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.

The 1920s Screening Force

Having finished Shelby Foote’s excellent three-volume Civil War set, I’ve switched over to some more recent naval history: A History of U.S. Cruisers, by Norman Friedman. One of the cool bits of naval history in it is a breakdown of expected US Navy fleet screening requirements, circa 1920. This posited a main body consisting of seventeen battleships and six battlecruisers. These were considered separate elements, and as such, each had its own screen. There were separate screens for dealing with submarines and dealing with torpedo-armed light assets (the so-called “attack” screen). Each force also had its own scouting assets. Let’s look at the breakdown of what they expected to need to screen the main body in a future war at sea.

TypeBattleship ScreenBattlecruiser Screen
Antisubmarine
Light Cruisers10
Destroyer Leaders21
Destroyers2412
Attack Screen
Light Cruisers11
Destroyer Leaders318
Destroyers540
Scouting Forces
Light Cruisers11
Destroyer Leaders32
Destroyers5436

Quite the force. The large number of destroyers is fascinating, as is the relatively small number of cruisers employed in the screen. Cruisers were called for elsewhere, of course. Also of note is that while the term ‘light cruisers’ appears in the plans, ‘heavy cruisers’ does not. Presumably light cruisers were cruisers that weren’t battle cruisers; questions of guns and tonnage would not be relevant until the various naval treaties of the 20s and 30s.

Cool Hornet Features

The F/A-18 Hornet is a really neat aircraft. While it didn’t win our Retro Light Fighter contest, it’s still an awesome plane with a couple unique options. Let’s take a look.

ATARS
ATARS, or Advanced Tactical Airborne Reconnaissance System, combines image capture, datalink and image storage capability in one package. It’s got both visible-spectrum and thermal cameras, two data storage units, an interface with the APG-73 radar to save synthetic aperture radar imagery, and a datalink. That datalink can transmit to any Common Imaging Ground/Surface Station compatible system. The coolest part about ATARS is that the package fits in the gun bay of a F/A-18D, so it doesn’t require a big, heavy, draggy pod.

Night Attack Variant
The Guy in the Back isn’t a very popular feature amongst fighter pilots. The regular -D model Hornet has the usual second set of flight controls there. But under the Night Attack program, these were replaced with a dual-sidestick layout of the back seat cockpit of the Strike Eagle. Also, the center Multipurpose Color Display and Upfront Controller were transposed. This gave a position optimized for using the targeting pod and guiding weapons. I’m surprised Fishbreath hasn’t gone for this more, being a carrier-capable, smaller, cheaper strike fighter. The Night Attack layot could be swapped back to a conventional trainer rear cockpit, with center stick and throttles. This was not common practice though.

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

M1 Abrams Fuel Capacities

Another short fluid capacity post, this time for the M1 Abrams. All versions of the M1 use the Honeywell AGT-1500 gas turbine engine and the Allison X1100-3B transmission.

Fuel System
Internal Tanks: 505 gal. (1,911.6 L)
Internal Tanks if UAAPU is mounted: 450 gal. (1,703.4 L)

The Under Armor APU (UAAPU) is fitted standard on the M1A2C1. Previous versions may have an APU mounted in the bustle rack as a retrofit, the UAAPU as a retrofit, or no APU at all.

The Abrams makes no provision for external fuel. Suck it up, buttercup.

Engine Oil Capacity: 25 qt. (23.7 L)

Transmission Oil Capacity: 40 gal. (151.4 L)


  1. Formerly known as the M1A2 SEP v.3 

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

Parvusimperator Reviews Yakuza 6

I picked this up mostly because I heard from a couple friends that this series was great. I only found out after the fact that it might have made more sense to start with the prequel Yakuza 0. No matter. I have Yakuza 6 and that’s where I started the series. So what do I think?

I love Yakuza 6.

There, that’s out of the way. Now, let’s get down to the why. Yakuza 6 is one part soap opera about criminals, one part fantastic beat-’em-up, and one part sort-of-open-world game. Let’s look at each of those.

The story is very much dramatic soap opera. I don’t speak Japanese, so I’m doing a lot of reading of subtitles. I don’t really mind. I think the story is loads of fun, mostly because it’s so different. It does have a bit of an anime feel to it in the ‘awesome drama trumps some realism’ department, but that’s ok. If you want to skip the cutscenes, you can. You’re missing out on some great story though. Just because it’s a little stylistically different doesn’t mean it isn’t well written. And fun. It’s lots of fun.

I also want to take a moment to commend Yakuza 6 for doing a great job of bringing someone totally new to the series up to speed with a minimum of fuss. And I didn’t feel like I was being lectured to. That’s rare.

Combat is pretty fantastic. There are some combos, but they’re pretty simple. It doesn’t feel like an old-school fighting game with giant lists of button press sequences to memorize. What sets Yakuza 6 apart from say, the Arkham games, is that the environment is full of weapons for you to use. There’s a lot of fun in picking up random things and beating your foes with them. Plus, there’s a “Heat Mode” which lets you power up, punch with awesome blue flames, and use larger blunt objects to smash people in the face. Things like mopeds.

There are also a good number of cool unlockable moves. Not so much that it ever felt grindy, but you can definitely unlock some fun extras.

Yakuza 6 has some open world elements in that there are a lot of optional sidequests and minigames that you can do. Some of these can get annoying, so it’s good to space them out. However, I never found them to be anything but fun. I think my favorite was running around trying to befriend stray cats by feeding them. Or perhaps the spearfishing rail-shooter minigame. In any case, these are all nicely optional.

Overall, there’s a good, fun story, an excellent combat system, and a solid grab bag of minigames. I give it a thumbs up. Definitely worth the asking price.

Witness Protection Shotgun

There are a number of shotguns released today designed to avoid classification as a “short barreled shotgun”. For our international readers, under the complicated and confusing US law, a “short barreled shotgun” has to be registered with the ATF, which means a $200 fee, fingerprints, photos, and a six month wait. But a short, “stockless” gun like the Tac-14, Shockwave or V3 Tac-13 is not legally an SBS, and so you can buy it and take it home with you immediately, with no extra fee.1

Now, lots of people will debate the utility of such a weapon. I think the utility might be best understood with a little history, not that every weapon needs to serve a practical purpose. Some guns are fun guns, and that’s awesome. But this weapon has good applications. For one, shotguns with slugs are good bear repellent, and a very compact, stockless shotgun can be strapped to or thrown in a backpack pretty easily.

What many may not know is that the US Marshals had a professional gunsmith make something an awful lot like the Tac-14 back in the 80s. They called it the Witness Protection Shotgun. Being law enforcement, the US Marshals could buy what the NFA would call “Short Barreled Shotguns” with 14″ barrels and stocks no problem. But that’s not what these were.

The Witness Protection Shotgun started life as a Remington 870. It had a 12.5″ barrel, which was as short as they could cut the 870’s barrel given how it attaches to the rest of the gun. It also had a cut, shaped, and refinished “bird’s head” grip of wood, shaped a lot like you’d see on the Tac-14. They also added a sling plate at the front, much like the Wilson Combat vertical sling plate. The idea here was to both attach a sling and provide a handstop to make sure that the support hand didn’t end up in front of the muzzle. Magazine capacity was four 2 3/4″ shells.

You may have figured out the intended role from the name. The idea was to have a tremendously powerful, concealable weapon for use in the witness protection program. With a very short barrel, no stock, and general lack of bulk that comes from a pump shotgun (as compared to say, a Colt Commando), the Witness Protection Shotgun was easy for a marshal to hide under his coat. These were popular with the US Marshals in the 80s, and then fell out of favor.

And with proper technique you won’t hit yourself in the face when shooting one either.


  1. Your mileage may vary. Some restrictions may apply if your state is run by communists. 

Griffin III: OMFV Frontrunner?

At AUSA 2018, we saw three possible candidate vehicles for the OMFV Bradley Replacement: BAE’s CV90 Mk. IV, Rheinmetall/Raytheon’s Lynx, and General Dynamics’ Griffin III. Of these, the Griffin III looks to be the frontrunner right now, in so far as it very closely matches what the US Army says it wants. Let’s take a look.

Griffin III is based on the ASCOD hull. This checks our already in service box; the ASCOD is used by Spain and Austria, and was the basis for Britain’s Ajax (and related family of vehicles). It is a newer chassis than the CV90, which is also in service in Norway, Sweden, Denmark, Finland, and some other places. The Lynx is not in service in any version anywhere, which is points against it, though it is also a contender in Australia’s new IFV competition.

Both the CV90 Mk IV and Lynx have 35mm guns. However, US Army really wants a 50mm. Both BAE and Rheinmetall claim to be able to oblige. General Dynamics, on the other hand, went ahead and mounted the XM913 50mm gun in their AUSA show vehicle. General Dynamics also has a turret design with an incredible +85/-20 elevation range, which looks pretty spectacular on a show floor and is expressly directed at urban warfare scenarios that the US Army worries about. A near-vertical autocannon looks great for anyone who remembers Grozny.

Continuing to hit all the cool future features, General Dynamics has partnered with Aerovision for UAV integration. The Griffin III comes with a nine tube vertical launcher for Aerovision’s Switchblade UAV/Missile, with all the related digital datalink equipment installed. The turret can also accommodate ATGMs, but these weren’t fitted for the show model.

Additional systems fitted for the show model were the Iron Fist (hard kill) APS system, with associated radars and launchers, a gunshot locating system, and Armorworks Tacticam multispectral camouflage. A situational awareness system (i.e. a whole bunch of cameras) was also fitted. I’d guess it’s Leonardo DRS’ system, but this wasn’t stated.

Protection levels are not clear yet. At the show, the Griffin III model as configured weighed about 38 tonnes. With all of the supplemental armor kits mounted, the vehicle would weigh about 50 tonnes.

In terms of capacity, the Griffin III is at a bit of a disadvantage, being designed around no more than six dismounts, where the CV90 can accommodate eight and the Lynx can hold nine. But the US Army has stated that it’s happy enough with a lower capacity vehicle. Their documents indicate that six or even five dismounts is acceptable, and their plans call for a six vehicle platoon with five dismounts in each one.

Let’s also talk about the crewing needs. General Dynamics designed the Griffin III to have space for a three man crew, but automation and crew aids sufficient to enable a two man crew. They’ve done a good job of hedging their bets, being prepared to deliver the future-looking vehicle the Army says it wants, but being prepared for a more conservative design if that ends up winning out.

It’s still really early in the race, and the US Army might change the requirements somewhat. But it’s clear that General Dynamics did their homework when putting the Griffin III together. They seem to have a reasonable idea of what the Army wants, and what tradeoffs they might be willing to accept.