Autumn is now fully upon us here in western PA, and with the long, dark evenings comes more time for inside pursuits like writing. I have a biggish 2020 USPSA season wrap-up in the pipeline, along with some other revolver-related content (what can I say, I have a one-track mind), and parvusimperator has a few intriguing drafts going too.
War in the East: Azerbaijan and Armenia kick it off
The ‘Rona and Associated Cultural Phenomena
Science and Technology
Any thoughts on what we should do for the upcoming 100th edition of What We’re Reading?
- Is SARS-CoV-2 a product of gain-of-function research? – Gain-of-function research being the head-scratching idea that it’s somehow wise or worthwhile to turn viruses which can’t infect humans into viruses which can, to, I dunno, see if it can be done? Cue Ian Malcolm quote.
- In that tweet, a guy called Peter Daszak is quoted on the subject of enhancing ‘SARS-related CoVs’, back in November 2019 – Here he is in Boston Magazine, identified as president of an organization that funded the Wuhan Institute of Virology, vehemently denying that research at that institute which involved identifying spike proteins that could cause bat viruses to infect humans and making new viruses from them could have possibly caused a human outbreak of a bat coronavirus in Wuhan.
- Elsewhere in that Twitter thread, there’s some speculation that virologists who (rightfully, it seems to me) consider gain-of-function research to be an awful idea aren’t speaking up for professional reasons; who wants to be remembered as the person who caused the entire world to ban their field of research? Besides people with a sense of perspective, or, you know, morals.
A special topic! There have been exciting developments in the field.
- Karl of InRange TV making every effort at fairness in re: a volley-fire .22 WMR revolver – Unrelated to the topic at hand, I find myself less enthused with InRange’s match videos now that I’ve had a few years to get used to USPSA. The InRange-style 2-gun match, with its excessive reliance on physical challenges and punitive par times, is not as interesting to me as it once was.
- T̶h̶r̶o̶w̶b̶a̶c̶k̶ ̶T̶h̶u̶r̶s̶d̶a̶y̶ Wayback Wednesday: Steyr’s scout rifle, an American Rifleman review from 1998 – The second gun I bought was a Mosin carbine, which I proceeded to turn into a scout-ish rifle. I still like it, although I haven’t had any of my rifles out to the range in quite some time now. I should have a go at the 550-yard plate at my new range with the K31, though.
- The price of Remington’s ammo plants, its most valuable asset: $65 million – Blast. That’s a bit steep for just the two of us. Maybe they’ll sell primers? I could really use some small pistol primers.
- From the ads in USPSA magazine: the Gill Arms GPR 9M, a striker-fired pistol with… innovations? – At least, I think they’re innovations. For one, the passive safety is that the striker is locked out of line with the primer until the trigger is pulled. For another, the magazine tapers in two different places, which is evidently better for reliability? Not having $800 to spend on a random pistol, I can’t say if any of that is true. Even if I did have the $800, I don’t see any for sale.
Other Science and Technology
Decision 2020 Etc.
Buckle up. We’ve got a lot to cover this week, and (because I submitted more articles than parvusimperator) a myriad of topics.
I got almost all the way through the week’s articles before I had to start a defense section.
Science and Technology
- Story of the week: potential biosigns detected on Venus – Phosphine, a chemical which is rapidly degraded into its component bits by UV light (during the press briefing, they said a lifetime of a few thousand seconds is believed to be accurate), is present in moderate quantities in the upper atmosphere of Venus. Planetary scientists spent a few years trying to puzzle out non-biological processes which could create phosphone, and came up empty. My money’s still on some bit of novel high-temperature/high-pressure chemistry. Anyway, I need to pop over to Twitter and goad Musk into sending a probe.
- Do masks actually work against the wuflu? – I think the data is more up in the air than Mr. Berenson’s Tweet suggests, but at the same time, the point about Taiwan, Japan, and testing is worth bearing in mind.
- Deep sea mining and the race to the bottom of the sea – We’ve explored almost none of the extremely-deep ocean. Should we start mining it and potentially destroy all those ecosystems? I have not yet fully formed an opinion.
- The ISS is getting moldy – On the inside, which is great news for fans of old-feeling science fiction but not so great news for fans of long-term space habitats. NASA is working on ways to kill ’em.
- NASA to investigate 3D printing for rocket part production – Good for small-batch rocket production, perhaps, but come, let us reason with one another. If you take Elon Musk at 10% of his word, he’s still going to build hundreds of rockets, which translates to thousands of engines. At that scale, it seems like a factory, with fancy tooling and all, makes fiscal sense, and small-batch rocket production does not make sense.
- Another cosmological problem surfaces: the universe might be too spread-out
- But wait, there’s more: a disc galaxy at the very edge of the observable universe looks way older than it should – C’mon, dark-matter-as-the-luminiferous-ether-of-the-21st-century guess! Turn out to be correct!
While drafting these, I keep on forgetting I’ve already shared match videos, and have to go dig them out later. Oops.
- The new British carriers have always looked a bit fat to me – They may not be true carriers with catapults and arresting gear, but having two of them does count for something.
- An EC-135 at Mildenhall in 1991 demonstrated that airliner-form-factor aircraft have quite a bit of thrust to spare at light loads
- Charles de Gaulle and Izumo, to the same scale – The year is 2028. The War of the South China Sea is heating up. In a Mitsubishi warehouse, engineers pull the tarps off an angled flight deck attachment for Izumo…
- Big Army to field a ground-launched strike SM-6 – It’s similar in concept, I suppose, to the ADATS—one missile, multiple missions. Too, ‘medium-range strike’ conflicts much less with ‘air defense’ than does ‘anti-tank’—the tough thing about ADATS is that using the missiles on tanks feels like a waste, or at least it did when I gamed it out in Armored Brigade.
- US looking for a NATO-like alliance in the Pacific
- Apaches to sling Spike NLOS missile – It’s the hi in a hi-lo setup, with the lo being JAGM… except JAGM, the less-capable missile, is also the more expensive one. In the time since the JAGM project started, the UK developed and deployed Brimstone… and then Brimstone 2.
- India tests hypersonic scramjet vehicle? – Welcome to the club!
- China has a space plane; here’s where it lands
- For light ambush-protected vehicles, Thales charges Australia double what the American option would have cost – Cost disease: not just an American malady.
Science and Technology
- Eternal Brexit – The article didn’t quite pay off the title—in particular, it seems to insinuate that Brexit is, rather than being eternal, likely to come to some sort of conclusion as the EU tires of the whole process.
- The planning of US physician shortages – It’s because think tanks in the 80s concluded that there would be a glut of physicians, and people made plans based on that.
Two weeks and a short post is what you get when both of your hosts are on the road and/or occupied in such a way as to prevent a great deal of reading.
We’ll call it a biweekly-what-we’re-reading this time.
Your correspondent writes to you from the New Mexico countryside, watching the scrubland give way to thin forest as the Southwest Chief wends its way toward Chicago.
- One of the set of frequently-wrong ‘thought leaders’ on Twitter (Yglesias, maybe?) had the shocking realization that, although Chicago started as a rail hub, it’s now mainly a large city on the basis of network effects. Like, you know, every city.
- The Planes of Fame museum in Chino, CA is worth a visit, if you’re into airplane museums. They have the only airworthly A6M with an original Nakajima engine.
- How to test every American for the coronavirus every day – The short version: spit test strips at a low, low price per unit. As accurate as PCR testing? No, but much easier to mass produce. It would cost a few billion dollars, but you can find that behind the sofas on Capitol Hill, and the economic benefits would be massive.
- Royal Australian Regiment looking into 60mm platoon mortars – I’m on board with the idea.
- Not new, but Australia has a procurement decision-making framework that seems to be working pretty well – Better than the American system of, “Start the project and cancel it before completion seventeen times in a row,” certainly. Parvusimperator’s TLDR of the Australian framework: “If there’s an obvious choice, skip the competition, buy the obvious choice, and move on.”
- We’re selling the Qataris the AMRAAM-ER – That’s an AMRAAM seeker on an ESSM body. Next up: Washington, DC.
- Whither the MiG-35? – The Drive suggests the answer is, “Onto the scrap heap alongside a bunch of other modernization projects, in favor of more Flankers.”
- Bell reveals V-280 naval variants
- Also, gunships – I dunno. As a rotorhead flight simmer, I still think I prefer a proper helicopter.
- Strykers with lasers on their heads
- The Bruce Krulak Center speculates, by means of essay contests, on ways the USMC might vanish
- USAF working hard on the F-16’s new AESA
- Also, the F-16 is getting pylons with built-in MAWS and countermeasures systems – That’s a pretty clever place to stick the sensors, given that your average F-16 is pretty crowded already.
- Drone swarms! – For EW purposes, among other things. It’s a nifty plan.
- Flying the YF-23 – And its fancy flight control system.
- To replace the BMP-2, Hungary selects the Lynx – Which might, in turn, make the Lynx more attractive to the Aussies and their Land 400 program.
- Testing rifle muzzle brakes – The methodology is ingenious. Parvusimperator has some additional thoughts, which I believe he’s turning into a full post.
- Parvusimperator and I saw, in the latest issue of the USPSA magazine, a review of a custom-fit earplug guy. Unfortunately, he isn’t coming this far north this year. Fortunately, I ran across Decibullz, a silly name for a mold-your-own-earplugs solution. I haven’t had very good luck with in-ear protection beyond you classic orange foamies, but I’m hopeful that a custom fit and the so-called percussive filters will a) serve more comfortably for a full day of shooting, and b) let me hear things while still blocking shooting noise. There will be a review to come.
- Duncan v. Becerra opinion – The train wending its way toward Chicago originated in the greater LA area, where my wife and I spent some time quarantining with her family, who are also people of the gun, and you can bet this was a topic of excited conversation.
- Beirut blast in pictures – Yes, we’re a bit slow off the mark on this story, but that’s the downside of the biweekly timeline.
- Tracing the path of the Rhosus, whose load of ammonium nitrate, abandoned 7 years ago, caused the explosion
- Italian explosives expert suspects that it was more than just ammonium nitrate – Bring your own Google Translate.
- Hong Kong turned into your average mainland Chinese city real quick, after the passage of that national security law
- The story that actually frames it in those terms – It’s been a while since I’ve put one of these together, okay?
- NY billionaires vote for Democrats, find themselves targeted by Marxists – Parvusimperator, a native of the Empire State, requested a tiny violin.
- Hollywood executives getting canned at an alarming rate – Well, alarming if you’re a Hollywood exec, I guess. There is very little sympathy for them in our internal chat; certainly, there’s more for the ordinary salaryman who gets laid off.
- Google kills off business-to-business products too
If I call it ‘Weekly What We’re Reading’, maybe I won’t have to feel so bad about missing Wednesdays.
- Last of the 29 Palms Abrams moves on – Pour one out. They’re bound to Barstow, and then on to Sierra Army Depot, where they’ll be mothballed.
- India’s Rafales arrive – India has some special features not found on Ye Standard French Rafale.
- How Britain cut its Harrier force to zero in two months – i.e., not a happy story.
- Video of the week: Rheinmetall’s 130mm test
- A TFB interview with leaders of the NGSW program on same
- IAI and Singapore Technologies Engineering form Proteus Advanced Systems – They’re selling an export version of the Gabriel 5, for which STE provides parts. Singapore, notably, is in the market for a Harpoon replacement.
- Two diagrams and a lot of technical Russian – It’s the T-14/T-15 reversible hull patent! Parvusimperator notes the chassis is an earlier design, with only six road wheels per side.
- Britain Used To Be So Cool, historical photo edition – It’s the Royal Navy at Spithead, on the occasion of Elizabeth’s coronation. (Cor, she’s been around a while, hasn’t she?)
- Poland agrees to pay most costs for US troop presence – Poland remembers 1939. And, as ever, American troops in Europe are a tripwire more than anything—both a deterrent and a way to get the American population behind an overseas adventure.
- USAF’s THPMOR system to see field tests – USAF calls it ‘THOR’, but that leaves out ‘Power’ and ‘Microwave’.
- Raytheon and Rafael collaborate for an Indirect Fire Protection Capability stopgap – Iron Dome! American Iron Dome!
Science and Technology
Missed a Wednesday again. Oops.
- Celestial Matters, a science fiction novel where the science is that of ancient Greece.
- Star Wars Squadrons hands-on from PC Gamer – parvusimperator and I both cut our teeth on the X-Wing games of the end of the last millennium and the start of this one, and we’re both going to withhold judgment on this one until we’ve seen it in action. That said, there are reasons for cautious optimism.
- 12 minutes of Star Wars Squadrons in-game footage – It looks… pretty good. All the debris and huge space constructions to fly around inside are, together, something of a space flight sim trope, but it looks pretty much like Modern X-Wing Alliance otherwise.
- Computers: ha ha, we’re better at chess than you. Humans: oh yeah? – 5D Chess with Multiverse Time Travel! (Granted, the computer is pretty good at it.) It’s chess, except with two time dimensions (and an unused spatial z-axis counting as the fifth dimension from the title). Talking about games sounds like describing the plot to a Terminator movie.
- MS Flight Simulator 2020: Ars Technica hands-on – The PC Gamer hands-on was similarly effusive. I don’t do much flight simming presently, with summertime pursuits weighing heavily upon my time, but man, do those clouds look good.
Science and Technology
Another two-week gap, and this time, I’m writing it on Tuesday night so I don’t run out of time tomorrow.
- Navy to equip seven more ships with contrived-acronym laser system – ODIN.
- High-film-speed shots of a Shipwreck launch
- Bonhomme Richard burns – Fun fact: per our favorite naval affairs commentator CDR Salamander, the thing oft misquoted as ‘drywall’ in the press is actually ‘triwall’: heavy-duty three-layer corrugated cardboard product.
- French forces deploy to Lithuania – France: NATO’s MVP in Europe, 2010s-2020s? It’s certainly not Germany anymore.
- US rejects the nine-dash line – This is the kind of hawkish move that I don’t think we’d see under any sort of ordinary presidential administration.
- More on the above, in which Sec. Pompeo calls China a bully
- India likes the SIG 716i – Good for SIG; I suspect they’re going to have to pay out over the latest P320 safety oopsie.
- Big Army patents a new M4 heavy barrel design
- Large fire breaks out at Iranian shipyard – Perhaps they’re jealous of all the coverage the Bonhomme Richard fire is getting? Or maybe it’s the precursor to an alien attack.
- SoKor, having just bought some AEW&C planes, starts a search for new ones – Not wasting any time, certainly. They also just launched a communications satellite the other day, transport provided by SpaceX. (SpaceX refurbished the rocket in 51 days, minus a week or two for the barge to slowly putter back into its position out at sea, and stuck the landing again.)
- India, faced with provocation in the Himalayas from China, moves toward buying Sprut-SDs – China has a light tank. India discovered that its T-72s, T-72+s, and T-72+++s are not great in the mountains. India goes to World Armaments Mart-ski to play catch-up.
- India among the candidates for F-15EXports – Israel, too.
- PLAAF pilots speak English in the cockpit? – That’s what this video released by China seems to suggest.
- Golden Horde networked swarming munitions to begin USAF flight testing – Also, the Gray Wolf mini-cruise missile did some flight testing. ‘Golden Horde’ seems like a carefully-chosen name: a branch of a traditional anti-China baddie that never actually invaded China.
- Aping SoKor, RAF wants a better radar for the Eurofighter now that the Captor-E is available
- UK tech used in hybrid Bradley trials
- Big Army research lab develops smuzzle bressor – A muzzle brake/suppressor combo, which is impressive, given that the two things have widely divergent design requirements.
- Vietnam’s new AK-based service rifles look pretty cool
- Big Army wants to compete in the OMFV contest – Industry is, quoth Janes, “unnerved”. Frankly, I’m in favor of the armed services owning their designs, rather than farming them out to contractors.
Science and Technology
- A train sim that’s actually hard? – In a 2016 article (holy cow, has it been that long?), I perhaps snidely referred to games in the transport simulator genre as ‘podcast screensavers‘. I also slagged off Train Simulator and its fans as ridiculously easy and bad at games, respectively. So, when Flare Path chieftain Tim Stone said, “This train simulator is hard” (albeit in more words), my ears perked up. Not so much that I’ve bought the game yet, but nevertheless, it’s on my radar now.
- Can a Formula 1 car actually drive upside-down? – Unfortunately, building a test track for this in real life is still not feasible, so we have to settle for simulator runs.
Still busy here, hence the double delay in getting this done. Maybe when the project I’m working on at the office slows down? But then, I have several other ones lined up afterward, so maybe not. (I guess I’d rather be busy than the alternative.)
- China forced an oppressive state security law through Hong Kong’s government, laying the groundwork to fully tear down the two-systems… system.
- UK offers British citizenship to three million Hong Kongers eligible for British National Overseas passports – We’ll take the ones who like guns, if Britain doesn’t want them.
- I saw it said on Twitter that one distinction we in the West should be careful about is this: the sentiment in Hong Kong is more in favor of autonomy (as part of China) than it is about independence (from China). … for now, at any rate. The seed that became the United States was an argument over representation. Look where we are now.
- King Stallion now flying from ships
- The Drive with a lecture on the F-111 and how it drove the design of the Tomcat
- Looking back at the A-7, the first digital jet – Along with the Saab Viggen, of which I have previously written, the other of the very early digital attack jets, the Corsair is a really cool piece of history.
- The military we need vs. the military we have – This essay comes down in favor of ‘build for the asymmetric warfare we’re encountering now’. I take an alternate position: the purpose of a military is to break the militaries of peer powers. Armed forces built with that goal in mind are handicapped in asymmetric police action Forever Wars. Armed forces built for asymmetric police action Forever Wars are useless against peer powers. It seems to me to be the same strain of thinking that people criticize in publicly-traded companies—”We aren’t encountering this problem today, and won’t for the next few quarters, so why bother preparing for it?”
- Wave-gliding vessel in the Florida Keys is probably an unmanned spook listening device
- Turkey the latest to realize that building high-performance aircraft turbines is hard – It took Russia a long time to get it right. China is still working on it. Turkey, I expect, has a bumpy road ahead.
- Speaking of Turkey, the US Senate has drafted a plan in which we buy Ankara’s S-400s in exchange for re-admission to the F-35 program
- South Korea to buy more AWACS, SIGINT planes – $2 billion worth.
- Big Army to get more jamming/SIGINT jobbers – Built on a Stryker chassis—the M113 for the 21st century.
- Big Army selects some anti-drone systems
- Big Army buying Infantry Squad Vehicles from GM Defense – They seem to have taken their design cues from Halo. Today’s 19-year-olds grew up in a post-Halo-launch world, steeped in the culture of that game, so I guess it makes sense to buy a Warthog clone as a way to draw attention.
- Big Army’s Stryker cannon project is still on track, Stryker chief assures us – Ooh, there’s a SHORAD version coming too.
- The ENVG-B is pretty cool – Pretty much science fiction goggles. They have a HUD and a thermal imaging mode, they integrate with weapon optics, and they zoom.
- House Armed Services Committee wants to stop year-end spending sprees – Operations and Maintenance money must be earmarked for spending by October 1 each year, or else any remaining amount is lost. HASC says, “Why not let them carry over 50% year to year, like every other department?” Seems like a simple enough fix to me.
- There’s a procurement battle brewing in F-15EX engines – GE vs. Pratt & Whitney.
- Navy to mothball first four LCSes if Congress will allow it – Especially with the much-more-capable FFG(X) looking like it’s going to see the light of day. Over in the Rule the Waves 2 Let’s Play I do find myself keeping little ships well past their best-by dates, but that’s mainly to use them as anti-submarine escorts.
- The ASALM, a Cold War anti-SAM/anti-AEW&C nuclear missile tragically killed by penny-pinchers and the demise of the Soviet Union
- An essay on ‘cognitive electronic warfare’ – Whatever that means. Parvusimperator’s link, and he can explain it more, if he wants—I saw a clunky passive-voice construction in the excerpted thesis at the top of the page and closed the tab.