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Interrogative Texaco

Monday, October 22nd, 2007

More than a few years ago while at 20,000 in the middle of the Med I finished a fuel check and told my trusty nose-gunner, Jim “Rev” Jones “We’re fat on gas…2k above ladder”. Rev, who cut his early cruise teeth in F-4 Phantoms off USS Midway, said “You’re never fat on gas”.

After that quick tutorial on fighters and airborne gas, let’s look at some news that has come out regarding the status of the US Air Force Tanker question.
First, airborne tanking is a vital element to our power projection capability. Aside from being a significant force multiplier, in many cases it is a required element for mission success. Navy aircraft, even when carriers can be positioned offshore of the vast majority of hot spots around the world, need fuel to extend missions and provide that margin for error needed when returning to your postage stamp of a landing field. Air Force aircraft, even when launching from land bases or in the fulfillment of their “global reach” tenet, often times have significant distances to fly and loiter requirements. Add in the “time sensitive strike” capability that is vital in this asymmetric battlespace and airborne fuel is essential to mission success.
EADS North America, the branch of the European Aeronautic Defense and Space Company that is on our side of the pond, is making an aggressive move in the competition to be the US Air Force next tanker fleet with a report late last week that they have selected Bridgeport, West Virginia (no idea if Robert Byrd was included in site negotiations there) as the location for a new aerial refueling center of excellence, IF Northrop Grumman KC-30 Tanker is selected as the U.S. Air Forces next generation aerial refueling aircraft.
I say an aggressive move because the hurdles are high for Northrop Grumman in this situation given the fact that their KC-30 aircraft is based on KC30_F18s_Still.jpgthe Airbus A330 airliner, currently under delivery to the Royal Australian Air Force and, according to the aforementioned web site is the U.K. government’s preferred bidder for its Future Strategic Tanker Aircraft requirement. One BIG plus in the KC-30’s favor would be the fact that the aircraft would be converted to the tanker role in Mobile, Alabama.
The competition in this deal is the Boeing KC-767A, kc-767a.jpgcurrently under production/delivery contract to the air forces of Italy and Japan.
Interestingly, both EADS and Boeing have agreements with Sargent Fletcher, Inc., of El Monte, Calif. to provide tanking hardware for their systems. Talk about cornering the market on airborne refueling equipment.
As a former fighter guy, pulling up to a KC-767 or a KC-30 matters little — as long as there is gas to pass. The details of which company or which aircraft is selected to fulfill the Air Force’s is better left to bean counters and pencil-necked GS-types/contractors in the Pentagon. We need something to replace the increasingly aging fleet of KC-135 and KC-10 aircraft, however, and either of these new systems will suffice nicely.

EADS North America and Cobham Select
Bridgeport, West Virginia for an Aerial Refueling Center of Excellence
Charleston, West Virginia; Arlington, Virginia, October 19, 2007
Bridgeport, West Virginia has been selected as the site for a new aerial refueling center of excellence that will provide key components for the Northrop Grumman KC-30 Tanker. The new facility will produce and support EADS advanced Aerial Refueling Boom System and Cobhams under-wing hose and drogue refueling system, developed with its U.S. subsidiary, Sargent Fletcher. The announcement was made by West Virginia Governor Joe Manchin at a press conference held in the State Capitol building.
The production site, chosen after an evaluation that considered locations in several states, will be established if the Northrop Grumman KC-30 Tanker is selected as the U.S. Air Forces next generation aerial refueling aircraft. The facility will employ at least 100 skilled workers, and is to co-locate the production operations of EADS North America and Sargent Fletcher into two adjacent facilities at Harrison Countys North Central West Virginia Regional Airport.
EADS North America will supply the KC-30 Tankers fly-by-wire Aerial Refueling Boom System from a new 32,000 sq. ft. production site, while Sargent Fletcher is to build the aircrafts two digital underwing hose and drogue pods at an adjacent 25,000 sq. ft. facility.
We examined a number of sites across the country and chose Bridgeport because it offers a solid combination of location, community support and skilled workforce necessary to execute this critical national security program, said EADS North America Chairman and CEO Ralph D. Crosby, Jr. In particular, Governor Manchin and the West Virginia congressional delegation have a demonstrated record of support for industry. This investment decision — along with our previous selection of Mobile, Alabama as the potential site of the KC-30 Tanker final assembly facility — reflects EADS firm commitment to create jobs and insource advanced critical technologies into the United States.
EADS North Americas Aerial Refueling Boom System (ARBS) is the most capable in-flight refueling system available today. Its fly-by-wire design features enhanced controllability and incorporates an automatic load alleviation system, which greatly aids the boom operator and the receiver aircrafts pilot during refueling operations.


CYA Pentagon-Style

Thursday, August 2nd, 2007


The lead story at Military​.com this morning adds a bit of clarity to why the Pentagon ordered mothballed Tomcats to be crushed into little bits: They were covering their asses.

A GAO report issued yesterday states that roughly 1,400 parts that could be used to fix F-14s were sold in February. These sales happened after the Pentagon announced it had suspended sales of all parts that could be used on the Tomcat while it reviewed the security situation.

According to the article “the Defense Reutilization and Marketing Service, the Pentagon’s surplus sales division, told investigators the parts were sold because it failed to update an automated control list and remove the aircraft parts before they were listed on its Internet sales site.

“A Democratic senator said the investigation shows why legislation he proposed that would ban the sale of all F-14 parts is needed.

“‘The Pentagon’s system is still riddled with holes,’ Sen. Ron Wyden said in a telephone interview with The Associated Press. ‘These are the very parts that they said they wouldn’t be selling, and they still are, and so you’ve got to make sure the changes are going to actually have teeth and work.’”

Sen. Wyden also added that his legislation recognizes “that the Pentagon has bumbled to the point where they can’t make the distinction” between sensitive and innocuous surplus.

So, again, the crushing of Tomcats was in essence a grand closing of the barn door after the livestock had escaped. As the GAO report circulated around the Pentagon (weeks before you and I knew it was coming out) the powers that be knew they had to do some damage control to keep other pesky lawmakers like Wyden from making a big deal of their fumble. Okay … now it makes sense.

Of course, as members of the savvy DT audience have pointed out before and as anyone who’s every worked around Tomcats knows firsthand, it’ll take more than a few Black Market items to keep the ridiculously old Iranian Tomcat fleet airborne. Remember these are first-gen airplanes … like 158XXX bureau numbers. Can you imagine their maintenance man hour per flight hour stat? Good friggin’ luck keeping those puppies FMC.

I say we slip ‘em just enough parts to keep the maintainers pulling their hair out while the aviators twiddle their thumbs in the ready room.

Here’s an AP video report on the GAO report:

Play Video
Pentagon Sold F-14 Parts Sought by Iran
Associated Press — (APTN)
Aug. 01, 2007. 11:13 PM EST
Government investigators say roughly 1400 parts that could be used on F-14 ‘Tomcat’ fighter jets were sold to the public in February, a move that could jeopardize national security because Iran is seeking such components. (August 1)

– Ward

Reconstruction Teams to the Rescue!

Wednesday, May 16th, 2007

Provincial Reconstruction Teams tasked with rebuilding ruined infrastructure and institutions are trying to take the lead in the U.S. strategy to stabilize Iraq and Afghanistan. But the PRTs’ seemingly peaceful missions belie the extreme dangers they face every day, with security concerns often hobbling their efforts to make a significant impact.
Small, lightly equipped and often working far from the protective umbrella of U.S. and coalition troops, more than one PRT has had a close call.
Just ask Air Force Capt. Rockie Wilson. From August to December last year, Wilson led a combined Army-Air Force PRT trying to rebuild roads and train local government officials in Qalat province, northwest of Kandahar, Afghanistan. The 70-mile road network the PRT was working on featured deep dips that Wilson says were perfect spots to hide Improvised Explosive Devices.
But the first Taliban attack on his team involved small arms rather than roadside bombs.
“My life flashed before my eyes,” Wilson says, smiling shyly as he recalls his stereotypical response to getting shot at for the first time.
But the six-months of pre-deployment Army training kicked in, and he maneuvered his Humvees to cover while his machine gunners and an attached Afghan Army unit opened fire. They were able to keep the Taliban’s heads down long enough for Wilson to call in a pair of A-10 Warthog attack jets, killing many of the attackers and scattering the rest.
But the engagement did not come without cost. One Afghan army soldier in the patrol died and two were wounded.


Army Chow: Tradition of Fine Dining Goes High Tech

Tuesday, February 20th, 2007


When we think about military systems commands we normally conjure up images of weapons ranges and test pilots. But the U.S. Army Natick Soldier Research, Development and Engineering Center is involved in pursuits arguably less glamorous but no less important to the war effort.

Among NSRDEC’s missions is the research, development, testing and engineering of “combat feeding systems.” The command sums up this particular mission like this: “As long as there are wars, there will be boots on the ground; and where there are boots on the ground, there must be combat rations.”

Roger that. So let’s start with a quick bit of modern military gastronomic history, this from a recent Natick press release:

“The MRE replaced the Meal, Combat Individual, which some still refer to as the old ‘C-Ration,’ beginning in 1980.

“From its year of introduction to 1987, the MRE contained such memorable items as: Ham and Chicken Loaf, Smoky Franks (aka ‘the Five Fingers of Death’), Chicken a la King (or Chicken ‘a la Death’) and the ever popular freeze dried pork, beef and potato patties. In 1988, eight of the original 12 entrees were replaced with entrees that were slightly more identifiable, to include spaghetti and meat sauce.

“The MRE had the opportunity to go to war in Operation Desert Shield and Desert Storm.

“Unfortunately, the initial feedback on the acceptance of the MRE wasn’t pretty. It wasn’t the four letter words we heard, but the combination of 4-letter words! Gerry Darsch, then chief of the Ration Systems Division, was called to the Pentagon. It was ‘suggested’ by the former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. Colin Powell, that we explore how to ‘fix it!’”

In classic Army fashion the first step in carrying out General Powell’s directive was to include hot sauce in every MRE. Other developmental milestones included the Flameless Ration Heater (1993), the end of freeze-dried fruit (1994). (It was too expensive. You think FCS is a defense budget buster? You should see the pricetag for dried apricots.)

Other highlights over the years of the MRE Improvement Program include the “hot beverage bag” (very popular in Iraq during the summer months, I’ll bet) and the “ergonomically designed drink pouch for dairy shakes.” (One wonders what part of the anatomy the pouch is shaped for.)

So what does the future hold for combat feeding systems? Well, even as I write this Combat Feeding Teams are in theater working with frontline units to enhance what Natick calls the “family of combat rations.” Right now the teams are fine tuning two new “ration concepts”: the First Strike Ration and the Unitized Group Ration-Express (UGR-E). Natick’s release goes on to state that after these concepts are fielded they will enter the improvement programs “to insure {sic} … the inclusion of science and technology drop-ins to further enhance both rations.”

True dat! S&T drop-ins … and sprinkles! And while I’m all about warfighters sounding like warfighters, may I suggest that the labels “First Strike” and “UGR-E” (“ughereee!”) might need re-think by the PAO shop before they’re introduced to the troops.

But there’s a method to this dietary madness. According to Natick, “In the not too distant future, rations will contain naturally occurring constituents such as probiotics, which are beneficial bacteria such as those found in yogurt, and, nutraceuticals, which are small nutritional organic molecules. It is anticipated {love that passive voice} that these constituents will provide improved nutrition, cognitive and physical performance enhancement using novel nutrient delivery systems, e.g. buccal (between the cheek and gum) delivery of nutrients based on scientifically proven studies.

“Rations will be packaged using polymeric films relying on nanotechnology and contain enticing aroma emitting films. These will enhance consumption as well as protect and maintain extended shelf life to insure wholesomeness and safety. New food processing methods such as high pressure processing, pulsed electric field, and microwave sterilization will bring more variety and components with higher quality than those processed today via thermostabilization.”

Probiotics? Aroma emitting films? Novel nutrient delivery systems? Mouth-watering, indeed. The future dinner bell will be a-ringing loud and clear. Get ready to come and get it, Soldier.

(The gouge: AD)

– Ward

Ice And Lemon With That?

Tuesday, November 28th, 2006

You may talk of gin and beer
When you’re quartered safe out ‘ere
An’ you’re sent to penny fights and Aldershot it
But when it comes to slaughter
You’ll do your work on water
An’ you’ll lick the bloomin’ boots of ‘im that’s got it

Some things have not changed since Kipling wrote Gunga Din about a heroic Indian water-carrier with the British Army; the Tommies are still fighting Afghans beyond the Northwest Frontier, and water supply is still a vital element in the logistics chain. But back then the water came from a goatskin bag, “was crawlin’ and it stunk” — these days quality control has improved somewhat.
According to one US Army estimate, up to 65% of military road traffic in Iraq is taken up with transporting water to the troops. Cutting the number of trucks used for water will reduce the number of convoys that need protecting, and Allied Command Transformation Headquarters aims to do that by generating drinking water in the field. They recently demonstrated a mobile bottling plant that fits into a C-130 which can generate, purify and bottle 700 liters of water an hour.
Further down the line, DARPA are pursuing a project called ‘Water From Air’, looking at ways of extracting potable water from the atmosphere or from vehicle exhaust (water is one of the by-products when any hydrocarbon fuel is burned). Water generation was also one of the many features included in the original plans for Future Combat System, all part of the goal of traveling light and reducing the logistics tail.
But there is one big, rather simple problem, as explained in this piece on logistics in Iraq:

Dependence on bottled water in Iraq turned out to be a major sustainment and quality of life issue, Chambers said. Bottled water made up 30 percent of the distribution requirement even though bulk water was available, he said.

Because the bottom line is:

“Soldiers do not like to drink purified water.”

Which is why the idea of recycling urine into drinking water is even less likely to catch on, something that the Army has looked at on the grounds that “The technology is there. NASA is doing it. However, Thomas Bagwell, acting executive director for research at TARDEC, admitted that the last time he put this idea to soldiers, they chased me out of the room.
Water may be technically safe and potable, but it can still taste terrible and troops are understandably not going to want to drink it. If you can solve that problem, you can take out a huge amount of the logistics overhead. Maybe they should look at additives (flavoring? caffeine?), or maybe it needs some branding and an advertising push (“Real Water For Real Men”). But I suspect it will take a lot more to persuade people to give up bottled water for purified. And if you can work out how to do that one, you’re a better man than I am, Gunga Din.
– David Hambling
UPDATE: The Water Generation requirement was dropped from the FCS program during the last ORD review — thanks to Douglas Weber for the update.

No Blood for… Solar Power?

Tuesday, September 12th, 2006

Last Thursday, the Christian Science Monitor reported on an unusual memo from the staff of Marine Corps Maj. Gen. Richard Zilmer, the highest-ranking Marine officer in Iraqs troubled Anbar Province. According to the Monitor, and to more comprehensive treatments in Inside Defense and Defense Industry Daily, Zilmer asked the Pentagon to find a way to get “solar panels and wind turbines” into the hands of his troops. Without access to renewable energy solutions, Zilmer expects to see “continued casualty accumulation [which] exhibits potential to jeopardize mission success.“
Say what?
Solar.JPGThe article in the Monitor suggests two different ways in which solar– and wind-powered generators for isolated outposts would reduce U.S. casualties. The first is that “despite desert temperatures, the hot ‘thermal signature’ of a diesel generator can call enemy attention to U.S. outposts.” How, exactly, an array of solar panels and wind turbines would make U.S. troops less conspicuous in a country bristling with diesel generators is left unclear.
The second argument holds more water. As hard as it is to believe, diesel and other refined petroleum products are actually imported into Iraq by truck, largely from Turkey. And fuel convoys not to mention the U.S. troops riding in them are some of the most tempting targets to insurgents: in August 2005, for example, the Army 1st Corps Support Command alone was reporting 30 IED attacks a week.
All that fuel convoyin’ costs not only lives, but money, too. Military estimates for the cost of one gallon of generator fuel delivered to a unit at a forward position range from $100 to $400. This is a problem.
(If youre curious to know how they get those types of numbers for a single gallon of fuel, take a gander at this LMI presentation, from 2004, which cranks out an estimate of $3 per kilowatt-frickin’-hour or about $120 per gallon of fuel consumed on the battlefield, compared to $0.40/kWh ($16/gallon) to run those same generators stateside. If this stateside number seems high, too, remember that the number represents all costs associated with turning that gallon of fuel into useful energy, including personnel costs, equipment depreciation, and so on.)
So, what can be done?
Right now, theres no easy answer. Arlington, Va.-based SkyBuilt Power offers a containerized, deployable solar-/wind-powered generating station which has gotten a lot of press, but the system, which produces “0.5 kW to 150 kW or more,” is reported by the Monitor to go for a neat $100,000.
Still, that price tag looks a lot less scary when you keep in mind the absurd cost of running a diesel generator on the battlefield. According to the Monitor, Zilmers memo estimated that a system like SkyBuilts would pay for itself in three to five years.
That, of course, is probably why In-Q-Tel, the CIAs own venture-cap firm, is one of SkyBuilts big backers.
Part of the logistics crunch which is feeding those convoy casualty rates has more to do with inept planning than with a lack of available technology. In February 2006, the engineering journal IEEE Spectrum published a must-read article describing how diesel fuel is trucked in from Turkey to power Baghdads main power station, even while the natural gas which could power the same turbines, if the appropriate equipment were installed, is flared off as waste at an oilfield across the street.
Obviously, renewable energy isn’t going to solve problems on the scale of Iraq’s FUBARed power grid, nor will it solve problems that are really about planning, and not technology. And just as obviously, there’s no mature technology out there ready to take the place of every diesel generator and internal combustion engine in the U.S. armory.
But as I wrote almost a year ago, the Department of Defense can’t afford to sit around and wait for someone else to mature those technologies: “the mature renewable-energy and fuel-efficient technology of the future may never appear in reality until it appears among DARPA’s ‘Areas of Interest.’
Since I wrote those words, I’m glad to say that there’s been all sorts of movement on this front. And the publicity garnered by Zilmers memo can only help matters along.
So next time you hear about a company thats developing better solar cells, or more efficient wind turbines, pay attention. Theyre not just Mother Natures best friends they may well be a jarhead’s best friend.
Haninah Levine

Parthenon in a Pouch

Tuesday, April 25th, 2006

If I were to ask you to name your all time favourite iconic concrete structure, you’d probably come up with the same answer as me: the Seattle Kingdome.
But what if I were to ask you to name your favourite “low mass, strengthening fibre matrix temporary concrete shelter”? — again you’d probably think Kingdome — but you’d be wrong.
concrete.jpgAside from the Ministry of Defence’s recent efforts to populate downtown Baghdad with giant blocks (presumably to be chipped away in reconstruction to reveal tribute art) some British designers see an alternative future for concrete. The UK has its very own pair of Frank Lloyd Wrights — and they need your help.
You may have heard of the Concrete Canvas. The idea has received more press coverage than Janet Jackson’s left boob, but oddly, remains as famous as the right one. (Check out this Wired article written over a year ago).
The idea is simple. Create a temporary hardened structure that can be transported across the globe and erected with minimal effort, training and supply in areas that need it most.
Literally, a “building in a bag” (or my own terms: “Vatican in a valise”, “Kingdome in a container” etc) — each unit weighs about 500 pounds, making it light and easy enough to transport in a variety of platforms. The bag is an inflatable plastic inner bubble, wrapped in a specially treated fabric and packed in plastic. The bag is then filled with water allowing the cement to hydrate, after which you cut, unfold and inflate. Inflation is achieved via a small chemical pack which moulds around the bubble, setting over a period of 12 hours. The shelter covers about 170 square feet of floor space and cost is estimated at $2,100 per unit.
The aid benefits are clear, but could the Concrete Canvas, (or CC01), benefit troops? Current living conditions seem varied depending on where or who you are, and Defensetech’s own plethora of experts can provide first-hand experience of living in the kiln. Perhaps combining CC01 and the US Army’s own ideas about the sun would assist in the current cable quagmire?
The Department of Defense has just annouced a juicy $120-million contract for Anchor Inc.‘s party-size shelters and the less-than-attractive Battle Boxes are already used by some European forces. Reconstruction efforts in Iraq require temporary housing for residents, as do the countless disaster and conflict zones. So why can’t you buy one?
Critics argue that the 145 liters of water needed to fill the thing is too valuable a resource in remote areas and others argue that CC01 is too permanent for relief efforts which should be helping people secure housing rather than shelter. Personally I think its a great idea, like the Life-Straw, and wish Pete and Will luck trying to get their idea to those who need it.
Designers Peter Brewin and Will Crawford both have impressive track records for innvoation and industrial design and the Concrete Canvas has recently won (among others) the Saatchi and Saatchi award for World Changing Ideas. Peter and Will are currently seeking further funding to bring CC01 into production and can be contacted via their website.
–Steven Snell
Update, 04/26/06: Peter Brewin has kindly contacted me to offer some specifics about the military aspects of CC01:
The key advantage of CC from a military position is that as a compressive structure it can be earth bermed (i.e., sand, earth, etc. can be piled on top to a depth of up to six feet). This has two main advantages:
* Protection from shrapnel and blast.
* Thermal insulation — this massively reduces the logistical footprint, particularly if air conditioning is required for accommodation, as is the current situation in the Gulf. Better insulation means fewer air-conditioning units, hence less generator capacity and fuel and fewer maintenance personnel at the front line. Also it means a lower thermal signature.

Big Payoff for New Scale

Monday, April 17th, 2006

A new scale being tested by Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) could end up giving units a little extra time to train just before rapid deployments in addition to being a big safety boost.
M1070 HET2.jpgEnough new systems and technologies with battlefield applications are being developed that its pretty easy to dismiss a new way to weigh vehicles as a relatively low priority development (and not all too sexy). But it can matter more than you think.
The latest Weigh-in-Motion scale is meant to improve the process for preparing vehicles for airload, as it automatically identifies the equipment, determines the individual axle weights, distance between axles, total vehicle weight, profile and center of balance. It sounds boring, but this is the crucial data that has to be identified to safely load vehicles on cargo planes for transport, and any slight change in the way equipment is loaded on a vehicle means recalculating everything. Since the information is currently calculated in a very low-tech manner by NCOs and officers with minimal training in how to do so (I used to be one), this step in deployment-prep is often done well in advance and the prepared vehicles (and materiel on them) are then quarantined.
Vehicle quarantines aren’t a big deal for regularly-scheduled deployments. But if youve just been given the warning order for a contingency deployment — at a time when you would otherwise be training — you want to spend as much time practicing with your gear as possible before you go. That’s not possible with quarantined trucks. Instead, you have to spend months trying to beg, borrow and steal vehicles and equipment to train with, since your stuff is locked up on the flightline. (A situation my battalion found itself in for a few months in the winter of 2002–2003.) A reliable, simplified means of preparing vehicles for airload could someday insert a little more flexibility into that timeline and give units a few extra weeks of quality training.
This training is, of course, a possible extra benefit of the new system. The direct and bankable benefit is equipment that is prepared more accurately. Airload planning requires a lot of precision to be done safely, and every extra degree of accuracy makes the trip that much safer for the airmen and soldiers sharing the plane with the equipment. (Possibly avoiding, for example, the June 2002 C-130 crash in Afghanistan that was blamed on a load that wasnt properly prepared.) ORNL estimates that current means of computing the data can often be off by 14% or more. The new system consistently performs without any measurable errors at all.
Theres room for skepticism, since Oak Ridge has been talking about this for more than 6 years. But its now moved from the lab to testing at the Transportation Center at Fort Eustis and rapid deployment posts like Fort Bragg and Fort Drum, so well get to see how it does in action.
Matthew Tompkins

Lasers Reverse-Engineer Old Gear

Saturday, October 15th, 2005

The U.S. military is relying more and more on gear that’s older than the soldiers who use it, Photonics Spectra notes. Which means the companies that built the hardware — and originally supplied spare parts — may be defunct. Blueprints and documentation may be outdated, or have just plain vanished. So reverse-engineering firms, armed with laser scanners, are stepping in, to re-create what was lost.“
m60-gun-mount-farm.jpg“Laser scanning systems work by projecting a line of laser light onto a surface,” the magazine says. “A camera continuously triangulates the changing distance and profile of the line as it sweeps over the object… [And] a computer translates the video image of the line into 3-D coordinates, providing real-time data renderings.“
In other words, think Tron — the scene where Jeff Bridges gets zapped into the computer — and you’re on the right track.

In the reverse-engineering application, a technician moves the scanner around the object in a manner similar to spray painting. The data is sent to software to convert the point cloud into a surface model that can be imported into computer-aided design software.
The resulting model serves as the basis of a technical data package for the part, and the company sends the package out for bid to contract manufacturers. The winning bidder uses the 3-D model to generate a computerized numerical control program that either produces the finished part or that builds a mold for casting it.

Radian Milparts, out of Willoughby, Ohio, is making new M60 gun mounts for the Navy’s H-3 Sea King helicopters. The Navy “had a sample gun mount, but no manufacturing source, and no accurate technical data,” the company explains. So Radian scanned the mount, dumped it into the computer, and then produced fresh mounts — and blueprints — from the new, electronic design. The effort “follows an earlier, small program where Radian Milparts reinvented, documented and fabricated” an H-3 circuit board.
Wixom, Michigan’s Nvision Inc. is using laser scanners at Boeing’s Phantom Works, to help maintain the F/A-18 Hornet and the F-15 Eagle — and to build new planes, like the Joint Strike Fighter.

In this case, it is necessary to compare the physical aircraft to the CAD [computer-aided design] model. An interference problem, for example, may arise when the aircraft is being assembled. In this case, the need arises to compare the physical aircraft to the original CAD design to determine the exact cause of the problem. The complexity of the geometry of state-of-the art aerospace structures makes this a very challenging task. Even when a specific problem doesn’t exist, the need often arises to compare the aircraft to the model in order to confirm that the design intent is being met.


Thursday, March 24th, 2005

Getting the gear may have been the easy part. The Army has quickly pushed more than 220 new technologies into the hands of soldiers in Afghanistan and Iraq — stuff like bomb-detection bots and handheld translators.
packbot.jpg“But much work remains to be done in the equally important second phase offering spare parts, manuals and other important follow-on services, according to senior officials,” National Defense magazine says.

The Army was able to purchase and deploy these items in relatively short time by skirting the traditional procurement bureaucracy and, instead, relying on so-called rapid fielding organizations.
Many of these new technologies, however, were sent to war in such a hurry that the Army was unable to arrange the support services usually associated with military systems, such as technical manuals and instructions on how to obtain spare parts…
Products get fielded by the REF [Rapid Equipping Force], Brig. Gen. Roger A. Nadeau, commander of the U.S. Army Research, Development and Engineering Command, said. After a while, soldiers start asking where are the parts? Where is the log [logistics] plan? Collectively, we dont have a good answer.