The Quarterly Review? The Whenever-I-Get-A-Minute Times?
- Greek F-16s have twin-JSOW racks – I wonder if you could get two two-packs per wing, for a smokeless, flameless Macross missile spam effect.
- Photo: cross-section of an Aussie Collins – Real skinny.
- UAE’s EDGE shows off swarming suicide drones – Pardon, ‘loitering munitions systems’.
- We’ve shared the ShinMaywa US-2 before, but as parvusimperator notes, flying boats are cool – Also, there’s apparently an amphibious C-130 coming.
- 608 USAF F-16s to get a big upgrade package – Including, but not limited to, a center display/MFD, AESA, new EW, and more.
- BAE eliminated from Big Army’s light tank program – Now it’s just GDLS.
- Why do we keep on trying to gift Iran nukes?
- Germany to buy F-35s to fill the nuclear strike fighter role – F-35 wins again!
- Marines to test Lightning Carrier concept, with 20 F-35s on Tripoli – Larger peacetime air wing than the British carriers. Just saying.
- Big Army reduces fitness standards for women, older soldiers – “People aren’t hitting our standards, so we should reduce our standards.”
- Full steam ahead on NGSW: 30,000 coming in 2023 – Well, full steam by US procurement standards.
- Biden’s 2023 defense budget hands China victory at sea – “Divest to invest” isn’t a bad idea fundamentally, but I don’t think the Navy can pull it off.
- We are at least making cool new Burkes – DDG-125 is the first of the Block IIIs, with an enhanced radar that can do air defense and missile defense at the same time. It’s also about the end of the line for the workhorse class: size, weight, power, and cooling are all at their limits.
- Who wrote this, China? – “The US shouldn’t be seen to meddle in the affairs of Pacific island nations.” High-minded, but wrong-headed.
- Reddit is the most popular search engine; or, Google search is dying – Why? Because Google results are uniformly trash, unless you’re looking for something technical, in which case they’re only mostly trash. “[search term] reddit” is taking over as the way to find out what real people think.
- I recently came across a top-[things]-guide article about the PC game Warframe that had clearly been written by an AI, with zero retouching. It fused some lingo specific to the game with a bunch of nonsense that appears in the genre of ‘articles about game mechanics’. That’s the downside to large language models: the more niche your interest, the more likely it is you’ll get pablum out of an LLM.
- Cloudflare stays in business in Russia, with safeguards – Its Russian datacenters have a sort of dead man’s switch, if I’m reading this right, and they’ve also taken measures to protect their clients’ SSL keys.
- Russia is running out of cloud storage space – Or they were, as of March 15. I haven’t heard an update since.
Science and Technology
I think the Sunday Papers experiment is now definitively a failure, unless I start doing the posts at lunch on Friday.
RUSSIA INVADES UKRAINE
- Running rust: not just a modern problem – Here’s New Jersey showing some substantial browning in 1983. Teach the controversy?
- Russian Navy ship under construction in St. Petersburg catches fire – A little early, compared to, say, Big Kuz.
- Venezuela builds an M50 Ontos for the modern day – Luchtburg is unimpressed.
- In spite of the advent of newer weapons systems, FN is still selling M249s
- Rafale to compete against Super Bug for India’s next carrier plane – France hasn’t been doing great on export sales lately, and Super Bug is a tough one to beat.
- China is eating our lunch in new hulls in service
- Vortex wins the sight portion of the NGSW thing – “It integrates a number of advanced technologies, including a variable magnification optic, backup etched reticle, laser rangefinder, ballistic calculator, atmospheric sensor suite, compass, Intra-Soldier Wireless, visible and infrared aiming lasers, and a digital display overlay.” Cool, I say. Parvusimperator’s take is less optimistic: “It looks heavy, with features no one will use.”
- We both agree this one is cool – Microwave weapons for point defense! Masers hitting metal surfaces induce electromagnetic interference in nearby electronics, which is a plot point in my sole published science fiction novella.
- Goggles let Bradley dismounts see with the vehicle’s sensors – I think it just sends the dismounts a feed from the vehicle. If it somehow did augmented reality overlays of the common parts of their lines of sight, it would be even cooler.
- This DDG(X) concept actually looks sensible – Now we just need to build ten or so a year to show China what for.
- For FLRAA, buy the hybrid helo, not the tiltrotor, says V-22 test pilot – Tiltrotors evidently require more separation during landing than equivalently-sized helicopters, among other interesting tidbits.
- Chile buys some surplus E-3Ds – That makes Luchtburg worry a bit.
- Do you like government manuals? Here are 4,792, for free
- Lessons from the cruise missile attacks on Stark and Hanit – A 25-page paper, but a) skimmable, as the missile said to the surface of the sea; and b) a good read.
- SoKor’s K9 howitzer wins again – This time in Egypt.
- F-35 ramp strike – I think this is the one we’re looking for in the South China Sea.
- Chile may have more E-3s to buy soon; USAF issues RFI for a replacement – Parvusimperator thinks the E-7 is the odds-on favorite.
- Argentina buys Robotsystem 70 – South America is tooling up for some reason. Are they expecting trouble?
The Markets (Black and Otherwise)
- Mexican cartels muscling in on US marijuana growers
- How Brazil recovered from rampant inflation – They invented a Unit of Real Value. Prices, wages, and taxes were all listed in URVs, whose value floated relative to the currency of the day, the cruzeiro. That is, a gallon of milk might have been 10 cruzeiros one week, then 20 the next, but either way, it was listed as one URV. Then, once people got used to thinking of prices in term of a stable unit, Brazil declared the URV the real currency.
- How on earth do those buy-now-pay-later providers for online purchases make money? – Patrick McKenzie’s blog explains. (He’s a payments nerd, and a Stripe engineer.)
- From the same guy, a deep dive into how mortgages work in the US
The (Cyberpunk/Science Fiction) Future Is Now
It’s still Sunday, and I got this done.
Where do the months go?
Merry Christmas from your Soapbox hosts.
- Chinese hypersonic glide vehicle itself fired a missile over the Pacific – Financial Times story; use the Paywall Eliminator Firefox plugin.
- Sick burn from CDR Salamander – In response to “SOCOM commander says Taliban aren’t counterterrorism partners in Afghanistan.
- Ukraine’s defense intelligence chief thinks Russia is planning an invasion by January – Time’s running out on that one, but ‘the Christmas Day attack’ has a good ring to it. Good thing the tough-on-Russia adults are running things— No, I can’t keep a straight face.
- Italy thinks the next-gen European combat aircraft programs are going to merge – Two in a row that make me laugh! It would be smart, but I don’t think Europe would actually do it.
- Sal: look at our intellectual priorities, and look at our problems – It’s not a good look.
- Photos of Russian tanks with improvised anti-top-attack armor – It’s quite the look, let me tell you. Perhaps inspired by the recent Azerbaijan-Armenia spat?
- Mahan’s Yardstick – It’s 3500nm circles centered on Guam and Pearl.
- Israel buys the Gucci option, the CH-53K – Parvusimperator didn’t expect them to buy the expensive one.
- Tracking Russian force buildups near Ukraine – Open-source satellite imagery and analysis is wild.
- France Gets One Back: UAE to buy Rafale F4 – That’s the Gripen-E of Rafales.
- Brazil’s nuclear-powered sub project making progress – Luchtburg scrambles to respond.
- Finland picks the F-35 – And here’s why.
- Saudi Arabia running out of Patriot missiles in its conflict with the Houthis – A problem I expect to be a major factor in any future shooting war. I’ve posted about the lack of VLS reloading tools in the Pacific already; this is that problem but with consumables instead of equipment.
- Biden Administration officials have suggested that the U.S. will press Ukraine to formally cede a measure of autonomy within its eastern Donbas region – Uh-huh.
- General Atomics’ rough-field drone struts its stuff – It is not, as the name might suggest, a nuclear-powered drone.
- India tests air-launched BrahMos missile – “Gee, I wonder what ships those are targeted at,” parvusimperator says. I add, “India’s an awfully big, awfully unsinkable aircraft carrier on China’s SLoC to Africa.”
- MQ-25 naval unmanned tanker hits the deck – Trials begin aboard George H.W. Bush.
- Stratolaunch, owners of the world’s largest aircraft, to design and build hypersonic defense test articles – I’m glad we’re doing something with the largest aircraft in the world.
- Australia ditching its locally-built NH90s to be replaced by Black Hawks and variants – This follows Australia’s relatively recent ditching of its Eucoptre Tigres for Apaches.
- Dilapidated, sinking Marine AAVs still look less rusty than US Navy warships – Also, the AAV is getting retired. Sadly. I love the capacity.
- We wrote about a laser installed on USS Portland a while ago – Now it’s in testing!
- How US military planners are supposed to view the world – Given the choice between this and, “Those are people attacking us or our allies; we should fight them,” I think I prefer the latter.
- The taxonomy of narco-subs – H.I. Sutton does not consider the fact that we haven’t caught any of the true submersibles, or the related snorkel ships, evidence of absence. His take is that we know they can build such things, and the fact that we don’t catch any suggests they are building such things.
- Rapid Dragon hits a target
Coronavirus and Related Economic Disruptions
Christmas Gift Ideas
Well, readers, it’s been more than a month since the last one of these, for which you have my apologies.
October was a busy month for me: three USPSA matches, one of which yielded a trophy, and my birthday toward the end. Now that the summer’s winding down, I should be more able to do these regularly.
- Five B-21s are in final assembly – This story crossed the desk of the Sunday Papers editor on September 21. It has been so long that it’s conceivable they’re done now.
- Inside France’s loss of the Aussie submarine contract – The short version seems to be that the French were all, “We will need ze long cigarette breaks and ze padded budgets,” and the Aussies didn’t care for that attitude.
- Our best look yet at Rapid Dragon – The Drive points out that, while the system is cool, it’s likely that the US airlift fleet would be busy airlifting things during a peer conflict where ‘more missile trucks’ is a requirement. I suppose it might be that it’s easier to shanghai existing manufacturers into building airlift planes that can double as missile trucks than it would be to get them up to speed on bombers.
- Rolls-Royce to re-engine B-52s – Expected service life extended to 2050, which means we’re very likely to see the B-52’s 100th anniversary pass with airframes still in service, in 2055. Mark your calendars!
- USN takes delivery of the first Superbug Block IIIs – What’s in them? Hit this one to find out.
- Successful hypersonic missile test carried out – This is the US scramjet-powered hypersonic cruise missile, not the Chinese hypersonic glide vehicle strategic missile.
- British Army shows off future soldier concept – Still using a bullpup!
- The J-20A now has domestic engines – CNN calls it an upgrade, of which I am skeptical, but it’s certainly an upgrade in terms of defense industry independence.
- Know Your Ships: FFG(X) silhouette vs. FREMM – There are some quite substantial differences. Wasn’t the whole point of FFG(X) to buy off the rack?
- Jalopnik wonders why it’s so hard to buy a new USAF tanker – Because all American procurement is dysfunctional. Just ask anyone in the industry about their work at $DEFENSE_CONTRACTOR.
- Following LCS-2’s decommissioning on July 31, LCS-1 is under the axe after a mere 13 years on the job.
- Foreign Policy magazine pushes for a UN peacekeeping mission in Afghanistan – It could prevent civil war, says Foreign Policy, but it seems to me like the civil war is already over.
- How to hide from drones – A 36-minute video that I haven’t had the time to watch yet, but parvusimperator gives it the thumbs up.
- USS Connecticut hit something underwater
- Chinese reactions strongly suggest it was a Chinese submarine
- More hypersonic missile fun: Big Army now has its Dark Eagle system in hand – When did we start naming things with a comic book aesthetic?
- The first AC-130 solid state laser arrives for testing
- American forces have been deploying to Taiwan for at least a year
- The Marines have a vehicle whose armament is a pack of suicide drones
- Some models of OMFV entrants at AUSA
- Army, not content to play second fiddle to Marines, to receive General Dynamics Land Systems tracked vehicle with 50 suicide drones – Take that, Marines!
- Big Army also halts billion-dollar augmented reality goggle project
- German army adopts the ELCAN Specter as its new service optic – 1-4x, which is a good range of magnifications for the average guy on the ground.
- Anti-drone swarm striker Stryker competition heats up – Get it? Because one uses a microwave weapon, and the other two use lasers.
- Bell completes first Bahraini
Cobra Viper – Why did Bahrain go with the AH-1 instead of the AH-64? Performance might be one reason. The AH-1 is a substantially more maneuverable platform—it’s a ton or two lighter, and only down 180 shaft horsepower over the Apache.
- The Ukraine-Russia front line looks like something from the Great War
- Press release from Tim Ryan’s office suggests that funding secured for the Lima Joint Systems Manufacturing Center will be used to integrate an unmanned turret into the Abrams
Science and Technology
- Starship is still not understood – There’s going to be a massive economic revolution in space in the next decade or so, and NASA is still planning missions like it’s 1994. When you can chuck 100 tons into space for $10 million, suddenly optimizing ruthlessly for mass and building billion-dollar rovers doesn’t seem like such a good use of time.
- E3D, manufacturer of 3D printer accessories, plans to patent its future innovations – Because they can’t survive as a company when they have to compete with near-instant Chinese ripoffs of their products, and then also deal with supporting said ripoffs. The 3D printing community is howling, but honestly, I don’t hate their approach here. They say they won’t enforce their patents against hobbyists and academics, which is to my mind the most egregious part of the patent system.
- Just how big can solar flares get? – And just how likely are they to hammer Earth with a modern-day Carrington Event?
- Speaking of, there’s a geomagnetic storm coming today – If you’re at 50 degrees geomagnetic latitude or points north, you may be able to see auroras tonight. Unless you’re here with us in Pittsburgh, in which case you won’t, because it’s cloudy.
- The double-charm tetraquark: a new piece in the strong force puzzle – Sorry, it’s a little beyond me.
- Starlink satellites stand in for GPS – Satellites with published ephemeris data constantly transmitting accurate timestamps can be used for location? News at 11.
- The dumbest sorting algorithm ever – “The first reaction of someone seeing this algorithm might be ‘this cannot possibly be correct’.”
- Intel slipped up on trying to be both a cutting-edge fab and a chip designer, and now it’s throwing open the doors to its fabs and taking contract manufacturing jobs to survive – That’s a bit of a gloomy way of phrasing it, but broadly accurate.
- Are black holes actually dark energy stars? – Some physicists say yes! Dark energy stars are an interesting idea because they resolve some black hole-related paradoxes.
Finance and Economics
- There are legal obstacles to paying for zoo animals with currency, so zoos have developed an animal-based currency to work around the laws – One of the zoo curators likens it to countries dealing with one another in their own currencies—there are some animals that are ‘reserve currencies’, of a sort, but a lot of times, the exchange rate depends on the details of the trade and the institution with which you’re working.
- Is Evergrande finally going to collapse? – Story from 9/21. As of this writing, no, but it could still happen. I feel like Evergrande collapse stories are kind of like Three Gorges Dam collapse stories, in that they’re tired and predictable up until when they actually happen.
- Shortages: a late 2021 fact of life – We reloaders have been scrounging for a while now, though.
- Evergrande Part II: China asking state-backed firms to buy Evergrande assets – Well, ‘asking’.
- Coca-Cola loading supplies on chartered bulk freighters – Stevedores and longshoremen jumping with joy in the streets.
- China buying Australian coal despite import ban, owing to the power shortage in China
- Youtuber Economics Explained on China’s blackouts – I don’t know the guy’s political leanings, but his economics seem more conservative than the norm for the Youtube explainer set, so.
- Closing in on COVID’s origins – If it circulated in animals and jumped to humans, you’d expect to find it in animals. Except… “Chinese scientists searched for a host in early 2020, testing more than 80,000 animals from 209 species, including wild, domesticated and market animals. As the WHO investigation reported, not a single animal infected with SARS-CoV-2 was found.”
- Shipping pallets are the low-stakes version of container shortages – Well, partially shortages, and partially how there are competing pallet systems. There are the ‘whitewood’ ones you think of when you think of a shipping pallet, and then there are blue-painted ones that are rented by a central company rather than sold as part of the shipment.
I swear I’m not trying to turn this into a monthly feature—there’s been a lot going on, and news items (that we read and share in our links channel) have been following a drought or flood pattern.
- The Glockblaster 3D, which I mentioned way back in… wow, February… is almost done. Expect a series of posts following the build later in the year.
- Above the fold: Australia ditches France, returns to the Anglosphere for its subs and Pacific security arrangements – The Aussies are going nuclear! It’s a miracle it took as long as it did, because…
- … it was too expensive, and can’t do enough – Ouch.
- The French, ever those masters of grace and forgiveness, recalled their ambassadors from the US and Australia – Not the UK, though, because, to lightly paraphrase an actual official explanation, the French expect perfidy from those English dogs, and don’t think it’s worth any stern measures.
- The new bloc is called Aukus, which is an awful name – At least it doesn’t include New Zealand. Aukusnz? Just doesn’t work. Looks like it should include Poland, with that cluster at the end.
- Boeing rolls out Qatari F-15s – The inspiration, evidently, for the F-15EX.
- Coaxial rotorheads rejoice: Ka-52M gets a contract from Russia – The Ka-50, I’ve always said, is a traditional attack helicopter with two crew, except the two crew are in different airframes. The Ka-52 is a lot less exotic, although there aren’t a lot of serious attack helos with side-by-side seating. Perhaps because the coaxial rotors impose a speed limit already, so optimizing for low drag is less important.
- System tests of Rapid Dragon under way – Turning every cargo plane into a potential missile truck is a nice little force multiplier. I wonder if shanghaied commercial cargo planes could do the job? I don’t know how many of them have tail ramps, though.
- Why the Afghan army fell so quickly before the Taliban – Written by an Afghan general.
- USAF experimenting with antiship JDAMs – Which is quite the trick, considering JDAMs are for hitting a specific coordinate, rather than a specific moving object. Seems like a seeker swap. Possibly some munition networking.
- Military jetpacks now heading to Southeast Asia – It’s actually a different jetpack than the one the Royal Navy tested a while back.
- Team Bullpup crushed: Tavor to be retired – It lasted about ten years.
- Taiwan’s new corvettes have better a better ASuW fit than most major surface combatants – They are creatures of their time and place, I’ll say that.
- SoKor tests sub-launched ballistic missiles – Launched from a diesel boomer. Does South Korea secretly have the bomb, I wonder? We’re not upset, if so; just play nice with Japan.
- Officially retired, F-117s now play stealth aggressor – The Drive reports.
- Losing Small Wars: a boots-on-the-ground officer type reflects on the increasing centralization of Big Army command
- Israel working on stealthy fuel tanks for its F-35s – Israel: world leader in range extension.
- Germany working on Type 212CD: a stealth submarine – It goes like this: passive sonar doesn’t work as well as it used to, because submarines are all so quiet. So, active sonar is on the way back. Active sonar can be defeated by shaping, just like radar. That leads to strangely angular boats.
Science and Technology
The Economy, Stupid
It looks like The Sunday Papers are here to stay.
Science and Technology
- Prepper, libertarian-ish guy, and Ars Technica founder (since departed) Jon Stokes is starting to get worried about COVID again, which is maybe a canary. He’s a fairly clear-eyed dude. We’ll keep you updated.
- Plastic barriers probably don’t help – Ventilation is the COVID-killer, which is why airplanes are quite safe despite what you’d think. Plastic barriers can interfere with ventilation.
Oh dear, it’s been quite a while, hasn’t it?
With the increasing business and attendant busy-ness at work, I’m considering making this week’s tongue-in-cheek change a permanent one. We picked Wednesday for the What We’re Reading back when we had a post from me on some Saturdays and a post from parvusimperator most Tuesdays and Thursdays. It made a lot more sense when Tuesday through Thursday was a solid block of content. Now that that condition no longer holds, I don’t know if I have much reason to carry on trying to carve 45 minutes out of my Wednesdays to whip this up, when Sunday is a whole lot more open.
- I did buy a new reloading press. It’s a Dillon XL750, and I quite like it.
- The revolver technique content I promised is delayed, because we had a pipe leak and the attendant plumbing and remediation work to contract out and do, respectively.
Science and Technology
- A Chemical Hunger: why are people so fat these days? – A review of the evidence in favor of chemical contaminants being the cause. Particularly compelling: county-level maps of obesity are very similar to maps of watershed catchment area. A long read: it has at least eight parts at the time of writing.
- Should social media platforms be regulated like common carriers? – Eugene Volokh argues that some kind of common carrier-like regime may be correct. We have a fair bit of editorial independence here, because we’re not beholden to Big Tech, but there are plenty of ways we could still get shut down given a substantial enough pressure campaign.
- China seizes UK’s largest microchip manufacturer – Barely even hyperbole, that headline.
- China also cracks down on its equivalent to US big tech – Content warning: a pundit who is, in my experience, frequently wrong. That said, I think he’s right on this one: China isn’t hitting companies that make tangible things, just its domestic software industry. Which is dumb, given that a domestic software industry helps encourage the development of the software engineers you need to make tangible tech, but central planners never got high marks for making good decisions.
- Big earthquake in Alaska – Right next door to the Cascadia fault, where we should be expecting the next Big One.
Reloading press update: I’m looking now at a Dillon XL750, which seems to hit the right balance between price, size, and capability.
- Lots of stuff around the house.
- Parvusimperator remarks that he’s been engaged in planning the plan for a committee to lay out the vision for the forthcoming plan for architecting a future project. $GOVERNMENT_CONTRACTOR life!
- The Glockblaster 3D project I wrote about earlier in the year is nearly done. I need to write a progress update. I’ve been sharing more frequent, less formal updates at a semi-private forum for a collection of centrist and right-leaning tech enthusiasts. It’s a pleasant place, and if you find the tenor of the less politically neutral grab bag pieces agreeable rather than aggravating, you might like it there too.
Science and Technology