Russia and China fly bombers in joint patrol over Pacific

Originally published at: https://boingboing.net/2020/12/22/russia-and-china-fly-bombers-in-joint-patrol-over-pacific.html

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I know it’s not the point, but it seems remarkable to me the both those aircraft (the Tu-95 and the H-6) are products of the 1950s.

They are closer in time to the Wright Brothers than to this end of the timeline.

I’ve always been fascinated by the way guns and aeroplanes defy obsolescence.

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For the longest time, animosity between China and Russia was what gave the US empire an edge in the cold war. With those two learning to get along, seems like USian interests are going to take a thrashing.

…though it’s not as if this country was entitled to all those goodies in the first place.

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Similarly the US Air Force is planning to keep the B-52 bombers in operation until 2050.

Which means the most technologically advanced military in the history of the world will be using a century-old aircraft design. That’s so bananas to me; it would be like if we fought WWII with vessels that had been built before the age of steam.

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Yeah, but the B-52 has had a steady upgrade path too, with avionics and engine retrofits. So the newer ones have had upgrades compared to the ones in 1955.

The M1919 machine guns and M1911 pistol are both still in active service in the military with even less changes to them. (Albeit he M1911 is less prevalent in an official capacity and used by certain special groups.) They were made in 1919 and 1911 respectively.

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It still seems remarkable that the basic design of the airplane is something that could be upgraded to stay effective for that long. There are lots of upgrades available for cars too but you don’t see US forces driving Ford Model-Ts around war zones today.

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Just like the Hercules.

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America may have some standing to defend Japan so it won’t have to re-militarize itself

but any other shenanigans in the “western Pacific” should stop

and whatever Russia and China are doing over there is really none of our business

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All these upgrades mean that no two B-52s are the same. Some have obsolete avionics packages that remain installed just to act as ballast. Others have avionics that remain installed for fear of what might happen if anyone dared remove them (the paper trail is less than perfect).

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Stealthy weapons those … we’ll never see them coming. /sarcasm

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Or hear. Apparently they are the noisiest fuckers ever.

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It sounds on the surface like a model T sputtering as it chitty bang bangs down the road. But underneath, it’s a different story. Imagine what an airplane is: a bunch of parts. What if most of those parts, such as the structure and different connection points in the fuselage and all the skin plates, were so well-engineered in the first place that we could use that platform essentially as it was 70 years ago, and then just build on top of it some modern avionics, slap some jet engines on it, upgrade the seats? It’s more like that here. All the tooling in production lines for those parts is already in place, the quality control is in place, the assembly is a known. And it’s been that way for decades. Pretty amazing, from an engineering standpoint.

But, as far as war machines… Ugh. We are not too far off from the 2A gun fondlers with this topic. Meanwhile, while we are at the airshow, Russia and China are flexing on us. What a world!

Upgraded Jeep CJ/Willy’s are still in service. Pretty close. Ok, not exactly true. There have been more significant upgrades and changes to the ground vehicle lineup than the B-52.

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image

/obligatory

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“Y’cannae change the laws of physics, Jim.”

Part of it is just because of practical limits. An aeroplane can only get so heavy before it needs an absurd amount of power and runway to get off the ground (and in any case, it only needs to carry X weight of bombs to fuck shit up beyond recognition).

And then there are the practical limits on how fast aircraft can fly.

The first limit you need to overcome is the point at which the tips of your propellers start to go supersonic. The next limit is pushing your airframe through the sound barrier without losing control of it. And the next limit is about Mach 1.6 where your aluminium airframe gets so hot through friction that it starts to creep and lose structural integrity. There are aircraft that can fly faster, but it gets impractical.

Then there are practical limits on range and endurance set not so much be the amount of fuel you can carry (you can refuel midair but not without risk) but by how long your crew can stay alert.

At the other end of the scale you have something like a Piper Cub which was first built in the '30s and was so eminently practical that it’s still in production today.

And you have workhorses like the DC3 and the An2 that have proven themselves as practical workhorses for decades. I don’t know that they’re perfect, but they are obviously hard to improve on.

Things that defy obsolescence are kind of wonderful if you look at them the right way.

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Some designs get it so right, that they fit the role they were made for still. Like the M1919 or the M1911 or the B52.

I believe people are still making copies of the Piper Cub today, for example.

People still tool around in old school Jeeps, and I think they still make a model similar to the old ones (with newer engines etc, I am sure.)

Hell, the AR-15 was invented about the same time as the B-52, in 1956. While the components have changed some in the military since then, I would not be at all surprised to see the M4/M16 type platform still in use in 2050. Meaning the same internal bolt and basic upper and lower receivers are the same.

But yeah, it is pretty weird seeing a plane from the 50s in service. But if we look around some we can see other such items still in service after decades of being introduced.

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Hah!

“What does this do? Does it still do anything?”

“We aren’t sure. Best just leave it if isn’t hurting anything.”

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