Belligerent Bunny Blog


...simply the strangest blog that exists.
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Saturday, February 15, 2003


Meet Smudge (how'd he get that name?):

(Evergreen Bunny Rescue (Redmond, WA))

Smudge was abandoned in the Eastlake area of Seattle. He is between 3 and 4 months old and almost ready to be neutered. Like most young bunnies, Smudge is very bouncy and active right now. However, his personality will likely mellow as he grows. Although we don't know his history, we believe Smudge is a purebred Californian because of his size at this age. Californians are large bunny and typically have easygoing personalities. They make great pets, with plenty of bunny for everyone in the family to love!
(Evergreen Bunny Rescue (Redmond, WA))

Poor guy, abandoned like that. He's lucky you folks are so great! Mind you he's not yet neutered, and will eventually top the scale at somewhere between 10-12 pounds. Just so you know.

Big bunnies are some of the best bunnies (somewhat less best than the incomparable Dutch, if you ask me). And as you can see from the picture, he's white but already a karate black-belt. So you adopters have a chance to adopt one heck of a nice baby bunny.

Arsenal of Democracy

While making the daily rounds at, I came across this article:

Robots the size of flies controlled by computers smaller than grains of salt could be with us within two years.

That'll get one's attention, no?

James Ellenbogen of the Mitre Corporation told the association that the first insect-like robot – a motorised silicon chip with six legs – could be built by the end of 2004. "Once we decide on the right fit, I'd be pleased as punch if we had one next year that would scuttle across the table and avoid objects," he said.

Who is this mysterious Mitre Corporation? Do we know anything about them?

MITRE is a not-for-profit national resource that provides systems engineering, research and development, and information technology support to the government. It operates federally funded research and development centers for the DOD, the FAA, and the IRS, with principal locations in Bedford, Massachusetts, and Northern Virginia.

Mitre and the AoD go waaaay back. Didn't they help build the internet? (ed: you're thinking of Bolt Beranek and Newman.)

Either way, 2004 is well within the timeline for the Syrian and Saudi campaigns. Who doesn't see a big future for this little robot in reconnaissance and various "loitering" systems?

Maybe that's overstating the state-of-the-art. But if the AoD knows how to do only one thing, it's how to throw lots of money at a challenge until it's solved.

In the future, our fighting robots will be so small, they might even be able to fit subcutaneously. And you know what that means: tyrants will be too scared to shake hands.

Let's all be grateful Mitre's on our side.

Almost in the AoD

Project Pluto

Remember the Atomic Fifties? Radiation was measured in "Sunshine Units." Remember "Atoms for Peace?"

Back then most of the new AoD toys had the A-Bomb inside. But some of the projects were less than perfectly conceived. Apparently, nuclear energy has a dark side. Who knew?

While everybody was crash-building ICBMs, the bright-lights at Lawrence Livermore worked on a robot rocket that could deliver a sucker-punch. The Supersonic Low Altitude Missile (SLAM) was an inter-continental cruise missile powered by a nuclear ramjet.

(Vector Site)

SLAM would carry a number of fusion bombs and attack multiple targets. The development team also believed the Mach 3 shockwave would do considerable damage along its low-altitude flight path, and the Pluto ramjet's exhaust would scatter fallout behind it. In fact, once the missile had expended its load of bombs, it could simply fly around an enemy country, leaving a trail of radioactive by-products, until it was shot down or crashed.
(Vector Site)

Mind you, anyone who succeeded in shooting down SLAM would have another atomic mess with which to contend. As Frank J would say, this one was really nukey.

The project did result in some advances in materials science, but fortunately it did not result in a flying weapon. It remains something of a monument to the "atom crazy" mentality of the US at the time, as well as to Lawrence Livermore's occasional tendency to go off the deep end.
(Vector Site)

Shucks. Here at BBB we say keep going Lawrence Livermore. Keep going!

Massive Protest Rocks Washington

When I heard today was going to be another rally for the dictators, I hopped on down to the Mall.

Where is everybody? By the Washington Monument?

Nope, not there either. Excuse me protestors, I know it's snowy today but braving the elements is how you show your commitment to the cause. Don't tell me you're fair-weather appeasers...

Oh wait. Here they are, on the side.

Look at them all lined up in solidarity. But it's not really a protest unless there are signs. And I only found one.

Lest I be accused of diminishing the head count through selective photography, here's the widest crowd shot I could find.

That's a pretty fair turnout. Not quite as large as the one on January 18th, but much better dressed and well behaved. My only complaint is that without any signs or chants, it was a bit difficult to tell why they'd come at all.

Friday, February 14, 2003


Barney and Balaniki

(Colorado HBS)

Dr. LaBonde, one of the top bunny vets in the country, asked us to take this pair. They had been house-rabbits for most of their four years, but the family’s circumstances changed in a manner that required the bunns to be kept outside. Dr. LaBonde talked the family into relinquishing this pair to us, rather than putting them at such risk. Both of these bunnies are fairly large. Barney has a wide lop-face, rounded half-lopped ears, and eagerly seeks out people to love on him. Balaniki is pure black, beautiful, and slightly more reserved. For someone wanting an older pair who already know their house manners, this is the pair for you!
(Colorado HBS)

Don't these two look cute together?

Barney is friendly, and Balaniki is a stealth bunny (who owns the night). Just so you can take proper precautions...


Victor Davis Hanson (author of Carnage and Culture) writes:

After Vietnam, Americans were chastised into conceding that preemption and unilateralism were things of the past. Then we learned of slaughter in Bosnia and Kosovo — committed by Europeans and tolerated by Europeans. Mr. Clinton did not make the argument that Mr. Milosevic threatened the U.S. — imagine the outraged reaction, had Madeleine Albright with slides and intercepts proved that Serbia was seeking gas and germs that could threaten Americans.

Instead, we adopted preemption — unilaterally, without Congressional approval, and quite apart from U.N. decrees — and bombed Serbian fascists into submission. In fact, Mr. Clinton and Ms. Albright ordered bombs to be dropped almost everywhere — Kosovo, Belgrade, the Sudan, and, yes (remember General Zinni's 1998 Operation Desert Fox) — Iraq. I suppose the moral lesson caught on, and so now we are doing the same once more to Saddam Hussein. Thanks in part to Mr. Clinton, unilateralism and preemption to try to protect us in advance, while saving innocents from monsters — in Bosnia, Kosovo, Somalia, and Haiti — are now good, while the wobbliness and moral equivocation of multilateralism and U.N. approval are deemed bad. Or at least I think they are.

Last Sunday I wrote:

So from 1995 to 2000, Democratic foreign policy sought to identify tyrants like Milosevic. And before they could do some real damage, we would -- what's the word? -- pre-empt the situation.

Folks: forward engagement = pre-emption. That explains why the Democrats haven't pushed an alternative foreign policy: they don't have one! Bush is beating the Democrats at their own game by using their playbook. Oh that's sweet!

Advantage: Bunny!

Arsenal of Democracy

It's finally happened...I've exhausted the stable of robots and other cool toys in the AoD. Might as well wrap up this feature of the web log. Otherwise, I'll have to stretch to highlight any more gear. You don't want to read lame posts extolling the lethality of "second-hand smoke grenades," do you?

So AoD, it was fun while it lasted.
Heh heh heh...fooled you, right?

The AoD is really an embarrassment of riches. There are too many robots, hot planes and spooky stuff to ever be exhausted.

Let's have a look at Boeing's robo-chopper, the Unmanned Combat Armed Rotocraft (UCAR):

UCAR will be an all-weather, highly autonomous and survivable unmanned rotorcraft fully integrated into the Army's objective force combat maneuver force structure. The system, which enables ground maneuver force superiority, will be capable of collaborating with multiple UCARs and other manned and unmanned systems. Unlike other unmanned aerial vehicles, however, the UCAR will not have a dedicated ground station. Instead, the system will integrate into existing command and control platforms, such as the Future Combat Systems command and control vehicle and combat aviation. Capable of autonomous mission planning while in flight, the UCAR will request guidance from a human operator only for tasking and final weapons authorization.


Cook over Hellfire until done.

This little flying robot can scout, detect, and even ask permission before attacking. So it's polite. That's a nice touch.

I say let a thousand robo-choppers buzz. Meanwhile the brave people who run the AoD can sit back at their workstations, read web logs, and check the Instant Messenger from time to time.

That's twenty-first century air power!

Arsenal of France

Yes, you read that right. Sometimes BBB features foreign weaponry. Sometimes, dear readers, you'll just have to play through the pain.

For a country determined to flaunt its independence from us, the French sure seem to like copying our flying robots.

Like when we invented the Sidewinder, they came out with "Magic," (the "We thought of it too" missile). We invent the SRAM; they "invent" the ASMP. We invent the AMRAAM; they start work on the Meteor. We invent Harpoon, they "invent" Exocet.

See a pattern here?

The French could avoid a lot of duplication and unecessary expense if they'd only swallow their pride and buy American. But that's never going to happen.

So of course when we invented the HAVE NAP, France decided it wanted one too.

APACHE is Europe's first operational conventional warhead air-to-ground missile which can be launched from outside of the range of all anti-aircraft defences. It can hit a variety of targets, day or night, and is fired from 140 km away thus reducing the dangers for the pilot and crew. This stealthy air-to-ground standoff missile can be launched from the Mirage 2000, or the Rafale, both aircraft of the French Air Forces to neutralise enemy air bases and ensure the control of the skies necessary for troop deployment.
(Global Security)

I was going to say something snarky...

And then it hit me.

What is France doing, naming their missile "Apache?" It's one thing to steal our ideas, but quite another to steal our nicknames. Have they already run out of brave names of their own? Who said they could start borrowing ours?

The next time you see some French politician yabbering on about how his country must present a 'credible alternative to the Americans,' remember Apache. Remember that they spend a lot of time and money trying to copy the AoD.

And the next time you see some French politician calling us 'simplistic cowboys,' think of Apache, smile and remember who won.

Almost in the AoD

Kettering Bug

Let's take a look at the state of the art in flying robot bombs:

(Mighty Air Force Museum)

Circa 1918!

That's the "Kettering Bug," invented by Charles (Guess Who?). That guy was a Hoss. Read the full biography.

By October, 1918, the first "Kettering Bug" is ready for launching. While it takes off as planned, it climbs too steeply, stalls, and crashes back to the ground. In a test several days later, a "Bug" is successfully launched and eventually comes down near Xenia. But the war ends before plans can be implemented. As a result, while the "Kettering Bug" is patented, it remains a military secret until World War II, when the concept is used with devastating effect by the Nazis.
(National Aviation Hall of Fame)

Thanks to Chuck, we had a monopoly on flying robot bombs for decades. And we didn't try to conquer the planet and stuff. I think that says something good about us. As for the next country to acquire flying robot bombs...well they actually did try to take over the world.

Anyway, Kettering was way ahead of his time. Imagine what kind of things we might have in the AoD if we'd taken this idea and run with it...


Turned three today. Actually, nobody knows quite when I was born, but it was sometime in mid-February 2000, so why not the fourteenth. I mean the calendar's free today, right?

Thursday, February 13, 2003


Meet Wolfie (love the name!):

(Sweet Binks (Rhode Island HBS))

This is Wolfie also known affectionately as PsychoBun. He is about one year old, an English Angora, neutered, and litterbox trained. Wolfie needs a very patient and calm home, as he needs to be able to trust people again. He is smart-as-a-whip, and does enjoy grooming. He is very active too. He is best suited for an experienced house bun person.
(Sweet Binks (Rhode Island HBS))

Since he is an Angora Bunny, he really has no choice but to enjoy his grooming. Think about it. Who among you knows bunnies and wants to adopt a real (psycho) softie?

[ed: if you know bunnies, you know that's not a contradiction.]

That's a Wrap

Look at all the MiGs mothballed at AMARC. I think that just about says it all.

Davis-Monthan is the best. And I mean that in the most spooky, wistful way.

Check out Kodak's AMARC shrine, and hear first hand one man's close encounter with a J-79. Best fifteen minutes you ever spent.

Profiled by a Dog

The Talking Dog reviews yours truly.

The Belligerent Bunny Blog of the mysterious Anna (namesake of Baby TD) and the mysterious Annanova, invites you to "come for the bunnies; stay for the warmongery". And that's it: posts entitled "arsenal of democracy" detail American military weapons and tactics; alternating with pictures of bunnies (and bunny adoption details). Mrs. TD and I once received a rabbit [bunny] as a wedding present (we said MONEY, not bunny!). This is a unique site, and its popularity is well-deserved.
TD Designation: Non-Canine (Bunny)
(The Talking Dog)

Okay, I'll spot you unique, but popular? No way! This is a low-traffic web log. Think of it as our little secret...or a guilty pleasure. But most certainly not ready for prime time.

Either way, it's nice to meet a friendly dog. Most other dogs...(shudder).

Arsenal of Democracy

Here's another reason we should issue a book of blank checks to DARPA. Their Advanced Technology Programs office has completed a study of what is possibly the coolest idea ever.

Yes, even cooler than the Crossbow Project. And you know how dear that one is to my heart.

Self Healing Minefield

I don't want to give away too many details, because you simply must go take a look for yourself. The project has a Flash presentation you mustn't miss!

The basics:
Each mine is really a robot.
Each robot has a GPS receiver.
The robots comprise a wireless network.
As a network, the robots can detect gaps.
Each robot can deploy and redeploy.

My question for DARPA: if the mines are mobile, why use them as minefields? We could churn them off the assembly line and use them like waves and waves of infantry (kinda like the way tyrants treat their conscript armies, only with robots).

In the future, I can totally see us riding to the sound of the guns in our fightin' dump-trucks, crying havoc and letting slip the mobile (and self-healing) minefields of war. Go DARPA!

Almost in the AoD

Project Skybolt

There’s something inspiring about watching a B-52 drop its payload. A sort of Lee Greenwood moment, really. And watching an MX shoot out of its silo… there’s never a dry eye at chez Anna when that happens. But what if you could combine both stirring images? Wouldn’t that be really, really cool?


After studies in 1958 had shown that it was feasible to air-launch ballistic missiles from high-flying strategic bombers, the USAF issued a requirement in 1959 for a long-range ALBM (Air-Launched Ballistic Missile). In May 1959, Douglas was awarded a development contract for the WS (Weapons System) 138A missile, designated GAM-87 Skybolt. Douglas subsequently awarded development subcontracts to Nortronics (guidance system), Aerojet General (propulsion), and General Electric (reentry vehicle). The GAM-87 was intended for use by the B-52H Statofortress and the British Vulcan B.2.

(Pick your jaws up people, I can see who still has their tonsils…)

Skybolt was definitely on the bleeding edge. The first five tests failed. Number six went off perfectly. How did President Kennedy celebrate? By canceling the program. Given that Skybolt was going to be the primary nuclear deterrent for the British, that cancellation set relations back a couple centuries. Which explains why the UK didn’t lift a finger in Vietnam.

Although it is too bad that we never bought Skybolt, two important and good things came out of this program.

1. Britain got Polaris (and subsequently Trident).
2. The mighty USAF got the B-52H. The “H” model was specially design with strong underwing pylons to carry Skybolt. And of the various versions of BUFF, only the H still flies.

That’s right: were it not for Skybolt, we would have long since retired the blessed B-52.

Even though Skybolt lives on only in paintings and the memories of warmongers, there’s still time. Boeing still has the blueprints. We could arrange a reunion.

Wednesday, February 12, 2003


Hi Sophie!

Sophie is a 3 year old rabbit with the most extraordinary soft coat like a powder puff. She likes to keep her fur in trim and absolutely adores salad bars.
(Massachusetts HBS)

Cleanest. Bunny. Ever!


Leda has been adopted. Yeah!

Arsenal of Democracy

Oh brother. Instapundit reports about a rumor that Washington DC will be designated a code red area. Makes me wonder whether those hijackers who made inquiries about purchasing crop dusters were doing advance work for subsequent cells.

If Iraq is working closely with Al-Qaida, they've got plenty of operational experience to share. Remember Halabja?

Fortunately, our beloved Army is working to counter the crop-dusting threat. Tonight, indulge me as we take a look at the pedestal-mounted stinger system known as Avenger.

The Boeing-built Avenger is the U.S. Army's premier line-of-sight, mobile, shoot-on-the-move, air defense system. Avenger is a key element of the U.S. Armed Forces air defense architecture that includes C2I, radars, platforms and air defense missiles. Avenger originally was developed in the early 1980's by The Boeing Company to meet a critical U.S. Army need for an inexpensive, lightweight, shoot-on-the-move air defense system using the Stinger missile.

I feel a lot safer knowing the AoD is in the neighborhood. Keep watching the skies!

Almost in the AoD

Yehudi Lights

There's a reason American stealth aircraft own the night: it's too easy to see them during the day.

Back in World War II, the bright boys of the US Navy took a stab at creating daylight stealth aircraft. And they did it with light bulbs!

Yehudi's inventors needed a way to make the antisubmarine aircraft harder to see, and they realized that camouflage paint wouldn't do the job: Regardless of its color, the airplane would stand out as a black dot against the sky. The only way to make the plane less visible was to light it up like a Christmas tree.

The engineers fitted a portly TBM-3D Avenger torpedo-bomber with 10 sealed-beam lights installed along the wing's leading edges and the rim of the engine cowling. When the intensity of the lights was adjusted to match the sky, the Avenger blended into the background. Tests proved that the Yehudi system lowered the visual acquisition range from 12 miles to two miles, allowing the Avenger to get within striking distance of its targets before they submerged. A B-24 Liberator bomber was also modified, with similar results.
(Popular Science)(popups!)

Although the tests were often successful, Yehudi didn't go into production. I'm not sure why, but it might have had something to do with varying visibility from different aspects. Or perhaps Yehudi actually increased the airplane's visibility as the twilight faded. And of course, Yehudi offers no reduction of radar cross section.

Why Yehudi?

Project Yehudi was named after violinist Yehudi Menuhin and his appearance on Bob Hope's old radio show. The show's zany character actor Jerry Collona didn't know who Yehudi was and was teased to the point where the "search for Yehudi" became a running gag.
(NASA Aeroquiz)

During the Vietnam War, the mighty USAF revived the daylight stealth concept.

Concerned that the big F-4 Phantom could be seen at a greater range than its much smaller Russian adversary, the MiG-21, the Pentagon started a program called Compass Ghost. An F-4 was modified with a blue-and-white color scheme and nine high-intensity lamps on the wings and body. reducing the detection range by as much as 30 percent.
(Popular Science)(popups!)

For a little paint and a few lights, I'd take the 30 percent any day. I wonder why this concept never caught on...

Modern follow-ons to Yehudi are both more effective and easier to install. Instead of individual lights, the Pentagon has tested thin fluorescent panels of the type already used on military aircraft for nighttime formation flying. A civilian technician working at the isolated Tonopah Test Range airstrip in Nevada says he witnessed a test of an F-15 Eagle with a prototype system. According to the technician, the fighter virtually disappeared as it lifted off the runway.
(PopSci)(no popups this time)

Aha! It's back. Follow the link for a discussion of "active camouflage." It's all about electrochromatic polymers and stuff. Way over my head, but looking good (if difficult to see).

Tuesday, February 11, 2003


Poor little Bradley:

(San Diego HBS)

He lost his mate:

This handsome fellow is Bradley, a dwarf-mix bunny about 5 years old. Dear Bradley recently lost his female companion and would desperately love to find another girl to keep him cozy and warm. Does your older bunny girl need a quiet male friend to love? Bradley is about 3-4 lbs, and fairly small, so we are looking for a "petite" companion girl for him to love. He also has a periodic problem with molar spurs, and needs to have a vet check at least twice a year to have them trimmed. Otherwise, he's healthy and just wishing for a new bunny girl to keep him company. Bradley would do best in a quiet adult household.
(San Diego HBS)

Bradley's a good bunny who likes his toys. Does your family already have a nice bunny girl? Yes or no, Bradley will make an excellent pet.

Arsenal of Democracy

Guess what the mighty USAF and NASA are working on...

(Bihrle Applied Research)

Aerial refueling for UAVs. Awesome!

Engineers at NASA's Dryden Flight Research Center are evaluating the capability of an F/A-18A aircraft as an in-flight refueling tanker to develop analytical models for an automated aerial refueling system for unmanned air vehicles (UAVs).
(NASA Dryden)

Folks, even before we officially announce this capability we can use it to pull off some major deceptions.

Imagine you're a tyrant (ugh, but bear with me). You know the AoD has plenty of stealthy UAVs and UCAVs in its inventory. You can never be sure whether they're overhead, because you can't see'em.

Also imagine you've been working on something evil in secret. Maybe it's a WMD lab or a covert mobilization...whatever. The point is that you want to accomplish your goal on the sly. If the good guys see it, all is ruined.

Suddenly, and for no apparent reason, the AoD deploys a handful of KC-135 tankers to a nearby country with which it has friendly relations. Every day these planes take off and fly lazy-eights for hours. What's going on?

The presence of those tankers implies stealthy robot spies -- and maybe robot bombers, too. You must assume the worst. Whatever secret activity you were conducting must come to a crashing halt. Heck, until those tankers leave, it's too dangerous for you to go outside. You might catch a Hellfire up your tailpipe. But guess what: those tankers aren't leaving!

The art of aerially refueling UAVs brings us another step closer to the age of deterrence via robot.

One of these days, the mighty USAF is going to need a new slogan. How about: Peace through invisible robots? I like the sound of that!


Left out the best link on the subject: "The Air Refueling Receiver That Does Not Complain."

Almost in the AoD

Montana-Class Battleships

Even though it's been sixty years since the last duel between battleships, people still argue the relative merits of each class.

I don't really have an opinion. Okay, Iowa if you must. It's just that nowadays, in the era of top-attacking flying robot bombs, things like belt-thickness and rifle efficiency don't seem so important anymore.

Everyone seems to like the Iowas. But did you know that back in the day, the US Navy wasn't satisfied with them? And planned to construct even bigger behemoths? It's true. With the Washington Naval Treaty in tatters, the US Navy planned a class of 60,000 ton battleships (v. Iowa's 45,000 ton) in the Montana class.

The five battleships of the Montana class, authorized under the 1940 "Two Ocean Navy" building program and funded in Fiscal Year 1941, were the last of their kind ordered by the U.S. Navy. With an intended standard displacement of 60,500 tons, they were nearly a third larger than the preceding Iowa class, four of which were the final battleships actually completed by the United States. The Montanas were intended to carry twelve 16"/50 guns, three more than the earlier class. Protection against underwater weapons and shellfire was also greatly enhanced. They would have been the only new World War II era U.S. battleships to be adequately armored against guns of the same power as their own.
(US Navy)

Twelve primary rifles. Pretty nifty! But the extra guns and armor had a price: five knots off the Iowa's top speed and no trips through the Panama Canal.

By the time the Navy got around to building these ships, the bloom had faded. Who wants a battleship that would lop 15% off the top speed of the carrier group?

Canceling these ships in favor of more carriers simply made more sense. Still, they would have come in handy off Okinawa -- hurling VW Beetle-sized shells over the beach twelve at a time. In the final analysis, these ships were better left un-built.

By the way, if you haven't already, follow the Navy link to lots of pictures and blueprints. They really are something to see, aren't they? Hmmm... maybe we should have built just... -- ack, musn't reconsider...

Monday, February 10, 2003


Let's get back into the normal pattern of this web log. Here's today's bunny: Bev.

This less than a year old sweet Dutch girl is a brown and white beauty. She is very friendly and begs for attention. She doesn't mind being picked up and is happy to sit on your lap enjoying ear rubs.
(DC Metro HBS)

Another adoptable Dutch: how cute!

Forgive me for nitpicking: Bev isn't brown and white, she's chocolate and white. Just being official about the nomenclature.

Hey potential bunny adopters: check out Bev's markings. They look spot on! Check out the Dutch Bunny Homepage for the details (who knew we had a homepage?). Plus she's friendly!

Bunny fanciers are always trying to breed Dutch bunnies with perfect markings. We imperfect souls (check out my disqualifying fashion stripe above) end up as breeding stock or pets or worse.

Anyway, Bev looks like a winner. With her chocolate pant-suit and Zorro-mask, she could probably win an award. Not that I'm jealous or anything...

Arsenal of Democracy

The original fighting robot is probably the naval mine. It has a sensor and an explosive; simple but effective. But because mines are cheap and ubiquitous they present a real problem for the AoD. Let's face it: our minesweepers can't be everywhere.

But our robots can...

In little more than three years, US Navy carrier battle groups will begin searching for mines in shallow seas using a 7m-long (23ft) unmanned, semi-submersible vehicle launched and remotely-controlled from destroyers.
The Remote Minehunting Vehicle (RMV) is designed to deploy and tow a variable depth sonar (VDS) that can detect, classify, localize and identify moored and bottom mines. It is the principal component of the navy’s AN/WLD-1(V)1 remote minehunting system, currently in the last stages of development by Lockheed Martin.
(Defense Procurement Analysis)

Now that's what I call an underwater fighting robot!

I'd love to go to one of those international defense trade-shows and visit (for example) the Iranian Naval Mine Vendor's exhibit. "Oh excuse me," I'd say, "have you seen this?" And I'd hand him a brochure for the AN/WLD-1(V)1. It would be worth it just to see the guy roll his eyes and strike down his little booth in defeat.

The Navy has been kind enough to produce a movie about this plucky little robot. From the film you can learn how it is integrated with the AN/SQQ-89 undersea warfare system computer, which is in service on several classes of Navy ships. So any one of them could be packing a few minehunting robots. Which should keep the bad guys guessing...

To make matters even more complicated, the AN/WLD-1(V)1 can communicate over the horizon (provided someone setup a relay), and the AN/SQQ-89 doesn't necessarily have to be installed on a ship. So the operators could be lounging in their beach chairs at Club Med while their robots prowl unfriendly littoral waters.

Here's what I like best about AN/WLD-1(V)1:

Contacts classified by sonar-processing algorithms as ‘mine-like’ can be positively identified using the VDS’ high-resolution electro-optical laser imager.
(Defense Procurement Analysis)

This robot has a laser. Yes! That makes it officially cooler than the other (much smaller) underwater minehunting robot, Ariel Underwater.

With its laser and communications suite, this robot really does have everything. But of course it needs a good nickname. I'd call it:

Submerged Heavy Autonomous Minehunter, Underwater (SHAMU)

Don't like it? Think you can do better? That's what the comments are for.

Almost in the AoD

War can sometimes bring out our kooky side. A lot of oddball inventors chase after defense dollars with their crazy schemes. Personally, I'm a sucker for that kind of stuff.

So let's initiate a semi-regular feature of this web log: projects that almost made it into the arsenal. I'll feature some over the next few days and see if it catches on.

Project Habbakuk

Winston Churchill and Lord Mountbatten dreamed up this project (probably over drinks). Why not shave the peaks off icebergs and use them as unsinkable aircraft carriers?

Well there are vexing little questions like propulsion and navigation. Plus icebergs and convoys don't mix. But other than that, seems about right. (Bartender, over here!)

Mountbatten sent the idea down to the lab:

One of his scientific advisers, Geoffrey Pyke, presented the idea of constructing "berg-ships" - up to 4,000 feet long, 600 feet wide and 130 feet in depth – that could be made cheaply, and in great numbers, from ice. The ships would be insulated and cooled, made practically invulnerable to bombs or torpedoes. They could be used by aircraft to provide protection for shipping, particularly in the mid Atlantic, and as a base for invasion. With Winston Churchill’s enthusiastic endorsement, the project got underway.
(Combined Ops)

Around the same time, American scientists discovered that ice containing sawdust proved an even better building-block: more durable and slower to melt. They named the material "Pykrete" (in honor of Pyke).

To demonstrate Pykrete and the concept of "berg"-ships, Mountbatten brought a brick of the stuff to the Quebec Conference, in the hope of getting the Americans to pay for construction. Hilarity ensued!

It is reported that he fired a revolver at the pykrete block during a coffee break, and the bullet bounced off and struck one of the senior officers who were present - thankfully without serious injury!
(Combined Ops)

I can totally see that happen, can't you?

The British and the Canadians continued Project Habbakuk for a while, even building a proof-of-concept boat. At the site where it melted, Canada created a national park. Follow the links above for a look.

Another site (actually part of a US Navy Destroyer Escort shrine) has more information, pictures and blueprints. Impressive looking!

Pykrete continues to fascinate. Someone's manufacturing the stuff for target practice. Now that's what I call a hobby!

Okay, so Project Habbakuk was impractical. And by the time we started churning out Essex-class carriers it was superfluous. But who doesn't secretly wish the Royal Navy had commissioned at least one fightin' iceberg?

Bartender, make mine a Shooting Star, on the rocks!

Sunday, February 09, 2003


Check out the video from the Ann Arbor Rally for Peace (Quicktime required). Someone take a headcount. Must be hundreds and hundreds of thousands for sure.

Here's what I think they were chanting:

Hey Bush...guess what? are not my president hey Bush, guess what?...

Is it too much to ask for a euphonious chant? You know, something like:

Two four six eight
We'd rather you not liberate.

Considering Ann Arbor is home to a very large and über-liberal university campus, the turn out at this rally looks pathetic.

And aside from the turnout, rate the crowd for its energy, its enthusiasm. I don't see much of either, just a bunch of angry and dispirited people flaunting their sensitive consciences and staking their claim on the wrong side of history.

By now it's clear that the right-wing warmongers have pulled a hat-trick: outfoxing Iraq, the UN and the domestic left. And we're supposed to be the stupid party. How did we do it?

I think the answer lies in our foreign policy. Pre-emption is probably the worst foreign policy -- except for all the others. The alternative is submit to years of UN argle-bargle while the enemy devises the means to trade cities with us. Who wants that?

By contrast, the Democratic foreign policy is...

...wait a second. What is the Democratic foreign policy?

When the Democrats last ran the Department of State, they started out with a policy called aggressive multilateralism. Remember how everyone stepped in to help us in Haiti and North Korea? Aggressive multilateralism ended after the Rwandan bloodbath dried up. Seems we had too much trouble with the "multi-" part.

From 1995 onward, our foreign policy was aggressive unilateralism, only Democrats called it forward engagement. The idea was to identify and act upon problems before they became crises. And that explains why -- even though we didn't have a dog in the fight -- we jumped into and stopped the Yugoslavian Civil War.

So from 1995 to 2000, Democratic foreign policy sought to identify tyrants like Milosevic. And before they could do some real damage, we would -- what's the word? -- pre-empt the situation.

Folks: forward engagement = pre-emption. That explains why the Democrats haven't pushed an alternative foreign policy: they don't have one! Bush is beating the Democrats at their own game by using their playbook. Oh that's sweet!

Why would the left, and the Democrats in particular, protest their own foreign policy? Only one answer appears to fit. They were never really serious about forward engagement in the first place.

All talk and no walk. Sounds about right.

Patriot II

I've read a lot of chatter across the blogapalloza about Secretary Ashcroft and the Patriot II. Many folks seem to think this is a dangerous new development. Not true: there's a lot of history here, and it's easy to get confused. Let's review.

Back in the late 1960's, the Army drew up its requirements for the "SAM-D," (later known as "patriot"). Some well-intentioned folks worried that Patriot might violate the ABM treaty, and deliberately hobbled the system.

In the 1970s, ballistic missile defense capability was deliberately not given to the SAM-D missile, which is now called the Patriot, because of the ABM Treaty.
(Heritage Foundation)

Once Patriot went into service and demonstrated how good it really was, the Army successfully argued that Patriot ought to have a chance to demonstrate its anti-theater based missile capability (not restricted by the ABM Treaty). So Hughes and Raytheon began work on Patriot Advanced Capability One (PAC-1).

The interim PAC-1 modification, first flight tested against an MGM-52 Lance target missile in September 1986, incorporated only software changes to the search and track algorithms and the phased-array radar (the maximum elevation angle of the latter was increased from 45° to almost 90°).
(Designation Systems)

The AoD played around with a follow-on program called PAC-2 (or Tupak) for a while, but didn't get serious until Saddam invaded Kuwait. Saddam's scuds changed the priority of PAC-II (or Patriot II) from "like to have" to "must have." So the AoD cried havoc and let slip the purse-strings of war.

The decision to deploy the PATRIOT during ODS resulted in the accelerated production of the PAC-2 missile. The first nine PAC-2 missiles were delivered 28 days later on 31 Aug, almost 5 months ahead of schedule.
(Redstone Arsenal)

All the Patriot missiles fired in the Persian Gulf War were built between August 1990 and the beginning of the war in January 1991. [i.e., Patriot II's]
(Heritage Foundation)

Since Operation Desert Storm, the AoD and Raytheon have been dallying around with PAC-3 missiles and ground stations. As usual, only the imminent threat of scuds seems to move this program along.

The operational testing phase of the PAC-3 missile began in late 2001, and Initial Operational Capability is currently planned for 2003 (four years after the originally planned date). Although the operational tests in the first half of 2002 were only partially successful, the PAC-3 missile was declared combat-ready in August 2002. About 40 missiles have been delivered to the Army by October, and current contracts cover the production of about 120 more.
(Designation Systems)

So now you know the history of Patriot II. It's not as much a threat to civil liberties as it is to Saddam's scuds. It's not even new technology. It's so eighties. So I don't understand all the fuss about Patriot II.


Oh you mean this Patriot II? Never mind...


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