Cold Fury

Harshing your mellow since 9/01

Putting the “dog” in “dogfight”

The F35: boondoggle, or abject failure?

The F-35 (also known as the Joint Strike Fighter) is a military jet that was supposed to be able to do it all. The program was started in the 1990s with the intention that it could serve the Air Force, the Navy and the Marines and their various mission needs with only minimal changes to the initial platform. That would deliver cost savings across decades as one jet replaced (at least) three other types of planes. It seemed like a great idea in concept.

But, predictably, the jet that tried to do everything ended up having more problems than successes. By the time designers had added stealth technology, short runway functionality, and various weapon systems, they had a jet that was too bulky, too slow and too costly. “The result is an expensive jack-of-all-trades, but a master of none,” The National Interest’s Dave Majumdar writes, calling the JSF “one of the 5 worst fighter jets ever made.”

It wasn’t supposed to be this way. By this time, Lockheed was supposed to be churning out F-35 jets at a cost of $40-$50 million each. Instead, the military now says it wants to buy 470 of the fighters, at a cost of $34 billion. That would be more than $80 million per plane, twice what was promised.

Yet even as it tries to buy more of these planes, throwing good money after bad, the Pentagon admits the JSF program is failing. The Air Force’s top testing official wrote in 2016 that the F-35 is “not effective and not suitable across the required mission areas and against currently fielded treats.”

It also falls short of existing platforms. Military analyst Dan Grazier writes, “In the air-to-air mission, the current F-35 is similarly incapable of matching legacy aircraft like the F-15, F-16, and F-22.” And when it comes to supporting troops on the ground, the one job the JSF was supposed to be designed for, “testing shows the F-35 is incapable of performing most of the functions required for an acceptable close support aircraft, functions the A-10 is performing daily in current combat.” One reason for that failure is that the F-35s guns aren’t very accurate. A report noted that pilots routinely miss their targets because of software failures.

As I’ve noted before, almost every new military aircraft, going at least as far back as the early Allison-engined P51 variants, gives off a certain stench of failure in the beginning. Not just aircraft, either: anybody recall back when the preliminary versions of the M1 Abrams MBT—now regarded by one and all as a more-or-less invincible world-beater—was declared a too-slow, too-heavy, too-fragile hunk o’ junk in the early runnin’s?

There’s always a shake-down period before any new piece of military hardware’s finer qualities begin to come shining through, particularly when what we’re talking about isn’t an incremental update we’re talking about, but a relatively radical departure from whatever preceded it. Those shake-down periods can take a long time before all the bugs are worked out, too. And if any of y’all can remember the last time a shiny new system like the F35 came in under—or even CLOSE TO—budget, feel free to remind me. Because I can’t.

For whatever it’s worth, my own opinion is that our mistake was made when we abandoned the F22 platform prematurely. An old Vodkapundit article linked at the end of the above one shares that sentiment:

For the U.S. Air Force, the most obvious alternative would be to resurrect the Lockheed Martin F-22 Raptor. While reconstituting the production line would be expensive and difficult, it could be done. The U.S. Air Force stored the tooling for the aircraft—and while that storage process has problems, it’s not an insurmountable challenge. The more difficult problem will be the subcomponents. Indeed, most of the Raptor’s antiquated computer hardware hasn’t been built in years. However, a fleet of four hundred new F-22 Raptors would give the service a force capable of knocking down the door for follow-on conventional fighters such as upgraded or even new Lockheed F-16s or Boeing F-15E Strike Eagles.

As Stephen muses, a thornier dilemna would be figuring out where Marine Corps fixed-wing aviation will be left should the F35 be dumped, and how to resolve it. Marine CAS cannot live on Harriers and Ospreys alone, it seems.

Experience shows that almost every attempt at producing any variety of all-purpose, “jack of all trades” device or system, in whatever field of endeavor, is doomed to wind up squarely in “master of none” territory. As the article says, “good enough for government work”—most particularly when it comes to military hardware—is just not good enough. Sadly, that begins to look more and more like where we all are with the F35, I’m afraid.

On the other hand, this part speaks well of the F35’s potential for future success once all its bugs have been well and truly exterminated:

The Washington Post reports that “the late senator John McCain called the F-35 a ‘poster child for acquisition malpractice’ a ‘scandal’ and a ‘tragedy’ at different points during his tenure as Senate Armed Services Committee chairman.” I frequently disagreed with Sen. McCain, but he was correct here. Even after all the time and money invested, the F-35 isn’t very good.

I dunno, man. If McStain was ag’in it, it’s pretty hard for me not to be for it. Tnen again, stopped clocks, blind squirrels, etc—you know the drill.


Look, up in the sky! It’s a bird! It’s a plane! It’s…uhhh…well, it’s…ummmm…well, actually, it’s…

Sky Dong!

The infamous sky penis of November 17, 2017, hovering over the clouds of Washington, was a total mystery.

On that fateful day, the puzzling dong appeared near Naval Air Station Whidbey Island, around 30 miles north of Seattle. And although the base accepted full responsibility for the phallic drawing in the sky, the public had no understanding of what had actually happened. How’d that big ol’ boner get up there anyway?

Now, two years later, a military report has shed light on the long-awaited details.

A copy of the military’s sky penis investigation was obtained by Navy Times. On that November day, local news station KREM began reporting on a clearly man-made shape in the sky that resembled a penis and testicles. The formation had upset a local parent and began making the rounds on Twitter. The Navy soon confirmed that one of its pilots had formed the phallus and issued an apology.

“The Navy holds its aircrew to the highest standards and we find this absolutely unacceptable, of zero training value and we are holding the crew accountable,” the base said in a statement at the time.

“Zero training value”? ZERO? Ace dispenses handily with that notion.

A point that should be kept in mind is that someone who is playing while actually doing their job — here, flying, executing what I’m going to guess are somewhat precise turns — is practicing that job at a high level. That is, if you’re doing something that might be unnecessary but is still part of your job and is still training your skill, you are likely learning more in those moments than most moments spent in serious study.

The “gamification” of skill-learning is powerful, I think. People like challenges. Every challenge someone makes up for himself is a little game. He understands the success and failure states. He understands that, even in this play, there is victory and their is defeat.

What I’m saying is that it’s a good thing for people to have fun in doing their jobs. Even if they burn up some extra jet-fuel doing so. A pro golfer isn’t directly helping his golf game when he starts playing around with bouncing the ball up and down from his putter-head like it’s a hacky-sack, but he is learning dexterity and comfort with the putter, stuff about balance and head-attitude he wouldn’t learn from just some more putting practice.

Maybe that won’t be helpful. But maybe it will be. It doesn’t hurt to try something different, seemingly unrelated to the core of the skill, to improve the core of the skill by an alternate angle of attack.

So maybe give these guys a (halfhearted) warning because, whatever, people are scandalized to know that Navy pilots (almost all young men) can be fans of puerile, naughty jokes.

But also bear in mind that one of the highest states of skill-acquisition is having fun with the skill and just showing it off. Doing something that seems to have no practical purpose, if it’s difficult and requires off-the-cuff improvisation and quick learning and adjustment (as the dick-drawing stunt did), does stretch and hone one’s skill.

They did have to plot out a path in three dimensional space and imagine what that path would look like as a two dimensional plane.
That’s not nothing.

The Navy probably handled this innocuous mischief perfectly: PR statements expressing OUTRAGE!, disgust, and contrition, while dealing out a finger wagged in disapprobation and a good talking-to. The officer tasked with the actual the dressing-down problem bit nearly through his lip trying not to bust out in wicked snickering. The transcript of the radio chatter from whence this inspired prank sprang—uhh, sprung?—is hilarious:

In the air that day were two lieutenants, a pilot and an electronics warfare officer, known as an EWO. They were soon edging each other on.

“Draw a giant penis,” the EWO said. “That would be awesome.”

“What did you do on your flight?” the pilot joked. “Oh, we turned dinosaurs into sky penises.”

“You should totally try to draw a penis,” the EWO advised.

The lieutenants began breaking down the concept of drawing a penis in the sky.

“I could definitely draw one, that would be easy,” the pilot said. “I could basically draw a figure eight and turn around and come back. I’m gonna go down, grab some speed and hopefully get out of the contrail layer so they’re not connected to each other.”

You telling me this WASN’T at least somewhat useful training, a honing of relevant skills? Not even a little bit?

To quote the immortal Sgt Hulka: Aww, lighten up, Francis.

Read the rest for sure, it gets even more hilarious from there. Naturally, the libmedia reportage I’ve seen dangles the inevitable “sexual harrassment” angle, although even they can only manage a half-hearted, flaccid stab at it. Yes, I’m sure some humorless bluenoses both in and out of the Navy were utterly mortified by this Crime Against Humanity. But not me. Far as I’m concerned, this stunt is one of the reasons bold, audacious young men become fighter pilots in the first place. Carry on, fellas, and good on ya.


Hog, Son Of Spad

More A-10 stuff, in a sideways sort of way. Although, as you’ll soon see, I have a different ulterior motive for mentioning this.

The air force leadership, during the decades they were very anti-A-10, did not like to discuss the usefulness of A-10s in CSAR (Combat Search and Rescue) missions. Yet this was a very popular use of the A-10 because when a pilot had to eject and was on the ground, they quickly learned that if you had the enemy nearby looking for you. What you wanted to see first was not a rescue helicopter, but an A-10, that would make sure the rescue chopper and the downed pilots were not hurt. The A-10s regularly came in low and slow seeking out enemy troops and was, unlike most aircraft, designed and armored to deal with a lot of enemy fire.

This CSAR chore was nothing new for the A-10 and goes back to before the A-10 entered service. Many reserve and National Guard A-10 squadrons regularly practiced CSAR tactics in part because many of the pilots were older and more experienced and retained memories of Vietnam, and the aircraft that inspired the A-10 by showing how such a low and slow aircraft could be invaluable during so many CSAR missions. The Vietnam era A-1 Skyraider (nicknamed “Spad”, after a famous World War I fighter) was one of the inspirations for the A-10. The A-1 was the most popular ground support aircraft during the 1960s and proved a literal lifesaver during hundreds of Vietnam CSAR missions. Developed at the end of World War II, the A-1 was an 11 ton, single seat, propeller driven aircraft that carried 3.5 tons of bombs and four 20mm autocannon. The four 20mm cannon could, altogether, fire 40 rounds a second. Cruising speed was 320 kilometers an hour (versus 560 for the A-10), and the average sortie was about four hours (a little longer than the A-10). The A-10 could go as slow as 220 kilometers an hour, which was nearly as slow as the A-1 could manage but the A-10 had a max speed of 700 kilometers an hour, more than a third faster than the A-1.

Ever since Vietnam ground troops have been agitating for another A-1. The A-10 came close, but did not have the persistence (long time over the combat area) of the A-1. But when the A-10 did get to demonstrate its CSAR capabilities during the 1991 Gulf War, there were still some Vietnam era pilots around who made the A-1/A-10 CSAR connection vividly clear. The A-10 CSAR capabilities are obvious to pilots. The A-10 is built to fly low and slow and better survive any ground fire it encounters. A-10s being jets could get to where the downed pilot was fast and then go down low to better deal with any enemy ground threat until the air force CSAR helicopters arrived. This was the same method used by A-1s in Vietnam.

That ulterior motive I mentioned? Glad you asked:

That there is a pic of me getting some stick time in the trusty Able Dog way back in ’04, which amazing experience I wrote about at greater length, with lots of photos from the flight included, here. Austin Bay’s link to a SP photo of a Skyraider legacy flight with an F-16 is what made me think of it. He says:

In 1999 I was at a small airfield in southern California. A Skyraider rolled onto the landing strip then sat there for about five minutes. The pilot slowly increased rpm until the sound split ears 250 meters away. Then he took off with a rush and climbed quickly. The Skyraider was originally a carrier aircraft. I thought the pilot might be emulating a carrier launch. If not, he was still having fun. Several observers, including me, clapped after the takeoff.

As well you should have, Austin. The Skyraider IS a loud sumbitch sure enough, I’ll testify to that. Big, heavy, sturdy, powerful; a potent attack aircraft packing some serious punch, one that performed its vital CAS/CASR role extremely well—I ask you, what’s not to like?


Tonight’s badass

The awesome A-10.

Say what you want about the Air Force being a bunch of pussies or whatever, but for my money shit doesn’t get a whole lot more badass than the A-10 Warthog.  The thing is a goddamned flying tank from Hell equipped with a badass 30mm Avenger Gatling gun the likes of which would make the Terminator soil his extra-tight leather pants.  The Avenger (even the name is badass) fires armor-piercing rounds capable of tearing gigantic sucking flesh wounds in even the most formidable Soviet-built Commie bastard battle tanks and can be switched over on the fly to dispense 4,200 high-explosive rounds per minute when it needs to blast the shit out of less heavily-armored crap like trucks, artillery, APCs, SUVs, hang gliders and renegade hot dog stands.

If that doesn’t float your boat, the thing’s also equipped with enough explosives to blast the Moon into about eight billion tiny inedible cheese wheels.  It’s got a crapload of super-accurate laser-guided air-to-ground missiles and various other high-yield bombs for taking out bunkers, SAM emplacements, radar sites, and grounded fighters, and also has air-to-air missiles in case they need to show some enemy jets what it’s like to be on the receiving end of some good old-fashioned red, white, and blue American Grade-A top-choice beef sirloin whup-ass.  It’s also also so heavily armored that it can withstand direct hits from armor-piercing and high-explosive projectiles up to 37mm in size, can survive having a 2002 VW Beetle launched at it at extremely high velocity by a Russian-made Volkswagen Cannon, and has heat-shielded engines (and sundry other countermeasures) so no Commie Nazi Terrorist Unitarian bastards can jam a heat-seeking missile up it’s ass.

The A-10 is like the grizzled old-school Linebacker of the United States Air Force.  It’s not flashy, it’s not super-fast, it’s not going to do like twenty barrel rolls just to try and prove to you how huge it’s cock is… it just shows up, fucks everyone’s shit up, and goes home.  Even it’s name is a good indicator of the fact that this plane doesn’t fuck around.  Think of it this way – while all those other hotshot fancy-pants jets are out there flying around doing fruity-ass loop-de-loops, feathering their hair and listening to “Danger Zone” with pretentious fucking extravagant nicknames like “Eagle”, “Falcon”, “Tomcat”, and “Raptor”, the A-10 is the fucking Warthog. 

Actually, it’s better than that, even. “Warthog” is just a nickname; the A-10 is officially yclept the Thunderbolt II, its ancestral namesake being itself one of the most badass planes ever to shred a Panzer, Tiger, or Leopard into constituent atoms. The P-47 Thunderbolt link in the preceding sentence was from another A-10 post of mine back in 2016; I’m pretty sure I’ve done other posts here on the almighty Thunderbolt II as well. I won’t bother looking ’em up now, though, because it would delay my sharing this killer vid with y’all:

The A-10 was basically built as a platform for the fearsome GAU-8 Avenger rotary cannon, and is one of the most durable aircraft ever put in production, by anybody. In fact, the thing is famous for being damned nigh indestructible, beloved by those who fly it for that among other reasons. Inexplicably, Chair Force brass has been trying for years and years to mothball the Warthog, despite its being one of the most useful and successful aircraft in anybody’s inventory. Libtards are horrified by the A-10 because its big honkin’ cannon spits depleted uranium rounds at its doomed prey, which is just another reason for me to love the damned thing to pieces. The gun is so powerful when firing that it can actually affect the plane’s flight characteristics somewhat.

Its pilots aren’t the only ones who love the A-10; the men on the ground who depend on the CAS it so effectively provides are big fans too:

As a former Army ground pounder, I can tell you there are few better sights than some A10’s streaking over, hitting some ground targets with that big gun, then banking hard…. little dots leaving them and heading down… the aircraft still leaving hard and roaring… and then the ground just exploding from all the cluster bombs. Wow! Right up there with the drama of overhead heavy artillery going over, then down in front of you. The shock waves go right through you.

Thankfully, it appears that even the advent of the F-35 isn’t going to force the venerable, reliable old ‘Hog into retirement, at least for now:

In 2005, a program was started to upgrade remaining A-10A aircraft to the A-10C configuration, with modern avionics for use with precision weaponry. The U.S. Air Force had stated the F-35 would replace the A-10 as it entered service, but this remains highly contentious within the USAF and in political circles. With a variety of upgrades and wing replacements, the A-10’s service life can be extended to 2040; the service has no planned retirement date as of June 2017.

Sometimes newer and flashier ain’t necessarily better. And if ain’t broke, don’t fix it.


From the horse’s mouth

The guys in the driver’s seat rate the F35.

In my interviews with F-35 pilots, one word repeatedly came up: “survivability.” Surviving the Lockheed Martin F-35’s primary mission—to penetrate sophisticated enemy air defenses and find and disable threats—requires what the fifth-generation jet offers: stealth and a stunning array of passive and active sensors bringing information to the pilot. The F-35 can see trouble coming—ahead, behind, or below the aircraft—far enough in advance to avoid a threat or kill it. Faced with multiple threats, the sensor suite recommends the order in which they should be dispatched.

U.S. forces first took these capabilities into combat last September, when Marine F-35Bs struck the Taliban in Afghanistan (five months after its combat debut with the Israeli air force). More than 360 of the multi-service aircraft—Air Force F-35As, Marine short-takeoff-and-vertical-landing Bs, and carrier-capable Cs—have been delivered to 16 U.S. airbases and to seven other countries. Reaching these milestones has not been easy. The program’s difficulties and its cost—$406 billion for development and acquisition—have been widely reported. But now the F-35 is in the hands of the best judges of its performance, its pilots. I asked eight of them—test pilots who contributed to the jet’s development as well as active-duty pilots—about their experiences. Here, in their own words, are their answers.

I myself have teetered right on the very edge of unalloyed skeptic status when it comes to this bird. There have been serious gripes about the Lightning II from the very start—about expense, performance, the complexity and reliability of its electronics suite, etc. Then again, this sort of thing has been true of every new military aircraft type during its shakedown period, most especially with the fighters. As I said in the aforelinked post, even my beloved P51 was considered by pretty much everybody to be a total dog until its Merlin-engine, bubble-canopy “D” version came along. The issues will either be addressed and the thing will be a worldbeater for the next fifty years, or they won’t…in which case it will turn out to be the most expensive doorstop in history.

One of the things that kind of frosts me with the F35 was how the underappreciated F22 got the military-aviation version of the bum’s rush in a most undignified way to make room for it, despite the Raptor being a highly capable platform at a far less aneurysm-inducing sticker price. The very first pilot quoted in the article puts paid to at least some of my caviling and kvetching:

For four years, all people could talk about was how we’d lost a dogfight against a 40-year-old F-16. Paris was the first time we showed what the airplane could do. The F-35 engine is the most powerful fighter engine in the world, so on takeoff, I pulled straight up. The F-22 Raptor is an airshow favorite because it is super maneuverable. It has thrust vectoring; it controls the engine exhaust with paddles that move. The F-22 can do a downward spiral, and I did the same thing in the F-35—without thrust vectoring. I pull up to vertical, skid the airplane over the top, and spiral down like a helicopter hovers. That pedal turn [executed with rudder inputs] ended the discussion of how an F-35 would perform in a dogfight.

The second reviewer hits on something a good bit more important than that:

If you were to write down all the ways in which you could measure an airplane—payload, fuel, ordnance, handling—and ask 100 pilots to rank which is the most important, I guarantee you that 100 out of 100 pilots would say “situational awareness.” By far. Not a single pilot in the world would say “turn radius.” Not one. Because the more you know, the more accurately you know it, the better able you are to make a decision.

In situational awareness, the F-35 is superior to all platforms, including the Raptor. I’d never been in an airplane that so effectively and seamlessly integrates information to tell me what’s going on around me—and not just from the radio frequency spectrum, but laser, infrared, electro-optical. That’s usually the first thing people notice when they get in the airplane. They know so much more than they ever knew before.

Fair enough, I suppose. Now if we can just find a way to get our fighter jocks some stick time training in actual aircraft instead of simulators.


Expert opinion

Anybody who still buys into the Progressivist premise that the only sensible and proper way of running things is to allow “experts” to micromanage our lives for us—most especially, to plan our future according to their own stilted “vision” and half-bright assumptions—is a damned idiot.

As a scientific achievement, as a demonstration of cool nerve, or as an example of control of brain and muscle, cultivated to the point where it becomes instinctive, Wilbur Wright’s flight up the Hudson on October 4 is memorable. But the leap by which popular imagination flies to the interpretation that this performance establishes commercial supremacy of the aeroplane is purely fantastic. Emotion has run away with reason.


We do not query the interest or excellence of the Wrights’ mechanical achievement. There is no reason apparently why they should not vastly better any recorded performance—fly thousands of feet high, or hundreds of miles in distance. Our skepticism is only as to the utilitarian value of any present or possible achievement of the aeroplane. We do not believe it will ever be a commercial vehicle at all. We do not believe it will find any very large place in the world of sport. We do not believe its military importance is as great as is commonly supposed, or will extend (except accidentally) beyond the range of scouting and courier service. Even here it remains wholly indeterminate how much (except mutual destruction) can actually be accomplished by men in flying-machines, if other men in other flying-machines are trying to prevent the accomplishment. And even the attempt must always be limited by the absolute dependence of aerial navigation upon weather conditions which in most places and in average seasons exist during only a minor fraction of the time.

Emphasis mine, and sidesplittingly hilarious. Hidebound, arrogant “experts” who dismiss epoch-shattering developments only to be embarrasingly proved ass-backwards and wrong when their cherished assumptions are overtaken by creativity and innovation is an old, old story, of course. It’s applicable to a whole hell of a lot more than just aviation, too. As Novak says:

The airplane still had to prove itself in many ways. And respected people in respected publications were saying rather bluntly that not only would the airplane not be used for commercial purposes anytime soon, it would never be used for them at all. As the Literary Digest suggested, maybe airplanes were just novelties like the tightrope walker.

History would prove these people wrong. But history would also largely forget that there was ever a question that aircraft would zip around the skies transporting people and goods. There was nothing inevitable about the future, despite it always feeling that way—whether we’re talking about air travel, smartphones, or politics.

It isn’t even “inevitable” that we’ll HAVE a future in the first place, when you think about it. The one thing we ought to have learned by now is that, whatever the future may bring, it is unlikely in the extreme to look like anything even the most wild-eyed visionary nut among us could dream up. If you don’t believe it, go back and read some Heinlein or H Beam Piper. Marvel at the many things they got right, or were at least close…and then marvel just as deeply that, in most of the future worlds they so brilliantly crafted for us, people are still using paper as a primary means of communication, and computers are still printing out their calculations on it—laboriously, with much loud clattering, and sloooooowly.

We humans seem to have an immutable tendency to always assume that current conditions will hold forever, without change or adjustment, all historical evidence to the contrary. Assumptions of that precise nature are pretty much the primary basis of climate change hysteria, just to name one example—among those who ARE sincerely hysterical about it, rather than using it as a scam to pimp an anti-capitalist, anti-American agenda, anyway.

Don’t know how or where Novak ran across the old Engineering Magazine article quoted above, but it was a real find, and I’m very glad he shared it with us.


As God is my witness, I thought turkeys could fly

I look forward to seeing what Cap Lion has to say about this one; he’s very damned knowledgable about this stuff, for reasons I won’t go into to protect his privacy.

This is the U.S.’s Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II, the next generation of American fighter jets. It has been in development since 1992. All told the program is slated to cost upwards of a trillion dollars.

And it is one of the most colossal pieces of shit ever created.

The F-35 is supposed to replace the F-16 and the A-10 (the Skydive and Powerglide planes.) Like the A-10 it’s supposed to be a fighter and a bomber, and is supposed to be able to carry a bunch more bombs than the F-22 (Starscream from the movies.)

It’s also supposed to be a single plane shared between the Marines, Air Force, and Navy. This is where the problems start.

“It famously lost in mock aerial combat within visual range (WVR), where its radar stealth is of no advantage, to an F-16 in early 2015, one of the planes the F-35 is supposed to replace as an aerial fighter. The F-35 lost repeatedly in air-to-air maneuvering”

“despite the fact that the test was rigged in its favor because the F-16 employed was the heavier two-seater version and was further loaded down with heavy, drag-inducing external fuel tanks to hinder its maneuverability.”


Now it’s true that many if not most of our successful military aircraft have been dismissed as staggering crap in the early going, only to later find their footing as flaws are identified and necessary adjustments are made. The P51 Mustang, to cite just one example, was kind of, umm, underwhelming until the D version, when the bubble canopy replaced the old razorback fuselage and the Allison engine was replaced with the Packard-built version of the Rolls Royce Merlin. It went on from there to become a true legend, and deservedly so.

That said, it’s also one of life’s across-the-board truisms—from aircraft to motorcycles to cars to tools to musical instruments to etc—that when you set out to design something capable of everything, you usually wind up with something incapable of almost anything, and excels at nothing. Too, the F35 has been kicking around since 1992; its flaws ought to have been identified and fixed by now, surely. Especially when you consider the Mustang’s first flight was in 1940, and it had been transformed into a world-beater a scant three years later. It remained in use well into the Korean war. Some countries’ air forces were still flying them in the 1980s(!).

Anyway, y’all feel free to kick this can around some yourselves in the comments. My own opinion, for whatever it’s worth, is that we shouldn’t have been so quick to abandon the F22. I’d bet we’re going to be relying on our beat-up old F16s, F18s, B52s, and A10s to get the job done for a good long while yet.

(Via Weird Dave)


Happy birthday

To the RAF:

For this Easter Day, we have an audio special for you telling the story of the only Easter standard in the American songbook. However, April 1st 2018 is not only Easter, and not only All Fools’ Day, but also the one hundredth birthday of the Royal Air Force. So I thought this day we’d incline our eyes and ears skyward:

In April 1911 the British Army’s Royal Engineers formed the first air battalion, consisting of aircraft, airships, balloons, and men with kites. At the end of the year the Royal Naval Flying School was born. The following year – 1912 – both were merged into the army’s Royal Flying Corps. By 1914 the navy had reasserted itself and inaugurated the Royal Naval Air Service. And finally on this day exactly a century ago the RFC and the RNAS were merged to form an entirely separate third branch of the British military – the Royal Air Force, the first such independent air force in the world.

Good illustration accompanying the article of what I believe is an SE5, if I remember right. Nice enough, I guess, but when it comes to WW1-era flying contraptions my heart will always belong to the good ol’ SPAD XIII, with special fond mention going to the Fokker DR1. Read on to see where Steyn takes things.


A tale of woe

I’m sure you all know by now that I have an enduring enthusiasm for and interest in aviation, military aircraft in particular. Planes captivated me way back when I was a kid, and that love has stayed with me. Even after working at the airport in the air freight biz for more than 22 years, I have never yet tired of seeing the things take off and land, and to this day will watch them doing it every single chance I get.

As much I’ve studied them over the years, there remains plenty I don’t know about the wondrous machines, and I ran across one example of that shortfall here: a 50s-era jet built by Republic, the F84F Thunderstreak and its variants. I’d never heard of the danged thing at all, which is actually not too much of a shock since for some reason my interest in roughly Korean-War-era jets pretty much begins and ends with one of my all-time favorites: the beautiful and formidable F86 Saber, one of the most wildly successful fighters ever built by anybody.

So I see this Thunderstreak mentioned peripherally in the above-linked ONT post and naturally Googled it right away, my curiosity piqued. As it happens, my prior lack of any awareness of this thing’s existence can be attributed to more than just my general lack of knowledge of aircraft from that era; the thing was a turkey, a near-complete failure, and was abandoned in relatively short order as these things go. It was a disaster right from the git-go. To wit:

Production quickly ran into problems. Although tooling commonality with the Thunderjet was supposed to be 55 percent, in reality only fifteen percent of tools could be reused. To make matters worse, the F-84F utilized press-forged wing spars and ribs. At the time, only three presses in the United States could manufacture these, and priority was given to the Boeing B-47 Stratojet bomber over the F-84. The YJ65-W-1 engine was considered obsolete and the improved J65-W-3 did not become available until 1954. When the first production F-84F finally flew on 22 November 1952, it differed from the service test aircraft. It had a different canopy which opened up and back instead of sliding to the rear, as well as airbrakes on the sides of the fuselage instead of the bottom of the aircraft. The aircraft was considered not ready for operational deployment due to control and stability problems. The first 275 aircraft, equipped with conventional stabilizer-elevator tailplanes, suffered from accelerated stall pitch-up and poor turning ability at combat speeds.

Um. Well, okay, so there were some early bugs; these things happen in the military aviation field, certainly. But they usually get ’em worked out, right? Design flaws, production problems—these things can be and are addressed and corrected fairly promptly as and when they crop up, right? Resulting eventually in an at least serviceable and useful platform, sometimes even going on to excel in a role quite different from the one envisioned in the original concept. Right?

The Thunderstreak suffered from the same poor takeoff performance as the straight-wing Thunderjet despite having a more powerful engine. In reality, almost 700 pounds-force (3.11 kN) or ten percent of total thrust was lost because the J65 was installed at an angle and its exhaust had a prominent kink. On a hot day, 7,500 feet (2,285 m) of runway were required for takeoff roll. A typical takeoff speed was 160 knots (185 mph, 300 km/h). Like the Thunderjet, the Thunderstreak excelled at cruise and had predictable handling characteristics within its performance envelope. Like its predecessor, it also suffered from accelerated stall pitch-up and potential resulting separation of wings from the airplane. In addition, spins in the F-84F were practically unrecoverable and ejection was the only recourse below 10,000 feet (3,000 m).

Aw, dammit. But still, the thing couldn’t have been a total botch, could it? A wholly irredeemable comedy of errors, a curse, justly loathed by all those unfortunate to be tainted by even passing association with the whole mess? Especially not coming from as experienced and competent a manufacturer as Republic, the creators of some truly outstanding planes over many years, the P47 Thunderbolt and the venerable, remarkable, and much-loved A10 Thunderbolt II among ’em. In fact, Republic is still around today, kinda sorta. Not as an independent company anymore, having been bought by Fairchild in 1965, who retained Republic’s naming convention with the A10. There’s also a museum on Republic’s old Long Island factory site, including a still-airworthy P47, bless their hearts.

But back to the F84F. Was it in truth a complete and total failure, an unpolishable turd of an airplane? Does its pitiable legacy consist entirely of being absolutely no use to anyone for anything besides killing pilots, auguring into the ground, vanishing into a blinding fireball, or unexpectedly flying apart on the rare occasions it was actually capable of flight under its own power?

Project Run In completed operational tests in November 1954 and found the aircraft to be to USAF satisfaction and considerably better than the F-84G. However, ongoing engine failures resulted in the entire fleet being grounded in early 1955. Also, the J65 engine continued to suffer from flameouts when flying through heavy rain or snow. As the result of the problems, the active duty phaseout began almost as soon as the F-84F entered service in 1954, and was completed by 1958. Increased tensions in Germany associated with construction of the Berlin Wall in 1961 resulted in reactivation of the F-84F fleet. In 1962, the fleet was grounded due to the corrosion of control rods. A total of 1,800 man hours were expended to bring each aircraft to full operational capacity. Stress corrosion eventually forced the retirement of ANG F-84Fs in 1971.

Well, that’s depressing. But wait!

On 9 March 1955, Lt. Col. Robert R. Scott, in a F-84F Thunderstreak, set a three-hour, 44-minute and 53-second record for the 2,446 mile flight from Los Angeles to New York.

Alright then, that’s cool.

With the appearance of the Republic F-105 Thunderchief, which also used wing-root mounted air intakes, the Thunderstreak became known as the Thud’s Mother. The earlier F-84A had been nicknamed the “Hog” and the F-84F “Super Hog,” the F-105 becoming the “Ultra Hog”.

The F105, of course, was a highly capable and successful aircraft, used pretty extensively in Vietnam and other places in various roles.

In what is probably one of the very few air-to-air engagements involving the F-84F, two Turkish Air Force F-84F Thunderstreaks shot down two Iraqi Il-28 Beagle bombers that crossed the Turkish border by mistake during a bombing operation against Iraqi Kurdish insurgents. This engagement took place on 16 August 1962.

Hm. Well, it ain’t a hell of a lot, but I’ll take it, I guess. It does ease the miasma of depression enveloping this stinking pile’s history somewhat.

The F-84F was retired from active service in 1964, and replaced by the North American F-100 Super Sabre.

NOW you’re talking. The Super Sabre, as it happens, is another of my all-time faves (despite serious problems of its own, resulting in a pretty short operational lifespan), which lends the sad saga of the hapless Thunderchump a little luster by association, at least. Rest in peace, poor thing. Or pieces, more like.


Most powerfullest EVAR!

Uh huh.

The Pentagon’s Emergency Plan If the F-35 Doesn’t Work
The United States government has sunk billions into the Lockheed Martin F-35 Joint Strike Fighter. The program is set to cost taxpayers almost $400 billion to develop and build 2,443 of the stealthy new jets for the U.S. Air Force, Navy and Marine Corps.

To ensure that the program is all but unkillable, Lockheed spread the work on the program around the country and around the globe. Indeed, the program brags about its economic impact. “In the U.S. alone, the F-35 program supports direct and indirect jobs for 129,000 people and provides work for more than 1,200 suppliers in 45 states and Puerto Rico,” reads Lockheed’s F-35 website. “The F-35 does more than just elevate international security—it also strengthens the global economy by providing jobs, industrial partnerships and technology benefits to people and companies across the world. In the years ahead, the F-35 program will create more jobs than any other Department of Defense initiative this decade.”

Well, that’s what’s really important, right? Meanwhile, back in the world in which fighters might actually sometimes be used–and useable–for their intended purpose

Conventional wisdom says America has the best-equipped military in the world. But sometimes you have to wonder. Personnel from Marine Corp Air Station Beaufort, South Carolina recently went to a museum in search a part they needed to get one of their older F/A-18 Hornets flyable, according to a report this week from BreakingDefense. 

The part in question was not on hand at Beaufort and is no longer manufactured. The Marines first went to check retired F/A-18s on display at MCAS Beaufort but didn’t find it. Then a Marine Lt. Colonel visiting the USS Yorktown (a retired aircraft carrier part of the Patriots Point Naval and Maritime Museum) in nearby Charleston noted a similar vintage F/A-18A on deck and informed the Beaufort contingent about it. 

“We got an email from the military asking if they could have the forward left nose landing gear door hinge from the F/A-18 on [the Yorktown’s] deck,” says Patriots Point spokesman Chris Hauff. “The Hornet, [Bureau no. 162435] is on loan to us from the National Naval Aviation Museum and they asked if the Marines could come out and take a look at it. They sent a team out here and removed the part, but it turns out they weren’t able to use it.”

Hauff says that the Museum has never had a request like this, but that they were happy to help. “Any way that our museum can help, we will.” That’s good to know. On the other hand, this story illustrates the state of Marine Corps aviation. The Marines fly some of the oldest fighter aircraft in the military thanks in part to their advocacy of the F-35. The service has forgone modernizing its Hornets and Harriers in order to save money for the F-35B, which can’t come soon enough.

Hats off to the Lt Col for his alertness, ingenuity, and initiative, at least. More from the BD article:

“Recently, I have heard first-hand from service members who have looked me in the eye and told of:

  • “trying to cannibalize parts from a museum aircraft in order to get current aircraft ready to fly the overseas mission assigned (See above);
  • getting aircraft that were sent to the boneyard in Arizona back and ready to fly missions;
  • pilots flying well below the minimum number of hours required for minimal proficiency and flying fewer training hours than the adversaries they are being sent to meet;
  • not having enough senior enlisted people to train and supervise younger ones and those who remain working very long hours day after day;
  • service members buying basic supplies, like pens and cleaning supplies and paper towels out of their own pocket, because otherwise it would take three to four months to get them if they could get them at all.

And he hauled out the standard facts service leaders have told Congress for the last few years.

“Aviation units in the Marine Corps cannot meet training and mission requirements. With ‘less than one-third of Army forces at acceptable levels of readiness,’ the Army is ‘not at a level that is appropriate for what the American people would expect to defend them,’” Thornberry said. “‘Less than half [of the Air Force] combat forces are ready for… a high-end fight.’ It is the “smallest, oldest, and least ready [force] across the full-spectrum of operations in our history.’ This testimony across the Services is remarkably consistent, candid, and disturbing.”

How long will it take to fix this? Dunford offered this grim take. The Army, Navy, and Marine Corps will not repair, train and modernize at a fast enough rate until around fiscal 2020. What about the Air Force, the service that has essentially been at war since Kosovo, you ask? The Air Force won’t have high enough readiness levels to cope with a high end war until fiscal 2028.

I find that “BreakingDefense” title entirely too ironic for comfort in the days of our long, slow slip into national dotage and decrepitude. “How long will it take to fix this?” It won’t ever be fixed, unless we fix the nation first. And that’s going to mean breaking the current government–good, hard, and completely–and replacing it with a Constitutionally legitimate one first.

In other news elsewhere on the PM site, I can’t help but love this description of one of my all-time favorites:

In other words, we may never see another ugly, heavily-armored, twin-engined juggernaut that shoots bullets the size of Coke bottles while the pilot sits in a titanium bathtub. Which is really too bad.

It surely is.


The Warthog is dead

Long live the Warthog!

This December saw the climax of one of the more peculiar conflicts in Washington. It was a battle over an Air Force plane. But it was not one of those standard-issue Washington procurement battles in which congressional bean counters seek to kill off a hugely expensive project that the relevant military branch insists is vital for American security. It was almost the opposite: The politicians were trying to save a weapon system, and the service brass, together with one of America’s aerospace giants, were trying to get rid of it.

The weapon in question is the A-10 ground attack plane, officially the “Thunderbolt II” but widely known as the “Warthog.” It has been around for more than three decades. It’s one of the outstanding successes of modern American military aircraft, and its effectiveness in recent wars has made it beloved by American and allied troops.

The effort of the Air Force to retire prematurely this storied plane has few parallels, not just because it has faced dogged, and ultimately successful, resistance from well-informed members of Congress, but because it has lasted 25 years and has its origin in what looks like a troubling moral and intellectual crisis among Air Force leadership.

“Dogged, and ultimately successful, resistance from well-informed members of Congress”? That alone is staggering.

Even more frustrating for those who wanted to get rid of it, efforts to dismiss the A-10 as merely a “single-mission airframe” have been undermined by its surprising utility for other missions besides tactical ground attack.

In the Balkans it proved to be useful for combat search and rescue. During the first Gulf war, besides shooting up thousands of Iraqi tanks, the A-10 also shot down enemy helicopters, making it a star of what the military calls -“Battlefield Air Interdiction.” In Iraq and Afghanistan the A-10 turned out to be excellent for Forward Air Control (guiding other aircraft and artillery fire) in the tradition of Vietnam-era planes like the Mohawk and Bronco.

Right now in Iraq, A-10s are carrying out not just close air support but also the search and destroy sorties that the Air Force calls strike coordinated armed reconnaissance (SCAR) missions, for which it is ideally suited, unlike fragile, fuel-guzzling F-35s or even F-16s.

In 2013 the Air Force brass thought they could exploit the sequester to finally retire the A-10. Sure there was still fighting in Afghanistan, and mothballing the A-10 would mean using fast jets in its place, with all of the attendant downside, but the political opportunity was too good to miss. Indeed, it looked for a while like the A-10 was doomed. It didn’t help that the plane has no big aerospace lobby behind it, the last A-10 having been built in 1984 by a company that no longer exists. But Senator John McCain, supported by the Army and veterans’ groups, began a congressional insurrection on its behalf.

John McCain, right about something? Okay, talk about staggering; this story is becoming almost Kafkaesque.

The Air Force, like the Navy and Marine Corps, has plenty to be nervous about when it comes to the F-35. It is not only already the most expensive weapons project in history and late by almost a decade, there are many people within the defense establishment and even the Air Force who think it a misconceived and wasteful procurement catastrophe.
Part of the problem is that the F-35 was marketed on “commonality”—one airframe for all three services—but built around the Marine Corps’s demand for a jet that can take off and land vertically like the Harrier jump jet. The resulting design compromises meant what should have been the best fighter in the world is slower than and aerodynamically inferior to the modern Russian and Chinese designs it might come up against. As a 2008 RAND Corporation study put it, the F-35 “can’t turn, can’t climb, can’t run.”

It may sound extraordinary that senior Air Force officers could be almost unconcerned with the safety and success of American ground troops, or that they would make such a fetish of the purchase of expensive, glamorous, high-tech pointy-nosed toys as to undermine the overall military capacity of the United States, but that seems to be the case.

Okay, that’s it. Uncle Peter, my smelling salts!

While the A-10’s supporters have won for now, the underlying problems with the Air Force remain. There’s an argument to be made that if it is institutionally unwilling to take seriously the mission of delivering close air support to American troops, as seems to be the case, then it would make sense to abolish its near-monopoly on fixed-wing aircraft and hand the A-10 over to a resuscitated U.S. Army Air Corps that would be pleased to have it.
And perhaps the USAF should also give up other unglamorous tasks that are about supporting soldiers, sailors, and Marines. It could become a smaller force that operates interceptors, strategic bombers, tankers, and America’s strategic missiles. It’s a solution that could keep the fighter jockeys happy (at least until they are all replaced by unmanned aircraft) without undermining the effectiveness of America’s military as a whole. Of course, it would be far better if the service simply came to its senses and made the national interest, rather than the promotion of the F-35, its first priority.

Now, that’s just crazy talk right there. That little jab about fighter jocks being replaced by unmanned aircraft has gotta sting a bit.


Travails of a jet jock

Good stuff:

You can see why flying involves a lot of trust. You’re entirely reliant on many, many other people to keep you safe. You rely on your wing man not to fly into you; you rely on the ground troops to let you know what areas are safe to fly over; you rely on air traffic controllers to keep everyone properly separated. A poorly coordinated traffic pattern can wind up with you trying to land one jet on top of another. I’ve been lucky enough to escape my few harrowing moments mostly unscathed, but if you do this job long enough, you’ll know someone who has died flying.

But in spite of the ever-present specter of death, be it from rocket-powered seats, Looney Tunes catapults, pitching decks, flying gas stations, passing out in the middle of a fight, suicidal birds, busted aircraft, or just the old proverbial “sudden stop at the end,” I absolutely love this job and wouldn’t trade it for anything.

Mostly because of the shirtless volleyball.

Read it all. Yes, even you, Regbo–even though I know already you could furnish a lot more than just five.

(Via Ace)


Veterans Day

Great story.

DAYTON, Ohio (AP) — The last of the Doolittle Raiders, all in their 90s, offered a final toast Saturday to their fallen comrades, as they pondered their place in history after a day of fanfare about their 1942 attack on Japan.

“May they rest in peace,” Lt. Col. Richard Cole, 98, said before the three Raiders present sipped an 1896 cognac from specially engraved silver goblets. The cognac was saved for the occasion after being passed down from their late commander, Lt. Gen. James “Jimmy” Doolittle, who was born in 1896.

May they rest in peace indeed. And here’s a couple of of photos from the Warbirds Over Monroe airshow this past weekend:

My two all-time favorites, the F4U Corsair and the hallowed P51 Mustang. My four-year-old daughter took that shot, believe it or not.

Never have seen a wing walker before, as many airshows as I’ve been to. It was AWESOME; she was dressed as Wonder Woman, and that’s just what she is, too. Lots more about her, with some great photos, here.

Update! I should mention Ashley’s pilot, Greg Shelton, and his plane, a Super Stearman with the 450-horsepower Pratt and Whitney engine rather than the standard 220hp Contintental. Hearing that thing roar as they flew by, you could easily tell this was a high-performance aircraft, and Shelton really flew the hell out of it. If you ever get the chance to see this duo perform, don’t pass it up. Absolutely thrilling, that’s what. My kid just loved it, too, clapping her hands, laughing, and jumping up and down like a mad thing. Highly recommended; any Warbirds gathering is as good a way to celebrate Veterans Day as I can think of right offhand.


A little history

As promised, photos from yesterday’s field trip to the Carolinas Aviation Museum.

Gramma and Little Squirt approach Sully’s A-bus

Amazing what impact with a little water will do to sheet metal, ain’t it?

Some of the other flotsam and jetsam about the place, including an F4 cockpit you can climb up into and sit in while making whooshing sounds and machine-gun noises as you mentally strafe the other museum patrons

A fine restoration of a venerable old Piedmont Airlines DC3. There was a company here still flying charters and cargo runs with two of these up til only a few years ago; I used to see one take off early every Wednesday morning from the loading dock at work, and they were COOL. Nothing like big unmuffled radial piston engines, I always say. If you don’t believe me, go watch this

MJ wasn’t really into having her picture taken; she just wanted to run around the place screaming wildly and jumping up and down; the Delta Dagger and Voodoo I mentioned yesterday are over behind the DC7

And since I love GeeBees, and I bought my daughter a small metal replica of this one yesterday at the museum gift shop and she hasn’t put it down since, I’m gonna embed this:


An outing

Taking the little one to the aviation museum here later this morning; I hear it has the actual Airbus 320 that Captain Sully flew into the Hudson on display, and I know for a fact it has a few oddball fighters on hand, like a Delta Dagger (note its slightly-more-famous sibling, the Delta Dart) and a Voodoo (one of my all-time favorites), among others. I’ll see if I can’t grab a few purty pitchers and share ’em with y’all here at the ol’ hogwallow.


Constant Peg

Fascinating stuff:

No such affection was earned by the MiG-21’s brutish follow-on. “The MiG-23 was a nightmare, maintenance was a nightmare. The guys hated flying it, and we checked people out when they had 3-5 months left.

“We had eight MiG-23s, two of them the air-to-ground version [MiG-23BN]. At high AOA (angle of attack) they were not as stable as the radar nose types.

“It would accelerate until it blew up. The limit was 720-710 knots, but guys would look down inside and see they were going 850-880.

“Everyone who flew it spun it at least once. You’d be in a separation maneuver at 1.4 and the nose would start searching from side to side. The stab-aug was terrible – although it was faster than anything we had, you weren’t ever comfortable.

“At Red Flag in the 1970s we were told that the MiG-23 would sweep its wings [forward] and kill you. Ron Iverson [4477th operations officer 1975-79, retired as a Lt Gen] flew one of the first ones. He said, “don’t worry about it — most of the time it’s trying to kill me”.

Overall, the operation was hazardous. Tactical Air Command “asked us for our accident rate. TAC average was three to four major accidents per 100,000 hours, Five to six was a concern. We had a rate of 100/100,000, and that wasn’t counting all of them. We spun one and we never flew it again, because you got a fire light every time you started it.”

“We had 210 maintainers,” Manclark recalled. “They were dedicated, just unbelievable, tech sergeants and master sergeants. The CIA gave us a flare dispenser from a Frogfoot [Su-25] that had been shot down in Afghanistan. We gave it to maintenance – it was just a thing with wires coming out of it. Four hours later they had it operational on a MiG-21.”

That proved to be a very important test.

You’ll want to read all of it, I assure you.

(Via CDR M)


What a drag it is growing old

And I don’t mean people here.

“I hear people talk about, well you know, the U.S. military spends more money than the next 17 nations combined,” Deptula said. “Well, the next 17 nations combined are not committed to maintaining peace and stability around the world. We are.”

Deptula uses the term “geriatric aviation force” to describe the current state of affairs. He has firsthand experience. He earned his wings and flew an F-15 for the first time in 1977. Thirty years later, another Deptula boarded the aircraft. His son, Lt. David A. Deptula II, flew the same F-15 at Kadena Air Force Base in Japan.

The Wall Street Journal documented the amazing father-son story last fall to illustrate the challenges facing the aging force. The elder Deptula recounted how the fighter was originally designed for a 4,000-hour service life. That was later extended to 8,000 hours.

“We have really flown these aircraft well beyond what originally would be believed as their replacement lifetime,” Deptula said of the F-15s. “And now, because of some of the fiscal constraints that are being imposed on the Department of Defense, there is consideration being given to extending the lifetime even further.”

Hey, we could always bring back the mighty Mustang, right?


Pres. Greencheese and the Moon God


I finally figured out why NASA’s (National Arab-Nautics and Self-Esteem Advocates) top priorty is feel-goodism: the president wants every Muslim to have the same chance at a moon program as every American has under the Obama administration.

That is, none.


Sky King George III: “No Transportation Without Taxation!”

“Hardly a day passes where I don’t walk out on the (House) floor that someone asks me, ‘When are we going to re-regulate the airlines?'”–Rep. James Oberstar, (D.-PermaBureaucracy)

Travel Blog:

“Fees are a business decision best made by each airline,” Ridley said, adding that the federal government should make sure all fees are disclosed to consumers. Robert Rivkin, the Department of Transportation’s general counsel, said government officials are looking at ways to tighten regulations on how airlines inform consumers of such fees. “We believe that the proliferation of these fees and the manner in which they are presented to the traveling public can be confusing and in some cases misleading,” Rivkin said. Published fares used by consumers to choose flights don’t “clearly represent the cost of travel when these services are added.”

Umm, excuse me, but…have you seen the Tax Code lately?

“Confusing and misleading the public” about the cost of government seems like Job #1 around Washington, DC–starting with the ridiculous, laughable, cynically dishonest fantasy budget projections used in the HealthControl debacle. Congress won’t even adopt a budget this year, in hopes of keeping the public fooled.

In a warning to the industry, panel members asked about the possibility of extending the airline excise tax of 7.5 percent charged on airline tickets to the unbundled fees, which currently escape the tax. The tax revenue funds the Federal Aviation Administration.

Ah–it’s about their baggage problem, not yours.

Speaking of shining a light, the Foundry:

In spite of supporting regulations that will force all Americans to switch out old light bulbs for more expensive new ones (the good old incandescent bulb will be illegal in 2012), it seems that the DOE itself finds that it’s too much trouble and too expensive to adopt the latest energy-saving technologies.

An audit of 96 buildings by the department’s inspector general reveals, “For the most part, sites either did not use, or made limited use of, innovative lighting technologies developed in the Department’s research laboratories.” The DOE is not even availing itself of the technologies that, as part of its mission, it helped create. The primary impediment cited was a “lack of resources.” In other words, the energy savings were too expensive.

The DOE is cheerleader for parsimony in energy consumption for everybody else. Yet it still hasn’t outfitted a majority of its own buildings with occupancy sensors and the latest lighting technology. Maybe American households should also be allowed to choose which “money-saving” technologies they want to adopt and when they want to adopt them.

Republicans should run on this in the fall, even though Bush signed this stupid law:

A government that doesn’t trust you with light bulbs or ticket prices, yet hides all its own costs in the dark.


Voyage to the Journey of the Center to the Middle of the Mediocre Marxist (Updated)


“Don’t be afraid to see what you see.”–Ronald Reagan, regarding our willful blindness to Communism

Cora Peterson: “We’re going to see things no one has ever seen before. Just think about it.”
Grant: “That’s the trouble. I am.”–Raquel Welch and Stephen Boyd in “Fantastic Voyage”, 1966

During His Ministry in the Wilderness Years 2008 presidential campaign, Barack Obama went to the Space Coast of Florida and lied outright to the space workers there.

Realizing that Florida’s electoral votes were key to his plan to impose Socialism on America, Obama made a conscious decision to lie to their faces, telling them that their jobs were safe, the funding was secure, that America was returning to the moon, and that greatness still lay ahead.

As soon as his own job was secured, however, he began firing the workers, canceling the moon program, initiating the War on Greatness and grabbing the money for the Socialist Project. And even that is being done in a dishonest manner.

Dafydd ab Hugh:

Simply put, an administration that believes in manned space exploration — believes in Mankind.

So it’s hardly a surprise that Barack H. Obama is in the process of killing the Constellation program proposed by (of course) President George W. Bush to return human beings, Americans, to the Moon, this time to stay…

And it’s even less of a surprise that they’re doing it in a backhanded way, in violation of an act that Obama himself is about to sign into law — while mockingly flouting it:

“The head of Nasa, Major-General Charlie Bolden — an Obama appointee — has now written to aerospace contractors telling them to cut back immediately on Constellation-related projects costing almost $1 billion (£690 million), to comply with regulations requiring them to budget for possible contract termination costs.

The move has been branded a “disingenuous legal manoeuvre” and referred to Nasa’s inspector-general for investigation. “It’s bordering on arrogance by the Administration to boldly and brazenly go forward with this approach. It shows a blatant disregard for Congress,” said the Republican Congressman Rob Bishop, of Utah, whose constituency stands to lose thousands of jobs. Two weeks ago the Senate passed legislation that compels Nasa to continue work on Constellation unless Congress directs otherwise. That legislation is due to be signed into law by Mr Obama this month while Congress continues its deliberations over his proposal to cancel the current space space progamme.”

In other words, Obama is the Maximum Leader, and he doesn’t need any pesky “co-equal branches of government” telling him how to do things–even if he signs their laws!

But why? Why the hostility to the space program?

For one thing, it denotes American greatness. To Obama, that means jingoism. And patriotism, which is a lesser love than the Pure Socialist Ideal.

Just as he has never “forgiven” the US for ousting the Communist Mossadegh in Iran during the Cold War, Obama has never forgiven America for beating the Soviets to the moon.

Yes, the Soviets had a space program, even before us–but in Obama’s view, they were only forced into it by American aggression. Obama would get even by forcing us to hitch-hike a ride into space with the Russians or Chinese, in which our sole contribution would be bringing along the escape pod, which would be like Columbus setting out for the New World in a life preserver.

But it is an apt metaphor for a passive/aggressive Escape Hatch Presidency.

You might think that a man who fancies himself Overlord Galacticus, Lord of All Worlds, Both Known and Unknown, Except for One Mile Deep in the Gulf Which is Not My Fault would welcome space travel.

But it would be an invasion of His Space, like the miniaturized sub Proteus entering the bloodstream of a Soviet defector in order to save the Secret Formula in the sci-fi classic Fantastic Voyage.

In the real world, of course, we know that the Clinton/Obama Democrats would sell the Formula to the Chinese for campaign cash, return the defector to Russia, sign a Non-Aggression Pact with Vladimir Putin over Molotov cocktails and hit on Raquel Welch.

The main reason for Obama’s hostility to space lies elsewhere, though.

Socialism is a materialist philosophy, concerned with dividing the stolen loot properly.

They look at the money spent on space exploration and it angers them. Like your 401ks, it is a pot of money unavailable to them to redistribute to themselves the Workers of the World, and they mean to fix that.

When you or I look at the night sky, we see sparkling white stars on an inky black page. But socialists see only gray. They think of all the socialist housing cubicles that could be constructed out of the drab, gray Soviet cement of their dreams. East German architecture for as far as the eye can see–the good eye, the one that wasn’t gouged out by a Bulgarian border guard.

That’s what excites them. That’s what moves them. Space travel is a diversion from the Statist Project of creating Heaven on Earth–you know, like Havana or Harare.

But Kosmo Not-Kramer Hussein deserves credit for this; in seeking to turn America into a socialist basket case, he is boldly going where no Menshevik has gone before.

The New Frontier shouldn’t become our final one just because Commander Zero has “the heart of a prison matron and the soul of an East German border guard”, as P.J. O’Rourke once said of Hillary.

Let’s give this guy the final word for now, because he got it right the first time:

“Surely the opening vistas of space promise high costs and hardships, as well as high reward.

So it is not surprising that some would have us stay where we are a little longer to rest, to wait. But this city of Houston, this state of Texas, this country of the United States was not built by those who waited and rested and wished to look behind them. This country was conquered by those who moved forward–and so will space. …

The exploration of space will go ahead, whether we join in it or not, and it is one of the great adventures of all time, and no nation which expects to be the leader of other nations can expect to stay behind in this race for space. …

[T]his generation does not intend to founder in the backwash of the coming age of space. We mean to be a part of it–we mean to lead it. For the eyes of the world now look into space, to the moon and to the planets beyond, and we have vowed that we shall not see it governed by a hostile flag of conquest, but by a banner of freedom and peace. We have vowed that we shall not see space filled with weapons of mass destruction, but with instruments of knowledge and understanding.

Yet the vows of this Nation can only be fulfilled if we in this Nation are first, and, therefore, we intend to be first. In short, our leadership in science and industry, our hopes for peace and security, our obligations to ourselves as well as others, all require us to make this effort, to solve these mysteries, to solve them for the good of all men, and to become the world’s leading space-faring nation. …

We choose to go to the moon. We choose to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard, because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills, because that challenge is one that we are willing to accept, one we are unwilling to postpone, and one which we intend to win, and the others, too. …

Many years ago the great British explorer George Mallory, who was to die on Mount Everest, was asked why did he want to climb it. He said, “Because it is there.”

Well, space is there, and we’re going to climb it, and the moon and the planets are there, and new hopes for knowledge and peace are there. And, therefore, as we set sail we ask God’s blessing on the most hazardous and dangerous and greatest adventure on which man has ever embarked.”–John F. Kennedy – September 12, 1962

UPDATE: Byron York dreams of things that never were and asks “why not?”:

For Obama, the space program shows that America has the ingenuity and know-how to find new sources of energy: If we can put a man on the moon, then we can create a clean-energy future. But as they watched the speech, some Americans, perhaps millions of Americans, had another reaction:

If we can put a man on the moon, Mr. President, then why can’t we stop the leak?


Deep Space None: Mission to Marx!

“We can’t expect to be number one in everything indefinitely.” –Top administration science adviser Dr. John P. Holdren, to students at the American Association for the Advancement Prevention of Science (AAAPS).

Robert Costa:

“I just have to say, pretty bluntly here, that we’ve been [to the moon] before,” Obama declared in front of an eerily quiet NASA audience. “There is a lot more of space to explore.”

We’ve been to Delaware before, too–but that didn’t stop you from going back there and funding Joe Biden’s Private Amtrak smoker.

“No one is more committed to manned spaceflight, to the human exploration of space, than I am,” Obama said. “But we’ve got to do it in a smart way. We can’t keep doing the same, old things.”

Unless it’s the Russian Revolution of 1917.

When he spoke at the Kennedy Space Center during the run-up to the 2008 election, Obama vowed to protect the jobs of the facility’s workers before an audience that included them; not a single space worker was invited to attend yesterday’s speech.

But he promised that about one/tenth of those fired would eventually get their jobs back. And if you can’t trust an Obama Promise(tm), what can you trust?

NASA shouldn’t be a jobs program, but does everything he touches have to turn into an Anti-Jobs Program?

As for the future of manned space exploration — to which he’s “100 percent” committed — Obama announced plans to develop a “heavy lift rocket” to be our means of reaching deep space, a rocket that will take years to develop. He wants the design completed by 2015. By 2025, he wants to have a manned crew mission into deep space, then maybe a trip or two to an asteroid.

Barack the Cosmonaut wouldn’t know an asteroid from his hemorrhoids. Hit it, Sammy:

Fly me to a ‘roid
Let me Stimulus the stars
Let me Tax and Regulate from Jupiter to Mars
In other words, to Marx, be true
In other words, America’s through!

You could almost hear the yawns in the NASA hangar. Without a clear vision from the president, just an urge to “research,” the weary spacecrats know little will happen.

Obama’s is a stunted vision, and one that deliberately scales back the horizon for Western man, leaving the Chinese and Russians as de facto kings of the cosmos. Though the president believes that he’s smartly tossing a cumbersome program into the bin, along with its cowboy ethos, he forgets that astronauts are more than overpaid automatons of the state — they’re heroes, men whose adventures are an instrumental part of America’s own.

The president looks at moondust and sees dirt.

Actually, he likes dirt. It’s America he keeps trying to wash right out of his hair.


This sounds more like a bid to hold down electoral losses in Florida this year.

Says the job cuts are result of decisions made 6 years ago, not 6 months to retire the shuttle. True but he cut the replacement program that people would have segued into. Nice try by the Blamer in Chief.

Homer Hickam:

Quite honestly, at this point, I don’t much care what they announce and pronounce. I do not think any of them are capable of organizing a DAR scrap drive. The most important events of this spring or early summer isn’t anything President Obama is going to say or propose. It is:

— The launch of the X-37, a prototype space plane by the United States Air Force.

— The launch of SpaceX’s Falcon 9.

The moon is the obvious destination for spacefarers with our present technology. So much can be done there. I’ve said my piece on this, both in my blogs and in my novel Back to the Moon . I’m not trying to convince anybody at this point. Read them if you wish. Or opt for Mars. Good luck on that. Let me know how you made out.

It’s not you. I just need some space.


The Florida Line: Progressives vs. Progress and the First President to Moon America


President Space Ghost is heading for the Space Coast. Quick–hide your jobs!

But first, as we noted in January,

Obama then:

“Obama commits to moon mission” By Robert Block, Orlando Sentinel, August, 16 2008

Obama now:

“Obama aims to ax moon mission” By Robert Block, Orlando Sentinel, January 27, 2010

If, for whatever bizarre and inexplicable reason, you’ve decided to subject yourself to the SOTU speech tonight, think of these…and remember:

It’s Only Words.


CAPE CANAVERAL, Florida — Near the launch pads where U.S. space voyages begin, President Barack Obama will try to reassure workers that America’s space adventures sail on despite the coming end of space shuttle flights.

And Obama on Thursday will also try to explain why he aborted his predecessor’s return-to-the moon plan in favor of a complicated system of public-and-private flights that would go elsewhere in space, with details still to be worked out.

It’s a tough sell.

Solution: A Canaveral Kickback! “Deem and Dream!”

Earlier this week, the administration said it would rescue a small part of the moon program: its Orion crew capsule. But instead of taking four astronauts to the moon, the not-yet-built Orion will be slimmed down and used as an emergency escape pod on the space station.

What a perfect metaphor for Obama’s vision of the country: from “To Boldly Go…!” to “Keep your head down, crawl into the escape pod and nobody will get hurt.”

“America–We Lead the World in Escape Pod Technology!”

Obama becomes the first sitting president in 12 years to visit Kennedy Space Center, but he won’t stay long. After a couple hours he’ll jet to Miami and spend more time in South Florida at two Democratic National Committee fundraisers.

First things first!

He’s heading to South Florida? Probably just wants be closer to Castro.

If that’s possible.

UPDATE: Allahpundit says we can’t afford a space program–but the first principle of security is to take the high ground. We can’t afford not to have a space program.


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