That date marks one of the most creative periods of conceptual design for any fighter aircraft

Wednesday, October 5th, 2022

When the F-22 design team struggled to meet its weight and unit-cost goals, it decided to step back and open up the design to more fundamental changes:

“After a bloody debate, we agreed to trash the current design and start over,” says Mullin. “Over that weekend, we brought in a new director of design engineering, Dick Cantrell, flew in people, and started a ninety-day fire drill. Work started on Monday 13 July. That date marks one of the most creative periods of conceptual design for any fighter aircraft. We looked at different inlets, different wings, and different tail combinations. One configuration had two big butterfly tails and looked somewhat like the F-117, though people did not know that since the F-117 was still highly classified. The configuration search was wide open, but the biggest single change that resulted from it was to go with diamond-shaped wings.”

The concentrated configuration search began with a slew of possible designs. The search complicates the numbering scheme considerably, as diamond wings, twin tails (two tails instead of four), various inlet shapes, and various forebody shapes were all considered and reconsidered simultaneously in the summer of 1987.

[…]

“The fundamental reason for going to a diamond wing was that it provided the lightest configuration and gave us the best structural efficiency and all the control power we needed for maneuvering,” Mullin explains. “The biggest consideration was its light weight. Weight drove the decision.”

“A diamond wing has more square feet of surface area, but is more structurally efficient,” adds Renshaw. “The longer root chord provides a more distributed load path through the fuselage. Multiple bulkheads carry the bending loads. The design provides more opportunity to space the bulkheads around the internal equipment. It also provides more fuel volume.”

“The structural engineers wanted a diamond wing because it provides a larger root chord, which carries bending moments better,” Hardy notes. “The aerodynamicists wanted a trapezoidal wing because it provides more aspect ratio, which is good for aerodynamics. Dick Heppe, the president of Lockheed California Company, made the final decision, and he was right. The aerodynamics were not all that different, but the structure and weights were significantly better. So we went to a diamond shape. The big root chord, though, moved the tails back. Eventually we even had to notch the wing for the front of the tails. If the tails moved farther back, they would fall off the airplane.”

Once the wings were set with Configuration 614, subsequent configurations dealt with the tail arrangement. “We spent a lot of wind tunnel time looking at the tails,” recalls Lou Bangert, the chief engineer for engine integration from Lockheed. “From late 1987 to early 1988, we were engaged in what we called ‘the great tail chase.’ We knew we would have four tails, but where they would go was a big deal. A small change in location often made a huge difference. We had to look at performance effects, stealth effects, stability and control, and drag at the same time. The tail arrangement and aft end design were important design considerations for all of these effects.”

Wind tunnel results showed an ultra-sensitive relationship between the placement of the vertical tails and the design of the forward fuselage. The interactions could not be predicted accurately by analysis or by computational fluid dynamics. The airflow over the forebody at certain angles of attack affects the control power exerted by the twin rudders on the vertical tails. Getting the airflow right was critical.

The cant and sweep angles of the vertical tails could not be altered too much because such changes increased radar signature. In finding a suitable arrangement, the control system designers were constrained by the radar signature requirements to moving the tail locations laterally or longitudinally and to shrinking or enlarging them while holding the shape essentially constant. By the end of the dem/val phase, the team had accumulated around 20,000 hours in the wind tunnel. A lot of this time was devoted to tail placement studies.

Everything wants to be at the center of gravity

Monday, October 3rd, 2022

The basic challenge of designing the F-22 was to pack stealth, supercruise, highly integrated avionics, and agility into an airplane with an operating range that bettered the F-15, the aircraft it was to replace:

“One problem we typically face when trying to stuff everything inside an airplane is that everything wants to be at the center of gravity,” Hardy explains. “The weapons want to be at the center of gravity so that when they drop, the airplane doesn’t change its stability modes. The main landing gear wants to be right behind the center of gravity so the airplane doesn’t fall on its tail and so it can rotate fairly easily for takeoffs. The fuel volume wants to be at the center of gravity, so the center of gravity doesn’t shift as the fuel tanks empty. Having the center of gravity move as fuel burns reduces stability and control. We also had to hide the engine face for stealth reasons. So, these huge ducts had to run right through the middle of real estate that we wanted to use for everything else. The design complexities result in specialized groups of engineers arguing for space in the airplane. That was the basic situation from 1986 through 1988.”

Natural gas is a fuel of the future

Friday, September 2nd, 2022

Natural gas is a fuel of the future, Austin Vernon explains:

Gas power plants are cheap.

Why are gas plants so cheap? They have less equipment. A gas turbine takes in compressed gas and air, burns it, spits out the exhaust, and turns a generator. Modern turbines are as efficient as coal or nuclear plants and a fraction of the size of hulking steam turbines. They are 3x as efficient as the average geothermal facility.

Coal, nuclear, and geothermal plants utilize more complex thermodynamic cycles. They have a boiler, a steam turbine, a generator, a condenser, a boiler feed water pump, more cooling towers, and a water purification system for boiler feed water. Coal plants contend with solids handling, and nuclear plants have complex reactors.

Combined cycle natural gas power plants use hot exhaust from the turbine to make steam like traditional thermal plants. About 2/3 of plant output comes from the gas turbine and 1/3 from the steam turbine. Total efficiency can be over 60% with less equipment and labor than boiler-style thermal plants.

Cheap Storage

Most natural gas storage is in depleted reservoirs. They fill up in the summer when gas demand is low and empty in the winter when gas demand is high.

Building a depleted reservoir gas storage facility costs about $6 million per billion cubic feet of gas. That equates to $0.02/kWh. A grid storage lithium-ion battery currently costs $250-$300/kWh.

The marginal cost of storing gas is determined by renting space in the storage facility and compressing it into the reservoir, usually ~$0.50/MCF for a season. Spot natural gas prices have been between $1.50 and $6 over the last decade. Efficiency determines the marginal cycle cost for a battery. Most lithium-ion battery systems are 90%+ efficient. Tesla’s Powerwall has a 92.5% round trip efficiency.

Reservoir permeability limits gas injection/discharge rates to emptying once per season. Salt dome storage facilities are an exception that can cycle faster but have higher construction costs. Batteries can cycle within a few hours.

Batteries have an advantage in short-term storage, while natural gas storage is much better for long-duration storage.

Hydrogen

Why not store hydrogen instead of natural gas?

Hydrogen embrittles metal that pipelines and storage facility wells are made of, limiting usage in existing infrastructure.

Methane (the primary molecule in natural gas) has three times the energy per volume as hydrogen. A switch to hydrogen would mean we’d need three times more pipeline, compressor, and gas storage capacity.

Hydrogen is more expensive to store because of poor volumetric energy density, and it needs all new infrastructure. If we see widespread hydrogen storage, it will likely be local and only for industrial and electricity use. Building new interstate pipelines is increasingly difficult. As we’ve seen with electricity transmission, critics do not make an exception for “green” projects. I will remain skeptical.

Better Than Air

Compressed air storage also uses caverns and reservoirs as cheap, long-term storage. Compressed methane is ~80x more energy-dense than compressed air. Facilities need new turbines and grid connections, unlike natural gas.

Ammonia

Ammonia is easy to liquefy, so it has good volumetric energy density. Proponents favor applications like marine fuel and gas turbines.

The downsides are that it is poisonous, burns slow, releases tons of NOx when burned, and is less dense than regular ship fuel. The toxic aspect eliminates its use in residential applications. The combustion characteristics mean turbines need larger combustion chambers and more emissions control than natural gas turbines. And the lower volumetric density means it is vulnerable to drop-in synthetic liquid fuels in maritime applications.

Pumped Hydro and Other Cats and Dogs

Pumped hydro costs a thousand times more per unit of energy than natural gas storage. All the other random pet technologies are expensive, too. Storing energy in hydrocarbons is laughably cheap. Competing technologies tend to be awkward tweeners. They can’t compete against batteries in short-term storage or against gas in longer-duration storage.

Smart bombs payout immediately by requiring a fraction of the ordnance

Thursday, September 1st, 2022

Austin Vernon discusses the economic logic of smart bombs:

US smart bombs like the GPS-guided JDAM and the laser-guided Paveway cost somewhere between $10,000 and $30,000 to manufacture. They are nearly 100% accurate in hitting a target, while unguided bombs are stuck with single-digit accuracy numbers. Unguided dumb bombs cost $2000-$3000 per bomb. Smart bombs payout immediately by requiring a fraction of the ordnance.

It is worse than that, though. A fighter jet like the US Navy’s F-18 costs over $10,000 an hour to operate, not including tankers. A B-52 bomber costs $70,000 an hour. Attacking targets using dumb bombs requires ten times the sorties at a significant cost premium and exposes planes and pilots to more risk.

[…]

Modern smart bombs fired by aircraft can provide support and screening for fast advancing mechanized columns instead of artillery. In the early Afghanistan conflict in 2001, the US deployed zero artillery because of its weight and logistics challenges. Combat aircraft were able to cover US ground forces against light Taliban forces.

In the 2003 invasion of Iraq, armor columns brought much less artillery than in 1991. Aircraft took over the strategic mission, leaving counter-battery fire and all-weather close fire support to artillery forces.

[…]

Smart weapons also have standoff capability. An unpowered JDAM bomb can glide over 25 km.

[…]

Drones are a continuation of the precision-guided munition paradigm. Smart bombs can make a plane 20x more effective. Drones are force multipliers across the board. The Army and Air Force have been drone leaders but need to continue to invest in drones across the spectrum. They need large, expensive drones that can operate far from bases and inexpensive micro-drones that can disrupt enemy formations or intercept enemy micro-drones. Modern warfare is an o-ring industry because enemies exploit gaps relentlessly.

Each Starship launch has the same payload as three B-52s

Wednesday, August 31st, 2022

Recent talk about hypersonic missiles got me wondering whether SpaceX’s reusable rockets would lend themselves to this role. Austin Vernon suggests that SpaceX’s Starship is America’s Secret Weapon:

B-52s flying from Barksdale AFB to complete a mission in East Asia incur a marginal cost of $50/kg to deliver bombs. Starship’s cost is cheaper and can put weapons on target in less than thirty minutes. Each Starship launch has the same payload as three B-52s.

[…]

The supply line would be a natural gas pipeline and a rail line providing fuel and projectiles to a domestic launchpad instead of ships crossing oceans.

I hadn’t considered this though:

Orbital weapons still need intelligence to tell them where to go. Starship’s sister system, StarLink, provides an answer. StarLink is a constellation of thousands of small Low Earth Orbit satellites that gives customers low latency broadband internet. It uses sophisticated phased-array radios that allow ground terminals to track satellites traveling thousands of miles per hour.

As Casey Handmer points out, StarLink can use its radios to do high fidelity synthetic aperture radar (SAR). SAR is already one of the primary ways militaries find enemy ships, and researchers have used it to track planes. It could also see ground vehicles.

While the US already has satellites capable of doing this, they are expensive and limited in number. Individual StarLink satellites cost a few hundred thousand apiece to build and launch on Starship. One of the first things China would do in war is shoot down our military satellites with anti-satellite missiles. That is a problem with bespoke satellites but not with Starlink. Anti-Satellite missiles cost tens of millions of dollars. Each Starship launch could drop off hundred of StarLink satellites. The Chinese would have to expend incredible resources to keep StarLink offline.

A satellite constellation provides other bonuses. Our GPS satellites are both hard to replace and sensitive to jamming. StarLink can provide GPS coordinates (with a few meters less accuracy), and its phased array radios make it difficult to jam.

The upshot is StarLink gives the US survivable sensing, communication, and navigation capabilities.

The military can’t afford iPhone-level software

Tuesday, August 30th, 2022

As consumers, we are spoiled by how easy our phones are to use, Austin Vernon notes, and critics expect the military to have software as capable as our phones:

If you examine the numbers, it quickly becomes apparent that the military can’t afford iPhone-level software. Apple, Google, Microsoft, and Facebook had combined operating expenses of over $600 billion in 2021. The military’s total budget is around $750 billion.

The mass of all the physical products these companies sell is probably less than one Ford-class aircraft carrier, and the number of SKUs is relatively limited. And remember, a defining feature of the software business is that marginal cost is near zero. It costs about the same to design high-quality software for 100 F-35s as for 200 million copies of the plane.

Grids have excess capacity 95% of the time

Monday, August 29th, 2022

There are many ways Texas’s grid could have avoided disaster during winter storm Uri:

Being synchronized to one of the other wide-area grids in the US is one way. Another is not to have ~50% of its households rely on electric heat.

Cold weather causes demand to spike while also hampering supply. ERCOT is not the only grid to have suffered significant supply outages during cold weather. But other grids like PJM in 2014 were bailed out by imports and lower shares of customers using electric heating.

Customers using electric heat don’t pay the costs of their impact on the grid when they only pay a fixed price per kilowatt-hour. Electric resistance heaters and air source heat pumps see power usage spike dramatically during the coldest events. The overall kilowatt-hour usage only sees a slight increase on the monthly bill, but the peak power might be two or three times higher than the norm.

The new catalyst has three different active sites for the reaction

Friday, August 26th, 2022

A research team led by Prof. Minhua Shao from the Department of Chemical and Biological Engineering at HKUST, has discovered a new fuel-cell catalyst to replace pure platinum:

It not only cuts down the proportion of platinum used by 80 percent, but it also set a record in terms of the cell’s durability level.

Despite a low portion of platinum, the new hybrid catalyst developed by the research team managed to maintain the platinum catalytic activity at 97% after 100,000 cycles of accelerated stress test, compared to the current catalyst which normally sees a drop of over 50% in performance after just 30,000 cycles. In another test, the new fuel cell did not show any performance decay after operating for 200 hours.

One reason behind such outstanding performance was the fact that the new catalyst has three different active sites for the reaction, instead of just one in current catalysts. Using a formula containing atomically dispersed platinum, iron single atoms, and platinum-iron nanoparticles, the new mix accelerates the reaction rate and achieves a catalytic activity 3.7 times higher than the platinum itself. Theoretically, the higher the catalytic activity, the greater the power it delivers.

The Rotating Detonation Engine is an extension of the Pulse Detonation Engine, which is an extension of The Pulse Jet Engine

Wednesday, August 24th, 2022

The concept behind rotation detonation engines dates back to the 1950s:

In the United States, Arthur Nicholls, a professor emeritus of aerospace engineering at the University of Michigan, was among the first to attempt to develop a working RDE design.

In some ways, a Rotating Detonation Engine is an extension of the concept behind pulse detonation engines (PDEs), which are, in themselves, an extension of pulsejets. That might seem confusing (and maybe it is), but we’ll break it down.

Pulsejet engines work by mixing air and fuel within a combustion chamber and then igniting the mixture to fire out of a nozzle in rapid pulses, rather than under consistent combustion like you might find in other jet engines.

In pulsejet engines, as in nearly all combustion engines, igniting and burning the air/fuel mixture is called deflagration, which basically means heating a substance until it burns away rapidly, but at subsonic speeds.

A pulse detonation engine works similarly, but instead of leveraging deflagration, it uses detonation. At a fundamental level, detonation is a lot like it sounds: an explosion.

While deflagration speaks to the ignition and subsonic burning of the air/fuel mixture, detonation is supersonic. When the air and fuel are mixed in a pulse detonation engine, they’re ignited, creating deflagration like in any other combustion engine. However, within the longer exhaust tube, a powerful pressure wave compresses the unburnt fuel ahead of the ignition, heating it above ignition temperature in what is known as the deflagration-to-detonation transition (DDT). In other words, rather than burning through the fuel rapidly, it detonates, producing more thrust from the same amount of fuel; an explosion, rather than a rapid burn.

The detonations still occur in pulses, like in a pulsejet, but a pulse detonation engine is capable of propelling a vehicle to higher speeds, believed to be around Mach 5. Because detonation releases more energy than deflagration, detonation engines are more efficient — producing more thrust with less fuel, allowing for lighter loads and greater ranges.

The detonation shockwave travels significantly faster than the deflagration wave leveraged by today’s jet engines, Trimble explained: up to 2,000 meters per second (4,475 miles per hour) compared to 10 meters per second from deflagration.

[...]

A rotating detonation engine takes this concept to the next level. Rather than having the detonation wave travel out the back of the aircraft as propulsion, it travels around a circular channel within the engine itself.

Fuel and oxidizers are added to the channel through small holes, which are then struck and ignited by the rapidly circling detonation wave. The result is an engine that produces continuous thrust, rather than thrust in pulses, while still offering the improved efficiency of a detonation engine. Many rotation detonation engines have more than one detonation wave circling the chamber at the same time.

As Trimble explains, RDEs see pressure increase during detonation, whereas traditional jet engines see a total pressure loss during combustion, offering greater efficiency. In fact, rotation detonation engines are even more efficient than pulse detonation engines, which need the combustion chamber to be purged and refilled for each pulse.

[...]

According to the Air Force Research Lab, RDE technology could make high-speed weapons much more affordable, which is of particular import following a recent Defense Department analysis that indicated the hypersonic (Mach 5+) weapons in development for the Air Force may cost as much as $106 million each.

Cubic boron arsenide may be best semiconductor of them all

Wednesday, August 17th, 2022

Silicon is one of the most abundant elements on Earth, but its properties as a semiconductor are far from ideal:

For one thing, although silicon lets electrons whizz through its structure easily, it is much less accommodating to “holes” — electrons’ positively charged counterparts — and harnessing both is important for some kinds of chips. What’s more, silicon is not very good at conducting heat, which is why overheating issues and expensive cooling systems are common in computers.

Now, a team of researchers at MIT, the University of Houston, and other institutions has carried out experiments showing that a material known as cubic boron arsenide overcomes both of these limitations. It provides high mobility to both electrons and holes, and has excellent thermal conductivity. It is, the researchers say, the best semiconductor material ever found, and maybe the best possible one.

So far, cubic boron arsenide has only been made and tested in small, lab-scale batches that are not uniform. The researchers had to use special methods originally developed by former MIT postdoc Bai Song to test small regions within the material. More work will be needed to determine whether cubic boron arsenide can be made in a practical, economical form, much less replace the ubiquitous silicon.

[...]

Not only is the material’s thermal conductivity the best of any semiconductor, the researchers say, it has the third-best thermal conductivity of any material — next to diamond and isotopically enriched cubic boron nitride.

Bromberger pegged additive manufacturing at 2-3% of the $12 trillion production market

Sunday, August 7th, 2022

Additive manufacturing — 3-D printing — is on the cusp of being adopted more widely by industry — still:

In May, Goodyear opened a $77 million plant in Luxembourg that centers on 3-D printing and can make tires four times faster in small batches than with conventional production. Goodyear also is testing its new 3-D printed airless tire technology on Tesla electric vehicles and Starship Technologies’ autonomous delivery robots. It has been working for the past several years on improved manufacturing techniques at an R&D center near Columbus, Ohio.

By 2030, Goodyear aims to bring maintenance-free and airless tires to market, and 3-D printing is part of that effort for the Akron-based tire-making leader founded in 1898 and named after innovator Charles Goodyear. Currently, about 2% of its production is through additive manufacturing and more integration into the mix is in sight.

“Like with any innovation, targeting the right use case is key. 3-D printing is not for every job. We’re using additive manufacturing for higher-end, ultra-high performance tires that require much more complexity, and in smaller lot sizes,” said Chris Helsel, senior vice president, global operations and CTO at Goodyear. “There is still a benefit of making large runs of tires efficiently through a normal assembly line.”

Leveraging the new technology takes patience. “You can’t bring it in, turn it on. It is not a short journey. We have been on this route for 10-12 years,” Helsel said. In an initial commercialization of its 3-D printed airless tires in 2017, Goodyear started equipping premium lawnmower models made by Bad Boy Mowers.

[...]

Primarily useful for making specialized high-value parts and smaller production volumes, Bromberger pegged additive manufacturing at 2-3% of the $12 trillion production market.

3-D printing industry consultant Wohlers Associates expects additive manufacturing to grow at a relatively strong pace and predicts the market worldwide will reach $85.3 billion in 2031 from $15.2 billion in 2021. The leading industrial sector using the technology is aerospace, followed by medical/dental and automotive, while the most common applications for 3-D printing are for making end-use parts and functional prototypes, according to the firm’s Wohlers Report 2022.

The main advantages of the technology include design flexibility in various 3-D shapes that can perform better or cost less, and customized production of parts. Other advantages are cutting out time-consuming, pre-production processes and making products on-demand from digital files.

A chief barrier to adoption is investment costs. Prices for industrial 3-D printing machines can vary from $25,000 to $500,000 and up to $1 million for huge systems. Further limitations are a lack of engineering talent to implement the technology, a knowledge gap among businesses about why and how to use it, cultural resistance on the shop floor to change, and too few end-to-end 3-D printing systems.

[...]

But stock market reception of 3-D printing as a pure-play investment theme has not been good in recent years. Desktop Metal has lost almost 80% of its value since going public in 2021, and the performance of other 3-D printing sector plays has been poor even as the technology advances.

[...]

For Boeing’s Millennium Space Systems subsidiary, acquired in 2018 as a maker of small satellites for the national security space, 100% 3-D printed satellites have been made this year with 30% less cost and a five-month reduction in production lead time. A regular user of the technology for several years, Boeing also has 3-D printed parts for helicopters and seats for the Starliner spacecraft, as well as components for the Boeing 787, and tooling for 787 aircraft wings.

A 9V battery feeding a capacitor provided the energy to ignite the new type of primer

Friday, July 22nd, 2022

The recent unpleasantness in Japan piqued my interest in DIY firearms and electronic ignition, which led me to the Remington Model 700 EtronX, which was introduced in 2000 and discontinued in 2003. Ian of Forgotten Weapons explains:

It consisted of a standard Remington 700 bolt action rifle, with the trigger and firing mechanisms replaced by electric versions. The firing pin itself became an insulated electrode, the trigger operated an electronic switch instead of a mechanical sear, and a 9V battery feeding a capacitor provided the energy to ignite the new type of primer — basically a resistor that would generate heat to ignite a charge of smokeless powder.

[…]

Unfortunately, the only practical advantage to the electronic workings was a reduction in lock time of the action (the delay from trigger press to cartridge ignition). They did in fact achieve a virtual elimination of lock time, but this was not a problem that needed to be addressed for the general sporting rifle market.

Now, if they introduced a gun that didn’t need conventional primers today, they might have some success.

One hobbyist found it surprisingly hard to ignite gunpowder:

Experiments performed a few years ago and shown on the web page here found that weak sparks, such as from static electricity, are incapable of igniting black powder. Since I wanted to use smokeless powder in the rifle, and since it has a much higher ignition point than the black powder shown here, my first attempts used sparks from a stun-gun to see if they could ignite the powder.

The stun gun shown here is advertised as producing a 100,000 volt spark. The sparks were certainly loud and impressive, and they easily burned tiny holes through a piece of paper placed between the electrodes, but would they ignite powder?

Hundreds of sparks were struck into a pile of Hodgdon’s Tite-Group smokeless powder (left) and Swiss black powder (right) with absolutely no effect except for bouncing the grains around. The sparks were striking the grains, and you can see flashes when the spark hits the surface of the granules, but never once would the powder ignite!

The photo below shows a spark from the stun gun going completely through a line of black powder stuck to a piece of masking tape, and although hundreds of grains were simultaneously hit, nothing happened.

[…]

About this time I was ready to give up, but after a few days of reflection, I thought I knew what was happening. The spark in the chamber was clearly extraordinarily hot and was vigorous enough to blow the tamper out of the chamber, which meant that the air in the chamber had to be heated to a high temperature. But why didn’t the powder ignite? I believed the reason was the extremely brief duration of the spark; in trying to capture it on a video, it was so brief that it took many tries to accidentally capture a video frame on a camera running 30 frames/second. My guess is that it lasted only a few micro seconds, and thus, no matter how hot it was, it couldn’t transfer enough heat into the powder granules during this brief time period for them to ignite. Therefore, slowing down the spark, even if it meant reducing its intensity, might be enough to do the job.

To slow down the spark, I simply added a resistor in series with the capacitor so the current was limited to about two amperes — which is still a lot of current going through a spark. As you can see from the image, the spark was much brighter than from the spark coil alone, but was very much less intense than without the resistor. However, it seemed to last a bit longer — about 2000 micro seconds, so that elongation might do the trick.

I added some smokeless powder (this time without a tamper) and sparked it. It worked! Not only did it work for the Tite Group smokeless powder, but for all others I tried, and all ignitions were instantaneous.

“Notification” is a dishonest euphemism

Thursday, July 21st, 2022

Surely, Tim Harford suggests, everyone switches off most notifications, right?

One study, published in 2015 by researchers at the Technical University of Berlin, found that on average six out of seven smartphone apps were left in their default notification settings. Given how many notifications are clearly valueless, this suggests that in the face of endless notifications, many smartphone users have learnt helplessness.

[…]

“Notification” is a dishonest euphemism, anyway. The correct word is “interruption”, because it prompts the right question: how often do I want my phone to interrupt me?

No Western artillery system is as capable and none apparently has the accuracy offered by GIS Arta

Tuesday, July 5th, 2022

Two technologies have helped Ukraine fend off the Russian invasion:

While the Russians are able to jam satellite transmissions, so far they have not been able to jam Starlink. Musk has reported that they are trying but so far have not been successful.

The other technology is homegrown and is software known as GIS Arta (GIS stands for geographic information system and Arta stands for artillery).

GIS Arta is an Android app that takes target information from drones, US and NATO intelligence feeds and conventional forward observers, and converts the information to precise coordinates for artillery.

GIS Arta was developed by a volunteer team of software developers led by Yaroslav Sherstyvk. It bears a resemblance to Uber taxi service software, on which the GIS Arta software is modeled.

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GIS Arta makes it possible to do two things not possible before: Targets can be identified and verified visually almost immediately, and artillery and rocket systems can fire quickly and accurately.

Consider that typically it takes 20 minutes to program coordinates into an artillery piece and fire the weapon. Complicating that is verifying the target; for the US that also includes making sure there isn’t a risk of collateral damage.

The artillery previously used by Ukraine was mainly Russian and its firing system was dated and slow. GIS Arta not only changed that but also significantly improved accuracy.

GIS Arta reduces the time to fire to about 30 to 45 seconds. No Western artillery system is as capable and none apparently has the accuracy offered by GIS Arta. According to reports, Ukrainian artillery can now hit a far-away target with an accuracy of between 18 and 75 meters.

Ukraine has also modified its deployments of artillery, separating units by greater distance to make them more difficult targets for Russian counterfire. That, too, has been enabled by GIS Arta.

The GIS Arta complex also selects which gun or rocket system to use and automatically provides the coordinates to any selected system. In fact, the system is so good that Germany, which has already delivered some of its Panzerhaubitze 2000 tank howitzer 155mm mechanized guns to Ukraine, reportedly has integrated GIS Arta.

One interesting use case for hydrogen airships is to move green hydrogen itself

Sunday, June 26th, 2022

H2 Clipper argues that large electric airships lifted and powered by green hydrogen stand ready to transport massive cargo loads over enormous distances much faster than cargo ships, opening up inland logistics facilities with minimal ground infrastructure, and doing it all with zero emissions:

We’re talking cargo loads up to 340,000 lb (150,000 kg, or the equivalent of about 115 Toyota Corollas), distances up to 6,000 miles (9,650 km, or roughly the distance between Los Angeles and Barcelona), at cruising speeds over 175 mph (280 km/h, or a little under one-third the speed of a Dreamliner passenger plane, but 7-10 times faster than a cargo ship can go).

That’s an incredibly compelling set of numbers, particularly given the cost; H2 Clipper claims it’ll cost a quarter of what today’s air freight services cost per ton-mile, making it an economically disruptive way to move bulk cargo as well as an opportunity to decarbonize trans-continental logistics operations.

In 2021, H2 Clipper was accepted into Dassault Systems’ 3D Experience lab accelerator program, giving this small company the ability to use cutting-edge simulation and development tools to refine its design. The company has completed simulated wind tunnel tests using computational fluid dynamics (CFD), validating its super-low drag aerodynamics and putting some weight behind the company’s fuel burn and operational cost estimations.

At this stage, the company plans to get a prototype built by 2025, and to have a full-sized hydrogen airship flying in 2028. It’s still a risky play for investors; the FAA currently bans hydrogen as a lift gas. But green hydrogen projects worth billions of dollars are springing up across the globe, so hydrogen itself stands to have a lobby group behind it like it’s never had before.

In that context, one interesting use case for hydrogen airships is to move green hydrogen itself; H2 Clipper says that these aircraft will beat rail, trucks, ships and even pipelines on price for hydrogen exports moving any distance over 1,000 miles (1,600 km). These “pipelines in the sky” will also be as green as the bulk hydrogen they’re shifting, adding a further benefit that green H2 exporters might be willing to take some risks betting on.