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Cartoon of the Day


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Cartoon of the Day


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Cartoon of the Day


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LCS Order">Penatgon Cuts LCS Order

This is not good news for the gang up in Marinette Marine.

The office of the sec­re­tary of defense (OSD) has directed the Navy to limit its over­all buy of lit­toral com­bat ships to a total of 32 ships, fore­go­ing 20 more of the small, fast and con­tro­ver­sial war­ships, Pen­ta­gon sources have confirmed.

The deci­sion, in a Jan. 6 memo from act­ing deputy sec­re­tary of defense Chris­tine Fox, came after the Pen­ta­gon received its final 2015 bud­get guid­ance from the White House. Sev­eral major acqui­si­tion deci­sions, includ­ing direc­tion on what to do with the LCS pro­gram, were await­ing the num­bers from the Office of Man­age­ment and Budget.

The pro­gram of record calls for the ser­vice to build 52 LCSs, built to two designs, one from Lock­heed Mar­tin and the other from Austal USA. Three of the ships are in ser­vice, and a fourth ship will be com­mis­sioned in April. Another 20 are under con­struc­tion or on order, split evenly between the two prime contractors.

Asked for com­ment, Navy spokesman Cmdr. Ryan Perry said “we’ll con­tinue to work with OSD on LCS acqui­si­tion plans.” No date has been announced for the sub­mis­sion of the 2015 bud­get to Con­gress, but it’s expected to take place no ear­lier than mid-February.

While the deci­sion isn’t final, there has been some debate inside the Navy and Penat­gon to poten­tially cut the order fur­ther from 32 to 24.  LCSs are meant for short-term mis­sions deal­ing with things like SEAL Teams, anti-submarine recon, and counter-mining (as in “BOOM!” not “dig”) operations.

Cong. Reid Rib­ble (R-Sherwood) issued a state­ment yes­ter­day on the news say­ing he’ll try to get the orig­i­nal con­tract order back online.  Hon­estly, this may be a tough row to hoe given how often direc­tives from the OSD are hard to turn around espe­cially if the branch of mil­i­tary the weapons sys­tem is meant for is debat­ing it needs it or not.

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Navy Looking Into Ships That Run on Seawater

For­get the envi­ron­men­tal pluses, the tac­ti­cal advan­tages of such a propul­sion sys­tem would be mind-blowing for the U.S. Navy.

Last month, a national-security com­mis­sion advised Con­gress to fund ship­build­ing and increase the U.S. naval pres­ence in the Asia-Pacific region in the next decade to com­pete with China’s grow­ing fleet. But upping pro­duc­tion of petro­leum fuel to meet poten­tial future demands is at odds with the Navy’s plans to reduce its depen­dence on the fos­sil fuel, the dead­lines for which are fast approach­ing. The Depart­ment of the Navy has pledged to cut petro­leum use in the service’s com­mer­cial fleet in half by 2015, and pro­duce at least 50 per­cent of its jet fuel using alter­na­tive sources by 2020.

The Naval Research Lab­o­ra­tory, a 90-year-old cor­po­rate research hub serv­ing the Navy and Marine Corps, is search­ing for such alter­na­tive sources. Led by ana­lyt­i­cal chemist Heather Willauer, the lab is cur­rently devel­op­ing tech­nol­ogy that sucks up the gases nec­es­sary to pro­duce syn­thetic jet fuel for ships right out of the sea­wa­ter they tread. If and when it becomes com­mer­cially viable, the tech­nol­ogy could trans­form naval operations.

If they made fuel at sea,” Willauer says, “they wouldn’t be buy­ing it.”

The process begins with a three-chambered cell that receives a stream of sea­wa­ter in the cen­tral com­part­ment. Right now, one of these units sits on the shore of Key West, Fla., at the lab’s Cen­ter for Cor­ro­sion Sci­ence & Engi­neer­ing facility.

The cell pulls a rel­a­tively pure and con­cen­trated source of car­bon diox­ide from the sea­wa­ter. This source is usu­ally bet­ter than car­bon diox­ide recov­ered from flue or stack gases pro­duced by the burn­ing of fos­sil fuels, Willauer says. Such gases require expen­sive, energy-intensive hard­ware to fur­ther purify them so they’re safe to use and won’t harm liv­ing organisms.

The cell pro­duces hydro­gen, which aids in recov­er­ing car­bon diox­ide from sea­wa­ter. Both processes occur in tan­dem. The unit cap­tures up to 92 per­cent of car­bon diox­ide from the sea­wa­ter, where it is 140 times higher in con­cen­tra­tion than in the air. All the energy sup­plied to the cell goes into mak­ing hydro­gen, not into the extrac­tion process, so the recov­ered car­bon diox­ide is actu­ally free, Willauer says.

The lab then uses an iron-based cat­a­lyst to con­vert the gases into olefins, a type of reac­tive chem­i­cal com­pound. The com­pound can eas­ily undergo fur­ther cat­alytic con­ver­sion into a liq­uid that con­tains hydro­car­bon mol­e­cules, which can even­tu­ally be trans­formed into jet fuel.

The entire process costs about $3 to $6 per gal­lon of jet fuel to pro­duce.  That’s about the cur­rent price on the open market.

The cur­rent down­side, the process chem­i­cally cre­ates more car­bon in the atmos­phere.  Al Gore might be a tad upset about that.

This sounds sim­i­lar to what NASA wishes to do for a manned mis­sion to Mars.  The first rocket sent to the red planet wouldn’t be the mis­sion cap­sule, but a fuel sta­tion / return ship which would land and turn out rocket fuel by suck­ing in the Mar­t­ian atmos­phere and chem­i­cally con­vert­ing the needed amount fuel for the return trip to Earth.

Of course, all this is moot if you’re deal­ing with a nuclear-powered sub­ma­rine or air­craft car­rier.  That’s an entirely dif­fer­ent propul­sion system.

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Obamas Get a New Distraction Dog

Well this is nice.

Now tax­pay­ers can pay for two Osprey trips to Martha’s Vineyard.

Bo has a new best friend in the White House.

Pres­i­dent Obama and his fam­ily took in a sec­ond Por­tuguese Water Dog named Sunny, an adorable addi­tion who will serve as play­mate and “lit­tle sis­ter” to First Dog Bo, accord­ing to the White House’s offi­cial website.

Sunny, named by Michelle Obama for her cheer­ful dis­po­si­tion, offi­cially joined the fam­ily on Mon­day. The puppy was born in Michi­gan just last June.

We sus­pect Sunny will fol­low in Bo’s foot­steps and keep the Pres­i­dent com­pany in the Oval Office, go for walks with the First Fam­ily after their 6:30 fam­ily din­ner and even jump up on the First Lady’s lap from time to time!” reads a state­ment on the web­site intro­duc­ing the pup.

By the way, I couldn’t have been the only one who noticed that long-time lib­eral crit­ics of the Marine Corps V-22 Osprey mil­i­tary air­craft (<a href=“http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=guN6E4x9Skk” onclick=“_gaq.push([’_trackEvent’, ‘outbound-article’, ‘http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=guN6E4x9Skk’, ‘it takes off like a heli­copter, but can then fly like a plane sim­ply by tran­si­tion­ing the pro­pellers’]);” rel=“prettyPhoto[g17618]””>it takes off like a heli­copter, but can then fly like a plane sim­ply by tran­si­tion­ing the propellers) went silent when news broke of the Bo get­ting a sep­a­rate heli­copter flight on the con­tro­ver­sial aircraft.

Lib­er­als used to love point­ing to the Osprey as their project of choice to crit­i­cize the Pen­ta­gon.  Not only was it “unsafe,” but it was also costly as hell.

Appar­ently, it’s now safe enough for the First Dog…

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Full F-35 Production Finally Given the Green Light

I’m a rel­a­tively big fan of the F-35, usu­ally known as the “Joint-Strike Fighter.”  As a fifth-generation air­craft, it could become not just the United States’ mil­i­tary of air­craft of choice for the next 25 years, but inter­ested friendly gov­ern­ments like the U.K., France, Ger­many and Israel could pretty much make it the NATO / Allied air­craft which replaces the hang­ers full of F-16’s still out there.

There’s a lot to go before the JSF offi­cially joins the fleet in 2015, when the Marine Corps wants them to replace aging F-18s.

Lock­heed Mar­tin Corp (LMT.N) and the Pen­ta­gon on Tues­day said they reached an agree­ment for 71 more F-35 fighter jets, with lower pric­ing allow­ing the U.S. gov­ern­ment to buy all the planes it had planned despite bud­get cuts that took effect in March.

The agree­ment, which was first reported by Reuters on Mon­day, cov­ers 36 jets in a sixth batch, with each war­plane to cost about 4 per­cent less than the pre­vi­ous lot, and 35 planes in a sev­enth batch, also at a 4 per­cent dis­count, Lock­heed and the Pentagon’s F-35 pro­gram office said in a statement.

The state­ment did not pro­vide an over­all value for the two con­tracts, but ana­lysts say they will be worth over $7 billion.

The agree­ment is good news for Lock­heed, which gen­er­ates about 15 per­cent of its rev­enues from the F-35 pro­gram, and its key sup­pli­ers: Northrop Grum­man Corp (NOC.N) and Britain’s BAE Sys­tems Plc (BAES.L). At a pro­jected pro­cure­ment and devel­op­ment cost of $392 bil­lion, it is the Pentagon’s biggest arms program.

The gov­ern­ment is nego­ti­at­ing a sep­a­rate con­tract with engine maker Pratt & Whit­ney, a unit of United Tech­nolo­gies Corp (UTX.N), and an agree­ment is also expected there soon.

The lower cost of the planes, cou­pled with lower prices on a num­ber of other smaller con­tracts, “will allow the Pen­ta­gon to buy all the air­craft orig­i­nally planned, includ­ing those that were in jeop­ardy of being cut” as a result of manda­tory bud­get cuts imposed on the Pen­ta­gon in March, the state­ment said.

It is unknown yet if the Pen­ta­gon will give the go-ahead for the full order of F-35’s.  That’s said to be nearly 2,500 to 3,000 planes, and will be used by all branches of the United States mil­i­tary, with three dif­fer­ent vari­a­tions to fit the par­tic­u­lar needs of car­rier groups, air bases and strike forces needs.

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U.S. Navy, “We Now Have Death Rays!”

Okay, it’s not a “Death Ray” in the tra­di­tional sense, but it’s a laser and its ours!

No longer the fan­tasy weapon of tomor­row, the U.S. Navy is set to field a pow­er­ful laser that can pro­tect its ships by blast­ing tar­gets with high-intensity light beams.

Early next year the Navy will place a laser weapon aboard a ship in the Per­sian Gulf where it could be used to fend off approach­ing unmanned aer­ial vehi­cles or speedboats.

The Navy calls its futur­is­tic weapon LAWS, which stands for the Laser Weapon Sys­tem. What looks like a small tele­scope is actu­ally a weapon that can track a mov­ing tar­get and fire a steady laser beam strong enough to burn a hole through steel.

A Navy video of test­ing con­ducted last sum­mer off the coast of Cal­i­for­nia shows how a laser beam fired from a Navy destroyer was able to set aflame an approach­ing UAV or drone, send­ing it crash­ing into the ocean.

There was not a sin­gle miss” dur­ing the test­ing, said Rear Admi­ral Matthew Klun­der, chief of Naval Research. The laser was three for three in bring­ing down an approach­ing unmanned aer­ial vehi­cle and 12 for 12 when pre­vi­ous tests are fac­tored in.

But don’t expect in that video to see the fir­ing of col­ored laser bursts that Hol­ly­wood has used for its futur­is­tic laser guns. The Navy’s laser ray is not vis­i­ble to the naked eye because it is in the infrared spectrum.

The video which the Navy pro­vided the media is pretty unim­pres­sive.  The tar­get is never shown being shot by any­thing visual, but it does catch fire quite quickly until it crashes.  The rear admi­ral run­ning the pre­sen­ta­tion called the rays actions sim­i­lar to a blow torch cut­ting through steel.

It is the future of mil­i­tary tech, and so far it is ours and ours alone.


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