Lockheed Martin's Multi-Kill Vehicle
December 9, 2008 6:51 PM   Subscribe

 
I first read that as "Martin Luther's Multi-Kill Vehicle".

Those 95 theses are going to nail the church door all right...WITH EXTREME PREJUDICE.
posted by DU at 6:56 PM on December 9, 2008 [15 favorites]


Remember, you heard the crackling sound of dystopian death machines here first!
posted by isopraxis at 6:56 PM on December 9, 2008


I found watching that MKV hover about to be oddly relaxing.
posted by Burhanistan at 6:57 PM on December 9, 2008


Can someone explain quickly what it's suppose to be killing so I can be as far away from that as possible? KTHXBI.
posted by phyrewerx at 6:59 PM on December 9, 2008 [1 favorite]


SKYNET!!!


But seriously, it almost looked like a CGI effect to me.
posted by Saxon Kane at 7:00 PM on December 9, 2008


This is a missile defense technology.
posted by autodidact at 7:03 PM on December 9, 2008


Wait, I know this. You have to push the table in front of the ventilation duct, jump on the table, break the duct grill with the crowbar, kill the facehuggers inside, crawl through the duct, and turn on the power switch, which will cause the ceiling to drop, crushing the multi-kill vehicle. Right?
posted by Slithy_Tove at 7:07 PM on December 9, 2008 [6 favorites]


Misses the camera every time :(
posted by jfrancis at 7:09 PM on December 9, 2008 [2 favorites]


But seriously, it almost looked like a CGI effect to me

Er, I think the article states that it's 3D, no?
posted by scarello at 7:10 PM on December 9, 2008


Grandpa?
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 7:11 PM on December 9, 2008 [6 favorites]


That's so scary looking it doesn't even need to be lethal. I would run like hell from that thing even if it was a Multi-Lovable Ice Cream Vehicle.
posted by spiderwire at 7:12 PM on December 9, 2008 [15 favorites]


So how long until they miniaturize these into briefcase-sized guided missiles for "anti-personnel" purposes? I'm picturing one of these things coming down my hallway and blowing me up in my bedroom one day in April 2026 for buying 5 copies of the World Almanac and taking a picture of a bridge.
posted by crapmatic at 7:15 PM on December 9, 2008 [5 favorites]


I can't help but think this is a total waste of funds. We're in Iraq and Afghanistan right now and we're still wasting how many millions to build anti-missile systems? If there's a credible threat against which we need anti-missile systems, tell us what it is. Otherwise, can we sink this money into something -- anything! -- else? Health care, solar power, anti-IED devices, armor for troops. Something.
posted by barnacles at 7:16 PM on December 9, 2008 [4 favorites]


This seems much more effective than a guard dog. Maybe iRobot will sell me one of these someday. I mean, you could just have it fire blanks or something, I'm pretty sure the sight of that thing hovering and shooting would be plenty to scare off intruders / solicitors / evangelists / whatever.
posted by wildcrdj at 7:17 PM on December 9, 2008


I think the firing-type noises are just rocket boosters keeping it in position, rather than gunshots. It looks like it's designed to destroy incoming nuclear missiles; gunfire wouldn't really be very effective at that unless the MKV was very, very close. Maybe that's the idea, and I'm just missing it.
posted by DMan at 7:20 PM on December 9, 2008


The Pentagon is investing big in an interceptor that can knock down several missiles at once, and get past any countermeasures. But for this "Multiple Kill Vehicle" to work right, it has to be able to radically maneuver and reposition itself in mid-air. Earlier this months, a prototype payload was tested at Edwards Air Force Base in California. And the result, as Ares notes, was something that looked like the target droid that "zapped a blindfolded Luke Skywalker during lightsaber training."

Wired's Danger Level Blog, always a most excellent read.
posted by krautland at 7:22 PM on December 9, 2008


how long until they miniaturize these into briefcase-sized guided missiles for "anti-personnel" purposes?

knife missiles. yes.
posted by bonehead at 7:26 PM on December 9, 2008 [4 favorites]


I don't think this could even fire shells - the recoil would be a lot to handle. Missles don't recoil.
posted by jimmythefish at 7:26 PM on December 9, 2008


If there's a credible threat against which we need anti-missile systems, tell us what it is.

Unemployed rocket scientists.
posted by kuujjuarapik at 7:27 PM on December 9, 2008 [16 favorites]


I believe Iran and North Korea are the credible missile threats. I'm not sure that either has missiles with enough range to hit us directly, but they could pretty easily hit Israel or South Korea, respectively.

Not that health care and solar power are less worthy goals, though.
posted by echo target at 7:29 PM on December 9, 2008


I have a large pile of money sitting here, which I will give to the first person who stages a live, webcast battle to the death between this thing and the Big Dog.
posted by greenie2600 at 7:32 PM on December 9, 2008 [7 favorites]


Er, I think the article states that it's 3D, no?
posted by scarello at 10:10 PM on December


It says it moves around in 3D space, not that it is a 3d render.

can't help but think this is a total waste of funds.

I disagree. Iraq may be a waste of money, but spending money on massive technological innovation like this is not, in my opinion. While it is developed for a missile defense system, whatever technology drives the insanely fast hair-trigger jets could be applied to all sort of things. Granted the only things that come to mind right now involve killing people in new and interesting ways, but I'm sure it has other applications.
posted by Pastabagel at 7:34 PM on December 9, 2008 [3 favorites]


I believe Iran and North Korea are the credible missile threats. I'm not sure that either has missiles with enough range to hit us directly, but they could pretty easily hit Israel or South Korea, respectively.

I think this thing is a tactical device aimed at dealing with anti-ship missiles and the like rather than ICBM-type weapons. So, you're still correct. Iran and N. Korea have tons of those.
posted by Burhanistan at 7:36 PM on December 9, 2008


When they develop an Ultrakill vehicle, then I'll be worried.
posted by Lemurrhea at 7:40 PM on December 9, 2008 [3 favorites]


Otherwise, can we sink this money into something -- anything! -- else? Health care, solar power, anti-IED devices, armor for troops. Something.

I appreciate the sentiment, but I don't think we've spent any money on this thing yet. It's being developed by a private company. If the military deems it useful, they'll buy it at some point in the future.
posted by roll truck roll at 7:45 PM on December 9, 2008


That is the most awesome machinimia of lunar lander i have ever seen.
posted by tehloki at 7:45 PM on December 9, 2008 [3 favorites]


Is there any reason at all to believe this works for its intended purpose?

Missile defense technologies developed so far have a really terrible testing track record, and it seems like feasibility and effectiveness are only weak constraints on funding this kind of thing. We do it for pork, to show domestic audiences we're tough, and possibly to bother Russia and China (this stuff does bother them). So while it looks scary, I am skeptical that it does anything.
posted by grobstein at 7:49 PM on December 9, 2008 [1 favorite]


This is an anti-ballistic missile defense system. It destroys a cloud of warheads from a missile with nuclear warheads on it.
posted by Ironmouth at 7:51 PM on December 9, 2008


I just hope they have it all figured out before they reach The Frontier.
posted by XQUZYPHYR at 7:51 PM on December 9, 2008


Is there any reason at all to believe this works for its intended purpose?

None at all -- the odds of it actually being capable of what they want it to accomplish are between slim and none. Lots of control systems engineers made $100k salaries though.
posted by Chuckles at 7:58 PM on December 9, 2008


This reminds me of some conceptual art a college friend of mine had showed me of designs he was working on when he went to work for Boeing, developing some of their SDI proj
Hold on. There's a bunch of cars outside. Someones's knocking. I'll get back in a little bit.
posted by Kronos_to_Earth at 8:03 PM on December 9, 2008 [2 favorites]


Is there any reason at all to believe this works for its intended purpose?

At the moment, it works as far as they've currently developed it -- it hovers as intended. According to this, they're still about a year away from testing this system against targets. That said, the hovering thing is really neat, and will probably come in handy elsewhere (maybe even in non-military applications), even if the target test phase fails.
posted by vorfeed at 8:24 PM on December 9, 2008


I'm quite impressed - they basically hover the thing using partial thrust from one of it's side-mounted lateral-manoeuvering thrusters. I'm running on the assumption that the main axis of the vehicle points towards the camera, as it will be launched on a booster rocket of some description to loft it into the path of incoming ICBMs.

This thing will have incredible lateral manoeuvering power once above the atmosphere, it'll make an ordinary SAM look like a sloth. Whether it'll actually hit and destroy oincoming warheads is another matter. Whether hit warheads will do anything other than rain radioactive dust and debris over a much wider area is also another matter.
posted by Nice Guy Mike at 8:24 PM on December 9, 2008


It was a hover test. When it did land, it was on a metal net, where it rolled onto the grate in the floor. If it didn't have the net angled to the grate and it fired up again, it would zip off in whatever direction, might be hard to control, hence it got tested inside a netting. Don't think it'll be anywhere near the ground in operation. It's in it's early stage of development, I'd presume.

Big Dog looks like 2 referees facing each other while watching a replay video at a football game. Whomever pushes the one over the line wins. lol.
Seriously, it's really nimble footed and looks like a large flea.

Cool toys.

Hello Mattelâ„¢, Christmas is near, got that ready yet?
posted by alicesshoe at 8:24 PM on December 9, 2008


Otherwise, can we sink this money into something -- anything! -- else? Health care, solar power, anti-IED devices, armor for troops. Something.

I appreciate the sentiment, but I don't think we've spent any money on this thing yet. It's being developed by a private company.


We, as a society, have indeed spent money on this. Private corporations get the same money everyone else gets, they just get it more easily.
posted by regicide is good for you at 8:27 PM on December 9, 2008 [1 favorite]


It is probably the same group of engineers at Lockheed working on this who also work on Dish Network's and Direct TV's satellites that get you the History and Disney channels--the little jets that position and aim these satellites work similarly to the ones keeping this MKV thingy afloat and aimed in this test.

So the technology development is probably not wasted even if we never use this thing (and lets hope we never have to).

Sometimes just letting rogue countries know you have something like this is enough to keep them from being foolish. Naming it the "Multi-Kill Vehicle" probably helps get the point across.
posted by eye of newt at 8:28 PM on December 9, 2008


roll truck roll: Lockheed Martin got USD 750M of your taxpayer money to develop this and the rest of the system.

Isn't that the way most R & D is carried out for defense in the US?
posted by sien at 8:30 PM on December 9, 2008



Isn't that the way most R & D is carried out for defense in the US?


Yes. It's all either done literally for government money, or in anticipation of getting government money. (Is someone really disagreeing on this point?)
posted by grobstein at 8:42 PM on December 9, 2008


I think the firing-type noises are just rocket boosters keeping it in position, rather than gunshots. It looks like it's designed to destroy incoming nuclear missiles; gunfire wouldn't really be very effective at that unless the MKV was very, very close. Maybe that's the idea, and I'm just missing it.

I'm not sure who suggested it was gunshots. They're clearly stabilizing thrusters firing to keep it hovering as directed, not gunshots. The little bottle-shaped things around it are placeholders for the weapons part. In a live design, these would each be independent missiles. Recoil is not an issue because these individual missiles would just be released from the main body, then activated after they were a safe distance away.

It would continue maneuvering with the stabilizers, as shown, releasing more of the warheads to the remaining targets.
posted by odinsdream at 8:44 PM on December 9, 2008


Ha, that thing ... I edited test footage of that when I was working for a large defense dept. contractor back in 1990 or 91.

They've been screwing around with that for at least that long, and it seems to be about where it was when I last saw it.

DoD contractor welfare and little else.
posted by Relay at 8:55 PM on December 9, 2008 [5 favorites]


Relay: That makes me feel... better isn't the word.
posted by odinsdream at 9:04 PM on December 9, 2008


Holtzman suspensor fields!
posted by growli at 9:09 PM on December 9, 2008


I stand corrected. Carry on.
posted by roll truck roll at 9:22 PM on December 9, 2008


Essentially, (and I don't want to go into some big long treatise here), what that thing is, is a test vehicle. A proof of concept sort of thing.

The one that I worked on the footage for appeared to be smaller, and more square, than a rectangular solid like this one. This one also has what looks like cylindrical mock ups for weapons stores.

Anyway, the footage that I worked with had a shot of the thing tracking a target, for about 3 seconds then shutting down - fault in the software, as I recall.

Also, this one is a lot quieter and seems to fire off less control pulses then the older model.
posted by Relay at 9:24 PM on December 9, 2008


this technology is obviously bringing us one step closer to this:
http://www.nerve.com/CS/blogs/modernmaterialist/2008/07/hoverboard01.jpg
!!!
posted by matt_od at 9:28 PM on December 9, 2008


I really hate the knee-jerk reaction against anything defense-related. With little more than a superficial view of the technology, some commenters here are happy to pass judgment and completely ignore any of the hard work and innovation that may have gone into getting something like that to work. It reminds me of Sarah Palin mocking fruit fly research that was actually a project that boosted autism understanding.
posted by SAC at 9:28 PM on December 9, 2008 [8 favorites]


viral advertisement in response to Obama's "Unproven Missile Defense System" statement. The message to the public is hey it works - hence this spectacular success(sic) that was recently in the news. I am sure there where be more of this stuff to sway public opinion.

For here is a less subtle video [ YouTube Link ]

This is the future of the planet we are talking about ... lets not get dubya-ed again.

[article].
posted by tofupup at 9:50 PM on December 9, 2008 [2 favorites]


SAC, if you're referring to my comment (even in part), it's hardly a knee-jerk reaction on my part against anything defense-related. Do I need to give my rah-rah military credentials? If so: from a career military family (though I never served), and grandparents were both in the military. Some of the great grandparents did, if that helps. I'm hardly anti-defense.

Since I appear to have been misunderstood: the technology is very cool. The purpose for which the technology was built is ridiculous.

Though this is technology developed at great cost privately by Lockheed Martin, as others have pointed out, that cost will undoubtedly be passed on to US taxpayers, and for no real reason. Anti-missile defense? I stand by my previous comment: sink the money from this into current needs, not pie-in-the-sky needs. Can anyone truly say that given everything else facing us and our military right now that missile attacks are high on our list of worries?

If this technology is of use in other systems, fantastic. Fan-fucking-tastic! But tell me that, not just that it's an anti-missile system. Currently, all I know is that this is prototype missile-defense, and so I feel comfortable in thinking it's not the best use of research money. If North Korean missiles start falling on the US, though, I'll admit to being quite the fool. Given reality, though, perhaps there are other things to think about to which cool research could be put to use.

Like matt_od says: goddamned hoverboards. There's crazy research dollars well spent, right there.
posted by barnacles at 9:53 PM on December 9, 2008


I really hate the knee-jerk reaction against anything defense-related.

It's not a knee-jerk reaction. Anti-ballistic missile defense technologies have a track record. A very bad track record. In addition, there are various reasons to believe it's a bad idea even in the unlikely event that it works to present specifications. Wikipedia on these concerns; based on my own reading, the Wikipedia article is quite a bit too "balanced," but it is still plenty skeptical. Here is a list of tests with results; note that the definitions of "success" have been gerrymandered so that tests are accounted successes even when they provide negligible evidence about the performance of an ABM system in the event of an attack. But even if we use the Defense definitions of success, a 57% success rate is not encouraging, and suggests that the system is vulnerable to very simple countermeasures (for example, only a small number of dummie missiles would have to be launched to shrink that success rate into meaninglessness). Those statistics are not about this new Lockheed tech specifically, but they form a background which should inform how we look at missile defense sales pitches.

Missile defense has also been involved in high-profile pork (a program that would have covered the continental US was canceled in favor of a much more expensive deployment in which Alaska gets its own base). In addition, some of the skeptical voices upthread have specific expertise in this area.

Therefore, suspicion is warranted.
really, though, I think a healthy skepticism is always warranted when what you're looking at is an advertisement for fat government contracts. is it an unfair "knee-jerk reaction" if we don't take marketing pitches literally?
posted by grobstein at 10:00 PM on December 9, 2008 [2 favorites]


On preview, I'm totally digging tofupup's and barnacles' responses.
posted by grobstein at 10:02 PM on December 9, 2008


SDI-tastic!
posted by Artw at 10:09 PM on December 9, 2008


It's not a knee-jerk reaction. Anti-ballistic missile defense technologies have a track record. A very bad track record.

You know, 105 years ago (to the month) heavier than air human flight also had "a very bad track record."

Now I'd be the first to agree that missile defense is a big pork barrel waste of the average American's tax dollar, but if anything the technology in this demo seems to be specifically aimed at fixing some of the issues that have been painfully obvious from those other missile defense tests you mentioned.

Briefly, the solution they are demonstrating does not have to worry about decoys by having enough anti-missiles to take out the real missiles and the fakes. Of course, all it takes is for a Russian rocket scientist (heh) to count the number of tubes on that thing and make sure that the number of warheads outnumbers those on the MKV.

Of course this will lead someone to exclaim "We must not allow a tube gap!" (funny to the Kubrick loving Brits no doubt)
posted by furtive at 10:21 PM on December 9, 2008


I hate knee-jerk reactions brought on from knee-jerk reactions of people who may or may not be jerks complaining about completely valid points, the point being we spend way to much fucking money on murder and war.
posted by BrnP84 at 10:24 PM on December 9, 2008


barnacles: Yeah, it was primarily a response to your comment. Specifically the first line, "I can't help but think this is a total waste of funds." My argument is that even if this thing never protects anyone, "total waste of funds" is still very likely an exaggeration. At every point the entire history of NASA, couldn't one have argued that there were "better uses" for those funds? Weren't there always people dying of starvation or soldiers fighting without sufficient armor?

I'll assume you were being facetious with your hoverboards comment, but my point was exactly that, would you have brought up the same concerns if the video was titled, "Hovercraft Tech Demo" instead of "Multi-kill Vehicle"?

"If this technology is of use in other systems, fantastic. Fan-fucking-tastic! But tell me that, not just that it's an anti-missile system."

My final point was regarding this very type of statement. It's easy to mock something when your audience is primarily on your side. It was easy for Palin to pick on fruit fly research in front of a crowd that is ready to pick up on any signs of "wasteful big-government spending", and it's easy to pick on the military industrial complex in a Metafilter thread. My point is that maybe the video wasn't intended to sell missle defense to the Metafilter crowd, but was instead actually intended to demo one piece of a larger program to whoever had payed for the work. Maybe the video looked cool, and it made its way onto the internet where a gadget blog also thought it looked cool and decided to show it to more people. I have no problems with cutting military spending, and I have no problems with ditching missile defense. I doubt the program that funded this technology is motivated by anything even remotely like autism research, but I would argue that it may not be a total waste of funds. Just because gizmodo didn't offer you the "use in other systems," and just because I can't think of one, doesn't mean it doesn't exist.
posted by SAC at 10:42 PM on December 9, 2008


/Weeps a solitary tear for the death of the spaced based nuclear powered X-ray laser concept, robbed from us by treaties, budgets and sanity.
posted by Artw at 10:44 PM on December 9, 2008 [4 favorites]


"some of the skeptical voices upthread have specific expertise in this area. "

I have some specific expertise in this area (or had, anyway), and these systems can be made to work--though probably for a lot less money than the government is spending. There's no question that the industry sees these programs as pot of gold. (The list is incomplete, there was a success as early as 1984).

Something to think about: any nation that can launch a satellite to space can also land a bomb of any size anywhere in the world in a manner of minutes. I don't think it is unreasonable to be able to protect yourself from this threat.
Putting missile defense into Eastern Europe, however, is just plain looney and asking to recreate a cold war that threatens a nuclear war. Putin started to react strongly but has since backtracked after Obama was elected.

Going way back in history because sometimes lousy analogies are fun and I'm finding myself being too alarmist, China thought they were invincible and didn't want to spend more money on defense back in 1644, so an angry general Wu Sangui opened the gates of the Great Wall, and the Mongols ended up taking over just about all of China. They shouldn't have laughed at his SKV.
posted by eye of newt at 11:09 PM on December 9, 2008


If there's a credible threat against which we need anti-missile systems, tell us what it is

Missiles (and apparently airplanes) are pretty much America's only credible threat, it's not like people are going to come into our house with foot soldiers and tanks, no one is that stupid. If there's an attack on America it's going to be airborne. And when we're talking about our only feasible defense against nuclear attack we better damn have something in the works for that. If we're going to invest in military than I would consider this a better use of money than a lot of other things. But still I gotta agree with Barnacle's hippish sentiment of there's way more shit out there we could be spending money on.

At every point the entire history of NASA, couldn't one have argued that there were "better uses" for those funds? Weren't there always people dying of starvation or soldiers fighting without sufficient armor?

Yea that's true, that's partly why people bitched about NASA and that's why I think Barnacle is bitching about this.
posted by BrnP84 at 11:11 PM on December 9, 2008


oops, SKV.
posted by eye of newt at 11:11 PM on December 9, 2008


It's worth noting on the thread running issue of whether there are automatic reactions to defense related posts that MeFi is pretty good, it's only when things like SDI are talked about that the discussion of the wisdom of certain kinds of military spending kicks up.

For instance, this thread on the DARPA challenge is mostly people saying how impressive it is.

eye of newt: How could you make a system that would get bogged down by firing lots of decoys at it and making the warheads do things like zig zag a bit and play other games?
posted by sien at 11:14 PM on December 9, 2008


With little more than a superficial view of the technology,

You should take a look at a user's profile page before you express your superficial views about their credentials..
posted by Chuckles at 11:14 PM on December 9, 2008


Alright I messed that one up. The Mongol invasion was much earlier. It was a Manchu invasion in 1644--I should always remember to double check my ancient brain when it comes to ancient history. That's what I get for going off-subject.
posted by eye of newt at 11:25 PM on December 9, 2008


The Russians and Americans have a long Cold War history of developing warheads with decoys and various types of zig-zagging and of countering these various threats. Don't know the exact details.
posted by eye of newt at 11:28 PM on December 9, 2008


Whose user profile would you like me to take a look at? Since I've already said I was replaying mainly to barnacles' comment, and he himself stated, "Currently, all I know is that this is prototype missile-defense" I don't really see how my statement was out of line.
posted by SAC at 11:30 PM on December 9, 2008


I have some specific expertise in this area (or had, anyway), and these systems can be made to work--though probably for a lot less money than the government is spending. There's no question that the industry sees these programs as pot of gold.

Without having specific expertise in the field I have my doubts that these systems can work on a shoe string budget. Trying not to sound like a sheep following the flock but if this is true than why hasn't the government (or private companies and people like yourself) have come up with it by now, for a lot less money.
posted by BrnP84 at 11:41 PM on December 9, 2008


A couple of nice Gwynne Dyer pieces on Missile Defense. First The Secret of Ballistic Missile Defense:
Writing in the Globe and Mail, Hellyer said bluntly that "BMD...has about as much to do with rogue missiles as the war on Iraq had to do with weapons of mass destruction." The notion that North Korea might fire one or two ballistic missiles at the US, even if it had a few long-range missiles and nuclear warheads to put on them, is ludicrous. The entire leadership and most of the country would instantly be destroyed by a massive US retaliation. Pyongyang is a very nasty regime, but it hasn't attacked anybody in the past fifty years, it isn't suicidal, and it can be deterred by the threat of retaliation just like Russia or China.. So what is BMD really about?

BMD first emerged in the 1980s as President Ronald Reagan's "Star Wars" proposal. He was genuinely horrified by the idea of a nuclear war, and it was sold to him as a project that could save Americans from a Soviet missile attack. Reagan even wanted to give the BMD technology to the Soviet Union, too, so that they could jointly eradicate the danger of a nuclear exchange, but that's not what the people who sold him the project really had in mind.

In practice, any system designed to destroy incoming ballistic missiles that depends on ground-based interceptors can easily be overwhelmed just by building more missiles. The cost to the Soviet Union of building more ICBMs would always have been far less than the cost of the interceptors needed to shoot them down and their supporting systems, so the Soviet Union could always have saturated US defences in an all-out attack. But what if it were the victim of a US surprise attack that destroyed most of its missiles on the ground? THEN a good American BMD system might beable to deal with the ragged retaliation that was all the Soviets could manage.
And, The Missile Defense Scam:
How can we know that the technology will never be cost-effective? Because even if the technology could finally be made to work to specifications, the whole notion of ballistic missile defence is ridiculous. It will always be ten to a hundred times cheaper to evade the ABM defences by adding decoys and other "penetration aids" to the incoming warheads, making them manoeuvrable, etc. than it is to upgrade the performance of the interceptors.

That performance, after a quarter-century's work, is so poor that only two out of the last five tests worked. And those tests are rigged in the ABM system's favour, with the defenders knowing the incoming missile's type, trajectory and destination. In more recent tests, they have used no decoys at all in an attempt to get the hit rate up. And yet they have deployed the system anyway, first in Alaska and now in Poland.

This is fantasy strategy in the service of the military-industrial complex, and no strategist in the know takes it seriously. But it does allow the owner to make quite impressive symbolic gestures, albeit rather expensive ones.
posted by Chuckles at 11:42 PM on December 9, 2008 [2 favorites]


Leelu Dallas. Moolti-kill.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 11:54 PM on December 9, 2008 [3 favorites]


My biggest problem was the fact that the video wouldn't load, and then I realized "oh, .mkv" and just gave up. Maybe if they called it Aerial Vehicle Interceptor or something, the player would work better.
posted by FatherDagon at 12:15 AM on December 10, 2008 [1 favorite]


Without having specific expertise in the field I have my doubts that these systems can work on a shoe string budget. Trying not to sound like a sheep following the flock but if this is true than why hasn't the government (or private companies and people like yourself) have come up with it by now, for a lot less money.

Well.. One problem with the shoestring budget argument is that they were using discarded Minuteman rocket stages. That is great for playing around, but if you ever want to go into production you have to make new ones -- there goes the shoestring budget.

Anyway, the real debate here is about how you define "working system". One off intercepts -- by some definition -- under controlled circumstances have been possible for a long time. Presumably the Safeguard system was at least marginally capable. The thing you have to keep in mind though, intercepting very large slow flying planes has been well within technological capability for a much longer time, and we know how that worked out. "Working" is a lot different from just intercepting.

Of course if you allow for Gwynne Dyer's view -- that it was always intended to open the door for American preemptive strikes -- then missile defense becomes a lot more practical. I accept Dyer's view of the true goal, but I don't expect to convince anyone else of it. Thing is, if you look at the systems potential capabilities in the face of acceptable real world circumstances (American nuclear aggression being unacceptable), it just can't be effective.
posted by Chuckles at 12:25 AM on December 10, 2008 [1 favorite]


what
posted by Curry at 1:33 AM on December 10, 2008


Chuckles I am very much confused on what you are talking about. You said that this did work, in 1984, on a shoestring budget. So what's this mean than?

Well.. One problem with the shoestring budget argument is that they were using discarded Minuteman rocket stages.

are you arguing against yourself?
Than you talk about Dyer's view, being the goal was for American preemptive strikes. That's not how I interperted his view to be at all, I looked at that as being a statement kinda saying "Missile defense is bogus, it can't happen, all they have to do is shoot more missiles." not "hey we need to go shoot them damn Russian's first."
posted by BrnP84 at 4:27 AM on December 10, 2008


eh nvm, eye of the newt said that first comment, but it still applies. My point was how could something like missile defense work on a shoe string budget, we're talking about advanced military stuff here, not cooking dinner for under 10$. Than I read that Dyer thing you posted and that was enough to convince me that missile defense is a whole lot tougher than I thought, and it already seemed pretty damn tough.
posted by BrnP84 at 4:31 AM on December 10, 2008


I found it cute (and a bit sad) that the author's visceral reaction of horror was eased by: "Fortunately, it will only be deadly to ... the bad guys."
posted by anthill at 5:19 AM on December 10, 2008


FatherDagon writes "then I realized 'oh, .mkv' and just gave up"

Ha. Stupid formats.

This looks like an interesting bit of technology. Now if someone goes and leaks that the official designator for it is "T-1 beta 2" or something I will revise "interesting" to read "effin' scary".
posted by caution live frogs at 5:44 AM on December 10, 2008


I don't know how succesful they were with the "shoestring budget" approach, that wasn't my link anyway.. My point was, if you use free/cheap surplussed rocket motors (that was in the link), it will reduce the development costs quite a bit. Problem being, assuming whatever it is you put together "works", you can not go into production with it. You have to find rocket motors that you can buy in production quantities, and with 20 years of future reliability.

Dyer, from the very next paragraph after my first pull quote:
Such a BMD system is not yet a technological reality even now, twenty years later, but that's what it was always about: giving the United States the ability to launch a first strike against the Soviet Union and to survive the inevitable retaliation with "acceptable" losses. It seemed less urgent when the Soviet Union collapsed, but it was never abandoned -- and in the later 90s the neo-conservatives revived it as part of a scheme for establishing permanent US military dominance over the planet.
posted by Chuckles at 5:50 AM on December 10, 2008


To be honest with you, I'd much rather spend the bulk of our defense budget on R&D rather than a standing army during peacetime (and hopefully that will come sooner rather than later).

Military R&D gives us things like the internet and jet travel and Dish TV and rovers on mars - a standing army is just a giant cash furnace.

Even if they're pursuing a seemingly unattainable goal, the science, math and technology that comes out of it will be useful elsewhere, in medicine and industry, and the economic growth that comes from that more than pays for itself in the long run.

In the event we do get into another scrape with a first-world nation, and history says it's likely, being years ahead of their technology curve will be a very useful thing... remember, at the outbreak of WWII, the Japanese had much more advanced ships and planes than the US, and the Germans had a vastly superior airforce and tank corps. The US and British R&D system devised unlikely weapons, methods and logistics that eroded those advantages, sometimes by developing very silly things. (A floating island made of frozen water and wood pulp, comes to mind, which went nowhere, and rubber inflatable tanks, which were actually used, as was a room sized device that could be configured to do any number of large math calculations quickly, to break codes.)
posted by Slap*Happy at 6:03 AM on December 10, 2008


Skynet!
posted by Vindaloo at 7:09 AM on December 10, 2008


I just hope they have it all figured out before they reach The Frontier.

Best comment in this thread. Deathblossom!
posted by Thistledown at 7:28 AM on December 10, 2008


You know, years ago I was told (by a former Secretary of Defense) that ballistic missile defense was an impossible task, because even if it was, say, 98 percent effective, this means that two percent of the enemy weapons are going through, and when it comes to nuclear weapons that is unacceptable.

Also, I disagree that Japan had 'much more advanced' ships, and that Germany had a 'vastly superior' airforce and tank corps. The US & British R&D system did not only churn out unlikely technologies to erode these advantages -- you bring up Pykrete, which was never really developed into a weapons system, but fail to point out things like, say, the VT fuse, which was much less silly.
posted by Comrade_robot at 7:33 AM on December 10, 2008


Missiles (and apparently airplanes) are pretty much America's only credible threat

I agree that missile defense is going to be a key technology in the future and is worth developing in the long term, although not at the expense currently allocated. But I'm sure that nuclear, chemical, and biological weapons smuggling presents a much more credible threat in the short term and that projects like the LANL muon detector provide essential technologies to this country on budgets hundreds of times smaller than the missile defense ones.
posted by azazello at 7:43 AM on December 10, 2008


I wonder what kind of fuel it runs on? It must take maddening amounts of propellant to sustain thrust stability.
posted by Jeremy at 8:19 AM on December 10, 2008


There's two problems that can be solved by missile defense:
Russia, and little countries.

The Russia problem has all the issues people bring up: they can send lots of missiles, they can put in all kinds of tricky warheads and decoys. This was good during the Cold War. The whole point of Mutually Assured Destruction (MAD) is that you never know, in an all or nothing nuclear war, if you would win. So you never try. An effective missile defense would mess up this whole concept, which is why their were treaties between the US and USSR to prevent building up such a system (which meant Kennedy and the Russians had to dismantle the systems they had already built up).

But what of some nutty little country like North Korea? Gwynne Dyer says it is ludicrous that such a country would launch a missile at the US. It is also ludicrous that someone would smash airliners into skyscrapers. Ludicrous things are happening every day.

There are all kinds of missile defense systems: from very short range to intercontinental range. Many US warships have very short range systems that are reasonably effective. No one in the military would suggest taking these systems out. The question we need to ask is if we need intermediate to intercontinental range systems and how much we are willing to spend. (I never said shoestring budget, just cheaper than the no expense spared Reagan era systems). Do we need to protect Israel against a medium range missile or the US against an intercontinental missile, or both? We don't want and shouldn't build a Cold War Reagan/George W Bush type 100% anti-Russian system.

I agree that countries would be nuts to launch missiles at other countries, especially at the US. War is nuts. But it happens anyway.
posted by eye of newt at 8:25 AM on December 10, 2008


Fortunately, it will only be deadly to weapons from the bad guys.

*blinks*

Hahahahaha! *gasps*

Hahahahahahaha!

Yes, because there is simply no way that this technology could be used as anything other than an anti-missile system. It just wouldn't be possible to have this hover above a civilian presence and keep them in abject terror by periodically launching firebombs.

For some reason, the hover-steadily-in-place-while-making-terrifying-noises platform is just not able to be used for anything other than bad-guy-missile defense.

Thank god for that I guess.

[Which isn't to say that I don't want a miniature one follow me around playing music and dispensing drinks upon request. That would be awesome.]
posted by quin at 8:26 AM on December 10, 2008


their were there were -- and probably a few more
posted by eye of newt at 8:27 AM on December 10, 2008


From what I know, Dyer is essentially right. Or at least that's what I heard from the more realistic engineers working on the project.

If you take what Regan was saying it would be, 'a 100% effective shield against enemy attacks', you'd quickly realize that even though he was shilling it as a Peace Shield (remember that? that was it's first official name), what it in effect would be is 'a 100% effective shield from which you could fire from behind with impunity'.

A lot of engineers I knew had the attitude of "Of course it'll be no more than 90% effective at best. Who cares, it'll keep me making 80K a year for the next 5 years!"

If, and this is a big if, as believed in by ultra-orthodox, right-wing, Nixon Now, true believers in the system, we could actually build a 100% effective system, peace and safety for America was just a byproduct.

The real thing this system would give the U.S. would be the ability to dictate terms to the Soviets, and anyone else who got in our (perceived) way.

In many ways, Star Wars was a way to recapture the nuclear monopoly the U.S. enjoyed in the immediate post war era.

As far as it's perceived utility in today's world? It's practically zero, even if it was 100% effective.
posted by Relay at 8:34 AM on December 10, 2008


Missiles (and apparently airplanes) are pretty much America's only credible threat

Missiles, airplanes and massive financial collapse.
posted by Artw at 10:48 AM on December 10, 2008 [1 favorite]


But what of some nutty little country like North Korea? Gwynne Dyer says it is ludicrous that such a country would launch a missile at the US. It is also ludicrous that someone would smash airliners into skyscrapers. Ludicrous things are happening every day.
I'm not really picking on you in particular or anything, but ...

Generally countries do not invest huge amounts of money, time, and resources into developing nuclear weapons primarily because they are crazy or they hate our freedom or because they are jealous that we have a wonderful capitalistic free market system and they are dirty socialists who have to eat tree bark, mud, and grass.

For example, that there are proponents of military force against Iran because they believe that Iran is an inherently 'evil' country which hates our freedom. This is not a very subtle view of Iran, and if that is what you truly believe, yes, military force makes sense. If you think that maybe Iran is trying to achieve local prestige/security/influence goals and may be developing nuclear weapons in response to that sort of thing, well, maybe military force doesn't look like the only sensible option, and it may be possible to pressure Iran into achieving local goals without developing a nuclear arsenal (which would be bad for the US).
posted by Comrade_robot at 10:53 AM on December 10, 2008 [1 favorite]


The fundamental issue with security, is that your enemy will never hit you where you have prepared to be hit.
posted by Xoebe at 11:20 AM on December 10, 2008 [2 favorites]


Speaking as a former cog in the wheel of contract engineering firm, I have a few takes on this.

First, the DoD is one of the few entities that actually wants stuff to work - seriously. They are very resistant to adopt anything that isn't meeting very very strict saftey and reliability requirements. That means, they are willing to fund for the long term, as long as there is some element of progress made on the project. The civilian contracts I worked on turned over probably every 3-4 months. The military contracts were much longer and followed a much longer development cycle - with several phases and milestones achieved in each phase of deveolpment.

Secondly, ten years to add twenty seconds of thrust may not seem like much to us but consider this: we never saw how far and how fast the vehicle(?) actually was capable of traveling. In terms of a weapon strike twenty seconds may be all this needs to get from point A to point B and then to point C - especially if you through it out of an already fast moving vehicle like a plane or deployed it like a stage of a rocket launched close enough to the incoming target. Then again, it could also be just a twenty second test of a 4 hour fuel tank - I doubt that, but it is another option.

As to the question of are you paying for this? Yes. You probably paid for it under Clinton, Bush I, and Regan as well. Defense contracts are one of the few places where research can actually get done without fear of having to show an investor a proffit. Regardless of your ethical viewpoint on warfare (which is irrelevant as the military will always - I stress always have a research budget and we will always be building weapons) the question you should be really asking is whether something like this is done within reasonable budgetary constraints and setbacks. Steve Buschemi's line in Armageddon about the suttle being built by the lowest bidder is incorrect. From my experience the lowest bidder has higher overrun, produces less documentation, and or does not account for all saftey and or reliability requirements in their initial bid. Any way you slice it, the government goes with the best portfolio for dollar offered - in other words, the brightest and best minds available at that time for a given product. That's all we as taxpayers can hope for.

So yeah, I left the contract engineering field after a couple of years... for ethical reasons. I, like many people here, didn't want to work on DoD contracts and perferred the civilian contracts. That was, until I realized the civilian contracts I was working on generally fell into two categories: efforts to placate legal battles which the companies didn't want us to actually create functional products, or they were basically efforts to reduce labor costs and weaken union labor. At least the military always wanted their products to work, always understood what funding was required to get what they wanted, and attempted to reduce their labor requirements for the right reasons (smaller military, fewer casualties, etc).

Anyways... after double checking to make sure I didn't violate any NDAs, I think this thread can be posted...
posted by Nanukthedog at 11:54 AM on December 10, 2008 [7 favorites]


If they can make that, they can make a gadget that hovers behind me 4 metres clear of the ground carrying all my stuff. No?
posted by mandal at 12:42 PM on December 10, 2008


I think my uncle set one of these off last 4th of July. I guess it was really expensive, but we all got a kick out of it while it lasted.
posted by nathan v at 2:32 PM on December 10, 2008 [2 favorites]


Any way you slice it, the government goes with the best portfolio for dollar offered - in other words, the brightest and best minds available at that time for a given product. That's all we as taxpayers can hope for.

Nanukthedog, I kind of hate to say this, since this comment is actually otherwise excellent, but we're talking about missile defense. This isn't even a case of useful shit filtering down to civilian use by accident -- say, microwaves or the internet -- this is a demonstrably worthless boondoggle that we've been pursuing for decades even as the program has become less relevant and less useful.

If the military invented more useful stuff on purpose and less as happy accident, I'd be willing to give them more money. But if the given product is useless, it doesn't matter how far you stretch the dollar, you're just inventing a better method for flushing money down the toilet. And missile defense is useless.

The key isn't public versus private funding -- it's accountability.
posted by spiderwire at 9:07 PM on December 10, 2008 [2 favorites]


Spiderwire,
I can attest from firsthand experience on DoD projects, *any* useful piece of this technology which is pattented by a subcontractor can and will be applied to a variety of other projects - many of which will not be military. While a crazy kooky SDI may be the umbrella project, the information gleaned from this will be applied to other many other projects. By completing any piece of this project they become experts in their respective field. Whoever worked on the propulsion system could apply that to satelite thrusting (yes, more DoD, but also corporate funding). The stabilization aspect could be applied to a significant number of projects (just from guessing how they do it), centered around dampening turbulence (or any kinetic noise) resistance. Depending on the firm doing the subcontracting, that could impact anything from the car you drive to improving biomedical muscle control (seriously).

The hard part is getting someone to fund enough research until you truly can make a product that is useful out of what you've learned. Missle defense may seem silly and pointless, but the application of this technology to any number of smaller projects unfortunately makes this useful.

We don't have a Henry Ford or a T.A. Edison anymore. The Garden Weasel, Ginsu 5000, Jack Lalane's juicer, and George Foreman's Grill are not examples of American Ingenuity and inventiveness - if anything they represent the erosion of actual invention. The military is one of the *last* actual resources for putting forward useful technological advances. Yes, schools and institutions will construct a myriad of different projects and solar powered cars, but they are incapable of funding apropriately all of the portions of a project, specifically saftey, reliability, and ingenuity. Students lack 20 years to devote to a project, and time to work on 15 other (related) projects so as to make sure they see something through. When you are developing somehting you cant turnover your core staff every 4 years - it just wrecks the development cycle. (as such, universities usually get a small component of early stage DoD research and then it is absorbed into the larger project).
posted by Nanukthedog at 6:34 AM on December 11, 2008 [3 favorites]


We don't have a Henry Ford or a T.A. Edison anymore.

Don't take this the wrong way, but.. that is ridiculous. Intel and Microsoft, Google, Apple.. Honestly, I've been ignoring this line of thinking -- the military is the source of all great technological innovation -- but there comes a point when the absurdity is too great.

I mean, lets take the three examples cited up thread, satellites, aviation, and the internet. Satellites I concede completely. If it wasn't for ICBMs, civil use of space would have been delayed by decades, perhaps even a century. Aviation though.. Well, the originals were not military, of course, but that isn't particularly important. A lot of early aviation technology was pioneered in the civil sector. WWII changed that somewhat, and a lot of the big post war changes to civil aviation do stem from military developments. Since the immediate post war period however, civil and military aviation have gone in completely different directions. And then there is the internet claim. Sure, ARPAnet started it all. Why bother giving any credit to everybody else, right? Almost nothing about the internet as we know it today is related to the military roots, and virtually none of the technological innovation along the way originated from military contracts.

Let's turn this around though.. defense is not the only way for government to subsidize R&D. Canada has an unusually strong role in acoustic science and industry because of research subsidy through the National Research Council.

Anyway, the issue here isn't "should there be military development or not". As has already been observed, for example, MetaFilter opinion of the DARPA challenges is quite favourable, and this is understandable. It is boondoggles and moral outrages like SDI and the B-2 that deserve utter contempt.
posted by Chuckles at 10:57 PM on December 11, 2008 [2 favorites]


This is an early prototype of the "man-hacks" in Half-Life 2.
posted by brundlefly at 6:40 PM on December 12, 2008


This little exchange in the comments is pretty funny.
posted by mullingitover at 9:54 PM on December 12, 2008


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