Sweden’s GRIPEN jet fighter poised for future wars

Sweden’s JAS 39 Gripen may be one of the bigger players in future military aviation, despite it being from a small country with a jet fighter that is smaller and has less performance at the top end of the fighter military regime. This was underlined recently by its win of a contract to supply Brazil the latest Gripen, Saab’s largest order so far.

This is partly because the nature of the world as well as the nature of the Gripen. Despite some disturbing facts and trends, the world overall is growing richer. Smaller nations are becoming more advanced and able to buy more weapons. Their needs are different from those of large countries such as the U.S., China, and Russia. They need something which is “lean and mean.”

They do not need long range in their fighters. Their most dangerous competitors are near and close to their “weight” in military sophistication. So they need a smaller vehicle with less cost, not only in initial cost but ongoing cost in fuel, maintenance, and training. They need a craft simpler to fly and to support on the ground. For one factor in keeping a military force effective is training and practice in its use. This is why many countries such as Iran’s and N. Korea’s aerial forces are paper tigers.

The Gripen itself is a product more advanced than might seem at first glance. Much of its “muscle” is in superior electronics, a sometimes deciding factor on any battlefield on land, sea, and in the air. Its design is sophisticated, with much thought put into ergonomics: ease and efficiency of operation. It is versatile, with a single- and a double-cockpit configuration, able to contest air space, able to support ground troops and sea vessels, and act as a trainer.

The following video gives you some idea of the capabilities of the Gripen. For more detail on the strategic, tactical, economical, and political considerations behind the Gripen sale see a discussion in StrategyPage.com.

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MILITARY NGOs: future face of war

In the “future history” background of my series Confederation Tales (and its subset Shapechanger Tales) each human world goes through a stage when wars evolve from large military actions into smaller actions. Those newer wars are waged by the military cousins of charitable NGOs (non-governmental organizations).

Some of these military NGOs are various terrorist groups. Others are semi-official and partly secret forces like Russia’s “rebels” in Ukraine, or Iran’s official but often covertly operating Quds force. Yet another are private military companies: mercenaries.

The following video is a bit long at 14 minutes, but both entertaining and informative. If you’re interested in military fiction (or near-future military) you’ll probably enjoy it.

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BEGIN AGAIN, delightful indie film

I avoid most independent films. Too often they are pretentious or poorly made. But taking a risk on them sometimes turns up gems like this one.

I nearly quit watching after the first few minutes because Mark Ruffalo’s character was so unlikable. Only later did I come to understand and care for him. Keira Knightley was a revelation. Not only can she act but she can sing.

In addition to the engaging intertwined stories, we also see how the creative and ensemble process works, both when it works poorly and when it works well. I’d actually like to buy the fictional musical album which Ruffalo and Knightley create in the movie.

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Revolutionary approach to fusion power?

A recent Aviation Week story has this headline: Skunk Works Reveals Compact Fusion Reactor Details.

Unfortunately it seems from the story that Lockheed Martin released very few details, and that the news release is mostly a way of getting partners in furthering their research. It sounds more like an advertising pitch than a true report.

The most important difference in their approach to igniting and sustaining fusion seems to be the containment field they’ve adopted. It is spherical rather than donut shaped, the approach most of the other fusion-power research projects.

Still, this is only the first report of their work. If the Skunk Works project pans out, the world five and ten years from now will be a very different place. It is worth keeping our eyes on developments at Lockheed Martin in the next few years.

Lockheed Martin workers on Skunk Works fusion reactor
Credit: Eric Schulzinger/Lockheed Martin

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FAUX-FUTURISTIC dances: shuffle and techno

This video feels very futuristic to me for some reason, as if hundreds of years from now the two dances on it would be popular among young people – and they might well be. Athletic movement to rhythmic sounds has probably existed since humans came into being, examples including African dances to drums, Cossack sword dances, and so on.

The first dance style is the shuffle, created in Melbourne in the early ’80s as a variation of Michael Jackson’s moonwalk. You slide your feet backward a few inches before putting your weight on them. After a few steps you pivot in the opposite direction and slide-walk a few more feet. You add various decorations such as stomps, kicks, and spins.

The second dance is the techno, usually called by the copyrighted term Tecktonik. Created in the early 2000s in France, its main movement is the hands, often holding glowsticks in nightclubs and raves held in fields or gymnasiums. The legs do half-squats or quarter-squats, and the upper body does various sways.

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HATSUNE MIKU, virtual pop star

I was amazed by the singer on a recent David Letterman show, having tuned in at the last minute and being completely unprepared for the sight. She was a virtual person, anime style, called Hatsune Miku.

I watched first trying to figure out how it was done. Then I was caught by the music and the dancing. It had an almost hypnotic effect.

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PRINCESS NEXT DOOR first two chapters

On the first day of summer vacation a family moved next door to Gilbert Taylor. They had a daughter his age and he was thrown into her company by both sets of parents.

She seemed ordinary if a bit overly serious. But he was soon to learn that she was a princess, for real. And a deadly fighter. And that she could walk between worlds.

And so could he.

To read the first two chapters click the image below.

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StratoBus: old tech in a new bottle

Most of my career as an engineer I worked on projects with lots of very new technology. Examples included deep-space probes, orbiting satellites, laser weapons, and so on. But sometimes an old solution to a problem is better than a new solution.

An example is the tethered observation balloon. They were used as early as the French Revolutionary Wars. The StratoBus is a project headed by Thales Alenia Space. It updates the old concept in several ways.

It is not tethered physically but by electronic means: software which keeps the balloon in the desired location by keeping track of its drifting and using small propellers to navigate back to its station. The SW also controls buoyancy to keep the desired altitude.

Its observers are video cameras which transmit information back to people on the ground. This removes one of the biggest weaknesses of the old observation balloons: manning. Other improvements you can discover by clicking on the following video.

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EXO, latest Jumper book available now

Just bought Exo, the fourth book in Steven Gould‘s Jumper series. It is the sequel to the third, Impulse, and you’ll enjoy it more if you’ve read that book. Available in bookstores and online.

Amazon          Apple

Click image to buy in Barnes &Noble bookstore or B&N online

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SHIPSTAR (Bowl of Heaven sequel) available

Still reading Wen’s book while dogsitting. (Lady friend’s visiting sick someone.) Try wrangling a complacent Great Dane, exuberant Aussie Shepherd, and combative Cocker Spaniel and you’ll understand the need for escapism!

I instantly bought Bowl of Heaven when it came out. Collab of Larry Niven and Gregory Benford? No need for thought, just reflex. Grab that sucker & rush to the cashier before hordes of SF fans descend & clean out the bookshelf! But held off reading because I’d heard a sequel was coming. Later when it arrived I read it was the 2nd part of a duology. So I’m now free to read the books without fear of a cliffhanger.

The sequel went on sale some weeks ago but until this long weekend I’ve had no time for pleasure reading. Too busy (obsessed) with finishing the Wonder Woman Rethought book. And waist-deep in The Princess Next Door, a Worldwalkers young adult. So NOW! Fudge brownie for breakfast, caviar (well, Thin-and-Crispy pizza) for lunch, and Champagne and quiche for dinner, and thou, O wonderful books, beside me singing in the … erh, patio. (Well, it IS well shaded by trees & the hillside so CLOSE to a wilderness.)

For ordering links to many sources & several formats see Greg Benford’s web page.

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