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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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  • Stability? (Score:1, Interesting)

    by mfaras ( 979322 ) on Saturday June 24, 2006 @04:37PM (#15597581) Homepage
    How will they cope with the inestability that the rotation of the wing will cause?

    Any ideas?
  • Re:Budget Priortites (Score:5, Interesting)

    by (H)elix1 ( 231155 ) <slashdot.helix@nOSPaM.gmail.com> on Saturday June 24, 2006 @05:13PM (#15597717) Homepage Journal
    Let's continue to invest in war, because as we all know, war is good business, right?

    At least war pays for pure R&D and cutting edge science. Seems shareholders are only interested in only doing research that will generate revenue on a quarterly basis. Unfortunate that war (or the preparation/avoidance of war) is the driver, but the cutting edge avionics and composite technologies I enjoy as an aviation hobbyist were born from that 'war machine'. Someday we might not - but I don't see it changing anytime soon.
  • Re:What a great idea (Score:5, Interesting)

    by MightyYar ( 622222 ) on Saturday June 24, 2006 @05:32PM (#15597777)
    Isn't that funny? I googled and found lots of different numbers. My favorite of the ones I found was this one [canadainfolink.ca], which carries the footnote: "Literacy is defined differently by different countries, groups and individuals.The whole topic is a mine field."

    Anyway, the place I got my original numbers from was here. [overpopulation.com]

  • Re:Old Idea? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by malraid ( 592373 ) on Saturday June 24, 2006 @05:49PM (#15597849)
    Here's a link to an actual Nazi-era blueprint [luft46.com]. Lot's of other cool desings in the page. A lot of the good ones were used by the US lately, such as the B2.
  • Re:Budget Priortites (Score:5, Interesting)

    by nberardi ( 199555 ) * on Saturday June 24, 2006 @05:54PM (#15597865) Homepage
    Let's continue to invest in war, because as we all know, war is good business, right?

    You couldn't be more right, if there wasn't a cold war with the USSR, why would we need a nuke proof network like DARPA NET? And we can see the real impact of that on business, I think all the fortune 500 companies use it as one of their primary ways of making a profit.

    If you are going to open your yap the least you can do is make sure it is informed and walking all over your current actions.
  • by Geoduck_87 ( 984798 ) on Saturday June 24, 2006 @06:11PM (#15597920)
    The control issues were also the subject of a well-regarded Ph.D. Thesis at Stanford in the early 1990's. The original NASA aircraft had the axis of wing rotation vertical in level, forward flight. The pivot joint was at the wingspan centerline.

    The conclusions of the Ph.D. thesis was that one gets a much more controllable AD-1 if one modifies the wing / fuselage configuration as follows:

    1. Tilt the pivot axis a few degrees away from the side of the aircraft that has the forward sweep of the wing.

    2. The wing needs to be mounted a few percent off its centerline (that's right, an asymmetric configuration).

    3. A couple other conclusions that I can not recall (anhedral / dihedral; spanwise changing airfoil; etc)?.

    Note: This was an analysis of the AD-1. The fuselage / wing interactions drove quite a bit of the specific stability / control based modifications. If one has a different fuselage (for example, the illustration in the CNN article), the specifics will change.

  • Re:What a great idea (Score:3, Interesting)

    by MightyYar ( 622222 ) on Saturday June 24, 2006 @06:16PM (#15597939)
    Thank you for being rational :) And this after my inciteful hippy remark :)

    I disagree with you on most of your points, however.

    First, I think our military might be sized right, but also might be underfunded. Why? We can barely keep an occupying force together in one country of 24 million. Imagine if there was another flash-point somewhere? Shouldn't we have a standing force large enough to handle that? Maybe not, but I think it's not an unreasonable discussion to have. Someone else earlier in the thread started talking about how we have too many bombers, convieniently leaving out the fact that they were all concieved and ordered previous to the fall of the Soviet Union.

    We spend way too much on health, and you can lay the blame largely on Medicare. They should have something like they have in parts of the third-world: free, federally-funded clinics. These would take some of the pressure off of emergency rooms. Emergency rooms are where the US treats it's poor, and this is an expensive way to pretend we don't have socialized medicine. Free clinics would end up costing less, in my opinion - especially if we keep them miserable enough (long lines, etc.) such that only the uninsured would consider using them - just like emergency rooms today. Of course, malpractice lawsuits aren't helping anybody, but that's another discussion.

    Education needs serious improvement in this country, but frankly we already spend more than we should. I went to a school that spent $14,000 per student. New York spends over $10,000 per student. For that kind of dough, you and 6 other parents could literally hire your own (good!) teacher. That money is being frittered away, and that's what no one seems to want to say. If a university can provide a world-class education on a lavish campus for $30,000, a high school with a single building and athletic field should be able to provide much more for $10,000.

  • Re:What a great idea (Score:3, Interesting)

    by c6gunner ( 950153 ) on Saturday June 24, 2006 @06:42PM (#15598026)
    We outspend the next 20 countries combined---we don't need to spend that much.

    The absolute numbers don't mean much. Compare spending as a percentage of GDP and picture's a bit diferent.

    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.

    "we don't need to spend that much" becomes mantra after a while, and then you end up gutting the military the way it happened here in Canada. Right now we can deploy something like 2,500 soldiers at a time, and even that's stretching the military thin. Once you get to that point it takes a decade or more to rebuild, and it's expensive as all hell.
  • Wrong, wrong!! (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Savage-Rabbit ( 308260 ) on Saturday June 24, 2006 @06:46PM (#15598039)
    The F-18 Hornet is a short range fighter, and has to keep itself pointed in the general direction of the bogeys until the missles hit.

    Most if not all F-18 fighters will have the AIM 120 missile which AFAIK has a two phased guidance procedure. The missile get's the target's location and a rough course uploaded to it by the launching aircraft moments prior to launch. After that, during the first guidance phase, the missile only recieves updates which it uses to adjust the initial uploaded course from the launching aircraft. During the second, terminal phase the missiles own radar locks onto the target and the pilot can move on leaving the missile to guide it self. Theoretically the Aim-120 is a fire and forget weapon even at long range but in practice, if the launching aircraft keeps illuminating the target with his radar through out the first phase, the hit probability will increase considerably especially against fast and highly maneuverable targets like Mig-29s, Su-27/30s, J-10s... never mind something like a Trance 3 Eurofighter with thrustvectoring engines. The launch aircraft does not have to illuminate the target until impact. Interestingly enough the F-14 is slated to be replaced by A/F-18 Super Hornet fighters packing the shorter range AIM-120 missile later this year. Even so the F-18/AIM-120 combination is not really a competitor for the F-14 which, combined with it's Phoenix missles, is still a pretty potent weapons that has few if any peers at the moment since the Russians have apparently stopped developing the MiG-31 at the pace that would have been needed to keep it competitive due to the enormous costs and the Eurofighter and F-22 are still being deployed.
  • by torstenvl ( 769732 ) on Saturday June 24, 2006 @06:52PM (#15598062)
    Except that it's false to say "Americans can afford to drive SUVs." What you really mean -- unless you intend to deceive people -- is that SOME Americans can afford to drive SUVs. Many others (thirty-eight million Americans) have "insufficient income to provide the food, shelter and clothing needed to preserve health" (Figures from the Census Bureau, definition quoted from the Orshansky Thresholds used thereby).

    I think there are fewer than thirty-eight million SUV drivers in the United States. If I'm right, then from a purely quantitative perspective, the Swedes have a better standard of living than a purely capitalist United States would have.
  • Sacrilege!!! (Score:3, Interesting)

    by mangu ( 126918 ) on Saturday June 24, 2006 @06:53PM (#15598068)
    Who dared to give to a fictional plane the same name as the most beautiful [globalaircraft.org] and most fantastic [wikipedia.org] airplane ever made?

    Compare the fictional Valkyrie specifications with the real one. The XB-70 could take off with a gross weight of 250 tons, and had a range of 8000 kilometers at Mach 3. It had variable geometry too. At subsonic speeds the wings were flat [fas.org]. At supersonic speeds wing tips folded down [fas.org], to keep the lift constant at all speeds.

    Isn't it funny how reality is better than fiction?

  • Re:What a great idea (Score:5, Interesting)

    by poofyhairguy82 ( 635386 ) on Saturday June 24, 2006 @07:11PM (#15598125) Journal
    some of us regular people think we could reduce spending to a mere $100 billion, spend the other $400 billion on health, education, infrastructure, etc., and still have more than enough power to defend our country from anyone else in the world. We outspend the next 20 countries combined---we don't need to spend that much.

    Then regular people like yourself need to open their eyes.

    We could spend much less than we do now and defend our nation from any "real" threat- that is true- but most of our military spending is not to defend us from threats. 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.

    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.

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

  • by torstenvl ( 769732 ) on Saturday June 24, 2006 @07:29PM (#15598175)
    An alternative definition is: a radical authoritarian political philosophy that combines elements of corporatism, totalitarianism, extreme nationalism, militarism, anti-communism and anti-liberalism. (taken from wikipedia)

    Your post above? Corporatism, check. Extreme nationalism, check. Militarism, check. Anti-communism and anti-liberalism? Check and check. All you're lacking is explicit advocacy of the police state that currently says which natural substances you are and aren't allowed to enjoy in the privacy of your own home (not that I'm pro-marijuana, but the fact that the Federal government thinks it should have any authority there is pretty totalitarian).
  • Re:Budget Priortites (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday June 24, 2006 @08:07PM (#15598307)
    You have to build something when you are done otherwise it is not R&D

    The D is to support further R, that is all. Development after R&D is implementation. The two are not equal.

    Have you ever heard of NASA?

    NASA was born from the military. The poster, IMO, was simply suggesting the removal of the "build things to destroy things" aspect to focus on the innovation for purely peaceful applications. I agree completely with that sentiment. We already have enough weapons.

    Please use facts when making an argument. This is just a dumb statement that shows you have no good points to argue.

    Some things are best left said to yourself.

  • Re:Budget Priortites (Score:4, Interesting)

    by fatman22 ( 574039 ) on Saturday June 24, 2006 @08:27PM (#15598385)
    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. 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.
  • Re:Budget Priortites (Score:3, Interesting)

    by saltydogdesign ( 811417 ) on Saturday June 24, 2006 @08:46PM (#15598455)

    Were you just posting the Daily Kos talking points without thinking?

    Point of fact, Kos is primarily a political tactician and not prone to making unbased assertions. These are not points he would make.

    OTOH, which social programs are "craptastic," pray tell? As for our government protecting us from terrorists, I hardly see how this ridiculous boondoggle has anything to do with that, any more than the Crusader artillery piece or the new class of destroyers are meant to fight terrorism.

    Next time you get a chance to remove your head from your ass, you might take note that the informed criticism of "our" president (he's not the president of Slashdot) is based on substantive policy concerns and has nothing to do with blind hatred or winning at all costs. What you are suggesting is really nothing more than projection, and it is the sort of reaction to criticism that is absolutely guaranteed to prevent any cohesive bipartsanship in our lifetimes.

  • Re:What a great idea (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Jeremi ( 14640 ) on Saturday June 24, 2006 @10:51PM (#15598830) Homepage
    Do all hippies think that we don't need a military?

    Yes, because hippies are merely a convenient straw-man caricature for you to mock. So they'll believe any dumb-ass thing you want them to in order to make you look like you're winning the argument.

    I'm not a hippie myself though, so my view is that we do need a military: one about one tenth the size of what we have now. The reason our military keeps growing year and year and STILL can't keep up with our demands on it is that it generates its own demand: the more military we have, the more we rely on it as our primary means of getting things done (whether it is the right tool or not), and the more other nations (rightly) fear our military power, and build up their militaries in response, and so the more we have to build up our own military to stay ahead. A classic arms race, but the end of this little game is that America will bankrupt itself, USSR style, by going into massive debt to support its military. Cool as high-tech weaponry may be, you can't eat it, and you can't house your citizens with it. At some point the whole economic edifice will come tumbling down under the weight of all that non-productive military spending, and the USA will cease to be a global superpower -- ironically not because of too little defense, but because of too much.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday June 24, 2006 @11:19PM (#15598914)
    If tomorrow Japan and China decide to either A.) Stop buying debt or B.) Demand their debts back ASAP we'd be hosed.

    As concerned as I am about our national debt, it doesn't quite work that way.

    B) Is not an option, they are buying 10 year bond sthat the US doesn't have to pay back until they are due. All the can do is try to sell them on the open market. Surprise, if they aren't buying the debt, the value plummets and they take a bath. The US doesn't pay $1 until long after the dollars value has collapsed.

    A) Isn't a great option either. The real beauty of the system for the USA is our debt is structured in Dollars, so if China were to attack the currency that way, they woul destroy the value of the dollar, wiping out the bulk of their savings. As a secondary effect, all that cheap Chinese crap we buy no longer is cheap, and so we stop outsourceing to the Chinese and make the crap here again, or any other country that faces economic ruin by the move. The only real downside is that people return to the English Pound or the Euro to index international debt, which has been one of the pegs we've hung our economy on for the last 60 years.

    The bottom line is the US, because of our social and economic freedom and our national attitude of accomplishment, will adapt to the new conditions and rebuild itself quickly.

  • by Xel'Naga ( 673728 ) * on Sunday June 25, 2006 @05:14AM (#15599766)
    IAADAPOI (I am a dane and proud of it).

    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.
    While this is true, it is unfortunately just a tautology: It is possible to have a low unemployment and many people working in the welfare system by offering the unemployed a job in the public sector.

    (...)from a purely quantitative perspective, the Swedes have a better standard of living than a purely capitalist United States(...)
    The way to measure wealth quantitavely is GNP. Last year, I remember reading that if Sweden was admitted into the USA, it would be the third-poorest state, and that swedes in general were poorer than blacks in USA.

    Denmark is far better off than Sweden, though. If you ask me, a major factor in what makes a country rich is the flexibility on the job market, where Denmark rates exceptionally high.

  • Barnes Wallis (Score:3, Interesting)

    by GrahamCox ( 741991 ) on Monday June 26, 2006 @07:48AM (#15604494) Homepage
    People are saying this isn't new, it was tested by NASA in the 1980s following research in the 1970s. Well, IIRC, It was Barnes Wallis who developed this concept for supersonic aircraft in the 1950s. He was British, which I guess is why you 'mericans pathologically overlook his work. In fact if it wasn't for the Brits handing over all their supersonic research as part of a post-war deal (fair enough I guess, we needed your money to rebuild our country and the rest of Europe), you probably would have been beaten to the punch for breaking the sound barrier in the first place.

    Mind you, BW was against the TSR-2 and so lent a lot of clout the US argument against that effort, so he's got some brownie points against him in my book. But that's an argument for another day.

The last thing one knows in constructing a work is what to put first. -- Blaise Pascal