Thursday, October 2, 2008

Fluid Dynamics, Fluid Wars

Another shot from the Salinas Airshow, this time of an F-15E Strike Eagle, albeit processed to bring out the air condensing as it flows over the wings at speeds approaching supersonic.

By going to back and white, controlling the blue channel with a digital filter and changing contrast, you can bring to the fore elements that otherwise get lost. Not only did this processing emphasise the air flow over the plane's control surfaces but it also brings out the engine pulses.

Regardless, public demonstrations like these help reinforce the notion of what air supremacy actually is and what it means to modern warfare. It's worth remembering that the Russians only began to capitulate in Afghanistan once the mujaheddin acquired shoulder launched surface to air missiles from the US. All of a sudden, helicopters and troop transporters were vulnerable, air reconnaissance became a dangerous activity and even fighter-bombers were increasingly being targeted. With reduced air cover and much-curtailed ability to supply the front lines, the tide quickly turned as commanders reassessed the situation, and Russia soon pulled out.

To date, in the current conflict the Taliban have not been able to gain access to these weapons, despite many attempts to do so. We should all hope that this remains to be the case because if they succeed via Iran or somewhere else then once again a foreign occupying force will likely find itself on the losing side. Public opinion, historically being supportive of the Afghanistan operation, will rapidly turn negative if the 6 o'clock news starts reporting the downing of troop transporters.
Air power remains the primary tool of waging war in the 21st century, even where we face a 19th century foe.

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