When science fiction meets reality, Air Force edition

November 23, 2010

One of the problems pilots encounter when flying combat missions is the blind spot, places where an enemy plane might lurk unseen, such as behind or directly below. Wouldn’t it be nice if our pilots could see in all directions, at once?

Well, a new gadget from Northrup-Grumman, the Electro-Optical Distributed Aperture System, promises to make that wish come true. A pilot can even see through the cockpit floor:

As the video makes clear, there are uses for the DAS besides dogfights, including faster identification of ground-based defenses and highly detailed views of the ground or seas surface, even in poor viewing conditions. (And note how often desert/dust environments were used as an example. Hello, Tehran?)

America has traditionally compensated for having a smaller military in terms of numbers by maintaining a technological edge over likely enemies; better equipment and tactics compensates for numerical inferiority. Granted, this is a marketing video designed to make the product look as sexy as possible to Pentagon buyers, and defense contractors have a bad history of over-promising, but if this tech comes even partway close to its potential, it will be an amazing advance in sensor technology and give our pilots a heck of an edge in combat situations.

As I often like to say, we have all the best toys.

Good thing we killed the F-22

July 23, 2009

We wouldn’t want to worry possible opponents by having advanced fighters that are actually ready now, would we?

F-35 Fighter Two Years Behind Schedule: Pentagon Panel

An internal Pentagon oversight board has found that the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter program is two years behind the publicly announced schedule, say multiple congressional aides familiar with the findings, sparking a sharp response from those invested in the debate over the F-22.

As Congress has debated the future of the F-22 fighter program, lawmakers have used the promise of the F-35 plane’s completion as a key plank in their argument that the F-22 line could be ended without a significant risk to national security.

Now, senators and aides are lamenting that the Pentagon oversight panel’s more pessimistic view on the F-35 program was not publicly released during the F-22 debate and are calling for more open disclosure of the problems with the development of the F-35.

The Pentagon’s Joint Estimate Team (JET), which was established to independently oversee the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter program, is at odds with the fighter’s Joint Program Office, the aides said. The oversight panel’s calculations determined that the fighter won’t be able to move out of the development phase and into full production mode until 2016, rather than 2014 as the program office has said. That’s assuming there are no further problems with the program, which has already faced cost overruns and schedule delays. The Government Accountability Office said the delay could cost as much as $7.4 billion.

“In every parameter and in every respect, the Joint Program Office’s projections were always a hell of a lot rosier than what the Joint Estimate Team found,” said one Senate aide who was briefed on the findings.

Doesn’t that make you feel secure? I know it reaffirms my faith in the fine, sober work Congress is doing overseeing our national security needs. Worried

LINKS: The Weekly Standard, which quotes a (yeah, anonymous) “defense expert:”

“Gates and company get caught hiding the ball once again. Just another piece of evidence suggesting the decision to end the F-22’s production was driven not by analysis and study but simply a desire to cut the budget.”