Saturday, 18 February 2012

National Debt

As you saw the news in the middle of 2011 about the US Government being in debt, you wonder why this is the case when you thought that they are one of the richest governments in the world.

Well lets break it down.

The US Government has bills to pay like defence, education, welfare, health, infrastructure, etc. The US Government's yearly income is about $2 trillion while the bills are about $4 trillion a year. It is an expensive world out there as the war in Afghanistan now costs $300 million a day according to the Pentagon while the 2012 Iraq and Afghanistan wars together will cost $118 billion which the Pentagon had to get from the Government. The amount of student loans in the US that have not been repayed had reached $800 billion.

How does the US Government fill this $2 trillion gap? It borrows money from other countries. The US is in a $15 trillion debt and out of that debt, over $798.9 billion of it is from China. The US not only has to pay back the loan but also needs back interest.

Interest is the cost of using the lender's money or as compensation for using the money. Why have interest when the lender gets back the money anyways? Interest rates helps the borrower make profit from lending money. It is to help the lender through uncertain times as the economy is like a rollercoaster. For example - a lender lent $10000 now while the economy is in good shape and the currency value is high. But when the lender gets his money back a year later and the economy went down along with the currency, who is the loser? The lender, as the money it gets back is worth less than a year before. IE - The $10000 repayed buys alot less than the $10000 could buy before. So the borrower in this situation becomes the winner as he took advantage of it by borrowing the money at the right time. So in this situation, that is where interest rates come in to make it a win-win situation for both the borrower and lender.

So how does the US Government pay back it's debt? There are two options - cut spending or raise taxes. If the Government cuts spending, then the people that the money is spent on will complain that they don't have enough money to spend, eg - teachers, defence service members, etc. This is also called austerity which is a big topic in the European Union with debt among Greece, Ireland, Portugal, Spain and Cyprus.

If the Government tried to raise taxes, people will complain that they don't have enough money to spend on as prices go up and income goes down further due to increased income tax.

In the middle of 2011, Obama increased the debt ceiling so he could borrow more money. Greece is in a debt of 500 billion and had seeked bailouts while the UK had reached a debt of £1 trillion.

When countries are in debt and are in a growing crisis, they seek help for bailouts like European countries have been doing. They have been wanting the European Union to bail them out by paying the debts for them with the hope that they will repay the European Union in the future. As of mid 2012, Cyprus has asked for help joining Ireland, Portugal, Greece and Spain.

Valentines Day

Here is a fact about Valentines Day that few people know about.

On Valentines Day 1969 in South Vietnam, Chuck Mawhinney and his spotter were on patrol and spotted Viet Cong insurgents across a river. Knowing that there were multiple insurgents, he swapped his M40 sniper with his spotter's M14 rifle with an early infrared scope. The insurgents were seen trying to cross the river while holding their AK-47s over their heads. Knowing that they will get to US forces after crossing the river, Mawhinney had to take action.

By using his fast semi automatic M14, he fired 16 rounds and killed 16 Viet Cong insurgents (all headshots). He started to take heavy fire as he forgot the rule never firing his rifle twice or more in the same area. Mawhinney escaped and lived to tell the tale.

Saturday, 4 February 2012

F-14 Tomcat

The F-14 Tomcat developed by Grumman is a two seated interceptor designed to go Mach 2 with swept wings. It's two F110 engines give it the ultimate thrust. The front pilot flies the plane and does all the dogfighting while the second pilot is a RIO (Radar interceptor officer). The Tomcat has variable-sweep wings which sweeps forward during takeoff and landing. The wings sweep back during flight to be able to travel over Mach 2.

During the 1950s and 1960s, the US Navy saw threats of supersonic missiles and fighters from the USSR. The US Navy wanted a fighter jet that could intercept and eliminate the threats. For this, a high speed fighter was developed for both the Navy and Air Force which is the F-111. The US Air Force had the F-111A while the Navy had the F-111B. The Air Force liked the fighter as their land based version provided a fast heavy payload capability. The Navy however did not like it as it was too big and too heavy. The F-111B was 20,000 IB heavier than the requirement. The reason of the dislike is that if it's too big, it took up space and if it was too heavy, it runs the risk of not making it off the flight deck and fall into the sea rather than take off. This problem was unsolved as General Dynamics (F-111 developers) had no experience in creating carrier borne fighter jets.

At the very end of the Vietnam War, Grumman's F-14 replaced the F-111B. Over it's course of history, it scored five air to air kills while in service with the US Navy. The F-14 scored it's first kills in 1981 during the Gulf of Sidra incident where two F-14s from USS Nimitz engaged and shot down two Libyan Su-22s. Libya extended it's economic exclusion zone further which prompted the call for the US Navy to deploy and show the freedom of navigation. In 1989, two F-14s from the USS John F Kennedy shot down two Libyan MiG-23s. There were reports of Libya having chemical weapons that led to the USS John F Kennedy being deployed. It scored it's final kill in the Gulf War when an F-14 shot down an Iraqi Mi-8 Helicopter.

Iran is the only foreign operator of the F-14 Tomcat. The Shah of Iran wanted new fighter jets as Soviet planes constantly crossed into Iranian airspace without permission. The US offered Iran either the F-15 or the F-14. The Shah was invited to the US to see the fighter jets demonstrate. The F-15 only flew basic maneuvers while the F-14 did a whole set of maneuvers stunts and a touch and go landing. This impressed the Shah and this made him choose the F-14. Another reason why the F-14 was chosen was because the F-15 at the time had engine problems. The Iranians were granted access to classified technology of the F-14 which meant that Iranian F-14s were equal to US Navy F-14s. After the Islamic revolution in Iran, the Shah was overthrown and relations between Iran and the US broke. The US had cut off it's support for Iran's F-14 leaving them to struggle in terms of maintenance. Today, the Iranians still use the F-14 with the help of Russian engineers.

F-14 Tomcats had gone a long way since it's introduction. The F-14B was designed to bomb enemy targets which gained them the nickname - Bombcat. The F-14D is equiped with IRST (Infra Red Search and Track). The F-14 carries a variety of weapons like the Aim-9 Sidewinder, the M61 Vulcan cannon and the Aim-7 Sparrow. The Tomcat is well known for it's capability to carry Aim-54 Phoenix missiles. It can carry up to eight Phoenix missiles. The Aim-54 is a heavy long range missile that can travel at Mach 5. The Aim-54 proved itself worthy when the US Navy had an F-14 to shoot down eight mock air targets and had exceptional results with all targets hit but one (missile glitch).

In 2006, the F-14 was retired and replaced by the F/A-18E/F Super Hornet. Out of the 800 F-14s in the US Navy, over 100 were donated to museums and over 100 of the newest Tomcats were being mothballed in a boneyard. The rest were being scrapped with the fuselages being melted and recycled into making new cars, etc. So don't be surprised if your new car has pieces of metal that went at speeds of Mach 2 defending the interests of the United States. All the avionics and computers had been checked, accounted for and stored away making sure that it does not end up in the wrong hands like Iran.