Mar 292018

Here are two presumably wholly unrelated pieces of aerospace artwork. At least I *hope* they’re unrelated…

The first is an anonymous painting of a spaceplane. Doesn’t seem terribly realistic; most likely done for advertising purposes (I wonder if the “7-11” might indicate a relationship to the chain of the same name). The print arrived damaged, as you an see; the paper was thick and *really* brittle and really didn’t appreciate being rolled up. If anyone knows anything about it, feel free to comment.


The second is concept art from Bell Aerospace illustrating an amphibious troop carrier for the Marine Corps. The design of the assault vehicle is fairly ordinary as such things go, except for one detail: it could turn into a hovercraft and float across the surface of the water, rather than plowing through it. No further details provided, so I don’t know if the hover-skirts were deployable and retractable, or if they were simply dropped when the vehicle got to shore. The latter would certainly seem more economical.

I’ve uploaded the full rez scans to the 2018-03 APR Extras Dropbox folder, available to all current APR Patrons at the $4 level and above. If you are interested in this and a great many other “extras” and monthly aerospace history rewards, please sign up for the APR Patreon. Chances are good that $4/month is far cheaper than your espresso/booze budget!


 Posted by at 2:01 pm
Jan 262018

Just out driving on the frozen surface of a river, as one does, when an old nuclear powered Russian icebreaker goes zipping on by…

По пути к Диксону нам встретился «Таймыр» — атомный ледокол, предназначенный для проводки судов в устья сибирских рек. Огромная махина. Ещё на подступах к нам лёд начал дрожать. А когда подошёл, то было настолько круто, что и словами сложно описать! #Енисей #Ледокол #АтомныйЛедокол #РосАтомФлот #РосАтом #Таймыр #Диксон #экспедиция #пропутешествия #rgoexpo #toyota #toyotarus #возможностьпроявитьсебя #redfox #redfoxoutdoor

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 Posted by at 11:45 pm
Dec 312017

While poking around one of my old computers I found the partially finished 3D CAD model of the Martin “Aldebaran” I made some years ago for my NPP book. I’ll use the model to create diagrams for the book, in hopes that someday I’ll finish the damn thing, but I’m curious if there might be interest in physical models of the thing. Let me know. I might take a stab at this with Shapeways or some such.

 Posted by at 1:13 pm
Dec 212017

It wasn’t that many months ago when we were told that due to Donald Trumps incompetence,  the Unitest State had lost its place as “leader of the free world,” and now Angela Merkel of Germany was going to show us all how it’s done. But… in order to be a leader, you have to have *power.* And one of the most important ways for a nation to project power is with a navy. Whenever there’s a major hurricane or a tsunami, sooner or later a US Navy carrier battle group will show up to provide humanitarian and logistics support. Whenever Iran or China or the Somalis gets sporty with their naval piracy, the US Navy shows up to put a stop to it (or at least to *tell* them to stop). So… Germany. There was only ever one German aircraft carrier, and it was never completed nor did it see service; it was mostly built, but was ultimately used by the Soviets as target practice. Germany did have a number of battleships and battlecruisers, but by far Germanys biggest impact on naval power was with submarines. Seems like it might be a little challenging to rule the waves with little more than subs, but I suppose it can be done. So, how is the German submarine fleet doing these days?

Germany’s Entire Submarine Fleet Is Out of Commission

Das boot ist kaputt: German navy has zero working subs

Germany a whopping *SIX* submarines, none of which are functional. None of which even are nuclear powered or carry ballistic missiles.

Germany’s decrease in spending has had broad consequences across its entire military. Of the country’s 244 Leopard II tanks, only 95 are ready for action. In 2014, only 42 out of 109 Typhoon fighter jets were fully operational. Of the country’s 14 new A-400M Grizzly transport aircraft, sometimes none are available. And in 2015, when Germany debated sending Tornado strike jets to Syria, it was revealed that only 29 out 66 Tornados were airworthy. Given such low readiness rates, it’s not surprising the submarine force is also in a bind.

Good luck using that fleet of clunkers to control the ongoing invasion of Europe, Ms. Merkel. Good luck using them to convince Putin to not invade, conquer and annex Eastern Europe. I look forward to seeing how that military powerhouse is used to broker peace in the middle east or to foster contentment in the South China Sea, or keep things going smoothly as Russia and Norway and Canada fight over Arctic resources.


 Posted by at 8:08 pm
Aug 192017


Billionaire Paul Allen Finds Lost World War II Cruiser USS Indianapolis in the Philippine Sea

Found 18,000 feet deep.


If “USS Indianapolis” doesn’t necessarily ring any bells, this scene from “Jaws” should just about cover it. This is one of the *great* scenes in movie history; it’s done simply, straightforward and it’s freakin’ brilliant. This is due not only to Shaw’s magnificent performance, but due also to the speech having been written by John Milius (and cut down from Milus’ 10 pages to 5 by Shaw himself).

It’s my understanding that the story of the Indianapolis was largely unknown to the public prior to “Jaws,” and that at least a few of the survivors went into the movie unaware of what was coming. That must have been… something.

It’s impractical to the point of being impossible, but it would be great to bring the Indianapolis back up to the surface and restore it to an extent. Perhaps put it next to the USS Arizona memorial. Of course, it’s probably right to leave it where it is as a memorial to the dead.




 Posted by at 9:57 pm
Aug 132017

So, Dane Peter Madsen built himself a sizable submarine, using crowdfunding to raise the money (around $200,000). He took it for a spin with a Swedish journalist on board, it sank, she disappeared, and now he’s been arrested for her murder as the Danish authorities believe the sub was intentionally sunk.

Kim Wall: Danish submarine was ‘deliberately sunk’

I have to admit that I hadn’t heard of this sub until it sank. It actually looks pretty spiffy… but reading up on in on Wikipedia, some concerns began to grow:

It was built over a three-year period as an art project by Peter Madsen and a group of volunteers…

An “art project.” A friggen submarine as an ART PROJECT. Oh, no, who needs STEM…

Madsen took the sub out *alone* with the reporter. How is it ever a good idea to pilot a submarine alone?

It seems really unlikely to me that Madsen sank the sub in order to kill the journalist. But maybe he sank the sub for some purpose (Insurance scam? Drama? Art?) and the journalist died in the process. He claims that he dropped her off on shore before the sub sank, and her body hasn’t been found. Could this be some sort of ill-conceived hoax/joke thing, where the authorities are going to spend a whole lot of taxpayer money investigating this only to have her pop up and shout “Ta-Da!’ months down the line?


 Posted by at 11:10 am
Jul 012017

The Pluto nuclear ramjet is often considered one of the crazier (or perhaps more accurately, “badass”) weapons systems ever considered by serious people. In short, it used a nuclear reactor as the heat source for an airbreathing ramjet; it would fly at a few hundred feet altitude at Mach 3 with nearly unlimited range. Several American aerospace corporations vied for the contract; LTV won the contract to build the airframe in 1961. The “Tory” nuclear ramjet was static ground tested with some success, but the program was cancelled in 1964.

Convair gave the concept considerable study from the beginning of the program in 1957 until at least 1961. Their “Big Stick” concept has been reasonably well known, but they had another idea that was somewhat further from the basic idea. It was mentioned in at least two briefings that I’ve come across; some amount of serious work was done on it, but the information I have is fragmentary. The concept was called simply the “Submersible Nuclear Ramjet.”

Pluto and Big Stick were unmanned cruise missiles. They would be launched from the ground with solid rocket boosters (some though was given to launching from ships, subs and aircraft) and would fly “grand tours” of the Soviet Union, spitting out a number of individual nuclear bombs. They would leave in their wake a line of ruin… the shockwaves from their passage would likely shake apart civilian structures, and the reactors would constantly spit out radioactive particles. At the end of the mission the missiles would crash into one final target.

But the Submersible Nuclear Ramjet would work a little differently. For starters… it was manned. There would be a crew on board throughout the mission.

Rather than starting off at some Air Force base, the Submersible Nuclear Ramjet would actually start off as a submarine, floating around on its own in the ocean. Propulsion would be provided by the nuclear reactor, serving as a “water ramjet” by heating seawater and expelling it. Feeding salt water, diatoms, kelp, fish and all the rest of the junk the ocean has to offer directly through a nuclear reactor seems a bit dubious.

When the order to begin an actual mission comes in, the propulsion system would be reconfigured from seawater-burning ramjet to seawater-burning rocket. The vehicle would expel stored seawater through the reactor, generating a large amount of thrust, enough to launch the craft vertically out of the water and up to high speed. The craft would then angle over towards the horizontal; the propulsion system would reconfigure once again, this time to an airbreathing nuclear ramjet. The vehicle would then fly a mission essentially similar to Plutos… low altitude, screamingly high speed, ejecting nuclear weapons as it goes. At the end of the mission, unlike Pluto it would *not* crash itself into one final target. Instead, the manned vehicle would return to secure waters and slow to subsonic speed. It would enter a vertical climb and slow to a stop; the ramjet would again reconfigure, this time back to rocket mode. Four drag brakes would deploy around the nose and the vehicle would back down into the water for a soft “splashdown.” It would of course land with nearly empty tanks, so it would be quite buoyant; until the tanks refill, it would likely sit tail-down in the water.

I’m going to try to find out more about this concept, but I have minimal hopes. I’ve gone all this time without hearing about it until just a few weeks ago.

Because why no, I’ve made a basic model of the concept. Complete accuracy is not assured… I have a top view and an inboard profile; as with a distressing number of concept aircraft diagrams, the views seem to conflict on things such as the cockpit canopy, and the inlet configuration is only partially shown. Still, it’s a really interesting concept.

If you’re interested in Pluto, take a look at Aerospace Projects Review issue V2N1. There is a very large, highly illustrated article on Pluto in that issue. If you are interested in the Submersible Nuclear Ramjet, keep an eye on US Bomber Projects… it will show up in the next issue or two.

The renders below show the Convair Submersible Nuclear Ramjet to scale with the LTV Pluto.

This is certainly one of the most oddball, whackadoodle ideas I’ve ever seen. And I want one.

 Posted by at 12:42 am
Mar 172017

Here’s a PR film from the US Navy, circa late 1960’s, extolling the virtues of their hydrofoil vessels. Hydrofoils, like jetpacks and flying cars, are old technologies that always seem to scream “future;” but unlike jetpacks an flying cars, hydrofoils have actually entered service. Just never with the US military, with the exception of a handful of the Pegasus class patrol bats (in service from ’77 to ’93). Cool as they were, they just never seemed to quite catch on… they made for some very fast ships, but at considerable expense, and a whole lot of maintenance. And I suspect there was always some paranoia about just what would happen if a hydrofoil ran into a log or a boat or a whale while at top speed.

The film includes some spectacular footage, and some just awful background music.

While hydrofoils had their day fifty years ago, the somewhat similar SWATH (small waterplane-area twin-hull ) concept has popped up much more recently. Witness the “Ghost” from 2014:



 Posted by at 2:06 am
Jan 032017

This YouTube channel is not a producer of content, but an aggregator of vintage documentaries. Additionally, the videos have improved audio and stabilized video – i.e., they’re better to watch and listen to than the originals. The videos are *all* over the place… you’re as likely to see one on nuclear bomb testing as you are on household cleansers. But there are a *lot* of videos that should be of considerable interest to readers of this blog. Lots of military and NASA vids.

Jeff Quitney

Here the page is broken down into convenient playlists.

Some recent videos of interest:






 Posted by at 9:44 am