Monday, May 18, 2009

Manned or Unmanned and Manhandled

I dunno about you, Gentle reader, but I find the following just a little…umm… unsettling. From today’s AFA Daily Report:
Last Manned Aircraft?: Despite eliminating the Air Force's next-generation bomber from the 2010 defense budget, Defense Secretary Robert Gates acknowledged it was his personal view that "we probably do need a follow-on bomber." But he told the Senate Armed Services Committee during May 14 testimony that much had changed since the 2006 Quadrennial Defense Review directed USAF to field the NGB by 2018. And, he now believes that the outcome of the new QDR and Nuclear Posture Review may provide different insight on that bomber and will question "whether, for example, the follow-on bomber needs to have a pilot in it." Adm. Michael Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, agreed, declaring, "There are those that see the JSF [F-35 Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter] as the last manned fighter—or fighter bomber or—or jet, and I'm one that's inclined to believe that." (The Air Force is slated to purchase the last of its 1,763 JSFs in 2034.) Mullen said, "We're at a real time of transition here in terms of the future of aviation, and the whole issue of what's going to be manned and what's going to be unmanned, what's going to be stealthy, what isn't, how do we address these threats … it's changing, even from 2006."
I’m no Luddite, and perhaps the technology is more advanced than I think. But the idea of unmanned, autonomous combat aircraft that can employ ordnance against ground targets… not to mention fulfilling the air-to-air mission… is sorta scary. If you think we have issues with collateral damage today (i.e., civilian casualties), just wait until UCVs start handling the air-to-mud mission. But then again, perhaps there will come a time when software replaces people. I kinda doubt that, though.
Just sayin’.
Detroit's Johan Franzen scores a goal on a wrap around Chicago goalie Nikolai Khabibulin during second period action between the Detroit Red Wings and the Chicago Blackhawks in game 1 of the Western Conference Finals, Sunday May 17, 2009 at Joe Louis Arena in Detroit. (JULIAN H. GONZALEZ/DFP)
Off to a good start… That would be the Wings in the Western Conference Final, which they won convincingly yesterday by beating Chicago 5-2. Some snippets from the hockey press, beginning with Rick Morrissey writing in the Chicago Tribune:
DETROIT -- For the past 10 years or so, Rule No. 1 in the NHL has been that you can't make mistakes against the Red Wings. Once you do, only the IRS has more effective methods of making you pay.
Afterward, everyone was trying to figure out why the Hawks seemed to fall apart so dramatically after Cleary's goal. Was it youthful nerves? Playoff inexperience? The greenhouse effect?

"I don't think we were over-aggressive, I think we were not smart out there," defenseman Brian Campbell said. "You feel a guy on you, you've got to find a way to get it deep and skate harder and move your feet more. You can't be standing around."

As explanations go, "not smart" is as good as any.

The Red Wings like to make nifty plays and then hope their opponents try to attempt the same. They don't make many mistakes and figure that, eventually, the other team will. It happened over and over Sunday.
DETROIT -- Game 1 of the Western Conference finals looked awfully familiar.
It reminded us of the first two games the young Pittsburgh Penguins played in Detroit last June in the Stanley Cup finals. The Pens never touched the puck and wondered what had just hit them. By the time they recovered in the series, it was too little, too late.
The Detroit Red Wings delivered that same lesson Sunday, controlling large stretches of the afternoon in a dominating 5-2 victory over the young Chicago Blackhawks.
The class in question Sunday was Puck Possession 101, a course the Red Wings have taught many times to the rest of the league.
"Welcome to the Western Conference finals, kids," the Wings seemingly said loud and clear Sunday. "Did we tell you this was our eighth trip here in 14 seasons and third in a row?"
"They've obviously been here before," said Blackhawks star center Patrick Kane, who was minus-3 on the day without a single shot on goal.
We'll see if the Hawks are quick learners. They looked disjointed Sunday, unable to get their speed game going and certainly unable to mount any kind of sustainable forecheck. It's hard to fore check when the home team has the puck all the time.
OK… it’s just one game in a seven game series and there’s (ahem) a lot of hockey left to be played. The Hawks could have been rusty, they could have been overconfident after relatively easy series wins against Calgary and Vancouver, they could have had the flu, or they could have been awed by just being there, “there” being the Western Conference Finals. Any or all of the foregoing. On the other hand, they might have been over-matched.
I’m of the opinion that the Hawks were definitely out-coached… Babcock’s match-ups were effective at neutralizing Chicago’s young guns (Toews and Kane… who were both minus-3 in the game, with a combined total of three shots on goal between the two of ‘em), while Quenneville had no answers for Detroit’s scoring machine. Quenneville juggled his lines throughout the third period and nothing worked.
It will be very interesting to see what happens tomorrow night, to say the very least. Chicago has reason to worry, not the least of which is what will happen when Datsyuk and Hossa (finally) show up. If and when the latter happens, watch out. It could turn out to be a VERY short series.
(Photo credits: F-35, Lockheed-Martin; Khabibulin - Franzen, Detroit Free Press)


  1. Well, with the Bruins and Celtics eliminated, I'm left with rooting for your Wings (and maybe Michelle's Pens.)

    (insert sad Suldog face here...)

  2. Isn't that what happened in Terminator? The unmanned machines kinda took over, launched nuclear missles at Russia and they attacked back, thus eliminating much of the human threat. How about Eagle Eye? Maybe I watch too many movies, but taking man out of the equation doesn't sound like a good idea.

  3. We want to go to war without endangering lives - HUGE MISTAKE.

    Technology is great, but it will never capture the human instinct. Anyone remember the now classic WAR GAMES ?

  4. "But the idea of unmanned, autonomous combat aircraft that can employ ordnance against ground targets… not to mention fulfilling the air-to-air mission… is sorta scary."

    Even scarier when you include the word, "nuclear," in the equation. I've gotta agree with Flag Gazer about human instinct.

    I don't like an all-drone-all-the-time fighter/bomber capability.

  5. "unmanned, autonomous combat aircraft..." etc

    Wow. So I guess all those little boys (and big boys) glued to X Box and PSP games etc all day long aren't sitting around doing nothing? Their skills will actually come in handy some day?

  6. I don't think I like the idea of unmanned combat aircraft. On the other hand, I assume there would still have to be some sort of pilot on the ground, which is safer than in the air. It's early here and my brain is not in gear. I need more coffee.

  7. Jim: I think you're more insulated from disappointment if you root for the Wings. Those Cardiac Canes dang near stole one in Pittsburgh last night. I think that's gonna be a long series, and the outcome is anyone's guess, IMHO.

    Jenny: I didn't see either one of those movies, but "machines taking over" has long been a staple of sci-fi novels. UCAVs do have pilots, they're just back at the base and not in the cockpit.

    Cynthia: I've read the situational awareness available from current sensors is like looking at the world through a soda straw. And that's just the beginning... Agreed that we NEED the man in the cockpit...

    Moogie: You're oh-so-right about the nuke thing!

    alison: You got it! The video game generation actually DOES have a future!

    Lou: I'm with you on the coffee... still working on my first cup! But yeah, there are pilots on the ground.

  8. Computer remote controlled jets are fine... as long as these things can't be hacked by some nefarious hackers. Then we could be in a world of trouble.

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