US Air Force Broke the Maglev World Speed Record

The US Air Force’s 846th Test Squadron has had a lot of practice when it comes to both breaking records and magnetic levitation. As well as setting the initial record a number of years ago, they have already broken the world speed record for a vehicle operated using magnetic levitation, or “maglev”, twice this year. The record attempts saw the squadron accelerating their rocket-powered maglev sled to 513 mph and later 633 mph at the Holloman Air Force Base.

The vehicle that made the record attempts is a 2,000-pound rocket-powered sled that is kept aloft purely using maglev technology. It is levitated by super-conductive magnets cooled by liquid helium and then boosted up to the record-breaking speeds using a series of powerful rockets that provide acceleration of up to 923 feet per second. This is far from the only use of maglev technology, with more practical applications such as levitating trains already capable of reaching speeds of 370 mph, but the 846th’s levitating sled is a unique vehicle itself.

This isn’t the end of the record attempts either, with Shawn Morgenstern, the commander of the 846th Test Squadron stating that “what we plan to do after this test is refine the design of the sled itself.” “We want to look at some lighter materials and continue to see what kind of capability we can get out of this system in terms of the speeds that we’re capable of going” he said. How fast they will be able to make a rocket sled remains unknown, but it is exciting to see how these technologies continue to push the boundaries.

F-35 Delayed Until 2019 Due to Software Issues

Problems with the F-35 are nothing new, with countless issues continuing to plague the jet fighter throughout its development. Now, as if to make matters worse, it has suffered another delay in its rollout, with the US House Armed Services Committee being informed that the new multirole jet won’t be ready before at least 2019.

When it was originally conceived as the Joint Strike Fighter, the F-35 was intended to reinforce the air power of a number of countries worldwide, including the US and the UK, now it is possibly the most expensive joke in the world. The issues with the F-35 range from simple code crashes and bugs to more amusing issues such as the radar requiring pilots to hard restart it in flight and even major security flaws.In a recent review of the jet by Michael Gilmore, the Pentagon’s director of operational test and evaluation, it was reported that the F-35’s latest operating system version contained 931 open, documented deficiencies, of which 158 are considered Category 1, posing risks death, severe injury or illness.

In a recent review of the jet by Michael Gilmore, the Pentagon’s director of operational test and evaluation, it was reported that the F-35’s latest operating system version contained 931 open, documented deficiencies, of which 158 are considered Category 1, posing risks death, severe injury or illness. Gilmore also reported that even with limited and incomplete testing, the F-35’s cyber security has deficiencies that “cannot be ignored. Currently, 60% of all F-35s already produced are grounded due to software issues, giving an example of a four-plane exercise that had to be aborted “due to avionics stability problems during startup” in two of the aircraft. Obviously, this is a major deficiency for the most software dependent warplane ever made.

It’s not just software issues that the F-35 has either, for example, pilots under 136 lb will be unable to fly the plane due to the ejection mechanism, which also has “serious” problems for those weighing over 165 pounds. Even for those in the ideal weight range for the F-35, which makes up 27% of pilots, there is still a 23% chance of death on ejection and the odds of “some level of injury resulting from neck extension to be 100 per cent,” figures which are contested by General Chris Bogdan.

Even the annual cost of the F-35 falling is not enough to save it either, with the jet estimated to cost the US government alone $379bn between now and 2038, which is $12.7bn annually, for 2,457 planes.

It is almost a wonder that the Joint Strike Fighter program is yet to be cancelled in the face of so many flaws with the F-35. At this point, though, whether they give up or carry on, the cost isn’t going to be cheap and those air forces ordering it would need a new replacement. I’m sure Lockheed Martin are hoping that they can have the F-35 ready by 2019 though I’m sure many expect the ill-fated warplane will continue to disappoint.

US Air Force Reveal New B-21 Bomber

Much of America’s air power has been in service for many years, most notably the venerable B-52. Now, they plan to bring a new craft to the fleet. Christened the B-21, and the result of Northrop Grumman’s work on the US Air Force’s Long Range Strike Bomber (LRS-B) project, looks very reminiscent of a previous US bomber, the B-2, which was the last bomber bought from Northrop Grumman in the 80s and 90s.

Revealed as part of a presentation by Air Force Secretary Deborah Lee James at the Air Force Association’s Air Warfare Symposium in Orlando, the initial concept design of the aircraft as well as it’s B-21 designation were announced. The official name of the bomber is yet to be decided, with the Air Force currently taking suggestions from service members as to what it should be, but the B-21 designation was in recognition of its position as the first bomber of the 21st century.

“This aircraft represents the future for our Airmen,” James said. “The Airman who submits the selected name will help me announce it at the conference this fall (the Air & Space Conference in September).”

While the B-21 may make many think of the old B-2 spirit, the B-21 represents many different decisions in its design. The B-2 was considered a “moonshot” project at the time, which resulted in a high cost and low production, meanwhile the B-21 looks similar to the B-2 because it is built on existing and mature designs and technology. Despite this, the initial development budget for the project is $21 billion, including designs and prototypes, with 100 aircraft planned as part of the production, each costing as much as $550 million.

The B-21 is expected to enter operation sometime in the 2020s, to be part of the US Air Force fleet going into the future. The budget proposals that account for the B-21’s production even plan for a lowered purchase of the flagging F-35 fighters over the next decade, to allow for the purchase of additional bombers. Exactly what the B-21 will bring to aerial warfare in the near future remains to be seen, but hopefully, it should deliver far more than the B-2 did in its time.

SpaceX Falcon 9 Certified for National Security and Military Launches

SpaceX’s Falcon 9 launch system has been scrutinized by the US Air Force and is now fully certified for future missions, breaking the monopoly currently held by the United Launch Alliance. SpaceX will now be allowed to compete for launch contracts for military and reconnaissance satellites.

“This is a very important milestone for the Air Force and the Department of Defense,” Deborah Lee James told Ars Technica. “SpaceX’s emergence as a viable commercial launch provider provides the opportunity to compete launch services for the first time in almost a decade. Ultimately, leveraging of the commercial space market drives down cost to the American taxpayer and improves our military’s resiliency.”

It was not overly healthy to have the US Air Force completely beholden to a single entity for its rocketry requirements: It’s not good for resiliency, and it’s not good for the purse strings either. SpaceX previously claimed that ULA launches were costing the US government $460 million per launch and that it could instead offer launches for around $100 million. ULA contested that figure, saying the current launch price is actually $225 million, with a plan to bring that price down to around $100 million as well. No matter what the real figures are, it is very clear to us that Falcon 9’s fresh certification will increase competition and drive down prices.

Elon Mush and SpaceX spent two years and more that 60 million dollars to get the certification, the company will now compete to be able to send roughly one-third of the military rockets and satellites into space. Apparently they won’t be able to launch the largest satellites until the bigger Falcon Heavy is built and certified.

Thank you to Ars Technica for providing us with this information

Image courtesy of WideWallpapers