Today is an extremely grab-bag day.
- A lovely F-35C glamor shot
- The Tu-22M3M, the logical end result of Russia’s insane aircraft naming scheme. (Remember, folks, the Tu-22 and the Tu-22M are different airframes!)
- Forbes on the business impact of the Army’s ITEP re-engining program – Helicopter engines are big money. Think 10,000 units at least.
- The Maritime Silk Road, or China’s geopolitical strategy – Basically, all their repossessed infrastructure investments make for a nice network of bases, and a nice network of countries pleasantly disposed toward China.
- Quality, not quantity, or the American military spending strategy – I think this is a reasonable peacetime choice, except insofar as modern military production is very hard to scale up.
- US Navy tests Littoral Combat Groups – They don’t include any Littoral Combat Ships, because why would they?
- Britain plans to build a new base in Southeast Asia – Brunei is apparently high on the list. Singapore seems like a natural choice, too, but there’s way less room there.
- Flashpoint: Arctic Circle – Russia is improving its bases in the high arctic.
- A tweet from John Noonan on Chinese rhetoric in 2019 vs. Japanese rhetoric in 1941 – “[…] the US is a weak, pleasure-seeking nation, and if we thump their Navy hard enough, they won’t fight for little Pacific islands.”
- Ongoing problems with the Ford-class carriers’ weapons elevators – You’d think they’d have that nailed down by now. Also on the grapevine is continued issues with the advanced arresting gear. Those, at least, operate on an interesting principle, using adjustable vanes in a water-twister energy sink to vary arresting force by aircraft.
- Soapbox favorite CDR Salamander writes an ode to the naval gun – As I recall, he came of age as an officer in some battleship or another before they were retired, so it’s no surprise he’s fond of gunnery.
- Patreon’s censors (video) – Noting the danger megacorporations pose to free speech online is one of the least traditionally conservative positions I hold politically. I have a longer post on the issue in draft status, but it’s a hard one for me to write, probably because there aren’t any easy fixes. The main point I found compelling in the linked video is that it’s absurd that Patreon exercises editorial control, when in effect it’s content creators hiring them to do behind-the-scenes accounting.
Welcome to 2019! Maybe it’s just me, but saying ‘twenty-nineteen’ feels like the future to me in a way ‘twenty-eighteen’ didn’t. I was making plans to put a garden in our back yard the other day, realized I wasn’t going to get there this summer, and subsequently realized that meant I was making plans for 2020, which is absolutely the future.
Technically, I wasn’t supposed to start these back up until next week, but we have a few items in the queue that I figured I might as well whip into some kind of article.
- Australia’s Defence Technology Review, January 2019 – The front cover has what I can only call an LST-X on it, which is why it’s in the roundup to begin with, but it also has a ton of interesting news on Aussie defense inside. The advertising and other non-editorial inner matter reminds me of early-20th-century Janes books, where (usually) English companies manufacturing things like boilers and armor plate would advertise.
- Parvusimperator had another link on the Achates-Cummins opposed piston engine, but we’d already covered the information therein, so here’s a different article – This one focuses a bit more on possible consumer applications, rather than the 1000hp Cummins project for combat vehicles, but has some good animations and graphics to consult if you have a hard time picturing just when things happen in an opposed piston cycle. Cummins was supposed to present a report on initial test results in November, but I can’t find a copy. Scrounging is parvusimperator’s gig. If we find one, we’ll have it for you.
- Foreign Affairs writes on Trump’s foreign policy – They use the term ‘illiberal hegemony’ to indicate that current American foreign policy is not strongly focused on exporting democracy or liberalizing illiberal regimes. I think it’s fair to say it’s a foreign policy with the idealism knob turned down to zero, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing.
- China’s railgun test ship is undergoing sea trials – Some Twitter pictures show it steaming at sea. Business Insider calls it a ‘warship’, but it’s just a landing ship with a big honking railgun turret plopped onto the bow.
- Secretary Mattis’ departure delays KC-46 deliveries – Apparently, some paperwork was awaiting his signature.
- The PLARF tests an S-400 system on a ‘simulated ballistic target’ – I still can’t type PLARF without snickering.
- China can’t control the South China Sea – The author is speaking specifically in circumstances less than war. At war, he seems pretty happy with the US-SoKor-Japan-etc. bloc’s ability to beat China, which is (I think) where the sober, non-hysterical money ought to go. At levels of tension less than war, he also thinks China doesn’t have sufficient hulls to enforce its control over the South China Sea. He gets there by excluding the PLAN from patrol and flag-waving duties, which seems to me to be a questionable assumption.
- US Navy considering a block buy of aircraft carriers to save money – U-S-A! U-S-A! More seriously, it’s what the kids might call (might have called?) a baller move to order two aircraft carriers at once when competitor states are working toward that capability, in peacetime, because a bulk buy is cheaper. ‘Murica.
- F-35 AAM testing – They’re really playing up the simultaneous engagement thing for reasons which aren’t fully clear to me. Was it an EOTS engagement? Sensor fusion? If it’s just shooting AMRAAMs at two separate targets tracked by radar, I’m not all that impressed. It’s 70s/80s state of the art.
Mattis’ Farewell Letter
I’ve decided to transcribe the entire thing here, because it’s so clearly the work of an old soldier rather than a politician.
MEMORANDUM FOR ALL DEPARTMENT OF DEFENSE EMPLOYEES
SUBJECT: Farewell Message
On February 1, 1865, President Lincoln sent to General Ulysses S. Grant a one-sentence telegram. It read: “Let nothing which is transpiring change, hinder, or delay your military movements or plans.”
Our Department’s leadership, civilian and military, remains in the best possible hands. I am confident that each of you remains undistracted from our sworn mission to support and defend the Constitution while protecting our way of life. Our Department is proven to be at its best when the times are most difficult. So keep the faith in our country and hold fast, alongside our allies, aligned against our foes.
It has been my high honor to serve at your side. May God hold you safe in the air, on land, and at sea.
- Philadelphia is a terrible place – It’s an old story, but as proud residents of Pennsylvania’s better half, we’re honor-bound to trash Philly whenever we get the chance.
A day late again. Blame Strategic Command WWII: World at War, which has been consuming my evenings, and busy days at work, which have been consuming my days. (SCWWIIWAW review should be coming sometime soon.)
A note on Christmas schedule: officially, our break starts on the 19th and ends on January 8th. We won’t be altogether absent during that stretch, but we certainly won’t have two-articles-and-a-linkpost per week.
- Coal, oil, and now cobalt – A strategic material for the modern age.
- Oh, Canada – Canada is having trouble keeping enough fighters in the air. (But hey, at least Gripen is on the table!)
- F-35 Block II feature list – Pardon what is perhaps an impolitic question, but isn’t Block I still in development? Then again, as a software developer by day, I understand having to promise new features before the existing ones are done.
- A history of US ASW efforts in the First World War
- Apparently, I forgot to stick the link to the story in our what-we’re-reading chat channel, but the USAF is planning on consolidating F-22 basing, leaving Tyndall AFB out of future plans. (Tyndall will continue to house F-35s.) That leaves active F-22 squadrons at Hickam, Langley, and Elmendorf, which the USAF wants to expand from 21 to 24 aircraft each. There were 17 F-22s left at Tyndall during the hurricane, so that’s presumably a not-easily-salvable rate of a bit under 50%.
- Soapbox favorite naval affairs writer James Holmes on Pearl Harbor, and how it’s Mahan’s fault – Both that it happened to us, and that it was a bad idea for the Japanese. Read it all the way through. It’s a good one.
- The British Army demos an urban ops Challenger 2 – Something for a certain regular commenter of ours.
- USAF must overhaul pilot training to fix future shortages – For a few months, I was in a Bible study at church with an ex-USAF pilot. He remarked once that for everyone outside of fighters and bombers, an Air Force job is basically an airline job with worse hours and a lack of cushy union-negotiated pay. Still, if I were in my early 20s, unmarried, and possessed of better eyesight, I might consider a career switch.
- Russia rises to #2 in global arms sales – We’re #1! We’re #1! (I’m surprised Russia wasn’t already #2, though.)
- Assad is back in charge in Syria – I saw a professional defense/geopolitics commentator on Twitter say that the only way Assad was ever going to leave was with a suitcase full of Franklins on a plane to Moscow. Makes sense to me—in recent years, it’s not a good idea to yield to the West if you’re a Middle Eastern dictator.
- An animation of Helge Ingstad‘s sinking, showing the proximate cause – That’s leaking shaft seals, which leaked because of bent bulkheads and so on after the collision.
Tip of the hat to Kilo Sierra for sharing these on Discord. (Join us! The link is in the sidebar!)
Flashpoint: South China Sea
Grab Bag: Technology, Guns, Oil, etc.
The good news is, we’re on time this week. The bad news is, we didn’t spend much time on article-reading over the holiday week, so we don’t have many stories for you.
- NASA extends the American dominance in terms of Mars landings – The Soviets technically succeeded in landing a probe on Mars, but it stopped working so quickly that you can’t really count it.
- China’s social credit score isn’t real – In which Foreign Policy notes that sure, there’s a national system of blacklists and citizen information on anyone who has opened a credit card or taken a loan, and that system is often arbitrary and capricious and certainly totalitarian, but it’s okay because it’s not a single, unified, national system with a single top-line score. I dunno. Seems like an implementation detail to me.
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.
- A few years ago, HMS Vanguard needed a replacement reactor based on possible leakage concerns; evidently it isn’t a serious problem, because the other V-boats aren’t getting the swap
- Can’t keep a Mad Dog down
- Industry tests ‘unhackable’ network – Suspicion quote my own. I share this article mainly because it’s a terrible piece of technology reporting, confusing DDoS protection with unhackability, and part of the reason why government IT spending is so schizophrenic.
- Unedited headline alert: Europe’s Next-Gen Fighter is Stuck in the Bickering Phase – From the article, “We’re talking about a timeframe of 2040 to field a follow-on to the Rafale and Eurofighter.” So, in terms of relative age, it’ll be like fighting the Gulf War with late-model P-51s, or your modern Flanker variant of choice with a Tomcat (the A model, with the crappy engines).
- News in pictures: Israel blows up Hamas TV station – I believe Israel said, “Launch no rockets outside the typical 40km radius, or the gloves come off.” Guess what happened?
- Russian unintentionally-submarine dry dock could hasten the shrinkage of Russia’s navy – Not merely in terms of tonnage, but in terms of tons per ship. Really, though, Russia is a natural hegemon but not a natural world power, and a navy/defense apparatus which can control the Baltic and the Black Seas and keep the Americans from making surprising amphibious landings is all they really need. If ever you’re looking for a game to simulate the Russia Problem, Empire: Total War as Imperial Russia really drives home the problems. (Namely, that your territory is huge and hard to traverse.)
- NorK missile sites identified – The headline is a bit misleading. It’s not that we just discovered they’re operating 13 missile sites, it’s that we’ve now found at least 13 of the 20 or so we think they have.
- Bunker busters, new and improved, with adjustable parameters – Cooool.
- The Navy wants to overhaul its amphibious fleet – I guess having the largest and second-largest fleets of aircraft carriers in the world isn’t enough. Fitting out the San Antonios with weapons like a cruiser or destroyer would be fun, though.
- The Diplomat runs down the news from China’s Zhuhai air show – Including a picture of a J-20 with open weapons bay. What’s the Chinese for glasnost?
- Merkel and Macron call for an EU army for EU members to underfund – At least, that’s what I would expect based on the state of their national armed services.
- Chaff and flare manufacturers on shaky ground in the US – Not great, but at the same time, how hard is it to make chaff and flares?
- The cost of rust: $21 billion per year – And if you ask CDR Salamander, we should probably be spending more to keep our Navy rust-free.
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.
- Parvusimperator submits three videos on the S-tank, courtesy of The Chieftain’s Hatch.
Random Other Stuff
Yes, it’s the Wednesday What We’re Reading post, definitely posted today, which is Wednesday.
- Should Big Army buy tiltrotors for combat? – As a rotorhead, I’m not at all sure I would want to make the switch. Tiltrotors are compromise designs: landing vertically is useful for a transport plane, as is going fast, and they’re competing goals. An attack helicopter has much less need to fly at airplane-like speeds, and is more likely to want to sit in a hover for an extended time. Much better to stick with tradition for now.
- Did that Su-35 pilot actually spot an F-22? – RealClearDefense reports. (Random aside: Su is pronounced like ‘sous’, not ‘ess-you’. So also with Il and Ka.)
- More on how the Navy is too small to do convoy protection – And as much as I’m in favor of FFG(X) rather than the LCS program, a $700 million frigate isn’t going to solve the problem. ASW corvettes with a little 8-cell VLS, mark my words!
- Air Force mum on Tyndall AFB F-22s – If they aren’t saying anything, it’s bad news.
- It isn’t just the Air Force who took hits from Michael – The Coast Guard’s Offshore Patrol Cutter contract is held entirely by Eastern Shipbuilding Co., of Panama City, Florida. Which is a shame, too, because the first unit was only going to cost $110 million, per the contract. Slap a VLS in (or even some box launchers!), bolt some torpedo launchers to the deck, and install a towed array and some sonobuoy launchers, and suddenly you have an inshore patrol craft and convoy escort for I-can’t-imagine-more-than-$200-million each.
- Singaporean defense blog Senang Diri visits the Kaga – “[Kaga visits Singapore] without bombing it first,” parvusimperator remarks. Featuring pictures of the hangar deck, in addition to some good commentary.
- Everything we know about China’s H-20 stealth bomber – To sum up: not much.
- Navy to build new SSN(X), rather than just improving the Virginias like underwater Arleigh Burkes – All the commentary you need is in the link text.
- More on NATO plans to brush up on ASW
- Marine snipers lose to Coast Guard at the 2018 International Sniper Competition – Every man an automatic rifleman! Long-range combat is for wimps?
- Belgium picks the F-35 over the Eurofighter – Planning now to retire its F-16s, is Belgium. Sad for the Vipers, but another they-must-know-something-we-don’t win for the F-35. Then again, with the UK buying F-35s for its carriers and France snootily building its own fighters, maybe Belgium doesn’t want to tie its air defense to das Luftwaffische Wunderkampfjet.
- Two articles on the loss of the Komsomolets
- The US Army’s 2018 Weapons System Handbook
- Ever wondered what a Humvee sees when you drop it from a plane?
In local news, it’s your correspondent’s birthday this weekend.
- The Drive: AUSA 2018 roundup
- Red Storm Rising: the Marines practice beach landings in Iceland
- Related: Navy to Military Sealift Command: we don’t have enough to escort you
- Time to get rid of ICBMs? – A surpassingly stupid take, in my opinion. The author argues that having a bunch of ICBMs in the US means that any nuclear exchange is going to involve a bunch of bombs landing on the continental US. What the author fails to recognize is that any exchange which involves striking at the US missile force is probably a pretty all-out nuclear war anyway. Even if I don’t much like big cities, it’s inarguably better that any nuclear foe has to spend a few hundred warheads bombing the snot out of Nowhere, Montana than on, say, having them to hit metro Los Angeles.
- 80% of F-35s return to flight – Apparently, it was a fuel tube of some kind. I think the real story is that 20% of F-35s have a part sufficiently faulty as to ground them.
- France thinking EMALS for its next carrier – The way I see it, there are only two countries on the planet which currently operate real aircraft carriers, the definition of ‘real’ being ‘CATOBAR’. Good on France for staying in the club.
- Relatedly, footage of the first shipboard rolling vertical landing on Britain’s fake carrier – I think it’s an obvious good idea, if you’re not going to use catapults and arresting gear like a proper carrier ought. A few months ago, I did a similar landing in DCS using the Harrier.
- In USNI Proceedings, someone argues that seagoing landing craft are obsolete – I’m not sure how I feel about this one. It seems to gloss over an awful lot of helicopter vulnerability, to say nothing of the difficulty in landing, say, a tank via helicopter.
- India discovers that aircraft carriers are hard
- Early feedback on the F-35C is good – Having flown the DCS Hornet for a little while now, one thing I notice about the F-35C is how much less rugged its landing gear looks. I wonder how the F-35’s relatively straight, non-gigantic-trailing-arm gear will hold up in the long run. Also, I’ve heard rumors about issues with nosewheel strut bouncing on catapult launches and unexpectedly rapid tailhook wear. The article doesn’t address those directly, but hopefully they’re sorted out.
- Some MiG-29K cockpit video from a Russian pilot – In the comments, he says that they’ve phased out the R-27 for BVR air-to-air combat in favor of the R-77 and derivatives, which is interesting news if true.
Hurricane Michael and Tyndall AFB
- China deploys a submarine on anti-piracy patrols in the Indian Ocean – Submarines, of course, are an excellent fit for the anti-piracy role, which requires high visibility as a deterrent, as well as naval guns or autocannon to drive off pirate vessels too small to hit with a missile or torpedo.
- The Diplomat on China’s surface ASW setup… and their ASW aviation
- On the topic of aviation, Japan wants more F-35As to counter China – This goes to one of parvusimperator’s favorite thought experiments: if the F-35 program was in as dire shape as is reported in public sources, why would places like Israel and Japan with an existential dependence on good fighters be so eager to buy them, and to buy more of them? Also, it has a current F-35A price of $140 million, although it isn’t clear exactly what that includes.
- Japan is also buying more E-2Ds – When the war with China comes, I’m sure it’ll be nice to have familiar AEW&C assets handy.
- Watch this newsreel about Caligula’s pleasure barges! – And read the whole Twitter thread, while you’re at it.
- Bloomberg’s Big Hack story: is there anything there? – At present, the answer remains, “Unclear.”
- A DC Democrat asks: does Trump have a strategy? – He seems to settle on this answer: “Whether or not he does, it seems to be working.”
- The Russian Orthodox Church splits with Constantinople – Enormous ecclesiastical news, this. The magnitude is similar to the Reformation, or indeed the Schism of 1054 which created the Orthodox-Catholic divide in the first place. The Russian patriarchate is the biggest Orthodox church, but junior to the Constantinople patriarchate (to simply things a bit). Constantinople granted the Ukrainian Orthodox Church autocephaly, which pulls Ukraine (at least officially) out of the Russian Orthodox orbit. State propaganda organ Russia Today, in the article above, says that this is terrible and that Ukraine is properly Russian Orthodox territory, hence the split.