Magazine article National Defense

Readers Forum

Magazine article National Defense

Readers Forum

Article excerpt


Fuze Industry Concerns

The President's Perspective issue (June 2001, p.4) of National Defense struck me, because fuzes have been an important part of my engineering career since 1947. In 1952-1953, I participated in a study concerning the high failure-rate of M-505 mechanical time fuzes under combat conditions. In 1962-1963, I contributed to the design of the M-223 impact fuze for the M-42 DPICM grenade. In 1978-1979, I was part of a Government study to address the state of the fuze base of the new Electronic Time Super-Quick fuzes. In 1983-1984, my employment by a missile warhead house allowed me contact with the fuze-makers of Switzerland (e.g. Patvag and Tavaro). And, as recently as 1993, 1 consulted with an electronics house that wished to enter the ET fuze business - without success, I might add. This overall period was marked by two important situations.

First, fuze designers were presented with ever increasing stringent safety and operational requirements in the military standard for fuzes. As with so many fields, a single incident involving death or injury generated a drive to eliminate all safety hazards. We strove to make the fuzes "fool-proof," but failed to make them "soldier-proof," and ended up (occasionally) making them "function-proof".

Second, the fuze industry, as it was prior to 1975, was almost entirely an offset of the horological industries, especially regarding the mechanical out-of-line safe timers and the mechanical time air-burst fuzes for artillery. We all know what happened to that parent industrial base after the introduction of digital time-keepers pieces. By 1979, I was able, therefore, to ask about the MT fuze manufacturing capabilities, "What fuze base?"

One approach to solving the problem stems from the insensitive munitions initiative: Make the active elements so "safe" that electronic safety can be proved adequate to meet the properly stringent requirements imposed on initiating systems, thus rendering "dual out-of-line" safety and mechanical timers unnecessary. We grow closer to this goal, but the disappearance of skilled watchmakers and their like is matched by a disappearance of engineers at all levels who are motivated to exercise their skill in this arena. Instead, we have a plethora of managers who understand 11 cost-benefit ratio" and "bottom-line," but who (in my experience) are illadvised as to the feasibility of some of the costly features they so glibly promote.

And so I ask, again: "What fuze base?" Little has truly changed in the 22 years that have passed since I originated the question.

W.L. Kincheloe


Skewed Historical Perspective

David LL. Silbergeld makes a valid point (Bookshelf, April 2001, p.57). Many book titles covering events of World War II seem to be repetitive gimmicks to gain market snare. However, it is speculation whether the Germans could have changed the outcome of World War II by making minor changes in their thinking. Those changes would have been met with Allied command counter-measures. In fact, Germany never had a chance to win the war in view of the 50 to one overwhelmingly combined resources of the British Empire, the United States and the Soviet Union.

Furthermore, Silbergeld respectively has an obligation to know by virtue of his professional credentials (and assuming that he has no personal agenda) that Daniel Jonah Goldhagen's book represents nothing but junk-science that has been refuted by several reputable historians in this country and abroad. Goldhagen's politically fashionable junk-thesis follows the same pattern. Its regrettable that such a review found its way into National Defense. …

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