Tag Archives: aviation

Short range laser takes out missile in midflight – just ’cause it’s cool

Lockheed Martin recently demonstrated the destructive capabilities of its ADAM laser system by using it to target and destroy a total of eight missiles in midflight.

ADAM is a big, square boy, who fits neatly on a truck wagon, meaning you can take him for a spin around the countryside. And this is a very good thing, because ADAM is a bit short-sighted.

He’s basically a 10-kilowatt laser system that can target and disable a moving target up to two kilometres away. This might sound very well and dandy, like the US is close to creating a missile shield akin to the pipe dreams of former president Ronald Reagan, but personally I’m not convinced.

The system has shown that it can track and disarm one sort of missile, one at a time, and at an unknown cost. Then there’s the range. I you have a particularly gargantuan map of the US, you can try drawing a circle with a two kilometre radius on it. That should give you an idea of how many systems you’d need to make an ADAM missilie defence system able of pretecting the US.

On the other hand, lasers are cool. And can be developed to become even cooler. For now, here’s a video of a cool laser shooting down missiles in midflight. Just ’cause, alright?

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F-16 chases missile that hits ship

Photo by: Nevada Tumbleweed (Mark Holloway)

So here’s a little bit of crash, kapow and bang to enjoy in the nerdery (yes, it’s a word), compliments of the Norwegian arms manufacturer Kongsberg.

It’s basically their new 400 kg Naval Strike Missile (NSM) flying towards its target – a bunch of containers aboard an anchored ship. An F-16 aircraft followed and recorded the missile’s final approach. And you can see it here:

Boeing drone goes green

Boeing seem to be working on a new, environmentally friendly way to carry out espionage and potentially even assasinations of terrorists and the like.

The company’s Phantom Eye unmanned aircraft recently completed its first test flight using liquid hydrogen for fuel. The only biproduct of its engines was liquid water.

Phantom Eye climbed to an altitude of 4,080 feet and reached a cruising speed of 62 knots.

Where did Amelia Erhart die?

About 75 years after her death, a new study is aiming to pinpoint where the first woman to fly all the way around the world ended her days.

For years and years the accepted truth was that she had crashed on July 2, 1937, as she searched for Howland Island in the Pacific.

But that might not be what happened. A new expedition is setting out from Hawaii to look for her Lockheed Model 10E “Electra” .

President Obama’s drone ‘baseball card kill-list’ revealed

In a startling piece in the New York Times, journalists Jo Becker and Scott Shane have gained an insight into how the top brass at the White House pick out which suspected terrorists it will target for assassination using unmanned aircraft, also commonly referred to as drones.

The article describes how President Obama personally reads through the potential targets’ biographies before signing off on the orders. One official describes the bios as ‘the macabre “baseball cards” of an unconventional war’.

The article is a stark reminder of the fact that Obama has signed off on more than three times as many drone assassinations during his first term as president than George Bush Jr. got around to in his entire two-term presidency.

Some critics of the new strategy describes it as a “Whac-A-Mole” approach to counter terrorism, where you are hitting the insurgents and terrorists every time you find out where they are instead of working out how to prevent them becoming terrorists in the first place.

Iran builds reverse ancient American chopper

Iran seems to have a thing about reverse engineering. Previously, the country said it was in the process of reverse engineering an American drone and now it turns out that they are ready to launch another feat of reverse engineering. This feat has, however, been some time in the coming.

The reversed object in questions is the American Bell AH-1 Cobra helicopter.

Most of us have probably seen the Cobra before. It was one of the helicopters used by US forces in the Vietnam War. Yep, it’s that old.

The homegrown Cobras will be armed with “different types of home-made caliber guns, rockets and missiles,” according to the Fars news agency

Here’s betting one of them will be a Tommy Gun….

Drone helps out in Alaska

Un-manned aircraft are being used to a myriad of different things these days, but few of them could be described as pr winners. Wether they’re engaged in looking for illegal immigrants or missile runs on suspected terrorists, the drones are engaged in something that makes them seem ever more impersonal.

So it was interesting to see a drone in the news this week for something different when one of the unmanned planes was used to guide a fuel tanker through the frozen Bering Sea on its way to the city Nome in Alaska.

The camera-equipped drone was described as looking like a smoke detector with wings and legs. It wass sent out from the beach at Nome and flew over the treacherous ice and its images were beamed back to a tablet-type computer screen on shore.

By looking through the images, researchers on shore were able to get a large picture of the ice in and around Nome harbor in hopes of getting the tanker as close to shore as possible.

Cracks in the wings? Keep the plane flying, manufacturer says

The world’s largest passenger plane, the Airbus A380 airplane, is causing some Australian engineers a few sleepless nights at the moment.

The engineers in question have reported that they had found small cracks in the wing ribs of A380s operated by Singapore Airlines and Qantas Airways. According to the BBC, Singapore Airlines have said it has repaired the wings of two of its A380s.

Manufacturer Airbus recommends that airlines check for cracks, but at the same time say they don’t present a real danger.

“We confirm that minor cracks were found on some noncritical wing rib-skin attachments on a limited number of A380 aircraft. We have traced the origin. Airbus has developed an inspection and repair procedure, which will be done during regular, routine scheduled four-year maintenance checks. In the meantime, Airbus emphasizes that the safe operation of the A380 fleet is not affected.”

So, no problem, right?

Not quite, if you ask the Australians.

Steve Purvinas, secretary of the Australian Licensed Aircraft Engineers Association, told the BBC that:

“We can’t continue to gamble with people’s lives and allow those aircraft to fly around and hope that they make it until their four-yearly inspection.”

So, are we dealing with a simple little hiccup that doesn’t really mean anything, or is it time to don the hard hats and get ready for hundred ton planes dropping out of the sky?

The US using more and more drones – at home – now with maths

In a recent article in the Washington Post, journalist William Booth takes a closer look at how the US is using unmanned drone aircraft within its own borders. A lot of the usage actually happens just around the border. The Mexican border, to be specific.

The Predator drones used for most of these operations are mostly looking for illegal immigrants and drug runners. According to the article, the drones helped catch a total of 4,865 undocumented immigrants and 238 drug smugglers in the first 10,000 flying hours.

A little bit of math shows that that equals just under half an undocumented immigrant and a fiftieth of a drug smuggler per flying hour.

If you take a look at the number of illegal (ie. undocumented) immigrats the US catches at its border with Mexico, the math shows us a couple of things.

In 2011, 327,577 illegal immigrants were caught at the border in question. Compare that with the number caught with the help of the drones and you see that it’s a measly 1,5 per cent.

Now the drones in question are $20 million a pop, and the US Government has spent $240 million on drones for border patrols. That figure does not include the cost of actually running them in what is often a desert environment, one never know as the friendliest of places for mechanical or electronic equipment.

Now it’s very possible that the US Government has more drones than the one’s it has purchased for $240 million. But let’s for argument’s sake say that they’ve bought 240 / 20 = 12 Predator drones. If we spread them out across the US-Mexican border, they would each have to cover about 3169 / 12 = 264 kilometres of border each. For people in the UK (well, for everybody else as well) that equals about 2,75 times the entire border between Scotland and England.

Of course, the drones haven’t been bought to simply patrol a stretch of border, but perhaps the numbers can give some sort of idea that the 12 drones are either a sign of the future, with plenty more drones on the way, or just a big waste of money.

Here’s something Chinese you CAN see from space: an aircraft carrier

Can you see the Great Wall of China with the naked eye, if you’re looking at it from space? Maybe not, but you would be able to if you were using a satellite. Now a Denver satellite company have spotted something Chinese from space. The object is one of the country’s ‘experimental’ and ‘research oriented’ aircraft carriers.

According to China Daily, the vessel in question was performing a series of tests that included the first take offs and landings by aircraft at sea.

According to the newspaper there vessel is:

“[…] an Admiral Kuznetsov class aircraft carrier measuring 304.5 meters long, and having a displacement of 58,500 tons, has been refitted for research and training in China.”

It is, however, unclear what sort of research needs an aircraft carrier capable of carrying 33 fixed-wing aircraft and 12 helicopters. Anyone want to as Taiwan if they have an idea what it might be used for?