Archive | March, 2013

Too Many Cooks Spoil The Fighter Jet: How Our Weapons Get Made

28 Mar

I’ve run across a lot of discussions lately about the problems plaguing some of our newest, and supposedly greatest weapons systems.  For those who have never served any great length of time in the military, or who have not worked for Uncle Sugar in the Department of Defense, it may seem baffling as to how you could fuck up something so simple as a plane, or a ship.  After all, we’ve had planes for over a hundred years, and ships for millenia, haven’t we?  Seems like it would be a relatively smooth curve to keep making better versions of them.   But it all depends on specialization – what you want to use them for

We have a lot of different type of planes in our military, all designed for specific missions.  We have F/A-18 Super Hornets for carrier-based fighter-bombers, F-15 Eagles for land-based air superiority fighters, AV-8B Harriers so our jarheads can launch them off of rough, short landing strips or helicopter carriers, and A-10 Thunderbolts, which are solely designed to carry 18 tons of bombs and cannon rounds for killing enemy tanks and troops in the open.  Needless to say, they are very specialized aircraft with mission specific designs.  An A-10 couldn’t be expected to intercept an enemy fighter, just like an F-15 couldn’t fly slow enough to provide Close Air Support, or soak up the damage from anti-aircraft fire that an A-10 can and continue to fly.

Until some fucking genius decided he was going to design a plane that would replace ALL those different aircraft.  With predictable results.

Meant to replace almost all of the military’s jet fighters at an initial cost of more than $400 billion, the F-35 has a clamshell-style windshield with a good view to the front and sides. But it’s got no line of sight to the rear, which is blocked by the pilot’s seat and the plane’s upper fuselage spine. Today’s A-10s, F-15s, F-16s, F/A-18s and F-22s, by contrast, have so-called “bubble canopies” with good all-round vision.

The limitations of the F-35′s canopy are “partially a result of designing a common pilot escape system [a.k.a. ejection seat] for all three variants to the requirements of the short-take-off and vertical landing environment.” In other words, the Joint Strike Fighter’s windshield is constrained by the need to fit a standard ejection seat and the downward-facing engine of the Marine Corps variant, which allows that model to take off and land vertically and is located directly behind the cockpit.

Did you get all that?  You can’t fucking see behind you.  Now, I’m no fighter pilot, but I have seen Top Gun and Iron Eagle 1 and 2*, and if there’s one thing I’ve learned, it’s that fighter pilots try to shoot other fighter planes down FROM BEHIND.  And the reason they can’t see to the rear, is that because in one particular variant of this plane, there’s supposed to be an engine right behind the pilot.  Not this plane.  But another type that uses the same fuselage.   

*don’t even talk to me about Iron Eagle 3 – that was just ridiculous.

So what we’ve got is one plane that’s supposed to handle ALL types of combat aircraft, but can’t do ANY of their missions particularly well.  How the fuck does this happen? 

The short answer is:  Les Aspin.  Les Aspin was BJ Clinton’s Secretary of Defense for one year.  ONE.  YEAR.  When you need to turn the mightiest engine of war the planet has ever seen into a shambling, broken, underfunded mess by gutting funding and and you only have one year to do it, you call fucking Les Aspin.  Some of his greatest hits include:

  • “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.”  That worked out great.  Thanks, Les. 
  •  When then-General Colin Powell requested tanks, armored personnel carriers and AC-130 Spectre gunships to support our troops in Somalia, Les Aspin said NO.  Just      a  couple of weeks later, we got 18 killed and 75 wounded in the Battle of Mogadishu.  Bang up job, Les.
  • Looking at the programs for the next generation of strike aircraft and fighter aircraft and deciding, “Just use the same plane – what’s the difference?”  Great call, Les.

But it’s not just his fault.  Twisting something so intuitive and simple into a shambolic pile of ratmeat is always a team effort.  And don’t forget the fact that lots of generals were seeing funding for their pet programs cut, so if they wanted to remain relevant in a military that was beginning the biggest drawdown since World War II, they were going to have to figure out some way to stick their dicks in the mashed potatoes, too.

One of my favorite movies of all time is The Pentagon Wars, which is about the early development and testing of the Bradley Fighting Vehicle – a beast that is near and dear to me, having spent six years driving one, serving as gunner on one, or jumping in and out of one as a crunchy.  The movie highlights everything I’ve been talking about with delightful absurdity.  I’m posting the relevant clip below – it’s about 10 minutes long, and it starts in 1968, as the first design for the Army’s newest Armored Personnel Carrier is presented.  Watch how they twist what was going to be a simple troop carrier into something… else.



It’s pretty funny how as the vehicle gets bigger and bigger, the poor Colonel in charge has less and less hair.


Now, I know what you’re thinking – “That’s fucking retarded!”  Yes.  Yes it is.  Large bureaucracies are jam-packed with selfish, short-sighted careerist assholes that are all too willing to sacrifice quality, safety or effectiveness to satisfy their immediate apple-polishing needs, while leaving the rest of us to live with the consequences of what they’ve set in montion twenty years down the road.  The only solace I can give you is that as stupid as our defense procurement and management is –

Everywhere else, it’s worse.



BONUS INCOMPETENCE:  That’s right.  I’m looking at you, Littoral Combat Ship.

These words have haunted the Navy ever since Gilmore’s office uttered them in December 2011: “LCS is not expected to be survivable in a hostile combat environment.” At a Navy expo in April 2012, Secretary Ray Mabus insisted that LCS is “a warship and it is fully capable of going into combat situations,” while heralding the LCS’ 2013 deployment to Singapore.

Gilmore’s new report stands by the 2011 assessment, though it sands down the rough edges. “LCS is not expected to be survivable,” it finds, “in that it is not expected to maintain mission capability after taking a significant hit in a hostile combat environment.” Additionally, Gilmore discloses that the Navy has “knowledge gaps related to the vulnerability of an aluminum ship structure to weapon-induced blast and fire damage,” but that it won’t conduct tests for those vulnerabilities until later this year or next year.


Google Glasses: Because The Douchebag Hipster Look Wasn’t Getting You Enough Asskickings

12 Mar

You may have heard the buzz surrounding the impending release of Google Glasses – an exciting new technology that promises “Augmented Reality” for wearers of its high-tech spectacles.  That’s sounds pretty great, right?  Unfortunately, the power to augment reality comes with a price…  

You hear that?  That's the sound of panties hitting the floor all up in this bitch, player.

You hear that? That’s the sound of panties hitting the floor all up in this bitch, player.

Now, if it was as simple as just looking like a complete attention-starved jackass, then I’ve got no problem with this product.  What bothers me is the breathless excitement and false claims of this being some type of game-changing technological breakthrough.  Augmented Reality?  This is what you’re led to believe:

"JARVIS, initialize Murder Suit and refuckulate power to the repulsors."

“JARVIS, initialize Murder Suit and refuckulate power to the repulsors.”

Here’s what you actually get:

"Not now, Glasses, I CAN'T SEEEeeeeeeee!"

“Not now, Glasses, I CAN’T SEEEeeeeeeee!”

It used to be you’d have to cover your eyes with your hand if you wanted to make yourself tumble down a flight of stairs and have the clothes on your freshly paralyzed sack of splintered bones rifled through by the hobos living in the abandoned subway station you just fell into.  But now, thanks to Google Glasses and its revolutionary hands-free technology, YOU DON’T HAVE TO

Actually, this picture is a little dated.  Apparently, after a couple of interns mysteriously disappeared into the bowels of New York City, it was decided that the display could be a little dangerous.  Here’s the latest look at what Google Glasses can do for you.

Did you see all that?!  It has a clock!  And a map!  And a video camera! 

I know what you’re thinking – “My cell phone already has all those things.” Well actually, your cell phone has more than those things.  Because one thing the Glasses can’t do is make phone calls.  So you’ll need a cell phone to make calls.  And to use as a tethered modem if you’re not near a publicly accessible Wi-Fi hotspot, which presumably will send your mobile data costs through the roof .  But if you’ll just think about it, I think you’ll agree, that being freed from the tyranny of having to reach into your pocket to check the weather or time is well worth the estimated price of LESS THAN $1,500, whatever the fuck that means.  Specs on battery life are not available, but if you’ll take a look at the size of the unit the asshole in the top picture is wearing, I would conservatively estimate it as “not very long.” It’s located on the right arm of the glasses, and sits snugly against your skull, so when that sumbitch starts heating up like all batteries do when in heavy use, you can look forward to a mild burning sensation on your scalp.  THE PROGRESS –  IT BUUURRNNNSSS!!!

Yes, they’re not very big for something that stores video, pictures and can help you instantly mispronounce Cantonese while attempting to buy half a pound of bok choy in Chinatown from a man who will frown and say, “I’m Korean, asshole.”  So how do they fit all that capability into such a small space?  Simple.  They don’t.  So where are all these videos, pictures and voice recordings going to be stored?  In The Cloud, baby!  Everything’s in The Cloud these days, right?

Let’s talk about what “The Cloud” is.  The Cloud is a term for “computer servers somewhere else that you connect to through the Internet.”  This is going to be a tethered device.  What it’s going to be tethered to – is Google’s servers.  What that means is that we are now going to have a bunch of assholes running around, making video recordings of public places, likely including you, and that information is going to be stored on Google’s servers.  I’m sure they won’t share that information with anyone, though.  That would Be Evil.  Is anyone else a little concerned or annoyed that Google needs to pry into every crevice and orifice on the surface of the planet?  Apparently, I’m not the only one.

A Seattle bar has pre-emptively banned Google Glass from its premises, generating mixed reactions online, but also raising questions about whether they will present a privacy concern when used in public spaces.
The 5 Point Café made its intentions clear with a post on its Facebook page last week: “For the record, The 5 Point is the first Seattle business to ban in advance Google Glasses. And ass kickings will be encouraged for violators,” it said alongside a graphic of an eye adorned with the glasses, and a red cross struck through.
Damn straight.  And I’ll tell you something else – this trend of employees Facebooking and Twittering all kinds of uncomplimentary and/or proprietary shit about their employers is about to look like crayon grafitti.  Wait until you start seeing embarrassing videos coming out of the workplace.  That’s one way to create job openings, I guess.  And ladies, look forward to seeing more upskirt and/or cleavage shots of yourself hitting an Internet near you.  THE FUTURE IS NOW, FAKE INTERNET FRIENDS!
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