Author Archives: Fishbreath

Wednesday What We’re Reading (Nov. 14, 2018)

Maybe I should start thinking of these as Tuesday What We’re Reading, so when I’m a day late I’m actually on time.

Defense

Guns

Technology

Politics-ish

Wednesday What We’re Reading (Nov. 7, 2018)

Thursday Night Edition, because yesterday was a very busy day at work, and watching the Steelers beat up on the Panthers is only interesting for so long.

Videos

  • Parvusimperator submits three videos on the S-tank, courtesy of The Chieftain’s Hatch.

Defense

Technology

Sports

History

Random Other Stuff

Retro Procurement: Harriers for Luchtburg?

The year is 1993. A small Central American state, wealthy by the sale of unregulated and questionably ethical banking services to nations the world around, finds the firehose of Soviet arms slowing to an occasional drip when the Russians remember they sell weaponry. At the same time, in a newly multi-polar world, with trade opportunities abounding and the demand for questionably ethical banking services skyrocketing, Luchtburg finds itself in ever higher demand. Its interests overseas grow day by day.

Its defense apparatus is poorly suited to overseas interests. Having bought primarily from the Soviets, Luchtburg has a bunch of short-ranged interceptor-type fighters and interdictor-style attack aircraft, little access to smart munitions, and a token navy based around export-model Kilos and various frigates with anti-ship missiles. Not a great force for projecting power around the world, it must be said. So what’s a newly-flush nation to do? Buy weapons from Uncle Sam, of course. Eager to flip a previously-Soviet-friendly nation to to the side of truth, justice, and the American way, the United States invites a delegation from the Luchtbourgish Ministry of Defense to talk about Luchtburg’s future role on the world stage.

The answer, of course, is aircraft carriers. The problem is, Luchtburg might be flush, but it isn’t flush enough to buy a Nimitz-class, and the Americans aren’t selling, either. What the Americans propose instead is this: buy a bunch of the brand-new Night Attack Harriers and two old, recently decommissioned LPHs: USS Iwo Jima and USS Okinawa. No Tarawas are on the table. They still have too much life in them. No Wasps either; they’re too new. The most the Americans will do is maybe build a ski jump onto the Iwo Jimas, and perhaps extend the flight deck a few feet either way.

Is it a good buy?

The Harriers

The Harriers are a no-brainer. They’re pretty much the most recent ground attack aircraft built, support tons of modern American smart weapons, and have no replacement in sight. The latter point is important, given that it means they’ll see future upgrades and maintenance over the years. Luchtburg doesn’t want to buy a dying system, and the Harrier is just hitting its stride.

In the future, the Americans may be open to selling us the AV-8B Harrier II+. The Plus model includes a radar scavenged from old US Navy Hornets, and can carry the new AMRAAM missile. Of course, we aren’t close enough to the Americans for that yet, but having a fighter with modern BVR missile capability would be a huge win for the Luchtbourgish Air Force, even if it doesn’t go supersonic.

Accident rates may be higher for the Harrier than for more conventional aircraft, but the Harrier II is still new, and the Americans are still making airframes and parts. We’ll buy a few extra, and keep a tab open with McDonnell Douglas.

The Iwo Jimas

Now for the Iwo Jima-class LPHs. This is a slightly harder question. At first glance, they look like your standard straight-deck not-quite-aircraft-carrier. Big open flight deck, deck edge elevators, hangar deck of reasonable size. The Harrier is small and the elevators and hangar are sized for biggish helicopters, so from that perspective, the Iwo Jimas are big enough.

They have some downsides, though. For one, they aren’t quite as fast as we might like, with a top speed of 21 knots. For another, they have a slight operational problem, owing to their single-shaft design. Rather than describe it, I’ll quote an evocative passage from Marines & Helicopters:

One characteristic was first noticed shortly after the Iwo Jima left the dock on 5 September 1961 for her initial tests at sea. […]

Obviously such an innovative design was going to have a number of small discrepancies on her first shakedown. The Iwo Jima did. One of the most serious was described in the initial reports as: “serious hull vibrations at high power.” […]

This characteristic vibration was never to be cured in any of the class. At about 15 knots the entire ship began to shake every time one of the blades of the screw took a bite of the water. At that speed it was slight throughout all the ship, but more pronounced in the stern and bow Marine berthing areas. As the speed increased, the vibration increased correspondingly in frequency and severity.

Embarked Marines learned to recognized it and within a short period actually could tell how fast the ship was going by the rattle of the decks. It was as if the builders had given each man aboard the vessel his own private speedometer. As the Iwo Jima and her sister ships reached 21 knots the pounding became more pronounced and was inescapable anywhere on board. To the builders this was “severe vibration at high power.” To all Marines who experienced it, it was “the twenty-one knot thump.”

Amusing, but less than ideal, and perhaps concerning for aviation operations where 20 knots of wind over the deck is already a bit less than might be desired.

Speaking of, just how well is the type actually suited to flying Harriers? Take a look at it from above, and it strongly resembles the later Tarawa type, with the exception of some more rounded deck edges. Take a measuring tape to it, though, and you’ll find that the flight deck is only 600 feet long, against 800 feet on the Tarawa. That’s not so great. How big a deal is it, exactly, though?

In a previous post, I found some reference material on Harrier takeoff rolls and worked through some examples. By the book, with a 20-knot headwind (nearely all the Iwo Jimas can muster), you can fly a 26,000-pound Harrier off of a 500-foot deck. (Figure we’ll leave a 100-foot margin to allow for easier spotting.) The Harrier II’s maximum takeoff weight is some 31,000 pounds. I suspect the book has some margin for error: in DCS, I can pretty readily get a 30,000-pound Harrier off the Tarawa with room to spare.

Still, though, the Iwo Jimas give up a lot of capacity. I think the right decision for Luchtburg is still ‘sure, throw them in’, especially given that, at this stage of their careers, they won’t cost that much more than a Harrier. Luchtburg’s shipyards can get up to speed on aircraft carrier-ish projects by building a ski jump and an aft deck extension to provide a bit more off-the-deck capability.

Spooky What We’re Reading (Oct. 31, 2018)

Spooooky!

Visions of a Terrifying Future

Crumbling, Decaying Armed Forces Etc.

Horror-Movie “Don’t Do That You Idiots!” Moves

Monstrous Concepts and Miscellaneous Violence

Wednesday What We’re Reading (Oct. 24ish, 2018)

Yes, it’s the Wednesday What We’re Reading post, definitely posted today, which is Wednesday.

Defense

Guns

FOOTBALL

Wednesday What We’re Reading (Oct. 17, 2018)

In local news, it’s your correspondent’s birthday this weekend.

Defense

Hurricane Michael and Tyndall AFB

Defense (China-focused)

Grab Bag

The Opinionated Bastards: Tukayyid (Oct. 8, 3052)

Introduction

Well, it’s a week or two late, but we’re back.

The Action of September 28, 3052

Scouts indicate that a rebel force is moving in the direction of Bear’s Bruisers, who have been bearing the brunt of the fighting so far. The Bruisers move slightly toward Second Lance to take up defensive positions amidst some hilly scrubland, and position themselves so that the rebels will come across their positions in darkness. A snowstorm blows in as they wait.

Second Lance is on the march, but won’t arrive for eight rounds.

Deployment

The rebel force appears to the north, looking battered already. The length of this campaign is wearing them down pretty seriously, especially given their lack of logistical support compared to us.

The Bruisers deploy in the middle of the battlefield, in formation. The darkness means it’s going to be difficult to shoot at long range.

Round 1

The two forces move closer together, but remain well outside of effective weapons range.

Round 2

round2

A solitary Wasp is now quite close to our forces, but impossible to hit based on its movement, the falling snow, and the darkness.

Round 3

round3

Teddy Bear and Wizard both stand still this turn, hoping to get good shots off at the Wasp or perhaps one of the vehicles. Severe moves closer. Her Koshi’s weapons are best at short range. Euchre follows her.

As it turns out, only Wizard‘s large laser and Severe‘s ER medium lasers are sufficient. They both take shots best described as speculative at the Galleon tank.

Predictably, everyone misses.

Round 4

The rebels continue to pull back as the Bruisers advance, staying just out of medium laser range. Wizard takes a shot and misses.

Round 5

round5

The rebels seem to commit to an attack as the Bruisers continue to push forward. The Wasp dead ahead is the primary target, but if shots at the vehicles are more plausible hit chances, we’ll take those instead.

Even at this relatively close range, hits are unlikely on a moving target, as our mech pilots try to put their sights over a very slightly darker moving shape in the darkness of the night. Teddy Bear‘s medium laser bites deep into the Wasp’s torso armor. Everyone else misses.

Round 6

round6

Now this we can work with. Severe took the unusual step of not moving. Her Koshi has very good alpha strike damage, which we’re going to try to exploit by giving her the best chance to hit we can.

Finally, some results! Teddy Bear hits the Wasp again, though only with his flamer. Wizard puts five of her six SRMs into the side of the Galleon tank, the explosions ripping through its armor, cutting cooling lines in its engine, and exposing its turret-mounted small laser. Severe hits the Locust, cutting off its right arm and nearly blowing its right torso out its back armor, and Euchre‘s medium laser severs its left arm.

Teddy Bear kicks the Wasp’s left leg out from under it to close the round.

Round 7

round7

The Wasp falls after taking Teddy Bear‘s kick, and fails to stand this round, so Teddy Bear turns his torso on the Locust and plans to kick the Wasp again. Wizard likes her chances shooting at the Locust, so lets her sights settle on it while Euchre and Severe take aim at the nearby Galleon.

Wizard and Teddy Bear combine to knock out the Locust’s right torso, while Euchre notches the kill on the Galleon with a medium laser shot that punches right through the battered front armor and into the crew compartment.

For reasons unclear to me, Wizard doesn’t get the option to make a physical attack. Teddy Bear kicks the through the prone Wasp’s right torso, while Severe turns her Koshi’s fists on the Locust, hitting twice. (The Koshi’s weapons are all torso-mounted, which means Severe can attack with all of them and still punch.)

Cleanup

The two mech pilots eject, leaving only a Vedette on the field. Wizard and Euchre pause to pick up the ejected enemy mechwarriors, while Severe and Teddy Bear advance to finish off the Vedette. Severe gets the kill with a devastating punch, cracking the tank’s side armor with an uppercut which flips it onto its back.

Damage, Injuries, Salvage

salvage

It was very nearly a perfect mission. Teddy Bear and Euchre took some hits, but only from machine guns.

For salvage, we take the Wasp and the two burned-out vehicles. We’ll strip the armor and weapons and sell the chassis.

Special Mission: Star League Cache

On October 1, Rook‘s Stalker finishes its refit, now kitted out with Artemis-capable LRM-15 launchers along with ER Large Lasers and sufficient heat sinks to fire everything. She takes it out for a little shakedown run in a peaceful area of the Bastards’ AOR, only to see a big blip on her sensors.

It’s an Emperor EMP-6A, a Star League-era mech packed with advanced Inner Sphere technology. It’s not entirely clear where the rebels got it, but it’s on Rook to knock it down, hopefully in such a way that we can salvage it and add a third assault mech to the Bastards’ roster.

Deployment

Rook starts on the north edge of the battlefield, her view of the Emperor blocked by buildings in a small outlying town.

Round 1

She moves south. The Emperor stays out of range, keeping behind the buildings.

Round 2

round2

See round 1.

Round 3

Rook tries to get around the east side of town to get a shot on the Emperor, but can’t quite manage.

Round 4

round4

The Emperor moves into range. Rook lets him have it with everything she can bring to bear.

Her alpha strike costs 43 heat, but deals a whopping 35 damage, knocking the Emperor prone. In return, an LBX-10 burst clatters against her right arm.

Round 5

round5

Rook has to be a bit more circumspect with her weapons fire this round, sticking with her LRMs and the ER Large Lasers. She doesn’t want to get too close—the Emperor’s weapons fit is deadly at short range.

Her goal for the next few rounds is to sneak around further to the east, whereupon she can collapse the building on which the Emperor is standing out from under it.

This round, Rook’s weapons deal 43 damage, as 27 of the 30 missiles she fired find their marks.

Round 6

round6

One more hex, I think, and then Rook can knock down the building. Moving more slowly, she finds the shot on the Emperor even easier this time.

Unfortunately, the Emperor’s shot against her is easier, too. A bit rusty at driving the Stalker, she puts a foot wrong as autocannon fire slams into her armor and tips over.

Round 7

round7

That was the opening the Emperor’s pilot was looking for. The enemy mech uses its jump jets to descend to the ground, closing inside Rook‘s missile range. That’s fine by Rook, though; she has medium lasers to spare, and in lieu of firing her LRMs, switches to those.

Round 8

It’s an old-fashioned slugging match now. Rook is a better gunner, but seems to have a little bit less damage on tap than the rebel pilot. Thanks to her efforts at longer range, however, she’s still ahead on the damage race.

Round 9

round9

Rook backs up as the Emperor jump-jets closer to her. She’s finding the Stalker’s performance most agreeable. Thanks to its combat computer, she can fire either her large lasers and missile launchers, or her large lasers and medium lasers, without worrying about her mech’s heat. That’s a major improvement over her previous ride.

Round 10

Alarms begin to flash in Rook‘s cockpit, indicating that her armor has been blasted away over her mech’s left arm. In return, however, her sensors indicate that she’s broken through the Emperor’s armor in multiple places.

Round 11

round11
The Emperor jumps up onto a ridgeline, so Rook moves into a hull-down position at its edge.

Round 12

Rook backs up slightly, hoping to stay out of melee range, but the Emperor is able to jump into position on the ridge above her, where it can kick down at her mech’s head.

She consults her cockpit displays quickly. With a worrying lack of armor on her left side, right where the Emperor is, she decides to try a risky close-range shot with her long-range missiles, hoping to knock him down before he’s able to bring a leg to bear.

She pulls her triggers, and weapons fire flashes back and forth between the two mechs. Alarms blare loudly in her cockpit as an LBX-10 shell impacts her mech’s left arm. With a sound of shearing metal, it breaks free.

Her missiles strike true, arcing out of their launch bays and arming just in time to pockmark the Emperor’s right torso. Her lasers, too, carve deep into it, and just as they finish their bursts, she sees the telltale signs of internal explosions. The force directed outward, the blossoming fireball nevertheless bends back a panel on the Emperor’s center torso armor. With her last large laser, Rook steadies her aim and squeezes the trigger. The large laser strikes true, slicing in behind the damaged armor to penetrate the Emperor’s engine. It staggers back, then falls to the ground, raising a vast cloud of dust as it hits.

Damage, Injuries, and Salvage

It takes some doing, but Drake manages to talk our ComStar liaison into letting us keep the Emperor in exchange for October’s paycheck.

The bad news is that the Stalker is pretty badly beaten up. The good news is that it won’t take all that long to fix, especially now that Rook‘s tech Edina Cameron is familiar with the design and can direct the repairs. Rook herself is unharmed, and permits herself a rare grin as the rest of the Bastards congratulate her on her victory in a most unexpected combat.

Kill Board(s)

In addition to the pictured kills, Rook notches one by taking down the Emperor.

On the strength of her Koshi, Severe is really rising up the board.

Last Battle

killboard

All-Time Leaders

  1. “Rook” Ishikawa (28, 9 mechs, 2 Clan kills)
  2. “Drake” Halit (14, 6 mechs, 2 Clan kills)
  3. “Woad” Kohler (14, 5 mechs, 1 Clan kill)
  4. “Carcer” Ngo (11, 5 mechs, 2 Clan kills)
  5. “Wizard” Que (7, 6 mechs, 6 Clan kills)
  6. “Teddy Bear” Jamil (7, 4 mechs, 2 Clan kills)
  7. “Severe” Payne (6, 5 mechs)
  8. “Double Dog” Dare (5, 2 mechs, 1 Clan kill)
  9. “Hanzoku” Yuksel (5, 4 mechs, 2 Clan kill)
  10. “Linebuster” Atkinson (5)
  11. “Milspec” Ortega (4, 1 mech, 1 Clan kill)
  12. “Ker-Ker” Ec (3, 2 mechs)
  13. “Euchre” Kojic (3, 2 mechs)
  14. “Blinky” Stirzacre (2)
  15. “Kicks” Hernandez (1, 1 mech, 1 Clan kill)
  16. Simona (1, 1 mech, 1 Clan kill)
  17. “Wojtek” Frajtov (1, 1 mech)

Status

It is now October 8, 3052. I really wanted to get a full month in, but there’s yet another battle pending.

Finances

We have 69.736 million C-bills in the bank.

Repairs and Refits

The techs managed to get Rook‘s Stalker turned around. The Emperor is under repair, pending arrival of a few parts.

Mechwarrior Claims and Assignments

  • For the record, the following mechwarriors are claimed.
    • Captain Huri “Drake” Halit (Mephansteras) – Awesome Custom (refitting)
    • Lt. SG George “Linebuster” Atkinson (Hasek10) – Lancelot LNC25-02
    • Lt. SG Mariamu “Rook” Ishikawa (Culise) – Stalker STK-3Fb
    • Lt. JG Sung-min “Double Dog” Dare (a1s) – Thunderbolt TDR-5S-T
    • Sgt. Jose “Milspec” Ortega (milspec) – Crab CRB-20
    • Sgt. Tedros “Teddy Bear” Jamil (Knave) – Vulcan VL-5T
    • Cpl. Damayanti “Carcer” Ngo (Dorsidwarf) – Flashman FLS-7K
    • Cpl. Ferdinand “Woad” Kohler (A Thing) – Grasshopper GHR-5H
    • Pvt. Jan “Euchre” Kojic (EuchreJack) – Trebuchet TBT-5S
    • Pvt. Cathrine “Severe” Payne (Burnt Pies) – Koshi Custom
    • Pvt. E-Shei “Ker-Ker” Ec (Kanil) – Lancelot LNC25-02
    • Pvt. Ed “Hanzoku” Yuksel (Hanzoku) – Guillotine GLT-4L
    • Pvt. Ik-jun “Wojtek” Frajtov (Blaze) – Trebuchet TBT-5N
    • Pvt. Xue-Min “Wizard” Que (Rince Wind) – Guillotine GLT-4P
    • Pvt. Abdul-Hafiz “Pepper” Popalzi (mrkilla22) – Archer ARC-2K
    • Pvt. Kevin “Blinky” Stirzacre (moghopper) – Ostroc OSR-2C
    • Pvt. Gwenael “Kicks” Hernandez (Sheyra) – Phoenix Hawk PXH-1K
    • Pvt. Elroy “Faceplant” Farooqi (NickAragua) – Dragon DRG-5N
  • The following mechwarriors are available.
    • Rec. Simona – Ryoken/Stormcrow B (missing lasers)

Action Items

It’s time for another assault mech organization question. We now have three of them. We could combine them with a heavy mech to make a proper assault lance, or we could continue to split them out among the other lances to make top-of-the-line heavy lances.

Also, we have to decide who gets to drive the Emperor. Linebuster is a prime candidate, being one of our better pilots in general and specializing in ballistic weapons, of which the Emperor has several. That would also free up his Lancelot for someone else to drive.

If we do build three heavy lances around our three assault mechs, I think it would make sense to reorganize Bear’s Bruisers a bit, moving Simona and the Ryoken in, and probably Hanzoku and Severe out to the heavier lances.

Wednesday What We’re Reading (Oct. 10, 2018)

A long one this week, courtesy primarily of the Association of the United States Army and the plans to replace the Bradley.

AUSA 2018

Other Defense

Guns

Football

Technology and Other

Let’s Bash: the Laugo Alien pistol

Today’s obscure piece of firearms technology is the Laugo Alien, a fascinating handgun whose slide rides between the frame and an interchangeable top strap.

This is objectively cool, and in the same way that CZ’s low-ride slides yield a nice straight-back recoil impulse, I can see how this design would do the same. It has the added benefit of fixing the sights to a non-moving platform, which is good both for tracking sights, and for not subjecting electronic sights to quite as severe conditions. All told, I think it’s a worthwhile experiment, and could very well be the next thing to catch on.

That said, as ever, we have to ask ourselves what the gun is for. The answer is pretty clearly ‘competition’. For one, just look at the colors. Subtle this ain’t. For another, look at the front iron sight: a big, delicate fiber-optic jobber. Finally, read the text in the second link. Laugo is planning an Open-division kit, which includes a Picatinny top strap, a flared magazine well, and a compensator. (No pictures of the comp, unfortunately.)

So, is it a good choice for competition? The answer is pretty clearly no. Let us count the reasons why.

One: caliber choice. The Alien teased so far is a 9mm pistol. That means USPSA Limited is out, at least as a serious contender. .40 is the sweet spot there, as in any sport with a major/minor distinction. USPSA Production? I think the iron-sight version would technically be Production-legal, but Laugo has to sell a few thousand, then get them on the Production list, and buying one for Production prior to that is a bit chicken-and-egg. USPSA Open? They seem to be leaning in that direction, with a pistol a full half a pound heavier than a Beretta 92 which has an optional Open-division kit. I wouldn’t want to be the first to put a few thousand rounds of 9mm Major through it, though. Carry Optics? Also no, because the sight is frame-mounted.

There might be some room for it in other shooting sports without a major-minor distinction, but then you run into problem two.

Two: magazine choice. Catastrophically, the Alien uses proprietary magazines. This is never, ever a good idea, especially if you’re building something in the technological avant garde. Magazines are hard to get right, and the best answer is almost always, “Use Glock, Beretta 92, or CZ 75 mags.” Proprietary magazines also limit you to 17 rounds of 9mm, which is insufficient for any sort of competition use besides Production division. Too, they’re expensive, they can be hard to find, and they’re a big part of problem three.

Three: no aftermarket. The best competition guns are those you either have custom made to have irresponsibly light triggers, those with custom shops which will do irresponsibly light trigger jobs, and those you can buy irresponsibly-light trigger parts for. Laugo is probably not going to sell a pistol out of the box with a two-pound trigger, and until such time as parts are available, it’s going to be a less-optimal choice.

All that being said, I can’t deny the coolness. Furthermore, like I said above, I think it’s very likely to end up being a good idea. I just don’t think it’s quite ready for the crucible of competition yet.

(If you’re reading this and want to prove us wrong, Laugo, we’ll give you our local FFL’s address.)

Wednesday What We’re Reading (Oct. 3, 2018)

Lots of F-35 news today.

Defense

Guns (etc.)

Miscellaneous