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* Posts by Lewis Page

40 posts • joined 6 Jun 2007

Aerial laser gunboat 'burns hole in fender' of moving car

Lewis Page
(Written by Reg staff)

Re: Poor show Lewis

No it isn't intended to take out ICBMs. You are thinking of the Airborne Laser, the ABL, also from Boeing but much more powerful and installed in a jumbo jet not a Hercules, extensively written up on this very site. As a man about to get his three-hundred-comments badge really ought to be aware.

This is the ATL, intended for tactical uses against tactical targets, and its cost-effectiveness is much more questionable.

Write out fifty times, "I must take a deep breath and count to ten before I hit 'post' on obnoxious and ignorant comments".

And the rest of you moaning about the vid. Do read the article, FFS: "the vid above of an earlier trial against a stationary vehicle".

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Anti-Eurofighter Downing Street e-petition started

Lewis Page
(Written by Reg staff)
Stop

Stuck record AC

Some rebuttal for you

Globalsecurity.org (a better source than wikipedia) addresses the vexed question of Raptor cost at length

http://www.globalsecurity.org/military/systems/aircraft/f-22-cost.htm

The highest figure given (probably the best, as the Yanks like to ignore development costs) is $345m, well within the the range of $s you might have got for £180m within the past year as Mr Wolfram tells us:

http://www62.wolframalpha.com/input/?i=%C2%A3180m%20in%20%24&t=ff3tb01

And the £180m figure is a damned sight less made up than the unit costs the RAF have been known to give out, less than £50m on occasion.

As for Type 45, I have covered it ad nauseam and given it the kicking it deserves (http://www.theregister.co.uk/2009/06/03/royal_navy_vs_ufos/ and http://www.theregister.co.uk/2007/11/27/hms_diamond_launches_ouch_ouch/ to cite only the Reg efforts) - to the same cries of "stuck record" and indeed "traitor" and "disloyal bastard" from the naval community. I have jabbed at Astute, too (http://www.theregister.co.uk/2007/05/08/bae_sells_us_sub_knowhow/). My very first foray into print was an attack on RN waste and inefficiency. I have written at least 8 articles for the Reg slating Bowman (http://search.theregister.co.uk/?q=bowman&advanced=1&psite=0&author=Lewis+Page&date=the+dawn+of+time&site=all+The+Register+sites&results_per_page=20).

You obviously have a very selective memory of my stuff if you've really been reading it from the start. And as for always picking on the crabfats, I am formally speaking an ex crab myself - CUAS 88-91, the RAF taught me to fly in fact - and still have some good friends in the light blue mob. As an ex-Navy guy, it's possible my impartiality is flawed - but your own 11 years as an RAF engineer officer may have prejudiced you just a tad more. I get nothing but laughter from my RAF mates at the suggestion that the F3 was in any way a decent fighter, for instance.

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US raygun jumbo jet now firing live blasts in flight

Lewis Page
(Written by Reg staff)
Unhappy

Confused people

A 747-400F freighter can carry 130 tonnes, a C-17 in general only 76 tonnes. As the reload chemicals are dangerous and difficult to contain and are to be shipped in trolleys for easy handling, not in permanently installed tanks etc, (thus the reload package will be a lot heavier than the actual chemicals) the statement is entirely believable.

And yes, we are aware about boost phase, midcourse etc. RTFA - it doesn't say anywhere that ABLs would be used to shoot at terminal targets. And for your information Aegis BMD is intended to intercept "hostile missiles in the ascent and descent phase of midcourse flight". In other words the cruiser or destroyer can be at the launching end of the trajectory OR at the terminal end. That's according to the MDA, who presumably know more about their own kit than you do. That's also why lots of knowledgeable people suggested that the Aegis ships which were stationed off Korea for the most recent Taepodong-2 shot could knock it down even if none of it was heading for Japan - because they could have done that.

As for Sunburns, nobody knows whether Aegis SM-2 could beat them or not. The Russians say they designed Sunburn specifically to beat SM-2, but on the other hand the Yanks have been upgrading SM-2 and sinking money into it for the last couple of decades. They say that SM-2 Block IIIB "provides enhanced performance against supersonic, high-G maneuvering sea skimming air-to-surface missiles". There was an SM-2 IIIB test, claimed as "successful", just this last January. God knows what the per-interceptor kill probability is, but the US can afford a lot more SM-2s than the Norks can afford Sunburns.

Then, frankly, I wouldn't fancy my chances as a Nork attack pilot or missile-boat driver even of getting within launch range of a US taskgroup with AEW up. It would be hard enough just to localise it. Nor for that matter as a Nork fighter pilot would I fancy trying to get into range of a patrolling ABL backed by AWACS and fighter escorts.

We can probably relax just a touch about the terrible Norks.

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3D laser maths models of women's bodies produced

Lewis Page
(Written by Reg staff)
Dead Vulture

Journalism

Hey, journalism based on nothing but a press release isn't as bad as it gets. At least half of journalism is based on another journalist's report which was originally based on nothing but a press release.

But you're quite right, I didn't exactly unleash the Sunday Times Insight Team on this one.

I dunno - it just seemed like it wasn't really all that important a story, somehow.

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Apache gunbird used as robo kill-chopper fleet command ship

Lewis Page
(Written by Reg staff)
Stop

Astroturf Warning

Gotno iShit Wantno iShit is welcome to his anonymity, of course. But it may help in assessing his objectivity to note that his email address reveals that he works for a large aerospace and weapons firm with significant Apache involvement.

And no, mate - not afraid of work. That's why I'm here earning money and paying the taxes from which the likes of you take your wages.

No doubt we'll see you back with an anonymous email soon enough, like the rest of your astroturfing buddies who are a little bit better at it.

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Force 1800 superhurricanes snapped on far-off world

Lewis Page
(Written by Reg staff)
Flame

Attention Anonymous Coward

Sure, I don't know anything. My engineering degree is only from Cambridge - I'd never be able to cope with hard sums like that. I'd never remember where to look up the Beaufort formula, having only spent the two years as a Royal Navy navigating officer giving met briefs several times a week. You certainly saw through my pathetic suggestion that a thick journalist might know these things.

Of course your figure is as utterly wrong as mine, you turkey. A 5km/sec wind is >32m/sec, thus it is still just Force 12, or possibly Force 17 if you prefer the unathorised systems used by some down on the China coast. If you're going to call it anything bigger than that, you are joining me in the 'utterly wrong' place. In my case, I'm there on purpose - the purposes of entertainment/generating a bit of interest/making science popular/doing my job. Thus one chooses to make the figure nice and big, and as an added benefit waste less time on a trivial thowaway paragraph. In your case, you're utterly wrong because you aren't very intelligent - unless you actually enjoy making yourself look an arse.

On the matter of conduct. Fair enough, perhaps not your fault that you have no understanding of how grownups normally hold a discussion - no doubt you sacrificed that sort of thing while acquiring your super O-Level maths skills. But just for future reference, you don't know me well enough to address me as 'stupid boy' and call me a liar, even if you are much older than me (very plausible, all the signs of incipient senility are there). Try to remember, you're not standing alone in an alley shouting at the bins just now - you are addressing adults you don't know in public.

Get yourself down to remedial manners, you rude old git.

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Forcefields will guard Mars ships from solar ion storms

Lewis Page
(Written by Reg staff)

How does Mars protect you?

First - the planet itself cuts off half the sky, halving the cosmic radiation input. That matters, because the thin Martian atmos doesn't stop many cosmic rays - unlike the situation on Earth. The planet itself also shields you from solar storms at night or when you are in shadow.

Second - the Martian atmosphere, while thin, does reduce ordinary solar radiation significantly - it's a lot, lot better than just the hull of a spacecraft - though solar storms would still be a problem.

That's how Mars protects you.

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US Navy SEAL uniforms: Now with built-in tourniquets

Lewis Page
(Written by Reg staff)

the TWAT

I was thinking 'the Total War Against Terror'. I normally prefer the Wars on Stuff, to get the War on Drugs in too, but there wasn't room.

And you anonymous man, yes I did open up lots of field dressings - we used to carry extras to use as kindling on the commando course. We also used to get them in some of the diver medical kits - I have used them for minor blood a couple of times. So I've used them while wearing my black rubber suit and various headgear including my green beret - but never a white cap that I can recall.

I also helped sew up a fairly squirty scalp wound once. Needless to say, we took care to add the customary comedy button for the hapless patient to discover afterwards.

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Judge Dredd smartshell shotguns to hit Iraq in '09

Lewis Page
(Written by Reg staff)

Sam - .38s of a different colour

You're right of course - the word "often" got missed out somehow, probably by my fingers. Eg '.38 is often .357,' and I was aware of the difference, just a typo. But please god let's not get into .380 ACP, Sig .357, .38/40, .38 Smith & Wesson (I think the bullet was actually .361 on that - I mean really) and all the rest of the madness.

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Lewis Page
(Written by Reg staff)

Lawgiver

I remember the dial on the Lawgiver too. But I also recall that JD would always shout out what kind of ammo he was firing in the comic, even back in those days - and no matter if it had a very long name. It could just be my memory, but I seem to recall him once exclaiming "steel-tipped high penetration!" in mid-firefight, which would seem likely to slow you down a bit in real life.

I thought the voice-command bit in the movie fitted quite well with that tradition, though a lot of the rest of it was very dodgy.

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US boffins: Laptops will be as hot as the Sun by 2030

Lewis Page
(Written by Reg staff)
Dead Vulture

Bad reporting

This is not New Scientist. There may very well have been some bad reporting - but if so it took place in the Virginia U press office, not at the Reg. Live by the press release, die by your double-edged sword, academics ...

http://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2008-09/uov-eat092908.php

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Jumbo-jet sized 'SuperGigaFly' robo parachute tested

Lewis Page
(Written by Reg staff)
Go

Payloads Easy Pickings ...

Not really, as shoulder-launched AA missiles track aircraft by their hot engine exhausts. Which parachutes obviously don't have.

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NASA, USAF in $30m hypersonic boffinry push

Lewis Page
(Written by Reg staff)

Just a minute

No I haven't. The fellow routinely steals my ideas in advance.

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Wunderkind starts robot-buster weapons firm

Lewis Page
(Written by Reg staff)

Fantasy vs fantasy

Open Comment to Prof Sharkey

If you have no fear of out-of-control robots attacking humans, why endorse Ben Way's ostensible attempts (comical though they are) to build weapons specifically intended for dealing with such situations? If Ben Way and his silliness aren't your style, you shouldn't be drumming up business for him in his press releases - or didn't he ask you?

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Northrop in electric blaster cannon milestone

Lewis Page
(Written by Reg staff)

Rate of fire / power over time

Northrop are presenting it as a continuous beam - they say the two-chain 30kw job has shown 5 minutes' operation at a time, and 40 total thus far. Descriptions of using such things generally take it that you would hold the beam on a target - say an incoming rocket - until it blew up, which would take a variable amount of time. In the case of shooting down a salvo of incoming, the beam would need to be on almost all the time for some seconds at the least, which seems to indicate a fairly long requirement close to 5 x beam power - especially where you could get the salvoes coming in quite frequently, as when facing hostile artillery rather than katyushas or improvised mortars.

I was under impression that capacitor banks etc are useful more in the railgun world, where you must deliver all your energy in very very brief time windows, while the slug is still on the rails. Perhaps maglev flywheels or something might be more suitable for combat lasers - they're using them for server UPS now - though I believe they aren't exactly fly weight, and may not take kindly to jolting about on a tracked vehicle.

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Aussie Customs in presentational-aid crackdown

Lewis Page
(Written by Reg staff)

Worth reading the comments

Sometimes - I'll give you that. Mainly it's like standing in a full bathtub on top of a hill in a thunderstorm wearing a copper hat and shouting "the gods are all bastards", though. As I thnk Terry Pratchett first said.

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Portsmouth punts naval boy-on-boy to innocent kiddies

Lewis Page
(Written by Reg staff)
Pirate

I think the term you were looking for

Is a lick of the cat, shurely

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Boeing gets new raygun-on-a-lorry contract

Lewis Page
(Written by Reg staff)

Cannon rounds

Sure, I forgot to mention the self-destruct fuses on the cannon rounds this time. But you need a fairly hard, penetrate-y cannon slug to reliably smash up mortar bombs, katyusha rockets etc. They use solid penetrators in the basic naval CIWS, I think. So when the inland version's shells self-destruct, they'll still scatter hard, heavy (thus deadly) frags pretty often. And anyway, most self-destruct fuses have a noticeable dud rate, at least a percent or two. Over time, you'll still be dropping quite a few intact rounds into the local neighbourhood, and you only need to hit one kid ...

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US airforce to launch robotic Space Shuttle 2.0 this year

Lewis Page
(Written by Reg staff)

Global reach

Gents -

I'm quite aware that orbital deployment is a far-fetched notion. However, the US Marines were keen as mustard on the idea at one time:

http://www.defensetech.org/archives/001815.html

(You'll note that the postulated USMC space landing-craft is plainly a re-badged X-37! No doubt full of midget jarheads)

The idea would be to crashland your X-37 derived one-way/disposable troop carrier at the place of choice, or possibly to parachute the troops out once down to a reasonable speed and height. Alternatively, you might do a one-way Entebbe/TALO style op against a target runway, or splash down at sea or whatever. Of course, we're talking about an awfully long walk out again - or an enormous forced-entry followup invasion once the hostages are safe, nukes are seized - or whatever - no matter how you slice it: but that's true of any long-range parachute op, and special forces worldwide love those (or claim to ...)

As for spy payloads, no doubt we're all well aware of the DARPA Rapid Eye robospyplane-on-a-rocket ploy. Why not combine the plane and reentry-vehicle parts? Especially if that were also useful for other things.

Warheads, sure, why not just use ICBM RVs. There are such plans. But you might want to drop some specialist aeroplane payload like the MOP, MOAB etc; you might want to come down somewhere unexpectedly, that nobody could predict if they were tracking your orbit. You could get some flexibility with a winged RV.

Don't get me wrong - I don't think the US military really needs all this. But they might think they do; or someone might like to sell it to them; or some politician might like to have it made in his district.

Of course you're right, it might also make a fun sat-stealer, You Only LIve Twice style ...

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Extra-heavy minicopter 'Jetpack' astounds world+dog

Lewis Page
(Written by Reg staff)

Perception of risk - FAO Testa

Valid point on numpties plunging from the sky. But a few counterpoints-

Bad weather, nil vis = no flying by anyone without IFR kit and skills. Not let's have a go anyway (cue slaughter) as in the case of road vehicles, but not happening at all - you can't fool yourself into thinking you can cope, as drivers do when setting out in icing or foggy conditions. If you do, you'll eliminate yourself at once.

Existing PPLs vs Joe Public driver on kicking the tyres before lighting the fires - not much in it I'd say.

Ten years heavy use of a minicopter would also see at least ten much more rigorous aviation MoTs - separate ones for engines, too. Aircraft maintenance is logged, checked etc far more comprehensively than that of cars.

Cars, trucks and buses kill people. Motorbikes kill a lot of people. Aircraft mostly don't. They are regulated and enforced to the nth degree, far more than road vehicles. Just personally, I'd relax it a little, maybe not down to the level where thousands died in aircraft accidents every year (as is now the case with the roads), but a bit.

I wouldn't be allowed to, though, because of perceived risk. Everyone is happy to walk along a two-inch-high pavement in pissing rain and/or ice, fog etc with traffic roaring past nose to tail at forty mph plus, driven largely by Joe Numpty who hasn't checked his tyre tread in months, has his ABS warning light on, his brake lights and headlights dark often enough, and who may not actually have ever passed a licencing test. Just the other day a bus driver rammed a pub down my way, partly wrecking it - a whole lot more damage than a 150-lb minicopter would do coming down on its emergency chute. Articulated trucks jacknife on the motorways all the time - do we panic? No sir.

But the moment a personal minicopter came down on its parachute and squashed someone's foot, that would be it - my relaxation of minicopter regs would be repealed that week.

People are strange.

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Boeing to build combo airship-copter flying cranes

Lewis Page
(Written by Reg staff)
Boffin

JonB

Okay then. You want cross-connected rotors on the JHL (though you might not bother: the JHL-40 can simply drop its load if it has an engine failure and become an ordinary airship). Chinook rotors are cross connected, and two can lift about 25 tons of all-up Chinook. We need the equivalent of two Chinook rotor sets and transmissions - fifteen, eighteen tons of gear tops, probably less; an entire Chinook only weighs a bit over ten tons empty - to lift 40 tons and lots of extra fuel. Both the regular airship and the blimpcopter need engines and use fuel, but the blimpcopter as you rightly point out will use a lot more when it has an underslung load.

You would rather lift that 40 tons with helium, and then ram all the extra helium away into a pressure vessel when dropping loads. You'll need about 37,000 cubic metres of helium to lift 40 tons. Good pressure spheres can hold 300 bar, so you need about 150 cubic metres of high-pressure tanks to stuff the gas into at drop-off - an enormous, very strong metal ball as big as a house - not "a couple of tanks". Just the tankage alone will be hugely heavier than rotor sets, and we haven't even started on compressors and transmissions - ones able to squash down a cathedral-full of free gas to 300 bar in a matter of minutes. It isn't going to be a little diesel job, you know - I doubt that four jet engines would provide enough power to get it done inside a day either, not and provide hover thrust too. You'd probably need extra prime movers.

Seriously - it isn't going to work. All through the history of airships, people have struggled to control buoyancy without venting gas as load diminishes; even fuel burn over a long voyage is a serious problem. The Germans tried using special gaseous fuel that weighed the same as air - Blaugas - that worked pretty well. The Americans used condensers to reclaim water from the engine exhaust, and so replace missing fuel with water ballast - that's what those funny squares were on the sides of the Akron and Macon. Apparently it worked OK when running at speed, to provide air cooling for the condensers.

Nobody ever produced something that could cope with losing a big fraction of useful load fast without venting gas or taking on ballast. Nobody - nobody, not the Germans, not the Americans, not us - even tried storing meaningful amounts of lift gas aboard under pressure, because, as you see, it is totally impossible. Piasecki with his Heli-Stat and Boeing today had good reasons for using rotor lift for the droppable load - they are all professional engineers.

Consider yourself decimated by all means.

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Lewis Page
(Written by Reg staff)
Boffin

Vacuum Ship

You're right, people have often pondered a vacuum ship, though it offers relatively little benefit. Helium (atomic weight 4, double molecule) and especially hydrogen (atomic weight 1, double molecule) are so much less dense than air (mostly nitrogen, atomic weight 14, double molecule - or even heavier oxygen) that you don't get a colossal boost in lift - roughly 7 or 40 per cent, compared to H or He. Plus you laugh at pressure height, of course. So it's useful, but not such as to justify the awful difficulties of making a huge, ultralightweight vacuum bottle or internally braced vac-sac. A convex rigid skin would seem likelier, though, as it would provide some bracing of itself. But consider what big pressure bottles look like with our materials tech: ships and submarines and space stations, much too heavy to float on their own buoyancy in 1-bar gas.

I think there was an Iain M Banks book where the airships were full of nanothin carbon vacuum spheres, super light but super empty. As in the book, though, by the time you can actually build a working vacuum airship you're probably so advanced that you would only do so for for a laugh. For everyday travel you'd just hop into your artificial-intelligence antigrav starship or whatever.

Right. Must do some work now.

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Lewis Page
(Written by Reg staff)
Boffin

Helium Venting

Gents/Ladies -

Yes you could suck helium from the lifting envelope and compress it in tanks, so keeping the valuable gas but doing away with its buoyancy. But high-pressure storage tanks are heavy, and ramming gas into them is a slow and power-hungry process. Compressors would be heavy too, as would the transmission to carry power from the ship's engines to them. Even if we were to build all this very heavy kit - much heavier than a few sets of rotors as in the JHL-40 - into an airship for this purpose, it would have to hover above the delivery point probably for hours, compressors at full bore, before the tension came off the sling lines and it could unhook without risk of losing gas. It would never be a proper flying crane.

Also - air ballonets inside blimp envelopes. Yes these do exist - you have to have them in a non-rigid ship, to keep the envelope fully inflated when you're below pressure height and the helium doesn't totally fill it. But you can't use them to meaningfully compress the helium - an envelope which could contain its contents at pressures usefully higher than ambient would be so heavy it couldn't fly. A flyable envelope would come apart - burst - if you tried to squash the helium down by squirting high-pressure air into the ballonets. Even if you made the whole envelope out of miracle supercloth or something, you'd still be lumbered with the slow, heavy compressors as in the storage-tank option.

The best practical option for a normal airship unloading is for it to take on water ballast via a pipe as stuff is disembarked. That's obviously fine at a mooring mast, and reasonably practical if hovering above the sea (though you need quite a muscular pump if hovering at all high up). It won't do at a construction site in Alaska or Siberia or the brazilian rainforest etc.

You could use nice cheap hydrogen - obviously they did in the Graf Zeppelin for ages without problems - and I'm aware of the Hindenburg theories. But the stuff leaks like the dickens, and it is quite dangerous. I don't think you could really sell that idea in the modern safety climate.

Hope that helps. As you can probably tell, I'm a bit of an airship geek.

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Land Warrior wearable war-smartphone survives Iraq baptism

Lewis Page
(Written by Reg staff)

Fishing for hits?

What is it you think we do for a living here?

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Sikorsky X2 superwhirlybird enters ground spin-up phase

Lewis Page
(Written by Reg staff)
Stop

'Nothing really new'

Sure, nothing new. Well, except that it uses a pusher prop driven from the main transmission combined with coaxial, making it very different from the AH-56: and avoiding the need for extra push engines as on the S-69/XH-59A. (The YH-59 high-speed test bird, which got up to X2-like speed, had to carry no fewer than four turbojets as well as its rotor drive). Sikorsky wanted to build an XH-59B on X2 lines at the time, but it didn't happen.

This isn't even to mention that X2 has variable speed rotors, too, which is potentially rather significant all on its own - as I did my best to point out. And a few other things that I didn't find room for in the article - low-drag hub etc.

Just out of interest, what would be news? Hyperdrive?

Anyway, if you can't see why revolutionary is a better word to use here than evolutionary ...

I see it was a mistake to start looking at comments again.

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First supersonic swingwing synthi-fuel flight tomorrow

Lewis Page
(Written by Reg staff)
Boffin

Old dog

Actually the B-1 was conceived in the 70s, got cancelled as the B-1A and then revived in the 80s as the B-1B I believe. So it is fairly old, certainly compared to the Eurofighter, Rafale, Raptor, Predator et al. Though as you say, most air forces are mainly fielding older gear.

The first USAF synthifuel trial was on the B-52, an even older dog.

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Exploding turnip threat menaces Indiana town

Lewis Page
(Written by Reg staff)
IT Angle

IT Angle-o-rama

Not just a root but a robot fondly known as Bob.

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US declares 1400-mile Pacific sat-shoot exclusion zone

Lewis Page
(Written by Reg staff)

Taped off area out at sea

I did not write that. Before you all start.

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US Army proto-Dalek combat robots enter testing

Lewis Page
(Written by Reg staff)
Alien

Where did Davros get his initial designs?

Bound to have adapted something already existing, you'd think. Such as a military recon drone ... go on, fall into my trap again.

Muahaha

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US-Iranian naval clash: Radio trolls probably to blame

Lewis Page
(Written by Reg staff)
Pirate

Mine Clearance Diver

Mr. Coward -

I was a Minewarfare and Clearance Diving Officer, a bit like a USN EOD diver. MCDOs serve in minewarfare ships as complement officers, as well as in shore-based EOD units. There being no place for officers who can't stand a bridge watch in an RN minehunter, you have to get your bridge ticket before you can attempt MCDO training, and you keep watchstanding as Ops and even XO.

And I don't like the Pasdaran at all. I've been within their reach as an armed, uniformed representative of Western democracy, in fact, so my position on theocratic gunmen should be pretty bloody clear.

That doesn't mean I think our side can't make mistakes. Nor does it mean this was a likely time for the Pasdaran to be doing any more than fool about annoyingly, given the recent US intel assessment of their nuclear plans. Nor does it mean that the Pasdaran are the same as ordinary joe Iranian in the street.

Watch your step when you accuse me of taking Islamist money.

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Supersonic stealth jumpjet rolls off production line

Lewis Page
(Written by Reg staff)
Stop

Rebuttal

Gentlemen (probably not ladies) -

Nick: Air cover from Harriers without any organic AEW has been tried in the Falklands. It didn't work terribly well. If there is an air threat, an MEU on its own will suffer just as the Op Corporate task force did. So this is not such a big deal to lose.

George: If we have RAF AWACS, we can have RAF CAPs too and we don't need a carrier at all. Where were the RAF radar birds in 1982? The lesson of the Falklands was very clear: carrier fighters need carrier AEW. They are all parts of the same system, and buying one without the other - as we are nwo doing for the second time - makes little sense. And if you don't like my stuff don't read it, that's my advice.

Anonymous Coward: Kandahar is not an improvised strip in the field, it is a heavily defended military airbase. It just happened to have a crappy runway until lately. Off-base operations and Kandahar are not the same thing, and a prolonged failure to do some basic construction work hardly justifies the F-35B. Develop a whole new jet technology, or mend a runway surface? You choose.

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S Korea joins hunt for stuff with frikkin' laser beams on it

Lewis Page
(Written by Reg staff)
Boffin

THEL

Actually I'd heard of MTHEL/THEL. It is chemical, and thus huge and unwieldy. It's also my understanding that there's a bit of an issue with rate of fire/ammo supply. Eg, you need tons of exploding, corrosive hazmat chemicals as well as all the unwieldy laser kit. And all this (usually) for the purpose of knocking down very cheap Katyushas which come in large numbers. The enemy will be able to bankrupt you (or overwhelm you and perhaps blow up your billion dollar laser in addition to whatever it was guarding) fairly easily.

The Yanks seem to be pretty much saying now that they won't use chem-lasers for ground units, and even the Israelis don't know if they can be bothered.

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Security minister defends ID cards, longer detention

Lewis Page
(Written by Reg staff)

Mr Page

Was until 2004 Lieutenant* Page, RN

And was court martialled back in the '90s. For being drunk on shore, as it happens. Very painful, I can't remember the details. Nor can I recall the rules of grammar surrounding such capers - which is why I told that saucy sub to deal with the matter herself.

I propose to keep on saying court martial or whatever, and letting you chaps fight it out with the subs. They love nothing better.

*Another silly Frenchy style word which us Brits got wrong and the Yanks, oddly, got nearly right

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US study says Taser cattleprod guns are safe

Lewis Page
(Written by Reg staff)
Dead Vulture

Oh joy - back where we began

@Mark

How to prove they are safe - good plan. That would also prohibit the issuing of truncheons. In fact it would probably prohibit the use of anything but mild-mannered debating techniques.

@Anonymous Coward

"Safe", compared to?

Oh, being shot, right. Well, yes.

Yup. And safe compared to being punched, bludgeoned, maced, tear-gassed, charged by a police horse, or wrestled to the ground, too.

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Senate to call Boeing's 2009 raygun nuke-zap bluff?

Lewis Page
(Written by Reg staff)

Technical correction again

In fact the Taepodong 2 - the threat ICBM around which the US missile defence programme is officially structured, as it is the only possibility for NK and Iran - uses liquid fuel:

http://www.globalsecurity.org/wmd/world/dprk/missile.htm

China's only real ICBM is also liquid fuelled:

http://www.globalsecurity.org/wmd/world/china/df-5.htm

The Russian strategic missile force - which everyone admits, US missile defence cannot deal with and is not intended to - does use a lot of solid fuelled mobile Topol-M kit. However as of 2005 the Russians reportedly still had a large number of Voivode liquid heavies.

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Tidal power project fails to start on schedule

Lewis Page
(Written by Reg staff)

Tide times around country

Gentlemen

- you're telling me about tide times, that spent eight years as a bridge watchkeeping officer at sea?

Yes the times of high water do vary around the UK. But in essence the flow of the UK tides is the Atlantic flowing in and out, and it's tidal stream - water flow - that Sea Gen needs. The places where the company think it could site turbines are very restricted to begin with, and a lot of them have similar timings despite being widely separated as they are still responding to the same thing - the moon's effect on the Atlantic Ocean.

For example, look at today's times of maximum rate-of-change of height (the UKHO don't seem to be offering stream atlases online, sadly, but this will be a good approximation of the time of best stream flow).

Muckle Skerry (that's up in the mouth of the Pentland Firth, just south of the Orkneys; ripper tidal streams there*, good for SeaGen) - best times: 0300 and 0900

The Lizard, Cornwall (again, good fast tides) - best times: 0300 and 0900

Oops. Opposite ends of the country; same times.

Given that the range of possible locations (five knot tides in places you can sink piles - and won't block traffic) is very restricted, you'll really struggle to distribute turbines around so that you get a steady feed to the national grid overall. If you can do it at all you'll seriously limit the overall potential of the idea, which is already quite limited. And then you've still got a bad snag in that you'll suffer massive transmission losses piping your juice across the country from the fast flowing places to the slow flowing ones.

And then the times of the tides can be seriously changed by strong winds - which the SeaGen lads conventiently ignore - which will rot up your careful placement and balancing scheme fairly often even if you could do it. So you'll still need backup anyway!

Given that the whole thing's economically unflyable to begin with, trying to balance out the power surges by siting is going to er, blow it out of the water completely. Perhaps I should have put all this in the article, but I thought people would check if they had the idea.

PS - ad hominem guy - no my dad was not a miner. We won't get into yours.

*My ship nearly got turned round once by the eddies there. Not a big ship, but even so.

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NASA comp fails to produce flying cars

Lewis Page
(Written by Reg staff)

Miserable bunch

Gentlemen - I suspect you aren't ladies mostly -

Blimey, what a miserable bunch of grumpy bastards. I say flying cars are a pleasing idea, if not very practical - and I thought I'd made the problems clear enough in the piece. Much though the Reg ethos - and often enough that of its readers - is very much one of bitter scepticism about technology, the fact is, beneath it all, I'm a believer that tech makes our lives better. And I like to fly, but not having tons of money and spare time I don't have an instrument rating. Flying cars will only ever work if they're almost entirely automatic/remote-automatic controlled, granted. Ground cars, for that matter will only ever cease to be the most dangerous single piece of civilian kit when the same applies to them.

But. I think total safety is a myth, a dangerous dream foisted on us to limit our potential. Sure - give me a flying car, partly or totally robot controlled. I might still have an accident and hurt myself or some one else. That's true also of domestic gas, household electricity, ground cars, and walking down the stairs.

Make them all illegal - we'll all live in stone age bungalows - we're all still dead in a hundred years. Or sooner, because we'd never be able to afford modern medicine or stay warm in the winter like that.

Let's live a little while we still can.

Anyway: thanks for reading the piece, gents. I appreciate there's no reason you should waste the time. See you again tomorrow.

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How Saudi slush kept UK aero biz afloat

Lewis Page
(Written by Reg staff)

Myths/RAF Losses

Gents (Ladies) -

To put the RAF losses another way (same source as JonB above, the RAF's own account.)

"The first Tornado GR1s deployed to Muharraq during August 1990 followed by Tabuk in October and finally Dhahran early in January 1991. Each squadron had approximately 15 aircraft" - eg a total force of as many as 45 jets. Say a serviceability rate of 90%, for around 40 actually flyable.

"For the anti-airfield missions, the GR1s used the JP233 anti-runway munitions"

"The early stages of Operation Granby saw the GR1s involved in low-level anti-airfield and Suppression of Enemy Air Defence (SEAD) operations"

Four jets shot down at low level in five days, one with JP233 the rest with bombs.

For me to write "The JP233 and low-level runway attack doctrine are now widely viewed as suicidal, after RAF Tornados were decimated while using such tactics" seems fair enough. Decimated means one in ten taken out, or four in forty-odd: and not all operational jets were doing low level - as evidenced by the loss of 24 Jan - so in fact of the lowlevel-assigned planes you could say worse than 10% losses. Some accounts put the force size larger: on the other hand some put serviceability lower. Even if you say fifty Tornados flying (unlikely), all at low level throughout (not true), losing four is as near decimation as makes no odds.

I might add that I have put this version of events past a friend of mine, a serving RAF fast-jet pilot. He had no quibbles to make.

However, it's quite true that the reason given for binning JP233 was the Ottawa convention against booby-trap landmines. I have been told though that once Paveway laser-guided bombs were available, not many crews would have been willing to fly with JP233, however. I would also point out that Paveway had been available for years by 1991.

It's nice to see the friends of the RAF upper echelons trotting out the same tired old defences.

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Israeli boffins bring life to human neuron culture

Lewis Page
(Written by Reg staff)

Cocktail

The SciAm article no longer uses the word "cocktail," true. But it did when first written.

Check out the Google cache version, which embarrassed science hacks can't so easily change:

http://66.102.9.104/search?q=cache:iXgzqjMooJYJ:www.sciammind.com/article.cfm%3FarticleID%3D0306422B-E7F2-99DF-3809798634B2D416+%22cocktail+of+gamma-aminobutyric+acid+(GABA)%22&hl=en&ct=clnk&cd=1&gl=uk

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MoD boffins in Cornwall GPS-jamming trials

Lewis Page
(Written by Reg staff)

L2 encryption

Us self respecting vultures have heard of military encrypted GPS signals, ekshually. We who have used it know that the US grants such p-code access to its chums including the UK. Thus in fact the DSTL could spoof military GPS as well as civvy.

Not saying they are, mind, just that they could be.

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