Reuters & Breitbart News & Wikipedia – 2006-04-06 23:46:18
Iran Tests “Flying Boat” and Land-to-sea Missile
(April 4, 2006) — Iran successfully tested a “super-modern flying boat” on Tuesday and the land-to-sea Kowsar missile that military analysts say is designed to sink ships in the Gulf, state media reported. The tests came in the middle of Gulf war games that started on Friday. Iranian state radio said the Kowsar could evade radar and that its guidance system could not be scrambled.
The Defense Ministry was not immediately able to give details of a “flying boat” that was shown on television.
The small propeller-driven aircraft floated on a trimaran hull until it took off and flew low over the surface of the water. State television said it could reach speeds of 100 knots. “A super-modern flying boat was successfully tested in the ‘Great Prophet’ war game in Persian Gulf waters,” state television said.
“Because of its hull’s advanced design, no radar at sea or in the air can locate it. It can lift out of the water. It is wholly domestically built and can launch missiles with precise targeting while moving.” An aviation web site showed the vessel shared features with WIGE vehicles, known to Russians as ekranoplanes.
Earlier in the war games, Iran said it had tested a radar-evading rocket and the Hoot (whale) underwater missile which could outpace any enemy warship.
On Monday, Iran’s Revolutionary Guard test-fired a torpedo it said was being mass-produced in Iran. State television said another missile would be tested on Tuesday afternoon.
Iran rarely gives enough details of its military hardware for analysts to determine whether Tehran is making genuine advances or simply producing defiant propaganda while pressure ratchets up on its nuclear program.
Although Iran can draw on huge manpower, its naval and air-force technology is largely dismissed as obsolete.
The United States said it was possible Iran had developed weapons that could evade sonar and radar but warned the Islamic Republic had a tendency to “boast and exaggerate.”
Although Iran’s military technology might not be highly advanced, analysts say Iran would not need much know-how to cause chaos in vital oil shipping channels.
They say Iran could be testing arms in the Strait of Hormuz, a key tanker nexus, to dissuade Israel and the United States from taking military action against Tehran’s nuclear program.
Iran has been referred to the UN Security Council after failing to convince the world its atomic scientists are working exclusively on power stations and not branching into weapons.
Copyright © 2006 Reuters Limited
SYDNEY, Australia (March 30, 2006) — Researchers in Australia’s Outback launched a test flight Thursday of a supersonic jet designed to fly 10 times faster than conventional airplanes.
The test flight was conducted by researchers at the University of Queensland under commission from the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency, or JAXA, in the remote community of Woomera, about 300 miles north of the South Australian state capital, Adelaide.
The Supersonic Combustion Ramjet, or scramjet, was designed to travel at up to 5,000 mph, or 10 times the speed of conventional aircraft, the University of Queensland said. “The rocket launch looked as expected. We had another clean liftoff,” Professor Michael Smart said.
Thursday’s flight was the second test flight in less than a week, and was intended to generate data about performance of the 220 pound scramjet engine with an advanced fuel injector developed by JAXA.
The data will be compared to results of ground tests performed in Japan, the university said in a statement. It said it would make an announcement about the results of the flights in coming weeks.
The US has already carried out a flight test with a scramjet engine, while the European Union, Japan, China, Russia and India are in different stages of testing their technologies.
Some observers say scramjet technologies could revolutionize air travel. Officials at the University of Queensland have said scramjet- powered passenger jets are still a long way off. But it might be possible to use a scramjet-powered plane within the next 10 years for limited purposes, such as delivering vital organs for urgent transplant operations.
Copyright 2006 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.
Posted in accordance with Title 17, US Code, for noncommercial, educational purposes.
The Pentagon’s Blackstar Spaceplane
Blackstar is the reported codename of a secret United States orbital spaceplane system. The possible existence of the Blackstar program was reported in March 2006 by Aviation Week & Space Technology (Aviation Week) magazine; the magazine
reported that the program had been underway since at least the early 1990s, and that the impetus for Blackstar was to allow the United States Government to retain orbital reconnaissance capabilities jeopardised following the 1986 Challenger disaster. The article also said that the United States Air Force’s Space Command were unaware of Blackstar, suggesting it was operated by an intelligence agency such as the National Reconnaissance Office.
Aviation Week speculated that such a spacecraft could also have offensive military capabilities (a concept colloquially known as
“The Space Bomber” . The magazine also stated that it was likely that Blackstar would be mothballed, although it is unclear
whether this is due to cost or failure of the program.
The Aviation Week report was a few days later dismissed as “almost certainly bogus” and the project termed a “technical
absurdity” by Jeffrey F. Bell in an article in Spacedaily, which is thorough but misinterprets some points (including discussing a laser for adaptive optics as if it was a weapon and dismissing the launch system as impossible despite the success of the similar Tier One).
1 The Blackstar system
2 The program
3 Discussions of similar aircraft
The Blackstar System
Aviation Week describes Blackstar as a two stage to orbit system, comprising a high-speed jet “mothership” aircraft (which
Aviation Week referred to as the SR-3). Its description of SR-3 is similar to the North American B-70 Valkyrie Mach 3 strategic bomber, and to patents filed in the 1980s by Boeing.
The SR-3 would carry a second, smaller airframe, codenamed the XOV (eXperimental Orbital Vehicle). This rocket-powered spaceplane, with similarities to the X-20 Dyna-Soar project, would be released by its mothership at an altitude of around 100,000 feet. The XOV would then light its rocket motor and could achieve both suborbital and orbital flight; one source quoted by Aviation Week estimates the XOV could reach an orbit of 300 miles above the Earth, depending on payload and mission profile.
The XOV would then reenter the atmosphere , fly like a normal aircraft (possibly using aerospike engines, similar to those used by the Lockheed Martin X-33), and would land horizontally on a conventional runway. This combination of jet-powered mothership and a smaller rocket-powered spaceplane
resembles the civilian Tier One spaceplane system, but capable of much higher velocities and of thus attaining orbit.
The primary use of a military spaceplane such as Blackstar would be to conduct high-altitude or orbital reconnaissance, allowing surprise overflights of foreign locations with very low risk of the spyplane being successfully engaged by existing air-defense systems.
This is similar to the goals of the earlier U-2 and SR-71 Blackbird reconnaissance aircraft; in some circumstances such an overflight yields more information than a pass by a reconnaissance satellite, as the satellite’s path is predictable, allowing
sensitive material to be hidden.
Military analysts have suggested that a military spaceplane could also be used to place small satellites in orbit, to retrieve them, to provide a means of launching nuclear weapons from orbit, or to serve as a platform for exotic orbit-to-ground hypervelocity weapons. The small spaceplane described by Aviation Week appears to have only a very modest cargo capacity, limiting its use in such missions.
Aviation Week suggests that the huge costs of the Blackstar program were bourne both by the Department of Defense’s own black budget and by hiding the costs of Blackstar inside the procurement costs attached to acknowledged military purchases.
To assist in this, and to allow politicians to deny the USAF operates such a vehicle, the Blackstar assets may nominally be owned and operated by the civilian defense contractors who built it. The magazine suggests that a consortium of Boeing and Lockheed are responsible for Blackstar.
It is unclear if the Blackstar program became fully operational, although it may have been so since the mid 1990s. Aviation
Week’s article speculated that the success of Blackstar explains the Government’s willingness to cancel the SR-71 Blackbird
and Air Force satellite-launch programs.
Discussions of Similar Aircraft
During the 1970s, when studies were underway which led to the specification of the Space Shuttle, most leading US aerospace contractors explored orbital spaceplane designs, some based on a two-stage design. With the adoption of the Space Shuttle design, these avenues appear to have been abandoned. The use of a spaceplane as part of the launching system to replace the Space Shuttle has been suggested, in programs such as VentureStar.
Some of the details of the SR-3 mothership resemble the rumored Aurora aircraft (a high-speed, high-altitude delta-winged
aircraft) and the lengthening of runways at facilities such as Area 51 (taken by some as evidence of Aurora) could instead be necessary either to support SR-3’s takeoff or XOV’s landing. Most descriptions of Aurora, however, describe it as a hypersonic plane with the exotic engine technology; the SR-3 described by Aviation Magazine is similar to existing conventional aircraft.
A similar military space shuttle is discussed in the last two seasons of the fictional TV show The West Wing. The show explores the political ramifications that a secret “space bomber” could have with regard to the militarization of space.
In the romance film “Notting Hill,” an actress is seen reading a script from a nonexistent action movie, in which Black Star is mentioned as a tool that will have to be used to get information on an emerging nuclear crisis.
• 1. — “Two-Stage-to-Orbit ‘Blackstar’ System Shelved at Groom Lake?.” Scott, W., Aviation Week & Space Technology. March 5, 2006.
• 2. — “Did Pentagon create orbital space plane?.” Oberg, J., MSNBC. March 6, 2006.
• 3. — “Bush plans ‘space bomber’.” Vulliamy, E., The Observer. July 29, 2001.
• 4. — “Pentagon planning for space bomber.” Windrem, R., MSNBC. August 14, 2001.
• 5. — “Six blind men in a zoo: Aviation Week‚Äôs mythical Blackstar.” Day, D. A., The Space Review. March 13, 2006.
• 6. — “Blackstar A False Messiah From Groom Lake Bell, J. F., Spacedaily. March 10, 2006.