A while back, I saw a program on the showing how 7.62 millimeter miniguns were produced. The company president wouldn’t allow his face to be revealed, nor the name of his company nor the location of the factory. Is this all to prevent being robbed or is some aspect of the manufacture classified? A cousin of mine worked on the ammunition loading mechanism for the A-10 and told me that there was a sample gun that they used as a model. I believe he told me that it was from a Russian aircraft and the serial number was rubbed out and you need a clearance to look at it. That was merely to conceal the source, though. The actual construction details are surely well known, correct?
Actually, I doubt it had anything to do with real secrecy. That was probably a little bit of Hollywod (well, tv-land) nonsense. Plenty of arms companies don’t hide their CEO’s identities. And it’s not like guns are a cutting-edge science, particularly.
Now the military is a bit different, but remember they often keep secrets long after it has any point. I have a friend who went to the Navy nuclear power program. Among other things, he horrified his instructers who insisted that some atomic information (as in, literally basic information about atoms!) was classified.
Of course, he then simply brought in an old textbook and handed out some 25-cent Periodic Table of the elements he ordered from the Atomic Energy Commission. That kinda pissed them off, but it was hard to argue even then (before the internet was common or popular) that the information was common. They were even more horrified when he later took some public pictures and calculated the “secret” top speeds of naval ships. That almost got him in trouble… until he pointed out they provided all the neccessary data with public photos and the forumlas had been developed in the 18th century. His father worked for the military during WW2 and had problems with the military confiscating all their work, because they weren’t cleared for their own work. MP’s would come by and take away all their notes, models, machines, and only return them once their supervisor had sent requests all the way to Washington and back.
The military has a habit of classifying everything. Nothying to do with real secrecy. It’s a long-established habit of denying the enemy anything which might be of use.
That “devastating weapon” is a mere toy in the modern scheme of things. What it’s best at is wasting ammunition while scaring the opposition. It’s also pretty much useless against anything with either armor or speed.
People generally don’t go into a line of work if they’re ashamed of their products. I haven’t seen the show in question, but I do have some experience with folks in the armaments industry. They’re pretty much fine with what they do, proud in fact to be contributing to the side they think of as the good guys.
Everybody likes to play the spook; I’d bet the boss got more kick out of playing Secret Squirrel than he would have from seeing his face, yet again, on TV.
If you watch one of those “How it’s made” episodes, there’ll usually be some moment where the narrator says “… and here’s where they add their secret ingredients; they won’t tell us what they are…” And this is for making cookies or hot dogs or industrial plastics or car tires.
It’s much more fun to play sly when you’re making … *horrors *… weapons.
**smiling bandit **- Exactly. A lot of classification is more about protecting the state of your knowledge from being enemy knowledge.
I recall being given a Secret briefing that enemy weapons system X had capability Y. I looked it up in the current issue of Jane’s and they showed the same value.
But as with everything in Jane’s, there’s the implicit (if not explicit) disclaimer that values are estimated, reported, calculated, bald-assed guesses, etc.
The fact our guys knew for sure the value was Y was the end result of some process of capturing or stealing an X or its plans, running tests, having moles in their factories or design organizations, etc. And the goal of the classification of fact Y was to prevent the enemy from knowing we had done all that or even had the capability to do so.
The less they know about what we know about them, the better off we are.
Said another way …
Your enemy is always somewhere between clueless and omniscient about your own plans and capabilities. The closer to clueless you can keep them, the better.
Gatling patented his gun in 1862 and continued to develop it through the introduction of smokeless powder and jacketed bullets. In the late 1890’s, he even experimented with using an electric motor to power the mechanism. In its modern incarnations (Vulcan et.al.) there have been improvements in materials and feeding, but darned little that could be classified for any reason beyond knee-jerk classifying.
My favorite story about this was one of the arms limit negotiators during Reagan’s presidency. They were negotiating with a collection of big shots from the Russian side and getting nowhere. Finally, the American negotiator, exasperated, pulls out a map and a list of bases and says “we know form satellite data you have…” and starts listing bases and numbers of missiles. One of the Soviet commanders (Air force? Missile forces?) gets a shocked look on his face. He points to the Soviet naval negotiator and says “you can’t tell him that information, he’s not authorized to know…!”
Or the Time magazine article about aircraft readiness that quoted a censored air force report given to the Senate committee that said " <censored> out of 58 planes were inoperational, or 57%".
The military and wargaming historian, James Dunnigan, has told a similar story, probably apocryphal, from the other way around. While cobbling up data for a wargame, they were able to find adequate data on Soviet capabilities in publicly-available U.S. resources, but were stymied on U.S. specs. Everything had “+” after it; E.g: the SR-71 flew at 85,000 ft.+, Mach 3+, etc… They were at an impasse, until finding a Russian-language resource at a used bookstore in N.Y., that evidently made very accurate guesses about U.S. hardware, but was coy/didn’t list/pulled the “+” trick when discussing Soviet capabilities…
I don’t know how they later confirmed the accuracy of the Russian-language material’s figures. It’s a funny story in any event. I’ll try to find which of his books it’s in—IIRC, it’s in How to Make War.
In addition to LSLGuy’s proffered legitimate reasons for classification, an additional reason I’ve read for the bloated classification regime is that it aids in CYA: if there’s no downside to classifying the material, and it could conceivably leak and embarrass someone, someday, why not stamp it and bury it? Probably assists black project funding too.