July 27, 2014

A Few Random Thoughts About the Ukraine

A spirited discussion on this topic has sprung up in the comments. My latest reply went long so here are a couple of random observations and opinions on the topic..

Russia is being a jackass in the Ukraine. However, their interest in Crimea and Sevastopol in particular is of vital importance to their nation. The Crimea is overwhelmingly ethnically Russian and Cossack so even if we were going by Wilsonian as opposed to Westphalian doctrine the ethnic self determination angle might give Russia a defensible position in that case. 

We don't HAVE a doctrine at the moment , Wilsonian, Westphalian or even Carteresque, so that's irrelevant. 

Which is one reason the parallels to 1930's Chekoslovakia cause concern.

Ukraine has grievances against Russia that are numerous and legitimate, including a large swath of their country that's uninhabitable for extended periods and mass graves filled by by Stalin with their brethren. 

However, Ukraine is not a bunch of angels, with some very vocal members of their polity having anti-semitic and even neo-nazi ties. They have been using the Balkan conflict as a how-to manual rather than a cautionary tale. They are also pretty much a failed state.

We (the US) have, in the 20th century, normally supported self determination as a matter of national policy and a big chunk of eastern Ukraine is ethnically Russian.

Russia, like us, is fighting islamic extremists and would be a natural ally in this endeavor. In fact Russia has given a lot of assistance in that regard including overflight privileges to facilitate our fighting in Afganistan and providing intel on Chechen terrorists in the US which we ignored, thereby facilitating the Boston Bombing.

The plane shoot-down was a dreadful calamity, but the airline ignored warnings not to fly over a FRICKKING WAR ZONE where 3 transports had already been shot down. I don't think that Russia intentionally shot down an airliner. I cannot conceivably have gained them anything.

Is this patch of black earth which is a huge ethnic and political mess a place we want to really get involved in? 


But there is a problem with that. 

We guaranteed The Ukraine that we would protect their territorial integrity  if they acquiesced to our demands that they give up their nukes. So we actually do have an obligation to do something. It is a matter of global interest that we encourage non-proliferation. this is not achieved if a country that gives up its nukes is dismembered by others that did not.

Like, you know, Libya, who we promised not to poke at if they gave up their nuclear program. A promise we honored until the president leveraged the fact that the UK and France wanted to pay less for oil to support Muslim Brotherhood affiliated revolutions. Now North Africa is awash in weapons, thousands of MANPADS are in the hands of terrorists and Boko Haram is spreading pain and woe with weapons they got from Quaddaffi's arsenals. OTOH the oil is not flowing near as  much now.

So the "We gave our word" and "nonproliferation" carts have left the barn. The sort of brinksmanship necessary to protect Ukraine's integrity would be fraught with opportunities for catastrophic, 1914 style miscalculation and tragedy even if we had level-headed, grounded professionals running our foreign policy. 

We don't have that. We have the crew that threw away an admittedly phyrric victory, in the process giving Mesopotamia to ISIS, set North Africa aflame, and has been making fools of themselves in the Levant.  

Given that the Libyan fiasco has pissed away any non-proliferation mojo that might be preserved by an adventure in Ukrania, poking the bear* does not survive even the most cursory cost benefit analysis.  The moral calculus is dubious at best.

The only realistic way to deal with the destabilizing and dangerous situation that is our shattered credibility is to wait two years and say "Sorry...he was a fluke. We're back now".

Even then, our policy in this squalid European mess probably ought to be to bolster our newest NATO allies and provide humanitarian aid. 

*the actual bear

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June 28, 2014

100 Years Ago Today: The Beginning of The End

Archduke Franz Ferdinand was the heir apparent to the throne of Austria-Hungary. He had initially been third in line for the throne and as such had, in his early years, led a somewhat dilettante lifestyle. After a suicide and then typhoid fever placed him in the position of heir he frequently came to violent disagreements with his father(the Emperor Franz Joseph) over what he perceived as needed reforms. While Franz Ferdinand was a bit of an autocrat and  a staunch royalist who wanted to consolidate executive power on the throne, he also wanted to establish a basically federal system granting considerable autonomy to the various regions. He also wanted to ensure all ethnicities had equal standing, which was very unpopular in some quarters, particularly the Hungarian half of the empire, which had its own legislature. In essence he wanted to extend in some ways the privileges the Hungarians enjoyed to all regions while simultaneously unifying the country on strictly national matters. Furthermore he wanted to organize a third ceremonial kingdom out of the slavic states with equal prestige as Austria and Hungary to drive home the idea that the Slavs were full citizens. Franz Ferdinand was also one of the few voices in government advocating that the Empire should cultivate good relations with its neighbors and in particular, not poke Serbia any further. 

His wife Sophie was a commoner and was not permitted any royal courtesies by imperial decree (another reason there was grief between Archduke and Emperor). However she was accorded the courtesies and privileges due the wife of a general in the imperial army if he was engaged in official military business. Thus, when he went to Sarajevo to inspect a local garrison she accompanied him.

While there they made some goodwill appearances and visited the Sarajevo town hall....

Moments after that picture was taken both were assassinated by the leader of a local chapter of a Serbian secret society called the Black Hands...which despite his melodramatic title was an an angry young loser of a man who lived with his mother.

The assassination removed one of the last voices for conciliation with the Serbs and threw the Emperor into a grief stricken rage. 

Russia stepped up to defend their Serbian allies which obliged Germany to step in and honor their treaty with Austria-Hungary, whereupon the Kaiser signed off on a unfortunate plan to preemptively take out France "quickly", lest they decided to open up a second front...which brought the British Empire into the fight. These and other decisions formed a cascade failure of strategic miscalculations amongst the governments of Europe cumulating in a disaster of unimaginable proportions from which the world has still not fully recovered. 

The entrance of the Ottoman Empire into the fray and its subsequent collapse precipitated the mess we now call the Middle East. The toll the war took on Russia begat the Soviet Union, international communism and the hundred or more millions that died from that ideology in Russian, China and elsewhere. Germany, broken and humiliated by the conflict rose up under the leadership of a fiend to lash out once more against a world still reeling, not only from the loss of a generation of young men, but from the fact that this unspeakable, and stupid orgy of carnage broke the spirit of the west.

The progress that civilization has made in the last hundred years seems impressive, but it pales between the vast leap that took place between the end of one great war  in 1814 and the events of 1914. From the cold war, to the middle east, we've spent the better part of a century putting out fires started or fanned by the First World War...and still they smolder

We hardly think of this conflict today but its ramifications are still with us. Let us hope the lessons are as well, because while history, as they say, does not exactly repeat, it does rhyme

The analogies at the link, while worrisome, can be taken too literally. There is of course, little significance to the century mark beyond superstition baed on numerology. If we were using hexadecimal this year it wouldn't even have that, but the artificial significance of a hundred years passing should be taken to reflect upon not only the carnage, but the miscalculations that led to it.  

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June 27, 2014

A Refrigerator Moment

This video has been making the rounds lately. 

It concerns a Harrier landing on a assault ship without the benefit of the planes nose landing gear.

This is pretty interesting but there is one thing that concerns me.

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June 22, 2014

Wait...That's not a Megaphone

It's 100 KiloTons of 'splody!
The tiny Mk 4 reentry vehicle containing the tinier W-76 warhead weighs only 368 pounds allowing up to 14 to be carried on a Trident missile, though treaty restrictions limit them to considerably less than that. The joint U.S./UK W-76 is the most common warhead in the American and British nuclear stockpiles and one of the two oldest in the US arsenal. Rather than replacing these elderly warheads, the rather questionable decision has been made to refurbish them.  This is the warhead that caused the stir some years ago when it was belatedly discovered that the U.S. had lost the knowledge of how to produce a crucial component of the bomb.

While 368 pounds is a bit too heavy for a backpack or suitcase nuke, the impressively small size of this terrible weapon, along with its comparatively moderate weight, mean that a weapon comparable to this (far from state of the art) device could fit into any number of vehicles, steamer trunks or porta-johns. 

Fortunately nothing could get past our border security, so rest easy and enjoy the summer!

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June 04, 2014

We are now Able to Announce an Increase From 340 to 50

It's that new math!

No we're not talking about the chocolate ration. We're talking about the B-61 nuclear bomb. This is a fearsome weapon having a yield that can be varied between the equivalent of 300 tons and 340 kilotons of TNT. 

Having first been tested in 1966, the B-61 one of the only two atomic bombs the US possesses and is, by a wide margin, the oldest atomic weapon in the U.S. arsenal. As such these weapons are in need of refurbishment or replacement.  The current administration scrapped plans for the reliable replacement warhead on the grounds that developing a new weapon was not in the spirit of nuclear disarmament. However, the aged B-61 (the design of which actually began in 1960) was becoming a concern for reliability (and safety) reasons so something had to be done. 

The result was the B-61-12, an program to refurbish and upgrade the bombs. This has caused some consternation on the left as the addition of a GPS guidance package to the bomb, which gives it an accuracy equivalent to the most modern 'smart' conventional warheads is considered by many to be adding a new capability and a possible treaty violation.  Given that the "new capability" is simply a greatly increased probability of hitting its target  this does not seem to be a particularly meritorious argument. 

However, as part of the upgrade, the maximum yield of the weapons is being reduced to 50 kilotons,  a tad over one seventh the current value. 

Now 50 kilotons is a terrifying thing.  For perspective, see what a 21 kiloton blast detonated 90 feet below the surface of the water can do. 

For scale, that black stain on the lower right of the cauliflower of death  is BB33, USS Arkansas...the only US battleship to fly.

Still, you're reducing the yield to a tad over one seventh of it's current yield. The rationale may be that the weapon's accuracy would allow in some situations a lower yield setting to be used, thus reducing the blast area to obliterate a target and, in the unfortunate scenario where a ground burst is necessary, reducing fallout significantly. That is all well and good, but...
...except in a few very specific, oddball scenarios,  if we are forced to use these terrible weapons, collateral damage damage is not going to be a concern. 

Nukes are for deterrence. 

That means that if we, God forbid, have to use these dreadful devices,  we're going to come at whoever pushed us that far like the bastard children of an affair between Andrew Jackson, William T. Sherman and Curtis Lemay. The reason to have these weapons is the implication that we will UTTERLY DESTROY any country that attacked us with nukes or comparable weapons. To that end reducing the yield does not seem wise. It removes an option for greater power if needed and in doing so increases the likelihood that some blinkered individual will conclude that they can "take the hit" and absorb our retaliatory strike. 

On the face of it, that's crazy, but if one (for instance) has expressed the opinion that Mao was a man to be admired and that the 'Great Leap Forward' and Cultural Revelation' were noble endeavors...then one might be the sort of psychopath who sees China's billion or so people as "spares".  The rather large reduction in yield per bomb might well reinforce that dubious notion.

Now there may be a technical reason for the reduced yield. If the guidance package displaces, say, a tritium tank and 50KT is all they can manage then the increased accuracy is probably a good trade off. But unnecessarily  reducing the yield of our weapons so dramatically, when we are already substantially reducing the numbers of our weapons seems imprudent at best. 

So...one might wonder "What about the other nukes?"

Well, here's what's left.

B-61: Has already been mentioned. The most common nuclear bomb in the arsenal and second most common nuke in the US Inventory. Also used (with US controlled activation keys) by Germany, Italy and Turkey. 

B-83: Designed 20 years after the B-61 it is a very advanced free-fall atomic bomb and has every available safety feature. It is also variable yield 20KT to 1.2 MEGAtons. (1200 kilotons) . By far the most powerful weapon remaining in the arsenal after the scrapping of the B-53s in 2011 . The last US atomic weapon fully tested to full yield. It is neither a reliability nor a safety concern. About 650 were manufactured most of which are still in storage. 

W-76:  a US/UK SLBM warhead with a yield of 100KT. By far the most common warhead in the US arsenal. Publicly available documents indicate that there have always been some concerns regards this aging weapons reliability. It is currently the subject of a refurbishment program which made the alarming discovery that the technique for making an important component of this weapon had been lost. Reportedly a work around has been developed after 9 years of intense research..It is hoped to have these 30+year old warheads refurbished by 2018. Though doubts about the basic design's reliability may remain. 

W-78: The surviving Minuteman 3 missiles were designed to carry three of these 300 KT weapons apiece. There are concerns about its safety and age thus it is being rapidly phased out in favor of  1 W-87 for every 3 W-78s.   

W-80: 150 KT This is the warhead on the Air-Force's cruise missiles. It was also used on the nuclear version of the Navy's Tomahawk, which has since been retired. 

W-87: 300 KT Originally built for the Peacekeeper missile which could cary 10 apiece, the treaty mandated retirement of those 50 missiles freed up about 500 of these and they are being distributed amongst the 450 surviving Minuteman 3 missiles. This cuts the number of ICBM warheads by a third but improves safety and reliability of the warheads. There was an upgrade proposal to raise its yield to 475KT but this does not seem to have been done. 

W-88: Thought to be very similar in design to the W-87, this 475KT warhead is the preferred warhead for the Trident 2 SLBM which can cary 14 of them, but is limited by treaty to 8. This is considered to be the most advanced US nuclear warhead. Was to replace all of the smaller W-76 warheads but production was shut down at only 400 after the EPA/FBI raid on the Rocky Flats production facility in 1989. Although it was intended to restart production in the early 90s it was not resumed...in the US.
However, in 1995 the FBI discovered that China had obtained plans for the W88, and this diagram, which apparently contained all sorts of  confidential details appeared in the NYT. 

No new nukes have been made in the US since the end of the Cold War. The deterrent is aging and shrinking. 

It seems inadvisable to shrink it more than necessary...especially when the Russians and Chinese are modernizing and in the case of the Chinese, expanding and brandishing theirs. 

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April 26, 2014

This is Sure to Calm Things Down

While everyone was looking at Ukraine, the Chinese siezed a Japanese merchant ship on Monday. MV Baosteel Emotion was imponded as per orders from a Chinese court that declared the bulk carrier a war reparation.   It was released yesterday only after the company paid about 28 million in fines. 

This one issue seems to be resolved, but the precedent has the potential to open a huge can of worms in the future. Given the ammount of Japanese investment in China, if they start calling in reparations from a war 70 years ago it's going to be a huge mess. 

It may not be entirely coincidental that the Chinese real estate bubble has shown signs of popping over the last few weeks, though the opacity of the the Chinese market makes it hard to be sure exactly what is going on. Thr large Japanese holdings in China are probably seen as a ready supply of cash, from a particularly hated creditor. 

Far less likely, but still within the realm of possibility is the potential for rthe US backing of Chiang Kai Shek to result in unwelcopme surprises for American companies. 

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March 02, 2014


 While everyone has been focused on Russia''s invasion. (or whatever it is they are doing) in Ukraine...
   China has driven Filipino fishermen out of the waters around Scarborough Shoals with watercannon, declared two new national holidays dedicated to hate'n on Japan, is well along in the construction of two more aircraft carriers, and has a total of four in the pipeline. Additionally, they have put out video purporting to show that their new DF-41 road mobile  ICBM is operational. All of this comes on the heels of this...

  "[We] concluded that the PLA has been given the new task to be able to conduct a short sharp war to destroy Japanese forces in the East China Sea following with what can only be expected a seizure of the Senkakus or even a southern Ryukyu [islands] — as some of their academics say.”

Seriously...what could go wrong here?

Territorial claims, South China Sea

This is not to say that the issues with Russia should be ignored, but perspective is important and our media needs to get better at multitasking.

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February 06, 2014

Thinking Small With Regard to Surface ships

CDR Phillip Pournelle has an interesting guest post over at Galrhan's place in which he discusses the potential that small combatants have to augment the USN's force structure. He specifically references the Coast Guard's new Sentinel Class patrol boats.

I’ll add here another comparison:  For the cost of one Littoral Combat ship with two helicopters we could deploy 14 Sentinel class patrol craft with increased firepower within the displacement capabilities of the hull design.

The Sentinel's are fine vessels, with great seakeeping for their size and enough range to cross the Pacific (via Hawaii). They are actually a Dutch design purchased because of its very good performance in several Navies & Coast Guards. However, it's unclear what increased firepower can realistically be added to the Sentinel design. Remember, it's not just displacement that is important, space is a big factor in guided missile systems and in the sensors, fire control and C4i systems needed to make any armament useful.

Still,  being conservative, lets assume that  any up-gunning consisted of replacing the Bushmaster Cannon with the 'bolt on' SEA RAM missile system (which has its own fire control on the mount) and squeezing in two Penguin antiship missiles between the cutters copious ventilators. I choose these two systems because they are both designed to have low impact and be mounted on austere or even civilian vessels, both are in US service and they are fairly cheap. The LCS has 21 point defense anti-air missiles (RAM) and no antiship missiles except for some antitank missiles that have a shorter range than the ships single Bofors gun. Bu contrast the postulated 14 Coast guard cutters, for the same price would have have 154 of the same type of point defense missiles and 28 over the horizon ship killing missiles. That's 133 more SAMs and 28 more SSMs and they'd be (at least) 14 times as hard to sink (perhaps harder, as the Coast Guard cutters are made of steel as opposed to aluminum).

All this really tells us is that comparing anything against the Navy's littoral combat ship is setting the bar rather low.

However 14 vessels would take at least 14 hits to put out of action and so might deny any enemy unfettered use of an area of water longer. Also 14 hulls can be in 14 places at once, which can be important in peace as well as war.  Showing the flag, for instance, requires the flag actually be present.

On the debit side, while it's true that 14 cutters could cover a similar area to the LCS's helicopters, they'd be somewhat less flexible and, of course they'd not have anything like the huge cargo bay. It might be advisable to apply the concept to a somewhat larger, but still austere vessel. The Italian Commandante class Corvettes, are austere offshore patrol vessels that come in at 58 million (US) apiece which compares favorably to the Sentinel's 47 million dollar price tag.

The closeness in price between a 400 ton and a 1500 ton vessel may cause some alarm, but it is a good reminder that steel,  as opposed to a weapon system or sensor array, is cheap. A bigger hull costs only a little more.

The Coast Guard needed a vessel that could go really close inshore, have a crew of under 30,  have a low enough freeboard to pull people out of the water from the main deck, sip fuel, be based at existing small boat stations and have a draft of less than 10 feet. As such the 400 ton cutters are good fit for their needs...the operating costs are much lower (fuel, crew ect) are far smaller than the larger ship....(acquisition costs are only part of a budget).

However, 1100 more tons of steel buys a lot better seakeepng, a helicopter and vastly more internal space with all the associated advantages... at the cost of some increased operating costs due to a much larger crew and greater fuel consumption.  12 can be bought for the cost of a single 700 million LCS, though how much 12 would cost to run in comparison to an LCS is unclear though the LCS is notoriously expensive in fuel and repair costs. 12 of these ships bring 12 helicopters to the table as opposed to the LCS's 2 and the Comandante class has a hard point for 4 or 8 antiship missiles. There is also a provision in the design for a slightly stretched version with 8VLS cells and 32 ESSM missiles...

...but at that point you're getting into a AAA fire control systems, with the attendant risk of escalating prices to the point of missing the raison' detre' of the exercise.

Still, if the cost could be kept to the point that 6-10 could be bought and operated for the cost of an LCS then this vessel could be a vast quantitative and qualitative improvement over LCS.

Additionally, we've mentioned before that the French have a very interesting smaller (800 ton) vessel with similar features, but no costs were available.

Such vessels are no replacement for the big Destroyers, with their sensors and ability to shoot down aircraft missiles and satellites as well as strike targets a thousand miles away,  but they could be an interesting force multiplier for a reasonable price. This is going to become a very important consideration in the coming years. when our older hulls start wearing out...just as the depth of our financial crisis becomes fully felt

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February 04, 2014

Regards Years Ending in ...14

The Gregorian calender does not have any predictive qualities beyond such matters as when a leap day will be inserted. The parallels between today and 1914 while real, are far from exact and have been developing for years.They do not gain special effectiveness by this grim centennial.

However, Suburban Banshee takes a moment to remind us that ours is not the only calendar...and that her name is apt.

…it’s not comforting to ponder that Chinese who believe in traditional five elements fortunetelling are of the opinion that Yang years of the Wood Horse are associated with war — and "fast victories.” It is a year to stick to one’s principles — which in this version means not negotiating and running over other people.

In fact China doesn't see any parallels to the first world war...they see things in terms of the second.


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January 26, 2014

100 Years Ago This Year...

...the world was more interconnected by trade and communication than it had ever been before. For instance the British and German empires were each other best customers.

Then a few miscalculations sent things rather out of control...

This picture of the town of Reims, France gives some idea of the wretchedness that engulfed the world.

Source Unknown

That the long exposure of the photo reduces the towns survivors to images akin to ghosts is, perhaps, fitting.

This color photo of Verdun in mid 1916 also serves to remind us of the mistakes made so long ago.

Pic via this fascinating photo-gallery from Der Spiegel. The associated book can be bought here.

...as does this photo of a little Belgian  girl...

Via the Daily Mail.

...and this...


Pitiful...but enough dwelling on the ancient past. Such images are from a less enlightened world, nearly a century removed from us. We have our problems today but we live in an age of unimaginable interconnectedness. There are certainly jihadist movements, ethnocentric conflicts, and civil strife but a war between great powers is unthinkable due to interconnectedness and interdependency.

In other news, via Instapundit...this happened yesterday at Davos.

Do read the whole thing,

The Chinese professional acknowledged that if China asserted control over the disputed islands by attacking Japan, America would have to stand with Japan. And he acknowledged that China did not want to provoke America.

But then he said that many in China believe that China can accomplish its goals — smacking down Japan, demonstrating its military superiority in the region, and establishing full control over the symbolic islands — with a surgical invasion.

In other words, by sending troops onto the islands and planting the flag.

Note this addendum....

Interesting times...

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January 12, 2014

What?...What is This?

Why it's the 21st century!

We Have a Delivery for a Doctor...Quest?

Via NBF. It looks like a company called Advanced Tactics has developed a flying, off road capable van. It looks utterly impractical, but note that unlike earlier attempts at this sort of thing, the AT Transformer is actually van/truck sized with the rotors retracted and takes off vertically. Thus, it is at least in theory much more practical than the roadable airplanes that crop up from time to time.


I don't know if it would be robust enough for battlefield use, particularly in a world full of IEDs,  It looks like it ought to be inherently fragile since it has to be light enough to fly. Still, mobility and versatility do trump protection in some situations, and while this is unlikely to do flying or driving very well, the ability to do both may well have some niche utility,  I could see this thing possibly being useful in a civilian capacity Alaska or Canada.

Ignoring the road feature, this vehicles landing footprint and stowed size are tiny compared to most naval helicopters, (the SH 60 Seahawk is 40'x10feet...folded) so this may have some maritime potential giving very small ships the ability to operate a utility helicopter with a useful load.

More importantly....14 years into the 21st century...we finally have a flying car.

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November 06, 2013

Meanwhile, in the South China Sea

Cdr Salamander provides this helpful map of the maritime borders of the various nations in that part of the world.


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November 02, 2013

Well...You Have a Nice Weekend too China

Yesterday, China interupted America's hand-wringing over the Obamacare debacle with a bit of a nonsequiter.

It seems that they just, out of the blue, felt the need to remind us that their small fleet of ballistic missile submarines can wreak all sorts of nuclear devastation on US cities.

This is not news...so why bring it up?

China state media also included this fallout map which doesn't seem to make a lot of sense.

Also: Why are they wasting a nuke on Rutland Vermont?

The Blaze suggests that this might be welcome news, indicating a loosening on secrecy and censorship, but this flies in the face of recent trends which have been even farther in the other direction.

We mentioned back in August that FAS had gotten wind of China doing  a lot of nuclear attack simulations and had been putting together their own.

Hot on the heels of this helpful reminder...Today we had China announce that they intend to "silence" the Dali Lama. This is part of a larger internal crackdown fully in keeping with the disturbingly Maoist tendencies of Xi Jinpang.

Nuking the people who owe you money and buy your stuff is a poor business model (as wise people have pointed out) but if it looks like said people (the US) is never going to pay you back and are going completely broke it becomes less so...especially if the perceived deadbeat is the only thing standing in the way of regional hegemony.

Furthermore, if one thinks Mao was a swell guy and his attitude towards human life is laudable, then the huge population of China and the individual low yields of most of the warheads in the US arsenal might make it appear that China could "take the hit" of a US retaliatory strike.

In the long run...which is how China looks at things... they might even be right.

This still seems unlikely. No one "wins" a nuclear exchange.

However, stupider decisions have been made. The decisions that led to World War One all seemed like good ideas at the time. It's also important to remember that other societies and values systems can produce decisionary calculus with regard to acceptable trade offs is likely far different from ours.

On an equally upbeat and somewhat related note: There is an interesting report here on dealing with a low yield nuclear blast (about 1/2 a Fat Man) in a nuclear terrorist attack.

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October 30, 2013

She Floats!

USS Zumwalt, the first of a new class of experimental destroyers has been launched.

This didn't get a lot of coverage here but the Chinese are sure interested.
As per giggle translate of the Mandarin:

  October 28, 2013, the U.S. Navy official website Rui Zhu Mu Woer publicly latest super launching missile destroyer USS DDG1000 whole process photos. Compare Unfortunately, the ship into the water did not organize any ceremony because of the impact of fiscal tightening subject.

In other words, this milestone slipped under the radar due to the vessels inherent stealthiness and  the fact that there was no launch ceremony for a first in class warship....but mostly the latter.

Dude...they had launch ceremonies for sub chasers in WW2. This was just a gesture of contempt.

As to the ship itself there are a lot of criticisms floating around about the design, ranging from its tumblehome hull form (which doesn't have as much reserve buoyancy as the flared hulls of the navies current destroyers). There is also concern about the superstructure, which despite being an advanced carbon and epoxy reinforced assembly is still...balsa wood.  

Although classified as a destroyer the vessel is as big as a Baltimore class heavy cruiser, and seems optimized for shore bombardment. This makes it more of a monitor than anything, meaning it's really a replacement for the battleships. While the vessel doesn't have an armor belt per se its shell plating is 20mm thick and it is reportedly quite strongly built. The propulsion system is an advanced gas turbo-electric system that produces much more available electrical power for the electronics system. This will also make the ship quite quiet. The strange, 19th century looking hullform is designed for maximum stealth.

The ship carries 80 missile tubes as opposed to the 96 of the current destroyers, but these are the Mk 57 launchers which are much larger and can handle bigger future missiles. The ship also has two 155mm (6.1 inch) guns which fire shells weighing 200-225 pounds depending on type. This is as heavy as most 8 inch shells. It can lob guided rounds 100 nautical miles and the 200 pound unguided shells 24 nautical miles. DDG 100 has extensive helicopter facilities aft and a large flex-deck with aft launching for small boats.

The criticisms notwithstanding, this ship and her two sisters are experimental vessels testing out a great many new ideas and weapons systems...the stealthy hull form and composite superstructure need to be tested in real world conditions and if they work out will represent major advances. Additionally this particular program represents one of the vanishingly few DOD programs that is on time and under budget. Given that everything about this ship is experimental except the anchor chains, blankets and urinals, that is no small accomplishment.

May the wind be at her back.

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September 04, 2013

RFS Moskva

Apropos of nothing...nothing at all, I feel the sudden urge to leave this here.

RFS Moskva is the flagship of the Black Sea Fleet. This class was intended as a mass produced compliment to the much larger and more expensive Kirov class ships. In the end the production run was cut short due to the fall of the U.S.S.R.
Moskva is one of only three ships of her type in Russian service. Next to  RFS Peter the Great, these 3 ships are the most powerful surface combatants in the Russian navy, sporting 16 supersonic antiship cruise missiles with thousand pound warheads. This means that this very visible, expensive and powerful unit is a politically significant asset. Sending her to command the Eastern Mediterranean squadron in Tartus is not done lightly and is a signal of considerable national resolve.

Russia has two interests in Syria. The naval base in Tartus is one of their last overseas bases and is exceedingly important to them strategically. Furthermore the Al-Qaeda affiliated rebels are closely allied with the extremists who have been killing Russian civilians throughout the Caucuses in great numbers. If Syria's nerve gas and other weapons fall into rebel hands those materials can be expected to be killing Russian citizens in short order.

So the Russians have some quite compelling reasons to be there.

So...a bunch of US and Russian Navy ships in close proxmity and at cross puropses, with the Americas firing missiles over the Russians; Former Senator Fred Thompson has thoughts on that scenario....

Pete Zatciev points out in the comments that Russia has abandoned the Tartus Base. In my defense the Wikipedia page says the Russians are denying this....(and they may well be) but it does look like the base was largely abandoned back in June and the Russian Federation navy is just patrolling outside it.

Posted by: The Brickmuppet at 12:48 PM | Comments (13) | Add Comment
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