Friday, April 21, 2023

The Golden BB

 I'm sure that for any of you old enough, that you remember an expression or saying from the late 80's / early 90's: The Golden BB. Because they sure used the hell out of it. I saw it in several movies and also several science fiction novels.

Now, what is the 'Golden BB' you ask? It's a BB. I'm not sure if it's .22 caliber or .175, it's not made of gold, it's not made of anything special at all. However it, through odds or incredible amount of luck, manages to hit the exact right spot to totally destroy a military aircraft - usually a fighter or a bomber.

The Star Wars Death Star explosion? Yeah, something like that, only they did it with a BB. Not an explosive set in the exactly perfect spot.

Now the whole 'Golden BB' thing sounds great, it's David and Goliath on steroids times a thousand, no! A Million!!

The problem is, it's pure bunk. Even if you scale it up to a single bullet from a standard issue military rifle, you're not going to blow up or down any military aircraft with a single shot. You're not even going to get through the canopy to hit the pilot in the head and kill him. 

Why? You ask?

Simple: Redundant systems, armor, all sorts of things. There are very few critical flight systems on an aircraft that a single bullet can destroy. And that's taking them out of the aircraft and setting them on the ground to be shot at point-blank range. For those few things where it can do significant damage, there are more than one, and they're behind metal. 

Now I'm not saying that there aren't weapons out there were a perfectly placed shot can take out some aircraft - but those aren't 'BB's. They're heavy weapons, mounted on something, and they're sending out a pretty large and heavy projectile. They may even be explosive. Or exotic materials (like depleted uranium). They are most definitely NOT BB's.

You have to remember that aircraft fly into things at some pretty high speeds. Like birds, hail, water, dust, etc. And some of those things (like birds) can be pretty damn big. So they're made to take that kind of abuse even if they're not military. And if they are military, well then moreso.

Then there are the engines. Engines are big vacuum cleaners and will suck up anything (or anyone) in their path. Some engines are notoriously fickle, those are ones in older, smaller, and 'cheaper' aircraft. The T-38 was said to flame out if you coughed in front of it. Other engines, like say a centrifugal compressor type, you can shovel rocks in the front and you will get gravel out the back. 

Also most military aircraft (most, not all) have more than one engine. There are usually at least two actuators for each flight control surface. There are back ups for damn near everything, and often back ups for back ups. Then a lot of nifty little tricks that you learn or get passed around for whatever it is you're flying.

So no. No 'Golden BB's.

The reason I bring this up is because we all hear things and are told about things that are '1 in a million' shots / chances, but in realty they're 0 in a million. They can't happen, won't happen, never happened. There are a lot of things like that in life and I've had people who should have known better tell me things that were just so patently wrong it wasn't funny. But everyone likes a long-shot and everyone likes a cool/funny/unexpected/underdog story.

Not saying those things don't exist either. But sometimes, sometimes the claims are just so ridiculously out there that no, no one in their right mind who has any critical thinking skills should believe them.

Yet way too many people do.