Wednesday, November 19, 2008

The Recession and Neo-Fascism/Et-al-isms

David Brooks at New York Times had an interesting article up today on the "Formerly Middle Class". His main thesis is that, as these formerly middle class people lose their jobs and their middle class symbols, they will become angry, pessimistic, and vulnerable to extremist messages.

This column reminded me of Today's ISMS: Socialism, Capitalism, Fascism, Communism, and Libertarianism by Ebenstein. In it, Ebenstein said of Fascism that its footsoldiers are of the Lower Middle Class, because they have worked the hardest to move themselves out of the lower class. So they embrace the social conventions and traditions. At the same time, because they are lower on the economic scale, they are more vulnerable to losing their status. Therefore they are more militant against economic redistribution schemes. Fascism exploits their vulnerabilities against Communism, even though both are more similar than different in practice.

With this in mind, we can look at a post-Great-Recession World 10 years from now: In China, India, Brazil, and Russia, (and East Europe), we can expect to see a rise in Nationalistic Fascist groups in their respective countries. They will militate against their traditional enemies: Japan/Korea, Pakistan, Germany/Europe, Paraguay(?), et al. And the United States will be the Public Enemy # Uno in many of those places as well.

As the "Emerging Markets" slide back into 3rd World-ness, we can also expect a re-surgence in Communist philosophies. Both Communism and Fascism are products of the turbulent economic times of the last turn of the century. It seems that the more things change, the more they stay the same.

I may have to order that nuclear fall-out shelter I've been thinking about. With a possibly Islamic-ruled Pakistan and Nationalistic Fascist India facing each other, the Doomsday Clock is edging toward armageddon.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

The USAF's Acquisition Crisis and AAMs

Whew! The election is finally over with. Let's hope Obama is more of a Clinton-style triangulator instead of a Carter-ish indecisive vision guy as Todd Zywicki said here.

Regardless, Stephen Trimble yesterday highlighted some great comments from a fighter jock here, that generated a lot of comments. One of the interesting points is the low probability of kill ratio of the AIM-120 against a jamming target. If the USAF is going up against any semi-near-peer competitor, it will not have superiority. Sure, the F-22 is great. But the key to making the F-22, and its Beyond-Visual-Range tactic, work, is the AIM-120. If the F-22 supercruises into the fight, fires the AMRAAMs, and get out of Dodge, he survives. But his target will survive, too, if the missiles fail to lock onto the target due to jamming. And what's that called, if neither side gets a kill? Parity, not Superiority.

This, coupled with the USAF fiscal death spiral that ELP and others have been documenting, means that the USAF needs to change its acquisition strategy right now. If it keeps going down the current path, it will run out of money, people, and fighters. The USAF will get a smaller and smaller slice of the budget pie, along with the rest of the DoD, because that is the American budgetary future. The USAF cannot out-compete the AARP. The USAF is also getting less retention. And it is prematurely retiring its F-teens to bank on the unproven F-35. The USAF will become operationally irrelevant if it keeps going as it is.

The USAF keeps saying that the F-22s (with AMRAAM) will secure the skies and allow the F-35s to do their job, but it doesn't have enough F-22s, and will never get more. The F-35s (and some legacy F-teens) will have to take on air-to-air missions. We know that AMRAAM, as is, doesn't work in a jamming environment. The USAF has to immediately embark on an AMRAAM replacement program right now. Being that even missile programs take more than 4 years to go from the lab to the flightline, the more the USAF wastes its time, the more time it gives semi-near-peers to become peers. The new Advanced AAM Program [doesn't that sound familiar? :] has a simple goal, Give the F-35 a decisive advantage over the current 4.5th Gen fighters (Eurofighter, Su-35+, et al). The corollary effect will give the F-teens and F-22 superiority over everybody else.

In the mean time, the USAF can get some cheap fixes: Put a Sidewinder seeker and an RF homing seeker on the AMRAAM for seeker diveristy in the inventory. Integrate and buy the Meteor to improve the kill ratio and foster cross-Atlantic solidarity. Try the datalink to improve jamming resistance. Or have the AMRAAM talk to other AMRAAMs in its volley to sift through the noise.

Unfortunately, the USAF has been peddling the F-35 as its savior for too long now. Politically, it cannot admit otherwise and change course, without killing many officer careers. The Obama administration seems unlikely to rock the USAF boat, because its focus, and its expertise, is on COIN and the ground fight. The Obama administration may not have the intellectual and political capital to fight the USAF.

If Dr. Gates stays on as DefSec, he might be able to turn the USAF around, due to his USAF background as a missileer and his distance from the F-35 game. However, he is planning on leaving, and there are other people that want the job. All in all, the future looks bleak for the

On the other hand, the USN faces a similar issue with its underpowered F-18. The USN Tomcat association has long lobbied for an AIM-54 Phoenix replacement. The USN aviation budget is in much less trouble due to its volume buy of the F-18E/F, and is in a better position to advocate a new AAAM program. If the USN succeeds in deploying the AAAM, you can be sure that the USAF will jump on board.

It is a sad day when the USAF has to depend on the USN to rescue it from air-to-air irrelevance. However, this analysis is yet another piece of vindication for Inter-Service Rivalry and support for duplication in Roles and Missions.

Sorry for the html. Has to use email submission.

Edit: fixed the html.

Edit 2: I saw the Joint Dual Role Air Dominance Missile. I hope that the Air to Air requirements are sufficiently robust, and that the ARM/AGM requirements take a back seat, as they should be. However, with an in-service date beyond 2020, it is clear that the USN and USAF needs an interim solution, as I've outlined above.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

The Upcoming LMG Replacement and Infantry Operations

The Marine Corps Times reports that USMC is working on a SAW replacement. At the same time, the US Army will probably stay with an upgrade to the FN Minimi/M249. The Marines are looking for a magazine-fed-only automatic rifle to serve in this role. The Army, on the other hand, is sticking with belt-feed, and will possibly eliminate the magazine well on the SAW.

This is an interesting development and serves to highlight the historical role of the light machine gun. Most people, including many in the military, have little understanding on what a machine gun is supposed to do. Everyone agrees that a machine gun, including an LMG and automatic rifle, needs to shoot lots of rounds, but outside of that, there's quite a bit of confusion.

Man invented the Machine Gun because it was a great engineering problem, to make the gun automatically load and continuously fire. But after the invention, militaries struggled for years to build up an organization around the technology. Eventually, in the meatgrinder of World War I, they settled on the missions of the machine gun as:
1. In the Defense, to anchor the defensive line, and to build a wall of lead to stop the enemy advance.
2. In the Offense, to isolate the objective (a bunker, foxhole, house) so that the enemy cannot reinforce the target, and to occupy the objective's attention while the rest of the squad/team approaches the objective.

The light machine gun attempts to meet these two missions for the infantry squad, while the medium machine gun does the same for platoons and companies. To keep up with the soldiers on foot, the LMG needs to be small and light enough so that one soldier can carry it and bring it into action, yet still fulfills the above two missions.

The current debate in LMG design is, What are the necessary features to meet the missions?
-Does it require a belt-feed mechanism so we can give it a 200-round belt in a sustained-fire mode, or would the current 30-round magazine be sufficient since machine gun operation usually has enough time to allow a quick magazine change? Can the current 90-round and 100-round drum magazines work as well as the battle-proven belt-feed mechanism? The American BAR served throughout WWII in the LMG role with only a 20-round magazine.
-Does it require a quick change barrel so that the squad can fire thousands of rounds in a defensive engagement against overwhelming odds? Without changing out the barrels in this scenario, the machine gun barrel will melt/deform from the firing stress, rendering the weapon useless.
-Does it need a tripod mount so we can mount it on a Humvee, and to provide accurate, long-distance(600m+), automatic fire from a static position? Or is that a role for medium machine guns and heavy machine guns, but not light machine guns?

These questions are important because modern assault rifles such as the AK47 and M16 provide automatic fire mode to the individual soldier. The soldier no longer has to rely on the squad LMG to be the sole provider of automatic fire. The LMG does not have the overwhelming advantage in automatic fire to offset its disadvantage of weight, size, and logistical and training requirements (as a result of its belt-feed, barrel, and tripod). And without the above three features of belt-feed, quick-change barrel, and tripod mount, the LMG looks suspiciously like any other assault rifles. Witness the RPK and the L86 LSW variant. In fact, the British Army now employs the L86 LSW as a designated marksman rifle, rather than an LMG.

[The Steyer AUG LMG variant is an LMG design that has the quick-change barrel, but no belt-feed nor tripod.]

So armies across the globe continue to grapple with the design of the LMG/Automatic Rifle. The lessons of OIF are now feeding into this debate. In OIF, most of the fighting is done in built-up areas. In such close quarters, the machine guns primarily serve to isolate the objective, firing down alleyways to keep people from entering and leaving. The LMG's length means that it is of limited utility inside houses, going from room to room. The LMG's range is useful as a marksman rifle, but its sustained fire is rarely used due to collateral damage. To the dismounted patrol, then, the LMG extracts a weight penalty for a limited tactical utility.

On the other hand, the LMG was crucial in the early days of OIF phase 4. At the time, units across the country scrambled onto Humvees to maintain security on the lines of communication, and to provide security coverage in the cities. During this mad rush, there was a critical shortage in medium machine guns (M240) and heavy machine guns (M2) to arm the Humvees. The SAWs in the pintle mount bridged the shortage then, and has continued in the role to this day as a vehicle weapon. Therefore, an LMG may be important to the infantry squad not for its dismounted utility, but as a hedge for the days of the Dragoons.

In conclusion, the Light Machine Gun, as it exists today, will probably fade away. In the assault-rifle world, the LMG does not possess enough of an advantage over the assault rifle to continue on as a dedicated platform. Instead, we will see more assault-rifle derivatives such as the Steyer AUG LMG, which shares much in common with the individual rifle. The automatic rifle of the future would ideally have a quick-change barrel and the tripod mount (to get on the pintle). Drum magazines and regular magazines will carry the ammunition for the automatic rifle, enabling the SAW gunner/Automatic Rifleman to share ammo with his squadmates.

Thanks to Noah's Five for Fighting 9/16/08 for the heads up.

Edited for spelling, grammer, and formatting

Monday, September 15, 2008

Army Open to New PDW Ideas

The US Army is now open to other Personal Defense Weapon ideas.

For years, the NATO program on PDWs have focused on weapons designed to meet the PDW requirements, instead of current weapons, such as subcompact carbines. This focus has derailed PDW programs due to budgetary concerns with new weapon systems and their dedicated ammunition. However, the new US small arms RFI could signal a change.

This RFI is looking for what is out there in the carbine and subcompact carbine market. Subcompact carbines such as the Close Quarters Battle Receiver; or AR pistol generally serve the SOF community in the US military. However, subcompacts can satisfy the PDW requirements quite well.

Subcompacts are small and light, which is the main requirement for PDWs, whose users have to carry a weapon while performing their daily jobs of maintenance, commo, etc. An AR subcompact would also ease the training requirements, because they share the same operation and maintenance procedures. An AR subcompact can also share the same ammunition as the M-16/M4 system, or their follow-ons. The AR subcompact shares many parts with its larger carbine sibling, making it cheaper to develop and acquire.

The various piston upper receivers are also available for subcompact AR carbines, so we have piston alternatives.

The many virtues of the subcompact carbine/pistol makes it a politically and militarily viable solution to the PDW requirements. Now if only they can do something about the subcompact's muzzle blasts...

Monday, September 1, 2008

China Finally Responds to Ossetia

A belated update to my previous post on Ossetia: China, through the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, has taken a stand on the Ossetia conflict. The SCO will support the current ceasefire and the conflict resolution.

As predicted, China has taken the neutral third party stance. Words are cheap. We'll have to wait to see if China will back up words with deeds, ie Deploy peacekeepers to replace the Russians, etc.

And we're still waiting on India to make a move here.

Thanks to Galrahn for noting this first.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

The Asian Geopolitical Implications of the Ossetian War

Figured I should put in my 2 cents about the Ossetian War here. I don't have anything to add to the news out there. But this conflict is glaring in the absence of some major players.

China and India aspire to super power status. The Ossetian War presented many opportunities to a power looking for good press: Russia took a side, America the other. A third way to mediate the crisis, as a semi-neutral third party, is an obvious opening. At the end of hostilities there will be a need for peacekeepers/observers to enforce the ceasefire, for which China and India has plenty of bodies to deploy, and which will be a great occassion for photo ops in a low-risk environment. The role of a mediator does not require any commitments and has a great return on international good will.

Both China and India are for "Non-intervention", "territorial integrity", etc. China in particular can use another friend to face off Russia. At the same time, both countries have a huge diaspora population abroad and can use that to relate to Russia.

Of course, France took the diplomatic opening and is working to mediate a ceasefire. India and China should have been jumping on the bandwagon and everything. Yet there is nary a peep from either of them. One wonders why.

Thanks to The DEW Line!

Thanks to Stephen Trimble's The DEW Line for the shout out!

Monday, July 14, 2008

Army Needs to Buy American Piston ARs (Updated!)

Christian at Defense Tech broke a story on Congress and the M-16. This past weekend, some Congress staffers went to Quantico to get an orientation on "commercial" alternatives to the Colt M-4. There has been no updates on what happened this weekend, nor which vendors/weapons showed up at the orientation. It probably included the HK416, HK XM-8, and the FN SCAR-L, which were in the recent Army rifle endurance test. Rumors state that the various 6.8 SPC, 6.5, et al, cartridges and platforms would have been present as well.

It's nice that the Congress people got to play w/ guns. I hope that they included some real American vendors such as LWRC, POF-USA, and Ares, who have already brought piston-operated ARs to the market successfully.

Other than the HK brand name and some quality control advantages, HK does not have an edge in this arena. LWRC and Ares both use the tapped rod, AR-18 mechanism on the HK416 and XM-8. The whole point of a piston-operated system is to be resistant to fouling. If you tighten the tolerance, like what HK likes to do, you lose the robustness advantage. It's interesting how the "greatest gun company", as HK fans likes to tell you, does not get that idea. Tightening the tolerance will give you accuracy, but also increases maintenance requirements, as we have seen w/ the MP-5/G-3 system.

Later I'll talk about what this M-4 controversy says about the modern military small arm philosophy.

UPDATE: Participants reported that Barrett, FN, LWRC, HK, and Bushmaster provided equipment to the demonstration. The demonstration was reportedly very professional, with no commercial sales pitches and stuck to the numbers and facts. The calibers were 5.56, 6.8 SPC, and 7.62x51mm. It's great that LWRC participated in this demonstration.

Personally, I'm agnostic on the 5.56 vs 6.8 vs 7.62 debate. Line units may benefit from switching to a heavier caliber. However, the low recoil of the 5.56 enabled better marksmanship among rear echelon personnel and soldiers of smaller stature.

Dr Roberts (CDR, USNR) has made a persuasive case for upgrading to 6.8, tho.

One last point: It is important for the layperson to realize that switching calibers or to piston operated gas systems does not require us to abandon the M-16 platform. The M-16/M-4 has two sub-systems, the Upper Assembly and the Lower Assembly. The lower assembly contains the trigger and the stock, and generally stays the same among most M-16 variants. The upper assembly has the barrel and is the main difference among the various calibers and operating systems. If we were to upgrade the M-16/M-4, we can just buy new upper assemblies or modify our existing inventory of upper assemblies.

Saturday, June 28, 2008


The Volokh Conspiracy has many excellent articles parsing the Heller vs DC decision. Heller pleases neither the left nor the right, but at least it did not affirm the Federal Government's abuse of the Interstate Commerce clause. Overall, I agree with Sandy Levinson that Heller may have seriously disarmed the Gun issue for this election.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Anti-Ship Ballistic Missiles

Christian over at Defense Tech broke the story of a Chinese anti-ship ballistic missile program. It is an intriguing thought, but this idea just brings back too many memories of reading Payne Harrison's Thunder of Erebus.

We all know that you don't have a real Anti-Ship Ballistic Missile until you mate a torpedo to the warhead!! Close-In Weapon Systems cannot yet deal with torpedoes!

But in general, yeah, current generation CIWSs are designed to deal with the terminal "diving" maneuver of modern anti-ship missiles. So they have the maneuverability to acquire and track something diving down at them from space. The current technical challenge is that of mass: Can they pump out enough bullets/fragments to shred the re-entry vehicle?

At this time, the fastest countermeasure would be to network multiple CIWS together, and target one RV at a time. The current ammo capacity on the CIWS is definitely insufficient in a saturation attack scenario.

In the future, we can expect to see more multi-gatling CIWS like the Russian Kashtan or the Italian Myriad. They have to make up for the Gatling gun's low initial firing rate by adding guns.

Update: Yes, I know you're going to bring up Metal Storm as a potential solution. No, Metal Storm is NOT a solution to this. Their design has a serious limitation to ammo capacity. Just imagine lining up 400 20mm bullets from end to end, and you can see that they are unrealistic.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Manifestation of Asian Growth Risks

The LA Times today brings confirmation of the precarious economic situations of China and India. This confirms my article last week about the popular misperception of Asian economic prowess. The Asian Depression is coming soon. How everyone deal with it will define the Twenty-First Century, just as the Great Depression defined the Twentieth Century.

PS: The Chinese official CPI for May'08 is rumored to be 7%. Looking for confirmation report.

Up-gunning of Remote Weapon Stations

Finally, my first article on defense technology!

A note from Eurosatory 2008: Nexter has unveiled a remote weapon station that can mount medium caliber cannons from 20mm and up. As Jane's reported,

"We noticed that forces wanted something more powerful than a .50 cal [machine gun]," explained Pierre Clouvel, Nexter's executive vice-president for equipment. "For example, we received orders recently for the P20 [a Nexter 20 mm-armed manned weapon mount] to be mounted on the Otokar Cobra [armoured personnel carrier]."

This remote weapon station is primarily meant for light vehicles such as Humvees. This model marks the leap in RWS capability from small caliber machine guns to medium caliber cannons. Airborne forces will directly benefit from this development.

More broadly, the Iraq war has spurred the transition from manned turrets to unmanned ones. The proliferation of RWSs started as a way to keep gunners under armor protection, without significantly adding weight to the vehicles or increasing rollover risk. Along the way, vendors have increased RWS's capabilities by adding missiles, and now light cannons. As unmanned turrets adorn light armored vehicles with medium caliber cannons, armies around the world will have to ask themselves, Why should they keep manned turrets on their infantry fighting vehicles?

This rise of the unmanned turrets also has implications for the US Future Combat System. FCS manned vehicles are overweight and do not meet their original C-130 transportability specification. Based on the current artist drawings, it appears that the designers are trying to hold down weight using unmanned turrets. However, the turrets are still too bulky in the current configuration. GDLS and BAE needs to go all in and reduce the turrets to skeletal conditions. They can save the armor panels for "up-armored" situations.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

"Rise" of Asia

NPR today had a book review on the "Rise" of Asia in a multipolar world. The story has the usual platitudes about how the future will be an economically prosperous Asia. The reviewer even praised the "Invididual entrepreneurship without interference from the state" in India. Hello?! India has a lot of "individual entrepreneurship"? Which land has a more vibrant small business scene, India or China? Which one suffers more from bureaucratic redtape in business formation?

But the point of this post today is not about correcting the details of this NPR story. Rather, I want to raise a point on the American public consciousness about Asia.

It appears that most commentators on the "Rise" of Asia forecast the following: China/India/et al becomes ever richer. One day, their GDP exceeds that of the US. Voila, Asia is now a superpower. Warfare/conflict does not enter the narrative except a worry that the American Gung Ho nutjobs will screw it up by fighting the Chinese in the Taiwan Strait.

These commentators generally downplay the economic risks during the "Rise". China and India both faces significant recession risks in the near term. How they, and we the US, deal with their economic downturn will significantly define their future trajectory and our relationships.

When the economy is booming, as it is right now in Asia, everybody is happy, and they have few disputes with the US. People become angry when their heightened expectations do not pan out, as in a recession, and that is when war starts.

China and India's rising demand for oil is driving up the marginal price for oil now. As oil becomes more expensive, their governments will have to decrease their oil subsidies to the consumers, or increase taxation. An oil-driven inflation will easily cause unrest among the urban poor, leading toward widespread social disruption. Anecdotal evidence suggest that inflation is already higher this year in China than last year, though official inflation figures will not be available before year end. India's new car culture is also vulnerable to the rising oil.

The current energy crisis is also driving up food prices. The agricultural revolution that cured India's famine was fueled by fertilizers. As fertilizer prices have gone up across the world (petroleum is a key input to the aritificial fertilizers), food prices have gone up as well. India and China have stopped exporting rice due to expected shortage.

Beyond the current energy crisis, economic growth has also driven up the real estate in China (not sure about India). The real estate prices in Shanghai and Beijing are reminiscent of pre-recession Japan. In such a speculative environment, there will inevitably be a real estate price crash. We are the living proof of that today.

Even now, manufacturers are moving away from China in search of ever cheaper labor.

All this is to say, we should stop thinking about the "Rise" of Asia, or managing the rise of China and India into the multi-polar world. Instead, we need to start working on plans to manage the coming Chinese and Indian Depressions and/or Stagflations. The coming Asian economic crisis will define the 21st Century, just as the Great Depression defined the 20th Century and the rise of the United States as a Superpower.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

The Value of Single Sex Education

The Washington Post reports that there are more single sex classrooms in this country. 500+ public schools will offer some single sex classrooms this fall, compared to earlier this decade. The schools cite "No Child Left Behind" as providing some legal cover.

It's good that schools are freer to experiment with alternative formats than before. Single sex environments are definitely good for some children and/or grades. It is patently obvious that puberty complicates learning. With raging hormones and the opposite sex close by, adolescents often have difficulties focusing on the lesson plan. It is no wonder that many Americans find the middle school years a confusing and chaotic time. High school and elementary schools are often remembered fondly, but not middle school.

This is not generally the experience in countries with single sex middle schools. I went to middle school outside the United States. My middle school separated the classrooms by gender. With an all-boy classroom, there was less acting up. Boys respond better to force and harsh language as reprimands, whereas girls, by nature or nurture, may take the punishment more personally, inhibiting the behavior adjustment necessary. With the single-sex classrooms, the teachers could tailor their disciplines to the group at hand. The classrooms were generally orderly, and students worked harder at their lessons. The school ensured equal treatment by having all teachers teach both girl and boy classes in their subject specialties.

Some people may raise the point that, we live in an integrated society now, where we need to learn to deal with the opposite gender in all aspects of our lives. To that, I say, so? There is plenty of time for kids to do so in elementary and high school. Failing all that, they can find out in college and beyond. Single gender classrooms does not preclude integrated club activities. Classroom is supposed to be serious, and clubs not so. A single sex classroom makes it easier to enforce discipline.

Besides, the current laissez-faire approach to teaching inter-gender relationship in the US leaves a lot to be desired. A little bit of gender relation protoccol training will make everyone more efficient in navigating gender relationships.

PS: 17JUN08 I know that I am exhibiting a lot of heterosexual bias here. However, as heterosexual children outnumber the other orientations, I choose to focus on the majority needs.
In addition, I note that special ed will probably be co-ed due to resource constraints.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Uzbekistan Losing Farmland to Salt

From New York Times, Uzbekistan is suffering from over-irrigation. It is sad that Uzbekistan is dealing with the same issue that America dealt with 70 years ago and for the past 20 years. As we face the current high food prices, we need to pay attention to the lessons of the Dust Bowl so we don't do it again.

This is another reminder, as well, in the coming resource struggle.


Welcome. After commenting on the various blogs for so long, I've finally taken the plunge to write my thoughts, hopefully more coherently.