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Thursday, November 17, 2022

Towards Fusion-Nuclear Military Aircraft

As mentioned, not a new thing.


Alex Hollings | October 25, 2022

Back in 2018, Lockheed Martin filed a patent for something it called a “plasma confinement system” — a device small enough to fit inside the fuselage of an F-16 Fighting Falcon that is capable of managing internal temperatures 10 times hotter than the center of the sun.

This scalable device was designed to play a vital role in containing an approach to power production that some still consider science fiction: nuclear fusion. Now, recent advancements in the field are making fusion power look not just possible, but potentially even feasible. In the coming years, fusion could not only change everything about the way the world fights wars… it could even change the way humanity approaches conflict itself.

And it all might start within the shadowy confines of the Pentagon’s black budget.

Related: Why does the media report on secretive defense programs?

Nuclear aircraft aren’t a new concept

An air-to-air view of the Convair NB-36H experimental aircraft (s/n 51-5712) and a Boeing B-50 Superfortress chase plane during research and development taking place at the Convair plant at Forth Worth, Texas. (U.S. Air Force Photo)

As soon as mankind realized it could produce huge amounts of power by splitting the atom, efforts began to incorporate this new concept into just about everything, including airplanes. Using just a small bit of fuel, nuclear power could allow fighters, bombers, or reconnaissance platforms to stay airborne practically indefinitely. But despite several programs aimed at fielding such an aircraft propulsion system, atom-splitting fission reactors simply offered greater risk than reward when hurtling through the air at 50,000 feet.

Fission efforts did find a useful home in naval applications, with programs leading to today’s nuclear-powered submarines and supercarriers. But aviation efforts like Project Pluto’s nuclear-powered SLAM missile or Convair’s NB-36 nuclear-powered bomber, on the other hand, now come off as a bit crazy.

Nuclear ramjet from Project Pluto

Project Pluton’s Slam missile could have flown for thousands of miles, dropping hydrogen bombs and spewing radiation all along the way while producing such an intense amount of noise that scientists working on the program believed the soundwaves alone would kill anyone the missile passed over. The NB-36 could also stay airborne practically indefinitely to serve as an ongoing nuclear deterrent… but any crash or mishap could have led to an environmental disaster.

Today, the only publicly disclosed program, of any nation, aimed at fielding a fission-powered airborne platform is Russia’s 9M730 Burevestnik, or Skyfall missile. Despite a great deal of hype, however, it seems no closer to fruition today than when it was announced in 2018. And as if to prove the inherent danger of this enterprise, five scientists from the Russian Federal Nuclear Center were killed in 2019 in a mishap that was reportedly related to the ongoing effort.  ...  " 

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