Please create an account to participate in the Slashdot moderation system


Forgot your password?
For the out-of-band Slashdot experience (mostly headlines), follow us on Twitter, or Facebook. ×

Comment: Re:Empower the pilot (Score 1) 735 735

You've put your finger right on a crucial problem - the danger of these next-gen information systems to actually overload the pilot rather than help them. The F-35 actually has six infrared cameras mounted around the plane that deliver a feed from their "sector" when the pilot looks down or behind him, letting him see "through" the plane, just like the "glass cockpit" in my video games do. It's obviously powerful and incredible, but there's a story on Slashdot right now about how HUD systems can distract a vehicle operator with too much extraneous data. Choosing what to display, how much to display, where to display it - even coding intelligent algorithms that adjust the data being shown based on contextual need will all be vital parts of making these next-generation instrumentation systems work.

Information overload has been a problem for many decades; with pilots devoting a lot of time and training to mastering the "instrument scan" and collecting and processing data quickly and efficiently from their many gauges in emergencies. As we move into the next generation of information displays, making sure we're improving, rather then degrading the pilots ability to process the important, relevant information swiftly in appropriate situations will be crucial.

Comment: Re:Empower the pilot (Score 1) 735 735

In my head, that's a very lean aircraft, bordering on ultralight. It's also an aircraft with guns that point backwards -- one day someone will explain to me why we love dog fighting so much that we insist on being unable to kill the enemy right behind us. I digress.

The experiment has been tried, with little success. However, modern heat-seeking missiles are capable of making greater-than-90-degree turns to engage targets behind the launching plane's 90-degree line - they can, indeed, engage targets behind the plane! This is only possible due to the helmet-mounted HUD, incidentally - look at what you want to kill, the plane's inertial guidance systems lock on and tell the missile where to fly (blind) till the IR seeker can achieve a lock on its own.

I'm confident that an expert pilot doesn't want a fancy helmet HUD at all.

You'd be wrong. The most essential thing for a fighter pilot is situational awareness - they budget that resource as if its tangible as ammo or fuel. If your situational awareness is too low, that's a better reason to bug out than being low on ammo! Losing sight of your target during hard maneuvering is a big no-no and usually gives the enemy a huge advantage.

I've been playing fighter plane sims since Dynamax's Red Baron was the new kid on the block, and I can tell you that maintaining eye contact with a bandit while trying to fly your plane at the same time is very hard. It's even harder for real pilots due to "disorientation." Your innate sense of motion can lie to you, especially if you have no visual reference to stabilize it by (such as an enemy plane against a clear blue sky) and this has often killed pilots who trusted their left buttock more than their instruments on a dark night (including one of the Kennedy's some years ago.) Most of my simulators have a "realistic" mode and a "glass cockpit" mode which helpfully gives you perfect 360 degree vision as well as a HUD display that always floats in front of where you're looking. Being able to watch my airspeed, climb angle and other info while keeping eyes on a bandit is a massive advantage.

Comment: Re:No Source, No Story - complete bullshit (Score 1) 735 735

Amen. It's depressing to see how informative and on-point today's /. can be when talking about things in their field only to see them apply incredulous, blanket statements to anything they're not as familiar with. More than anything /. seems to have lost its curiosity about techy topics - they can't even stir enough interest in something cool like fighter planes to hit up google for five seconds.

Comment: Re:No Source, No Story - complete bullshit (Score 1) 735 735

But the F6F Hellcat is not simply an "Upengined F4F."

Quite correct! The F6F went from the Wildcat's 9-cylinder radial to the beastly 18 cylinder Double Wasp radial engine. The airframe had to be lengthened and modified just to admit that engine, and the whole shebang became bigger to admit other improvements (such as a hydraulic system to raise the landing gear.) The F6F was a direct developmental step up from the F4F, just as the F4F was a further refinement based on the F3F (which was a biplane!) It's worth mentioning that a "true" upengined F4F did exist; the FM-2. The larger Hellcat couldn't operate off of smaller escort carriers, so F4Fs were re-engined for service on them.

And even it couldn't (or wasn't supposed to) dogfight with a Zero, because the Zero was more maneuverable.

Not quite. Hearken back to roll rate being the most important aspect of maneuverability, then consult this old NACA roll rate chart. The Zero was a very poor roller, which meant it was in trouble versus any foe who declined to pull into a sustained turn. Against the Wildcat it had its phenomenal climbing ability... but the F6F retained the Wildcat's excellent roll rate and drastically increased the power available. The Zero could still out-climb an F6F on paper, but if it tried to get on a Hellcat's tail by entering a loop (enticing the pursuer to climb after and stall out, which would reverse their positions,) the Zero would simply be riddled with bullets as it hovered at the top of its loop by the Hellcat, whereas a Wildcat would've stalled out before it could draw a bead. The Zero's handling became more and more atrocious as airspeed increased, and though it was light and accelerated quite well, it retained energy poorly through sustained maneuvers (poor inertia.) There are many, many ways to dogfight that do not entail tight turns and do not involve a series of boom-and-zoom passes such as the rolling scissors, straight and circular yo-yos and so forth.

The F-35 doesn't appear to have any of the advantages. It's slower

That doesn't count for as much as you might think in air combat maneuvering. Aircraft bleed energy when they turn, so power/weight ratio, acceleration and the "cleanness" of the aircraft (its drag co-efficient) play a much greater role. This "report" with no name and no source is long on buzzwords and short on details; it alleges that the F-35 falls behind in the energy game, but the only reason mentioned in the article is the pilot using the energy-intensive sideslip to gain angles for shots. What about vertical performance? Were they going for supersonic snapshots in the merge, or taking tail-end shots during flat or rolling scissors? Remember, we heard the same inane complaints about the F-22 from the Fighter Mafia, including the gem "it's too big and will be spotted easily." Being big and easy to see didn't inhibit the P-47 back when the Mk1 eyeball was the only sensor, much less in the radar age. And the F-22 has an insane nose-pointing ability, which we only know about because a pilot slipped up and alluded to its post-stall turning ability (vectored thrust and all.) It can also hit supersonic speed at military power, without need for gas-guzzling afterburners, which alone ensures it's going to enter a fight with more energy to start with, as well as retain energy well (it has to be very slick to achieve supersonic without afterburners!) This didn't spare it the same rough treatment the F-14 received, or the F-18, or indeed any US built fighter that isn't the sainted and precious F-16. Between the scant - and suspect - statements in the article, and the decades-long pattern of nonsense slander hurled at every new airframe that isn't "light," I can't help but feel the article is incredibly suspect.

Comment: No Source, No Story - complete bullshit (Score 5, Insightful) 735 735

The big red flag that nobody caught (since nobody actually reads the articles) is that the story is completely unsourced. Where did the author of this blog get his hands on this information? Why can't we see it? What's the name of it? When was it declassified? A quick google search finds the same story being echoed verbatim by the likes of the Daily Mail and others; all of which simply link back to this blog as the source. Until we see an actual source, it's bullshit - how are we supposed to know they didn't just make this up?

The article summary said "can't turn or climb fast enough" but the article itself showcases the pilot complaining about nose-rate only - i.e. turn rate. As anyone who knows anything about Air Combat Maneuvering can tell you, turn rate is the LEAST important aspect of maneuverability. Roll rate is far, far more important, as every aerodynamic maneuver aside from a loop begins with a roll. Aircraft with superior roll rate can shake better-turning fighters through maneuvers like the rolling scissors. Unsurprisingly, its through tactics like these that the F4F Wildcat held its own against the Japanese Zero, and when the Wildcat was up-engined to become the F6F Hellcat it dominated the Zero flat-out. The US Navy would later adopt the F4F Phantom, a fighter that eschewed turn-rate entirely in favor of absolutely insane thrust (the jet set several world speed records.) They were told this plane could not dogfight - and then pilots like Duke Cunningham defeated nimble little MiG-17s in close combat.

Once upon a time a group of industry experts who thought the Japanese had it right formed a clique named the "Lightweight Fighter Mafia," and their efforts eventually produced the F-16. Pleased with their accomplishment, they spent their time since then spewing BS about every single aircraft to come after it, including the F-18. To this day you hear people claiming the F-18 is a "turkey" and "can't dogfight" and that the navalized F-16 was passed over by the Navy due to sheer inter-service rivalry and pigheadedness. That this bullshit flies in the face of actual pilot accounts doesn't seem to slow them down a whit. The F-22 had its turn on the bullseye, and now it's the F-35s turn.

In light of the decades-old pattern of "sneer at the new expensive jet" popular amongst industry professionals and armchair warriors alike, a complete failure of the article to quote any opinion on the F-35s vertical maneuvering ability (the go-to counter to turnfighter tactics) and the simple fact that the source is completely undisclosed, I'm calling bullshit on this one - and on everyone who decided to sling out a pithy comment without doing a five-second bullshit check. I thought /. readerbase was supposed to be smart?

Comment: Re:What plan? (Score 1) 88 88

After the last time this topic came up on Slashdot (complete with a long argument over whether retaining nukes for anti-asteroid work was wise) I was doing some Wikipedia browsing and came upon this tidbit:

"An April 2014 GAO report notes that the NNSA is retaining canned subassemblies (CSAs) " associated with a certain warhead indicated as excess in the 2012 Production and Planning Directive are being retained in an indeterminate state pending a senior-level government evaluation of their use in planetary defense against earthbound asteroids."[10] In its FY2015 budget request, the NNSA noted that the B53 component disassembly was "delayed", leading some observers to conclude they might be the warhead CSAs being retained for potential planetary defense purposes."

In that prior thread there was a lot of pooh-poohing the need for nukes because even a small, non-nuclear impact can nudge an orbital trajectory out of an impact course.... IF it's applied months or even years ahead of time. That doesn't do us any good for a big rock we spot far too late - but a massive 9 megaton nuke like the B53 is a different story. Now, how about delivering it?

The bomb - in its planetary weapon role - weighed four tons (about 3600 kilograms.) Lets assume that the mass of the completed bomb (no longer needed for parachutes, etc,) is allocated to RCS systems, gyroscopes, a small engine and fuel for terminal intercept course correction, so it stays at a hefty four imperial tons. What could lift this hefty package?

As it turns out, a whole lot of things:

Note that the biggest of those rockets can lift well in excess of the 3600kg of the weapon, which allows them plenty of spare delta-V for a TLI injection (for a gravity-assist slingshot around the moon,) and the biggest Atlas V can put a staggering 12,000kg into sun-synchronous orbit, so it can almost certainly put 3600kg into solar orbit. There's plenty of delta-v in these vehicles for highly-elliptical, fuel-inefficient, time-efficient intercept orbits. If that's not enough, we actually REACHED a comet in a highly-elliptical solar orbit with a spacecraft of almost 3,000kg mass (well within the weight limits of dozens of smaller nuclear bombs that would be sufficient to nudge an impactor off-course given a long-range intercept,) and the stories about this spacecraft (Rosetta) have been all over /. in the past few months.

How do comments this clueless get modded to +5!?

Comment: Re:So? (Score 1) 180 180

Pardon sir, but you are wrong.

The AH-64D Apache utilizes a mast-mounted radome - it can "see" the outlines of tanks and other vehicles by popping its radome over the top of ridgelines like a submarine using a periscope to see above the waves. This also allows it to select and illuminate targets without being exposed to hostile fire. Then it fires AGM-114L (Longbow) Hellfire missiles; (the only Hellfire missile to use radar guidance) to eliminate enemy short-range mobile SAMs and AA guns. This is, of course, presuming that the US would not attain air superiority and simply bomb them with GPS-guided JDAMS from 10,000 feet above their missile engagement ceiling.

As for the "supersonic missiles," welcome to the 80s, pal. That tech has since been sold to the Indians (who've made their Brahmos series of missiles from it.) It's second-hand quality tech. Back in the 80s, the Russians planned on pitting an entire regiment of Backfire bombers with Sunburns against a carrier battle group - the F-14 and the Phoenix missile were purpose-built to demolish this threat. We didn't bother retaining either the weapon or the aircraft, because the Sunburn is 80s tech and our fleet missile defense systems are 2015 tech. With carrier-launched AWACS radar support, these weapons will be picked up at long range and destroyed by SM-6 interceptors before they even see a US ship.

As for stealth:

1. The F-117 was hit by a Surface-To-Air missile system, not a "MiG-21," The SAM was operated by an extremely competent officer: 2. The advent of the F-22 makes the F-117 and its relative vulnerabilities obsolete. The F-22's combination of reduced radar cross-signature and supersonic flight ability lets it release a guided bomb from long-distance (well outside enemy radars detection zone against the F-22) with enough energy that it can simply glide all the way to the target. All the standoff advantage of a cruise missile, but almost undetectable and a lot cheaper.

As for " staying in Afghanistan for a decade and still losing that war," you must have us confused with the Russians, who evacuated and left so much equipment that we found a lot of their armored vehicles being used by the Taliban. Everyone was worried they might have a few working Stingers we gave them for fighting the Russians - turns out it's what the Russians LEFT them that was more dangerous; including some ZSU-23 SPAAGs. During the war, they ran out of AK-74s, so they started issuing old AK-47s. Then they ran out of AK-47s and started issuing Mosin Nagants - the mass-produced bolt-action rifle from WWII best known to Westerners as the $120 rifle at Cabellas that broke high school kids buy. That, sir, is what a "lost war" looks like. Right now US drones rule the skies over Afghanistan, and the local populace lives knowing that someone thousands of miles away could kill them with the press of a button. And they know the US can afford to do it indefinitely. This is the country that built a massive fleet of specialized armored vehicles to protect against IEDs, gave half of them away to the new Iraqi army and sold the rest to domestic police departments because they didn't need or want them anymore. That's the kind of obscene wealth the United States throws around in its military programs. Only three nations can operate an aircraft carrier; the most complete means of power projection ever devised. France has one. Russia has one. Argentina has a broken-down French carrier they can hardly keep floating; and the Indians and Chinese are buying their own broken-down Russian ones.

The United States fields eleven. Eleven aircraft carriers. Nuclear-powered ones. As well as massive surface fleets designed to protect them from any conceivable attack.

Criticize the morality and wisdom of America's military expenditures and use of force till the cows come home, for all I care - but when you start trying to deny the unassailable military might of the United States, you come across as a raging moron to anybody with a goddamn brain or the ability to spend five minutes on Wikipedia.

Comment: Re:Good Job Brainiacs (Score 1) 227 227

Obligatory XKCD:

"When instructions say let stand for 1-2 minutes, it's not just to protect your mouth from hot food—it's giving the hot and cold spots time to equalize, so the whole thing will be sufficiently heated throughout. And if some part of the food doesn't conduct heat well (e.g. rice) or contains a lot of chunks of ice (e.g. frozen fruit or meat) they also might tell you to stir midway through cooking. This helps to transfer the heat more evenly into the food, move food away from cold spots, and also break up chunks of ice and mix them with warmer pockets of water to help melt them... It turns out that "turning the microwave off every so often to let the food cool" is exactly what the "power level" setting does! Choosing a lower power level doesn't actually change the strength of the microwaves; it just means that the microwave generator won't be running the whole time... In effect, the microwave is just automating the tedious task of zapping something a bunch of times on "high" for 10 seconds each and letting it sit for a while in between."

After I read this XKCD, I started putting my Schwan's breakfast bagels in at 50% power for twice the recommended time, and the icy center vanished. All those years of raging against the magnetron for our burned mouths and surprise icy centers, and the solution was there the entire time. Is this a cautionary tale to engineers who would mock and shun the liberal arts majors who document their ingenious technical solutions? Or were these features documented all along, in instruction manuals easily tossed aside by generations upon generations of nerds who blithely assumed that they knew all there was to know about the simple and unassuming microwave, only to burn their mouths and vent their wrath upon hapless users by screaming "RTFM!"

When you stare into the hot pocket, the hot pocket stares into you.

Comment: Browser switch (Score 1) 240 240

I recently switched to Pale Moon (a fork of Firefox focused on stability) and I haven't looked back.

Everyone else likes to bitch about Firefox's ramrodding of shitty UI choices down their throats, but to me the vast instability of modern firefox just cannot be borne. In large part this is due to shockwave flash being a pile of shit; the current version has a bug where it reports itself as out-of-date (despite not being) which forces you to click every flash window to confirm that yes, you do in fact want the goddamn thing to play. Pale Moon has that same problem; because it's Flash, not Pale Moon's fault. However, when the shitty fucking app finally crashes, Pale Moon usually survives. When it crashes in Firefox, it takes the browser down with it.

I remember back when Firefox 2.0 was the latest and greatest thing - I was on a 28.8k dial-up connection at the time; so I'd never, ever, ever close a loaded page if I could help it. My personal record for open tabs was somewhere north of 4,000 - I have a screenshot of it somewhere. This was on an old laptop with a grand total of 2 gigabytes of RAM. On my modern desktop - a gaming rig with a beefy processor and 16 gigabytes of RAM - the idea of getting to even 1,000 open tabs is a goddamned joke. We've been told that Firefox's memory leaks were being fixed, but if anything Firefox is far less stable than it used to be.

YOU. Yes you, opening the reply window to blame all my problems on "dodgy plugins." Shut up. Shut the hell up. I tried a reinstall of Firefox, a complete nuke-and-pave to eliminate the instability that so plagued me, but it was all for naught. It doesn't surprise me one damn bit that Chrome is pulling ahead of Firefox in the browser wars - it's because Chrome actually works, and has much better stability and crash recovery.

Comment: Re:A better solution... (Score 1) 190 190

The great irony of this post is that, had it been written in the late 1700s or early 1800s, it would be completely un-ironic. That was the era of the rapier; a blade designed specifically for efficient handling in narrow back alleyways in Europe for killing people trying to smash your skull in and steal your purse. Look up any of the old fencing manuals; there's a reason the off-hand accessory (usually used for parries) is a lantern or a heavy cloak (i.e. what you would have on you as a matter of course when walking about town.)

You, sir, may sniff about the increased safety enjoyed by someone equipped with a sidearm; but your ancestors had no such qualms. As for "accidental shootings," I'd be interested in the data (or lack thereof) pertaining to those, as well. I carry a concealed pistol every day, and thanks to training, practice, prudence, good safety habits and above all; modern safety features in its design, my pistol has never bitten me or peed on the carpet.

The early bird who catches the worm works for someone who comes in late and owns the worm farm. -- Travis McGee