Getting Rich from Military Technology, Part I
When you listen to military communications, a lot of words are slang, and actually have quite distinct meanings. For example, there was this time, long ago during my Navy days, when my squadron was working up out at NAS Fallon, Nevada. (“Working up” is Navy shorthand for getting everyone qualified to deploy.)
We were out on a bombing range, flying a racecourse pattern, taking turns rolling inbound on a practice stretch. We would line up, release our weapons one at a time and then get graded on bombing accuracy. Eventually, I made a radio call and said, “We’re Winchester, bingo, RTB Fallon.”
Huh? What did I say? Basically, I told the controller that we had dropped all our bombs, were out of ammunition (“Winchester”), were low on fuel (“bingo”) and had to return to base (“RTB”) at Fallon. The idea in Navy communications is that you want to keep it short and pack a lot of information into your calls.
The Vampire Call
Out on the front lines — out where the gray ships deploy — there are all manner of other coded words specific to the deployment area and any perceived threats. There’s one call, however, that strikes fear into everyone’s heart… the “vampire” alert.
A radio call of “Vampire, vampire” does NOT mean that there’s a teenage movie about underage girls who fall in love with guys from Transylvania on the ship’s TV system.
No, the “vampire” call means that there’s a missile inbound, moving at high speed toward the aircraft carrier or its battle group. Somebody, somewhere has shot a missile at your floating home away from home. In the days of the Cold War, the battle-space problem was Soviet missiles.
Out in the Western Pacific, where I deployed, the Russians typically sent out swarms of gigantic Tu-95 Bear bombers, which carried missiles the size of small airliners.
It used to threaten the fleet with long-range missiles.
Now, this Bear is a museum piece.
BWK Photo, Monino Air Museum, Moscow
Or sometimes, there were Soviet surface ships loaded with batteries of supersonic missiles designed to kill carriers. Or it could have been the formidable Oscar class of submarine, also stuffed with missiles that it could launch underwater.
One thing was for sure, however. If you were out flying around and saw a missile trail, you were supposed to hit the microphone key and shout, “Vampire!” The idea was to get everyone’s attention at the speed of light. You wanted to get the tracking radars pulsing and quickly to find those killer pipes trailing fire.
What then? Our doctrine was that the battle group would react and, at first, attempt to jam the inbound “vampires” with electronic countermeasures, or spoof the rockets with chaff and flares. Or perhaps if that wasn’t working, one or more of our destroyers or cruisers would fire missiles to shoot down the incoming bad guys.
As a last-ditch measure — when reaction times were down to fractions of a second — all of the Navy ships had one or more Phalanx Close-in Weapon Systems (CIWS), which are high-speed Gatling-type guns for putting a wall of shells in front of those enemy missiles. Whatever works, right?
As we went through our drills out on deployment, many were the times when we sat around the ready room discussing how to defend against those Soviet missiles. Wouldn’t it have been nice to have something like those “phaser” systems, like in Star Trek? Dream on, right?
And what of today? Is there still a missile problem out there? Do battle group commanders and sailors up and down the line still worry about “vampire” calls? Well, in the past 22 years since the end of the Cold War, the missile threat has actually gotten worse, what with arms proliferation across the globe. We’re still waiting for that Star Trek defense.
Hold that thought.
The Russian’s “Missing Elements”
Speaking of the Russians, in 1869, Russian chemist Dmitri Mendeleev categorized all of the elements then known to science, based on atomic weight and other properties. He laid out the elements, lightest to heaviest on a table. In the process, Mendeleev noted several gaps. It appeared that some elements were just… missing.
Mendeleev’s original table, with “missing” elements.
Changing the Nature of Computing and Warfare
Today, nearly 145 years later, one of Mendeleev’s “missing elements” holds the key to a technological revolution, a profitable technological revolution.
This element — long since discovered — forms the foundation to a recent breakthrough that will revolutionize the world of digital computing, and even change the nature of weaponry and war.
We’re literally on the ground floor here. This tech is so new that it’s scarcely out of the lab. Indeed, the only samples of this new tech come from specially built bench-model systems. But that’s about to change, because, as you likely know from cellphones and flat-screen televisions, great new tech ideas seldom remain hidden in the shadows for long.
This new tech breakthrough will create vast new fortunes, upturn entire industries (and create new ones, too) and give sleepless nights to corporate strategists and military planners across the world. What is it?
Find out tomorrow in Part II of this story…
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