Two Up, Two Down

This is the second failed flight for the HTV-2, at $160 million per splash.

DARPA issues statement on failed flight of hypersonic aircraft

The Falcon launched at 7:45 a.m. from Vandenberg Air Force Base, northwest of Santa Barbara, into the upper reaches of Earth’s atmosphere aboard an eight-story Minotaur IV rocket, made by Orbital Sciences Corp.

After reaching an undisclosed sub-orbital altitude, the aircraft jettisoned from its protective cover atop the rocket, then nose-dived back toward Earth, leveled out and began to glide above the Pacific at 20 times the speed of sound, or Mach 20.

Then the trouble began.

“Here’s what we know,” said Air Force Maj. Chris Schulz, DARPA’s program manager. “We know how to boost the aircraft to near space. We know how to insert the aircraft into atmospheric hypersonic flight. We do not yet know how to achieve the desired control during the aerodynamic phase of flight. It’s vexing; I’m confident there is a solution. We have to find it.”

See also:
Pentagon’s hypersonic flight test cut short by anomaly
Pentagon’s Mach 20 Missile Lost Over Pacific — Again
DARPA drops another HTV-2
Second Flop: DARPA Loses Contact With HTV-2
DARPA Launches and Loses Hypersonic Aircraft: Update
The Air Force Loses a Second Superfast Spaceplane
Falcon HTV-2 is lost during bid to become fastest ever plane
Falcon hypersonic vehicle test flight fails
Review Board Sets Up to Probe HTV-2 L
DARPA loses contact with hypersonic aircraft
Lost at sea. Military loses contact with hypersonic test plane
Misdirection, Always Watch What The Left Hand Is Doing

So, in order to find out what went wrong, the Air Force needs to find this tiny HTV-2 drone, that they lost contact with, somewhere in the vast Pacific ocean. Good luck with that, they never lost the first one the dunked.

/why do I get the feeling there’s not going to be a third time?

You’ve Got Indirect Mail, Now With GPS!

Well, this doesn’t seem particularly fair.

Army Deploys First GPS-Guided Mortars

Finally, the U.S. army is giving this this infantry workhorse a 21st-century update, fielding GPS-guided mortar rounds for the first time.

One Infantry Brigade Combat Team in Afghanistan has already received the new rounds, known as Accelerated Precision Mortar Initiative cartridges (APMI), and seven more are expected to receive them in the next sixth months. The GPS-guided 120-millimeter mortar rounds will offer infantry commanders precision-strike capability, offering them an alternative to blanketing an area in indirect fire.

. . .

The APMI XM395 cartridge employs a standard 120-millimeter projectile body, but packed in the nose is a GPS receiver and controller that ensures the aerodynamic directional fins guide the shell toward the target. It also contains a multi-functional fuse that can be programmed to detonate upon impact, in the air, or after it penetrates the ground or a structure. Coordinates are dialed into the round using a computer.

See also:
US Army fields first precision-guided mortars to troops in Afghanistan
New GPS-guided mortar fires first round in Afghanistan
Army Fields GPS-Guided Mortar in Afghanistan
Army launches first GPS-guided mortars in Afghanistan
Army delivers GPS-guided mortars to soldiers in Afghanistan
GPS military weapon gives soldiers an edge
GPS Guided Mortar Debuts In Afghanistan

So, now we’ve got programmable bombs, bullets, grenades, and mortar rounds. The main thing that worries me about these systems is that they depend on batteries. If your batteries die and you don’t have spares, you’re screwed, and screwed is one thing you do not want to be in combat.

/how long will it be before we can deploy infantry robots to fight with all these precision guided armaments and we can take our human soldiers out of harm’s way?