December 31st, 2010 by Frank Chadwick | Tags: Military Technology
About twenty years ago I read an article by General Donn A. Starry, former head of TRADOC but by then (as I recall) retired. In it he speculated that the Soviets were probably working on electrostatic tank armor. Back then, whenever you read something like, “The Soviets are probably working on a microwave mind control ray,” from someone respectable and well plugged-in, what it generally meant was: “We are working on this, the Soviets must know that, and so they will probably work on it as well just to keep up.” In other words, it told you more about what we were doing than what they were doing.
Electrostatic armor – in theory – surrounds a target with a weak electromagnetic field, while an on-board capacitor stores a whale of a big additional charge. When a heat round detonates, the penetrator is formed from the molten metal of the thin metal sheet lining the front of the shaped charge. This sheet is often made of copper, but in any case it is conductive. When it enters the electromagnetic field, it closes the circuit and the capacitor discharges, zapping the penetrator stream with enough power to vaporize it – or at least really mess it up.
The problem is generating all that electricity to run the bug zapper. You can charge a good capacitor off the tank’s power plant, but that takes time. What if someone fires a second round at you right away?
At about the same time folks were doing a lot of work on directed …
December 31st, 2010 by Frank Chadwick | Tags: Iraq, War on Terror
Eight bombs exploded within a two-hour period in Baghdad on Thursday, killing at least 2 and wounding 14. These bomb attacks targeted Christians, and follow a growing pattern, as well as underscoring a troubling pattern in the Middle East. Increasingly, some radical Islamic groups have begun targeting Christians, apparently in retaliation for “Christian” (i.e. U.S. and NATO) occupation of Iraq and continuing presence in the region. Those attacks reached a horrific peak in October when the congregation of a Catholic church was massacred, leaving over sixty dead.
One measure of Christian persecution is out-migration. Christians leave Iraq and Lebanon in significant numbers. Egypt is tough to call, while there is no noticeable out-migration from Syria or Jordan. The out-migration from Lebanon does not appear to be due to radical Islamic violence against Christians, but rather a response to the general level of instability and violence. Violence in that country is tribal and political rather than religious.
Syria and Jordan are both ruled by traditionalist and nationalist governments with a history of religious tolerance. The former Baathist government of Iraq, whatever other failings it suffered from, and they were legion, practiced religious tolerance for Christians.
Here is a link to a Juan Cole column with some good insights.
December 30th, 2010 by Frank Chadwick | Tags:
Well, not really. Rosie is immortal, but Geraldine Hoff Doyle, the model for the iconic World War II poster of the female riveter, just passed away. She died of complications from severe arthritis.
Doyle was photographed in a Michigan steel plant in 1942 and became the model for the famous poster of a beautiful female factory worker showing impressive arm muscles and saying “We Can Do It!”
The finely-chiseled features of the face, complete with gracefully arching eyebrows and classic mouth, were Doyle’s. The muscles were added by the artist – Doyle was tall and slender, a cellist by regular profession, and remembered as a “glamour girl,” by her daughter.
Doyle was unaware her likeness was used in the poster until 1984, when she happened to see a picture of herself in “Modern Maternity” magazine and read the accompanying article which named the picture as the inspiration for the poster.
Doyle is survived by five children, 18 grandchildren, and 25 great-grandchildren. She’ll be remembered by millions.
December 29th, 2010 by Frank Chadwick | Tags: Darfur, Sudan
Next month the southern Sudan will vote for or against independence. The secession referendum is part of a cease-fire agreement brokered by the U.S. in 2005. The Sudan has experienced on-and-off civil war for decades, the country torn along ethnic and religious lines between the Arab/Muslin north and the Black African, non-Muslim south. The north has the majority of the population (22 million) along with most of the resources and urban areas. The south, with about 6 million people, relies on subsistence agriculture and has virtually no modern infrastructure in place, in part due to neglect by the north and in part die to the ongoing civil war. There are effectively no paved roads in the south, for example.
The civil war has caused over two million deaths to date. Uganda, Ethiopia, and Eritrea have supported the southern secessionist forces and Sudan has in turn supported anti-government forces in those countries. Libya and Egypt support the notion of a unified Sudan, if not necessarily the draconian actions of the government to suppress the south. The highest-visibility region in the war has been Darfur, where suppression of the south has been widely labeled genocidal in scope and effect.
Ballots, printed in the United Kingdom, recently arrived in Juba, the administrative capital of the south. They will be flown to administrative centers in coming weeks and distributed from there by UN and NGO personnel.
Once the referendum is over, what is to prevent the north from continuing cross-border campaigns against the south? The best bet is the Satellite …
December 28th, 2010 by Frank Chadwick | Tags: Afghanistan
The ever-informative Juan Cole recently ran a column on the top ten myths about Afghanistan. Many of these are things you’ve found me writing about. I heartily encourage you to take a look at this column by Cole. His hyperlinks identify solid sources which back up his systematic deconstruction of the “Conventional Wisdom” on the war in Afghanistan. These are not imaginary straw-man arguments conjured up just for the satisfaction of knocking them down. These are the key claims made in support of the current policy.
Here are the ten wide-spread claims he takes apart.
10. There has been significant progress in tamping down the insurgency in Afghanistan.
9. Afghans want the US and NATO troops to stay in their country because they feel protected by them.
8. The “surge” and precision air strikes are forcing the Taliban to the negotiating table.
7. The US presence in Afghanistan is justified by the September 11 attacks.
6. Afghans still want US troops in their country, despite their discontents.
5. The presidential elections of 2009 and the recent parliamentary elections were credible and added to the legitimacy of Afghanistan’s government.
4. President Hamid Karzai is “a key ally” of the United States.
3. Shiite Iran is arming the hyper-Sunni, Shiite-hating Taliban in Afghanistan.
2. Foreigners are responsible for much of Afghanistan’s fabled corruption.
1. The US is in Afghanistan to fight al-Qaeda.
Cole is the writer who called the invasion of Afghanistan “The right war at the right time.” The bloom is off the rose.
December 24th, 2010 by Frank Chadwick | Tags: China, India
There’s been a lot of discussion (including in this column) about the growing rivalry between India and China, the reality of a budding arms race, and the possibility of future conflict. In some cases, this possibility is discussed with barely-suppressed giddy anticipation. “Hey, they got all this stuff and they’re aiming it at somebody else!”
What receives less consideration is what happens if China and India decide to do something really radical – get along. Last week the Netaji Research Bureau in Kolkata, India, organized a seminar to discuss exactly that subject. Singapore’s Foreign Minister George Yeo expressed his opinion: rapprochement between the two emerging global powers would first transform Asia, and then the world.
The Asia part is pretty easy to see. Asian countries, particularly in Southeast Asia, are not looking forward to the prospect of having to choose sides in that brawl. Strained relations between China and India, particularly with modernized armed forces on each side, are more likely to produce proxy wars between their allies and satellites than open war between the two main players. That sort of conflict would be bad news for countries like Vietnam, which are certain to become badly-used pawns in a regional power struggle, and also certain to come out of such a struggle with too much money tied up in armaments and not much to show for it, no matter which of the bigger powers comes out on top.
As to transforming the world – well, maybe so. If the two countries with the largest …
December 23rd, 2010 by Frank Chadwick | Tags:
The F-35 Joint Strike Fighter is the largest single piece of new hardware procurement the armed forces are currently pursuing, now that the F-22 Raptor project has melted down into a molten puddle of red ink. Both of those programs will end up taking twenty years from inception to fielding of a weapon system, and a big part of the procurement system we have right now is that the whole world changes a lot in twenty years. Increasingly, these sorts of procurement times are the rule, not the exception. One result is that the specifications for the hardware keep morphing to meet that new world, or simply to meet the latest military fad which has caught the headlines. Lots of army vehicle projects died on the vine because the world changed out from under them before real vehicles could come off assembly lines.
A group of Air Force officers have been arguing for a while that there is a better way. They call it “Fast, Inexpensive, Simple, and Tiny,” or FIST. One real-world example of FIST is the MC-12W intelligence gather aircraft, a manned variant of the C-12 unmanned system, optimized for intelligence gathering, and which went from concept to deployment in thirteen months.
The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) has gotten on-board with its “Sim Tank,” more formally (if awkwardly) title the Adaptive Vehicle Make (AVM) initiative. It aims at taking basic computer design and modeling a step beyond current software limitations to make the final output of computer modeling …
December 23rd, 2010 by Frank Chadwick | Tags: Pakistan
I’ve repeatedly written here about the virtues of Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) as weapon systems. I think they are the coming thing, and not simply as low-intensity reconnaissance and occasional strike platforms. In fifty years I’d be surprised to see a single manned combat aircraft flying. Of course, in fifty years I’d also be surprised to still be around to see anything flying, but you know what I mean.
But there is a difference between the utility of a piece of hardware and the wisdom of its employment – and sometimes that difference is a yawning chasm. The continuing campaign of drone strikes against northwestern Pakistan may be a case in point. The CIA recently had to pull its section chief from Islamabad, where Karim Khan, a Pakistani journalist from Northern Waziristan, publicly accused him of being responsible for the death of the journalist’s brother and son in a drone strike gone wrong.
The CIA cited security issues as the reason for his withdrawal, and there is certainly something to that. When the public finds out who the CIA section head is in a country, especially a country in which the CIA is conducting a vigorous campaign of targeted killings via drone missile, security ought to be a concern. Of equal or greater concern was the prospect of a CIA official dragged into a Pakistani courtroom and charged with capital murder. Not the Christmas present anyone in Langley was looking for.
It does serve to bring into the light the whole issue of the CIA-directed …