About Defense Tech

Defense Tech examines the intersection of technology and defense from every angle and provides analysis on what’s ahead.

Tip Us Off

Tip for Defense Tech?


It’s Confidential!

The Peoples' Site

Drone Shot a Trick

Monday, February 15th, 2010

Got a great comment from a reader on last week’s video post on the Predator that shot at a MiG-25 with a stinger. For those of you who don’t jump into the comment gladiator pit, here’s what “Arcane” wrote about that little incident:

I was at an official briefing where this issue was discussed. The drone in question here was actually the second drone shot down by that Iraqi pilot.

The first drone was operating very near the northern border of the southern No Fly Zone and was annoying the Iraqis. After numerous attempts by other pilots, Saddam sent his best MiG pilot in to knock it out. The pilot waited months for the perfect opportunity, and jumped the border when their radar systems showed all Allied aircraft out of missile range. He accelerated to a supersonic speed, got just close enough to get a missile lock on it, fired the missile, and high tailed it out of there. Literally the minute he crossed the border of the No Fly Zone, every allied aircraft did a 180 and started chasing him, but he made it back across that border before we could get in missile range. His missile impacted

This really pissed us off, so we got the idea of luring the pilot with another drone back into the airspace, but this time we decided that it was time to ruin that Iraqi pilot’s flight suit and we equipped it with a Stinger missile. The pilot pulled the stunt again a few months later, and still knocked out the drone, however the missile the drone fired gave the Iraqis the ebby jeebies and they never attempted a drone shoot down again.

This may be an old story to some, but it was new to me. Think how drone tactics have evolved even since those rudimentary days of armed UAVs…Totally awesome!

– Christian

Jack Murtha Hall of Fame

Tuesday, February 9th, 2010

All right folks, you’ve had your “cricket” dance with Murtha’s death, now it’s time to look back at his career.

I’d like our readers to list their top three most influential DEFENSE-RELATED things Murtha has done or championed in his more than three decades on The Hill.

Here are mine:

1.) Beating the Soviets: Murtha was a Scoop Jackson Democrat who championed the cause of freedom against communist aggressionand supported the Muj in Afghanistan against the Soviets. He was also in the tiny minority of Democrats who voted in favor of Ronald Reagan’s $100 billion million aid plan to the Contras in Nicaragua, so I give him huge credit for being consistent in his support of defeating the Soviets.

2.) Pushing the V-22 forward: Murtha — for legitimate programmatic reasons or for pure hometown pork — was a strong supporter of the V-22 Osprey program when the program was in its darkest days. The V-22 is a huge leap in technology for rotorcraft and will prove itself over the long run to be the way of the future for air assault and helicopter support operations. Murtha, whether he meant to be or not, was a visionary on this count.

3.) Changing the Army’s Camouflage Uniform: In one of his last, and perhaps most classically executed, moves Murtha bullied the Army into taken a very public relook at their disastrous Universal Camouflage Pattern. He slipped a line into the 2009 DoD Approps bill that forced the Army to evaluate their UCP pattern in Afghanistan, which had the effect of forcing the army to reconsider whether it should change their overall camo plans. This could be Murtha’s most enduring mark on the services.

Now look, my beloved readers, please let’s not use this as an opportunity to debate my selections. Let’s use this instead as a chance to help teach eachother more about what indelible marks Murtha has made on our defense establishment. I want to hear what you have to say.

– Christian

Let’s Talk Cyber Security

Wednesday, November 5th, 2008


We did this a while back pretty successfully and so I thought it was high time to do it again (and hopefully more frequently)…

As you might remember, we had DoD Buzz editor Colin Clark do a live Q&A session with DT readers back in July. Well, we’re doing it again — this time with our Cyber Warfare/Cyber Security expert and contributor Kevin Coleman.

As you’ve read, Kevin’s one tapped in dude when it comes to cyber threats and the techniques to meet and defeat them. Cyber warfare is becoming more and more of an issue in national security circles, competing with loose nukes as a top threat to U.S. security for key Obama defense advisor Richard Danzig.

Kevin teases his discussion with this:

Cyber attacks and cyber warfare are hot issues in both the public and private sectors.

Earlier this year, President George W. Bush signed multiple (2 or 3) classified Presidential Directives addressing cyber security and warfare. The price tag on the directives was first reported at $6.6 billion (January). In March the estimate grew to $18 billion. Reported last in May the pricetag had mushroomed to $30 billion.

A Congressional study has estimated the cost of cyber attacks on businesses now exceeds $225 billion annually. Given all the bailout money being handed out, many businesses believe the Federal Government should absorb the cost of defending our businesses against cyber attacks.

Now some of you think Kevin is off the mark on his cyber security assessments and some of you cheer his foresight in sounding the alarm. So, here’s your chance to talk to the man himself.

Tune in tomorrow, Nov. 6, 2008, at 1500 EST on this site to participate in a live Q&A with Kevin Coleman.

See you then…

– Christian

Where Were You Seven Years Ago Today?

Thursday, September 11th, 2008


Since it’s Sept. 11, 2008, I’m going to do something I’ve never done before and share with you my experience of Sept. 11 and Sept. 12, 2001. I’d like to open up the site all day for DT readers — worldwide — to describe where you were, what you saw and your impressions were on 9/11. I’ll post the responses throughout the day…

I was eating breakfast in the National Press Club that morning when I saw the images of the first hit on the WTC playing on the news shows that morning in the dining room. At first I really thought this was a mistake, but when I realized it was a much larger plane, I began to suspect some sort of terrorist attack.

I ran down to my news office — at the time I worked for a defense industry newsletter called Defense Week — and by the time I got to the TVs in my office, the second plane had hit. Then I knew we were truly being attacked.

Then the Pentagon…

As a new news guy, I figured it was time for me to swing into action. I wasn’t sure what to do so I grabbed my things and headed toward what most people thought would be the next target…the White House.

The streets were jammed with cars and people, but it was orderly. No one was totally freaking out but there was a thick tension in the air. I got the sense that folks in that part of DC — near the White House and various other ‘executive office buildings” — were used to tension and stress. I walked quickly over to the park in front of the White House and was quickly shoved away by an MP5-wielding uniformed Secret Service. People were starting to freak.


Who Killed the Terror Mastermind?

Friday, February 15th, 2008

I know you guys are probably more interested in the upcoming plinking of a wayward satellite with a Navy SM3 ABM, but I want to see if I can spark your interest and resources to run down another mystery.

Imad Mughniyah makes “Carlos the Jackal” look like an aficionado. He racked up over 400 kills in various terrorist hits he planned, including, some believe, the bombing of the US apartment complex at the Kobar towers in Saudi Arabia. This guy had a $5 million reward on his head and was arguably worse than Osama bin Laden in his ruthlessness and track record of terrorist attacks.

My big question is, who had the guts (and intel) to kill him in such a public way? I know everyone’s going to say Israel did it. They sure have motive enough. But I’m inclined to be skeptical of that view. It’s almost TOO obvious. I’m sure they helped in some manner, but I don’t believe it was their operation…though I’m willing ot be convinced otherwise.

The oft-quoted former Israeli intel chief Dani Yatom had an odd quote the other day on FOX News. He said “the free and democratic world today achieved a very, very important goal.” Free and democratic world? Achieved? So a country that’s a member of “the free and democratic world” did this…he used the word “achieved,” which implies they DID it, rather than benefitted from another’s actions.

Maybe I’m parsing too much, but I’d like to see what you all can find out about this. I’ll keep my scan on.

– Christian

Power to the People on Grounded Eagles

Monday, November 12th, 2007

I want to give our savvy DT readers a collective pat on the back for your excellent discussions on the recent F-15 grounding.

Though I absorb quite a few barbs from you at times and deservedly so, in very few cases (sarcasm) it is one of the greatest pleasures editing this blog to see how smart, involved and dialed in our readers are. The issue with grounding the F-15s is a perfect case in point.

Our boy Byron Skinner pegged it right off the bat when he spoke of known structural problems with the F-15:

Welcome to the original air frame structural design flaw discovered in the F-15 in the late 90’s. In short the tail section wants to fall off. The F-15E’s had already gone into production and the AF didn’t want to invest any money in an aircraft designed in the 1970’s so it was let go.

Without 9/11 they may have gotten away with it but with the Homeland Security over flights and the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq missions putting excessive hours on the flawed F-15 airframes it’s only a matter of time before more fall out of the sky and an aircrew is lost…

…The design defect is in the aft part of the air frame where the tail fins connect to the fuselage. If it’s a material problem or a structural design failure it still being debated. It was estimated that since it appeared that the F-15’s were good for about 20 years before the airframes via fatigue and other stresses would be come an issue that with the restrictions the F-15 was serviceable with in the operational environment before 9/11.

The AF decided to roll the dice and not correct the problem and made permanent the operational restrictions on the F-15’s…

Then our friends at Aviation Week (I wonder if they were tipped off by our comments) put together a story on the problem. Heres what they found:

F-15 operations were suspended pending review of a Nov. 2 crash. A possible structural failure was involved in the Missouri Air National Guard F-15C crash, which could have larger implications about the integrity of the entire F-15 fleet, say USAF officials.

Aerospace industry and USAF officials say the fuselage broke in two immediately behind the cockpit during a 2.5–3.5g maneuver. The aircraft had been delivered to USAF in 1982.

In a statement, the pilot said his first warnings were smoke and fumes in the cockpit. Almost immediately he was in the aircrafts slipstream. He ejected and suffered flailing injuries.

Our boy Byron also brought up the BRAC issue…

Let us not forget that they were facing declining budgets, the Soviets were gone, the public was EXPECTING a PEACE DIVIDEND, BRAC and an administration who never really understood the military.

And Av Week, found something similar:

Also, investigators are looking at maintenance practices to see if problems could have been generated by closing down the unit as part of the base-realignment process. An initial USAF analysis found that it was a unique problem with a single aircraft, not a fleet-wide problem.

But worries me most is the idea that the Air Force is using this grounding to push Congress for more F-22 funding. Im not a huge proponent of conspiracy theories, but it seems so tempting to me that the Air Force cant help but use the grounding to say see, we told you the F-15s are old and need replacing. And they know that brining up BRAC issues have particular resonance among lawmakers starved for Pentagon pork in their districts no matter how antiquated the base may be.

Again, Av Week:

USAF and industry officials say fleet groundings sometimes occur every few months for various safety issues. They say senior USAF leadership is using this grounding to push for a larger F-22 force. And while USAF was grounding its F-15s, military officials briefing an international fighter conference in London said that the F-15Cs wouldnt be retired until 2025–30, and that the F-15E will serve beyond 2035.

The accident in Missouri could be unique to that [one] aircraft, a veteran F-15 squadron commander says. And if its not, there are lots of fixes you can make to keep them flying. The pitch for more F-22s is whats going on.

And this was not lost on our DT readers either.

What worries me most is that at some institutional level, in E-Ring Air Force offices in the Pentagon, the decision was made to make a bigger issue of these seemingly isolated crashes than should have been so that a better case for F-22s could be made. Again, I dont want to think this, but when a service makes a decision to define its future with one piece of very expensive hardware like the F-22, its almost too tempting a Devils Bargain to avoid.

But if Byrons right, and there is a long-term structural problem with the F-15, its our duty as a nation to fix the problem or replace the planes as soon as possible. I just dont know enough about the engineering side of this debate. Thats what Ive got our readers for.

Thanks to everyone for your input. And keep up the good work.

(Av Week gouge from NC)

– Christian

DT Readers Search for Fossett

Tuesday, September 11th, 2007


On Sunday, we asked Defense Tech readers to join in the search of adventurer and aerospace pioneer Steve Fossett, who went down in a single-engine, civilian aircraft more than a week ago.

He flew out of an air station in western Nevada without a flight plan and never returned.

In our post, we made readers aware of an effort to enlist bloggers and concerned Internet users into the search. Using Google Maps and other software, Fossett friends have been scouring thousands of miles of terrain.

Defense Tech reader Brian Neville sent us a note last night with the following coordinates, saying he thinks he might have spotted something.

Now, Im no photo-interpreter, but looking at the hazy image on Google Maps, it seems maybe hes got something.


38 degrees, 29 minutes, 45.05 sec North

119 degrees, 17 minutes, 40.96 sec West

elevation = 9976 ft according to Google Earth.

So far, neither Brian nor I have been able to find out whom to pass the tip along to and maybe its not a new one, as the Daily Telegraph has reported but Id ask other DT readers to help us pass this along and keep their eyes on the net for this aviation pioneer.

Let me know what you all find…


July 4th Will Never be the Same

Thursday, July 5th, 2007

An eagle-eyed Defense Tech reader pointed out in an email to editors that the post put up yesterday on July 4 factoids had been partially debunked by the internet investigators over at Snopes​.com.

Never shy of embracing information contrary to our posts, the editorial board of Defense Tech made the decision to pass along the mitigating data provided by res1huzn even though it was a bit of a stick in the eye for us.

Five signers were captured by the British as traitors and tortured before they died.

It is true that five signers of the Declaration of Independence were captured by the British during the course of the Revolutionary War. However, none of them died while a prisoner, and four of them were taken into custody not because they were considered “traitors” due to their status as signatories to that document, but because they were captured as prisoners of war while actively engaged in military operations against the British: George Walton was captured after being wounded while commanding militia at the Battle of Savannah in December 1778, and Thomas Heyward, Jr., Arthur Middleton, and Edward Rutledge (three of the four Declaration of Independence signers from South Carolina) were taken prisoner at the Siege of Charleston in May in 1780.


The Peoples’ Site (Osprey Edition)

Friday, March 23rd, 2007

Communist poster.jpg

The Peoples’ Site! is the DT feature where periodically (when we feel like it) we highlight the best comments from our comments forums. And no entry generated more passion recently than “The Commandant Says ‘There is Going to be a Crash.’” Resultantly, we’re dedicating this edition of The Peoples’ Site to Marine Corps Major Tony “Buddy” Bianca.

Buddy has been an Osprey driver for some years, so his two cents merits more than a little attention. Some additional background: I was a Tomcat RIO (like “Goose” in the movie “Topgun”) and retired at the rank of commander after 20 years in the Navy. And I wrote a handful of novels about military topics. I was also the PAO for the V-22 program at NAVAIR for three years after I retired (before I assumed the editor job at Military​.com). Knowing that, Buddy’s ad hominem attacks will make more sense. Anyway, here’s his response to my post:

Im curious to know what question the Commandant was answering when this quote was captured. Or are we led to believe that he called you all to breakfast just to strike up a conversation and tell V22s were going to crash?

Along those lines, why havent any other service chiefs invited you to breakfast and announced that there wont be any crashes of any JSF or H60s or any other aircraft in the other services? Besides, your explanations about why Opsreys will crash arent well thought out. You do know a little about the program, but your information is old, and you obviously dont know anything about the aircraft. Any aircraft is going to suffer losses like you described. Anyone with actual operational experience knows that. As for your nugget comment, weve been training Lts right out of flight school for over a year. There are more than a couple out there in the fleet doing nugget things as we blog.

Your description about HROD has a lot of conjecture and a smattering of truth in it. The V22 VRS envelope is significantly smaller than any other rotorcraft out there. To make sure everybody understands that, it means it is harder to get a V22 into VRS than a regular helicopter. Heres what you dont talk about in your HROD paragraph: VRS is a function of both forward airspeed and rate of descent. When the guys got the inadvertent entry you describe, they were putt-putting along setting up for the data point they were slow to begin with, so the idea that it will surprise some nugget is a little far-fetched. No nugget goes hunting for datapoints on test plan designed to answer congress and not the operational user. Goodness gracious, we dont hawk the VSI, neither do our students, and we dont get the SINK RATE warning. I must say I thoroughly enjoyed your reply where you said to take the aircraft to a 1000 ft hover and then smoothly pull the TCL to idle! Cripes! How about you fly your F14 to 1.1 Vstall in a turn then slowly pull the stick all the way back that would probably be just as stupid. Oh, thats right, you didnt have a stick in the back of an F14. But I digress, you said it would lose 500 ft in the time it takes to move the nacelles? Maybe if youre currently in a fully developed VRS state and suffering from some kind of time-space continuum warp in the fabric of reality.

I would like to counter your predictions with one of my own: There wont be a VRS mishap in V22s for many, many years, if ever. We all know what happened in Marana (some of us better than any investigator, if you take my meaning) and we all had a lot of beer and agreed not to do that again.

Im curious, do you know how many times and how far V22 have flown single engine? Forget about the run-stand down in Ft Worth, Im talking about actually flying the aircraft with only one engine? Do you know? Ill bet credits to navy beans you dont.

And bullets dont bounce off of composite fuselage? Really? What assault support platform do we have that bullets do bounce off of? Im also curious to know how the ballistics of composites fair against sheet aluminum on all the current airframes. Just assuming the ground fire is coming from the ground, will not the projectile path travel through the sponson to get into the cabin? Even with the forward velocity of the aircraft taken into account? Or are the shooters just going to aim for headshots on all the Marines in back as the V22 steaks by at 220 kts?

Now this is a little off topic, but I have to bring it up. yeah, well it has to slow down to land. Youre absolutely right. And let me assure these readers that no hovering machine in the world can slow down to land or accelerate out of the zone like the V22. Not even a single engine huey with the twist grip rolled off … Nothing carrying more than 5 pax anyway. Maybe a little bird could, but I dont see the Marines turning in 1 V22 and checking out 6 MD500s …

Yes, the supply side of V22 is behind. But remember from when you worked in the program office, material support date is October of 2008thats what you guys programmed, I guess they just didnt tell the PAO … Wonder why? Might have something to do with the war were waging at the moment.

The other another maintenance issue you described is going to happen. Its also going to happen to every aircraft we build until we become omniscient with structures. Yes, the JSF and the EH101 will have structure issues because we cant predict everythingshould we call the service chiefs and invite them to breakfast? Maybe theyll say something else!? Rest assured well maintain the hydraulics with titanium tubing and 5000 psi. Ive got some really good airframers who would like to address your challenge if you get the chance to come down to New River.

What the hell do you mean Osprey doesnt fit on an amphib? Umm … then I must have false memories. No … Im certain … I took a picture of it. Not just once, not just one ship, over 5 of them. I got lots of pictures. Just the same, my pictures — theyre really cool Polaroids just like Goose took of the Mig in the movie … You know, Goose, the non-flying officers hero in Top Gun? Anyway, make sure you call those NAVSEA engineers and tell them you vote no confidence in their ability to the deck heating problem. I wonder what weve been doing when we go out to train on the ship now, since we dont “fit” on an amphib like you said. Last question on this subject, how many days you have at sea on an amphib?


Wow, this just drags on and on, doesnt it?

It sounds like you know all about allocation of forces, too. You know, how the MEF provides forces to the COCOMs … Are you sure you werent the PAO for HQMC? Bah, now Im getting too sarcastic … Youre [sic} statements of where we put the aircraft dont have anything to do with our belief its a kick ass airplane. For example, “Lets keep it simple”? Are you nuts? How about, lets think about what forces the Marine Corps needs to provide, and what METLs those forces have to be capable of in a joint theatre before we decide where to send our units. Consider that and then tell us how we should deploy the Marines and their equipment to the warfighting COs. Be sure to come back and tell us we dont believe the Osprey will make it just because we dont send it to MNW in Iraq.

BTW, Mongo is better than any Turkey driver you know, and didnt expect to see his name put out there like it was some kind of endorsement for your errant points here. Neither did Jim. And Schnieder is a GySgt now, so you owe him 50 pushups for trying to demote him in your replies.

Last of all, does your current employer know youre just a mouthpiece as PAO? Does he or she have your resume and know as soon as you get a different job youre going to change your opinion, champion a different cause, then offer pitiful attempts to make yourself feel better by saying you “respect” all the V22 pilots and maintainers out there by quoting names that resolutely disagree with you? Go back to writing fictional books and being a mouthpiece for someone else. You dont speak for V22, or those of us who see the long term investment objective to ensure we can out-maneuver any other fighting force in the world. The world is changing, 4th generation warfare is here, and you can decide how much you want to spend to ensure that America wins every timeand not just win while protecting themselves, but win while ensuring minimum loss of life of non-combatants by winning quickly and decisively… or you can hang our with Chris and criticize others with conjecture and a background that only impresses the uninformed, all the while referencing POM dollars like they are the lives of those whos bled out because we couldnt get to them in time.

In the words of naval aviation, take it around, youre [sic] signal is divert.”

And finally (whew!) I dont believe the Commandant brought up, I believe you and your “amigo” did.


Damn. Color me bitch-slapped, absolutely. To be clear, I didn’t intend to imply that Mongo agreed with me by complimenting him in the original post. My crime here is I truly respect him as a pilot and a leader. I also wasn’t trying to demote Gunny Schneider. I was referring to a time when he was, in fact, a staff sergeant. But whatever. One thing’s for sure: Regardless of the airplane’s issues, with Marines like Buddy Bianca on the case, the Osprey just might succeed. And if it fails, it won’t be without a fight.

– Ward

Long Live the Peoples’ Site!

Thursday, March 1st, 2007

Communist poster.jpg

(Editor’s Note: The Peoples’ Site! is a new DT feature where periodically (when we feel like it) we will highlight the best comments from our discussion forums.)

In response to “That Deaf, Dumb, and Blind Jet,” Dr. Curiosity writes: “It may be apocryphal, but I once heard from an electronic engineering friend of a similar bug in a guidance system, developed in the eastern part of the Southern Hemisphere, that didn’t work quite so well for the North American customers.

“The problem was one of coordinate systems: When you’re used to getting positive numbers for South and East coords, and sudden you’re getting everything in North and West, things don’t work so well. To get things resolved quickly, they effectively installed it back to front — i.e. inverting all the numbers. No-one’s going to notice if a missile’s flying upside down, right? :-)

John Diuno offered this in response to Stephen Trimble’s provocative post on the Marine Corps’ obsession with VSTOL: “One interesting statistic came out of the first Gulf War. Approx 15 percent of conventional aircraft struck by missiles were shot down. (my numbers might be slightly off, but not by far). The percentage of Harriers shot down when struck by a missile? 100 percent! The basic reason is that most missiles are heat-seaking, which head to the hottest parts, namely the nozzles. Where are the nozzles on each? F-18/F-15/F-14/F-16…they’re many feet behind the critical components of the engines and even the aircraft. Where are the nozzles on a Harrier? Directly below the wings, directly astride the engines, fuel lines, control systems…the heart of the beast.”

And in response to another Trimble post that got many of you fired up, Freefallingbomb writes: “If you blunt the pointed tip of a bullet with a Dremel then you also make the bullet lighter. But light objects dont travel as far ( through any medium, not in a vacuum ) as heavy objects do with the same speed …

“Therefore, the only way to avoid weight loss of the bullet is not to ask soldiers to perform their own basic ballistic experiments before a fire-fight ( thats what they were sent into combat for. I only hope that they get paid enough… ), but simply to produce a new, spoon-point-tipped bullet that simply weighs the entire original 62 grams!”

Defense Tech — the (really smart) peoples’ site. So keep the comments coming, comrades. The peace-loving staff of the republic of Defense Tech thanks you.