Shooting yourself in the behind

Now here is something you could not make up:

The Netherlands’ Defense Safety Inspection Agency (Inspectie Veiligheid Defensie) is investigating an incident during a January military exercise in which a Dutch Air Force F-16 was damaged by live fire from a 20-millimeter cannon—its own 20-millimeter cannon. At least one round fired from the aircraft’s M61A1 Vulcan Gatling gun struck the aircraft as it fired at targets on the Dutch military’s Vliehors range on the island of Vlieland, according to a report from the Netherlands’ NOS news service.

Two F-16s were conducting firing exercises on January 21. It appears that the damaged aircraft actually caught up with the 20mm rounds it fired as it pulled out of its firing run. At least one of them struck the side of the F-16’s fuselage, and parts of a round were ingested by the aircraft’s engine. The F-16’s pilot managed to land the aircraft safely at Leeuwarden Air Base.

The incident reflects why guns on a high-performance jet are perhaps a less than ideal weapon. The Vulcan is capable of firing over 6,000 shots per minute, but its magazine carries only 511 rounds—just enough for five seconds of fury. The rounds have a muzzle velocity of 3,450 feet per second (1050 meters per second). That is speed boosted initially by the aircraft itself, but atmospheric drag slows the shells down eventually. And if a pilot accelerates and maneuvers in the wrong way after firing the cannon, the aircraft could be unexpectedly reunited with its recently departed rounds.

Lovely, isn’t it?

Quote of the Day

“If it’s your algorithm, it’s your responsibility. This is the only way that we can sort of sustain a world where we know who is responsible for what.”

Margrethe Vestager, EU Competition Commissioner

Lessons of Brexit #564

From Jonathan Freedland, pointing out two important things about the EU that Britons might not have appreciated in 2016.

The EU tends to get its way, as it will again next week when it once more dictates extension terms. It’s a big bloc with serious clout, an equal across the table when it faces the world’s other two economic superpowers, China and the US. When Britain comes to negotiate a trade deal with Donald Trump, we’ll get eaten for breakfast – with a side dish of chlorinated chicken. But in the EU, Washington or Beijing meet their match.

The same goes for tackling the other major forces shaping our lives. Last month, the EU fined Google $1.7bn for choking competition in the advertising market. Apple and Facebook are in Brussels’ sights too, as the EU looks to give individuals control over their own data and the money it generates. According to the Economist: “Europe is edging towards cracking the big-tech puzzle.”

If that’s what the EU can achieve as a group, look what it can do for an individual member state. The key obstacle to passage of May’s deal has been the Northern Ireland backstop. Why has that issue persisted? Because the EU has thrown its collective weight behind the border concerns of a single, small member – Ireland. For several centuries, an iron rule of any dispute between Ireland and Britain was that Britain, the bigger nation, would always win. Not any more. Because Ireland is now part of a bigger bloc. The backstop has made vivid what perhaps was abstract in the British imagination: that by pooling together with other nations, a country might give up a modicum of theoretical sovereignty, but it gains a whole lot of practical strength. Britain used to benefit from that obvious fact of geopolitics; now we are suffering from it. In an arm-wrestle with our once-weak neighbour, we are being outmuscled.