was tested was 1992, when the U.S. unilaterally stopped testing. Gen. Chilton, who heads U.S. Strategic Command, has been sounding the alarm, as has Defense Secretary Robert Gates. So far few seem to be listening.

The U.S. is alone among the five declared nuclear nations in not modernizing its arsenal. The U.K. and France are both doing so. Ditto China and Russia. “We’re the only ones who aren’t,” Gen. Chilton says. Congress has refused to fund the Department of Energy’s Reliable Replacement Warhead program beyond the concept stage and this year it cut funding even for that. …

“We’ve done a pretty good job of maintaining our delivery platforms,” the general says, by which he means submarines, intercontinental ballistic missiles and intercontinental bombers. But nuclear warheads are a different story. They are Cold War legacies, he says, “designed for about a 15- to 20-year life.” That worked fine back when “we had a very robust infrastructure . . . that replenished those families of weapons at regular intervals.” Now, however, “they’re all older than 20 years . . . . The analogy would be trying to extend the life of your ’57 Chevrolet into the 21st century.”

Gen. Chilton pulls out a prop to illustrate his point: a glass bulb about two inches high. “This is a component of a V-61” nuclear warhead, he says. It was in “one of our gravity weapons” — a weapon from the 1950s and ’60s that is still in the U.S. arsenal. He pauses to look around the Journal’s conference table. “I remember what these things were for. I bet you don’t. It’s a vacuum tube. My father used to take these out of the television set in the 1950s and ’60s down to the local supermarket to test them and replace them.”

And here comes the punch line: “This is the technology that we have . . . today.” …

The general stresses the need to “revitalize” the infrastructure for producing nuclear weapons. The U.S. hasn’t built a nuclear weapon in more than two decades and the manufacturing infrastructure has disappeared. The U.S. today “has no nuclear weapon production capacity,” he says flatly. “We can produce a handful of weapons in a laboratory but we’ve taken down the manufacturing capability.” At the height of the Cold War, the U.S. produced 3,000 weapons a year. …

these already-old weapons aren’t going to last forever, and part of the general’s job is to prepare for their refurbishing or replacement. “Think about what it’s going to take to recapitalize or replace those 2,000 weapons over a period of time. . . . If you could do 10 a year, it takes you 200 years. If you build an infrastructure that would allow you to do 100 a year, then you could envision recapitalizing that over a 20-year-period.”

There’s also the issue of human capital, which is graying. It’s “every bit as important as the aging of the weapon systems,” the general says. “The last individual to have worked on an actual nuclear test in this country, the last scientist or engineer, will have retired or passed on in the next five years.” The younger generation has no practical experience with designing or building nuclear warheads.

Read the whole thing.

09 Jul 2008

Grow Up Already

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The London Times cannot resist the temptation of using the scary headline: Russia threatens military response to US missile defence deal.

And Matt Drudge links their story and adds an alarming photo of a missile launch.

(Oh no, Russia is already sending nukes our way!)

Was Russia really threatening to launch ballistic missiles or order some of its Combined-Arms Armies westward in the direction of the Fulda Gap?

No. Not really.

What the actual story said was:

Moscow argues that the missile shield would severely undermine the balance of European security and regards the proposed missile shield based in two former Communist countries as a hostile move.

“We will be forced to react not with diplomatic, but with military-technical methods,” the Russian Foreign Ministry said in a statement.

Obviously, Russia was merely alluding darkly to its own capabilities of using technical methods to gain an ability to defeat defensive missiles. Russia is threatening a particular kind of arms race not a nuclear first strike or an invasion of Western Europe.

National Enquirer-style misleading headlines may win Drudge and the London Times a few more readers today, but they certainly do not increase readers’ respect for those particular sources. I’d say that they are only trading future readers for some extra ones today.

21 Feb 2008

Navy Missile Hits Falling Satellite

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AP:

A missile launched from a Navy ship successfully struck a dying U.S. spy satellite passing 130 miles over the Pacific on Wednesday, a defense official said. Full details were not immediately available.

It happened just after 10:30 p.m. EST.

Two officials said the missile was launched successfully. One official, who is close to the process, said it hit the target. He said details on the results were not immediately known.

The goal in this first-of-its-kind mission for the Navy was not just to hit the satellite but to obliterate a tank aboard the spacecraft carrying 1,000 pounds of a toxic fuel called hydrazine. …

Officials said it might take a day or longer to know for sure if the toxic fuel was blown up.

If Navy missiles can hit falling satellites, they can probably also hit descending ICBMs. Anybody else remember all the derisive hoots from the liberals about the absolute impossibility of developing a missile defense system? “Star Wars,” the establishment media labeled Ronald Reagan’s proposal derisively.

Well, today, it’s here, and it clearly works. So much for the wisdom of the liberals.

10 Feb 2008

Vladimir Putin Declares New Arms Race Underway

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According to Russian President Putin, the installation of defensive missiles in Europe is an aggressive measure somehow threatening Russia’s natural resources.

Russian diplomacy and her relations with neighboring states evidently naturally exist in a state of affairs in which Russia has the strategic arms equivalent of a loaded gun, cocked, and aimed at those neighboring states’ cities and civilian populations. Russia possesses a natural right in her relations with other states to all the advantages possessed by the armed mugger pointing a pistol at his unarmed interlocutor’s head.

If the United States was proposing to install a new system of offensive weapons in Poland, whose location could facilitate a rationally imaginable new Western invasion of the Russian motherland, clearly he would have cause to protest and declare a new arms race underway, but these violent protestations about defensive missiles, missiles clearly specifically intended as a defense against impending Middle Eastern threats resemble nothing so much as the burglar complaining bitterly about the householder buying a gun.

President Vladimir Putin declared the onset of a “new arms race” yesterday and vowed to expand Russia’s military strength to ward off predatory foreign powers.

In a televised address to the State Council in Moscow, Mr Putin delivered the belligerent rhetoric which has become his hallmark.

Appraising global events, the president said: “It is already clear that a new phase in the arms race is unfolding in the world.”

He added that “no steps towards compromise” had yet been made on America’s plan to station a missile defence shield in Europe.

“There has been no constructive response to our well-founded concerns,” said Mr Putin. Consequently, he has vowed to modernise Russia’s armed forces.

“We are being forced to take retaliatory steps. Russia has and always will have a response to these new challenges. In the near future, Russia will start production of new weapons systems that will not be inferior and in some cases excel those held by other countries.”

This was necessary to defend Russia from unnamed foreign powers who, he claimed, were bent on controlling the world’s natural resources.

“Foreign policy actions and diplomatic moves smell of oil and gas,” said Mr Putin.

10 Jun 2007

Air Force Once Considered Developing “Gay Bomb”

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The Sunshine Project, another commie nuisance organization devoted to attacking biological weapons research by non-terrorist, non-totalitarian countries, made the headlines again by releasing the text of a rather old,and distinctly fanciful, Air Force non-lethal weapn development proposal, containing one odd hey!-what-if-we-could-make-something-like-this idea.

CBS 5 is shocked.

Edward Hammond, of Berkeley’s Sunshine Project, had used the Freedom of Information Act to obtain a copy of the proposal from the Air Force’s Wright Laboratory in Dayton, Ohio.

As part of a military effort to develop non-lethal weapons, the proposal suggested, “One distasteful but completely non-lethal example would be strong aphrodisiacs, especially if the chemical also caused homosexual behavior.”

The documents show the Air Force lab asked for $7.5 million to develop such a chemical weapon.

“The Ohio Air Force lab proposed that a bomb be developed that contained a chemical that would cause enemy soliders to become gay, and to have their units break down because all their soldiers became irresistably attractive to one another,” Hammond said after reviewing the documents.

The Edge has a more complete article, noting that the story is old, going back to 2005, but was resurrected by Huffington Post blogger Larry Arnstein.

Air Force Report

The joke’s on them. They already developed it, and tested it on the San Francisco Bay area.

10 May 2007

Iranian Weapons in Iraq

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Richard Miniter and a US Army explosives expert discuss weapons of Iranian origin captured in Iraq on a PJM-exclusive 12:15 video.

26 Feb 2007

M16 Still Jamming After All These Years

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An Army Times article by Mathew Cox describes the problems still afflicting the US military’s primary long arm, and identifies Heckler & Koch’s 416 as the generally desired, but unavailable, alternative.

Ever since the Army’s adoption of the M16 in the mid-1960s, a love-hate relationship has existed between combat troops and the weapon known as the “black rifle.”

It’s accurate and easy to shoot. Plus, the M16’s light weight and small caliber helped soldiers carry more ammunition than ever before into battle.

The M16, however, has always required constant cleaning to prevent it from jamming. The gas system, while simple in design, blows carbon into the receiver, which can lead to fouling.

The Army has decided to replace most of its M16s with the newer M4 carbine. The Army started buying M4s in the mid-1990s but mainly reserved them for rapid-deployment combat units. Its collapsible stock and shortened barrel make it ideal for soldiers operating in vehicles and tight quarters associated with urban combat.

Experts, however, contend that the M4 in many ways is even less reliable than the M16.

Special Operations Command documented these problems in a 2001 report, “M4A1 5.56mm Carbine and Related Systems Deficiencies and Solutions: Operational and Technical Study with Analysis of Alternatives.”

The M4 suffers from an “obsolete operating system,” according to the report, which recommended “redesign/replacement of current gas system.” It describes the weapon’s shortened barrel and gas tube as a “fundamentally flawed” design and blames it for problems such as “failure to extract” and “failure to eject” during firing. “The current system was never designed for the rigors of SOF use and training regimens — the M4 Carbine is not the gun for all seasons,” the report concluded.

Read the whole thing.

HK 416 Wikipedia article

10 Dec 2006

The Ultimate Artillery Piece

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Nazi Germany’s DORA Gun

Built to destroy the French Maginot Line fortifications, this monstrous 800 mm railroad gun was completed too late to be used in the campaign against France (in which the Maginot Line was bypassed anyway). It was finally used at Sebastopol where it fired 48 7-ton shells over 13 days, demolishing Soviet forts with great thoroughness.

80cm ‘Gustav’ in Action

Wikipedia

Hat tip to Ellie.

12 Oct 2006

Defector Says North Korea Has Nuclear Weapons Ready To Use

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Yonhap News reports:

North Korea has already manufactured several nuclear weapons and is ready to deploy these in the event of a war, a high-ranking North Korean defector claimed on Thursday.

Hwang Jang-yop, a former secretary of the Workers Party of Korea and one of the North’s top theorists, said the reclusive nation signed a pact with Pakistan in 1996 on the transfer of uranium-based nuclear technology.

09 Oct 2006

Second North Korean Explosion Detected

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The Australian reports:

US intelligence has detected an explosion of less than one kilotonne in magnitude in North Korea but has not been able to determine whether it was nuclear or not, a senior intelligence official said.

The official, who asked not to be identified, said that first-time nuclear tests historically have been in the several kilotonne range.

“We are aware that there was a sub-kilotonne explosion in North Korea,” said the official. “We have not been able to determine at this point whether it was in fact nuclear.”

Hat tip to Richard Fernandez, who wonders:

Could this one have been a suitcase bomb?

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