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Thursday, September 04, 2008

Get a free Game CD from

Free Zapak Game CD

Zapak Gaming, owned by the Ambani is giving away free CDs of their newest online game game – some racing game it appears. Go ahead and order your copy. Will reach your place in 10-15 days [so they say]. Offer valid only in India.

Thanks Manish.



P.S.: If you have subscribed to my blog’s feeds and find that it is occasionally re-sending you some old, already received posts, then please do let me know. Though I am not sure what is causing it, I would try to figure it out.

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

F-35 Joint Strike Fighter: Manufacturing 03 – The Digital Thread

Previous parts – Part 1, Part 2

The Digital Trail

CFD model of the F-35 Joint Strike fighter

The need to be provided with easily comprehended, accurate data in a timely manner is of absolute imperative when on a developmental pursuit of the magnitude of the Joint Strike Fighter [JSF] program. The scale of operation of the Joint Strike Fighter program is such that it is bound to generate a gargantuan amount of data that needs to be accessed by hundreds of concerned individuals situated in disparate geographical locations.

Equally important is the fact that this data must be accessed in a manner that is easily comprehended by the seeker and it must leave no room for misinterpretation that could possibly result in costly losses. Any change in the value or nature of the data must be reflected accurately and instantly all across wherever that data is accessed so that it can be taken into account while taking decisions. Efficient management of the generated data and maintaining its integrity is thus of paramount importance in ensuring the success of the JSF program. Taking this end into consideration, the data management and transfer is handled by what has now come to be known as The Digital Trail.

The digital thread is in essence an interlinking arrangement where the suite of software solutions being used for the Joint Strike Fighter program have access to a common, central information database from which it can both retrieve and submit data which can then be accessed by the other softwares as and when needed by them. Data generated at each step of the developmental process in the JSF program is automatically updated into the database, that then makes it available for access by anybody who seeks the data. This digital information database ensures that any change in value of the data is duly and accurately reflected at all points of access. Thus the seeker receives up-to-date and accurate information, that enables him/her to take the appropriate decision involving that data. By linking the various softwares involved, it is possible to transfer the same generated data from one software package to another. Thus the name Digital Trail. Digitized data also ensures data integrity. This data that is generated by the design engineers would be used through the entire life-cycle of the aircraft. The goal is to reuse the original data without having to reproduce it manually that would increase the chances of errors creeping in.

The backbone of this Digital Thread is the Product Lifecycle Management [PLM] software solution deployed to handle the generated data and co-ordinate a collaborating network on a global scale. It has been estimated that the approximately 1.5 million parts aircraft has generated around 20 Terabytes of data till date and is only expected to increase with time, thus requiring a robust scalable platform. This increasing product database will have to be managed through the estimated 50 year lifecycle of the aircraft. To manage this data, the JSF team had acquired the Metaphase Enterprise Software developed by the Structural Dynamics Research Corporation [SDRC]. This has since been upgraded to the latest Teamcenter 2005 Product Lifecycle Management Software developed by the Unigraphics Corporation [which acquired SDRC and renamed the product to Teamcenter Enterprise, which has since itself been acquired by Siemens]. The Joint Strike Fighter program currently uses around 13500 licenses of the Teamcenter solution.

The objectives of the PLM software in the JSF program is even more stringent and challenging considering that it has to handle data requisition of partners from different countries. While providing them with the data round the clock 24/7, the software ensures that the data provided pertains only to that part of the program in which the partner is involved and must be in conformance with US regulatory laws like the International Traffic in Arms Regulation (ITAR) as also protection of Intellectual Property Rights [IP].

Yet another challenge the PLM software addresses is coordinating the manufacturing of the various sub-assemblies at different locations which would then be brought to the Final Assembly and Checkout [FACO] line at Forth Worth, Texas and in future Italy and UK where FACO lines are proposed to be set up. It results in quicker assembly time as they are being assembled in tandem as opposed to sequential assembly. This is a marked deviation from the earlier practice of assembling the whole aircraft from start to finish in one location. It drastically increases the number of parameters the software has to monitor and keep track of while ensuring the smooth functioning of the process. Efficient and effective interaction with the supply chain to provide the right part at the right time in the right quantity at the right location has to be effectively tackled by the PLM solution. Some of the other tasks the solution performs include managing multiple bills-of-materials, material specifications, parts catalogs, detailed product geometry created by multiple computer-aided design (CAD) systems among others.

Such requirements, when there is a large amount of overlapping of interests, demands a PLM solution that performs at the absolute best. Effective use of the PLM solution through the developmental phase of the aircraft brought about a saving of around $62 million USD. It would not be inappropriate to say that the JSF program is changing the way one would expect PLM to function and lessons learned here would find application in PLM solution deployment in other industries.

The aircraft has been designed completely in solid model using the Catia V4 and V5 packages developed by Dassault Systèmes which were run on Silicon Graphics Octane2 and Silicon Graphics Fuel workstations. Silicon Graphics Visual Workstations along with Onyx2 systems and Origin 2000 servers were used for simulation and analysis. Besides achieving an accurate, detailed representation of the aircraft to be built, this also ensured that each and every point on a designed part has been referenced accurately with respect to the other points on the part in a 3-D space. The relative positions of each and every point of the part is available in a digital format. This helps CNC-controlled machine tools to accurately orient the tool with reference to the component surface. As a result, parts can be accurately machined to extremely close tolerances using the CNC machine tools interfaced with the software. This would not have been easily achieved earlier. The high quality of machining achieved is quite effectively reflected by the fact that almost no 'traveled work' is needed on a part, i.e., a part that is manufactured and brought to the final assembly location does not need a rework at the final assembly plant before mating it with other components. This digital definition of the product will then be used through the entire lifecycle of the product – tooling, manufacturing, assembling as well as support.

Catia Netaphase Interface [CMI] developed by T-Systems

Yet another evidence of the Digital Thread and its associated benefits - the JSF team directly transfers data from its Teamcenter Enterprise product management system into CATIA and vice versa. This enables data generated by Teamcenter to be visually represented with ease in CATIA without resorting to cumbersome, time consuming, manual data transfer. This also aids the accuracy of data transferred. This seamless integration and transfer of data has been made possible using the commercially available Catia Metaphase Interface [CMI] system developed by T-Systems, which has since been customized to cater to this program.

The Virtual Product Development Initiative [VPDI] of Lockheed Martin aimed to create a complete virtual environment for designing and testing the aircraft. Its objective was to create a platform where design testing and analysis of the aircraft could be performed in a virtual environment, based on which subsequent design iterations too could be made and tested in the same environment. This would do away with the need to create a physical model to test the initial iterations and thus push the creation of the physical model right to the end when in the process of final design validation. It aimed to provide everyone involved in the product definition with the relevant information and latest version of sought data and a platform to collaborate their efforts without being hindered by the distance of their physical location.

It has acquired licenses to use Deneb Robotics Inc's simulation software to test and validate its manufacturing and maintenance process in a virtual environment before implementing it on the floor. This virtual environment is being used to simulate the different aspects of JSF design, manufacturing and support which allows the team to detect any flaws and bottlenecks in the process that can be sorted out before being actually physically set up.

By interfacing it with Catia, it achieves a seamless process of both design and process testing as the designed models can now be easily transferred from Catia into Deneb's solution and its result transferred back into Catia for action to be taken if necessary. Lockheed Martin says that this has reduced cost for production, development and support by 70% to 80% in some areas as also the total cycle time.

Some other software solutions deployed by Lockheed Martin as part of the VPDI initiative include Engineering Animation's [since renamed to Demonstratives Inc.] VisFly solution, that let its Engineers situated in geographically separated locations to collaborate with one another using virtual models in real-time. It also used the company's VisMockUp and VP/Sequence solutions to evaluate models and analyze the parts manufacturing and installation.

NGRAIN's 3-D models being used for mantainance tasks This digital thread is being tapped into for preparing an accurate, standardized training and maintenance system for the aircraft. As part of the Joint Strike Fighter's Autonomic Logistics Information Systems (“ALIS”) program, NGRAIN was awarded a contract is to provide them with a customized version of its 3-dimensional performance support solution. Using this software, any fault detection or repair work that needs to be carried out can be conveniently marked on a virtual 3-D model of the aircraft, which can then be sent over to the concerned personnel instantly for corrective action to be taken. It would be of no consequence even if the person to whom the information is being transferred to is located across the continent. Thus one would be able to completely do away with the cumbersome, time consuming and error-prone practice of filling up paper reports that 3-D model developed using NGRAIN's solution needs to be forwarded manually to achieve the same end result. This solution would be customized for installing on to portable devices carried by the aircraft maintenance personals, thus giving them easy access. Similarly, aircraft assemblers would be provided with a 3-dimensional representation of that portion of the aircraft that he would be working on along with all the necessary information neatly represented on it. This would greatly simplify the worker's understanding of the instruction, resulting in improvement of his work performance. The ALIS program is expected to reduce support cost by 20% compared to practices adopted for legacy aircrafts. Implementing the Autonomic Logistics Information Systems would also reduce training time of personnel's by 60%, thanks to the easy to understand 3-dimensional training system developed using NGRAIN's solutions.

The program has additionally deployed Visiprise's process-management and manufacture change management solutions in order to cater to the demands of the Joint Strike Fighter program.

Lockheed Martin recently awarded SAP AG to provide its ERP solution for the JSF program. This task was earlier being handled by its own custom-made Production & Inventory Optimization System (PIOS). SAP's solution would offer better integration of the ERP with the digital thread than its current system.

Even the task of painting the aircraft body would be making use of the digital thread. Using Delmia's simulation software [Delmia has since been acquired by Dassault Systèmes], CTA Inc, the system integrator appointed for the job, intends to program and simulates the paint job process of the aircraft before giving instructions to the machine. Based on aircraft geometry and plant layout, it would check for any potential obstructions in the arm's trajectory and optimize the path followed to apply an even, good quality coat of paint without wastage. The simulation would be able to take into account multiple robotic arms, use of fixtures and material handling devices that would be used in the painting process. Delmia's software suite consists of the IGRIP resource modeling and simulation software with UltraPaint option. The IGRIP is also being used to simulate the clamping and joining of drilled components in the assembly of the aircraft. The latest Catia models are made available to these simulation solutions to generate the most accurate results.

The Joint Strike fighter development program employs a host of software solution performing various tasks. By performing major tasks and operations in a virtual environment and linking the numerous softwares involved to share data among one another, the JSF program develops a truly unique platform for product development and data sharing.


PS: I am in the process of compiling my sources. Will post it as soon as I complete it.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Success has thousand fathers..err mothers too

President of India Pratibha Patil greeting Abhinav Bindra

The other day while watching telly, I had tuned in to the News channel, when they were covering Abhinav Bindra’s meeting with our Prez. Posing for the photographers, the lady [our honorable (lol!) President] held  up the medal in front of her with a silly grin plastered on the face. My first reaction – “How dare you bitch!” “Ma’am, you haven’t earned the right to hold the sacred medallion. Please do not desecrate it by touching”.

On way to the college, I see many a walls plastered with posters of sundry politicians sharing poster real estate with the country’s toast of the season. Most did not even bother to use a recent, much older looking, picture of the guy. Instead, what we see is a scared looking pre-pubescent kid being towered over by an evil-looking, stupidly grinning criminal-turned-politico on those posters.

The National Rifle Association of India holds press conferences to proudly announce how their protege has done what no other sports association [save Hockey, which is a team sport] has been able to do in 61 years of our independence. This is the same Association which has been unable to ease the import process of bullets needed by our shooters. As a result our shooters, it is known, practice with just one-third the number of bullets, their International counterparts use. It is the same Association that refused to send our shooters for extended training camps to Germany, which undoubtedly posses much better training infrastructure. Yet when it came to basking in the laurels of a victory, the Association is the first one to take credit. They very conveniently  chose to omit mentioning that the victory is a result of largely self-funded efforts. Abhinav comes from an affluent family which enabled him to pour in his own resources for his training [his folks built him his own Olympic standard shooting range for unhindered practice]. This, after the babus made him run pillar to post seeking funds and then refusing to pay anything more than a joke of an amount [SAI paid 15 lakhs, when he needed 2 crores for his new rifle, so said the TV report].

Government of states far and wide are clamoring to shower him with cash prizes for his Olympian efforts. Without grudging him even one bit of the prize money that has been announced, but the question that begs to be asked, is it of any significance to exhibit such monetary appreciation now that he is worth two crores.

This is nothing but a shameless, opportunistic, self-serving maneuver that politicians are resorting to in order to achieve their own populist ends. Where were they when Abhinav was seeking the much needed funds for his training. Why were no glittering ceremonies organized by a state to announce its support for the shooter. The answer is quite simple – no state came forward to support this shooter prior to his victory.

Would the same amount not be better spent ramping up the respective states sporting infrastructure which currently bear close resemblance to a rat hole. Why are they not using that money to fund the training of some very talented but unproven lad/lass who is sure to earn laurels for the country if properly guided. Players who in the distant past had rendered yeomen service to the country are now languishing in abject poverty [blessed are those who have passed through the pearly gates]. How about helping re-train that athlete who misses qualification/winning by 1/100th of the second – an outcome of immense talent practicing with pedestrian facilities.

These vermins care a damn about the people whose responsibility they have been entrusted with. But the moment they achieve something, they rush forward to associate themselves with them & their achievements telling anybody willing to listen how they have created a medal winner. We all like to associate ourselves with a winner – makes us feel like a winner ourselves, efforts notwithstanding.

Success has a thousand fathers…failure is an orphan.

How very true does this statement hold in our country.



Tuesday, August 19, 2008

F-35 Joint Strike Fighter: Manufacturing 02 - Lean Manufacturing

F-35 Joint Strike Fighter assembly Fort Worth, Texas


The Joint Strike Fighter's press paraphernalia describes the aircraft's manufacturing and assembly in the following manner,

“The F-35 team is employing advanced digital design tools, assembly methods and highly accurate manufacturing machines to help the aircraft achieve its goals of affordability, quality and assembly speed. New milling machines, accurate to less than the width of a human hair, ensure that the F-35’s outer shape is exact and meets its advanced, all-aspect stealth requirements. Assembly time for an F-35 is planned to be less than half that of current-generation fighters.”

Any great designs are pretty much insignificant unless you successfully manufacture it according to design and are able to use it in accordance with its stated objective. Taking this view, it would not be hard to imagine that one of the major portions of the JSF program is the actual manufacturing of the aircrafts. Manufacturing these aircrafts would require the implementation of concepts and utilization of technology which till now were either never used or even if used definitely not at the scale it would be used here. Some of the noteworthy features seen in the design and manufacture of the F-35 – The Digital trail, Lean manufacturing, Laser positioning system etc.

Manufacturing these beauties poses additional challenges because of the need to source the assemblies and sub-assemblies from contractors from quite literally different parts of the world – from the companies operating in the respective partner countries. Co-ordinating and ensuring standards and compliance among these companies having disparate work culture is no mean feat and the JSF program will have to succeed in achieving it.

Lean manufacturing

In face of ever increasing pressure towards the optimization of the process chain - maximize productivity and minimize overhead expenditure, one concept that has found approval among planners is that of Lean Manufacturing [also referred to simply as Lean].

It essentially is a philosophy, a concept of manufacturing, that seeks to reduce wasteful practices [muda, muri and mura] in the Manufacturing process and helps improve the quality of the finished product [kaizen]. This concept finds its roots in the Toyota Production System [TPS] conceptualized by Sakichi Toyoda [and later formalized to a concrete set of guidelines by Taiichi Ohno] in the aftermath of World War II when scarcity of resources meant that use of available resources were to be optimized to the maximum extent possible. Thus Lean manufacturing addresses two most important aspects of a product – increased quality of the product at a reduced cost - quite often viewed as contradictory end goals.

The guiding principles of Lean Manufacturing are - Perfect first-time quality, Pull processing, Continuous improvement, Waste minimization, Flexibility, Establishing and maintaining a long term relationship with suppliers, Load leveling, Autonomation [smart automation], Production flow and Visual control.

The overall aim of Lean is to eliminate what it refers to as 8 wastes - overproduction, inventory, motion, waiting, defects, transportation, extra processing and underutilized people. These factors result in reduction of the overall quality associated with a product.

A guideline of Lean is to manufacture a product according to demand [pull] rather than any preset manufacturing targets [push]. This is to ensure prevention of over-production and thus its associated excesses.

Lean manufacturing proposes adoption of the Just-In-Time [JIT] concept of manufacturing. In this practice, the raw material needed to manufacture a certain product is made available at the moment production is to commence. There is no stocking of these raw materials for long period before the start of manufacturing. Buffer stock is made available for no more than two or three batches of production [kanban]. In fact, an ideal setup would see responsibility of raw material remaining with the suppliers right till the moment production begins. As a result, inventory, which accounts for a significant portion of expenditure, reduces greatly and consequently its associated costs.

Proper use of scheduling tools like Heijunka box would help reduce the possibility of unevenness in the production's scheduling and ensure a smooth, predictable production plan that is a lot easier to optimize and streamline.

Lean manufacturing is as much about human behavior, culture and their reactions as it is about methods of productions. For a successful implementation of Lean, it is essential that the human workforce is taken on board, convinced and trained [Senpai, Kohai & Sensai] to accept and adopt Lean as a way to improvement.

The Joint Strike Fighter team describes the manufacturing practices adopted for the F-35 as leaner-than-lean manufacturing. However, for all practical purposes, it would be safe to assume that it is Lean Manufacturing philosophy that they have strongly imbued in the F-35.

In in the 90s, Lockheed Martin had embarked upon a program surreptitiously named LM21 to seek and adopt Best Practice that would enable it to achieve Operating Excellence needed to successfully compete in the cut-throat defense market of the 21st century. One of the philosophies they zeroed in on was that of Lean Manufacturing. Though Lean had been in practice in Lockheed Martin earlier too, it had been restricted to small departmental level implementation, the results of which was therefore not optimum.

F-16 assembly line

The first large-scale implementation of this concept was to the manufacture and assembly of the F-16s, which then had been plagued with issues of quality control and delayed delivery schedules. Applying Lean Manufacturing concepts brought about some dramatic results – manufacturing costs reduced by 38%, inventory by 50%, defect rates fell to just 3.4 per plane and delivery time of an aircraft fell from 42 months to 21.5 months. As the assembly line of the F-16s had matured considerably by then, there were limitation of the extent to which changes could be made to it.

So quite naturally, when they won the contract for the design and manufacture of JSF, it would be expected of them to apply these principles to the best possible extent to leverage its benefits from the conceptual stage itself.

Lean principles that guides Lockheed Martin's JSF project include – Transparency, Process focus, instead of just Operation focus, Design for Manufacture and Assembly, Process control, JIT system and Work standardization.

Applying Lean, Lockheed Martin was able to reduce the floor space occupied by the F-16 assembly line by 60%, thus creating space for the manufacture and assembly of the F-35s without expanding [the F-16 line is expected to cease production by 2015, around the time F-35 production would be in full swing]. By applying Lean to the ALE-50 pylon program, Lockheed Martin was able to reduce product travel distance from 200 feet to 50 feet and time for manufacture from 177 hours to 34 hours.

The program is run by a series of Integrated Product Teams [IPTs]. Each team is made completely responsible for one portion of the aircraft. Think of it like a company setup for that one portion of the aircraft. The team is made up of members from the related partner companies for that portion with the head being selected from one of the principle partner companies – Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman and BAE. Thus the members think of the project, not just from the point of view of the parent company, but as their own personal project responsibility. However it must not be forgotten that any benefits derived for the portion will in turn be reflected favorably for the partner companies involved.

Problem resolution is done without any delay and at the lowest level possible. In the event of any problems faced by the process [scheduling, cost or process], that phase of the process is halted completely and not allowed to proceed before it as been resolved – even if it means the involvement of the interaction between two or more different IPTs.

Waste reduction and optimization can be seen in the tooling needed to make different but related products. Instead of using separate tools, use of modular flexible tools to perform the same function and also effect a cost saving of 30% on tooling over the traditional way.

Lockheed Martin continuously works with its suppliers of the F-35 JSF to improve and streamline the supply chain. It is done by means of events, training and planning that are regularly organized by Lockheed Martin. It partners with them to analyze and identify opportunities to eliminate waste and through it reduce time and cost and at the same time help them maintain adherence to set standards of the program.

The three variants of the F-35s would be assembled on a single assembly line, which would be able to manufacture either of the variants depending on the requirement of that variant [demonstrating the pull approach of manufacturing encouraged by Lean]. The switchover time for the manufacture of one variant to another is estimated to be less than a day.

Six Sigma principles ensure that defects and errors are reduced to the bare minimum, thus promoting the best-first-time approach, thus saving on costly reworks or even worse, complete scrapping of expensive hardware. Utilizing the concept called the Digital Thread [discussed later], it is possible to access accurate data and information about any product in an easy and convenient manner. This helps improve productivity and increase accuracy of work done, not to mention prevents the generation of costly waste.

The use of advanced machine tool, like Makino 5-axis Model MC1013-5XA Horizontal Machining Center for the machining components of the aircraft ensures accurate high-speed machining process with extreme precision and accuracy. Thus producing a product that is built within tolerance [use of these machines afford the use of extremely close tolerance] and doing away with wastage and scrap. The 5-axis Henri Liné Vertical Machining center for example, can cut at 25.4 m/min at 20000 rpm. Extensive use of automated drilling machines achieves similar ends. The wing assembly is being held vertically to enable better ergonomic work position for the workers, preventing fatigue. Use of precision tools also ensure that sub-assemblies made by the different partner companies mate without the need of re-work at the assembly plant – yet another cost saving factor that is a result of good quality work. [Machining and assembly will be talked about in greater details later]

F-35 Joint Strike Fighter BAE

BAE Systems is known to have invested in upgrading its modular tooling system to manufacture the aft fuselage and the tail of the F-35. It has adopted the use of Metrix advanced coordinate metrology software to design a tool building and inspection process for JSF manufacturing.

Lockheed Martin is paying special attention towards error-proofing the assembly of the F-35. For example, the body of the F-35 is fitted with many panels that cover access holes cut into the body. These panels have been deigned such that a panel fits perfectly only on its designed access hole [Poka-Yoke]. Similarly ink marker robotic arms mounted on gantry-like system sprays identification marks onto assembly components marking its proper location for the assembly process. This prevents and doubts or dis ambiguity about its end utilization.

Using a combination of process changes and advanced machining systems, the JSF team was able to prevent a lot of wastage of resources, which translted to lowering the cost of production. Thus the team has succeeded in manufacturing a 5th generation aircraft that costs around that of a 4th generation one [and according to certain calculations even less than one].

Sunday, August 17, 2008

F-35 Joint Strike Fighter: Manufacturing 01 - Introduction

F-35 Joint Strike Fighter AA-1


One of the most talked about weapons development program ever has been F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, christened Lightning II. A joint multi-national, development program aimed at developing the most advanced 5th generation manned, multi-role combat aircraft, it has attracted both critics and admirers in equal measures. Critics question its utility in the present scenario where the enemy is primarily indulging in irregular warfare operating in small cells from within their target territory. Its admirers on the other hand, quite rightly bring attention to the absolute bleeding edge of technology being used to develop the aircraft, many of which are being developed even as they are being used for the first time. The mind boggling level of precision being followed and the magnitude of co-ordination and co-operation between the different participating entities evokes a sense of awe and admiration among technocrats which can mildly and quite ineffectively be described as orgasmic.


The Joint Strike Fighter [JSF] program is a multi-national development program that aims to develop a multi-role combat aircraft that fulfills the requirements of the participating countries for defending their territorial and strategic interests. The program aims to achieve two seemingly contradictory objectives – to develop the most advanced combat aircraft and also being the most cost-effective aircraft in its class [5th generation aircrafts]. The fulfillment of the second objective is of paramount importance in face of the gradual reduction of the percentage of budgetary allowance being allotted to defense by respective countries. The program is an outcome of collaborative efforts of nine partner countries lead by the United States of America. The other seven countries include – United Kingdom, Netherlands, Canada, Denmark, Italy, Turkey, Australia and Norway. Besides these countries other countries who have evinced interest in acquiring these aircrafts include Israel, Singapore and Japan. The scale of operation of this program is quite simply staggering – 11 partner countries, 1000 suppliers located in 30 countries, 130 development sites situated in 17 time zones where approximately 7000 Engineers and Designers are collaborating to develop the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter.

The Joint Strike Fighter program was initiated by the United States [US] in the early 90s to replace its present fleet of combat aircrafts and last well beyond 2050, into 2060s. As part of the program, two companies – Lockheed Martin and Boeing, were given the go ahead to build a working prototype of the aircraft that would fulfill its requirements. Lockheed Martin teamed up with the British Aerospace Engineering [BAE] company and Northrop Grumman while Boeing acquired McDonnell Douglas to design and build their prototypes. Both the designs were based on engines supplied by the Pratt & Whitney company. Finally in October 2001, after evaluating and testing both the designs, it was decided to award the contract of the JSF to the Lockheed Martin headed team. The aircraft, which till then was referred to as X-35 ['X' for experimental aircraft], was re-christened as the F-35 Lightning II.

As part of the contract, Lockheed Martin is expected to supply in excess of 4500 aircrafts, each of which, according to various estimates, would cost around $35-50 million USD depending upon the variant of aircraft considered.


The program seeks to develop a single aircraft platform having different functional variants. Three variants of the F-35 have been designed :-


It is the conventional takeoff and landing variant of the aircraft. It will comprise the maximum number of F-35 aircrafts to be build.

F-35A Joint Strike Fighter

Aircraft to replace

It has been designed to take over duties from aircrafts like the F-16 and A-10 Thunderbolt II currently being operated by the U.S Air Force.


It is the Short Take-Off and Vertical Landing [STOVL] variant of the aircraft to be built specifically for the U.S and U.K Marine forces.

F-35B Joint Strike Fighter

Aircraft to replace

The STOVL variant is expected to replace the only other operational STOVL combat aircraft – the AV8B Harrier and the conventional take-off F/A 18 Hornet being operated by the Marine forces of US and UK.


The Naval variant of the aircraft is designed to takeoff and land from aircraft carriers of the partner countries.

F-35C Joint Strike Fighter

Aircraft to replace

The aircraft has been designed primarily to replace the US Navy operated F/A-18E/F Super Hornet.

Even though each variant has been designed to perform distinctly different tasks, all of them display a high degree of commonality between the designs of the 3 variants – a fact which helps in keeping their production cost down by reducing inventory cost and doing away with the need to set up a dedicated assembly line for each variant. Design commonality would also help reduce the cost of training personals in handling and maintaining these aircrafts. Some estimates show that cost cutting achieved in maintaining these aircrafts would be in the range of $60 billion USD due to commonality of features.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Happy Independence Day


Wishing you all a very Happy Independence Day. 61 years of joy, sorrow, triumph, apathy, courage, indifference…the whole gamut of reactions we have experienced as the citizen of this country we proudly and lovingly call India.

I take this occasion [and blog] to thank those who are ensuring my continuous Independence. The unknown soldier perched up on the glaciers of Siachen, patrolling through the deserts of Thar, maneuvering through the jungles of the North-East giving up his life so that I may continue my own. Without you, my Independence would be but a dream.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Abhinav Bindra wins Gold at the Olympics

Yes! yes!! yes!!! it has finally happened. India has won its first ever individual Gold medal at the Olympics. Abhinav Bindra has secured the Gold medal in the 10m Air Rifle event at the Beijing Olympics. Boy o’ boy, you have done what no other Indian has ever done. You have made a country of a billion people ecstatic and delirious with joy and a day they are not going to forget for the rest of their lives. Way to go attaboy!!


Thanks to my stupid cable operator, I received the News through a RSS feed and couldn’t watch it on TV – something I bunked college for today.

Abhinav Bindra’s blog

Wikipedia entry

Sunday, August 10, 2008

You are cordially invited to our wedding

Just found this in my inbox. The card appears not to belong to the sender. None of the names match [or at least the sender’s name did not]

20080810forward01Wedding card thingy

A couple with a phunny bone, kewl!!

Saturday, August 09, 2008

Get a free copy of Windows Home Server from Microsoft

Free 120 days evaluation of Microsoft Home Server

I just ordered my free copy of Windows Home Server from Microsoft.

Okay, it is a 120 day free evaluation copy that they are shipping to anyone who bothers to ask for it. But the important thing is that it is FREE!

You may place an order for your copy here.

Wikipedia entry

Thanks, Manish for the info.

Friday, August 08, 2008

Keep your installed software updated using Personal Software Inspector [PSI]

Installed software in Windows should be kept updated to the latest versions of those software as newer versions not only provide better performance, but also patch any discovered vulnerabilities that could harm your computer. Though most software provide features to look for updates for those software, many don’t. It is also convenient if all the software that are installed can be updated from a single location.

Secunia Personal Software Inspector [PSI]

Secunia’s Personal Software Inspector [PSI], is a Freeware tool, that lets you do just that and quite a lot more. Listing out all the software that have a newer version available, it provides a direct link to most of them for download and update – very useful as you don’t have to bother yourself with trying to figure out which version of the software you need to download based on your computer’s configuration and setup – Secunia does it for you.

Being a software developed by a computer security service provider,  PSI also informs you of the potential vulnerabilities that the installed software posses and the degree of threat posed to your computer by that vulnerability. Based on that information you can take appropriate decision about that installed software, either conclude that the threat posed to your computer isn’t threatening enough or uninstall the software.

Though the number of software for which it informs you of update is vast, there were a few software that I use whose updates are not informed through PSI. They have thoughtfully provided a link using which you may inform them of the need to add that software for monitoring. Still of the around 103 software installed, 7 not being monitored is not that bad a record for this nifty freeware.

One thing that they could also have monitored, would in my opinion, be device drivers. However this may have been a deliberate omission as many choose to install non-official drivers for their hardware.

For keeping my device drivers in Windows updated, I prefer using another freeware – DriverMax.


Sunday, August 03, 2008

Google Sites with your own domain name

Just found out that you can use your own, custom domain names with Google sites. So I went ahead and created one for myself – This feature is currently available for users of Google Apps. You need to get yourself a Google Apps account and create a Google sites through it.

Login as an Admin and activate Google sites for your domain if not done it already. Once activated, you could create a subdomain from where users must login in and create their sites.

original subdomain

By default, it would be I changed the subdomain to You will then be asked to add a CNAME entry for the same.


Login to your DNS service account and add a CNAME entry for [same as above] pointing to


Once this step is completed it could take around 24-48 hours for the sub-domain to be accessible [safe assumption – I found it accessible in a couple of hours].

With the subdomain for Google sites for your domain now accessible, login and create a new site.

create a new site

Play around to learn how you can jazz it up with the features provided. Once done with the site designing you may log out. You now need to associate the site with the desired subdomain. Else, as the picture above shows, the sites homepage address would be duhh WTF !!!

Log back to your Administrator control panel and access the sites link. Click on the Web address mapping link to map the site to a subdomain.

Map domain name

Add the name of the site which you want to map [green] and select the subdomain you wish to map it to [blue].

Map domain

Once done, click on Add mapping [red]. You will then be asked to add a CNAME record pointing to in the DNS records.


Wait for around 24-48 hours and you will find your newly created Google sites accessible as a proper subdomain. Any page on that site will also have the same subdomain as an address like this.

If you have a number of online entities – a blog, a mico-blog, a tumblog, Flickr stream etc, then it would be a cool idea to have a nicely designed Google sites with as your homepage and that page it could contain the links and latest updates from all those other sites on it.

The fact that Google intends to develop Google sites as a full fledged platform of online presence can be guaged from the fact that it also allows you to use Google Analytics and Google Webmaster tools with these sites.

Google sites also allows you to choose the path name for a given page, independent of the page title.


Saturday, August 02, 2008

Send your name into space with the Kepler Mission

Kepler mission

Thanks to NASA, you can now send your name into space. The Kepler mission, scheduled to be launched in February 2009 aims to look for planets similar in size to the Earth in areas beyond the solar system and study their characteristics. This is based on the assumption that a planet similar in size to the Earth will have a higher chance of being able to support life than others.

The space-based photometer that is to be launched for this purpose will also carry with it a DVD containing the names of all those who sign up for this campaign.

All names and messages will also be forwarded to the Smithsonian Institution’s National Air and Space Museum for archival.

Fill up the form to add your name to the DVD

Wikipedia entry

Once you fill up and submit the form, a download link will be provided to save the certificate as a jpeg file.

Thanks Shikha964 for posting the info on the forum.

Godspeed Google CLI-style!! Some things are so freakingly novel, that you don’t give a damn if its practical application is suspect. would be one such site. Goosh emulates the Command Line Interface of a Unix shell for performing searches. The interface is rendered using AJAX. Results are served up from Google, its specialized searches and Wikipedia. For example, typing Hancock will perform a normal Google search for the term. Type in b Hancock and it will perform a blog search for the term and will produce results accordingly. Typing in l Hancock will emulate the ‘I’m feeling lucky’ button in Google. You can also access your Gmail account with Goosh. It allow you to add searching with Goosh in the Firefox browser.

Type in h and then press enter to get the full list of commands that can be used with Goosh.


Sunday, July 27, 2008

Submit blogs and sites to multiple Web directories and bookmarking sites for free

Submitting your blog/ site to web directories and social bookmarking sites is generally a good way of attracting interested people to your blog. You also get backlinks to your blog, that would play a role in increasing your pagerank. However, signing up at each and every directory and bookmarking site before you can submit your blog can be a boring and tedious process. I recently found this site that does away with the task of signing up with each directory before submission – all for Free.


Submitterbot is an online service that allow you to submit your sites/blogs to multiple Web directories and Social bookmarking sites without having to sign up on each and every one of them. It claims to be able to submit to more than 400 directories and an equally large number of bookmarking site.

The site has got a clean, uncluttered layout – a definite good first impression. Signing up was simple. You have to put in some relevant information about your site. Once done, you can start submitting your site to the different directories it supports. All you have to do is select the relevant category under which you want it submitted and, if asked, fill up the captcha. Once done, it will open the page to the next directory your blog can be submitted to. Submitting your site to bookmarking sites is done the same way. You submit articles to multiple article directories in a similar manner. Multiple sites can be submitted  through it, though at a given time you can submit only one site.

I normally wouldn’t have bothered submitting my blog to directories and bookmarking sites. But the sheer ease with which one can do so prompted me to sign up with the service. Submitting to each directory/ bookmarking site took no more than a couple of seconds. I must add, though, that the directories and bookmarking sites it submits to are all relatively new and quite unknown [to me at least]. But hey! it is quick and more importantly it is Free! [though it does some paid features, something that I couldn’t be bothered with]. It is a win-win situation for you [it is wise, however, to use an email id that that you do not use for important correspondences].

I Googled [not very hard ;)] for similar services and found that most of them are either paid or submit to a relatively less sites.

Your site being approved for listing on the respective directories is subject to approval of the directory owners you are submitting to [something that I just learned he he!!].

Submitterbot, in my opinion, is  a very useful service they have developed and could be used to good use by those wanting to increase their sites visibility. Give it a try – you might benefit from it.


Friday, July 11, 2008

How to use a custom domain name with Tumblr?

I recently started Tumblogging. Quite enjoy it too. I use it to share interesting News that I come across while going through the RSS feeds/ Google Alerts I have subscribed to. Tumblr is a relatively new blogging platform that has combined in its service aspects of micro-* along with the traditional blogging in a seamless manner. It also allows the user a high degree of customization of his/her blog. One of them is the ability to use your own custom domain name with your blog - Free of cost, quite like Blogger.

In order to use out very own custom domain name with our Tumblr blog, we would be using 3 free services.

1.) CO.CC [Domain registrar/ custom domain name provider]

2.) EveryDNS [Nameserver providers]

3.) Tumblr [Blogging service]


1.) CO.CC [Domain registrar/ custom domain name provider] is one of the two free domain name registrars that allows the use of DNS for your domain name. The other such service that allows the use of DNS is []. But IMO sounds better and most importantly sounds quite like a paid domain name too ;). So your custom domain name will read, where you replace example with the name of your choice.

Register yourself for an account with Once registered, on its home page, type in the your desired domain name in the box provided. domain name

If it is available [and for Free], you will be greeted with a message that looks like this.


Click on continue to registration. It will then ask you to setup the domain within 48 hours.

registered domain

Click on the Set up button. In the page that opens up, select the first option – Manage DNS. Add the following information the space provided for Name Server [will be discussed later] Name Servers

Click on the link [+ Add more name Servers] if enough boxes are not provided to enter all the Name Servers shown. Then click on the Set up button, which will take you to the page telling you that your change have been submitted – click on OK. You may now log out of your account; your work here is over.

You could use any domain name – paid or free.

2.) EveryDNS [Name Server provider]

We will be using the free Name Servers provided by EveryDNS for our blog. Register yourself with EveryDNS for an account. Once registered, log into your account. On the left, you shall see a section marked Webhop Domains. Type in the domain name you had registered with earlier and click on the button marked >>(basic).


Once done that domain name will now appear on the left column in the section marked Primary Domains.

EveryDNS domain

Clicking on it will open up a page showing you dummy entries for that domain – one A-record and one CNAME entry. Delete the A-record entry from there. Then got down to the section marked Add a record and enter the 2 A-records as shown. Click the Add Record button after each addition.

(click on the image to see a larger image)


Once the record is successfully added, delete the CNAME record entry. Your records in EveryDNS control panel will look like this.

EveryDNS records

Delete any records other than these two. Your work in EveryDNS is over, you may now safely log out of the account.

 3.) Tumblr [Blogging service]

Signing up for Tumblr is a quickie quickie no-brainer – just do it. The first time you login, you will be given a guided tour of sorts.

Tumblr customize

On the dashboard, click on the customize link. The page will automatically open up in the desired tab. Check the box and type in the registered domain name.

Tumblr domain name  

Once done, click on the Save changes box and log off. Wait for 48 hours [safe estimate] and you will find your Tumblr blog accessible with your own custom domain name.

Your Tumblog alongside your existing blog/site.

If you wish to maintain your existing site/blog along with your tumblog, then you could create a sub-domain pointing to your tumblog. This blog also has a tumblog as a subdomain – Choose any word that you wish – I chose tumblr. Go to your Tumblr control panel and in the very same place mentioned earlier type the appropriate subdomain.


In your EveryDNS control panel [assuming you using EveryDNS ;)], add an A-record pointing the subdomain to Tumblr.

Tumblr A-record

Once successfully added your Tumblr blog will now be accessible with the address which is a subdomain of our existing blog.

Happy tumblogging!!


Thursday, July 03, 2008

Update and backup your drivers with DriverMax

Just finished formatting and re-installing on my Windows partition. Of all the steps involved, installing the device drivers usually  takes the longest, not least because each of them need to be installed one by one, meaning multiple mouse clicks and is accompanied by a need to restart the computer after each driver installation [restart every time can be avoided, but it is preferable]. Not quite the case since the last couple of installs though ;).


Using DriverMax, you can back up all the drivers from your previous installation and install them all together in your new Windows install with a single click and needing just a single re-start.

Once installed, it also searches for updates for your installed drivers and informs you when available, thus helping you keep your installed drivers up-to-date. You can use it to generate a detailed report identifying each and every hardware present in your computer. This can then be shared with friends or your tech support guy. Very useful in case your computer starts acting up and you need someone to help you fix it without much trouble.

Best of all it is a freeware, though it requires you to register on their website for free before you can start using this useful windows-based software.