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The Military Technology

Air Force Uses Falcons To Protect Falcons 148

Posted by CmdrTaco
from the april-already dept.
coondoggie writes "Birds and high-performance jet aircraft don't mix. So at a base in Germany, the Air Force is fighting birds with birds — specifically trained falcons that patrol the base and help eliminate at least some of the feathered threat to the F-16 Fighting Falcons and other aircraft."
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Air Force Uses Falcons To Protect Falcons

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  • Yea...not about the Air Force using F-16s to attack poachers...

    • besides, nobody even calls F-16s "Falcons" except the media. To the people that matter (the drivers), the planes have always been "Viper".
      • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

        by Briden (1003105)

        i think they are called "pilots" actually.

        • by idontgno (624372)

          The drivers call the airplanes "pilots?"

          Now I'm really confused.

        • That is not what the pilots call themselves.
        • i think they are called "pilots" actually.

          Actually, as a tongue in cheek thing, most pilots refer to other pilots as "drivers", as in "What equipment do you drive?"

          (Equipment is an informal industry term for the type of aircraft. (Type is a formal industry term for the make and model of aircraft (Type is based on certificate, not marketing make & model. (I always get lost with nested brackets.))))

        • by jgtg32a (1173373)
          Unless they are Navy in which case they are Aviators
      • To the people that matter (the drivers)

        So that's why it's the crew chief's name that gets painted on the side, huh...

  • by WatcherXP (658784) on Thursday August 26, 2010 @11:54AM (#33382680)

    Wow, decades old news on the front page of slashdot

    • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday August 26, 2010 @12:07PM (#33382882)

      Yes, this is standard procedure in a lot of civil airports. I saw it in Jose Newbery city airport in Buenos Aires.

    • by causality (777677)

      Wow, decades old news on the front page of slashdot

      I ask this as someone who knows next to nothing about jet engines and nothing at all about the precise kind of airflow they require for their intake. Having said that ... how difficult would it be to design some kind of screen or grating to protect the intake vents of an engine so that birds could not get sucked into the engine and damage it? Once such a design is perfected it could become standard equipment and the cost would probably be negligible compared to what is already paid to design and manufactu

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by Anonymous Coward

        The problem is split between an aerodynamic issue and a much simpler physics issue.

        The physics issue is that at landing the F-16 is going somewhere between 120-170 knots (aprox. 120-200 MPH), and it would take an awfull thick grate to keep birds out of the intakes at those speeds. The delta-v (difference in speed... ugg, my physics teacher would kill me for that) is so large that even a lightweight bird is going to go through anything you could describe as a screen.

        The aerodynamic issue is that if you put t

        • by couchslug (175151) on Thursday August 26, 2010 @02:48PM (#33384860)

          (I'm a former F-16 A/B/C/D engine weenie/crew chief.)

          Maintenance issue:

          Screen must be opened and closed to inspect intake and fan stage during preflight. thruflight, and postflight inspections.
          Hardware and latches would be subject to wear, screen subject to fatigue cracking, and either could dump parts downstream into the engine resulting in engine damage and loss of aircraft. That's why screens used for ground runs are inspected before and after use, and their installation and removal entered in the aircraft maintenance documentation.

          Weight issue:
          Every pound matters in terms of performance and fuel mileage. When you hang parts on a fighter airframe, they affect Weight and Balance calculations, place stress on their attach points, and can create host of problems anticipated or otherwise.

          While the concept isn't suitable to jets, helicopters are suitable for mechanical intake Foreign Object Damage mitigation systems such as EAPS:

          http://www.chinook-helicopter.com/chinook/eaps1.html [chinook-helicopter.com]

      • by idontgno (624372) on Thursday August 26, 2010 @12:47PM (#33383344) Journal

        how difficult would it be to design some kind of screen or grating to protect the intake vents of an engine

        Here is pretty much the canonical list of outcomes:

        • Bird hits screen, both bird and screen go into the engine. Similar to status quo, except now there are solid metal or composite bits among the turbine blades.
        • Bird hits screen, splats. Engine stalls because of sudden disruption in intake airflow. For an F-16, this is a problem, 'cuz it's single-engine. (In the course of my military career, I've heard the Viper jokingly referred to as the Lawn Dart for that very reason.)
        • Bird never hits screen, but engine performance is continuously degraded because of the screen's affect on airflow and intake pressure. Requires serious redesign in order to compensate for a deliberate design decision based on flight-of-safety considerations. Never mind that having less available power and (perhaps) elevated stall susceptibility is a combat-safety issue (i.e., your hazard level in combat is directly related to the performance superiority of your aircraft over your adversary).
        • Bird never hits screen, miraculous design work restores full combat specification performance to your warplane, bird hits canopy and knocks out the pilot; unguided plane flies into terrain.

        Not everything on that applies to all aircraft, but in general I don't think there's a screen material in the world that would stop birds from engine ingestion (including chunks of bird sucked through a screen) while allowing adequate airflow in a high-performance, high-bypass jet engine. And then that still leaves fuselage, canopy, wing, and empennage birdstrikes.

      • by gnieboer (1272482) on Thursday August 26, 2010 @12:51PM (#33383386)

        At the speeds of a jet fighter (and even at the speeds of a slow prop transport), an average goose will penetrate the leading edge of the wing, destroy the bleed air duct (also metal) underneath, tear up the wiring, and sometimes damage the next layer of structure.

        Look at the first stage fan blades in an engine next time you're boarding an aircraft (they are ones in front you can see). Those are the biggest, toughest, blades in the engine. They basically are strong enough to pull the entire aircraft forward. When a big fat bird hits one, they bend and break.

        Now, the newest/biggest commercial engines have a remarkable ability to absorb birds without a problem, but the more 'finicky' engines on fighter jets are much more susceptable, and of course if you've only got one engine... that's a big deal.

        So my point in describing the impact power that a bird has is to illustrate that for a 'screen' to be strong enough to stop a bird would also completely block any airflow, and those engines are HUGE vacuum cleaners, and if that airflow slows too much, something called a 'compressor stall' happens, and that's generally bad and scares the crap out of the passengers (flames shoot out of the back end of the engine, etc)

      • by GooberToo (74388)

        Having said that ... how difficult would it be to design some kind of screen or grating to protect the intake vents of an engine so that birds could not get sucked into the engine and damage it?

        Jet engines consume vast quantities of air. They are giant vacuum cleaners. [youtube.com] Placing an obstruction directly in front of and engine which consumes vast quantities of air is counter productive as it drastically reduces available power.

        Take off and landing is the most dangerous phase of a flight. This is typically when engines are required to produce maximum power. So limiting air only during these phases of flight, when they are most likely to strike a bird, in of itself brings with it additional dangers.

        If y

      • by rhekman (231312)
        Yes, while probably not insurmountable, it would be horribly impractical to design a modern turbojet or turbofan engine that would "screen" birds and other foreign object debris (FOD).

        You have to remember the intake flow to one of these engines is traveling at or near supersonic speeds. Any grate or screening device capable of blocking or diverting damaging material would have a severe negative impact on the performance and fuel efficiency of the engine.

        That being said, considerable research and deve
      • Either the screen isn't strong enough and breaks off, going into the engine, or the bird isn't strong enough, and you get 6 pounds of diced bird going into the engine. Neither is an improvement.
    • by osjedi (9084)

      Yep...
      I have a personal acquaintance who's a falconer. He's had a bird abatement contract with the USAF since I first met him 16 years ago.

    • First published on slashdot in June of 1983

  • by Drakkenmensch (1255800) on Thursday August 26, 2010 @11:57AM (#33382710)
    Eagles to protect eagles? Awesome! Raptors to protect raptors? KICKASS! Warhogs to protect wart... wait.
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by JeanBaptiste (537955)

      wait till you find out how they protect Nimrods.

    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by gstoddart (321705)

      Warhogs to protect wart... wait.

      Ah, but the A-10 doesn't need any protection -- it's like Chuck Norris.

      • by timeOday (582209)
        Too true! 1 [birdstrikenews.com] 2 [youtube.com]
        • Re:What's next? (Score:4, Interesting)

          by gstoddart (321705) on Thursday August 26, 2010 @12:11PM (#33382912) Homepage

          Too true! 1 [birdstrikenews.com] 2 [youtube.com]

          A-10's have been documented to come home and land while they have gaping holes in most of the control surfaces, leaking hydraulic fluid,running on one engine, and god knows what else.

          It's one of the most survivable aircraft I've ever heard of, and specifically built to protect the hell out of the pilot in that nearly indestructible tub.

          And, it's got the scariest tank-busting gun on the planet.

          All in all, for me, the coolest aircraft ever.

          • by Coren22 (1625475)

            I have heard, but never actually witnessed, doesn't that tank buster gun actually cause a very noticeable drop in airspeed too?

            • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

              by gstoddart (321705)

              I have heard, but never actually witnessed, doesn't that tank buster gun actually cause a very noticeable drop in airspeed too?

              That's my understanding.

              According to Wiki [wikipedia.org]:

              The recoil force of the GAU-8/A is 10,000 pounds-force (45 kN), which is slightly more than the output of one of the A-10's two TF34 engines (9,065 lbf / 40.3 kN each). While this recoil force is significant, in practice cannon fire only slows the aircraft a few miles per hour.

              When your gun's recoil is more than the force of one of your engi

              • by mangu (126918) on Thursday August 26, 2010 @12:37PM (#33383178)

                When your gun's recoil is more than the force of one of your engines ... that's an impressive gun.

                So, why don't they mount the gun backwards? The pilot could aim through a rear facing camera.

                • by gstoddart (321705)

                  So, why don't they mount the gun backwards? The pilot could aim through a rear facing camera.

                  Ummm ... because the A-10 doesn't run away from trouble, it heads straight towards it and kills it. That's its job -- when it's shooting at you, it's coming straight for you.

                  It's built to do close air support, and crush anybody who is shooting at your people on the ground.

                  I suspect a rear-facing gun would significantly reduce it's 80% accuracy rate. This thing is literally built to be a tank buster.

                • More pew-pew == more zoom-zoom!

            • Re:What's next? (Score:5, Informative)

              by drinkypoo (153816) <martin.espinoza@gmail.com> on Thursday August 26, 2010 @12:48PM (#33383354) Homepage Journal

              They halved the rate of fire of the General Electric GAU-8 (around which the A-10 is designed) in order to mitigate this problem. It turns out that you don't really need over 3,000 rounds per minute to saw tanks in half with a mix of lead and DPU.

          • Re:What's next? (Score:4, Interesting)

            by GooberToo (74388) on Thursday August 26, 2010 @01:30PM (#33383846)

            It's one of the most survivable aircraft I've ever heard of

            Check out of some the stories and images from WWII. The amount of damage many of those planes received and yet still managed to some how seems impossible. Pilots landing bailing wire and bubble gum on their last breath so they could save their crew don't seem very strained once you start digging. ...and far too many belly gunners crushed...

            • by gstoddart (321705)

              Check out of some the stories and images from WWII. The amount of damage many of those planes received and yet still managed to some how seems impossible.

              Oh, I wouldn't want to detract from what those people did. I attribute that largely to sheer tenacity and balls (and in some cases, a little bit of luck probably helped). I credit the people more so than the equipment.

              However, the A-10 was built from the ground up to be an aircraft with maximum survivability. The 1200lb tub that encompasses the cockpit a

              • Re:What's next? (Score:4, Insightful)

                by GooberToo (74388) on Thursday August 26, 2010 @01:51PM (#33384102)

                I credit the people more so than the equipment.

                Not to diminish their contribution, but you are mis-attributing a lot. The A-10 is widely considered to be far less survivable than many WWI aircraft. In fact, most all of the survivability features you attribute to the A-10 came directly from common WWII ally aircraft attributes. One of the reasons why WWII aircraft are more survivable is they didn't use extremely fragile turbines.

                Historically, WWII is the apex of aircraft survivability because of our transition to jets and then again with fly by wire and hydraulics. When a new ground attack vehicle was required (aka, the A-10), they looked back in time to re-learn what made an aircraft highly survivable. And when they looked back, they almost exclusively looked at WWII aircraft. Almost all of the survivability features in the A-10 are simply re-imaginings and modernizations of WWII ideas and technology.

                I can authoritatively tell you, there has yet to be an A-10 come home in anywhere near as bad of shape as many ally bombers did. Events like this, while not daily fair, were not all that uncommon. [youtube.com]

                • by gstoddart (321705)

                  Not to diminish their contribution, but you are mis-attributing a lot. The A-10 is widely considered to be far less survivable than many WWI aircraft.

                  Then I will defer to your knowledge on this point.

                  I've merely assumed the A-10 was using a lot more modern/better techniques. If the WWII planes were that rugged, I'm truly impressed.

                • Re:What's next? (Score:4, Interesting)

                  by timeOday (582209) on Thursday August 26, 2010 @02:35PM (#33384650)
                  Keep in mind, though, a fantastic number of aircraft did not make it home from WWI/WWII. In an situation involving millions of people, unlikely events (like landing a trashed plane) happen all the time. WWI aircraft might have been survivable against the puny ground threats of the time, but they had nothing like the titanium bathtub. They didn't even have parachutes! [usaww1.com] Quote: "World War I fighter pilots had a typical life expectancy of several weeks while flying in combat. Several weeks. Not much at all. In terms of flying hours, a combat pilot could count on 40 to 60 hours before being killed." Doesn't your definition of survivability include actually surviving?
                  • by GooberToo (74388)

                    Doesn't your definition of survivability include actually surviving?

                    Of course it does. The reason pilots survived as long as they did is because of those survivability features built into ally aircraft. Those pilots will tell you as much. Its a well documented fact of history. Many axis aircraft has no such features and as such, had almost no aces by the end of the war.

                    Its not that our aces were invincible or unhitable...its that their aircraft allowed them to remain flying DESPITE taking devastating hits. Hits that would have simply put an end to the fight right then and t

                  • by GooberToo (74388)

                    WWI aircraft might have been survivable against the puny ground threats of the time

                    Meant to say this in the other message. You're being most disingenuous. Those "puny ground threats", are demonstratively far more lethal against the A-10 then they were against most WWII combat aircraft. This is one of the primary reasons why A-10s are not allowed into areas with heavy AAA coverage.

      • To paraphrase Twain: Outside of a dog, an A-10 Warthog is a grunt's best friend. Inside a dog, you have other things to worry about.

    • by BitZtream (692029)

      Too bad you don't realize that both Falcons and Eagles are raptors, as are every other bird of pray ... considering raptor means 'bird of pray'.

      Stop watching Jurassic Park and thinking it uses proper terminology.

      • Or he needs to watch Jurassic Park more intently, because Dr Grant says it within the first 20 minutes of the film, when he's describing how the velociraptor skeleton has more similarities with birds than reptiles. He says, "The word Raptor even means, bird of pray".

        Just sayin'

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by TooMuchToDo (882796)

      Warthogs? You mean a puma, right? No such thing as warthogs.

      • Pumas and Panthers are the same thing. A Warthog is something entirely different.
        • *WOOOOSH*

          http://en.wikiquote.org/wiki/Red_vs_Blue [wikiquote.org]

          Sarge: May I introduce, our new Light-Reconnaissance vehicle. (Rotating around the new jeep) It has 4-inch Armor Plating; M.A.G Bumper Suspension; a mounted machine gunner position, and total seating for three. Gentlemen! This is the M12 LRV! I like to call it the 'Warthog'.
          Simmons: Why 'Warthog,' Sir?
          Sarge: Because 'M12 LRV' is too hard to say in conversation, son.
          Grif: No, but, why 'Warthog'? I mean, it doesn't really look like a pig...
          Sarge: Say that again?
          Grif: I think it looks more like a Puma.
          Sarge: What in Sam Hell is a 'Puma'?
          Simmons: Uhh, you mean like the shoe company?
          Grif: No. Like a Puma. It's a big cat, it's like a lion.
          Sarge: You're making that up.
          Grif: I'm telling you, it's a real animal.
          Sarge: Simmons, I want you to poison Grif's next meal.
          Simmons: Yes sir!
          Sarge: Look, see these two tow hooks? They look like tusks, and what kind of animal has tusks?
          Grif: A walrus.
          Sarge: Didn't I just tell you to stop making up animals?!

    • Nothing new. At one point the USAAF tried to use Flying Fortresses [wikipedia.org] to protect Flying Fortresses.

    • by Americano (920576)

      Warhogs to protect wart... wait.

      That'll happen when pigs fly!

      (ba-zing!)

  • Old Trick (Score:4, Informative)

    by rotide (1015173) on Thursday August 26, 2010 @11:57AM (#33382716)
    Nothing new. Even at JFK they tested this nearly a decade ago: http://www.cartome.org/jfk-strike.htm [cartome.org] JFK and other airports may still be using trained Birds of Prey to scare off feed species.
  • old practice (Score:4, Informative)

    by YrWrstNtmr (564987) on Thursday August 26, 2010 @11:57AM (#33382718)
    This practice is at least 30 yrs old. USAF bases in England were doing this in the mid 70's. If I could be bothered to look, there are probably references much earlier than that.
    • Re:old practice (Score:5, Informative)

      by pushing-robot (1037830) on Thursday August 26, 2010 @12:02PM (#33382802)

      According to a NASA review of the subject, falconry for bird control at airports dates back to the 1940s.

      I must say this article amused me; I mean, /. regularly gives us "news" from two or three years ago... but seventy?

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by timeOday (582209)
        So, what are the limitations of this approach? Why are bird strikes still a problem?
      • by sarysa (1089739)
        To be fair, the mainstream media often picks up /. stories months later. It's amusing to see CNN headline an old /. story on a slow news day.
    • The Leyland Brothers did a documentary on this very subject in the mid 70's or early 80's... Falcons and Hawks are taken from the nest at birth to be trained for bird control at aiports...... and this is AUSTRALIA we are talking about here... australia in the mid 70's = the USA in the late 80's :)
  • by i.r.id10t (595143) on Thursday August 26, 2010 @11:57AM (#33382720)

    Nothing new, airports have been doing this and similar for a long time.

  • by t35t0r (751958) on Thursday August 26, 2010 @11:57AM (#33382726)

    Yo dawg, I heard you like falcons, so I got you this falcon so you can use your falcons while you use your falcons!

  • The montreal airport also does that, nothing new here.
    see :http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2003/03/0325_030325_falconry.html

  • by santax (1541065) on Thursday August 26, 2010 @12:01PM (#33382782)
    So you have an airstrip full of sidewinder maverick armed planes and you use this... That's pretty boring, albeit cheaper.
  • it 30 yrs old practice
  • by Anonymous Coward

    They bring in some falcon-eating gorillas. And in the winter the gorillas simply freeze to death.

  • I also heard they are using weasels to keep the lawyers away.

    • Unfortunately, that doesn't work because lawyers are a top-level predator. They can only be controlled by being socialized to periodically engage in elaborate combat rituals, establishing a social structure of artificial dominance. The rest of the time they just lounge around drinking scotch and licking themselves. Really they're mostly harmless as long as you don't taunt them with political arguments.

    • by _Sprocket_ (42527)

      Sadly, the F-4G Wild Weasel was retired and hasn't been flying over Spangdahlem for years.

  • Not new (Score:4, Interesting)

    by jddimarco (1754954) on Thursday August 26, 2010 @12:06PM (#33382854)
    In the mid-1980s, I worked for a few months beside a guy whose hobby was falconry; he told me at the time that he had been employed by the Toronto Airport to use his falcon to help reduce the number of seagulls near the airport.
  • The base's CO hates toy poodles.

  • by plcurechax (247883) on Thursday August 26, 2010 @12:29PM (#33383096) Homepage

    Wow, a story about airplanes and airports from Network World, perhaps that should of been a huge clue that it wasn't really news, novel, or particularly interesting.

    And the RCAF or Canadian Air Force routinely uses them as well for their airplanes as well.

  • otherwise, I might have gone my whole life without seeing an RSS feed ad for Mike's Falconry Supplies!
    Next time, on The Falconer!
  • I hear that The Audubon Society [audubon.org] is using F-16's to protect Falcons in the mid-west - yikes!
  • Nothing to see here (Score:2, Informative)

    by carvell (764574)

    Standard passenger airports in the UK have used birds of prey for this purpose for decades...

    I'm sure the same is probably true for airports all over the world.

  • fuck the planet, as much as you can, while you still have time. its not like you will have to pay for it anyway ....... or ....
  • Yo dawg we herd u like falcons...

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