The U.S. Air Force is Ready to Try Disposable Drones – $2 Million Each


Click to enlargeKratos

❝ The U.S. Air Force’s latest unmanned aerial vehicle is small, stealthy and cheap enough to be essentially disposable. The Low-Cost Attritable Aircraft, or LCAA, could radically change the way the world’s leading air arm wages war.

The U.S. Defense Department revealed the first LCAA prototype as part of the annual DoD Lab Day, an official even highlighting the work of various military research institutions. A photo accompanying a Lab Day handout depicts an angular, jet-powered drone with a silvery paint job that could have radar-absorbing qualities…

❝ The idea behind the LCAA is to build lots of inexpensive drones and send them into combat without worrying about losing them. Not coincidentally, the prototype builder, Kratos, made its reputation building expendable target drones…

❝ …To be “attritable,” the LCAA must be cheap. The Air Force’s contract with Kratos requires that the LCAA cost no more than $3 million apiece for 99 copies and $2 million or less for batches of 100 or more drones…

Cheaper than building schools, supporting growth industries that aren’t dependent on killing furriners. If you only look at the cost of onesies.

❝ The LCAA program is potentially revolutionary for the Air Force. Hundreds or even thousands of the new drones could augment dwindling numbers of expensive manned warplanes that take decades to develop and field.

Yup. And if you believe the Pentagon is going to stop billion$ war projects going to their buddies at Boeing or Lockheed – I have a deal for you in a bridge connecting Brooklyn to Manhattan.

Remember, again – the Origins of Memorial Day

❝ The purpose of Memorial day [nowadays] focuses on those who lost their lives while serving in the US armed forces.

And that cost has been enormous over the past century. Inspired by Poppy Field, a data visualization of all war deaths since 1900, we built this chart showing the death toll of the seven biggest American conflicts since 1914, along with total military deaths resulting from the conflicts:

The human cost of the Civil War was beyond anybody’s expectations. The young nation experienced bloodshed of a magnitude that has not been equaled since by any other American conflict. The cost of eliminating the tragic and inhuman greed of slavery took more lives on and off the battlefield than any war since.

That memory is the foundation of Memorial Day.

kwc-totals

* First posted in 2015. Americans are still killing and being killed in Afghanistan.

Newly-digitized Nuclear Test Films Reveal More Data about Death and Destruction

❝ The film is silent, but it starts with a bang. The screen blows out white, then a tropical beach comes into view, before an explosion tears across the horizon. A two-tiered mushroom cloud flows skyward, revealing a dark, intense plume of smoke that smolders in the distance…

Another film, showing the charmingly titled “Operation Teapot,” is a black-and-white nightmare: A ball of fire comes into the frame over a mound in the distance, engulfing the sky and setting off a wave of soil or smoke or both, so powerful that the camera starts to shake.

❝ These are films of the nuclear age, and there are thousands of them. They document the 210 atmospheric nuclear tests the United States conducted between 1945 and 1962.

❝ Until recently, these government-commissioned films had been scattered around different archives, though the bulk of them sat in boxes at Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico. Fortunately, a team of physicists and film archivists at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in California decided to digitize the films before it was too late…

❝ Gregg Spriggs and his team started digitizing the films using special scanners that move the film without gripping it by the holes in the edges. But as they watched the old films, they noticed something: The nuclear yield data based on the images was wrong.

These aren’t just any old government movies: They are scientific documents that are key to understanding nuclear power. And even though the films are very old, scientists don’t get access to these sorts of nuclear tests anymore. Atmospheric nuclear tests have been banned since 1963…

❝ So Spriggs and his team set about reanalyzing all of the old films, using new techniques. The indicators remain the same, in some ways: The double flash of light, the fireball and the shock wave captured on film all provide significant information for researchers on the energy generated by the nuclear blast…But the newly digitized films allow researchers to more clearly see the fireball’s edge, allowing for much more accurate yield estimates. “We were finding that some of these answers were off by 20, maybe 30, percent,” says Spriggs. “One of the payoffs of this project is that we’re now getting very consistent answers. We’ve also discovered new things about these detonations that have never been seen before. New correlations are now being used by the nuclear forensics community, for example.”

❝ The lab has posted a number of the films on YouTube, and the ability to watch these films from the cold remove of one’s desk chair is an arresting experience.

These brief portals to the Cold War are oddly devoid of context. Each film on Lawrence Livermore’s Atmospheric Nuclear Test playlist is accompanied by nothing more than its code name — no date, no location, no mention of lingering radiation. The films are silent, the explosions otherworldly. But they were in our world: enormous nuclear weapons, unleashed over Nevada and the Marshall Islands.

We have politicians, pundits and other political pimps for death and destruction who miss the Good Old Days depicted in these films. If only the ideology of hegemony over the world that sparks these thugs would die out with them.

I doubt that.

Arms sales around the world are the highest they’ve been since the end of the Cold War


Noah Seelam/AFP

❝ Global arms sales over the last five years reached their highest level since 1990, with India continuing to top the charts as the world’s largest defense importer, a report from the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute has found.

Between 2012 and 2016, India accounted for 13 percent of global arms imports, followed by Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, China and Algeria, said SIPRI, which tracks global arms purchases. Between 2007 and 2011, India accounted for 9.7 percent of global imports, still more than any other country…

❝ Despite rising threats, and a ‘Make in India’ program to encourage local arms production, India’s domestic defense sector is not capable of meeting New Delhi’s growing requirements…

“They spend a lot of time and also money trying to develop weapons in India and things just go hopelessly wrong,” Siemon Wezeman, a senior researcher with SIPRI, said, adding that leaves them relying on imports…

❝ …The shift under Modi to rely more on private Indian companies for defense procurement, could lead to success. India signed an $8.7 billion contract to buy 36 Rafale jets from Dassault Aviation SA…Analysts also warned that structural changes to India’s defense purchasing would take a long time, given the lengthy timelines involved in defense R&D and manufacturing, as well as the necessity of meeting the military’s pressing requirements for combat-ready equipment.

RTFA for the gory details. Getting caught in the same sort of military-industrial complex that only shares ownership of the US economy with fossil fuel barons doesn’t seem like forward-looking economic design or planning. India might have more of a chance at long-term economic success working at building a mutual relationship based on peace with neighbors in the region. After all, they all were shoved into the same trick bag by departing Imperial England back in the day.

Wonder what the civilized world thinks of Trump’s so-called leadership?


Click to enlarge

On Twitter, this morning, I bumped into a discussion led by a well-meaning Liberal on “how can we convince Trump acolytes to come to their senses?” Which is why I stopped worrying about being a Liberal approximately in 1956.

How about fighting for honest democracy in this country? Overcome criminal gerrymandering and the raft of illicit laws passed by Republican gangsters which prevent everyone from having a chance to vote. Let the Trump chumps keep their Tea Party, cigarettes and Hummers. And let the rest of us have a realistic shot at an equal opportunity to vote.

The Doomsday Clock just ticked closer to Midnight – thanks to Trump

It’s now 2 ½ minutes to “midnight,” according to the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists, which warned Thursday that the end of humanity may be near.

The group behind the famed Doomsday Clock announced at a news conference that it was adjusting the countdown to the End of it All by moving the hands 30 seconds closer to midnight — the closest the clock has been to Doomsday since 1953, after the United States tested its first thermonuclear device, followed months later by the Soviet Union’s hydrogen bomb test.

In announcing that the Doomsday Clock was moving 30 seconds closer to the end of humanity, the group noted that in 2016, “the global security landscape darkened as the international community failed to come effectively to grips with humanity’s most pressing existential threats, nuclear weapons and climate change.”

❝ But the organization also cited the election of President Trump in changing the symbolic clock.

“Making matters worse, the United States now has a president who has promised to impede progress on both of those fronts,” theoretical physicist Lawrence M. Krauss and retired Navy Rear Adm. David Titley wrote in a New York Times op-ed on behalf of the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists. “Never before has the Bulletin decided to advance the clock largely because of the statements of a single person. But when that person is the new president of the United States, his words matter.”

Like so many meaningful sources of information affecting the future of this planet and all the species on board – I doubt Trump has ever read the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists. Or ever will.

Dropped from Air Force jets, an autonomous 100-drone swarm plans and executes its mission

U.S. military officials have announced that they’ve carried out their largest ever test of a drone swarm released from fighter jets in flight. In the trials, three F/A-18 Super Hornets released 103 Perdix drones, which then communicated with each other and went about performing a series of formation flying exercises that mimic a surveillance mission.

But the swarm doesn’t know how, exactly, it will perform the task before it’s released. As William Roper of the Department of Defense explained…

Perdix are not pre-programmed synchronized individuals, they are a collective organism, sharing one distributed brain for decision-making and adapting to each other like swarms in nature. Because every Perdix communicates and collaborates with every other Perdix, the swarm has no leader and can gracefully adapt to drones entering or exiting the team.

They’re not required to behave like human sheeple. Should we worry?