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It seems Pope Francis needs to brush up on his Tertullian!

It has been reported (in The ChristLast Media, I must note) that the current Pope does not like the phrase "lead us not into temptation...

"Let no freedom be allowed to novelty, because it is not fitting that any addition should be made to antiquity. Let not the clear faith and belief of our forefathers be fouled by any muddy admixture." -- Pope Sixtus III

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Coming soon to a goat rapist's head near you.

The legacy of George W. Bush continues to haunt the bad guys.

From StrategyPage.com via Signaleer on 9/15/2011:

Switchblade Enters Service

After a year of successful testing, the U.S. Army has ordered over a hundred Switchblade UAVs for troop use. The Switchblade is a one kilogram (2.2 pound) expendable (used only once) UAV that can be equipped with explosives. The Switchblade is launched from its shipping and storage tube, at which point wings flip out, a battery powered propeller starts spinning and a vidcam begins broadcasting images to the controller. The Switchblade is operated using the same gear the larger (two kg/4.4 pound) Raven UAV employs. The Switchblade can also be launched from the 70mm rocket tubes used on army helicopters. Moving at up to a kilometer a minute, the Switchblade can stay in the air for 20-40 minutes (depending on whether or not it is armed with explosives.) The armed version can be flown to a target and detonated, having about the same explosive effect as a hand grenade. Thus the Switchblade could be useful for ground troops, to get at an enemy taking cover in a hard to see location. Switchblade completed development two years ago. Technically a guided missile, the use of Switchblade as a reconnaissance tool encouraged developers to refer to it as a UAV.


Here's a bit of Switchblades's history. Note how it wasn't supposed to be available until 2020.

From Popsci.com in 2010:

Air Force's Flying Assassin Robot Enters Final Development Stage

By Jeremy Hsu

The deadly drone could find and dispatch single-person targets, with "very low collateral damage"

Assassin Drone Aerovironment's new "Anubis" project sounds eerily similar to the Switchblade drone, seen here

Missile strikes by Predators, Reapers, or other aerial drones usually result in messy explosions on the ground. Now the never-ending but perhaps futile quest to attain zero collateral damage may take another step forward, with a small micro-drone missile that can kill individual targets from afar. A new $1.18-million, Phase-III Air Force contract (Phase III is typically the final development phase) for the "Anubis" drone has been awarded to the firm Aerovironment, Aviation Week's Ares Defense Blog reports.

A recent federal budget document references Anubis as a micro air vehicle that can track down "high-value maneuvering targets" -- also known as wanted persons running for dear life. There is also mention of "non-line-of-sight" capability with "very low collateral damage," so that someone could presumably launch Anubis from a hidden spot and let it home in on any unfortunate individual, with less risk than having a sniper do the job.

The documents also specifically mention that Anubis would also keep a human operator in the loop before firing off at any old target, so don't worry about Terminator scenarios just yet. But the possibility of runaway drones may still rear its head.

Ares Defense Blog notes that Aerovironment has also been developing the Switchblade drone that can quietly loiter overheard before zooming in to target an enemy. The firm already advertises Switchblade as giving warfighters a "magic bullet," so we wonder how much better the Anubis can do -- if it isn't indeed some variant of the Switchblade.

We imagine that such weapons should prove popular among both stealthy spooks and regular warfighters who just want to get the drop on enemies. And we expect it won't be long before we're writing about DARPA's cyborg beetles becoming living bombs.

[via Aviation Week's Ares Defense Blog]

From Popsci.com in 2006:

The Supersonic Shape-Shifting Bomber

By Noah Shachtman

With a shift of its wing, the Pentagon's next attack drone goes from long-range endurance flyer to Mach-speed assassin

by John MacNeill
As the plane approaches the sound barrier, its wing pivots into an oblique configuration to maximize aerodynamic efficiency at supersonic speeds.

For years, the U.S. military has wanted a plane that could loiter just outside enemy territory for more than a dozen hours and, on command, hurtle toward a target faster than the speed of sound. And then level it. But aircraft that excel at subsonic flight are inefficient at Mach speeds, and vice versa. The answer is Switchblade, an unmanned, shape-changing plane concept under development by Northrop Grumman.

When completed (target date: 2020), it will cruise with its 200-foot-long wing perpendicular to its engines like a normal airplane. But just before the craft breaks the sound barrier, its single wing will swivel around 60 degrees (hence the name) so that one end points forward and the other back. This oblique configuration redistributes the shock waves that pile up in front of a plane at Mach speeds and cause drag. When the Switchblade returns to subsonic speeds, the wing will rotate back to perpendicular.

Smart plan. Now for the hard part: designing the thing. Darpa, the Pentagon's way-out research arm, has coughed up $10.3 million to Northrop Grumman to produce a detailed blueprint by November 2007. A flying test vehicle is due about four years later. The initial concept calls for a single wing with engines situated in a pod underneath, along with munitions and surveillance equipment. This setup will enable the wing to pivot while the engines remain pointed in the direction the craft is traveling.

This is not the first attempt at an oblique-wing aircraft. SpaceShipOne creator Burt Rutan designed a switch-wing plane with NASA in 1979. But the slanted wings made the craft hard to fly-when the pilot pulled the nose up, the plane would roll to one side.

The Switchblade, however, is a good candidate to be an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV). The artificial intelligence used to control UAVs can handle the tricky flight dynamics, and a computer pilot doesn´t need to eat, rest, or go to the bathroom-useful for those 15-plus-hour missions.

If all goes well, Darpa says, a 40-foot-wingspan demonstration model could be ready by 2010, and a full-size Switchblade should be all set for a brawl by 2020.


Objective: To function efficiently as both an endurance aircraft and as a supersonic airplane by changing its shape midflight

Time Frame:Design by 2007;
one-fifth-scale technology demonstration vehicle by 2010; ready for service as early as 2020

Wingspan: 200 feet
Range: 5,000 nautical miles

Max. Altitude: 60,000 feet

Max. Speed: Mach 2

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