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#1 2023-02-07 17:41:17

kbd512
Administrator
Registered: 2015-01-02
Posts: 6,766

Much Ado About Weather Balloons

tahanson43206 wrote:

For all...

The topic is intended to be a repository for work done by GW Johnson....

It was not intended to be a Chat topic...

The opening post reads:

This new topic is opened to (try to) provide a convenient access point for work of GW Johnson that resides outside the NewMars forum database.

That said, this topic is ** also ** an excellent place for NewMars members to post comments about any of the many posts already in the database.

Please move interpersonal combat to other topics.

(th)

Since TA views a disagreement about spending many more billions of our tax money on rocket-powered interceptors to shoot down Chinese weather balloons as "interpersonal combat", I created this new topic, per his request.  In this new topic, there can be some of that "chat stuff" going on.  It can be tahanson43206 himself, GW, a bloke on the street, or anyone else wondering why it is that we spend so much money "tilting at windmills" than both arming ourselves to fight real threats (enemy missiles, aircraft, ships, tanks, artillery), as well as spending more of our tax money on pursuits that don't involve mass-murdering each other over asinine.  For the $800 billion that we spend on defense, you'd think downing a weather balloon would be child's play.  Instead, we seem to be turning it into something well beyond poking holes in bubbles.

GW Johnson wrote:

If it has a chip in it that communicates with other devices,  it's part of the "internet of things".  Cell phones,  tablets,  laptops,  smart thermostats,  modern digital TV's,  most cars made since the 1990’s,  glass cockpits in airplanes,  a whole long list now.  And don’t tell me they don’t have those things in Alaska or Montana,  because that’s bullshit!  Maybe not all,  but at least some,  even out in the wilderness areas.  All are hackable to one extent or another,  because all connect to the internet in one way or another. If it connects,  it can be hacked.  Period.  Ugly fact of life.

Most of the career public servants I am aware of (uniformed or civilian) do not let their personal political notions affect doing their jobs.  It’s the politically-appointed top positions that chronically do that,  to the detriment of the country’s welfare (something I’d like to see rectified,  and I am probably not alone in that opinion).  Not that they (the rank-and-file workers) don’t make mistakes,  but they do really care and try hard,  generally speaking.  There are always exceptions,  but fortunately,  those are not all that common.

The one thing about this incident that truly does concern me is that top leadership figures were unaware of the 3 balloons during Trump's term until after-the-fact,  including apparently the top brass at NORAD!  NORAD is supposed to "see" and track intruding things of all kinds,  that's their fundamental function!  Apparently,  they've forgotten how to "see" things as unsophisticated as a balloon (or a dirigible,  or a blimp).  And THAT disturbs me!  Somebody really does need to look out the window now and then.  That's what the word "lookout" really means.

The last time balloons were weaponized,  was WW2.  Japan sent balloon-borne fire bombs over the US.  It did not work very well,  mostly because the balloons and payloads were small and lacked any sort of target-detecting devices,  but those balloons followed exactly the same upper-air prevailing wind path as the recent Chinese balloon.  Along the Aleutians into Canada,  from there into the lower 48.  The most common such path is the same:  Montana toward Missouri to the eastern seaboard.  It could happen again,  especially if an adversary thinks we are not watching,  or cannot watch for, such things.  And,  the US used blimps to escort and protect ships traveling the intracoastal canal during WW2.  Those were armed,  and carried out antisubmarine attacks.  Patrols with them persisted into the late 1950’s.  I witnessed them flying.

I would remind everyone that the balloon gas bags,  which are large,  are pretty much invisible to radar (unless aluminized,  which none are anymore) and also have very little IR signature,  being rather whitish in color.  They do have a large optical signature,  but only in broad daylight.  The payload beneath is comparatively small,  but would have at least some radar and IR signature,  and not very much optical signature,  even in broad daylight.  What that leaves you with,  is optical sightings with human eyes,  and only in daylight hours.  Not very visible on cloudy days,  either.  So,  it is sort of a semi-stealth platform,  more so than most people imagine.

I would also remind everyone that laser weapons require precision tracking and aiming to work.  That's hard enough to do in a short range situation,  and exponentially more difficult in a long range situation.  1000 yards or less is "short" range.  A 20+ mile slant range is getting to be "long" range. 

As to expense,  if you recover the intercepting aircraft,  you are only out the fuel,  the pilot's hazardous duty pay,  a payment toward the engine overhaul kitty,  and the price of whatever weapons the pilot used.  An air-to-air missile as simple as a Sidewinder costs a fair fraction of a million $ apiece.  A surface-fired SAM is in the 1-to-10 million $ range.  A 20mm cannon round is a few hundred bucks if a fancy explosive,  but only a few bucks if a solid penetrator (which is all you need to pop a balloon).  That was what I had in mind,  suggesting adding rocket propulsion to an F-16 for fast-response anti-balloon work.

Here's an ugly thought:  if we had continued letting Chinese balloons overfly us unopposed,  they would then know that they might substitute a surveillance payload with an incendiary weapon payload.  Over the densely-populated eastern half of the country (see lights at night from space) that's bound to start damaging fires.  We already know how well that can work from the fire bomb raids on Japanese cities during WW2.  The “targeting” device just needs to detect city lights below.  It’s called a photocell.

I rather doubt a balloon is a suitable vehicle for an emp weapon.  Those work better at 200-mile altitudes than they do at 20-mile altitudes.  We have known that since the Starfish Prime test in 1962,  although at that time,  the results were a shocking surprise. That was mostly vacuum-tube and electromechanical stuff that was damaged then,  too.  Today's solid-state electronics is way more vulnerable.

Just some more food for thought.

GW

Which group of people are pushing to put a microchip in everything and to be able to remote control everything?

Pretty much nobody living on a wheat farm in Podunk, Montana owns an internet-connected Tesla with a thousand microchips in it.  That's utter nonsense.  If they had that kind of money, then they wouldn't be on a wheat farm.  For those a bit short on technical knowledge about how that "new-fangled interwebs" works, if the Chinese wanted to hack any of this internet-connected stuff, then since it's connected to the internet, they could do that while sitting in their mother's basement in Beijing.  They don't need to be in the same zip code, same country, or even on the same planet, so long as they have a connection to the exact same internet that everything else is connected to.  That's a fundamental part of how an internet connection works.  Your internet-connected device is tangentially connected to everything whilst everything else is tangentially connected to your device, through the same connection.  The internet doesn't work any other way.  There are no "one-way internet connections".  Whether you have dial-up and a modem, a fiber optic connection, a cellular connection, or a satellite internet connection, you will ultimately go through the same infrastructure to access a given resource.

Assuming or asserting that someone's political beliefs and opinions don't affect what they do or how they do it is an absurdity.  It's like saying, "I'm a Christian judge, but it doesn't affect my court rulings."  Nobody on the political left believes that, so why should anyone on the political right believe similar malarkey such as, "I'm an atheist judge, but it doesn't affect my court rulings."  Ideology affects what others here say and do.  How someone could ever come to the conclusion that there's this "pure as the driven snow" group of "civil servants" is mildly humorous, assuming they don't actually believe it.  Otherwise, the latter requires a level of naivety unbecoming a highly educated adult.  I have come to expect this belief system from all highly indoctrinated adults.

What disturbs me more than this malarkey about "now we know what we didn't know" crapola attempting to make President Biden look better, is that none of it explains why his administration did nothing effective until after this Chinese weather balloon had already traveled all the way across Canada and America.  We know that Democrats will lie about literally anything to affect public appearances, in order to deflect attention away from the fact that their a bunch of feckless twits who don't belong anywhere near positions of power.

If it turns out that there is some actual evidence of these previous Chinese balloon overflights during President Trump's administration, apart from "We're Democrats and we're making a claim about something you can never verify about someone we don't like, so you should believe us.", then that means $800 billion dollars of tax payer money cannot buy sufficient attention span from a couple dozen military personnel who care enough to observe and accurately report what's going on in the skies above America.

Somehow we both tracked and shot down this Chinese "weather balloon".  It must not be that hard since we did it.  This is why some of us are so fed up with the duplicitous double-speak from President Biden's administration and its cheerleaders.  You don't get to have it both ways.  Either weather balloons are hard to track, or they're not, which is precisely how and why the US Air Force shot this one down using a Sidewinder missile.

Every weapon shot of a nuclear weapon requires precision aiming.  Even nuclear weapons require precision aiming when they're fired from another continent and fly to the target faster than Mach 10.  A laser moves at the speed of light.  You don't have to be 20 miles away to use it.  The F-22 that shot down the balloon was not 20 miles away.

The difference is that using a laser or aircraft cannon loaded with training-practice cartridges (which contain no explosives), at least had a chance of bringing down the balloon gently enough to recover some parts of it so we could attempt to determine what its true capabilities were.  Instead, we blew it up using a missile carrying a 20 pound high explosive warhead that was designed to convert whatever it detonates near into confetti.  Little bits of confetti aren't real useful for evaluating enemy surveillance and communications technology.  Those of us who have been in the military would much rather have a mostly intact enemy radio with a few dents and scratches than little bits of its circuitry.

My underlying point about a "rocket-powered interceptor" appears to be lost.  The only rocket power which was required for this interception was the rocket motor inside the missile.  Both our U-2 "Dragon Lady" and the Proteus can and do routinely fly ABOVE the altitude where this balloon was intercepted at, and can do so for at least a dozen hours.  If you think we need a rocket-powered F-16, then articulate what target we're going have it intercept.  A F-22 easily intercepted the target in question, despite "only" having a pair of afterburning turbofan engines and no rocket propulsion of any kind.

You're worried about the cost of a missile, but not the cost of developing a rocket-powered F-16 to shoot down weather balloons?  Yeah, I don't get that.  Since we waited until after this "untrackable weather balloon", that we somehow tracked all the way across the country, crossed the entire continent of North America, speed of interception clearly wasn't a factor at all.  A drone or missile could've popped it if we were worried about putting our pilots in AGM-88's way.  If someone really wants their rocket-powered F-16, then what use case do we have for such a machine that cannot already be fulfilled faster and cheaper by some existing aircraft, such as the F-22 that shot it down?

If we're attacked by Chinese incendiary weapons, then allowing them to overfly the entire United States before deciding to shoot them down kinda defeats the purpose of shooting them down, doesn't it?

If the Chinese decide to nuke us, then they'll get a nuclear response from America, assuming President Biden doesn't challenge President Xi to a push-up contest.  Which response we get depends on whether or not President Biden still remembers what planet he's on.

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#2 2023-02-07 17:43:44

kbd512
Administrator
Registered: 2015-01-02
Posts: 6,766

Re: Much Ado About Weather Balloons

RobertDyck,

You were correct.  Our military spending on absurdities is getting out of hand.

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#3 2023-02-14 12:37:36

GW Johnson
Member
From: McGregor, Texas USA
Registered: 2011-12-04
Posts: 5,083
Website

Re: Much Ado About Weather Balloons

The chaos we have seen out of DC over this issue derives from NORAD previously discounting radar returns with low Doppler-indicated velocity,  regardless of whether the radar echo was weak or strong.  They were looking for airplanes and missiles (and maybe drones) intruding into our airspace.  Those would all show much higher Doppler velocity,  regardless of whether the echo was weak or strong.  Nobody was looking for balloons or other lighter-than-air.  But they should have been.

The Chinese spy balloon was a surprise to them,  apparently spotted visually by observers.  Members of the public,  I think,  although I wouldn’t swear to that.  They (NORAD) got caught with their pants down by not looking for lighter-than-air.  You only see what you are looking for.  That applies even to NORAD.

Now that they are actually looking for echoes with a low Doppler velocity,  they are “suddenly” finding lots of stuff up there!  Some refer to these large quantities of lighter-than-air stuff that NORAD has been ignoring previously,  as “trash”.  Most of it is stuff put up there by individuals,  some by companies.  Very little of the really low-altitude stuff (under 20,000 feet) would be of foreign origin. 

Closer to 40,000 feet,  I’m guessing some of it is domestic,  and some might be foreign,  and there might be a lot of simple weather balloons among it,  although those would likely be aluminized precisely to serve as high echo-strength radar targets for determining wind speeds aloft.   Might be other scientific payloads as well.

It’s stuff from about 60,000 feet on up that requires serious technical sophistication in your balloon lifting design.  A lot of that might be foreign made spy stuff,  and some might be foreign or domestic scientific missions.  Such things can fly really high,  such as the 3 Project Excelsior manned balloon flights in the late 1950’s into 1960.  Joe Kittinger flew those for USAF,  testing how to bail out from extreme altitudes.  Two of those were to 70-something thousand feet,  and the third was to almost 103,000 feet. 

In recent years,  private concerns have twice broken Kittinger’s parachute jump record,  from about 130,000 feet or thereabouts.   That does require quite a bit of technical sophistication to achieve.  So,  it would seem that balloon flights to 150,000 feet might well be possible,  for foreign and domestic governments,  and for foreign and domestic private concerns.  The field is wide open.

A balloon or other lighter-than-air craft will show a strong radar echo if it is made of aluminized plastic film,  and a weak-to-nonexistent echo if the film is left unmetallized.  The same applies to doped fabric coverings on dirigibles,  or the polymer envelopes of blimps.  We have known about that radar echo thing since just after World War 2.  Things drifting on the wind,  or propelled not much faster,  will show a low Doppler velocity,  far below that of an airplane or a missile.  We have known that for a long time,  too.  1950’s,  I think. 

If I were trying to design a spy balloon vehicle,  I would use a very large gas bag size to payload mass ratio in order to get my altitude above 75-80,000 feet.  I would use a nonmetallized gas bag film to essentially eliminate its radar echo strength,  and leave it a whitish-clear color to essentially eliminate its IR signature.  I would carefully design my payload to eliminate as much of its radar and IR signatures as is possible,  relying mostly on its small size to achieve low values.  I would paint it a dim whitish gray,  so that it would be difficult to see in visible light against the gas bag above it. 

About the only way it might be seen would be in visible light,  by the eyeballs of somebody on the ground,  who just happened to look that direction on a clear bright day.  Such an observer would never see it at night or in cloudy weather.  And by flying above 75-80,000 feet,  I would render it mostly invulnerable to intercept and shoot-down.  The highest service ceiling armed planes that we have anymore,  seem to top out around 60-65,000 feet.  My spy balloon would be 2 to 4 (or more) miles above where they can fly,  out of range for getting lock-on with an AIM-9X.  There would be no radar signature for an AIM-120 to guide toward.  The TR-2 variant of the U-2 is still in service,  and can fly near 80-90,000 feet,  but it is unarmed.  Arming it would reduce its service ceiling due to drag issues.

All this information is public,  but you need to know something about this stuff to make use of that information.  As for the general (ignorant) public,  what I see going on is disinformation by omission or out-and-out lying.  Such as talking about steering or propelling balloons,  which is nonsense. 

You can change altitude to pick up substantially different wind directions only down in the troposphere.  You can only hit the jet stream-or-not when up in the stratosphere,  and even then you are above them,  if you are above 70,000 feet or so.  Otherwise,  you go where the prevailing wind directions go,  which is exactly where the “upper air” wind patterns show,  on the evening TV weather news.   

The real surprise and embarrassment here for the US government (all agencies and levels) is that they simply were not watching for foreign lighter-than-air at high altitudes,  when the Chinese (and probably some others) have realized that such could be a cheaper alternative than spy satellites,  and with higher-resolution photography,  too.   

Higher resolution from lower altitudes is precisely what the U-2 and the SR-71 were all about.  We already also had spy satellites when they were flying.  This spy balloon stuff has been going on for perhaps several years now,  and only in the last few months have they got their noses rubbed in it,  and in public at that.  Chaos for an official response should surprise no one.

This problem has little or nothing to do with any politics,  and everything to do with only seeing what you were looking for,  when you simply weren’t looking for everything that there might be.  The ruts in official thinking are as deep as the ruts in the roads,  if not deeper.

“They” are still coming to grips with an unfamiliar problem.  First,  how do we decide what needs to be shot down,  versus what does not need it?  Second,  how do we reach it to shoot it down?  And third  what do we use to shoot it down?  THAAD?  (This really is the same as the Navy’s $5million rocket round for a $500 sampan cost problem in Vietnam,  too.) 

If your target flies above 75-80,000 feet,  there are as yet no answers to any of those 3 critical questions.  We have an answer up to 60-65,000 feet (F-22’s,  FA-18’s,  and AIM-9X’s, etc),  but not any higher than that.

So what do you do,  if another 200 foot diameter balloon filled with hydrogen,  carrying a 1 ton payload that shows no perceptible radar or IR signature,  and only a little visible signature,  shows up at 85-90,000 feet?  It could happen tomorrow. 

Rather good question,  that one!

GW

Last edited by GW Johnson (2023-02-14 12:39:22)


GW Johnson
McGregor,  Texas

"There is nothing as expensive as a dead crew,  especially one dead from a bad management decision"

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#4 2023-02-14 13:34:38

Void
Member
Registered: 2011-12-29
Posts: 5,822

Re: Much Ado About Weather Balloons

I don't like posting to this topic, but I have a concern.

If the satellite networks fail for some reason.  Kestler Syndrome, Solar Flare, or EMP, then someone with such balloon technology, might get an advantage???

My concern is that I believe that a certain nation. who a person such as Peter Zeihan has said emerged from centuries of genocide, and a country which thinks that they are very clever in war, (And they probably can be), may have a temptation.  We need to remove that temptation.

Right or wrong me, that is my concern.

The said entity may not understand in truth a domain that is not theirs.  That is as an Arab said, the Arab has the power of the tongue, the Chin the power of the hand, and the Frank the power of the mind.

The hand is quicker than the eye?

A problem needs fixing.  Remove the temptation.

Done.

Last edited by Void (2023-02-14 13:39:50)


Done.

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#5 2023-02-14 18:26:43

kbd512
Administrator
Registered: 2015-01-02
Posts: 6,766

Re: Much Ado About Weather Balloons

Void,

I just learned about "Kessler Syndrome", but this is possible without any wars fought in space.  We keep sending up more and more satellites, without having the world's best organizational arrangements.  We're bound to have some chain reactions sooner rather than later.  I sincerely doubt that all orbits for objects larger than a ping pong ball have been accurately mapped.  We'd probably need some kind of laser mapping satellite for that, which would ad another piece of potential space debris to the ever-growing collection.

I agree that we need to remove that temptation to misbehave.  In the past, when the US Navy was very visibly present in the Persian Gulf and South China Sea at all times, there was far less bad behavior on the part of China or Russia.  We still played our reindeer games with each other, but they seemed to understand and begrudgingly accept that if they tried to jump off on someone else, that we'd be there to stop them.

Now that our presence in Asia and the Middle East is more haphazard, or entirely nonexistent, the local toughs are taking advantage and threatening war with their neighbors.

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#6 2023-02-15 11:22:04

GW Johnson
Member
From: McGregor, Texas USA
Registered: 2011-12-04
Posts: 5,083
Website

Re: Much Ado About Weather Balloons

Kbd512:

quote:  Now that our presence in Asia and the Middle East is more haphazard, or entirely nonexistent, the local toughs are taking advantage and threatening war with their neighbors.

I think that assessment is exactly right.  We still had cruisers with 8-inch guns on them back then,  too. Your boat has to have guns if you want to do gunboat diplomacy.  Which we did back then,  and it worked.

Void:

There is a great deal of difference between the spy balloon (or spy plane) scenario and the spy satellite scenario.  It is two-fold: 

(1) spy satellites are considered kosher by most nations,  based on the "open skies" principle in place since Sputnik 1 in 1957.  The first anti-satellite technologies did not appear for another 30 years,  although the Russian manned spy satellite ca. 1970 had a 23 mm cannon as a self-protection weapon against any US vehicles trying to approach it close enough to inspect or interfere with it.   Dictatorships do tend to be more paranoid than open societies.  "Open skies" does NOT (and never did) apply to spy planes or spy balloons or any craft down in the atmosphere.

(2) the closer the camera is to its target the higher-resolution the photography and the lower-technology and physical size is required for the optics.  Even today,  a camera at 70-100,000 feet can take much higher resolution pictures with devices that fit into small spaces aboard airplanes,  and do not weigh very much.  Cameras aboard satellites ~600 miles up require voluminous and massive folded optics,  with very large objective lenses,  to equal that resolution (reading license plates from orbit vs just from high altitude aircraft).  Failing that huge set of optics,  you always end up taking pictures of far less resolution.  That's just the physics of optics,  and it ain't gonna change.  You can't cheat.  The space shuttle's 15 ft diameter x 60 foot long cargo bay was set by the physical size of the KH-11 and Kh-12 spy satellites that it used to launch before the Challenger disaster.  Those same spy satellites set its delivered payload mass capacity,  too.

GW

Last edited by GW Johnson (2023-02-15 11:25:05)


GW Johnson
McGregor,  Texas

"There is nothing as expensive as a dead crew,  especially one dead from a bad management decision"

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#7 2023-02-15 13:54:26

Mars_B4_Moon
Member
Registered: 2006-03-23
Posts: 6,244

Re: Much Ado About Weather Balloons

GW Johnson wrote:

"Open skies" does NOT (and never did) apply to spy planes or spy balloons or any craft down in the atmosphere.

GW

GW Johnson I believe this is true and not true, the term 'open secret' describes Info that is widely known, but not acknowledged openly. A lot of Open Skies activity may have been an 'Open Secret' I believe un- officially some aircraft do wander around a little and go off course, they are supposed to deliver cargo or go from one airport or take tourism trips moving from one place to another but then go off on their own in the longer route direction for a while and these aircraft might have a type of sensor or camera underneath. These aircraft might be the Russian Tupolev Tu-214,  the Swedish Saab 340 aircraft, USAF built or previously US owned observation aircraft, I believe the British Airforce or RAF use a Hawker Andover, French aircraft which have been bought and updated by the German military for example German Air Force purchased an Airbus and might have done something to this commercial civilian airbus and improve the aircraft's ability to see.

https://web.archive.org/web/20081017174 … /index.cfm

Bush snr or 41st President George H. W. Bush pushed the concept. The treaty entered into force on 2 January 2002, after Russia and Belarus completed ratification procedures.

Both Russia and the United States have alleged that the other is violating the provisions of the treaty. China did not admit spying with aircraft and yet it also criticized withdrawal from the Open Skies, there are also many companies in China which build Aircraft parts like Chengdu, Shengyan they make both civilian commercial parts and military parts so logically Chinese probably were also benefiting from this Treaty by using aircraft in spying.

Russia and the USA both announced the plan for withdrawing from the Treaty on Open Skies

At one time a Statue on the Ground was used as a 'bug' they dressed 'The Thing' up like an Eagle also known as the Great Seal bug, was one of the first covert listening devices to use passive techniques to transmit an audio signal, it was discovered accidentally in 1951 by a British radio operator at the British Embassy who overheard American conversations on an open Soviet Air Force radio channel, a soccer ball given as a gift by Vladimir Putin incited fears of similar listening devices, while the laser microphone is a device that uses a laser beam to detect sound vibrations.
https://www.cryptomuseum.com/covert/bug … /index.htm

Reconnaissance or Surveillance has been happening for a long time in the 1790s in France they used Balloons and before Aircraft, there were birds or Pigeon with miniature camera on their chests, if someone is innovative enough with manufacturing  I would not be shocked to discover a type of beetle and dragonfly discovered one day that is not a real insect animal but a 'spy robot' or something even smaller and more hidden, the media of course would probably be shocked to discover such a news story, I would not be shocked to discover people's social media video links and texts are 'spying' on them.

Last edited by Mars_B4_Moon (2023-02-15 13:57:02)

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#8 2023-02-16 10:20:02

GW Johnson
Member
From: McGregor, Texas USA
Registered: 2011-12-04
Posts: 5,083
Website

Re: Much Ado About Weather Balloons

I'm not aware of all the treaties we signed,  certainly not one under the name "open skies".  Shortly after Sputnik 1 in 1957,  that term "open skies" did not refer to any treaty at all,  it referred to an understanding between the US and the Soviets that we would not mess with each others' spy satellites.  These were freely allowed to fly in pretty much any orbits desired.  That had nothing to do with spy planes (note the Francis G. Powers incident with the U-2 in 1960;  there were others shot down before that,  just not U-2's).

There is considerable reason to believe the hypothesis that Eisenhower deliberately slowed and impeded the US satellite efforts to ensure the Soviets got Sputnik up there first,  precisely in order to set that precedent.  To this day I am not at all sure Vanguard could have gotten there first,  but I am sure Von Braun's modified Redstone with Explorer-1 could have been first.  They were prevented from proceeding,  and were called upon only to catch up fast,  when Vanguard-1 failed after the Sputnik-1 launch.  In those days,  Von Braun was working for the US Army at Huntsville,  Alabama.  There was no NASA yet,  not until 1958 did it exist.  Not too long long after NASA's formation,  Von Braun went to work for NASA,  who needed a rocket to put a man in orbit,  which about 1961 got increased to a man on the moon.  They needed his paper designs for the ICBM's that were the Saturns.

GW

Last edited by GW Johnson (2023-02-16 10:21:36)


GW Johnson
McGregor,  Texas

"There is nothing as expensive as a dead crew,  especially one dead from a bad management decision"

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#9 2023-02-18 09:52:22

kbd512
Administrator
Registered: 2015-01-02
Posts: 6,766

Re: Much Ado About Weather Balloons

GW,

Today it's more like "Tomahawk and Harpoon Boat Diplomacy", but as you noted, gunboat diplomacy requires guns... and boats.  The Navy we have today is not suitable for the global overwatch mission that the US Navy engaged in during the Cold War.  By the time President Reagan was in office, we had an 800 ship Navy.  This is precisely why I asserted that we needed a much greater number of smaller ships.

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#10 2023-02-18 09:55:19

kbd512
Administrator
Registered: 2015-01-02
Posts: 6,766

Re: Much Ado About Weather Balloons

We need 24 to 36 Assault Carriers (36 Assault Carriers = Same Price as 6 Ford class super carriers, with 3X greater availability), with another 36 to 72 Assault Cruisers (same hull, loaded with VLS cells), and hundreds of frigates in the 1,000t class (essentially missile boats with 30 knot speed carrying lots of fuel).  The Assault Carriers and Cruisers can be based upon the hull of the LPD-17 class, which costs less than an Arleigh Burke class destroyer, despite being more than double the displacement of an Arleigh Burke.  They're slower because they use cheaper diesel engines, but we could always retrofit LM2500s from decommissioned Ticonderogas or Burkes to them for 30 knot speed, if that extra 5 to 7 knots of speed over the diesel-powered LPD-17s makes all the difference in the world.  I assert that it does not, and saves a bunch of money on engines and fuel over gas turbines, but opinions vary.  The gas turbines are certainly easier to remove and service, as compared to the Colt-Pielstick diesels of the LPD-17 class, with most any dockyard crane being able to remove the entire gas turbine power pack without cutting into the hull to remove it.

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#11 2023-02-18 09:55:42

kbd512
Administrator
Registered: 2015-01-02
Posts: 6,766

Re: Much Ado About Weather Balloons

The VLS cells from the decommissioned Ticonderogas and older Arleigh Burkes will go into the new Assault Cruisers, using their drastically increased hull volume for more Tomahawks (land targets not defended by IADS) / Harpoons (ships not defended by IADS) / NSMs / LRASMs.  Each LPD-17 based Assault Cruiser should have at least 256 VLS cells (2X as many as a Ticonderoga), with 512 cells being perfectly doable (physical space and weight distribution still good to go).  There's no shortage of internal space with the well deck substituted for VLS.  389t empty weight for 244 cells (3 cells per 64 cells serve as exhaust ports for the rest of the cells in the battery, so you only get 61 cells loaded with missiles) of the Mk41 self-defense variant, 274.5t when loaded with 976 quad-packed RIM-162 ESSM, 663.5t total.  464.5t for 244 cells of the Mk41 strike variant (can carry Tomahawk or LRASM).  244 Tomahawks would add 387.5t and 244 LRASM would add 487t.  So, 1,615t for a maximum loadout configuration with the heaviest weapons used by the Navy.  This would mean a single Assault Cruiser could hit most of the major surface combatants of the Chinese PLAN at least once with LRASM, and fire a RIM-162 at virtually all of their front line tactical fighters if they venture to within 25 miles or so.  If the cells are loaded with extended range RIM-174 Standard Missiles, then any aircraft within 100 miles and flying up to 110,000 feet is fair game, but you get a maximum of 244 of those and they cost over $4M per copy.  If an Assault Cruiser was loaded with 244 RIM-174 and 244 LRASM, then the missile loadout is worth more than the ship hull by a lot.  After you add in AEGIS, it's about equal in terms of cost.

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#12 2023-02-18 09:56:05

kbd512
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Re: Much Ado About Weather Balloons

It's impossible to overstate the importance of VLS magazine capacity since these ships can only replenish missiles in a port with the correct missile handling equipment.  Whatever you have in your magazine is what you'll be fighting with for the duration of a deployment, and such is now the case for virtually all naval ships from all countries.  Missile replenishment at sea, via UNREP, was found to be both dangerous and impractical, to the point that nobody does it.  You're suspending missiles the size and weight of a car above a magazine loaded with other weapons, so dropping or bashing the missile into the side of the magazine is not recommended.  Much smaller missiles like RIM-116 (Sidewinder-based point defense weapon against missiles / drones) are reloadable at sea because they're hand-carried and inserted into the magazine cells.  Anything larger than the AIM-120 / NASAMS is not hand-reloadable.  This includes RIM-162 ESSM (these have been replenished at sea, but only using above-deck VLS tubes where the entire empty tube is removed and substituted with a new one, but they're quad-packed into single VLS cells), SM-2/3/6 (aka, "Standard Missiles"), Harpoon or Kongsberg's new Naval Strike Missile or Lockheed's stealthy LRASM, Tomahawk, and rocket-launched torpedoes like ASROC.

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#13 2023-02-18 09:56:24

kbd512
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Re: Much Ado About Weather Balloons

The more VLS cells you can pack into a single ship, the fewer ships you need for offensive strike missions or to provide air defense support for a carrier battle group.  At least 70% of your cells are devoted to air defense, with the remainder typically being Tomahawks or other larger cruise missiles like LRASM.  A literal handful of cells are devoted to smaller purpose-built anti-ship missiles like Harpoon or Naval Strike Missile or rocket-propelled torpedoes like ASROC.  These weapons are useful to have for targets of opportunity, but getting close enough to enemy ships or submarines to deploy them is generally a sign of poor sensor capabilities and/or bad tactics.  This is because the enemy can easily shoot back at you if they have similar weapons, and they do.  Engaging them with aircraft or submarines or screening frigates at long range is the preferred method of dealing with them.

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#14 2023-02-18 09:56:45

kbd512
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Re: Much Ado About Weather Balloons

In general, we need a rethink on how frigates are used.  Modern destroyers or destroyers pretending to be frigates are too large and expensive and complex.  Frigates should be the primary offensive fighting force.  They need to be small so we can build a lot of them, and they need to have exceptionally powerful point-defenses against drones or missiles, with all VLS magazine capacity reserved for smaller but more capable anti-ship missiles like the NSM.  Destroying air targets 50+ miles away, as part of a carrier battle group, using ESSM or SM is an impractical ask for such ships.  Each Assault Carrier should be paired with an Assault Cruiser for battle group air defense.  It's the same hull, one having a flight deck and the other having row upon row of VLS cells.  In the "New Navy", the frigate will be used to hunt down and disable / destroy enemy ships ahead of the passage of the Assault Carriers / Cruisers, calling upon long range cruise missiles like LRASM from the Assault Cruisers sailing hundreds of miles behind their wake.  The carrier aircraft will either support frigate attacks on enemy ships or concentrate on destruction of targets ashore.

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#15 2023-02-18 09:57:05

kbd512
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Re: Much Ado About Weather Balloons

True frigates, much smaller than the LCS class, which attempted to "please too many customers", must become the new "tip of the spear" in naval warfare.  LCS was an experiment which attempted to turn frigate-sized ships into pseudo-destroyers / mine hunters / submarine hunters / littoral patrol craft / every other role the Navy tried to foist upon them.  Ultimately, it didn't work.  The "modular design" of the mission equipment bay made it technically doable, but in no way practical.  The time and expense to convert the frigates to serve different roles was excessive, and the ships were so fragile to give them their 40+ knot top speeds that they were unusable, frequently breaking down (engine and hull failure) within weeks of setting sail.  Captains who tried to use their extra speed quickly learned not to.  A series of even smaller purpose-built ships, built to the 30 knot speed standard, with one mission equipment package per vessel would've worked.  No money was saved in the end, and some LCS were decommissioned almost as soon as they were in service, within 2 years in one instance.  We blew mad money to achieve nothing of utility to the Navy, so now we're building the Constellation class frigates, which is another mad attempt to turn a frigate into a destroyer without calling it a destroyer.

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#16 2023-02-18 09:57:34

kbd512
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Re: Much Ado About Weather Balloons

Between Zumwalt stealth destroyer / pseudo-cruiser without magazine depth, LCS corvette / pseudo-frigate, Ford electrical gadget laden aircraft carrier which will hopefully work since they cost too much to scrap, and now Constellation frigate / pseudo-destroyer, the Navy has built an entire series of different classes of warships that are unfit for purpose, by their own officers' description of the finished product the Navy received.  No similar criticisms were leveled at the Nimitz, Ticonderoga, Arleigh Burke, or OH Perry classes, because the designers of those vessels decided what they would do for the Navy, and then filled their respective roles.  No attempt was made to reduce the draft of the Arleigh Burke so it would be a better littoral combat ship and whether it could go 10 knots faster was irrelevant because it could keep up with a Nimitz class aircraft carrier.  That's all it actually had to do to be useful as an air defense screening destroyer.  Whether or not it could mount a bigger gun to attack land targets was also irrelevant.  In the realm of sane ship design, you pick a role for a ship to fill and then build it to best fill that role.  It cannot be all things to all customers.  The LPD-17 hull design happens to lend itself well to carrying micro fighters or lots of VLS cells or a very large well deck for amphibious assaults.  It will never be a replacement for the Nimitz class, but I would argue that the Nimitz class is unnecessary, if the US can affordably field dozens of smaller Assault Carriers about 1/4 the tonnage of a Nimitz or Ford class nuclear powered aircraft carrier.

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#17 2023-02-18 09:57:58

kbd512
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Re: Much Ado About Weather Balloons

Sensor / computer technology of the 1960s to 1980s and the imprecise nature of weapons built with those electronics drove the increase in size / weight of all combat aircraft.  With sensor and electronics miniaturization and drastic increases in weapons precision, there is no longer any hard requirement for a physically large jet to carry multiple 2,000 pound class munitions.  There's also a drive to carry weapons internally for stealth, which limits your offensive loadout to a pair of 2,000 pound weapons in the case of the F-35 or 1,000 pound weapons for the F-22.  This is not an acute problem, because in practice a single jet delivers 1 to 2 bombs or missiles to a single target and then heads home.  Since there are exceedingly few targets that require the use of a 2,000 pound weapon to destroy them, the carrying capacity of the F-35 is largely wasted.  It would be better to have a 4 to 6 much smaller attack jets carrying a pair of weapons with the same weight / size as a 155mm artillery shell.  Any vehicle except a ship would be outright destroyed if a 155 shell landed on it.  Any structure short of a hardened bunker would be severely damaged or destroyed by that shell.  The ability to simultaneously engage 8 to 16 targets is more important than 1 to 2 targets that a single F-35 can hit per mission.  Unless multiple targets are co-located, then a jet must fly to the target and then back to the boat or a tanker.  In practice, this is what I saw in Afghanistan.  If you took off with 4 Mk84s, then you weren't landing until at least 2 of those weapons and preferably all of them were expended, hence the shift to Mk83s as the deployment progressed.  The act of disabling or destroying targets at a much faster rate prevents the enemy from responding.  Apart from that, since your ordies can physically pick up the munitions, special equipment to arm the aircraft is not required.  There are a considerable number of support machines and vehicles required to run operations on Nimitz and Ford class carriers, on account of how large and heavy the weapons and aircraft have become, which is now largely wasted capability thanks to precision munitions.  You can make the pieces of the target fly farther from the point of impact using larger warheads, but dead is still dead.  Any enemy ship hit with a 127 or 155 dropped from a micro fighter will still be damaged.  If its weapons and sensors are wrecked, then it's no longer a warship.  You move on to the next target after you do that.  Sinking enemy warships is not a priority when submarines can sink them later at their leisure.

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#18 2023-02-18 09:58:22

kbd512
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Re: Much Ado About Weather Balloons

The Navy spends mad money on all these super weapon programs (Zumwalt, LCS, Ford, and now the new Constellation class frigates), but has no real reason to have them.  The LCS was a great concept, but the ships were too fragile because too much attention was paid to speed rather than firepower.  All ships are pretty darned slow, so 10 extra knots of speed are pointless if it comes at the cost of durability (the ability to withstand pounding from waves in blue water ops, not armor against enemy weapons, which is equally pointless when someone can simply put a bigger warhead in their anti-ship missile) and firepower.  Naval battles are determined by sensor capabilities / awareness and firepower.  Meaningless differences in top speeds or armor or armaments are bad design criteria that seriously detract from newer / better sensors and firepower.  The more affordable ship hulls you have, armed with greater numbers of missiles, with decent sensors (not necessarily the latest and greatest of anything), the more real combat power you have.

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#19 2023-02-18 09:58:44

kbd512
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Re: Much Ado About Weather Balloons

It's always been that simple.  The F-14 and F-15 were not "better fighters" than upgraded F-4s with turbofan engines and conformal fuel tanks and new avionics.  There's a very old and very tired argument that it's cheaper to build new war machines from scratch than it is to upgrade existing ones.  This is absurdly false.  All the upgrades to the teen series of fighters more or less proves that.  If you flew the then-new F-14s / F-15s / F-16s / F/A-18s against a F-4 equipped with the F-35s sensors and weapons, then you would get your rear end handed to you in a shooting war.  The F-4 had enough speed and enough maneuverability to make it competitive, and the rest was down to the quality of its sensors and weapons.  You will not "outrun" a missile and you're not going to "turn inside the missile" without precise timing and the energy to maneuver, which is purely a matter of thrust, not newer airframe designs.

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#20 2023-02-18 09:59:06

kbd512
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Re: Much Ado About Weather Balloons

We cannot "undo" the multi-trillion-dollar mistake of thinking that having new toys would change the course of a war, but we can stop this super weapon nonsense, which doomed the nazis to failure, and instead focus on having a whole lot more ships and aircraft that we can afford to fly and lose to enemy action in a shooting war with a near-peer adversary.

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#21 2023-02-18 09:59:25

kbd512
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Re: Much Ado About Weather Balloons

In WWII, the US had the "Baby Flat Top" aircraft carrier built by the dozens.  They were 15,000t to 25,000t ships that were not particularly fast, but they were fast enough to carry dozens of aircraft into the Pacific during WWII, and since the Japanese focused on "super carriers" and "super battleships", which were all lost to air power from comparatively cheap aircraft with limited performance capabilities, they ran out of ships.  Our weapons and actual capabilities at the start of WWII were laughably poor, but since our enemies fixated on super weapons over quantity, their combat capabilities steadily declined as casualties mounted.  The fate of the nazi battleship Bismarck was determined by a biplane carrying a single torpedo.  It mattered very little that some of those Swordfish biplanes were shot down in the process.  The end result was that the Bismarck was sent to the bottom of the Atlantic.  Maybe some 400mph "super torpedo bomber" would've suffered fewer losses during the attack, but losing even one of those super planes would be a serious loss.

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#22 2023-02-18 09:59:45

kbd512
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Re: Much Ado About Weather Balloons

All naval aviators will tell you that their #1 job is to put ordnance on target, which means attacking ground targets with bombs or sometimes missiles.  The Navy only uses missiles when no bomb can get the job done acceptably well.  You do not need any $80M super weapons to do that.  Some stealth is highly desirable, but attacking a single target using 1 or 2 pieces of ordnance, which are increasingly smaller but extremely accurate, is the name of the game.  The insistence on spending more and more money for marginal increases in seldom-used capabilities that most never have the opportunity to use, is why we're at where we are today, with a Navy that lacks enough ships and planes to conduct global deterrence.

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#23 2023-02-18 10:00:03

kbd512
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Re: Much Ado About Weather Balloons

I explained at some length about how supersonic speed requirements detracts so significantly from attack capabilities.  Any plane designed for supersonic flight will inevitably burn through considerably more fuel than a subsonic plane, just to remain airborne.  Maximum speeds achieved during the Viet Nam War, between opposing jet fighters specifically designed for high speed flight, was Mach 1.2.  Nobody ever went any faster during that shooting war, where both sides were firing off as many missiles in a day as they do in Ukraine in a month, because the moment they did they also ran out of fuel.  Speed was and is not a panacea.  As great as maneuverability is, which is one characteristic that separates a true fighter from other kinds of aircraft, most aircraft shot down on both sides were never aware of what shot them down.  That means sensor capabilities / awareness, and getting off that all-important "first shot", reigned supreme.  Nothing has changed since then.  Nothing was different before then, either.  If you saw the enemy first and fired first during WWII, then most of the time you won, regardless of what you and your adversary were flying.

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#24 2023-02-18 10:00:29

kbd512
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Re: Much Ado About Weather Balloons

The micro fighters and baby flat tops represent real combat capabilities when you can afford to field aircraft carriers by the dozen and tactical fighters by the thousands.  You can't sink an aircraft carrier using a 250 pound bomb, but the moment you put a hole in its flight deck, it ceases to be an operable aircraft carrier.  Any target smaller than a ship will be destroyed outright, and the overwhelming majority of targets are not ships.  In the same way that there's a legitimate use of force, there's also a legitimate economy of force.  It's not economical to use a F-35 or Super Hornet to kill a tank or artillery piece or ammo dump when a smaller jet carrying a couple of small bombs will do the job.

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#25 2023-02-18 10:00:52

kbd512
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Re: Much Ado About Weather Balloons

If we still want to have global trade and international travel, then we ought to think about the role our military played to facilitate those activities following WWII.  As of right now, our force structure is woefully ill-equipped to do that.  The entire power projection concept gets turned on its head when you can no longer afford to operate the military hardware required to do that.  We need larger but lower cost ships carrying a lot more weapons, we need a lot more aircraft carriers with much smaller planes that are more appropriate for taking out small targets on land and the smaller ships operated by the PLAN.  PLAN has more ships than the US Navy, but they tend to be smaller and not as well defended from air attack.  This means they're vulnerable to micro fighters carrying 2 to 4 155mm artillery shell sized munitions that can wreck their sensors and weapon systems, or set fire to the ships when loaded with incendiary compounds.  They won't sink their ships, but the point is to disable their naval and air forces, without which they lack the power projection capabilities to attack their neighbors, especially Taiwan or Japan.  Since nobody uses substantial armor these days, 155 will kill an AESA radar or EO sensor turret, it will kill a small gun mount, it will kill a VLS battery, and it will kill any land vehicle including tanks.  127mm and 155mm is pretty cheap, we make them by the millions, and we can afford the quantities of shells required to annihilate any military.  Ukraine is proof positive that artillery shells, especially ones fitted with guidance kits, are the correct weapons for defensive warfare.

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