I don’t think I could have been anything else but an engineer. Following my father’s example, I have a love for moving metal things – both the physical/mathematical aspects and the practical aspects, that apprentices pick up. Engineering systems have personalities all their own – the noisy excitement of a racing motorcycle, the brooding, contented hum of a nuclear powerplant or the clanging and crashing of a steam locomotive in its overrun, literally with fire in its belly. I have picked a few of books which inspired my love for mechanical engineering and you can view it on the Shepherd website.
Ruggedization comes in three flavours, apparently:
- Industrial Ruggedization
- Ingress Protection Ruggedization
- Stability Ruggedization
The reliability principles used to achieve the above three aims are simplification, by removing less reliable parts like irises, replaced with fixed aperture stops. These can be focused once and set in place. The other technique used is simply the removal of components. What is not there, cannot give trouble.
As regards Ingress Protection, lens assemblies are sealed with O-rings and RTV silicone to prevent the ingress of moisture and dust.
Stability Ruggedization is required in high vibration environments, among others. This is achieved by gluing all the lens elements in place, and using a clamping lock once focusing has been achieved.
When one studies the brochure, one sees that in this field, as in all engineering endeavors, compromises are made. To make a lens more “rugged” it has to be made less versatile.
Another Cold War Warrior with a dubious reputation is the Lockheed F-104 Starfighter. Foisted on the nations of NATO, it had a 32% accident rate in the Luftwaffe with 292 pilots killed. The Canadian experience was even worse, with a 50% accident rate. As far as is known, neither of the airforces mentioned ever took a shot at an enemy with these aircraft.
This is an example of mission unreliability at its worst.
We have said before on this site that some of the West’s weapons during the Cold War were not so hot, eg the 1954 vintage F-100 Super Sabre with a 39% accident rate, and 324 pilots killed. Although it could exceed Mach 1 in level flight it was nevertheless under powered at 10 000 lb static thrust. On landing it could get into a situation that the pilot could not rectify, and crash. See https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q2qqKwndFW0
If the angle of attack was slightly too much, lift was lost at the wingtips of the sharply swept wings. This moved the centre of pressure forward, lifting the nose even higher. The engine did not have enough thrust for the aircraft to climb out of trouble and so it would crash, the hapless pilot being unable to do anything about it. The contemporary British BAC Lightning fighter had a somewhat better flight envelope due to the 24 000 lb thrust from its two engines, mounted unusually one above the other. On the other hand, the British Swift and Javelin fighters were also poor performers.
Both sides in the Cold War tried to hide their mistakes. Only after the end of the Cold War has such information as we quote above has become available.