Andrew gets it wrong again…

Ah, Andrew… Working with JJ Abrams certainly seems to rub off on you in terms of sacrificing scientific and technical exactness in favor of yet another “cool” effect. Creating fancy planets like the Star Trek end credits that may make an astronomer’s hair stand on end is one thing, but messing around with stuff that you can easily disprove by looking up some pictures on a web search or even videos on YouTube completely another. As I already wrote a few weeks ago I frown on fancying up aircraft or getting their details wrong, so the latest JetStrike teaser caused me some WTF? moments. There’s several things in there that give me a headache. So let’s do a bit of Andrew‘s homework and research.

In particular that exhaust glow on the F-117 Nighthawk shots is ridiculous – on that plane the actual engines end long before the exit aperture which in itself is nothing more than a tube/ tunnel/ funnel/ spreader coated with ceramics that transitions from the round engine shape to the flat slot outlet. Furthermore, that plane was never designed for super-sonic speeds, so it actually didn’t have an afterburner, meaning all the thrust would come from the main combustion chambers which themselves would be completely inside the actual engine. That means you wouldn’t even see something like a specular light reflection and the whole exhaust more or less looks like some black slot with hot air coming out of it. Also note that the lower wing is actually covering the aperture more than the upper wing to further shield the heat from below. That’s one of those things people always seem to forget when they talk about stealth – it’s not just about radar reflection. You know, there is these little buggers called infrared guided missiles, so why would anyone on Earth put an afterburner 10 cm before the aft trailing edge as an invitation to be shot down with one of those?

Exactly! And now you see my point. Actual military aircraft and their flying are much less spectacular than they usually look in movies. There are safety protocols to follow and procedures to obey just like everywhere else up to the point where it gets so dull and boring that in order to fly for half an hour you have to go through 3 hours of preparations and mission briefings and another 2 hours of debriefing afterwards. That and of course you can’t defeat the physics – I’m pretty sure if an F-35 B would go into vertical landing mode as abruptly as in the video, it would simply stall, tilt over to the side and crash. I don’t have the details handy, but I’m sure it would only be allowed to do so below a certain height and below a certain speed and then would have to go through some transitional phase where the thrusters are at angled positions. Oh, and did I mention that they wouldn’t glow, either? ;-)

Otherwise it’s of course going to be nice to have some higher quality models ready to render and all that. They indeed seem to have worked on the shading quite a bit and it nowhere near looks as ridiculous as back then. Still when you do your own stuff, perhaps you might pay a bit more respect to the physics and engineering principles and not throw around as many glows where they don’t belong…

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