Good Company

Good Company
Good Company

Saturday, March 30, 2013

North Korean Threat: EMP? Death by Threats?

Source: VOA
About 8 or 9 years ago there were dire warnings about the possible danger of some sort of attack that could result in "electromagnetic pulse" ("EMP") damage to the U.S. (see Yet Another Threat). Sen Jon Kyl, Speaker Gingrich and others raised alarms.

An old ground burst
Now, these issues rise again, this time with the North Koreans as the threat. For example, from The Washington Times :
North Korea has labored for years and starved its people so it could develop an intercontinental missile capable of reaching the United States. Why? Because they have a special kind of nuclear weapon that could destroy the United States with a single blow.

In summer 2004, a delegation of Russian generals warned the Congressional Electromagnetic Pulse (EMP) Commission that secrets had leaked to North Korea for a decisive new nuclear weapon — a Super-EMP warhead.

Any nuclear weapon detonated above an altitude of 30 kilometers will generate an electromagnetic pulse that will destroy electronics and could collapse the electric power grid and other critical infrastructures — communications, transportation, banking and finance, food and water — that sustain modern civilization and the lives of 300 million Americans. All could be destroyed by a single nuclear weapon making an EMP attack.

More at Chaos from the Sky: Why the EMP Threat Is Real:
An EMP attack would cause cascading failures in other critical infrastructures and a possible national blackout. These conclusions are based on tests showing that E1 high-EMP simulators couple well to electric grid distribution power lines and low-voltage cables. Radasky and Pry point out that “electronic control systems are effectively the Achilles’ heel of our power delivery network.”

The electrical power grid supports all of America’s other critical infrastructures and is vulnerable to an EMP. Any credible threat depends on critical communications infrastructures. If an EMP attack should succeed, more than two-thirds of the American people could perish within 12 months of the event.
And more at Rebuttal to “The EMP threat: fact, fiction, and response” (co-authored by Dr. Pry who also wrote the Washington Times opinion):
One scenario of particular concern to the EMP Commission is that rogue states or terrorists could make an “anonymous EMP attack” by launching a short- or medium-range missile off a freighter outside US territorial waters.22 This would eliminate the need for an ICBM to deliver the EMP attack. Since the EMP strike would come from no one’s territory, it could also conceal the identity of the attacker. Although it would not be necessary, an additional layer of anonymity could be achieved by a state sponsor by contracting with terrorists to carry out the attack.
It should be noted that Dr. Pry is also head of EMPACT America, " . . . a bipartisan . . . organization for citizens concerned about protecting the American people from a nuclear or natural electromagnetic pulse (EMP) catastrophe."

The Institute for Foreign Policy Studies has produced a white paper on Counter the EMP Threat: The Role of Missile Defense (pdf)(2010) that suggests improvements to the Aegis BMD force and other practices to reduce the risk.

Does the DPRK have a missile capable of reaching the U.S.? Take a look at the chart above - the answer currently seems to be "no" - but North Korea rocket 'has 10,000km range' the BBC reported in December 2012. It appears the NORKs have a new system, the Unha-3 that has longer legs than what they've been up to previously but there are questions about its payload capacity:
Despite western press speculation that the Unha 3 could be the basis for an intercontinental ballistic missile that could reach the United States, this three stage rocket is incapable of lofting the payload necessary for that mission. Similarly the American and Soviet analogues (Thor and R-14) could not be upgraded for such a mission. In 1957 Soviet Chief Designer Yangel sold his R-16 ICBM concept to the leadership as simply his R-12 IRBM serving as the second stage to his R-14 MRBM. In fact substantial redesign and repackaging of all elements, and new propellants were necessary to provide a viable ICBM. The same applies to any North Korean design, which would require a new 3-m diameter first stage.
However, some cautionary advice in the update to Business Insider's North Korea Is Not Even Close To Hitting The US With A Nuke, which also linked to this video from USC professor Gruntman:

ASTE 520 Spacecraft Design - North Korea Satellite Launch from USC Graduate and Professional Pr on Vimeo.
Update: Some key comments begin abour 16:27.

Just to add to the tale, comes this DPRK propaganda photo (via The Washington Post) , purportedly showing the lines of attack on the U.S. mainland, including, oh, my!, the Eastern Seaboard on the high tech chart in the background:

Gotta like those hats.

See also from ANALYSIS: North Korean Photo Reveals ‘U.S. Mainland Strike Plan’.

And this delightful piece from the DPRK's own Central News Agency Kim Jong Un Convenes Operation Meeting, Finally Examines and Ratifies Plan for Firepower Strike:
He said the enemies are bringing dark clouds of a nuclear war testing the DPRK's self-restraint, adding the DPRK can no longer tolerate this. He ordered the KPA to blow up and reduce everything to ashes at a single strike, if an order is issued.

He said the heroic service personnel of the KPA and all other people, their hearts burning with irrepressible resentment at the reckless war provocation moves of the U.S. imperialists, are now waiting for a final order of the WPK Central Committee, hardening their will to turn out in a do-or-die battle with the enemies.

Finally, I added this as an update to a previous post, but it worth considering in light of the above, George H. Wittman's Peace Through Bluster and Missiles.

Fun and games with the NORKs.

China's Cyber-war

China's cyber-war against the West is discussed, very well, in The Wall Street Journal's "Why China Is Reading Your Email":
Then there's the argument that all this is overblown because no cyber attack has ever killed anyone. Mr. Thomas responds, somewhat impatiently: "If I had access to your bank account, would you worry? If I had access to your home security system, would you worry? If I have access to the pipes coming into your house? Not just your security system but your gas, your electric—and you're the Pentagon?"
It's enough to get you looking at "doomsday prepping."

Friday, March 29, 2013

Asia Alignments: "India Backs Japan on Maritime Security"

The Times of India reports India backs Japan on maritime security to fend off China:
"There can be little doubt that countries like India and Japan must cooperate in ensuring the security of the global commons including freedom of navigation on the high seas that is critical to both our countries which import large amounts of oil and gas."Let me say clearly today that India stands with Japan, and other like-minded countries, in pursuing and implementing these goals and objectives," Khurshid said during a speech at the Rikkyo University in Tokyo earlier this week.

Japan has been involved in a dispute with China on the East China Sea, while this week Beijing's naval patrols off Malaysia and Brunei have raised concerns there as well. India retains commercial interests in South China Sea, but may come up against China's aggressive patrolling there too.
Elephants dancing.

North Korea: A Wolf in Wolf's Skin

Okay, imagine the worst case of North Korea and you will have this Foreign Policy piece, "Think Again: North Korea" - By David Kang and Victor Cha , which clearly indicates the DPRK is a regional threat that could blossom into something more:
North Korea today can threaten all of South Korea and parts of Japan with its conventional missiles and its conventional military. The North can fire 500,000 rounds of artillery on Seoul in the first hour of a conflict. Stability has held for 60 years because the U.S. security alliances with South Korea and Japan make it clear to the North Korean leadership that if they attacked South Korea or Japan, they would lose both the war and their country. And, for half a century, neither side believed that the benefits of starting a major war outweighed the costs. The worry is that the new North Korean leader might not hold to the same logic, given his youth and inexperience.

Further, the NORKS are willing to sell what they have - essentially nuclear technology and missiles to other regional "bad boy" countries.

Point taken, the DPRK as a regional threat should not be taken lightly, especially if you happen to live, say, in South Korea. And, down the road, they could get worse.

Right now, the NORKs could kill a lot of South Koreans and rip up parts of South Korea - for a little while.


Unlike in the 1950s, the South Koreans today are not unarmed and unprepared. Nor are they without allies.

On the other hand, the DPRK is not part of a powerful alliance. It has trouble feeding itself. It has no oil and gas to sustain lengthy military operations.

Will the NORKs foolishly count on the Chinese to save them again? Why would the Chinese do that? Other than regional hegemony, what dog does China have in a fight between the DPRK and the ROK? Clearly, China has moved on from the 1950s. Will China recognize that the DPRK is the past and not the future?

Would Russia intervene on the DPRK side? Why? Well, they share a border.

Can the DPRK look to its "friends" ("customers" is perhaps a better term) in the world? Like Pakistan, Iran, Syria?

Will the great Iranian fleet sail to deliver sustainment goods? It's a very long trip, isn't it? What would be the risks to a fleet carrying goods to an outlaw state at war with the rest of the world?

Syria seems to be preoccupied.

Pakistan? Right.

If the DPRK should unleash its forces, what does it do? Shoot off all of its rockets and artillery and kill lots of South Koreans and perhaps some Japanese? For what purpose? Might as well smack a hornet's nest.

Does it invade the South as it did in the 1950s? And then what? Can it sustain its army in the field or will it be rolled again as its supply lines are cut? Will it attempt to live off the land?

Will it try to nuke the U.S.? To what end?

It is good to acknowledge that a lot of artillery tubes, some rockets and a large army are a threat.

It is also good to think about what the DPRK sees as a desired end-state should it unleash those forces and whether there is any possible way for it to get there by destroying itself - which is surely the most likely result if it takes action.

Is the current Kim-in-Charge really so young and naive as all that? Is he willing to, in effect, commit his country and himself to a suicide path?

UPDATE (3/30/13): Nice piece in The American Spectator by George H. Wittman, "Peace Through Bluster and Missiles" on the DRPK's possible motivations in rattling their sabers. Note the EMP threat of a NORK aerial nuclear blast.

Thursday, March 28, 2013

China: Attempted Island Grab in the South China Sea

The Chinese apparently have now decided to test Malaysia with a naval exercise on an island offshore Malaysia in the southern South China Sea:
The exercises included the landing of amphibious craft just off the James Shoal, 80 kilometres off the Malaysian coast.

The James Shoal is China's most southerly territorial claim.

It is among several disputed parts of the South China Sea, including the Spratly Islands, that the People's Republic says belong to Beijing.
More here.

Map is the famous "Nine-Dashed Line" or "Cow's Tongue" showing the extent of Chinese South China Sea territorial claims.

I placed the yellow oval to show James Shoal area.

North Korean Idle Threat of the Day: "Your Bases Will Be Ashes," we say, "ashes!"

From the official NORK unintentional humor site, News From KOREAN CENTRAL NEWS AGENCY of DPRK:
Upon receiving the statement of the Supreme Command of the Korean
Current Kim-in-Charge Leads Group Sing
People's Army (KPA) issued on Tuesday, all the KPA men and officers are seized with an urge to show the DPRK's will of counteraction by practical military actions.

Pae Kwang Phyo, a KPA officer, told KCNA:

"Despite our repeated warning, the U.S. imperialist aggressors let their B-52 formation fly again in the sky above south Korea and announced an operational plan targeting the dignity of the DPRK supreme leadership.

Gone are the days when the DPRK made verbal exchange with the U.S.

The KPA Strategic Rocket Force has already been on A-class alert to wipe out the U.S. forces and reduce their bases in Guam and other regions to ashes."

Hong Kum Chol, another officer, said:

"The KPA Air Force is put on alert.

It will never miss the opportunity to sweep away the Anderson air base in Guam."
The same site reports, "President of Equatorial Guinea Congratulates DPRK on Its Demonstration of National Power."

Perhaps I'm wrong. Maybe the humor is intentional.

The NORKS probably are also "burning mad" because of B-2 bomber flights over South Korea, as reported here.

Polish flagged Il-28
By the way, most reports indicate the sole bomber in the DPRK air armada is a variant of the Il-28 "Beagle" with a range of about 2400 km . The distance from Pyongyang to Guam is roughly 3400 km. 


Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Thinking about "big deck carriers?" . . . James Holmes is

Interesting opinion piece from Professor Jim Homes of the Naval War College at USNI News, Opinion: History’s Costliest Fleet Auxiliary:
Carriers started off as fleet auxiliaries a century ago, scouting and screening for the battle line, before taking their place as the chief repository of U.S. Navy striking power during World War II. The CVN could trace the same trajectory followed by the battleships—from capital ship, to expensive fleet auxiliary, and into eventual obsolescence and retirement.
Why is he thinking this way?
This is a milieu populated not just by adversary cruisers and destroyers, but
Old "Silkworm" Anti-Ship Missiles
by missile-toting subs and fast patrol craft. This is also an age of land-based sea power. Extended-range fire support has come a long way since the days of Corbett and Mahan, when a fort’s guns could clear enemy vessels out of a few miles of offshore waters, and that was it. Tactical aircraft flying from airfields ashore, batteries of antiship cruise missiles, and even an exotic antiship ballistic missile are among the weaponry with which U.S. Navy defenders must now contend. This latter-day, hybrid land/sea flotilla menaces not just CVNs but all surface forces that venture within its range.
Modern Iranian Chinese C-801/2 Dispenser
Actually, it is a return to the old days, when Lord Nelson's adage "A ship's a fool to fight a fort" was the wisdom of the day.

Anti-access weapons and capability have just added to their range, as land-based powers seek to convert their "near seas" into safe, controlled space.

What does it mean if Professor Holmes is right?

I would suggest starting with building up the submarine fleet. A slew of diesel/AIP boats would be good. Or something different - submersible missile hydrofoil ships? Break out the old Tom Swift books.

I should also note that one of the original arguments for something like the Littoral Combat Ship was that it was an inexpensive asset that could be put in harm's way . . . to keep the sea lanes open among other things.

The U.S. Navy needs to be very careful to the avoid the hammer/nail approach to problem solving.

North Korea: Threaten U.S. (Again) - Guam and Hawaii and a "Sea of Fire"

Guam and Hawaii (and I would think Alaska) ought to practicing "duck and cover" according to the really, really threatening North Koreans, or as the current Kim-in-Charge calls it, the "Democratic Peoples Republic of Korea" which just proves that once you start lying it is hard to stop or something.

In any event, the NY Times covers the threat as North Korea Calls Hawaii and U.S. Mainland Targets
North Korea’s military said it put all its missile and artillery units on “the highest alert” on Tuesday, ordering them to be ready to hit South Korea, as well as the United States and its military installations in Hawaii and Guam.
I assume that the NORKS must have great confidence in (a) their ability to launch missiles without having them shot down (if they rise high enough to get shot down) and (b) their guidance systems in order to hit, say, Guam, which is, as I can testify from having lived there, a small island in a great big ocean. By small I mean 35 miles long and about 8 miles wide.

On the other hand, perhaps K-i-C is unconcerned with accuracy, since it is unlikely that he will ever learn the results of any missile launch against the U.S.

The NORKS have also announced their "readiness for combat":
"From this moment, the Supreme Command of the Korean People's Army will be putting into combat duty posture No. 1 all field artillery units, including long-range artillery units and strategic rocket units, that will target all enemy objects in U.S. invasionary bases on its mainland, Hawaii and Guam," the North's KCNA news agency said.
My "invasionary base" is safely out of NORK range.

UPDATE: John Hudson adds to his list of DPRK (heh) threats here.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Gulf of Guinea Pirate: U.S. Pondering Action

After several years of increasing pirate activity, now U.S. eyes action against West African pirates:
The U.S. and some of its allies are considering plans to increase anti-piracy operations along Africa's west coast, spurred on by concerns that money from the attacks is funding a Nigerian-based insurgent group that is linked to one of al-Qaida's most dangerous affiliates.

Piracy in the Gulf of Guinea has escalated over the past year, and senior U.S. defense and counter-piracy officials say allied leaders are weighing whether beefed up enforcement efforts that worked against pirates off the Somalia coast might also be needed in the waters off Nigeria.
Oh, goodie.

Monday, March 25, 2013

Breaking China's Monopoly? Japan says it's found sea-mud rare earth elements in abundance

So, China had the world over a barrel because it dominates surface possession of valuable rare earth elements*, especially at the heavy end (dysprosium, terbium, europium, and ytterbium), which are vital to modern electronics and defense (China now mines about 95% of the world's supply) - and was using -um- "strong-arm" tactics in withholding said elements from non-Chinese end-users (see "China blocked exports of rare earth metals to Japan, traders claim").

This monopolist behavior has spurred, as it often does, innovation and exploration of alternatives to Chinese sourcing of rare earth elements.

Now, Japan has an announcement, "Japan breaks China's stranglehold on rare metals with sea-mud bonanza":
Circle is area of  interest
Japanese scientists have found vast reserves of rare earth metals on the Pacific seabed that can be mined cheaply, a discovery that may break the Chinese monopoly on a crucial raw material needed in hi-tech industries and advanced weapons systems.
"We have found deposits that are just two to four meters from the seabed surface at higher concentrations than anybody ever thought existed, and it won't cost much at all to extract," said professor Yasuhiro Kato from Tokyo University, the leader of the team.
The latest discovery is in Japan's Exclusive Economic Zone in deep-sea mud around the island of Minami-Torishima at 5,700 meters below sea level. Although it is very deep, the deposits are in highly-concentrated nodules that can be extracted using pressurised air with minimal disturbance off the seafloor and no need for the leaching
Well, perhaps, but this article from an MIT website suggests that deep sea mining of rare earth elements may be difficult to mine from the ocean floor:
In order for deep sea mining to be implemented, suitable sites must be found. Deep sea remotely operated vehicles (ROVs) are able to obtain samples using drills and other cutting tools in order to analyze them for rare earth minerals. With the location of a suitable mining site, the ocean floor is ready to be harvested. Two technologies being considered for commercial mining of the ocean floor are continuous line bucket system (CLB) and hydraulic suction systems.
Environmental cost is currently the biggest issue with deep sea mining. There are numerous controversies about whether or not testing deep sea mining is worth the damage it could cause to biodiversity in the ocean. The first step towards making deep sea mining into a feasible option would be to ensure the protection of "sensitive ecosystems and minimize the potential environmental impact of this industry" (Terradaily). These environmental costs come primarily from the intrusive nature of mining. Deposits are located near deep sea thermal vents, which sustain very unique ecosystems. There are thousands of previously undiscovered species first seen around these vents, and many more presumably to be discovered. Many are filter feeders, and many fear that the sediment stirred up by mining activities may not allow them to obtain enough nutrients.

However, this problem is not be nearly as troublesome as it may at first appear. Sea floor deposits are much more concentrated than those on land, meaning a significantly smaller volume of earth must be moved to extract the same amount of usable minerals. Less materials consequently have to be processed, which is what causes most of the environmental problems in the first place. Also, current technologies are able to minimize the actual sediment being thrown about, mitigating enough of the initial concern to justify further usage of these techniques (Begley, 2010). The extremely rich deposits near these vents mean that mining in these areas is very economically viable, and the environmental costs are minimal enough to warrant a further application of deep sea mining.
Difficult or not, the Chinese have created a situation where the cost of not deep sea mining for rare earth elements might even be higher and more difficult.

Looks like there is enough potential to interest some big companies, as in Lockheed Martin:
UK Seabed Resources, a subsidiary of the British arm of Lockheed Martin, said Thursday that it has obtained a license to prospect for high-value minerals in a 58,000-square-kilometer area of the Pacific between Hawaii and Mexico.
See also here.

*Which are:
The rare earth elements (REEs) are comprised of the lanthanide elements plus scandium and yttrium, which have similar physical properties and are often found in the same ores and deposits. Specifically, REEs include the light REEs (LREEs) such as lanthanum, cerium, praseodymium, neodymium, samarium, europium, and the heavy REEs (HREEs) gadolinium, terbium, dysprosium, holmium, erbium, thulium, ytterbium, lutetium, scandium and yttrium.

Friday, March 22, 2013

Let me compliment Philadelphia's airport security and the TSA - - Not!

From BBC News Frenchman 'posing as pilot' found in US jet cockpit:
A Frenchman has been charged with impersonating a pilot after he was found in the cockpit of a plane due to take off in Philadelphia, police say.

Philippe Jernnard, from La Rochelle, France, was wearing a shirt with an Air France logo and a blazer with epaulets.

He was discovered in the jump seat behind the pilot on a US Airways plane on Wednesday evening, an officer said.

The FBI is investigating the incident and police said they expect federal charges may be filed.
No word on whether the investigation includes the idiots who let this guy through security checks.

If there are any. Security checks, that is. There are plenty of idiots.

Being able to secure the cockpit doesn't mean much if you let strangers in there to begin with.

Oh, and ABC News reports him as "American-hating".


Of course, the TSA was probably busy hassling a wounded veteran.

Midrats Episode 168: "USCG and the Arctic" - Sunday 24 Mar 13 5pm

Join us Sunday 24 Mar 2013 at 5pm Eastern U.S. for Episode 168: "USCG and the Arctic" on Blog Talk Radio:
There is a fair bit of talk about the rush for the arctic for economic and strategic reasons - and where there is international interest on the seas, the nations involved need to think about what is the best way to secure their interests.

While the initial thought might be Navy - is the natural answer really the Coast Guard? If the USCG is the right answer, is it trained, manned and equipped for the job?
What does it need to do in order to fulfill its role - and why may it be the best answer to the question - who will show the flag up north?

Our guest this Sunday for the full hour from 5-6pm EST will be U.S. Naval War College Associate Professor James R. Holmes. As a starting point for our conversation, we will use his latest article in Foreign Policy: America Needs a Coast Guard That Can Fight: As the Arctic becomes an arena for conflict, the United States’ forgotten naval force will need to cowboy up.
Join us live or later by going to Midrats on BTR or picking up the show later from our iTunes page (lately there has been some delay in getting the show to iTunes, though, and the link may require iTunes).

From Foreign Policy: "A running list of North Korea's near-daily threats"

John Hudson at Foreign Policy has a little fun by compiling "A running list of North Korea'snear-daily threats", as in
16. Seriously, we'll destroy your military bases in Japan and Guam if you fly one more B-52 bomber around here.
A "sea of fire" reference is included.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Mining Methane Hydrate and What It Means

First, the "Methane Hydrate" scary story:
(University of Göttingen, GZG. Abt. Kristallographie).
Source: United States Geological Survey.
As greenhouse gas, methane is more powerful than carbon dioxide, but there is a much more important difference between these two gases. Carbon dioxide emissions are something that we create and that we can control, at least in principle. If we stop burning fossil fuels, then we stop generating CO2. But, with methane, it is another matter. We have no direct control on the huge amounts of methane buried in ice in the permafrost and at the bottom of oceans in the form of "hydrates" or "clathrates."

Methane hydrates are a true climate bomb that could go off by itself as the result of a relatively small trigger in the form of a global warming. Sufficient warming would cause the decomposition of some hydrates to release methane to the atmosphere. This methane would create more warming and that would generate more decomposition of the hydrates. The process would go on by itself at increasing rates until the reservoirs run out of methane. That means pumping in the atmosphere truly a lot of methane. There are different estimates of the amount stored in hydrates, but it is surely large - most likely larger than the total amount of carbon present today in the atmosphere as CO2. The effects of the rapid release of so much methane would be devastating: an abrupt climate change that could bring a true planetary catastrophe. It is a scenario aptly called the "clathrate gun" and the target is us.

Second, a quick look at issues in trying to exploit methane hydrate as a fuel source in The Risky Business of Mining Methane Hydrate:
The potential rewards of releasing methane from gas hydrate fields must be balanced with the risks. **** Let's start first with challenges facing mining companies and their workers. Most methane hydrate deposits are located in seafloor sediments. That means drilling rigs must be able to reach down through more than 1,600 feet (500 meters) of water and then, because hydrates are generally located far underground, another several thousand feet before they can begin extraction. Hydrates also tend to form along the lower margins of continental slopes, where the seabed falls away from the relatively shallow shelf toward the abyss. The roughly sloping seafloor makes it difficult to run pipeline.

Even if you can situate a rig safely, methane hydrate is unstable once it's removed from the high pressures and low temperatures of the deep sea. Methane begins to escape even as it's being transported to the surface. Unless there's a way to prevent this leakage of natural gas, extraction won't be efficient. It will be a bit like hauling up well water using a pail riddled with holes.

Believe it or not, this leakage may be the least of the worries. Many geologists suspect that gas hydrates play an important role in stabilizing the seafloor. Drilling in these oceanic deposits could destabilize the seabed, causing vast swaths of sediment to slide for miles down the continental slope.

On the other hand, developing methane hydrate mining might ease some of those worries of a catastrophic release if done safely and it does offer a fuel source. As set out in Mining "Ice That Burns":
Trapped in molecular cages resembling ice, at the bottom of the ocean and in terrestrial permafrost all over the world, is a supply of natural gas that, by conservative estimates, is equivalent to twice the amount of energy contained in all other fossil fuels remaining in the earth’s crust. The question has been whether or not this enormous reserve of energy, known as methane hydrates, existed in nature in a form that was worth pursuing, and whether or not the technology existed to harvest it.
While no one believes that all of the world’s methane hydrates will be recoverable, the scale of global reserves has been described by the U.S. Department of Energy as “staggering.” They occur anywhere that water, methane, low temperatures, and high pressure co-occur–in other words, in the 23 percent of the world’s land area covered by permafrost and at the bottom of the ocean, particularly the continental shelf.
The United States is not the only country with plans to attempt long-term production tests of methane hydrates. Japan is spending by far the most money on methane hydrate research; it provided most of the funding for the Mallik tests, which were sponsored by the Japan Oil, Gas and Metals National Corporation and by Natural Resources Canada, with field operations by Aurora College/Aurora Research Institute and support from Inuvialuit Oilfield Services.

According to the Center for Hydrate Research’s Koh, Japan is investing heavily in attempts to harvest deep-sea hydrate reserves discovered off the southern coast of Japan in the Nankai Trough.

“The Japanese are planning commercial production from the Nankai Trough by 2017,” says Koh. If they succeed, Japan will tap the first domestic fossil-fuel reserves the country has ever known.
A Popular Mechanics "demystification" of "Fire Ice" here, which looks at the "scary story" above:
But what if the earth released the gas as a result of heating up? Not only energy companies but also scientists studying climate change have a major interest in methane hydrates. Methane is a greenhouse gas, a far more powerful one than carbon dioxide, and some scientists fear the warming of the earth could destabilize hydrates to the point that they release methane into the atmosphere, further worsening global warming. Ideas such as the clathrate gun hypothesis suggest that methane hydrate dissociation is linked to prehistoric global warming.

However, according to a Nature Education paper published by the USGS, only about 5 percent of the world's methane hydrate deposits would spontaneously release the gas, even if global temperatures continue rising over the next millennium. In addition, bacteria in the nearby soil can consume and oxidize the methane so that only a minute fraction (as low as 10 percent of the dissociated methane) ever reaches the atmosphere.

So, now, you have the background to understand this report, Methane hydrate flow established off Japan:
Japan Oil, Gas and Metals National Corp. (Jogmec), Tokyo, said it has produced methane from methane hydrates during tests of a well drilled in about 1,000 m of water offshore the Atsumi and Shima peninsulas of Japan.

The well, operated by Japan Petroleum Exploration Co., produced methane by depressurization of hydrates in a layer 270-330 m below the seabed.

Jogmec said it was the first offshore test of methane hydrate flow ever conducted.
Jogmec's summary of its activities here.

Baby steps to diminishing the importance of Mid-East energy and easing some issues over sea lanes.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

North Korea: Malum in se

AFP reports "Japan seizes nuclear-related materials from N. Korea cargo":
Japan has seized aluminium alloy rods which can be used to make nuclear centrifuges from a Singapore-flagged ship which was carrying cargo from North Korea, a government spokesman said Monday.
The rods had been stored at a private warehouse and the Japanese government ordered the firm Monday to hand them over.

It was the first such handover under a special law passed in 2010 to enable Tokyo to inspect North Korea-related ships suspected of carrying materials that could be used in nuclear and missile programmes.

According to media reports, the ship was on its way to Myanmar when it arrived in Tokyo via the Chinese port of Dalian.
United Nations sanctions resolutions require member states to inspect cargo suspected to be linked to the North's nuclear development.

Myanmar was suspected of pursuing military and nuclear cooperation with North Korea during long years of junta rule which ended in 2011 in the Southeast Asian state.
Nice chaps, those North Koreans, except for all the evil their rotten government spreads or attempts to abet. . .

Years ago we had some sort of program in which we were attempting to bribe the NORKS into giving up their nuclear program by offering them food and nice words. Deep in my archives I have some posts I'll link to when I have more time. Right now, here's a "golden oldie" from 2008 North Korea talking "Preemptive strikes" and updates "Sea of Fire":
“Our military will not sit idle until warmongers launch a pre-emptive strike,” an unidentified military commentator said in a statement carried by the North’s official Korean Central News Agency. “Everything will be in ashes, not just a sea of fire, once our advanced pre-emptive strike begins.”
Yep, an "advanced pre-emptive strike."

It's not like they have been bashful about warning us, which brings me back to a more recent post Reality Bites: "Obama's Missile-Defense Reversal" in which is considered the sudden administration decision to bolster our Pacific missile defense systems . . .

On the other hand, someone in high places in having fun sending a warning of our own to Kim Jong Unpleaant, as set out in U.S. Flies B-52 Bombers Over South Korea:
The United States said it was flying training missions of nuclear-capable B-52 bombers over South Korea, in a clear signal to North Korea at a time of escalating military tensions.

The flights — part of annual joint South Korea-U.S. military exercises — should be seen as underscoring U.S. commitment and capacity to defend Seoul against an attack from the North, Pentagon spokesman George Little said.

In response to U.N. sanctions imposed after its third nuclear test last month, North Korea has warned of a “second Korean war” and threatened preemptive nuclear strikes on the South and the United States.
“The B-52 Stratofortress can perform a variety of missions including carrying precision-guided conventional or nuclear ordnance,” he said Monday.

“We’re drawing attention to the fact that we have extended deterrence capabilities that we believe are important to demonstrate in the wake of recent North Korean rhetoric,” he said.
Get the hint, there, Un? Let me be less subtle:

Of course, deterrence of this sort only works if the other side believes that they can't survive whatever is delivered to their doorstep or deep, deep bunkers. Still, worth a shot, so to speak.

Oh, "malum in se?" A little lawyer speak for a thing that is "evil in itself.".

Arctic Maritime Security: "America Needs a Coast Guard That Can Fight "

U.S. Coast Guard photo.
An interesting argument set out in "America Needs a Coast Guard That Can Fight"by James Holmes at Foreign Policy
Forget for a moment about the U.S. Navy and its "pivot to Asia." Over the next few decades, the woefully underfunded and thoroughly unsexy U.S. Coast Guard will likely hover near the center of the action.

The reason, in three short words: the Arctic Ocean.
Vigor Industries image
What sort of ships might the Coast Guard want? Nice discussion of an $8 billion program at Stew Magnuson's New Coast Guard Cutter Sparks Fierce Competition Among Shipbuilders :
Coast Guard Commandant Adm. Robert Papp Jr. said at the Naval Surface Association conference in January that the Offshore Patrol Cutter will be the service’s “workhorse” for the next 40 years. He has stated many times in public that the ship is the Coast Guard’s most important project.

“We’ve put an awful lot of effort into it,” he said of the program.

“There seems to be significant interest out there to build 25 ships, and we’re very pleased about that. I think people are thinking out of the box. They’re looking at new designs. We need to think out of the box as well as we go forward, because as I said, this ship is going to be very, very important to us.”
USCGC BERTHOLF underway off Kodiak Island Alaska
Coast Guard photo
Well, remember that last year the CG took a hit in shipbuilding funds, as set out in Chris Cavas's 2 cutters removed from FY13 Coast Guard budget:
Janet Napolitano, secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, the Coast Guard’s parent agency, attempted to explain the elimination of the two cutters when she testified before Congress on Feb. 15 on the budget.

“What we are going to do, and this is all guided by really looking at the nation’s resources and the Budget Control Act and how it works, and there’s language in the budget request to this effect, we will look at seven and eight in light of what the Navy is doing,” Napolitano said.

“So we need to look at what the Department of Defense is doing with respect to their own force ... to see what we need to be putting in the acquisition pipeline.”

Napolitano did not elaborate on how the Navy’s shipbuilding plans affect the Coast Guard requirement for eight NSCs, but she noted the struggle to get funding for the ships.
Which is, I suppose, is Washington speak for "screw the Coasties" but you may have your own interpretation. No matter the interpretation, I hope Admiral Papp is not holding his breath while waiting for money to flow for 25 ships.
Vigor Industries image

It is interesting that one design possibility, put out by Vigor Industries (to whom credit for the illustration above goes) involves an "Ulstein X bow hull" - a patented design now being widely adopted for offshore oil vessels.

Good luck in these political times.

However, I truly urge all citizens to support the vital needs of the Coast Guard, which is too small, too underfunded, has too much territory to cover at its current level of funding, manning and ship count.

Monday, March 18, 2013

The Legacy of Lex: A Common Sense Call on the F-35

A little over a year ago, we lost Lex in a tragic accident.

F-35B (Lockheed Martin photo)
Lex did not leave us without the benefit of his experience and wisdom, though, and in the time of great debates over Defense cuts and other efforts to restrain the sending of tax dollars flying into "dry holes", he wrote on the F-35 aircraft situation in "Whisper: Missing the Boat", in which he noted the great tactical and strategic value of the F-35B (Short Take Off and Landing) version of the F-35 "Lightning" series, while suggesting the other versions might be better consigned to the "not ready for prime time" dust bin of history.

Over the past few weeks, we have discussed on Midrats at various times the concept of an F-35B equipped "small carrier" force (listen to Captain Wayne Hughes here, our discussion with Lieutenant Colonel James W. Hammond IIIhere). Lex, of course, beat us by a couple of years.

His argument - that the Navy needs twin engine fighters for the "big deck" carriers was then, and is now, correct. But we also need versatility. And Lex's suggestion is a pathway to having that flexibility that allow us to respond to all sorts of events appropriately. We want to avoid that "all problems are nails" problem, don't we?

LHA (Ingalls Shipyard image)
The Marines (and Army, if it comes to that) need more - local air support with rapid sortie rates. Small carriers (of which we have several) offer optinons. In Lex's words:
The new America class of amphibious assault ships represent a fork in the road for Naval Aviation. The USMC needs to embrace the concept and run with it. . . . While big-deck CVNs will continue to be the centerpiece of American overseas crisis response for the foreseeable future, the dynamics of the Arab Spring have shown us that we do not have enough assets to cover all of our interests simultaneously. The F-35B+LHA combination could be one of the most cost effective and efficient solutions for engagement in the changing landscape of crisis response.

Air Tractor AT-802U
My own modest thinking is that we also need to explore even more unconventional support for forces ashore and at sea - including looking at "navalizing" aircraft like the AT-802U for long linger time low and slow support. I bet we have engineers enough to add a tail hook to that "Air Tractor" (which needs a sexier name, like "Killer Bee" or something) so they can land on an LHA deck.

UPDATE: Experiment back in the late 1960's with an OV-10 Bronco:

And on LHA-4:

UPDATE2: So, it's doable. Probably just not popular with the jet crowd. If I were a Marine on the ground, though ...

And you might need some bigger/better brakes on the birds.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Reality Bites: "Obama's Missile-Defense Reversal"

Mistakes were made - now begins the mad dash to fix the mess created by an arrogant academic fantasy, as noted in by the Wall Street Journal in Obama's Missile-Defense Reversal:
Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel chose Friday afternoon to announce one of the biggest switcheroos of the Obama Presidency: The Pentagon now plans to fortify America's homeland defenses against missile attack, reversing a 2009 decision that was part of President Obama's fantasy of a world without nuclear weapons.
Build more missile defense ships, please

Mr. Hagel said the U.S. will add 14 ground-based long-range missile interceptors by 2017 to the 30 already deployed at sites in Alaska and California. "The United States has missile-defense systems in place to protect us from limited ICBM attacks," said the new Defense chief, "but North Korea in particular has recently made advances in its capabilities and is engaged in a series of irresponsible and reckless provocations."

That's for sure. The Pentagon believes North Korean missiles can already reach Alaska and Hawaii, and it's only a matter of time before they are nuclear-tipped and can hit Seattle or San Diego. The Pyongyang regime has recently promised to attack the U.S. and turn South Korea into a "sea of fire." It's nice to see the Obama Administration finally admitting reality.
Axis of evil, anyone?

Read it all.

The NORK threat of a "sea of fire" appears therein.

A prior thought on how to deal with the rogue state of North Korea here.

UPDATE: More here:
Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel announced plans on Friday to bolster U.S. missile defenses in response to "irresponsible and reckless provocations" by North Korea, which threatened a preemptive nuclear strike against the United States last week.

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Midrats this Sunday, May 17 2013 - Episode 167: Intellectual Integrity, PME, and NWC

Join us this Sunday at 5pm (Eastern U.S.) for a different sort of discussion about the process of academic freedom and the intellectual preparation of of officer corps during our
Episode 167: Intellectual Integrity, PME, and NWC
How do we advance the intellectual development of leaders through Professional Military Education, the Naval War College, and else where?

What is the purpose and how are we trying to achieve the goals to best serve our nation? Are we doing it right? What are the trends, and what could we do better?

Our guest for the full hour to discuss this and more will be Dr. Joan Johnson-Freese, Professor of National Security Affairs at the Naval War College in Newport, Rhode Island. Her publications include: Heavenly Ambitions: America’s Quest to Dominate Space; Space As A Strategic Asset, and over 80 journal articles. She is a member of the Space Studies Board of the National Academy of Sciences, a Fellow of the International Academy of Astronautics, and a member of the Editorial Board of China Security. She has testified before Congress on multiple occasions, and is regularly interviewed by the media, including CNN, CBS, ABC, The New York Times, Reuters and the BBC, on space issues. She also teaches courses on Globalization and US National Security, and Space and Security, at Harvard Summer and Extension Schools.
Join us live here (or listen later or download it later from that same location) or from our iTunes page (perhaps, someday iTunes will catch up with our episodes).

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Fish Stories Part 3: "Chinese Aquaculture"

One of the world leaders in aquaculture, China's system is reviewed in this piece, "An Overview of China's Aquaculture (pdf), prepared by a Dutch agency:
Currently China’s output from aquaculture is the largest in the world and accounts for about 67% of the world’s total production. Moreover, China is the only country in which aquaculture output exceeds wild capture output and where more than 90% of the domestic consumption of seafood is from aquaculture.
In the period of the 11th 5 year plan, legislation on fishery rights got an important breakthrough. For the first time, it was clearly defined that the farmers’ right of culturing and fishing in waters and tidal area are protected by the law. Some relevant standards for fisheries such as standard of pollution free aquatic product, standard of waste water discharge in freshwater aquaculture have also been set up. Meanwhile, the supervision and testing system of residues of antibiotics and chemicals in aquatic products is improving.
Nowadays, the main marine aquaculture species in China are shrimp, scallop, large yellow croaker, turbot, oyster, mussel, abalone, sea cucumber, sea urchin and clam. The major culture species have changed a lot in recent years. For example, farrer’ scallop and Penaeus Chinensis were two major culture species in China twenty years ago. However, with the occurrence of serious diseases and variety degeneration which caused high death rate, the two species vanished gradually.
The main types of marine aquaculture include as follows: 1. land based culture. This type has been used as the major culture method of shrimp. Some marine crab like swimming crab and Samoan crab also are cultured in the ponds. 2. Offshore culture: Floating raft culture and cage culture are two main types. Floating raft culture normally is used to culture shellfish like scallop, oyster etc. Cage culture is relatively a new technology in China and is used to culture some high value fishes like sea bream, sea bass and big yellow croaker etc. Tidal flat culture: this culture method is used to culture the animals with weak moving ability like scallop, mussel, abalone, sea cucumber and clam etc.
Unlike marine culture, freshwater culture is scattered all over the country. The main species are common carp, bighead carp, silver carp, grass carp, Tilapia, Chinese mitten crab, eel, river crab and shrimp. Most farms of fresh water culture are small scale and distributed in a wide geographical range, which makes freshwater products mainly focusing on local market. Also, in recent years, with the decrease of caught fish outputs and the increase of the price, the outputs of some freshwater fishes such as catfish and tilapia are growing rapidly to meet international market
China’s aquaculture expansion has mainly relied on increasing the production capacity and farming area (Jorge et al, 2009). Together with the more demand of products, the more space is needed for aquaculture, that caused some conflicts of the fast expansion of the industry. China is a country that short of freshwater resource per capita. In many areas, domestic water is shortage. At the same time, aquaculture in lakes, rivers and reservoirs made the water eutropic and have influenced the supply of domestic water. If wastewater of aquaculture contains too much nutrients, the structure of natural species may be influenced and local ecosystem will be destroyed. The problem has caused more attention of the government. More strict regulations had
been made by the government related with the quality standards of the wastewater. On the other hand, with the fast grow of the Chinese economy; other industries have also developed very fast. Many heavy pollution industries e.g. papermaking, chemical industry would like to build the plants and need a big amount of water. The existence and expansion of these plants have limited the development of aquaculture.

For the seawater culture, the intensive culture has caused the water eutropic in some area. In recently year, the red tide erupted more frequently alongshore. It becomes a vicious circle. The wastewater from aquaculture and other industries made the pollution of the water and cause the red tide. On the other hand, the frequent occurrences of red tide have caused a great economic loss on breeding seafood, fishing, human health, and damaged coastal tourism. How to balance the development of aquaculture and to protect environment is a challenge that need to be solved
A Chinese aquaculture "cage" supplier here.

And an interesting report on the effect of one of China's decisions on aquaculture spreading around the world - this time in the insurance industry here.

Monday, March 11, 2013

So, if North Korea declares the armistice dead, when can we start the bombing?

As you may know, the Korean War was never "over" - instead, what has been going on since my dad was flying B-26s over the "Land of the Morning Calm" has been an "armistice."

Which is, as Merriam Webster tells us, a "temporary suspension of hostilities by agreement between the opponents." Yes, 60 years is a long "temporary suspension" but it is what it is.

So now,with this headline, "Pyongyang scraps armistice amid heightened saber rattling", CNN gets it exactly wrong - the NORKS have a perfect right to call off their side of the agreement, and I assume, that means it's time for someone on the other side (our side) to say, "Now let the war begin again."

I personally think that it is time to make the NK "Axis of Evil" leadership feel some pain for this silly announcement.

If I were the Prez, I would give NK about 24 hours to rethink their position and, in the event that they decide to stick with their position, I would unleash the dogs of war or at least the cruise missiles of war directed at railroads, bridges and power plants . . .

Of course, that's not how things are done . . . in the civilized. world.

Which is not the world Kim Jong Un lives in, so he and his gang are trying to "bully" their way into a "better" truce and win concessions. It is not beyond imagining that there will be blood spilled until someone in the alliance against the NORK thuggery decides enough is enough.

Signing the armistice (Navy Art Collection)
UPDATE: The text of the Armistice in question can be found here, of which the key part seems to be is:
62. The Articles and Paragraphs of this Armistice Agreement shall remain in effect until expressly superseded either by mutually acceptable amendments and additions or by provision in an appropriate agreement for a peaceful settlement at a political level between both sides.
Or by restarting the war, I assume, because what else is a unilateral renunciation?

Might as well roll the tanks.

Update2: An old look at wrecking someone's infrastructure by torpedoes delivered by air:

You can read about the Hwachon Dam attack here (pdf):
First use of torpedoes since 1945
Strike force consisted of 3 AD1 Skyraiders from VC-35 (carrying torpedoes), 4 AD-1s from VA-195 (carrying torpedoes) and 12 F4U Corsair fighters from VF-192 for anti-aircraft fire suppression. All from USS Princeton.
Dams is hard.

Saturday, March 09, 2013

On Midrats 10 Mar 13, Episode 166: "Expeditionary Fleet Balance"

This Sunday March 10 at 5pm (don't forget the time change "spring ahead") Episode 166: 'Expeditionary Fleet Balance" on Midrats at Blog Talk Radio:
Do we have the right balance between strike as embodied by carrier air and expeditionary forces based around amphibious ships?

What capability is most cost effective and gives the combatant commanders the most flexible assets in their area of responsibility?

What is driving our Fleet structure, and do we have the right mix? What is informing our decisions, and what should be informing it?

Our guest for the full hour will be Lieutenant Colonel James W. Hammond III, USMC (Ret), senior manager at WBB.

Prior to retirement in 2005, he was Director, Commandant’s Staff Group.

As a starting point for our discussion, we will review his points in the FEB13 Proceedings article, "A Fleet Out of Balance." Previous published articles and letters in the Naval Institute Proceedings and the Marine Corps Gazette have dealt with Naval Surface Fire Support, Counterbattery support from the Sea, Electronic Attack, Revolution in Military Affairs, and Provisional Rifle Companies.
Listen live (or download later) here or on our iTunes page.

Friday, March 08, 2013

Tired of the Sea? Here's a retirement option . . .

There is a very old tale told of a sailor so tired of the sea that he took to foot with an oar over his shoulder:
The story, as I remember it, goes roughly like this, that there was an old sailor in the United States Navy--presumably, since the story took place on the East Coast of the US. He put in his thirty years, and took his retirement option, and set out walking down the gangplank with a gunnysack over one shoulder and carrying an oar over the other shoulder, and headed due west inland, and walked somewhere through New Jersey or so, and happened to pass someone standing along the road who waved to him and said,, "Where're you going with that oar over your shoulder?" And he just nodded, and barely looked at the person who greeted him in this fashion, and marched on heading westward, and traveled further and further inland.

At some point in the middle, of, say, Ohio or Indiana he passed someone else alongside the road who waved at him, greeted him, and yelled as he passed by, "Hey, where're you going with that rower over your shoulder?" And he just sort of barely met eyes with the person who greeted him in this fashion, and kept on walking.

And sometime further along the way, perhaps around Nebraska somewhere, he passed someone along the side of the road who said to him something to the effect of, "Hey, mister, what on earth are you carrying that piece of lumber over your shoulder for?" And a grin slowly broke across his face, and he stamped his foot and said, "This is where I'm settling down." And that's the end of the story.
Well, having lived in Nebraska when I was much younger, I believe that sailor could have dropped his oar in western Nebraska or eastern Wyoming and had no further worries about the sea.

Which brings me to this tale of art and opportunity, Own a Nebraska icon: Carhenge is for sale
Carhenge, one of Nebraska's most popular, strangest tourist attractions, is for sale.

The Friends of Carhenge, a nonprofit group that has owned the Stonehenge-esque attraction since 1994, has listed the monument and its 10 acres just outside of Alliance with James Land Co. in Saratoga, Wyo. Asking price: $300,000.

Carhenge is a replica of Stonehenge, a prehistoric monument on Salisbury Plain in Wiltshire, England. More than 800,000 people visit the circle of stones in Great Britain each year, with many thousands dropping in during the summer solstice.

About 80,000 people a year go to the not-so ancient Carhenge about two miles north of Alliance along U.S. 385 in the Panhandle.
Official Carhenge webite here.

I think an old salt just might enjoy the place. After all, the cars are painted haze gray.