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    Re: astrocompass still in use
    From: Paul Hirose
    Date: 2002 Sep 28, 19:08 -0700

    Robert Eno wrote:
    > Thankyou very much for the most interesting story.
    > Whatever happened to the concept of astro-trackers?  It seems to me, with
    > today's microchip technology, this device could be much improved and reduced
    > considerably in size.
    It's very much alive on the B-2, where it's integrated with an
    inertial nav system and called the AINS (astro inertial navigation
    system). It resembles the SR-71 system described by Dan Allen; I've
    been told Northrop built both. The main unit is about the size of a
    medium picnic cooler. It is removed with a crane, but fortunately only
    needs to be pulled if it fails. That is rare. Accuracy is classified,
    but I will say it beats the SR-71 accuracy figure Dan gave.
    The B-2 has no port for a periscopic sextant, though for a time I
    thought it did. The planes I initially saw were very much incomplete
    (this was before one ever flew), and I noticed a little round opening
    in the cockpit ceiling. "Oh, wow, a sextant port!" Hardly. It was for
    a "lead in light" to give the boom operator on an air refueling tanker
    a visual reference at night. Anyhow, the B-2 has no table to lay out
    your chart and books.
    On the B-52 the navigator and radar navigator (the latter being the
    senior navigator) have good sized tables which slide out from the base
    of the console. If you yank the ejection ring between your legs,
    pyrotechnics automatically fire to stow the table just before the seat
    CNN's "Warbirds" program has shots of the B-52 nav team at work. I
    used to work on the equipment they're shown operating. Hollywood would
    probably have them looking at charts on 19 inch color monitors. The
    real nav "office" is more prosaic: little green monitors, charts and
    other paperwork cluttering the tables!
    The program will air again early tomorrow morning. Probably will be
    rerun on a later date as well; I first saw it more than a month ago.

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