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In-Flight Reboot? 594

Posted by michael
from the no-problems-until-you-have-to-fsck dept.
steelem writes "The Washington Post is running a story about how the F-22 Raptor's software requires in-flight reboots. Apparently the 2 million line software project is 93% done. Knowing most projects I've been on, it'll stay that way for another few years."
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In-Flight Reboot?

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  • Hah (Score:5, Funny)

    by B3ryllium (571199) on Friday August 01, 2003 @07:33PM (#6592792) Homepage
    Welcome to Microsoft Airlines, your Stewardess today will be Steve Ballmer.
  • by DeathPenguin (449875) * on Friday August 01, 2003 @07:34PM (#6592799)
    This is an ideal application for LinuxBIOS [linuxbios.org]. The article says an average of 14 minutes per flight were spent rebooting computers. Even 36 seconds per reboot is too much, and would be totally unacceptable if it were say, a navigation computer on a 737 with a hundred civilians on-board.

    Nasa has an interesting project called FlightLinux [nasa.gov] specifically geared for this sort of application. Unfortunately, they have yet to release code (export restrictions), but they supposedly use LinuxBIOS for their system.

    Of course, having software that never crashes (no pun intended) would be best, but it never hurts to have a system that can boot up in just a couple seconds anyway.
    • by cperciva (102828) on Friday August 01, 2003 @07:43PM (#6592873) Homepage
      Even 36 seconds per reboot is too much, and would be totally unacceptable if it were say, a navigation computer on a 737 with a hundred civilians on-board.

      What makes you think that it takes 36 seconds to reboot their systems? That's an average time spent per flight -- we don't know how many times the systems are crashing per flight.

      Also note that this covers all their computer systems, not just the actual flight control. Some systems are obviously more important than others; it probably doesn't matter if the target identification system fails for a few seconds.
    • by marauder404 (553310) <marauder404.yahoo@com> on Friday August 01, 2003 @07:44PM (#6592877)
      The article doesn't say that it takes 36 seconds to reboot the computers. It says 36 seconds per flight are spent rebooting the avionics. It doesn't say how long the reboots take. The total reboot time per flight could have been reduced by quicker reboots or less reboots or both.
      • Yeah, 36 seconds a flight. Considering that most of the programming and everything is probably kept in solid state memory, a reboot maybe takes a second or two at most.

        The language used for all of this is ADA, which is one devious language to program in. Everything requires exception handling, and every exception needs to be handled. The 2 million lines of code is surprising, not because it seems like a lot, but because it seems like so little.

        I'm quite sure that every computerized portion of the aircr

        • Rickety Planes (Score:3, Insightful)

          by core plexus (599119)
          "The military isn't going to stick pilots in a rickety plane.

          Osprey? Harrier? And how many others?

          -cp- (My .sig is rebooting)

        • > The language used for all of this is ADA, which is one devious language to program in.

          Actually, I find Ada [sic] quite elegant to program in.

          > Everything requires exception handling, and every exception needs to be handled.

          Actually exception handlers are optional. But in avionics you probably do want to handle exceptions, regardless of which language you're using.

          > The 2 million lines of code is surprising, not because it seems like a lot, but because it seems like so little.

          Ada is somew

    • by Eneff (96967) on Friday August 01, 2003 @07:46PM (#6592890)
      By reboot, I'm thinking they mean from "press button" until "I can use again."

      That means running the program and getting all necessary information from the hardware so that pilots can make decisions from it.

      The BIOS is insignificant in this case.
    • by Yokaze (70883) on Friday August 01, 2003 @08:04PM (#6592996)
      > and would be totally unacceptable if it were say, a navigation computer on a 737 with a hundred civilians on-board.

      AFAIK, civilian flight systems are three times redundant. Written by three different isolated teams in three different programming paradigms, from three different cultures to avoid similar faults due to "contamination" by other teams, or simlar faults due to similar paradigms.
      (Airbus 340 (3M LOC), Boeing 777 are said to have employed such techniques)

      And IRC, they don't fly with at least two redundant fully functional systems.

      It makes me wonder why the military has less stringent requirements.
      • It makes me wonder why the military has less stringent requirements.

        There is a world of diffeence between a civilian plane which only has to fly from point A to B and the F/A-22. The F/A-22 is the most advance fighter jet in the world and can literally do things that no other plane can do. There is no way they can develope three separate software suits for a system this complex. But trust me, there is plenty of redundancy built in. Besides, the F/A-22 hasn't finished testing yet, it is not a finish

      • I don't think the military has less stringent requirements, although I honestly don't know. The article did mention this is an experimental plane still in development. Once the bugs are worked out the US may buy hundreds of them at $200,000,000 each.

        Hopefully they will cut back on a few of those airplanes and put some money into our school systems. 5 planes = 1 Billion dollars! And one of the current stealth fighters lost it's tail after air show.

        I guess it's tought to keep to a budget when you can p
      • by JamMasterJGorilla (629611) on Friday August 01, 2003 @11:56PM (#6593937) Homepage
        I was on an airbus flight leaving Dulles to San Francisco in the middle of the dot com days. We hit maximum thrust on the runway the front wheel lifted off then the plane shutdown. The pilot had to "Reboot" the plane (his words). First we had to sit there for 15 minutes while the brakes cooled.... Then the best part cam, they called in the mechanics to fix the computers..... Now this plane was filled with computer people and only one got off. I was sitting in the first business class seat at the isle so I had a good view of the cockpit while the mechanics worked on the computers. They pulled several avionics parts out of the plane (about the size of a ammunition box) then replaced them while taking to the technicians in San Francisco. About 2 hours later we took off. I'm still alive today.
    • by a low-flying penguin (694530) on Saturday August 02, 2003 @05:31AM (#6594778)
      I work as a pilot for a regional airline. And I can tell you that "rebooting" (we rather call it resetting) a computer during flight happens, causes no havoc whatsoever, and is well over 2 minutes. The operation is pretty straightforfard: whenever the "flight warning computer", which is watching all the rest, detects a failure in a computer : -Either it is _very_ important, and then you have sufficient redundancy to just leave it so (and you don't want to re-use a computer that failed once on something critical...in case the next failure goes undetected !) -Or you are on the ground with time on your hands, or in flight and it is some secondary stuff: you just pull the circuit breaker for that computer, count 2 minutes, then put it back on. The computer is then usually usable within a minute. For mission-critical system, such as flight control computers, which control the autopilot, everything is tripled. If two agree and one disagrees, the odd one is declared faulty. On such failures, the crew is often not advised while in flight, as there is nothing to be done. The failure is declared by the flight warning computer after landing, for the benefit of maintenance. Obviously, you can't take off again in that situation. And if the failure happens before takeoff, the rules are different: in case of a failure, and if the reset is ineffective, you check the remaining equipement against the minilum equipement list, which tells you if the remaining redundancy is sufficient or not. It can allow you to take off, sometimes with restrictions, or forbid the flight. As a rule, redundacy is such that the fault of a single computer or system (even an engine) is not a problem. Nice to know, isn't it ? ;-)
  • What do you expect (Score:3, Interesting)

    by gokubi (413425) * on Friday August 01, 2003 @07:36PM (#6592821) Homepage
    when the contracting agency can't acocunt for $1 trillion [azcentral.com]? That's more than the rest of the world spent on their military last year. With that kind of accountability, I'm amazed any project gets over 80% done.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday August 01, 2003 @07:37PM (#6592825)
    damn, my job is so boring. I wish I was on the 'let's go kill people' software dev team.
  • by Black Parrot (19622) on Friday August 01, 2003 @07:37PM (#6592827)


    The first hit on Google was this [slashdot.org] interesting take on the story.

    • by WindBourne (631190) on Friday August 01, 2003 @07:52PM (#6592919) Journal
      Please consider having Slashdot do a quick search, esp in the last 2-3 weeks. Even if this is done at the submittor level, then they could avoid this. I have no doubt that most submittors would prefer to avoid this.
      Likewise, when viewing for submission, check the same search, so that you can see what the use saw
      BTW, this is not really a problem with just /., but more indicative of the problem that stories keep getting retold on the same news. Sad really.
      • by Black Parrot (19622) on Friday August 01, 2003 @07:59PM (#6592967)


        > Please consider having Slashdot do a quick search, esp in the last 2-3 weeks. Even if this is done at the submittor level, then they could avoid this. I have no doubt that most submittors would prefer to avoid this.

        Au contraire, I would guess that every time a story hits Slashdot about 9000 clowns immediately submit it again in hopes of duping the editors into a dupe.

  • by BWJones (18351) on Friday August 01, 2003 @07:37PM (#6592829) Homepage Journal
    Jeez, one would think that there would be built in redundancy so that if one system went down, it could be rebooted while the other system automatically takes over. Perhaps this is the way things are working, but the thought of rebooting during ACM makes me really nervous.

    • Sorry, I should have clarified, ACM = (Air Combat Maneuvers).

    • by sexylicious (679192) on Friday August 01, 2003 @07:45PM (#6592881)
      They do.

      There are several redundant systems. Let's say for example that your FLCC has 3 identical systems. If one fails, the other two take over until the watchdog timer kicks in and restarts the third (in the case of a software fault).

      Anything that is rated for piloted flight is this way, especially fly-by-wire systems or other mission critical components.

      This claim is not surprising at all, since it happens all the time.
      • by White Manual (584363) on Friday August 01, 2003 @08:19PM (#6593087)
        There are several redundant systems. Let's say for example that your FLCC has 3 identical systems. If one fails, the other two take over until the watchdog timer kicks in and restarts the third (in the case of a software fault).
        Not exactly. The watchdog timer is the one that decides some unit has failed and, only then, gives control to a redundant unit (in addition order a reboot of the failed one). For practical purposes, the reboot will be in the background, so the time it actually takes it not that important (as long as the Mean Time Between Failures is reasonable). Much more important is setting of the watchdog timer. If it is set too long, other connected units may be wasting cycles waiting for the failed unit. If it set too short, many unnecessary reboots will be happening... A bad combination of long and short settings will produce exactly the problem that is being reported in the article. This is not really a problem except to the eyes of the uninformed press; it merely shows that the whole system is not fine tuned yet. --
    • Apollo 11 (Score:5, Interesting)

      by s20451 (410424) on Friday August 01, 2003 @08:09PM (#6593025) Journal
      Haven't read the article (typically of slashdot), but I do remember that the Apollo 11 computer nearly caused the first lunar landing to fail because it kept rebooting in-flight. Due to a configuration error that occurred shortly before flight, the computer repeatedly ran out of memory, but the software was designed so that the computer could reboot without catastrophe.

      You can read more here [nasa.gov].
  • by niko9 (315647) on Friday August 01, 2003 @07:37PM (#6592833)
    Hi there soldier! You seem to have lost power to both engines secondary to a software malfunction, over hostile territory. Would you like me to help you reboot Windows?
  • Too easy... (Score:5, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday August 01, 2003 @07:38PM (#6592835)
    Would it be too trollish to say this brings a whole new meaning to "The Blue Screen of Death"? Yeah, I thought so too.
  • by Illserve (56215) on Friday August 01, 2003 @07:39PM (#6592842)
    Software like this should be able to reboot midflight without a hitch.

    Flight control software has been rebootable on the fly since the earliest days of the space program.

    • by mnemonic_ (164550) <jamec@@@umich...edu> on Friday August 01, 2003 @08:52PM (#6593239) Homepage Journal
      This isn't flight control software we're talking about. This is sensor fusion software. The flight control system is unaffected.

      The sensor fusion software's task is to combine the data from all of the various sources (radar, RWR, multiple datalinks etc.) and redistribute it among the systems that could benefit from it. For example, a target detected by radar would show also up on the Horizontal Situational Display, and would also be re-transmitted via datalink to JSTARS and/or AWACS and any other datalink-capable aircraft. In addition, contact information can correlated for maximum accuracy. A target's radar emissions could be detected by the Radar Warning Receiver, and that information could then be used by the radar for Non Cooperative Target Recognition allowing the radar to display the type of target (though NCTR in the F/A-22 reportedly works differently from this). All of the numerous sensors on the F/A-22 have their resources and products pooled together, allowing for extremely effective target detection, tracking and ID. Sensor fusion is an incredible development in avionics and is one of the foundations of 5th generation fighter aircraft technology.
  • Quick, someone send them a copy of bash!
  • Ejection Seat (Score:3, Interesting)

    by rchatterjee (211000) on Friday August 01, 2003 @07:41PM (#6592854) Homepage
    If you're the test pilot you really got to hope they finished the code on the ejection seat at least, at 1,200 mph even a few seconds of reboot time is enough to turn you into part of the scenery at the test range.
  • by limbostar (116177) <stephen AT awdang DOT com> on Friday August 01, 2003 @07:41PM (#6592860) Homepage
    "Now, admittedly, it's critical software. This is the 'let's go kill people' software."

    Man, I need to get a new job.
  • by JonyEpsilon (662675) on Friday August 01, 2003 @07:42PM (#6592862) Homepage
    This is the 'let's go kill people' software.
    Is it just me, or does this kind of talk disturb anyone ?
    • by Anonymous Coward

      So, what kind of talk do you expect? The kind of talk that says "let's go sing happy Barney songs around the campfire with people who have been born and bred to hate us with every fibre in their being"? Get real. In my army, I want my solders to go out and kill the fucking enemy. And don't come home until he's dead.


    • by Anonymous Coward
      It disturbs me in that it's the sharp end of the system. A military aircraft would be pointedly useless if during its whole developmental process everyone skirted around the objectives of the thing; that is, to blow stuff up over there, while you're sitting here, and come back. that does involve killing people quite often.

      What disturbs me too is slashdot reporting. The article wasn't "about" the system needing reboots in flight, that was just one thing mentioned. The article was "about" a piece of military
    • by Matimus (598096) <mccredie@gOOOmail.com minus threevowels> on Friday August 01, 2003 @07:57PM (#6592958)
      It disturbs me that you are disturbed by the military talking about killing people. What exactly do you think the military does? Maybe they will make it open source and you can add some code for feeding orphans.
      • It disturbs me that you are disturbed by the military talking about killing people. What exactly do you think the military does?

        Considering the context, maybe he's worried that they're referring to the _pilots_ of these planes? :)
    • by bmajik (96670) <matt@mattevans.org> on Friday August 01, 2003 @08:13PM (#6593043) Homepage Journal
      it apparently disturbs you.

      thats too bad, because it somewhat indicates you are uncomfortable with reality.

      I pay a lot of tax money every year to guarantee that the united states has a highly effective group of people who only exist for the purpose of killing.

      I fully support killing.

      I am glad that I pay my government to refine the process of killing, to make it more efficient, and to have major universities dedicated to the art and science of efficient killing.

      Without killing, some disagreements just cant be settled. Im glad someone is willing to do the killing for me, so every disagreement doesn't ruin my life. I'm glad that i have the option to let someone else stick up for my interests in these disagreements that can only be settled with killing. I'm glad that the killers i dont like don't get to roll over me according to their whims.

      I support killing.

  • Beyond grasp (Score:5, Insightful)

    by DigiShaman (671371) on Friday August 01, 2003 @07:42PM (#6592865) Homepage
    I've said it a hundred times and I will say it again. Software is getting way to complex for human management in developing bug-free code.
  • But what really sets the F/A-22 apart is its ability to process data on air and ground targets using its own onboard radars and sensors, as well as those on other aircraft.

    Ooh.
  • 2 million lines of code for 'lets go kill people' software. If they can do that, I wonder if I can get them to 'sponser' a new 'lets go eat some cheetos and then kill people' couch for my apartmet.
  • Timing (Score:5, Funny)

    by SnowWolf2003 (692561) on Friday August 01, 2003 @07:46PM (#6592888)
    Control: Destroy that incoming cruise missile. ETA 35 seconds.
    Pilot: Got Radar Lock
    Pilot: Hang on - just got to reboot. Will be ready in 36 seconds...
  • by bugnuts (94678) on Friday August 01, 2003 @07:57PM (#6592953) Journal
    Now you shall witness the power of this Fully Operational Ba...
    Your program has performed an illegal

    operation and will be closed by Windows
  • by Sean80 (567340) on Friday August 01, 2003 @07:58PM (#6592961)
    I suppose I don't even know what 'reboot' means in this context. Do planes like this have operating systems? Or does the hardware directly run the code? Does the reboot simply reset the system state from somewhere it shouldn't have been? How fast is a reboot? The only context I have is the few minutes it takes my Linux box or my Windows box at work to reboot.

    What's funny is I always thought the guys writing this sort of software were uber-coders, and never had this sort of problem. Throw those few extra hundred million dollars at the coding effort, and I just thought this sort of problem went away. It's worrying though - isn't code which ever needed to be rebooted fundamentally flawed? Can you ever really fix that sort of code, or are we just waiting for the day whenever another edge test case comes along mid-flight, and an F-22 falls out of the sky? Even one of this sort of error seems like impending doom to me.

    • Usually it means a watchdog timer ticked off without being cleared. At this point the secondary or tertiary systems are given controll and the failed system loads its software fresh from firmware and comes back up to speed on the current input data, depending on the design of the system controll may be handed back to the freshly rebooted system or it may become the new secondary/tertiary. Reboots for all software systems are averaging 36 seconds per flight (probably meaning one reboot per two flights). So o
  • by realmolo (574068) on Friday August 01, 2003 @07:59PM (#6592965)
    The software required to run the Raptor is insanely complicated. The plane itself was ambitious, but the contorl systems are the real innovation. Give these guys a break. The fact that the thing flies at all is amazing. The fact that it does everything it was designed to do is unbelievable. So there are a few bugs to work out. That's how it goes. We're not talking about "normal" programming problems here- this is Real Life stuff.
  • by sphealey (2855) on Friday August 01, 2003 @08:07PM (#6593011)
    First, this issue has been covered extensively by Aviation Week & Space Technology, if you have a library that keeps the back issues (web subscription very expensive).

    Second, I have seen this coming for about 10 years now. In the 70s and 80s I worked with digital control systems. Not avionics, but similar. In those days the systems were expected to work right, every time, for years at a time. 2 years between system restarts was considered "acceptable". If a system did fail, the manufacturer was expected to get its collective butt out to the site, figure out why, and issue a (solid!) fix pronto.

    In the last 5 years, I have repeatedly been on brand-new airplanes at the gate when the pilot comes on and says "we are having a little problem with the system - don't be alarmed if the lights go off" followed by what is clearly a "reboot" of the airplane! When the fsk did it become acceptable to fix problems in avionics by rebooting the airplane?

    And if the system designers really think the Microsoft Rebooting Disease is an acceptable way to handle system faults, how long before one of those faults occurs in the air?

    I guess I am just old and crusty, expecting life-critical systems to work to spec 100.0% of the time.

    sPh

  • by anon*127.0.0.1 (637224) <slashdot AT baudkarma DOT com> on Friday August 01, 2003 @08:17PM (#6593071) Journal
    During WWI, pilots would signal the enemy if their machine guns jammed. Then it was considered the gentlemanly thing to do for the opponent to wait until the pilot had cleared the jam before resuming the dogfight.

    I wonder if modern day pilots are going to need a way to signal their opponent that their computers are rebooting?

    • by AHumbleOpinion (546848) on Friday August 01, 2003 @10:21PM (#6593593) Homepage
      The vast majority of downed pilots, 80+% ?, never saw the attack coming. They were taken by surprise. The most successful aces avoided dogfights, they would try to surprise someone, if not they would disengage and look for someone else. Your account sounds like some romanticised story or an aberration that occurred in the earliest days of the war. WW1 pilots looked at battle the same way pilots do today. Give the other guy a chance and you may die, your wife a widow, your children fatherless.
  • by PortWineBoy (587071) on Friday August 01, 2003 @08:36PM (#6593175)
    The original version of the A-6 Intruder had some sort of non-digital ballistics computer, the AN/ASQ-61. It evidently would freeze and require a reboot by kicking a certain area of the cockpit floor. The computer had a mechanical drum that actually got stuck and needed to be "booted" in order for it to get going again.

    Told to me by a pilot, I can't verify via a quick google.

  • by glen (19095) on Friday August 01, 2003 @08:40PM (#6593189)
    [_] Take off
    [*] Land
    [ok](cancel)

    You must reboot your computer for the new settings to take effect...
  • Cool! (Score:4, Funny)

    by Dark Lord Seth (584963) on Friday August 01, 2003 @08:42PM (#6593204) Journal

    I can already imagine the cockpit layout of a Raptor... Altimeter, speedometer, non-functional IFF indicator, roll indicator, yaw indicator, pitch indicator, three displays for tactical data, fuel indicator, HUD, control, alt, delete...

    At least Windows would be fitting on an aircraft... It's easier to move a mouse cursor around with a joystick then to type "shutdown -r now" with it!

  • Microsoft bashing (Score:5, Insightful)

    by jfengel (409917) on Friday August 01, 2003 @08:47PM (#6593222) Homepage Journal
    I've just re-re-read the article, and I can't find any mention that the software on board was Windows based.

    Yes, you're all very droll, but the Microsoft bashing seems a little knee-jerk. It's insanely complicated to write software like this (as a few other posters have said, and I'm posting only because I have no mod points for them).

    I doubt these errors are OS-based at all. Real-time systems like this are built on top of extremely well-tested embedded OSes. They reboot because they're writing pretty close to the bare metal, and mistakes are punished hard. Best practices are applied (interminable code reviews, fascist levels of regression testing, ungodly coding style standards), but not always followed, and even best practices don't always work.

    I'd like to see a gradual shift to languages which enforce best practices (i.e. not C and assembly). Meantime, these pilots are pretty damn brave. But it's probably not Microsoft's fault, this time.
  • by TearsForFears (694258) on Friday August 01, 2003 @09:01PM (#6593286)
    Welcome to F22 Raptor version 3.1 (C)1990-2003 Microsoft Corp. Start Microsoft MiddleEast Explorer...Please Wait Target: Hussein, Saddam Located Would you like to: Copy/Delete/Return? Delete? Yes/Cancel Before you delete Hussein, Saddam, would you like to sign up for Microsoft .NET?
  • by softspokenrevolution (644206) on Friday August 01, 2003 @09:36PM (#6593441) Journal
    Pilot: (Dialing microsoft support services while cruising at mach 50,000) Come on, pick up, pick up.

    Pre-recorder message: We're sorry, all circuitys are busy now. Your call is very important to us, please stay on the line until an operator is availible.

    Pilot: (Over enemy territory and ready to drop payload, toggling switches like a madman) Damnit, pick up.

    Tech Support Person: Hi, This is Candice, how are you today. Pilot: (Engine failure light flashing) Can you can the chatter, I'm cruising over Eastern Kreblenkistan about to die at Mach 40,000.

    Candice: There's no need to be rude sir. First I'll need to confirm that you're not using a pirated copy of our software, so will you please refer to the key sticker located on your computer. Pilot: (Frustrated, going down) I can't do that, I'm sort of in a plane right now, can you just tell me how to reboot the thing.

    Candice: I'm sorry sir, but we can't be responsible for the failures of pirated software... (transmission ends, big fiery explosion)
  • by DesScorp (410532) <DesScorpNO@SPAMGmail.com> on Friday August 01, 2003 @09:45PM (#6593467) Homepage Journal
    I'm an advocate for a strong defense, and always have been. And advanced weapons programs always have major bugs. I'm a veteran, and I follow defense issure pretty closely. With that said, now I say kill the F-22 program.

    Why? It's a problem program. It's been plagued with an abundance of serious unforseen engineering problems from the very beginning. This is just the latest one made public. Past problems have included repeated instances of various parts of the fuesalage (especially some wing and tailparts) cracking. Cost overruns have become endemic. When the ATF program (Advanced Tactical Fighter) was first launched in the mid-80's to find a successor to the legendary F-15 Eagle, the Air Force set a goal of a flyaway cost of no more than 35 million per copy. The cost is now up 200 million a copy, and before it goes into production, the F-22 might cost a quarter of a billion dollars FOR A SINGLE FIGHTER. No matter how rich a nation is, no Air Force in the world can afford to buy such fighters in effective quantities. Not even other Stealth projects have spiraled this far out of control. The F-117 NightHawk stealth fighter (really more of a small bomber), with a small inefficient production run of 64 aircraft, topped out at 61 million per copy.

    Granted, not all of the cost overrun problems are the fault of the Air Force or of Lockheed Martin. Congress keeps screwing around with the production schedule, and reducing the total buy, which drives up the cost per aircraft. But Congress has done so in large part for three main reasons:

    1- They ask "Do we really need this, or can upgraded F-15's do the job?" This is a valid question as no other nation, friend or foe, has an aircraft that equals the Eagle, save for Russia's SU-27 series of fighters. These have been produced in such small quantities that Congress still debates the need for an Eagle replacement.

    2- The number and seriousness of technical problems has made Congress reluctant to commit to the project fully. This crosses party lines, as in the past few years, several powerful Republicans have tried to kill the program on the grounds that the Raptor is a lemon. Democrats seeking money for non-defense programs have joined them.

    3- There are serious doubts emerging that the Raptor's massive complexity can ever truly be managed in an efficient manner. There are concerns that, even if the aircraft becomes operational and initial bugs are worked out, the aircraft will be unreliable, becoming what the Air Force calls a "Hangar Queen"; it looks pretty on the floor, but if it can't go up in the air regularly, how good is it? The Air Force has had aircraft before that they REALLY wanted, but turned out to be so expensive and maintenance intensive that they had to be retired early. And excellent example is the B-58 Hustler supersonic bomber, which had impressive performance...when it wasn't broken down. It was retired after only 10 years of frontline service.
    • by jjohnson (62583) on Friday August 01, 2003 @11:00PM (#6593734) Homepage
      Given the money already spent, is is at all plausible to shelve the program, write off the development costs, and come back in ten years hoping to make an economical plane using what was learned? Maybe the Raptor will cost a quarter billion, but surely the engineers have learned a hell of a lot and solved a lot problems no one foresaw.

      In other words, don't buy Raptors: buy the engineers, and let them try again, the wiser for the experience.
  • by dotslashdot (694478) on Friday August 01, 2003 @10:17PM (#6593570)
    Java F22: Pilot: Firing on target... Computer: "Starting Garbage Collector. Please Wait." Gentoo F22: Pilot: Firing on target... Computer: "Compiling Sidewinder Missile..." FreeBSD F22: Pilot: Firing on target... Computer: "Sidewinder Missile is dying..."
  • by theolein (316044) on Friday August 01, 2003 @10:51PM (#6593706) Journal
    By the time this thing ever gets into the air the only probable foes that it will ever face will be either SU-27 derivates or Mig-29 derivates, both of which cost far less than the F-22.

    In pure features the Su-27 is an amazing plane. Anyone who has ever seen the Su-27 do the cobra [lucia.it] manouver or the thrust vectored Su-30MKI or Su-35 do the 360 degree Kulbit manouver can attest to what these planes can do in close air combat. These are extreme manouvers that western planes cannot do for the simple reason that the engines in western planes receive no air at such high angles of attack and therefore often flame-out or stall. Not only this but the newer radars on the Su-30s and missiles are longer ranging than just about anything the west has with the exception of the F-14's AIM-54 Phoenix. As for stealth, newer Su-30's are coated with radar absorbant paint which reduce the advantages that a dedicated stealth fighter such as the F-22 would have in BVR combat.

    In the hands of a good pilot I very much doubt that the Su-30 would automatically lose in combat. That however is the crux of the matter: Pilot training.

    This has always been something that has been much better in the west with advanced simulators, top gun style combat training and long hours of aircraft experience. It is and has been a fallacy to believe that more modern high tech will always win the battle. It is almost always the quality of the pilots that decided the battle.

    There is a good example of an air combat situation atht happened in the first gulf war. The only western plane to be shot down in air combat was an F-18 on an attack mission that was intercepted by an obviously experienced Iraqi Mig-25 pilot. The Mig-25 was already obsolete then in terms of technology but the sheer speed of the plane (Mach 2.8+) is unmatched by any other fighter. The Mig-25 went on after shooting down the F-18 to buzz an EF-111 raven that was providing ECM for the mission causing the raven to have to manouver to avoid the incoming missiles and drop back from the attack mission which was then unprotected by ECM and subsequently another F-18 was shot down by a SAM. No less than two F-15's and two F-16's all attempted to intercept the Mig-25, two of them firing missiles, but the Mig-25 used it's tremendous speed advantage to easily avoid the interceptors and reach its base.

    This shows what a good plane , not necesserally the utterly most modern, can do in the hands of a good pilot. IMO the F-22 is an overexpensive white elephant.
    • Anyone who has ever seen the Su-27 do the cobra manouver or the thrust vectored Su-30MKI or Su-35 do the 360 degree Kulbit manouver can attest to what these planes can do in close air combat. These are extreme manouvers that western planes cannot do

      Um...bullshit.

      The F-15 had to perform the cobra in acceptance testing. It's covered in 4.2 of Mil Std 1787. There are other aircraft that can also perform the maneuver. The cobra is nothing more than a pitch overshoot in response to a "stick snatch." It's p
    • by Tailhook (98486) on Saturday August 02, 2003 @01:13AM (#6594186)
      "There is a good example of an air combat situation atht happened in the first gulf war. The only western plane to be shot down in air combat was an F-18 on an attack mission that was intercepted by an obviously experienced Iraqi Mig-25 pilot. The Mig-25 was already obsolete then in terms of technology but the sheer speed of the plane (Mach 2.8+) is unmatched by any other fighter. The Mig-25 went on after shooting down the F-18 to buzz an EF-111 raven that was providing ECM for the mission causing the raven to have to manouver to avoid the incoming missiles and drop back from the attack mission which was then unprotected by ECM and subsequently another F-18 was shot down by a SAM. No less than two F-15's and two F-16's all attempted to intercept the Mig-25, two of them firing missiles, but the Mig-25 used it's tremendous speed advantage to easily avoid the interceptors and reach its base."

      The Mig-25 borders on a desparation weapon. It was designed specifically to counter high altitude bombers and spy planes that the United States routinely flew over Soviet airspace. In that it failed. It's fairly clear today that a Mig-25 could not sustain the speed or attain the altitude necessary to attack an SR-71.

      The Soviet Union pawned off various models of the Mig-25 to the third world. Iraq had probably 15 Mig-25s at the start of the Gulf War (the first), of which perhaps 7 were operational.

      The shootdown happened because the Mig was misidentified multiple times as it flew past an American strike package. Had it been identified, it would have been killed. The shootdown was more the result of tactics than technology. That Mig pilot was both brave and lucky.

      The Mig was not moving at Mach 2.8. A Mig-25 can only do this at high altitude (70K+) and only for a short time. The shootdown happened between 25-30K, where the F-18's were operating. Flying at almost Mach 3 destroys the engines of a Mig-25. This isn't a problem if you're goal is to hit one high-value, high-altitude target and glide back to base. It does matter if you intend to engage in sustained warfare.

      In 1976, a Soviet defector landed a 1976-built Mig-25 in Japan. A few interesting things [wvi.com] were learned; with a full load of weapons and fuel a Mig-25 can handle only slightly more than 2Gs of force. At it's best it can handle about 5gs. This is no dog fighter. An F-4 can do better, much less any modern aircraft.
      • I agree that the Mig-25 is not the state of the art and would be at a loss in a dogfight, but my point was about the pilots, not the aircraft. But, as i said in a post lower down, the Mig-31, which succeded the Mig-25 has done away with most of these problems. It has been exported to China and could theoretically see use there in some war with Taiwan.

        For the record, I misquoted the story. Here's a link [lucia.it].

        I quote: "Gulf War Experience -

        Did you know that a MiG-25PD recorded the only Iraqi air-to-air kill of
  • by nigelc (528573) on Friday August 01, 2003 @11:04PM (#6593752) Homepage
    I was reading somewhere (possibly Scientific American) about the building of systems (computer software or robots) which can tolerate a restart or failureof one or more of them and keep working.

    Rather than the monolithic system which we all secretly love (which allegedly produces Blue Screens of Death when things go squiffy, although my own XP Home system has been thundering on with nary a problem for quite a while now), you build systems which can tolerate components restarting themselves. I don't care if you're RMS writing the purest code with GNU/Ada for the EFF Air Force, you're not going to write something that will never fail. Better to design and build an overall system which can tolerate minor interruptions, especially if you are going to be flying into a war zone.

    In any case (I worked on some of the stuff on the fringes of the F22 program a long long time ago), there are a bunch of computers in the air vehicle; it's an airborne network. Saying "oh my god, I can't believe the plane is rebooting" is dissingenuous.(aside from the many Windows jokes). It's akin to "I had to power-cycle the printer twice today -- I can't believe the network stayed up for the 35 seconds it took the Lexmark to come back to life!".

    Rebooting a subsystem computer works quite well in robotics too, which further leads into the concept of many small robots rather than one large beast screaming "Danger Will Robinson".

  • Nothing new here (Score:4, Interesting)

    by dbrower (114953) on Saturday August 02, 2003 @12:44AM (#6594085) Journal
    When I started doing OS programming, there was a story going around about the then-new F-18's display computer. The symptom being reported was 'under such and such conditions, the display flickers'. It turned out it had gotten into some mode where it was rebooting nearly constantly. (AMD 2900 bit/slice processor, if I recall).

    This was 1980.

    It got fixed.

    -dB

  • by El Camino SS (264212) on Saturday August 02, 2003 @09:57AM (#6595200)

    "The State Dept. would like to report that it is doing its best to retrieve Lt. Col. John Bowers from enemy territory right now. Lt. Col. Bowers due to system failure, was forced to Ctrl-Alt-Del out over southern Liberia earlier this week."

"It is better to have tried and failed than to have failed to try, but the result's the same." - Mike Dennison

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