Monday, 18 February 2019

Mil-Tech Roundup: China Goes Hypersonic, DARPA Working On Laser-Charged Drones, USS Enterprise Dismantling

CNN recently took a trip with the U.S. military through the South China Sea. There, reporters witnessed the Chinese government threatening military aircraft. China is trying to tighten its grip over parts of the South China Sea, and recently unveiled a hypersonic weapons system that could someday pose a major threat to the U.S. military.

Meanwhile, DARPA is working on drones that could potentially fly forever, using ground-based laser beams to recharge while in flight. Speaking of flight, it turns out that decommissioning America’s first nuclear aircraft carrier is going to cost over $1 billion dollars. In other words, it’s an exciting time for military technology developments and all its implications.

China Tests New Hypersonic Weapons System

China tested its Starry Sky hypersonic weapons system, which can fly at speeds in excess of Mach 5. The projection by the China Aerodynamics Research and Development Center aims to dramatically reduce the lead enjoyed by the United States. With tensions escalating in the South China Sea, erasing America’s lead regarding military technology is becoming a focal point for the Chinese government.

The Starry Sky is a boost glide weapon. Basically, a rocket is used to lift the weapon high into the sky. There, the weapon is released and glides back down to Earth, reaching speeds of several thousand miles per hour.

China testing hypersonic missile system. (Credit: Facebook/Quartz)

DARPA Working on Forever-Flying Drone

Military drones already have incredible endurance. While many hobby drones struggle to say aloft more than 30 minutes, some military drones can stay in the air for days at a time. However, advancements are on the way. DARPA is looking to use lasers to keep drones in the air potentially forever.

Basically, a focused laser beam would charge the drone’s solar panels. The dose of high-intensity energy would replenish the drone’s on-board batteries. Regular laser shots could potentially keep the drone in the air indefinitely.

In line with DARPA tradition, the program has quite the name: Stand-off Ubiquitous Power/Energy Replenishment – Power Beaming Demo (SUPER PBD). DARPA is pushing ahead, using the Silent Falcon drone for testing.

If DARPA is successful, drones could potentially stay in the air indefinitely, not landing until their missions are complete.

USS Enterprise Will Cost More Than $1 Billion to Dismantle

Aircraft carriers are designed to be hard to destroy. If World War III ever breaks out, America’s aircraft carriers will play a vital role in preserving world peace. Turns out, nuclear aircraft carriers are hard to dismantle as well.

The biggest challenge is the nuclear reactors. Right now, military officials are trying to decide whether the Navy or commercial companies should take care of dismantling the nuclear reactors.

USS Enterprise. (Credit: Wikimedia Commons/ U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Nick C. Scott)

The USS Enterprise, the world’s first nuclear aircraft carrier, is currently being disassembled. Whenever nuclear anything is involved, the stakes are high and the risks considerable. While the Enterprise’s nuclear fuel was removed back in 2013, the eight nuclear reactors themselves remain a challenge.

In fact, dismantling the Enterprise is going to cost more than $1 billion dollars! The original construction cost of the Enterprise was just $451.3 million dollars. Even when adjusting for inflation, construction costs would be under four billion dollars.


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