The Navy could benefit from several improvements to support carriers and increase offensive ability

June 9th, 2023

What does a “built-to-win” fleet look like? Austin Vernon offers some suggestions:

First, carriers will still dominate the fleet! Without air cover, you lose. The aircraft will remain the same size because of payload and range constraints whether humans fly them or not, limiting the utility of smaller carrier designs. Carriers are not as vulnerable as assumed, either. In WWII, bombs and missiles sunk only one US fleet carrier. Today’s carriers are 5x the size, yet modern anti-ship missiles and WWII munitions have similar explosive punch. The main questions are how fast repairs happen and how well the crew can put out fires. Escorts will provide warning, defense, and absorb hits.

The US Navy has limited ship-killing and land attack ability outside of aircraft and submarines. Nine F-18s, each carrying ten 1000-pound bombs, have more explosive power than a Burke-Class destroyer’s vertical launch tubes, and the destroyer must return to port to reload!

The Navy could benefit from several improvements to support carriers and increase offensive ability:

Ships That Can Brawl:

The Navy needs ships that can take a punch and have the firepower to deal damage.

Survivability needs to be a priority. Modern warships have mostly given up on armor, but there has been significant progress in armor technology in tanks that could offer a boost in survivability. Ships have more room and mass allowance than tanks, opening up more options. Battle damage considerations, especially around fire, are always critical. Sensors on current Navy ships often have more capability than necessary, are challenging to repair, and are extremely sensitive to damage. A fighter aircraft-size radar would be more than adequate on most ships, allowing for the storage of spare modules. All maintenance must be as easy as swapping modules, similar to the Army’s tanks. Ships will get hit by missiles, and some will sink or burn, but that doesn’t mean that one shot should take them out of the fight or that the crew must go down with the ship.

Stealth is another key to survivability. Any reduction in radar, acoustic, thermal, electronic, or visual signature helps delay detection and makes the ship less enticing for precision-guided munitions. Tall vertical missile launch tubes and large radars are the worst offenders in increasing signatures.

Engineering, economics, and practicality all point towards warships needing an incredible density of short-range air defenses composed of electronic warfare, decoys, smaller missiles, guided rockets, and guns. Most point defenses should have independent targeting systems for robustness. Reliability and quick reaction times matter more than interception range.

Surface warfare capability must increase, especially in the 30-150 km range. Naval guns, rocket artillery, and rocket-launched torpedos are all options. Modified-for-sea-duty M270 Multiple Launch Rocket System launcher rails could provide sustained offensive firepower at 20,000 pounds per hour per launcher, could reload at sea, and use everything from 30 km range surplus rockets to the 500+ km range Precision Strike Missile. 8″ guns could massively increase range and firepower compared to today’s 5″ guns. An experiment in the 1970s put an 8″ gun on a small destroyer, proving the concept. And there is a faction that wants to reactivate and modernize the Iowa-class ships, bringing 16″ guns back into the inventory.

These ships are only valuable if they are manufacturable. The easiest way to improve manufacturability is to remove excess features. The worst offenders are massive $300 million radars, helicopters, and vertical missile tubes. All of these systems are complex, fragile, and hideously expensive. Deleting these features or substituting simpler systems could reduce the size of a destroyer by 70%. More shipyards can build them, and the construction time and cost will decrease dramatically.

A classical destroyer, a more narrowly-focused submarine, and an anti-air-focused cruiser would be examples of needs within this paradigm. The destroyer could serve as a carrier escort or operate in independent squadrons. The Navy could build a submarine without vertical launch tubes, special forces accommodations, and other extraneous features in numbers to disrupt enemy shipping and subs. The cruiser would provide additional short and medium-range anti-air capability, especially for handling sea-skimming missiles.

Simple Support Craft:

Several support capabilities have little peacetime utility but would have insatiable demand during a high-intensity conflict. Anti-submarine patrol boats, minesweepers, amphibious landing equipment, and escort carriers for submarine hunting helicopters and scout drones are the main culprits.

These vessels don’t fight the enemy fleet directly, allowing them to be simple, small, and possibly built on commercial hulls. The main requirements are to do one job well and to be built in huge numbers affordably. The Navy’s attempt to consolidate many of these capabilities into the Littoral Combat Ship (LCS) has been a disaster after cost and complexity spiraled out of control.

The Navy needs new models in production to support a small number of active duty ships for training, some in reserve, and unconventional shipyards certified to produce high volumes.

Better Passive Sensors:

Controlling electronic emissions will be a matter of survival for Navy Battle Groups, especially early in a conflict. Even using radar aircraft like the E-2 can betray the general area of a carrier group. There is a catch-22 with radar. It might provide more warning of missiles, but using the radar will make the group a missile magnet. Incredible amounts of short-range air defense are helpful because the engagement ranges could be very close.

Passive sensors, like infrared cameras, to detect missiles and other combatants would make it easier to turn the radars off until a battle commences. Drones can provide over-the-horizon sensing that ship-based radar and optics can’t, increasing warning time. Bad weather can degrade the infrared and visible light spectrums, but the enemy suffers, too. Their scouts and missiles will use radar that warns of their attack.

Sea gliders, satellites, and over-the-horizon radar stations are other ways the Navy can gather intelligence, though many of these will also be early targets for the Chinese.

Air Superiority Fighters:

The Navy is in worse shape than the Air Force because they have no equivalent to the F-22. Incremental improvements to the F-35 are an option for improvement while waiting for the F/A-XX program to mature.

The M777’s lightweight construction isn’t just valuable for air transport

June 8th, 2023

In 1979, the M198 155mm medium-towed howitzer entered service:

At just over 36 feet long and weighing in at approximately 16,000 pounds, the M198 could rain high-explosive hell down on targets from 14 miles out, cycling and firing 95-pound M107 shells with a 9 or 10-person crew.

By the 1990s, the U.S. was shopping for a new, lighter artillery platform:

The answer came in the form of an artillery system that had been in development in the UK since the 1980s, initially under the banner of Vickers Shipbuilding and Engineering (later purchased by BAE systems). At 35 feet long, with a 16.7-foot barrel, this new artillery platform was just slightly shorter than the M198 and fired the same 155mm rounds… But thanks to the widespread use of titanium and aluminum alloys in its construction, weighed 40% less than the M198, at just 9,300 pounds.

The new M777 was so light, in fact, that it could be slung beneath helicopters or delivered via all sorts of cargo aircraft. While it would take two C-130s to deliver an M198 artillery system to the battlefield, the entire M777 setup could arrive in just one.

But the M777’s lightweight construction isn’t just valuable for air transport. In combat, where artillery crews regularly “shoot and scoot” (fire off a number of rounds and then relocate before you can be targetted), the M777’s light weight makes it easier to quickly break down and move. In fact, well-trained crews can break the M777 down for transport in just about three minutes and set it back up again in about the same. While traveling, its light weight means M777s can be towed through muddy roads and across wet fields that would hinder the progress (or completely stop) heavier weapon systems.

The M777 also received improved high explosive shells — the 103-pound M795, which carries 24 pounds of TNT and offers a kill radius of a whopping 70 meters. Each M795 carries the destructive firepower of a Hellfire missile, but delivered at just a fraction of the cost.

Crews can fire five of these massive rounds per minute, reaching targets 19 miles away. Newer (and more expensive) GPS-guided rounds with deployable stabilizing fins known as the M982 Excalibur can reach even further — as far as 25 miles out.

The M777 may have been made out of some of the same materials as the SR-71, but Uncle Sam continued to trick its new howitzer out even after it entered service in 2005. Throughout the 2010s, America’s M777s all received full-bore chrome-plated barrel tubes said to extend their service lifespans by as much as 300%.

In 2017, the efficacy of this upgrade was proven in battle, when a single Marine M777 battery fired more than 35,000 rounds at ISIS targets in Syria over just five months. That’s more than all of the 155mm artillery rounds fired by the entire U.S. military in the 2003 invasion of Iraq. But despite this incredible volume of fire, the Marines only burned through two of these new chrome-plated barrels in the process.

Other upgrades include the addition of precision-guided fuse kits in 2016 that reduced the margin for error in targeting high-explosive rounds by a whopping 85%, bringing accuracy from a 200-meter margin to under 30 meters. With a 70-meter blast radius, that jump in accuracy effectively ensures a direct hit when M777 crews have good targeting data.


American M777 crews now use a digital fire-control system operated via a tablet computer that allows them to rapidly identify targets and engage them without having to do any of the math. This not only speeds up the firing process, but also eliminates user error caused by battlefield stress or exhaustion.


For situations that call for even greater accuracy, however, the M777 can rely on target data relayed to it by the Army’s Joint Effects Targeting System, or JETS. These one-person-portable targeting systems are carried into the field by forward observers and Joint Terminal Attack Controllers who identify targets at ranges as far from the user as 2.5 kilometers.

The history of fighter aircraft suggests a massive edge for better capability

June 7th, 2023

There are a few areas the Air Force needs to address, Austin Vernon suggests:

Reducing Sensor Vulnerability:

The Chinese see the US Air Force’s big, slow sensor platforms as a weak link. Many speculate that the purpose of the Chinese J-20 stealth is to sneak around combat air patrols and shoot long-range missiles at helpless radar planes and tankers. Putting smaller radars, cameras, electronic listening, and jammers on many drones would reduce sensor vulnerability. The Off-Board Sensing Station program is developing the capability to operate these drones beyond line-of-sight with limited satellite coverage, a critical requirement for the vast Pacific Ocean. The distributed drones will almost certainly cost more because it might take one hundred XQ-58-size drones that cost several million dollars to equal the coverage area of one E-3 or E-7. The Air Force could also use the B-21 airframe as a sensor/coordination platform.

Anti-Missile Fighters:

The Air Force needs inexpensive anti-missile combat air patrols over likely targets. Short-range, guided munitions like the $25,000 APKWS 70mm rocket can dispatch most threats. An F-16 fighter recently downed a cruise missile in a test using one, and the US already manufactures ~20,000 APKWS kits a year for air-to-ground purposes.

Traditional fighters can fulfill this mission, but drones like the XQ-58 could cover more potential targets and better handle attacks from multiple directions. They can also maintain near-perpetual readiness waiting on the launch rails, allowing a surge of launches within seconds without the stress of keeping crews at high readiness.

Supersonic Stealth Fighter:

The F-22 being out of production is a liability because the F-35 is not nearly as optimized for air-to-air combat. Restarting production could be a low-risk option until the NGAD fighter enters service. The history of fighter aircraft suggests a massive edge for better capability, making the F-22 hard to replace with lesser aircraft. A historical example is the Hellcat having a 19:1 kill-to-loss ratio against the Japanese in WWII. The Chinese put so much effort into attacking airfields to avoid fighting the F-22 in the air.

A relevant supersonic stealth drone will likely be about the size and cost of a traditional fighter with more technical risk and longer development timelines than restarting F-22 production. You can always put an AI pilot in an F-22.

The template for a cheap, low-capability fighter drone already exists in the XQ-58. There is a risk that it would score zero kills against 5th-generation fighters and cheaper anti-drone missiles are on the horizon to negate swarm attacks. But, the XQ-58 is an available design that can scale rapidly if testing or experience proves it useful for battling enemy fighters. There may be other simplified drone types worth testing, like a stealthy dogfighting drone that only uses guns.

The Air Force must keep airfields near Guam and Okinawa in the fight, he notes, to use its hundreds of F-22 stealth fighters and thousands of F-15s and F-16s:

RAND makes the case that the best option for protecting aircraft during a war is dispersal, selective hardening, and using cheaper shelters that provide some protection against shrapnel or cluster bomblets but not bombs. Leaving most aircraft shelters empty can obfuscate where the planes are, lowering the accuracy of precision-guided munitions. Increasing active defenses like interceptor missiles is critical, too. Many of these strategies are already underway. The combined effort makes launches of $20 million ballistic missiles look less appealing.

The new platform-based standards set fuel economy targets based on wheelbase and tread width

June 6th, 2023

Obama-era fuel regulations incentivized automakers to build bigger trucks:

One particular goal of the Obama Administration was to increase fuel efficiency through the typical political process: telling someone else to do it. To that end, the DOT and the EPA handed down a series of standards that nearly doubled the miles-per-gallon requirements for cars and light trucks.


The new platform-based standards set fuel economy targets based on wheelbase and tread width, that is, how far apart the wheels are. If your vehicle is longer and wider, the fuel-economy targets shrinks. In the words of Dan Edmunds of, “There was kind of an incentive to maybe stretch the wheelbase a couple of inches and set the tires maybe an inch [farther] apart, because you get a bigger platform and slightly smaller target.”

The sweet spot is accurate but cheap weapons

June 5th, 2023

Both the US and China have a relatively short-term view of hostilities, Austin Vernon suggests, opting for complicated weapons and platforms that take years to build:

Several useful strategies emerge when fighting an existential war.

Cheap Precision

In total war, boutique weapons won’t be able to destroy enough enemies even if they are tactically successful. It is also challenging to produce and transport the mind-boggling mass inaccurate weapons require. The sweet spot is accurate but cheap weapons. These can be classic smart weapons like GPS-gravity bombs but also include an Abrams tank that can reliably kill adversaries 3000 meters away with unguided shells.

Avoid Unreliable Systems

An enemy can grind unreliable weapons into the ground by forcing a high tempo. The twenty US B-2 Bombers could deliver a one-time nuclear strike but could not eliminate thousands of Chinese ships, bases, and troop concentrations because of their low sortie rate and limited numbers.

Manage Survivability vs. Expendability Carefully

There are many tradeoffs when designing weapons. The math tends to push design choices towards cheap, less survivable systems or pricier, long-lasting ones. Survivability can come from the ability to take damage (like having armor) or from deception (stealth, electronic interference, speed).

The cheap system could lack the capability to score any kill against superior weapons or end up still being too expensive. The expensive one could be more vulnerable or less effective than hoped. What capabilities a country has and its strategic position matter when choosing.

A classic comparison is the US Sherman tank and the Soviet T-34 in World War II. The Soviets saw that tanks on the Eastern front rarely lasted 24 hours in battle and took planned obsolescence to the extreme to make the T-34 cheap. The US designed the Sherman for reliability and repairability. Engineers carefully designed engines and suspensions for durability. The number of Shermans in Europe kept increasing because mechanics would have “knocked out” tanks back in battle within days.

Focus on Mass Production

An adversary can make a powerful weapon irrelevant by sheer numbers if it is challenging to produce. Historical examples include the Tiger Tank, Me-262, and sophisticated cruise missiles.

The need for easy-to-manufacture designs is even more critical for expendable munitions. Neither Russia nor Ukraine have top ten economies, yet they are drawing down global munition stocks. Each side must carefully manage consumption and substitute away from bespoke weapons like Javelin missiles for more available systems. Imagine the top two economies duking it out.

The enemy can often fight harder than you think and regenerate more forces than you hope. The conflict can rapidly devolve into a lower-tech slugfest with alarming casualty counts if you can’t produce enough capable weapons.

Have Appropriate Designs Ready

The US won World War II by increasing the output of weapons already in production or well into development. It took too long to bring new designs into mass production. And it was much easier to expand the output of systems already in production than ramp up programs coming out of development. The several-year penalty for new designs could cost millions of lives or the war.

They’re predictable and stable

June 4th, 2023

In Social Order of the Underworld, David Skarbek argues that prison gangs arise naturally in mega-prisons:

The vast scale of mass incarceration in America makes the old informal social structure of prisons practically impossible. The Shawshank Redemption or prison shows like Orange is the New Black accurately capture the reality of prisons… from 40-60 years ago. A few hundred inmates with their own informal social structure, a community: it has interpersonal squabbles and the personalities aren’t the best, but there are old timers who’ve been there forever and who know everyone, and the reputational economy kind of keeps everything in line well enough. If a new guy came in and started smashing faces or started trying to run a protection racket on the smugglers or started maiming, everyone would know, and a conspiracy to deal with the problem would naturally form out of the more respected members of the community.

In a modern American prison in California or Texas you might not even notice a shark was amongst you until it was your skull they caved in. The modern super prison exceeds the Dunbar number by an order of magnitude, sometimes close to two. With 5-10k inmates in a single prison even knowing what’s going on or who the major players are becomes a nightmare. The annual or even monthly in and outflows alone exceed the number of people Andy, Red and Piper would have to keep track of during their entire stay…This is the major cause of the rampant racial segregation: its a natural division that can’t be faked, thus a white or black trouble maker can’t just slip in amongst the Mexicans and start stealing shit, the way they could if you used a non-visual division. This naturally allows the number of people an individual prisoner might have to track to be reduced from all 5-10k prisoners, to maybe 1/4th or 1/5th that, once everyone’s divided into Black, White, Latino, Asian, etc.

This however necessitates introduction of formal race based prison gangs. Because its only your race you can realistically keep track of and punish (if that), any group of enterprising aggressors from one of the other races could profit by stealing from you or fucking you up, and you’d never even be able to identify them… thus you need an armed structure amongst your own race to retaliate if members of another start aggressing, thus the racial division immediately becomes a race-gang cold war.


Prison gangs share all the characteristics of any other hierarchical org chart, whether monarchical or oligarchical… but whereas other org charts are properly and traditionally visualize as a pyramid with those entry level serfs at the bottom and the CEO or king at the top, the visualization embodying the aristocratic endeavor it aspires to be, a prison gangs are more properly visualized as a funnel or pit, with those entry level souls nearest escape while those in positions of commands most buried in its depths and held down by the press of the criminals they order above them, and the weighty realities of what they’ve done to achieve command.


The same way prison gangs selected for damned souls who have no hope for life on the outside or mere peace, and the Scottish crown selected for murderers and assassins, the US government it seems selects for careerists who don’t give a shit about the objective issues their department addresses and indeed seem to actively work against the explicit goals of the organization by their affiliated social problems worse in pursuit of greater funding.


The thing Skarbek comes back to over and over again in his assessment of prison gangs is that very uniquely in the criminal world they’re predictable and stable. On the streets gangs go to war with each-other or overthrow each-other and take turf, men change sides in a subtle dance of daring and betrayal… not in prison gangs.


The American civil service might be a horrifying nightmare beyond parody… but the old pre-war British civil service was widely regarded as one of the most efficient institutions in human history, engaged as it was in a multi-polar contest for dominance with contingency plans for war with every possible actor from the Germans, to the French, to the Ottomans, to the Americans… as well as potential regional conflicts as far afield as China, Iraq, South Africa, or Ireland.

Skarbek might call this market competition for governance, an Italian futurist might say “War is the hygiene of the world”, a musician might say a rolling stone gathers no moss, a survivalist that the quickest stream is the freshest…

But the phenomenon remains. the devil reigns in hell… because where else are you going to go?

Women’s tears win in the marketplace of ideas

June 3rd, 2023

Richard Hanania argues that women’s tears win in the marketplace of ideas:

We can understand the decline of free speech as a kind of female pincer attack: women demand more suppression of offensive ideas at the bottom of institutions, and form a disproportionate share of the managers who hear their complaints at the top.

What is left to contribute on the question of how feminization relates to pathologies in our current political discourse? First, I think that the ways in which public debate works when we take steps to make the most emotional and aggressive women comfortable have been overlooked. Things that we talk about as involving “young people,” “college students,” and “liberals” are often gendered issues.

This doesn’t always show up in the data, and many may not want to discuss anything controversial without having numbers they can refer to, lest they be accused of everything they say being a figment of their sexist imagination. Nonetheless, I think that anyone who has spent time paying attention to politics, journalism, or academia, or wherever people debate ideas, will understand what I’m talking about.

Second, I think there’s a certain weirdness to the arguments made by both sides of the gender issue. To simplify, you have the left, which leans towards the blank slate and opposes gender stereotypes but demands women in public life be treated as too delicate for criticism, and conservatives, who believe in sex differences but say to treat people as individuals. But if men and women are the same, or are only different because of socialization that we should overcome, there’s no good reason to treat them differently. And if they are different and everyone should accept that, then we are justified in having different rules and norms for men and women in practically all areas of life, including political debate. How exactly this should be done is something worth thinking about. Finally, I argue that much of the opposition to wokeness is distorted and ineffective because it avoids the gendered nature of the problem, which also makes fighting it difficult.

They provide a tool in many ways better than an armored troop carrier, at a fraction the cost

June 2nd, 2023

Cheap drone-based bombs taken their toll on armored vehicles in recent wars, which might pave the way for motorcycles, of all things:

Motorcycle are fast, nimble, and outstrip even tracked vehicles in off road capability. In the woods a bike can get between the trees right under the densest canopy and travel along single track trails no wider than what a person or deer might walk, and wind between and, for the skilled enduro rider, Over! massive rocks and terrain that would rip a tank apart.


100lbs of kit (Equivalent to a heavy fighting load for a long patrol) is fairly easily and regularly carried by amateur adventurers on their bikes as they head out to the woods, or go on a cross-country tour. Allowing many to go hundreds of miles off-road at paces averaging well above walking or even running, and then instantly get back up to highway speeds as soon as they find one.


The off-road capability means obvious or watched routes are easily avoided, concrete barriers are easy to skirt around or between (or in the case of enduro riders: hopped), and checkpoints set up to control car traffic easily circumnavigated. similarly most dual-sport bikes can ford up to waste deep (or even chest deep with a homemade snorkel) water and at 300-700lbs total weight, depending on bike and equipment, most bikes can be transported in civilian small boats (this is how many adventurers surmount the Darien gap on trips to South America), allowing waterborne insertion without specialized landing craft, and the evasion of bridges that act as chokepoints.

Then once the bike is stopped it disappears completely.

Armoured vehicles are large, made of steel, and have large, HOT, engines which drive Wheels or tracks, which in turn generates a great deal of friction, heating those elements massively. Thus Satellites, radar, And infrared imagining have a relatively easy time of finding them.

Just on the face of it, with no concealment, bikes are difficult to detect via satellite, the width and length of a bike viewed directly above resembles the profile of a log or trash bins or small pile of rubbish more than any other vehicle an analyst might be looking for. And that’s if the satellite has the resolution to see the bike at all. Satellites also have the weakness that they only get individual snapshots of an area, meaning any indirect movements (not in a straight line) don’t betray their destination if seen and, until machine learning improves, are highly dependent on analysts actually looking at images and drawing conclusions, thus inherently limiting how realtime the information they can (a troop movement might take an hour to be identified once the satellite passes at which point a vehicle can be hundreds of kilometers way).

Similarly the radar cross section of a bike is shockingly small. Now a radar cross section is the size of a shape estimable from radar detection. Stealth Fighters might have a radar cross section as small as 1cm², so ably have the designers limited radar bouncing back, but then they need to since there is no clutter or concealment around a jet flying through empty air over enemy territory, and very little naturally travels faster than sound. However For most objects their radar cross-section is largely proportional to their size: a human for example is about 1m², a non-stealth light aircraft 3-5m², etc.

Whereas the radar cross section of a light vehicle can be 10-50m² (~+10 to +20dbm), and tanks closer to the 40-100m² (~+15 to +20) end of that spectrum, well above their actual size due to their metal composition and shape creating natural corner reflectors, motorcycles have a max radar cross-section just under 10m²(10dbm), which only occurs in spikes 90 degrees to the side as well as smaller ones to the immediate front and rear, For about 280 degrees of the spectrum the radar cross-section of a Motorcycle is smaller than that of it’s rider (average of about 1m², or 0dbm), rendering it pretty much indistinguishable from clutter, unless it starts flying through the air or sailing a calm sea ( or I suppose travelling a perfectly flat desert). On an open highway At highway speeds a motorcycle would be detectable by aircraft radar, since in nature only Cheetahs and falcons move that fast, a computer could reliably distinguish that from background noise, if it had a good angle… but at an off-road pace of 15-30km/h? Fat birds and dear travel that fast, hell the tips of tree branches probably reach that speed shaking in the wind. And geese, with a ~30cm² (-5dbm) radar cross section, comparable to the bike’s low end cross section, Regularly fly at 50-70mph (80-110kph), so even on open roads at legal rural “highway” speeds, there’d either be a large number of false positives or good chance the bikes go ignored by the radar software/operator, or undetected.


So summing up: bikes are incredible.

They provide a tool in many ways better than an armoured troop carrier, at a fraction the cost, have the best stealth of any vehicle under a 100 million dollars per unit, and given the easier time radar has at detecting supersonic airborne units… perhaps the best stealth period. They perfectly combines the versatility of foot travel, with the ability to get up to highway speed in under 10 seconds, and give fighters the ability to carry a full 100lb fighting load without significant physical exertion.

No wonder they are currently being used by Insurgents and militias across the middle-east and Africa, and no wonder many of the armies fighting said militias have started to replicate their tactics.

An all-out attack on undersea cable infrastructure would cause potentially catastrophic damage to the U.S. and its allies

June 1st, 2023

It is not satellites in the sky, retired Admiral Stavridis notes, but pipes on the ocean floor that form the backbone of the world’s economy:

Currently, more than 95% of the traffic coursing through the global internet is carried by just 200 undersea fiber-optic cables, “some as far below the surface as Everest is above it,” Stavridis wrote in the forward to a 2017 report, “Undersea Cables: Indispensable, Insecure,” which raised alarms about the extreme vulnerabilities of the seabed commercial networks.Stavridis, who led the NATO alliance in global operations from 2009 to 2013 as Supreme Allied Commander, warned that an all-out attack on undersea cable infrastructure would cause “potentially catastrophic” damage to the U.S. and its allies, and their ability to transmit confidential information, conduct financial transactions and communicate internationally.

“Whether from terrorist activity or an increasingly bellicose Russian naval presence, the threat of these vulnerabilities being exploited is growing.… The threat is nothing short of existential,” according to the report itself, which was written by then-British parliamentarian Rishi Sunak, who is now the country’s prime minister. The U.S. — and its allies and adversaries — are focusing on this potential threat from an offensive as well as a defensive standpoint, according to Stavridis and other experts, including a U.S. naval analyst. They are also tapping into the telecommunications cables as valuable sources of intelligence.


Last month, two major submarine internet cables were cut to at least one of Taiwan’s outlying islands, raising U.S. concerns about possible sabotage by China, the archenemy of the key U.S. ally, said the Washington-based U.S. naval analyst, who agreed to be interviewed on the condition of anonymity to discuss ongoing military issues. Taiwan’s National Communications Commission has blamed China but stopped short of saying it was intentional. Even so, the U.S. analyst said, the incidents heightened U.S. concerns that China is testing its seabed warfare capabilities, perhaps in advance of a military invasion of Taiwan. Seabed warfare also has gained significance because of Russia’s efforts in mapping undersea infrastructure and its suspected role in the Nord Stream pipeline attacks. Russia has built its own deep sea spy sub, the Belgorod, which can fire two-megaton nuclear warhead torpedoes at depths no existing weapon system could intercept — and could take out an entire U.S. port or aircraft carrier strike group. And it quietly has been building other specialized deep seabed war vessels, including intelligence ships and submarines that disrupt undersea cable infrastructure. Last month, Ireland’s military released surveillance footage of at least two Russian ships off the Galway coast near a newly opened seabed communications cable. Irish senator and security expert Tom Clonan told local media the ships were well-known to the Irish defense community, including one that has a diving platform and carries deep-sea submersibles. Six years after that report was published, Stavridis told USA TODAY, “I am more concerned now than I was in 2017 about the dangers of an attack on undersea cables.”


Navy has commissioned a next-generation attack submarine that can sneak along the ocean floor and perform covert operations.


According to Pentagon budget documents and a congressional report on this sub. It will cost roughly $5.1 billion; a standard submarine in the same category cost $3.45 billion in 2021.


They said the Navy remains committed to completing the Orca, an extra-large unmanned undersea vehicle that can lay mines, conduct surveillance and engage in Special Operations offensive warfare missions. The Navy wants to deploy five of the massive robotic submarines to do the dangerous job of laying undersea mines. And though the Navy has cited that as an urgent priority, the effort is more than 3 years behind schedule and has exceeded costs by at least $242 million, according to a U.S. Government Accountability Office report last September. Another vehicle known as the Snakehead, or “Large Displacement Unmanned Undersea Vehicle” (LDUUV), also aims to support U.S. subsea and seabed warfare and has been undergoing in-water testing, the three Navy leaders wrote. “The LDUUV program aimed to address a critical gap with increased depth, endurance, and payload capacity,” they said, but it has been put on hold, at least temporarily, “to support higher Navy priorities.” And a third, the MK 11 SDV, can clandestinely ferry Navy SEAL teams to conduct offensive and defensive operations against China in contested areas.

Unfortunately the mechanism was weak

May 31st, 2023

Today is Clint Eastwood‘s 93rd birthday, which reminds me that I recently re-watched his 1992 western Unforgiven and couldn’t help but notice that he shot a double-action revolver, at a time when single-action revolvers were the norm. This was a Starr 1858 Army:

The Starr revolver was first introduced in 1858 as a sidearm for the U.S. Army, being called the “Starr 1858 Army”. This revolver was a six shot, black powder percussion revolver with a unique feature; a double action or “self-cocking” trigger mechanism. Unfortunately the mechanism was weak and the gun lost favor with soldiers after having their triggers break in combat all too often.


To fix this, the gun was given a more simple single action system and reproduced in 1863 as the “Starr 1863 Army” revolver. This model was far more favorable with troops, though other revolvers like the Colt 1860 Army and Remington 1858 New Army were more popular.

Vague and not especially constitutional laws from the 1960s

May 31st, 2023

Kulak has been reading Christopher Caldwell’s The Age of Entitlement, which covers “ America since the 60s”:

How did Ivy league educated Lawyers and Bureaucrats turn some very vague, and not especially constitutional laws from the 1960s, seemingly passed by many of the congressmen of the time as a feel good bill they expected to do nothing… and instead turn them into a basis of permanent post-political Bureaucratic control?


I don’t think you can understand modern politics unless you understand that as much as the left and institutional bureaucracy is rushing to rig every institution and system in their favour… they’re fundamentally doing it out of fear.


All of America rejected the 1960s!

They rejected it when they gave Nixon the biggest political landslide in US history in 1972, and they rejected it again when they Elected Ronald Reagan…

American’s voted in sweeping majorities to undo the 1960s and strip the Harvard educated Legal/Bureaucratic elite of every ounce of power they’d usurped via tortured interpretations of the 64 civil rights act… and so of course Nixon was the subject of a coup d’etat! “Deep Throat” the Watergate informant was an FBI Associate Director. The people who actually did the Wiretapping were FBI and CIA agents… this is all public record… and yet the only thing that’s unknown is if Nixon actually knew the wiretapping was going on Ie. The one faction that lost political power instead of gaining it was the one that had a sweeping democratic mandate and might have been innocent in the literal sense of the word “Lacking knowledge”.

Reagan of course took the opposite tact and appeased the legal/bureaucratic machine: instead of ending affirmative action “With the stroke of a pen” as he promised, and ss any president could do given there has never been a single law passed mandating it and it is entirely Executive branch agency made “Regulation” that can be undone via executive order at any time.


But this is why Progressives and Regime Conservatives are so terrified of the “Latent Fascism” in the American people… Their entire empire could be ripped down at a seconds notice if the people just simultaneously demanded it and had a political movement willing to do it.

The society we live in may aptly be described as a “consultocracy”

May 30th, 2023

Geoff Shullenberger was teaching at a large private university in the final years of the Obama administration, when the university reacted to some student protests by convening a task force on diversity, equity, and inclusion, which brought in outside consultants to conduct a “climate assessment” of the entire institution:

In effect, this was a long online survey that all employees and students were encouraged, cajoled, and bribed (with pizza and the like) into filling out over the course of some months. The survey asked respondents to translate their feelings of comfort and discomfort within the institution into a series of numerical ratings. The consultants then synthesized the resulting data into a public presentation; this glorified PowerPoint was ceremoniously presented as the crowning achievement of the DEI task force — soon after which it was summarily disbanded


Why did those leading the university see hiring an external consultancy as the obvious and necessary response to the students’ objections? And why did most community members accept this approach without any questions? The answer, as Mariana Mazzucato and Rosie Collington suggest in their new book, The Big Con, is that we live under the sway of “consultology.” This is their shorthand for the cluster of assumptions and practices that inform the vast and powerful consulting industry, which has become a defining element of our professional lives, economy, and governance structures.

As a result, the society we live in may aptly be described as a “consultocracy.” Not only nonprofit educational institutions but Fortune 500 corporations, nongovernmental organizations, and government agencies all regularly undergo processes like the one described above. When those leading such organizations find themselves confronting some novel situation — be it internal unrest, a pandemic, declining market share, rapid technological change, or any number of other eventualities — they turn, by ingrained second nature, to external management consultancies and lay out significant sums for their coveted guidance.


Another question is how this omnipresent industry has remained in the shadows despite having left its mark on nearly every organization in Western societies over decades. These questions are closely related because, as it turns out, the success of consulting has depended partly on the industry’s capacity to avoid public scrutiny and duck accountability for its often dubious contributions to the management of firms and governments.


The basic modus operandi of consultancies is not “ownership of scarce valuable knowledge assets” but rather “the possession of the means to create an impression of value.” Put simply, consultancies subsist not by actually making demonstrable positive contributions to the functioning of organizations but by conjuring up the appearance they are doing so.


What do organizations gain from bringing in external talent on short-term contracts rather than cultivating it internally? The basic pitch of the industry, they show, is that “learning … can be bought off the shelf, rather than developed over time through cumulative resource and knowledge investments.” The result is that the “Big Con is preventing governments and businesses from evolving the capabilities they need,” leaving them infantilized and dysfunctional — all of which makes continued dependence on consultancies inevitable.

How a political economy so favorable to the consulting industry came into being is a complicated story, but The Big Con implicates in particular the influence of “Third Way” center-left governments such as Tony Blair’s in the United Kingdom and Bill Clinton’s in the United States. In the wake of the midcentury expansion of the regulatory state and public programs, the Thatcher-Reagan revolution had castigated big government and attempted to limit its scope and functions (with less success than often imagined). Figures like Blair and Clinton offered a compromise: a “vision of government,” Mazzucato and Collington write, “as responsible for meeting public needs without necessarily providing public services itself.” Consulting firms played a massive role in implementing this vision, both offering guidance to governments on how to shrink payrolls and enact public-private partnerships and offering their own services on the “private” side of these partnerships.

According to The Big Con, global management consultancy revenue was 10 times greater in 2021 than in 1999 — without much to show for it except a massive financial crisis, secular stagnation, and mounting institutional crises across the West.


The penultimate chapter of The Big Con is dedicated to perhaps the most significant alignment of consulting firms with a progressive political cause: the rise of “climate consulting.” The market for this once-small field of consulting is expected to grow to more than $8.5 billion by 2028.


It’s worth noting you could easily replace the phrase “climate crisis” in this passage with “systemic racism,” “toxic masculinity,” “gender disparities,” “pandemics,” or any number of other causes taken up by the political Left in recent years — all of which, as it happens, have offered opportunities for consultants to cash in, whether specialized in DEI, ESG, or public health. Although Mazzucato and Collington do not say so, there is a clear symbiosis between progressive invocations of perpetual, pervasive crisis and the consulting industry’s capacity to expand the demand for its services.

Military body armor must be designed to prevent military injury

May 29th, 2023

A look at military wounding and death statistics shows that small arms injuries to the extremities are rarely fatal, whereas wounds to the head, neck, or torso are frequently fatal, which suggests a few things:

First, that improvements to helmet design are at least as pressing and as important as improvements to body armor systems. The current combat helmet does not provide adequate protection from blast wave exposure, which is the primary mechanism of injury today, and is sure to remain a dominant mechanism of injury long into the future.

Second, given the overwhelming preponderance of fragmentation injuries, especially to the limbs, improvements in soft armor materials and systems, guided towards improved armor coverage, are of key importance. And, of course, technological improvements in this area will also result in better, lighter hard armor plates. This may also reduce the casualty burden associated with small arms wounds to the extremities, which are apparently fairly common but do not result in substantial morbidity.

Further, with the data from OIF and the data from Gofrit et al, it would seem that the overwhelming preponderance of bullet injuries are anterior — that is to say, when bullets strike, they are 10x to almost 20x more likely to enter through the front of the body. It may make sense to consider pairing a larger and heavier armor plate in the front, with a smaller or lighter armor plate in the back. This is indeed quite an ancient practice — one which Alexander the Great was known to promote — and was recently employed by the Soviets.

More data is required, but, though admittedly unorthodox, this doesn’t seem like an obviously bad idea; full body armor does not exist, and one must prioritize coverage based on (a) where shots are likely to be particularly damaging or fatal, and (b) where shots are likely to hit. If shots in the back are indeed that uncommon, it stands to reason that the front armor plate is vastly more important than the rear armor plate, and should be made larger, stronger, etc., whereas the rear plate can be made smaller and thinner. That they are of equal weight and capability seems unreasonable, given that one may be ~10-20x more likely to be impacted than the other.

The geography that makes Crimea hard to invade facilitates a modern-day siege

May 28th, 2023

Ukraine can isolate Crimea without a costly ground offensive:

Defending the Crimean Peninsula, which Russia invaded and annexed in 2014, has historically presented a quandary. A land invasion from the northwest — the direct route — must cross the narrow and easily defended Perekop isthmus between the peninsula and the mainland.

On the other hand, a hostile army can just as easily block communications between Crimea and the mainland. This would force Russia to supply the peninsula either by sea or by road and rail using the 11-mile Kerch Strait bridge on the eastern side of the peninsula, which connects Crimea with the Taman peninsula in southern Russia.


“The geography that makes Crimea hard to invade facilitates a modern-day siege,” Courtney and Savitz wrote. “All Russian movements by land must pass through one of two constrained corridors. The first entails traversing hundreds of miles of occupied territory, including areas relatively close to the front and crawling with hostile populations, saboteurs, and special forces. The final gauntlet is the isthmus, a target-rich place with minimal room for maneuver and within range of current Ukrainian weapons.”

That leaves the Black Sea route. Ideally, Ukraine would either launch an amphibious invasion of the peninsula — as Britain and France did in the Crimean War in 1854 — or starve out the Russians through a naval blockade.


“USVs are well-suited for networked swarm attacks, and relatively low-cost,” Courtney and Savitz wrote. “Their nascent designs can be modified to make them stealthier and harder to detect than most crewed vessels. Sinking a warship in a confined channel could create obstacles that would take weeks to clear, or longer if under fire.”

It could have accuracy like a rocket but cheaper

May 27th, 2023

A Ukrainian “shopping” on behalf of his government at the SOFWeek special operations conference in Tampa explains what they need:

Q: So you’re basically serving as a front person to bring Ukraine weapons and other systems that you need?

A: Yes. You’re right. So I’m trying to find something which is quite interesting. Then we help U.S. companies to organize some demo because if you bring something new, the first question from our military guy is like ‘okay, I like it. But bring it here in Ukraine and I will test it.’ Why is this necessary? Because you know, in Ukraine now it’s a very hard electronic warfare situation. Russians are great at jamming GPS, radio signal, everything. So sometimes you have no LTE [long-term evolution or broadband communications network], no GPS, no radio communication systems, or nothing.

And this is why the equipment — if you’re talking for example, about drones — needs to be tested in the real battlefield where it goes to the bottom line and we have some place where we could switch off, switch on some Russian electronic warfare equipment which we have in our hands and test it but we could not make it outside of Ukraine. So that’s why we asked all producers to bring such equipment to Ukraine make some tests and then we could send this equipment back. It’s up to the producer.

Q: What kind of equipment are the Russians using to jam your equipment?

A: They have a lot and to be honest, they study very well. So they have an understanding of the waveform of radio waves and some other characteristics of this. I’m not a very big specialist on electronic warfare, but I know how it generally works. So they teach from time to time which signals they need to jam because you could jam everything but it’s just for low distance. If you want to jam something special you need to be very accurate with this frequency rate, this waveform and everything.

So for example, they know for sure the Harris [radio) waveform and it's very dangerous for us because if they could identify the Harris waveform, Harris radio stations, and arrays - if they know the location, they could immediately hit this place.

Q: Because not only can they jam but they can detect it, and then they can hit the spot. And they know that.

A: For example, if we're talking about drone operators, yes. So if you will define where is the base station located, you could hit the operator.

Q: Is there a big problem of Ukrainian drone operators being attacked because the Russians have picked up their frequencies?

A: I have no statistics, but understand how this works. It's why I think it's happened. Because now we use a lot of drones and it's some information which was in some open sources, the average time for DJI Mavic on the battlefield, it's like three to five days. So what this means is we lose a lot of drones and we need to replace it... It's now not like something unusual, we use it and we lose it and we need to be all the time replacing different types of drones. Of course, if the drone is better and flies higher and it's more protected from jamming, its lifetime could be longer but you never know.

If you want to ask questions about what we need...

Q: Yes

A: So we need a lot of different types of drones because we now operate with FPV [First Person Video] drones, with Mavic drones and also with all other type of drones for ISR [information, surveillance, reconnaissance] for sometimes for some civilians, [trying to understand] where’s the enemy located? And not just in an optic way, but in radio way because we could also scan some frequency and understand where this enemy is located.

So we need different types of drones and also we need a lot of kamikaze drones because drones [are cheaper to operate than rockets] which we don’t have. We use kamikaze drone to penetrate some special objects, like for example, an S-300 [air defense] complex etc. etc. So for this reason we use such kamikaze drones because the price of this equipment that would be destroyed, compared to the price of drones, it’s less than if you use the rockets. Rockets are quite expensive. Send a kamikaze drone? It could have accuracy like a rocket but cheaper.

Their other need is optical systems:

Let’s say this is why I’m interested in some different optics systems — thermal vision, binoculars, some type of lighter munitions, electronic warfare systems, some for civilians for when we try to find where the enemy is in an electronic way, let’s say…