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

Welcome to 2019! Maybe it’s just me, but saying ‘twenty-nineteen’ feels like the future to me in a way ‘twenty-eighteen’ didn’t. I was making plans to put a garden in our back yard the other day1, realized I wasn’t going to get there this summer, and subsequently realized that meant I was making plans for 2020, which is absolutely the future.

Technically, I wasn’t supposed to start these back up until next week, but we have a few items in the queue that I figured I might as well whip into some kind of article.


  • Australia’s Defence Technology Review, January 2019 – The front cover has what I can only call an LST-X on it, which is why it’s in the roundup to begin with, but it also has a ton of interesting news on Aussie defense inside. The advertising and other non-editorial inner matter reminds me of early-20th-century Janes books, where (usually) English companies manufacturing things like boilers and armor plate would advertise.
  • Parvusimperator had another link on the Achates-Cummins opposed piston engine, but we’d already covered the information therein, so here’s a different article – This one focuses a bit more on possible consumer applications, rather than the 1000hp Cummins project for combat vehicles, but has some good animations and graphics to consult if you have a hard time picturing just when things happen in an opposed piston cycle. Cummins was supposed to present a report on initial test results in November, but I can’t find a copy. Scrounging is parvusimperator’s gig. If we find one, we’ll have it for you.
  • Foreign Affairs writes on Trump’s foreign policy – They use the term ‘illiberal hegemony’ to indicate that current American foreign policy is not strongly focused on exporting democracy or liberalizing illiberal regimes. I think it’s fair to say it’s a foreign policy with the idealism knob turned down to zero, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing.
  • China’s railgun test ship is undergoing sea trials – Some Twitter pictures show it steaming at sea. Business Insider calls it a ‘warship’, but it’s just a landing ship with a big honking railgun turret plopped onto the bow.
  • Secretary Mattis’ departure delays KC-46 deliveries – Apparently, some paperwork was awaiting his signature.
  • The PLARF tests an S-400 system on a ‘simulated ballistic target’ – I still can’t type PLARF without snickering.
  • China can’t control the South China Sea – The author is speaking specifically in circumstances less than war. At war, he seems pretty happy with the US-SoKor-Japan-etc. bloc’s ability to beat China, which is (I think) where the sober, non-hysterical money ought to go. At levels of tension less than war, he also thinks China doesn’t have sufficient hulls to enforce its control over the South China Sea. He gets there by excluding the PLAN from patrol and flag-waving duties, which seems to me to be a questionable assumption.
  • US Navy considering a block buy of aircraft carriers to save money – U-S-A! U-S-A! More seriously, it’s what the kids might call (might have called?) a baller move to order two aircraft carriers at once when competitor states are working toward that capability, in peacetime, because a bulk buy is cheaper. ‘Murica.
  • F-35 AAM testing – They’re really playing up the simultaneous engagement thing for reasons which aren’t fully clear to me. Was it an EOTS engagement? Sensor fusion? If it’s just shooting AMRAAMs at two separate targets tracked by radar, I’m not all that impressed. It’s 70s/80s state of the art.

Mattis’ Farewell Letter

I’ve decided to transcribe the entire thing here, because it’s so clearly the work of an old soldier rather than a politician.


SUBJECT: Farewell Message

On February 1, 1865, President Lincoln sent to General Ulysses S. Grant a one-sentence telegram. It read: “Let nothing which is transpiring change, hinder, or delay your military movements or plans.”

Our Department’s leadership, civilian and military, remains in the best possible hands. I am confident that each of you remains undistracted from our sworn mission to support and defend the Constitution while protecting our way of life. Our Department is proven to be at its best when the times are most difficult. So keep the faith in our country and hold fast, alongside our allies, aligned against our foes.

It has been my high honor to serve at your side. May God hold you safe in the air, on land, and at sea.


Grab Bag

  • Philadelphia is a terrible place – It’s an old story, but as proud residents of Pennsylvania’s better half, we’re honor-bound to trash Philly whenever we get the chance.

  1. I bet this clause took speakers of the Queen’s English a read or two to parse correctly. 

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