The robot revolution now has its very own Industrial Light & Magic. Despite the current budget crunch, the Obama Administration got the Navy a brand-new lab. The Naval Research Laboratory’s Laboratory for Autonomous Systems Research (LASR) officially opened for business March 16, 2012, and behind its tired acronym lies a facility Hollywood would kill for.
Archived posts from category ‘Steve Weintz’
On a cold September morning in 1945, just two weeks after World War II ended on the deck of the USS Missouri, three B-29′s lifted off from newly-renamed Sapporo Air Base on the Japanese island of Hokkiado. They would not land again until headwinds over the Arctic forced a refueling stop at Chicago’s Midway Airport, preventing the bombers and their crews from reaching Washington, D.C., non-stop.
Riding Shotgun in the Sky
The Pentagon’s AirSea Battle concept continues to create heartburn even as wonks and warriors try to think it through. Like the blind men and the elephant, AirSea battle looks like different things from different perspectives. “It’s aimed at the Army.” Or, “it’s aimed at China.” “It’s aggressive and destabilizing.” “It’s fuzzy and has no form.”
Behind the Biggest Bombs on Earth
It made news last week when the PANTEX plant in Texas completed dismantling one of the last Cold War monsters, an early-’60s vintage USAF B-53 nuclear gravity bomb. Using the same “physics package” as the Titan II ICBM warhead, the B-53 was a bunker-buster fitted with huge parachutes and an aluminum-honeycomb crumple zone; its 9 megatons of fission and fusion power could pulverize granite mountains and reduce whole cities to radioactive ash. Within strategic-arms treaties, the U.S. managed retain a few in reserve until the late 1990s — when smaller, more accurate weapons were deployed in the same bunker-busting role.
Twentieth-century innovations like pilot training and mechanized-infantry maneuvers led to the vast expansion of military training bases, and big, remote bombing ranges in the West became testing grounds for the Bomb itself. After World War II, the vast reaches of the Pacific soon became the only place to test the really big bombs; during the years of atmospheric testing the Pacific Proving Ground was blasted with more than 100 megatons of nuclear fire.
How the Navy Shot Down King Kong
David Lesjak, master of the astonishing Toons At War blog, came up with one of the coolest tributes to naval aviation in this centennial year. In a richly detailed post he points out that it was U.S. Navy pilots who killed King Kong.
Interview: The Man Who Prints Ships
Chances are you’re reading this on an object that wasn’t assembled with much human input. These days nearly everything is manufactured using automation; what still requires manual labor is made in sweatshops of one form or another. One major economic sector has so far remained outside this great industrial transition: construction, which remains a largely hand-fabrication industry. Indeed, its labor-intensive practices provided a good life to a great many people until the Great Recession, and it’s unlikely to employ that many people again for a long time.
The overland train concept is a favorite of ours here at War Is Boring was initially to be nuclear-powered, but the Transportation Corps concluded that the costs outweighed the benefits. Operational overland trains were fitted with diesel or gas-turbine generators.
For a while during the 20th century, the mighty atom seemed like the key to limitless power that could be applied to almost any problem. The early success of nuclear-powered submarines was complemented by a wide range of studies and prototypes for nuclear-powered vehicles and portable installations of all types. Engineers hoped to duplicate the transformational effects of the petroleum/internal-combustion engine system with much higher power densities. Concepts seriously considered included strategic bombers, early-warning and anti-submarine platforms, seaplane transports, Doomsday drones, overland trains, mobile power plants and remote power stations. While many remained only concepts, others made it to through to hardware and deployment.
Arrows and Bullets in China
How might China employ its new military capabilities? Maybe not the way Western minds think. A look into the different paths a particular weapon, the bow and arrow, took in China and Europe is instructive.
Narcosubs: Little Fish, Big Sea
Minisubs were famously deployed in World War II, most prolifically by the Japanese, and their mixed record has played against their widespread use, despite the inherent coolness and advantages of the platform. Work continues on various vehicles for Special Forces, but smugglers continue to lead the way — at least overtly.
Not Bored at West 2011, Part Three
For all the robots in our arsenals, conflict will still involve actual human beings for a long, long time. Keeping all those people in uniform trained, educated, rested, housed, watered, powered and cared for medically will place a growing strain on the maritime services’ resources. Trying to “get 20 pounds of flour into a 10-pound bag” with the Optimal Manning Program is now acknowledged to have been a failure, and it remains to be seen whether its results are framed as valuable experimental data or fuel for risk aversion.