Letters From Our Readers, Nov. 23, 2020


As President Ronald Reagan’s point man on space, defense and arms control in the U.S. Senate in the early years, I recall how proud we were when, in his 1984 State of the Union Address, he announced NASA’s new direction, to “develop a permanently manned space station and to do it within a decade,” as noted in “The ISS Through the Years” (Oct. 26-Nov. 8, p. 48)

The accompanying main article, “ISS Turns 20,” brings back a ton of memories, not all of them positive. I lost track of the number of attempts by then-Rep. Tim Roemer (D-Ind.) and others to terminate space station funding as far back as 1991, but it must have been more than 20.

We summoned the calvary, and in a landmark House floor vote in 1993, support for space station funding prevailed by a one-vote margin (216-215).

Today, I am deeply involved in supporting fulfillment of the current Artemis Human Landing System (HLS) program objectives. I suspect Artemis might only be a dream if we had not fought the naysayers over space station funding those many years ago.

Ron Sable, Paragon Space Development Corp. board chairman, Tucson, Arizona


Following the U.S. elections, I read your article titled “Tough Choices” (Oct. 26-Nov. 8, p. 58). Many positions of the Biden administration that may now be implemented are concerning to me. The most concerning is the position on low-yield nuclear weapons—i.e., not pursuing them. Description of just a couple of many very plausible scenarios should raise concerns.

1. Russia demands that Ukraine withdraw from NATO and cede territory, and Russia masses forces on the border. NATO responds by initiating a massive airlift of troops and equipment into Ukraine. Russia lobs a couple 0.5-kiloton weapons on Baherova and Poltava Air Bases and announces it has many more at the ready.

2. China escalates border tension with India and loses a number of skirmishes with highly effective Indian troops. Following these defeats, China launches 0.5-kiloton weapons against Tawang and Barapani Air Bases and demands that India withdraw all forces within 500 km of the disputed border.

The U.S. and allies are then left with three choices: Concede to all demands, counterattack with conventional forces, or launch an all-out nuclear attack.

Noel Hughes, Castle Rock, Colorado


“Air Combat by Algorithm” (Aug. 31-Sept. 13, p. 46) has, as Daniel Raymer points out in “Perfecting Response” (Oct. 12-25, p. 5), been an ongoing pursuit for many years, first seriously considered during the F-22 design initiative, on which we both worked.

My work involved flight deck displays, for which a critical task analysis of the air combat mission (ACM) was performed. This analysis revealed that air combat mission success is significantly more dependent on the orientation and decision phase than the action/execution phase.

Consequently, an ACM algorithm developed by Tony Ciavarelli was incorporated into an onboard air combat decision aid, and this prototype was presented to the industry at the 8th Digital Avionics Systems Conference, San Jose, California, in 1988. I was one of the people responsible for this innovative design, and I would suggest that future AI dogfight trials start with this algorithm.

U.S. Navy Capt. (ret.) Kevin M. Smith, Mesquite, Nevada

ONLINE, in response to “Putting AI to the Test”
(Oct. 25-Nov. 8, p. 66), ANTONIO.I.CORTES writes: 

Thank you for such an insightful opinion piece. Your analogy of the human checkride is quite clever and very helpful. I am one of many eagerly awaiting the committee’s gap analysis. 

For those who have not seen the EASA AI road map mentioned by Mark [Roboff] in this piece, the concept of “trustworthiness of AI” as an ethical construct underlying certification is a key theme. The document assumes essentially no AI knowledge and builds up to some deeper points.

Section 5 of the road map is particularly valuable to me as a safety professional, since it highlights potential AI applications for enhancing safety risk management.


“Mitsubishi Heavy Industries Plans More Powerful H3 To Cut Costs” (Nov. 9-22, p. 39) should have stated that the payload volume would increase by at least 50% in a proposed upgrade of the H3 space launcher.

The correction has been made in the article online and in the AW&ST archive.