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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 (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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