Monthly Archives: March 2019

Fishbreath Picks: AAF Week 7

Week 6 results

Memphis lost by 13 at Salt Lake, whereas I picked them +8.5.

Arizona beat Orlando, and I had Arizona +9.

San Antonio beat Atlanta 37-6; they were 1.5-point underdogs.

Birmingham beat San Diego 32-29; they were 6-point underdogs.

3-1 puts me two picks above .500, at 11-9. For double the fun, all of my picks were underdogs.

Week 7 picks

Orlando at Atlanta (Orlando -8.5)

I didn’t even have to get to the line to pick Orlando in this one.

Salt Lake at San Antonio (San Antonio -5.5)

Salt Lake remains better than their 2-4 record indicates, but San Antonio is playing at home and has been on a tear lately. I’ll go with them.

San Diego at Arizona (San Diego +3.5)

If you go back and look at my picks, I’m pretty sure I come across as a huge San Diego homer, despite having never even visited. Arizona is a very streaky team, and despite San Diego’s troubles on the road, I think they can keep it close.

Birmingham at Memphis (Birmingham -3)

Memphis is down there with Atlanta in the league’s garbage tier, and they lost a quarterback in Zach Mettenberger whose play was a bright spot on an otherwise dim-looking record.

Bradley Advanced Survivability Test Bed

We’ve known that crew survivability can be enhanced by isolating crew from the ammo, and providing blow-out panels to direct any cook-offs away from the crew. These features are usually designed in from the beginning, as in the M1 Abrams or T-14. Let’s look at a test bed designed to add these features after the fact.

The M2 Bradley Fighting Vehicle and M3 Cavalry Fighting Vehicle carry an awful lot of ammunition, and aren’t super well protected. US Army studies indicated that an infantry carrier like the Bradley was likely to be targeted by anything on the battlefield, including the antitank weapons that it really wasn’t designed to resist. While explosive reactive armor could be added to supplement existing armor, this wouldn’t do very much against APFSDS rounds.

The Bradley Advanced Survivability Test Bed (ASTB) implemented a pretty extensive redesign of stowage. Most of the TOW missiles were moved to hull stowage racks outside of the crew compartment, with three missiles in an external compartment in addition to the two in the launcher. Two more were stored low on the floor of the crew compartment, although these could be replaced with Dragon missiles that were of more use to the dismounts. This limited amount of stowage in the crew compartment was intended to allow the vehicle to fight if the external stowage was not immediately accessible. Reserve 25mm ammunition was compartmentalized, with blow-off panels and separation for the rounds provided in the compartments. As a result, reserve ammunition capacity was reduced from 600 rounds in a regular M2 to 588 rounds in the ASTB.

Fuel was also mostly moved to large, external tanks at the back of the vehicle to prevent fires in the crew compartment. A 30 gallon “get home” reserve tank was provided internally.

The ASTB was also fitted with spall liners, additional applique armor, and protection for the sights. These features would get rolled into production models of the Bradley after live-fire testing of several models, including the ASTB, in 1987.

As for the rest of the features, I do not know why more were not adopted.

Wednesday What We’re Reading (Mar. 20, 2019)

Early post today, because I have lots to do and can’t afford the typical leisurely lunch. Late-breaking news will break next week instead.

Defense

Sub-Defense: F-35 vs. F-15(E)X

Pictures

Science and Technology

Sub-S&T: 737MAX MCAS

Guns

  • Hudson files for bankruptcy – Chapter 7, too. They plan to liquidate everything and pack it in. Doing my part for journalism, I used some of my free PACER credit to nab the relevant filings. Their list of creditors is not particularly pretty. They claim to have $50,000 in assets and between $10 million and $50 million in liabilities. On the plus side, apparently you can buy H9s for cheap as part of the liquidation sale, if that’s the sort of thing that interests you.

Grab Bag


  1. That’s why we run our own webserver here instead of paying someone else to host for us—better control over the site and its customizations, yes, but mainly that I can be exactly as obsessive about backups as I want. They’re in three separate places. 
  2. Although the modern world, in this case, is exclusive of us and our commentariat. 

On the BMP

Let’s talk about the BMP, specifically the BMP-1 and BMP-2. The BMP-1 was pretty revolutionary when it first appeared, and was extremely influential. Interestingly, the design requirements go back to the early 1960s, when Soviet Doctrine came to embrace tactical nuclear weapons and chemical weapons. This led to a desire for a vehicle that would be highly mobile and allow infantry to fight from inside in order to minimize exposure to the expected hostile battlefield environment. By 1967, Soviet interest in heavy use of tactical nuclear and chemical weapons had waned, but the design requirements were set (go figure).

The BMP-1 used the powertrain from the PT-76, came with amphibious capability, and provided NBC protection for the crew of three plus the eight dismountable infantry inside. The infantry were provided with NBC-sealed firing ports for their Kalashnikov assault rifles and machine guns, and had roof hatches to operate weapons with a backblast, like RPGs. These ports were arranged four per side and two aft. The turret of the BMP-1 had a 73mm smoothbore gun that fired the same projectiles as the standard infantry recoilless rifle, a coaxial machine gun, and a rail for Malyutka ATGMs. The turret distributed some platoon/company level support weapons down to the carrier vehicle. This turret was a one-man affair, as Soviet doctrine of the time had the commander dismount with the rest of the infantry in the back to lead them.

The BMP-1 had a number of notable shortcomings. The lack of armor is one, and the small size meant that any hit would strike important, flammable things. The commander-outside-the-turret arrangement made fire control difficult, and forced the gunner to work as an ersatz vehicle commander when the squad dismounted. Wartime experience in the 1973 Yom Kippur war was decidedly mixed. The Egyptians were satisfied with their BMP-1s, which were used to support missile-equipped antitank infantry teams. The Syrians used their BMP-1s in head-on attacks that left them to be smashed by Israeli antitank guns.

The effectiveness and widespread use of antitank missiles in the Yom Kippur War was also a problem, since even the most rudimentary missiles outranged the 73mm gun on the BMP-1. A quick response to suppress an antitank missile team (and screw up their command-guidance concentration) would also be hindered by the separation of commander and gunner. Hence, the BMP-2 received a two-man turret with a 30mm gun that had a much more reasonable trajectory.

Fishbreath Picks: AAF Week 6

Week 5 results

Orlando beat Birmingham 31-14. I picked Orlando -3.5.

San Diego beat Salt Lake 27-25. I picked Salt Lake +6.

Atlanta beat Memphis 23-30. I picked Atlanta -1.5.

San Antonio beat Arizona 29-25. I picked San Antonio +2.5.

My first perfect week erases my deficit and brings me back to .500: 8-8.

Week 6 picks

Memphis at Salt Lake (Memphis +8.5)

Salt Lake and Memphis are both bad teams. I don’t see either one winning by more than a touchdown.

Arizona at Orlando (Arizona +9)

Orlando may be the team to beat, but I think 9 points is too big a spread. Arizona hasn’t been winning games lately, but they’ve been scoring points.

San Antonio at Atlanta (San Antonio +1.5)

Atlanta’s on a roll, but I don’t believe they’re the real deal yet.

Birmingham at San Diego (Birmingham +6)

Nothing I’ve seen in the past few weeks of Birmingham and San Diego football suggests that San Diego ought to be a six-point favorite over Birmingham. In this battle of my rooting interests, I will take Birmingham.

Wednesday What We’re Reading (Mar. 13, 2019)

I just realized last weekend’s post was dated March 27th, because I changed the month but forgot to change the day. Rest assured that, if we were to guess at news from the future, we would try a little harder than two or three weeks out.

Apologies for the lateness of the post. It’s Mrs. Breath’s birthday today1.

Defense

(Mad) Science and Technology

History

Guns

Grab Bag


  1. Pretty sure she’d object to being Mrs. Fishbreath, so we’ll just say it’s a very tightly coupled name and surname. 

Overanalyzing John Wick’s TTI Combat Master 2011

The trailer for John Wick Chapter 3 dropped some weeks ago. You can bet I’m super excited. With the trailer out, we see Keanu Reeves with some cool new hardware. And the NDAs on said hardware got lifted. John Wick has a snazzy new sidearm: a collaboration between STI and TTI to make a cool, tricked out 2011. Since I love John Wick, custom1 guns, and 2011s, I thought I’d take a crack at it.

The TTI Combat Master 2011 is built on a 2011 platform. It’s single action only and appears to have a government-length barrel (i.e. a 5″ barrel). The barrel is an “island” barrel, with a large milled rib on top, and a corresponding area milled out of the slide. This rib contains the front sight. Since the front sight doesn’t move, it’s easier to track through recoil. It also means there’s less slide mass, which means less reciprocating weight, which reduces felt recoil. The slide has also been “tri-topped”, which means it has a trapezoidal top cross section instead of the usual round one. This reduces weight and looks cool. There are also aggressive looking front and rear slide cocking serrations, plus some slide windows to show off the barrel finish, reduce weight, and look cool.2

The grip is a standard plastic model from STI with Taran Tactical’s excellent stippling applied all around. I would also expect it to have a tuned trigger. There’s also TTI’s 2011 magwell at the bottom for faster reloads.

One more thing to note is that, according to Taran himself, the TTI Combat Master is designed to shoot 9mm Major. Or, 9x19mm rounds where the muzzle velocity times bullet weight in grains divided by 1000 is greater than 165.

Let’s talk about caliber first. I like 9x19mm. 9mm Major is hot stuff. Really hot stuff. Hotter than most +P+ loads. In fact, it’s really hard to find commercial 9mm rounds from large manufacturers that make Major power factor. And it’s a really niche thing. Most of the people interested in 9mm Major shoot in USPSA Open Division, which is the only division where you can permissibly use rounds with a caliber of at least 0.354 inches (9mm) in diameter to make Major. And we open guys like shooting 9mm Major to get those power factor points and get gas to work the compensators and barrel ports you see in open guns. Gas is good. Those guns are based around lots of gas. Mr. Wick’s latest gun has no compensator and no barrel ports. In limited division, where iron sighted guns play, major power factor rounds must be at least 0.40 inches (10mm) in diameter. And, of course, from a “tactical” standpoint, pistol rounds that make major power factor don’t really perform any better than ones that don’t as far as defeating bad guys. Pistol rounds suck at that. Major power factor ones still do. You can pass the FBI standards with well-made 9mm rounds, and nobody sees much benefit to going hotter in the people-stopping department. At least, to the best of modern ballistics science.

I look forward to a fun movie explanation of why he’s rocking the major power factor ammo, of course.

Honestly, the biggest thing that confuses me here is the plastic grip. I know, that’s STI’s marketing campaign, some nonsense about “transmitting less recoil” or somesuch. I don’t know why it would “transmit” less recoil. Maybe it’s that notion of “polymer flex” that comes up sometimes when talking about recoil characteristics of polymer-framed handguns. I have no idea to what extent “polymer flex” is a thing, and frankly, I don’t care. I do know that competitive shooters love weight low in the gun. Like in the grip. Steel grips are super popular on 2011s that people modify/have built for them. SVI, Phoenix Trinity, and CK seem to have no trouble selling steel grips despite the added cost. Since I follow the top USPSA Open Division guys, I can say that the top 10 shooters at 2018 Open Nationals all had steel grips. And that’s in a division with compensators. From a shootability standpoint, steel grips are better, full stop.

Now, there are reasons you could argue to go with a polymer grip, like that it’s less annoying to carry (because it’s lighter) or because some people like them. But I’m betting this is STI marketing. At least it has a nice stipple job.

My one other big gripe is with the lack of red dot support. At this price point, it really should give you the option for a slide-mounted dot. Most other 2011s in this price bracket have such an option available, and dots are better. Some rules (e.g. Limited) don’t allow them, but it really ought to be something the end user can request. For 3-gun. Or for fighting one’s way through an army of angry assassins from the Continental.

It is a small thing, but the lack of even minor customization options is lame. No options for different trigger shoes? Seriously? This isn’t a 1980s Colt. Again, in this price bracket, lots of other places will let you pick trigger shoe length/color for no extra charge.

Overall, it’s a really nice gun, but it’s kinda overpriced for what it is: a pistol with zero options. If its set up the way you want, go for it. Rock on with your bad self. Otherwise, you can do better for just shy of four grand.


  1. Actual, properly custom guns. If you can’t specify every detail down to the screws of your gun, it’s not really custom. You just have some marketing-speak for “fancy”. 
  2. There are other ways to reduce slide weight and make it look cool. Consult your custom smith for details. If you can’t specify your own slide cuts, you aren’t at a custom shop. You’ve been had by the marketing guys. 

Fishbreath Picks: AAF Week 5

Week 4 results

Memphis beat San Diego, and my pick was Memphis+6.

Orlando beat Salt Lake 20-11; my pick was Salt Lake+4.

San Antonio beat Birmingham 12-11; my pick was Birmingham-7. That makes Orlando the last undefeated team.

In perhaps the most surprising result of the week, and the one that makes me look the worst, Atlanta beat Arizona 14-11. (Remember that I switched my pick to Arizona-13.5.)

Another 1-3 week puts me at .333: 4-8.

Week 5 picks

Orlando at Birmingham (Orlando -3.5)

The Apollos are still the best in the league, and Birmingham has been struggling with quarterback play lately. Weather in Birmingham is expected to be bad on Saturday, which will likely dampen the Apollos’ offensive firepower, but I still think they’ll be able to carry it by more than 3.5.

Salt Lake at San Diego (Salt Lake +6)

Quarterbacks are even harder to come by in this league than in the NFL, and San Diego lost their starter last week.

Memphis at Atlanta (Atlanta -1.5)

I’m happy with Atlanta-1.5 in this one—Memphis got their win last week because San Diego’s starting QB went out.

San Antonio at Arizona (San Antonio +2.5)

Riding high, San Antonio seems well positioned to beat a recently-struggling Arizona.

Retro Procurement: Carrier On Wayward Son

Back in the early 90s, Brazil was looking to get a carrier. And supposedly, they were offered one of the Forrestals but turned it down in favor of the smaller, cheaper Foch. Well, we’ll take that deal, Uncle Sam. So, let’s go buy a Forrestal or two and wholeheartedly embrace naval aviation, power projection, and all those good things. This will let us develop some serious force projection capability, and provide lessons for future posts procurement projects.

The carriers themselves are early fleet carrier designs, but are still quite useful. There’s not any upgrades we’d want to apply; the biggest issue is one of placement of the portside elevator, which isn’t easily fixable. The issue was corrected on the later Kitty Hawk class, and if Uncle Sam is willing to sell us some of those instead, we’d oblige. Otherwise, the Forrestals will do. They have Sea Sparrows and Phalanxes and that is all the close-in defense that they need.

Carriers are useless without an air wing, so what would we put in our new flattops? The Forrestals are big enough to carry just about anything we might want that is carrier-capable, unlike the earlier Midways. We’ll start our air wing off in the Danger Zone: two fighter squadrons of Grumman Tomcats, each with twelve of the big planes. The latest model is the F-14D, with glass cockpit, APG-71 radar, and most importantly, GE F110-400 engines instead of the awful TF30s.

Next, we’ll take two light attack squadrons, each with 12 A-7E Corsair IIs. This offsets the cost of the Tomcats mentioned earlier, especially since the US Navy had mostly replaced their A-7s with Hornets by this point. While we could also use Hornets here, the greater range of the Corsair IIs makes them our preferred choice. Our attack aircraft load continues with a “Medium Attack” squadron of 10 A-6E Intruders, plus four KA-6D Intruder tankers. The Intruder is a great attack aircraft, capable of hauling a large bombload over a good distance. Having a tanker variant is also useful for long-range strikes so as to be less dependent on land-based tankers. While I could relax the desired tankers, the US Navy’s retirement of the A-6 Intruder fleet in the 90s means that I’d go for both at the ‘used aircraft’ discount. Intruders would be also useful operating from land bases.

For antisubmarine operations, we’ll add a squadron of 10 S-3B Vikings and another of six SH-60Fs. Pretty typical.

AEW&C is super important, since that gives us radar higher up and allows us to separate the radar signature from the carrier location. For that, the only real option is the E-2C Hawkeye. We’ll take a half dozen of those. We’ll also want some electronic warfare support, so we’ll add four EA-6B Prowlers for electronic attack.

And that about covers our air wing, give or take a couple C-2 Greyhounds for resupply. But those as often as not are at a shore base.

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

In which I repeatedly type single quotation marks backtick-text-quote instead of quote-text-quote, thanks to a LaTeX project.

Defense

Photos of the Week: Bombers

Science and Technology

  • Chinese surveillance data found in a no-password, web-public database – Oops.
  • SpaceX’s successful Crew Dragon launch represents an American return to manned spaceflight – The big problem for SpaceX going forward is going to be finding new sources for revenue (like their Starlink Internet plan) if they want to keep on funding the BFR. As it stands, they’ve pretty much cornered the worldwide market on non-natsec launches. There’s only so much profit to squeeze out of that. Blue Origin has an edge on large rocket development in my book, because it’s a billionaire’s passion project.
  • University of California system cancels all its Elsevier journal subscriptions – Elsevier is a watchword in academia for ‘money-grubbing useless middlemen’, known for paywalling a bunch of journals so that universities have little choice but to maintain subscriptions for their own academics. Not that academia is without its flaws, but the least I can do is praise them for doing something so obviously right.
  • Another Intel speculative execution bug – This one lets you figure out memory mappings efficiently, which lets you do the Rowhammer attack from 2015 in Javascript in a browser.
  • The attention economy is saturated – That is, there’s too much entertainment for humans to consume all of it, so we’re into an age of prioritization. You’ve probably noticed this yourself. It also plays into the difficulty in getting off the ground as an independent creator of content—there’s more entertainment than ever before, but it’s still delivered through a small number of outlets. There are only so many screens at the local cinema, and only so many production houses which can afford to bribe their ways into your local theater. See also Amazon and books.

Money Matters

Special Report: Blacklisting and Politics in Publishing

Singal’s doing good work on that subject generally, although it’s amusing to note that he himself is an identitarian progressive, just a milder breed who hasn’t yet fully internalized that all revolutions eventually devour their children.