Wednesday, August 9, 2017

NORK Nukes II - Fire and Fury Boogaloo

So for some bizarre reason we're back to fiddling with these damn DPRK nukes again, largely, I suspect, because the Tweeter-in-Chief has got a whole lot of people clenched up to Pucker Factor 11 by promising "fire and fury" if His Porkulency Kim Jong Un cocks another nuclear snook at the Land of the Free and the Home of the B-52s (seeing as the current objet de furor seems to be principally the U.S. installations on Guam).
(And let me note in passing that...what the hell is it with U.S. politicians and chest-beating military rhetoric? Trump, in particular, seems pretty damn partial to bluster for a man who had a fistful of deferments from getting within sniffing distance of harm's way back in the day. Whenever I run across this stuff I'm forcefully reminded of yet another of the wonderful bits of writing from Robert Bolt's "A Man For All Seasons". In particular, where Thomas More, having been arrested for treason and under "examination" by the current Chancellor of England Thomas Cromwell, is reminded by the latter of the government's capacity for causing More physical pain.

"You threaten like a dockside bully." sniffs More.

"How should I threaten, then?" snarls Cromwell, angry at being chided by a man that he can have tortured or killed and who, therefore, should be fearful instead of caustic.

More looks Cromwell up and down (and, remember, More was Cromwell's predecessor as Chancellor) and observes dryly: "Like a Minister of State.")
Perhaps the MOST frustrating thing about this is that we know, His Porkulency knows, and Trump knows that there really are no good military options for dealing with the NORK nukes. Keep in mind I'm not saying there are no options - just that there aren't any really optimal military ones.

So the Tangerine Tweetmonger's bluster is really just that, unless he's actually stupid enough to consider the loss of life in our Korean ally outside of consideration. But whenever the custodian of one of the globe's biggest nuclear weapons stockpile is flapping his gums like a schoolyard bully that sort of bluster is hard to ignore, regardless of the uselessness of the blustering.

Or maybe it's just me. I came of age at a time when the "enemies" my country was supposed to confront were global powers armed, as we were, with ginormous armies and fleets and swarms of aircraft and glowing piles of nukes.

All this sound and fury over raggedy-assed jihadi wannabes and upstart Korean tinpot dictators seems immensely tiring.
Perhaps we should all just relax and have a nice sandwich.

Monday, August 7, 2017

End of the runway for the SPAD II?

David Axe at War is Boring has a summary of the current situation at the USAF higher with regard to close air support.

The tl:dr version is that:

1. The USAF still doesn't really enjoy doing CAS, and
2. The USAF still doesn't really like having to fly slow ugly-ass crates like the A-10, the post-midcentury version of the old Vietnam era "SPAD", the A-1 Skyraider.

As a history buff I can kind of understand why the USAF hates being in the CAS business. It had to fight hard to shake loose from Army control because the Army thought that the best use for aircraft was low over the troops. It's also goddamn dangerous, even moreso with improvements in AAA such as shoulder-fired SAMS as well as longer-range, higher-altitude counterair systems such as the Russian S-400.

That said...upgrades and improvements in the U.S. FA branch have been underwhelming in the past half-century. We're still using legacy systems from the early Cold War and, particularly, the fire support base in the light infantry units (including light mechanized outfits like the Army's Stryker brigades) is dependent on towed gun systems such as the M119A1 and the M777A2 that have some fairly significant issues.

So for the foreseeable future the U.S. Army is going to lean heavily on USAF CAS missions for heavy fire support. The problem appears to be that the USAF is still really unenthused about those missions.

As a former earthpig veterinarian I have a deep emotional fondness for the new SPAD, and so I can't be objective about the USAF's apparent eagerness to 86 it. But perhaps the real problem isn't so much to "Save the SPAD" but to try and avoid sending U.S. infantry to farkle about in places where the need for close air support is essential? Or to rethink the tactical/operational setup so as to provide more fire support in the form of FA fires rather than from the Wild Blue Yonder? OR, as both Sven and Ael mention in the comments, would an entirely new mix of armed drone platforms and improved FA systems be a better solution? Would the USAF be willing to accept an armed Army-controlled CAS drone as an exception to the Key West Agreement..?
Feel free to discuss...

Monday, July 31, 2017

PLA 90th Anniversary

Celebrated with a one-hour plus parade at the Zhurihe Training Base in Xilin Gol of Inner Mongolia.  Only a hundred miles or so from the Xanadu, the Mongolian capital of Kublai Khan and later his summer palace.

The PLA was born on 1 August 1927 in the Nanchang Uprising led by He Long and commissared by Zhou Enlai.  The uprising failed and they took 50% casualties.  And in the aftermath, out of the remaining 50% many left and went home or deserted to the Nationalists.  But the PLA endured, escaping from Kuomintang encirclements like Harry Houdini; and eventually making their Long March of 5600 miles.   They made their bones against the Japanese, and they ultimately drove Generalissmo Chiang Kai-shek into the sea and won their country in 1949.

President Xi Jinping was there in Zhurihe wearing pixellated cammies.  He reviewed the troops and gave some pep talks.  They needed it as PLA Ground & Air Forces have been getting shorted on publicity recently compared to the PLA Navy.   Xi showed off publicly for the first time many new war toys including the Shenyang J-16 fighter jet, Chengdu J-20 stealth fighter and the new-generation Dongfeng-31AG intercontinental missile.  President Xi called for the formation of "elite" forces.  Hmmm, I thought they already had Special Ops troopers?  Their first public mission was in 2008 when they accompanied PLAN warships in anti Pirate patrols.  And they have competed in and won various international "elite warrior" competitions.  Perhaps Xi's comment was meant to enlarge the current Special Ops?


https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0vVOXlgHC1U

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

What's Pashto for "conditto"?

Here's a great fucking idea; since there are no real American "interests" left in Afghanistan, let's not send American forces there.

Let's send mercenaries!
"Erik D. Prince, a founder of the private security firm Blackwater Worldwide, and Stephen A. Feinberg, a billionaire financier who owns the giant military contractor DynCorp International, have developed proposals to rely on contractors instead of American troops in Afghanistan at the behest of Stephen K. Bannon, Mr. Trump's chief strategist, and Jared Kushner, his senior adviser and son-in-law, according to people briefed on the conversations."
Gee, I can't see how that could possibly go wrong...

What is truly sad is that this suggestion comes from a guy who you would think would be all in favor of the fictitious-Trump "who kept us out of war" that seemed to dominate the "Trump-is-better-than-Killary-Klintoon" cartoons that kept appearing before the election:
"Mr. Bannon has told colleagues that sending more troops to Afghanistan is a slippery slope to the nation building that Mr. Trump ran against during the campaign. Mr. Bannon has also questioned what the United States has gotten for the $850 billion in nonmilitary spending it has poured into the country, noting that Afghanistan confounded the neoconservatives in the George W. Bush administration and the progressives in the Obama administration."
No shit, Sherlock; that's why the sucker is called the "grave of empires". NObody can figure out how to hustle this particular part of the East; not the Brits, who tried for over a century, not the Soviets, not us. The only way to win this particular Game of Thrones is not to play.

But in the sort of "logic" that has already made the Fraudulency Administration a standing joke this gomer is thinking that the "best" way to skin this cat is to import the kind of guys whose signature move is to panic and have a fucking mad minute in the middle of a busy public street in a country that their employer is trying to keep friendly and pacified.

Jesus wept. Does anybody here know how to play this game..?

Friday, July 7, 2017

NORK Nukes

In what may well be the most NORK-y Fourth of July fireworks display ever, the Pyongyang regime appears to have successfully tested a nuclear-capable missile with the range to reach the western portions of North America; by definition an intercontinental ballistic missile.


The linked article does a good job discussing the strategic implications of this success, but the tl:dr version is "there are no good military options".

Simply put, the DPRK appears to have obtained what Stalin's Soviet Union did in the 1940s; a successful defense against U.S. military strongarming. Never a particularly good idea, given the NORK capabilities for inflicting nasty mayhem to American-aligned nations in northeast Asia, if the NORKs have the capability to directly threaten the U.S. mainland this option goes from "barely conceivable" to "off the table".

What's more, the strategic calculus of potentially-holding-U.S.-population-centers-hostage changes the relationship between the U.S. and Asian allies such as Japan and South Korea. If Trump wanted the Japanese government to start building its own nukes Pyongyang may well have given it the same push that the Soviets gave the British and French governments during the Cold War - the worry that the Land of the Big PX would be hesitant to risk its own civilians in the face of a possible nuclear exchange.

Where does the Tangerine Toddler fit into all this? Swinging the Big Stupid bat, of course. The King of the Deal is discovering what diplomats and potentates throughout history have discovered, albeit at his own, short-bus-slow-reader speed; that polities with interests that conflict with your own can't always - and often won't ever - be coaxed, swayed, or bullied into acting against their own interests. China fears a NORK collapse more than anything the U.S. can threaten. Figuring out a way to adjust U.S. geopolitical approaches to the new northeast Asian realities will require a hell of a lot more patience, creativity, and intelligence than either the current Chief Executive - who seems more interested in ginning up a "Blut und Ehre" white nationalist agenda - or his people have shown to date.

Nukes are funny things. Technically they are "weapons of war"...but they work well only as potential, not kinetic, energy. When the first nuke is thrown at a nuclear-armed adversary they have effectively lost much of their usefulness. If war is the "continuation of politics by other means" the problem with nuclear war is that, unlike politics, there is no real way to plan or predict or strategize what happens after the fallout settles. A single warhead getting through to a single city will mean that even the "winner" will suffer. There is little consolation for the "winning" public knowing that the northern portion of the Korean peninsula is a glassy wasteland.

Maintaining the nuclear balance was a difficult task for U.S. leaders like Truman and Eisenhower. What happens when the launch codes are clutched in the stubby fingers of a man whose primary education in conflict was as a WWF wrestling heel is something that I'm not sure I want to find out.

Update 8:30am: And speaking of the Hermit Kingdom, this little piece is intriguing in its' suggestion that the NORKs may present a "World War Z"-type problem, too; the primitive medical capabilities of the Pyongyang regime offers terrific possibilities for the incubation and spread of nasty epidemic diseases. North Korea! It's like a Disneyland of Death!

Friday, June 9, 2017

De-confliction Zone?

 USAF F-15E shoots down Shahed-129 drone in Syria.   It had reportedly dropped ordnance in close proximity to CJTF-OIR Special Ops troops near al-Tanf in what has been called a Russian/American de-confliction zone.   Although obviously Russia's allies in Syria do not recognize that zone.  Shahed-129 is Iranian built, but unclear whether this UAV was remotely flown by the IRGC, or the SAAF, or by Hezbollah, or by Iraqi Hashd al-Shaabi.  Also unclear whether the Special Ops personnel were American or British - both are reportedly at al-Tanf training and advising anti-Daesh guerrilla forces.

The -E version of the F-15 is reportedly dual-role, both air-to-air and air-to-ground.  But has only been used as a ground attack aircraft except for one other air-to-air incident in Iraq in 1991 when it took out an Iraqi MI-24 helicopter, but that was done with air to ground ordnance, GBU-10.  Unclear so far as to whether the Shahed-129 was taken out by 20mm gun, AIM-9 or AIM-120.  The F-15 design is over 30 years old now.  There have been upgrades, but the average age is 26 years and the average airframe had 6000 hours flying time five years ago, probably closer to 7000 hours now.

https://theaviationist.com/2017/06/09/u-s-f-15e-downs-iranian-built-syrian-drone-after-airstrike-on-u-s-led-forces/


http://www.af.mil/About-Us/Fact-Sheets/Display/Article/104499/f-15e-strike-eagle/

https://theaviationist.com/2016/02/14/f-15e-shot-down-iraqi-mi-24/