Monthly Archives: November 2012

2011 – The Year the Government Got Healthy

The discoveries and creations accomplished in 2011 will have far reaching affects for decades to come. These advances in biology, nano-technology, computer science, materials science and programming are truly 21st Century science. The latest issue of Discovery magazine details the top stories as they have been released to the public, but, as you have learned from this blog, there is much that is not released to the public. Every research study or major development lab in the US that is performing anything that is of interest to any part of the government is watched and monitored very closely. Obviously, every government funded research project has government “oversight” that keeps tabs on their work but this monitoring applies to every other civilian R&D lab and facility as well. I have described the effects of this monitoring in several of my reports but I have not specifically spelled it out. Now I will.

The government has a network of labs and highly technically trained spies that monitor all these civilian R&D projects as they are developed. These guys are a non-publicized branch of the Federal Laboratory Consortium (FLC) that provides the cover for this operation behind the guise of supporting technology transfer from the government to the civilian market – when, in fact, it’s real goal is just the opposite.

The Labs in FLC are a mix of classified portions of existing federal labs – such as NRL, Ft. Detrick, Sandia, Argonne, Brookhaven, Oak Ridge, PNNL, Los Alamos, SEDI and about a dozen others – and a lot of government run and controlled civilian labs such as Lawrence Livermore, NIH and dozens of classified college and university and corporate labs that give the appearance of being civilian but are actually almost all government manned and controlled.

The spy network within the FLC is perhaps the least known aspect. Not even Congress knows much about it. It is based in Washington but has offices and data centers all over. The base operations comes under an organization within the Dept. of Homeland Security (DHS) called the Homeland Security Studies and Analysis Institute (HSSAI). The public operations of HSSAI is run by Analytic Services, Inc. but the technology spy activities are run by the Office of Intelligence and Analysis (OIA) Division of DHS.

Within the OIA, the FLC technology spies come under the Cyber, Infrastructure and Science Director (CIS) and are referred to as the National Technology Guard (NTG) and it is run like a quasi-military operation. In fact, most of these NTG spies were trained by the Department of Defnse (DoD) and many are simply on loan from various DoD agencies.

This is a strange and convoluted chain of command but it works fairly efficiently mostly because the lines of information flow , funding and management are very narrowly defined by the extremely classified nature of the work. What all these hidden organizations and fake fronts and secret labs do is to allow the funding for these operations to be melted into numerous other budget line items and disguised behind very official and humanitarian and publicly beneficial programs. This is necessary because some of the lab work that they get involved in can become quite expensive – measured in the billions of dollars.

The way this network actually works is actually fairly simple. Through the FLC and other funding and information public resources, leading edge projects are identified within HSSAI. They then make the decision to “oversight”, “grab” or “mimic” the details of the R&D project. If they implement “oversight”, that means that OIA and CIS keep records of what and how the R&D projects are progressing. If they “grab” it, that means that the NTG is called upon to obtain copies of everything created, designed and/or discovered during the project. This is most often done using cyber technology by hacking the project’s computers of everyone involved. It is the mimic that gets the most attention in the OIA.

If a project is tagged as a mimic or “M” project, the HSSAI mates a government lab within the FLC to be the mimic of the R&D project being watched. The NTG usually embeds spies directly in the civilian R&D project as workers and the OIA/CIS dedicates a team of hackers to grab everything and pass it directly to the mated FLC lab. The NTG spies will also grab samples, photos, duplicates and models of everything that is being accomplished.

What is kind of amazing is that this is all done in real time – that is, there is almost no delay between what is being done in the civilian R&D lab and what is being done to copy that work in the government lab. In fact, the payoff comes when the government lab can see where a project is going and can leap ahead of the civilian R&D lab in the next phase of the project. This is often possible because of the restraints in funding, regulations, laws and policy that the civilian labs must follow but the government labs can ignore. This is especially true in biological sciences in which the civilian lab must follow mandated protocols that can sometimes delay major breakthroughs by years. For instance, the civilian lab has to perform mice experiments and then monkey experiments and then petition for human testing. That process can take years. If a treatment looks promising, the government lab can skip to human testing immediately – and has done so many times.

Let me give you an example that is in recent news. The newest advances in science are being made in the convergence areas between two sciences. Mixing bioscience with any other science is called bioconvergence and it is the most active area of new technologies. This example is the bioconvergence of genetics and computers. The original project was begun by a collaboration between a European technology lab based in Germany and an American lab based in Boston. The gist of the research is that they created a computer program that uses a series of well known cell-level diagnostic tests to determine if a cell is a normal cell or a cancer cell. The tests combine a type of genetic material called microRNA with a chemical marker that can react to six specific microRNAs. The markers can then be read by a computer sensor that can precisely identify the type of cell it is. This is accomplished by looking at the 1,000+ different microRNA sequences in the cell. The computer knows what combination of too much or too little of the six microRNAs that identifies each distinct type of cell.

Once that is accomplished, they can define, identify and isolate the specific individual cancer cells. If it is a cancer cell, then the same program creates a gene that is custom designed to turn off the reproductive ability of that specific identified cancer cell. This synthetic gene for a protein called hBxi, promotes cell death by stopping its ability to split, divide and/or reproduce. There are several chemical safeguards built into the process that prevent healthy cells from being targeted. The whole project is being called the “Geniom RT Analyzer for microRNA quantification analysis for biomarkers of disease and treatment” but the lab guys just call it “biologic” for short.

Nearly all of the separate aspects of this project are well known but in the past, it has taken months or years to cross-index the various aspects of the 1000 or more microRNA sequences and then months or years more to devise a response. Using this biologic computer program mated to a biochemical logic “circuit”, the process takes a few hours. The biocomputer analyzes millions of combinations and then defines exactly how to tag and destroy the bad cells.

In keeping with standard protocols, human testing will begin around 2015 and it could take until 2025 before this is a commercially available medical treatment for treating cancer. FLC identified the value of this treatment very early on and created a mimic lab at Ft. Detrick, Maryland at the National Interagency Confederation of Biological Research (NICBR). The NICBR has a long history of managing non-weapons-related biological research. They provide an easy funding path and a nice cover for some of the most advanced and most classified medical research performed by the US.

The NICBR mimic lab was keeping pace with the progress being made by the biologic project until they could project ahead and see the benefits in other areas. NICBR, of course, had the computer analysis program as soon as it was completed and had duplicated the biochip and geniom analyzer hardware just as fast. Once it had proved that the process worked, they began to make much greater progress than the biologic labs because they had more money, less limitations and access to immediate human test subjects. As successes began to pile up, they added more staff to help make modifications to the biologic system by creating new biochips, modifying the geniom analyzer and analysis software. Within a few months in mid-2011, they had geared up to a staff of over 100 using four different labs at Ft. Detrick churning out new capabilities one a weekly and then on a daily basis.

By the time the biologic lab was making their preliminary reports public in SCIENCE magazine, in September 2011, the NICBR lab was just finishing its first human tests which were entirely successful. By the middle of October 2011, they had all but eliminated false positives and began optimizing the circuits to identify new cell types. Using a flood of new and redefined biochips and modifications to the software, they had expanded the microRNA analysis to other complex cell states and by the middle of November, had successful tests on 16 different types of cancer and were adding others at a rate of 3 to 5 per week but parallel efforts were also working on other applications of the same biologic process.

Since the core analysis is actually a computer program and the microRNA sequences defined by the multiplex primer extension assay (MPEA) for a vast number of different types of cells are well known, this process can be expanded to cover other applications just by altering the computer program, biochip and MPEA and the synthetic protein gene that is applied. They also quickly discovered that the computer processing power was there to perform many of these tests simultaneously by using multiple biochips and MPEAs and CCD cameras for reading the biochips. This allowed doing analysis on dozens of cancers and other cell types and then allowing the computer to define and concoct the appropriate response.

The NICBR report at the end of November described their latest extension of the applications of this technology to regenerative medicine to allow the almost immediate repair of bad hearts, destroyed lung tissues and other failed organs. Essentially any cell in the body that can be uniquely defined by its microRNA can be targeted for elimination, replacement or enhancement. The NICBR lab is expanding and adding new applications almost daily and the limits to what is possible won’t be reached for years.

At the end of November, the first report from NICBR had made its way up through OIA/CIS and HSSAI to a very select group of DoD intelligence officers – some military and some civil service and some civilians (by invitation only). This is a group that does not show up on any organization chart or budget line item. They are so deep cover that even their classified security compartment name is classified. Unofficially, they call themselves the Red Team and reports they create are called Red Dot Reports or RDRs. (They use a red dot to identify projects that they believe have immediate applications and high priority) They advise the JCS and the president on where and how to direct black-ops R&D funds and how to develop and use the developed technology. They are not the final word but they do act as a buffer between what is really going on in the labs and those that might benefit or take advantage of the technology.

This group imagined the application of the biologic technology in the role of prolonging the life of key individuals in the military and government. Anyone with a life threatening disease like cancer can now be cured. Anyone with a failing or damaged organ can use this technology to put synthetic genes or designer stem cells directly into the near immediate repair or replacement of the damaged cells. Almost immediately, each of the members began to name off members of the senior most military officers and the senior most political leaders that might benefit from this biologic technology.

Now comes the part you will never hear made public. The Red Team are highly trained and very capable of keeping secrets but they are also human and they know that technology like this can mean life or death to some people and for that, those people might do anything. It is still not known who did it first but someone in the Red Team contacted a senior US Senator that he knew had recently been diagnosed with prostate cancer. (In fact there are 11 members of Congress and two Cabinet members that currently have cancer of one form or another. This is not something that they want made public if they want to be re-elected so it is very confidential.) Traditional treatment involves surgery, radiation and chemo-therapy and then you just reduce your chances of a recurrence. With the biologic technology, you skip past all that unpleasant treatment and go immediately to being cured without any chance of recurrence. For that, anyone would be most grateful and it is obvious that whomever it was on the Red Team that leaked this news, did so to gain favor with someone that could benefit him a great deal.

Once it was known that the news had leaked out, almost every one of the Red Team members made contact with someone that they thought would benefit from the biologic technology. By the second week in December, dozens of people were clamoring for the treatment and promising almost anything to get it. The word of this technology and its benefits are still spreading to the leaders and business tycoons around the world and the Red Team is trying desperately to manage the flood of bribes and requests for treatment.

As you read this, the NICBR is treating the sixth Congressman for various cancers and there is a line of more than 30 behind these 6. The lab has enlisted the aid of two other departments to setup and begin treatments within Ft. Detrick and plans are in the works to create treatment centers in five other locations – all of them on very secure military installations – plus one will be setup on Guam at the Air Force base there to treat foreign nationals. By the end of January, these facilities will be operational and it is expected that there will be a list of over 500 people waiting for treatments for cancer or damaged or failed organs. I have heard that the price charged to corporate tycoons is $2 million but the treatment is being traded with other political leaders in other countries for various import/export concessions or for political agreements.

This will all be kept very, very secret from the public because there are millions of people that would want treatments and that would create incredible chaos. The biologic equipment is only about $950,000 for a complete system, not counting the payments for patents to the original researchers. But this is not the holdup from going public with this. If it got out that the government had this technology, they would have to admit to having stolen it from the Boston group and that would imply that they are doing and have done this before – which is completely true. They do not want to do that so they are going to let the original researchers work their way through the system of monkey testing for 3 years and then human trials for 3 or 4 years and then through the FDA approval process which will take another 2 to 3 years and they will get to market about when they estimated – about 2025.

In the meantime, if you hear about some rich and famous guy or some senior Congressman making a miraculous recovery from a serious illness or a failing body part, you can bet it was because they were treated by a biologic device that is unavailable to the general public for the next 15 years or so.


<< You are probably wondering how I know all this detail about some of the best kept secrets in the US government. As I have mentioned in numerous other reports, I worked in government R&D for years and almost all of it was deep cover classified. My last few years of work were in the field of computer modeling and programming of something called sensor fusion. The essence of this type of computer programming is the analysis of massive amounts of inputs or calculations leading to some kind of quantified decision support. This is actually a pretty complex area of math that most scientists have a hard time translating to their real-world metrics and results.

When the CIS staff at HSSAI first got tagged to support the mimic of the biologic lab work, they needed some help in the programming of the biologic analysis using the photo CCD input data and the massive permutations and combinations of microRNA characteristics. I was asked to provide some consulting on how to do that. The task was actually pretty simple because those guys at the Boston biologic lab were pretty smart and they had already worked out the proper algorithms needed. I just reversed engineered their logic back to the math and then advanced it forward to the modified algorithms needed for other cell detections.

In the process of helping them I was also asked to advise and explain the processing to other parts of the government offices involved – the OIA, the NICBR, FLC, HSSAI and even to the Red Team. I was privy to the whole story. I am writing it here for you to read because I think it is a great disservice to the general public to not let them have access to the very latest medical technology – especially when it can save lives. If I get in legal trouble for this, then it will really go public so I am sure that the government is hoping that I am going to reach a very few people with my little blog and that I will not create any real problems. That is their hope and they are probably right. >>

Bombs Away!

The Air Force is working overtime to redefine its role in warfare in light of using UAV’s, drones and autonomous weapons. What is at stake is the very nature of what the AF does. For the past 40 years, it has based its power and control on a three-legged table – bombers, fighters and missiles. Its funding and status in DoD is based on keeping all three alive and actively funded by congress.

The dying cold war and the end of the threat from Russia has largely diminished the role of ICBM missiles. The AF is trying to keep it alive by defining new roles for those missiles but it will almost certainly lose the battle for all but a few of the many silos that are still left.

The role as fighter is actively being redefined right now as UAV’s take over attack and recon roles. There is still the queasy feeling that we do not want to go totally robotic and there is a general emotion that we still need a butt in the seat for some fighter missions such as intercept and interdiction of targets of opportunity but even those are being reviewed for automation. There is, however, no denying that the AF will maintain this responsibility – even if non-pilots perform it.

The role of bomber is the one that is really in doubt. If the Army uses the Warthog for close combat support and the Navy uses A-6’s and F-18’s for attack missions, then the role of strategic bomber is all that is left for the AF and that is a role that is most easily automated with standoff weapons and autonomous launch-and-forget missiles. The high altitude strategic bomber that blankets a target area is rapidly becoming a thing of the past because of the nature of our enemy and because of the use of surgical strikes with smart bombs. To be sure, there are targets that need blanket attacks and carpet-bombing but a dropped bomb is notorious for not hitting its targets and the use of hundreds of smart weapons would be too costly as compared to alternatives.

The AF is groping for solutions. One that is currently getting a lot of funding is to lower the cost of smart bombs so that they can, indeed, use many of them in large numbers, necessitating the need for a manned bomber aircraft and still be cost-effective. To that end, a number of alternatives are being tried. Here is one that I was involved in as a computer modeler for CEP (circular error of probably) and percent damage modeling (PDM). CEP and PDM are the two primary factors used to justify the funding of a proposed weapon system and then they are the first values measured in the prototype testing.

CEP says what is the probably of the weapons hitting the target. CEPs for cruise missiles are tens of feet. CEPs for dumb bombs is hundreds or even thousands of feet and often is larger than the kill radius of the bomb making it effectively useless against the target while maximizing collateral damage. PDM is the amount of damage done to specific types of targets given the weapon’s power and factoring in the CEP. A PDM for a cruise missile may be between 70% and 90% depending on the target type and range (PDM decreases for cruise missiles as range to target increases). The PDM for a dumb (unguided) bomb is usually under 50% making the use of many bombs necessary to assure target destruction. In WWII, PDM of our bombers was less than 10% and in Viet Nam, it was still under 30%. The AF’s problem is to improve those odds. Here is how they did it.

Whether we call them smart bombs or precision guided munitions (PGM) or guided bomb units (GBU) or some other name, they are bombs that steer to a target by some means. The means changes from GPS, to laser to infrared or RF to several other methods of sending guidance signals. JDAM is one of the latest smart bombs but there are dozens of others. JDAM’s run about $35,000 on top of the cost of making the basic bomb. In other words, the devices (fins, detection, guidance) that make it a smart bomb add about $35,000 to the cost of a dumb bomb. The AF’s goal was to reduce this to under $5,000, particularly in a multiple drop scenario.

They accomplished this in a program they code named TRACTOR. It starts with a standard JDAM or other PGM that uses the kind of guidance needed for a specific job. The PGM is then modified with a half-dome shaped device that is attached to the center of the tail of the JDAM. This device looks like a short rod about 1 inch in diameter with a half dome at one end and a bracket for attaching it to the JDAM at the other end. It can be attached with glue, clamps or screws. It extends about 6 inches aft of the fins and is very aerodynamic in shape.

Inside the dome is a battery and a small processor along with a matrix of tiny laser emitting diodes (LsED) that cover the entire inside of the dome. It can be plugged into the JDAM’s system or run independent and can be modified with add-on modules that give it additional capabilities. This is called the LDU – laser direction unit.

The other side of this device is a similar looking half dome that is attached to the nose of a dumb bomb using glue or magnets. There is a plug-in data wire that then connects to a second module that is attached to the rear of the dumb bomb. This second unit is a series of shutters and valves that can be controlled by the unit on the nose. This is called the FDU – following direction unit.

Here is how it works. The LDU is programmed with how the pattern of bombs should hit the ground. It can create a horizontal line of the bombs that are perpendicular or parallel to the flight of the JDAM or they can be made to form a tight circle or square pattern. By using the JDAM as the base reference unit and keying off its position, all the rest of the bombs can be guided by their FDUs to assume a flight pattern that is best suited for the target. The FDU’s essentially assume a flight formation during their decent based on instructions received from the LDU. This flight formation is preprogrammed into the LDU based on the most effective pattern needed to destroy the target or targets.

A long line of evenly spaced bombs might be used to take out a supply convoy while a grid pattern might be used to take out a large force of walking enemy that are dispersed on the ground by several yards each. It is even possible to have all the bombs nail the exact same target by having them all form a line behind the LDU JDAM bomb in order to penetrate into an underground bunker.

It is also possible to create a pattern in which the bombs take out separate but closely spaced targets such as putting a bomb onto each of 9 houses in a tightly packed neighborhood that might have dozens of houses. Controlling the relative distance from the reference LDU and making sure that that bomb is accurate will also accurately place all the other bombs placed on their targets. This effectively creates multiple smart bombs in an attack in which only one bomb is actually a PGM.

The method of accomplishing this pattern alignment is thru the use of the lasers in the LDU sending out coded signals to each bomb to assume a specific place in space relative to the LDU, as the bombs fall toward the target. The lasers in the LDU send coded signals that cause the FDU bombs to align along specific laser tracks being sent out by the LDU and at specific distances from the LDU. The end result is that they can achieve any pattern they want without regard to how the bombs are dropped – as long as there is enough altitude to accomplish the alignment. It is even possible for the LDU dropped from on bomber to control the FDU’s on bombs dropped by a second bomber.

The low cost was achieved by the use of easily added-on parts to existing bomb types and devices and by using innovative control surfaces that do not use delicate vanes and flaps. The FDU uses rather robust but cheap solenoids that move a spoon-shaped surface from being flush with the FDU module to being extended out into the slipstream of air moving over the bomb. By inserting this spoon up into the airflow, it creates drag that steers the bomb in one direction. There are eight of these solenoid-powered spoons that are strapped onto the FDU that can be used separate or together to steer or slow the bomb to its proper place in the desired descent flight pattern.

Since these LDU and FDU devices are all generic and are stamped out using SMD – (surface mount devices) – the cost of the LDU is under $3,000 and the FDU is under $5,000. 25 dumb bombs can be converted into an attack of 25 smart bombs for a total cost of about $110,000. If all of them had to be JDAMs, the cost would have been $875,000 – a savings of more than 87%.

These have already been tested and are being deployed as fast as they can be made.

Update 2012:

A recent innovation to the Tractor program was initiated in March of 2012 with the advent of miniaturized LDU’s and FDU’s that can be easily attached to the individual bomblets in a cluster bomb. These new add-ons are small enough and custom fitted to the bomblets so that they can be very quickly added to the cluster bombs. In practice, a separate LDU bomb is dropped with the cluster bomb and the cluster bomb is dropped from a much higher altitude than normal. This gives the individual bomblets time to form complex patterns that enhance their effectiveness. For instance, an anti-runway cluster bomb would line up the bomblets in a staggered zig-zag pattern. If the intent is area denial to personnel and tanks, the submunitions would be directed into an evenly spaced blanket covering a wide but defined area. This allows the placement of the mines into a pattern that is much wider than would normally be achievable with a standard cluster bomb drop which is usually limited to only slightly wider than the flight path of the dropping aircraft. Now a single drop can cover two or three square miles if the are dropped from above 15,000 feet.

A similar deployment technique is being developed for the dispersion of clandestine sensors, listening devices, remote cameras and other surveillance systems and devices.

Power from Dirt

Part of the year, I live in Vermont, where there is a lot of interest in renewable energy sources. They want to use wind or solar or wood or biofuels but almost all the tree-huggers skip the part about all those renewable energy sources combined would not meet the demand and we would still need a coal, gas or nuclear power plant to make up the difference. I decided to try to make up something that really could give enough energy for a household but would also work year round and be independent of weather, temperature and would use a fuel that is cheap and renewable. That is a big set of requirements and it took me several months to work out how to do it. It turns out that it can be done with dirt and some rocks and a little electronics.

As I have said many times, I worked for NRL and then DARPA while I was active duty in the Navy and then for other labs and in my own R&D company when I got out of the military. While I was at DARPA, they worked on an idea of using piezoelectric devices in the shoes of soldiers to provide electricity to low powered electronics. It turned out to be impractical but it showed me the power of piezoelectric generators.

I also work at NRL when they were looking into thermal-electric generators to be used on subs and aircraft. Both subs and planes travel where the outside is really cold and the insides are really hot and that temperature differential can be used to create electricity. I had a small involvement in both these projects and learned a lot about harvesting energy from micro-watt power sources. I also learned why they did not work well or could not be used for most situations back then but that was 22 years ago and a lot has changed since then. I found that I could update some of these old projects and get some usable power out of them.

I’ll tell you about the general setup and then describe the details. The basic energy source starts out with geothermal. I use convective static fluid dynamics to move heat from the earth up to the cold (winter) above ground level – giving me one warm surface (about 50 degrees year round) and a cold surface – whatever the ambient air temperature is, in the winter.

I then used a combination of electro and thermal-mechanical vibrators attached to a bank of piezoelectric crystal cylinders feeding into a capture circuit to charge a bank of batteries and a few super capacitors. This, in turn, powers an inverter that provides power for my house. The end result is a system that works in my area for about 10 months of the year, uses no fuel that I have to buy at all, has virtually no moving parts, and works 24×7 and in all weather, day and night. It gives me about 5,000 watts continuous and about 9,000 watts surge which covers almost all the electrical needs in my house – including the pump on the heater and the compressor on the freezer and refrigerator. I’ll have to admit that I did get rid of my electric stove in order to be able to get “off the grid” entirely. I use propane now but I am working on an alternative for that also. So, if you are interested, here’s how I did it.

The gist of this is that I used geothermal temperature differentials to create a little electricity. That was used to stimulate some vibrators that flexed some piezo-electric material to create a lot more electricity. That power was banked in batteries and capacitors to feed some inverters that in turned powered the house. I also have a small array of photovoltaic (PV) solar panels and a small homemade wind mill generator. And I have a very small hydro-electric generator that runs off a stream in my back yard. I use a combination of deep cycle RV, and AGM and Lithium and NiMH batteries in various packs and banks to collect and save this generated power. I total, on a good day, I get about 9,500 watts out. On a warm, cloudy, windless and dry day, I might get 4,000 watts but because I get power and charge the system 24/7 but use it mostly only a few hours per day, it all meets my needs with power to spare.

Today it was 18F degrees outside. Last night it was 8F degrees. From now until mid-April, it will be much colder than 50 degrees above ground. Then we have a month or less in which the air temp is between 40 and 60 followed by about 3 months in which the temps are above 70. Then another month of 40-60 before it gets cold again. That gives me from 20 to more than 40 degrees of temperature differential for 10 months of the year.

Using these two differential temperatures, I hooked up a bank of store-bought, off-the-shelf solid-state thermal electric devices (TEDs). These use “Peltier” elements (first discovered in 1834) to convert electricity to heat on one plate and cold on another. You can also reverse the process and apply heat and cold to the two plates and it will produce electricity. That is called the “Seebeck effect”, named after a guy that discovered it in 1821. It does not produce a lot of electricity but because I had an unlimited supply of a temperature differential, I could hook up a lot of these TEDs and bank them to get about 160 volts at about 0.5 amps on an average day with a temperature differential of 20 degrees between the plates. That’s about 80 watts. With some minor losses, I can convert that to 12 volts at about 6 amps (72 watts) to power lots of 12 volt devices or I can get 5 volts at about 15 amps (75 watts) to power a host of electronics stuff.

Then, I dug a hole in the ground – actually, you have to drill a hole in the ground. Mine is 40 feet but the deeper the better. It has to be about 10-12 inches in diameter. If you have a lot of money and can customize the parts and then you can use a smaller diameter hole. I salvaged the cooling coils off the back of several commercial grade freezers to get the copper pipes that have those thin metal heat sinks attached to them. I cut and reshaped these into a tightly packed cylinder that was 10″ in diameter and nearly four feet long, containing nearly 40 feet of copper pipes in a wad of spiral and overlapping tubes – so it would fit in my 40’ deep by 12″ inch diameter hole. Down that deep, the hole filled with water but the water was still about 50 degrees. I wrapped the heat sinks in several layers of wire fence material. This was aluminum screens with about ¼” holes. I used two long copper tubes of 1 inch diameter to connect the two ends of the coil to the surface as I sank them to the bottom. All the joints were soldered and then pressure tested to make sure they did not leak.

Just before and after it was sunk into the hole, I pushed some marble sized pea rocks into the hole. This assured that there would be a free-flow of water around the heat sink lines without it becoming packed with clay. I bought a 100 foot commercial grade water hose to slip over the two pipes to cover them from the surface down to the sunken coils. This hose has a thick hard rubber outside and soft rubber on the inside and had a 1.75 inch inside diameter. It was designed to use with heavy duty pumps to pump out basements or ponds. It served as a good sleeve to protect the copper tubes and to insulate the pipes. To insulate it further, I bought a can of spray expanding foam. The kind that you use to fill cracks and it hardens into a stiff Styrofoam. I cut the can open and caught the stuff coming out in a bucket. I then diluted it with acetone and poured it down between the hose and the copper pipe. It took about 18 days to dry and harden but it formed a really good insulating layer so that the pipes would not lose much heat or cold while the fluid moved up and down in the copper pipes. The two copper pipes sticking out were labeled “UP” and “Down” and I attached the down pipe to the bottom of a metal tank container.

The next part is another bit of home brew. I needed a large thin metal sandwich into which to run the “hot” fluid. To make it would cost a fortune but I found what I needed at a discount store. It is a very thin cookie sheet for making cookies in the oven. Its gimmick is that it is actually two thin layers separated by about a quarter inch of air space. This keeps the cookies from getting too hot on the bottom and burning. I bought 16 of these sheets and carefully cut and fused them into one big interconnected sheet that allowed the fluid to enter at one end, circulate between the layers of all the sheets and then exit the other end. Because these sheets were aluminum, I had to use a heliarc (also known as TIG or GTAW welding and I actually used argon, not helium) but I was rained by some of the best Navy welders that work on airframes of aircraft. The end product was almost 6 x 6 feet with several hose attachment points into and out of the inner layer.

I then made a wood box with extra insulation all around that would accommodate the metal sandwich sheet. The sheet was then hooked up to the UP hose at one end and to the top of the tank/container that was connected to the Down hose. Actually, each was connected to splitters and to several inlet nad outlet ports to allow the flow to pass thru the inner sandwich along several paths. This made a complete closed loop from the sunken coils at the bottom of the hole up the UP tube to the 6 x 6 sheet then thru the tank to the DOWN tube and back to the coils.

Now I placed my bank of Peltier solid-state thermal-electric modules (SSTEMs) across the 6×6 sheet. Attaching one side of the SSTEMs to the 6×6 sheet and the other side to a piece of aluminum that made up the lid of the box that the sandwich sheet was in. This gave me one side heated (or cooled) by the sandwich sheet with fluid from the sunken coils and the other side of the SSTEMs was cooled (or heated) by the ambient air. The top of the flat aluminum lid also had a second sheet of corrugated aluminum welded to it to help it dissipate the heat.

So, if you are following this, starting from the top, there is a sheet of corrugated aluminum that is spot welded to a flat sheet that forms the top of the box lid. Between these two sheets that are outside the box and exposed to the air, there are air gaps where the sine-wave shaped sheet of corrugated aluminum meets the flat sheet. This gives a maximum amount of surface area exposed to the air. In winter, the plates are the same temperature as the ambient air. In the Summer, the plates have the added heat of the air and the sun.

The underside of this flat aluminum sheet (that makes up the box lid) is attached to 324 Peltier SSTEMs wired in a combination of series and parallel to boost both voltage and current. The lower side of these SSTEMs is connected to the upper layer of the thin aluminum of the cookie-sheet sandwich. This cookie-sheet has a sealed cavity that will be later filled with a fluid. The lower side of this cookie sheet is pressed against the metal side of a stack of three inch thick sheets of Tyvek house insulation. The sides and edges of all of these layers is also surrounded by the Tyvek insulation.

I then poured 100% pure car antifreeze into the tank on the copper up/down tubes. I had to use a pump to force the antifreeze down to the coils and back up thru the cookie sheet back to the tank. I ran the pump for about 6 hours to make sure that there was no trapped air anywhere in the system. The tank acted like an expansion tank to keep the entire pipe free of any trapped air. The antifreeze was the thick kind – almost like syrup – that would not freeze at any temperature and carried more heat than water would.

It actually began to work very fast. The top of the large flat hollow sheet had filled with fluid and it got cold from the ambient air. This cooled the antifreeze and the cold fluid wants to sink down the DOWN pipe to the sunken coils at the bottom of the hole. The coils meanwhile were heating the fluid down there to 54 degrees and that wanted to rise up the UP pipe. As soon as the heated fluid got up to the top, it cooled in the hollow sheet and sank down the DOWN tube again. This is called dynamic convective thermal fluid circulation or some just call it thermal siphoning.

The transfer of heat up to the surface creates a continuous temperature differential across the plates of the Peltier SSTEMs and then they create about 160 volts of DC electricity at about 0.5 amps or about 80 watts of electricity. I needed to use a solar panel controller to manage the power back to a usable 12 to 14 volts to charge a bank of batteries. But I am not done yet.

I added a second flat aluminum sheet on top of the corrugated aluminum- like a sandwich. This added to the surface area to help with heat dissipation but it also was to allow me attach 100 piezoelectric vibrators. These small thin 1.5″ diameter disks give off a strong vibration when as little as 0.5 volts are applied to them but they can take voltages up to 200 volts. They were 79 cents each from a surplus electronic online store and I bought 100 of them and spaced them in rows on the aluminum lid. Along each row, I placed a small tube of homemade piezoelectric crystals. I’m still experimenting with these crystals but I found that a combination of Rochelle salt and sucrose work pretty well but more importantly, I can make these myself. I’d rather use quartz or topaz but that would cost way too much.

The crystal cylinders have embedded wires running along their length and are aligned along the rows of piezoelectric vibrators. They are held in place and pressured onto the vibrators by a second corrugated aluminum sheet. This gives a multi-layer sandwich that will collectively create electricity.

One batch of the SSTEMs is wired to the 100 piezoelectric vibrators while the rest of the SSTEMs feed the solar controller to charge the batteries. I had to fiddle with how many SSTEMs it took to power the vibrators since they will work with a very small amount but they do a better job if they are powered at a higher level.

The vibrators cause a rapid oscillation in the cylinders of Rochelle salt and sucrose which in turn give off very high frequency, high voltage electricity. Because the bank of cylinders is wired in both series and parallel, I get about 1,500 volts at just over 200 milliamps, or about 300 watts of usable electricity.

It takes an agile-tuned filter circuit to take that down to a charging current for the batteries. I tried to make such a device but found a military surplus voltage regulator from an old prop-driven aircraft did the job. This surplus device gave me an initial total at a continuous 13.5 volts DC of about 22 amps charging power fed into a bank of deep cycle AGM batteries.

I found that the piezo vibrators had a secondary and very unexpected positive benefit. Since the vibration was also felt in the circulating antifreeze and the SSTEMs, it seems to have made them function more efficiently. There is more heat transfer in the dynamic convective thermal fluid circulation than the normal formulas and specs would dictate but I think it is because the vibration of the fluid makes the thermal transfer in the cookie sheet panel more efficient. The SSTEMs are boosted in output by several watts of power. So when everything is running, I am getting about 340 watts of charging power on a continuous basis. Of course this fluctuates as the temperature differential changes but I rarely get less than 250 watts and sometimes as high as 400 watts.

A local recreational vehicle (RVs, trailers, campers, boats) dealer removes the very large deep cycle AGM batteries from their high-end RVs’ solar systems even when they have been used very little. He lets me test and pick the ones I want and sells them for $20. I have 24 of them now that are banked to charge off the thermal and piezoelectric devices and then feed into several inverters that give me power for lights, heaters, fans, freezers, TV’s etc. The inverters I use now give me up to 5,000 watts continuous and up to 12,000 watts of surge (for up to 2 hours) but I have set the limit of surge to 9,000 watts so I do not damage the batteries. The 24 deep cycle batteries could give me 5,000 watts continuously for up to several days without any further charging but so far, I have found that I am using only about 25% to 35% of the system capacity for about 80% of the time and about 80% of the capacity for 20% of the time. The high usage comes from when the freezer or refrigerator compressors kick on and when the heater boiler pumps kick on. As soon as these pumps start and get up to speed, the load drops back to a much lower value. The rest of the time, I am just using CFL and LED lights and my computer.

I finished this setup in September of 2011 and it worked better and better as the winter temperatures dropped in November and December. I had to make one adjustment. The piezo vibrators made too much noise and the aluminum plates made them sound even louder. I have since added some noise dampening and now I can’t hear it unless I am outside and standing near it. The dampening I used was two 4’x8’ sheets of thick heavy-duty foam used to put in horse and cattle stalls to keep the animals from standing on freezing cold ground. These were $30 each and have isolated the sheets from the wood and metal frame but still allows the vibrators to do their thing on the piezo tubes and the cookie sheet SSTEMs.

I have lots of meters and gauges on the system to monitor temperatures and power outputs and levels and so far nothing seems to be fading or slowing. There are slight changes in the charge levels of the batteries due to changes in the ambient air temperature but that has been less than +/- 10% so far. I was concerned that the cold antifreeze would freeze the water around the sunken coils but so far that has not happened. I think it is because there is a fairly rapid turnover of water at that depth and the coils just don’t have a chance to get that cold.

I’m also going to experiment with rewiring the whole thing to give me perhaps 60 volts output into the bank of batteries that are wired in series to make a 60 volt bank. This is the way that electric cars are wired and I have obtained a controller out of a Nissan Leaf that uses a bank of batteries in a 60 volt configuration. It should be more efficient.

The whole system cost me about $950 in batteries, fittings, hoses and chemicals and a lot of salvage of used and discarded parts. I already had the inverters and solar controller. I also had a friend that drilled the hole for me – that would have cost about $400. The rest I got out of salvage yards or stripped off old appliances or cars. It took about 3 weeks to build, working part time and weekends. I estimate that if you had to pay for all of the necessary parts and services to build the system; it would cost about $3,000. By the end of next year, I will have saved about half that much in electricity. As it is, I will have a full payback by about March of 2013.

I still have a hookup to the city power lines but since installing this system, I have used only about 10 kilowatts. I think that was mostly when I used my arc welder and did not want to suck too much out of the batteries. A side benefit has also been that since September, when I first started using it, there have been 4 power outages – one lasted for two days….for my neighbors. I never lost power.

I have not done it yet but I can also setup an electric meter that allows me to sell electricity back to the power company. When I integrate this whole system with my solar PV array, I might do that but for now, I can store unused power in the batteries for later use and since I won’t run out of fuel, I don’t need to recover any extra ongoing costs.

Since this system has no expendable fuel, no moving parts, no maintenance and no costs, I expect it will be functional for the next 15 to 20 years – maybe longer. Actually, I can’t think of why it will ever stop working.

Sept 2012 Update:

This system has been running for a year now. My power company monthly bill is averaging about $28/mo. But it goes lower almost every month. I am still running several AC units during the summer and have used ARC welding and electric heaters in the winter.

My estimate of costs and maintenance was a little optimistic as I discovered my 79 cent piezo vibrators were worth every penny – they lasted about 6 months. I have since replaced them with a bunch of salvaged parts used in claxon alarms on board Navy ships. These normally run on 28 volts but I did not need them to be loud so I found that if I fed them with 4 volts, I got the vibration I needed without the noise and they are so under-powered that they will likely last for years.

During the Spring and Fall, the system was not too productive because the temperature differential was usually less than 10 degrees but in the hottest part of the summer, I was back up to over 300 watts of total output with differentials of 20+ degrees between the 50 degree ground and the 70 to 85 degree summer heat.

I was not hit by the floods of last Spring but my place in the woods experienced torrential rains and the water table rose to nearly the surface. In all that my system continued to work – in fact, I noticed a slight improvement in performance since the temperature exchange rate improved with the heavy flow of underground water.

I still have not hooked up to a reversing electric meter but I did calculate that I would have made a net $290 over the past year instead of paying out $28/mo average. If I added in my solar PV system, my small $400 vertical wind generator and the 60 to 100 watts I get from a tiny hydroelectric setup I have on a small steam that runs thru my property, I would have had a net gain of over $1,000. Not bad for a bunch of junk and surplus parts and a little help from the dirt under my lawn.

My Bathtub – My Fountain of Youth

I have written many times that I spend quite a bit of time at my place in BC, Canada. It is an isolated place that was carved out of an existing cave in a rock face near a lake. I have added a lot of my power generation gadgets and installed lots of technology to give me all the comforts of home while being miles from the nearest town (by road). Actually, New Denver is only a few miles away, across the lake. I had a Cessna 206h with pontoons until last year and then I traded up to a Berive Be-103 Snipe. It’s a twin engine 6 seater that gives me increased range and speed to fly back to the states. I liked the reversible props for water and ice control and opted for the radar, extra fuel tanks and autopilot. I can go over 1,000 miles in one hop at 120 kts. It’s a great plane, even though it is Russian.

The living space in BC is a large natural cave that I expanded it significantly and added poured concrete floors to level it. I have 14 different rooms; the largest is about 30 feet long and 40 feet wide with a 25-foot ceiling. Most of the cave is carved out of hard stone but when I was building in it, I tapped into a fresh water spring that was flowing in a rather well defined channel through the stone. I maintained the natural channel – even enhanced it – but tapped into the water to fill a massive cistern that is carved into the rock wall, high up in the cave. This gives me a huge water supply (over 2,000 gals) and also creates the gravity-flow water pressure for the sinks, hot tub, showers and my favorite, the soaking tub.

The water actually tastes a little weird so for drinking and cooking, I run it through a bubbling ionizer that bubbles a constant flow of negative ion air through the water. This has a great filtering effect as well as purifying it of all bacteria and other stuff. There is also a larger version of the ionizer in the cistern.

The hot tub and the soaking tub are carved out of the stone but I bored and drilled into both to give me bubblers and water jet outlets. I’ve been using both for about 18 years now and love it but recently I found out it may be better than I ever thought it could be.

I have always been thought by others to be younger than my real age. I always assumed it was just luck and good genes but about a year ago, a doctor told me that I was way past just being young looking. I had the skin and organ function of a man 30 or more years younger than my real age. I feel fine for someone that was in college when Kennedy got shot so I figured he was just being kind but he wanted to run some tests. He did and came back and said that I was a real medical miracle and that he wanted to do a paper on me. I said I’d cooperate but I did not want to be identified in the study. He agreed.

I won’t bore you with the details of the tests and results but suffice it to say that I was the source of a lot of interest in a relatively narrow medical field that is into longevity and life span studies. After testing me for 6 months and then coming to my two residences and testing everything I eat and touch, I got the report last week. It seems that my two tubs and the spring water at the cave are partially the cause of my good fortune. The water has a very high content of magnesium bicarbonate. Just since 2002, there has been a lot of interest in magnesium bicarbonate following a study done in Australia in which they studied cows and sheep that were living 30% to 45% longer than normal and were able to continue to have normal offspring, even into their advanced years. After a two-year study, it was determined that it was the water that was high in magnesium bicarbonate. Look it up, you’ll see that there is now a commercial company that is selling the water from the ranch that the cows had been drinking.

I have not only been drinking this water for the past 18 years but have been bathing and soaking in it on a regular basis. I seem to have lucked out and as a result may end up living to be a lot older than I ever expected to. I think this is a good thing.

Run Silent, Fast and Undetectable – US Navy Submarines

An old 1955 movie was called “Run Silent, Run Deep”, about the US Navy’s submarine service in WWII. Our subs today are quite different and as you will see, a new movie might be named “Run Silent, Run Fast, Invisibly”. Subs today go faster than you would imagine, quieter than anyone thought possible and – thanks to a contribution I made 15 years ago – they are now almost invisible. My small part had to do with the stealth aspects of subs. The exact nature of stealth technology is a secret and I, for one, will not give it away but I can tell you something about it. But first, I have to explain a little about the technology.

Imagine you have a very large bundle of sewing needles. Tens of thousands of them. Now imagine you can set them all upright, with their pointy ends pointing up and pushed together as close as they can get. If you then looked down on those pointy ends, it would look very black. The reason is that the light on the sides near the points reflects inward and keeps reflecting as it bounces further and further down into the mass of needles. Officially, this is called, “the angle of incidence (the incoming light) equals the angle of reflection (the bounced light). With each reflection, a little of the light energy is absorbed and converted to heat. Because of the shape and angle of the needles, the light never reflects back outward thus making it appear to be totally black. In physics, this is called a “black body”.

This is essentially what stealth technology is like only at a microscopic scale. Aircraft are painted with a special kind of paint that has tiny but densely packed little pointy surfaces that act just like those needles. When radar hits the aircraft, the paint absorbs all of the radar’s energy and lets none reflect back to the enemy receiver. When no radar reflection is seen, it is assumed that there is nothing out there to be seen.

Sonar for subs works pretty much the same as radar but instead of radio frequency (RF) energy, it uses sound. Sound is emitted and a reflection is heard. This is called active sonar. Because subs are relatively noisy in the water, it is also possible to just listen for their noise and then figure out what direction the noise is coming from. That is called passive sonar. The props, engine noise and just the water rushing over and around the sub makes noise. The faster you go, the more these things make more and louder noise.

Despite their best efforts at sub design, even our subs create some sounds and they are, of course, going to reflect an active sonar bing when that is used. However, the US is the worlds best at creating very quiet subs. It is mostly because of the secret design of the props that are able to turn fast but not create cavitation – which makes a lot of noise underwater. Flush mounted hatches and even screw heads also make our subs quiet. In the 1960’s and 70’s, going over 15 knots under water was like screaming, “here I am”. In the 1980’s and early 1990’s, we could go up to 25 knots in relative silence. The latest subs – built or being built – can go over 35 knots and still remain mostly quiet.

That means that the enemy has to use active sonar to try to find them and that gives away the enemy’s position. At that point, they become easy targets.

Pushing a 400 foot long sub underwater at 35 knots is no easy chore but due to some amazing designs in the hull shape and the power plant and props, that is nowhere near the limit of the potential speed possible. Our subs could do as much as 85 knots underwater (that’s nearly 100 MPH!) but they would sound like a freight train and would create a wake large enough to be visible from space. Since stealth is the primary tactic of subs, that kind of speed was simple not reasonable….until now.

While I was at NRL, I presented a paper on how to create a totally quiet sub. Even if it were producing a lot of mechanical or hydroaction noise, my method would make it totally silent. More importantly, it would also completely hide the sub even from active sonar bings.

The advantages of this are significant. In a combat environment, going slow to keep the sub quiet also makes it linger in dangerous areas longer but going fast makes it easier to locate and track. Being able to launch weapons and then move very fast out of the area in total silence – even to active sonar – would be a game changer for submarine warfare.

Since I was a former pilot and worked in an entirely different department from the sub guys, the first reaction to my suggestion was “Yeah, Right – a flyboy is going to tell us how to make a sub quiet”. That was back in 1998. I recently found out that the latest sub, the Virginia, SSN-774, incorporates my design in an applied active acoustic quietness system that they now call Seawolf. When I contacted some old NRL friends and asked them about it, they were reluctant to talk about it until I started quoting my research paper from 1998. They said, “YOU wrote that paper!” Then they began to tell me the whole story.

It seems that my paper sat in files for six months before it was read by someone that understood and recognized it for what it could do. After a few preliminary computer models and some lab scale experiments, they were able to get funding for some major research and within a three months, they were proposing to incorporate the idea into the next class of subs. That was in early 2000. It was decided to incorporate the design into the last sub in the Seawolf class of subs – SSN-23, the USS Jimmy Carter. It proved to be effective but the SSN-23 was mostly a test bed for further development and a modified design was planned for the next class – the USS Virginia. After seeing how effective it was, the entire rest of the Seawolf class of subs was cancelled so that all the efforts could be put into the Virginia class with this new technology. My design was improved; named after the Seawolf class where it’s design was finalized and retrofitted into the Virginia before it was turned over to the Navy in 2004.

Soon after this discussion, I was invited to a party of the sub guys down near Groton. Since I was still at my Vermont residence, I figured, why not. I could go to my Canada residence right after the party. So last September; I flew my plane down to Elizabeth Field at the southwest end of Fishers Island. The sub guys from Groton had a nice retreat on the island at the end of Equestrian Ave. After I arrived, I was shown to a room upstairs in the large house and told to meet in the Great Room at 5PM. When I went down to the party, I got a huge surprise. I was the guest of honor and the party was being thrown for me.

It seems that they lost the cover page to my original 1998-research paper and never knew who wrote it. Several people at NRL had suggested that it was mine but they were sure that it had to have come from one of their own sub community guys but could never find the right one. When I sent someone a copy I had kept, they determined that I was the original author and deserved the recognition. It seems that my idea has actually been a game changer for the entire submarine warfare community in both tactics and strategy as well as hull design, combat operations, even weapons design. I was apparently quite a hero and did not even know it.

I enjoyed the party and met a lot of my old NRL buddies that were now admirals or owners of major corporations or renowned research scientists within select circles of mostly classified technologies. I got a lot of details about how they had implemented my idea and about some of the mostly unexpected side benefits that I had suggested might be possible in my paper. It was humbling and almost embarrassing to be honored for an idea that was now 15 years old and was mostly refined and developed by a host of other researchers. I began looking forward to getting on to my Canada retreat.

Two days later, I flew out for BC, Canada with a large handful of new contacts, renewed old contacts and lots of new ideas and details of new technologies that were being developed. I also ended up receiving several offers to do some research and computer modeling for some problems and developing technologies that some of the partygoers needed help on. I’ll probably end up with a sizable income for the next few years as a result of that party.

I suppose you’re interested in what exactly was this fantastic technology I designed way back in 1998 that has proved to be so popular in 2012. It was actually a pretty simple concept. Most techies have heard of noise-canceling headphones. They work by sensing a noise and then recreating an identical sounding noise with a phase shift of 180 degrees. When a sound is blended with the same sound but phase shifted by 180 degrees, what you get is total silence. This works very well in the confined and controlled environment of a headphone but was thought to be impossible to recreate in an open environment of air or water. I simple created a computer model that used a Monte Carlo iterative algorithm that quantified the location, intensity, lag time, and other parameters for an optimum installation on a sub. It took the super computers at NRL several hours to refine a design of placement, power, sensors and other hardware and temporal design aspects but when it was done, I was surprised at the degree of efficiency that it was theoretically possible to achieve. I wrote all this into my 1998 paper, mostly out of the hopes that my computer model would be used and I could get another project funded.

My paper included a reference to where and how to run my model on the NRL computers and eventually, it was used as their primary design optimization tool for what would later be called the Seawolf Acoustic Quieting and Stealth System (SAQ-SS). The actual modeling software I created and left on the NRL computers began being called SAQ, which got shortened to pronouncing it as “SACK”. As it developed and got seen by more people and they saw the side benefits on the whole stealth effect, it was called SAQ-SS, which evolved into “SACKSS”, then into SAQ-SaS and into SACK-SAS and was eventually called the “SUCCESS” system.

Those side benefits I keep referring to are worth mentioning. When an active sonar bing or sound wave front is detected by the SAQ system, it activates a hull mounted sound modulator that causes the hull itself to act as a giant speaker or transducer to initiate a response wave form that is 180 degrees out of sync from the incoming sound. This effectively nulls out the sound. The same happens for sounds created by the mechanics of the sub that is passed by conduction to the hull. In this case, the hull is modulated so that it completely absorbs any sounds that might otherwise pass through it to the water.

Another side benefit is that the SAQ system created the opportunity, for the first time, for the sub commander to “see” directly behind his own sub. In the past, the noise from the prop, the engine and the distortion of the water because of the prop wash; the rear of the sub was a blind spot. To see back there, the sub had to make wide slow turns to the left and right or they had to drag a towed array – sort of a remote sonar – on a cable behind the sub. Despite having rear facing torpedo tubes, the sub could not effectively use active or passive sonar for about 30 degrees astern. This, of course, was the approach of any hunter-killer subs that wanted to get a sure-fire launch at another sub target. Because of the hull nullification and the ambient noise cancellation of the SAQ system, the aft facing sensors and sonar’s now are very effective at both detection and fire control for torpedo launch. There is still some loss of resolution as compared with any other direction due to the water disturbance in the prop wash but a good sonar operator can compensate.

The final side benefit of the SAQ system is that, for the first time, it allows a sub to travel as fast as it is capable of going, even in a confined combat environment, without being detected. It was this benefit that led to the immediate cancellation of the remaining balance of the Seawolf class of subs and go directly to the Virginia class. Using a design similar to a jetski engine, called a Propulsor or jet pump, the Virginia is capable of speeds far in excess of any of its predecessors. Despite very high speeds, the Virginia class of subs will be undetectable by sonar – allowing it to move as fast as the engine can push it. Exact speeds and limits of depth of all US Navy subs is highly classified but prototype tests on the USS Jimmy Carter reached 67 knots or about 78 MPH and that was before enhancements and design changes were made. My guess is that the SSN-774 and its sister boats will be able to exceed 90 MPH when fully submerged – perhaps over 100 MPH.

The current version of the SAQ system is so effective that when it was tested in war-games against surface ships and P-3 ASW aircraft, it created a huge argument that had to be resolved by the CNO of the Navy. The USS Virginia was able to simulate the kill of all 19 ships in the exercise without being detected by any of them or by any ASW aircraft or helo. The squadron commanders of the S3 and P3 aircraft and the captains of the ASW destroyers filed formal complaints against the sub commanders for cheating during the exercise. They claimed that there was no sub anywhere in the exercise area and that the simulated kills were all as a result of cheating in the exercise computer models. The fighting between the aircraft, surface and sub communities was so fierce that the CNO had to call a major conference to calm everyone down and explain what and how the exercise went the way it did.

I am pleased that my idea from 15 years ago was eventually found to be valid and that I have contributed in some manner to our security and ability to meet any threat.

The Aurora Exists but Its Not What You Think

The Aurora is the new jet that people have been saying is the replacement for the SR-71- it is real but it isn’t what you’d think it is. First a little history.

The U-2 spy plane was essentially a jet powered glider. It had very long wings and a narrow body that could provide lift with relatively little power. It used the jet engine to take it very high into the air and then it would throttle back to near idle and stay aloft for hours. The large wings were able to get enough lift in the high thin air of the upper atmosphere partly because it was a very light weight plane for its size. Back in the early 60’s, being high was enough protection but still allowed the relatively low resolution spy cameras to take good photos of the bad guys.

When Gary Powers’ U-2 got shot down, it was because the Soviets had improved their missile technology in both targeting and range and because, we gave the Russians details about the flight – but that is another story. The US stopped the U-2 flights but immediately began working on a replacement. Since shear altitude was no longer a defense, they opted for speed and the SR-71 was born. Technically, the SR-71 (Blackbird) was not faster than the missiles but, because of its speed (about Mach 3.5) and its early attempt at stealth design, by the time they had spotted the spy plane and coordinated with a missile launch facility, it was out of range of the missiles.

The CIA and the Air Force used the Blackbird until the early 1980’s when it was retired for spying and used only for research. At the time, the official word for why it was retired was that satellite and photographic technology had advanced to the point of not needing it any more. That is only partially correct. A much more important reason is that the Russians had new missiles that could shoot down the SR-71. By this time, Gorbachev was trying to mend relations with the west and trying to move Russia into a more internationally competitive position so he openly told Regan that he had the ability to shoot down the SR-71 before he actually tried to do it. Regan balked so Gorbachev conducted a “military exercise” in the Spring of 1981 in which the Russians made sure that the US was monitoring one of their old low orbit satellites and then during a phone call to Regan, the satellite was “disabled” – explosively.

At the time it was not immediately clear how they had done it but it wasn’t long before the full details were known. A modified A-60 aircraft code named “SOKOL-ESHELON,” which translates to “Falcon Echelon”, flying out of Beriev airfield at Taganrog, shot down the satellite with an airborne laser. When Regan found out the details, he ordered the Blackbird spy missions to stop but he demanded that Gorbachev give him some assurances that the A-60 would not be developed into an offensive weapon. Gorbachev arranged for an “accident” in which the only operational A-60 was destroyed by a fire and the prototype and test versions were mothballed and never flew again.

The spy community – both the CIA and DoD – did not want to be without a manned vehicle spy capability so they almost immediately began researching a replacement. In the meantime, the B-1, B-2 and B-117 stealth aircraft were refined and stealth technology was honed to near perfection. The ideal spy aircraft would be able to fly faster than the SR-71, higher than the U-2 and be more invisible than the B117 but it also had to have a much longer loiter time over the targets or it would not be any better than a satellite.

These three requirements were seen to be mutually exclusive for a long time. The introduction and popularity of unmanned autonomous vehicles also slowed progress but both the CIA and DoD wanted a manned spy plane. The CIA wanted it to be able to loft more sophisticated equipment into the complex monitoring of a dynamic spy situation. DoD wanted it to be able to reliably identify targets and then launch and guide a weapon for precision strikes. For the past 30 years, they have been working on a solution.

They did create the Aurora which uses the most advanced stealth technology along with the latest in propulsion. This, at least satisfied two of the ideal spy plane requirements. It started with a very stealthy delta-wing design using an improved design of the SR-71 engines, giving it a top speed of about Mach 4.5 and a ceiling of over 80,000 feet but that was seen as still too vulnerable. In 2004, following the successful test of NASA’s X-43 scramjet reaching Mach 9.8 (about 7,000 MPH), DoD decided to put a scramjet on the Aurora. Boeing had heard that DoD was looking for a fast spy jet and they attempted to bust into the program with their X-51a but DoD wanted to keep the whole development secret so they dismissed Boeing and pretended there was no such interest in that kind of aircraft. Boeing has been an excluded outsider ever since.

In 2007, DARPA was testing a Mach10 prototype called the HyShot – which actually was the test bed for the engine planned for the Aurora. It turns out that there are a lot technological problems to overcome that made it hard to resolve a working design in the post-2008 crashed economy and with the competition from the UAV’s while also trying to keep the whole development secret. They needed to get more money and find somewhere to test that was not being watched by a bunch of space cadets with tin foil hats that have nothing better to do than hang around Area 51, Vandenberg and Nellis.

DoD solved some of these issues by bringing in some resources from the British and got NASA to foot some of the funding. This lead to the flight tests of the HiFire in 2009 and 2010 out of the Woomera Test Range in the outback of South Australia. The HiFire achieved just over 9,000 MPH but it also tested a new fuel control system that was essentially the last barrier to production in the Aurora. They used a pulsed laser to ignite the fuel while maintaining the hypersonic flow of the air-fuel mixture. They also tested the use of high velocity jets of compressed gas into the scramjet to get it started. These two innovations allowed the transition from the two conventional jet engines to the single scramjet engine to occur at a lower speed (below Mach5) while also making the combination more efficient at very high altitudes. By late 2010, the Aurora was testing the new engines in the Woomera Test Range and making flights in the 8,000 to 9,700 MPH range.

During this same period, the stealth technology was refined to the point that the Aurora has a RCS (radar cross-section) of much less than 1 square foot. This means that it has about the radar image of a can of soda and that is way below the threshold of detection and identification of most radars today. It can fly directly into a radar saturated airspace and not be detected. Because of its altitude and speed and the nature of the scramjet, it has an undetectable infrared signature also and it is too high to hear audibly. It is, for allintents and purposes, invisible.

This solved two of the three spy plane criteria but they still had not achieved a long loiter time. Although the scramjet is relatively fuel efficient, it really is only useful for getting to and from the surveillance site. Once over the spy area, the best strategy is to fly as slow as possible. Unfortunately, wings that can fly at Mach 10 to Mach 12 cannot support the aircraft at much slower speeds – especially in the thin air at 80,000 feet.

Here is where the big surprise pops up. Thanks to the guys at NRL and a small contribution I made to a computer model, the extended loiter time problem was something that they began working on back in 2007. It started back when they retrofitted the HyShot engine into the Aurora, then NRL convinced the DARPA program manager to also retrofit the delta wings of the Aurora with a swing capability, similar to the F-14 TomCat. The result would be a wing that expands like a folding Japanese fan. In fast flight mode, the wing would be tucked into the fuselage making the aircraft look like the long tapered blade of a stiletto knife. In slow flight mode, the wings would fan out to wider than an equilateral triangle with a larger wing surface area.

As with any wing, it is a compromise design of flying fast and slow. The swing wing gave the Aurora a range increase from reduced drag while using the scramjet. It also allowed the wing loading to be expanded slightly giving it more lift at slower speeds and in thinner air. However, most of the engineers on the project agreed that these gains were relatively minor and it was not worth the added cost in building and maintenance. This was not a trivial decision as it also added weight and took up valuable space in the fuselage that was needed to put in the modified scramjet and added fuel storage. Outside of NRL, only two people were told why they needed to do this wing modification and how it could be done. Those two were enough to get the funding and NRL won the approval to do it.

What NRL had figured out was how to increase lift on the extended wing by a factor of 10 or more over a conventional wing. This was such a huge increase that the aircraft could shut off its scramjet and run one or both of its conventional jet engines at low idle speeds and still stay aloft – even at extreme altitudes. Normally, this would require a major change in wing shape and size to radically change the airfoil’s coefficient of lift of the wing but then the wing would be nearly useless for flying fast. A wing made to fold from one type wing (fast) to another (slow) would also be too complex and heavy to use in a long-range recon role. The solution that NRL came up with was ingenious and it turns out it partly used a technology that I worked on earlier when I was at NRL.

They designed a series of bladders and chambers in the leading edge of the wing that could be selectively expanded by pumping in hydraulic fluid and expanding these bladders to alter the shape of the wing from a near symmetric chambered foil to that of a high lift foil. More importantly, it also allowed for a change in the angle of attack (AoA) and therefore, the coefficient of lift. They could achieve AoA change without altering the orientation of the entire aircraft – this kept drag very low. This worked well and would be enough if they were at a lower altitude but in the thin air at 80,000+ feet, the partial vacuum created by the wing is weakened by the thin air. To solve that, they devised a way to create a much more powerful vacuum above the wing.

When they installed the swing-wing, there were also some additions to some plumbing between the engines and the wing’s suction surface (upper surface, at the point of greatest thickness). This plumbing consisted of very small and lightweight tubing that mixes methane and other gases from an on-board cylinder with super heated and pressurized jet fuel to create a very high volatile mix that is then fed to special diffusion nozzles that are strategically placed on the upper wing surface. The nozzles atomize the mixture into a fine mist and spray it under high pressure into the air above the wing. The nozzles and the pumped fuel mixture are timed to stagger in a checkerboard pattern over the surface of the wing. This design causes the gas to spread in an even layer across the length of the wing but only for about 2 or 3 inches above the surface.

A tiny spark igniter near each nozzle causes the fuel to burn in carefully timed bursts. The gas mixture is especially designed to rapidly consume the air in the burning – creating a very high vacuum. While the vacuum peaks at one set of nozzles, another set of nozzles are fired. The effect is a little like a pulse jet in that it works in a rapid series of squirt-burn-squirt-burn repeated explosions but they occur so fast that they blend together creating an even distribution of enhanced vacuum across the wing.

You would think that traveling at high Mach speeds would simply blow the fuel off the wing before it could have any vacuum effect. Surprisingly, this is not the case. Due to something called the laminar air flow effect, the relative speed of the air moving above the wing gets slower and slower as you get closer to the wing. This is due to the friction of the wing-air interface and results in a remarkable slow relative air movement within 1 to 3 inches of the wing. This unique trick of physics was known as far back as WWII when crew members on B-29’s, flying at 270 knots, would stick their heads out of a hatch and scan for enemy fighters with binoculars. If they kept within about 4 or 5 inches of the outer fuselage surface, the only effect was that they would get their hair blow around. The effect on the Aurora was to keep the high vacuum in close contact with the optimum lifting surface of the wing.

Normally, the combination of wing shape and angle of attack, creates a pressure differential above and below the wing of only 3 to 5 percent. The entire NRL design creates a pressure differential of more than 35% and a coefficient of lift that is controllable between .87 and 9.7. This means that with the delta wing fully extended; the wing shape bladders altering the angle of attack and the wing surface burn nozzles changing the lift coefficient, the Aurora can fly at speeds as low as 45 to 75 MPH without stalling – even at very high altitudes.

At the same time, it is capable of reducing the angle of attack and reshaping the wing into a chambered wing (a very thin symmetric) shape and then sweeping the delta wing into a small fraction of its extended size so that it can achieve Mack 15 under scramjet power. For landing and takeoff and for subsonic flight, it can adjust the wing for optimum fuel or performance efficiency while using the conventional jet engines.

My cohorts at NRL tell me that the new version of the Aurora is now making flights from the Woomera Test Range in the outback of South Australia to Johnston Atoll (the newest test flight center for black ops aircraft and ships) – a distance of 5,048 miles – in just over 57 minutes – which included the relatively slow speed climb to 65,000 feet. The Aurora then orbited over Johnson Atoll for 5 ½ hours before flying back to Woomera. In another test, the Aurora left Woomera loaded with fuel and a smart bomb. It flew to Johnson Atoll and orbited for 7 hours before a drone target ship was sent out from shore. It was spotted by the Aurora pilot and then bombed by the laser-guided bomb and then the pilot returned to Woomera.

I was also told that at least three of the precision strikes of Al Quida hideouts were, in fact, hit by the Aurora and then credited to a UAV in order to maintain the cover.

The Aurora is the fastest and the slowest highest altitude spy aircraft ever made and if the pilots don’t make a mistake, you may never see it.