April 04, 2015

While We All Wait

.... with baited breath, to discover who amongst us will make the next misstep on the constantly shifting tightrope of acceptable discourse and get inducted into the Emmanuelle Goldstein society, we should not ignore the wackiness transpiring elsewhere. 

Norway has...well...mislaid something....

Only six years ago, Norwegian politicians decided that Russia no longer posed a significant threat and that it was time to sell its top secret base called Olavsvern, which was hewn into a mountain and equipped with the most sophisticated electronics available. It’s located near the small town of Ramfjord near Norway’s border with Russia.

That's certainly...awkward.


In other news the negotiations with Iran regarding its nuclear program has produced some tentative results.
None of Iran’s nuclear facilities — including the Fordow center buried under a mountain — will be closed. Not one of the country’s 19,000 centrifuges will be dismantled. Tehran’s existing stockpile of enriched uranium will be "reduced” but not necessarily shipped out of the country. In effect, Iran’s nuclear infrastructure will remain intact, though some of it will be mothballed for 10 years. When the accord lapses, the Islamic republic will instantly become a threshold nuclear state.

That from the bastion of reactionary rightwingery that is the Washington Post. 

Actual footage of our crackerjack negotiating team negotiating.

Next Big Future looks at the numbers and notes that alarmist claims that Iran will be able to make 32 bombs a year are overblown. In fact the worlds largest state sponsor of terrorism will only be able to make 25 nuclear bombs a year. 


China seems to be building a naval base in Namibia


The Middle East continues to deteriorate.
The US is asking all Americans to leave Yemen...but won't provide an evacuation.


Al Shabab has killed nearly 150 people at a university in Kenya. Neo has thoughts and links here


My State's bar association turns out to be a little bit evil


Finally, on a arguably less serious note, the President of Russia's Academy of Geopolitical Problems demonstrates why he does not run the Academy of Geological Problems...
"Geologists believe that the Yellowstone supervolcano could explode at any moment. There are signs of growing activity there. Therefore it suffices to push the relatively small, for example the impact of the munition megaton class to initiate an eruption. The consequences will be catastrophic for the United States - a country just disappears," he said.  

Even multi-megaton nukes pale in sheer scale to geological processes. Besides, while the Yellowstone magma chamber is huge, it is currently about 85% solid. Now a 20 megaton nuke ( the largest the Russians have) would leave 800 foot deep crater, so there might be a tiny chance that several of them going off simultaneously might suddenly excavate enough material to relieve enough pressure to cause something to happen (besides a Russia ending retaliatory strike), but it would probably not be a VE-8 eruption. They'd likely be infinitesimally  better off targeting Clear Lake, Newberry, Medicine Lakes or Long Valley and would be better served still by not being so silly. 

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March 18, 2015

Nothing to See Here

It seems that while we weren't looking,  the Chinese agreed to provide Argentina with 5 offshore patrol vessels (actually in this case, small corvettes). The Argentines, for no reason whatsoever, we are sure, have decided to name them the Malvinas class. 


This is part of a larger deal where the Argentines got debt forgiven, infrastructure and "stuff" in exchange for mineral wealth, corn and beef. The "stuff" includes several nuclear reactors in exchange for a Chinese spacecraft tracking station in Patagonia and other, undisclosed concessions.

Terra Del Fuego, Sri Lanka, Dominica, all those atolls in the South China Sea, the new Nicaraguan canal, and feelers along the Cape of Good Hope.

China has issues to be sure, but the Middle Kingdom also has the choke points covered. 

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March 02, 2015

Brodie Rig

Here is some interesting color footage of the Brodie landing system which the Army used during WW2 to operate their light observation planes without airstrips. Towards the end of the war the devices were adapted for use at sea on Navy and Army transports.

This system is wacked, and it doesn't work with planes much bigger than a Piper Cub, but it had one obvious advantage over the Hurricat

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I have contracted a case of the Martian Death Flu which has kneecapped my creativity. In the interests of content here are a few random links. 

First some good news: A Boko Haram force, while attempting to move into southern Chad encountered a Chadian Army unit which curb-stomped them. Boko Haram's losses were 207 killed against Chad's one dead and nine wounded. Chad also seized large quantities of small arms and ammunition left behind by the murderous, feral nutbars.

A US Military satellite has exploded in orbit. The 20 year old DMSP-F13 reported a temperature spike before breaking into 43 pieces. The loss occurred on February 3rd but was only reported Saturday.

The U.S. Korea Institute has issued a projection of how many nuclear weapons North Korea will have in 2020. The estimate is between 20 and more than 100. That's a rather....large spread.  There is an interview with the researchers over at The Diplomat. It can be heard here

We've mentioned before that America's B-61 nuclear bombs are being reduced in yield from 340KT to 50KT (while at the same same time massively increasing the accuracy). There is much more on this here. Note the buried lede 29 paragraphs down:
As part of this plan, the U.S. would eliminate the megaton-class B83 gravity bomb.

With a yield variable from a few kilotons to 1.2 megatons B-83 is by far the most powerful weapon remaining in the arsenal. The B-83 is also a much more modern nuclear bomb than the B-61. Yet this weapon is being removed from the arsenal, to be replaced with two downgraded versions of the old B-61 with 50 and 100 kiloton maximum yields. While lower yields and greater accuracy do reduce collateral damage, nuclear deterrence involves having the potential to maximize damage to the infrastructure of the country being deterred.  Also, ones accuracy is only as good as one's targeting, and while missile silos and military bases might well be eliminated with 50 kiloton blasts, the great SCUD hunt reminds us that hunting for the mobile land based missiles is not at all easy and could well involve a lot of imprecise targeting in a general area, where the greater 'earthquake effect' of the earth penetrating B-83 might be valuable. Finally, there is the possibility that a nation with a different values set than ours might conclude that even 1000 or more 50-100kt  weapons hitting their strategic targets would be survivable as a nation, whereas a similar number of megaton class weapons would allow no recovery for us, thus in their twisted logic, victory. This is more likely if one has 4 times our population and a Maoist outlook that might consider one's large population to represent...spares. Increasing the accuracy of the arsenal is surely a good idea, as it makes the deterrent more credible, but getting rid of our most powerful bomb (which is variable yield in any event) seems rather ill considered.

As we have again mentioned "nukes", here is a picture of 21 kilotons of 'splody. 

Pete Zaitcev takes a break from aviation blogging to express his thoughts on the Ukrainian situation

What is being described as "vandalism" resulted in internet, phone, and cell service being disrupted across a wide swath of Arizona on Wednesday

Something is quite rotten at UCLA

Carly Fiorina asks a reasonable question

Ebola has not been in the news lately as it has not been spreading as fast as feared, but it has managed to kill 10,000 thus far and get into the vice Presidential offices of Sierra Leone...oh and it is now believed that airborne transmission is very likely in certain circumstances. ISTR those who suggested this earlier were called bad names. Additonally, it has recently been revealed via a freedom of information request that Ebola does, in fact seem to be a serious concern to the military with regard to its weaponization by terrorists

The first scenario outlined is completely redacted, illustrating the acute sensitivity about the issue. The second scenario is heavily blacked out but, according to the memo, "would be both logistically and technically challenging for a non-state group to undertake".

Well...that's reassuring. And I mean that with the same level of sarcasm that I say this is reassuring as well. 

Finally, some Taiwanese news outfit has thoughts on Net Neutrality.

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February 21, 2015

Suddenly: A Roving Pedant Appears

Reading this article on Russian bomber incursions into UK airspace, this bit at the end jumped out at me. 

The warnings came after military chiefs said Britain "could not cope” if Russia attacked because our defence forces have been "decimated”.
Sir Michael Graydon, former head of the RAF, said: "I very much doubt whether the UK could sustain a shooting war against Russia. We are at half the capabilities we had previously.”

To decimate something means to reduce it by a tenth. Yet in the next paragraph it is clearly stated that the UK military is at half their previous capability. What's more, the number of carriers has gone from 3 to zero in recent years and three is greater than one half of three so even that assessment is off by 50%.

Thus the objective truth is is that the UK Military isn't even close to being decimated. 

See? That doesn't sound so bad now, does it?

"That's a relief! Everybody dance!"

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February 10, 2015

Oh My

China is expressing an interest in supporting the Hawaiian independence movement. Given that Oahu and Midway are arguably the most strategic points in the Pacific, I bet they are. Of course, there is also this...

 Michael Pillsbury, a Pentagon consultant and author of the recent book 100 Year Marathon, said Chinese military hawks, known as "ying pai,” told him they are ready to provide arms to Hawaiian independence activists in retaliation for U.S. arms sales to Taiwan.
What could POSSIBLY go wrong?

Regards the particular little bit of cheer in that quote, I'm a little skeptical of this sentiment being a real thing, at least with regard to the politburo members who would have to approve such a risky move. However, given the outright seizure of Philippine atolls, and moving the border with India unilaterally, it bears scrutiny. In any event, it certainly continues China's policy of trolling us. Far less asinine brinkmanship can easily lead to epic miscalculations

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January 31, 2015

The Answer is Sarmat

The question is : "What is Russia's new ICBM called?"

Wow. There had been reports that Russia was developing a new heavy ICBM to replace the old R-36 (NATO reporting name SATAN). However,  it was assumed that the new heavyweight missile would be a bit smaller than the massive old cold war relic, perhaps something with a payload along the lines of the MX-Peacekeeper

It was also assumed that ISIS was a JV team, that "Never again" was more than hollow posturing and that we would notice a Russian submarine in the Gulf of Mexico before it left. In keeping with the sterling record of our designated assumers, the stats for the new Russian ICBM have been released.

SARMAT, the replacement has a declared throw weight of 10 tonnes and can hit targets in the US while firing over the south pole. That is the opposite direction most US early warning radars point. 

 R-36 (SS-18 SATAN) being launched (via the Military today article)

22,046 pounds is an awful lot of ordinance. Keep in mind that the R-36, is, by a WIDE margin the most powerful ICBM in the world. It has a "throw weight" (as reported to comply with the START treaty), of 8.5 tonnes. There was an improved version with a payload of 9.5 tonnes that was cancelled. Reportedly, this was cancelled in order to comply with arms limitation talks. Wikipedia lists some payload options that were cancelled to comply with the 10 warhead treaty limit.  
 Three of these versions would carry regular warheads—38 × 250 kt yield, 24 × 500 kt yield, or 15–17 × 1 Mt yield. Two modifications were supposed to carry guided warheads ("upravlyaemaya golovnaya chast")—28 × 250 kt or 19 × 500 kt. 
Note that one of the two latest versions of the R-36 is a single warhead version as well, carrying a huge 20 megaton warhead that was, in part developed to maximize EMP effects. These huge warheads were removed and stored in 2009 as the Russians sought to maximize the number of warheads given the 10 warhead limit and the dwindling number of serviceable missiles. The R-36 was manufactured and serviced in Ukraine and recent events....well...the replacement program is a rather high priority. It need not, however be a challenging one. The Russians are quite capable at rocketry and the characteristics are a modest improvement on 1970's technology, but without parts made in Ukraine. Indeed, it appears that testing will begin this year. There is more on this (in Russian) here (google translate version behind spoiler tag)

This rocket is fearsome, but it is not a huge advance over the missile it replaces. However, it may itself represent a further rejection of the arms limitation treaties. and it drives home the fact that the Russians are very serious about relying on their nuclear forces.

 What could possibly go wrong?

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January 03, 2015

Mixed Emotions

Over the last 3 days there's been a bit of back and forth on the veracity of this story, but as I type this it is looking like there has been an ebola outbreak within the ranks of ISIS. Now this could not happen to a more deserving bunch of scumbags, so the first impulse is to just snark.

However, this is actually a dreadful development if true. 

For one thing, you will be shocked...SHOCKED to learn that ISIS, is not responding to the situation with the rational calm of a civilized military (Eisenhower with the Spanish Flu) or religious (Samaritan's Purse against Ebola) organization. Instead, they are killing the doctors who won't go near ebola patients without protective gear....so...they are killing the sane competent doctors. One of the reasons ebola spread so fast in East Africa was due to the fact the area had been ravaged by a recent war. The areas under ISIS influence are being ravaged by an ongoing one, and ISIS is being particularly efficient at spreading blood around in ways not seen since Tamerlane. 

But it gets worse:

The disease will go wherever the blood is spattered and that means into the local population which means it could easily get into the waves of refugees....

...or pilgrims.

...and that has the potential to be an unspeakable calamity. 
The hadj is not until September this year, but Mecca is open to pilgrims year round. (Medina too)

The Saudis have astutely banned entry to Mecca for people from Ebola affected areas. However,  ISIS is not known for respecting border restrictions. Furthermore, one of the more likely ways ebola could have reached Mesopotamia is via jihadis traveling from Africa. If these people were willing to travel all the way from West Africa to fight in a war, little will stop them from making the much shorter hop to a place their faith requires them to visit before they die. 

Fortunately ebola victims tend not to be terribly mobile while contagious, but given that they tend to become quite messily contagious it's easy to see where this could get out.

The doctors of East Africa are not incompetent, yet a huge number of them have died even after getting proper equipment. Samaritan's Purse and Medicines Sans Frontiers have highly trained and well equipped  people yet they have both had their people infected and despite heroic efforts the disease is still ravaging the area. ISIS is ill equipped, untrained and stark raving mad. 

The question of how it got there is troubling as well. While the most likely vector was jihadis traveling from the infected area it is conceivable that given their megalomanic outlook ISIS was trying to weaponize the bug. Ebola is a poor bioweapon (though its terror potential is considerable) and the chances of ISIS being able to successfully transport and deploy the thing is quite remote. However given that they are stark raving nutters the chance that they might try and fail spectacularly has always been much higher. 

Closer to home....

As bad as this could be it is still likely that the higher death toll this year will be from the flu, especially given that this years flu shot did not work. New Jersey is reporting its hospitals are full due to the current outbreak, which the CDC has just officially declared an epidemic
I think its possible that we could see the worst flu season since 1968

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December 15, 2014


It appears that the UK detected an unauthorized periscope outside their fleet ballistic missile sub base near Falsane. Details are sketchy but the Royal Navy was sufficiently concerned that they called in assistance from the US, Canada and France. 

While there have been rather more spectacular incidents involving Russian poking of NATO and nearby countries in recent months, this would seem to be one of the more worrying. If the Russian subs are are able to elude detection in the Irish Sea and Gulf of Mexico, then there may be a bit of a problem with our and our allies anti-submarine measures that warrants some attention.

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December 13, 2014


It appears that the Treasury Department is equipping its bank inspectors with survival kits.

 The survival kits must come in a fanny-pack or backpack that can fit all of the items, including a 33-piece personal first aid kit with "decongestant tablets,” a variety of bandages, and medicines.

The kits must also include a "reusable solar blanket” 52 by 84 inches long, a 2,400-calorie food bar, "50 water purification tablets,” a "dust mask,” "one-size fits all poncho with hood,” a rechargeable lantern with built-in radio, and an "Air-Aid emergency mask” for protection against airborne viruses.

They are also being delivered to what is described as "every major bank".


What is this in preparation for?

One possible scenario.

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December 12, 2014


Poland is saying that the current Russian activities in the Baltic are unprecedented

Gorbachev has thoughts 

"This is extremely dangerous, with tensions as high as they are now. We may not live through these days:.....

Well that's encouraging.

As a response to the continuing violations of the INF treaty by Russia, the US is considering redeploying the old Gryphon nuclear missiles to Europe. The Gryphon was just the USAF's name for the Tomahawk launched from a truck rather than a ship (it also had a different nuclear warhead). Thus, although all of the Gryphon's were destroyed in accordance with the INF treaty (save for a few in museums) fitting some Tomahawks with the W-80s still in the active stockpile would be a quick, easy response in kind.

Deploying nuclear missiles to Europe would cause some concern, but might not actually be particularly destabilizing. The Gryphon is useless against moving targets and, in any event, anything it could hit could be hit my other US, UK, or French nukes. It would seem that such a deployment ought to be less of a concern than the 70 to 90 B-61 bombs we still store under joint control with Turkey.

"Woah.Wait. Back up! Please clarify that last bit."

Yes. The Turkey that's being run by that fellow Ergodan still has joint custody of over 50 US nukes. 

It's unclear why anybody thinks that this is a good idea.

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November 25, 2014


While all eyes are on the mayhem in Ferguson, it appears that China is  breaking up the Hong Kong democracy protests.
The timing is an utter coincidence, I'm sure. 

(Note that this bit of sarcasm assumes that the time stamp is GMT rather than Hong Kong Time)

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November 20, 2014

There is Only ONE Story Tonight

Something, something, Presidential amnesty, something

Not that I'm not appalled, but when everyone is looking at only one thing, it is often prudent to look around.

There may only be one story tonight, but there are other things that might be worth paying attention to. 

First, some good news on the Ebola front, where it seems that the rate of new cases in Liberia and Guinea is no longer rising. While not lowering it is the first encouraging news out of those ountries since this calamity began. 
Good news on the domestic Ebola front: there was some alarm regards a woman in New York who arrived from Guinea and was being monitored for the disease when she suddenly collapsed, bleeding from the eyes and nose and subsequently died. To everyones relief, the cause of death has been determined to be a heart attack.  

Ebola Tan says"My new favorite verb is Grubering!"


Russian Bombers are now circling Guam from time to time
Russia seems to be poking Scandinavia and the Baltic nations as well
With regard to Russia, this article at the Economist proposes that the Russian economy is much more fragile than is generally supposed (and it's not widely considered to exactly be robust). This does not necessarily mean a reduction of risk...a wounded bear wandering into ones yard is potentially a more dangerous thing than a healthy one.


China, it seems, does not like this years crop of Hollywood films either...

Actually,  the image of Los Angeles being nuked is from one of several articles touting the atomic mayhem potential of the People's Liberation Army posted in China's Global Times last year that are mentioned in this Defense News piece on China's rapidly modernizing nuclear arsenal.  One interesting tidbit...
 The article notes that the survival probability for people outdoors in a 746 to 870 mile radius was zero. "Based on the actual level of China’s one million tons TNT equivalent small nuclear warhead technology, the 12 JL–2 nuclear missiles carried by one JIN nuclear submarine could cause the destruction of five million to 12 million people, forming a very clear deterrent effect.” [/quote]
This seems to imply that the MIRVs in the JL-2 submarine launched ballistic missile have a 1 megaton yield...6-50 times what is reported. This is not beyond the realm of possibility as the old W-56 warhead of the Minuteman had a yield of 1.2 megatons with a weight of 600-680 pounds depending on variant. The JL-2 is broadly comparable in size to the Trident, which can carry up to 10 of the heavier (but much less destructive) W-88 warheads. The difference in 'splody to weight ratio between America's 60's era warheads and the ones developed in the 80's may have to do with a decision to make the bombs as "clean" as possible to reduce global fallout. This seems to involve using a lead as opposed to enriched uranium casing in the bomb. The latter can double or even triple yield at the cost of a much greater amount of radioactive fallout (at least that is the impression given by open source info on the subject). If China is going all in for maximum yield, maximum fallout, their weapons would be more destructive than the US, UK and French weapons by 2-3 times for a given weight. This is probably less important than the contamination of the target country that is implied. 



Finally, on a much happier note, it looks like rice yields will soon be boosted by 30% or more

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November 16, 2014

So....What's Happening?

First off, one of the 'Brickmuppet's Crack Team of Science Babes' has some thoughts on science reportage....

Of course the 'Science Babes' are just the imaginary braniac waifus of a lonely male blogger who has a sick fetish for smart girls, so it is likely that their supposed views on such microagressions are no different than any member of the macho women haters club....

Indeed, the maladroit neckbeard known as Suburbanbanshee has presumed to express thoughts on this as has noted woman hater Elizabeth Scalia. Misogynistic troglodyte Amy Alkon mansplains the situation and, of course the vaginaphobic Pope of patriarchal privilege, Sarah Hoyt, unleashes a glorious TL;DR of hateorade

Also, there was something about a comet.

In other, obviously less important news:

The Russians, always eager to remind us that we are loved,  have decided to regularly send nuclear capable bombers to patrol the Gulf of Mexico.

In unrelated news PRAVDA is running the headline Russia prepares nuclear surprise for NATO.  It should be noted that the use of the words "nuclear" and "surprise" next to each other is generally frowned upon. However, there are always translation issues and the Muscovites probably have a different style guide. In any event, given the relative parity in acknowledged warheads the Russians are unlikely to do anything really stupid unless they think our deterrent is seriously unreliable for some reason

In even less related news, soon we'll have 3 wrenches

Concluding our chain of nonsequiters, Canada's National Post has an analysis of what Russia's goals actually might be

With regard to China, a navy analyst who stated earlier this year that China was preparing for a "Short, Sharp, War" was rather publicly reassigned on the eve of the recent conference with China

"If you talk about it openly, you cross the line and unnecessarily antagonize," Greenert said at a forum in Newport, Rhode Island. "You probably have a sense about how much we trade with that country. It's astounding. "
North Korea has launched a ballistic missile submarine

In all seriousness the old Golf class boat is almost certainly not a cause for concern so it should not affect ones real-estate purchases in any way. However there are all sorts of other issues that might persuade one to overcome ones dread of dealing with a condo association in order to move into more secure environs. (Like they say....)

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October 29, 2014

Not Really Effective, but Surprisingly Good

While looking for info on the Ukranian situation I blundered into this, 
 It's an interesting post on penetration tests that the Soviets did matching their 14.5mm anti-tank rifles against captured German tanks. 

First is a "heavy tank". I have no idea what it is, aside from that it's German. Here are the results with a 14.5 mm AT rifle:
  • Lower front plate (45 mm at 10 degrees): does not penetrate
  • Turret rear (28-30 mm at 10 degrees): penetrates at 200 meters, 100 meters at a 30 degree angle
  • Turret platform side (28-30 mm): penetrates at over 300 meters, 100 meters at a 30 degree angle
  • Lower hull side (28-30 mm): penetrates at over 400 meters, 100 meters at a 30 degree angle

This is a bit better than I would have thought. 

The performance against what are described as medium and light tanks is correspondingly better. I would not want to face these in a Panzer2 or even some modern APCs, and certainly not in a Humvee.

The"rifles" are beasts of course, with the lighter, single shot version weighing nearly 41 pounds and being 79 inches long. I suppose if one put a bayonet on one it would be a serviceable pike. These were obsolescent later in the war, but it is apparent that they were still quite effective weapons if used well.  I knew these guns were still in use around the world as antimaterial rifles, but the linked post gives a much greater appreciation of how fearsome they can be.

 "That just ain't right!".

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