PK technical problems?

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PK technical problems?

Postby Nou on Tue Nov 11, 2008 4:17 am

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ev1EaWB9 ... re=related

Any of that true? Was there technical issues due to manufacturing issues, and were they as great as suggested in this video?

Not that any of it matters now... :?
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Re: PK technical problems?

Postby SAC Killer on Thu Nov 13, 2008 12:41 am

I was on the staff at HQ AFSC during that time and have some knowledge of this. I'll comment as I am able. Some stuff is classified and it has been a good many years so I don't remember all the details. The system was in development then, and the tests cited in the video are development tests, not operational tests. The system had not been deployed. As you might expect, HQ AFSC was heavily involved in response to Congress and to system testing results.

No comment on accuracy numbers (classified), but neither do I recall any particular USAF concerns about accuracy. From the film clip, it looks like the Congressman didn't really understand how CEP is calculated or what it means.

I have no knowledge about Northrop's parts acquisition or whether there were really any problems with it. ICBM components are made to very strict standards (Class S) for high reliability.

Regarding the guidance set reliability, there was an interesting development. In fact the system was performing in testing better than the Air Force design specification required. However, reliability projections were that it would not be as reliable as Northrop's original estimate, which was also much higher than the requirement. We are talking very high reliability numbers; multiple orders of magnitude more reliable than comparable aircraft systems. At the time I remember suggesting to my 2-star we should be challenging the aircraft community to explain why their systems performed so poorly compared to ICBM guidance sets.

But since the projection was lower than the original contractor estimate, the USAF formed up a tiger team. It was headed by retired MGEN Hepfer, a prior commander of Ballistic Missile Division. (Which became BMDO later). He had been on watch while the LGM-30F and G were in development. I don't remember all the recommendations, but I do remember that Congress got pretty emotional early in the process. However when you looked at the data the fact was the system was performing pretty well. Congress likes to get emotional about weapon system development. It makes better sound bites. You have to look at the data before you respond.

One other technical factoid Minuteman folks will enjoy: when developing the guidance set, the program looked at three types of stable platform technologies. These were a conventional mechanical design similar to Minuteman; a star tracker; and a ring laser gyro. The two fancy new technologies could not perform well enough to justify replacing the mechanical gyros so the system went with that. If I recall correctly the gyros were very similar to the Minuteman gyros and were made by the same contractor. But the first production runs did not perform as well as expected. So the contractor brought back out of retirement some people who made the Minuteman gyros. Under their tutelage, the production problems went away and the stable platform worked fine after that.
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Re: PK technical problems?

Postby Nou on Thu Nov 13, 2008 1:02 am

SAC Killer wrote:One other technical factoid Minuteman folks will enjoy: when developing the guidance set, the program looked at three types of stable platform technologies. These were a conventional mechanical design similar to Minuteman; a star tracker; and a ring laser gyro. The two fancy new technologies could not perform well enough to justify replacing the mechanical gyros so the system went with that. If I recall correctly the gyros were very similar to the Minuteman gyros and were made by the same contractor. But the first production runs did not perform as well as expected. So the contractor brought back out of retirement some people who made the Minuteman gyros. Under their tutelage, the production problems went away and the stable platform worked fine after that.


Ha, neat... :D

I wonder how complex star sighting is and why it wasn't used on PK along with its inertial systems...

I am going to assume that it was a lack of need, seeing that the system was accurate enough without it and I assume its use on Trident is because of the nature of the launch platform.

Interesting technology to say the least though.
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Re: PK technical problems?

Postby SAC Killer on Thu Nov 13, 2008 1:19 am

Actually I think the situation was it gave a bit more accuracy, but the life cycle cost was sufficiently higher the powers that be decided to stay with the proven technology.

Star tracking is routinely used in spacecraft, however.
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Re: PK technical problems?

Postby Nou on Thu Nov 13, 2008 2:50 am

SAC Killer wrote:Actually I think the situation was it gave a bit more accuracy, but the life cycle cost was sufficiently higher the powers that be decided to stay with the proven technology.

Star tracking is routinely used in spacecraft, however.


Yah, give it a few more kilotons and that will make up for the few less feet of accuracy... :P

Course as I understand half the PK's would have been used to blanket huge chunks of south eastern Russia where their mobile launch systems are deployed... so a few feet here or there wouldn't matter eitherway! 8)
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Re: PK technical problems?

Postby LA CrewDawg on Sun Nov 16, 2008 3:14 am

SAC Killer wrote: If I recall correctly the gyros were very similar to the Minuteman gyros and were made by the same contractor. But the first production runs did not perform as well as expected. So the contractor brought back out of retirement some people who made the Minuteman gyros. Under their tutelage, the production problems went away and the stable platform worked fine after that.


Although the PK was deployed with a mechanical INS, it was significantly advanced beyond Minuteman technology. I was going to make a lame Star Trek analogy here about MM/PK techology differential, but the free-floating beryllium sphere in the PK system was much improved over the MM Gimbal design. If I were to try and dig up any more detail on the system from my plated wire memory I think my head would explode. So, at this point, I will refer you to http://nuclearweaponarchive.org/Usa/Weapons/Airs.html
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Re: PK technical problems?

Postby SAC Killer on Sun Nov 16, 2008 11:00 pm

LA CrewDawg wrote:
SAC Killer wrote: If I recall correctly the gyros were very similar to the Minuteman gyros and were made by the same contractor. But the first production runs did not perform as well as expected. So the contractor brought back out of retirement some people who made the Minuteman gyros. Under their tutelage, the production problems went away and the stable platform worked fine after that.


Although the PK was deployed with a mechanical INS, it was significantly advanced beyond Minuteman technology. I was going to make a lame Star Trek analogy here about MM/PK techology differential, but the free-floating beryllium sphere in the PK system was much improved over the MM Gimbal design. If I were to try and dig up any more detail on the system from my plated wire memory I think my head would explode. So, at this point, I will refer you to http://nuclearweaponarchive.org/Usa/Weapons/Airs.html


You are correct that the complete PK INS is a significant technology jump from the MM design. I was referring only to the gyros themselves in terms of follow-on technology. If I recall correctly the gyros for both systems were built by Draper Labs. PK also benefitted from much improved computer power.

Another bit of Minuteman trivia: it was the first vehicle to fly under all digital flight control (the air breathers all think that was the F-16, but the real date is 1 Feb 1961) and was the first weapon system to use all solid state technology. The A- and B-models used transistors; earlier systems used vacuum tubes. The F-model was the first weapon system to extensively use integrated circuits.
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Re: PK technical problems?

Postby njh621 on Mon Nov 17, 2008 1:43 am

Now imagine what would happen if Minuteman was running an Intel Core 2 Duo with 2GB of flash memory :lol:. Next thing you know we'll have entire LCCs that can run off of a few D-cells!
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Re: PK technical problems?

Postby ornurse362 on Mon Nov 17, 2008 2:57 am

Just as long as the OS is not any version of Vista.

njh621 wrote:Now imagine what would happen if Minuteman was running an Intel Core 2 Duo with 2GB of flash memory :lol:. Next thing you know we'll have entire LCCs that can run off of a few D-cells!
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Re: PK technical problems?

Postby LA CrewDawg on Mon Nov 17, 2008 4:02 pm

SAC Killer wrote:
Another bit of Minuteman trivia: it was the first vehicle to fly under all digital flight control (the air breathers all think that was the F-16, but the real date is 1 Feb 1961) and was the first weapon system to use all solid state technology. The A- and B-models used transistors; earlier systems used vacuum tubes. The F-model was the first weapon system to extensively use integrated circuits.


This site is gold mine of missile history. I have a few friends from my AFROTC class that flew, or are flying F-16s. Wait til I drop this bomb on them.
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Re: PK technical problems?

Postby hockey85 on Mon Nov 17, 2008 10:50 pm

LA CrewDawg wrote:
SAC Killer wrote:
Another bit of Minuteman trivia: it was the first vehicle to fly under all digital flight control (the air breathers all think that was the F-16, but the real date is 1 Feb 1961) and was the first weapon system to use all solid state technology. The A- and B-models used transistors; earlier systems used vacuum tubes. The F-model was the first weapon system to extensively use integrated circuits.


This site is gold mine of missile history. I have a few friends from my AFROTC class that flew, or are flying F-16s. Wait til I drop this bomb on them.


haha. Awesome. I have some friends flying F-16's as well, and will have fun letting them know this as well.

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Re: PK technical problems?

Postby 90Historian on Mon Dec 08, 2008 12:40 am

I'm a historian/researcher and I'm writing a history on the Peacekeeper. What I'm working on right now is what happened to the personnel who were assigned to the 400th? I know they entered into retraining at Vandenberg starting in Dec 04 but were they all retrained? Any documents on this? 90Historian
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Re: PK technical problems?

Postby hockey85 on Mon Dec 08, 2008 1:37 am

90Historian wrote:I'm a historian/researcher and I'm writing a history on the Peacekeeper. What I'm working on right now is what happened to the personnel who were assigned to the 400th? I know they entered into retraining at Vandenberg starting in Dec 04 but were they all retrained? Any documents on this? 90Historian


I heard that PK missileers that had time on station over 2 years moved on to another career at another base if they chose to. Those that had less than 2 years on station got retrained in the Minuteman weapon system and got dispersed to the 3 missile bases. I'm sure there were exceptions to his rule. The PK missileers can chime in with more details than I can.

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Re: PK technical problems?

Postby Phobos on Sat Jan 23, 2010 12:58 am

Unfortunately what happened did not follow the original plan of the 2 year rule. Many PK crew members had already been cleared by the commander for a follow on location of their choice, and were looking into the logistics of moving, when a change came down from Randolph AFB just prior to deactivation. Many crew members were redirected to the Minuteman program. It was an unfortunate outcome, as it caused many young officers to severely think about how it would affect career progression. I had made it to crew commander and was Tango qualified, only to find out that I would have to start out all over again as a MM crew member. :( If I recall correctly, about a dozen of us opted to request a discharge from the USAF, instead of being forced into MM assimilation.
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Re: PK technical problems?

Postby Capt. Bill on Sat Jan 23, 2010 1:54 am

SAC Killer wrote:Another bit of Minuteman trivia: it was the first vehicle to fly under all digital flight control (the air breathers all think that was the F-16, but the real date is 1 Feb 1961) and was the first weapon system to use all solid state technology. The A- and B-models used transistors; earlier systems used vacuum tubes. The F-model was the first weapon system to extensively use integrated circuits.


I read that the first Minuteman guidance system had a hard drive with just over 2500 words of memory, thats 5K.
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