Today we’re talking maritime patrol aircraft. There are two on the market worth looking at: Boeing’s P-8 Poseidon and Kawasaki’s P-1. Let’s look at them both and see what we like.
The Poseidon was designed to replace the P-3 Orion, and the P-8 is based on the Boeing 737-800ERX, which means it has the fuselage from the 737-800 and the wings from the 737-900. So it’s based on a recent model of a very popular airliner, which keeps airframe costs down and ensures a good supply of future spare parts. The Poseidon has a weapons bay located behind the wing, with five weapons hardpoints. An additional six hardpoints are under the wings. This bay might seem a little small, but you can’t actually put the bay between the wings, because that’s where the structure is to support the wings.
Sensorwise, the P-8A is equipped with the APY-10 multi-mission surface search radar, plus facilities for a large number of sonobuoys, and an EO/IR ball turret. It even has a sensor to detect emissions from diesel ships and submarines. In its standard, USN model, it does not have a magnetic anomaly detector (MAD). This was per a NAVAIR request to reduce weight and improve range. It also allows for a higher-altitude flight profile that is more fuel efficient, especially for an airliner-derived platform. In turn, the lack of MAD has been frequently criticized. It should be noted that this shouldn’t be seen as an indictment of the platform; regardless of what you think of the US Navy’s decision the P-8 can be equipped with a MAD, and the version for India has been sold with one.
The P-1 was also designed to replace the Orion, and it took a notably different path. It’s about the same size as the Poseidon, but it’s optimized for lower-altitude flying, with less-swept wings. It’s equipped with advanced avionics, including a fly-by-light flight control system, an HPS-106 AESA surveillance radar, and a magnetic anomaly detector standard. It has eight internal and eight external hardpoints for weapons. It does not have provision for midair refueling.
In terms of comparatives, the P-1 has more weapons capacity, and flies the traditional lower altitudes of the P-3 Orion. The P-8 is a higher altitude aircraft, for better and for worse. The P-8 has a big edge in terms of costs, being based on a currently-produced airliner, being in higher-rate production, and having tons of spares readily available. The popularity of the 737 platform will mean that there will be a large supply of future spares too.
And, like everyone else who has looked at these two, we’re going with Poseidon. Which begs the question, to MAD or not to MAD? I’m going to hedge here, because I really want to see some data or some test results, but I don’t have them as an armchair strategist. I’ll tentatively say “With MAD”, understanding that I’m open to data that I don’t have right now showing that it’s really not needed.
Parvusimperator is now onto Volume 3 of Shelby Foote’s Civil War! Much like McClellan on the Peninsula, I am constantly looking at Volume 1 and saying, “I can take it, I just need another cup of coffee.”
Taiwan can win a war with China – A particularly spicy take, but a long and well-researched read (as you usually get with Foreign Policy). I thought we’d talked about defending Taiwan in the past, maybe as a podcast segment, but I have a hard time finding it. Private browsing evades the paywall.
The Drive to the rescue, with more detail – I buy that a Su-35 could find an F-22 via IRST, especially if (as the Russians say) the Su-35 were behind the F-22. I don’t know if I buy the accuracy of the Russian story, just on principle, but it does at the very least pass the smell test.
Thursday bonus article: The US should buy diesel subs – Written by a perennial favorite here, James Holmes, who became much harder to find on Google following the Aurora theater shooting. The headline might make you say, “Don’t be absurd,” as it did me, but once you get about halfway through, you hit the wham line which made me say, “Oh, that’s actually not a bad idea.”
The ABC Conjecture: proved or not? – I share this in large part because Quanta is reliably excellent math, science, and technology writing, and deserves to be on your reading list.
Catholic drama in China – The short version is, the Vatican struck a deal with the Chinese Communist Party to let the CCP have a say in the nomination of local bishops. In doing so, they’ve robbed themselves of some legitimacy there, in favor of not rocking the boat too much. Especially in authoritarian places, Christianity is by nature a boat-rocking religion.
Kind of a mouthful of a scope name, but it’s high time I review it. The Gen II-E is the lighter version of the Gen II that three gunners have been loving for years, and that SOCOM has been slapping on their carbines when they want a low-power variable optic. The II-E is basically the same great scope, but four oz. lighter. Subtract one Royale with cheese. Great. I’m always down for lighter weight.
I went with the JM-1 reticle, because I’m buying this scope for competition, where a simple BDC-type reticle will do nicely. Other reticle choices are MOA-dots and mildots. So if you want ranging references, go with those. All reticles have a 0.5-MOA illuminated dot in the center of the crosshair. It’s small enough not to cover stuff up, but bright enough to be easily seen just about anywhere. “Daylight bright” is a frequently abused term in optics reviews. I will say that it’s as bright as my Aimpoint. Or, if you prefer, there are settings that are entirely too bright to be without blooming on an sunny Pennsylvania day. So it should be bright enough for anything.
The illumination dial is nicely thought out. Pull out to adjust and then push in to lock, just like a locking turret. Also nice is that between each setting there’s an off position. So you don’t need to go all the way back to zero every time you want to shut your scope off. It’s a nice convenience feature.
The adjustment turrets are capped. Once the caps are removed, the turrets themselves are adjustable with your fingers, not a screwdriver/cartridge case. The adjustment increment, in my case 1/2 MOA, was printed right on the turret, which was also nice. I didn’t need to consult a manual, so I didn’t have to worry about forgetting it at home. For this scope and its intended uses, capped turrets are ideal. BDCs are not for dialing range on.
Looking through the Razor, we find very clear glass. Even at the edges. The scope has a really wide field of view and a very forgiving eyebox. The wide field of view means that the scope body will very nearly disappear on 1x. Up close, the Razor is fantastic. It’s fast as my Aimpoint, and that’s high praise.
Letting the scope stretch its legs a little, it also does well at range. The field of view is great on 6x too, and the reticle doesn’t get in your way. I like simple reticles, and you can’t argue with good glass.
I don’t have any complaints about the Razor. It’s a little heavy, but not inordinately so. It has a second focal plane reticle, which means that the subtensions are only accurate on the maximum magnification. That’s fine by me; that’s the only time I really expect to need them. It also means that it’s easier to design a reticle that works across all magnification ranges when the reticle doesn’t change with magnification. Technically, it’s also way easier to make a second focal plane reticle brightly illuminated. I’d rather have the simple reticle and bright illumination.
Is this the right scope for you? That depends on your application. For 3-Gun and other action shooting disciplines, this scope is the gold standard. Understand your needs before you go buying, especially if you can’t look through it first. All that said, I’m extremely happy with my purchase, and I love my Razor.
In the pages of a German gun magazine comes interesting news. Glock has a new model: the Glock 45. Confusingly, it’s chambered in 9mm. Because Glock loves confusing you. Or they just don’t care.
Anyway, what is the Glock 45? Well, it’s sort of like the Glock 19X, but a little different. Like the Glock 19X, it’s got a Glock 19 length slide and barrel on a Glock 17-sized frame. Unlike the Glock 19X, the Glock 45 is black. If you were waiting for a black 19X, here you go. It also has front slide serrations, and a bit of a built-in magwell. From the pictures, there doesn’t appear to be the cutout at the front of the grip. It also comes with front slide serrations, if you’re into that sort of thing.
Seeing as the Glock 19X is super popular, we’d expect the Glock 45 to be popular too. Lots of people like the short-slide, long-grip design, in Glocks and also in P320s and 1911s.
A video game review! Yes, from me! I know, I don’t usually do these.
I picked up Rise of the Tomb Raider (20th Anniversary Edition) during a labor day weekend sale. I got it for my PS4, mostly on a lark. I figured that with all the DLC, and having a bunch of patches, I could probably get the $15 of enjoyment out of it.
I was skeptical because I am not a fan of the 2013 Tomb Raider reboot by Square Enix. I hated the fact that it’s an origin story, because I loathe origin stories, and I hated the QTEs. I can’t stand QTEs. They’re one of the worst parts of modern gaming, and I wish they would die1. Give me agency or make it a cutscene, game developers. It’s not that hard. There’s nothing wrong with cutscenes. Also, in addition to being a stupid, unnecessary origin story2, the 2013 game was populated with a bunch of other characters whose job is to die to prove the situation is serious and torment Lara.3
So, with all that in mind, what did I think of the sequel? It’s great. In fact, it seemed like they fixed a lot of gripes that I had with the first one. Good on you, Square Enix. Let’s do a deeper dive.
Are there QTEs? Yes, but they’re fewer in number, more spaced out, and the “windows” for button presses seem more forgiving. Also, a lot of them come up in the dodge-and-then-melee combat bits, but many of these are easily bypassed by those of us who can pull off a good headshot. So that’s a big plus.
Combat is much improved this time around too, with more weapons and a bunch of craftable ammo options. I will say that as a guy who has played shooters for a long time, I would have liked to have seen more difficult combat that wasn’t also tied to the survival mechanisms. Mostly because I want auto-heal on for all those times that I screw up the platforming and faceplant on a rock. I found combat satisfying overall. I thought some of the ‘boss fights’ could have been tougher.4 Or maybe that’s just because I like firepower, picked up the “easy button” and got on with life.
The story is better this time too. Lara is still “developing” as a tomb raider/adventurer/badass, but she’s got some skills and drive this time around. And there’s only one friend that hangs around the story. He’s a pretty ok guy, and we get to know him a bit. More time getting to know him would have been better, but this wasn’t awful. Lara is fundamentally a loner, and it’s nice to see us getting back to that.
I think the platforming was a little better in this one compared to the last, but it’s still not as good as Uncharted. One of the things I really liked in Uncharted 4 is that Nate will reach for ledges if and only if he can jump to them. I thought this was a great subtle hint as to what I shouldn’t waste time/restarts from checkpoints trying to reach. Alas, Rise of the Tomb Raider doesn’t do this, and I really missed the feature. I did like that as Rise of the Tomb Raider progresses, you get some toys to let you zoom around the environment more, and that was fun. Any game that lets me make my own ziplines is welcome.
Graphicswise, we’re long past the era when games would try to blow their competition away in terms of prettiness. The game looks good. There are plenty of spectacular scenic vistas, as befits an adventuring game. And I’m not much of a sound connoisseur, so I’ll merely state that the sound was never a problem. Not noticing it seems about the highest compliment I can pay, since my noticing it usually means it’s awful. Music was also good, though it lacked a kickass theme to really stick with me.
Overall, go for it. You’ll enjoy it.
While I would love to see this be an agonizingly painful death, I am not a Bond villain, and am not choosy when it comes to the manner of termination with extreme prejudice. ↩
Airborne Early Warning and Control (AEW&C, often colloquially called AWACS even though that’s a specific system for the role) is what separates the Serious Air Forces from the cut-rate posers. The idea is to take a large airframe, usually a jetliner, put a big radar on it, and then have a bunch of people sitting at computers to coordinate your sorties. All the benefits of GCI in a portable package!
A large part of picking a platform is determining your constraints. We’re looking for a land-based platform that’s relatively low cost to operate and can handle a good number of friendly and enemy aircraft. For this reason, we’re going to look at the larger class of AEW&C platforms.
As a brief aside, the smaller platforms are the Northrop Grumman E-2 Hawkeye, and a number of business jet derivatives. The Hawkeye is the only decent carrierborne AEW&C platform available, so if we were looking to build a naval air arm, that’s what we’d pick for the purpose.
The obvious large AEW&C platform is the E-3 Sentry. However, it is built on a Boeing 707-derived airframe, and these are no longer in production. No luck there. This problem also presented itself to the Japanese when they were looking for a larger platform to supplement their Hawkeyes in the 1990s.
Boeing obliged with the E-767, which puts the radar and computers from the E-3 onto a 767-200 airframe. The resulting widebody has space for up to 19 controller consoles, though I couldn’t find a great source on how many the JASDF use. It still uses the same radar as on the Sentry, albeit with upgrades. Also, as presently configured, it has no aerial refueling capability.
About a decade later, Boeing responded to an Australian RFP with a new design: the E-7A Wedgetail. This aircraft is based on the 737-700 airframe, and mounts Northrop Grumman’s Multirole Electronically Scanned Array radar. This is an actively scanned array, so it doesn’t need to rotate. It does posses aerial refueling capability, and is capable of mounting up to twelve controller consoles. At present, Australia has fitted ten consoles.
In terms of bigger platforms, these are the contenders. More consoles on the E-767 means it can coordinate more friendly aircraft. The more advanced MESA radar on the Wedgetail lets it refresh scans of regions faster and adjust power to focus on particular sectors with longer-ranged scans. It’s also able to handle simultaneous air and surface search. and the actively scanned array should be better at ECCM.
You can probably see where this is going. We’re opting for the E-7A Wedgetail. It’s even the cheaper option of the two. It’s telling that Wedgetail has had several export successes since being sold to the Australians. It’s also telling that the E-767 is absent from most of Boeing’s current marketing materials.
It’s a good month for training, but I appear to have lost my screenshot thereof.
Still, the drills stretch on interminably, and news of a rebel concentration suitable to attack is a welcome diversion.
The Action of September 13, 3052
The surprisingly-timely action of September 13 involves both Bear’s Bruisers and Drake’s Destroyers. (That’s Teddy Bear, Hanzoku, Severe, and Euchre, if you’ve lost track, plus Carcer, Woad, Linebuster, and Blinky.)
The enemy is a reinforced Vedette platoon, six tanks and two medium mechs of indeterminate make, currently stationed in a town. Weather is bad; high winds rare reducing weapon accuracy and hampering vehicle movement.
The enemy deploys in the city, where the tight quarters will work to their advantage—and ours. Bear’s Bruisers move north to deal with the enemy Wolverine, while Drake’s Destroyers swing around south to march through the center of the city.
Both of the Bastards’ lances advance. Almost nobody is within weapons range at this stage. Hanzoku takes a crack at an enemy Vedette, while the first enemy medium mech, a Wolverine, fires on Euchre‘s Trebuchet.
The Wolverine scores the luckiest of lucky shots, clanging an AC/5 shell off of Euchre‘s cockpit. He shakes his head, bell rung, but forges on.
Bear’s Bruisers now have a number of good targets, but are good targets themselves, as both enemy mechs move out of the city and a Vedette runs at top speed down the road.
Drake’s Destroyers, under Carcer‘s command, aren’t in great position, and the weather means they’ll be a little slow to reposition. Blame your staff officer’s rustiness.
The Bruisers concentrate on the Vedette, hoping to knock it out this round. Down south, Woad with his trusty Grasshoper is the only pilot with a shot. He lines up on a broken-down Vedette in the center of town and lets loose an alpha strike.
Nothing hits to very much effect. Severe scores with one of her Clan ER Medium Lasers, slicing into the Vedette’s armor. Woad hits his target with a single medium laser. The Wolverine and a Vedette score hits in response. Everything else goes wide or spatters harmlessly off of armor.
In the south, the Destroyers split up. Carcer and Linebuster, with longer-ranged mechs, split out to the west, where they’ll be able to fire on enemies leaving town along the northwest road. Woad and Blinky, in faster, shorter-ranged mechs, move into town to flank the vehicles hiding there.
In the north, Severe and Teddy Bear aim to shoot at and stomp on the nearest Vedette, respectively, while Hanzoku trades fire with a Vedette poking its nose out of town and Euchre looks to deal some damage to one coming out along the northwest road.
Four of Severe‘s five lasers find their mark, dealing a combined 24 damage, but Teddy Bear gets the kill with a stomp. Euchre damages his target’s left track, but doesn’t get the kill, while Woad and Blinky team up to knock out the immobilized Vedette in town. Blinky gets the last hit.
Carcer is in range of a Vedette, and lines up her laser shot eagerly. Woad pushes into the town, thanks to the magic of jump jets, while Blinky lags behind a bit.
Severe again proves the worth of her Koshi, slicing deep into a Vedette’s rear armor and heavily damaging its engine. Hanzoku finishes off the Vedette darting past his mech with a kick which caves in the roof of its turret.
Everyone is in on the action now. Hanzoku, Carcer, and the allied Vulcan race to take down the enemy Wolverine, while Severe, Woad, and Blinky move into the center of the city to deal with the remaining two Vedettes.
Teddy Bear lands a full alpha strike on his target Vedette, immobilizing it and knocking off both tracks, but not quite managing to bring it down with weapons fire. He finishes the job with a kick to the rear armor. Hanzoku beheads the Wolverine with a well-aimed volley of laser fire, notching the kill for himself. Woad and Severe collaborate to immobilize one of the city center Vedettes, while Blinky immobilizes the other.
The other enemy mech, a Phoenix Hawk which did very little, falls back, leaving the two Vedettes for Woad and Blinky. Each scores one kill.
Damage, Injuries, Salvage
Our mechs are all but undamaged, none of our pilots are badly hurt, and although we can’t convince the ComStar liaison to give us the Wolverine, we do get six Vedettes for the mechanics to cut apart. An excellent battle, professionally won.
Between selling off the Vedette chassis after stripping them of everything useful and ransoming prisoners, we end the mission up about 750,000 C-bills.
Blinky and Hanzoku both emerge with two kills. Hanzoku leapfrogs Linebuster by dint of having more mech kills and now tying for overall count.
Forgot to take a screenshot. It’s been a while! I’m out of practice.
“Rook” Ishikawa (27, 8 mechs, 2 Clan kills)
“Drake” Halit (14, 6 mechs, 2 Clan kills)
“Woad” Kohler (14, 5 mechs, 1 Clan kill)
“Carcer” Ngo (11, 5 mechs, 2 Clan kills)
“Wizard” Que (7, 6 mechs, 6 Clan kills)
“Teddy Bear” Jamil (6, 3 mechs, 2 Clan kills)
“Double Dog” Dare (5, 2 mechs, 1 Clan kill)
“Hanzoku” Yuksel (5, 4 mechs, 2 Clan kill)
“Linebuster” Atkinson (5)
“Severe” Payne (4, 4 mechs)
“Milspec” Ortega (4, 1 mech, 1 Clan kill)
“Ker-Ker” Ec (3, 2 mechs)
“Euchre” Kojic (2, 2 mechs)
“Blinky” Stirzacre (2)
“Kicks” Hernandez (1, 1 mech, 1 Clan kill)
Simona (1, 1 mech, 1 Clan kill)
“Wojtek” Frajtov (1, 1 mech)
It is now September 28, 3052; there’s another battle pending.
We have 65.431 million C-bills in the bank, up 108,000 since last update.
Repairs and Refits
Our techs continue to work on refitting our two assault mechs. Edina Cameron is only a few days’ work away from getting Rook‘s Stalker back into the field. Kepano Endo has about four months of work left on Drake‘s Awesome.
Mechwarrior Claims and Assignments
For the record, the following mechwarriors are claimed.
We’re now running MekHQ 0.44. Happily, everything I’d done on a custom basis is now merged into the main branch, so it was pretty painless. Unfortunately, I couldn’t get 0.45 to load the save game, so we may be stuck here for a bit.
Tanker aircraft are a requirement for any serious projection of airpower. And no one ever has enough of them. So let’s go get some.
Previously, the standard in aerial refueling was the KC-135, a close relative of the classic Boeing 707. Today, there are two different airframes available for tankers. There is the Boeing 767 and the Airbus A330. The 767 has two tanker derivatives: the KC-767, which is derived from the 767-200ER and is in use by Italy and Japan; and the KC-46A, which is based on the 767-200LRF1 and is in use by the United States and Japan. Note that the KC-46A is bigger than the KC-767, and carries more fuel. The A330-MRTT is the tanker derivative of the A330, and it is bigger than the KC-46A.
Now on to the choices. We know from the USAF tanker proposals that the 767 options have a lower projected life cycle cost than the A330-MRTT. For many export customers, this is outweighed by the greater fuel and cargo capacity of the Airbus. On the other hand, the 767s smaller size means it can operate out of smaller airfields. It is closer in size to the KC-135R, for those looking for a direct replacement, or just trying to picture sizes.
For us, we’d also point out the massive USAF buy of KC-46As as points in its favor, since that will mean the type will get more future upgrades and development money, if only to keep the US fleet going. Further, 767s are Boeing aircraft, and have a flight envelope not restricted by the flight computer. We prefer this.
So we’re going with the KC-46A. It’ll get the upgrades, and Boeing is still making 767s for the civilian market, which is a plus. We expect to be able to cannibalize ex-civilian airliners for parts and airframes for years after the type is formally retired (as was done with the KC-135), but the longer we can go before having to do this the better.
Which is actually quite a bit different from the 767-200ER. ↩
Slim pickings this week, in part because I did not do my usual defense news trawl every morning. My bad.
I’m still plowing through Volume 1 of Foote, having now made it past Grant’s victory at Shiloh, the entirely unsuccessful Confederate attempts to march through the desert Southwest to California, and the capture of New Orleans. It’s worth remarking how the story of the Civil War is the Confederacy winning slightly in one place and losing badly in four other places.
On the new KC-46 – We’ll see how the next year or two goes, but the KC-46 might end up on our list of procurement successes.
Capitalist markets in North Korea – My opinion on the currently-ruling Mr. Kim is that his secret desire is to be remembered as a liberalizer who brought North Korea out of darkness and into the modern age, owing to his evidently-long childhood in the West, but that his ability to do so is limited by the North Korean power structure. Not to say our man Jong-un is anything but a brutal dictator even by the standards of brutal dictators, which is what the preponderance of the evidence suggests, but brutal dictators who liberalize tend to be treated decently by the world, whereas the rest of the North Korean government would pretty much all end up on trial for crimes against humanity.