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.