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Comment Re:Interesting... (Score 1) 613

Yes and no. While F, B and A designations are all fairly fluid, an A aircraft is usually one whose primary role is close air support, ie precision strikes on targets that are engaging, and thus very close to, friendly troops. To do this you want an aircraft that's maneuverable, not too fast, (usually) lightweight and either cheap or very survivable. It actually wasn't uncommon for larger A-4 pilots to be unable to reach certain switches with the canopy closed because the cockpit was so small. Meanwhile the A-10 is probably the best fixed wing CAS platform ever built and can get shot all day long and keep flying.

On the other hand, the F-111 is big, fast, expensive, carries a ton and can't maneuver to save its life. Back in the 1970s, if you wanted to do CAS with an F-111 you would have found yourself overflying the target at 150-250ft at around 250-300 meters per second, while your Nav tried to drop a dumb bomb without hitting friendlies only perhaps 100m from your target. Good luck with that. And good luck if your complicated swing wing system takes a bullet, because your threshold speed will probably set a land-speed record. Probably more accurate to call it a bomber, although it's at the blurry edge of the three designations.

Comment Re:Interesting... (Score 1) 613

Yeah, the F-111 was certainly the world's most optimistic fighter program. As Admiral Connolly said, "There isn't enough power in all Christendom to make that airplane what we want!"

Notwithstanding its inability to safely fly off a carrier, both it and the F-14 are a great design for BVR (Beyond Visual Range) Air Superiority missions, but as soon as you get into a dogfight the F-111 is dead and the F-14 is awkwardly big. Even the F-15 is bigger than it should be, although it's a better BVR platform than the F-16.

The funny thing is that these days, we finally are getting to a point where Boyd and dogfighting are obsolete, for real this time. We promise! Unless of course you have two stealth fighters who can't find each other; then it'll be like the days before radar except with 1/20th as many aircraft. Good thing the J-20 can't dogfight for shit.

Comment Re:Is this really how fighter jets work? (Score 1) 613

Defense analysts won't see this as a threat to the F-22 however. The J-20 is more of a stealth bomber, similar to an F-111, and it would be fairly useless as a dogfighter. Certainly, with its stealth characteristics you could use it as a stand-off air superiority platform and fire missiles downrange, but let an F/A-18 or F-16 get within visual range and you're dead.

I also disagree that the US requires more aircraft - the USAF already has a reputation for having a lot of cannon-fodder quality pilots, albeit with a good percentage of very skilled operators. Increasing pilot numbers would be hugely expensive, and only add to the ranks of cannon fodder without increasing the number of top-quality pilots.

Having said that I think the best move (and a politically unlikely one) would be to cancel the F-35 and split its budget between more F-22s to win the first few days of a war and more and better UAVs to handle the war once air superiority has been achieved. UAV squadrons can absorb lower quality pilots more easily anyways; it's easier to keep a cool head in a 1g armchair on autopilot than flying a fuel-guzzling high-g fighter jet.

Comment Re:Interesting... (Score 1) 613

Yeah, the explanation I've always heard is that because it was difficult to fly and required experience with single-pilot operations (ie no Nav or Co-pilot to share the workload), they needed guys with single-seat fighter jet experience to fly it. However, flying a bomber is career suicide if you're a fighter pilot. Hence, slap an F designation on it and you're good to go.

Not the first time this has happened in the USAF, the F-111 should really have been called a B-111.

Comment Re:Well (Score 1) 192

I'll probably get shot down for this, but read The Game sometime.

People who haven't read it usually call it misogynistic bullshit, but it makes a lot of good points. Not least of all, that women aren't at all attracted to money. Sure, they're attracted to men with money because they act like alpha males, but that doesn't mean you can't act like an alpha male too.

Comment Re:Boeing versus Airbus (Score 1) 499

Usually, not always

My favourite quote from the Wikipedia article: "Upon parking at the gate, the crew did another walk around inspection to narrow down the cause of the incident. The inspection revealed that the entire rudder had broken away from the tail of the aircraft."

As a pilot however I can assure you that there are some uhh, minor, safety issues associated with rudderless flight...

Comment Re:F-35 problems (Score 2, Insightful) 920

In some ways, yes, F-16/18s are a perfectly good replacement for the F-35. However at this point the program really has gone on far too long to be cancelled. Defense doesn't move quickly, and given that most of the US's allies are gearing up to retire their old Hornets and Vipers and eventually take on F-35s it would screw over a lot of American allies to can it.

However, it's nearly impossible to make a reliable projection of what kind of fast jet we should be procuring. Why? Because whatever we buy will be in service well into the 2030s and 2040s, and who knows what UAV technology will look like by then.

Case in point, the F-22. Great aircraft, but can't do Air-to-Ground at all. However, if you're using Predator drones as bomb trucks, maybe all you need is a bunch of F-22s to establish air superiority. In this scenario, F-35s look pretty useless. However, maybe you find yourself up against an enemy with cheap Man Portable radar homing missiles and a system to jam Predator signals. Now your F-16s & 18s are sitting ducks and your Predators are useless. F-22s can take out enemy fighters, but there's probably not any to look for anyways. In such a scenario, the F-35 suddenly looks very useful.

The fact is, fighter procurement is an extremely long-term purchase in an extremely uncertain area. Are we getting it wrong? Probably. But can we say, without a doubt, what we *should* be doing? No way. The best solution, if you have the money, is to hedge your bets with multiple systems. Otherwise, it's just a question of guessing and hoping you get it right.


Comment Re:Laudable, but misguided (Score 1) 281

Really? You really think that evolution is going to work differently on a different planet?

I mean, lets think about that for a moment: evolution works on the principle of competition for scarce resources. It follows principles of game theory that are pretty much universal mathematical concepts. And, lets not forget, somewhat intelligent life has evolved in a number of species on earth.

Humans, sure we cooperate when conditions are favorable, but we'll just as soon murder each other. Dolphins, also quite intelligent, follow a mating strategy of three-man gang rape. Chimpanzees engage in political assassinations.

The fact is, self-replicated organisms will replicate until resources are scarce, and scarce resources lead to zero sum, "what's bad for you is good for me" type behaviors. Any intelligent species will have instincts to take advantage of both these situations, *and* instincts to cooperate in situations where cooperation is useful. Thus, the chances of an evolved, intelligent species being 100% friendly is fairly low.

Now, it's certainly possible that an ecosystem could arise which was so interlinked that any species which preyed on another would itself become extinct. However that's a highly unstable system; the first replicator to start eating it's neighbors would flourish right until the whole system was destroyed. Certainly, it seems awfully unlikely that said ecosystem could survive long enough for intelligent life to evolve.

Remember kids, evolution's not just some fuzzy biology class concept. It's practically physics!

It's funny.  Laugh.

Submission + - Frind Works 10 Hour Week, Makes $10 Million a Year

Reservoir Hill writes: "The New York Times reports that Markus Frind built the Plenty of Fish Web site in 2003 as nothing more than an exercise to help teach himself a new programming language, ASP.NET. The site first became popular among English-speaking Canadians. Popularity among online daters in many United States cities followed more recently, and with minimal spending on advertising the site. According to data from comScore Media Metrix for November 2007, Plenty of Fish had 1.4 million unique visitors in the United States. In December, Mr. Frind said, the site served up 1.2 billion page views, and page views have soared 20 percent since Dec. 26."

Submission + - New images of deep Martian caves

untree writes: The Astronomy Picture of the Day today is an image recently taken by the HiRISE instrument on the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter. More information is available on the Planetary Society blog, including a description of the paper (pdf) that describes this series of caves.

From the image description:

"Black spots have been discovered on Mars that are so dark that nothing inside can be seen. Quite possibly, the spots are entrances to deep underground caves capable of protecting Martian life, were it to exist."

And for fans of traditional units of measure, this cave entrance is about the size of a football field.

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