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Salient. Victoria University of Wellington Students' Newspaper. Volume 32, No. 18. July 30, 1969

Bruce Lienart (physics)

Bruce Lienart (physics)

I Will not bother to comment on all the aspects of Mr Mitchell's lengthy article on "the capacity for self-dilusion inherent in the liberal mind" as I am rather uncertain as to what constitutes a "liberal mind", in Mr Mitchell's sense. Nevertheless I feel bound to comment specifically on his conclusions with regard to the "liberal minds" of a group of scientists at Canterbury, Victoria and the D.S.I.R., to whom he attributes "lies, distortions and inventions."

This necessarily involves re-examing the material in question that is the Omega project, and I will attempt to examine some of the "lies" with regard to "the refutations that followed".

I am still not quite certain as to what these alleged "refutations" are, but I assume most of them relate to statements made by Captain M. X. Polk, U.S.N., project manager for Omega. Captain Polk made two statements:

• That Omega was Not fitted to Polaris Submarines.

• That this was because Omega was a "poor man's navigation system" having an accuracy of only a few miles, which was not sufficient for Polaris.

The first statement seems quite a clear one, but one must consider that Polk contradicts a statement made earlier by his own office and also in a pamphlet by the Naval Electronic Laboratory Centre, which said Omega was the only navigational aid which could guide Polaris submarines while they were submerged. It also said that Polaris submarines could use Omega without fitting Omega receivers, thanks to their existing V.L.F. equipment. It is interesting to note that Captain Polk said: "I have not and cannot justify expenditure of money on Omega equipment for Polaris submarines". This is strange because:

• As just pointed out Polaris needs very little, if any additional equipment to use Omega and

• Would Captain Polk be in a position to "justify" expenditure for equipping Polaris submarines? As project manager for Omega he would have little to do with equipping strategic vessels such as nuclear submarines.

The second statement also is a curious one. It was stated not only by the manufacturers but by the Pentagon that the system had an accuracy of 200 yards. I think the reason for Captain Polk's statement is that his figures are for just a few readings by a normal surface vessel, which is of course, moving. However as was pointed out by a scientist engaged in U.L.F. research at the D.S.I.R., Mr F. A. McNeill, a nuclear submarine could stay in one position for a matter of days or weeks, receiving large numbers of readings. It could then statistically analyse the data (with the aid of its elaborate computers) and reduce drastically all the random errors involved—for example the "transmission error" of half a mile referred to by Captain Polk.

I therefore find it difficult to see why Mr Mitchell can on the basis of these statements dismiss the whole affair as a complete fabrication and a non-issue. It still seems to me, and all the other scientists involved that the system has a strategic value, and the possibility of it becoming a strategic target cannot be dismissed completely.

However, apart from the strategic aspect, upon which Mr Mitchell concentrates his attack, there are two other very good reasons why this station should not be sited in this country. The first is the cost. On conservative estimates we would be required to pay "the cost of installing the station" (quoting Captain Polk) and a "reasonable" share of the maintenance. This would amount to about $500,000 per year (the system requires enormous amounts of electricity which we would certainly have to supply). What would we be getting for this? The answer is "nothing", or "very little'". As shown by the Royal Society report, the system could only be used outside a 600 mile radius—very little use to fishing boats or the pleasure craft referred to by Mr Holyoake. We have no overseas shipping line and airlines have shown no interest in the system.

The second reason is that this station would seriously disrupt U.L.F. research being done locally. Despite Captain Polk's arguments about "simple filters" doing the trick, it is not nearly this simple to filter out the Omega signals. Close to the aeriel, there are a great number of frequencies emitted, this being the main reason why Omega is useless at distances less than 600 miles from the station.

(These last two arguments, even Mr Mitchell chooses to ignore the first, are surely enough to concern him, and us as to what the Government's decision is, or was—it still has not been published).