Small Boy Put to Good Use

Small Boy Put to Good Use

Saturday, January 21, 2017

Saturday Is Old Radio Day:The Pacific Story and "Islam in the Pacific" (1945)

The Pacific Story was broadcast on NBC at 11:30pm, with the first broadcast on July 11, 1943.

The series lasted 184 weeks with two weeks pre-empted and ended on January 26, 1947. It was considered a documentary.

The premise of the show was that with Europe in ruins, the Pacific might emerge as the center of political and social change in the world, and people should know something about it.
Here's a presentation about "Islam in the Pacific" from 1945:

Thursday, January 19, 2017

Dear Big Navy: Take a Hint from the Air Force

Yes, it might have had a little prompting from Senator McCain, but someone at the Air Force seems to have seen the light - not every job requires the most expensive weapon in the tool box or, as Aviation Week puts it, U.S. Air Force Chief Backs Idea Of Low-Cost Fighter Fleet
The U.S. Air Force chief of staff endorses the idea of buying 300 low-cost, light-attack fighters for counterterrorism missions as a “great idea.”
In a white paper out this week, Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), the chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, suggested that in addition to using the A-10 for close air support, the Air Force should buy 300 light-attack fighters. They could help perform close air support and other missions where air defenses are not a problem and help bring pilots up to speed. “The Air Force could procure the first 200 of these aircraft by fiscal year 2022,” the paper says.
I would suggest moving faster.

Payloads and flexibility.

Now, Navy how about Trump's Gunboats?:
Instead of continuing to use the wrong tool for the job, it is logical to
develop a diverse force of smaller naval ships to handle numerous, smaller missions, leaving the blue water navy to pursue the larger, vital warfighting role that it was designed to do. Smaller navy vessels working in squadrons may be more cost-effective in responding to global maritime incidents, patrolling coasts, and deterring similar forces. While the threat of Somali piracy has diminished the destabilization of other economies and nations could cause new threats to shipping to emerge as off Venezuela. Larger threats continue to loom as small Iranian boats swarm U.S. Navy ships in the Strait of Hormuz and China’s maritime militia in the South China Sea have harassed ships in the past. Rather than offering larger, single targets of opportunity, dispersed squadrons of smaller vessels provide greater opportunities to counter asymmetric operations.

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Modern Science: Cooperative Swarmboats

Back in the day, port and harbor defense units were a cooperative venture between manned surveillance units (Mobile Inshore Undersea Warfare Units or MIUWUs) and manned boats - sometimes Coast Guard Port Security Units (PSUs), sometimes Navy Inshore Boat Units. While the manned boats have proven their worth, they do expose crews to the variety of dangers of both normal operations as well as risks posed by an aggressor.

Now this mission may be assigned to elements of the Naval Maritime Expeditionary Force. In any event, as as been noted here before, the Navy's Office of Naval Research has been pursuing the use of unmanned platforms to take on part of the water work and the capability seems to be getting smarter, as reported by ONI in "Autonomous Swarmboats: New Missions, Safe Harbors":
(Photo by John L. Williams)
Using a unique combination of software, radar and other sensors, officials from the Office of Naval Research (ONR)—together with partners from industry, academia and other government organizations—were able to get a “swarm” of rigid hull inflatable boats (RHIBs) and other small boats to collectively perform patrol missions autonomously, with only remote human supervision, rather than direct human operation, as they performed their missions.

“This demonstration showed some remarkable advances in autonomous capabilities,” said Cmdr. Luis Molina, military deputy for ONR’s Sea Warfare and Weapons Dept. “While previous work had focused on autonomous protection of high-value ships, this time we were focused on harbor approach defense.”

The autonomy technology being developed by ONR is called Control Architecture for Robotic Agent Command and Sensing, or CARACaS. The components that make up CARACaS (some are commercial off-the-shelf) are inexpensive compared to the costs of maintaining manned vessels for some of the dull, dirty or dangerous tasks—all of which can be found in the work of harbor approach defense, experts say.

“The U.S. Navy knows our most important asset, without question, is our highly trained military personnel,” said Dr. Robert Brizzolara, the program officer at ONR who oversees the effort. “The autonomy technology we are developing for our Sailors and Marines is versatile enough that it will assist them in performing many different missions, and it will help keep them safer.”
During the demo, unmanned boats were given a large area of open water to patrol. As an unknown vessel entered the area, the group of swarmboats collaboratively determined which patrol boat would quickly approach the unknown vessel, classify it as harmless or suspicious, and communicate with other swarmboats to assist in tracking and trailing the unknown vessel while others continued to patrol the area. During this time, the group of swarmboats provided status updates to a human supervisor.

“This technology allows unmanned Navy ships to overwhelm an adversary,” added Molina. “Its sensors and software enable swarming capability, giving naval warfighters a decisive edge.”

Naval leadership in recent years has emphasized a blended future force, leveraging the synergy of using manned and unmanned systems to complement each other while accomplishing missions. In the near future, unmanned boats can take on some dangerous missions, thereby protecting the warfighter, and they can do that in great numbers at a fraction of the cost of a single manned warship. Furthermore, these small boats are already in the Navy’s inventory (as manned craft) and can quickly and inexpensively be converted to an autonomous boat via the installation of a CARACaS kit.

Smart, safer for crews and not expensive. I would think of several iterations of this technology that would be major force multipliers. See U.S. Navy: Bring Out the Swarmbots!


And so 21st Century.

A 2015 article from ONR's Future Force sets it all up The Swarm: Autonomous Boats Take on Navy Missions.

Modern Science: Well, this sounds important for the future - Underwater Radio

Those wild and crazy people at DARPA (Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency) are looking to solve a problem that could solve the thorny issue of communication with people and units that operate underwater as set out in their press release Underwater Radio, Anyone?:
DARPA image
Here’s something easy to forget when you are chatting on your cell phone or flipping channels on your smart TV: although wireless communication seems nothing short of magic, it is a brilliant, reality-anchored application of physics and engineering in which radio signals travel from a transmitter to a receiver in the form of electric and magnetic fields woven into fast-as-light electromagnetic waves. That very same physics imposes some strict limits, including ones that frustrate the Department of Defense. Key among these is that radio frequency signals hit veritable and literal walls when they encounter materials like water, soil, and stone, which can block or otherwise ruin those radio signals. This is why scuba buddies rely on sign language and there are radio-dead zones inside tunnels and caves.

With his newly announced A Mechanically Based Antenna (AMEBA) effort, program manager Troy Olsson of DARPA’s Microsystems Technology Office is betting on a little-exploited aspect of electromagnetic physics that could expand wireless communication and data transfer into undersea, underground, and other settings where such capabilities essentially have been absent. The basis for these potential new abilities are ultra-low-frequency (ULF) electromagnetic waves, ones between hundreds of hertz and 3 kilohertz (KHz), which can penetrate some distance into media like water, soil, rock, metal, and building materials. A nearby band of very-low-frequency (VLF) signals (3 KHz to 30 KHz) opens additional communications possibilities because for these wavelengths the atmospheric corridor between the Earth’s surface and the ionosphere—the highest and electric-charge-rich portion of the upper atmosphere—behaves like a radio waveguide in which the signals can propagate halfway around the planet.

“If we are successful, scuba divers would be able to use a ULF channel for low bit-rate communications, like text messages, to communicate with each other or with nearby submarines, ships, relay buoys, UAVs, and ground-based assets, Through-ground communication with people in deep bunkers, mines, or caves could also become possible,” Olsson said. And because of that atmospheric waveguide effect, VLF systems might ultimately enable direct soldier-to-soldier text and voice communication across continents and oceans.
Sounds like the 21st Century.

Nigeria Oil Fields: Corruption Piled on Corruption

The title of the below linked article covers the situation in Nigeria except to the extent it makes it look as if the corruption is solely that of the oil companies. After all, Nigeria is a place where corruption is piled on corruption - and one of the major suppliers of oil to the world.

At any rate, if you wonder about how hard it is to do honest business in some parts of the world, I commend this piece from the London Review of Books by Alexander Briant: "Diary: Oil Industry Corruption" of which this is a small excerpt:
The final meeting I have in Nigeria is with the senior partner of a respected law firm. He is an impressive individual: knowledgeable, realistic, straight-talking. I ask him what our chances of bringing a prosecution would be. ‘To make sure that the police investigated your complaint fairly, you’d have to bribe them.’ We laugh at the absurdity of a system where corruption is necessary in order to get someone to act in good faith. And with that, there’s nowhere else to go.
Nigeria certainly is not alone in this sort of thing, but it might be a leader. (Not at all exclusively directed against foreign entities, for example, fake merchant marine training academies which rip off Nigerians)

You really should read the whole thing.

Hat tip: Sam Ignarski at the Maritime Advocate.

Friday, January 13, 2017

Friday Film: "Sea Mine Warfare" (1968)

Perfect for Friday the 13th:

As of 2012,  Scott Truver notes here,
In an accounting that usually comes as a surprise, since the end of World War II mines
have seriously damaged or sunk almost four times more U.S. Navy ships than all
other means of attack combined:
• Mines, fifteen ships
• Missiles, one ship
• Torpedoes/aircraft, two ships
• Small-boat terrorist attack, one ship
Also, the U.S. has offensively used sea mines - as in the May 1972 mining of North Vietnam's harbors - Operation Pocket Money:
Operation Pocket Money was the title of a U.S. Navy Task Force 77 aerial mining campaign conducted against the Democratic Republic of Vietnam (North Vietnam) from 9 May 1972 (Vietnamese time), during the Vietnam War. Its purpose was to halt or slow the transportation of supplies and materials for the Nguyen Hue Offensive (known in the West as the Easter Offensive), an invasion of the Republic of Vietnam (South Vietnam), by forces of the People's Army of Vietnam (PAVN), that had been launched on 30 March. Pocket Money was the first use of naval mines against North Vietnam.