Better "brain" for guided missiles

FROM OUR NEW YORK OFFICE

Building better mechanical "brains" into guided missiles so that they can find their target, without any guidance, after they are fired, is being worked out by US scientists.

They are the team of physicists working at the Johns Hopkins Laboratory of Applied Physics outside Washington (USA). Some of the most secret of all defence weapons are being developed at the laboratory.

These mechanical brains, in a sense, must be better brains - at least quicker ones - than those of a man.

The early V-weapons devised by the Germans and shot over Britain in the last year of World War II, were, after all, comparatively, morons. They could only do what they were told by some artilleryman on the ground.

Slightly improved in brain power were the amplifications of these by scientists of Allied nations after the war. They really had no initiative, originality, or imagination, and probably would be of little value in the highly technical warfare of the future.

The work at the Johns Hopkins laboratory, which tackles projects in close association with the US Navy is highly secret, and no report can be made on the actual progress made toward any objective.

The physicists there, however, can talk about the various lines along which progress may, or may not, be under way. These, it may be presumed, are fairly familiar to the physicists of any potential enemy. Most obvious of all set-ups, it is revealed by Dr. Ralph E. Gibson, director of the laboratory, is a "command-guidance system" in which a ground radio or radar system tracks both the missile and the target.

A computer, set up in conjunction with the radar station, automatically calculates what adjustments must be made in its course to cause the missile to hit the target, and transmits instructions which cause it to take that course.

This is really a "moron", Gibson said. The computing system on the ground, however, must be fairly intelligent, in a limited way. It must be quick and accurate, above any human capacity, with figures.

The second type follows an artificial path in space, such as could be set up by a radar beam directed toward the target. It has a mechanism which orients it constantly to the axis of this artificial path. This is described as a missile with a "conscience". This conscience hurts when it goes wrong, and it corrects its behavior at once.

The third type must have a considerably higher order of intelligence since, once it leaves the ground, it is on its own. It must locate and direct itself toward its own target with no outside assistance. It receives a direction system straight from the target itself, through radio echoes, heat waves, and so forth, and these cause it to change its course. This type is described as extremely accurate at reasonably close range, but its range is relatively quite restricted.

The fourth type is equipped with the kind of brain which enables it to adjust its own course over great distances, as might be necessary if it is used against enemy cities. "It may use," said a Johns Hopkins" report, "such a natural frame of reference as the stars, or the direction of the vertical, or an artificial frame of reference such as an electromagnetic network. Under this system falls the dead-reckoning system in which the frame of reference is defined by gyros, and in which the motion of the missile is followed by accelerometers."

In this work the Johns Hopkins scientists have devised special computing machines called "flight simulators." Into them are fed extremely complex mathematical data from which the machines produce curves showing the type of course the missile will fly. Information of the probability of success of an actual flight can he obtained from them.

In a single morning, one physicist can complete studies which otherwise would re quire the flying of from 50 to 100 actual missiles.#\





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The World News (Sydney), 8 March, 1952





FROM OUR NEW YORK OFFICE

Building better mechanical "brains" into guided missiles so that they can find their target, without any guidance, after they are fired, is being worked out by US scientists.

They are the team of physicists working at the Johns Hopkins Laboratory of Applied Physics outside Washington (USA). Some of the most secret of all defence weapons are being developed at the laboratory.

These mechanical brains, in a sense, must be better brains - at least quicker ones - than those of a man.

The early V-weapons devised by the Germans and shot over Britain in the last year of World War II, were, after all, comparatively, morons. They could only do what they were told by some artilleryman on the ground.

Slightly improved in brain power were the amplifications of these by scientists of Allied nations after the war. They really had no initiative, originality, or imagination, and probably would be of little value in the highly technical warfare of the future.

The work at the Johns Hopkins laboratory, which tackles projects in close association with the US Navy is highly secret, and no report can be made on the actual progress made toward any objective.

The physicists there, however, can talk about the various lines along which progress may, or may not, be under way. These, it may be presumed, are fairly familiar to the physicists of any potential enemy. Most obvious of all set-ups, it is revealed by Dr. Ralph E. Gibson, director of the laboratory, is a "command-guidance system" in which a ground radio or radar system tracks both the missile and the target.

A computer, set up in conjunction with the radar station, automatically calculates what adjustments must be made in its course to cause the missile to hit the target, and transmits instructions which cause it to take that course.

This is really a "moron", Gibson said. The computing system on the ground, however, must be fairly intelligent, in a limited way. It must be quick and accurate, above any human capacity, with figures.

The second type follows an artificial path in space, such as could be set up by a radar beam directed toward the target. It has a mechanism which orients it constantly to the axis of this artificial path. This is described as a missile with a "conscience". This conscience hurts when it goes wrong, and it corrects its behavior at once.

The third type must have a considerably higher order of intelligence since, once it leaves the ground, it is on its own. It must locate and direct itself toward its own target with no outside assistance. It receives a direction system straight from the target itself, through radio echoes, heat waves, and so forth, and these cause it to change its course. This type is described as extremely accurate at reasonably close range, but its range is relatively quite restricted.

The fourth type is equipped with the kind of brain which enables it to adjust its own course over great distances, as might be necessary if it is used against enemy cities. "It may use," said a Johns Hopkins" report, "such a natural frame of reference as the stars, or the direction of the vertical, or an artificial frame of reference such as an electromagnetic network. Under this system falls the dead-reckoning system in which the frame of reference is defined by gyros, and in which the motion of the missile is followed by accelerometers."

In this work the Johns Hopkins scientists have devised special computing machines called "flight simulators." Into them are fed extremely complex mathematical data from which the machines produce curves showing the type of course the missile will fly. Information of the probability of success of an actual flight can he obtained from them.

In a single morning, one physicist can complete studies which otherwise would re quire the flying of from 50 to 100 actual missiles.