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U.S. plans nuclear drones

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U.S. plans nuclear drones

Old 22nd Feb 2003, 11:11
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Exclamation U.S. plans nuclear drones

The idea is not really new but it seems more feasible for unmanned drones.

Story

from Yahoo!

Interesting times ahead ...
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Old 22nd Feb 2003, 12:31
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The Americans did fly a reactor in a aircraft once with the view to building a nuclear powered bomber, as opposed to just a nuclear bomber.
I understand said aircraft was hotter than a three dollar pistol.
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Old 22nd Feb 2003, 16:30
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Can't remember what bomber type that was but I do remember the weight of the shielding made it impractical. I wonder what they're doing differently this time to make such a vehicle possible!
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Old 22nd Feb 2003, 17:10
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The aircraft in the 50's trial was a B36 - called as I remember NB36. There was allegedly a similar Russian project at the time but I have no idea whether they even cut metal let alone flew one.

New Scientist reported this on this week. The engine proposed involves bombarding Hafnium with X-rays to release 60 times the enegy input and then using he heat generated to provide thrust.

However this type of engine has not even been prototyped yet let alone being ready for operational use.

I suspect it would probably take 10-15 years before one flies in even a trial aircraft.
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Old 22nd Feb 2003, 17:30
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As written in the New Scientist, the idea behind the drone is that you save the weight of the lead that would be required to shield the crew.
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Old 22nd Feb 2003, 19:53
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Wouldn't the electronics be as prone to problems from X-rays etc?
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Old 22nd Feb 2003, 20:44
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Who needs lead? Couldn't they just wear tinfoil suits like the ones that protected the lunar astronauts from the Van Allen radiation belt?
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Old 22nd Feb 2003, 22:27
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AW&ST covered it.

The engine will have a lead sheath weighing around 3000lbs, but that will be offset by a reduction in the required fuel of over 5000lbs.
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Old 22nd Feb 2003, 23:30
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Interesting that the Yanks think there is a use for something hanging around for *months* waiting for a target. Are they planning on lots more half-finished wars in the future?
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Old 23rd Feb 2003, 03:58
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Yes, there was a document posted on Pprune from a think tank jam packed to the rafters with pro-Bush supporters from before the election.

They set out a document that basically states the USA should intend to become the dominant military power on the planet and shouldtake all steps necessary toprevent the rise of any possible competing states.

The USA will (according to the document) conduct military operations then withdraw and reconstitue their forces for future operations whilst leaving their "allies" to do the peacekeeping and/or rebuilding for them.

Now I may just be jumping to conclusions but according to a post on ARSSE the MOD is pouring a square mile of concrete hardstanding to erect a military hospital in Kuwait which is likely to be used for the next 10 years or so.

So yes the USA would be likely to want drones it could deploy over a country for months on end keeping an eye on things and then whacking anything it didn't like the look of with a hellfire missile or even a nuke.
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Old 23rd Feb 2003, 04:17
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Hell, a square mile of concrete is only 640 acres. The MX Missile programme, if memory serve my correct, was initially intended to concrete over an area the size of the State of Pennsylvania....

640 acres of hospital is one whole lot of nurses, though...
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Old 24th Feb 2003, 09:52
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Yum! Yum!

Just think of the clean up operation when one of these nuke powered aircraft is shot down/stoofs in. I presume the Americans will fit them with shields and a romulan cloaking device. Or will it be a stealth drone. In order that it is not vulnerable it would have to operate at great height out of the missile threat band. Just like a nuke powered sattelite
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Old 24th Feb 2003, 22:24
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It's not just the nuke drones you don't want to have to pick up the pieces from. I read that the big airborne laser (www.airbornelaser.com) based on a 747 with a huge light in its nose has a lethal radius of around twenty miles, should it crash, thanks to the chemicals in the laser.

Oddly, this isn't mentioned in the Fun Facts section of the website.

R
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Old 25th Feb 2003, 05:17
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Speaking of picking up pieces from nuclear drones...

I think that the early 747-100s (and maybe -200s) used uranium in the tail section for counter-balancing. The El-Al that crashed in Amsterdam about 10 years ago left some radioactivity behind. It is (of course) speculated if the (unknown) cargo had anything to do with it.
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Old 26th Feb 2003, 05:14
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Devil

Hmmm, that there nucular surfulence drone thing sounds like a mighty fine Texan idea. I mean, who would want to shoot one down?

**************************
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Old 26th Feb 2003, 08:25
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Fact.

Many aircraft use depleted uranium as counterbalance weights.

There is no significant measureable radiation from these weights (I've had to try it several times for a research project).

The danger comes if it is drilled, filed or damaged. Then the dust/swarf would have to be ingested to adversley effect someone.

Apart from the obvious aircraft carrying "special" weapons, you'd be suprised how many military aircraft were/are nuclear capable.
 
Old 26th Feb 2003, 16:11
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Furthermore, the magic breakthrough nuclear reactor (quantum nucleotide) that was supposed to make the whole thing possible... doesn't work. According to the New Scientist report, if you bombard hafnium-178 with powerful X-rays, you get 80 times the power out as went in, as the stuff decays extra-quickly.

Which is odd, I thought. I thought you couldn't do anything to radioactive decay except let it happen according to nature. And, indeed, this turns out to be the case...

http://www.llnl.gov/llnl/06news/News...-01-08-05.html

is a report of a failed attempt to replicate the original experiment, which was reported at

http://physicsweb.org/article/world/12/5/3

But since when has a complete lack of contact with reality affected military funding?

R
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