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Geek Army

November 18, 2011

You thought that shooting missles down in mid-flight was cool?  Wait, you didn’t?  I thought all the regular readers here were geeks?  Oh, right, we’ve expanded to conservative moms and such as well.  Oh, well.  One of the best parts about being an engineer is that I can still get excited when a technology theory from the 1940’s can finally come to fruition.

AP story here (thanks Hot Air), but I actually think the Register covers it better here.  So I’ll use theirs.

Weapons of this type – so-called “boost glide” projects – have a long history, dating back to Nazi plans for a “Silbervogel” rocket bomber which would circumnavigate the globe by skipping along the top of the atmosphere like a flung stone, dropping a bomb on America as it passed. Down the years other proposals and test efforts have been seen, such as the X-20 Dyna-Soar, the Boost Glide Re-entry Vehicle of 1968, etc.

Apart from the failed Hypersonic Test Vehicle trials, DARPA has also lately stated aspirations towards an “Arc Light” boost-glide weapon capable of fitting into the standard launch tubes of US Navy surface warships and able to do Mach 12.

The idea of Conventional Prompt Global Strike as mentioned by the Pentagon is to strike targets anywhere in the world, very quickly. This can already be done using an ICBM, which could easily be modified to carry a conventional warhead, but the fear is that ICBM launches could lead to panic and nuclear war – so hypersonics are being investigated instead.

I still have a book written by a neighbor I never knew (I was too young when he moved) on the origins of military rocketry that has the intriguing title of, “Bombing North America from Space.”  It details the captured documents from Nazi Germany that are mentioned above, and the whole concept of “skip bombing” that ensues.  The Germans intended to pretty literally do this stuff on a wing and a heil, but the capability has existed for years.  Now, it makes more sense to deliver payloads this way since we can shoot slower stuff out of the sky given the technology advances in that area.

Thus, we’re still in the offense/defense cycle.  For every offense you can put out there, someone creates a defense to block it, forcing a new offense… later, rinse, repeat.

As a slightly off-base editorial… this is the kind of stuff that’s going to go by the wayside if the Supercommittee can’t agree on cuts.  The defense cuts are supposed to take the Army back to year 1481 levels, or whatever, but in reality it’s the research programs that will take the hit… assuming, of course, that Congress doesn’t fail in doing its job by just voting a new budget for 2013 that adds back all the cuts.  But that’s another post…

For now, I’ll just marvel at what the geeks can do, and I’ll be proud to call myself kin.

Updated: By the way, the book was Winged Rocketry, by James C. Sparks.  My copy’s autographed…

3 Comments leave one →
  1. November 18, 2011 12:50 pm

    I had one of the leading lights of this technology as a business partner, before he passed away a few years ago. His work made the Patriot anti-missile system effective.

    By the way, conservative moms can be geeks as well. My Lady qualifies.

    ===|==============/ Keith DeHavelle

    • November 18, 2011 2:12 pm

      I’m not completely differentiating. It’s just pretty clear in the comments on the appeal to various constituencies. I love all commenters equally.

  2. November 18, 2011 10:58 am

    There’s a new series of young adult books that follow the “steam punk” theme (Leviathan is the one my kids are reading right now). the 40’/2000 mix is really in vogue now

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