BIg Eyes

BIg Eyes

Sunday, April 11, 2021

On Midrats 11 April 2021 - Episode 588: The Supply Chains that Bind Us, with Ross Kennedy

Please join us at 5pm EDT for Midrats Episode 588: The Supply Chains that Bind Us, with Ross Kennedy

Our comfortable, modern life exists on a delicate fabric of global transportation, laws, and lines of communication supported by assumptions of stability, peace, and professional competance.

Over the last twelve months, from COVID-19 to EVER GIVEN in the Suez, the delicate nature off the global system of trade that allows affordable technogy, food, and the full spectrum of consumer goods has broken in to the open for everyone to see.

Is the global system of trade as delicate as it seems? Where are its weakest points, and how rubust is it to various disruptions?

Our guest for the full hour to discuss this and related topis will be Ross Kennedy.

Ross is a U.S.-based logistics and supply chain expert with more than fifteen years in international transportation, procurement, and analysis. His unique blend of operations, sales, and strategic planning allows him to provide creative, agile solutions for his public- and private-sector clientele.

If you use Apple Podcasts, and miss the show live, you can pick up this episode and others and add Midrats to your podcast list simply by going to here. Or on Spreaker. Or on Spotify.

Screenshot from Marine Traffic

Thursday, April 08, 2021

Ship and Aircraft Laser Systems - Now, Now, Now, Please!

Interesting stuff from Lockheed Martin Harnessing the Power of Lasers

Our technology today is ready to defend against small rockets, artillery shells and mortars, small unmanned aerial vehicles, small attack boats and lightweight ground vehicles that are approximately a mile way. As fiber laser power levels increase, our systems will be able to disable larger threats and do so across greater distances. When operated in conjunction with kinetic energy systems, these systems can serve as a force multiplier.

Coming soon to an Arleigh Burke destroyer, Lockheed Martin’s HELIOS Laser Weapon System Takes Step Toward Ship Integration

Later this year, the Navy plans to install a production high-energy solid-state laser system on board a West Coast Arleigh Burke–class guided-missile destroyer (DDG). The system, now called the High-Energy Laser with Integrated Optical Dazzler and Surveillance (HELIOS) unit, was developed as increment 1 of the Surface Navy Laser Weapon System program.

Vice Admiral Ron Boxall says the funding is already in place for HELIOS installation on board a Flight IIA ship.

Lockheed Martin’s Integrated Warfare Sensor Systems developed the HELIOS under a $150 million contract awarded in January 2018 for one system for ship installation and a second for land-based testing. The award includes options for 14 more.

Joe Ottaviano, the company’s business development director, says the system went through critical design review and factory qualification testing last year. It was delivered to a Navy test site in December. He says it already has been integrated with the Aegis combat system in various configurations for the different destroyer flights.

For years, the Navy has researched lasers and other directed-energy weapons (such as microwave and particle-beam systems) to advance ship defense against surface craft, aircraft, antiship missiles, and unmanned vehicles. A laser, drawing power from the ship service power system, has an “endless magazine” that Ottaviano says “never runs out of bullets.”

The Navy wants a 60-kilowatt (kW) shipboard solid-state laser that could be increased up to 150 kW. Subsequent increments will ramp up power even further. The Navy’s Fiscal Year 2021 budget request says the system “provides a low cost-per-shot capability” for antisurface warfare; to destroy unmanned aerial systems and fast inshore attack craft; and for intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance, thanks to its integrated optics.

The development is part of the Navy’s Laser Family of Systems program, which includes two other initiatives: the solid-state laser technology maturation (SSL-TM) program, an Office of Naval Research (ONR) effort, and an optical dazzling interdictor known as ODIN.

More on the SSL-TM program here:

And on submarines:

The Navy Is Arming Attack Submarines With High Energy Lasers

The development is part of the Navy’s Laser Family of Systems program, which includes two other initiatives: the solid-state laser technology maturation (SSL-TM) program, an Office of Naval Research (ONR) effort, and an optical dazzling interdictor known as ODIN.

The U.S. Navy's Virginia Class attack submarines are formidable weapons platforms. They carry advanced-capability (ADCAP) torpedoes and Tomahawk land-attack cruise missiles. But apparently this is not enough. They are to be the first subs in the world armed with a powerful laser as well.

Documents suggest that the High Energy Laser (HEL) could be incredibly powerful, around 300 kilowatts. And eventually be up to 500 kilowatts. The power will come from the submarine’s nuclear reactor which has a capacity of 30 megawatts. And there are indications that it may already have been tested using a towed power generator instead.

***It is unclear why the Navy wants to fit a laser to submarines. One of the possible uses will be as a last ditch defense against aircraft such as drones and anti-submarine helicopters.***

Much more Report on Navy Laser, Railgun and Gun-Launched Guided Projectiles

Friday, April 02, 2021

Tuesday, March 30, 2021

Once Again, Chokepoints, SLOCs, the Importance of Navies

First off, what is a "chokepoint?" There is very nice definition by John Daly here:

Ever since men first put to sea, conflicts have swirled around narrow maritime passages known as choke points. A subset of the broader category of Sea Lines of Communication (SLOCs), maritime choke points act as funnels drawing in shipping from surrounding seas. As critical pressure points in naval struggles for "command of the sea," every navy seeks to secure them while denying their use to the enemy.

Oh, those "Sea Lines of Communication?" Back in 2011, I tried to clarify:

Back in the beginning days of this blog, I had a couple of posts about "sea lanes" and their importance. For example, from 2005, there was a post cleverly titled "Sea Lanes". I wrote then:

I keep posting about sea lanes. What are these things? Sea lanes are trade routes - almost like highways in the sea, where due to geography, ocean going vessels follow certain paths to avoid islands, shallows and other impediments to their travel. They are also generally the most efficient routes to get from Point A to Point B - as close to straight line travel as a ship can accomplish given the number of obstacles in its path.
Since then, there have been hundreds of posts here in which I refer to either "sea lanes" or "sea lines of communication" (see, e.g. Sea Lines of Communication (SLOCs)). There can be a difference between the two terms, since SLOC can have a military meaning that I have generally ignored here.

However, what is important to know about sea lanes or SLOCs is that they exist and that they are a major reason that nations interested in international commerce have navies - to keep the sea lanes open. In discussing maritime security, keeping sea lanes open is a major topic.

We hear a lot about how many things travel by sea. From crude oil to grain to large screen TVs to cars and much more, cheaper shipping has allowed the entire world to benefit from global product distribution (see here and here). Where do these products travel? Sea lanes. An excellent example of these sea lanes is shown on this Naval War College slide (which I have borrowed without shame):

There it is, a picture of world commerce. Those are not war ships wending their way across oceans, those are merchant ships moving the goods that make the world go. You might note that there are places where the traffic converges to pass through narrow areas. These are referred to as "chokepoints", "Chokepoints are narrow channels along widely used global sea routes . . ."

Large ships sail on rigid schedules, carrying parts from Japan to the U.S. or to Europe in such a reliable manner that warehouse costs are reduced by planning for "just in time" deliveries of products.

So, when there is a disruption in the smooth flow of goods, say from the recent earthquake in Japan, there are ripple effects that impact more than the Japanese part manufacturers.

A similar effect is caused by things that interfere with sea lanes. These might be something like a catastrophe that strikes a chokepoint like a closure of the Suez Canal.

Over 16 years ago,  I first discussed the importance of "chokepoints" on this blog.  During that period, we have seen the effects of pirates and nations interdicting ships headed to and from key chokepoints leading to and from the Indian Ocean, in the Straits of Malacca and Hormuz. 

After the recent ship grounding in the Suez Canal which is, after all,  both a very long "chokepoint" and a SLOC, some people seem to have finally taken note that there is a world-wide system of movement of trade goods and vital energy cargo that takes place on the oceans and seas of the world. 

If they had been paying attention, they could have referred to the U.S. Energy Information Agency and its World Oil Transit Chokepoints Analysis Brief from whence comes the below illustration:


All estimates in million barrels per day. Includes crude oil and petroleum liquids. Based on 2016 data.
Source: U.S. Energy Information Administration

In 1996, the U.S. National Defense University published Chokepoints: Maritime Economic Concerns in Southeast Asia which I have added below. While the data contained therein is no longer valid, and probably hugely understated given the growth of the economies of the countries of Asia, the concerns expressed are not outdated, and, like the data, probably understated.

Strategic Chokepoints of So... by lawofsea

How do we keep these vital SLOCs and chokepoints open? We have navies and coast guards that patrol the seas to thwart pirates and sea robbers. We worry about the effects of local rebel or national forces who occupy territory adjacent to chokepoints who might do damage to ships as they transit them, as we see with the Houti rebels in Yemen or the forces of countries like Iran. Remember the attempted attack on a U.S. Navy destroyer in 2016?

U.S. Navy photo by Photographer's Mate 2nd Class Peter J. Carney 

A U.S. Navy guided missile destroyer was targeted on Sunday in a failed missile attack from territory in Yemen controlled by Iran-aligned Houthi rebels, a U.S. military spokesman told Reuters, saying neither of the two missiles hit the ship.


The attempted strike on the USS Mason, which was first reported by Reuters, came just a week after a United Arab Emirates vessel came under attack from Houthis and suggests growing risks to the U.S. military from Yemen’s conflict.


Last week’s attack on the UAE vessel also took place around the Bab al-Mandab strait, in what the UAE branded an “act of terrorism.”

In 2013, more than 3.4 million barrels of oil passed through the 20 km (12 mile)-wide Bab al-Mandab each day, the U.S. Energy Information Administration says.

It was unclear what actions the U.S. military might take, but Davis stressed a commitment to defend freedom of navigation and protect U.S. forces.

"Defend fredom of navigation." Exactly. And which is why we need a large and strong Navy.

Monday, March 29, 2021

U.S. Navy Office of Naval Intelligence Worldwide Threat to Shipping (WTS) for 24 February to 24 March 2021

U.S. Navy Office of Naval I... by lawofsea

Not mentioned, probably because it occurred after ONI closed its report, is a reported missile attack in the Arabian Sea, reported here:

A cargo ship owned by an Israeli company was damaged by a missile in the Arabian Sea on Thursday in what was suspected to be an Iranian attack, an Israeli security official said.

The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said the ship was on its way from Tanzania to India and was able to continue its voyage after the attack.

The official did not provide further details.

According to Israel’s Ynet news website, the ship sailing under a Liberian flag did not sustain serious damage and Channel 12 news reported the ship is owned by XT Management, based in the port city of Haifa.

Dryad Global has more info and pictures here.

Saturday, March 27, 2021

On Midrats 28 March 2021 - Episode 586: Focus DOD, Focus – with Thomas Spoehr

Please join us at 5pm on 28 March 2021 EDT for Midrats Episode 586: Focus DOD, Focus – with Thomas Spoehr:

Can a military organization suffer from attention deficit disorder? There are very few moments in time – the mid-1990s was a rare one – where a nation’s national security apparatus has the luxury and white space to get distracted and complacent. 2021 is not one of those times.

With a new leadership team in place in DOD, are we sure they are focused on the important challenges of China, North Korea, Iran, and Russia?

What are the top distractions that those concerned with the proper stewardship of our nation’s defense need to make sure don’t entice away time, money, and effort?

With his recent article, Don’t Let the Department of Defense Become the Department of Distraction, as a starting point for our conversation, our guest this Sunday from 5-6pm Eastern will be Thomas Spoehr, Lieutenant General, USA (Ret.).

Thomas is the director of The Heritage Foundation's Center for National Defense where he is responsible for supervising research on matters involving U.S. national defense. He is an expert on national defense policy and strategy, and has testified before the U.S. Congress on defense strategy, budgets and equipment modernization. His articles and commentary have been published widely in both civilian and military media and he is often called upon to provide expert commentary and analysis.

He earned a bachelor’s degree in Biology from the College of William and Mary, Williamsburg, VA, a Masters of Arts in Public Administration from Webster University in St. Louis, MO, and a Master of Arts in Strategic Studies from the U.S. Army War College, Carlisle, PA.

If you use Apple Podcasts, and miss the show live, you can pick up this episode and others and add Midrats to your podcast list simply by going to here. Or on Spreaker. Or on Spotify.

Wednesday, March 24, 2021

"Well, Yes It Was Wrong to Fire You, Colonel. Good Luck Getting Your Reputation Back."

A sad tale that never should have happened, Navy board, former commandant agree: Marine colonel should not have been fired

On Feb. 22 the Board of Correction of Naval Records issued its decision, that all adverse paperwork related to Mann’s relief be removed from his official record.

“The Board noted that Petitioner’s relief was due to a loss of trust and confidence in his ability to command and lead Marines, but that the (Command Investigation) contained no information that Petitioner knew about the inappropriate actions of his subordinates that led to the sergeant’s Request Mast, or that he contributed to a climate that would have accepted that conduct,” the board wrote.

“In fact, the (Command Investigation) reveals that (Mann) took actions to correct the problems with the climate in the command and when he learned of his subordinate’s actions, he reversed their poor decisions,” the board wrote.

The board specifically addressed McMillian’s reasoning that commanders are responsible for all that their unit does and fails to do, noting, “that there are limits to what is reasonable.”

The board found that Mann was held to an “unreasonable level of accountability.”

Interesting. It's like common sense prevailed over knee jerk reaction. Hope it's a trend for the future.

Tuesday, March 23, 2021

Monday, March 22, 2021

The Biden "Interim National Security Strategic Guidance" March 2021

You can read this and assess what "strategic guidance" it offers. As noted by Thomas Spoehr here it has some "hits and misses" but also as noted in Don’t Let the Department of Defense Become the Department of Distraction to have some confusion about what constitutes a national security threat and what is a national problem. As Spoehr sets out:

To guide the Biden administration’s initial efforts, the White House recently published a 24-page guidance document on the interim national security strategy. Unfortunately, if you were the secretary of defense hoping to glean insights on how the administration wants you to shape the nation’s defenses, you would come away unfulfilled after reading this document.

While many believe a strong Navy will be important to contain China, there is curiously no mention of the service in the new guidance.

Maybe some thoughts about the new Space Force and the significant challenges America faces in space? Nope.

The role of the Air Force? Nada.

What about climate change? Jackpot! Mentioned 14 times.

COVID-19 gets a shout-out nine times, and racial justice or equity—three times. Keep in mind, this is national security guidance.

Ten days into his presidency, Biden signed an executive order calling for the need to put “the climate crisis at the center of United States foreign policy and national security.”

Climate change is real, and as many are quick to point out, can lead to global instability and could be the spark that ignites conflict between nations. But so too can rapid population growth, disputes concerning sovereign fishing rights, or conflicting claims regarding off-shore oil fields.

Other national problems which threaten our well-being and similarly warrant attention include the rise in obesity, youth hunger, and the opioid epidemic.

But, national security threats are different. Not more important, but distinct from other national problems. When prior administrations sought to characterize the fight on illegal drugs as a “war” and involve the Pentagon, there is a reason that never felt quite right. It was a conflation of a national problem with a national security threat.

By their nature, national security threats represent proximate dangers to America’s safety or security. Left unaddressed they can lead to a profoundly injurious change in the American way of life.

Interim National Security S... by lawofsea

Sunday, March 21, 2021

On Midrats 21 March 2021 - Episode 585: A March Madness Midrats

Please join us at 5pm EDT on 21 March 2021 for Midrats Episode 585: A March Madness Midrats:

The Navy wants to talk some more about unmanned systems, the unknown war we have been fighting for years along the bleeding edge of Islam in Africa seems to be going nowhere we want it to go, China decides to let the mask slip at last, in the mandated extremism training The Pentagon realized the military reflects the nation it serves and not the readers of The Washington Post ... and we still don't have any Service Secretaries nominated.

This week produced more news than can be covered in one Midrats, but we're going to try.

This Sunday from 5-6pm Eastern come join us for a Midrats free for all.

Open topic, open chat, open phones.

If you use Apple Podcasts, and miss the show live, you can pick up this episode and others and add Midrats to your podcast list simply by going to here. Or on Spreaker. Or on Spotify.

Saturday, March 13, 2021

On Midrats 14 March 2021 - Episode 584: Facing Today's China, with Dean Cheng

Please join us at 5pm (EDT!) on 14 March for Midrats Episode 584: Facing Today's China, with Dean Cheng

While the rest of the world paused to focus on COVID-19 the last year, even though the pandemic started there, the People's Republic of China did not stop her long, steady push out to the world to take the place she feels she in entitled to.

From the border of India to South America and back to the Western Pacific, China feels the wind at her back.

Where is China signaling she will be be the greatest challenge to her neighbors and the global community?

Returning to Midrats this Sunday for the full hour will be our guest Dean Cheng.

Dean is the Senior Research Fellow for Chinese political and security affairs at the Asia Studies Center of The Heritage Foundation. He specializes in Chinese military and foreign policy, and has written extensively on Chinese military doctrine, technological implications of its space program, and “dual use” issues associated with China’s industrial and scientific infrastructure. He is the author of “Cyber Dragon: Inside China's Information Warfare and Cyber Operations.”

Before joining The Heritage Foundation, he was a senior analyst with the Center for Naval Analyses, a federally funded research and development center, and a senior analyst with Science Applications International Corporation (SAIC, now Leidos), the Fortune 500 specialist in defense and homeland security. He has testified before Congress, spoken at the (American) National Defense University, US Air Force Academy, and the National Space Symposium, and been published in the Wall Street Journal and the Washington Post.

If you use Apple Podcasts, and miss the show live, you can pick up this episode and others and add Midrats to your podcast list simply by going to here. Or on Spreaker. Or on Spotify.

Sunday, March 07, 2021

On Midrats 7 March 2021 - Episode 583: The Navalist View from Singapore, with Blake Herzinger

Please join us at 5pm on 7 March 2021 for Midrats Episode 583: The Navalist View from Singapore, with Blake Herzinger

If geography is destiny, then Singapore is a nation of destiny.

Sitting astride one of the world's most critical chokepoints, this polyglot island republic with a population of Denmark on a spot of land 1/4 the size of Rhode Island.

For her size, she has a modern, large, and capable navy and military - important for what has always been a rough neighborhood.

What makes Singapore's national security requirements unique, and what role does she play as the Indo-Pacific Theater becomes the center of global concern?

Returning to Midrats to discuss this and more will be Blake Herzinger.

Blake is a Non-resident WSD-Handa Fellow with the Pacific Forum and President of the Singapore chapter of CIMSEC.

He studied political science at Brigham Young University before spending a decade in active service with the U.S. Navy as an intelligence officer.

His analysis has been published in Foreign Policy, War on the Rocks, and The Diplomat, as well as the publications for the Lowy Institute and the Australian Strategic Policy Institute. He's lived in Singapore since 2013 and is a 2017 graduate of the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies.

Blake’s research focus is on security assistance dynamics, maritime security, and seapower.

If you use Apple Podcasts, and miss the show live, you can pick up this episode and others and add Midrats to your podcast list simply by going to here. Or on Spreaker. Or on Spotify.

Saturday, March 06, 2021

Saturday Is Old Radio Day" "This is your FBI' - "Murder on the High Seas" (1945)

Back when J. Edgar was very conscious of marketing the FBI.

This Is Your FBI was a radio crime drama which aired in the United States on ABC from April 6, 1945 to January 30, 1953 for a total of 409 shows. The show featured true cases from FBI, and told from an agent's viewpoint. FBI chief J. Edgar Hoover gave it his endorsement, considering it "Our Show" and calling it "the finest dramatic program on the air"

Monday, March 01, 2021

China's Fishing Tentacles Disrupt the Well-Being of the Rest of the WOrld

Interesting article at Indo-Pacific Defense Forum China’s distant-water fishing fleet harms developing countries’ economies, food security

The People’s Republic of China’s (PRC’s) distant-water fishing fleet continues to harm developing countries through the loss of billions of dollars in revenues and by contributing to unsustainable levels of illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing, all of which threaten the livelihoods and food security of legitimate fishers and communities, according to a series of reports released in the past year. Having exhausted much of its fish stocks in domestic waters, the PRC has amassed the world’s largest distant-water fleet with close to 17,000 vessels, five to eight times more than previously documented, according to the Overseas Development Institute (ODI), an independent global think tank.

The repory of ODI can be found here. Highlights:

  • With 16,966 vessels, China’s DWF fleet is 5–8 times larger than previous estimates.
  • Trawlers are the most common DWF vessel, and most vessels are in the Northwest Pacific.
  • Almost 1,000 Chinese DWF vessels are registered in other countries. The ownership and operational control of China’s DWF fleet is both complex and opaque.
  • At least 183 vessels in China’s DWF fleet are suspected of involvement in IUU fishing.
The image above is from the report.

U.S. Navy Office of Naval Intelligence Worldwide Threat to Shipping (WTS) for 27 January to 24 February 2021

U.S. Navy Office of Naval I... by lawofsea

In other news, the U.S. Coast Guard nabbed drug smugglers as reported in here

Crews aboard two Alameda-based Coast Guard cutters interdicted three suspected drug smuggling vessels in the Eastern Pacific Ocean between Jan. 26 and Feb. 1 and seized more than 9,000 pounds of cocaine worth an estimated $156 million.

Conducting the operations were the crews of the Coast Guard Cutters Munro (WMSL 755) and Bertholf (WMSL 750).

Munro's crew boarded a fishing vessel Jan. 26 suspected of smuggling illicit narcotics. Exercising a bilateral agreement with a partner nation, the boarding teams searched and discovered 1,300 pounds of cocaine concealed within the vessel.

Munro’s crew interdicted a second suspected drug smuggling vessel hours later after a maritime patrol aircraft detected a suspicious vessel and directed Munro’s crew towards it. Munro launched a helicopter aircrew and boarding teams, and together they interdicted a low-profile vessel. The boarding teams discovered 3,439 pounds of cocaine aboard the purpose-built drug smuggling vessel.

U.S. Coast Guard photos courtesy of the Coast Guard Cutter Bertholf.

Sunday, February 28, 2021

Midrats on Spreaker - Episode 582: The Future of European Naval Power with Jeremy Stöhs

Pre-recorded for your listening pleasure, Midrats Episode 582: The Future of European Naval Power with Jeremy Stöhs

Where is European naval power in 2021, what is shaping it, and where is it going?This week returning guest Jeremy Stöhs is with us to review the above issues as outlined in an exceptional report he produced for the Centre for Military Studies at the University of Copenhagen., "How High? The Future of European Naval Power and the High-End Challenge."Jeremy is the Deputy Director of the Austrian Center for Intelligence, Propaganda and Security Studies and the editor for their journal, JIPSS.After service in the Austrian Federal Police in 2005-2010, he studied History and English/American Studies at the Universities of Graz, St. Petersburg (USA) and Marburg (GER) 2009-2015. He was a Defense Analyst at the Institute for Security Policy at Kiel University (ISPK) 2016-2019 and received his PhD in political sciences from Christian-Albrechts University Kiel, 2019. He is the author of "The Decline of European Naval Forces: Challenges to Sea Power in an Age of Fiscal Austerity and Political Uncertainty” (US Naval Institute Press, 2018).His research focuses on International Relations, Strategic Studies, U.S. and European Security and Defense Policy, Maritime Strategy and Security, Public Security.
Listen to "Episode 582: The Future of European Naval Power with Jeremy Stöhs" on Spreaker.

If you use Apple Podcasts, you can pick up this episode and others and add Midrats to your podcast list simply by going to here. Or on Spreaker. Or on Spotify.

You can download the publication How High? The Future of European Naval Power and the High-End Challenge here.

Friday, February 26, 2021

It's a Busy Maritime World

From Marine Traffic, showing cargo ships, tankers and unknowns:

"UKMTO reports blast on Gulf of Oman ship"

An Israeli owned, Bahamian flagged car carrier has reported an explosion in the Gulf of Oman, as reported here:

A Bahamas-flagged ship, the MV HELIOS RAY, has been hit by an explosion in the Gulf of Oman, the United Kingdom Maritime Trade Operations (UKMTO) and a maritime security firm say.

"Investigations are ongoing. Vessel and crew are safe," the UKMTO's advisory notice said.

The incident occurred at 2040 GMT, it said, but gave no details about a possible cause.


Maritime security firm Dryad Global said the MV HELIOS RAY was a vehicle carrier owned by Helios Ray Ltd, an Israeli firm registered in the Isle of Man.

The ship was en route to Singapore from Dammam in Saudi Arabia.

Dryad Global report and analysis here:

Whilst details regarding the incident remain unclear it remains a realistic possibility that the event was the result of asymmetric activity by Iranian military. Such activity would be commensurate with current tensions and Iranian intent to exercise forceful diplomacy through military means within its immediate area of interest.
© Marcus-S

Friday Film: "This is Lakehurst" - Naval Air Station Lakehurst in the 1950's

Saturday, February 20, 2021

Saturday Is Old Radio Day - Abbot and Costello "Robinson Crusoe" with Charles Laughton

On Midrats 21 February 2021 - Episode 589: Late Winter Free For All

Please join us at 5pm EST for Midrats Episode 589: Late Winter Free For All

After a week moving from the warm embrace of Valentines Day to the cold jolt of a nation wide arctic freeze, come join us this Sunday at 5pm Eastern for a live Midrats Free For All!

Open chat room, open phone, and open topic on the - mostly - maritime national security front.

From the new Biden DOD and State Department's first moves, to the ongoing efforts of the USA and our allies as we try to figure out what we need to do to ensure the global system that serves us all.

Come join us and if you don't like these topics, join in the live chat or even give us a call.

If you use Apple Podcasts, and miss the show live, you can pick up this episode and others and add Midrats to your podcast list simply by going to here. Or on Spreaker. Or on Spotify.

Poster from Navy History and Hertitage art collection

Friday, February 19, 2021

Modern Times: Drones Take Out a Undersea Threat

The Republic of Singapore Navy kills a threat:

On 29 Jan 2021, a small underwater explosion occurred in the waters off our Southern Islands. It was barely noticeable, but it was a remarkable event.

The underwater explosion signified a successful neutralisation of an underwater threat by an unmanned surface vessel (USV) - a first in the world.

"It was exciting and satisfying to execute the deployment of a K-STER expendable mine disposal system (EMDS) against an underwater threat. After more than three years of development, and numerous rounds of planning and checks, we finally managed to achieve the successful launch and firing of an EMDS from an USV – a breakthrough in the deployment of USVs!" MAJ Lim Yoong Seet, Head of Readiness and Resource Section, 6 Flotilla shared.

Much more at Naval News here.

Also highlighted is the Singapore Armed Forces intent to upgrade its fleet to include a "Multi-Role Combat Vessel" described here as

Multi-Role Combat Vessel

The replacement of the RSN's Victory-class Missile Corvettes with the Multi-Role Combat Vessels (MRCVs) is proceeding as planned, with six MRCVs expected to be delivered by 2030. The MRCV employs key technologies such as configurable modular payloads and unmanned systems, allowing the vessel to function as a "mothership" for unmanned drones and vessels to conduct a range of missions from peace to war.

Picture from Singapore MINDEF.

Friday Film: "The Great War" (1956)

Thursday, February 18, 2021

From the Backpacker's Emergency Supply Kit: The Portable "Bidet"

Low cost freshness for backpacking and/or emergencies CuloClean bidet

CuloClean is the portable bidet that you can plumb in your plastic bottle, fully discreet, efficient and portable.

Umm. A video. No real "activity" goes on but if you are a very delicate flower, you might decide not to watch this:

Bet some of you wish you'd had a system something like these when the great TP shortage was at it's peak.

Cold Weather Prep: Getting Ready for the Next Time (reposting of an old post from 2015 and before)

Re-posted from Dec 2013, as the latest "polar vortex" looms:

The first step in preparing for extremely cold weather consists of deciding whether you can make it to Florida before the storm hits.

In the alternative, the first step should consist of making plans well in advance of any storm.

Let's say you are in one of those states in which extreme winter weather is common or where ice storms and/or a few inches of snow are show stoppers. You may be housebound for several days. Electricity may go off. Your house will get cold and you may have to acknowledge that those little annoying creatures you have seen intermittently around are, in fact, your children.

A simple plan:
(1) Have enough water (see here). 3 gallons per person per day. Maybe a shelf with a cases of bottled water is a good idea.

(2) Have non-perishable food. Peanut butter and honey. Canned soups (get the kind that don't need to have water added!). . . tins of sardines, tuna fish, canned chicken, chili, mac and cheese . Plan on 5 days of living on your supplies including feeding those kids. Better make sure the kids will eat whatever you set aside. As a treat you can drink warm Jello. Buy a hand-powered can opener.

(3) Have some sort of alternate means of heating food and boiling water for coffee, tea or warm Jello. A camp stove is a good idea (use in well-ventilated areas). If you can get out to the charcoal grill or have a gas grill and can cook outside, well, there you go. Never ever use charcoal inside the house. If you use a camp stove, have some spare propane cylinders. Budget the use of the stove, because you may need it for a few days.

(4) Have flashlights, candle lantern (see here) and other light sources ready and have extra batteries and candles. Get an emergency radio - one with a "crank" to charge it and perhaps with a cell phone battery charger feature.

(5) Have plans to set up a "warm room" in which you and yours can huddle together while closing off the rest of your home. If you have an adequate supply of firewood (5 days?) then that might be the room with the fireplace in it. If you don't have enough firewood set aside, remember that when the fire goes out, lots of warm air goes up the chimney. Gather plenty of blankets, sleeping bags, comforters and the like. If you have space, it is not a bad idea to set up a camping tent as an internal shelter where you and yours (include the dogs and cats- they generate heat) can huddle together. Share sleeping bags or covers. Cuddle for warmth. As noted here:
If the power goes and you don’t have an alternative source of heat, then it’s time to go camping. Set up a tent in your living room and pile your family and pets inside under sleeping bags and blankets. The tent will keep your body heat trapped inside, and you’ll stay much warmer than you would in a large room. If you don’t have a tent, then you can easily make one out of blankets and furniture.

(6) Have lots of thick plastic sheeting, duct tape and nails. Just in case you lose a window or door or part of your roof, you can create an emergency patch.

(7) Have a supply of hand warmer packets. I like these especially if, for some reason, your kids are at home without your expert guidance because you can't get home. These things can generate some serious heat to help them hunker down until help arrives.

(8) Have practiced what to do well in advance of a storm so that even the kids understand how to protect themselves from freezing to death. The basics of setting up an inside the home camp ought to be easy enough- kids understand making tents using blankets and with an LED lantern and experience using hand warmer packets they ought to do fine. Make sure every knows how to change batteries in the lights and have a couple of spares about. Most kids old enough to be home alone can make up a warm bed and be taught that having drinking water and some food is vital (peanut butter is your friend). They do not need to light fires or use camp stoves unless they are old enough to do so safely. Having a Boy Scout in the house is a good thing. Also, it will help if the kids know that "old Mrs. Smith" is next door if they need an adult - in fact, Mrs. Smith may welcome the company. Probably a good idea to set up that relationship before the need arises, though.

(9) For goodness sake, ahead of time buy or create a cheap emergency toilet kit. Make sure you have toilet bags, wipes, etc. The alternatives are . . . poor.

(10) Take care of your pets. Food, water and the like. Dogs and cats are easier to deal with than fish and turtles given their habitats.

(11) Have fire extinguishers available. Nothing good happens when burning down the house in winter.

(12) Be smart.

NOAA and Red Cross Winter Storm Preparedness Guide:

Tuesday, February 16, 2021

Nuclear Power: Now is the time

Freezing in the dark because wind turbines and solar panels are frozen or not usable? The greenest of all power sources and one that works winter, summer, spring and fall. From the Hoover Institution and retired Admiral James Ellis:

Saturday, February 13, 2021

1984 and You: A Lesson

From Hillsdale College's President Larry P. Arnn in Imprimis Orwell’s 1984 and Today

In the beginning of his history of the Persian War, Herodotus recounts that in Persia it was considered illegal even to think about something that was illegal to do—in other words, the law sought to control people’s thoughts. Herodotus makes plain that the Persians were not able to do this. We today are able to get closer through the use of modern technology. In Orwell’s 1984, there are telescreens everywhere, as well as hidden cameras and microphones. Nearly everything you do is watched and heard. It even emerges that the watchers have become expert at reading people’s faces. The organization that oversees all this is called the Thought Police.

If it sounds far-fetched, look at China today: there are cameras everywhere watching the people, and everything they do on the Internet is monitored. Algorithms are run and experiments are underway to assign each individual a social score. If you don’t act or think in the politically correct way, things happen to you—you lose the ability to travel, for instance, or you lose your job. It’s a very comprehensive system. And by the way, you can also look at how big tech companies here in the U.S. are tracking people’s movements and activities to the extent that they are often able to know in advance what people will be doing. Even more alarming, these companies are increasingly able and willing to use the information they compile to manipulate people’s thoughts and decisions.

The protagonist of 1984 is a man named Winston Smith. He works for the state, and his job is to rewrite history. He sits at a table with a telescreen in front of him that watches everything he does. To one side is something called a memory hole—when Winston puts things in it, he assumes they are burned and lost forever. Tasks are delivered to him in cylinders through a pneumatic tube. The task might involve something big, like a change in what country the state is at war with: when the enemy changes, all references to the previous war with a different enemy need to be expunged. Or the task might be something small: if an individual falls out of favor with the state, photographs of him being honored need to be altered or erased altogether from the records. Winston’s job is to fix every book, periodical, newspaper, etc. that reveals or refers to what used to be the truth, in order that it conform to the new truth.

One man, of course, can’t do this alone. There’s a film based on 1984 starring John Hurt as Winston Smith. In the film they depict the room where he works, and there are people in cubicles like his as far as the eye can see. There would have to be millions of workers involved in constantly re-writing the past. One of the chief questions raised by the book is, what makes this worth the effort? Why does the regime do it?

Winston’s awareness of this endless, mighty effort to alter reality makes him cynical and disaffected. He comes to see that he knows nothing of the past, of real history: “Every record has been destroyed or falsified,” he says at one point, “every book has been rewritten, every picture has been repainted, every statue and street and building has been renamed, every date has been altered. And that process is continuing day by day and minute by minute. . . . Nothing exists except an endless present in which the Party is always right.” Does any of this sound familiar?

You can read more at the above link.

But "Big Brother?" - just as in the novel, he has his agents calling out "thought crime" everywhere. Twitter and other social feeds being their natural home.

Saturday Is Old Radio Day - Fibber McGee and Molly "Valentine Candy" (1942)

Monday, February 08, 2021

China's "Gray Zone" War: Sand Suckers

Interesting piece from Reuters:

China’s latest weapon against Taiwan: the sand dredger:
The sand-dredging is one weapon China is using against Taiwan in a campaign of so-called gray-zone warfare, which entails using irregular tactics to exhaust a foe without actually resorting to open combat. Since June last year, Chinese dredgers have been swarming around the Matsu Islands, dropping anchor and scooping up vast amounts of sand from the ocean bed for construction projects in China.

U.S. Navy Office of Naval Intelligence Worldwide Threat to Shipping (WTS) for 6 January to 3 February 2021

U.S. Navy Office of Naval I... by lawofsea

Sunday, February 07, 2021

Midrats Episode 579 is Up on Spreaker

Today we are going to discuss military strategy from the a macro level. We will cover the ways to teach military strategy to already seasoned military and civilian personnel, some of the significant members of the strategic canon, and larger strategic challenges we find today. Our guest for the full hour Sunday from 5-6pm Eastern will be Dr. Alessio Patalano. Alessio is Reader in East Asian Warfare and Security at the Department of War Studies (DWS), King’s College London (KCL), and specializes in maritime strategy and doctrine, Japanese military history and strategy, East Asian Security. From 2006 to 2015, he was visiting professor in Strategy at the Italian Naval War College (ISMM), Venice. In Japan, Dr. Patalano has been a visiting professor at the Japan Maritime Command and Staff College (JMCSC). He is also a Senior Fellow at the highly influential think tanks Policy Exchange and RUSI.
Listen to "Episode 579: Military Strategy From the Classroom to the Briefing Room, with Dr. Alissio Patalano" on Spreaker.

Video: Thomas Sowell: "Common Sense in a Senseless World"

Monday, February 01, 2021

China As Bully: New Maritime "Law" Threatens War With Neighbors (and the U.S.)

China's new maritime "law" is another example of China attempts to cow its neighbors into submission to its rules that counter the existing international rule. And the neigbors are aware of this, as set up in the The Japan Times report Japan braces for moves in East China Sea after China Coast Guard law:

Japan is has expressed alarm over China’s new law that allows the China Coast Guard to use force against foreign parties for what Beijing views as violations of its sovereignty and jurisdiction.

The new law, which entered into force Monday, “could shake the order based on international law,” a Defense Ministry executive warns.

Tokyo is braced for possible Chinese military actions in the East China Sea, where tensions are running high over the Japanese-administered Senkaku Islands, claimed by Beijing.

Some in the ruling Liberal Democratic Party say that the Self-Defense Forces should play a bigger role in dealing with the situation.

U.S. Defense Department report last year described the China Goast Guard, often called the country’s second navy, as “by far the largest coast guard force in the world.”

Beijing put the coast guard under the command of the Communist Party of China’s Central Military Commission, the top leadership body for the country’s military, in 2018.

The new law allows the coast guard to take all necessary measures, including the use of weapons, against foreign organizations or individuals that violate Chinese sovereignty or jurisdiction.

By contrast, the Japan Coast Guard is bound by strict restrictions on the use of weapons under the law, which clearly bans it from military activities.

Coast guard ships from China have repeatedly intruded into Japanese waters around the Senkaku Islands.

Last year, Japan spotted Chinese coast guard and other government vessels inside the contiguous zone surrounding the territorial waters around the islets on 333 seperate days, a record number.

Usually, Japan Coast Guard patrol vessels deal with such ships from China. But if Chinese ships become aggressive, SDF vessels may be dispatched to conduct security operations.

At an LDP meeting last week, lawmakers attacked the new Chinese law. One warned, “China is taking aim at the Senkaku Islands,” while another said, “China’s move is nothing less than a threat.”

Yes, this is how wars get started - overreaching by a neighborhood bully who feels slighted by what happened in the past. China's "100 years of humiliation" ended some time ago, but apparently it allows the CCP dictatorship all the excuse it needs to attle sabers.

Couple this with the latest aggresson in the air in Taiwan airspace, China is feeling out the new U.S. leadership. I hope they find that it has a spine.

UPDATE: And in the Philippines:

The Philippines has protested a new Chinese law that authorizes its coast guard to fire on foreign vessels and destroy other countries’ structures on islands it claims, Manila’s top diplomat said Wednesday.

Foreign Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. said in a tweet that the new Chinese law “is a verbal threat of war to any country that defies” it. Failure to challenge the law “is submission to it,” he said.

“While enacting law is a sovereign prerogative, this one — given the area involved, or for that matter the open South China Sea — is a verbal threat of war to any country that defies the law,” Locsin said.