"Restore(s) a little sanity into current political debate" - Kenneth Minogue, TLS "Projects a more expansive and optimistic future for Americans than (the analysis of) Huntington" - James R. Kurth, National Interest "One of (the) most important books I have read in recent years" - Lexington Green
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The CEO of Siemens USA thinks young people should seriously consider careers in manufacturing. (When he talks about high-level executives at Siemens who started as apprentices on the shop floor, I have to wonder how many of these success stories are in Siemens USA versus Siemens in Germany)
ShrinkWrapped has published his father’s recollections of flying 50 missions as a B-24 tail gunner. There are 6 different posts at the link–start at the bottom for the first one–and one more post here.
These photos were originally shot in color; the ones at the above links have been enhanced for color and contrast by the webmaster at Shorpy…the full Shorpy collection of enhanced OWI Kodachromes is here.
As I noted here, each F-16 is equipped with a M61-A1 Vulcan gun—the capabilities of which vastly exceed those of any “assault rifle”—in addition to considerable other weaponry.
And while providing this weaponry to the Morsi regime, the Obama administration actually wanted to send a bill to our traditional ally, France, for the logistical support we have provided them during their Mali operation. The total amount of the payment demand (which was dropped after France went public with its criticism) was about $17-19 million. This amount of money is very close to the cost of one of the 20 F-16s we are providing to Egypt.
The FAA has issued an Emergency Airworthiness Directive against the Boeing 787 Dreamliner. The AD requires that the battery system be reviewed and modified as necessary to eliminate the danger of fires such as those that have recently occurred on these aircraft. The changes needed could presumably involve manufacturing processes, sourcing of components, electrical-system design, or some combination of these things.
The FAA’s action here seems to me like simple and reasonable prudence. It is not uncommon for new aircraft types to encounter problems during their early operational days, and the 787 is an innovative plane in many ways, especially in the use of electrical means to replace functions traditionally done by hydraulic systems and by engine bleed air. (A nice overview of 787 systems here.) There may well turn out to be simple fixes that can be quickly implemented to resolve the issue; on the other hand it’s possible that the fix will involve signficant redesign and will cost Boeing and the airlines considerable money. Purely as speculation, I’d guess that the worst-case result for the study required by the AD would be the mandated replacement of the plane’s lithium-ion batteries with conventional aircraft batteries, at some sacrifice in the plane’s useful load and some redesign both of the relevant control systems and of some interior spaces.
But the purpose of this post is not to talk about 787 technical issues, as much fun as that might be.
After clicking on the Yahoo report about the AD issuance yesterday, I took a look at some of the comments, and a depressing experience it was. Here are some samples:
Makes you wonder if Boeing did not have the FAA inspectors in their back pocket while certifying this airplane “air worthy”? Maybe a few bucks went along stuffing their respective back pockets as well. Good example of certifying government agencies working too close with the manufacturer.
For the FAA to say it’s safe and then ground the planes, all credibility and trust in competence is out the window.
Were they just going to wait until the costs of wrongful death lawsuits surpassed the cost of fixing the problem?
They do lots of testing but just like windows they release it to the public and then we will fix all bugs in the system
Parts made in China
#$%$ batteries made in China and a world-class American airplane manufacturer fell for their cr@p product. Do you think that perhaps Chinese agents were behind deliberately sabotaging our country’s product?
Dream gone bad. Overseas outscourced components on the cheap, assembled by redneck scabs in South Carolina.
Just one more example of the FINE work being produced by wonderful, hardworking and dedicated union workers.
Just more retaliation from Obama for the move to non- union South Carolina.
no one care anymore all the factory workers just go to work to try to make $$$$$ and this it is hard too the pride in making or to build something does not exist anymore!!!!!!!!!!!!
Too bad the GOP helped rich buddies ship all the manufacturing jobs to china? Expertise comes with manufacturing. Burger jobs make poor planes?
Read through several pages of comments like these, and the overwhelming overall impression is one of social toxicity…of people glaring furiously at one another, quick to assume that anything to goes wrong in any aspect of life is due to either malice or incompetence or both. It is a picture of generalized resentment and distrust, coupled with entitled ignorance.
Until recently, the world’s only flyable WWII B-29 bomber was “Fifi,” operated by the Commemorative Air Force. Unfortunately, the airplane has…at least temporarily…lost its flyable status due to the need for expensive engine repairs. You can contribute to Fifi’s engine fund here.
The B-29 Superfortress was the most technically advanced bomber of WWII: it featured pressurization, a centralized fire-control system for its guns, and both higher speed and a greater bomb load than the B-17. Visually, it is also a very beautiful airplane, at least to my eye. Design of the aircraft that was to become the Superfortress began in 1938 with the receipt by Boeing of a request from the Army Air Corps–Boeing funded much of the initial development itself since the Air Corps did not at that point have funding for the project. The initial production order was not placed until May 1941…remarkably, production aircraft were being delivered by the end of 1943…total production would reach almost 4000 aircraft. Thousand of subcontractors were involved. My back-of-the-envelope calculation based on numbers in this factsheet suggests that there must have been somewhere around 100,000 workers involved at one level or another in B-29 production.
Japanese fighter pilot Ryuji Nagatsuka described his first encounter with the B-29, on a combat training mission in late 1944:
At a distance of 1000 feet, I had a clear view of this famous bomber for the first time. It was like some fabulous flying castle. Its elegant, uncamouflaged fuselage made me think of a monstrous flying fish. What imposing fins, what a rudder! The most disquieting thing about it was those six domes: two gun turrets on its back and four defense turrets operated by remote control…The four engines developed 8800 horsepower. The white star that stood out against a black background seemed to me like a challenge. It was the mark of the enemy.
The efficacy of the B-29′s centralized fire control system…which provided not only remote control of the guns but automatic computer calculation of necessary offsets (“leads”) to hit the target…has been questioned–but Nagatsuka gives it a good review:
Their central firing computer, controlling the gun turrets by remote control, had proved extraordinarily efficient. An isolated B-29, on a photographic mission one day over the Nipponese archipelago, had been attacked by more than ninety of our fighters, and, lo and behold, the enemy plane, which was not equipped for a bombing mission, managed to repulse their attack by climbing to a very high altitude and putting on all possible speed. During this battle, which lasted more than half an hour, he shot down seven of our fighters and finally escaped.
However, most of the gunnery equipment was removed from the B-29s when US General Curtis LeMay ordered a change in tactics from high-altitude day bombing to low-altitude night bombing, focusing on the use of incendiary bombs. Wide areas of Toyko and several other cities were destroyed: the total number of Japanese killed in these raids has been estimated variously but was certainly at least 100,000.
In bombers named for girls, we burned
The cities we had learned about in school
They said, ‘Here are the maps’; we burned the cities.
We’ve talked here before about the dangers of the loss of historical knowledge. I believe that keeping FiFi flying is a useful contribution to maintaining the continuity of American historical memory. Again, you can donate here.
ShrinkWrapped has published his father’s recollections of flying 50 missions as a B-24 tail gunner. There are 6 different posts in the collection–start at the bottom for the first one.
Thoughts about strategic bombing at my post Dresden
Excerpts of some of Randall Jarrell’s WWII Air Corps poems, here
The Ryuji Nagatsuka quotes are from his memoir I Was a Kamikaze (obviously, an unsuccessful one)…an interesting book that is worthy of a review one of these days.
I’ve long been intrigued by airships, and was pleased when several years ago it was announced that the German company Zeppelin Luftschifftechnik GmbH had developed an advanced-technology dirigible design…the Zeppelin NT…and was offering it for sale. I was even more pleased when one of these aircraft, named Eureka, was acquired by an American startup, Airship Ventures, with the intent of putting it in commercial service for sightseeing rides. And a bit later, I discovered that Airship Ventures was offering a zeppelin pilot experience program, which allowed licensed pilots to attend a 2-day training program culminating in actually flying the zeppelin (with an instructor, of course.)
I participated in this program earlier this year: it was a lot of fun and I’d been intending to write a blog post about it. But I got a lump of coal in my Christmas stocking when I was flipping through an aviation magazine and learned that Airship Ventures has suspended operations for financial reasons. The problems are (a) the general economy, (b) lack of economies of scale, as AV is operating only one ship, and (c) the greatly increased price of helium. (The Zeppelin NT is designed to minimize helium loss, but some such loss in unavoidable.) Attempts to locate a major sponsor who would provide enough funding to keep the airship in business were unsuccessful, and Eureka (which was apparently acquired by AV under a lease arrangement) has been dismantled and is on its way back to the manufacturer in Germany,
I’d have thought that there would have been a number of firms that could creatively take advantage of the uniqueness and great visibility offered by the zep, and am really surprised that no sponsor surfaced: AV CEO Brian Hall put the cost of sponsoring the airship for a year at about the same figure as the cost of a one-minute Superbowl ad.
In response to my inquiry about the ship’s status, the company did indicate that if a major sponsor should appear at this point they would be able to restart operations, albeit obviously with delays and higher costs than would have been the case had they been able to maintain continuous operations of Eureka.
Three Zeppelin NTs are being acquired by Goodyear as replacements for their blimp fleet, so Americans will still be able to enjoy the sight of zeppelins in our skies…but it is unlikely that rides will be offered to people not closely connected to the Goodyear company.
Very sad. Hopefully, at some point an improving economy, combined with adequate sponsorship and an ability to achieve sustainable scale, will allow AV to bring passenger zeppelins back to the United States.
In the meantime, Zeppelin NT rides are still available in Germany…I see that 11 different routes are now available.
Here’s a Rudyard Kipling poem which isn’t as well known as some of his other ones:
There were thirty million English who talked of England’s might, There were twenty broken troopers who lacked a bed for the night. They had neither food nor money, they had neither service nor trade; They were only shiftless soldiers, the last of the Light Brigade.
They felt that life was fleeting; they knew not that art was long, That though they were dying of famine, they lived in deathless song. They asked for a little money to keep the wolf from the door; And the thirty million English sent twenty pounds and four !
They laid their heads together that were scarred and lined and grey; Keen were the Russian sabres, but want was keener than they; And an old Troop-Sergeant muttered, “Let us go to the man who writes The things on Balaclava the kiddies at school recites.”
Apparently, in 2012 the average time to complete a VA disability or pension claim was 262 days, up from 188 days in the prior year and far above the official target of 125 days. More at Nextgov.
I’m not very impressed with the excuses offered by the VA for this situation:
VA officials attribute the backlog, defined as claims in the system for more than 125 days, in part to higher demand by veterans returning from 10 years of wars in Iraq and Afghanistan with severe and complex injuries.
A Texas Veterans Commission official noted that the agency is caught in a “perfect storm” of claims from veterans of recent wars and those from aging Vietnam and Korea veterans whose disabilities are worsening.
But wasn’t this all predictable? Obviously wars cause injuries, and better battlefield medical attention means that more wounded soldiers will survive and hence need extended care. And wasn’t the higher claims rate “from aging Vietnam and Korea veterans” largely predictable from simple demographic analysis? I’m reminded of the saying about a British railroad from several decades ago: ”Despite its frequency and general regularity, Sunday morning seems to consistently catch this railroad by surprise.”
The above remark about the railroad notwithstanding, private enterprises generally seem to be able to deal with fluctuating demand and other problems quite well. There is almost always food in the supermarkets, despite droughts, crop failures, logistical problems, strikes, etc etc. The electricity is almost always on despite storms and electrical failures. And while businesses generally do a better problem than government at dealing with daunting arrays of problems, some government agencies do manage to deal with demand increases and fluctuations far better than the VA seems able to do with these disability claims. Somehow the FAA manages to conduct air traffic control safely and effectively despite the increased demand that occurs in holiday seasons and the varied and often nefarious effects of the weather. The military itself often manages to quickly deploy forces and equipment to far-distant locations. Why has the VA been unable to modify its processes to provide resolution of disability claims in a timely manner?
For most WWII airplane buffs, the De Havilland Mosquito holds a special place of interest. It was the last major wooden military aircraft in an era of when aluminum airplanes had otherwise swept the skies. Made of special plywood of balsa sandwiched between birch, the Mosquito proved faster than any comparable metal aircraft. It’s feats are legendary.
Because of the wooden airframe, few Mosquitos survived more than a decade after the war. Because of its basically two piece construction, in which nearly the entire fuselage and each wing were made in two pieces which were glued together, any rot or decay anywhere in a major section caused the scrapping of the entire aircraft. While you can leave a aluminum airframe setting out in a field for decades without harm, the Mosquitos airframe would disintegrate into air unworthiness in a just a couple of weeks if not cared for. Because of the fragility of the wooden airframe, I thought that no flying examples remained.
Imagine my surprise then when, while researching a software testing framework called “Kiwi” I stumbled upon a video of new Mosquito restored (more likely almost completely rebuilt) by a team in New Zealand.
One aircraft, Mosquito FB.26 KA114, built in Canada in 1945, has recently completed restoration by Avspecs Ltd, Ardmore New Zealand and flew for the first time on Thursday 27 September 2012. The third, fourth, fifth and sixth flights were watched by several thousand spectators at a special air show at Ardmore on Saturday 29 September 2012. The restored Mosquito is owned by Jerry Yagen and is heading to its new home at the Virginia Military Aviation Museum, in Virginia Beach, USA, as soon as transport logisitics have been worked out. A complete set of forms, jigs and molds will allow for new Mosquitos to be built.
Frankly, I think they’re missing a market here. With everything supposed to be “sustainable” and for some reason wood and other biological materials considered sustainable (despite a long history of being emphatically not sustained in the least) a proven all wood airframe might be a selling point.
The Kiwi’s really impressed me with this aircraft. The restored Mosquito actually makes up for the Hobbit movie.
The issue of knowledge transfer between simulations and the real world is important not only in the military, but also in business and aviation..and surely many other areas as well.
Sterrett notes that in simulations:
First, we usually have far better knowledge of the situation than is possible for real armies; consider that one of the key pieces of information from ULTRA decrypts was the Axis order of battle in various theaters – simply knowing what units the Axis had was a major intelligence coup, but such information is routinely handed to players. Moreover, the scenario usually tells us what the friendly and enemy win conditions are, while those are often less clear in real life.
Second, in nearly every game, our forces do exactly what we tell them to do, exactly when we tell them to do it. In the real world, subordinate forces need time to conduct their own planning so they can carry out our orders, and they may not go about the task exactly as we envisioned…
Third, gamers are usually planning by themselves, which means they have to explain everything only to themselves and to the game. Military staffs deal with more information than one person can process; even a battalion staff is likely to be several dozen people. Getting this many people to pass information among themselves efficiently, and let alone coming up with a coherent plan that everybody understands, requires practice.
The interview reminds me of a passage in Don Sheppard’s book Bluewater Sailor, which I wrote about several years ago…
When a decision is made in an organizational context (as opposed to a decision by an entirely autonomous individual), additional layers of complexity and emotion come into play. The person who must make the decision is often not the person who has the information/expertise on which the decision must be based. Indeed, the information and expertise are often distributed across multiple individuals. These individuals may have their own objectives and motivations, which may differ from the objectives and motivations of the formal decision-maker, and which may conflict with each other. And the making of the decision may alter power relationships within the organization, as well as influencing the phenomena about which the decision is ostensibly being made.
The above factors are illustrated with crystalline clarity in the story of a seemingly very simple decision, which had to be made onboard a U.S. Navy destroyer sometime during the 1950s.
Don Sheppard was the newly-appointed Engineering Officer of the USS Henshaw, with responsibility for its 60,000-horsepower turbine plant. But his knowledge of propulsion equipment came entirely from study at the navy’s Engineering Officer School. Reporting to Sheppard was the “Chief,” an enlisted man with no theoretical training but with twenty years of experience in the practical operation of naval power plants. When Sheppard assumed his new duties, the Chief’s greeting “bordered on rudeness.” The man clearly believed that engineering officers might come and go, but that he, the Chief, was the one who really ran things, who was the “Prince of the Plant.”
During maneuvers off the Pacific coast, a bizarre accident resulted in the Henshaw dropping a depth charge which exploded very close to its own stern. The shockwave was enough to knock down men who were standing on deck. Sheppard asked the Chief if he thought the plant might have suffered any damage:
He furrowed his brow, glaring at me. “Damage, sir? We’d know about any major damage by now if the plant suffered. i don’t think we got any problems, sir,” he answered–patronizingly–in a civil enough tone, but barely so. Who was I, an interloper, to dare question the Prince of the Plant?
The Collings Foundation Wings of Freedom Tour this year includes B-17 and B-24 bombers and also a P-51 Mustang fighter. You can visit the airplanes for a small donation and, for a substantially larger donation, you can actually take a ride!. Indeed, flight instruction is available in the P-51, which is a two-seat trainer version. If the tour is coming to an airport near you, these planes are well worth seeing. Schedule here. Collings is also looking for volunteers to help organize tour stops in their locations.
The P-51 has an interesting history. Its design was led by James “Dutch” Kindelberger, a high-school dropout who had worked as a draftsman and taken correspondence courses before gaining admission to college. Kindleberger became president of North American Aviation in 1935. When his company was approached by the British govenment to manufacture a batch of P-40 Tomahawk fighters, Kindelberger proposed instead that a new design be built. Fortunately for the world, his proposal was accepted, and the first P-51 was flown only 6 months after the order was placed.
The P-51 had considerably greater range than previous escort fighters. Hermann Goering told his interrogators that it was when he saw P-51s over Berlin that he knew the war was lost for Germany.
Aerial warfare is of course not only about machines; it is also about men. Randall Jarrell, a major American poet, served in the U.S. Army Air Force during the war, and wrote many poems centering around WWII air combat.
I was going to post this later, under a “Cool Project” heading, but a comment by Michael Kennedy (in this thread) encouraged me to go ahead and put it up now. It’s indeed a good idea to occasionally take a little time to talk about something other than contemporary political issues.
The Northrop P-61 Black Widow was a premier U.S. night fighter of WWII. 742 of these airplanes were built; only 4 are left in existence. The Mid-Atlantic Air Museum owns one of these, and has a project underway to return it to flyable condition.
Airborne radar was a new technology in the early 1940s, and the P-61 was specifically designed to be a radar-carrying airplane. Early radars were heavy–over 400 pounds for the set that this plane carried–and a radar operator was required as well as a pilot. So the P-61 was a large airplane–23,000 pounds empty weight, a very big number for a WWII fighter. Maximum speed was 366mps, which is 318 knots. There were 4 fixed 20mm cannon plus 4 50 caliber machine guns in a remote-controlled turret.
The Black Widow was all about its radar system, which was known as the SCR-720. The radar operator had two screens, one displaying range and azimuth and the other showing azimuth and elevation. The operator used a range gate to select a particular target that would be displayed on the pilot’s single screen. Close coordination between pilot and radar operator was essential in order to make an attack a success.
The plane served in both the European and Pacific theaters.
MAAM has been working on the restoration of their P-61 since 1980. You can view the progress of the restoration at The Widow’s Web…it is clearly an immense project. Contributions are of course welcome; and I bet that volunteers with appropriate skills would be very welcome as well.
An enthusiast group called the Historical Flight Foundation owns a DC-7B airliner that it has restored. Like the Lockheed Constellation, the DC-7 was one of the ultimate piston-engined airliners whose production run (early to late 1950s) overlapped the first few years of jets. It soon became obsolete. Jets used more fuel but were faster and could fly above weather, so airlines could get more use out of them to outweigh the higher capital and operating costs, and they were more pleasant for passengers. Nonetheless the old prop liners are beautiful and impressive in flight. The video below makes me think of this famous photo. Wouldn’t it be a kick to fly down the Florida coast or up the Hudson at 500 feet in your own DC-7? But, of course, the operating costs are probably huge, and the systems are so complex that you need a flight engineer in addition to two pilots, so operating such a machine is no casual activity.
You could see such aircraft flying out of Miami into the 1990s. I assume they were carrying freight to Caribbean and Central American destinations. At some point the operating costs must have become prohibitive. (Each of the engines in a DC-7B has 28 18 cylinders and they haven’t made them in decades; parts availability is no doubt an issue. It would need much more maintenance than a comparable jet engine, and it was designed to use high-octane leaded gasoline that is no longer available. Another YouTube video mentions that they have to restrict engine power on this plane in order to use modern gas.)
You don’t see many of these old planes any more, not even the ones (like DC-6s and DC-3s) that have more reliable engines. It’s a treat to see one that’s been restored to flying condition and is actually flown.
My amigo Adam Elkus and I each have an article up at the newest issue ofPragati magazine. Adam is reviewing the Sanger book on Obama and national security and I tackle the strategic implications of drones and cyber warfare:
David Sanger’s Confront and Conceal is best used as a Rosetta stone for deciphering DC discourse. Its true utility lies not in its uneven discussion of Barack Obama’s national security decisions, but in the way it reveals both mundane and alarming traits of American foreign policy debate. Sanger’s obsession with a supposed “split” between values and interests, mistaken belief that international security should be conducted according to the Golden Rule, and exposure of sensitive leaks all tell a story about the state of national security debate in 21st century Washington. Although the message is muddied and the narrator unreliable, Confront and Conceal is gripping reading.
Sanger’s self-designated task is to illuminate, through judicious research and both on and off the record interviews, the Obama administration’s struggle to operationalise its new vision of foreign policy. Sanger is at his best when exploring the way high-level officials engage in bureaucratic judo. His Obama is a canny political operator that compensates for relative inexperience with self-awareness and vigor. Even in the face of strategic surprise and bureaucratic infighting, Obama keeps a firm hand on the steering wheel. Sanger aggressively promotes a reading of Obama as driven operator rather than spectator, a portrayal that rings true when compared to other popular accounts of Obama’s foreign policy leadership style….
….Of the two, drones have the older history, going back almost a century to the Great War where experiments in auto-piloted planes were financed by the US Navy, but for much of the twentieth century, military applications for drones (or “remotely piloted vehicles”) were sharply limited. The technological capabilities of drones always lagged far behind the advances in manned aircraft and they were extremely vulnerable to modern anti-aircraft systems, or in some cases, small arms fire. While drones had some marginal utility for battlefield surveillance or as decoys, during the Cold War they were never the primary collection tools for sensitive intelligence that the U-2 Blackbird, listening posts and spy satellites were.
Several factors in the twenty-first century have pushed drones to the forefront as a weapon of choice for the Pentagon and the militaries of major powers. First, has been the relative decline of the probability of major interstate war since the collapse of the Soviet Union and the corresponding rise of irregular warfare in the form of insurgency by terrorists, guerrillas and rebellious tribes. Generally, these low-tech combatants reside in poor and remote areas and lack the capacity to detect or defend against drones except by concealment. Secondly, drones offer a tremendous economic advantage and battlefield return on investment (ROI) per enemy killed over advanced fighter aircraft. A new F-22 costs $150 million to buy and $45,000 an hour just to fly with a pilot whose training costs the USAF $2.6 million; a reusable, propeller-driven Predator only costs slightly over $4 million. About the price of two and half Tomahawk cruise missiles….
-To see a truly interactive magazine at play, check out RC Pilot (there’s a free demo at the link). I find the content extremely interesting overall despite my low level of interest in radio-controlled models per se. There is a lot of good aviation content inside, and RC technology is increasingly relevant WRT drones and other hot topics. You will probably like RCP if you are any kind of technophile.
(I’m going to permalink these sites for future reference.)
One moonless night, while flying a routine training mission over the Pacific, I wondered what the sky would look like from 84,000 feet if the cockpit lighting were dark. While heading home on a straight course, I slowly turned down all of the lighting, reducing the glare and revealing the night sky. Within seconds, I turned the lights back up, fearful that the jet would know and somehow punish me. But my desire to see the sky overruled my caution, I dimmed the lighting again. To my amazement, I saw a bright light outside my window. As my eyes adjusted to the view, I realized that the brilliance was the broad expanse of the Milky Way, now a gleaming stripe across the sky. Where dark spaces in the sky had usually existed, there were now dense clusters of sparkling stars Shooting stars flashed across the canvas every few seconds. It was like a fireworks display with no sound. I knew I had to get my eyes back on the instruments, and reluctantly I brought my attention back inside. To my surprise, with the cockpit lighting still off, I could see every gauge, lit by starlight. In the plane’s mirrors, I could see the eerie shine of my gold spacesuit incandescently illuminated in a celestial glow. I stole one last glance out the window. Despite our speed, we seemed still before the heavens, humbled in the radiance of a much greater power. For those few moments, I felt a part of something far more significant than anything we were doing in the plane. The sharp sound of Walt’s voice on the radio brought me back to the tasks at hand as I prepared for our descent.
And my message to you all this evening is that Britain’s relationship with Pakistan is here to stay. What happens in Pakistan matters to Britain, and we will stand by Pakistan as it addresses the challenges it faces and build a durable relationship that we know will stand the test of time.
We can be confident of doing so because ours is not a new relationship founded on a narrow set of interests.
We enjoy a tremendous latticework of connections of history and shared experiences, embodied in one million people with close ties to Pakistan living in Britain today and the thousands of our citizens who travel back and forth each year to work, study and support projects or for simple enjoyment.
The United States Defense Department has awarded a 42.3 million dollar contract to Lockheed Martin, one of the world’s largest defense contractors, to provide 10 upgrade kits for Pakistan’s F-16 A/B aircrafts.
According to the Daily Times, the contract has been awarded under the Foreign Military Sales (FMS) programme for Pakistan Air Force (PAF)’s Block 15 F-16 A/B Aircraft Enhanced Modernization Program.
Given how opaque the Saudi government is, it is unclear what is prompting the latest bout of uncertainty. Among the top reasons government and industry officials cite is Riyadh’s unhappiness the U.S. did not support a Palestinian bid for UN membership. Another is that the recent turmoil in Saudi Arabia — with Prince Salman bin Abdulaziz named new defense minister after his predecessor died — has simply created too much uncertainty for the arms package to move forward.
Boeing has a lot riding on the deal — especially since it would keep F-15 production alive past 2020 — and company officials recently indicated it was still on, without projecting timing. It is important for Boeing, financially, too, since it has already spent money to avoid a production gap.
India and Britain – the new special relationship? – RUSI
In this Vanity Fair adaptation of The Eleventh Day, by Anthony Summers and Robbyn Swan, the authors explore connections between the Saudi royal family, the September 11th attacks, and the Bush administration’s suppression of critical evidence.
For 10 years now, a major question about 9/11 has remained unresolved. It was, as 9/11-commission chairmen Thomas Kean and Lee Hamilton recalled, “Had the hijackers received any support from foreign governments?” There was information that pointed to the answer, but the commissioners apparently deemed it too disquieting to share in full with the public.
Clinton Cites Pakistan Anti-Terror Help in Bid to Avert Aid Cut – Bloomberg
The American space program, like its Russian counterpart, was largely an epiphenomenon of the ballistic missile program. A great deal has been written about the space programs; regarding the missile programs themselves, not so much. This book remedies that gap by using the life of General Bernard Schriever, who ran USAF missile development programs, as the centerpiece for a history of the Cold War’s defining weapon. Although Schriever is the central character, the book describes the roles played by many other individuals, including:
–John von Neumann, the Hungarian-American mathematician–an implacable enemy of the Soviet Union who advocated a strong American military posture and perhaps even a nuclear first strike
–The bomber general Curtis LeMay, who to put it mildly was not a Schriever fan. After Schriever received his fourth star, LeMay glared at him and said, “You realize if I had my way, you wouldn’t be wearing those.”
–Simon Ramo, who as a high school student withdrew all his savings to buy a violin in the hopes of winning a college scholarship in a music contest…he did win, and as a young engineer was chosen by GE over another job candidate because the Schenectady orchestra needed a good violinist! Ramo went on to co-found the Ramo-Wooldridge Company (later TRW) which basically created the discipline of systems engineering and was used by Schriever to address some of the most difficult technical challenges facing the missile program.
–Colonel Ed Hall–a brilliant designer of missile engines, a hard-driving project manager, and in the opinion of many associates a complete jackass to work with. To call Hall “assertive” would be putting it mildly–when his wife was giving birth (in England during WWII) and the obstetrician was in Hall’s opinion acting indecisively, Hall pulled out his revolver and gave the doctor highly specific orders as to exactly what to do.
Schriever himself was a boy from a not-very-well-off family of German immigrants in the Texas hill country, who joined the air force after first considering a career as a professional golfer. He became a protege of Hap Arnold, and after Pacific-theater service during WWII focused on the leadership of R&D efforts rather than operational command. Throughout his career, Schriever demonstrated an unwillingness to fit his views on important issues to the opinions of those in higher authority–even when higher authority was represented by someone as intimidating as LeMay, with whom Schriever clashed soon after the war on the issue of high-level versus low-level attack tactics for bombers, or Secretary of the Air Force Harold Talbott, whose order to relocate certain missile facilities (from the west cost to the midwest) Schreiver flatly refused, citing his “prior and overriding orders” to get the program done in the shortest feasible time. By then a general, Schriever stuck by his position on this even when Talbott threatened him that “Before this meeting is over, General, there’s going to be one more colonel in the Air Force!”
One of my favorite novelists is Neville Shute. He was an engineer, as was I, plus he writes about people with an ability to show their humanity and their deeper motivations without a lot of explanation. He is the engineer’s novelist, the businessman’s novelist and should be on every list of conservative novelists. I have read all his post-war novels, most of his wartime novels and a selection of his pre-war novels. He died in 1960 and all his books are still in print.
I was a college student when “On the Beach,” possibly his most famous novel, came out. It scared me so badly that I have not been able to enjoy rereading it, as I have his other books. I was a college sophomore and familiar with his other work at the time. I had read his aviation novel, “No Highway,” and was aware that the plot device in that book, of metal fatigue causing a new airplane to crash without explanation, had been prophetic. Shortly after “No Highway” had come out, the British Comet jet airliners had begun to crash and, when finally identified, the cause was metal fatigue.
Shute had written another prophetic novel in the late 1930s, called “Ordeal,” which predicted the effects of the Blitz on London. Both of these books, with their predictions borne out by history, caused me to be very shaken by “On the Beach.” A rather successful movie was later made from this novel, which Shute hated because it had suggested that the two principle characters, played by Gregory Peck and Ava Gardner, had slept together while he believed it important to establish their morality, even when doomed.
I very nearly dropped out of school after that book and spent a year or two getting over the idea that I would soon be fried in a nuclear war. My reaction was based as much on my regard for his novels as for the topic, itself. A quite good movie was made from “No Highway” with James Stewart, Glynnis Johns, and Marlena Dietrich.
A Belmont Club thread linked to this great scene from the movie, Flight of the Phoenix. I saw that movie on TV when I was a kid, and ever since I wanted to know what a Coffman Starter was. And now there is the Internet. Drunk with power, I googled… and found this web site. Holy cow. I emailed the URL to Lex and he replied, “Fragments, like dinosaur bones.” He got that right. In a couple of hundred years, who is going to know what any of this stuff was?
(BTW, it appears that a Coffman Starter works by directing gas from an exploding cartridge against a piston, which is connected to a shaft, and that this shaft turns the engine. If that’s the case, how could James Stewart “clean out the cylinders” by firing a cartridge with the ignition off? Wouldn’t he have merely turned over the engine without cleaning out anything? Perhaps the movie makers used some artistic license here.)