Friday, January 29, 2010

Russia's F-22 Unveiled! Meet the T-50 from Sukhoi

Whether its known as the PAK FA in the west (man - that's stupid sounding!) or what the Russian's call it (Sukhoi T-50 - hey, I think that's easier to say.); its a new 5th generation fighter jet and goes head to head with the American F-22.

Reported performance suppose to be like 2,100 kilometers and hour and can fly up to 5,500 kilometers. The new fighterjet made its test flight lasting 45 minutes from the Sukhoi's home base of Komsomolsk-on-Amur in Far East Russia. And its able to operate from short-field runways.

Sergei Bogdan, the test pilot said the following (according to the AFP news article): "The aircraft performed well in all stages of the flight programme. It is easy and comfortable to pilot."

The T-50 is suppose to be a replacement to its MiG-29 Fulcrums and Su-27 Flankers in the Russian Air Force inventory. Phase in of the new aircraft to begin by 2015.

The T-50(PAK FA) is using (2) Saturn 117s engines that produce 14.5 tons of thrust each.

India’s Defense Ministry already plans to purchase 250 such planes from Sukhoi.

Hmmm. I need to do a search for a CD of the movie's Firefox soundtrack. Picture is from the AFP article.

Ref. (AFP), Moscow, January 29, 2010. (
Pravda. January 28, 2010. (

Monday, January 25, 2010

USA Will Outsource Outer Space

The Obama Administration has finally decided on something as far as outer space goes - it will outsource its transportation needs.

Expected to show up in the next budget, the United States will begin funding private companies to carry NASA astronauts into orbit and maybe, beyond if it really, realy works out.

Quoting the Wall Street Journal article (see link below), The goal is to set up a multiyear, multi-billion-dollar initiative allowing private firms, including some start-ups, to compete to build and operate spacecraft capable of ferrying U.S. astronauts into orbit—and eventually deeper into the solar system.

The idea came from the Augustine Panel last year. They argued that private companies can build and launch their own rockets and spacecraft to transport Americans into space would save the government and also free up NASA to focus on more ambitious, longer-term goals.

This blogger is glad to see something like this come about. For more details, please read the entire article.

Image is concept drawing of Spaceport America being built right now in New Mexico.

Ref. WSJ, January 25, 2010. by Andy Pasztor (

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Bigelow's "Hopping" Lunar Base Idea

Bigelow Aerospace is on the verge of expanding its commercial space station operations. Bigelow wants to provide low-cost commercial volume in space - for rent or lease - to both national space agencies and to the private sector.

Bigelow himself thnks that his commercial modules will be ready to launch into orbit by 2015. Weither it is launched on a NASA rocket or SpaceX's Falcon 9 that is still under development. And Bigelow has his one ideas aobut building his very own heavy -lift launcher; currently referred to as "Big Bertha."

Bigelow will have his own set of astronauts who will serve and take care of the housekeeping duties while the inflatible modules are out in space. That leaves the client with crew to jsut do their primary jobs.

One of the wildest ideas is to group multiple modules together and that id could make a soft touch down on the moon - with the crew riding in it no less. If they need to move to another location, no problem; just move the entire base.

Ref., by Leonard David, January 20, 2010. (
Image is from that came from Bigelow Aerospace space station design.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Al Qaeda / Drug Cartel own Rogue Aviation Network

It is real easy to make fun of Homeland Security and the TSA are airports. But information recently uncovered by Reuter's reporters Tim Gaynor and Tiemoko Diallo is scary. But if one were to think like the enemy, then its a logical course of action for them to take.

Quote: The document warned that a growing fleet of rogue jet aircraft was regularly crisscrossing the Atlantic Ocean. On one end of the air route, it said, are cocaine-producing areas in the Andes controlled by the leftist Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia. On the other are some of West Africa's most unstable countries. The clandestine fleet has grown to include twin-engine turboprops, executive jets and retired Boeing 727s that are flying multi-ton loads of cocaine and possibly weapons to an area in Africa where factions of al Qaeda are believed to be facilitating the smuggling of drugs to Europe, the officials say.

Alexandre Schmidt, regional representative for West and Central Africa for the UN Office on Drugs and Crime, cautioned in Dakar this week that the aviation network has expanded in the past 12 months and now likely includes several Boeing 727 aircraft.

"When you have this high capacity for transporting drugs into West Africa, this means that you have the capacity to transport as well other goods, so it is definitely a threat to security anywhere in the world," said Schmidt.

Used Boeing 727 jetliners can haul up to 10 tons of cargo. Drugs, weapons, people. Venezuela is the key. Airplanes collect cargo all over Central and South America. Stop off in Venezuela for fuel. Fly off to Africa and then they return from Africa back to Venezuela.

And other aircarft are a part of this network. One of the pictures with original article show a Gulfstream jet grounded by authorities in July 2008. It was involved in a plot to transport more than 600 kilos of cocaine from Venezuela. Seen here at Guinea Bissau international airport January 10, 2010.

I found this to be very interesting. Quote: A number of aircraft have been retrofitted with additional fuel tanks to allow in-flight refueling -- a technique innovated by Mexico's drug smugglers. (Cartel pilots there have been known to stretch an aircraft's flight range by putting a water mattress filled with aviation fuel in the cabin, then stacking cargoes of marijuana bundles on top to act as an improvised fuel pump).

And the discovery last year of that Boeing 727 in Tuareg, Mali, lead intelligence people to the fact that other 727s have been used this way. In particular, this Boeing 727 landed on an improvised runway. But for some reason, it was unable to take-off again where upon it was burned to try and hide the evidence of what was taking place.

And I will ask the reader to remember that the drug cartels are very inventive when trying to transport product into the United States. They are into building their own semi-submarines to transport drugs. Remember those stories of several years ago?

Anyway, for additional information, please use the link below to read the entire article.

Ref. January 13, 2010. Tim Gaynor and Tiemoko Diallo. Timbuktu, Mali (

Friday, January 8, 2010

Does Lockheed-Martin have a future? F-35 in Doubt?

Defense Secretary Robert Gates said he wanted to accelerate the purchase of F-35s through 2015. In the Market Watch article I read, that figure was from 513 F-35 fighters through 2015 and up to a fleet of 2,443 F-35s eventually. But in latest report from the Pentagon, planned purchases for fiscal year 2011 will be about 391 - a reduction of 122 fighters through the same year.

This cutback for Lockhed-Martin which was trying to increase its production rate of the aircraft to one a day in the next 5-6 years. Higher production rates mean a lower cost for each individual airplane. Plus Lockheed will be relying heavily on automated and assembly-line production methods to meet its target goals.

While the United States is the primary customer, other countries are wanting some of the action as well. Such as the United Kingdom, the Netherlands, Canada, Norway, Denmark, Australia, and Turkey. Sales of the F-35 expect to top out over $16 billion by 2016. Reporter Christopher Hinton in his article stated that this is 25% of Lockheed-Martin's total revenue. This is information provided for by Bernstein Research. Each F-35 costs about $83 million right now and costs per plane by 2014 is expecting to go down to $80 million per airplane.

The title for my post is more tongue in cheek than any actual threats to production. But I have been thinking lately that these big companies in the US Industrial/Military complex are pricing themselves out of business with their biggest customer - the United States of America.

Not being an insider, I wonder if smaller companies - say Cessna, Piper, Air Tractor, etc., be given funding to produce flying prototypes of next generation fighter aircraft. Look at the problems the USAF is having trying to get a replacement for the air tanker role. It is so bogged down with politics now. Boeing or Northrup/Grumman(EADS). There is a article on James Hasik blog you ought to take a look at. See the ref section for the link. I mean, we are at the point that we might as well split the purchase of those tankers between the two companies.

These other companies should be able to come up with fresh ideas that do not cost in the billions the same old way that Lockheed and Boeing keep on doing for the past 50 years. We keep finding ourselves in COIN operations and not World War Three. While I realize that we need to have equipment that can operate in WW3, those same fighters do not have the abilities that aircraft set up for COIN operations need to have.

And I guess the main thrust of my post here is that we seem to be stuck in a groove. We want fighters for World War Three - go to Lockheed-Martin. Want a fighter for the Navy-go to Northrup/Grumman. Need a bomber or tanker-Boeing or Airbus now.

Maybe in 2010, things will settle down as far as how new equipment for our military will be planned for and purchased.

Bloomberg also had a new article on military programs January 8, 2010 by Tony Capaccio (see link below). It delt more with Def. Secretary Robert Gates restoring funding to several programs including the C-130 upgrade program.

Ref. Market Watch, Christopher Hinton, January 7, 2010. (
James Shasik, January 3, 2010 (
Bloomberg, Tony Capaccio, January 8, 2010. (

Sunday, January 3, 2010

First Airplane in Antarctica remains found

News from the Mawson's Huts Foundation has found the remains of the first airplane ever taken to Antarctica back in 1912.

Quoting team member Tony Stewart on their blog from Cape Denison (in Antarctica's Commonwealth Bay, on Jan 2, 2010) "The biggest news of the day is that we've found the air tractor, or at least parts of it."

That expedition to Antarctic by the Australian team in 1911-14 used the airplane as a tractor/sled since the wings were damage. The airplane itself is of a single-engine Vickers that was built in 1911. This is just 8-years after the Wright Brother's first flight folks! Eventually, the engine just could not stand the cold and so it was eventually abandoned.

In the 1970s, the remains where photographed. It appeared to be encompassed in the ice or almost. Now, it is underwater and the photographs on their blog show the fragments.

This posting will be posted on both of my blogs to start off the new year with.

Ref. January 3, 2010. AP writer Tanalee Smith. (;_ylt=AvHiDsiYPpXMDWwlLd5Ey55xieAA;_ylu=X3oDMTE5M2V1OGVlBHBvcwMxBHNlYwN5bl9yX3RvcF9waG90bwRzbGsDaW50aGlzMTkxMmlt). Image is also from this posting.
Mawson's Huts Foundation blog (