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April 15, 2005

DefenseTech Round-Up

As always, DefenseTech is interesting and informative.

Hmmmm... Interesting... and informative. I should try something like that here.

Nah. Seems like work. I'll just link DefenseTech.

BLIMPS FOR MARINES IN IRAQ. "The blimps, called the Marine Airborne Re-Transmission Systems (MARTS), will receive signals through a fiber-optic tether. Then, the airships will transmit messages up to 100 miles away, via UHF and VHF frequencies. Troops on the ground, as well as pilots in the air, will be able to communicate through the blimps. "

Uhhhmm... kinda cool, I guess. But can't you put guns and missiles on them, too?


I think that pic's from The Empire Strikes Back, but, you know, it's there for illustrative purposes.

Scientists have had a string of remarkable successes lately, taking signals from the brains of monkeys and men, and using them to move mechanical arms.

Darpa, the Pentagon's blue-sky research division, now wants to ratchet that work up about ten notches, by developing a "neurally controlled artificial limb that will restore full motor and sensory capability to upper extremity amputee patients. This revolutionary prosthesis will be controlled, feel, look and perform like the native limb."

... Darpa wants the robo-arm stat -- in four years or less.

The limb would have to be wired directly into the peripheral nervous system, instead of the brain-controlled arms being demonstrated today, Darpa tells researchers interested in working on this "Revolutionizing Prosthetics" project. Under agency guidelines, the arm will need enough finesse to pick up a raisin or to write in longhand. It needs to be sensitive enough for the wearer to handle day-to-day tasks in the dark. And the limb will have to be strong enough to lift 60 pounds at a time.

DARPA knows this is perhaps overly ambitious, so they're also working on a less difficult, more-easily-achieved prosthetics program as well.

THIS JUST IN: the V22 Osprey continues to suck. And worse yet, it will probably continue killing its pilots.

If only Terri Schiavo had had the Osprey's lawyers.

BLACK BAG. The Pentagon is now spending more in its "black" or secret programs than it has since back in the Cold War year of 1988. This doesn't bother me, but it is a sign o' the times.

And a goofy one to finish things off:

RICK ROM, PRIVATE EYE. If your spouse or girlfriend/boyfriend was having an "affair" with someone in an on-line roleplaying game, what would you do? Laugh it off as harmless fantasy and flirtation, or... would you pay REAL money to FAKE detectives working the "mean streets" of the game world to spy on your beloved and see if there any virtual shenanigans going on?

Some people apparently are doing just that.

More On the Osprey: Dave from Garfield Ridge puts me some f'n' knowlege about the goony-bird which I thought might interest you.

You admit it isn't working when it is, in fact, not working.

The Osprey works fine. . . when it works.

Meaning, it's not a fundamentally unsound aircraft. The design *is* solid. The flight characteristics *are* good.

The two problems with the Osprey are serious, and may doom the program.

The "avoidable" problem is build quality. The Bell (Boeing) folks have been a bunch of fuck-ups. It's manufacturing quality issue, it's problems in subcomponent design. A bad hydraulic system (and gearbox structure) does not a bad design make, but obviously, if these guys can't build a hydraulic system that's reliable, you can't fly the plane.

And that brings us to the second, unavoidable problem with the Osprey: it has a low-tolerance for failure and/or error. Contrary to criticism, it is NOT a hard plane to fly (unless the pilots I've met are lying to me). The problem is, once things go south on the plane, things can go south in a hurry. If you're in helo mode, or worse, in transition, and you experience a shutdown in power or control to one of the engines, you're probably going to take a dive, and FAST. The emergency "outs" you have with a plane (glide) or a pure helicopter (autorotation) aren't available with the design.

It's got to work, or else it doesn't work.

The bottom line, however, is that the Marines not only want it to work, they need it to work-- the capability delivered by a (working) V-22 is truly revolutionary. And no, that capability can't be provided by current helos (too slow) or C-17s (no VTOL).

FYI, the Osprey is in what's known as the Operational Test & Evaluation phase. This is the "final exam" DoD gives its weapons systems before approving full-rate production. If this summer goes well, that decision could come by the end of the year (IIRC). However, Congress has demanded a say in the decision, so we'll see what happens.

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posted by Ace at 01:03 PM

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