Grad BM-21

Iran supplies Hamas with Qassam-A rockets (unguided). The unguided rockets are identical to Soviet Grad BM-21 rockets. They’re a knockoff. The Grad BM-21 went into service in 1963 and as with all Soviet hardware, it usually works and is designed to be simple and robust. It’s a 122 mm caliber, 20 kg warhead, range up to 40 km, system.

Iranian-made, Hamas launchers carry 1-8 rockets, and Soviet Grad launchers carry 40 rockets. The Grad MLRSs are used worldwide and are in service with more than 60 countries. Poland, Slovakia, Iran, and China produce analogs and are fully compatible with each other. The cost of one rocket for the Russian army is about 70 thousand rubles (less than a thousand dollars), so when Israel says that Hamas fired more than a thousand rockets, it cost Hamas less than a million dollars, but it cost Israel hundreds of times more to intercept, Grad rockets can be self-produced in any workshop, the only thing to find is cellulose nitrate for the solid-fuel rocket engine. Rocket fuel can be produced almost anywhere you can find a chemist with some experience.

The rockets are ‘lobbed’ toward a target – in this case, a densely packed civilian population – and are a weapon of terror because the damage they cause is disproportionately smaller than the mental and emotional distress that they produce among civilians.

Iron Dome defenses aside, Israel has the capacity to turn Gaza into a parking lot, but that would be politically incorrect. China could do it and you’d have Jo/Ho cheering for them. Maybe the Israelis should invite in Chinese troops to handle their PR situation in circumstances such as these?

A decade ago, I suggested to the Mexicans that if they wanted to get rid of the cartel problem, that they use Russian troops (tongue-in-cheek). Americans have “human rights issues” if they pursue the course necessary. The Russians (and Chinese) don’t have that burden. Of course, you’d end up swapping one Mexican cartel problem for a Russian cartel problem – because the US market drives the cartels, whoever is running the show.


The Problem with Engineers

Yes, I know that there are a lot of engineers who drift by this blog. Engineers will never turn down an engineering challenge even if it may be ill-conceived. You know it’s true.

the Boeing 747 AAC (Airborne Aircraft Carrier) is but one example. Tasking went out to modify a 747 to carry a load of fighters and attack aircraft that could be launched while in flight.

You know that the engineers who worked on this one were all-in. I get it, I’m not being critical or sour.

Lockheed, not to be outdone, designed the CL-1201 by taking Boeing’s idea and making it nuclear-powered… Yes, a nuclear-powered GIANT flying aircraft carrier.

Neither idea made it off the drawing board, but you know that the nerd factor was strong on these projects.

The airborne aircraft carrier would have carried up to 22 fighter aircraft externally and would have an internal dock capable of handling two air-to-ground shuttle transport aircraft.

(above) a comparison in size between the Lockheed CL-1201 and a Boeing 747.


  1. New information to me. Very interesting, I wonder how much Lockheed and whoever (probably Boeing) did the 7447 study got paid. Engineers won’t turn down a challenge but neither Lockheed or Boeing were in business to “study” things for free.

  2. Has the aircraft industry arrived at a point the shipbuilding industry reached some time ago? Mature. Little changes today with ships in terms of design, and not a lot in construction methods.

    I had a Boeing engineer friend. For you Boeing insiders, his parking badge was blue/silver stripped. He told me, outside of the military, every design was dollar driven. Even much of the military stuff was the same. He started on the B-47 (slide rule) and ended on the 777 (cadcam).

  3. I guess that I am one of those engineering types. Since I am not a Registered Proffesional Engineer in Texas I am not allowed to call myself an Engineer though I did engineering work for 30 years at a couple of major defense contractors. (Disclaimer, I worked for Lockheed- Martin Aeronautics for the last 15 years of my civilian career.) If we are getting paid we will do a lot of things including studies of strange flying machines. It can be fun to explore ideas that push boundaries. Lots of times the Military asks industry if an oddball concept is even marginally. I know LM Skunkworks does studies like this on company money with hopes of future business.

    I have seen the 747 concept somewhere but the CL-1201 is a new one to me.

  4. As a mechanical product development engineer type who typically worked independently on special projects, I’d often get called into meetings to discuss someone’s next gen concept. Now, no ideas early on in brainstorming sessions are “bad”, per se, we discuss what has merit and toss out what isn’t practical. This process inevitably led to better designs and good problem solving.

    Then marketing would would get involved. Often I’d patiently sit there (no arrogance, I swear), and while the other engineers were wracking their brains trying to figure out how to make the new concept workable, I finally chime in and tell them “No”.

    An engineer will kill himself (herself, we’re all-inclusive here) and the project trying to get that last 5% “just so” to execute even bad ideas. Forest for the trees…like most disciplines gotta step back once in a while, pick your head up, and look around.

    • If the monstrously huge Lockheed nuclear-powered airplane flies, I personally wouldn’t want it to fly over or anywhere near me…

  5. You don’t have real flying aircraft carriers until you have the ones they show in the Avengers movies, helicarriers, that look essentially like Navy carries with four jet engine pods on them to lift them airborne.

    It takes more than nuclear power, it takes imagination.

    On a more serious note, I’ve long said that if you have some problem you can’t solve and really want a solution for, get a room full of engineers in one place, put a big pot of cash on the table and say, “first one to demonstrate a working solution gets the megabucks.”

    Like the Ansari X-Prize for the first vehicle able to fly three people to space (above 100 km) and repeat that in two weeks with no major changes. (had to be < 10% body mass) The bad part is the award was won by Burt Rutan/Paul Allen and the design is basically flying now as Virgin Galactic's VSS Unity. Which has never flown twice in two weeks.

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