America

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Midrats 21 Sept 14 - Episode 246: "When the short snappy war goes long, with Chris Dougherty"

Please join us on Sunday, 21 September 14 at 5pm (EDT) for Episode 246: When the short snappy war goes long, with Chris Dougherty
As we once again face the promise of a conflict with a limited mission and a strangely ill-defined Strategic and Operational design - what do we need to keep in mind not just from recent history, but the longer term record?

History shows us that military and political leaders either over or under appreciate changing technology, outmoded doctrine, and the imperfect correlation between past experience and present requirements.

From the national psyche to stockpiled war reserves - what happens when the short and splendid turns in to the long slog?

Using his latest article in The National Interest, The Most Terrifying Lesson of World War I: War Is Not Always "Short and Sharp," as a starting point, but expanding to a much broader discussion, our guest for the full hour will be Chris Dougherty, research fellow at the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments (CSBA).

Mr. Dougherty graduated summa cum laude with a B.A. in Security Studies from the Henry M. Jackson School of International Studies at the University of Washington and received an M.A. in Strategic Studies with distinction from John Hopkins University’s School of Advanced International Studies. He also served as an airborne infantryman with the 2nd Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment from 1997 to 2000.
Join us live if you can or pick the show up later by clicking here. Or you can also get our show on iTunes here.

Saturday Is Heinlein Quote Day #26

If you ever find yourself in the situation where this advice might be needed, it is good to have it. From the Notebooks of Lazarus Long:
Get a shot off fast. This upsets him long enough to let you make your second shot perfect.

Actually, General Patton had a similar thought:
"A good solution applied with vigor now is better than a perfect solution applied ten minutes later."
Moat people will be more familiar with,
"A good plan, violently executed now, is better than a perfect plan next week."

Timing is everything.

Friday, September 19, 2014

Friday Fun Video: "Submarine Salvage" (1969)

"Submarine Salvage"
This U.S. Navy film shows how a sunken submarine can be raised from the depths using pontoons and air apparatus. Features footage of the salvage vessel USS Hoist (ARS-40), hard hat divers, and animations and footage of a real salvage operation exercise.


Lots of good deck seamanship involved along with some engineering math. Plus variations on the old diver's saying: "Plan your dive and dive your plan."

That saying can cover a whole range of adventures in your life - from a simple hike in the woods to creating a business.

You might notice some of the planners using a slide rule for their calculations. For some of you it might be the first time you've ever seen one in use. Hard to believe that they could perform salvage operations, build bridges and dams, design airplanes and all that stuff without a computer on hand - but they did.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Disturbing Report: Pakistani Naval Officers Tried to Hijack Ship to Attack U.S. Navy


Bill Roggio of the Long War Journal reports AQIS claims plot to strike US warships was executed by Pakistani Navy officers
Al Qaeda in the Indian Subcontinent (AQIS) claimed that Pakistani Navy officers were involved in the failed attempt to hijack a Pakistani warship and launch missiles at US Navy vessels in the Indian Ocean.

AQIS' spokesman, Usama Mahmoud, made the claim today in a statement released on his Twitter account. Mahmoud's statement was obtained by the SITE Intelligence Group.

Mahmoud had previously claimed on Sept. 13 that AQIS executed the attack on the Pakistani warship, and published a diagram purporting to show the layout of the PNS Zulfiqar. He said that the attackers had planned to take control of the PNS Zulfiqar and launch missiles at US warships in the Indian Ocean. The PNS Zulfiqar carries at least eight C-802 surface to surface anti-ship missiles.
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While Mahmoud's claim that Pakistani naval officers executed the attack on the PNS Zulfiqar cannot be proven, Pakistani officials and press reports indicate that at least some of the attackers are members of the Pakistani military.
Read the whole thing.

Yes, Bill is quoting a AQIS spokesman so take those comments for what it they are worth. However, even if they are mostly a tissue of deceit, there is still the underlying premise of the remarks - that AQIS thinks there is a way to hijack a modern technology to threaten U.S. naval forces operating in the vicinity.

Disturbing. On the other hand, U.S. naval forces are now forewarned.

General characteristics of the Zulfigar class can be found here:
The F-22P or Zulfiquar-class frigate (Urdu: ذوالفقار ‎ English: Sword class), is a general purpose frigate built by Pakistan and China for the Pakistan Navy (PN). They are an adaptation of the Type 053H3 frigates of China but include elements of the Type 054 frigates as well.
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The frigate's primary surface-to-surface missile armament comprises eight C-802 subsonic anti-ship missiles carried in two launchers with four cells each, fitted between the foremast and the funnel.
Built by China. Those box launchers circled in the nearby photo contain the C-802's.

Info on the C-802 here:
The Ying-Ji-802 land attack and anti-ship cruise missile [Western designation SACCADE], is an improved version of the C-801 which employs a small turbojet engine in place of the original solid rocket engine. The weight of the subsonic (0.9 Mach) Yingji-802 is reduced from 815 kilograms to 715 kilograms, but its range is increased from 42 kilometers to 120 kilometers. The 165 kg. (363 lb.) warhead is just as powerful as the earlier version. Since the missile has a small radar reflectivity and is only about five to seven meters above the sea surface when it attacks the target, and since its guidance equipment has strong anti-jamming capability, target ships have a very low success rate in intercepting the missile. The hit probability of the Yingji-802 is estimated to be as high as 98 percent. The Yingji-802 can be launched from airplanes, ships, submarines and land-based vehicles, and is considered along with the US "Harpoon" as among the best anti-ship missiles of the present-day world.
Photo shows a C-802 launching from a from truck mounted box launcher.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Saving Defense Dollars: Air Force Looks to Downsize JSTARS Aircraft Potentially Saving Millions and Millions

Saving Defense dollars is a good thing, especially if the mission can still get done albeit at the lower cost. The U.S. Air Force is lookiing at a way to shave $200- 500 million dollars a year from its budget by replacing big jets (Now a Boeing 707 variant - the E8-C) with smaller jets (Boeing offering up a 737-700 version and Grumman proposing either a Gulfstream G650 or G550 model) with updated technology.

Nice report from Aviation Week U.S. Air Force Scrimps On Jstars Recap Program: USAF embraces ‘art of the available’ with ground surveillance aircraft:
The Air Force expects to spend about $4.3 billion buying 17 new Joint Stars aircraft based on its fiscal 2015 budget request. But the savings are expected to come in the annual operating cost of the aircraft: The E-8C would require about $650 million in work to meet requirements in the coming years, according to Jennifer Cassidy, an Air Force spokeswoman.

The platforms that housed the side-looking AN/APY-7 radars were old 707-300s purchased from airlines and outfitted by Northrop Grumman with the sensors and onboard work stations as well as supporting computer equipment. It was a thorny project, as each separate platform had its own aging and wear-and-tear issues. Twenty years later, the platform and its legacy computers, displays and radar are proving troublesome due to diminishing sources for parts and age of the equipment. The only commercial operator still listing the 707-300 in its fleet is Iran’s Meraj Air.

The replacement program is expected to save 28% in operations and sustainment funding, a cost avoidance of $200-500 million annually. “The current Jstars Recap Program Office estimates show a return on investment between fiscal year 2028 and 2030,” Cassidy says. Service officials provided written information rather than discussing their plans in an interview.
Competition is good and downsizing for the right reasons is great.

Disaster Prep Wednesday: Stirling Engines for Electric Power Generation

The world as we know come crashing down if the electrical grid crashes. No electricity means no refrigeration, electric water pumps, electric water heaters, electric lighting and so on.

What are some ideas for preparing for such a catastrophe? In some past post in this series I suggested one route might be using steam to power a generator as in this post. There a a whole lot of issues with steam generation, though, as noted here:
After 3 years and more than 100K investment, I have come to the difficult realization that using steam power to generate electricity for home use is not currently viable. The wood fired boiler being the key problem. To get a real wood fired boiler that can do the job (produce the pounds of steam per hour) is expensive, no one is manufacturing certified boilers for home use, is dangerous (steam burns/ruptures), there is a massive regulatory process to get certified and requires regularly inspected (ASME), and lastly it is a very manual process. You have to be there the entire time it is operating. So if it takes 8 hours to charge your batteries – you are there putting wood into it for … 10 hours (1 hour to get up to temp and 1+ hour shut-down).
Also, here. The point being that steam boilers powered by wood are (a) very labor intensive and (b) dangerous. Your opinion may vary.

Another alternative for off-grid power generation that shows promise involves an engineering design from 1816 - the Stirling engine:
A Stirling engine is a heat engine that operates by cyclic compression and expansion of air or other gas (the working fluid) at different temperatures, such that there is a net conversion of heat energy to mechanical work.
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Stirling engines can run directly on any available heat source, not just one produced by combustion, so they can run on heat from solar, geothermal, biological, nuclear sources or waste heat from industrial processes.
Unlike an internal combustion engine, the heat applied in a Stirling engine is external which is why there are so many "heat sources" available to drive it.

Dean Kamen, inventor, thinks Stirling engines are the wave of the future, as set out in this Forbes piece "Segway Inventor Dean Kamen Thinks His New Stirling Engine Will Get You Off The Grid For Under $10K":
Though Stirlings are highly efficient, they haven’t caught on because it takes them a while to warm up and they can’t change power output quickly. That makes them unworkable for cars and trucks, but potentially ideal both for power generation and water heating.
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The beauty of the Stirling is that it can run off of any heat source. “We have powered them using cow dung in Bangladesh, and even by burning olive oil,” Kamen says.
***
So in 10 years will everyone have one?

“I’d say yes. Ten years from today the probability that you are depending on wires hanging on tree branches is as likely as that you’ll still be installing land lines for telephones. Close to zero.”
Kamen's $10,000 device has a smaller, lower cost competitor, funded 3 years ago through Kickstarter, Low Cost Stirling Engine, and now for sale through Selfton Motors, although it runs about $1400 just for the Volo One Engine (and about $375 more to get a wood fire box (or buy fire box plans for $25) and $505 for a generator to produce electricity and then add shipping or roughly $2800 total +/-):
Introducing the Volo One Engine. The heart of becoming energy self-reliant. The Volo One Engine runs off of heat. Heat created by wood, propane, natural gas, solar, and bio fuel. The engine converts the heat energy to rotary motion that turns a generator to create electricity. As some of us like to say - "put the wood in one end and electricity comes out the other".

The engine is designed to operate with a temperature difference of about 400 degrees F. The output of the engine is targeted at 1 KW at maximum pressure and temperature. Outputs exceeding 100 W can be obtained using lower temperatures without any pressurization of the engine.

The engine works in conjunction with our Fire Boxes (propane or wood). The hot end of the engine is placed in the hot Fire Box causing it to run (it must warmed up and be hand started). The engine can be utilized with any heat source. You do not have to use our Fire Boxes. You can install the engine into a wood stove or a fireplace. There is no exhaust from the engine itself. The engine is 8' long, about 16" in diameter and weighs over 200 lbs.

The engine is designed to last for many years with very little maintenance. There are no spark plugs, air filters, oil, or batteries.
You might note that the engine alone is about 8 feet long and weighs 200 pounds.
Here's a video of its components:



And another of a simple tin can version:



And, a solar powered version. Note that the heat from the lens is pretty high - high enough to ignite wood.



The Volo engine folks are looking at a solar version:

There are other solar power designs. See also here:

In any event, the Stirling engine is a proven design and is a very viable alternative method of producing electricity when used to drive a generator. Even with the heat needed to drive a Stirling engine, the pressures involved and the fact that you don't need a water source as is required for using a steam boiler to drive a generator make it much safer than a steam plant.

A technology worth keeping an eye on for disaster preparedness.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Guessing About the Future: National Intelligence Council - Global Trends

Speculating about the future is fun and has proved to be the basis of many works of "science fiction" and other literature. Some projections however, are used to drive strategies and raise concerns that government agencies might have to address. As the cliche goes, "the only sure thing is change."

One group that engages in speculation (driven by observed trends) is the National Intelligence Council which, on occasion, puts out a publication discussing the future. The latest edition follows. As you read over it, you might ask, "What did they get right?" "What did they get wrong?" and "What did they leave out?"

Happy reading!



It might also be useful for you to read this Chatham House prepared report (pdf format) US National Security Impacts of Natural Resources in 2020, 2030, and 2040.

Read those things and you will have done a day's work.

Monday, September 15, 2014

Fighting ISIS: Things to Read as We Trot Off to Bomb People

Photo by Spc. Joshua Grenier

You can start with this Foreign Affairs reprint of the prescient Samuel P. Huntington article (that spawned a book of the same name) The Clash of Civilizations?:
It is my hypothesis that the fundamental source of conflict in this new world will not be primarily ideological or primarily economic. The great divisions among humankind and the dominating source of conflict will be cultural. Nation states will remain the most powerful actors in world affairs, but the principal conflicts of global politics will occur between nations and groups of different civilizations. The clash of civilizations will dominate global politics. The fault lines between civilizations will be the battle lines of the future.
If that bit doesn't do it for you, buy the book The Clash of Civilizations and the Remaking of World Order. Kindle format costs about $11.

Of course, this work has its critics: here:
Without Huntington’s unique view of this era, it would be challenging to try to understand some daunting international relations concepts . However, in that same strength of taking a complex study of international bodies and simplifying it, Huntington fails to account for many other factors that must be understood when dealing with rising economic, political and military powers such as China, Pakistan, India, and the “new" Russia.
And, of course, Edward Said held some strong views The Clash of Ignorance: Labels like "Islam" and "the West" serve only to confuse us about a disorderly reality. :
The basic paradigm of West versus the rest (the cold war opposition reformulated) remained untouched, and this is what has persisted, often insidiously and implicitly, in discussion since the terrible events of September 11. The carefully planned and horrendous, pathologically motivated suicide attack and mass slaughter by a small group of deranged militants has been turned into proof of Huntington's thesis. Instead of seeing it for what it is--the capture of big ideas (I use the word loosely) by a tiny band of crazed fanatics for criminal purposes--international luminaries from former Pakistani Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto to Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi have pontificated about Islam's troubles, and in the latter's case have used Huntington's ideas to rant on about the West's superiority, how "we" have Mozart and Michelangelo and they don't. (Berlusconi has since made a halfhearted apology for his insult to "Islam.")
There probably a middle ground there someplace.

For another perspective on the commitment of military force and strategy, there are many lessons to be learned from H.R. McMaster's Dereliction of Duty: Johnson, McNamara, the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and the Lies That Led to Vietnam.

Another book on "limited war" and the dangers of "peace dividend" and trusting in air power alone is T.R. Fehrenbach's This Kind of War: The Classic Korean War History from whence comes a quote worth remembering:
Americans in 1950 rediscovered something that since Hiroshima they had forgotten: you may fly over a land forever; you may bomb it, atomize it, pulverize it and wipe it clean of life—but if you desire to defend it, protect it and keep it for civilization, you must do this on the ground, the way the Roman legions did, by putting your young men in the mud.

Source: Institute for the Study of War Iraq Updates

Whether that quote applies to Iraq is an interesting question - properly phrased as. "What is our purpose in engaging ISIS?" If the goal is to "keep" portions of Iraq and Syria "for civilization" - well, someone has to be willing to have boots out there. Should it be the U.S.?

See also H.R. McMaster (yes, him again) on The Pipe Dream of Easy War (2013):
American forces must cope with the political and human dynamics of war in complex, uncertain environments. Wars like those in Afghanistan and Iraq cannot be waged remotely.

More McMaster comments reported as McMaster busts myths of future warfare:
Americans and their leaders all too often wear rose-tinted glasses when it comes to assessing future warfare, said the deputy commander of U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command for Futures and director, Army Capabilities Center.

Too often, people think battles can be won through engineering and technological advances: cyber, advanced weapons systems, robotics and so on, said Lt. Gen. Herbert R. McMaster Jr.

Big defense firms sell big-ticket systems that are supposed to win wars, he said. The firms use subtle and not-so-subtle advertising that you need this system for the sake of your children and grandchildren and if you don't purchase it, "you're heartless." Congress usually obliges.

The truth is that while overmatch is important, people win wars, he said.
An interesting take on the appeal of ISIS to the Sunni masses using a Marxist approach can be found in Why is there Sunni Arab support for Isis in Iraq? (site seems a little buggy to me):
Above all, however, it behoves to consider the specific economic circumstances in which many Iraqi Arab Sunnis have found themselves – roundly ignored by most analysts – in order to explain their inclination to embrace the militants.

Economic deprivation has plagued the Iraqi Sunnis, who are thought to comprise between 20 and 35 per cent of the population (accurate data is lacking), since the 2003 war.

Driven from power by Western forces after enjoying supremacy, and comprising the majority of Saddam's Ba'athist government (Saddam himself was a Sunni Arab from Tikrit), the Sunnis have been increasingly marginalised in the past ten years.
Well, that's not really news, is it? To take up arms there has to be some discontent - happy people seldom revolt.

That ought to get you started. Feel free to disagree with any or all of it.

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Saturday Is Heinlein Quote Day #25

Some management advice from Podkayne of Mars
". . . a boss who is forced to part a man's hair with a wrench has failed at some point."