November 18, 2015

The Russian's Strategic Situation Room is Much More Bright and Cheery Than Ours

We cannot tolerate this lily gap!

This is all in Russian, but allegedly they are making a big show of the pounding of ISIS positions earlier in the week which saw the first combat use of the Tu-160 (Blackjack). Tu-22m(Backfire) as well as the ubiquitous 'Bears' were used as well.  Additionally, according to RSNF, Putin orders the CO of the task force built around the big cruiser Moskva to co-ordinate with French forces

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October 26, 2015

Be Concerned. Be Prepared...But Don't Lose All Historical Perspective.

IBT notes that they are shocked to learn that the Russians are poking around undersea cables with their submarines. 

They are not the only paper to point tis out.

Cdr. Salamander has a sublimely titled response.

First of all, if anyone in government service in the national security arena is surprised or shocked by this, please go work somewhere else.

If those who are responsible for maintaining connectivity have not been refining our branch plans to respond to this eventuality, will someone please fire them?  

Do read the whole thing.

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October 21, 2015

218 Years Ago Today

 U.S.S. Constitution was launched. 

Built to fight the Barbary Pirates (yes our first war was against Islamists) the ship distinguished herself in that war as well as the War of 1812, where the ship defeated  HMShips Guerriere, Java, Pictou, Cyane, and Levant and in the process earned the nickname "Old Ironsides".

Saved from the breakers by public outcry, the ship served for nearly a hundred years, circumnavigating the world, fighting pirates and slavers, serving as a a school ship, carrying out various diplomatic duties, and on occasion even supporting archeological and oceanographic expeditions. In 1874 she carried the US delegation and display to that year's Paris World's Fair. 

After a spell as an accommodation hulk, the ship was restored as a museum ship in the early 1900's and is moored in Boston harbor, the oldest commissioned warship afloat. 

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October 18, 2015

The State of Things

Business Insider has published STRATFOR's thumbnail overview of the world situation and their predictions for the rest of the year

It's long but warrants a read (though one should probably ignore the breathless headline). STRATFOR can be hit or miss on their predictions, but they do give a decent overview of what's happening now and, more importantly, they also keep an eye on parts of the world that get less coverage. 

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October 07, 2015

Article 5

Article 5 of the Washington Treaty (generally referred to as the NATO Charter, to avoid confusion with that other Washington Treaty...and because it IS the NATO CHARTER) reads as follows...

Article 5 of the Washington Treaty:

The Parties agree that an armed attack against one or more of them in Europe or North America shall be considered an attack against them all and consequently they agree that, if such an armed attack occurs, each of them, in exercise of the right of individual or collective self-defence recognised by Article 51 of the Charter of the United Nations, will assist the Party or Parties so attacked by taking forthwith, individually and in concert with the other Parties, such action as it deems necessary, including the use of armed force, to restore and maintain the security of the North Atlantic area.

Any such armed attack and all measures taken as a result thereof shall immediately be reported to the Security Council. Such measures shall be terminated when the Security Council has taken the measures necessary to restore and maintain international peace and security.

As an aside, apropos of nothing, I'm sure..., here are a few of the mornings headlines...

...and a couple of analysis pieces. 

(Perhaps your effort should be put into determining how we DON'T)

I am have tests coming up and no time to opine on these matters so instead I'll just leave this here.

Tam has comprehensive yet concise thoughts on the matter here as well as worrying confirmation that it's not just me looking to Fred Thompson for insight on this matter.  

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October 04, 2015

Shootings, Floods and Lost Ships

are what the news is focused on (a not entirely unwarranted decision) but there are other things deteriorating as well that deserve some attention, as they have considerable potential to generate rather greater levels of grief...


The photos show smiling children enjoying various rides, as well as landscapes featuring ferris wheels and a play train. The rides fail to disguise the ravages of war; beyond the foreground, dilapidated buildings and bombed-out areas can be seen.

I guess some positive reinforcement to go along with the punishments of children there is necessary for morale. 

Meanwhile, the administrations expert responsible for overseeing the war with ISIS just resigned

He has been joined by the nation's top cyber security advisor, and the Pentagon's top Russian expert.  Three in such a short time would seem to indicate a lack of faith in the administrations policies on these matters. 

On the other hand, Russia took a break from bombing the snot out of the American and European proxies in Syria to hit ISIS headquarters...which had somehow managed to elude the bombs of America's bombing campaign for a year. 

Instapundit links to a Lee Stranahan editorial which comprehensively sums up the situation...assuming of course that the emerging outcomes are not the goal. 

Speaking of Russia, they just drafted 150,000 troops. This seems to be a supplementary conscription, since the annual draft of 150000 (Russia has active selective service) took place in the spring. 

Russia is recomissioning and upgrading 12 nuclear submarines 6 of which are identified in this article. They also announced plans earlier in the year to restart the production line for the TU-160 bomber with 50 (some sources say 60) expected to be commissioned by 2023. There has been some skepticism expressed, but the upgrade program on the existing 16 operational Backfires is actually ahead of schedule and they are producing some very large and very fast planes now so there is no reason to suspect that they can't. 

Speaking of capabilities....the first Chinese indigenously built aircraft carrier, will, reportedly, be launched on December 26. (This date has been chosen to commemorate Mao TzeDong's birthday...presumably because genocidal dictators are the sorts of people the current Chinese Government wants to honor.) Note that the carrier was started earlier this year, so the ship is being launched in less than a year...unheard of for such a large vessel. Note that this is a launch and not a commissioning....lots of equipment needs to be installed, but while analysts are skeptical that commissioning will happen sooner than four years hence, the incredible speed with which the hull was constructed should give one pause. 

Also concerning capabilities, Next Big Future points to a WCT article that gleefully boasts that China has demonstrated the ability to put MIRVs with its ability to launch multiple satellites on a single launcher. They also point out that the Chinese commercial space launcher the Long March 6 can launch 20 (twice as many as the Russian R-36, the biggest ICBM in the world). That a commercial space launcher takes hours to fuel and so could only be used for first strikes (and dozens of launchers fueling would give fair warning) is not mentioned in the article. NBF does point to the capacity of the bigger Long March 5 is 25 metric tonnes.  Taking the conservative path of using the weight of an obsolete USAF ICBM warhead ( the W-56) and a current one (the W-76) dividing 25 tonnes by that amount (25tonnes = 55,115.500 pounds round down so 55,000 / 680 = 81.1 or 55,000 / 362 = 152.3 warheads delivered with one launch. (Capacity to an antipodal target is a bit more than 50% greater than capacity to LEO but there is still a lot of weight involved in the buss and such) hey perhaps they don't need but one launch. Naturally, the same basic math would apply to the Russian launchers in the same class such as PROTON.

Of course this is silly as it would be suicide. They'd still face our righteous wrath unless there were some reason to believe our nuclear deterrent was a hollow force. completely unrelated news in the U.S., the nation's last American owned uranium enrichment plant was just shut down by the DOE. 
U.S. Rep. Brad Wenstrup, whose 2nd District includes Pike County and part of Ross County among others, expressed disbelief. Both he and Portman said that on the heels of a deal that recognizes Iran’s right to enrich uranium and maintain access to thousands of centrifuges, shutting down of the only source of domestic uranium enrichment is irresponsible. The Centrifuge is the only American-owned enrichment facility operating in the United States, while foreign-owned Urenco USA operates an enrichment facility in New Mexico.  

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September 27, 2015

I'm SURE This Will All End Well.

China is moving into the Med, allegedly they will be joining the Russians in attempting to shore up Assad. What is certain is that the Russians are coordinating with the Iranians and they, the Syrians and the Iranians have signed military agreements with Iraq

Meanwhile, the U.S. and the French are conducting airstrikes against ISIS (which is pursuing an ambitious agenda) while the Syrian, Chinese, Iranian, Russian and Iraqi forces are conducting air and ground operations. Except for Iraq, none of those air-forces or ground forces are not coordinating with us in any way and at least the Russian planes are running with transponders off. Heck, the Russians got their planes there surreptitiously and were only detected once they arrived.  Meanwhile, all sides are shooting at targets that may or may not be insurgents.

What could POSSIBLY go wrong?

In other, arguably less potentially exiting news, it looks like Catalonia may well be breaking away from Spain as the secession parties just won an election. 

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September 20, 2015

And Then This Stuff Happened

While people are focusing on the epic fantasy fight that is Clock Boy VS Gell-Mann other things were happening in the real world. 

The President has ordered US Navy ships to steer clear of the artificial islands built by China in the South China Sea, thus ceding the seized Filipino and Vietnamese islands and giving China de-facto sovereignty over one of the most important trade routes in the world.

This method of just CREATING national territory anywhere the ocean gets shallow is expected by some analysts to soon be used in the Indian Ocean.

Unless it's all a monumentally expensive and elaborate feint (with the benefit of infrastructure in place for later use) to distract from the thrust into Taiwan.

It is being reported that North Korea is likely to launch a long range missile or satellite on the 70th anniversary of the founding of the North Korean Communist Party....but that is far from certain

What is somewhat more certain is that they are spinning up their nuclear weapons production in a big way and possibly their bioweapons as well. 

Iran just released 5 top members of Al Qaeda in a prisoner swap. Odds are good they did not do so for a deserter. 

Russia is also moving into Syria to defend the odious dictator Assad from the murderous assault on reason that is the Islamic state. A lot of people across the political spectrum seem upset by this. They probably need to analyze their pique more thoroughly. This seems like a point of convergence in our interests and has potential to be a starting point for walking back tensions in other areas. 

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September 09, 2015

A Blast From the Past the multi megaton range.

Via the Secret Projects Forum comes information indicating the Russians have been developing a weapon system that involves an autonomous underwater drone intended to penetrate U.S. harbors. This is no surprise, but this drone is reportedly intended to carry a warhead with a yield measured in "tens of megatons". This weapon system has been given the designation KANYON by the Pentagon.

It's not exactly a new concept for the Russians. As we've reported here before, the initial delivery system contemplated for the RDS-220 (Tsar Bomba) warhead was a rather large torpedo, the T-15. This was initially intended to be the main armament of the project 627 submarines (November Class), though the concept was later abandoned.

KANYON would appear to be a completely terrifying interesting and logical refinement  of the concept. Though not explicitly stated, it would seem to allow the weapon to situate itself much farther inland than could be reached with a simple torpedo shot.  The article suggests that the weapon is specifically targeted at the U.S. Navy's SSBN bases in Kings Bay and Bremerton, the latter being a particularly challenging targeting problem as it is reachable only through a winding  channel through an archipelago that is fairly far inland. This would indicate that other targets with inland deepwater ports would be within its reach. The junction of the Potomac and Anacostia rivers comes to mind, as does Houston which is a major port and energy center. 

This weapon would, of course, precipitate all of the usual mayhem one associates with a high yield nuclear blast (and a ground blast to fallout would be horrific). However, there is one particularly interesting effect that this sort of unsolicited dredging operation would have. 


Assuming use of the relatively new 20 megaton 8F675 warhead which the Russians recently removed from their ICBMs, the Nukemap online sum of all fears simulator suggests a crater depth of 800 feet. More importantly the crater extends for 1.05 km from the center, so there is a circular reef of trinitite glass completely blocking the harbor's channel. Here we see one at the mouth of  Hampton Roads (home to the worlds largest naval base...and the Brickmuppet). 

The harbor....isn't one any more. Even after the radioactivity subsides. 
The expanse of the effect naturally increases (though less than linearly) with yield, so the 57megaton yield of the 1963 Tsar Bomba test would virtually close the whole harbor mouth.

Of course the more generally appreciated effects still apply.... 

From center out, little black donut=crater seen above, dark red circle=200PSI blast which destroys pretty much everything, green=radiation instant death which is redundant in this context because...light red circle=20PSI which corresponds to ground zero at Hiroshima, dark grey=5psi light grey=windows break with enough force to cause injuries, dark orange=trees burst into flames (weather dependent) light orange=people standing outside get third degree burns (weather dependent) Note that fallout is not shown, but I'd advise against eating the oysters for several decades.

Doing this to Beaumont, Long Beach, South Louisiana, Houston and New York could permanently close those ports and would remove over half of the nations capacity for foreign trade for a very long time. In the case of Louisiana, it would shut down a good bit of internal trade as well. 

Of course, such a weapon would violate the Seabed Treaty and we all know how fastidious the Russians currently are about arms-control treaties

UPDATE: The reason that something as whacked as a multi-megaton robot submarine nuke is is of any interest is that such a device is inherently a first strike weapon. It doesn't actually deter anything unless its deployed and if its deployed it will likely result in the balloon going up. Kanyon is a stupid concept  if one is looking for deterrence rather than destabilization. The Russians aren't stupid. Thus, that a weapon like this is, apparently,  being developed in a country that is rather strapped for cash indicates that this sort of attack is in the rolodex of options that are actually being considered by their war plans division. 

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September 07, 2015

Island Re-Taking Battle

As part of their contribution to peace, stability and good vibes, the Chinese government released this a bit over a week ago.

The island they are "re-taking" looks a lot like Okinawa.

UPDATE: In other China News, there appears to have been ANOTHER explosion at a chemical plant in eastern China. 

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August 31, 2015

More On Grid Hardening and Related Issues

We've taken breaks from our usual fluf-blogging to post about electro magnetic pulse before, tentatively running the math on some worst case scenarios, but we don't pretend to be experts on the topic. 

However, here is a panel of actual experts including James Woolsey and Henry Cooper (who some of you will remember from his work with HIGH FRONTIER) who, in 2013, held forth on the matter for a bit over an hour.

Amongst the things discussed is the possibility of multiple cascading Fukishimas. I was also surprised at the offhanded comment about the North Koreans being caught smuggling missiles into/ out of Cuba

One other interesting bit of information we've turned up on the topic pertains to the more modest nukes and delivery systems that a group with ambition and cleverness could extemporize. In 1958 the US conducted a series of nuclear tests called Hardtack 1. This included a test to determine the effects of a anti aircraft missile warhead that was simulated by lofting a small fission device via a ballon. The yield of shot Yucca was only 1.5 -1.7 kilotons but according to this article, the detonation was just high enough to trigger the High Altitude EMP effect. The fact that most of the observation equipment was destroyed by power surges was chalked up to improper calibration until the later high altitude tests that had populated areas (Like Hawaii) in line of sight revealed that the problem was not with the test equipment. Note that the tropical location would result in far lesser effects than one in a middle latitude location like the continental United States or Europe or Australia....or Kasputin Yar.

So a nuke as small as 1.5 kilotons delivered via balloon could still cause considerable mayhem by tripping breakers and burning out transformers. 

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August 19, 2015

News of the 21st Century

This Iran deal just gets better and better...I knew they weren't allowing the U.S.A. to do inspections of the Iranian nuclear sites, but if this AP story is correct then the agreement is not merely's clinically insane.

VIENNA (AP) — Iran, in an unusual arrangement, will be allowed to use its own experts to inspect a site it allegedly used to develop nuclear arms under a secret agreement with the U.N. agency that normally carries out such work, according to a document seen by The Associated Press.

"Unusual arrangement"...well that is not an inaccurate assessment. 

Read the whole thing. This is not somer obscure site, but rather Parchin, where Iran is perfecting explosive lenses

This is so batscat bonkers that I'm a tad skeptical. However, it would fit with a certain school of thought that the issue on our end is neither fecklessness nor naiveté, but rather motivation. 


Russia has imprisoned (for 15 years) an Estonian they abducted. 


The Russian economy may be much worse than thought...which could have either calming or incendiary effects upon that states behavior. 


China is not retiring the old DF-5 ICBMs. Rather, they are upgrading the series of liquid propellant missiles. The new models increase their range to be able to hit targets anywhere on earth, with multiple warheads. This is similar to the arrangement that Russia has, with a few dozen heavyweight missiles complementing their road mobile ICBMs.

Oh. Look...


Finally..the kind of story that would not be out of place in an 80's film SET in the 21st century.... 

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August 12, 2015

Desperation Can Lead to Poor Choices

Nations that are under stress from within or without have historically been prone to attempt unifying their populations and ameliorating or postponing their economic reckoning by military adventure.

In other news...there is this
....Russia is within the perfect storm of an economic crisis. So, the Russian economy started stagnating in 2013. It was never really able to recover after the 2008-2009 recession, and in 2013 the economy really started to slow down. It's just grinding to almost a halt outside of energy. And so that was the very start of it. Then we had 2014 happen. The situation between the West and Russia over Ukraine eventually, of course, led to sanctions. And then, at the same time as sanctions against Russia, we had oil prices pretty much fall in half. And so it was multiple items put together, in which you had the Russian economy just take a nosedive over the past year and a half.

To the southeast of Russia, China is devaluing its currency.
The wild couple of days in the currency market compounded the damage already done by July’s stock market crash to the Communist Party and President Xi Jinping’s reputation as competent stewards of the country’s economy. Xi has amassed unprecedented political control and eliminated potential rivals through a massive crackdown on both corruption and political dissent. That might be all fine by Chinese citizens as long as the government continues to provide strong economic growth, but it works less well when the government seems incompetent on economic matters. The "Chinese dream” Xi has promised citizens includes not just national greatness but personal wellbeing.

However, despite this, the Chinese government is still hoarding oil....

More than 80 million barrels of new strategic reserve capacity is scheduled to start operations this year, and China will continue purchases to fill those tanks, according to Chauhan.

...and are saying that they may be the worlds largest oil importer this year. 

North Korea has the advantage that its economy is already rock bottom and has nowhere to collapse to. However, the drought is causing problems for a country where forestry is serious business
Naturally, the hermit kingdom is ramping up its uranium enrichment and mining as well as making noises about another nuclear test in October

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August 05, 2015

OK This is Neat

An old ad for the Seawolf amphibian variant that was aimed at military customers. I'm skeptical about the claim this you tuber made in the title, but I particularly like the boarding operation at 7:00 and "ninja mode" at 8:25. 

This would be my dream plane. 

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August 04, 2015

How Much Will 150 Billion Dollars Buy?

Obviously, production and sales tax issues aside, one could purchase 150 billion of those sketchy Dollar Tree steaks. However, one would not be Iran, which is getting 150 billion in frozen assets freed up as part of the deal to...ummm....slow their acquisition of nukes.

Anyway, it is rumored that they have made some interesting purchases:

150  Chinese J-10 fighters  (Guestimated at 5.625 billion)
250  Russian SU-30 Strike fighters (Guestimated at 9.375 billion)
100(!)  Russian IL 78 refueling tankers (Guestimated at 3.5 billion)

That is a hell of a lot of planes.  It's an especially large number of tankers, though if they are serious about power projection 4 fighters per tanker is not just means the Iranians have given a lot of thought to logistics and other non-flashy assets an air-force needs.

The cost estimates come from Wikipedia and Global security and are WAGs only that don't take into account associated ordinance purchases, training or fuel costs. However, 18.5 billion leaves a lot of wiggle room for these and other pointy, sharp things before 150 billion is reached  and its not like the 150 billion is their's extra. 

A few things about this story.
Iran can't actually take delivery for a few years under the terms of the agreement and it's likely that most of the planes couldn't be built /delivered for some time anyway. However  a chunk of the Chinese order (and possibly the Russian one as well) actually appears to be a preexisting order from 2007, which was frozen because of the sanctions, so its possible that some of the planes have been built and also conceivable that the ex-post facto nature of the arrangement could allow delivery sooner than normally allowed. That is unclear, but the deal is so full of unpleasantness that it is not beyond the realm of possibility. 

This story itself is thinly sourced. It has popped up in a couple of places, but it seems to always refer back to the DEBKA story or a Wall Street Journal article currently behind a paywall. However, It is well within Iran's financial means and similar numbers of planes were being ordered in 2007 so it is very plausible. 

This story also gives some idea of what a windfall Iran has gotten irrespective of the nuclear aspects of the deal by having its assets unfrozen. In adjusted dollars this is a slightly bigger infusion of cash than The Marshall Plan was for Europe


Dennis Prager has a good overview of the situation.... 

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