Thursday, July 31, 2008
Wednesday, July 30, 2008
Monday, July 28, 2008
So another low is reached, last week it was reported Zimbabwe couldn't even print any more of it's largely worthless currency as it had run out of the paper (and probably ran out of space for the zeroes). But when you think that poor country has reached the lowest point and can't get any worse unfortunately it seems to do just that.
Sunday, July 27, 2008
Friday, July 25, 2008
Thursday, July 24, 2008
I suspect the cuts won't mean a return to these days
The defence changes are part of an effort to restructure the French forces away from a conscript to a career mentality and to improve the effectiveness of the armed forces to match the current strategic need. The French defence minister Herve Morin has already noted that only 40% of French military personnel are in operational roles the opposite of the ratio here in the UK but God help the French armed forces if they are going to use us as a template for their restructure.
Increasing amounts of airspace require aircraft to carry transponders with identification friend or foe Mode S (mode select) transponders that allow an airframe to be interrogated automatically (reporting back identity, intent, capability location and altitude) using an unique address. Without this equipment the BBMF aircraft would be restricted as to where they could fly.
Luckily fitting the equipment to the old aircraft wasn't too difficult, the fittings for the old IFF system were able to be reused so no changes were required to the aircraft's structures.
Republished from my general tech blog
The US Navy have used blimps and airships before of course in the past, not always with the best of results.
Payload (caution acronym overload!)
For it's ISTAR (Intelligence, Surveillance, Target Acquisition and Reconnaissance) role WK450 will be fitted with a Thales I-Master SAR (synthetic aperture radar) / GMTI (ground moving target indication) sensor and a Elop Compass IV EO (electro-optical) / IR (infrared sensor) with laser target designator. I-Master is said to already give very good resolution with the SAR said to be world-leading but there is still some fine tuning that can be done. Development is being carried out by these systems on other manned and unmanned test aircraft.
Thales are looking into providing WK450 with the ability to process imagary and only sending back revelent imagery via the datalink to reduce the work load on ground controller and image analysts. There are also attempts to fuse the SAR/GMTI and EO/IR data.
Production WK450 airframes will be built in the UK by Lola with production expected to begin in 2009. Elbit will produce their own version called the Hermes 450B. Future growth could see a twin-engined version in the future.
Republished from my UAV blog
Osprey produce many interesting books on less obvious subjects at a handy price and this book is one of their New Vanguard series which focuses on weapons of war, and in this case Japanese tanks of World War 2, an aspect of the war much less covered than tank warfare in the west. Though the book is a bit misnamed, as the period covered stretches from early Japanese tank developments just after the First World War onwards.
The Japanese were the largest manufacturer of tanks in the 1930s outside of Europe, their early designs based on imported British and French tanks and steadily developed thanks in some part to combat experience in the 1930s in China. At the start of WW2 they were pretty much on a par with European and American designs and led the way in the incredible Japanese advance across the Pacific proving that tanks could be used through jungle terrain and played a full role in actions such as the capture of Singapore.
However their development and production stagnated as the Japanese navy and airforce took the priority so when the Allied fightback against the Japanese later in the war began the Japanese tanks were outclassed and had been left behind by armour and weapon advances and suffered accordingly.
This is an interesting read on the less well known aspect of tank warfare in WW2, gorgeously illustrated as with all Osprey books with some fine colour artwork. The writing by Stephen Zaloga is up to his usual high standard and covers the history of development and combat experience. My only real criticism is the book is a bit short but that is the case with all of the New Vanguard series which could be better served with a few more pages.
Republished from my tech blog
As the Soviets were developing their Soyuz space capsule in the early 1960s (which is easily the most successful space ship to date considering it is still in use) one of the planned variants was the Soyuz P (Perekhvatchik or Interceptor).
Modern day Soyuz spacecraft - NASA photograph
This military subtype was intended to allow manned inspection and destruction of enemy satellites. Once the Soyuz has got up to the enemy satellite's orbit the cosmonaut was then intended to leave the Soyuz and then either destroy (either totally or just put out of action) or capture the satellite. In the end the idea of a "space interceptor" like this was abandoned because of the technical challenges and also the danger to the cosmonauts. The Soviets had started to booby trap their satellites to destroy them if the ground base lost contact and the Soviets expected the U.S. had done the same.
A later manned system was experimented with the Almaz manned spy satellites (which are probably better known as Salyut). Salyut 3 was fitted with an aircraft cannon which was test fired at a target satellite while the station was unmanned. The cannon was also intended as a self-defence measure. A later Salyut was to have tested rocket armament but was never launched. One problem with firing the cannon of course was the recoil effect could modify the Salyut's orbit. Considerable shaking of the space station was also caused.
Anti-satellite missiles & unmanned "satellite killers"
The way forward was in unmanned anti-satellite weapons and both superpowers began to develop missile based systems. The problem with this of course is that hitting a small object in orbit is not easy. An early U.S. missile that was tested was based on the Martin Bold Orion air-launched ballistic missile. In a test it passed within 4 miles of the target satellite. To kill the satellite a nuclear warhead would be needed for that range but of course detonating a nuclear warhead in orbit would also wipe out many other satellites nearby, including your own! Indeed high atmospheric nuclear weapon tests knocked out satellites over the Pacific with their EMP (Electromagnetic Pulse).
However nuclear warhead based ASAT systems are not really an option for the superpowers because increasingly their infrastructure and that of their allies is dependent on satellites for communication, imagery et cetera and their militaries also rely on satellites for targeting and weapon guidance (such as GPS guided bombs). A nation like North Korea who arn't so dependent on satellites, however, could strike quite a blow in a wartime situation by detonating a nuclear weapon in low Earth Orbit (LEO).
Moving forward to the 1980s the U.S. tried out the Vought ASM-135 ASAT which could be launched by fighters like the F-15. Although in tests the system was said to be successful the project was canceled at the end of the 1980s. The Vought ASAT employed a kinetic warhead guided to collide with the target using a sophisticated interceptor vehicle which had a ring of 56 motors to enable exact control.
Vought ASAT test launch - Public domain image
The Soviet Union worked on a number of satellite interceptors or Istrebitel Sputnikovs (IS), as well as the Soyuz-P. The IS system was intended to enter an orbit very close to the target satellite and when it got within range the warhead of the IS would explode in the same manner as a shaped charge mine and destroy the target satellite with directed shrapnel. In tests in the late 1960s some shrapnel hits were recorded on a special target satellite. The IS system was considered operational but was not used and was finally canceled in the early 1980s.
Laser based weapons
As well as missiles both superpowers developed ground based lasers (also known as Directed Energy Weapons or DEWs) to attack enemy satellites. The Soviet Union launched a series of "attacks" on U.S. satellites from the late 1970s intended to "blind" the satellites or cause system malfunctions. Things came to a head in the early 1980s when the Space Shuttle mission STS-41-G was affected by a Soviet laser strike. On 10th October 1984 the Shuttle Challenger was hit by an ion laser (Terra-3) as part of a protest by the Soviet Union at the U.S. plans for space-based ballistic missile defence and because of fears by some in the Soviet government that the Shuttle was being used for spying. The laser caused some system malfunctions and temporary blindness of the crew. The U.S. also worked on ground based laser weapons, in one test a laser managed to destroy a missile fuselage being held in a stressed condition on a ground test rig.
Current developments : FY-1C and USA 193
Anti-satellite weapons, and related technologies, were of course part of the "Star Wars" ballistic missile defence systems that generated many column inches (and cost a lot of money) on both sides in the last decade of the Cold War but after the end of the Cold War most projects were either canceled or cut back to a lower level. Anti-satellite warfare remained very much a thing of history books until January 2007 when the Chinese announced they had joined the ASAT club. A ballistic missile (a DF-21) launched from Xichang fitted with a kinetic warhead was able to successfully hit a weather satellite (FY-1C) and spread debris across space. NASA said that 35,000 pieces of debris over 1cm2 had been spread and 2,317 pieces were big enough to track. China are also said to be working on laser weapons and may have "blinded" some U.S. satellites.
Debris field from Chinese ASAT test
STK-generated image courtesy of CSSI (www.centerforspace.com).
But then it was the U.S.' turn to try and shoot down a satellite. A U.S. satellite, USA-193, was coming down out of control and the problem was no one is quite sure where the 2 and a quarter ton satellite would land. The US Navy managed to shoot down the satellite using Aegis guided missile destroyers that had already been modified for ballistic missile defence so the satellite could be directed to land safely in water. The attempt took place earlier in the year and was successful and used a modified RIM-161 Standard Missile 3.
"Defending Space : US Anti-Satellite Warfare & Space Weaponry" by Clayton K S Chun (Osprey 2006)
"Modern Airborne Missiles" by Bill Gunston (Salamander 1983)
"Soyuz P" - Encylopedia Astronautica website
"OPS-2 (Salyut-3)" - Russian Space Web
"The F-15 ASAT story" - Space History Notes website
"STS-41-G" - Encylopedia Astronautica website
"Red Star Wars" by Steven J Zaloga (Jane's Intelligence Review May 1997)
"Blunt arrows: the limited utility of ASATs" - The Space Review June 2005
"Chinese ASAT Test" - Centre for Space Standards & Innovation
"Navy tasked with destroying satellite" - Navy Times website
Republished from my general tech site
Tanks like the Challenger 2 were designed for World War 3 and tank battles against the Soviet Union. The need to kill Soviet tanks is what drove development of the tank. However since the end of the Cold War the prospect of epic tank battles across Central Germany has pretty much disappeared. In the 2 wars against Iraq the Challenger 2 mostly faced much older Soviet-era tanks like the T-55.
Since the fall of Saddam Hussein however tanks have been used to support ground forces fighting the insurgency and this seems to be driving MBT development now. The Challenger 2 has had armour upgrades especially at the front to improve protection against IEDs (Improvised Explosive Devices) e.g. road side bombs. The tank has also had an extra machine gun fitted atop the turret that can be fired remotely from within the protection of the tank (though just for development at the moment). Such an extra gun is not really aimed at fighting other tanks but another anti-insurgent measure. Other armour upgrades have sought to improve protection against rocket propelled grenades. The tank has had to develop to combat not the latest cutting edge Soviet design but pretty low-tech but insurgents with no lack of courage or ingenuity.
Images from MOD Image Database
Republished from my general tech blog
All in a system that only weighs 100KG though of course with fuel prices as they are the airlines probably consider that a lot and thus its expensive... though a lot cheaper than replacing an airliner shot down by an idiot with a MANPAD of course.
The tests however will not be involving any live firing of missiles but will check the maintainability and reliability of the system.
The Banshee, built by Meggitt Defense Systems, is a piston-engine powered delta winged target that has been in UK service for 20 years and is used by over 40 other countries. The catapult launched Banshee can be remote-controlled in visual range or beyond that by using it's own autopilot with GPS tracking. When they are set to fly autonomously one ground station can operate up to 4 Banshees.
The Banshee can be quickly modified to suit the mission using a variety of plug-in modules including flares, IR sources and a radar altimeter for low-level flight down to as low as 5m.
Falconet, by Flight Refuelling Ltd., and is a fast jet powered target used as the primary trainer for the British Army's Rapier SAMs. The Falconet can be programmed for a variety of attack profiles including low-level and sea-skimming.
Falconet can take off with JATO assistance or more economically from a circular runway. It can carry it's own towed target. It can also be fitted with a variety of equipment including signature enhancers and miss distance indicators.
The Mirach, made by Italian company Finmeccania, is a jet powered subsonic aerial target used by the Royal Navy. It has replaced the Chukar II. The Mirach can be controlled using remote control or fly a pre-programmed flight guided by it's Global Positioning System/Inertial navigation system.
Mirach can be fitted with a variety of equipment including distance indicators, flares and chaff, other smaller drones and interestingly a rearward facing video camera which must have provided a few interesting views of incoming missiles which has included exercises with RN Sea Dart and RAF Sidewinder missiles.
(Note : this article previously appeared in my now defunct UAV blog)