Ship to Shore Connector… Landing Craft Air Cushion, only the Gov’t could make something this cool boooring

 These are the final stage of the powerful conveyor that is the Navy’s Gator Fleet, the numerous, rather ugly, remarkably capable ships that carry the Marines to the far ends of the world and deliver them on the beach when needed.  While this fleet has been mainly a humanitarian instrument for many years now it is one of the principal reasons for the US Navy to be as big and capable as it is.  The US Navy has many tasks the most obvious ones are to keep the sea lanes open for merchant traffic.  While air freight is important these days it is the vast cargo ships carrying oil, ore, containers, and vehicles that really undergird the world merchant economy.  The US Navy also provides our most secure strategic weapon the strategic missile submarine.  The US Navy and the Marines hold at risk every trouble maker with a maritime coast, providing the implicit or explicit threat that major combat boots (and tracks) can be on their ground if they provide the right (or is that wrong) stimulus.

Computer aging and user angst…

As I’ve noted before my primary writing implement is a Leonovo (nee IBM) Thinkpad T42, at the time one of the best lightweight laptops in its class and certainly (in my opinion) the LAPTOP writing tool available.  I had been using Windows 2000 on my ‘main’ machine (which I had been forced to upgrade with much cursing, from Win NT a couple of years before) but had to move to XP Professional on Writer, which caused a great deal more muttering under the breath and vibrant curses in the direction of Redmond WA and B.Gates in particular.   (By the way, probably the most maligned man on Earth and proof that curses have no effect. He being, to all appearances; healthy, happy and well off despite a {largely unearned} curse load that should have reduced him, and the local geographic, region to subatomic particles long ago.)

Writer replaced an earlier IBM Thinkpad, a black and white 3.5in floppy equipped 12+ incher that I bought at some an early Staples in the early 90’s.  It had Windows 2 if I remember correctly not the soon to be released W 95.  I typed away happily on that machine, transferred to the ‘big iron’ with its much more stable W NT then to the (even better Win 2000, –though it took at least six months for me to admit as much.)

Then of course I started buying systems for the rest of the family, I bought one with Windows Me (what a piece of trash!) and later Windows Vista (urk) and lately Windows 7, which I have to say I find to be at least as good as XP though I don’t like the increasing levels of detail they are hiding behind the magic curtain, that I have to find my way past to do anything once the wizards etc fail (though admittedly that’s pretty rare these days.)

Before and During this time, working first for the Gov’t then a Gov’t/Private partnership.  I had used several versions of DOS, rightly pooh poohed Windows 1, often used the DEC VAX operating system, a version of the other disk operating system common at the time (which I forget the acronym/name for) and then on to Win 2, Win 95, Win 2000, Win XP.  Now the age of XP is passing (I know I know, in the outside world it passed long ago but main line / old line engineering firms are extremely risk averse.)  My latest little (plastic) jewel is Win 7 which has forced me to finally learn the system (like work moving to XP made me learn XP.)

Sigh, and now they are talking about W-8! and that they are going to stop supporting W-XP!! And Writer is finally showing her age <whine, whine> but is not ready for the removal of her hard drive and consigning to the waste stream of history…but if I wait too much longer I won’t be able to get W-7 the bastards will force me to get a new system with W-8!!!  Those fould fiends in Redmond! whats’s name and all his grimy green geek gremlins, with their damned marketing plans…etc, etc, etc….(and by the way its harder to use Ballmer in a curse than it is Gates, makes it much less cathartic for some reason.

So sometime soon I will have to get another Writer…and my daughter want’s an ultrabook to replace the Gateway 15.6 incher I got her for University.  And having had fun building two computers from scratch this summer I want to play around some more…but haven’t found an excuse to build another one, or two, or three….

And the fools at Leonovo will probably not offer a regular old-fashioned 3:4 aspect screen but one of the blasted 9:16 movie screen slots…the old form is much better for writing when using a smaller screen. But ‘everyone’ seems to like the slots because they can see movies better, why do they get to pick the aspect ratio?  I’m doing creative stuff they’re just rotting their brains for crying out loud!!

And so it goes…things change, those that don’t are either perfect or dead.  Personal computer technology is evolving so fast that it is impossible for anyone to say ‘stop I want to get off for a little while.’  One just has to continue to adapt.  Just be thankful that what we are adapting to is a new and generally much better set of hardware and software….not the appearance of a new predator, plague or famine.



Technology Review-high Frequency Soft Switching inverters could be a breakthrough enabler of small and mid scale Solar PV

Novel Electronics Could Speed Adoption of Solar Power – Technology Review.

Not a new technology but if these guys can bring it to market at a significantly lower total cost of ownership number they are going to ignite the market.

Biggest issue with SftSwt has always been complexity and consequent reliability issues.  If these guys have reduced the parts and interconnect count (in other words integrated the controls and sensors)they are on the right path.

The Army really needs to ‘cool it’s jets'(calm down in the lingo of the ‘Gray Lensman’)

In the NDIA’s National Defense magazine’s blog there is a post: Don’t Rush to Buy New Vehicles, Army and Marine Corps Warned

The traditional approach to updating U.S. military hardware — spending years and billions of dollars on next-generation designs — is no longer working for the Army and the Marine Corps as they seek replacements for their combat vehicles.


One reason for the military to hold off on buying new vehicles is that there are no technological silver bullets to make military trucks, tanks and personnel carriers less vulnerable to enemy weapons, …. Adversaries can acquire and deploy antitank weapons and roadside bombs much faster and at far less cost than the U.S. military can build countermeasures and survivable vehicles,


It’s not clear that the Army or the Marine Corps can “get out of this box,” Outspending the enemy in this case is a losing battle. … “Adversaries’ use of guided weapons, relatively cheap and rapidly fielded anti-armor weapons … threatens to increase significantly the costs incurred by U.S. ground troops in accomplishing their assigned missions,”


The Army’s procurement bureaucracy is still reeling from the failure of its $200 Future Combat Systems. Although the follow-on program, the Ground Combat Vehicle, is far more modest, it is not clear that it (will) offer a substantial technological boost compared to existing vehicles


Army buyers might still be somewhat (IMO are totally) deluded by the thinking that doomed the Future Combat Systems. At the time, FCS officials touted the program for its advanced information network, which would give commanders an instant view of the battlefield and allow them to see the enemy without being detected.

After the termination of FCS, the Army continued the push for an advanced communications network, which is now billed as the services number-one modernization priority. The problem, … is that the Army still assumes it can deploy a network at will. “The assumption is that we are operating in a permissive environment … that once we set up the network, nobody is going to tear it down,”

We have operated in a permissive environment, electronically and even threat wise for the past decade at least. We have also operated in a nation building civil war environment in urban, suburban environment. Even in the ‘Stan the military faces an enemy with limited access to weapons beyond RPGs and IEDs but these have proven the Bradley is no longer viable and driven us to develop armored modestly off road vehicles like the Stryker DVH, MATV, and MAXPRO MRAP.

These vehicles use existing technology and are enough over designed to allow for evolution. They are too heavy for the Army and USMC but the effort put into the ‘light weight’ replacement the JLTV Family has already cost huge amounts and the only way the Army/USMC kept the program was mandating a weight(26,000lb), cost ($250,000 ea) and protection (MAXPRO equivalent) and letting everything else float or be a special kit. The program has been a feeding trough for the Mil-Ind-Bandit-complex for several years not for truck builders supported by the Army funding some high end components. In fact the truck builders and high end suppliers have been funding their own pragmatic tech programs based on industrial/commercial insights that in the end the Army and USMC have bought.

Recently a couple of high ups in the acquisition corps said they’ve been meeting the soldiers needs and all the grief about Comanche, Crusader, JLTV EDM, EFV, FCS, etc is all noise. Bull-crap!

Once it might have had some truth, the Army/USMC did projects to build tech and keep design experience honed. Much of the money went to top grade suppliers of engines, suspensions, transmissions, the primes never intended the vehicles to go to production, everyone learnt and had tech on the shelf. Those days are gone.

These days the programs are too tightly focused and the programs are ‘mapped’ to lead to production. So the top tier suppliers go for them, often get more than one ‘team’ funded and develop futuristic Advanced Development Models, designed to highly refined specs that require essentially custom components. To keep their engineering teams fed they keep most of the work in house and over-ride input from the lower tier suppliers they do use. The specifications are too specific and often contradictory, open to interpretation, and all too often evolving. Money swirls down the toilet by the bushel. New management comes in, new ‘baselines’ established more money flushed and eventually the program collapses. Little of the technology is of use elsewhere.

The world class suppliers all largely ignore Army programs because they have spent too much money on programs that are ill conceived and almost bound to fail. Where the automotive industry does work on gov’t programs they try to focus on programs with clear near term needs, like the highly successful, Stryker, MATV, and later MRAPS.

At the end of the day we’ll be better off letting things settle out while we fund evolutionary and component technologies. The thousands of bright young officers coming back from Iraq and the ‘Stan need to settle in, study the world, history and the potential for tightly-constrained battlespaces, they’ll be the ones to figure out what comes next, not the old guard who claim they’re ‘just fine…’

Skeet Shoot

This piece on StratPage rather says it all. It’s kind of interesting, aircraft become more ‘efficient’ in a technical sense of cargo(including fuel/power)/weight as they grow larger…it’s mostly about geometric effects of volume vs. surface area. There is also a tendency to focus on endurance in drones for obvious reasons, which in air vehicles means slow and relatively large wing spans. Consequently the ‘low threat’ generation of UAV’s are all about the same in regards to vulnerability. But the next generation, Quadopters, UCAVs, Avenger, etc, are all higher performance, trading something away for more performance, and will be significantly less vulnerable.
And let’s be clear the first generation were all about experimentation with the basics, not about high intensity combat ops. If you look at a lot of the manned platforms in service, survival in combat has not been a big driver for the last decade.