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Saturday, April 30, 2016

Saturday Is Old Radio Day: The Whistler "Shrunken Head"

About the The Whistler:
Each episode of The Whistler began with the sound of footsteps and a person whistling.
*** The haunting signature theme tune was composed by Wilbur Hatch and featured Dorothy Roberts whistling with an orchestra.

A character known only as the Whistler was the host and narrator of the tales, which focused on crime and fate. He often commented directly upon the action in the manner of a Greek chorus, taunting the characters, guilty or innocent, from an omniscient perspective. The stories followed a formula in which a person's criminal acts were typically undone either by an overlooked but important detail or by the criminal's own stupidity. An ironic ending, often grim, was a key feature of each episode. But on rare occasions, the plot's twist of fate caused the story to end happily for the protagonist.


Friday, April 29, 2016

Midrats May Day Episode 330: "Terrorists on the Ocean" with CAPT Bob Hein, USN

Please join us for a May Day show on - no shock here - 1 May 2016 at 5pm EDT for Midrats Episode 330: "Terrorists on the Ocean" with CAPT Bob Hein, USN:
When does the Long War go feet wet?

Given the track record of the preceding couple of decades, it was expected shortly after the start of this phase of the war after 911, that terrorists would take the war to sea. There was an incident now and then, but the threat never really played out to the extent we thought early on.

Recent events point to the possibility that this may be changing, in perhaps ways not originally thought.

What is the threat? Where is it coming from, and how do you deter and defeat it?

Our guest for the full hour to discuss will be CAPT Bob Hein, USN. We will use his latest article with CIMSEC, Terrorists on the Ocean: Sea Monsters in the 21st Century, as a starting out point for discussion.

Captain Hein is a career surface warfare officer. Over the last 28 years, he has served on seven ships around the globe and has had the privilege of commanding two of them: the USS Gettysburg (CG 64), and the USS Nitze (DDG 94),

He completed two tours as a requirements officer on the Navy staff for combatant modernization and for future logistics capabilities. He also served as the current operations officer for U.S. Fleet Forces Command. Additional tours include as an action officer on the Joint Staff, Joint Operations Directorate, and as Chief of Staff to the NATO Mediterranean Fleet.

He is currently the Branch Head for Strategy on the OPNAV Staff (N513) Captain Hein graduated from the U.S. Naval Academy with a bachelor's in physical science. He also holds a master's in national security affairs and strategic studies from the Naval War College, is a graduate of the Joint Forces Staff College, and a former Navy Fellow at the Brookings Institution. He is also the proud father of two Surface Warfare Officers; it's a family business..
Join us live if you can or listen to the show at your convenience later by clicking here. You can also pick the show up later by visiting our iTunes page.

Friday Fun Films: Cars, Fuels and . . . Jobs

A 1950's look at such things:






Thursday, April 28, 2016

Preventing Sea Blindness: USNI's "Inside the Carrier Air Wing"

Nice effort by USNI News to inform the public about U.S. Navy matters - in this case a look at what's Inside the Carrier Air Wing.

Well worth the short time it takes to read it all.

One of the best ways to prevent "sea blindness" is to keep the sea services in the public eye.

Graphic from USNI News.

ISIS in the Pacific - Homeland Security Committee of the U.S. House of Representatives

Described as:
With ISIS’ continued push to recruit and radicalize around the globe, this hearing will examine the current threat ISIS affiliates and supporters pose to U.S. interests and allies in Southeast Asia. Multiple recent terrorist attacks and public declarations of allegiance by local militant groups, and a growing number of ISIS fighters in Iraq and Syria from the region, demonstrate the potential danger this poses.

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

China: South China Sea Dominance is Us

China's goals for the South China Sea and dominance of the SCS area laid out excellently in the Sydney Morning Herald's South China Sea: The fight China will take to the brink of war:
Then, last week, in another unmistakeable sign of hardening Chinese determination, Xi made his first public appearance in military uniform and formally claimed the title of commander in chief of China's war-fighting headquarters.

What is Xi doing? What does China hope to achieve? And where is this dispute heading? An eminent Chinese expert, Dr Shi Yinghong, provides answers.

Xi has declared the pursuit of "China's Dream", a national resurgence after centuries of foreign domination. Shi, a professor of international relations at Renmin University in Beijing, says there are three international implications. First, Xi wants China to be acknowledged as a superpower equal to the US. Second, he wants China to become the co-manager of global affairs with the US, a Group of Two for world governance. Third, "China must be the preponderant power in the Western Pacific and have some advantage over the US", he told me. Shi's definition of Chinese aims supports that of the commander of the US Pacific Fleet, Admiral Harry Harris, who says China seeks "hegemony in East Asia".

Shi, who has been an adviser to the State Council, China's cabinet, for the past five years, says this will be "based on an arms build up and the strategic ability to go tit-for-tat with the US and to force the US finally to recognise Chinese preponderance" in China's claimed sphere.

"China," Shi explains, "must be number one in diplomatic influence and economic clout and maybe in [military] force. It wants to prevent the US military's freedom of navigation eventually, and gradually squeeze Vietnam, the Philippines and all the others out of the South China Sea." This is precisely what the region's governments fear.
Read the whole thing.

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

North Koreans Pointlessly Launch a Missile from a Submerged Ship

Much to the relief of the captain and crew of a North Korean submarine, "North Korea Test-Fires a Submarine-Launched Ballistic Missile". The NORK submarine which appears have a single missile tube didn't sink during the evolution which makes if a "win, win" for the crew as the latest Kim-in-Charge was observing the process and leading cheers or something.
North Korea just staged a second test of its submarine-launched ballistic missile. According to North Korean state media, the April 23 test was observed by ruler Kim Jong-un himself. The launch was conducted from North Korea's only ballistic missile submarine, Gorae ("Whale"), while submerged off the country's east coast. The underwater launch itself appears to have been a success, but the missile crashed shortly afterward into the Sea of Japan.

The missile, known as Pukkuksong-1 ("Polar Star"), is based on the obsolete Cold War-era R-27 ballistic missile. Kim Jong-un says the test means North Korea is "now capable of hitting the heads of the south (sic) Korean puppet forces and the US imperialists anytime as it pleases."
Huh.

So here's a open letter to the Loathsome One:

Dear Current Kim-in-Charge:
For the last 66 years or so, the "US imperialists" could, at anytime as it pleases them, hit you and yours in the in the head, to borrow your phrase.

The fact that they haven't shows a great deal of patience on their part, especially in light of the provocations you continue to provide.

In fact, I'm pretty sure those "Korean puppet forces" also have forgone many opportunities to turn you and the other Kims-in-Charge into some sort of pasty goo on the floor. 

Why? 

Because they, unlike your hell-hole  dump of a country, are part of a civilized world to which you will never belong.

Now, here's why your missile launched from a sub is a pointless exercise: Should you ever use such a missile in anger, you will shortly thereafter be a dead former Kim-in-Charge.

Just saying.

Your implacable enemy,
E1

And here's a wonderful video of the great launch, with the most irritating announcer ever: (the real action starts at about 2:58)




Monday, April 25, 2016

A Couple of Odds and Ends

1.  Can we talk in a civil fashion about "climate change?" Or is even raising the possibility of such a discussion grounds to be investigated by over-reaching state attorneys general as some species of fraud or to be hounded by those who cannot understand questioning what they accept as gospel?



2.  In the controversy over North Carolina House Bill 2, how many times has anyone offered to let you read the actual bill? Here it is:


You might note the following: (1) the bill has no impact on private businesses (theaters, gyms, private schools, private universities, restaurants, coffee house, bars, private arenas where sports are played, hotels, motels, stores, shops, salons, barbershops, etc) which are free to allow their patrons to access restrooms and other facilities as they see fit); (2) North Carolina is not a pure
home rule state in which:
. . . an amendment to the state constitution grants cities, municipalities, and/or counties the ability to pass laws to govern themselves as they see fit (so long as they obey the state and federal constitutions)

North Carolina is mostly a non-home rule state:
In other states, only limited authority has been granted to local governments by passage of statutes in the state legislature. In these states, a city or county must obtain permission from the state legislature if it wishes to pass a law or ordinance which is not specifically permitted under existing state legislation. Most non-home rule states apply the principle known as Dillon's Rule to determine the bounds of a municipal government's legal authority.
Why does that matter? HB2 was passed as a response to a city of Charlotte ordinance that the state legislature found to be outside of the power granted to the city by the state legislature. As set out in the Charlotte Observer:
In a one-day specially convened session Wednesday, North Carolina’s legislature passed a sweeping law that reverses a Charlotte ordinance that had extended some rights to people who are gay or transgender.

The law passed by the General Assembly and signed that same night by Gov. Pat McCrory goes further than a narrow elimination of Charlotte’s ordinance, which had generated the most controversy by a change that protected transgender people who use public restrooms based on their gender identity. The new law also nullified local ordinances around the state that would have expanded protections for the LGBT community.

The state has long had laws regulating workplace discrimination, use of public accommodations, minimum wage standards and other business issues. The new law – known as HB2, the Charlotte bathroom bill or, more officially, as the Public Facilities Privacy and Security Act – makes it illegal for cities to expand upon those state laws, as more than a dozen cities had done including Charlotte, Raleigh, Chapel Hill and Durham.

North Carolina’s new law sets a statewide definition of classes of people who are protected against discrimination: race, religion, color, national origin, age, handicap or biological sex as designated on a person’s birth certificate. Sexual orientation – people who are gay – was never explicitly protected under state law and is not now, despite recent court decisions that legalized same-sex marriage.
***
Transgender people who have not taken surgical and legal steps to change the gender noted on their birth certificates have no legal right under state law to use public restrooms of the gender with which they identify. Cities and counties no longer can establish a different standard. Critics of the Charlotte ordinance cite privacy concerns and say it was “social engineering” to allow people born as biological males to enter women’s restrooms.

McCrory’s office says businesses aren’t limited by the bill, and that private companies and private universities can adopt new or keep existing nondiscrimination policies. Private businesses can establish their own practices concerning LGBT employees and customers; the new law does not allow so-called “public policy common law” complaints in state courts to challenge those practices.
Now, some of rub comes when private activities occur in state or municipally owned facilities.

The NFL Carolina Panthers play in Bank of America stadium, which is privately owned. The ownership of that stadium would appear to be free to allow access to restrooms as they choose.

The NBA Charlotte Hornets, however, play in Time Warner Cable Arena, which is owned by the City of Charlotte. The area would appear to be barred from violating state law, either for basketball games or for any concerts held in this or other municipal arenas.

I leave it for you to decide whether the millionaire owners of sports teams should be subsidized in having arenas built at taxpayer expense and, thus, submitting themselves to state regulation of restroom usage.

And the same question can be asked of any city or county that owns such facilities.

Let's try for another clarification from an NC law professor:
“It creates a state-wide non-discrimination ordinance and public accommodations which we’ve never had before, which is a perfectly good thing to do,” Clarke said. “But it, of course, limits the protection categories to race, age, national origin, religion, color and biological sex to avoid any potential expansion of that in the courts.”

Clarke said the law goes beyond the stated goals.

“Then it deals with employment, so it deals with things that are utterly unrelated to LGBT rights, to bathroom usage, to public accommodations. And it deals specifically and directly with employment,” Clarke said.

The law addresses the minimum wage, and does not allow any local government to set a minimum wage.

“The legislature took that power expressly away, so forbade any local government from raising the minimum wage beyond what federal and state law require,” Clarke said.
You might note that the law itself offers up the right of state entities to provide single-occupancy facilities "on demand," as a reasonable accommodation for those individuals whose sexual identity is not drive by their biological sex.

So that's what the big fuss is about. Plus it's an election year and the Republicans control the state legislature which the other party is mobilizing its forces to attempt to change. It is also worth noting that the NC State Attorney General, a Democrat, is running for governor and has decreed his opposition to HB2:
North Carolina Attorney General Roy Cooper said on Tuesday that his office will not go to court to argue to uphold the state law adopted last week that strikes down locally enacted protections for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people.

Cooper, a Democrat running for governor, called the measure “a national embarrassment” that “will set North Carolina’s economy back if we don’t repeal it.”
He might have added, "But I see it as a tool to be used in trying to get elected governor."

UPDATE: (all bolding above is mine)

3. General Mattis is smart:
But he also noted that the next president will have a lot of problems to deal with, and that the United States is poorly situated to deal with them. Iran, he said, is seeking domination, not peace. Observed Mattis: "(Iran's Ayatollah Ali Khamenei) summed it up very well when he said those who say that the future lies in negotiations, not in missiles, are either ignorant or traitors. ... That is the Supreme Leader. I think we should take him at his word."
yes, it is usually a bad idea to ignore someone who says he wants to kill you.

Saturday, April 23, 2016

Saturday Is Old Radio Day: George Burns and Gracie Allen and Election Fun with Gracie's "Surprise Party"

From the more or less innocent days of 1940, when some candidates were more fun than others, here are a couple of hours of comedy genius which I think I have in the right order:












As noted here:
During the election year of 1940, Gracie represented the fictitious Surprise Party and advocated nonsense as part of her platform. The "campaign" was successful enough for Gracie to actually receive write-in votes on election day.
"Advocating nonsense" as part of a political party platform?

I guess things haven't really changed all that much in 76 years.

On Midrats 24 April 16 - Episode 329: "Long War Update" With Bill Roggio

Due to circumstances beyond his control, Mr. Roggio had to postpone his visit with Midrats. He will appear at a later date. In lieu of his appearance, CDR Salamander and Eagle1 held a "free for all" discussion of current events. You can find our "Spring Time Free-for-All" here.

We regret any inconvenience.

Friday, April 22, 2016

Friday Film: "Submarine Physical Principles (1940)"

You can change the size of submarines and you can change their power systems, but you can't change the scientific principles under which they operate, which are very well explained in this film:




Thursday, April 21, 2016

Russia Apparently Declares the End of "International Waters," Joining China

Under the United Nations Convention on the the Law of the Sea, "international waters" means waters not part of the "territorial sea" of a nation and there is a 12-mile limit:
Every State has the right to establish the breadth of its territorial sea up to a limit not exceeding 12 nautical miles . . .
"High Seas" (what most of think of as "International Waters") are defined in Art.86 of UNCLOS:
all parts of the sea that are not included in the exclusive economic zone, in the territorial sea or in the internal waters of a State
As we have seen, China has taken a a more aggressive position on "territorial waters" apparently to include "historic waters we have once sailed in" or "historic fishing areas." See here, here, and here for examples.

It occurs to me that Russia, seeing how this unlawful but also virtually unanswerable (short of war) brute force approach has succeeded for China, is now playing the same game in both the Baltic and Black Sea. See here and here.

Take a look at this nice bit of political jujitsu which blames the U.S. and its allies of the "crime" of coming too close to Russian waters (not in them, but close) and provoking the latest incident of Russian planes low flying over a U.S. ship, as set out in
Russia sought to turn the tables on the United States on Wednesday, accusing the U.S. Navy of maneuvering aggressively near the Russian border in the Baltics and promising it would use “all necessary measures” to address future incidents.

According to the Russians, the incident in question occurred Apr. 11, when a U.S. destroyer drew near Kalingrad in the Russian territorial enclave between Lithuania and Poland.

“This is about attempts to exercise military pressure on Russia,” Russian envoy to NATO Alexander Grushko told reporters after a NATO-Russia council meeting on Wednesday, according to Reuters. “We will take all necessary measures, precautions, to compensate for these attempts to use military force.”
On the nearby map, I have circled the Russian territory of Kahlingrad Oblast, which is, as you see,
surrounded by independent countries, i.e. isolated from Russia, a situation I am sure Putin would like to change. But there are those pesky NATO countries in the way, Lithuania and Poland.

In any event, we are seeing the old bully ploy of "it's your fault that I will attack you." Picture Putin as "Biff," if you will.

Bullies will be bullies, of course, so long as they can get away with it.

Worse, though, is that the concept of some sort of international law governing where Russian (or Chinese, for that matter) right end and begin is very obviously broken.

Putin has pushed this with his "little green men" in Ukraine and with his prior incursion into Georgia. The Chinese have pushed it by just grabbing parts of the South China Sea and daring anyone to push them off their artificial islands.

If you think either one of these thug nations won't hesitate to play the 12-mile limit when it suits them as a means of expanding their territory, you are most naive. And just wait until we get to the Arctic.

Fun with Iran: Some Iranian Republican Guard Navy "General" Says "US Terrified by IRGC's Deployment in Persian Gulf"

Hot off the steaming presses of the Iraninan state-controlled media site Farsnews comes this howler of a story:
The US forces deployed in the Persian Gulf are afraid of the presence
of the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps in the same waters, a senior commander said, adding that the IRGC enjoys full intelligence supremacy and might in the region.
"The IRGC's might and power has grown to the extent that the Americans are terrified when they come across our vessels and this powerful presence exists in the sea, sky, space and land," Commander of the IRGC Navy's Third Zone Brigadier General Mansour Ravankar told FNA on Wednesday.

Noting that the IRGC Navy uses all its defensive capacities, vessels and quick-reaction forces to defend the country, he underlined the IRGC's full intelligence superiority in the region.

"The IRGC Navy is present in the Persian Gulf and the Strait of Hormuz region with full power," General Ravankar said.

In relevant remarks in March, Commander of the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps Navy Rear Admiral Ali Fadavi underlined Iran's deterrence power, and said 100 IRGC vessels are always deployed in the Persian Gulf to confront any threats.

"100 IRGC vessels are present in the Persian Gulf round the clock everyday and the Americans see our vessels everywhere they look," Fadavi said, addressing a gathering in the Central province of Isfahan.

He said the US has come to the conclusion that any action against the Islamic Revolution will be rather harmful than serving its interests, "therefore, they don’t dare to take any action and this shows the Islamic Revolution's deterrence power which is increasing everyday".
Not sure "terrified" is exactly the right word, but so it goes.

Meanwhile, there is the obligatory report of the Iranian Navy chasing pirates (which no other country is reporting seeing) from attacks on Iranian shipping:
Alborz (AP photo)
Iranian Navy Commander Rear Admiral Habibollah Sayyari announced that the country's 40th flotilla of warships has repelled pirates' attack on an Iranian ship in free waters after fierce clashes.
"On Saturday, 7 pirate boats attacked an Iranian ship but they received the crushing response of the 40th fleet of warships," Sayyari said on Monday.

The Iranian Navy's 40th fleet of warships left Bandar Abbas port, in Southern Hormuzgan province, for the international waters on April 2 to protect the country's cargo ships and oil tankers against pirate attacks.

The Navy's 40th fleet, comprising Tonb logistic warship and Alborz destroyer, is tasked with conducting anti-piracy patrols in the high seas and the Gulf of Aden.
Yawn. The names change, the baloney does not.

By the way, Alborz recently celebrated its 45th anniversary since its 1971 commissioning. Congrats, old timer!

As for Tonb, here's a video of it joining the Iranian fleet in 2015:

Big Oil Losses: Okay, Where are the Congress Critters Standing in Front of the Cameras on this?

This Week in Petroleum:
Analysis of the annual reports of 40 publicly traded onshore-only U.S. oil producers reveals combined losses of $67 billion in 2015, driven by significant reductions in sales revenue and write-downs of assets following the decline in crude oil prices over the last 18 months. However, there are significant differences across these companies. Eighteen of these companies, referred to here as the high loss group (HLG), reported 2015 losses in excess of 100% of their equity. The HLG companies were more vulnerable to losses in an environment of falling oil prices than companies outside the group because they had more debt and proved reserves with a smaller economic margin between production cost and wellhead value. These same factors may limit the borrowing ability of the HLG companies, which could constrain their drilling and completion activities and thereby limit their production activities under current market conditions.
Those losses impact shareholders, including pension funds.




Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Countering Sea Pirates: Indian Patrol Plane "Thwarts" Pirates in Arabian Sea

Times of India report Navy plane thwarts piracy bid in Arabian Sea
A naval Poseidon-8I long-range patrol aircraft managed to thwart a piracy attack on the high seas by flying over a merchant vessel which was being targeted by "a pirate mother
ship and two skiffs" around 800 nautical miles from Mumbai last week.

The P-8I, based at the naval air station INS Rajali at Arakkonam in Tamil Nadu, was on a routine surveillance mission over the Arabian Sea when it received distress calls from the merchant vessel, the Malta-flagged MV Sezai Selah, on the international Channel 16 distress radio on April 15.
Indian Navy P-8I

"The pirate mother ship and the two high-speed skiffs had come quite close to the merchant vessel. The P-8I immediately responded and made warning transmissions over Channel 16 while flying over the pirate boats...they got frightened and altered course to leave MV Sezai Selah alone," said an official.
Nicely done.

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Everyone Gets to Play with Sea-Going Drones: China's "High-Speed Unmanned Surface Vessel" for "Security Patrols"

Jane's IHC reports "China unveils 13 m high-speed USV concept and targets Southeast Asian navies". That "targeting" word is interesting, because the article really is about the Chinese marketing this vessel. On the other hand, who, exactly, is this thing designed to defend against?
A Chinese state-owned enterprise has unveiled a 13 m trimaran unmanned surface vessel (USV) concept with the intention of marketing the system to navies and law enforcement agencies in the Southeast Asian region.

The system, which the company refers to as the 13 m high-speed intercept boat, features a breadth of 4 m and a draught of 0.6 m.
****
According to further specifications provided by the company, the interceptor can reach a speed of 80 kt in a standard configuration that includes a high-resolution video camera and datalinks. The vessel can also be configured to follow a predetermined patrol route and track surface targets autonomously.
Not too different, then, from the Israeli-developed USV "Protector":
The Protector is an integrated naval combat system, based on unmanned, autonomous,
Rafael Advanced Defense Systems Ltd
remotely controlled surface vehicles. Highly maneuverable and stealthy, the Protector can conduct a wide spectrum of critical missions, without exposing personnel and capital assets to unnecessary risk.
The Protector's anti-terror mission module payload includes sensors and weapon systems. The search radar and the Toplite electro-optical (EO) pod enable detection, identification and targeting operations. The weapon systems are based on Rafael's Typhoon remote-controlled, stabilized weapon station, capable of operating various small caliber guns. The highly accurate, stabilized weapon station has excellent hit-and-kill probability.
Protector is mission reconfigurable through its plug-and-play design, allowing utilization of various mission modules:

- Anti-terror Force Protection (AT/FP)
- Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance (ISR)
- Naval warfare: ASW, MIW, MCM, ASUW, EW
- Maritime, Port Security

Features and Benefits:

- Unmanned, highly autonomous, remote controlled
- Stealthy, highly maneuverable
- Reconfigurable mission modules
Singapore, Mexico and Israel already have Protectors.

Saturday, April 16, 2016

Saturday Is Old Radio Day: BBC series "Spycatcher" - Episode "Friend or Foe"

A British series featuring a Dutch counter-intel officer, Lieutenant-Colonel Oreste Pinto:



Based on a book. Later made into a TV series.

Friday, April 15, 2016

Friday Film: Handling Top Secret and Other Classified Material "Memorandum on Security"

How it was in the 1960's and why - when the less complex paper issues prevailed. These now have been swamped by the electronic storage of much classified material - systems surprising easily defeated by people who should know better. For example, having aides stripping classification from classified email and sending it to you to be kept on an unsecured server.

When you think you and your friends believe you are the smartest people in any room, simple security concerns may seem a bothersome triviality until . . .



In light of recent events, it might be useful to remind people of the Department of the Navy "Security Executive" with its remarkably boring mission statement:
"We will lead the Department of the Navy (DON) Security Enterprise to develop collaboratively and issue effective security policy; ensure comprehensive oversight of policy compliance; oversee and advocate for DON resourcing of the DON Security Enterprise; and promote cross-functional and enterprise-wide security integration."


Thursday, April 14, 2016

Gremlins? Really? Retrievable and Reuseable UAVs to Add to Air Mission Packages

DARPA has contracts out to explore unmanned air systems (UASs) that are air recoverable and reusable as set out in this news release "Gremlins Takes Flight to Provide Air-Recoverable Unmanned Air Systems":
DARPA has awarded Phase 1 contracts for its Gremlins program, which seeks to develop innovative technologies and systems enabling aircraft to launch volleys of low-cost, reusable unmanned air systems (UASs) and safely and reliably retrieve them in mid-air. Such systems, or “gremlins,” would be deployed with a mixture of mission payloads capable of generating a variety of effects in a distributed and coordinated manner, providing U.S. forces with improved operational flexibility at a lower cost than is possible with conventional, monolithic platforms.
***
Named for the imaginary, mischievous imps that became the good luck charms of many British pilots during World War II, the program envisions launching groups of UASs from existing large aircraft such as bombers or transport aircraft—as well as from fighters and other small, fixed-wing platforms—while those planes are out of range of adversary defenses. When the gremlins complete their mission, a C-130 transport aircraft would retrieve them in the air and carry them home, where ground crews would prepare them for their next use within 24 hours.

The gremlins’ expected lifetime of about 20 uses could provide significant cost advantages over expendable systems by reducing payload and airframe costs and by having lower mission and maintenance costs than conventional platforms, which are designed to operate for decades.
My impression of airborne gremlins was shaped by my youth and Bugs Bunny:


Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Russian Aircraft Take a Sightseeing Tour in the Baltic, Visit U.S. Navy Ship and Manage Not to Crash

Well, the U.S. Navy is doing Freedom of Navigation ops and helping its allies train. Some people just don't seem to like that. Or, as the Navy press release puts it: US Navy Ship Encounters Aggressive Russian Aircraft in Baltic Sea:
Sightseeing Aircraft
A United States Navy destroyer operating in international waters in the Baltic Sea experienced several close interactions by Russian aircraft April 11 and 12. USS Donald Cook (DDG 75) encountered multiple, aggressive flight maneuvers by Russian aircraft that were performed within close proximity of the ship.
On April 11, Donald Cook was conducting deck landing drills with an allied military helicopter when two Russian SU-24 jets made numerous close-range and low altitude passes at approximately 3 p.m. local. One of the passes, which occurred while the allied helicopter was refueling on the deck of Donald Cook, was deemed unsafe by the ship's commanding officer. As a safety precaution, flight operations were suspended until the SU-24s departed the area.
Not as good as Maverick


On April 12, while Donald Cook was operating in international waters in the Baltic Sea, a Russian KA-27 Helix helicopter conducted circles at low altitude around the ship, seven in total, at approximately 5 p.m. local. The helicopter passes were also deemed unsafe and unprofessional by the ship's commanding officer. About 40 minutes following the interaction with the Russian helicopter, two Russian SU-24 jets
Russian Eggbeater Stirs the Baltic Sea
made numerous close-range and low altitude passes, 11 in total. The Russian aircraft flew in a simulated attack profile and failed to respond to repeated safety advisories in both English and Russian. USS Donald Cook's commanding officer deemed several of these maneuvers as unsafe and unprofessional. Quotes: "April 11-12, USS Donald Cook was operating in a professional manner in international waters conducting operations and exercises with our allies in the Baltic Sea." "In my judgement these maneuvers in close proximity to Donald Cook are unprofessional and unsafe." -Commander, U.S. Naval Forces Europe-Africa, Adm. Mark Ferguson
Yes, well, bullies are going to be bullies.

 I hope the deck gang gave the Russian helicopter taking pictures some nice Hawaiian good luck signs.

More pictures and videos here.

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Inflatables? Space Exploration is Just the Place for Them

Lots of big news about an inflatable addition to the international space state as in Air & Space's The Future of Construction in Space:
Is the International Space Station the last aluminum spacecraft?

Late this year or early next, NASA will build an addition to the International Space Station, increasing the orbital laboratory’s size from eight rooms to nine. The new room is like no other on the station, and will be very easy to construct: Just connect to a docking port, fill with compressed air, and voilĂ ! Instant space habitat.

The hard part was the 15 years of re­search and development that Bigelow Aerospace in North Las Vegas needed to create the Bigelow Expandable Activity Module, or BEAM. Initially scheduled for a September launch, BEAM’s test deployment is now delayed due to the post-launch explosion of a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket bound for the ISS on June 28 — and no one yet knows how long that delay will be. Once BEAM does reach its destination, it will undergo two years of intensive testing, a trial run for a technology that could play a significant role in future human spaceflight and low-Earth-orbit commercial ventures: inflatable spacecraft.
Yes, I noted this Bigelow module last year here and the concept is very interesting.

On the other hand, as set out in my prior post, Raymond Z. Gallun was pushing such an idea back in 1961.

Seems I read something about this concept in The Planet Strappers by Raymond Z. Gallun:
Nelsen didn't listen anymore. His and Paul's attention had wandered to the largest color photo thumbtacked to the wall, above the TV set, and the shelf of dog-eared technical books. It showed a fragile, pearly ring, almost diaphanous, hanging tilted against spatial blackness and pinpoint stars. Its hub was a cylindrical spindle, with radial guys of fine, stainless steel wire. It was like the earliest ideas about a space station, yet it was also different. To many—Frank Nelsen and Paul Hendricks certainly included—such devices had as much beauty as a yacht under full sail had ever had for anybody.

Old Paul smirked with pleasure. "It's a shame, ain't it, Frank—calling a pretty thing like that a 'bubb'—it's an ugly word. Or even a 'space bubble.' Technical talk gets kind of cheap."

"I don't mind," Frank Nelsen answered. "Our first one, here, could look just as nice—inflated, and riding free against the stars."

He touched the crinkly material, draped across its wooden support.

"It will," the old man promised. "Funny—not so long ago people thought that space ships would have to be really rigid—all metal. So how did they turn out? Made of stellene, mostly—an improved form of polyethylene—almost the same stuff as a weather balloon."

"A few millimeters thick, light, perfectly flexible when deflated," Nelsen added. "Cut out and cement your bubb together in any shape you choose. Fold it up firmly, like a parachute—it makes a small package that can be carried up into orbit in a blastoff rocket with the best efficiency. There, attached flasks of breathable atmosphere fill it out in a minute. Eight pounds pressure makes it fairly solid in a vacuum. So, behold—you've got breathing and living room, inside. There's nylon cording for increased strength—as in an automobile tire—though not nearly as much. There's a silicone gum between the thin double layers, to seal possible meteor punctures. A darkening lead-salt impregnation in the otherwise transparent stellene cuts radiation entry below the danger level, and filters the glare and the hard ultra-violet out of the sunshine. So there you are, all set up."

"Rig your hub and guy wires," old Paul carried on, cheerfully. "Attach your sun-powered ionic drive, set up your air-restorer, spin your vehicle for centrifuge-gravity, and you're ready to move—out of orbit."

They laughed, because getting into space wasn't as easy as they made it sound. The bubbs, one of the basic inventions that made interplanetary travel possible, were, for all their almost vagabondish simplicity, still a concession in lightness and compactness for atmospheric transit, to that first and greatest problem—breaking the terrific initial grip of Earth's gravity from the ground upward, and gaining stable orbital speed. Only a tremendously costly rocket, with a thrust greater than its own weight when fully loaded, could do that. Buying a blastoff passage had to be expensive.
Of course, Gallun wrote in 1961, so we all know that his idea of a space craft made of cheap materials and dependent on recycled air (or air produced by plants grown on board) was . . . ahead of its time?

Some artistic renderings of "planet strapper" craft, in addition to those on the book cover, here.

Monday, April 11, 2016

Sea Crimes: ONI's Worldwide Threat to Shipping (WTS) Report 8 March - 6 April 2016

Ripped from the website of the ONI Piracy page:


And a new incident off Nigeria, as reported by the Turkish news site Hurriyet in Pirates abduct six Turkish crew off Nigeria:
Pirates have attacked a Turkish cargo ship off the coast of Nigeria, kidnapping six crew members in a region increasingly hit by piracy in recent years, the Nigerian navy said on April 11.

All the six Turkish crew members, including the captain of the vessel, the chief officer and the chief engineer, were abducted by the attackers," Nigerian Navy spokesman Chris Ezekobe told AFP.

The pirates attacked the vessel in the dead of night while it was steaming through the oil-rich Niger Delta, added the spokesman.
Kidnapping is a Nigerian nightmare.


ShipSpotting.com
© Aleksi Lindström

Sunday, April 10, 2016

Toxic Leaders: Interesting Thoughts from a Book Written in 1836

From Mr. Midshipman Easy
The greatest error now in our service, is the disregard shown to the feelings of the junior
Frederick Marryat
officers in the language of their superiors: that an improvement has taken place I grant, but that it still exists, to a degree injurious to the service, I know too well. The articles of war, as our hero was informed by his captain, were equally binding on officers and crew; but what a dead letter do they become if officers are permitted to break them with impunity! The captain of a ship will turn the hands up to punishment, read the article of war for the transgressing of which the punishment is inflicted, and to show at that time their high respect for the articles of war, the captain and every officer take off their hats. The moment the hands are piped down, the second article of war, which forbids all swearing, etcetera, in derogation of God's honour, is immediately disregarded. We are not strait-laced,--we care little about an oath as a mere _expletive_; we refer now to swearing at _others_, to insulting their feelings grossly by coarse and intemperate language. We would never interfere with a man for damning his own eyes, but we deny the right of his damning those of another.
***

But it remembered that these are not the observations of a junior officer smarting under insult--they are the result of deep and calm reflection. We have arrived to that grade, that, although we have the power to inflict, we are too high to receive insult, but we have not forgotten how our young blood has boiled when wanton, reckless, and cruel torture has been heaped upon our feelings, merely because, as a junior officer, we were not in a position to retaliate, or even to reply. And another evil is, that this great error is disseminated. In observing on it, in one of our works, called Peter Simple, we have put the following true observation in the mouth of O'Brien. Peter observes, in his simple, right-minded way:

"I should think, O'Brien, that the very circumstance of having had your feelings so often wounded by such language when you were a junior officer would make you doubly careful not to use it towards others, when you had advanced in the service?"

"Peter, that's just the first feeling, which wears away after a time, till at last, your own sense of indignation becomes blunted, and becomes indifferent to it; you forget, also, that you wound the feelings of others, and carry the habit with, you, to the great injury and disgrace of the service."

Let it not be supposed that in making these remarks we want to cause litigation, or insubordination. On the contrary, we assert that this error is the cause, and eventually will be much more the cause, of insubordination; for as the junior officers who enter the service are improved, so will they resist it. The complaint here is more against the officers, than the captains, whose power has been perhaps already too much curtailed by late regulations: that power must remain, for although there may be some few who are so perverted as to make those whom they command uncomfortable, in justice to the service we are proud to assert that the majority acknowledge, by their conduct, that the greatest charm attached to power is to be able to make so many people happy.
About Captain Frederick Marryat, While he was an early 19th Century man in many regards and attitudes, he certainly got the above correct. References to the "article of war" are to the Royal Navy's articles of the day.

Nothing sticks in your memory like a "screamer" whether in the service or in a civilian job, especially that part about "we were not is position to retaliate, or even to reply."

Saturday, April 09, 2016

Saturday Is Old Radio Day: Damon Runyon Theatre "Hold 'Em Yale" (1949)

Alan Ladd produced this series and hired John Brown to as 'Broadway' who provides key scene-setting narration. He does a very fine job of it, too.

Well, you might ask, "Who was Damon Runyon?" As set out here:
Alfred Damon Runyon (October 4, 1880 – December 10, 1946) was an American newspaperman and author.
He was best known for his short stories celebrating the world of Broadway in New York City that grew out of the Prohibition era. To New Yorkers of his generation, a "Damon Runyon character" evoked a distinctive social type from the Brooklyn or Midtown demi-monde. The adjective "Runyonesque" refers to this type of character as well as to the type of situations and dialog that Runyon depicted. He spun humorous and sentimental tales of gamblers, hustlers, actors, and gangsters, few of whom go by "square" names, preferring instead colorful monikers such as "Nathan Detroit", "Benny Southstreet", "Big Jule", "Harry the Horse", "Good Time Charley", "Dave the Dude", or "The Seldom Seen Kid." His distinctive vernacular style is known as "Runyonese": a mixture of formal speech and colorful slang, almost always in present tense, and always devoid of contractions. He is credited with coining the phrase "Hooray Henry", a term now used in British English to describe an upper-class, loud-mouthed, arrogant twit.
Runyon's fictional world is also known to the general public through the musical Guys and Dolls based on two of his stories, "The Idyll of Miss Sarah Brown" and "Blood Pressure". The musical additionally borrows characters and story elements from a few other Runyon stories, most notably "Pick The Winner." The film Little Miss Marker (and its two remakes, Sorrowful Jones and the 1980 Little Miss Marker) grew from his short story of the same name.

Here's "Hold 'Em Yale"

Friday, April 08, 2016

Friday Bonus Videos: DARPA/ONR and the Anti Submarine Warfare ASW Continuous Trail Unmanned Vessel ACTUV

The first ACTUV gets "christened":
The christening, to include the traditional breaking of a ceremonial bottle over the bow by DARPA Director Arati Prabhakar, signifies the beginnings of an entirely new class of ocean-going vessel—one able to traverse thousands of kilometers over the open seas for month at a time, without a single crew member aboard. Potential missions include submarine tracking and countermine activities.

“Although ACTUV will sail unmanned, its story is entirely about people,” said Scott Littlefield, DARPA program manager. “It will still be Sailors who are deciding how, when and where to use this new capability and the technology that has made it possible. And we could not have overcome the massive technical challenges to reaching this point without the creative, committed teamwork of our commercial partners and the Office of Naval Research.”
***
ACTUV is a 130-foot twin-screw trimaran, designed for enhanced stability in all kinds of weather. It has a number of unusual features because it does not need to accommodate people. For example, interior spaces are accessible for maintenance but aren’t designed to support a permanent crew.

But of broader technical significance is that ACTUV embodies breakthroughs in autonomous navigational capabilities with the potential to change the nature of U.S. maritime operations. Through at-sea testing on a surrogate vessel, ACTUV’s autonomy suite has proven capable of operating the ship in compliance with maritime laws and conventions for safe navigation—including International Regulations for Preventing Collisions at Sea, or COLREGS. ACTUV accomplishes this feat through advanced software and hardware that serve as automated lookouts, enabling the ship to operate safely near manned maritime vessels in all weather and traffic conditions, day or night.

ACTUV is designed to normally operate under sparse remote supervisory control but can also serve as a remotely piloted vessel, should the mission or specific circumstances require it. In either case, it would operate at a fraction of the cost of manned vessels that are today deployed for similar missions.

In September 2014, DARPA signed a Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) with the Office of Naval Research to jointly fund an extended test phase of an ACTUV prototype. DARPA will collaborate with ONR to fully test the capabilities of the vessel and several innovative payloads during open-water testing scheduled to begin this summer off the California coast after preliminary checkout and movement to San Diego. Pending the results of those tests, the program could transition to the U.S. Navy by 2018.
More and faster please.

I think that's "Sea Hunter" on her stern.









Update:DARPA just added this video:

Friday Film: "Stay Safe, Stay Strong: The Facts About Nuclear Weapons (1960)"

Wednesday, April 06, 2016

U.S. Office of Naval Intelligence Worldwide Threat to Shipping (WTS) Report 1 - 30 March 2016 and Weapons Seizures at Sea

From the U.S. Navy's Office of Naval Intelligence :



While it is also in the WTS, it is worth noting this segment of the HORN OF AFRICA/GULF OF GUINEA/SOUTHEAST ASIA: Piracy Analysis and Warning Weekly (PAWW) Report for 24 - 30 March 2016:
1. (U) ARABIAN SEA: On 20 March, the French Navy destroyer FS
Photo source
PROVENCE seized a large weapons cache from a dhow in the northern Indian Ocean. The incident took place as the ship operated as part of the Combined Maritime Forces Combined Task Force 150 which conducts maritime security and counterterrorism operations. The dhow was spotted heading towards Somalia by PROVENCE's surveillance helicopter while it was undertaking routine surveillance in the northern Indian Ocean. Subsequently, personnel from PROVENCE boarded the dhow
A FREMM- Class Frigate similar to Provence
and ascertained that it was without nationality. PROVENCE

then undertook a search of the vessel, during which the weapons were found. The haul included 2,000- AK47 assault rifles, 49-PKM machine guns, along with mortars and anti-tank weapons. As the illicit weapons were deemed to be destined for Somalia, they were seized under the United Nations Security Council mandated arms embargo in accordance with UNSCR 2244 (2015)(www.meretmarine.com/fr;www.dt.bh)
An earlier report of a weapons seizure by HMAS Darwin:
Darwin's VBSS

HMAS Darwin intercepted the vessel approximately 170 nautical miles (313 kilometres) off the coast of Oman and initially conducted a flag verification boarding. After assessing the vessel to be stateless, HMAS Darwin searched the vessel and discovered 1989 AK-47 assault rifles, 100 rocket propelled grenade
HMAS Darwin
launchers, 49 PKM general purpose machine guns, 39 PKM spare barrels and 20 60mm mortar tubes. These weapons were seized from the vessel that was heading towards the Somalia coast.
Interesting, especially in light of this report of a U.S. Navy ship also capturing a dhow full of weapons as reported by the NYTimes:
The U.S. Navy says it has seized a weapons shipment in the Arabian
Sea from Iran likely heading to war-torn Yemen.

The Navy said in a statement Monday that the USS Sirocco on March 28 intercepted and seized the shipment of weapons hidden aboard a small dhow, a type of ship commonly used in the Persian Gulf and Indian Ocean.
USS Sirocco

The Navy said the shipment included 1,500 Kalashnikov assault rifles, 200 rocket-propelled grenade launchers and 21 .50-caliber machine guns. It said those aboard the dhow were released after sailors confiscated the arms.

A Saudi-led, U.S.-backed coalition is fighting in Yemen against Shiite rebels and their allies there. Officials have linked similar weapons seizures to Iran and the Shiite rebels, though the rebels deny receiving support from the Islamic Republic.(hat tip CDR Salamander)
Business must be good for arms dealers. Every seizure means another round of purchases.

Tuesday, April 05, 2016

Sanders: Taxes in Fantasyland

From the Daily News interview with Sen Bernie Sanders:
Daily News: I understand that. I wanted to draw a distinction, though. Because in your speech you mention the financial industry and you focused on corporate America, the greed of Wall Street and corporate America. So I wanted to get a sense of corporate America, as the agent of American destruction.

Sanders: General Electric, good example. General Electric was created in this country by American workers and American consumers. What we have seen over the many years is shutting down of many major plants in this country. Sending jobs to low-wage countries. And General Electric, doing a very good job avoiding the taxes. In fact, in a given year, they pay nothing in taxes. That's greed.

That is greed and that’s selfishness. That is lack of respect for the people of this country.
Let's see - Sen. Sanders is from Vermont.

The State of Vermont has invested its citizens tax money in various funds such as the Vermont Higher Education Trust Fund (VHETF). The VHETF includes an investment of some $6.2 million in the Vanguard Institutional Index Fund (VINIF). This VINI Fund is an investor in General Electric, as it holds about $3.6 billion in GE shares. If VINIF returns 5% on investments, the VHETF earns about $310,000.

So, if GE were to pay income taxes as Mr. Sander asserts rightly* they mostly are not, where would this "tax money" come from? Why from the profits, of course. Profits that now get paid to workers and to shareholders, the real owners of General Electric. In addition to Ma and Pa Mainstreet who might own a few shares (or even many shares), one of the owners (investors) of GE is Vanguard Institutional Index Fund, of which the State of Vermont Higher Education Trust Fund owns shares. So when GE sends profit money to VIIF, VIIF spreads that money around to its owners, including the VHETF.

As you might gather, any lessening of profits impacts VHETF by reducing the payout it receives from the VINIF. Who suffers then? Why the citizens of Vermont, that's who.

So, if Mr. Sanders is suggesting that GE should put jobs in high wage areas (say California or New York) and not avoid taxes (which is not a crime, by the way, unlike tax evasion) but increase the cost of doing business, then he is in favor of hurting the people of Vermont by decreasing the revenue of their trust funds.

The State of Vermont has other holdings for things like pension funds. According to my reading of this, these include investments in a number of non-US companies, which it is clear are unlikely pay much in the way of U.S. taxes. Indeed, the Acadian International Equity Fund apparently really doesn't invest in the U.S.:
The fund objective is to provide long-term capital appreciation through a portfolio of non-North American Stocks that is sufficiently diversified to minimize investment risk. This will include stocks in both large and small-cap issuers as well as opportunistic exposure to issuers in the emerging markets.
Golly, Mr. Sanders, your very own home state is not supporting American workers by investing in American companies? Why aren't you all over that?

*Who pays corporate taxes?:
In the case of the corporate income tax, as the Harvard Business School’s Mihir Desai put it in an interview I recently did with him and his HBS colleague Bill George, “that tax is going to be borne by shareholders, workers, or customers.”
***
If a country allows free capital flows and free trade and has a corporate tax rate much higher than that of its neighbors, investors can choose to buy shares in companies elsewhere that face a lower tax, and corporate management can choose to move operations abroad. Consumers, meanwhile, can buy from foreign suppliers. By comparison, workers are pretty immobile. It’s hard for them to switch employers, let alone countries. So the tax lands on them, in the form of lower wages and/or skimpier benefits.
Mr. Sanders really ought to be arguing that U.S. corporate taxes be lowered to meet or be less than of other countries so that companies have no incentive to locate overseas and that the corporate tax burden doesn't fall so heavily on workers. You want to "disincentivize" corporate tax games? Lower taxes so that companies have no reason to play them.

Of course he is not arguing that. He wants high taxes to pay for his socialist vision of utopia, or, as I prefer to call it, "fantasyland."

You can attempt to decipher Mr. Sander's tax plan here. Before he drives all current U.S. companies overseas,
Senator Sanders would use the revenue gained by closing these loopholes to put at least 13 million Americans to work rebuilding our crumbling roads, bridges, railways, airports, public transit systems, ports, dams, wastewater plants, and other infrastructure needs.

Winners

Marcus Paige
“The whole four years means the world to me. I wouldn't trade any of
the losses, any of the games. It's hard to say, but even including this one, I wouldn't trade it for anything.

“This has been the happiest and most fun four years of my life, talking this year especially. Hasn't been my best year as a player, but this has been the most fun I've had in my entire life with this team, all the way up until that last horn went off.

“It's hard because at some point tonight I have to take this jersey off and I never get to put it back on. I just have to rely on all the memories I have with my teammates.

“I'm telling you, this is the most fun year in my entire life. I don't know what else to say.”
Michael Jordan:
Jordan addressed the team in the Carolina locker room after the game. He had a simple message for them: sometimes life has adversity, and you have to use it as fuel for the next time. And then he said the perfect thing, because he is Michael Jordan, but also because he is a Tar Heel. He said exactly what every single one of us would’ve said if we had been in that room right at that moment:

“I’m proud of you.”


Thanks, gentlemen, for a great ride. Thanks for being who you are.

Go Tar Heels!

Saturday, April 02, 2016

On Midrats 3 April 2016, Episode 326: Undersea Lawfare with RADM Johnson, USN (Ret) and CAPT Palmer, USN

Please join us at 5pm (EDT) on 3 April 2016 for Midrats Episode 326: Undersea Lawfare with RADM Johnson, USN (Ret) and CAPT Palmer, USN
DARPA image
Since its ascendency to the premier maritime power, the US Navy - especially in the area of undersea warfare - has been at the leading edge of using technology to get a military edge.

During the Cold War, significant and steady progress in the first two steps of the kill chain against submarines, location and tracking, made the prospect of engaging superior numbers of Soviet submarine forces manageable.

We continue that tradition today, but to keep ahead of growing challenges, we have test. Build a little, test a little, learn a lot will stop dead in its tracks without testing in the real world. Computer simulation is only so good.

When it comes to submarines especially, you have to get in the water with them.

Knowing our technological track record an operating a generation or two ahead of some potential adversaries - are there ways they can negate our edge - or at least buy time while they catch up?

Are we vulnerable to potential challengers using national and international law against us? Undersea Lawfare?

Our guests for the full hour to discuss will be Rear Admiral J. Michael "Carlos" Johnson, USN (Ret.) and Captain Michael T. Palmer, USN.

As a stepping off point, we will be using their article in the latest Naval War College Review: UNDERSEA LAWFARE - Can the US Navy Fall Victim to This Asymmetrical Warfare Threat?

RADM Johnson retired after 33 years of service as a naval aviator that included combat in Vietnam, Libya, the Balkans, and the Persian Gulf. He commanded the John F. Kennedy Battle Group, CVW-8, and VFA-86. Ashore he served on the staffs of the CNO as Director of Aviation Plans and Requirements) and the J3 of EUCOM.

Captain Palmer is an active-duty JAG and an adjunct assistant professor at ODU. Her has served as environmental counsel to the CNO; U.S. Fleet Forces Command; and Commander, Navy Region Mid-Atlantic.

Listen live or pick the show up later by clicking here. Or you can find the show later on our iTunes page.