Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Stealth Fighter Coming Along

The Navy's F-35C Lightning II stealth fighter was rolled out on 28 July in Fort Worth,Texas.A period of comprehensive testing of the aircraft is underway.It has all-weather precision strike capability,plus next generation fused avionics and mission systems.Once it achieves operational status-projected to be in 2015-the fighter will blend in with the Navy's existing Super Hornet aircraft for a number of years until it assumes the central role.Its simplified,low-cost maintenance will lead to higher sortie rates.The Air Force and Marine Corps have their own versions of the Lightning.There is a high degree of commonality among the versions:avionics,engine and software.An internal weapons bay will also characterize all the Lightning versions.Lockheed Martin is lead contractor for the project.

Snowbirds Return

The snowbirds,the northern juncos,arrived about a week ago.They will stay in their Mid-Atlantic wintering grounds till May.At higher elevations,they may stay year-round.With all the wet conditions we've been having,the winter could be a snowy and icy one for these cool-weather birds,if the weather pattern persists.It is said we haven't had a big winter since 1996.That means there are a lot of drivers who don't know how to handle one-not to mention homeowners who may have feet of snow,instead of inches,to contend with.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

The Oddball Destroyers

The three Zumwalt class destroyers were once believed to be the follow-on to the Arleigh Burke class.Instead,their role is now focused on support for land forces from near-shore positions.The very expensive ships are thus among the oddball hardware of military history.Remember the Air Force's XB-70 bomber?Frankly,they are something of a mistake,but that doesn't mean they won't be put to good use.They are a Marine Corps sort of ship,in the same league as amphibious assault and amphibious dock ships.These destroyers can support the Marines and be testbeds for advanced naval technology such as open architecture.They will also sustain the shipyard workers who build and maintain them for Northrop Grumman and General Dynamics.

First Frost

The first frost occurred on October 17.It was a light frost,not a killer.Now the temperatures are on the upswing,giving us Indian summer.The honeybees will continue to visit the old field aster on the property,and wasps will use the Canada goldenrod.Letting these wildflowers grow,supporting the pollinators,is one of the most important actions a land manager can take.Without the pollinators,we are nothing.The full range of plant life,the basis of the food chain,cannot subsist without them.Wildlife and human alike are short-changed then.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Green Ship Awaits Commissioning

On 24 October,the USS Makin Island(LHD 8),an amphibious assault ship,will be commissioned at her homeport,San Diego.The Makin Island is characterized by operational upgrades and environmentally-conscious features.The ship will run on 28,000 dollars less worth of fuel than previous LHDs.She has a gas turbine electric propulsion system which is the equivalent of a hybrid car engine.Above a speed of 12 knots,she will run on gas;below 12 knots,she will run on electricity.There are no boilers or steam systems.Everything is electric,which is safer and improves operational readiness.The gas turbine engine can reach full power in five minutes;a steam plant takes up to a day to do that.
On the Makin Island,there is no steam-to-water process.Instead,water is chlorinated with salt.She has the most advanced machinery control system.The engineering plant is pretty much completely automated.She is truly a leaner and greener warship.
The commanding officer,Captain Robert Kopas,says that,by using these efficient,environmentally-conscious systems,it's not only going to help our nation,but the world as a whole.Northrop Grumman built the new warship.

New England Aster Blooming

New England aster has been blooming along hedgerows and roadsides,as well as in meadows and woodlot clearings.The purple flowers are found from southern Canada to the Carolina hills.They are a favorite source of nectar for migrating monarch butterflies.The closely-related New York aster occurs in wet meadows and along the shore.Both plants are among the most-admired wildflowers in the Middle Atlantic region,and there are many cultivars of them.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Blair Reveals Intelligence Scope

Admiral Dennis C. Blair,U.S. Navy retired,Director of National Intelligence,revealed the scope of U.S. intelligence operations to journalists recently.Mr.Blair was going over his four year blueprint for national intelligence when he disclosed that the U.S. activity is a 200,000 person,75 billion dollar operation.About half of the personnel are in the civilian intelligence agencies,and half in the military,according to previously disclosed figures,and the civilian budget was 47.5 billion in fiscal 2008.That would make the military intelligence budget about 27.5 billion dollars.Admiral Blair refused to give further details,such as how many personnel are in each of the many agencies or what the money was spent on.He just wanted to give a rough idea of how much was involved,the retired sailor said.
Raytheon is a prominent contractor in the intelligence field.It claims that its technology forms the eyes,ears and brains of intelligence,surveillance and reconnaissance systems.

Color Surprise

Red maples have started turning in the Pennsylvania woodlot.Poison ivy has been brilliant red for some time.The autumn foliage of this common vine belies the suffering it causes many if they happen to touch it.It is the first of the plants to turn here.Probably few laymen realize that the color they've been admiring is poison ivy climbing up the trunks of all those trees.The fall display is the flip side of this native plant's existence in civilization.