Wednesday What We’re Reading (Nov. 6, 2019)

No votes were forthcoming on the Winter Wargaming topic, so I’ve unilaterally decided it’ll be Rule the Waves 2. I think I’ll probably post it over at Many Words Main, so as to avoid leaving it so barren.

Defense

Science and Technology

World Politics

Sport

Grab Bag

M1 CATTB Revisited

A couple years ago, I wrote on the very cool experimental M1 CATTB. Having found some more information on the vehicle, I decided to revisit it.

We’ve talked a little about the new gun, engine, and turret already. Let’s look at the autoloader. The autoloader was the same chain-style autoloader found on Leclerc and K2, and it held 17 rounds of either 120 mm or 140 mm ammunition. 140 mm ammunition was two-piece, and was stored in its ready to fire configuration in the bustle, which accounts for a lot of its length. The new powerpack opened up more room at the rear of the hull, and this was used for reserve ammo stowage. The reserve stowage could hold 22 140 mm rounds separated into the two pieces, or 33 120 mm rounds. There was also a mechanical ammunition transfer system to refill the ready magazine from the reserve stowage.

The new powerpack was the AIPS, and it had a total1 volume of 4.81 m3. This is a savings of about 3.5 m3 of space, which was used for the ammunition stowage mentioned above. The engine itself displaced 1,682 cubic inches, with an oil cooling system. It used a special oil to handle higher temperatures better. A key advantage of the oil-only cooling system was that it was much more compact than a water cooling system and used less power to run the cooling fans, needing only 120 HP for the cooling fans instead of 240 like most other 1,500 HP diesels of the time.

CATTB also featured a brand new track. The old track had two 9-inch wide track shoes mounted side-by-side, spanning the width of the track pins. Track guides (which travel between the roadwheel pairs) were bolted between the shoes. The new track for the CATTB had a single 25-inch wide shoe to span the pins and integrated the track guide with the shoe. This was intended to uniformly distribute pin loading and increase track life. The goal was 5,000-6,000 miles of track life, more than double that of the older tracks, which was approximately 2,500 miles.

CATTB replaced the torsion bar suspension of the M1 with an in-arm hydropneumatic suspension system. There were two designs that were being tested. Switching to a hydropneumatic suspension saved about 1,700 pounds in the vehicle, and frees up several inches of space in the hull, to lower the vehicle silhouette or to add extra belly protection. Being a test bed, neither option was selected on the CATTB.

In my previous article, I commented on the very large number of smoke grenade dischargers on the CATTB. These were for an early soft-kill active protection system. The sensors cueing it were a radar warning receiver and a laser warning receiver. It could automatically fire smoke to obscure the tank, or automatically slew the gun to face the threat. I’d be concerned about its effectiveness without additional IR or radar-based missile approach warning systems.

CATTB was also projected to test the Multi-sensor Target Acquisition System (MTAS). This added a low-power millimeter-wave radar to the tank, with a field of view of 180° in azimuth and 7.5° in elevation. Range was projected to be about 5 km.

Since this is a test bed, it’s not intended to enter mass production, so I won’t evaluate it as such. But I will review the new features:

  • I think the turret design is a pretty good one and it looks cool. If you’re going for a manned turret and aren’t trying to reduce the profile like Leclerc, I think it’s a solid design. But I’d prefer an unmanned turret like TTB/T-14.
  • Provided you’re ok with the two-man turret, the autoloader is solid. The really nice feature is the auto-resupply from reserve stowage to the ready stowage of the autoloader. And 39 rounds of 140 mm is a pretty good capacity. 50 rounds of 120mm is also a good loadout.
  • I’m kind of skeptical of the engine, since this hasn’t been tried anywhere else to my knowledge. There’s probably an SAE paper somewhere behind a paywall that would tell me why. Anyway, I’m also skeptical of the idea of needing ‘special oil’ for my tanks. Plus, there are some other smallish, proven 1,500 HP diesels available these days.
  • New track seems better than the old track. More life and fewer parts. Sold.
  • Hydropneumatic suspension is better than torsion bar suspension. More room in the floor for mine protection or more room for systems or less hull height is a really good thing. Active hydropneumatic even allows you to get a bit more elevation/depression out of your gun, which can help make the turret roof lower.
  • I love active protection systems, but this seems a bit early yet. It probably would have been worked out with more testing, but I’d like more ways to cue the system. Also, I strongly prefer having hard-kill capability. At the time, it’d be worth the work, but now there are a ton of off-the-shelf systems that just work. And are hard-kill to boot.
  • Radar tracking/targeting is a cool supplement to thermals. And if you set it up right, you can use it for missile approach warning too. I’d just want a way to switch it off sometimes.

  1. Engine, transmission, cooling system, final drives, power generators, batteries and fuel for one battlefield day 

Wednesday What We’re Reading (Nov. 6, 2019)

With the Armored Brigade review now posted, I can ask a question I’ve been waiting to ask: for Winter Wargaming this year, what’s the commentariat’s feeling on Armored Brigade vs. Rule the Waves 2?

Defense

History

Science and Technology

Hong Kong

Grab Bag


  1. I’ve always enjoyed this bit of wordplay, which only makes sense if you expand ‘CDR’ when reading. 

Fishbreath Plays: Armored Brigade Review

As the annual treachery of daylight saving’s close casts its pall over Many Words HQ here in Western Pennsylvania, we turn our attention to another hilly part of the world of somewhat greater interest to wargamers and the broader defense affairs community: the Fulda Gap.

Flashpoint Campaigns: Red Storm is my current recommendation for the definitive Cold War armored combat command experience. Can Armored Brigade unseat it? Read on to find out!

Continue reading

Wednesday What We’re Reading (Oct. 30, 2019)

Busy morning at the office. Commentary status: limited.

Defense

Games

History

Grab Bag

On the OMFV

We’ve had some recent news on the OMFV program, with Rheinmetall being disqualified for not showing up for the Engineering & Manufacturing Design (EMD) phase, so let’s dig in.

First, let’s laugh a bit at the “competition” now with a single entrant. Even though, technically, someone else could enter a bid in 2023. If the program stays around that long. Those competitors wouldn’t get US Army funding and feedback from the EMD portion of the program, so they’d be at a significant financial disadvantage.

Okay, now that we’ve gotten our snark out of the way, let’s get serious. Yet again, we’re trying to replace the Bradley. What are the problems with the Bradley? So far, I’ve found the following three commonly cited (in no particular order):

1) Insufficient protection against current and near future threats, even with existing up-armor kits installed.
2) Insufficient power capacity for all current systems, let alone future upgrades.
3) Insufficient dismount capacity.

That said, OMFV only seems to worry about (1) and (2), since it does not require entrants to carry a full, nine-man dismount squad. And the one entrant from General Dynamics (which I believe is called Griffin IV), has capacity for the minimum required dismounts only. I think we’re still waiting on the DTIC or RAND corp. study on “Why Six Dismounts is Sufficient”, after they so kindly wrote a bit on why it’s so important for the GCV to carry nine dismounts.1

Anyway, the current requirements are tough enough. The following three are probably going to be extremely tough to meet:

  • Entrants must provide excellent protection (details are sparse, but presumably superior to that of the Bradley)
  • Entrants must have a 20% growth capacity
  • Two (2) entrants must be transportable in a C-17

I’m not entirely sure that this is doable. BAE didn’t think so, which is why they didn’t bother to enter anything into this phase. But GDLS seems to think they can do it.

I would have liked to have seen the Puma entered into the EMD to compete with the Griffin, but since its made by a collaboration between Rheinmetall and KMW, there’s little reason for Rheinmetall to enter it when they had their (now disqualified) KF41.

Of course, Puma was a GCV alternative that the GAO looked at, and was recommended over developing the higher-risk GCV prototype vehicles, despite holding fewer dismounts. Two can fit in a C-17 in the stripped-down configuration that is used to get it into an A400m. And the protection is pretty fantastic.

Obvious problems include that it’s very expensive, I have no idea how much growth capacity is in the design right now, the turret would have to be redone to carry the US-Army preferred 50mm XM913 autocannon, it’s expensive, there’s no provision at present for a hard-kill active protection system, the coax gun is still 5.56mm, the MELLS ATGM launcher isn’t done and did I mention it’s expensive? At a minimum, competitors are required to demonstrate an upgrade path to the 50mm gun. Oh, and the US Army would have to be okay with having to transport and install the rest of the armor before they used their air-transported Pumas.

As it is, we’ll see how the program goes. I’m not going to hold my breath.


  1. You may find the Rand GCV paper to be a good read. 

Wednesday What We’re Reading (Oct. 23, 2019)

This week, the ‘approximately Fishbreath’s birthday’ edition.

Books

  • Given that it’s me, my birthday presents were primarily books.
  • Harvey Penick’s Little Red Book, courtesy Parvusimperator: widely regarded as the best of the bunch when it comes to golf books, or at the very least, the one everyone who plays that game should read.
  • Castles of Steel, courtesy my in-laws: I’ve read this before via the War College Library, but I’m delighted to have my own copy and to read it again, just as soon as I finish Dreadnought.
  • Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrel, also courtesy my in-laws: I enjoyed the TV series and like the worldbuilding that seems to have gone into it. The book should be a delight.
  • The Bread Baker’s Apprentice, courtesy my wife: making bread is a hobby of mine, but I’m not very good at it right now. This will help with that.

Defense

Science and Technology

Guns

  • The curious case of Joseph Roh – Who got off with a super-light sentence for running an 80%-lower-finishing operation because his lawyers convincingly argued that an AR-15 lower isn’t a firearm by the ATF’s own definition.

Grab Bag


  1. Something along the lines of, it was closer than the dark-matter-free paper authors thought, so it wasn’t strange at all. 

Open Gear Retrospective: Year One

I’ve been having a blast in Open, and thought I’d take a bit to talk through some of my gear and the small changes I’ve made. My gun has been running great, and I’m super happy about that. Let’s look at some of the other stuff, and one gun part swap.

1) Holster: Double Alpha Alpha-X vs. Everglades Magnetic Race Holster
I started with a purchase of a ‘belt kit’ from Double Alpha, which included their Alpha-X race holster. This holster requires inserts to fit the trigger guard of your firearm. Since I’m using the relatively new Lone Star Innovations Outlaw grip on my race gun, which doesn’t have an insert explicitly made for it, I guessed and got the insert for the Phoenix Trinity Evo grip.

Was this module the right choice?
Yes. Or, at least, it was retained correctly and drew (mostly) fine.

Why did I switch?
Sometimes I found that I could get my gun to snag a little on the draw. I also wanted something with a bit more positioning change options, so I gave the Everglades Magnetic Race Holster (MRH) a try.

Is the MRH better?
Yes. Much smoother draw, nicer adjustment range for holster position, and the adjustments actually stay in place without a bunch of loctite. It also has a much bigger lever for the lock to keep the gun retained when moving, which is easier to sweep off on the draw. The only downside to the MRH is that its only for hi-cap 1911 platforms.

Which should you buy?
If you’re shooting a hi-cap 1911/2011 type platform, get the MRH. It’s just better.

2) Mag Pouches: Double Alpha Racemaster vs. Alpha-X
I opted to go for the Racemaster mag pouches in my belt kit.

Why did I switch?
I decided to give the Alpha-X a try since forum reviews indicated they had a superior mounting system design and I found that my mags could drag a little when drawing from the aluminum-bodied Racemasters. The Alpha-X pouches have plastic liners to try to correct this.

Which is better?
The Alpha-Xs are better. The belt attachment is a lot more secure, and only requires you to tweak/torque/loctite one screw instead of two. The plastic liner really does allow you to get a clean, slick mag draw even after you’ve messed around with tension. Plus, if you like to run your pouches bullets-out like me, the Alpha-Xs are way easier to set up that way. I’ll slowly switch out the Racemasters for Alpha-Xs, but being an open shooter, extra mag pouches are a seldom-used item anyway.

3) Magwell: Dawson ICE vs. Limcat V2
My awesome open gun came with a nice, big Dawson ICE magwell on it. This is a pretty typical choice and it’s been around for a while. It’s got an aluminum top with a replaceable plastic liner, so when you gouge it up after practicing reloads, you can just replace the liner rather than the whole magwell.

Why did I switch?
I noticed sometimes during reload practice that there was a way I could actually get my mag stuck in the grip if I didn’t rotate it correctly to align it with the grip. Some googling showed me that I wasn’t the only one with this problem, and Limcat made a magwell to try to fix it. The Limcat V2 magwell has an aluminum top and a hardened steel liner, which isn’t easily replaceable, but it should be resistant to getting all gouged up by reloads as you try to get faster.

Which is better?
The Limcat by far, even if I had to spend some time fitting it with a file. It’s got a shape that helps push your hand up higher on the grip, and the magwell’s narrower mouth and convex shape really does mean that you can’t get the mag to jam up. If you don’t miss the magwell, your reload is gonna happen. It’s a fantastic magwell design, which is probably why everyone is trying to copy it. And the hardened steel liner is, in fact, resistant to gouges.

4) Which helped more, minor kit tweaks or consistent practice?
Consistent Practice. Duh.

5) Do I want to try any other minor changes?
Of course. In no particular order, I’m considering trying the following:

  • Some kind of thumb rest, mostly because this is open and I can have one.
  • The Atlas ‘Ape Hanger’ racker, because it looks cool and it won’t smash your thumb if you flag it (old habits die hard).
  • The Limcat Heavy Brass V2 magwell, because I kinda like my current heavy gun, so why not try more weight low in it?
  • Possibly the SIG Romeo 3XL red dot, but that’s a lot more expensive than everything else on that list, so I might wait.

But really, the big thing is just get more practice.

DISCLAIMER: I paid my own money for all of the above parts and received $0.00 in compensation from any of the manufacturers listed here.

Wednesday What We’re Reading (Oct. 16, 2019)

After the raging kegger we threw to celebrate the 50th WWRW, we needed a week off.

Actually, it was a busy week at work and I just forgot. Enjoy this special double edition.

Long Reads

Quiz of the Week

Defense

Sport

Science and Technology

Grab Bag

Spoiler for Guesses

My guess: A, on the grounds that on a (successful) offensive, you’d expect to see disrupted subordinate commands swept up by advancing superiors.
Parvusimperator: A, and is this the Civil War?
Spoiler for Answers

Here you go. Parvusimperator and I were both correct, but I was right for the wrong reason and Parvusimperator was right but wrong about the war.

Wednesday What We’re Reading (Oct. 2, 2019)

It’s the 50th anniversary edition of Wednesday What We’re Reading, in which we… don’t really do anything out of the ordinary.

Defense

Science and Technology

Nerd Culture

Grab Bag


  1. Let’s see. Raimi’s trilogy is good, great, meh, and gets sad-sack Peter Parker right but doesn’t give him much time to be wisecracking Spider-Man. The Andrew Garfield movies are meh, I-didn’t-see-it, and make Peter Parker too cool. Spider-Verse is one of the best comic book movies of any kind ever. I didn’t see Venom. That’s maybe half good? Two-thirds? Anyway, the two MCU Spidey movies have been superb and great, respectively, because a) Tom Holland’s Peter Parker is still a dorky kid, and b) Tom Holland’s Spider-Man is properly confident. Some complaints about how Far From Home took him too far from home aside, Marvel Studios has a better record so far.