Saturday, December 01, 2001
Thank God real Navy bombs are more accurate the ones on the football field:
Reportedly written by a female Tomcat RIO on USS
THEODORE ROOSEVELT. This young lady certainly seems to
like her job. The author was a Naval Academy grad
"Well, Gerald, let me tell you about my day yesterday.
I started out pretty bummed that back home in Va Beach,
the Tomcat community was having it's annual Fighter
Fling--huge affair at the Marriot in Norfolk. Wearing
mess dress, usually degrades to a drink-ex by 3am. We
were all missing it. But I didn't stay bummed for
long. I went out on a 6.5 hour mission over lovely
Afghanistan, met up with a ground FAC and he directed us
towards some nice juicy targets. Sum total between 4
Toms and 2 Hornets: 13 LGBs and 8 MK-82's. My pilot
and I (another chick by the way--chicks rule) were
personally responsible for one tank with a GBU-12 and a
little airburst love on some troops in the open with a
couple of MK-82s.
It was BEAUTIFUL! I get a
tear in my eye just thinking about it. After that we
came back to our first beer day (We've been underway for
61 consecutive days without a port call). I woke up
still drunk. Now that's the way cruise should be.
There certainly wouldn't be a retention problem if they
let us do this everyday. In general, the guys are doing
some great work. I've passed on the video to those that
have given me SIPERNET addresses. Some in particular:
A LANTIRN (F-14 FLIR) video of a B-52 dropping a string
of about 20-30 MK-82's. Looked like little rabbit turds
dropping out of the airplane. After the drop, the
LANTIRN slews down and you can see them explode in a
line along a road. Pretty cool. Another favorite of
the airwing's is a TCS (F-14 TV system) video of a GBU
falling off the other Tomcat. The TCS follows the bomb
all the way down until it explodes on a truck. Another
good video was a Marine hornet that dropped a GBU on
what he thought was a building that turned out to be a
POL facility or some kind of storage facility... that
one ended up on CNN the other day when ADM
Stufflebeam was briefing the press. The secondaries
were freakin' phenomenal and completely unexpected. The
shock wave was eye-watering. Lastly, we sent some guys
out the other day that found a convoy moving out like
they had some where important to be. They must have
heard the jets because all of a sudden the trucks come
to a screeching halt and you can see little white dots
making for the hills right before the first bombs roll
in and take out about 3-4 of the vehicles. If there was
ever a time for Rockeye, that was it. That one made it
on CNN for the Admiral's daily briefing as well. I
think it was some Toms from the Vinson that got the
opportunity to do some actual straffing of troops in the
open when a ground FAC was being over-run. I wish I had
the video of that. Nothing like peppering the enemy
with a little 20mm HEI (High Explosive Incendiary--like
tiny little grenades that come out of the gun and
explode like popcorn when they hit--way cool). They
drove back the enemy advance and the FAC and his
team made it through for another day. Go Navy Air.
Other than that, it's cruise. Too bad I can't have days
like yesterday all the time. As a parting shot, Jeff
Winters '89 says "Hi freaks" and Rich, I hung out with
your boys last night while they played poker. G-Money
says hey. Take care all and in another 2 months or so,
I should have more fun and games to pass on.
This is too good.
Apropos of the big game and the debate at Samizdata, I'll weigh in, on the whole Navy/Marine Corps vs. Army debate.
First of all: MARINE= My Ass Rides In Navy Equipment, and the USMC is part of the Navy, so forget about separating the two. On the other side, the USAF sprung Athena-like from the Zeus head of the US Army and now gives everyone a headache. They eschewed the unsexy role of close air support for ground pounders and left the Army to literally fend for themselves with their own attack helicopters. Meanwhile, the Marines and the Navy already had the drill down pat. Consequently, most US responses to world crisis that required combatants involved the USN/USMC team first. The Army and the Air force are just too wedded to a logistics train that, while it may help in a WWII style set piece slug fest, restricts them to the point of being relegated to bit parts in fast moving crisis.
That is not to say they are completely useless. Certainly the B-52s and food drops contributed to the war effort (of course the guys in charge in the Air Force, the fighter jocks, look down their noses at unglamorous missions like high altitude bombing and cargo transport,. But then, their days are numbered anyway.). My point is that the USN/USMC team was there first and could have prosecuted the war on their own from the get go. Perhaps it would have gone more slowly since the Sea Services now lack the heavy bombing capability that seems to have played a big part in softening the line and putting the fear of the Great Satan into the Taliban fighters. The Navy lost much of that capability when the venerable A-6 Intruder, the sea going soul sister of the B-52, was phased out. The attack role moved to the F-18 and the Super Hornet. The latter was built to approach A-6 bomb payloads after the A-12 program flamed out. But I digress.
The original point of this post was to alert you to COL Hackworth's column on the issue of service mentalities:
The Corps, which has never lost sight that its primary mission is to fight, remains superbly trained and disciplined -- true to its time-honored slogan "We don't promise a rose garden." When, under Clinton, the Army lowered its standards to Boy Scout summer-camp level in order to increase enlistment, the Corps responded by making boot training longer and tougher. Now under USMC Commandant James Jones, that training has gotten even meaner for the young Marine wannabes waiting in line to join up, as well as for Leathernecks already serving in regular and reserve units.
Unlike U.S. Army conventional units -- their new slogan, "An Army of One," says it all -- the U.S. Marine Corps remains a highly mobile, fierce fighting team that has never forgotten: "The more sweat on the training field, the less blood on the battlefield."
Heady stuff from a former Army guy, but then he has always been iconoclastic and is, IMHO, right on in this case.
Friday, November 30, 2001
Apparently Perry at Samizdata and Dawson are having a discourse about their favorite shooting irons. Dawson opines:
The Colt .45 has never been surpassed as a combat weapon side arm.
While Perry counters that the old Colt 1911-A1 and its "various granchildren" can't compete with modern .40s like the Sig 229. I'm with Perry on this one. While it's hard to beat the Colt for Moro stopping knockdown power, the rounds don't do much good if in the clutch you're screwing around with the safety or the hammer. Yes you can train and blah, blah, blah, but for a gun my wife might have to use in a pinch, I want something that puts man stopping lead where it is pointed when the trigger is squeezed. Period. That's why I went with the Glock 23. It's their .40 cal subcompact. I am enamored with the trigger safety. When you squeeze the trigger, the gun fires. If you don't, it won't. Why overly complicate things?
Of course I still want a Colt for the hell of it.
This has nothing to do with the war, but it is something about which I am rather passionate. It seem's National Review's Rich Lowry tried to fry a turkey and failed miserably. That mode of preparation was pioneered around here in southern Louisiana and is responsible for two or three houses fires per annum in New Orleans. The main danger is when one lowers the bird into the hot oil, the initial burst of moisture boiling out of the meat causes the oil to start to bubble up. If your bird is too big or you put too much oil in your pot, the oil can bubble over the side and guess what happens then? The gas driven jet of flame you are using for heat ignites the oil foam rather spectacularly. If there is not too much spillover, the problem takes care of itself and burns out. The main thing is not to freak and knock over the pot. Other than one rather dramatic (and instructive), but harmless boil over when I lowered my first turkey into the oil a few years ago, I have had great results with this method. It is pretty idiot proof if you follow the instructions (it would have to be, who but an idiot would think to fry a whole bird in oil heated by an open flame?) It's great because you can go from cold, thawed, bird to brown, crispy on the outside, succulent on the inside, turkey in about an hour. That suits my procrastinating personality and short attention span to a tee. Plus, the propane gas flame jet makes a cool roaring sound that, along with the violently bubbling oil, lets you know that big manly doings are afoot. Other than the advice in the linked article, I recommend against frying on wooden decks or in the house (duh, but at least two or three people per year around here don't follow that sage consul). Keep a fire extinguisher handy. Use a frying thermometer and adjust the flame to keep the temp a constant 350F as possible. If you use peanut oil (and you should, there is not even a question about that in our house) you can kick it up to a little over 400F before you lower the bird so that the oil temp doesn't dip too far below your target temp. Use oven mitts or welding gloves when lowering or raising the turkey out of the oil. What Rich did to the turkey in the linked article breaks my heart. Fried turkey is not just for Thanksgiving. Lowry doesn't have a hair on his ass if he doesn't try again, this time with a whole bird. Crimeny, what was he thinking?
As far as the Europeans (most of whom are wringing their hands about possible US unilateral action against other terrorist harboring countries) go,here's the thing: We don't need your help, and we certainly don't need your advice. England is OK and somewhat useful to our cause, but not essential. If they get weak kneed, they can go sit on the sidelines with the French and Germans and the rest. Gee, France sent some 10 aircraft and a frigate (maybe their carrier, if they can keep the screws on). Whoop-dee-do. We crap bigger than that. Europe deigns to advise us as if our entire success in the campaign depended on their purely symbolic contributions. What really bugs them is their irrelevance. But if you want to play on the world stage, you have to pay.
Thursday, November 29, 2001
Wednesday, November 28, 2001
Perry at Samizadata was good enough to notice and comment on my previous blog on impending pilot obsolescence. He made some good points about how EW might be a factor in future wars against more adept US adversaries. I did consider these in my assessment of the future of combat aviation, but unlike the Captain, was less than complete in supporting my point (hell, look at the title of my page). Anyway, while my attention span holds up:
1. First of all, some of my best friends are Naval Aviators (one stood up for me at my wedding), and even though as a former ship driver I am supposed to loathe those guys. I don’t have an ax to grind (My vision was 20/10 and I chose to drive ships. Crazy in some eyes but that is another story…). I am just prognosticating based on my own knowledge and experience, for what that is worth.
2. War has a way of lighting a fire under the usually lethargic ass of the proverbial military industrial complex. While there was a successful test of a Hellfire equipped Predator earlier this year, field deployment wasn’t slated for until 2003. Now armed Predators are contributing in a meaningful way to the battle in Afghanistan. You can bet that the rollout skeds on purpose built UCAVs have been pushed to the left. They combine the low risk benefits of cruise missiles with reusability and the option to react on the fly (he he).
3. While 20th century conflicts have demonstrated the requisite of air superiority, we are witnessing the emergence of the primacy of information superiority. Integral to that is to that is the command, or at least the ability to exploit, the electromagnetic spectrum. Just as today, when we use cruise missiles and stealth aircraft (if required) to ensure uncontested ownership of enemy airspace, tomorrow we will take steps to ensure we can use the ether before committing forces to battle. UAVs notwithstanding, our reliance on GPS to guide our planes, bombs and troops already mandates this. UAVs (and UCAVs) can already perform most of their missions autonomously. I am confident that in the event that some future enemy attempts to jam them, we will have the ability to maintain communication (wide spectrum or frequency hopping burst transmission, tight beam satellite or point to point, etc). Future UCAVs will be hardened against EMI and could likely have built in programs to autonomously take out jamming sites should they light them up. We’ve been doing that since Viet Nam.
4. As far as using the “jam proof” meatspace processor (i.e. mark 1, mod 0 pilot) goes, he is the weakest link (sorry). Pilots train for years to master planned initial responses to various situations and threats that computers can learn as fast as it takes to input the code. I hate to say it, but even a Top Gun valedictorian couldn’t beat a well programmed machine if the gloves were off. Even if he did, there’d be plenty more from where the first one came from and we could stamp them out a lot faster than pilots, much less prospective aces, could be trained.
5. When considering a future enemy of comparable technological abilities, we have to assume that his ability to “completely jam a manned aircraft” will not be limited to fast moving objects like bullets or missiles. Fly by wire aircraft (which include all modern fighters) are dead if their electronics get fried. Crude electromagnetic pulse generators have already demonstrated the ability to immobilize vehicles at a distance and there are non-nuclear artillery shells in existence that have the same effect over large areas. Better we lose a few comparatively cheap drones than get faced with having to deal with pilots ejecting from inert planes over enemy territory.
6. Of course, this all begs the question, posed by my wife, of who all the girls will want to date. Firefighters, I expect.
Oh you've lost that lovin' feelin'...
Check out this entry (and its date) from the US Naval Institute's web forum:
UAV Ready Room Talk
Bill Hamblet - 12:22pm Sep 10, 2001 EST
I'm a big fan of UAV's. In my current job in the Joint Staff J2 we are discussing how to optimize the future surveillance capabilities inherent in UAV's. On the Ops side I think UCAV's will enable the US to project power in ways that will make the Bin Laden's and Saddam Hussein's of the world very nervous. But just think about how dull it'll be to listen to a couple of UAV pilots instead of the usual ready room banter of Tomcat or Hornet pilots just back from a mission... "In the 33rd hour of the mission, I took it off auto-pilot for a while..." Or this... "I shared a control van with your old man. He could really fly a Predator." Yawwnnn.
The days of the manned fighter/bomber are numbered. Already, Predator UAVs have been fitted with Hellfire missiles and scored kills in the battlefield. The old argument of having to have a pilot to "get eyeballs" on a target is beginning to wear thin. More and more, pilots only see the target on a screen or heads up display. Now that we have the bandwidth, what difference does it make if the display and controls are in the cockpit of the aircraft or a van on the ground, far from the action? With processing what it is, not to mention what it will be, UCAVs (C=combat, e.g. armed) are a far cry from some sort of fancy remote controlled airplane. They will be able to fly, attack, and defend themselves with the only operator intervention being target designation and confirmation. Since there is no need for a cockpit or life support for a pilot, a given airframe can carry more fuel or ordnance. Having no pilot onboard, the UCAVs can be designed to maneuver in ways that would reduce a person to bloody goo. UCAVs can also stay on station much longer than their manned counterparts. Crashes and shootdowns won't leave widows and orphans or give the enemy much of a propaganda victory (early in the current Afghan conflict, the US lost, to little ado, a UAV, most likely in the course of snooping around for Taliban SAM sites). Costly pilot training could be eliminated as UCAV operators need only train on simulators. When you consider the pipeline and money it takes to make and the keep a pilot, as well as aircraft maintenance, it is clear that the writing is on the wall. I would not be surprised if the F-22 is the last manned fighter we make.
It makes one wonder how far off we are from robot infantry. Bear in mind that is an old and unclassified link.
Tuesday, November 27, 2001
...it aggravates me that people working in the private sector aren't understood to be doing a public service. Researchers at Human Genome Sciences who find the genes for certain medical disorders, or traders on Wall Street who help move resources to their most efficient uses, do much greater service to the nation than people who volunteer to clean up vacant lots or tutor kids. Yes, cleaning and tutoring is fantastic, and we should encourage folks to do it. But compared to the for-profit endeavors that make our country so enormously wealthy and secure, these are national service garnishes. And how about folks like me who work at privately funded non-profits. I'm not doing a national service by introducing hundreds of college students to the classical liberal political tradition?
Along the same lines, except concerning the military draft, I ranted here earlier.
Monday, November 26, 2001
For three nights the Antonov transport aircraft landed at Konduz between US airstrikes (which were said to have been occurring at night at predictable intervals), at around 02:00 am each night. This was attempted again last night but as Northern Alliance forward combat elements had worked their way to the very edge of the airstrip, it was driven off by ground fire and did not land.
It would seem that some Al Qaeda fighters have indeed pulled off a 'great escape'. A small comfort may be gained from the knowledge that if the Antonov came back again last night unsuccessfully then there still must be Al Qaeda people on the ground who did not make it out on the last flight.
Clearly someone on our side has well and truly dropped the ball for this to have happened. Whilst Al Qaeda may be our loathsome enemies, one can still be struck by the sheer audacity of what they seem to have pulled off. We underestimate these guys at our peril.
Whilst I am only speculating now, my guess is that it was the same aircraft each night (I mean, just how many large Antonov transport aircraft can Al Qaeda have access to?). The fact it came back four times suggests that not only were we not shooting their airlift down but the pilot must have ice water for blood. Landing on an unlit crater pocked airstrip at night, within range of Northern Alliance guns, through a sky 'owned' by USN F-18 Hornets? Not a job I would have cared to apply for.
I gotta believe we are all over this. During the first gulf war, a US battleship tracked an Iraqi roach coach with its RPVs (Remote Piloted Vehicles, the old term for what we call UAVs (Unmanned Aerial Vehicles) today). They would watch the snack truck pull up and stop. Then the Republican Guards would come out of their hidey holes for a snack, revealing their positions. Once the truck left and was out of sight, it was, as we say in the Navy, "Batteries Released" and the battlewagon would unleash its broadside, reducing the Iraqi positions to lifeless, smoking, craters with her sixteen inch shells. Numerous Iraqi positions were decimated in this manner and that led to the famous stories of the Iraqis surrendering to RPVs. When the first battleship (names omitted to protect the guilty) was relieved on station by her sister, the gouge on the telltale roach coach was passed on. Unfortunately, the new captian on station, eager for blood, took out the hapless snack truck in the first encounter and thus lost an invaluable targetting asset.
It is my sincere hope that we are letting the Antonov transport live for similar reasons. Kinda like when Darth Vader let Skywalker et al escape from the Death Star in Star Wars. Letting any Al Qaeda troops slip away is a HUGE blunder. We are doing the world a favor by dispatching as many of hem as possible.
Since September 11, we have devoted all of our energies, spending billions of dollars and federalizing thousands of workers, to prevent an exact replica of the hijackings. What we don't realize is the heroes on United 93 already solved that problem for us. Their actions, not our hubristic legislation, dealt the hijacking industry a death blow. Instead of focusing on the ways terrorists could attack next, including an infiltration of ground crews, we seek to reinvent the wheel by attacking yesterday's problem.
emphasis is mine.
Supposedly from an editorial from a Romanian newspaper:
An ode to America
Why are Americans so united? They don't resemble one another even if you paint them! They speak all the languages of the world and form an astonishing mixture of civilizations. Some of them are nearly extinct, others are incompatible with one another, and in matters of religious beliefs, not even God can count how many they are. Still, the American tragedy turned three hundred million people into a hand put on the heart.
Nobody rushed to accuse the White House, the army, the secret services that they are only a bunch of losers. Nobody rushed to empty their bank accounts. Nobody rushed on the streets nearby to gape about. The Americans volunteered to donate blood and to give a helping hand. After the first moments of panic, they raised the flag on the smoking ruins, putting on T-shirts, caps and ties in the colors of the national flag. They placed flags on buildings and cars as if in every place and on every car a minister or the president was passing. On every occasion they started singing their traditional song: "God Bless America!".
Silent as a rock, I watched the charity concert broadcast on Saturday once, twice, three times, on different TV channels. There were Clint Eastwood, Willie Nelson, Robert de Niro, Julia Roberts, Cassius Clay, Jack Nicholson, Bruce Springsteen, Silvester Stalone, James Wood, and many others whom no film or producers could ever bring together. The American's solidarity spirit turned them into a choir. Actually, choir is not the word. What you could hear was the heavy artillery of the American soul. What neither George W. Bush, nor Bill Clinton, nor Colin Powell could say without facing the risk of stumbling over words and sounds, was being heard in a great and unmistakable way in this charity concert. I don't know how it happened that all this obsessive singing of America didn't sound croaky, nationalist, or ostentatious! It made you green with envy because you weren't able to sing for your country without running the risk of being considered chauvinist, ridiculous, or suspected of who-knows-what mean interests.
I watched the live broadcast and the rerun of its rerun for hours listening to the story of the guy who went down one hundred floors with a woman in a wheelchair without knowing who she was, or of the Californian hockey player, who fought with the terrorists and prevented the plane from hitting a target that would have killed other hundreds or thousands of people. How on earth were they able to bow before a fellow human? Imperceptibly, with every word and musical note, the memory of some turned into a modern myth of tragic heroes. And with every phone call, millions and millions of dollars were put in a collection aimed at rewarding not a man or a family, but a spirit which nothing can buy.
What on earth can unite the Americans in such a way? Their land? Their galloping history? Their economic power? Money? I tried for hours to find an answer, humming songs and murmuring phrases which risk of sounding like commonplaces. I thought things over, but I reached only one conclusion. Only freedom can work such miracles!
While it seems the above writer is a little starstruck, I like his conclusion. I could go on about how Hollywood is really the lens through which most of the world sees the US,and the implications therein, but I'll spare you for now.
Sunday, November 25, 2001
There has been a lot of talk of censorship lately. From Berkeley to New York, across the political spectrum from Bill Maher to Anne Coulter, various people who mouth ill timed, unpopular or just plain stupid things are crying that their views are being censored and “principled” dissent is important to the survival of the Nation. First of all, the only censoring that may be going on might be with respect to operational information out of the front. The public does not need to know the details of how we are prosecuting the war in real time. I think the public understands that, even if the press at the Pentagon don’t. But getting ads pulled from your show or fired from your magazine are not acts of censorship. Neither is criticism by the majority of dissenters. There is no virtue inherent in the act of dissent. In two sided issues, one side is often wrong and should be subject to hard questions or even outright dismissal if, as increasingly is the case today, their arguments have no merit. Free speech means others are just as unfettered to disagree with one’s ideas as one is to voice them in the first place.
I think much of the perceived “virtue of dissent” stems from the kind of ideal dissenter portrayed in Twelve Angry Men by Henry Fonda. In that movie, one man’s dogged fight for what he believed changed the minds of the majority and averted a great injustice. Similarly, civil rights protesters were initially perceived as dissenters. The difference here though is, I think, that Americans knew what the right thing to do vis civil rights was, but were initially lazy in the face of the status quo.
On the other hand there are numerous cases of dissenters being just plain stupid or immoral. The KKK, “Christian/patriotic” ideological extremists and Al Qaeda, a Muslim minority who supposedly doesn’t speak for the rank and file of Islam, are two examples. Is there merit to their views simply because they disagree with the majority? Are we censoring them when they are denied the company of the respectable press? Screw ‘em, they can always get a blog.