Monday, April 30, 2012

Gun Day Monday West: Walther PPQ

Apologies to Op-For for Lifting the Title Gimmick this One Time

Friday I purchased a Walther PPQ 9mm at the Carswell JRB Base Exchange gun counter. Other than the BX makes you fill out more stupid paperwork to cover their 'hineys' than the Federal Government requires for their purposes, and having to call the base police to let them know you're leaving with a weapon, it was fast and easy. I went ahead and bought one at the BX because their price was $110 lower than the local Gibson's/ACE Hardware, and Gibson's just about always has the lowest prices that I've seen among the local civilian gun stores (and so have bought a pistol from them before). I told the counter guy at Gibson's the BX price and he didn't try to beat it, just gave a look of surprise.

I didn't get to shoot it this weekend because of family commitments, so I took advantage after work of having just enough time to put 30 rounds downrange before dinner was ready, just to get a feel for the weapon. The initial impression is...


I shot 10 rounds each (in 5 shot groups) at 3, 9 6, and 15 yard distances, using 115 grain FMJ rounds loaded by the range's gun shop and using 'Police Match' targets.

3 yds 

At the three yard mark my first round barely cut the 9 ring on the right side with my aim at dead center of the bullseye. OK. It obviously needs windage adjustment before I bring it back to the range. But for the rest of this trip, I just offset my aimpoint to the left. Second shot at 10 3 yds was an 'almost' bullseye, so I aimed a little more left. Next 8 rounds were all 'in the black'. The trigger, grip and recoil, and ease if control was everything I'd hope it would be and it really was hard to slow down the rate of fire as Hickock45 had remarked previously. Magazine release will take some getting used to, but in a good way. As a Lefty, it is kind of nice to grip the pistol with sufficient force without worrying about  inadvertently dropping the magazine. Score at 3 yards:98/100.

6 yds

Aiming at the left side of the bullseye, and slowing down the rate of fire a bit, I managed to hit the bullseye every time and 9 of 10 shots were inside/cut the inner 1 3/4" ring. The rounds were still hitting a little right of center, so I mentally moved my aimpoint for the next round at 15 yds even further left. Score at 6 yards: 100/100.

15 yds

OK, I admit it. at 15 yards, I let the giddiness from doing so well at 6 yards get to me and rushed my shots a tad. Combine that with the imaginary aimpoint I was using well left of the bullseye and I only hit center 6 times, was inside the 'nine' three times, and had a 'wild' one inside the 7 ring. One thing I'm going to have to get used to is the ambidextrous slide lock. I am so used to having to use my pointer finger to release the slide on my other weapons, I had to keep reminding myself I could use my thumb just like the common folk (rightys) with this pistol.  Score at 15 yards: 94/100.


I think I am a 'pretty good' shot, but am in no way one of these 'sub-MOA' shooters that seem to be in the majority everywhere on the web boards. But I will also say that I think this weapon is going to make me look gooood when I get used to it (and get it sighted in).

P.S. I like the takedown procedure for this pistol as well.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

An Airpower History Lesson in 3 Parts

Updated: F-108 Mission (Below Original Post)


B-52 vs. Flying Wing?... B-70 Canceled: Why?... What exactly WAS the F-108 'Mission'?

In a recent comment thread, three questions were raised as to the facts surrounding 50s-60s aircraft program histories. Normally I would blow off trying to address such diverse issues even those as narrowly defined, in one post. But it just so happens all involve information I already know via sources I’ve already acquired for other purposes.

Last of the '49's: YRB-49A in flight
In this post I intend more to let the sources tell the facts vs. my making observations on the facts: ie, this post will be heavy on the quotes, light on the sidebars. It will also ensure I don’t spend a lot of time that I can better spend elsewhere.

Flying Wing Was an option to B-52 Development

As I showed in an earlier post, the B-52 for a while faced extinction until a program cancellation decision was fortunately reversed. One of the B-52’s competing concepts, contrary to what you may have been told, was the Northrop B-49 flying wing, a jet variant of the earlier propeller-driven theme. Fielding the ‘flying wing’ would have been the fruition of Jack Northop’s lifelong dream, but alas it was not to become true until after he passed away. He did die knowing the wing WOULD fly in the form of the B-2 Bomber. I could detail ‘why’ the flying wing was B-52 competitor but that is beyond the scope of this post. To the sources we go!
The year 1948 began under a dark cloud for AMC’s B-52 program managers. Air Staff officers succeeded in canceling, not simply Boeing Model 464-29, but the entire Boeing heavy bomber program due to doubts about the B-52’s ability to achieve the required range and speed. Some Air Staff officers preferred the Northrop YB-49 turbojet powered all-wing aircraft over Boeing’s conventional B-52 design: others favored opening a new competition for a heavy bomber. (Mandeles, pg 49)
Craigie added that AMC analyses of other studies of optimum airplane performance relied on extrapolations from past performance. However, these extrapolations were unreliable because aeronautic and aerodynamic knowledge was growing so quickly. Therefore, it was necessary to use the most current data and knowledge, which did not necessarily involve only extrapolations of past performance. For instance, he noted, that in 1941 Douglas Aircraft Company analyzed the predicted performance of the B-36, and concluded that the requirement of a 10,000-mile range with a 10,000-pound payload was unlikely to be achieved. The Air Force and Convair, however, used improved weight control and planning, and proved the study wrong. Despite increases in armament, radar, equipment, and the difficulty of development under wartime conditions, Convair and the Air Force produced an airplane which could meet the Air Force’s objectives. Craigie also urged discarding the alternatives to the B-52-the XB-35 and YB-49 Flying Wing and delta-wing designs. By May 1947 the delta wing did not have any marked superiority over a conventional airplane for long-range, high -speed operation. Craigie wrote that a reevaluation of these designs should be made only when “jet engine specific fuel consumption is reduced to a point to permit their [sic] use” in a bomber. (Mandeles, pgs 75-76)
At AMC, senior officers attempted to save the B-52. Maj Gen Franklin O. Carroll, AMC’s director of R&D, analyzed Northrop’s claims of superiority for the Flying Wing, and found them wanting. The basic premise for proponents of the all-wing aircraft was that the space requirements for military stores matched the space available in the optimum wing. Under this assumption, the all-wing aircraft would be more efficient than the conventional airplane. Carroll, however, argued that Northrop seriously underestimated the space needed for military stores. More space would be needed in the aircraft, and adding a body or nacelle to contain the extra military stores would vitiate the theoretical advantages of the all-wing design. The YB-49 Flying Wing also demonstrated longitudinal instability at high speed. Little was known about this instability and it could present severe engineering difficulties. The flying wing would not be versatile in a tactical setting and would be overly sensitive to changes of center of gravity caused by the position or absence of cargo. Such problems seemed not to justify reliance on the all-wing design. Carroll concluded by recommending the conventional Boeing design and that the B-52 be accorded the highest support from Air Staff. (Mandeles, pg 83)
Several days after the Symington-Allen meeting, Craig, Frederic Smith, and Craigie decided that “if the B-52 meets the requirements of the contract under which it is being bought, it will satisfy strategic requirements.” These requirements included unrefueled range of approximately 8,000 miles and a cruising speed of 500 MPH over 4,000 miles of enemy territory. 103 Boeing Model 464-35 (fig. 4) matched these strategic requirements, and Air Force Undersecretary Barrows confirmed the decision to retain Boeing as prime contractor of the heavy bomber rather than adopt the Flying Wing in early March. (Mandeles, pg 83)
Partridge and Craig urged the staff to stand firm, noting support from RAND and the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics for the Flying Wing design. At Symington’s urging, Allen agreed to give the Flying Wing due consideration. After further discussion, key members of the Air Staff met on February 14, 1948, and decided to keep the Boeing contract and issue a change order. Undersecretary Barrows concurred in the action. Despite the painful experience, the B-52 program had been radically redirected and was now aimed at fulfilling a new concept of strategic air operations. Thus even before the Aircraft and Weapons Board met in January, two of the major proposals up for consideration had already been approved. Both the B-36 and the B-52 had received a new lease on life, as had, incidentally, the Northrop YB-49 Flying Wing. (Moody, Pgs 182-183) Note: 'Moody' is a huge PDF file.
Read the complete sources for more information illustrating the point that the flying wing, specifically the YB-49 version was ‘competition’ for the B-52, and the whys and hows the B-52 came out on top.

Why was the B-70 Not Pursued?

North American XB-70 'Valkerie'

That the B-70 was cancelled because of ICBMs and the existing capabilities of the B-52 being sufficient is easily shown, but I’m not going to type the proof out, just show it in situ:

Source (can't find my copy dangit!):
"Politics and Force Levels: Politics and Defense Inside the Kennedy Administration", Pg 216
(The footnote #10 referenced is “President Kennedy, Special Message, Pg 11)

The F-108 Rapier Mission? Long Range Interceptor

If one believes in infallible ‘fact sheets’ the F-108 according to one 'fact sheet', was to have two missions: Long Range Interceptor and Escort Fighter for the B-70. Evidence supporting the escort mission assertion is so thin, it is ’invisible’, while evidence supporting the Interceptor role is bountiful.

XF-108 Rapier: Never Reached Beyond Mock-up Stage
As I've noted to a commenter, I did not say or imply it (F-108) couldn’t or wouldn’t be an escort fighter if the need arose. I would assume it would do any ‘fighter’ mission it was assigned to varying degrees of success. I also asserted: There can be little doubt that there was someone, somewhere in the entire AF command structure who thought it would be a good ancillary/alternate mission for the F-108, but it was not part of the F-108 design requirements NOR was it part of F-108’s operational concept. I will say now that I would consider the ‘factsheet’ to be wrong in asserting an escort role (beyond possible for any fighter as a generic capability).

Most critically, given the nature of the operational concept envisioned for the F-108 and planned end strength, the use of the F-108 as an ‘escort fighter’ would probably be less likely than the F-106 it was designed to replace. This too is easily shown. And now it will be shown, thanks to my  serendipitous and very slight connection to the author of the following in his 1988 ACSC paper titled: The Search for an Advanced Fighter: a History From the XF-108 to the Advanced Tactical Fighter”.

Then Major (later Colonel) Robert Lyons wrote (beginning on Page 4):
The MX1554 "Ultimate Interceptor, 1954" produced the Convair F-102 that fell far short of the planned speed, altitude, and range performance (95:159-165). It could only fly at 677 Knots at 35,000 feet, with a maximum ceiling of 51,800 feet and 566 nautical mile combat radius (95:173). While the F-102 and its follow-on F-106 served as "interim interceptors," the Air Force developed requirements for a long range interceptor. These long range interceptor requirements, first developed in April 1953, were rewritten in July 1955 and November 1956, after several attempts failed to get an acceptable proposal from competing airframe contractors (114:Ch 2). The Air Force sought an interceptor to counter the perceived 1960 bomber threats of Mach 2.0 speed at 61,000 feet, and the revised 1963 bomber threats of Mach 2.2 to 2.7 speed at 65,000 feet (118:7,32; 114:Ch 2). Design studies to satisfy these requirements began in 1953 at Air Research and Development Command and in industry with the MX1554 designed to achieve a Mach 4.5, 150,000 pound Gross takeoff weight aircraft, but the aircraft appeared to lie beyond the state of the art (118:7,Fig 24). So another round of design studios attempted to meet the 1955 LRI (long range interceptor) requirements. These studies called for an aircraft with a cruise speed of Mach 1.7 at 60,000 feet and combat speed of Mach 2.5 at 63,000 feet, with a gross takeoff weight of 98,500 pound, But this aircraft would have had only marginal capability against the postulated 1963 bomber threat (118:7,Fig 24). 
A subsequent design competition in 1955 between Lockheed, Northrop, and North American was little better than previous ones, but North American came closest to meeting the goals, (114:23).
North American Aviation's letter contract of 6 June 1956 called for a long range interceptor that could operate at 70,000 feet with a combat speed of at least Mach 3. The all-weather interceptor aircraft was to have two engines, two crewmen, and at least two internally carried nuclear or conventional air-to-air missiles (95:330-331). Their Weapon System 202 configuration sported a single vertical tail and large delta wing, and was adopted in 1958 after considering iterations with as many as three vertical tails and a large canard (118:7, Fig 24; 95:331).
In 1960, toward the end of the heyday of the "Century Series" fighter aircraft, Weapon System 202, renamed the XF-108 Rapier interceptor, promised to serve the Air Force with a Mach 3 cruise speed and 1,000 nautical mile range as a companion to the proposed B-70 supersonic bomber (106:44). [SMSgt Mac Note: I believe the fact that the Rapier was based on common design concepts with the B-70, coming out of the same design stable and discussions concerning the parallels in performance parameters may be as much of a source of ‘escort’ fighter role stories for the F-108 as any other. ]  The XF-108 design evolved to meet all of the expected Soviet bomber threats of the early 1960s. It was to have been fabricated from stainless steel sheet, a welded sandwich and honeycomb, rather than aluminum to withstand the high temperatures and stresses of sustained supersonic flight. Its two General Electric J93-5 turbojet engines were to have used a special high energy synthetic fuel (ethyl borane) (7:14). It would also use the ASG-18 Fire control system, and the GAR-9 missile. All these were under development simultaneously with the basic airframe. This combination of features allowed a totally new concept of long range interception of the supersonic bombers believed to be under development by the Soviet Union. The F-108, with its superior radar and high speed missile, was to patrol the DEW (Distant Early Warning) Line and make SAGE (Strategic Air Ground Environment) directed, semi-autonomous interceptions well before incoming bombers could launch their weapons against the major cities of Canada or the United States (118:7-8,Fig 25-26,Fig28-30). 
But intelligence sources eventually proved a serious Soviet bomber threat did not exist. That news reinforced growing concerns in the Department of Defense (DoD) over the cost and viability of manned aircraft. Offensive and defensive missiles now seemed to be the logical technological choice for the 1960s (7:14; 8:7). In August 1959 the Air Force canceled the chemical fuel development program (7:14), and on 23 September canceled F-108 development (94:402; 8:7). The Air Force announced that the program had no technical difficulties and had met all goals it the time of cancellation, but that there was a shortage of funds and programming priorities had changed (57:63). Both the fire control system and the missile developments continued at a lower level of Funding. The cost estimate of five to eight billion dollars for a few squadrons of F-108s was more than could be accepted to replace the F-106, given the doubtful nature of the threat (7:14) and the unresolved fate of future manned aircraft.
With the cancellation of the F-108, there appeared temporarily to be a hiatus in supersonic interceptor work in the United States. Indeed, although the Air Force continued trying to gain support for new interceptors in general and the F-108 in particular, the DoD continued to oppose the requirement pending verification of a threat (9:3).
7. Air Force Times. 15 August 1959, p. 14.
8. Air Force Times. 3 October 1959, p. 7.
9. Air Force Times. 11 March 1964, p. 3. 57. "F-108 Cancelled." Canadian Avionics (November 1959), p.63.
94. Kennedy, William V. "Future of the Fighter." Ordnance (January-February 1970), pp. 402-406.
95. Knack, Marcelle Size. Encyclopedia of US Air Force Aircoraft and Missile Systems Volume1. Washington, D.C.: Office of Air Force History, 1978.
106. McCormacK, James, Jr., Maj Gen, USAF (Ret). "How the Air Force Is Buying Its Newest Manned Weapons." .Skyline (Fall 1958), pp. 44-47.
114. "NORAD's Quest for NIKE Zeus and a Long-Range Interceptor."(U). Ent AFB, CO: HQ NORAD/HO, 1962. SECRET-Declassified 31 December 1962. "Unclassified information only used from this source."
115. Neufeld, Jacob. "The F-15 Eagle: Origins and Development 1964-1972." (U). Pentagon, Washington, D.C.: HO USAF/HQ November 1974. SECRET "Unclassified information only used from this source." 
118. Parsons, T. R. "B-70 and F-108 Perspectives on Supersonic Cruise." .Proceedings of the Conference Ob the Operational Utility of Supersonic Cruise (U).Wright-Patterson AFB, OH: ASD/XR, May 1977. SECRET.-Declassified "Unclassified information only used from this source."
From the combination of the limited number of F-108 platforms, the operational concept of roving long-endurance patrols conducted at the farthest distances from home with limited and possibly nuclear payloads, as well as the intended purpose of replacing ‘interim’ interceptors, it is doubtful the F-108 would have had time for anything other than its interceptor role. If the Rapiers were to be ‘escort’ fighters at all, it would be in accompanying aircraft returning post-nuclear strike that might wander/enter their patrol areas, in a manner of what ANY fighter or other aircraft would do.

Updated 26 April 2012:

The  "Standard Aircraft Capabilities" of the F-108

Commenter BB1984 below reminded me of another public resource we can draw on in evaluating the accuracy of the Air Force’s F-108 ‘fact sheet’. Based upon review of the F-108’s Standard Aircraft Capability (SAC) sheets, from the earliest available at the resource (2 May 1958) to the last one available, 12 June 1959 (which was less than 6 months before the program was cancelled) we find two key points:

1. The F-108A mission was pure "long-range ‘interceptor". Anything else it could do would fall under ‘miscellaneous’ capabilities to be employed the same as for any GI’s job description: ‘other duties as required’.
From the 12 June 1959 F-108A SAC:
The primary mission of the F-108 weapon system is to deter armed attack against the U.S. and its area of defense responsibility by providing maximum defense potential against all airborne threats in the post-1962 time period. This defense function is implemented by the F-108’s potential to search out, evaluate, and destroy these hostiles at ranges beyond the capabilities of other defense systems. The F-108 is designed to operate not only in conjunction with SAGE and in cooperation with other weapons in the defense inventory, but to be equally effective well beyond the bounds of ground environment surveillance and under minimum operational control, relying on its self-contained high performance search, navigation, and communications equipment.

In time of war, F-108 operations can include directed intercepts and organized search missions resulting in repeated attacks with up to three kills by each interceptor. Operating beyond SAGE, the F-108 can make positive identification of DEW line violations, attack and trail hostile raids through remote areas, and report directly via long-range radio. Operating within the ZI, the F-108A performance features of all-weather capability, long range at Mach 3, and 15-minute turn-around, permit flexible commitment of forces to achieve the precise concentration of power required at any battle area with maximum retention of reserves.

The F-108A carries two crewmen and internally stowed missile armament. This high performance air vehicle cruises and combats at mach 3 with a 1000-nautical mile radius on internal fuel. It has a 1.2g maneuver ceiling in excess of 77,000 feet and a zoom-climb ceiling of 100,000 feet. Under normal loading and weather, the air vehicle requires runway lengths of only 3200 feet for take-of and landing. It can be operated from 6000-foot runways in all conditions of weather.  From a nominal 70,000 foot combat altitude , missile launch can be accomplished against any air-breathing target flying at altitudes from sea-level to 100,000 feet. The pulsed-doppler radar, with 40-inch antenna, provides target detection in excess of 100 nautical miles at all altitudes and is backed up by infrared search and track devices.

F-108A = Long Range Interceptor. First, Second, Last.
2. The weapons capability from beginning to end consisted of a payload of 3 GAR-9 missiles.  No Guns, No Bombs.No Rockets**

12 Jun 59 Standards Aircraft Capabilities Sheet, Weapons Sections
AF Museum and History Program's 'Factsheets': Swing and Miss
Unless someone threw ‘bombs’ on the F-108 in the last couple of months of the program trying to save it from the axe, The AF Museum and History Program has some ‘splainin’ to do. But even if it was an idea thrown out there in the death throes, if it didn’t get buy-in from the users, it didn’t count, in which case they still have some ‘splainin’ to do.
 **Definition of the term "rocket" in this timeframe was transititory. The GAR-9 indicated above stood for 'Guided Air Rocket'. The weapon would soon be renamed 'AIM-47' for 'Air Intercept Missile'-47. For real confusion look up the GAR-1 and it's short distinction as the 'F-98' before becoming the AIM-4. (the BOMARC was also known as the F-99 at the same time).

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Functional AR Project: IOC Achieved

The hunting optics arrived today, so the Varminter/Pig Sticker is fully operational.
Took a little less than 7 months to build. Most of the time spent either deciding what I wanted, or finding wanted parts available, or waiting for parts.  With the Magpul rail covers and three point set up this way, I like the way this setup works so I've decided to forgo the forward grip for now.

Since I've discovered that an AR is never 'finished', I'm taking the opportunity to declare it 'baselined' and achieved IOC status.

New scope: AIM 2.5-10x40 with red/green illuminated reticle and green laser. Surprisingly well made, especially for the price at Combat Optical.

The F-35 and the “Confused” Stephen Saideman

At first I thought Stephen Saideman’s blog post titled Lies, Damn Lies, and Gov't Statistics on his blog was merely more solid evidence that ‘Political Science’ involves little math and zero critical thought.
In the post, he linked to a CBC news web article titled “Competing cost estimates add to F-35 confusion”with this chart on it:
A Useless F-35 Cost Comparison,  Source: CBC News Website
There was, of course, some rather unsatisfying journalistic distortion in the text, and there was also this chart:
A Useless F-35 3-way Cost Comparison, Source: CBC News Website
He seems to now have doubled-down on the idea that Canadians were purposefully fed sunshine and butterflies on cost questions by writing an editorial for the Globe and Mail.

So to recap the story so far:
A ‘Political Scientist’ reads a rather dim news article (with some un-illuminating graphics claiming government ‘sourcing’ spicing up the page) pushing the idea that F-35 cost numbers being thrown about are ‘confusing’. He then blogs about same in a post titled “Lies, Damn Lies, and Gov’t Accounting”. Said Political Scientist then proceeds to write an editorial for the Globe and Mail titled “Unlike our allies, we glossed over the F-35's costs” .--And he did it all apparently based upon a rather limited awareness of the topic at hand.

Ahhh, Research!
Now, we can’t prove or disprove my earlier concerns as to demands for math and critical thinking in PolySci, but I do think we have justification to suspect a deficit of research skills and/or reading comprehension at the root of the Professor’s confusion. For you see, if the good Professor had bothered to go just one step (literally one click) further to attempt to disambiguate the numbers, he would have had a good start on gaining insight into that which befuddled him. (See red arrow on graphic to left) 

For IF the “Canada Research Chair in international security and ethnic conflict, Department of Political Science, McGill University” had bothered to click on a link provided at the first article he blogged about, he would have been taken to an official Canadian Defense forces website where he could view and download a more detailed breakdown of the high and low estimates floating around at the moment.
In the breakdown of costs at the link, he would have found such gems as the high ‘Parliamentary’ estimate for ‘Production’ costs has such problems as :
  1. Uses top down, parametric estimate
  2. Primarily based on historical costs of fighter aircraft per pound/kilogram
  3. Historical data not provided
  4. Does not factor economies of scale due to high annual production rate
  5. Assumes average unit cost of 2478 aircraft at $128.8M USD using their costing model
  6. Based on a learning curve model with only three data points including unsubstantiated average unit cost
  7. No evidence of model validation
  8. $1.5B error in the calculation of the learning curve which represents $200M in the calculation of the cost for sustainment
My favorite discrepancy between the two estimates has to be under the ‘Maintenance’ heading and I advise everyone to read it at the source.
Professor Saideman, who from what I can tell has been been a denizen of the Academic Ivory Tower (Social Scientists wing) his entire adult life, other than a stint at the Pentagon on essentially a one-year ‘career broadening’ tour as “Politico-Military Planner, Balkans Branch, Central and East Europe Division, Strategic Planning and Policy Directorate". Given his limited practical experience, it is unsurprising that he would find complex program defense acquisition and sustainment cost estimates confusing. Sadly it is also equally unsurprising that lack of consequential knowledge Aerospace or Defense Acquisition does not seem to provide him any inhibitions in giving in to impulses to proffer commentary on same to the general public.
Update: The professor has now posted another bit related to comments he’s received over at the Globe and Mail. Sounds like he’s getting heat from all quarters for his little ‘drive-by’. He has a nice little hand-waving at the end of it:
Anyhow, I am pleased that folks are interested in the topic and in my views on it, but I also realize that the folks commenting already have strong beliefs and see in my op-ed what they want to see. Not the first nor last we will be encountering our frenemy known as confirmation bias
Heh. “Confirmation bias”?

‘Project’ much?

Note: I did not even bother to deal with Professor Saideman's factual errors, such as claims that Japan has cut their F-35 order, because such errors are trivial in light of what is noted above. (Blogger paste errors corrected 4/19 in the AM.)

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

The B-52 Turns 60: What IF? (Part 3)

(To Start at Part 1: 1946-47 Click Here)


It has been written that “What If?” is historian’s “favorite secret question”. Would the B-52 have become the venerable icon of airpower that it is ‘then’, if American communications and norms had been different?

What if’ 1946-1952 was anything like 2006-2012?

(All persons and institutions are fictional, Any resemblance of characters cited within to persons living or dead is pure serendipity ).


XB-52 (Model 464-67), Source: Boeing
In November 1949, convinced that the inadequate range of the Model 464-49 could seriously jeopardize the future of the entire project, Boeing undertook an effort to improve the range. As an answer, Boeing offered a heaver version known as the Model 464-67. The wing remained the same, but the length of the fuselage was increased to 152 feet 8 inches, offering more space for fuel. Gross weight was estimated at 390,000 pounds. Combat radius was estimated at 3500 miles. The Model 464-67 was looked upon favorably by SAC personnel, including General LeMay. On January 26, 1950, a conference was held at USAF Headquarters to consider once again the future of the B-52. Alternatives were considered once again, including new proposals from Douglas and Republic, Fairchild Aircraft Corporation's idea for a rail-launched flying wing, the swept-wing Convair YB-60, a Rand turboprop aircraft, two new designs based on the B-47, plus several missile aircraft. Although the meeting adjourned without reaching any firm decision, General LeMay still backed the B-52 as providing the best solution for SAC's strategic mission. In February 1950 the Air Staff requested performance and cost data for all the strategic vehicles so far proposed. In the same month, however, General LeMay asked the Board of Senior Officers to accept the Boeing 464-67 in lieu of the Model 464-49. This choice was approved by the Board on March 24, 1950, but there was still no definitive commitment to production. --Origins of the B-52

--Peacenik Objectors Gone Overboard (POGO) 1950 Press Release
Air Force Leadership Suppresses Competition At Taxpayer’s Expense
The Air Force, in a move indicative of the utter contempt for the American taxpayers has killed the possibility of holding any meaningful competition to fulfill the requirement for a new heavy bomber. With the problems found with the new newly fielded B-50 and B-36, the Air Force should be exerting its energies in fixing existing problems rather than seeking to field even more advanced technology. The Air Force is now openly speaking of the new B-50s and B-36s as ‘interim’ designs whose hundreds of millions or perhaps billions of dollars in development costs will now have been wasted fielding aircraft that will only fly for a few short years if the Air Force has its way. Congress should act now to force the military to clean up their existing messes before they are allowed to proceed with production of their newest unneeded weapon.
‘Wheels’ Wincelow: Centre of Defense Disinformation (CDI) Press Release
The Bomber Forces ‘Death Spiral’
The Air Force now plans to retire their entire fleets of B-50s and B-36s with new bloated bomber program. It is alleged that General Lemay has stated he fears the costs of the new bomber could prevent acquisition of more than 100 aircraft. This new, overly complex and overly ambitious bomber design bought in such small quantities cannot match the capabilities of the more than 700 B-50s and B-36s now delivered or planned could provide.
Phil Sweetham (Aviation Leaks)
The design of the Air Force’s new bomber, now identified as the XB-52 is STILL changing. If this plane is ever fielded (doubtful), expect it to be many years from now and in even smaller quantities than the 100 currently feared as unit costs will undoubtedly continue to skyrocket.

Final Design Evolution to Production Configuration
On January 9, 1951, USAF Chief of Staff General Hoyt S. Vandenberg approved a proposal that the B-52 be acquired as a replacement for the B-36. Letter Contract AF33(038)-21096, signed on February 14, 1951, was the first contract authorizing production. It called for an initial batch of 13 B-52As (with serials 52-001/013), with first delivery slated for April of 1953. Still more controversy broke out among the USAF hierarchy as to whether the B-52 would be better employed as a bomber or a reconnaissance aircraft. SAC wanted a dual-role aircraft which could accommodate a pod-mounted set of reconnaissance sensors that were easily remov[e]able so that the aircraft could quickly be reconfigured as a straightforward bomber. USAF Headquarters wanted the B-52 to concentrate on the reconnaissance role with the exclusion of everything else. In October of 1951, the Air Staff issued an order that all aircraft would be RB-52 reconnaissance aircraft. This directive was actually misleading, since it was agreed that the aircraft would retain the ability to be converted for bombardment operations. Early in 1951, General LeMay told Boeing that he thought that the tandem seating arrangement featured by the XB-52 mockup was poor. General LeMay believed that side-by-side seating of pilot and copilot was superior, since it allowed more room for flight instrumentation and permitted the co-pilot to be a better assistant to the pilot. In August 1951, it was decided that the Air Force would adopt the side-by-side arrangement, but that some of the early production B-52s would still retain the tandem seating arrangement. This was later amended to stipulate that only the two prototypes would retain the tandem seating arrangement, with all production machines having side-by side seating for pilot and co-pilot. --Origins of the B-52

Derek Palmetto – Letters to the Editor, Sydney Daily Herald

Well, the Americans have decided to waste hundreds of millions of US Dollars not only fielding an unnecessary bomber, but the first batch aren’t even representative of the production standard, and later versions will be incorporating fixes to shortcomings already known to exist, These ‘mistake jets’ will have to be fixed later, or more likely retired early further adding to the magnitude of wasted taxpayer dollars. The early retirement of the B-36, which it has been announced that the B-52 will be replacing, means many of the dollars and much of the effort to produce the Peacemakers have been wasted as well.

Phil Sweetham (Aviation Leaks)

The Air Force has much explaining to do as to why their nearly-new bomber fleet already needs replacement, if claims justifying the B-52 are REAL that is. We note that the Air Force has changed their tune as to the B-52’s purpose. Is its mission ‘reconnaissance’ or ‘strategic bombing’? What else will the Air Force claim its new plaything can do, if Congress doesn’t bite on their rationale this time around?

‘Wheels’ Wincelow: Centre of Defense Disinformation (CDI) Press Release
"Overkill: Too Many Nukes" Congress should trim the Air Force’s plans to acquire potentially several hundred B-52 Bombers. With the B-52’s massive payload and the ever-shrinking packaging of Atomic weapons, surely we will reach the practical upper limit of weaponry required to act as a deterrence and fielding more than the required number will only make other nations suspect us of ulterior motives. Please forget that ‘Death Spiral’ thing I mentioned earlier. I’ll let you know when we’re really serious about using it again.
“Oh, the Controversy!”--Title of Stranger Room column, Dave Axiom, ‘Mired’ magazine


1. The XB-52 and YB-52 take to the skies,
2. Some B-52A orders are converted to B-52Bs,
3. Critics yammer on….

Monday, April 16, 2012

The B-52 Turns 60: What IF? (Part 2)

(Part 1: 1946-47 Here)

B-52D at Edwards AFB Museum, Source: SMSgt Mac


It has been written that “What If?” is historian’s “favorite secret question”. Would the B-52 have become the venerable icon of airpower that it is ‘then’, if American communications and norms had been different?

What if’ 1946-1952 was anything like 2006-2012?
(All persons and institutions are fictional, Any resemblance of characters cited within to persons living or dead is pure serendipity ).

Boeing Model 464-39, Source: Mandeles

The year 1948 began under a dark cloud for AMC’s B-52 program managers. Air Staff officers succeeded in canceling, not simply Boeing Model 464-29, but the entire Boeing heavy bomber program due to doubts about the B-52’s ability to achieve the required range and speed….
…Rapid progress on an acceptable heavy bomber design then was stalled in the early months of 1948 while Boeing president William M. Allen and AMC officers lobbied Air Force Secretary Symington and headquarters officers to reinstate Boeing’s contract. During this period, despite the cancellation, Boeing and AMC engineers continued their discussions and research on heavy bomber design. This activity led to the Boeing proposal for Model 464-35 after Symington and, Air Force Undersecretary Arthur S. Barrows reestablished the Boeing contract. While several compromises in military characteristics were made to give Model 464-35 a better chance of meeting Air Force needs (e.g., reduced required range), technical shortcomings in the fire control system, landing gear, engine nacelle design, and aircraft configuration still made achievement of military characteristics dubious. (Mandeles, Pg 49**)
Early 1948…

Brochure at Peacenik Objectors Gone Overboard (POGO) fundraising event for donors
“POGO’s investigations into the new troubled bomber program played key role in successfully bringing scrutiny that resulted in the program’s termination.”
Wheels’ Wincelow: Centre of Defense Disinformation (CDI) Press Release
‘Military Contractors Brazenly Lobby For Your Tax Dollars to Continue Failed Program. Bomber contractor Boeing Doesn’t take ‘no’ for an answer. That is why we find top Pentagon officials bombarded with inappropriate pressure from Boeing and ‘collaborators’ in the Air Material Command to reinstate Boeing’s failed bomber program.
Phil Sweetham (Aviation Leaks)
“Bomber program cancelled. See, I told you so. I saw this coming. I was right.  ”
Dave Axiom of Stranger Room
Controversial Bomber Cancelled Amid Controversy

Later in 1948…

Peacenik Objectors Gone Overboard (POGO) Brochure at Fundraising Event for Donors
Reinstated Bomber program highlights Collusion of Military and Industry. The two entities form an interwoven ‘complex’ that is no harmless cliché’. No, really! That's why your contributions to POGO are more important than ever! 
Wheels’ Wincelow: Centre of Defense Disinformation (CDI) Writing in ‘Babbleland’ column of Thyme Magazine
“Cozy Relationship Between Boeing and Air Force Revives Failed Bomber Program and Will Cost Taxpayers Dearly.
Phil Sweetham (Aviation Leaks)
Bomber program was cancelled. I told you so. I was right. I did see it coming. So what if it wasn’t the final decision, I was right on that one point. It WAS cancelled. I was right.
Dave Axiom of Stranger Room
Controversial Un-Cancelling of Controversial Bomber: Controversy Continues


Boeing Model 464-35, Source: Mandeles
Within the Air Force, secrecy concerning the stockpile and technical characteristics of the weapons complicated the design of a nuclear-capable force. The Air Force wanted light weapons, but the Atomic Energy Commission (AEC) did not release specific information about weight. Hence, the B-52 bomb bay design remained open throughout 1948 to provide for the possibility of a 15,000-pound bomb instead of a 10,000-pound bomb. The design bomb weight was not reduced to 10,000 pounds officially until mid-January 1949. In the meantime, the additional 5,000 pounds reduced the B-52’s projected range and raised the possibility of costly changes in bomb bay configuration. (Mandeles, Pg 37-38**)

Dave Axiom, Stranger Room columnist, ‘Mired’ magazine 'Controversial Bomber Cheats: Meets Controversial Specifications'.
Sure, the revived new bomber can carry the payload it needs to carry, but it can’t carry what it WAS expected to carry, before the Air Force knew what it was going to HAVE to carry – which it turns out to be what it CAN carry. Bummer. I still think that’s cheating.
Peacenik Objectors Gone Overboard (POGO) Press Release
Department of Defense fudges requirements numbers to get new Bomber to meet specifications so they can reinstate a failed program. This over-the-top development only represents tip of the iceberg that reaches down into the depths of depraved corruption that runs throughout the Department. We will have many other mixed metaphors to be revealed from POGO’s ongoing investigation, as soon as we can find someone depressed enough to be willing to talk to us.
‘Wheels’ Wincelow: Centre of Defense Disinformation (CDI) 1949 Press Release
Payload ‘Death Spiral’ Only by Making the Payload Smaller can Air Force Get Its New Bomber Over the Target. CDI believes the Air Force should pause their design effort until their bomber can carry 5000 more pounds of dead weight to meet original specifications. It’s a Death Spiral we say!You know things are bad because we capitalized ‘Death Spiral’.
Phil Sweetham (Aviation Leaks)
You know, everyone is talking about this current weight/payload weight thing, and I know that is has been the standard measure by which weight has been traditionally been viewed while systems are in development, but that's a ruse to keep the public off the scent of the real issue: mature system weight, I want to highlight that at the current rate of weight growth this bomber will weigh a gazillion pounds by 1952 if the current trend continues. I'm sure that is a bad thing. So bad that it will dog the program until it's cancelled...again. Soon I bet.
Boeing Model 464-40, Source: Mandeles
Boeing Model 464-49, Created Oct 1948, Adopted 1949, Source: Mandeles


Part 3 

Sunday, April 15, 2012

The B-52 Turns 60: What IF?

As the “BUFF” enters a long planned twilight, how might things played out if the era had been different?

B-52D on Display at Dyess AFB (SMSgt Mac Photo)
The B-52 is a beautiful over-engineered-by-slide-rule beast first flown on April 15, 1952 that has now flown for 60 years. The newest airframe is now over 50 years old. The 50+ operational life of the B-52 began with it being a high altitude penetrating bomber, painfully transitioning to a low altitude penetrating bomber, and then finally to its current primary role as a standoff weapons launch platform.

The Value of History: Perspective

Novices in mathematics, science, or engineering are forever demanding infallible, universal, mechanical methods for solving problems. -J. R. Pierce

It has been written that “What If?” is historian’s “favorite secret question”. Would the B-52 have become the venerable icon of airpower that it is ‘then’, if American communications and norms had been different?

What if’ 1946-1952 was anything like 2006-2012?
(All persons and institutions are fictional, Any resemblance of characters cited within to persons living or dead is pure serendipity ).


Boeing Model 462, Source: Mandeles
The tremendous growth of the Air Corps during World War II created a plethora of offices with overlapping concerns-the organizational conditions for the establishment of a multiorganizational system that ultimately influenced the postwar formulation of operational requirements for jet-propelled strategic bombers. Peacetime, however, brought large cuts in personnel, budget, and orders to aircraft manufacturers and-against the background of great uncertainty and strife in the defense establishment-many doubts surfaced during the first 13 months of the new heavy bomber program. The first bomber configuration, Model 462, was accepted in mid-1946. Within three months, this version was subjected to much criticism by the Air Staff. Boeing proposed an entirely different configuration, Model 464, to answer Air Staff doubts. Over the course of several years, the profusion of offices having overlapping functions regarding the development of new aircraft promoted a useful pattern of proposal, criticism, and change. (Mandeles, Pg 48**)

**Page numbers: electronic version online
Boeing Model 464-17, Source: Mandeles
‘Wheels’ Wincelow, "Pentagon Waste Proliferates in Bureaucratic Redundancy", Centre of Defense Disinformation (CDI) 1946 Press Release:
The War Department’s latest folly involves not one, not two, but THREE new and unnecessary bomber programs. By far the worst of the three has to be the new and as yet undefined ‘Heavy Bomber’ program. Already it is reported that the first design attempt has failed and the contractor has happily gone back to the drawing board no doubt with more of the public’s money in its pockets. The conflicted decision and review process of this program is being carried out through a bloated, redundant, and ponderous bureaucracy that will no doubt generate tremendous waste of the taxpayer’s dollars in an effort doomed to fail under the weight of its own inertia.
Peacenik Objectors Gone Overboard (POGO) Testimony before the House Whines and Memes Committee:
In this time of hard-won peace and enduring economic uncertainty, the United States enjoys primacy as the world’s exclusive nuclear power, the United States should not be pursuing another long range bomber aircraft and should scrap development of the overly complex and expensive medium and heavy bombers now in development. We strongly recommend substituting more B-29s and the new B-50s for half of planned buys of the recently announced B-47 and ongoing B-36 development programs and cancelling the rest, and to cease the wasteful development of these unnecessary and unproven weapons technology. With a planned total buy in excess of 2000 aircraft, these bomber programs are among the Department of War’s largest weapon procurement efforts and will (for a decade or more) drain the Treasury of funds needed to strengthen peaceful international relations and pay for domestic programs . This option would buy half as many simpler, cheaper aircraft, purchasing instead more of the current generation of bombers at a fraction of the cost to develop, field and support the new gold-plated aircraft with all their extraneous bells and whistles. The rationale for this change would be that DOD does not need even more new bombers as the new B-50, an advanced development of the B-29 that has yet to fly. This option might also allow the War Department to upgrade their bomber fleets faster than possible with the newer unproven aircraft designs which will undoubtedly experience delays related to additional technical problems driven by their unnecessary complexity.
Phil Sweetham (Aviation Leaks):
"This new bomber program is in trouble already and it hasn’t even been active two years. Will it EVER be fielded?"  
 Dave Axiom Headline ('Stranger Room' Column, 'Mired' Magazine):
‘Controversial’ New Bomber Controversially Struggles Early in Controversy,
 Title of General Accountants Office Report:
"New Bomber’s Unstable Design and Concurrency Creates Excessive Risk"


Yet, Air Materiel Command constituted a useful “redundancy of calculation” for the assistant chiefs, and functioned as an element of a nascent multiorganizational system. AMC staff often criticized the bas[i]s and assumptions of headquarters’ B-52 decisions. A June 1947 memorandum from the Aircraft Laboratory argued that AC / AS staff (1) misunderstood the relation between military requirements and aircraft size, (2) misunderstood how difficult it would be to design an aircraft capable of 5,000-mile radius, (3) did not appreciate how well balanced the B-52 design was, and (4) misunderstood how technical setbacks should be expected but could be solved in later versions of the aircraft. In July AMC’s Maj Gen Laurence C. Craigie, arguing on the basis of technical studies conducted in the Engineering Division, suggested that AC / AS officers should refrain from proposing either the all-wing or delta wing as alternatives to the B-52. He emphasized, in response to misgivings about B-52 range, that design deficiencies could be rectified in the aircraft’s life cycle. (Mandeles, Pg 47**)

‘Wheels’ Wincelow: Pursuit of Unobtainable ‘Perfect’ Bomber Solution Highlights Complexity Problems, Centre of Defense Disinformation (CDI) 1947 Press Release:
"Well here it is a year later and one design attempt after another has fallen barren. The bloated bureaucracy inherited by the new Air Force continues to generate tremendous waste of the taxpayer’s dollars through incompetence and inefficiency chasing unnecessarily complex weapon systems. It is still a program destined for certain failure."
Dave Axiom of Stranger Room (while trying to look really, really, serious) :
New Controversial Bomber Still Controversially Struggles in Ongoing Controversy: “They’re claiming their new designs meet specifications but are having to cheat by changing the specifications. Those cheating cheaters!” 
 Peacenik Objectors Gone Overboard (POGO) 1947 Press Release:
Pentagon suppressing dissent in ranks over New Bomber Designs:  "Scandal grows as faults and failures in design process and poor management are being covered up by the new Air Force’s leadership". POGO calls for Congressional investigations
 From Gonzo Accounting Office (GAO) 1947 Report: “New Bomber’s Unstable Design, Division of Effort and Concurrency Creates Excessive Risk”:
To summarize, the Army Air Force’s focus, needed to ensure that this program will succeed appears to be hampered by priorities given to the current Department of War reorganization plans. It is doubtful that the many parallel bomber programs now in varying stages of development will allow sufficient attention will be given to this new bomber program. The GAO recommends termination of this program and the newly-organized Department of Defense should seriously reconsider current plans and delay fielding the current programs of record until the threat driving the need for the B-36 emerges and until the technology for the B-47 is considerably more mature.
 Phil Sweetham (Aviation Leaks):
The newly created Air Force has been no more able to nail down exactly what this fancy new bomber of theirs is expected to do (or what it will even look like) than their Army Air Force progenitors. Whatever plans these new ‘princes’ of the sky have for their new toy must solidify before they can proceed, and there is no indication of any set plan materializing as of this writing. One must also wonder about how much additional cost is buried in the Air Force’s plans to fix inherent “design deficiencies” that will “be rectified in the aircraft’s life cycle”. The probability of this program coming to fruition is becoming even more unlikely and surely increased Congressional scrutiny must be imminent.
 Part 2 (1948-1949)

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Model 1894 Swedish Mauser Project

Resurrection NOT Restoration

I've pretty much completed the AR project. That is to say, it is about as 'complete' as I can ever call it same (except for optics -maybe next week). This means I've got time to start resurrecting Grandma's elk rifle: a 1906 issue of the M94 Swedish Mauser Carbine. I decided to get all the hardware in hand before I specify a 'sporter' stock for it because I didn't want to lay out the cash for what I wanted, only to find out I didn't have a working action to put in it.

Untouched... since about 1960 

The rifle has not been updated since Granddad built it around 1960, when Mausers were like AK clones are today. Yesterday I received in the mail a new (really!) trigger guard with catch release and a new (really!) floor plate that I ordered last week. I'm pretty sure they are from later Swede models as they are interchangeable among the 'small ring' Mausers and the later models are more available, but they are 'new' -- the floorplate was still in preservative from sometime before the 1940s. Markings for the new parts are also appropriate for a Swede, but as you see in the photo below, I had to give up hope of maintaining matching numbers because Granddad ground down the part of the trigger guard with the floorplate latch and serial number on it when he cut down the magazine walls. I acquired the floorplate in case I needed it, but I will be able to keep the original
Close examination, reflections on my late-Father's stories about the weapon and my knowledge of Granddad tells me that he probably never had the original rifle - just the complete action. An ultimately pragmatic man, I doubt cutting down a rifle by sectioning the 'lower' and the trigger would have occurred to Granddad if it had come with usable furniture.  I suspect the stock that was on it when I was given the rifle began life as a stock for a .22 caliber rifle that he already had in hand. Add the fact that he was building it for Grandma, a petite woman, and the mix of factors probably triggered the idea in him to cut it down.

The Family and the Swede

This rifle was built 'as is' for one thing: So a small woman could lug a high power rifle all over Eastern Oregon to take Wapiti. Granddad was also on the smaller side, so I think that's why it became his favorite over time as well. It was always referred to as "Grandma's Elk Gun", but Granddad probably used it more by virtue of the fact he went hunting quite a bit without Grandma and Grandma never went hunting without him. It was hunted with almost every year for twenty-five years, and it took elk (usually two or more) more years than not-- and Mule Deer from time to time as well. Upon Granddad's death (at 91 in 1991), his rifle passed to my Father, who passed it to me. I took it hunting once about three years ago, but didn't see anything suitable for taking.

The Swede's Needs

Taking the Swede into the field did give me some insight into what I might have to do to make it a solid hunting rifle again, and one that was perhaps tailored to Texas hunting conditions. First, the Swede shoots flatter than my .30-06 out to at least 200 yds and I suspect farther.  I found out that the original scope simply did not have enough light gathering capability, so a new one will be in order. Practice firing it immediately told me the gun was too powerful for the stock. Though it has an excellent (and substantial) recoil pad, my first thought after shooting it just once was: "Dang! I thought Grandpa liked Grandma!"

The 6.5 x 55 is a lot of round to mount on an itty-bitty stock. It fits in nicely in a crowd of larger calibers. The round puts lots of powder behind a long narrow projectile spun up to high stability .
Source: Wikipedia
The 6.5 x 55 Swedish is second from the right in the picture above, between the .308 (far right) and the 8 x 57 Mauser (third from right)

Baby Steps Ahead

After test fitting the 'new' lower and 'old' floorplate, and keeping the same follower and follower spring, last night I ordered new fore and aft guard screws (old ones were 'cut down') and a new military trigger. I really like the standard two stage trigger of the Swede and as long as the mechanism behind the lever is sturdy (it is) I see no reason to go to an aftermarket trigger. After I get these parts I'll decide upon a low-profile safety: the current one is an original modified 50+ years ago by Granddad to 'work around' a scope and it looks like it needs more metal to keep it from cracking off at the wrong time and I already don't like the way it feels now.

No 'Bubbas' in These Parts

Granddad was an outdoorsman his whole life, and we were raised with the now somewhat quaint idea that firearms were weapons and 'weapons = tools' --- Tools that were to be used and not merely conversation pieces fondled every so often. In preparing to resurrect the family treasure (for that is all it will ever be -- Granddad engraved "Mc" on the receiver and barrel) I did enough research to discover there is a whole corner of the virtual world filled with keyboard commandos who denigrate anyone who builds a Mauser, especially the rarer of the type such as the 1894 Swede, in any other configuration than 'restored'. They often refer to treatment of weapons in other than their 'approved' manner as being 'Bubba'd". 

They can pound sand.

If they believe vintage Mausers should be restored perhaps they should buy them all and restore the weapons themselves. Their opinions of what others do with their property is of no consequence. This rifle was, IMHO not a prime example of type when Granddad probably rescued it from the scrap pile. It has now been a functional no-frills hunting rifle most of its life. THAT is the heritage of this weapon that I intend to faithfully honor. (Well, maybe a 'frill' or two).


Sunday, April 08, 2012

File under: “For He So Loved the World”

Sustained by Faith...

This is totally ripped off from my favorite Photostream and posted here because it deserves better commentary (which would include ‘none’) than the comment it got out right out of the gate from some crass 'Putz' at the source.   (original size)

Happy Easter to all

About the First F-35 Night Aerial Refueling

No, Not “Twilight”. Night

There are apparently 'those' who  think that  the F-35’s first nighttime aerial refueling tests beginning right about sundown (at altitude, which means well after sundown on the ground) is some form of ‘cheating’ or possibly a ‘diluted’ or ‘easier’ test than if begun perhaps long after the day’s last light has passed.  I came to this conclusion the first time someone posted the single-word ‘Twilight’ as a comment on a thread about the testing. I found it mildly amusing at the time because of the self-revelatory ignorance behind the squeaking is now archived forever in cyberspace. If someone holding incorrect and ill-informed views wants to lynch their own credibility, I’ll happily give them all the rope they’ll need.
Given that the material presented in the first article only provided a photo taken early in the mission, we can conclude that the commenter either: a) didn’t bother to read the part about the mission being 3 hours long or b) isn’t aware that twilight doesn’t last very long no matter what your altitude.  Checking my phone app for moon and sun position tracking I found that the date of the test, March 22nd also involved –as I suspected-- a ‘New Moon’ (i.e. NO moonlight).  Therefore a test beginning at ‘Twilight’ had to have rapidly transitioned into ‘Dark*’ pretty quickly.

But what are we to make of the same commenter again dropping off ‘Twilight’ on yet another major Defense/Aerospace website? This time to a posting with a video showing different sortie activity over the length of the mission, including a ‘hookup’ clearly made well after dark?

*As dark as the lights of SoCal would have permitted, but that presents its own challenges.
Screen Capture of F-35 pulling off the Boom
It will be interesting to see if the same actor drops the ‘Twilight’ turd elsewhere.

Striking, isn’t it? That someone has ‘bet the farm’ on his beliefs to the point that they feel they don’t even have to read what they’re commenting upon. I hope they have another farm to fall back on.  

Post Script:

I was sorely tempted to also bore most of you to tears on Flight Physiology and WHY starting a test card for night refueling qualification testing at dusk could yield more data, and more meaningful test data than starting well after dark, but I managed to restrain myself.
Here’s the ‘short form’ of the more important aspects: Transition from Photopic to Scotopic vision and the effects of changing lighting conditions on aircrew perceptions (Boomer and Pilot) of contrast, glare, reflection and refraction. You know, the kind of stuff you care about when you are qualification testing the night aerial refueling capability of the F-35 (and tanker type to refuel the F-35)