In which I repeatedly type single quotation marks backtick-text-quote instead of quote-text-quote, thanks to a LaTeX project.
- Wingman drone sounds like a real bro
- On the Truman‘s early retirement – I think you could make an argument for e.g. fewer carriers and more cruise missile submarines, but that isn’t what’s happening here.
- On the Indian MiG-21 downing an F-16 – Gee. Almost like short-range air-to-air kills are still going to happen. Most fascinating to me was that the Pakistani AMRAAM was a -120C-5, which is a pretty recent missile to be selling to Pakistan.
- The Marine Corps’ Amphibious Combat Vehicle is an example of sane procurement – “They’re practically the Navy anyway,” said Fishbreath, reinforcing his point from last week’s roundup while angering any Marines and Navy men reading.
- Russia’s latest diesel-electric boat is ready to enter testing – Lada is not an inspiring name for a submarine class, given its history in Russia.
- Feeders at the Congressional trough prepared to protest F-15X
- Another argument in favor of dropping the F-15X – Parvusimperator and I cautiously disagree with an F-35-only solution, for two reasons. One, the F-35 is a cool recipe, but still in the oven. Two, the F-15X project will keep Boeing’s fighter plants operating, which is important from a national defense sustainability reason. I wouldn’t be happy having just one company running all of my country’s major fighter projects, if only for scaling reasons come the next war.
- The F-35 ballistic missile defense plan sounds more and more cockamamie the more I read about it – “All we have to do is station F-35s on a continual basis directly adjacent to North Korean missile sites!”
- Weekly conspiracy mongering: are North Korea’s ‘weather satellites’ EMP bombs? – Makes sense based on their shape and lack of any visible sensors, at least.
- Draft RFP for FFG(X) – Worth special mention is the expected equipment list.
- If other countries are going to flout treaties and develop IRBMs, then so should we – It’s a law if everyone adheres to it. It’s a handicap if only you do.
- Germany bears some responsibility for NATO’s decline
- SpaceX/ULA spat, part one million and three – This time, it’s over national security launches.
- USN to buy more Poseidons – Can’t go wrong with more maritime patrol aircraft.
- Apparently some people argue that Clausewitz is irrelevant? – Here’s the correct reaction.
Photos of the Week: Bombers
Science and Technology
- Chinese surveillance data found in a no-password, web-public database – Oops.
- SpaceX’s successful Crew Dragon launch represents an American return to manned spaceflight – The big problem for SpaceX going forward is going to be finding new sources for revenue (like their Starlink Internet plan) if they want to keep on funding the BFR. As it stands, they’ve pretty much cornered the worldwide market on non-natsec launches. There’s only so much profit to squeeze out of that. Blue Origin has an edge on large rocket development in my book, because it’s a billionaire’s passion project.
- University of California system cancels all its Elsevier journal subscriptions – Elsevier is a watchword in academia for ‘money-grubbing useless middlemen’, known for paywalling a bunch of journals so that universities have little choice but to maintain subscriptions for their own academics. Not that academia is without its flaws, but the least I can do is praise them for doing something so obviously right.
- The attention economy is saturated – That is, there’s too much entertainment for humans to consume all of it, so we’re into an age of prioritization. You’ve probably noticed this yourself. It also plays into the difficulty in getting off the ground as an independent creator of content—there’s more entertainment than ever before, but it’s still delivered through a small number of outlets. There are only so many screens at the local cinema, and only so many production houses which can afford to bribe their ways into your local theater. See also Amazon and books.
Special Report: Blacklisting and Politics in Publishing
Singal’s doing good work on that subject generally, although it’s amusing to note that he himself is an identitarian progressive, just a milder breed who hasn’t yet fully internalized that all revolutions eventually devour their children.
This is the 20th Edition of Wednesday What We’re Reading. It’s been a fun feature so far, and well-received to boot, so with a little luck, the next time I make mention of anniversaries in the introduction is when we’ve been doing them for a year.
- India and Pakistan have a go? – The lead story, obviously. With artillery fire exchanged across the Line of Control, and Indian airstrikes falling in Pakistani territory, things are heating up a bit on the subcontinent. On the other hand: North Indian civilian airports are still open, and there hasn’t been escalation as of press time. On the gripping hand: there’s an election in India in two weeks, and a few Twitterers who found their way to my timeline are saying that public opinion slants very much in the direction of, “Let’s teach them a lesson.”
- The case for the F-15X – I was interested last week. I’m still interested this week. It’s really hard to argue that: a) any war against even a near-peer force is going to involve stealthy aircraft only, and b) in a war which involves non-stealthy opponents, carrying nearly two dozen AMRAAMs is somehow a bad thing.
- India bails out of joint-with-Russia stealth fighter project – The Drive says it’s no surprise. We agree.
- India to buy unfinished MiG-29s to fill its fighter shortage – If they finish them to -K standards (or some other recent variant), not a bad move. Otherwise, maybe a bit questionable.
- F-35s as a nuclear defense weapon? – The headline is misleading. They mean using F-35s to attack launch sites or missiles during their initial climb, both of which seem to require more clairvoyance than I credit to the US intelligence apparatus.
- Big Army’s battlefield nuclear reactor project is a bad idea… – …says the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists, which means I’m cautiously in favor of it.
- STRATCOM chief says US military needs to learn how to ‘go fast’ again – In procurement terms, mainly. We agree here, but I think everyone agrees. The difficulty isn’t in identifying the problem, but rather in solving it.
- On South Korea’s blue water navy aspirations – Fine by me, if by ‘blue water’ they mean ‘the blue waters to the east and west of the Korean peninsula’.
- The US Merchant Marine is tragically, criminally small – Yes, yes it is.
- British boomers have great names – Talking about HMS Warspite, of the Dreadnought class. Granted, they’re recycling names, but they’re good names.
- Columbia SSBNs are a key element to the nuclear defense triad – Obviously.
- Speaking of, the Columbias are actually on schedule – Is… is that a thing? Come to think of it, the two best-run American procurement programs of the post-Cold War era have been Navy: the Virginias and the Super Hornet. Maybe they have a secret.
History, Photos, Paintings
Science and Technology
- On wage stagnation – Slate Star Codex is tops on my list of blogs whose authors I would disagree with on nearly every matter of substance, because the guy who writes it is so sharp. Also, the commentariat there is in the same club as ours—good ones.
“Under capitalism, man exploits man. Under socialism, the reverse is true.” – A Twitter Wag
“It’s been a really boring week in defense news.” – Me, in our article-sharing chat channel
Results time! Scores first, my picks from last Wednesday in parentheses.
- Birmingham 12, Salt Lake 9 (Stallions +6.5): as in week 1, the strength of the Iron was defense.
- Arizona 20, Memphis 18 (Arizona -10.5): swing and a miss. Arizona only won at all on the grounds of a late comeback.
- Orlando 37, San Antonio 29 (Orlando -6.5): after Arizona’s stumble, Orlando has the best claim to offensive powerhouse status.
- San Diego 24, Atlanta 12 (Atlanta +9.5): I was right on this one until San Diego kicked a garbage time field goal (35 seconds on the clock!) to pad their lead.
Record to date: 2-2. I beat this sportswriter, whose picks went 1-3. Were it not for the stupid last-second field goal, I would have been 3-1 and he would have been 0-4.
There are no AAF odds for week three out yet, so I’ll do my picks later in the week, either tomorrow or on Friday. Tomorrow, I have a long-ish AAF review scheduled, so I’ll defer deeper comment on the subject until then. (Excepting, of course, a few articles linked below.)
Science and Technology
- Goodbye, A380 – Surprising nobody, really. The A380 was a relic of a hub-and-spoke era in a point-to-point one. Unlike the 747, which was designed with cargo in mind (that is, designed with a top-deck cockpit to allow for a hinged nose), the A380 lives and dies on passenger flights, and market preferences in passenger flights run in a different direction now. Fun fact: when Boeing and Airbus were considering a superjumbo collaboration, Boeing said no, it’s a bad idea.
- The claim that Autopilot reduced Tesla crashes by 40% is statistically unsupportable – I’m willing to be pleasantly surprised if wrong, but I’m on the record saying that general-availability driverless cars are probably two decades away.
- The rise and decline of the Makerbot Empire – Makerbot was the vanguard of the cheap-3D-printer movement. Back in the day, a $700 filament deposition model was considered cheap. Now, you can get a fancy resin printer for under $500. Contra Wired, I think they were pretty successful at ushering in a new era. They just didn’t stay market leaders.
- What happens when techno-utopians actually win elections? – A case study from Italy. Spoiler: utopians are still humans, with human failings.
- Hand transplants: thumbs up or thumbs down? – A very long-form article from Wired on the topic.
Leading off with a (temporary) new section…
to Restore the Republic of American Football
That section title got away from me a bit. (If it were the Rebel Alliance of American Football, it would be the RAAF! That’s a fun acronym that isn’t in use anywhere else.) Anywho, it’s that awkward time of the sports year which falls between the end of the NFL playoffs and the start of the NFL preseason, so the Alliance of American Football was an obvious thing to check out.
The short version is, it has promise, some of which is currently unrealized. The long version is, I’m writing a full post, so be patient. In the interests of having some extra fun with the league, I’ve decided to do picks against the spread for the remaining nine weeks of the season.
- Salt Lake Stallions at Birmingham Iron (-6.5): I don’t have a good feel for this one, but I say Salt Lake covers. Birmingham didn’t generate much offense last time out, and a shutdown defense only takes you so far.
- Arizona Hotshots (-10.5) at Memphis Express: Arizona in this one—the Hotshots are the pacesetters in the league right now, and Memphis is realizing that the Christian Hackenburg Show isn’t going to work.
- Orlando Apollos (-6.5) at San Antonio Commanders: I like Orlando in this one. San Antonio looked iffy in their game last week against the Fleet.
- Atlanta Legends at San Diego Fleet (-9.5): Atlanta to cover. I don’t think they’re bad enough to lose by 10 to the Fleet, who (despite being one of my chosen rooting interests this year) are not very good themselves.
- Is artillery underrepresented in today’s armed services? – The Russians would tell you yes, which is why they have artillery all the way down to the battalion level. I’m inclined to at least listen, given that the Russians are (have recently been?) engaged in the Donbass in one of the only near-peer fights in the world.
- Defence Technology Review is always worth a read – Of particular note: Land 400 updates (though no major ones), and Marines to try out UAV-guy-per-squad. That leads to an unwieldy structure, though: three fireteams of three each, plus a command element including the squad leader, assistant squad leader, and UAV operator. If your squad needs a command team, it may be too complicated.
- The first Ford-class carrier is almost ready for service
- Another story on the Fitz crash
- Venezuela’s military holds the key to power in that country – Military of critical importance in dictatorship, water still wet, sky still blue (or possibly gray).
- The USAF says it’s less than two years away from hypersonic missiles – Then we can threaten Chinese carrier groups like the Russians threaten ours!
- Iron Man suit not feasible, SOCOM reluctantly admits
- China considering dropping its no-first-use policy on nuclear weapons
- Canadian diplomats sue Canadian government over Havana Syndrome – Apparently, the Canadian government shrugged off stories of sonic attacks from American diplomats, only to find its own diplomats similarly afflicted some time later.
- Business Insider reports: the Gripen is underrated and awesome – German Eurofighter pilots were taunting Gripen pilots, who then used their full, unrestricted EW setups and flew up on the Eurofighters’ wings. Hot take: EW is better than stealth. Stealth requires design compromises and (sometimes) finicky coatings, and can’t easily be adjusted in the field. EW can be done in software (to a great degree).
- Australia to buy its new submarines from France – I guess they finally worked out the details to their satisfaction. Parvusimperator and I were kind of rooting for the Japanese Soryus.
- South Korea to increase payments for presence of US troops – With companion Polandball strip.
- The F-35B won’t solve Australia’s defense problems – The author asks an interesting question by way of analogy: “[…] if a stray oil rig off the Philippines is a problem for the State Department, and an occupying naval force is a problem for the Pentagon, which solves the problem of an occupying oil rig?” The defense problem China poses to nearby states is two-pronged, and the prong poking harder right now is the diplomatic one.
- M2A5 Bradley canceled, M2A6 Bradley proposed – You might think I’m joking. Nope.
- F-35Bs operating from amphibious assault ships conduct strike exercises with external stores – I wasn’t aware they were that far along.
- In related news, US F-35Bs will join British F-35Bs aboard HMS Queen Elizabeth on her first operational deployment – A happy bit of allied nation friendliness, that.
- China building a sixth-generation fighter – Although nobody’s quite sure what sixth-generation means. I think we’re at risk of marketing speak taking over, as it did with the occasional ‘4th+++bis-generation fighter’ designations you see.
Science and Technology
- The worst phonetic alphabet… in the world
- Facebook has a right to block hate speech, but here’s why it shouldn’t – Broadly, I agree.
- Inside the Cleveland Browns’ front office – It is, in fact, a clown show.
- In old but fun news, the saga of the AAirpass – If I could fly first class wherever I wanted for no additional cost, you can bet I would be taking my wife on the occasional lunch date to Europe.
- Attempting to quantify the money New Star Wars could have made – I don’t agree 100% with the analysis, but it’s a fun thing to try nevertheless. I have in mind a measure (inflation-adjusted Box Office Above Replacement), but I think I’d need more detail on historical movie releases and grosses than I have at present. I’d want to look at the average haul of the top 25 movies in a year to determine the average blockbuster, then adjust for inflation using ticket prices rather than, say, CPI.
Last week’s call for laptop names was premature, happily. A replacement battery and some marring on the chassis from my jimmying screwdrivers later, and we’re back in action.
- France, not satisfied with the FREMM, is building another quality frigate – “Hon hon, let us show up les Americains again!”
- Older F-35Bs may not last beyond 2025 – That seems like a bit of a problem. The Drive reports they’re running into problems after around 1500 flight hours, with an estimated total life of about 2,100 hours. That is not great.
- Two more Fords coming – The carriers, not the automobiles. Buying two at once saves a few billion dollars, and is also a huge thumbed nose to China. “We aren’t even feeling very competitive yet, and we’re still building two at once.”
- Sending the Navy into the Arctic for FONOPS is dangerous – Not because of a lack of ice-melting gear on the ships themselves, but because of a lack of icebreakers. A trip whose purpose is to annoy Russia (and Canada, don’t forget) which risks getting a ship stuck in ice and then requires Russian or Canadian assistance is a bad investment.
- James Holmes: does the Navy really need to worry about fleet size? – In which we are reminded that hull count is a terrible measure, given that a 4000-ton LCS is basically useless but a 200-ton catamaran with a bunch of missiles on it is not. James Holmes, a perennial favorite here, is writing a book called A Brief Guide to Naval Strategy, due out in November. That’s going to be a day 1 buy for at least one of us.
- Rhodesian mine ambush protected vehicles – A Weaponsman classic.
- Germany’s putting Trophy APS on Leopard IIs – Parvusimperator’s current tank and active protection system preferences, all in a handy package.
- USAF light attack testing program stalls – What the Soviets call frontal aviation really should be an Army concern.
- Navy’s ‘Magic Carpet’ system makes carrier landings much easier – To the point where a reporter could pull them off (in a simulator, of course). That’s something else.
- China aiming to build four nuclear carriers – I, for one, welcome the 21st-century naval arms race to come.
- Forgotten Weapons on the Colt CK901 – It’s an AR-15-pattern rifle in 7.62×39, designed for the Yemeni military. It has some nifty features you don’t find in presently-available 7.62×39 ARs. I could see myself buying one, if they ever release it for the American shooting public.
- Oracle continues comic book supervillainy – By auditing Java users and attempting to wring license fees out of them for uses in violation of terms.
- Do e-cigarettes help people quit smoking? – They help people quit smoking cigarettes, at any rate. I suspect they are not so good at helping people quit vaping.
- A brewing Bitcoin scam? – QuadrigaCX is a Canadian cryptocurrency exchange whose founder recently died. The sub-bullets following are wild conspiracy-theorizing, based in part on the article above.
- Gerry Cotten, the deceased, is claimed to have died in India of Crohn’s disease. He is Canadian, however, and lived in Canada. Crohn’s is not generally a fatal condition except in severe, poorly-managed cases. Severe-unto-death cases make long airline flights unlikely, for reasons of lavatory availability.
- According to the blog post above, Quadriga’s story (that much of the exchange’s crypto reserves were in an offline wallet on an encrypted laptop) doesn’t jive with known transactions. Quadriga was paying withdrawals with new deposits, and a large amount of Bitcoin left Quadriga’s known online wallets by way of another exchange.
- If I were looking to con a bunch of people and run away somewhere, a destination like India, where English is widely spoken, a life of luxury is readily and cheaply available, and local officials are not entirely above bribery, would be high on my list. So also would a cryptocurrency exchange be high on my list of methods.
Yup, it’s a Thursday entry again, but only because I spent yesterday’s lunch break working, last night finishing today’s scheduled post, and this morning attempting to resuscitate my laptop.
So, uh, anyone have favorite fictional AIs and computers? I think I’m going to need a new computer name in the near future.
- Austal under investigation for bookkeeping? – More as it develops.
- The Royal Navy’s frigate-building schedule – TLDR: the Type 23 frigates are getting retired in the mid-2020s. The Type 31e frigates will therefore have to be built, finished with sea trials, and ready to enter service in about four years after the contract is awarded. Seems unlikely.
- “When Task & Purpose asked [Army spokesman] Esper why the Army needs artillery that can lob a shell up to 1,000 miles, Esper explained the U.S. military needs to outrange enemy guns – I want this guy to answer more questions. “We need 20-megaton bombs so we can out-explode enemy IEDs. We need more helicopters so we can out-cool enemy handheld fans.”
- Two KC-46s delivered – Putting an end to a long, twisted, and lawsuit-fraught journey.
- USNI News with a little roundup of the lasting damage following the Fat Leonard scandal – Imagine being known to history as Fat Leonard. I don’t know much about the original scandal, but I think he’s the sort of guy I’d keep on prison-retainer, as it were. If you end up with a war, a moderately corrupt but otherwise loyal scrounging expert is just the kind of port agent you want.
- Video of an explosive Tu-22M3 crash – Possibly unsettling if you realize you’re watching several people die, so skip the click if that sounds bad to you. We briefly discussed the initial incident report on Discord, too.
- Pirates of the Caribbean, 2019 edition – As it turns out, when you’re a Venezuelan fisherman who used to work for the now-nationalized fishing companies, kidnap and ransom of the Trinidad and Tobago-flagged fishermen right off your coast starts to look awfully tempting.
- The Air Force is confident in New Space – As well they should be, in my estimation.
- Hawkeye and Brutus, artillery-on-a-truck systems for the US Army – That’s a 105mm-on-an-HMMWV, and a 155mm-on-an-unspecified-medium-tactical-vehicle. For once, an Army system which isn’t overspecified.
- The LCS mission packages are all terrible – Except for the variable depth sonar in the ASW package, but that’s a small bit of shine in a large pile of crap.
- Is China preparing its population for war with Taiwan?
History in Pictures (Mostly)
Every time I think one of these is going to be short…
Notably, SHOT 2019 is this week, also known as Firearms Industry Christmas. There’s a little less on the table than usual that piques our interest here, so next week we’ll either do a pair of best-of articles, or reserve a section in What We’re Reading for it.
Press-Stopping Post-Publication Update
- A lesson in snook-cocking from the acknowledged experts in WW2’s RAF
- Singapore to buy a small number of F-35s – Don’t forget they have that flat-topped ‘Joint Multi-Mission Ship’ coming, too. I predict the heyday of the F-35B is going to be a lot like the heyday of the Harrier, where suddenly every second-rate power who can put a flat deck on a ship has an aircraft carrier.
- Here’s that Joint Multi-Mission Ship for you – You would have to make the elevator bigger, maybe by extending it over the deck edge, but other than that, I bet you could get an F-35B off that.
- How do we keep the F-35 reliable for 50 years? – I was under the impression we would a) buy spare parts and b) perform regular maintenance. If an F-35 airframe is going to last 50 years, though, I expect there to be much handwringing in Congress and the Pentagon about the price of rewinging such old airframes.
- War on the Rocks: should we bring back homing pigeons for EW reasons? – The war in which homing pigeons were most successfully used as a means of battlefield communication was the Great War. Notably, the Great War featured largely static lines. Pigeons don’t work very well when both your headquarters and your line troops are highly mobile.
- George Washington’s maritime world – I’m taking recommendations for a long, in-depth look at the Wars of the Revolution and the Napoleonic Wars. Sound off if you have any.
- Ford-class weapons elevators finally under testing
- Big Army considering a 6.8mm round – This story came up first on Discord, where you’ll often see items which end up here, or source material for articles in progress. For instance, parvusimperator just linked a report on stealth Blackhawks and told me not to include it here, so let that be an encouragement to stop by sometime.
- The modern helicopter carrier: an overhead photo
- Some renderings of the Austal/Independence LCS frigate variant for FFG(X) – Much as I like the trimaran design, it seems like a bad choice for FFG(X). It’s an expensive hull to start with, unlike the Legend-type cutters, and it doesn’t really have a true warship’s heritage, unlike the F100. In flaws I hadn’t considered, its width makes it annoying to berth, and its hull shape means it doesn’t nest bow-to-bow very well. (Thanks to CDR Salamander’s commenters for that.)
- Also, cost savings on the FFG(X)! – On the one hand, cost savings are great. On the other hand, it’s still $800 million per hull.
- On the Tu-22M3 and the renewed Backfire threat – Includes juicy, juicy numbers on cruise missiles, speeds, and ranges. The most sobering part is that with missile ranges of 600 to 1200 miles, it gets very hard to intercept the bombers before they launch.
- The J-20 joins the carrier-based F-35 variants in lacking an internal cannon – I still reflexively want to shout “But Vietnam!” Parvusimperator thinks it’ll be fine.
- The Coasties can’t stop most of the cocaine coming into the US – Sounds like it’s time to start issuing letters of marque again. The Soapbox, now brought to you from the Pacific Ocean! On second thought, we’d have to move to Occupied Californistan, and our PMC license probably wouldn’t be good enough for concealed carry, so maybe not.
Guns and Shooting
Now that parvusimperator is back with us, I can focus on this post more than usual. As usual, when I focus on something more than usual it doesn’t just get done. It gets overdone.
Categories arranged not in the usual defense-first fashion, but rather in the order they showed up in our weekly-news-stories channel on the company Hangouts Chat.
- First we saw too few Milky Way satellite galaxies, now we see too many – An interesting case where refinements to the theory brought the estimated number of satellite galaxies down, while refinements to measuring tools brought the number of discovered satellite galaxies up. As always, a good read from Quanta. This story came from the daily news dump at Ambient Irony, a blog run by a Twitter acquaintance, which usually has some good stuff in the science/technology field.
- Rocks: the next dark matter detector – When the next Einstein rolls around and upsets the luminiferous-ether-like consensus on dark matter, I’m going to be smiling very smugly from my little corner of the internet. (Or we’ll eventually catch a WIMP, and you’ll never hear from me again.)
- Merchant ships to missile slingers – I’m for it. Q-ships are much more effective when warships dispense with armor.
- Will China go to war over Taiwan? – I don’t know, but I wouldn’t want to test it. I’m curious how much of Taiwan’s electronics industry comes from its need to have a native defense industry.
- The Navy looks to establish a polar port – Timely news, given the bit about Russian Arctic basing last week. Trivia: The Ticonderogii were the last American ships with purpose-built deicing systems. Anything later and it’s men on deck with sledgehammers.
- Are FONOPS effective? – ASEAN has its doubts.
- Big Army prepares to fight sci-fi battles – In megacities and underground.
- China’s Type 001A may be in service within months
- Big Army should bring back Pathfinders – They would make a great accompaniment to the sci-fi battlefield.
- On the evolution of the PLAAF – The defense section has been a bit China-heavy lately, but that’s the way the geopolitical cookie crumbles.
- Speaking of China, keep your hands off Subic Bay – Maybe we need to set up a base there again?
- The Navy Times got their hands on the Fort report on the Fitz collision – It’s bad. No, worse than that. Bad.
- About 1/3 of the RAF is in the ‘sustainment fleet’ – Elsewhere, I found a quote from an RAF spokesman saying that the sustainment fleet is aircraft undergoing upgrades and long-term maintenance, as well as those in storage, so it isn’t like 30% of the RAF is being cannibalized to keep the other 70% flying. Honestly, compared to (for instance) Germany, 70% in the forward fleet isn’t bad at all.
- Navy looking for a sixth-generation fighter to replace the Super Hornet – Not to be glib, but isn’t that the F-35C’s job?
The Акула/Typhoon-class boomers, in pictures
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.