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Fuze Industry Concerns

The President's Perspective issue (June 2001, p.4) of National Defense struck me, because fuzes have been an important part of my engineering career since 1947. In 1952-1953, I participated in a study concerning the high failure-rate of M-505 mechanical time fuzes under combat conditions. In 1962-1963, I contributed to the design of the M-223 impact fuze for the M-42 DPICM grenade. In 1978-1979, I was part of a Government study to address the state of the fuze base of the new Electronic Time Super-Quick fuzes. In 1983-1984, my employment by a missile warhead house allowed me contact with the fuze-makers of Switzerland (e.g. Patvag and Tavaro). And, as recently as 1993, I consulted with an electronics house that wished to enter the ET fuze business - without success, I might add. This overall period was marked by two important situations.

First, fuze designers were presented with ever increasing stringent safety and operational requirements in the military standard for fuzes. As with so many fields, a single incident involving death or injury generated a drive to eliminate all safety hazards. We strove to make the fuzes "fool-proof," but failed to make them "soldier-proof," and ended up (occasionally) making them "function-proof".

Second, the fuze industry, as it was prior to 1975, was almost entirely an offset of the horological industries, especially regarding the mechanical out-of-line safe timers and the mechanical time air-burst fuzes for artillery. We all know what happened to that parent industrial base after the introduction of digital time-keepers pieces. By 1979, I was able, therefore, to ask about the MT fuze manufacturing capabilities, "What fuze base?"

One approach to solving the problem stems from the insensitive munitions initiative: Make the active elements so "safe" that electronic safety can be proved adequate to meet the properly stringent requirements imposed on initiating systems, thus rendering "dual out-of-line" safety and mechanical timers unnecessary. We grow closer to this goal, but the disappearance of skilled watchmakers and their like is matched by a disappearance of engineers at all levels who are motivated to exercise their skill in this arena. Instead, we have a plethora of managers who understand "cost-benefit ratio" and "bottom-line," but who (in my experience) are ill advised as to the feasibility of some of the costly features they so glibly promote.

And so I ask, again: "What fuze base?" Little has truly changed in the 22 years that have passed since I originated the question.

W.L. Kincheloe


Skewed Historical Perspective

David LL. Silbergeld makes a valid point (Bookshelf, April 2001, p.57). Many book titles covering events of World War II seem to be repetitive gimmicks to gain market share. However, it is speculation whether the Germans could have changed the outcome of World War II by making minor changes in their thinking. Those changes would have been met with Allied command counter-measures. In fact, Germany never had a chance to win the war in view of the 50 to one overwhelmingly combined resources of the British Empire, the United States and the Soviet Union.

Furthermore, Silbergeld respectively has an obligation to know by virtue of his professional credentials (and assuming that he has no personal agenda) that Daniel Jonah Goldhagen's book represents nothing but junk-science that has been refuted by several reputable historians in this country and abroad. Goldhagen's politically fashionable junk-thesis follows the same pattern. Its regrettable that such a review found its way into National Defense.

Historical events are like monochrome photographs containing many shades of gray. Interpretations of events are subject to personal hyperbole. I have mine.

Eberhart Reimers


Space Laser

Congratulations on your fine article "Killing Missiles From Space; Can the U.S. Air Force Do It With Lasers?," (June 2001, p.16). The Space Based Laser is a highly successful program with strategic implications. It deserves coverage.

Programs like the Space Based Laser need robust funding. It will provide boost phase interception and global coverage--qualities lacking in the National Missile Defense ground-based interceptor.

Unfortunately, at $138 million annually, the Space Based Laser is under funded. We ate spending only 5-10 percent of what is needed for deployment. And the SBL program needs to include a heavy lift booster rated for 80,000 pounds to medium earth orbit. SBLs will be large and heavy.

But policies of "pretend to defend" will not meet the ballistic missile threat. We need to fully fund missile defense programs taking maximum advantage of space. We are only kidding ourselves if we think ballistic missiles will not be in use before 2020.

In addition, the SBL program should be run under the Ballistic Missile Defense Organization. There is more to space than being an adjunct of the Air Force.

James H. Hughes


Your excellent article on the space-based laser programs ("Killing Missiles from Space," June 2001, p. 16) demonstrates just how much progress has been made. Much of this progress is a result of achievements in the basic technologies of optics, beam control, sensing and targeting. As you point out in your sidebar story, development of the elements of a space-based laser system could contribute greatly to improving U.S. capabilities for space-based surveillance and imaging. These capabilities could be deployed even if the decision is eventually made nor to proceed with the space-based laser. These spin-off potentials are one of the reasons that investing in a space-based laser demonstration program makes sense.

Dr. Daniel Goure



I would like to clarify some points in my article, "Pentagon Unfairly Criticized in Chem-Bio Defense Effort" (June 2001, p. 34). In the sixth paragraph, the sentence starting with "This group..." refers to the Senior Interagency Coordinating Group, not the Army's Soldier and BiologicalChemical Command.

Booz-Allen and IEM executed the CB HelpLine and CB Hotline tasks, respectively - two different initiatives. Last, NDPO replaced the HelpLine, not the hotline, with an email address. On a related note, I understand the NDPO is funding SBCCOM to re-initiate the CB HelpLine, which can only benefit the emergency responders.

I understand the need to ruthlessly edit articles to fit the magazine's parameters, but I was responsible for leading the development of the CB HelpLine and Hotline concepts, and I am concerned that those individuals out there will believe that I did not clearly understand the program.

Al Mauroni


Churchill's Citizenship

Regarding the article "USS Churchill Shows Off High-Tech Gear" (April 2001, p. 28), I take issue with Mr. Kennedy's comment that, "... She is the first U.S. warship to be named for an Englishman since the end of the American Revolution."

While he was indeed an Englishman, because Mr Churchill's mother was a U.S. citizen, he also had U.S. citizenship.

Don DiGenova

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Publication:National Defense
Date:Aug 1, 2001
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