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The Military

US Military Stepping Up Use of Directed Energy Weapons 83

An anonymous reader writes: At a conference on Tuesday, U.S. officials explained that all branches of the military would be increasing their use of lasers and other directed energy weapons. Lieutenant General William Etter said, "Directed energy brings the dawn of an entirely new era in defense." The Navy's laser deployment test has gone well, and they're working on a new prototype laser in the 100-150 kilowatt range. "[Navy Secretary Ray] Mabus said Iran and other countries were already using lasers to target ships and commercial airliners, and the U.S. military needed to accelerate often cumbersome acquisition processes to ensure that it stayed ahead of potential foes."

On the Taxonomy of Sci-Fi Spaceships 90

An anonymous reader writes: Jeff Venancio has done some research that's perfect reading for a lazy Saturday afternoon: figuring out a coherent taxonomy for sci-fi spaceships. If you're a sci-fi fan, you've doubtless heard or read references to a particular starship's "class" fairly often. There are flagships and capital ships, cruisers and corvettes, battleships and destroyers. But what does that all mean? Well, there's not always consistency, but a lot of it comes from Earth's naval history. "The word 'corvette' comes from the Dutch word corf, which means 'small ship,' and indeed corvettes are historically the smallest class of rated warship (a rating system used by the British Royal Navy in the sailing age, basically referring to the amount of men/guns on the vessel and its relative size; corvettes were of the sixth and smallest rate). ... They were usually used for escorting convoys and patrolling waters, especially in places where larger ships would be unnecessary."

Venancio takes the historical context for each ship type and then explains how it's been adapted for a sci-context. "Corvettes might be outfitted to have some sort of stealth or cloaking system for reconnaissance or spec ops missions; naturally it would be easier to cloak a smaller ship than a larger one (though plenty of examples of large stealth ships exist). In some series they are likely to be diplomatic vessels due to their small size and speed, particularly seen in Star Wars, and can commonly act as blockade runners (again; their small size and speed makes them ideal for slipping through a blockade, where a larger ship presents more of a target)."
The Military

US Navy Researchers Get Drones To Swarm On Target 99

coondoggie writes: The Office of Naval Research today said it had successfully demonstrated a system that lets small-unmanned aircraft swarm and act together over a particular target. The system, called Low-Cost UAV Swarming Technology (LOCUST) features a tube-based launcher that can send multiple drones into the air in rapid succession. The systems then use information sharing between the drones, allowing autonomous collaborative behavior in either defensive or offensive missions, the Navy said.

The US Navy Wants More Railguns and Lasers, Less Gunpowder 517

coondoggie writes Speaking before nearly 3,000 attendees at the Naval Future Force Science and Technology EXPO in Washington, D.C., Chief of Naval Operations Admiral Jonathan Greenert charged his audience to reduce reliance on gunpowder in a wide-ranging speech on the future technological needs of the Navy. "Number one, you've got to get us off gunpowder," said Greenert, noting that Office of Naval Research-supported weapon programs like Laser Weapon System (LaWS) and the electromagnetic railgun are vital to the future force. “Probably the biggest vulnerability of a ship is its magazine—because that’s where all the explosives are." Weapons like LaWS have a virtually unlimited magazine, only constrained by power and cooling capabilities aboard the vessel carrying them. In addition, Greenert noted the added safety for Sailors and Marines that will come from reducing dependency on gunpowder-based munitions.

Using Naval Logbooks To Reconstruct Past Weather and Predict Future Climate 102

Lasrick writes: What a great idea: the Old Weather Project uses old logbooks to study the weather patterns of long ago, providing a trove of archival data to scientists who are trying to fill in the details of our knowledge about the atmosphere and the changing climate. "Pity the poor navigator who fell asleep on watch and failed to update his ship's logbook every four hours with details about its geographic position, time, date, wind direction, barometric readings, temperatures, ocean currents, and weather conditions." As Clive Wilkinson of the UK's National Maritime Museum adds, "Anything you read in a logbook, you can be sure that it is a true and faithful account."

The Old Weather Project uses citizen scientists to transcribe and digitize observations that were scrupulously recorded on a clockwork-like basis, and it is one of several that climate scientists are using to create "a three-dimensional computer simulation that will provide a continuous, century-and-a-half-long profile of the entire planet's climate over time" — the 20th Century Reanalysis Project. Data is checked and rechecked by three different people before entry into the database, and the logbook measurements are especially valuable because they were compiled at sea.

Navy Tests Unpowered Exoskeleton 79

gurps_npc (621217) writes "CNN has a very interesting article about an unpowered exoskeleton system called Fortis. Unlike the more famous TALOS system, this exoskeleton uses zero electricity, so it does not need batteries or an extension cord. Power requirements have always been the problem with powered exoskeletons, as batteries are heavy. The system is made out of lightweight aluminum and heavy tools connect directly to it. The weight of the tools is supported by the exoskeleton, so your arms, back and legs don't have to carry it. You only need to use muscle to move the tool, not simply carry it. The exoskeleton does not make you stronger. Instead it effectively increases your stamina by relieving fatigue caused by carrying the heavy tool.

US Navy Wants Smart Robots With Morals, Ethics 165

coondoggie writes: "The U.S. Office of Naval Research this week offered a $7.5m grant to university researchers to develop robots with autonomous moral reasoning ability. While the idea of robots making their own ethical decisions smacks of SkyNet — the science-fiction artificial intelligence system featured prominently in the Terminator films — the Navy says that it envisions such systems having extensive use in first-response, search-and-rescue missions, or medical applications. One possible scenario: 'A robot medic responsible for helping wounded soldiers is ordered to transport urgently needed medication to a nearby field hospital. En route, it encounters a Marine with a fractured leg. Should the robot abort the mission to assist the injured? Will it? If the machine stops, a new set of questions arises. The robot assesses the soldier’s physical state and determines that unless it applies traction, internal bleeding in the soldier's thigh could prove fatal. However, applying traction will cause intense pain. Is the robot morally permitted to cause the soldier pain, even if it’s for the soldier’s well-being?'"
The Military

Navy Debuts New Railgun That Launches Shells at Mach 7 630

Jeremiah Cornelius writes: "The U.S. Navy's new railgun technology, developed by General Atomics, uses the Lorentz force in a type of linear, electric motor to hurl a 23-pound projectile at speeds exceeding Mach 7 — in excess of 5,000 mph. The weapon has a range of 100 miles and doesn't require explosive warheads. 'The electromagnetic railgun represents an incredible new offensive capability for the U.S. Navy,' says Rear Adm. Bryant Fuller, the Navy's chief engineer. 'This capability will allow us to effectively counter a wide range of threats at a relatively low cost, while keeping our ships and sailors safer by removing the need to carry as many high-explosive weapons.' Sea trials begin aboard an experimental Navy catamaran, the USNS Millinocket, in 2016."
The Military

Navy Creates Fuel From Seawater 256

New submitter lashicd sends news that the U.S. Naval Research Laboratory has announced a successful proof-of-concept demonstration of converting seawater to liquid hydrocarbon fuel. They used seawater to provide fuel for a small replica plan running a two-stroke internal combustion engine. "Using an innovative and proprietary NRL electrolytic cation exchange module (E-CEM), both dissolved and bound CO2 are removed from seawater at 92 percent efficiency by re-equilibrating carbonate and bicarbonate to CO2 and simultaneously producing H2. The gases are then converted to liquid hydrocarbons by a metal catalyst in a reactor system. ... NRL has made significant advances in the development of a gas-to-liquids (GTL) synthesis process to convert CO2 and H2 from seawater to a fuel-like fraction of C9-C16 molecules. In the first patented step, an iron-based catalyst has been developed that can achieve CO2 conversion levels up to 60 percent and decrease unwanted methane production in favor of longer-chain unsaturated hydrocarbons (olefins). These value-added hydrocarbons from this process serve as building blocks for the production of industrial chemicals and designer fuels."
The Military

Iran's Hacking of US Navy 'Extensive,' Repairs Took $10M and 4 Months 147

cold fjord sends news that Iran's breach of a computer network belonging to the U.S. Navy was more serious than originally thought. According to a Wall Street Journal report (paywalled, but summarized at The Verge), it took the Navy four months to secure its network after the breach, and the repair cost was approximately $10 million. From the article: "The hackers targeted the Navy Marine Corps Intranet, the unclassified network used by the Department of the Navy to host websites, store nonsensitive information and handle voice, video and data communications. The network has 800,000 users at 2,500 locations, according to the Navy. ... The intrusion into the Navy's system was the most recent in a series of Iranian cyberoffensives that have taken U.S. military and intelligence officials by surprise. In early 2012, top intelligence officials held the view that Iran wanted to execute a cyberattack but had little capability. Not long after, Iranian hackers began a series of major "denial-of-service" attacks on a growing number of U.S. bank websites, and they launched a virus on a Saudi oil company that immobilized 30,000 computers. ... Defense officials were surprised at the skills of the Iranian hackers. Previously, their tactics had been far cruder, usually involving so-called denial of service attacks that disrupt network operations but usually don't involve a penetration of network security."
The Military

US Navy Launches Drone From Submerged Submarine 55

Hugh Pickens DOT Com writes "MarineLink reports that a fuel cell-powered, unmanned aerial system (UAS) aircraft has been successfully launched from the submerged 'USS Providence' (SSN 719). The drone flew a several-hour mission demonstrating live video capabilities streamed back to the submarine, offering a pathway to providing mission critical intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) capabilities to the U.S. Navy's submarine force. 'Developing disruptive technologies and quickly getting them into the hands of our sailors is what our SwampWorks program is all about,' says Craig A. Hughes, Acting Director of Innovation at the Office of Naval Research. 'This demonstration really underpins ONR's dedication and ability to address emerging fleet priorities.' The XFC UAS — eXperimental Fuel Cell Unmanned Aerial System — was fired from the submarine's torpedo tube using a 'Sea Robin' launch vehicle system designed to fit within an empty Tomahawk launch canister (TLC) used for launching Tomahawk cruise missiles already familiar to submarine sailors. Once deployed from the TLC, the Sea Robin launch vehicle with integrated XFC rose to the ocean surface, where it appeared as a spar buoy. Upon command of Providence's Commanding Officer, the XFC then vertically launched from Sea Robin and flew a successful mission."
The Military

Ukrainian Attack Dolphins Are On the Loose 99

Hugh Pickens writes "The Ukrainian Navy has a small problem on their hands. The Atlantic reports that, after rebooting the Soviet Union's marine mammal program last year with the goal of teaching dolphins to find underwater mines and kill enemy divers, three of the Ukrainian military's new recruits have gone AWOL. Apparently they swam away from their trainers ostensibly in search of a 'mate' out in open waters. It might not be such a big deal except that these dolphins have been trained to 'attack enemy combat swimmers using special knives or pistols fixed to their heads.' Dolphins were trained at Sevastopol for the Soviet Navy as far back as 1973 to find military equipment such as sea mines on the seabed as well as attacking divers and even carrying explosives on their heads to plant on enemy ships. The U.S. has its own dolphin program in San Diego with 40 trained dolphins and sea lions and another 50 in training. U.S. Navy dolphins were deployed in Bahrain in 1987 during a period when Iran was laying down mines in the Persian Gulf to disrupt oil shipments. No word yet on whether 'sharks with frickin' laser beams attached' have been added to the U.S. arsenal." Update: 03/14 14:55 GMT by T : Note that (as the Atlantic has updated their story reached via above link) while there really are militarized dolphins in use around the world, this particular story turns out to be an elaborate prank.
The Military

US Navy Cruiser and Submarine Collide 236

An anonymous reader writes "Despite billions of dollars in advanced electronics, radar, and sonar it seems the Navy needs to install backup cameras on their boats. 'The Pentagon said late Saturday that it is investigating why a Navy submarine collided with an Aegis cruiser during routine operations at an undisclosed location.' According to ABC, 'the two ships were participating in a “group sail” along with another vessel. The three ships were participating in an anti-submarine exercise in preparation for an upcoming deployment as part of the strike group for the aircraft carrier USS Harry S Truman."

Aircraft Carriers In Space 409

An anonymous reader writes "Real-world military conventions have had obvious effects on many sci-fi books, movies, and TV shows. But how does their fictional representation stack up against the evolving rules of high-tech warfare? In an interview with Foreign Policy magazine, a naval analyst discusses some of the technological assumptions involved in transposing sea combat to space combat, and his amusement with the trope of 'aircraft carriers in space.' He says, 'Star Wars is probably the worst. There is no explanation for why X-Wings [fighters] do what they do, other than the source material is really Zeroes [Japanese fighter planes] from World War II. Lucas quite consciously copied World War II fighter combat. He basically has said they analyzed World War II movies and gun camera footage and recreated those shots. Battlestar Galactica has other issues. One thing I have never understood is why the humans didn't lose halfway through the first episode. If information moves at the speed of light, and one side has a tactically useful FTL [faster-than-light] drive to make very small jumps, then there is no reason why the Cylons couldn't jump close enough and go, "Oh, there the Colonials are three light minutes away, I can see where they are, but they won't see me for three minutes?"'"

United States Navy Names Ship After Neil Armstrong 71

SchrodingerZ writes "In the wake of Neil Armstrong's death, the United States Navy has announced this week that a new research vessel will be named in his honor. This ship will be the first Armstrong-class Auxiliary General Oceanographic Research (AGOR) ship in the world. This ship got its name from secretary Ray Mabus, who wanted to honor the first man to set foot on the moon. 'Naming this class of ships and this vessel after Neil Armstrong honors the memory of an extraordinary individual, but more importantly, it reminds us all to embrace the challenges of exploration and to never stop discovering,' say Mabus. Armstrong, before his career at NASA, flew in combat missions during the Korean war. 'The Armstrong-class AGOR ship will be a modern oceanographic research platform equipped with acoustic equipment capable of mapping the deepest parts of the oceans, and modular on-board laboratories that will provide the flexibility to meet a wide variety of oceanographic research challenges.' It will be 238 feet long, beam length of 50 feet, and will be able to travel at 12 knots. The ship is currently under construction in Anacortes, Washington."

The solution of this problem is trivial and is left as an exercise for the reader.