Holy Mother of the Dirigible Crowd!

January 8th, 2007 by xformed

Good ideas come and they go and other ideas seem to just keep recycling themselves.

From Popular Mechanics comes this “Tech Notes” on “Project ISIS.”

Project ISIS in Flight

“Project ISIS” has the ring of a James Bond movie, but it actually comes from an acronym (albeit a clumsy one) for a new curved radar array being developed by Raytheon and DARPA, the Pentagon’s research arm. The Integrated Sensor Is Structure concept calls for such arrays running along the wings, tail and underbelly of military or commercial aircraft. Eventually, it could replace the flat-panel radar antennas typically found in a plane’s nose, providing improved surveillance capabilities and better 360-degree threat detection. ISIS technology is set to debut in 2009 as part of a colossal unmanned airship parked at more than 65,000 ft. over combat zones.

I wonder what the staff at DARPA has been smoking on their spare time…

Frank Luke with his Spad XIII

Frank Luke with his Spad XIII (Credit: Wikipedia)

Hmmmm….I began reading a little about flight history when I was but a young guy. Tales of the top aces of WWI were pretty exciting, but I do recall the daring do of a man named Frank Luke. He liked balloons, but not to fly them, to “bust” them. His exceptional skills at downing enemy observation balloons earned this young man from Phoenix, AZ the Congressional Medal of Honor.

Gary Powers

Gary Powers (Credit: Wikipedia)

I also recall a story about a man named Gary Powers about a day in May 1960. The 1st, to be exact…

SA-2 Guideline in transit

SA-2 Guideline/ missile on Transporter (Credit: Wikipedia)

It seems we thought flying “high” over enemy territory made us invulnerable, yet, a missile named by NATO the “SA-2 Guideline,” fielded in 1957 for the purposes of engaging our B-52 Stratofortresses, had an operational capability between the altitudes between 1500 and 82K ft. Gary Powers found out the hard way, and I believe our intelligence agencies had a lot of egg on their faces in the aftermath of the Powers shoot down. Call it an intelligence failure, for that’s what it was.

Oh, and yes, the SA-2 Guideline is still in service with countries around the world. It was used very effectively by the North Vietnamese to do what it was designed for: Shoot our B-52’s out of the sky, much to the dismay of my fellow Air Force vets.

Some basic issues, that even a Black Shoe like me can understand: If you have an active radar system to find things, sensors on the other end of the search can find the radar. back in the Vietnam War days, we had developed and deployed missiles that could be told to find a signal and home in on it, then, upon arrival at the source of the signal, to detonate (and thereby destroy the radar). Those are called “anti-radiation missiles.” The technology has generally been used to go from an air platform to a surface (slow/not moving) target. In the case of an airborne platforms making the emissions, if the target is not moving very fast, it doesn’t take a whole lot of calculations to get a weapon to the target…

So…my point? All you need is a dedicated pilot in an aircraft that can get to 65K ft, or a Surface to Air Missile with the same altitude capability to sort of ruin our day. Of course, of you have Klingon type cloaking systems in development to pair up with ISIS, I may have to change my tune on the topic…

'Nuff Said...

Credit: Ace Pilots

This entry was posted on Monday, January 8th, 2007 at 7:38 am and is filed under Air Force, Army, History, Military, Scout Sniping, Technology. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

1 response about “Holy Mother of the Dirigible Crowd!”

  1. Steeljaw Scribe said:

    Well, you see FGP was shot down because the U-2 he was flying had an issue which caused him to lose altitutde. Not much mind you, but enough to get within (barely) the SA-2’s envelope and the rest, as they say, is (was) history.

    The old U-2’s (B/C models — you can tell them by the shorter wings and fuselage) were a real SOB to control at altittude. You had effectively, a 5-6 knot delta between stall and overspeed (w/airframe break-up). Now, while you are delicately handling this beast while wearing a full pressure suit, you are also trying to navigate via celestial means and trying to find the target in the periscope to line up for your overflight and happy snaps with the H-cam (hi-res) camera in the bay behind you. Oh yes, you’re doing this for some 8-12 hours too. In the meantime you see the MiGs trying (unsuccessfully) to shoot you down as they claw up from the depths of the murky atmosphere beneath you as well as the SAM’s basically going ballistic and falling away below you or being control detonated. FWIW, the SR-71 guys saw the same thing, but at a much faster rate. The CONOPS there was to launch a thicket of command-detonated SA-2’s well ahead of the projected SR-71 flight path and hope for a lucky shot. Never happened (the only SR-71 brought down by another airframe was the loss in a D-21 launch attempt that went bad). The advent of the later U-2 models brought better control characteristics and payload, but with an altittude penalty (until the re-engined U-2S came online, to where now it can get back in roughly the same neighborhood as teh old B/C models).
    Some of the gas bag concepts I have reviewed talk of altitudes well in excess of 100K. At those altittudes intercepts become pretty difficult as most missiles run ot of poop climbing through 70K (you have to use steerable nozzles to control your missile at those altitudes) and given the kind of coverage I would expect from 100K+, you could set your orbit point at ranges outside your adversaries’ intercept capabilties.
    – SJS

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