Lethal load out

U.S. Navy Amphibious Warship To Deploy With Anti-Ship Missiles Next Year
Containerized missile launchers would give amphibious warfare ships a new way to protect against hostile warships, as well as engage other threats.
BY JOSEPH TREVITHICK JANUARY 11, 2021

Article in The Drive’s WarZone.

So the Naval Strike Missile, a middle weight anti ship missile will be mounted on an Amphib to provide integral defense and a little bit of offense capacity. The main purpose of this deployment is for experimentation with the fleet, to see if it changes the nature of the game when at sea. The Amphib is a big ship but is in essence a sea going ferry for the marines, a fast freighter. But these ships are big and impressive and sometimes used to show the flag. They have defensive weapons but nothing to ‘shoot the archer’ usually that is left to an escort. Having some rounds on board would change the dynamics and utility perhaps in a positive way.

While the preliminary deployment will have the missile amidships like a warship might. But the missile could be mounted on a truck that is being transported, just drive it out onto the flight deck, lock it down and shoot. With all sorts of truck mounted ordinance such as Hellfire, 155mm Cannons, HIMARS GPS Guided Rockets, there are a lot of options that this could provide for protection or force projection.

With the continued growing cost of specialized warships this sort of flexible tactical utilization looks like a good use of modern precision weapons. One can and should argue that it does not provide any kind of one for one replacement for a warship. But is a warship; a frigate, destroyer, cruiser… really what we need? Maybe its a combination of gnat weight autonomous missile slingers supporting heavy flex fighters like this Amphib.

Observation re. Sunburst Hack

An act of cyberwar is usually not like a bomb, which causes immediate, well-understood damage. Rather, it is more like a cancer – it’s slow to detect, difficult to eradicate, and it causes ongoing and significant damage over a long period of time. Here are five points that cybersecurity experts – the oncologists in the cancer analogy – can make with what’s known so far.

The Sunburst hack was massive and devastating – 5 observations from a cybersecurity expert by Paulo Shakarian From The Conversation

Description of who, how, what at least in general terms and a thoughtful overview of how to start thinking about the impact and meaning.

To me this attack seems just part of the reality we live in. As discussed in Modes of War, this is one of the modern modes that are more about gains and pains than blood and gore. This sort of strike, ignored and multiplied, could bring a nation down and given the context of reality today, direct kinetic action is highly unlikely.

Lasers and rail guns oh my

So linked at the bottom is a file by the congressional research service regarding the progress the Navy is making on laser weapons, rail guns and hyper velocity smart munitions. Not the best topic for Christmas Season but oh well.

A series of articles in the Drive and elsewhere have discussed the progress in laser weapons over the last few years. To recap, a technology that was discovered as a fairly early practical application of quantum theory evolved into an important digital communications tool where the demand for longer distance between repeaters drove the power up to a point where cutting material like paper was practical that evolved into cutting steel which provided the basis for weapons grade systems although the military R&D complex had been exploring alternative paths for decades.

Now real systems (in the sense of shooting down light weight drones or setting outboard motors on fire, as well as dazzling or spotting) are being deployed and fairly aggressive plans are being made. There still remain problems with the technology though many of them are resolvable. And like earlier many pieces are being worked on for civilian reason, not the least in the field of astronomy where light transmission through the atmosphere is important and the brain power is deep and unfettered by military R&D issues.

In the end it is not clear that at sea is the best place to locate a laser weapon but ships are (relatively) big and have (relatively) large power systems so they are a good early trial. If lasers can be of value there they are going to make it other places as the technology improves.

Rail guns…what can you say (I could say a fair amount but won’t) they are the technology of the future and have been my whole adult life. I spent a couple of years involved with them and that is enough to tell me that there are a lot of fundamental problems that appear surmountable in early hand waving but are practically insurmountable as you get closer and closer to reality.

The ‘rail’ part of the gun has most of the problems of a powder gun barrel of erosion, fatigue, stress, compounded by huge electromagnetic forces in the metal itself. Vastly more complex than a simple bang tube. The energy required is huge but not only that it has to be released in a controlled manner at several times the rate of an explosion since the energy and the power are both higher than the propellant ‘burn’ of a powder weapon. Modern power electronics can handled this but they are not light and the resultant waste heat instead of exiting the barrel in a plume of plasma is retained in the energy storage device and switching system, none of which can be dowsed with water like you can do with a gun barrel.

Every 5 years or so since the seventies the rail gun has popped up as a candidate to replace the powder cannon of the day. Each time more of the hurdles identified in the last round are knocked down. But then new hurdles appear, often more complex than those dealt with and hidden by the earlier barriers.

And at the end of the day is the result worth the price? In WWI and WWII guns of prodigious range were developed but made no difference in the end. Mostly filling in for fighter bombers when the weather was crappy or the target too diffuse to be worth risking a pilot/aircraft.

In the early days (the 1970’s) of the rail gun its potential range and rate of fire appeared very attractive especially for Naval support gunfire. 100 miles and 10 rounds a minute of lethal kinetic punch were very much of interest to the amphibious forces. Since they were powered by electricity and fuel is relatively cheap + plentiful and the rounds compact, the ‘depth of magazine’ was fantastic. And all of this is still deeply interesting. But. In the end is this really what you need? In WWII through Desert Storm this capability set would have been game changing. Today? Maybe not.

The round designed (successfully) for the rail gun, can fit in any of our current 155mm class cannons. These guns with their 52 caliber barrels can punch the round out to 40 miles or more. The round is guided and has shown the ability to shoot down a cruise missile ! So it is as accurate as you like. It’s ‘shortfall’ in modern ops game theory is that it is a bit slow for shooting down ballistic missiles or reaching the outer theater to shoot down other high performance targets. But there are missiles that can do that and the attrition cost of a missile on that sort of target is worth it.

40 miles is not 100 miles, some targets are out of reach, you cannot stand off as far or reach in as far to destroy targets. But in reality is that an issue? If you think that you are going into amphibious war against hostile beaches maybe. But you have to assume that you can destroy the enemies area denial defenses (Because otherwise why worry about 100mile standoff?) so you can get the amphibious forces in close enough to get on and over the beach at acceptable cost. None of that appears realistic today. While some kind of Eurasian Fascist Empire and air tight anti strategic defenses might create an existential threat that triggered WWIII and the concomitant bloodbath this scenario is simply not on the table now or foreseeable in the next twenty years.

For now we have Taiwan and the South China Sea as the most likely battleground for near peer conflict. ——— OK no one ever really KNOWS what is coming next, the Med, the Baltic, maybe somewhere in Oceana might go south with zingers but none of those have the deep resources required to cause an existential threat or survive an attrition campaign long enough to make the rail gun a potential player——

To continue, while T and SCS are both in their way an argument for that extended range neither is going to be resolved in any way by one weapon. Neither are any other scenarios one might game other that EFE+ATSD above and that ain’t goin to happen (yet.)

So? Lasers…full speed ahead, look to the sky, 150kW on a fighter is a game changer. Rail guns…spend some money, let the Chinese trial their barge, see if they have solved the problems, they haven’t but what do I know? Hyper (or High) velocity smart munitions,…go, go, go power rangers !

Congressional Research Service Report on Lasers, Rail Guns and Hyper Velocity Rounds, via the US Naval Institute Proceedings website.

Modes of War

War in the western civilian mind has been debased and fetishized. And these ways of ‘seeing’ war limit our perspective on the reality.

Huh? You may say, what the heck does that mean? So let me expand:

War has been debased in the common vernacular by declaring war on the depression, then poverty, drugs now on inequality, racism, etc (mainly by progressives riffing on their First World War success .) Here the mental model of war is the turning of the states blunt tools of expropriation and exploitation to the ‘good’ of raising some group or suppressing some evil. The thing they overlook is that the tools are authoritarian and often counter productive, destroying on one end while delivering ‘something’ at the other. In the original meaning of war, (at least the good war of self protection, not war of aggression) the destruction on your end is acceptable since your expectation is that the ‘other’ will cause far greater damage if they win. But when used in this self targeted context you are essentially damaging/destroying something you do not value (for whatever reason) to provide some ‘good’ to another (for some other reason.)

And war has been fetishized in the minds of most by the recent American experience of essentially total battlefield domination and near bloodless success (those who bleed are mostly ‘the bad guys.’) This has been metastasized by military video games that while they make clear the messiness of the battlefield also make it glamorous and episodic. Exotic weapons and robotic precision make things look all very neat. But also there is our memory of WWI and WWII and Desert Storm and even the first months in Afghanistan and Iraq. Domination and victory, spoiled by purported lies and then stupidity of trying to change cultures we do not understand.

So war is debased to massive government intervention on one hand and on the other the fetishized ability to break the other’s toys and make them do what we want. But these views of war, government directed war, war with parades and victories and tragedies and stories we can tell each other’s, providing historians and anthropologists grist for their mills may be relics of the past in our globalized age.

What if war is no long any of that? Properly envisioned it was/is never something you turn on yourself. Seen clearly it is never something that you can predictably win. No war in the modern era been what governments tell their populace it is, nor are they what the memories of the participants remember them being.

Clausewitz is famous for ‘War is diplomacy carried on by other means,’ Sun Tzu pointed out that misdirection is the heart of war. What if real war today outside of the fratricidal, is non kinetic and never ending?

What are the modes of war today. Strategic, Cyber, Economic, Kinetic, Propaganda, Tactical, Commercial, Geographic, Genocide, Civil, Bio, Nuclear, Chemical, Political…

Huh? Some of these things are not like the other you say? And maybe you are right but I say that war has broken the bounds of the geographic/naval/aerial field of battle and has bled out into the world in general.

I will close with a thought…. What if an enemy realized that they could make use something as unexciting as a novel disease and modern media’s defining need for ‘bad news’ to terrify populations into ‘a crouch’ that would make political control easier. And by use of basic propaganda and twisted truths could make the politicians of their unsuspecting opponent break their own economy and even break down the social trust that is required in a modern open cultural polity.

The above does not require any particularly lethal bug, or any large scale distribution of battle plans. All the enemy needs is a leadership willing to make use of the ‘main chance’ and a cadre of workers willing to take direction. Nothing needs to be said, ever.

You do not win a war this way but you win a battle this way. Maybe you win several battles. Damage an enemies economy, damage their self confidence, maybe bring down their most effective leadership with some directed propaganda and a few tools.

Now maybe a more compliant government comes into power. You have been pushing on some geographic restrictions but have been held back by your adversaries strong leadership. With that leadership gone now you can push more heavily and gain some more ground.

Maybe your aggression causes more reaction and eventually the ridiculously erratic opponent once more selects a more trenchant government and puts the brakes on. But one more nibble has been taken, an enemy has been weakened a little bit. All that is required is time and constant purpose to win, and a nation with a multi thousand year history can take the long view.

From The ENGINEER: Bumble Bee Drones at War

The rise of the micro air vehicle
13 June 2013 | By Jon Excell
Read more: http://www.theengineer.co.uk/in-depth/the-rise-of-the-micro-air-vehicle/1016519.article#ixzz2XeLGHbVs
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A soldier of The Queen’s Royal Lancers launches a Black Hornet, Nano UAV from a compound in Afghanistan during Operation QALB.

…one of the compelling advantages over larger surveillance UAVs such as the Reaper is that the system can ‘be tasked in a matter of seconds’, whereas a reaper might take half an hour to arrive at the scene.

…Prox Dynamics’ CEO and founder Petter Muren told The Engineer that the technology that appears on the PD100 is considerably more advanced than anything that would be found on a remote-controlled aircraft. The motors, servos and sensors are, he said, smaller and more efficient. The radio-link is more advanced, the system has fully integrated GPS, as well an autopilot system, and is far more robust.

And the beat, wing beat, goes on…
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Thoughtful, useful, analysis of the NorK problem

From the Thin Pinstriped Line, a good read and some reasonable analysis of the reality facing the NorK regime and the world.

An extremely cogent point is how the current situation is pointing out the limited usefulness of Nukes in the long twilight between proven technical capability and getting beyond only having enough to commit (a messy) suicide.

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Some thoughts on a tangential topic to truth in a ‘Statesman’s’ world

The famous rant by Colonel Jessep (Nicholson) from A Few Good Men:

You can’t handle the truth! Son, we live in a world that has walls, and those walls have to be guarded by men with guns. Who’s gonna do it? You? You, Lt. Weinburg? I have a greater responsibility than you could possibly fathom. You weep for Santiago, and you curse the marines. You have that luxury. You have the luxury of not knowing what I know. That Santiago’s death, while tragic, probably saved lives. And my existence, while grotesque and incomprehensible to you, saves lives. You don’t want the truth because deep down in places you don’t talk about at parties, you want me on that wall, you need me on that wall. We use words like honor, code, loyalty. We use these words as the backbone of a life spent defending something. You use them as a punchline. I have neither the time nor the inclination to explain myself to a man who rises and sleeps under the blanket of the very freedom that I provide, and then questions the manner in which I provide it. I would rather you just said thank you, and went on your way, Otherwise, I suggest you pick up a weapon, and stand a post. Either way, I don’t give a damn what you think you are entitled to.

Nicholson is able project a charismatic mix of steely conviction with righteousness and psychotic tendencies. He’s homely in a rather attractive sense but his rubber play mask of a face often seems on the brink of either maniacal rage or maniacal laughter…with the understanding that the differences are tiny.

That whole movie left me cold, there was something trite about it and the casting of the oh so cute JAG’s and the oh so over wrought marines was perhaps clever, the setting clever, the words….clever, but what was it all about?

It was all about the delivery of that one monologue and its delivery by someone who was clearly, if only slightly, over the edge, in a place that should not exist.

The movie provided depth to the speech that twists the highest meanings of honor and service into dark and dangerous threats curdled in a place and circumstance that are wholly unnecessary.

And this was long before Guantanamo took on its current gray mantle.

This can be seen as the most powerful anti war movie (without any action) that has ever been created because it says that the things a person has to take on to become a combatant are manipulations and most likely the rational behind it is a lie and the urge to protect, more about power and privilege than caring.

And yet…and yet…I came away with the weird sense, I think intentionally  that Jessep was more hero than villain and the JAGs more (minor) villains than heroes though they were heroes and he was a villain who needed stopping.

In ghostly profile behind Jessep, I see Patton, Stonewall Jackson, Sherman and others, who were in their ways just as nuts,  In an alternate to his fictional world Jessep could have been a great hero and the JAGS might have been slimy villains.

Was any of this the original intent?  Probably and if so its probably great art, in the sense of great playwright’s work and great casting, not so much cinematography or  directing or  acting on anyone’s part other than Nicholson’s.

A Few Good Men and the strange mirrors it casts are more apropos today than they could conceivably have been when it was made.  This movie made today, set in Iraq, Afghanistan or any one of a hundred other places, would not work as well and would create a firestorm of debate but then vanish.

It has been left alone because it says more, more subtly the way it is than it could possibly say if redone in a contemporary venue.  And anyone who tried to remake it would be unable to create the remarkably fine balance that it drew between hero and villain on both sides.

The Future of War

The future of war is taking form all around and it is not a vision of super battleships and death rays, though they may exist in infinitesimal numbers the real fighting will be done by tiny groups of specialists (SOCOM, the SEALs and an array of similar highly trained, expensively equipped and lethally effective troops.) Weapons like one discussed in Wired recently, a Proposed program to develop a missile capable of hitting and destroying small targets like SUV’s (60 miles away) that can be fired from another SUV.

SUV being unloaded from a C-17

There is a bit of spy v spy in this and the Wired article is a bit ironic in tone but the truth is this is the future, and in most ways it will continue the trend of things getting better for the majority of humans, it will kill its target without killing hundreds of others and could lead to a ‘decapitation’ strike where the warmaker is taken out of the picture so peace can find a way.  And of course it will be misused, and ill-used and those of good heart and hope will deplore it all.

Of course the use of discrete platforms is nothing new, the recent tragedy in Africa involved a U28.  This is a single engine utility turboprop, built by Pilatus and used all over the world but very intensively in Africa where its low cost of acquisition and operation along with the high reliability of the single turboprop airframe make it highly coveted.  You can think of an SUV as being in the same vein really.

Pilatus, U28

Of course drones will be a big part of future war, though how big and how are interesting questions. If both sides are aggressive users of technology with combat hackers or the like as well as jammers, radio direction finding/ranging and guys (and gals) with skeet shooting guns and skills it should get ‘interesting.’

Here’s a piece of drone related news where things got ‘interesting’ for some bystanders when a crashed drone was given the coup de grâce by one of its robotic compatriots.

BRAVO: Red Tails, Everyone should see It!!!

Red Tails Broadsheet

Saw this movie with my son today (Sunday 22nd Jan).  This is like Saving Private Ryan a watershed war movie.  It is fabulous to watch, the characters are realistic and well played so you care, the story telling is deft, there is no complexity her but that’s not the point.  It is an uplifting story of brave men (all types of bravery) trying to do the best they can and winning on more than one level.    

I will warn you that I do not go to movies to learn history, neither do I go to them to learn philosophy of life lessons, I go to be entertained.  And most movie critics these days appear to be operating in a different plane and writing for each other not the folks in the real world. 

The biggest problem I have had with many war movies up until recent time is technical.  All the compromises that had to be made to make any large scale war movie and my inability to look past ‘minor’ issues like US M48’s used in The Battle of the Bulge to represent German Tigers/Panthers. 

Red Tails shows that modern technology and good film making are beyond this, the setting is viscerally real throughout, providing a rich background canvas that the people and the action can play out in. Absolutely fabulous aircraft scenes throughout.  When the only thing I could gripe about is that sometimes they made some of the ground sets look too old and worn I should just shut up…. and the mud and basic layout etc were again exquisitely done. 

The men (and it really is all about men the only female character though sweetly played is only a set piece) are well played, it might have been biased for modern tastes but they came off as real, the relatively clean cut, slightly less demon ridden people of a simpler day men who were playing their part in two wars.  One with bullets and one with hearts and minds. 

This movie was rated very highly by the public and moderately low by the critics.  The explanation I have for that is that the Critics cannot stand a movie that puts the bigotry of the time in the proper context.  It was so obviously a constant drain on the men but it was the background to their lives, the constant slights many unconscious rather than direct attacks.  I am very sure many critics wanted a movie that wallowed in the bigotry and hatred a bleak look at the dark hearts of men (we don’t need that, know all about it.)    Instead what is here is a simply fabulous war movie about men I grew to care about that made its point about the utter stupidity of bigotry by positive rather than negative example.

Bravo Lucasfilm, George Lucas, Industrial Light & Magic, and of course the writers, director and actors.