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The Real Upcoming Space Wars?


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In reply to an earlier post on Jan 25, 2010 10:35:13 AM PST
Last edited by the author on Jan 25, 2010 10:52:49 AM PST
To Marilyn Martin:
RE: "...the new drone GA-ASI (General Atomic Aeronautical Systems) MQ-1C. (Is it atomic powered? Then why is NASA cancelling future space missions from lack of plutonium?)"

No, the drone is not atomic powered. General Atomics is the name of a major defense contractor that was founded in 1955 and is a division of General Dynamics. Some of the products that they provide, besides reactors, include UAVs (aerial drones), maglev transportation, electronic aircraft launch systems (EALS), and AC propulsion systems for mining mega-trucks. Aeronautical Systems is an "affiliated company."

RE: "U.S. ARMY EVALUATES LOAD-CARRYING EXOSKELTONS - These hydraulic-powered outer shells are designed to help soldiers carry up to 200 pounds. (Is "Ironman" becoming reality? Is there a military limit - or limited interest - in nano-technology?)"

A better literary allusion, rather than Ironman, would be Robert Heinlein's novel Starship Troopers. One of the functions of the combat armor depicted in that book was to allow the individual soldier to be able to carry more ammunition and heavier weapons.

Nanotechnology? There is absolutely nothing in the exoskeleton prototype that is related to nanotechnology! Where did you get that idea?

In reply to an earlier post on Jan 25, 2010 11:01:44 AM PST
M. Helsdon says:
Walter,

"Nanotechnology? There is absolutely nothing in the exoskeleton prototype that is related to nanotechnology!"

In the comic and movie Ironman's suit uses various fantastical nano-technologies.

As you say, these exoskeletons are closer to the 'traditional' powered-armor of sf, though at present without the armor. A movie equivalent would be the Caterpillar Power Loader P-5000 Ripley uses in Aliens to fight the alien queen.

In reply to an earlier post on Jan 25, 2010 2:02:12 PM PST
Last edited by the author on Jan 25, 2010 2:05:39 PM PST
P.S. Rain says:
Yep. I saw it first hand! In fact, the bug-eyed runts wanted to use me as a target. In fact they did! However, i remain.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uw1bHaUk1CM&feature=player_embedded

In reply to an earlier post on Jan 25, 2010 2:13:06 PM PST
To M. Helsdon:
RE: "In the comic and movie Ironman's suit uses various fantastical nano-technologies."

Thanks. I haven't read an Ironman comic book in decades and, believe it or not, I didn't see the movie.

RE: "A movie equivalent would be the Caterpillar Power Loader P-5000 Ripley uses in Aliens to fight the alien queen."

Exactly! When I first saw Ripley starting up the Loader and putting equipment aboard the dropship, I practically had a religious experience because I remembered that during the '60s, the USAF was working on an exoskeleton system for moving heavy loads called the Man Amplifier, or ManAmp for short. It failed because they just didn't have enough computer power back then.

In reply to an earlier post on Jan 25, 2010 2:22:11 PM PST
To P.S. Rain:
The link showed a concert! What's up with that?

In reply to an earlier post on Jan 25, 2010 2:42:28 PM PST
M. Helsdon says:
Walter,

"I haven't read an Ironman comic book in decades and, believe it or not, I didn't see the movie."

That's two of us then.

Posted on Jan 26, 2010 8:28:58 AM PST
Walter -

Thanks to you and MH for the correction, that "General Atomic" is the contractor's name. And does not refer to nuclear-powered drones.

My reference to nano-technology in the "exoskeleton" post, was something of a bad joke. Private nano researchers are busy trying to reduce the size and weight of critical equipment, so you can carry more for less. Yet the military appears to be blundering in the opposite direction, with hydralic-lift exoskeletons so the soldier can stagger around with over 200 pounds of military gear, weaponry and a cumbersom "shell". So I guess my real questions are these:

--- What is the soldier going to be carrying? Rocket launchers and rockets? Computer mainframes? A year's supply of dehydrated food?
--- How can a foot-soldier go into combat encased in a shell? He may be sending live-feeds of his every move to the Pentagon. But he'd lose speed, the ability for nimble and quick evasive action, as well as his ability to "improvise" to rapid changes in the battle arena. And probably couldn't even run!
--- DoD was investigating new combat helmets, that could not only detect the enemy within a certain 360 degree range, but actually identify the kind of weapon the enemy is carrying! I'd rather see the military go in this direction, than "loading down" a ground-pounder, and making their dangerous job even more dangerous.

In reply to an earlier post on Jan 26, 2010 7:03:30 PM PST
Last edited by the author on Jan 26, 2010 7:05:02 PM PST
To Marilyn Martin:
RE: "Private nano researchers are busy trying to reduce the size and weight of critical equipment, so you can carry more for less."

That's actually known as miniaturization, and it's been going on since long before the concept of nanotechnology was even thought of. For example, the fact that a PC, desktop or laptop, is orders of magnitude more powerful than a 2nd or even 3rd generation mainframe computer of the '50s or '60s is a function of the ongoing efforts of many researchers to make the components smaller, faster, and more efficent. The first nuclear bombs, for example Little Boy (yield: 15.5 kilotons), weighed around 8,900 pounds, whereas a modern MIRV-capable thermonuclear warhead such as the W-87 (yield: 475 kilotons) weighs about 520 pounds.

RE: "--- How can a foot-soldier go into combat encased in a shell? He may be sending live-feeds of his every move to the Pentagon. But he'd lose speed, the ability for nimble and quick evasive action, as well as his ability to "improvise" to rapid changes in the battle arena. And probably couldn't even run!"

You bring up some valid points. This could be an extreme example of America's continuing infatuation with "technology" as a "magic bullet". All of those points that you mentioned are key to the survivability of a grunt. I wonder whether the people who are developing the exoskeleton are talking to real live veteran infantry troops - on a continuing basis - to see what it's like in the real world of ground combat. Given the usual habits of large bureaucracies, I rather doubt that they are.

Posted on Jan 27, 2010 11:08:24 AM PST
Hi Walter!

You're right, I was confusing miniaturization for nano-technology. (Although I suspect that someday the difference will be moot.)

Like you, I don't see how this grunt "shell" is going to help the average foot soldier. The only special circumstances I could think of where this hydralic-exoskeleton could be useful, is if that soldier is carrying rockets or a rocket-launcher, and is going to stay in one spot. (Typically in combat, the enemy zeros in on the larger equipment that can kill the most in the shortest amount of time. I think it was WWI where they estimated that a machine gunner was typically one of the first shot in combat.)

Maybe some other behind-the-lines combat functions, like communications or medical, could actually benefit from the added protection. But I still think this exoskeleton would be disasterous for the front-line ground soldier.

In reply to an earlier post on Jan 27, 2010 7:09:52 PM PST
To Marilyn Martin:
RE: "The only special circumstances I could think of where this hydralic-exoskeleton could be useful, is if that soldier is carrying rockets or a rocket-launcher, and is going to stay in one spot."

Well, believe it or not, there's an enormous amount of "tote dat barge, lift dat bale" that goes on in the military, even in modern mechanized and electronicized forces such as what the U.S. has. An ideal application for the hydraulic exoskeleton would be the way that the Ripley character in the movie Aliens used the power loader to load supplies into the dropship before launch.

RE: "I think it was WWI where they estimated that a machine gunner was typically one of the first shot in combat."

Correct. In World War II, it was the flame-thrower guy who was the enemy soldiers' first target.

Posted on Jan 28, 2010 10:28:25 AM PST
Hi Walter!

Thanks for the information. It'll be interesting to see if the military adopts this exoskeleton, and what soldiers will wear it. Maybe, like you suggested, all soldiers headed to a battleground will wear it to carry all the supplies. Then the actual ground soldiers will remove it for combat.

Which brings up another interesting point. Do we have military ground and air transport vehicles, that can transport a squad or patrol of soldiers loaded down with exoskeletons (those alone have to be heavy), plus the 200+ pounds of equipment/supplies each is carrying?

Posted on Jan 28, 2010 1:30:59 PM PST
blunt says:
Oh hey I'm just happy to be here what's going on? God this is so cool, I saw the title The real upcoming space wars, had too be here, OMG I thought it was the Real Upcoming Star Wars God lol right everyone geez lot of people here, sweet, is this about space???? Hope it is, ray guns are real, sooo awesome. It was so worth reading this forum

In reply to an earlier post on Jan 28, 2010 5:11:57 PM PST
Last edited by the author on Jan 28, 2010 5:25:00 PM PST
To Marilyn Martin:
Allow me to put your fears to rest regarding combat soldiers being hampered by a whiz-bang electromechanical exoskeleton. First, soldiers are inherently conservative; military leaders don't just jump on the "coolest" new hot thing. For example, even though the Thompson submachinegun had been invented in 1919, during World War Two most troops were equiped with the M-1 Garand semiautomatic rifle and later with the M-1 carbine. Second, soldiers in the field are eminently practical; they will quickly get rid of anything that slows them down or hinders them in any way. For example, when the M-16 assault rifle was first introduced in Vietnam, it had a tendency to jam - and at the worst possible times too! Many soldiers managed to obtain their former weapons, which were M-14s. Some troops even managed to get ahold of the adversaries' weapon - the AK-47, which could be thrown into the mud and still come up firing.

RE: "Do we have military ground and air transport vehicles, that can transport a squad or patrol of soldiers loaded down with exoskeletons (those alone have to be heavy), plus the 200+ pounds of equipment/supplies each is carrying?"

I don't know the answer to your question. However, I think that the hydraulic exoskeleton is lighter than you might think - on the order of 100 pounds or so. This would mean that a fully loaded trooper might weigh something like the following: Load + exoskeleton + trooper = 200 lb + 100 lb + 185 lb = 485 lb. The following is a link to one article: http://www.theregister.co.uk/2009/09/08/hulc_dsei/

Posted on Jan 29, 2010 8:08:26 AM PST
Hi Walter!

Thanks for the link to the story and photo. (Tickled me that it came out of a UK newspaper. I get some of the greatest U.S. stories from foreign media too!)

In VietNam, everything was dress-down, due to the heat and humidity. And "middle-size weaponry" had advanced (?) to planes dropping napalm to defoliate the jungle growth. Guns jammed regularly, so most soldiers carried blade weapons. Do the loaded-down soldiers we have in combat now even carry knives anymore?

In reply to an earlier post on Jan 29, 2010 4:26:29 PM PST
Last edited by the author on Jan 29, 2010 7:06:57 PM PST
To Marilyn Martin:
RE: "Guns jammed regularly, so most soldiers carried blade weapons."

Jamming wasn't all THAT common in Vietnam, once they ironed the kinks out of the M-16 rifle.

RE: "Do the loaded-down soldiers we have in combat now even carry knives anymore?"

Of course, they do! Now they carry the M-9 combination bayonet & combat knife, the successor to the venerable K-Bar combat knife. ADDENDUM: It appears that the K-Bar (actually, KA-BAR) is still around, after all.

Posted on Jan 30, 2010 7:35:48 AM PST
Hi Walter!

Thanks for the answers. Since our ground soldiers are busy being loaded down with electronics, I'd hope the basics (like blade weapons) hadn't disappeared, throwing-the-baby-out-with-the-bathwater.

And the lesson of jamming rifles in VietNam wasn't lost on future rifle designers. I've seen TV shows where current rifle designers are taking the environment into account, designing weapons that won't jam in water, sand, or any other type of weather or environment. (Although for backup, I'm glad they still have blade weapons!)

In reply to an earlier post on Feb 2, 2010 5:15:25 PM PST
To Marilyn Martin:
Here are some links re current Army assault rifle & its variants:
http://world.guns.ru/assault/as18-e.htm
and a possible near-future weapon:
http://world.guns.ru/assault/as61-e.htm

In reply to an earlier post on Feb 4, 2010 7:35:43 AM PST
Hi Walter!

Thanks for the links. Someone predicted that future rifles were going to have more modular components, that can be added or removed. (Sort of an updated take on bayonets, I think.) Maybe a mini-rocket launcher, or a mini-explosive to go thru walls.

Maybe I read too much science fiction, but I'm waiting for the "next gen" of ammo. Something like ... "laser fusion". (I posted a very recent article on this in Space Opera, "Craft Propulsion..." thread.)

In reply to an earlier post on Feb 4, 2010 7:56:52 AM PST
M. Helsdon says:
"Maybe I read too much science fiction, but I'm waiting for the "next gen" of ammo. Something like ... "laser fusion"."

The next generation of ammunition is probably caseless, combining primer, propellant, and projectile together with no need to eject the empty case.

Posted on Feb 4, 2010 8:34:54 AM PST
What I meant by "next gen" of ammo, is something beyond gun powder and bullets. Most Sci Fi writers think lasers/phasers/ray-guns will be the "next gen" of personal weapons, once we work the kinks out of miniaturized lasers.

And the "laser fusion" I referred to is exciting news, both for spacecraft propulsion and possibly later weaponry. (I've been waiting for a mightly-morph, self-sustaining power source. Looks like someone found it with "laser fusion"!)

In reply to an earlier post on Feb 4, 2010 9:27:21 AM PST
M. Helsdon says:
"What I meant by "next gen" of ammo, is something beyond gun powder and bullets. Most Sci Fi writers think lasers/phasers/ray-guns will be the "next gen" of personal weapons, once we work the kinks out of miniaturized lasers."

A man-portable hand-held weapon is a long way off. We have such weapons that can be used to *blind* the target, but to actually otherwise maim, disable, kill... No.

"And the "laser fusion" I referred to is exciting news, both for spacecraft propulsion and possibly later weaponry. (I've been waiting for a mightly-morph, self-sustaining power source. Looks like someone found it with "laser fusion"!)"

No, that's simply reporting the latest attempt to get further with fusion research. It is not a "self-sustaining power source".

All fusion experiments are based either on inertial confinement fusion using high-energy beams of laser light, electrons or ions (lasers are the most popular choice) or magnetic confinement fusion.

This is attempting inertial confinement fusion using 192 large lasers.

The New Scientist article refers to an experiment which has so far cranked up the laser input to 1 megajoule at Livermore's 192-laser beam National Ignition Facility. It uses 192 giant laser beams in the experiment housed in a ten-story building the size of three football fields.

It has not yet ignited a fusion reaction that produces more energy than the lasers deliver to the fusion fuel pellet.

Even when it does this isn't something you could carry on your back, in a tank, in an aircraft... Not for a long time.

http://www.newscientist.com/article/dn18446-giant-laser-reaches-key-milestone-for-fusion.html

Posted on Feb 7, 2010 10:29:05 AM PST
Last edited by the author on Feb 7, 2010 10:32:18 AM PST
Hey Walter!

http://www.boston.com/business/technology/articles/2010/02/07/agency_of_change_for_region/

This is an article from today's on-line Boston Globe. One of DARPA's latest military-bots is called Big Dog. This is a canine-like cargo bot, which can carry 400 pounds of equipment/supplies for a Marine squad. It can travel up to 20 miles, and automatically follows a human leader.

Personally, I think Big Dog would be more useful in a combat zone, than individual soldiers loaded down with an exo-skeleton. What do you think?

In reply to an earlier post on Feb 9, 2010 5:14:27 AM PST
Last edited by the author on Feb 9, 2010 5:30:12 AM PST
To Marilyn Martin:
The current standard U.S. Army rifle is the M4 carbine, a descendent of the M16. It has some modular accessories. Please see the following link: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/M4_carbine

Apparently, the Pentagon bureaucracy is NOT as diligent in obtaining the best equipment for the troops as one would hope. Even when there's something better available, the Army is sticking with a rifle with known deficiencies. Please see the following links: http://www.armytimes.com/news/2007/02/atCarbine070219/
and
http://www.military.com/NewsContent/0,13319,131317,00.html

Speaking of near-future military science fiction, see below for a series about the U.S. Marines, starting in the year 2040.

Series by Ian Douglas [scientifically correct military SF]
Heritage Trilogy
1. Semper Mars (1998)
2. Luna Marine (1999)
3. Europa Strike (2000)

Legacy Trilogy
1. Star Corps (2003)
2. Battlespace (2006)
3. Star Marines (2007)

Inheritance Trilogy
1. Star Strike (2008)
2. Galactic Corps (2008)
3. Semper Human (2009)
[The dates are the publication years.]

Here's an excerpt from the novel Semper Mars, describing the Marines' standard assault rifle:

The M-29 ATAR, or advanced-technology assault rifle, was a direct-line descendent of the German-made G-11s of the last century, firing a 4.5mm ablative sabot caseless round with a muzzle velocity of over a kilometer and a half per second. With each bullet embedded in a solid rectangular block of propellant, there was no spent brass with each shot, and no open ejection port to foul with dirt, sand, or mud. The weapon was loaded by snapping a plastic box containing one hundred rounds into the loading port in the butt, a "bullpup" design that resulted in a rifle only seventy centimeters long and weighing just four kilos. The -29 looked like a blocky, squared-off plastic toy with a cheap telescope affixed to the top and a pistol grip on the bottom...which was why the men and women who carried them referred to the weapons as their toys.
The caseless ammo was both the M-29's greatest strength and its biggest weakness. The lack of shell casings to feed through an ejection port gave the rifle an incredibly high cyclic rate of twenty-five hundred rounds per minute, so fast that a three- or five-round burst could have the bullets on their way and dead on-target before the recoil had affected the shooter's aim. On the down-side, though, the firing chamber was easily fouled by chemical residues from the propellant blocks. The weapon used a clean-burning propellant, but there was always some gunk left over when it burned, and without an ejection port or shell casings, that gunk built up fast...fast enough to degrade the rifle's performance after only a couple of mags.

Douglas, Ian. Semper Mars. New York, NY: HarperCollins, 1998, pp. 50-51.

To me the first three books [the Heritage Triology] are the best. The descriptions of the various technologies, both civilian and military, seem realistic and plausible. The following six books, being placed further into the future, are full of excellent desciptions of even more advanced technology. Unfortunately, some of them begin to border on fantasy or a deus ex machina. Of course, that conforms with Clarke's Law: "Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic."

In reply to an earlier post on Feb 9, 2010 5:35:02 AM PST
To M. Helsdon:
RE: "The next generation of ammunition is probably caseless, combining primer, propellant, and projectile together with no need to eject the empty case."

The following is a science fictional description of a near future assault rifle:

The M-29 ATAR, or advanced-technology assault rifle, was a direct-line descendent of the German-made G-11s of the last century, firing a 4.5mm ablative sabot caseless round with a muzzle velocity of over a kilometer and a half per second. With each bullet embedded in a solid rectangular block of propellant, there was no spent brass with each shot, and no open ejection port to foul with dirt, sand, or mud. The weapon was loaded by snapping a plastic box containing one hundred rounds into the loading port in the butt, a "bullpup" design that resulted in a rifle only seventy centimeters long and weighing just four kilos. The -29 looked like a blocky, squared-off plastic toy with a cheap telescope affixed to the top and a pistol grip on the bottom...which was why the men and women who carried them referred to the weapons as their toys.
The caseless ammo was both the M-29's greatest strength and its biggest weakness. The lack of shell casings to feed through an ejection port gave the rifle an incredibly high cyclic rate of twenty-five hundred rounds per minute, so fast that a three- or five-round burst could have the bullets on their way and dead on-target before the recoil had affected the shooter's aim. On the down-side, though, the firing chamber was easily fouled by chemical residues from the propellant blocks. The weapon used a clean-burning propellant, but there was always some gunk left over when it burned, and without an ejection port or shell casings, that gunk built up fast...fast enough to degrade the rifle's performance after only a couple of mags.

Douglas, Ian. Semper Mars. New York, NY: HarperCollins, 1998, pp. 50-51.

In reply to an earlier post on Feb 9, 2010 6:30:46 AM PST
To Marilyn Martin:
RE: "laser fusion"

Uh...I hate to rain on your parade, but what you call "laser fusion," formally known as inertial confinement, has been an on-going topic of research at least since the '70s, particularly at Lawrence Livermore (also at Los Alamos). However, I fully agree with you in calling it "exciting news."
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