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Lockheed Martin Plans Unmanned Aircraft

CmdrTaco posted more than 8 years ago | from the release-the-drones dept.

Technology 322

Carl Bialik from the WSJ writes "Lockheed Martin's secretive Skunk Works unit--which previously developed U-2 spy plane, the SR-71 supersonic spy plane and the radar-evading F-117 stealth fighter--has big plans for its latest project: drones. Among the concepts under development, according to the Wall Street Journal: 'One drone would be launched from, and retrieved by, submarines; another would fly at nine times the speed of sound. A third, which is off the drawing board but not quite airborne, has wings designed to fold in flight so that it could rapidly turn from slow-speed spy plane to quick-strike bomber.' The WSJ's reporter also is allowed a rare visit to the Skunk Works complex: 'A factory hall was filled with the prototype of a massive helium-filled airship that one day might ferry troops and heavy equipment to distant battlefields faster and more efficiently than ships--no port or airbase needed. The blimp would float just above the ground on four hover pads, meaning that "you could literally pick a farmer's field" to set down in, says program manager Robert Boyd.'"

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big balloon at war (3, Funny)

omeomi (675045) | more than 8 years ago | (#14659307)

The blimp would float just above the ground on four hover pads, meaning that "you could literally pick a farmer's field" to set down in, says program manager Robert Boyd.'"

At least until somebody shot at your gigantic air-filled target...

Re:big balloon at war (3, Funny)

welshwaterloo (740554) | more than 8 years ago | (#14659360)

Aha! That's why we're going to use hydrogen! Literally *nothing* can go wrong.

Re:big balloon at war (2, Funny)

The Ultimate Fartkno (756456) | more than 8 years ago | (#14659521)

"Oh, the inhu-unmanned-ity!"

Re:big balloon at war (4, Informative)

Billosaur (927319) | more than 8 years ago | (#14659432)

At least until somebody shot at your gigantic air-filled target...

Given that it would be helium-filled, not air-filled, even so you'd be hard-pressed to destroy an airship outright. Shooting through the fabric walls accomplishes nothing but putting holes in them, and given that your typical airship encompasses a tremendous volume with low pressure at near sea-level, the result would be a very slow deflation (unlike letting go of a party balloon and watching it zip around the room). Also, if it is semi-rigid, it would have an internal structure capable of maintaining integrity even if it lost lift. If they can pull it off, it might be a boon to the military. There's a tiny bit of extra information about it in Wikipedia [wikipedia.org] .

Re:big balloon at war (3, Informative)

FTL (112112) | more than 8 years ago | (#14659678)

"Shooting through the fabric walls accomplishes nothing but putting holes in them, ..."

This was conclusively demonstrated a couple of years ago when a helium-filled weather balloon floated out of control into the air traffic lanes over the Atlantic. The Royal Canadian Air Force sent up a couple of CF-18 fighters to shoot it down. They emptied more than 1,000 rounds of cannon shells into it and there was absolutely no effect. The Canadian "Air Farce" were the laughing stock of the world for a while. Eventually the balloon drifted across the Atlantic, where the British air force went up and showed how it was supposed to be done. They had no effect on the balloon either.

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/americas/161148.s tm [bbc.co.uk]

Re:big balloon at war (1)

SchwarzeReiter (894411) | more than 8 years ago | (#14659796)

A big enough explosive charge to rip it apart from inside? The integrity of the hull can work against you, if you can develop enough pressure inside.

Re:big balloon at war (1)

darkmeridian (119044) | more than 8 years ago | (#14659825)

Well, if they took potshots at you with a bazooka (well, RPG-7) and not a peashooter, you'd be unhappier than you describe.

hmm.. space elevators.. (2, Interesting)

way2trivial (601132) | more than 8 years ago | (#14659858)

materials for the space elevator (AS YET UNMADE) are designed to withstand incredible stress..

what if you made your blimp out of the same material, in rigid form, and had an empty blimp.

pop quiz, what lifts better, helium, hydrogen, or vaccuum?

It's even harder than that. (3, Informative)

eigerface (526490) | more than 8 years ago | (#14659876)

Modern helium-filled airships employ multiple gas chambers. You would need to shoot holes in a large number of them to make a dent in it's air-worthiness.

Also, each shot the enemy fires lights them up on the (likely) acompanying Apache strike team's computer-guided weapon systems. An enemy shooter would only manage to get off a couple of good shots before they were disintegrated.

Re:big balloon at war (2, Insightful)

hey! (33014) | more than 8 years ago | (#14659479)

I suppose to early twentieth century naval planners, aircraft carriers would seem ridiculously vulnerable. Where are the guns? Where is the armor plating? The answer is nobody is allowed to get near enough the carrier for those things to make a difference.

Also, you have to look at things relatively speaking. A lighter than air ship may be large and slow, but to technology that exists today, large heavier than air transports are probably large and slow enough. A lighter than air ship may have a more friendly failure mode too.

Of course, 99% of these ideas never amount to anything.

Re:big balloon at war (1)

shis-ka-bob (595298) | more than 8 years ago | (#14659690)

In 1958, two engineers at Cambridge designed large rubberized boats, called dracones, to carry fluids in water. By making these multisectioned, they can actually be quite tough. This design has been used in many parts of the globe for decades. If the fabric cover is damged, only the contents of one section can be lost. Inflatable life rafts use the same principle. I would assume that a helium filled airship would use this principle as well. It will not be designed like a ballon so that failure will 'pop' the shell and it will not be designed so that a single failure will destroy the airship. Of course, it can still be shot down, but that is the main reason to make it unmanned.

Subject line (0, Offtopic)

peterpi (585134) | more than 8 years ago | (#14659313)

parse error at line 1

Parsing (2, Funny)

Chyeburashka (122715) | more than 8 years ago | (#14659359)

Subject: Lockeed Martin's Plans
Verb: Unmanned
Object: Aircraft

This is just a simple SVO sentence. So, which plans of Lockeed Martin unmanned which aircraft, and how? Inquiring minds want to know.

Re:Parsing (1)

Rahga (13479) | more than 8 years ago | (#14659552)

Since when did "Unmanned" become a verb? I thought it was an adjective...

This must be some of that New English they them thar be teachin to muh mamma babies.

Re:Parsing (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14659703)

From dictionary.com tr.v. manned, manning, mans 1. To supply with men, as for defense or service: man a ship. 2. To take stations at, as to defend or operate: manned the guns. 3. To fortify or brace: manned himself for the battle ahead. unmanned is presumably the opposite.

Re:Parsing (2, Funny)

great om (18682) | more than 8 years ago | (#14659722)

to unman: to castrate

Re:Parsing (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14659748)

Now if I interpret it that way, I seriously do get a parse error... Even if unmanned is a verb, it's used in an adjectival sense here. The verb is "plans" (3rd person singular present indicative).

Re:Subject line (1)

thePowerOfGrayskull (905905) | more than 8 years ago | (#14659462)

Bleh. Who wants a gelded aircraft?

UAV (2, Interesting)

jimbolauski (882977) | more than 8 years ago | (#14659316)

For quite some time UAV have been considered the future of the air force. They are smaller and therefore harder to detect on radar, cheaper to maintain per hour of flight baring crashes, the only thing they can't do right now is carry large payloads and transport vehicles (soon to change). I see very little need for pilots in the future except to fight the UAV that decides to attack us but missiles should get that job done.

Re:UAV (1)

pillageplunder (183475) | more than 8 years ago | (#14659458)

There are several companies working on UAV's. Some of the more interesting are the "ultra-light UAV's, ones that can fit in the palm of ones hand. The Marines were very interested in a concept of one that weighed about a pound, could carry a color camera, range of about 200-300 yards, and entire system was man-portable. When your in the middle of Urban combat, having something able to look around the corner, or over the roof into the next block is WAY more useful than something flying 9 times the speed of sound. Its the sniper in the building across the street that will whack you unless you supress/whack him first. Tactical Intel that is real-time is the most precious intel there is for the folks in the line of fire. Something the Air Force still can't grasp. Right behind tactical intel is fire support. When the air Force made noises about "retiring" the A-10, the Marines were all over wanting to take them over.
Interesting that most of the news seems to be about the technology. There's a little company that has been thumbing its nose at the "procurement" process of the pentagon, and building what troops can actually use now. General Atomics. http://www.uav.com/home/index.html [uav.com]

Re:UAV (1)

Kadin2048 (468275) | more than 8 years ago | (#14659542)

Erm, I'm as much a fan of General Atomics as the next guy (cool name, IMO), but I'm not sure that they're either "little," nor are they "thumbing [their] nose" at anyone.

There are three Air Force squadrons of their products (the Predators), and I'm pretty sure the USAF didn't just buy them over the phone with an Amex card. I of course can't say for sure, but it seems like they probably went through the same acquisition channels as everyone else.

Care to clarify your point? Maybe I'm misunderstanding. I think the Predator and the Mariner are cool as hell, but they're not something you just order up and send to your buddy who's over in the Gulf along with a spare Ka-Bar and a few titty mags.

Re:UAV (2, Funny)

FlopEJoe (784551) | more than 8 years ago | (#14659484)

"UAV have been considered the future of the air force"

Noooo!!!! Didn't you see "Stealth" where the plane goes rogue and starts killing everyone??? No? Me either.

Re:UAV (1)

AKAImBatman (238306) | more than 8 years ago | (#14659517)

I see very little need for pilots in the future except to fight the UAV that decides to attack us but missiles should get that job done.

I do. A UAV is really nothing more than a smart delivery system. A bit like a missile, except that it doesn't blow itself up when it gets there. (Though that is always an option.) While the idea of hypersonic delivery systems is nice, you can't drop a bomb at hypersonic velocities. You've got to go subsonic and let loose the payload if you want any chance of hitting your target. Which means that someone is going to have to protect these suckers when they're not hypersonic. (Even supersonic leaves the possibility of missile attack.) Who's going to protect them? The guys who have brains enough to engage in a dogfight, that's who.

Even assuming that the UAVs are a perfect delivery system, no protection needed, you still need someone to protect the carriers and bases that the UAVs launch from. Which means human beings getting up there and showing off U.S. air superiority. Until they can invent a UAV that can actually survive a dogfight (not that easy), there will still be a place for pilots.

Now they're always the possibility that you could fly UAVs directly from the ground (you still need pilots), but the problem with this is that you're sending a signal. If you're broadcasting, the signal can be jammed or intercepted. If you're on a tight beam transmission (e.g. laser linkage), you could lose signal lock. Not to mention the transmission lag. All of which makes remote controlled UAVs less potent than a real fighter jet with a pilot strapped into the controls.

Re:UAV (2, Informative)

pitdingo (649676) | more than 8 years ago | (#14659683)

The age of the "dogfight" has been gone for some time. Air to air missles, with their ever increasing range and accuracy, have done away with that. Nowadays, you will be targeted and shot at from way over the horizon. It is extremely rare to actually see your adversary. I mean, that is the whole idea, shoot before the enemy sees you. That is how the USA maintains air superiority.

The only reason for aircraft is to project power over the horizon and out of the range of missles. A "loitering" drone armed with air to air missles could easily protect navy ships. Helicopters are better served for close ground support than the A-10.

Re:UAV (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14659794)

Actually, BVR is very problematic. Opposing sides often have the same exact equipment. For instance...if we ever have to fight the Pakistanis, they have F-16's. If we ever have to fight the Iranians, they have F-14's (sort of). BVR missiles have been in use for quite a while, but not ALL shots are BVR.

As far as helicopters vs A-10, they compliment each other, rather than compete. The A-10 can carry more, farther, faster than a chopper. The chopper can go slower and hide better.
I've heard it put thusly. "The Apache operates from the treetops down, the A-10 from the treetops up."

Re:UAV (1)

rossdee (243626) | more than 8 years ago | (#14659734)

"you can't drop a bomb at hypersonic velocities"

Von Baun proved that you could, more than 60 years ago.

Re:UAV (1)

AKAImBatman (238306) | more than 8 years ago | (#14659767)

Von Baun proved that you could, more than 60 years ago.

What in the world are you talking about?

Re:UAV (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14659857)

I imagine he's talking about the V-2. Not quite the same as dropping a bomb from an aircraft, though.

Re:UAV (3, Informative)

jimbolauski (882977) | more than 8 years ago | (#14659758)

You must be a pilot, dogfights happen in air shows and bad 80's movies, not in real combat anymore. With missles shooting down enemy planes before they are visible to the naked eye dogfighting is a term of the past. UAVs have a much lower probability of being discovered using the same radar foiling technology but being much smaller means a smaller RCS so the UAV will not be detected and could imobolize the enemy's air fields and not have to wory about air to air combat. The bigest threats to the american airforce is mechanical problems and SAMs.

Re:UAV (2, Insightful)

SchwarzeReiter (894411) | more than 8 years ago | (#14659899)

Are you sure you want to keep two F-16's airborne, pay the gasoline bill, and the two guys from Texas, who will get bored, and will start fireing 100,000$ AMRAAM's to protect 400,000$ UAVs?

Re:UAV (1)

WindBourne (631190) | more than 8 years ago | (#14659680)

More likely it will be used a platform for lasers to slice and dice.

Nothing new (1)

TheRealBlueEAGLE (612174) | more than 8 years ago | (#14659320)

This is the stuff that various sci-fi movies has used for years, isn't it? From the top of my head I can remember various Star trek episodes featuring unmanned drones that flew around on their own. They didn't really have much of wings either. Also they had those nifty teleports that could move troops much more easily than blimps that you can set down in hay fields. Just build a lab where you want the troops to be. Couldn't be that hard now, could it?

Great, more weapons for BusHitler (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14659322)

I hate America.

America's sermons are so rife with ignorance, erroneous information, and poorly conceived notions of demagogism that I hardly know where to begin. Even disregarding obvious errors like its insistence that black is white and night is day, the fallacies of its claims are glaring to those of us who have educated ourselves about the implications of terrorism. Some background is in order: I do not find dissertations that are mischievous, shiftless, and supercilious to be "funny". Maybe I lack a sense of humor, but maybe it craves more power. I say we should give America more power -- preferably, 10,000 volts of it. I'm sure America wouldn't want me to eavesdrop on its meetings. So why does it want to open new avenues for the expression of hate? That's the big question. If you knew the answer to that then you'd also know why America's collaborators actually believe the bunkum they're always mouthing. That's because these types of dirty upstarts are idealistic, have no sense of history or human nature, and they think that what they're doing will somehow improve the world sooner or later. In reality, of course, America is known for walking into crowded rooms and telling everyone there that courtesy and manners don't count for anything. Try, if you can, to concoct a statement better calculated to show how antisocial America is. You can't do it. Not only that, but everything I've said so far is by way of introduction to the key point I want to make in this letter. My key point is that "America" has now become part of my vocabulary. Whenever I see someone reinforce the concept of collective guilt that is the root of all prejudice, I tell him or her to stop "America-ing". Like a lion after tasting the blood of human victims, America will cashier anyone who tries to scuttle its truculent attempts to fight with spiritual weapons that are as harebrained as they are rambunctious.

Regardless of what America seems to insist, it is lying to itself if it thinks that trees cause more pollution than automobiles do. America is interpersonally exploitative. That is, it takes advantage of others to achieve its own unbalanced ends. Why does it do that? In other words, do prissy vermin like its serfs actually have lives, or do they exist solely to substitute breast-beating and schwarmerei for action and honest debate? After days of agonized pondering and reflection, I finally came to the conclusion that it occasionally shows what appears to be warmth, joy, love, or compassion. You should realize, however, that these positive expressions are more feigned than experienced and invariably serve an ulterior motive, such as to discredit legitimate voices in the scapegoatism debate. Are America's convictions good for the country? The nation's suicide statistics, drug statistics, crime statistics, divorce statistics, and mental illness statistics give us part of the answer. These statistics should make it clear that this is not the first time I've wanted to oppose evil wherever it rears its childish, lubricious head. But it is the first time I realized that its conduct can be described as less than perfect. America's devotees probably don't realize that, because it's not mentioned in the funny papers or in the movies. Nevertheless, most slatternly moochers think, "credo, quia absurdum" when they hear it say that its positions are all sweetness and light. That's self-evident, and even America would probably agree with me on that. Even so, a great many of us don't want it to impose a one-size-fits-all model on how society should function. But we feel a prodigious societal pressure to smile, to be nice, and not to object to its slovenly, malodorous précis.

America is careless with data, makes all sorts of causal interpretations of things without any real justification, has a way of combining disparate ideas that don't seem to hang together, seems to show a sort of pride in its own biases, gets into all sorts of nugatory speculation, and then makes no effort to test out its speculations -- and that's just the short list! America sees itself as a postmodern equivalent of Marx's proletariat, revolutionizing the world by wresting it from its oppressors (viz., those who issue a call to conscience and reason). America's witticisms have experienced a considerable amount of evolution (or perhaps more accurately, genetic drift) over the past few weeks. They used to be simply vapid. Now, not only are they both imperious and drossy, but they also serve as unequivocal proof that the final product of America's tracts will be a dysfunctional society, wherein every natural self-defense mechanism has been short-circuited in some nutty effort to gain short-term financial benefits. In fact, I have said that to America on many occasions and I will keep on saying it until it stops trying to impair the practice of democracy. America likes to compare its ventures to those that shaped this nation. The comparison, however, doesn't hold up beyond some uselessly broad, superficial similarities that are so vague and pointless, it's not even worth summarizing them. Let me conclude by saying that we who want to preserve the peace will not rest until we do.

Dirigible Usage (1)

Zygamorph (917923) | more than 8 years ago | (#14659332)

Depends on how and where. If I remember correctly, during WW2, the US suffered more military casualties from vehicule accidents behind the lines than they did in the battlefield. Anything that allows you to move your logistics more efficiently and flexibily is a good thing. It doesn't have to be at the pointy end.

Re:Dirigible Usage (1)

Kadin2048 (468275) | more than 8 years ago | (#14659477)

This has historically almost always been true. In the past -- up until the advent of penicillin, anyway -- the big killer was always disease. I think the biggest threat now is accidental, non-combat injuries.

It's ironic, but one of the statistics that shows how well a military is doing its job, is how high a percentage of casualties are actually the result of combat. If that number is high (and the overall number of casualties are low, obviously) than things are generally assumed to be working well, you have good force-protection, etc. If it's low, then obviously you have to start figuring out what the hell is hurting your people, aside from the enemy.

Unrelated, but I've heard it said several times that it's statistically safer for an 18-year-old black man to be in a military unit in the Persian Gulf than it is to be that same man in some neighborhoods in a few major cities. I remember hearing that after Gulf War I, I wonder if it still holds true.

Re:Dirigible Usage (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14659544)

Of course the number of civilian casualties on the otherside doesn't figure in to calculating how well the military is doing. This should be especially important when the military is fighting an immoral, unnecessary and imperialistic war.

Re:Dirigible Usage (2, Insightful)

ScentCone (795499) | more than 8 years ago | (#14659686)

This should be especially important when the military is fighting an immoral, unnecessary and imperialistic war.

Right! Especially when most of the casualties, day-in and day-out, are the result of other medeival-minded religious zealots people from neighboring countries blowing up civilians with car bombs paid for by Syrians and Iranians. Maybe we'll finally get that imperialism right though. We keep letting whole countries like France, Japan, Germany, Kuwait and more slip through our clumsy imperialist fingers.

Death Stats - Iraq and Detroit (2, Interesting)

MilSF1 (710927) | more than 8 years ago | (#14659696)

A quick Google search -

Total Deaths Due to Unnatural Causes 2000 in Detroit (page 55)
955 - 719 Male, 236 Female (Black Non-Hispanic: 540 Male, 178 Female)

Iraq War - March 2003 - Feb. 6
2,452

Don't know if the Detroit numbers have gone up or down, but that was an average of about 80 people a month in Detroit and 70 a month in Iraq. Not making any judgement about anything - just giving numbers. I'm not planning on moving either place any time soon.

Refs:

Detroit Health Department [detroit.mi.us]

CNN Casualty Counter [cnn.com]

A UAV? Whodathunk? (0, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14659334)

A UAV? Whodathunk that? Oh, wait, it's been done, for decades now.

hope it's better than their last drone (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14659346)

I hope it's more successful than their last drone, the D-21 Tagboard [wikipedia.org]

Re:hope it's better than their last drone (2, Informative)

khallow (566160) | more than 8 years ago | (#14659845)

Technology has advanced a little in the past *40 years*. And the RQ-3 [wikipedia.org] is their last drone.

funny thing, that (0, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14659357)

I'm sure that this has absolutely nothing to do with the fact that Boeing (their main competition for the F-35 contract) is getting most of the press with its UAV fleet, and manned fighters, under the current Pentagon brass, are going the way of the dodo.

Nothing [boeing.com] at [uavworld.com] all [washingtontechnology.com] ...

Need to compete - a good idea (3, Informative)

us7892 (655683) | more than 8 years ago | (#14659362)

So, they do not want to compete with the expensive Global Hawk http://www.af.mil/factsheets/factsheet.asp?fsID=17 5/ [af.mil] made by Northrop Grumman. Instead, their interested in the cheap Notebook controlled Desert Hawk http://www.defense-update.com/products/d/deserthaw k.htm/ [defense-update.com] models deployed in Iraq. They are pretty cool. Designed and delivered in 4 months.

Seems like a good idea. However, if these were deployed in other arenas, where the enemy had the ability Jam the "cheap" communication, those drones would be...well...long gone. How do military communication systems handle jamming?

Re:Need to compete - a good idea (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14659585)

As the son of someone who builds military radios, I'll simply leave it as, "they work way better than you probably think" against jamming. I'm not sure how much of it is public knowledge, and I'd hate to be the jackass to let out a secret, so I'm being deliberately vague. They have very clever frequency jumping algorithms which make it nearly impossible to selectively jam a specific radio. Of course, they can always spray so much EM crap that no one can hear anything, but that would I'm not sure how long our forces would let a broad-spectrum noise source survive on the field (they're sort of hard to miss).

Re:Need to compete - a good idea (1)

darkmeridian (119044) | more than 8 years ago | (#14659879)

How do military communication systems handle jamming?
This. [fas.org]


Most of the suckers (such as the Predator) are satellite-controlled which means the remote control is from above, which makes it hard to jam from the ground. The communications are also frequency-agile and skip the jammed channels, so it's hard to jam all the bands they use for a long period of time.

Incidentally, the UCAVs fly pretty high and have optical sensors. I wonder if they can pick up radiation sources, especially since they may want to detect Osama Bin Laden using his two-way radio. Does anyone know? Google shows nothing. Anyway, you'd rather have a lot of them than one super-duper UCAV because you can task them in support to many different missions.

Like the skunk works is open to the WSJ? (3, Insightful)

ianscot (591483) | more than 8 years ago | (#14659365)

Nice popular memoir set in the Skunk Works:

Skunk Works [amazon.com] .

This is a group that developed the first operational jet fighters, and that kept the U-2 and SR-71 and stealth planes out of the public eye forever. We think the Wall Street Journal is getting the real story from them? If it's true, you have to wonder why the massive cultural shift at Lockheed is happening just now...

The Germans got there first (5, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14659434)

Sheesh, you Americans - you make me smile. Stuff happens outside the US too. From Wikipedia:

The Messerschmitt Me 262 [wikipedia.org] Schwalbe or "swallow" was the first operational jet powered fighter. It was mass-produced in World War II and saw action from late 1944 in bomber/reconnaissance and fighter/interceptor roles....etc...

Re:The Germans got there first (2, Insightful)

The Ultimate Fartkno (756456) | more than 8 years ago | (#14659574)

> Stuff happens outside the US too.

Of course! We learned all about it in school. There's World War II, stinky cheeses, Godzilla, and The French.

We didn't miss anything, did we?

Re:The Germans got there first (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14659869)

You got almost everything. But you missed Bollywood - the Indian film industry, famed for its originality. There's a cheap American ripoff called something similar, I think.

Re:Like the skunk works is open to the WSJ? (4, Funny)

kahei (466208) | more than 8 years ago | (#14659459)


This is a group that developed the first operational jet fighters

Lockheed made planes for Hitler???

Public Relations (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14659727)

The President of the United States just released his proposed budget. The defense industry needs to drum up support among Congress and the Military leadership so they can get their piece of the taxpayer funded pie.

Re:Like the skunk works is open to the WSJ? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14659889)

If they're letting you know about this stuff, it's a pretty damned good bet that our enemies (whoever they are these days?) have known about it for a long time.

It's also a damned good bet that they have some stuff that's "impossible" outside science fiction.

I held a clearance in the USAF in the early seventies, and saw stuff they're still not telling civilians about. It scares me just imagining what they have now, three decades later.

Phasers on stun? Or considering the current inhabitant of the White House, a Death Star?

As Captain Beefheart would say. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14659370)

"It's the blimp, Frank!! It's the blimp!"

Re:As Captain Beefheart would say. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14659540)

"Oh, the humanity!"

Dones? Already been done (4, Funny)

RootsLINUX (854452) | more than 8 years ago | (#14659376)

I've already seen these things in action in Command and Conquer Generals. Can't they come up with some original designs for tools of war anymore instead of just copying them from video games? Sheesh.

(Yes, I'm being sarcastic)

Oh noes! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14659388)

They're outsourcing the pilots! What will they do? Will they be forced to find _REAL_JOBS_? Jobs that are boring like the rest of ours?

But really... A good pilot in an F-22 is probably better than any of the drones that will be developed in 10 years.

Re:Oh noes! (4, Insightful)

meringuoid (568297) | more than 8 years ago | (#14659416)

But really... A good pilot in an F-22 is probably better than any of the drones that will be developed in 10 years.

The best pilot in the world still blacks out at about 9G. Even if the drone isn't as tactically capable as the human, it can survive far greater physical hardship. What use is your intelligence, your skill, your human flair for battle, against an adversary that can turn at speeds that would leave you a gooey mess in the cockpit?

A serious fighter drone would just slaughter human pilots, just on the superior performance of an aircraft that doesn't have to worry about keeping the pilot alive. It would be like Spitfires going up against a Harrier.

Re:Oh noes! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14659451)

because modern air combat consists of standing off at a 20+mile range and firing some AMRAAMS
wont be much dogfighting

Re:Oh noes! (2, Informative)

meringuoid (568297) | more than 8 years ago | (#14659513)

because modern air combat consists of standing off at a 20+mile range and firing some AMRAAMS

In which case humans are completely superfluous. The real fighting's already being done by a kamikaze robot pilot, aboard the missile. Why do we need to put a human in harm's way aboard the missile launch platform?

Furthermore... (4, Insightful)

meringuoid (568297) | more than 8 years ago | (#14659493)

Sorry to reply twice, but you know how it is...

Even assuming that the AI pilots are markedly inferior to humans, there's still a great advantage to using them. They're cheap. Training a pilot is an expensive thing to do and it takes a lot of time. Losing a pilot is bad news. Losing significant numbers of pilots also has the effect of undermining political support at home - every letter sent to the mother of someone who isn't coming home chips away a little at the mindless jingoism that you need to have to conduct a war.

So, let's suppose that the AI drones are so crap that the kill ratio is ten to one - a human pilot will on average bring down ten AIs before being killed himself. This need not be a problem. A computer program costs nothing to copy, and the hardware's relatively cheap, and robots don't have families. Throw a hundred AIs into the air and let them all be slaughtered if necessary. Who cares? Make 'em kamikaze if you like. It still costs less than training humans to do it.

For a Western army, recruiting humans is expensive, because citizens of very rich countries expect to be paid well to risk their lives. Probably the economics work out differently for the likes of China, but for the USA... let's fill the sky with droids.

Re:Furthermore... (1)

operagost (62405) | more than 8 years ago | (#14659601)

Losing significant numbers of pilots also has the effect of undermining political support at home - every letter sent to the mother of someone who isn't coming home chips away a little at the mindless jingoism that you need to have to conduct a war.
Asserting that you must possess "mindless jingoism" to conduct a war renders the word "jingo" meaningless. Some wars are fought for good reasons, at least on one side. Most of us in the USA are hesitant to label presidents like Lincoln and F.D.R. "jingoes" merely because they presided over a nation at war (although I admit Madison and L.B.J. are arguable)!

not at all new for Lockheed (1)

justins (80659) | more than 8 years ago | (#14659395)

Ben Rich's book "Skunk Works" details a supersonic, stealth recon drone which was operational in the seventies before the F117 was created. The article, unfortunately, doesn't mention this and makes it sound as though unmanned craft are a new thing for these guys.

Re:not at all new for Lockheed (1)

Richard_at_work (517087) | more than 8 years ago | (#14659652)

And the Pentagon has just issued plans to retire the F-117 in FY2008, in favour of more F-22s. The drone mentioned in that book is probably the D-21 drone, launched from the back of the SR-71 aircraft at altitude. It pretty much failed.

So sad.. (0, Troll)

orangebook (924303) | more than 8 years ago | (#14659415)

So sad that one can talk about "ferry troops and heavy equipment to distant battlefields" without even mentioning the moral implications. We have got so used to the (probablly necessary) evil of armies that we dont notice it anymore

Re:So sad.. (1)

MrTester (860336) | more than 8 years ago | (#14659739)

Yeah, because when I read a news piece I love to have to wade through tons of personal opinion from the author of the story just to get the facts of the story . Thats why I love 20/20 and all of the other news magazines, and John Stassle is the journalists Anti-Christ .

Re:So sad.. (1)

MrTester (860336) | more than 8 years ago | (#14659771)

ergh. The one time I dont preview. Who knew slash dot wouldnt take brackts? My intended post:
Yeah, because when I read (reading is very important and should be made a priority to teach your children) a news piece (the news has too many negative articles, where are the positive stories?) I love to have to wade through tons of personal opinion (Where in the constitution does it give us the right to an opinion?) from the author of the story just to get the facts of the story (Dont confuse me with the facts, my mind is made up).

Thats why I love 20/20 and all of the other news magazines(Thats a bald faced lie), and John Stassle is the journalists Anti-Christ (ooh, that ones true).

Re:So sad.. (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14659866)

"So sad that one can talk about "ferry troops and heavy equipment to distant battlefields" without even mentioning the moral implications. We have got so used to the (probablly necessary) evil of armies that we dont notice it anymore"

It's interesting for us /. crowd because of the technological aspects. Lets face it some of
the most cool applications of technology are military. Those of us who've worked on 'defence'
related projects probably find them the most challenging and interesting cutting edge research
work aboout. But that is itself an awful reflection of our society. The reason these projects
attract attention is that is where the money all goes.

Once you grow up (past 25 according to an earlier Slashdot article) most of this fades
away. Maturity brings a proper perspective on the value of life, and the political lies
behind war can no longer be ignored.

The 'moral' implications are thrown into sharp relief when you read this as a non American.
In the context of the USA being involved in an illegal war of agression it's actually quite
sickening to read. If we were reading this on a (imaginary) German site in the 1930s talking
about "amazing V2 flying bombs" and "final solution ovens" I wonder if it would be so savoury.

Likewise I wonder if we would be so enthusiastic if Al Quaida had a technology website exponding the virtues of the latest nailbombs and chemical warefare agents. Knowing this technology is going to
end up used on your own family might make it little less exciting heh?

Given the additional context that the USA is 3 trillion in debt and facing inevitable economic meltdown because of its foolish military adventurism just adds a further insult to the article.

Sky Captain and the World of Tomarrow (2, Funny)

tbcpp (797625) | more than 8 years ago | (#14659425)

Having just watched "Sky Captain and the World of Tomarrow" yesterday, hearing these announcements is a big freaky.

Re:Sky Captain and the World of Tomarrow (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14659671)

Well my marrows are so big that I only need one in my world. Tomorrow might be a different story.

I, for one, Welcome our Floating Blimp Overlords (2, Funny)

digitaldc (879047) | more than 8 years ago | (#14659430)

faster and more efficiently than ships--no port or airbase needed. The blimp would float just above the ground on four hover pads

Now our plan for world domination shall be COMPLETE!

Muah-ha-ha-ha-ha-ha!

why did you post this (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14659776)

why

Floating Blimp Overlords... from Soviet Russia (1)

Quiet_Desperation (858215) | more than 8 years ago | (#14659835)

Normally I frown on the "obligatory" type jokes, but "Floating Blimp Overlords" does have kind of a nice ring to it. :)

Here's their Small-Business Competition (2, Informative)

macklin01 (760841) | more than 8 years ago | (#14659475)

I recently read in the LA Times about a small company that's competing with LM on the blimps.

Apparently, Worldwide Aeros, [aerosml.com] a smallish company founded by a Russian immigrant, was one of two U.S. companies that was awarded $3 million (USD) by the Pentagon to research the concept. (The other was LM.)

Before the collapse of the Soviet Union, the Russian had been working on a project to develop mammoth airships to deliver supplies to Siberian oilfields.

You can find the article here [latimes.com] . -- Paul

Kirov Airships (2, Funny)

SilentOneNCW (943611) | more than 8 years ago | (#14659481)

I, for one, cannot wait for the Kirov Airship [wikipedia.org] to be developed. I wonder if that's the 'massive helium-filled airship' the article mentions... Of course, Lockheed Martin isn't bound by international treaty *not* to build bombers, so I guess they could build something like an Apocalypse Tank while they're waiting for demand to rise... after all, who *doesn't* want a tank with auto-reconstruction, missiles, dual cannons, and thick armor?

Re:Kirov Airships (1)

m50d (797211) | more than 8 years ago | (#14659692)

Capture their barracks and build a load of flak troopers. Cheap, and able to kill the kirov quite easily as long as you keep retreating out of its range.

The trouble with unmanned vehicles... (2, Interesting)

drsmithy (35869) | more than 8 years ago | (#14659501)

...Is that they make it easier to go to war. None of those politically inconvenient body bags to bring home.

Re:The trouble with unmanned vehicles... (1)

banaanimies (944641) | more than 8 years ago | (#14659527)

True. All those casulties have totally undermined support of occupation of Iraq. Or not.

Re:The trouble with unmanned vehicles... (1)

rhadamanthus (200665) | more than 8 years ago | (#14659865)

Well - except for those made at home due to "inaccurate" drone warfare.

U2 plane?? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14659518)

So I guess you could say that it move's in mysterious ways?

*hides*

-Sj53

One step closer to the Terminator.. (2, Interesting)

Tominva1045 (587712) | more than 8 years ago | (#14659525)



At this time technology isn't the problem. Question is, what will happen first?

- Errant political leaders misuse technology?

- Politically disgruntled scientist develops AI to run Terminators?

I'm Scared. (2)

ikejam (821818) | more than 8 years ago | (#14659526)

I am.

Ahhhh! (2, Insightful)

mwace (923798) | more than 8 years ago | (#14659529)

For an young guy passionate about flight and aspiring to become a fighter pilot, this is a nightmare come true!

Re:Ahhhh! (1)

meringuoid (568297) | more than 8 years ago | (#14659723)

For an young guy passionate about flight and aspiring to become a fighter pilot, this is a nightmare come true!

It's tough, isn't it? I'd suggest you find a different career path, to be honest; perhaps you might try steel driving [ibiblio.org] ?

Pics (1, Funny)

Lord_Slepnir (585350) | more than 8 years ago | (#14659532)

Prototype pics here [sextondesign.net]

The best part is, when one is destroyed, it's consciousness is downloaded into another unit, saving on re-training time. Though it might get bitter about being destroyed over and over...

That Airship has Flown... (2, Informative)

anzha (138288) | more than 8 years ago | (#14659569)

Aviation Week [aviationnow.com] has already covered the fact that the airship has already flown. It looks like Lockheed is in exploration mode for aircraft right now because the traditional market of milking the government teet for manned fighter and bomber contracts has a decidedly less than glorious future.

Re:That Airship has Flown... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14659804)

Another ungrateful scumbag who thinks national defense is welfare. Go live somewhere undefended and see how long your pasty geek ass lasts without adults around to protect you. Your head will be on a pike in under 20 minutes. Asshat.

Signs you watch Chappelle's Show too much... (4, Funny)

sammy baby (14909) | more than 8 years ago | (#14659596)

Signs you've been watching to much Chappelle's Show, #125

In a Slashdot discussion, you read the phrase

Lockheed Martin's secretive Skunk Works unit... has big plans for its latest project:
...and you subconsciously complete the sentence:
Mars, bitches.

War without consequence - for us at least (1)

99luftballon (838486) | more than 8 years ago | (#14659665)

Such technologies will have a big effect on the future look of the army but let's not forget the record of drones isn't great. Sure they can be modified to carry missiles and destroy targets but they still rely on human intelligence. Is it any more acceptable if a drone kills the wrong person or if a human does it?

Longer term though this is a worrying trend. If we build future armies on this technology while not retaining key skills a single EMP blast from an orbital bomb could cripple an entire army. I understand F18's and beyond can't fly safely without fly-by-wire, this system would be even worse.

Like the blimp idea though. That has real possibilities for developing world aid etc...

Great! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14659669)

More cool toys for the yanks to use to kill the rest of us at will when we, say, vote for someone they don't like and thus "threaten American interests" (and those of their local cronies) :-)

UAV before auto-drive cars (2, Interesting)

HangingChad (677530) | more than 8 years ago | (#14659674)

I think it's interesting that it would likely be possible to develop an auto-pilot aircraft before we have self-driving cars. That would be a neat X-Prize like contest. Develop an aircraft that a human passenger could program with a destination and the plane delivers them without human assistance. It would need ground monitoring and some way for the human to take over in an emergency, but I bet that could come together faster than autodrive cars.

One of the first UAV experiments was the Snark. So many crashed into the waters off the test facility that they were called Snark Infested Waters. We've come a long way since then.

Better weapons -- less death and destruction (2, Insightful)

mi (197448) | more than 8 years ago | (#14659700)

A welcome progress...

If they're admitting it exists now, it's old news (1, Insightful)

RubberDogBone (851604) | more than 8 years ago | (#14659706)

Lockheed never publically acknowledges current Skunk projects. They only talk about stuff that is 10-15 years OLD, only AFTER it has been replaced by something far better or more advanced.

That means whatever was revealed is ancient history and absolutely NOT the state of the art.

It may also be a pile of red herrings designed to delude competitors or enemies, such as a series of expensive dead-end projects they WANT the bad guys to worry about, while the real toys continue to remain hidden.

Have a crapload of dead-end secret projects you can't fund? Can't exactly scrap them in public, so hey, pile them up, call them really really secret and show them off. Turn a pile of garbage into a hot new machine, and bonus points for getting the WSJ to write it up. Brilliant! Very typical defense contrator stuff.

In any case, that giant airship or one like it has been in tons of UFO reports for at least two decades. That we had one wasn't much of a secret. Why the hell we would need such a thing was more of a question. I don't buy the story given. Hauling troops anywhere quickly is what they said the V-22 was for, and that sure has turned out _real_ well. Our military would never settle for a slow blimp, unless it's got anti-grav or some exotic weapon.

Hmmm (1)

squoozer (730327) | more than 8 years ago | (#14659710)

"you could literally pick a farmer's field"

I'm fairly sure that the farmer would have something to say about that and knowing farmers it is likely he would innitially try saying it by shooting their fancy pants balloon full of holes. Still it would be fun to watch million of pounds worth of balloon shrivel up because of some old farmer with a shot gun.

Strategery (1)

BecomingLumberg (949374) | more than 8 years ago | (#14659715)

As much as I love technology, I think i would like a little more biting approach to our war on the radical boogyman. We know these guys are insanely religious . I am a big proponent of going to Smithfield and using the old pig carcasses to pack the bombs in. That way the fuckers die covered in pig fat, so they can explain that to their 40 virgins.

Or maybe I am just vindictive.

Skynet anyone? (1)

kilodelta (843627) | more than 8 years ago | (#14659720)

I mean really, how long before these babies go autonomous.

All it'll take is a lightning strike and goodbye humanity. I mean, Stanford's little Touareg managed to navigate all by its little lonesome self. And we all now that technology shrinks in size within a very short time span.

I shudder to think about it this way, but it is where we're going.

Women are already flying aircraft (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14659761)

In case you haven't noticed, we've had un-MAN-ned aircraft for ohhhhh eighty years now...

Morality of "Drones" (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14659805)

Unmanned, but "still controlled by humans on the ground" type drones seem ok...but what about the assumption that these drones we're talking about will use AI and are completely autonomous? These war drones would break at least the first two rules from "The Three Laws of Robotics". Asimov would roll in his grave!

Military automation (2, Insightful)

MrSteveSD (801820) | more than 8 years ago | (#14659811)

Military automation is a worrying trend. Eventually it could reach the stage where there are very few soldiers actually involved in combat. That would make it much easier for governments to prosecute wars. Consider Iraq. All the concern has been over how many US troops have died and how politically damaging it is. There is little concern for all the Iraqis killed in air strikes. If you can automate the military, you remove most of the political repercussions of war. No US Soldiers dead, just lots of automated robots killing people in another country, who no-one cares about. It would also make it much easier for governments to turn the military against their own people.
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