Pentagon getting serious of hauling cargo with Starship

Capitalism in space: In the budget proposal submitted by the Biden administration the Pentagon included a request for $47.9 million to help develop the infrastructure it will need to use SpaceX’s Starship rocket as a method for transporting cargo point-to-point on Earth.

“The Department of the Air Force seeks to leverage the current multi-billion dollar commercial investment to develop the largest rockets ever, and with full reusability to develop and test the capability to leverage a commercial rocket to deliver AF cargo anywhere on the Earth in less than one hour, with a 100-ton capacity,” the document states.

Although this does not refer to Starship by name, this is the only vehicle under development in the world with this kind of capability. The Air Force does not intend to invest directly into the vehicle’s development, the document says. However, it proposes to fund science and technology needed to interface with the Starship vehicle so that the Air Force might leverage its capabilities.

Clearly, some Air Force officials are intrigued by the possibility of launching 100 tons of cargo from the United States and having the ability to land it anywhere in the world about an hour later.

The proposal is calling for a fourfold increase in funding for this work, as the Air Force is already spending slightly less than $10 million this year on this work.

The bottom line is that it appears SpaceX already has at least one real customer for its giant rocket. And if the military is that interested now, it likely means many more private customers are beginning to line up.

Private Snafu – Coming!!

An evening pause: This was the first of a World War II cartoon series directed by Chuck Jones, voiced by Mel Blanc, and written by Theodor Geisel aka Dr. Seuss and designed to with humor raise the work ethic of soldiers and officers.

Hat tip Lazurus Long, who adds that “it was a bit racy and [thus] popular with the servicemen.”

Today our military authorities probably consider our servicemen and women to be too fragile for such stuff. And hopefully this evening pause will air before Google’s YouTube decides it must be banned.

Military admits F-35 is impossible to use, expensive, and an utter failure

Another typical federal project: The military has now admitted that Lockheed Martin’s F-35 fighter jet, a decades-long project to replace the F-16, is an utter failure and must be replaced.

The list of basic problems with the jet are truly appalling.

In spite of its advanced technology and cutting-edge capabilities, the latest stealth fighter suffers from structural flaws and slew of challenges.

Most recent among them is a structural engine flaw and shortage in its production. The F-35’s engine problem is partly based in not being able to deliver them for maintenance as fast as needed, in addition to a problem with the heat coating on its rotor blades which shortens engine lifespan considerably. Defense News described it as a “serious readiness problem”, suggesting that as soon as 2022, nearly 5 to 6 per ent of the F-35 fleet could be effectively grounded as it waits for engine replacements.

Another challenge is the plane’s software. Most modern fighter jets have between 1 to 2 million lines of code in their software. The F-35 averages 8 million lines of code in its software, and it’s suffering from a bug problem. To fix this, the US Department of Defense is asking three American universities to help figure it out.

The fighter jet also suffers from a slightly embarrassing touchscreen problem. After making the switch from hard flipped switches to touch screens, pilots report that unlike a physical switch that you’re confident has been activated, touch screens in the plane don’t work 20 percent of the time says one F-35 pilot.

The worst part of this story is that this kind of incompetence has been par for the course for big federal projects like this for decades. Our government in Washington is corrupt and unqualified to even be dog catcher, but we voters don’t seem to have the courage to fire them. We certainly don’t fire the politicians who appear quite willing to encourage this corruption.

Another Chinese national arrested for spying

The Department of Justice on August 25th arrested a Chinese national as he was trying to leave the country with classified military computer software.

U.S. Customs and Border Protection stopped Hu Haizhou, a researcher from the University of Virginia’s Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering [who] also work[ed] for a Chinese military-linked university too, before he could board a flight to Qingdao, China, from Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport on Tuesday, said an FBI special agent in an 11-page affidavit filed on Friday in federal court in Virginia.

According to the agent, Matthew Rader, CBP investigators questioned Hu and searched his electronic devices, which revealed UVA-research-related files stored on his laptop, including “bio-inspired research simulation software code” developed by “Professor 1.” Bio-inspired research relates to studying the complexities of flying and swimming creatures in nature and applying that to manned flight or submersibles — often with military applications.

Hu “did not have lawful, authorized access to this material, and he admitted that Professor 1 would not want him to have it and would be upset to learn that HU possessed it,” the FBI said. The professor, who runs the multiuniversity Flow Simulations Group, has been developing this code over the last 17 years and is sponsored by the U.S. government’s National Science Foundation and the Office of Naval Research. The FBI special agent said that probable cause existed to charge Hu federally with fraud-related illicit computer intrusions and the theft of trade secrets.

More here.

These stories are beginning to sound repetitious, as they keep happening on almost a weekly basis. It appears that until the Trump administration the swamp in Washington had absolutely no interest for decades in protecting this nation from spying and the theft of military secrets from China or from anyone else.

Seems par for the course. At best our so-called elites are incredibly incompetent. At worst they have shown themselves to be traitors, with their loyalties aligned more with foreign powers than with the United States.

China has a shortfall of jet engines

Apropos of the engine problems on the Long March 5, it is reported today that China has a serious manufacturing shortage of the jet engines it needs for its new stealth fighters and bombers.

Aviation website Alert 5 spotted a stock-exchange filing by the Hebei subsidiary of China’s Central Iron & Steel Research Institute. The filing including production projections for military engines for the next decade, and reveals some startling shortfalls. Production and development gaps could result in the latest Chinese warplanes flying with older engine models, including imported Russian motors that might be underpowered and unreliable. The mismatch between airframes and engines could be a drag on the overall performance of Chinese military aircraft.

Perhaps the biggest shortfall is in the production of WS-15s and WS-19s, the custom motors respectively for J-20 stealth fighters and FC-31 export stealth fighters. “Data provided by Hebei Cisri Dekai Technology Co. Ltd. shows a maximum of only five WS-15 and WS-19 engines each year from 2020 ‘til 2026,” Alert 5 reported.

Apparently China will be flying these jets and bombers using inadequate Russian engines for the next five to eight years, as the country’s own industry seems unable to make them.

Space Command to launch today

The military today will initiate a new military office dubbed the Space Command, thereby consolidating its space operations into one office.

U.S. Air Force Gen. John Raymond will serve as the first head of Space Command (SPACECOM). At launch, Raymond will lead 87 active units handling operations such as missile warning, satellite surveillance, space control and space support, Gen. Joseph Dunford said at a meeting of the National Space Council earlier this month.

The rest of the linked article is focused on the politics of Trump’s desire to turn this command into a new branch of the military, a Space Force, while facing opposition in Congress and the Pentagon. The goal however from the beginning was to end the scattershot nature of the military’s space bureaucracy, and it appears, on the surface, that the Space Command has done this.

Whether things stand as they are however is doubtful. Creating a new military branch is a wonderful opportunity for Washington power-brokers to find ways to spend money. For example, some estimates have said that the new Space Force could cost $1 to $2 billion more. You think these thieves and crooks in Washington will be able to resist that?

Of course, there really is no reason for this new agency to cost so much extra. In fact, the Space Command as created now probably adds nothing to the budget, and in fact probably has the chance to save money. And it even makes the military’s space operations more robust and efficient.

I therefore expect the powers-that-be in Washington to move to change that.

Pence outlines Trump administration’s plans for Space Force

In a speech today vice president Mike Pence laid out the Trump administration’s plans for eventually establishing a new Space Force branch in the military.

The first step would be to create a U.S. Space Command by the end of the year, a new combatant command that would have dedicated resources, be led by a four-star general and be tasked with defending space, the way the Pentagon’s Pacific Command oversees the ocean. The Pentagon will also begin pulling space experts from across the military and setting up a separate acquisitions office, dedicated to buying satellites and developing new technology to help it win wars in space.

…In his speech, Pence acknowledged the difficulties in standing up a new service, and said the Pentagon would create an Assistant Secretary of Defense for Space, a new top level civilian position reporting to the Secretary of Defense “to oversee the growth and expansion of the sixth branch of service.”

The new command and reorganization “should be budget neutral,” Scott Pace, the executive secretary of the National Space Council, said in an interview. “However, going forward there probably will need to be an increase in resources to buy improved capabilities and more warfighters as the Space Force matures.”

The White House has pushed for Congress to invest an additional $8 billion in national security space systems over the next five years. [emphasis mine]

The highlighted sentences explain everything. The fundamental goal here is not really to improve the country’s space defenses. The real goal is to funnel more money into the federal bureaucracy.

Reorganizing how the Defense Department runs its space operations makes great sense. And it appears the Defense Department has been moving to do so in the past few years. This push for a Space Force now however has nothing to do with that reorganization, as indicated by the opposition in Defense to Trump’s proposed Space Force. To quote the article again:

The creation of a Space Force has met with opposition, inside and out of the Pentagon. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said in a memo last year to Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) he opposed “the creation of a new military service and additional organizational layers at a time when we are focused on reducing overhead and integrating joint warfighting functions.”

They don’t need it right now, and it will only grow their bureaucracy unnecessarily, which will actually interfere with their effort to streamline and reorganize its space operations.

This effort by Trump to create this new bureaucracy illustrates why he is not the conservative some people imagine him to be. He might shrink the government in some places (EPA), but he is eager to grow it elsewhere. And the last thing we need now is a bigger federal government in any department. None function well, and they all cost too much and are sucking the life out of the American dream.

U.S. tests anti-missile interceptors

The U.S. Navy and the Missile Defense Agency (MDA) on December 14th successfully test fired two missile interceptors, designed to destroy an incoming missile attack.

The test occurred Dec. 14 and launched two Raytheon-built Standard Missile-6 Dual 1 (SM-6) missiles from the Navy destroyer USS John Paul Jones from just off the coast of Hawaii, MDA officials said in a statement. The two SM-6 projectiles were launched against a medium-range ballistic missile target as part of the MDA’s Sea-Based Terminal Program, using Navy ships equipped with the Aegis Ballistic Missile Defense System.

The interceptor missiles also used an explosive warhead to destroy their target, which appears to be an advance on previous interceptors, which relayed merely on hitting the target.

Pentagon demanding return of cash bonuses given to soldiers a decade ago

Evil. The government is routinely evil: The Pentagon is demanding that soldiers who ten years ago volunteered to re-enlist to fight in Iraq and Afghanistan in exchange for cash bonuses return those bonuses because new audits have revealed that the government had screwed up.

The Army asked wounded Iraq veteran and former Army captain Christopher Van Meter, 42, to repay a $25,000 reenlistment bonus it said he was ineligible to receive. He was also asked to repay $21,000 in student loan repayments. Van Meter told the paper that rather than fight the Army he paid back the money after refinancing his home. “These bonuses were used to keep people in,” Van Meter said. “People like me just got screwed.”

The Times reported that 48-year-old Army sergeant Robert Richmond, who suffered permanent injuries in an Iraq roadside bomb attack, is refusing to repay his $15,000 cash bonus. The Army contends he was ineligible to receive the bonus in 2006 because he had already served 20 years in the Army. “I signed a contract that I literally risked my life to fulfill,” Richmond told the paper. “We want somebody in the government, anybody, to say this is wrong and we’ll stop going after his money.”

Investigations determined that fraud and mismanagement due to poor oversight contributed to the California Guard bonus overpayments, according to the Times. [emphasis mine]

In other words, the government was either incompetent or downright corrupt a decade ago, and now wants soldiers who risked their lives but did their job well to suffer for that incompetence and corruption.

As I say, the government is routinely evil, and incompetent. It can’t do anything right, and will never take responsibility for its own disasters. Instead, it tries to pass its failures on to us all.

Marine court-martialed for displaying Biblical verses

Fascists: Claiming “significant damage could be caused by forcing military employees to work in the presence of a religious quotation,” a Marine was court-martialed when she refused to remove the verses displayed at her work place.

The case centers on an incident two years ago, in which Sterling was stationed at Camp Lejune in North Carolina. A devout Christian, she chose to place at her workstation three slips of paper with the words, “No weapon formed against me shall prosper,” a modification of the Bible verse Isaiah 54:17. Sterling taped the Bible verse in three different places to emulate the Holy Trinity, according to her lawyers.

When her immediate supervisor – Staff Sergeant Alexander – saw the verses, she ordered Sterling to remove them, saying that she did not like the tone. Sterling refused, according to her lawyers, citing First Amendment freedoms and the fact that others in her unit were allowed to have personal items in their workstations. The following day, Sterling found the Bible verses in the garbage. She then reprinted and posted the verses, but found them in the trash again the next day.

On February 1, 2014, Sterling was court-martialed.

She lost the case, but is now appealing to the military’s highest court.

The absurdity of this knows no bounds. No one ever complained about the verses. More importantly, it is her right to express them, even as a display.

Army building its first operational ray gun?

Lockheed Martin has begun production on a laser weapon designed to be mounted to U.S. Army vehicles.

The ATHENA laser can be operated by a single person and is made up of multiple fiber laser modules, which not only allows for greater flexibility, but also lessens the chance of the weapon being knocked out by a minor malfunction, so frequent repairs aren’t required. Lockhead Martin also says that the modular design means that the laser power can be varied across an extremely wide range to suit specific mission needs. Using off-the-shelf commercial fiber laser components to keep down costs, the modules can be linked together to produce lasers of up to 120 kW.

ATHENA was tested in March when it took out a pickup truck with a sustained 30 kW burst.

While stun and disintegration ray guns seem cool in science fiction, in battle something as complex and as cutting edge as this is likely not be be very practical. New technology needs a lot of testing to make its workings robust, something that is essential in the harsh conditions of battle. To me, this sounds more like pork, government money being wasted to keep people employed.

Obama quarantines American soldiers in Africa but not Africans

Incompetence: Even as the Obama administration refuses to consider any real travel restrictions for African citizens of ebola-ravaged countries, it has ordered military officials to quarantine American troops in Africa for up to 21 days if they suspect they might have ebola.

According to CNN, “Commanders also will be given the authority to isolate their entire unit in the region for the final 10 days of a deployment if necessary. All troops will be monitored for 21 days after returning from the mission.”

Currently, citizens of Ebola outbreak countries are required to self-report their possible exposure. The “honor system” of self-reporting was violated by Thomas Eric Duncan, the Liberian man who was the first to be diagnosed with Ebola in the U.S., when he did not voluntarily disclose that he’d carried a pregnant woman in the throes of Ebola.

The restrictions for American troops actually does make sense. The lack of restrictions for Africans, however, is the height of blindness.

Chinese anti-satellite test?

The U.S. State department is claiming that China completed a “non-destructive” anti-satellite test last week.

The State department also demanded that China refrain from further such actions.

China in turn said that the test was for a a ballistic missile defense system. According to these Chinese reports, the test was of a land-based missile designed to intercept an incoming rocket, much like Israel’s Iron Dome and the U.S. SDI systems. Such a system, however, is in many ways indistinguishable from an anti-sat system. In fact, the U.S. military proved that by firing a missile that successfully destroyed an orbiting satellite several years ago.

In the case of last week’s Chinese test, the interceptor did not apparently impact anything but instead demonstrated its ability to hit a prearranged simulated point in space.

China’s president calls for the increased military use of that country’s space assets.

China’s president calls for the increased military use of that country’s space assets.

The article itself is not very informative, other than noting these comments. In fact, it has some errors that suggest the writer knows very little about China’s space effort, both civilian or military.

Nonetheless, China’s president did make this statement, which tells us that it is definitely Chinese policy. Not good.

A Catholic priest at a military base has been prohibited from even volunteering to run Mass and was told that if he violated that order he would be arrested.

Shutdown fascism: A Catholic priest at a military base has been prohibited from even volunteering to run Mass and was told that if he violated that order he would be arrested.

Even more amazing, “Protestant services continue to take place. Only Catholic services have been shutdown.”

A lawsuit has been filed.

The Obama administration has ordered 1100 square miles of open ocean off limits to private fisherman and tourists because of the government shutdown.

Shutdown fascism: The Obama administration has ordered 1100 square miles of open ocean off limits to private fisherman and tourists because of the government shutdown.

The article above also has a link to a story where voluntary unpaid Catholic priests have been told by the Obama administration that they will face arrest if they try to serve mass at military chapels or minister to military personnel during the shutdown.

Even as the military announces it must eliminate TV broadcasts of sporting events for the troops overseas because of the govermnent shutdown, it continues to operate the golf courses and Camp David for President Obama’s entertainment.

Even as the military announces it must eliminate TV broadcasts of sporting events for the troops overseas because of the govermnent shutdown, it continues to operate the golf courses and Camp David for President Obama’s entertainment.

Posted as we crossed the Tennessee-Virginia border on I-81, heading north.

The Pentagon has decided to buy its launch services from more than just Boeing and Lockheed Martin.

The competition heats up: The Pentagon has decided to buy its launch services from more than just Boeing and Lockheed Martin.

Under the new plan, the Air Force can buy as many as 14 launches over the next five years from possible bidders such as Space Exploration Technologies Corp, or SpaceX, and Orbital Sciences Corp . The service may also buy as many as 36 launches from United Launch Alliance, the Lockheed-Boeing venture, with an option to purchase the other 14 launches if the competitors haven’t been certified to launch military and spy satellites that can cost up to $1 billion each.

Originally the military planned to purchase all of its launches from Boeing and Lockheed. Political pressure from SpaceX has now forced them to widen the competition, or at least, make noises that they are doing so. If you read the above paragraph closely the plan still favors the original two companies and is strongly stacked to hand all the launches over to them anyway.

Update: My pessimism above was premature. SpaceX has been awarded a contract for two launches under this new policy.

Two Democrats joined Republicans yesterday on a Senate committee to block the U.S. military from increasing its use of alternatives fossil fuels.

Two Democrats joined Republicans yesterday on a Senate committee to block the U.S. military from increasing its use of alternatives fossil fuels.

What stood out to me in this article was the following quote:

As part of this support, in December the Navy agreed to spend $12 million for 450,000 gallons of “advanced biofuels,” which can be blended with petroleum in a 50:50 mixture and burned in conventional engines. The Navy and Air Force have both set a goal of using advanced biofuels for 50% of their fuel use by the end of this decade. But the current $26-a-gallon price tag angered congressional Republicans, who accuse the Obama Administration of using the military to support its green agenda. [emphasis mine]

$26 per gallon for biofuels? I find it astonishing that anyone voted for this program.

Of course the military wants options. And of course we want to reduce our dependence on fossil fuels, if only to reduce the money pouring into the hands of the radical Islamists of the Middle East. But at that price, these alternative fuels are simply not competitive or affordable.

GAO and SpaceX blast military’s plans to spend $15 billion for all its launches through 2018 in one purchase

GAO and SpaceX blast the military’s plans to spend $15 billion for all its launches through 2018, in one bulk purchase.

The reason given by the military for buying all these launches up front is to save money. In reality, it is to favor the companies they want to do business with, rather than open up the business to as many competitors as possible.

The designer of spy satellite finally reveals his life’s work

The designer of the spy satellite KH-9 HEXAGON (more generally known by its nickname “Big Bird”) has finally been able to describe his life’s work.

What surprised me most from this story is the fact that HEXAGON used film to record its images, not some form of digital or electronic technology. The film was returned to Earth in four “re-entry buckets” that were snatched out of the air by a modified C-130 airplane. I had assumed that by the time HEXAGON was launched they had abandoned film. Not so.

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