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The Battle of Palmdale (wikipedia.org)
60 points by x43b on July 17, 2016 | hide | past | favorite | 13 comments

Embarrassing. I can imagine the "Benny Hill" theme playing during this whole event. It sounds like a massive fuck-up by multiple parties, particularly whoever made that missile system and the drone control hardware. I wonder how many billions of dollars of taxpayer money was spent to acquire those cutting-edge weapons systems, only to be defeated by a busted dummy target.

Interesting how this event in the 1950's presages the failures of missiles-only fighters in Vietnam and the eventual return of guns as standard equipment.

A cutting-edge weapons system is almost by definition one which hasn't been adequately tested in live conditions...

I'm surprised no-one tried to flip the drone with his wings, as Spitfires did to V-1 bombs in WWII: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/V-1_flying_bomb#Interceptors

The drone was flying in a continuous turn, so matching position, rate of turn, speed, and wing position simultaneously is probably an overconstrained problem.

That is a very dangerous maneuver. No pilot would consider contacting another aircraft in flight, especially not one of similar size/strength. It is just to risky. Looking at the dihedral of the drone's wing, it would take a massive force to tip it out of control. This was not a war and this was not a tiny drone aimed at a city. I doubt ramming or any other similar maneuver was even considered.

I agree that such a maneuver would be too risky, but note that the maneuver in question didn't involve any physical contact, it was purely an aerodynamic thing.

> The attackers attempted to fire in automatic mode several times, but due to a design flaw in the fire control system the rockets failed to launch.

I'm really curious about this design flaw. Has anyone read the book the page cites ("X Plane Crashes") that can fill in more detail?

Most of actual firing seemed to happen over what is now the city of Santa Clarita. The "Bermite" mentioned in the wiki made munitions during WWII, and was still making rocket fuel when I was kid in the late 80's. Catching that on fire would have been bad news.

Grew up in the area, and never heard about this story. Surreal reading about all the places and streets I know, imagining this happening.

How was the drone controlled? Even without control signals, it was able to stay airborne for a long time, while also changing direction.

Airplanes tend to be stable with no control inputs. Planes flying long distances without a pilot or other control inputs are somewhat common, as these things go. Here's a famous example:


Usually by radio with the assistance of some standard autopilot features like gyroscopic stabilization.

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