From The ENGINEER: Bumble Bee Drones at War

The rise of the micro air vehicle
13 June 2013 | By Jon Excell
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A soldier of The Queen’s Royal Lancers launches a Black Hornet, Nano UAV from a compound in Afghanistan during Operation QALB.

…one of the compelling advantages over larger surveillance UAVs such as the Reaper is that the system can ‘be tasked in a matter of seconds’, whereas a reaper might take half an hour to arrive at the scene.

…Prox Dynamics’ CEO and founder Petter Muren told The Engineer that the technology that appears on the PD100 is considerably more advanced than anything that would be found on a remote-controlled aircraft. The motors, servos and sensors are, he said, smaller and more efficient. The radio-link is more advanced, the system has fully integrated GPS, as well an autopilot system, and is far more robust.

And the beat, wing beat, goes on…

Thoughtful, useful, analysis of the NorK problem

From the Thin Pinstriped Line, a good read and some reasonable analysis of the reality facing the NorK regime and the world.

An extremely cogent point is how the current situation is pointing out the limited usefulness of Nukes in the long twilight between proven technical capability and getting beyond only having enough to commit (a messy) suicide.


Some thoughts on a tangential topic to truth in a ‘Statesman’s’ world

The famous rant by Colonel Jessep (Nicholson) from A Few Good Men:

You can’t handle the truth! Son, we live in a world that has walls, and those walls have to be guarded by men with guns. Who’s gonna do it? You? You, Lt. Weinburg? I have a greater responsibility than you could possibly fathom. You weep for Santiago, and you curse the marines. You have that luxury. You have the luxury of not knowing what I know. That Santiago’s death, while tragic, probably saved lives. And my existence, while grotesque and incomprehensible to you, saves lives. You don’t want the truth because deep down in places you don’t talk about at parties, you want me on that wall, you need me on that wall. We use words like honor, code, loyalty. We use these words as the backbone of a life spent defending something. You use them as a punchline. I have neither the time nor the inclination to explain myself to a man who rises and sleeps under the blanket of the very freedom that I provide, and then questions the manner in which I provide it. I would rather you just said thank you, and went on your way, Otherwise, I suggest you pick up a weapon, and stand a post. Either way, I don’t give a damn what you think you are entitled to.

Nicholson is able project a charismatic mix of steely conviction with righteousness and psychotic tendencies. He’s homely in a rather attractive sense but his rubber play mask of a face often seems on the brink of either maniacal rage or maniacal laughter…with the understanding that the differences are tiny.

That whole movie left me cold, there was something trite about it and the casting of the oh so cute JAG’s and the oh so over wrought marines was perhaps clever, the setting clever, the words….clever, but what was it all about?

It was all about the delivery of that one monologue and its delivery by someone who was clearly, if only slightly, over the edge, in a place that should not exist.

The movie provided depth to the speech that twists the highest meanings of honor and service into dark and dangerous threats curdled in a place and circumstance that are wholly unnecessary.

And this was long before Guantanamo took on its current gray mantle.

This can be seen as the most powerful anti war movie (without any action) that has ever been created because it says that the things a person has to take on to become a combatant are manipulations and most likely the rational behind it is a lie and the urge to protect, more about power and privilege than caring.

And yet…and yet…I came away with the weird sense, I think intentionally  that Jessep was more hero than villain and the JAGs more (minor) villains than heroes though they were heroes and he was a villain who needed stopping.

In ghostly profile behind Jessep, I see Patton, Stonewall Jackson, Sherman and others, who were in their ways just as nuts,  In an alternate to his fictional world Jessep could have been a great hero and the JAGS might have been slimy villains.

Was any of this the original intent?  Probably and if so its probably great art, in the sense of great playwright’s work and great casting, not so much cinematography or  directing or  acting on anyone’s part other than Nicholson’s.

A Few Good Men and the strange mirrors it casts are more apropos today than they could conceivably have been when it was made.  This movie made today, set in Iraq, Afghanistan or any one of a hundred other places, would not work as well and would create a firestorm of debate but then vanish.

It has been left alone because it says more, more subtly the way it is than it could possibly say if redone in a contemporary venue.  And anyone who tried to remake it would be unable to create the remarkably fine balance that it drew between hero and villain on both sides.

The Future of War

The future of war is taking form all around and it is not a vision of super battleships and death rays, though they may exist in infinitesimal numbers the real fighting will be done by tiny groups of specialists (SOCOM, the SEALs and an array of similar highly trained, expensively equipped and lethally effective troops.) Weapons like one discussed in Wired recently, a Proposed program to develop a missile capable of hitting and destroying small targets like SUV’s (60 miles away) that can be fired from another SUV.

SUV being unloaded from a C-17

There is a bit of spy v spy in this and the Wired article is a bit ironic in tone but the truth is this is the future, and in most ways it will continue the trend of things getting better for the majority of humans, it will kill its target without killing hundreds of others and could lead to a ‘decapitation’ strike where the warmaker is taken out of the picture so peace can find a way.  And of course it will be misused, and ill-used and those of good heart and hope will deplore it all.

Of course the use of discrete platforms is nothing new, the recent tragedy in Africa involved a U28.  This is a single engine utility turboprop, built by Pilatus and used all over the world but very intensively in Africa where its low cost of acquisition and operation along with the high reliability of the single turboprop airframe make it highly coveted.  You can think of an SUV as being in the same vein really.

Pilatus, U28

Of course drones will be a big part of future war, though how big and how are interesting questions. If both sides are aggressive users of technology with combat hackers or the like as well as jammers, radio direction finding/ranging and guys (and gals) with skeet shooting guns and skills it should get ‘interesting.’

Here’s a piece of drone related news where things got ‘interesting’ for some bystanders when a crashed drone was given the coup de grâce by one of its robotic compatriots.

BRAVO: Red Tails, Everyone should see It!!!

Red Tails Broadsheet

Saw this movie with my son today (Sunday 22nd Jan).  This is like Saving Private Ryan a watershed war movie.  It is fabulous to watch, the characters are realistic and well played so you care, the story telling is deft, there is no complexity her but that’s not the point.  It is an uplifting story of brave men (all types of bravery) trying to do the best they can and winning on more than one level.    

I will warn you that I do not go to movies to learn history, neither do I go to them to learn philosophy of life lessons, I go to be entertained.  And most movie critics these days appear to be operating in a different plane and writing for each other not the folks in the real world. 

The biggest problem I have had with many war movies up until recent time is technical.  All the compromises that had to be made to make any large scale war movie and my inability to look past ‘minor’ issues like US M48’s used in The Battle of the Bulge to represent German Tigers/Panthers. 

Red Tails shows that modern technology and good film making are beyond this, the setting is viscerally real throughout, providing a rich background canvas that the people and the action can play out in. Absolutely fabulous aircraft scenes throughout.  When the only thing I could gripe about is that sometimes they made some of the ground sets look too old and worn I should just shut up…. and the mud and basic layout etc were again exquisitely done. 

The men (and it really is all about men the only female character though sweetly played is only a set piece) are well played, it might have been biased for modern tastes but they came off as real, the relatively clean cut, slightly less demon ridden people of a simpler day men who were playing their part in two wars.  One with bullets and one with hearts and minds. 

This movie was rated very highly by the public and moderately low by the critics.  The explanation I have for that is that the Critics cannot stand a movie that puts the bigotry of the time in the proper context.  It was so obviously a constant drain on the men but it was the background to their lives, the constant slights many unconscious rather than direct attacks.  I am very sure many critics wanted a movie that wallowed in the bigotry and hatred a bleak look at the dark hearts of men (we don’t need that, know all about it.)    Instead what is here is a simply fabulous war movie about men I grew to care about that made its point about the utter stupidity of bigotry by positive rather than negative example.

Bravo Lucasfilm, George Lucas, Industrial Light & Magic, and of course the writers, director and actors.