HOUSE APPROVES SALE ON NEW F-16s TO TAIWAN
I have talked about this issue at great length and I am very happy to see the House Of Representatives vote for the sale of 66 late block F-16s to Taiwan. It will be interesting to see just how far this legislation gets in the Senate, but even the White House has began to soften on the issue. The reality is that we should not be even having a debate about selling new F-16s for Taiwan, instead it should be about exporting the F-35B to the island nation.
My most recent pieces on this issue:
SPACE-X FALCON 9 SHUTS DOWN ON THE BRINK OF BEGINNING IT’S HISTORY MAKING JOURNEY TO THE ISS
I have seen many different headlines with negative connotations towards the very last second countdown abort of Space-X’s cargo hauling rocket early Saturday morning. As you know I have very mixed feelings about the way NASA is handling human spaceflight, and the Commercial Crew Initiative is not immune to my criticisms, but I have to be clear, the fact that the rocket shut down due to an over-pressure reading in one of it’s booster engines does not indicate a blunder by Space-X. Quite the contrary it indicates a great success! The young company’s system of fail-safes and vehicle monitoring worked perfectly! Anything that blasts a payload into orbit is complex, and being able to avert possible disaster in the nick of time shows that the Space-X team is on top of their game, and they should be as this launch will mark the first instance where a private contractor has sent a vehicle to dock with the ISS. If successful it will pave the way for man-rated flights in the not to distant future. On the other hand, if the launch goes bad it could put the whole Commercial Crew Initiative in doubt, as it is already under heavy fire on Capital Hill.
Here’s to Space-X! As we have learned from decades of human spaceflight, sometimes the biggest accomplishment can be gained by avoiding even a bigger failure…
THE CONTINUING QUEST FOR A SOLID DEFINITION OF AIR-SEA BATTLE DOCTRINE
Phillip Ewing has a great piece on the still vague meaning of the DoD’s #1 strategic catch phrase.
US MAY DOUBLE-DOWN ON ISRAEL’S IRON DOME
It looks like the US will pile on more funds to continue developing and deploying Iron Dome batteries to rocket hotspots in Israel. At this point federal funding requests range from $70 million this year to almost $700 million over the next few years for Iron Down related aid marked for Israel. If the House of Representative gets it’s wish for $700 million in funding it would seem that such a large sum would allow Israel to field it’s full requirement of operational Iron Dome Batteries, which cost about $50 million per unit.
A footnote to this story may be that behind closed doors the US may find Iron Dome aid a powerful incentive for which to keep Israel from attacking Iran in the short-term…
CHINA’S J-20 TO GO OPERATIONAL BY AS EARLY AS 2018
This week we saw the second known J-20 prototype take to the skies at the same time the DoD has began predicting this aircraft’s entry into service. As predicted here, the DoD now states that China’s 5th generation J-20 could be in limited operational use by 2018. I listened to Secretary of Defense Robert Gates blow off time and time again the possibility of a Chinese 5th generation fighter and of an operational service date before the mid-2020s, now we must deal with this reality.
Although the term “operational date” in relation to the J-20 will probably be less representative of how we use that term in the US, which only is given after years and years of testing, and more like the definition in Russia, where a small amount of limited capability examples are fielded and improved upon in further blocks while testing continues. Also, we must keep in mind that just because we see these two prototypes, aircraft the Chinese Government have paraded in front of the world media on purpose, does not mean there are not others, or forerunners to the J-20, that have been in testing at remote locations for some time.
America must stop underestimating China’s ability to do what is militarily inconvenient for us. China’s air arms’ capabilities are snowballing to some extent, and over time we may see ourselves in a race for parity, akin to the Cold War, all over again. Some will blow that previous statement off, probably the same folks who thought China’s ability to produce a 5th generation fighter in the first place was a fictional delusion until it materialized right in front of their eyes…
WHY WE ARE ARE GOING BANKRUPT: IF IT’S TOTALLY BROKE WHY FIELD IT?
In an almost comical moment, Congress wanted to bring back the recently mothballed YABL-1 “Airborne Laser” back into operation so that it can deploy to places like North Korea during missile tests, just in case. Heads up Congress, I think the ABL-1 concept looks cool as can be, and in a Powerpoint presentation it really kicks ass, but sadly that does not represent reality. The YABL-1 lacks it’s most important capability requirement, range. Sadly it cannot loiter hundreds of miles away from it’s possible target area and zap ballistic missiles in their boost stages at will as originally designed. In it’s current form the YABL-1 would have to be almost directly over the enemy launch site to possibly be effective. Further, you need multiple ABL-1s to support a single “orbit,” so just putting one into service will allow for little persistence over the intended area of operations.
Simply put, bringing back back the lumber YABL-1 in it’s current form would be a total waste of money. Further, industry leaders have already fully admitted that the next step for airborne laser missile defense technology is in the works and that it will be unmanned, high-flying, and solid state in nature. In other words it will be a quantum leap in capability over the passe and money gobbling YABL-1. Hey some things are just better of left for dead right?
So with this all in mind one has to ask themselves: Why on earth would Congress want this thing back in the air? Simple, they apparently have no idea what they are talking about and/or a member has rolled some logs in the hopes that they and their constituents will benefit from the YABL-1 being put back in service needlessly.
WHAT IS SCARIER THAN A FULLY OUTFITTED MARINE? A FULL OUTFITTED MARINE WEARING A FACIAL SHIELD!
The DoD is getting smart about saving soldiers faces from flying shrapnel and even bullets. Facial shields have become very popular with helicopter crewchiefs in many of the services, now the USMC is interested in fielding a streamlined version for it’s grunts on the ground. I think its a great idea, any way we can help these guys come back in one piece is a good investment. Plus they will look absolutely evil, bordering on cybernetic, in these things which may give them a psychological edge over the enemy. Hey even the bad guys probably play Halo!
AVIATION NUT AND RESIDENT NEW YORKER’S OPINION OF THE INTREPID MUSEUM’S ABILITY TO TAKE DECENT CARE OF THE SPACE SHUTTLE ENTERPRISE
NYC Aviation’s Phil Derner’s op-ed highlighting his reservations concerning the Shuttle’s temporary yet permanent home on New York’s Hudson Bay is worth a good read. I have made my opinion over NASA’s atrocious decisions regarding the quartet of Space Shuttles’ final resting places, but it’s really nice to hear other people’s perspectives who care about these things as much as we all do.