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The Pentagon's Supersonic, Shape-Shifting Assassin 489

grammar fascist writes "CNN reports that Northrop Grumman is under contract to build a new supersonic, shape-shifting bomber by 2020. The main innovation is in its single, rotating wing. From the article: '[It] will cruise with its 200-foot-long wing perpendicular to its engines like a normal airplane. But just before the craft breaks the sound barrier, its single wing will swivel around 60 degrees (hence the name) so that one end points forward and the other back. This oblique configuration redistributes the shock waves that pile up in front of a plane at Mach speeds and cause drag. When the Switchblade returns to subsonic speeds, the wing will rotate back to perpendicular.'"
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The Pentagon's Supersonic, Shape-Shifting Assassin

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  • Shape shifting? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by MustardMan ( 52102 ) on Saturday June 24, 2006 @04:34PM (#15597568)
    So, having one part of the plane change its angle is now shape shifting? WOW. My laptop is a shapeshifter, because the lid opens. My car must be a shape shifter too, the sunroof can take several positions!
  • One word (Score:4, Insightful)

    by PingXao ( 153057 ) on Saturday June 24, 2006 @04:39PM (#15597590)
  • Re:Stability? (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday June 24, 2006 @04:47PM (#15597621)
    in addition to the instability, how will they cope with the forces that stress the wing as it moves from one position to another while on the cusp of the sound barrier. won't the rigidity required make it heavier than a similar fixed wing aircraft would be? also, would the wing then be a point of frequent failure for the design?

  • What a great idea (Score:3, Insightful)

    by _pi-away ( 308135 ) on Saturday June 24, 2006 @04:47PM (#15597625) Homepage
    Practical and affordable too I bet. Who cares how many kids can't read?
  • by torstenvl ( 769732 ) on Saturday June 24, 2006 @05:28PM (#15597771)
    Britain - 5.1% Portugal - 4.3% Denmark - 4.2% Ireland - 4.2% Austria - 3.9% Luxembourg - 2.6 Netherlands - 2.4

    How about adding an option to post as an ignorant math-challenged fascist instead? 4.6 is nowhere near half of 5.1.

    As a side note, France and Germany have higher reported unemployment because they don't count part-time minimum wage jobs. HTFH.
  • by Goldenhawk ( 242867 ) on Saturday June 24, 2006 @05:40PM (#15597806) Homepage
    Funny, I don't recall ever seeing such an inflammatory title on a /. story in years. Just because the plane is a bomber? Come on now, the technology is cool, even if this is a bit outdated (I've got a swing-wing Estes rocket from when I was a kid, sitting on the shelf right over my desk, for crying out loud...). No need to make a political statement like this - let's keep the discussion a bit more civil, please.
  • Maybe not a waste (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Screwy1138 ( 976897 ) on Saturday June 24, 2006 @05:44PM (#15597829)
    While projects like this can easily be seen as waste, they do a couple things.
    This money goes to create hi tech jobs, rewarding people for getting engineering/science/sometimes computing degrees, potentially supporting universities themselves.
    These projects generate knowledge by testing out technologies and supporting businesses or universities that sponsor research.

    In my opinion, this is not waste, even if the end product never comes to be.

    Certainly, this can only go so far, you wouldn't want all your money going to high tech / low success projects, but it is reasonable to have money going towards these things.
  • by killjoe ( 766577 ) on Saturday June 24, 2006 @05:51PM (#15597858)
    National defense is mandated but is spending billions on a program which is useless against terrorist mandated too?

    I am all for defense. I do object to waging war for fun and profit though. Where is it mandated that the US taxpayers should get rid of every two bit dictator with oil while making nice with dictators in pakistan and africa?
  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday June 24, 2006 @05:54PM (#15597868)
    Do you now need to provide a link, explaining what an X-wing is?
    I feel positively aincient.
  • by McBainLives ( 683602 ) on Saturday June 24, 2006 @05:58PM (#15597875)
    Ok- I was wrong about the UK, but get real on the others. Besides- the 2005 average for the EU as a whole was over 9%, with the larger economies of France, Germany, Italy, and Spain all higher than that of the US... (Luxembourg?!? Major European economy? Are you kidding?)

    And where do you get "fascist" from? Do you even know what that word means? You really need more than a knee-jerk intellect to be using political terminology, so you don't end up just diluting the definitions.
  • by mbessey ( 304651 ) on Saturday June 24, 2006 @05:59PM (#15597879) Homepage Journal
    Two quick points.
    1. That's CNN's article title, so that's hardly the Slashdot editors' fault.
    2. It's unmanned. Unmanned combat aircraft are used almost exclusively for assassinations, at least currently.
  • by torstenvl ( 769732 ) on Saturday June 24, 2006 @06:03PM (#15597888)
    I had done a quick google search and used figures brought up by the BBC. European unemployment rates similar to the U.S. unemployment rate:
    Austria - 4.8% Britain - 5.3% Denmark - 4.8% Netherlands - 5.7% Sweden - 5.5% Switzerland - 3.3%

    The overall unemployment rate in the Euro zone is 8% (this is in large part due to high reported unemployment in Germany and France, explained above, 11.0% and 9.3% respectively). However, the Euro zone unemployment rate reduced by .7% from last year's rate, compared with the U.S. unemployment rate, which reduced .5%.

    Not to be a total jackass, but I really do have to rub this in your face: the Scandinavian countries have historically had the lowest unemployment (historically lower than that of the United States) and STILL have the largest welfare system of all of Europe. If that doesn't provide a counterexample to your nonsensical "Everyone benefits from a dog-eat-dog world" blind faith in Capitalism-as-God, I don't know what does.
  • by argStyopa ( 232550 ) on Saturday June 24, 2006 @06:08PM (#15597903) Journal
    Funny, I thought we already had freely-provided education. Hm, I guess we should throw MORE money at it, I'm *sure* that will solve everything.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday June 24, 2006 @06:20PM (#15597950)
    It takes them about 100 years to develop the fuel cell vehicle just for them to in that it'll be ready in 25 more years. While at the same time they predicted the delay of the fcv, they build a brand new vehicle from scratch, and they say it'll ready in 15 years total.
  • by Reaperducer ( 871695 ) on Saturday June 24, 2006 @06:50PM (#15598054)
    The thing that the military adds to R&D that academia lacks is urgency. The military responds to a threat, or a perceived threat. Academia can spend generations arguing the same theories to death.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday June 24, 2006 @06:52PM (#15598061)
    While all of that is true, the current conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan is having the OPPOSITE effect. Instead of DOD funds going into research (this bomber not withstanding), it is going to pay for fuel, ammunition, and warfighters' salaries. Research budgets are actually getting cut across the services, with I think DARPA the only agency getting an increase.

    So yes, research for DOD is a Good Thing, but the current climate, with budget deficits and operational costs in Iraq and Afghanistan, is not.

  • by Monster_Juice ( 939126 ) on Saturday June 24, 2006 @06:54PM (#15598078)
    WOuldn't it be more efficient to take the war out of it and spend the money on pure R&D?

    R&D is Research & DEVELOPMENT. You have to build something when you are done otherwise it is not R&D, it is just R. It is also not R&D&War.

    Better yet why not just provide incentives for private enterprise to do R&D and give the money back to the taxpayers?

    Well other than the giving money back part, the US government does this all the time.

    How about R&D through the space program?

    Have you ever heard of NASA?

    Wouln't that be better then making new bombers to drop bombs on miami on a band of al-quada sypathisers?

    Please use facts when making an argument. This is just a dumb statement that shows you have no good points to argue.
  • by vertinox ( 846076 ) on Saturday June 24, 2006 @07:02PM (#15598100)
    And where do you get "fascist" from? Do you even know what that word means?

    To be fair, fascist just mean some one who believes in a strong powerful government over everything else. We just made it a dirty word after WWII because Itality referred themselves as such.

    Of course National Socialism isn't a bad economic policy for a government to have either, but no one would dare use the phrase when talking about modern day governments.

    But still it derides the point that our economy is most likley doing really good right now because of massive military and government spending... Actually kind of like National Socialist Germany in the 1930's. However, such an economy is not sustainable in the long term.

    Germany invaded other countries and looted them and used slave labor to make up for this problem, wheras our war economy just throws it into the big pile of national debt and sell it off to China, Japan, and other places.

    If tomorrow Japan and China decide to either A.) Stop buying debt or B.) Demand their debts back ASAP we'd be hosed.

    Of course they'd be hosed too when the world market economy collapses so for right now they keep buying and profiting on our massive spending.
  • by FridayBob ( 619244 ) on Saturday June 24, 2006 @07:23PM (#15598158) Homepage
    So, it never hurts to spend even more money on an even bigger stick? That sounds like something that a lobbyist for Northrop Grumman would say. Come, on; there have to be limits. Besides, this particular kind of big stick is completely useless against today's home-grown terrorists. And little guys like Saddam Hussein are completely overwhelmed by the weapons that we already have. Also, waving a big stick around like that can be seen as a sign of insecurity.

    c) I like to know that if someone ever attacks me I'l be able to wipe the floors with them.

    That sounds overly confident to me -- even delusional. Like you just got your 1st Dan. How old are you anyway?
  • by Iloinen Lohikrme ( 880747 ) on Saturday June 24, 2006 @07:59PM (#15598278)
    As a Finn I was just wondering, at what time where you in sweden?

    Because when Wartburg was a popular car in Finland, it would date to 1950s, that would make you a really old slashdotter. Mayby you are mixing Wartburg with Lada? Lada was a soviet made car which was also imported to Finland, but it was never popular, and if you mixed those two, then it would date you to 1980s.

    Thought, you are quite right about the fact that having and driving a car in both Sweden and Finland is very expensive, but that's because the car taxes double the cars price and gasolines price, which btw. is just right, because personal driving is expensive to goverment (roads) and to enviroment (polution) and thus taxes should be taken to compensate those costs. Now days there thought is talk about moving to strictly taxing gasoline, and not cars, that would be logical, and it would make people think more about having a own car when a liter would cost from 2 to 3. The reason why americans are driving SUVs is because US goverment is subsidizing personal driving, by not taxing car owners the cost that are associated with using cars.

    On a note, I too think that scandinavian countries tax too much, and there is too much goverment control, our unemployment rate is too high, and the official numbers are cleaned by putting people in to education and to early pension. Thought, I think that american system isn't the answer, thought it has some good points, the society should take care of it's weaks and unfortunates, and provide a minimum level of living, that is the only way in which we can say that everybody is in the same line in life and that people try and take risk in their lifes, without worrying ending up in the street.

    PS. The most popular car in Finland in now days is Toyota, same too in america, or it will be soon ;-)
  • by AhtirTano ( 638534 ) on Saturday June 24, 2006 @08:18PM (#15598349)
    The U.S. spends so much on the armed forces for the same reason that at one point the U.S.S.R had enough nukes to destroy the entire planet a few times over- we want to make the idea of (a major nation) going against us in any significant way (as in more than "we don't support what you are doing") a horrifying thought. We want to have so much power that the rest of the world is FORCED to follow our lead or pay the price for getting in front.

    Of course that's why we spend so much. But some of us don't think we should bully the rest of the world into following our lead. I don't really care what another country does, as long as they don't actively seek to harm our country. Deterant is good enough, and we can achieve that without spending $500 Billion.

    There is also that whole "military spending leads to domestic jobs" thing as well.

    Which is a toothless argument, because almost any field we spend $500 Billion on can generate domestic jobs.

  • by AhtirTano ( 638534 ) on Saturday June 24, 2006 @08:46PM (#15598453)

    Percentage of GDP is not a better metric for military spending. The US can get more firepower for 4% of GDP than Tahiti can get for 50%. In armed conflict, it is absolute firepower that matters, not firepower as a percentage of GDP.

    Or, if you want, compare total dolars spent on education in other countries to how much is spent in the US. I gaurantee that the US outspends all of them on that front too, and by a large margin.

    In this case, the percentage matters more than absolute dollars. Education is supposed to be distributed to each individual, so the percentage is more informative than an absolute number. If the US spent $1 per student it would be far more money than if Tahiti spent $100 per student. But which would be providing a better education (assuming rational spending practices)?

  • by MrCopilot ( 871878 ) on Saturday June 24, 2006 @09:06PM (#15598525) Homepage Journal
    Rising unemployement rate? No, national unemployment is down to nearly 1999 levels. See t?data_tool=latest_numbers&series_id=LNS14000000 []

    War is good for creating jobs, if only we could be at 1999 military and civilian casualty and injury levels. []

    Of course, I don't have a problem with our gov't safeguarding us and preventing another 3,000 of our citizens from being killed by terrorists, but I guess I'm not blinded by hatred of our President.

    So when we get to 3000 kids, dubya sent to die, we'll be even, right. I guess the 18,350 kids who were wounded is a fair price to pay for you to "feel safer"

    Those unacceptable numbers pale in comparison to the casualties and injuries incurred by non-us civilians. Estimated to be 35,000 to 42,000 people. Hmmm. 40,000 family members all love the US now. No reason they would join the insurgents. Was only dad, brother, son.....

    War sucks, however, war is sometimes necessarry. Unecessarry war is morally repugnant. Red State/Blue State makes no damn difference.

  • by SewersOfRivendell ( 646620 ) on Saturday June 24, 2006 @10:05PM (#15598717)

    We want to have so much power that the rest of the world is FORCED to follow our lead or pay the price for getting in front.

    I agree. Our military spending prevented 9/11 from happening. And boy, did we whip bin Laden's ass for even thinking about it! We put his shrunken head on the Washington Monument! Let that shit be a lesson to all you terrorisms!

    Put another way: You think Bush dropping his pants and waving his tiny little nuclear warhead around is going to scare the religious jihadists? We're talking RELIGIOUS WINGNUT SUICIDE BOMBERS here. They don't care what happens to the rest of the world after they leave it. They think, for whatever reason, that they're doing the work of their god. Imagine if Hannity had an army of fervent followers who would be willing and eager to literally die for him.

    China and India have over a billion people each. The economic force of such numbers mean that realistically THEY should be the superpowers, not us. But they (in my lifetime) will not dare challenge the authority of the U.S. because they know that we have a millitary that can take them back to the stone ages if they cross us. Because of our military, we get access to cheaper and more resources than they do (Iraq oil anyone?) Because of our military, we will stay on top of the world long after when we should no longer be.

    Put down the crack pipe and the Tiger Balm, Rush. Who do you think is buying the debt that is used to pay for our military misadventures? I can't believe it's not ... CHINA! Yes!

    Newsflash, O'Falafel: Thanks to the Bush Administration's wanton spending spree, China could crash our economy into a zillion little shards . They have a strong economic incentive not to do that, but they could if they so chose. Bush and Cheney have given them that power over us.
  • by Jeremi ( 14640 ) on Saturday June 24, 2006 @10:41PM (#15598806) Homepage
    The current group of fanatics we are fighting feels anyone who is not a member of their culture/religion is not worthy to live and must be killed. They would be trying to destroy us even if we stood in the corner with our hands in our pockets, and they are doing this even to people who sympathize with them.

    Your statement is correct as far as it goes, but what you've failed to realize is that "the current group of fanatics" is not a fixed set of people. Like the particles of water vapor that form a cloud, there are constantly individuals entering and leaving the "set of fanatics", and its appearance as a fixed object is an illusion. Like a cloud, its size will grow or shrink depending on the environment around it. Which is why so much of the USA's recent actions have been not only ineffective but counterproductive: if a military operation kills N terrorists, but inspires (more than N) people who were previously non-combatants to become terrorists, then our effort in that operation has actually harmed us more than doing nothing would have.

    The "War On Terror" is not some video game where you can win simply by killing until there are no 'baddies' to kill. It is a political struggle for the hearts and minds of humanity. The terrorists know this, and use it to their advantage. It's time we did the same. When the bulk of the world can't tell the "good guys" from the "bad guys" anymore, the terrorists are winning.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday June 24, 2006 @11:07PM (#15598881)
    Did you know that Lenin was convinced of the inevibility of the world communism, a midget called Napoleon was convinced that he's unbeatable and the sun was never to set over the British Empire? Every superpower has fallen and so will US. History is a bitch that likes to repeat herself, but don't fret the next superpower-to-be is just behind you in that queue.
  • by Compuser ( 14899 ) on Saturday June 24, 2006 @11:11PM (#15598892)
    We are not being defeated by the weakest nation in the Middle East.
    We simply have no concept of what we are doing there and hence no
    way to define victory. If we wanted their land - that's easy.
    If we wanted their women - again, easy. If we wanted their children
    for breakfast Mike Tyson style - no problem. The problem is that
    we went in with no metric of what victory means. Conversely,
    we cannot be defeated because there is no metric for failure. We
    went in, killed whoever we wanted, captured some high level guys,
    killed others, spent as much as we pleased on pointless military
    meandering, and we will likely leave on our own schedule.
    Did we kill all who oppose us? No, but we could, we just don't go
    for genocide.
    Will we leave Iraq in better shape than before we went in? Maybe,
    depends on who you ask. You aint gonna make great pottery out of
    runny shit. We did our best to remove the smelliest bits but the
    only way to make Iraq a nice place to live in the Western sense is
    to wipe the slate clean. Again, we can do that, we just choose not
  • by theJML ( 911853 ) on Sunday June 25, 2006 @12:18AM (#15599067) Homepage
    As much as no one likes war, it is a goal to work towards that helps in the R&D of new technologies. I mean, if I were to tell you "Go out and invent something cool." you'd probably make something interesting. But if I told you "We need to beat these guys!" People generally get a lot more fired up. They tend to focus on the problem at hand and come up with possible solutions, in this case, going faster. It always helps to have some sort of focus.
      Now, a similar thing occured when we had the space race for instance, so it's not war only, but war is a powerful force that drives civilizations time and time again.
      Also, it's a good defense. If people know we're constantly developing new technologies to swiftly kick their ass, they'll be less likely to try a conventional attack on us.
  • by skogs ( 628589 ) on Sunday June 25, 2006 @12:50AM (#15599160) Journal
    I believe you will find an extremely large differential in the cost of maintaining 1 mile of road in Nevada compared to say...Minnesota (and the Scandinavian countries). Heat in nevada is nothing. Snow and ice, potholes, and the army of men to clean the roads of said ice and snow is a whole different ball of wax. Also, any and all road construction must be done during only half the year. There are two seasons in Minnesota: Winter, and Road Construction. Both are quite costly for the Dept. of Transporation.

    Taxation issues do exist and road improvements are chalked up to your property and frontage and such...but that really isn't my point.

    Point: Don't ever compare road maintenance and building costs in temperate climates to those that aren't. You have no idea.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday June 25, 2006 @01:03AM (#15599194)

    There are a number of costs in an auto-based society that are not covered by gas taxes.

    As a starting point - fuel taxes go primarily to highways and main roads. Surface roads, local roads, etc. are covered by local jurisdictions. And they are not cheap.

    Here in Texas we like to make the claim that highways are all gas-tax based, but that's only if you ignore the federal contribution (which is based on pork-barrel politics, not gas taxes).

    There are a huge number of other costs as well, both direct and indirect. A few:

    • Emergency rooms and trauma systems
    • School buses
    • Air pollution
    • 40,000+ crash deaths per year
    • Obesity

    I think the folks in many European countries have a made a better set of trade-offs. We have neighborhoods that are built for cars. They have neighborhoods that are built for people.

  • by CommieOverlord ( 234015 ) on Sunday June 25, 2006 @02:22AM (#15599392)
    We want to have so much power that the rest of the world is FORCED to follow our lead or pay the price for getting in front.

    Such arrogance might explain why global sympathy for the US isn't too high, no?
  • by lavaface ( 685630 ) on Sunday June 25, 2006 @03:49AM (#15599549) Homepage
    The current group of fanatics we are fighting feels anyone who is not a member of their culture/religion is not worthy to live and must be killed. They would be trying to destroy us even if we stood in the corner with our hands in our pockets, and they are doing this even to people who sympathize with them.

    This is complete and utter bullshit. While I imagine there are some fanatics out there who feel that people who are not a member of their culture/religion must be killed, I would wager that a good number of them live in the US. The primary beef folks in the Midle East have with American policy is that we blatantly and unreasonably yield to Israeli policy at the expense of the Arab population. The western world considers the Arab world with general contempt stretching back to the time after WWI when the west drew up borders and established puppet leaderships. The global population in general rejects the strong brand of American superiority and cultural hegemony that is imposed by fiat on what are supposed to be locally-goverened democracies. Funny thing--many Americans are fed up with this too, albeit on subtler levels.

    As for the government spending money on R&D and production, every penny of your money the government spends on R&D and production ends up in the paychecks of the employees and shareholders associated with the companies that got the contracts.

    Aside from the fact that most of the money for these contracts DOES NOT EVEN EXIST AND IS MERELY DEBT TO BE PASSED ON TO FUTURE GENERATIONS, money could still be spent on R&D for peaceful purposes. You know, things like shelter and food. Buckminster Fuller's vision of a world without material need is a technological possibilty. Unfortunately it's not politically as profitable as war. Profiting from war is a true moral low, but quite beneficial for the Inner Party.

  • by lavaface ( 685630 ) on Sunday June 25, 2006 @04:06AM (#15599605) Homepage
    We want to have so much power that the rest of the world is FORCED to follow our lead or pay the price for getting in front.

    So basically, you're saying that the US is a greedy bully. Look, I appreciate the advances that military spending has given the general population (DARPA, avionics, TANG) but this is ridiculous. It is this attitude that imperils our safety more than anything. Guerilla techniques render much of our military infrastructure obsolete. Do you think the Chinese don't realize this? I expect since this thread seems to be moderated by the pro-war crowd, this comment will be below the threshhold. It's too bad, because I happen to be right.

    BTW, I'm American. I just happen to have a strong grasp of history.

  • print this out (Score:4, Insightful)

    by misanthrope101 ( 253915 ) on Sunday June 25, 2006 @11:27AM (#15600621)
    Which is a toothless argument, because almost any field we spend $500 Billion on can generate domestic jobs.
    Yes, but to spend $500 billion on the military and thus create jobs is sound fiscal policy. To spend $500 billion on any other programs of any kind and thus create an equal number of jobs is to perpetuate the welfare state, which is socialism.

    Similarly, to rebuild the infrastructure of Iraq is an appropriate use of US tax money. However, to rebuild any infrastructure in the US would be socialism.

    Similarly, we have a responsibility to free the Iraqis from Saddam Hussein's tyranny because those people deserve human rights and we have a leadership role when it comes to human rights in the world. However, we can inprison them indefinitely without trial, and interrogate them with what would be considered torture in the US, because they are not Americans, and it's not the responsibility of the US government to secure human rights for non-Americans.

    Keep going over those basic arguments until you've memorized them. It might help to print them out and carry them around with you, in case you don't have 24/7 access to Fox News.

  • by default luser ( 529332 ) on Sunday June 25, 2006 @01:27PM (#15601122) Journal
    They talked about a design like this in Popular Science Magazine. Before I graduated from High School. In 1980.

    And that was due to Burt Rutan building and showing off the AD-1 in the late 70s / early 80s. Show a prototype concept vehicle, and people's minds start racing at the possibilities. The problem was, it was difficult to fly, so the design needed a little time on the shelf to allow AI concepts and processing power time to catch up. 40 years after proving the concept (assuming this program isn't cut), we will have our swing-wing bomber.

    This is much like the "flying wing" concept conceived and tested by Jack Northrop in the 1920s. There were production models made in the 1940s, such as the Northrop B-35, but the flight characteristics were still touchy. Ultimately, the design had to wait until the 1980s for the B2, for fly-by-wire and enough procesing power to keep the wing stable.

"Mach was the greatest intellectual fraud in the last ten years." "What about X?" "I said `intellectual'." ;login, 9/1990