There are those who believe that the days of the big fleet carrier are over. There are those who believe that they are “too easy to kill.” This is nonsense. Big aircraft carriers are quite hard to kill, like Mason Storm (Steven Seagal). Let’s talk about why.
When first introduced, I, like many others, was not a fan of the PCC Division in USPSA. Frankly, I thought it was rather silly to shoot a carbine at a pistol match, even if the “P” in USPSA stands for Practical. Given some time, I’ve come to reconsider the division. And frankly, I could do with some carbine practice, even if that carbine is firing 9mm rounds. I love shooting carbines. It’s my first shooting love, if I’m to wax romantic for a bit. Anyway, this is an opportunity to get some carbine practice in, with the benefit that I don’t need a rifle-rated backstop. This allows me to get some close-in practice on pistol ranges, which are a bit easier to find in my current area. Plus they’re fun to shoot.
With my goals of ‘fun carbine practice’ in mind, let’s see what I’ll end up getting. I do need a competition-worthy PCC. Since I explicitly want this to drill carbine handling and shooting up close, I can ignore all of the faux-SBR “pistols” out there. I don’t have a desire to fill out a Form 1 on this. My goal, strangely enough, is to buy my PCC, add a red-dot sight of some sort, and get shooting. For once, I’m not looking to build or tinker my way to a solution.
So. Ignore the faux-SBRs and just about anything that isn’t intended as a turnkey-competition gun. And, non-SBR barrels are going to get me closer to the handling of my carbines, which are also not SBRs. I’m also going to require my PCC to use Glock magazines, because those are cheap and good and I already have a lot of them (yes, I have some of the 33-round mags). That disqualifies a lot of perfectly good guns, but I don’t care. These are my criteria.
Let’s cut to the chase, shall we? I’m getting a JP GMR-15. It’s AR-15 based, so the feel and controls are the same. JP makes really nice stuff, and their 9mm carbines ‘just work’. Like their other carbines. It takes Glock mags, and it even has a functional last round bolt hold open. Not that it matters for a competition gun, but it’s nice to have. Oh, and it can be had with a sweet trigger.
The GMR-15 is a blowback-operated gun, like most other 9mm AR conversions. Technically speaking, a gas-operated gun would be softer. But we’re talking about a 9x19mm round fired from about seven pounds of carbine. Recoil is not going to be an issue. We’re principally concerned with movement of the dot, which can be controlled by adjusting the weights of the buffer and carrier. If we want to.
All that it’s going to need is a dot.
Leading off with a (temporary) new section…
to Restore the Republic of American Football
That section title got away from me a bit. (If it were the Rebel Alliance of American Football, it would be the RAAF! That’s a fun acronym that isn’t in use anywhere else.) Anywho, it’s that awkward time of the sports year which falls between the end of the NFL playoffs and the start of the NFL preseason1, so the Alliance of American Football was an obvious thing to check out.
The short version is, it has promise, some of which is currently unrealized. The long version is, I’m writing a full post, so be patient. In the interests of having some extra fun with the league, I’ve decided to do picks against the spread for the remaining nine weeks of the season.
- Salt Lake Stallions at Birmingham Iron (-6.5): I don’t have a good feel for this one, but I say Salt Lake covers. Birmingham didn’t generate much offense last time out, and a shutdown defense only takes you so far.
- Arizona Hotshots (-10.5) at Memphis Express: Arizona in this one—the Hotshots are the pacesetters in the league right now, and Memphis is realizing that the Christian Hackenburg Show isn’t going to work.
- Orlando Apollos (-6.5) at San Antonio Commanders: I like Orlando in this one. San Antonio looked iffy in their game last week against the Fleet.
- Atlanta Legends at San Diego Fleet (-9.5): Atlanta to cover. I don’t think they’re bad enough to lose by 10 to the Fleet, who (despite being one of my chosen rooting interests this year) are not very good themselves.
- Is artillery underrepresented in today’s armed services? – The Russians would tell you yes, which is why they have artillery all the way down to the battalion level. I’m inclined to at least listen, given that the Russians are (have recently been?) engaged in the Donbass in one of the only near-peer fights in the world.
- Defence Technology Review is always worth a read – Of particular note: Land 400 updates (though no major ones), and Marines to try out UAV-guy-per-squad. That leads to an unwieldy structure, though: three fireteams of three each, plus a command element including the squad leader, assistant squad leader, and UAV operator. If your squad needs a command team, it may be too complicated.
- The first Ford-class carrier is almost ready for service
- Another story on the Fitz crash
- Venezuela’s military holds the key to power in that country – Military of critical importance in dictatorship, water still wet, sky still blue (or possibly gray).
- The USAF says it’s less than two years away from hypersonic missiles – Then we can threaten Chinese carrier groups like the Russians threaten ours!
- Iron Man suit not feasible, SOCOM reluctantly admits
- China considering dropping its no-first-use policy on nuclear weapons
- Canadian diplomats sue Canadian government over Havana Syndrome – Apparently, the Canadian government shrugged off stories of sonic attacks from American diplomats, only to find its own diplomats similarly afflicted some time later.
- Business Insider reports: the Gripen is underrated and awesome – German Eurofighter pilots were taunting Gripen pilots, who then used their full, unrestricted EW setups and flew up on the Eurofighters’ wings. Hot take: EW is better than stealth. Stealth requires design compromises and (sometimes) finicky coatings, and can’t easily be adjusted in the field. EW can be done in software (to a great degree).
- Australia to buy its new submarines from France – I guess they finally worked out the details to their satisfaction. Parvusimperator and I were kind of rooting for the Japanese Soryus.
- South Korea to increase payments for presence of US troops – With companion Polandball strip.
- The F-35B won’t solve Australia’s defense problems – The author asks an interesting question by way of analogy: “[…] if a stray oil rig off the Philippines is a problem for the State Department, and an occupying naval force is a problem for the Pentagon, which solves the problem of an occupying oil rig?” The defense problem China poses to nearby states is two-pronged, and the prong poking harder right now is the diplomatic one.
- M2A5 Bradley canceled, M2A6 Bradley proposed – You might think I’m joking. Nope.
- F-35Bs operating from amphibious assault ships conduct strike exercises with external stores – I wasn’t aware they were that far along.
- In related news, US F-35Bs will join British F-35Bs aboard HMS Queen Elizabeth on her first operational deployment – A happy bit of allied nation friendliness, that.
- China building a sixth-generation fighter – Although nobody’s quite sure what sixth-generation means. I think we’re at risk of marketing speak taking over, as it did with the occasional ‘4th+++bis-generation fighter’ designations you see.
- In the 1950s, atomic tests were a Las Vegas tourist draw – Very Fallout.
- Who or what brought down Dag Hammarskjöld? – Moving a decade or so on from Fallout to Bond.
- USS Hornet found
Science and Technology
- The Sum-Product Problem – A Quanta piece, so of course I’m not well-equipped to summarize it, but it was fascinating nevertheless.
- US railways are the most advanced in the world – American travelers use roads more than their European counterparts, but American railways are overwhelmingly more effective at transporting cargo.
- A profile of the founder of Tesla rival Rivian – Rivian is making an electro-SUV and an electro-pickup, both with non-trivial offroad capability.
- The Coriolis effect in rotating space habitats – I’ve been trying to wrap my head around this subject for years, and finally, thanks to this article, I think I have a handle on it.
- Revolvers are passé, says one commentator – Interesting article, but isn’t he 20 or 30 years late to the party?
- The worst phonetic alphabet… in the world
- Facebook has a right to block hate speech, but here’s why it shouldn’t – Broadly, I agree.
- Inside the Cleveland Browns’ front office – It is, in fact, a clown show.
- In old but fun news, the saga of the AAirpass – If I could fly first class wherever I wanted for no additional cost, you can bet I would be taking my wife on the occasional lunch date to Europe.
- Attempting to quantify the money New Star Wars could have made – I don’t agree 100% with the analysis, but it’s a fun thing to try nevertheless. I have in mind a measure (inflation-adjusted Box Office Above Replacement), but I think I’d need more detail on historical movie releases and grosses than I have at present. I’d want to look at the average haul of the top 25 movies in a year to determine the average blockbuster, then adjust for inflation using ticket prices rather than, say, CPI.
- I may be glossing over some other sports somewhat. ↩
Time to do a procurement post for something I have been putting off: Utility Helicopters. This is a really crowded market, and the fact that we can probably get rid of anything on the really large end as being to similar to the CH-47 that we’ve already bought doesn’t help us very much. Since there are so many plausible options, let’s look at what we need, and then throw on some nice-to-haves that could hopefully narrow the field. That’s a lot more interesting than a deep dive into costs, and much more practicable for me (in that I’m actually willing to write it and I don’t need to track down pricing data).
First, just to simplify things a little, we want a fully combat-ready helicopter that’s been purchased by at least one other nation. Probably obvious, but it needs saying. No reinventing the rotor for this.
Next, we want a capacity of about a squad’s worth of men. As I write this, it occurs to me that I haven’t talked as much as I should about organization, and I certainly haven’t talked much about light infantry. We’ll pick ten combat-laden men as the minimum required capacity. Somewhat arbitrary, but that should cover most squad options. Note the emphasis on combat-laden; this is not a question of overall passenger capacity, but immediately usable passenger capacity for men ready to go into the fight.
Cargo capacity isn’t a huge deal, mostly because we already have CH-47s. I have no particular requirements for cargo capacity, other than there should be some. Certainly anything that meets the troop requirement above will have sufficient cargo capacity for our purposes.
We would also require medevac capability, but that is also no great burden, as most utility helicopter models available already have the capability to be easily reconfigured for stretchers.
Clearly, our utility helicopter should also have the ability to mount door guns, but again, this is no great burden. That’s a pretty standard utility helicopter feature. It would also be nice if we could mount pylons with some rockets for some extra support/attack capability. Also no great burden.
Now, let’s get on to some actual, difficult requirements. We’d like versions available with an aerial refueling probe. Specifically, we’d like this to facilitate longer-range search and rescue operations as well as long range special operations deployments. Fulfilling this is actually quite the tall order by the rules of our procurement game.
That gets us nicely to the UH-60 Blackhawk as our overall utility helicopter choice. It’s not the cheapest option, but it’s also not the most expensive, and it has the variants we want, namely the HH-60 with the refueling boom. And yes, that variant has been exported to South Korea. The Blackhawk is a proven choice, with plenty of export buys as well as good combat service. It also has an available gunship variant. As we’ll see in another post, it’s also one of the few utility helicopters to have an actual production electronic warfare variant. The Blackhawk is available with a bunch of integrated FLIR options (again, thanks HH-60), and there’s even a couple naval versions, should we want them.
Tom Brady is not the greatest quarterback of all time.
That got your attention, I suspect1. You can’t swing a cat without hitting someone making the claim that Mr. Brady of the Patriots is the greatest of all time, especially at times (like now) when he’s added to his collection of championship jewelry. It’s a popular view, shared by many a sportswriter, but I don’t think it stands up to scrutiny.
We won’t stoop so far as to bandy about the word ‘cheater’. My argument is rooted in statistics. What is Brady best at? As it turns out, none of the headline quarterback numbers. He’s fourth all-time in passing yards and completions, and third all-time in quarterback rating and touchdown passes. Drew Brees is better in all three categories2, and has consistently had a less effective supporting cast. Peyton Manning still has more yards and touchdowns than Brady, and took one season fewer to rack up the numbers. (Manning played 18 seasons. Brady is up to 19.) Aaron Rodgers leads all of them in career quarterback rating by a country mile, and frequently has no surrounding offense of any note. So, why does the sports world think Brady is the best?
Wins. That is, both regular-season wins and playoff wins, where his record is admittedly superb. He’s 237-70 in games he started for a .772 winning percentage, both of which are marks that may stand forever3. Only our own Ben Roethlisberger and Seattle’s Russell Wilson are even close, and by ‘close’ I don’t even mean within .100 (.670 and .668, respectively). In the playoffs, his record is just as good, 30-104, and all six of the Patriots Super Bowl wins.
It’s a pretty wild resume, that’s for sure, but we’ve established that Brady, statistically, is NFL royalty but not the undisputed king. Given that science indicates there is no such quality as clutch, we can’t give Brady the nod for that in our scientific study. To set him apart from the crowd, all we’re left with is his record.
The regular season is easy to explain: the Patriots are a big fish in a small pond. They are joined in the AFC East by three perennial dumpster fires, who they repeatedly thrash year after year en route to an easy playoff berth, coasting on an all-but-guaranteed four to six wins per season. The playoffs require a deeper look.
Or, perhaps, a thought experiment. Why is Drew Brees not making deep playoff runs or winning championships year after year? Remember, clutch isn’t a thing. Given that New England and New Orleans both have top-tier quarterbacks under center, what’s the difference?
Coaching. That, I think, is the real answer here. Without taking anything away from Brady, who is deservedly bound for the Hall of Fame, Bill Belichick is the reason why the Patriots are always contenders.
For one, there’s scheming5. If you follow sports, you’re no doubt familiar with two genres of article: first, those predicting that a game the Patriots are playing in will go in such-and-such a way; second, those following said game which express surprise that it went in an entirely different direction. That’s the true Patriots way: in must-win games, they always play a game which perfectly exploits their opponents’ weaknesses. Look at the Super Bowl: the high-flying (if you’ll permit me the cliche) Rams scored three points, and those only on a long field goal. By playing an unusual defense they have little history with, the Patriots made it hard to plan for their defensive strategy. By using a very north-south style of defensive line play, they took the teeth out of the Rams’ running game, and put so much pressure on Goff that he could never find a rhythm.
For another, there’s personnel. Brady has never had a huge supporting cast, but he’s almost always had at least two good receivers to throw to: usually, a deep threat and an underneath possession guy. This year, it was Edelman and Gronkowski. In 2007, it was Welker and Moss. Belichick has a preternatural talent for finding the right pieces to the puzzle, and they’re rarely big-name stars.
Finally, there’s motivation. Belichick keeps his teams hungry by convincing them nobody is giving them credit, or that everybody has lost faith in their ability to win. This is facially absurd, but it works. All it takes is one iffy loss for the nation’s sportswriters to plaster their front pages with stories about how the Patriots dynasty is over, Brady is decrepit, and Belichick’s devil’s bargain has finally run out. Wallpaper your locker room with those and give the right speech, and bam. A motivated, hungry team.
It’s worth saying that Brady would probably still be a top-tier quarterback talent without Belichick. I don’t think he would have as many rings as he does, though, and I do think that Belichick would be widely regarded as a successful coach even without a superstar quarterback.
I’ll put it to you in the form of a hypothetical. You can have one of these two scenarios: your team retains its head coach but gets Brady as its quarterback; your team retains its quarterback but gets Belichick as its head coach.
I think it’s an obvious choice.
- Unless you aren’t a football fan, but then why are you reading this article? ↩
- At least as of October 18, when the SB Nation article I’m cribbing from was written. I’m not invested enough in this argument to bother with very much research. ↩
- He’s .825 at home, which is absurd. ↩
- Playing in 40 playoff games itself is absurd. Roethlisberger is next on the list at a mere 21. ↩
- In the sense of game planning, not in the sense of nefarious moustache-twirling. ↩
Last week’s call for laptop names was premature, happily. A replacement battery and some marring on the chassis from my jimmying screwdrivers later, and we’re back in action.
- France, not satisfied with the FREMM, is building another quality frigate – “Hon hon, let us show up les Americains again!”
- Older F-35Bs may not last beyond 2025 – That seems like a bit of a problem. The Drive reports they’re running into problems after around 1500 flight hours, with an estimated total life of about 2,100 hours. That is not great.
- Two more Fords coming – The carriers, not the automobiles. Buying two at once saves a few billion dollars, and is also a huge thumbed nose to China. “We aren’t even feeling very competitive yet, and we’re still building two at once.”
- Sending the Navy into the Arctic for FONOPS is dangerous – Not because of a lack of ice-melting gear on the ships themselves, but because of a lack of icebreakers. A trip whose purpose is to annoy Russia (and Canada, don’t forget) which risks getting a ship stuck in ice and then requires Russian or Canadian assistance is a bad investment.
- James Holmes: does the Navy really need to worry about fleet size? – In which we are reminded that hull count is a terrible measure, given that a 4000-ton LCS is basically useless but a 200-ton catamaran with a bunch of missiles on it is not. James Holmes, a perennial favorite here, is writing a book called A Brief Guide to Naval Strategy, due out in November. That’s going to be a day 1 buy for at least one of us.
- Rhodesian mine ambush protected vehicles – A Weaponsman classic.
- Germany’s putting Trophy APS on Leopard IIs – Parvusimperator’s current tank and active protection system preferences, all in a handy package.
- USAF light attack testing program stalls – What the Soviets call frontal aviation really should be an Army concern.
- Navy’s ‘Magic Carpet’ system makes carrier landings much easier – To the point where a reporter could pull them off (in a simulator, of course). That’s something else.
- China aiming to build four nuclear carriers – I, for one, welcome the 21st-century naval arms race to come.
- Forgotten Weapons on the Colt CK901 – It’s an AR-15-pattern rifle in 7.62×39, designed for the Yemeni military. It has some nifty features you don’t find in presently-available 7.62×39 ARs. I could see myself buying one, if they ever release it for the American shooting public.
- Oracle continues comic book supervillainy – By auditing Java users and attempting to wring license fees out of them for uses in violation of terms.
- Do e-cigarettes help people quit smoking? – They help people quit smoking cigarettes, at any rate. I suspect they are not so good at helping people quit vaping.
- A brewing Bitcoin scam? – QuadrigaCX is a Canadian cryptocurrency exchange whose founder recently died. The sub-bullets following are wild conspiracy-theorizing, based in part on the article above.
- Gerry Cotten, the deceased, is claimed to have died in India of Crohn’s disease. He is Canadian, however, and lived in Canada. Crohn’s is not generally a fatal condition except in severe, poorly-managed cases. Severe-unto-death cases make long airline flights unlikely, for reasons of lavatory availability.
- According to the blog post above, Quadriga’s story (that much of the exchange’s crypto reserves were in an offline wallet on an encrypted laptop) doesn’t jive with known transactions. Quadriga was paying withdrawals with new deposits, and a large amount of Bitcoin left Quadriga’s known online wallets by way of another exchange.
- If I were looking to con a bunch of people and run away somewhere, a destination like India, where English is widely spoken, a life of luxury is readily and cheaply available, and local officials are not entirely above bribery, would be high on my list. So also would a cryptocurrency exchange be high on my list of methods.
The 6.8 mm SPC cartridge was designed to improve the firepower of US special operations forces without requiring the issuing of an entirely brand new rifle. It’s one of many alternative calibers for the AR-15. While it had the backing of Remington, and was designed with the help of some active special operations forces, a number of issues have come up to get in the way of its popularity. These include (in no particular order) two different SAAMI specifications for the cartridge, more effective 5.56 mm cartridges, ready availability of 7.62x51mm carbines, a whole bunch of other important gear that’s not going to pay for itself, and the round not being a non-NATO standard has mean that it hasn’t been adopted by the organizations that worked to develop it. However, a middle eastern special forces unit has adopted the weapon as a compact carbine. Let’s take a look.
This unit contracted with LWRC for the gun, with the goal of having a very short barrel (8.5″) and plenty of firepower. Given a relatively large order of more than 30,000 carbines, LWRC decided to make some changes. To ensure reliable feeding, they worked with Magpul to design 6.8-specific magazines. These are wider than standard AR-15 magazines, and the magwell on the new guns was widened to accept them. The new magazines have that same great windowed PMAG design, hold 30 rounds, and weigh 1.32 lbs fully loaded.
Other than the aforementioned 8.5″ barrel, the rifle has a quadrail handguard, pistol-length buffer tube, PDW-length stock, and a short-stroke gas piston system. The top rail of the handguard is removable to clean or service the gas piston. The rifle is the SIX8-UCIW. A version with a longer barrel, as well as an SBR version are available for civilian purchase, though obviously without select fire capability.
LWRC also worked with ATK (the parent company of Speer) to get a round that would function well in a rather short barrel. ATK obliged with a special round that will do the job, even with military flash suppressants. And yes, it’s SPC II spec.
Ok, what do we think? Well, it’s a solid execution of the “PDW” concept for a protective detail rather than for rear echelon troops. A short, relatively light package with plenty of firepower is exactly what this will deliver. I’m not a big fan of ‘nonstandard’ cartridges for general issue (who, admittedly are not expected to have super-short 8.5″ barrels), but I like the thought process here. Another tool in the toolbox, and one that fills a useful niche at that.