Quickly fire barbed Kevlar cords toward suspects at speeds of 640 feet per second

Sunday, October 21st, 2018

The NYPD is testing a high-powered lasso gun to subdue mentally ill suspects:

Unveiled last year, the BolaWrap™ 100 is a hand-held remote that allows officers to quickly fire barbed Kevlar cords toward suspects at speeds of 640 feet per second. The stated goal of the product is to entangle a person’s limbs “early in an engagement,” thereby allowing police officers to avoid using lethal force. The intended target is described by the company as “the mentally ill population” and, elsewhere, “the bad guys.” Each unit costs $800, and sounds like a gunshot when discharged.

[...]

Wired Technologies, which manufactures and distributes the wraps, claims that 24 police departments across the country are testing the product internally, and that six departments are testing it in the field. A version that sounds less like a gunshot is currently in development, for use on college campuses, according to Mike Rothans, the senior vice president of Wrap Technologies.

During Thursday’s demonstration, Adams, flanked by Rothans and Wired Technologies CEO David Norris, assured reporters that the product was neither painful nor dangerous (Adams did wear protective goggles, just in case). The trio brushed off questions about whether it might be more difficult to deploy the wraps in a crowded, high-pressure environment, rather than a tightly controlled courtroom, by pointing to the device’s laser sight. Despite the fact that a website advertises the wraps as having 380 pounds of strength, Rothans promised that they wouldn’t be strong enough to strangle someone if accidentally fired at their neck.

Rather, the gizmo should be seen as a low-risk alternative to the more painful, less reliable stun gun, they said. At one point, Adams referred to a video—shown by company reps earlier in the demonstration—of an 86-year-old man with dementia getting tased by police officers during a traffic stop, as precisely the sort of situation in which the resistance tool could be of use. “Some might look at the incident with the 86-year-old and say why would you need any force there, but that’s not the real universe of policing,” said Adams, a former NYPD officer. “I would have used the device with the 86-year-old. Maybe I strike his legs instead of his arms, so he can break his fall.”

In Adams’s estimation, the device could successfully subdue about 70 percent of the 150,000 or so emotionally disturbed individuals encountered annually by the NYPD. The department’s handling of such cases—known as EDPs—has attracted scrutiny in recent years, with advocates demanding better training for officers responding to mental health crises, particularly following the deaths of Saheed Vassell and Deborah Danner.

The article refers to “Wired Technologies,” but I believe the company name is Wrap Technologies:

Lessons from Escape University

Sunday, October 7th, 2018

In The Escape Artists: A Band of Daredevil Pilots and the Greatest Prison Break of the Great War, Neal Bascomb explains what Allied POWs learned at Escape University:

In 1917 the most troublesome, breakout-prone Allied POWs were sent to a land-locked prison called Holzminden. By assembling such a group with dozens of attempts under their belts, the Germans unwittingly created an “Escape University”. Its practiced artists taught each other how to detect weaknesses in the camp’s defenses, build secret caches, create makeshift compasses, smuggle in supplies, tailor German uniforms, pick locks, and engineer any number of elaborate constructions to get beyond the walls. Nine months after Holzminden opened, its prisoners orchestrated the war’s greatest escape. Twenty-nine got out, 10 made it to freedom, and their effort inspired the Allies in the darkest time of the war. In WWII, these “escape artists” guided MI-9, the secret British escape and evasion service, that aided tens of thousands of men reach freedom after being caught behind enemy lines.

Here are their hard-fought lessons that I gleaned from reading dozens of their memoirs, letters, and notes on their lectures:

1. Be prepared. In WWI pilots and soldiers had little to no supplies if they found themselves behind enemy lines. A small compass, knife, maps, a knife, portable food, first aid kit — all these will help evade capture in the first hours/days.

2. Once captured, your best chance of escape is the immediate one. Take a breath, assess your surroundings, and go when the opportunity strikes. In transport, there are few guards and you are likely closer to safer ground. The further into enemy territory you go, the harder things become. Once in a camp, your options become more limited.

3. When you find yourselves in a prison — or the like — again, your chances of breaking out are often in the earliest days. Guards have not yet detected weaknesses in security. Take advantage.

4. If it looks like you are in for the long-term, remember that no prison is impregnable, regardless of commandant’s warnings otherwise. Reconnoiter the whole place. Walk the perimeter. Time guard rotations and movements. Watch entrance and exits. Who is allowed in and out? What kind of passes do they need to show? Are interior walls solid? What kind of locks secure doors? Are there dark areas where the lights do not shine? Are there work duties that allow greater movement? What kind of uniforms do staff where? Are their tools that can be stolen? Is communication beyond the walls possible? Can supplies be smuggled inside? Opportunities exist. They only need be found.

5. Find partners. Solo escapes are often the most difficult. Ideas need to be hashed over. Many hands make light work. You need lookouts, diversions, skills that others have. Morale support is also imperative. Further, once outside the walls, traveling in pairs or threes, is often easier. Watches can be set so one can rest. Again, having someone to lean on in tough moments is helpful.

6. The former notwithstanding, secrecy is essential. Spies are often everywhere. A slipped word, an indiscreet remark, can foil the best of plans. Keep the cabal small, and information limited to those who need to know.

7. Allies among the guards. Foster these. Make nice. A bribe might do. They need not know your plans — or even intentions to escape — but they can provide information, and sometimes key supplies.

8. Be patient. There will be roadblocks thrown into your path. That is to be expected. Do not lose hope.

9. It is not enough to get beyond the walls, one has to make it to a place of safety, whether a border or otherwise. Plan accordingly. Secure supplies for your run. Food, good boots, a compass, and maps are key. A head start also helps, so weave that into your plans. The longer you have to get away from the prison before you are discovered missing, the wider the search range, the better shot you have of getting away for good. Have a cover plan too. What if you run into a local or even a policeman? What story do you have to tell? Travel by night. Rest by day. Steer far from populated areas. Never cross a bridge if you can ford the barrier below.

10. Last, but certainly not least, luck favors the bold. Often the most audacious plans are rewarded with the most success. The massive tunnel escape at Holzminden proved this lesson.

Rebel leadership continued to be plagued by breakdowns in leadership and planning

Friday, October 5th, 2018

The Angry Staff Officer looks back at the battle for Hoth:

The situation on Hoth was as such: a Rebel task force under the command of General Carlist Rieekan established defensive positions around Echo Base. The heart of Echo Base was the power shield generator which provided overall protection for the base from off-planet bombardment by the Empire’s star destroyers. This capability denied the Imperial Navy use of their chief weapons platform and forced them to deploy ground troops in a conventional force-on-force engagement.

Now, just as with all military debates, there are two schools of thought as to the Rebels’ courses of action. One states that the Rebel base was merely temporary and should not have been defended more than it was; and that General Rieekan’s evacuation of his fleet and garrison was not unlike George Washington’s evacuation from New York during the American Revolution. In essence, Rieeken saved his forces – minus the ground troops lost in delaying the Imperials – and harbored his strength to fight another day. The other school of thought is that Rieeken missed a prime opportunity to deal a devastating defeat to the Empire by luring them into an engagement area and destroying their ground troops in detail. However, this assumes a unified Rebel chain of command with adequate command and control and good staff functions, all of which were nonexistent on Hoth.

[...]

Stepping into the communication breach was Leia Organa – serving as operations officer – who provided task and purpose to the pilots of the Rebel task force and briefed them their mission, direction, fire support plan, and coordination measures. Because of this, the air arm of the task force was able to accomplish its mission. The land forces never received the same attention.

General Rieekan’s opposite number was Lord Vader, who also failed to utilize mission command in his operations. Rather than provide vision, Lord Vader summarily executed his primary admiral in charge of fleet operations for making a tactical error. While this did inspire prompt movement from his subordinates, it was also created a risk-averse atmosphere. As the joint commander, Vader issued instructions to initiate planetary invasion while establishing a blockade around Hoth. Vader’s desire to always be in control led him to micromanage his commanders throughout the entire operation. Nothing like holographic technology to enable you to micromanage the hell out of your troops.

[...]

As it was, Rebel land forces neglected a golden opportunity. Their intelligence preparation of the battlefield had led them to build their base in the heart of a deep draw, where the only ground approach was through a long valley, flanked on either side by steep ridgelines. However, the Rebels decided that their only defenses were to be a few short lines of trenches backed by heavy weapons systems. Because they had committed themselves to a linear defense, they lost any ability to maneuver in the face of the enemy. They also allowed themselves to fall victim to the enemy’s primary forward-facing weapons on the AT-ATs. By neglecting to build any type of flanking positions, the Rebels lost their chance strike the Imperial armor from the sides and back, where it was the weakest.

[...]

General Rieeken entrusted the air cover for the defense to Commander Luke Skywalker. Skywalker – who had gained notoriety for his destruction of the Death Star – was not a trained airspace coordinator. Nor was he an able squadron leader. His assault with snow speeders was right over the top of the forces he was supporting and straight into the guns of the enemy armor. Had he begun his approach over either the left or right ridgeline, Skywalker could have engaged the enemy armor in their vulnerable flanks and rear while keeping his ships out of the limited fan of fire that characterizes the AT-AT. What could have been an effective sortie ended instead in the loss of all ships after only destroying two AT-ATs.

[...]

The Rebel center of gravity was their fleet, including transports, supply ships, and life support ships. In getting the fleet to safety and preserving their ability to sustain themselves, they effectively managed to gain a strategic victory while enduring a tactical defeat. Poor maintenance nearly cost the Alliance Leia Organa and Han Solo, however, when the freighter Millennium Falcon nearly failed to start. Lack of spare parts for dissimilar ships was an endemic issue for the Alliance in all of its operations.

[...]

The lesson of the Battle of Hoth could be postulated as “ignore the warfighting functions at your own risk.” Rebel leadership possessed many advantages at the outset of the Battle of Hoth: superior intelligence, excellent terrain, exceptional protection from air bombardment, and experienced troops. However, each of these advantages was squandered because there was no system of unified command and control that disseminated plans in an orderly fashion. Rebel leadership continued to be plagued by breakdowns in leadership and planning as it had been in the Battle of Yavin 4.

We are willing to suffer more to keep what we have now

Thursday, October 4th, 2018

T. Greer reviews two books by Kenneth Payne on the psychology of strategy — The Psychology of Strategy: Exploring Rationality in the Vietnam War and Strategy, Evolution, and War: From Apes to Artificial Intelligence:

Payne isolates several aspects of human psychology that are especially relevant to strategic decision making. Payne divides these aspects into three broader themes: unconscious biases that affect strategic decision making, interaction between emotions and strategic action, and the critical role that social esteem plays in the psychology of strategy.

[...]

For example, there is strong evidence humans become more certain in our beliefs and in our decisions when angry; the strategic calculations of an angry decision maker will be fundamentally different from a sorrowful one. One of the more intriguing ideas in Payne’s catalog of biases is his interpretation of Clausewitz’s dictum that the defense is stronger than the offense. This is true, Payne argues, because humans are loss averse. We are willing to suffer more to keep what we have now than we are to earn something new. If humans think about territory or international prestige this way, then commanders will be bolder when trying to recover lost ground, and their soldiers will be more determined in defense than on the attack.

The most interesting part of this discussion is Payne’s analysis of honor and esteem. Humans are social animals. The need for the esteem of other humans seems deeply ingrained in human psychology, and statesmen and strategists are not immune to this. In The Psychology of Strategy Payne provides scores of examples of strategic decisions made by Lyndon Johnson, Richard Nixon, and other officials that were made more to bolster the social esteem of the decision maker than to defeat the enemy. For Johnson and his officials, esteem and reputation were often explicitly described as the most important objective in the war — one administration official estimated in a memo that 70% of the reason the U.S. was escalating in Vietnam was to avoid humiliation; the other 30% was divided between the need to keep Vietnam out of Chinese hands and to help the people of South Vietnam live a freer life.

[...]

Esteem, emotion, and cognitive biases are human phenomena. If wars were fought by non-humans they would be fought differently. This is exactly what Payne imagines for the future of war. Artificial intelligence will be a revolution in warfare, Payne claims, because for the first time in man’s evolutionary history, strategy will be freed from the limits of human psychology: “Rather than creating a danger from AI acting strategically against humans, the main effects of AI are likely to be felt from AI acting in our interests.”

They need to wake up in the morning and pray for a mission to go kill enemies

Monday, October 1st, 2018

Secretary Mattis recently gave a speech at the Virginia Military Institute and was then asked about women in combat:

Yeah. It’s a very, very tough issue because it goes from some people’s perspective of what kind of society do we want, you know?

In the event of trouble, you’re sleeping at night in your family home and you’re the dad, mom, whatever. And you hear glass break downstairs, who grabs a baseball bat and gets between the kids’ door and whoever broke in, and who reaches for the phone to call 9-1-1?

In other words, it goes to the most almost primitive needs of a society to look out for its most vulnerable.

This is an issue right now that we have Army, Navy, Marine all looking at as we speak, and that is the close quarters fight being what it is. You know, is it a strength or a weakness to have women in that circumstance?

Right now, what my job is is to make certain that as the chief of staff of the Army or commandant of the Marine Corps or chief of Naval Operations, bring problems to me — chief of staff of the Air Force — and I help them solve them.

Today, because so few women have signed up along these lines, we don’t even have data at this time that I can answer your question, OK?

You make a very valid question, I might add, because I was never under any illusions at what level of respect my marines would have for me if I couldn’t run with the fastest of them and — and look like it didn’t bother me. If I couldn’t do as many pull-ups as the strongest of them.

It would just — it was the unfairness of the infantry. How did the infantry get its name? Infant soldier. Young soldier. Very young soldier. They’re cocky, they’re rambunctious, they’re necessarily macho and it’s the most primitive — I would say even evil environment. You can’t even explain it.

Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr., a Civil War veteran, as you know, who became one of our most noted articulate Supreme Court associate justices, talking to veterans themselves decades after the war, he looked at them.

And here’s the most articulate justice you could come up with. And he says, “We have shared the incommunicable experience of war.” And he meant close combat.

This is an area we’re going to have to resolve as a nation. And the military has got to have officers who look at this with a great deal of objectivity and at the same time remember our natural inclination to have this open to all.

But we cannot do something that militarily doesn’t make sense, and I’ve got this being looked at right now by the chief of staff of the Army, commandant of the Marine Corps and all.

This is a policy that I inherited, and so far the cadre is so small we have no data on it. We’re hoping to get data soon. There are a few stalwart young ladies who are charging into this, but they are too few. Right now it’s not even dozens; it’s that few. So when we get a little more data I’ll give you a much more objective answer. Clearly the jury is out on it but what we’re trying to do is give it every opportunity to succeed if it can.

The other nations that have had this for 20 years still have too few women in the infantry ranks to even draw a conclusion. So I can’t give you a good answer right now. I’m open to it and I’ll be working with the Chief of Staff of the Army and the others to sort it out.

Michael Yon is a bit more direct, calling it the dumbest thing ever:

I served in the Army during peacetime, and then later spent more combat time with infantry troops than just about any war correspondent you ever have heard of. That top 1% of 1%, I was there. Just like Joe Galloway and very few others.

Been in more firefights bombings and just general mayhem than even I can remember. Looking back on my own photos and videos, made by my own hands, I have been in so many fights that even I do not remember until seeing my own work.

Yes. That much. It is a miracle to be alive.

There often were women in combat on the ground with infantry Soldiers. Not just in trucks or in the skies, but really on the ground. They were medics, intelligence, civil affairs, female engagement teams and sorts. They got into a lot of firefights. So many. And so many bombings.

How many photos from Iraq and Afghanistan have you seen of women in ground combat firing their weapons or carrying dead or wounded Soldiers IN COMBAT. (Not off the helicopter back on base, but in combat when bullets were flying.) I never saw women really fighting other than excellent pilots who are just as good as the men.

[...]

Our women in Iraq and Afghanistan saw loads of combat up close. But they are not fit for infantry work. Not even close. They are no more fit for infantry work than for playing as linemen in the NFL.

This is amazingly stupid. And not due to fraternization. That is trivial when bullets or are flying, people are dying, and brute strength is paramount.

Another thing that even the most physically courageous and fit women typically lack is sheer homicidal will to impose death upon enemies even if they must stab them in the throat or strangle them to death.

Infantry is brutal. Evil. The worst job in the world. Effective infantry troops are killers. Total killers. They need killer instinct that is nurtured. They need to wake up in the morning and pray for a mission to go kill enemies.

Taiwan can win a war with China

Wednesday, September 26th, 2018

T. Greer explains how Taiwan can win a war with China:

One of the central hurdles facing the offensive is surprise. The PLA simply will not have it. The invasion will happen in April or October. Because of the challenges posed by the strait’s weather, a transport fleet can only make it across the strait in one of these two four-week windows. The scale of the invasion will be so large that strategic surprise will not be possible, especially given the extensive mutual penetration of each side by the other’s intelligence agencies.

Easton estimates that Taiwanese, American, and Japanese leaders will know that the PLA is preparing for a cross-strait war more than 60 days before hostilities begin. They will know for certain that an invasion will happen more than 30 days before the first missiles are fired. This will give the Taiwanese ample time to move much of their command and control infrastructure into hardened mountain tunnels, move their fleet out of vulnerable ports, detain suspected agents and intelligence operatives, litter the ocean with sea mines, disperse and camouflage army units across the country, put the economy on war footing, and distribute weapons to Taiwan’s 2.5 million reservists.

There are only 13 beaches on Taiwan’s western coast that the PLA could possibly land at. Each of these has already been prepared for a potential conflict. Long underground tunnels—complete with hardened, subterranean supply depots—crisscross the landing sites. The berm of each beach has been covered with razor-leaf plants. Chemical treatment plants are common in many beach towns—meaning that invaders must prepare for the clouds of toxic gas any indiscriminate saturation bombing on their part will release. This is how things stand in times of peace.

As war approaches, each beach will be turned into a workshop of horrors. The path from these beaches to the capital has been painstakingly mapped; once a state of emergency has been declared, each step of the journey will be complicated or booby-trapped. PLA war manuals warn soldiers that skyscrapers and rock outcrops will have steel cords strung between them to entangle helicopters; tunnels, bridges, and overpasses will be rigged with munitions (to be destroyed only at the last possible moment); and building after building in Taiwan’s dense urban core will be transformed into small redoubts meant to drag Chinese units into drawn-out fights over each city street.

[...]

In an era that favors defense, small nations like Taiwan do not need a PLA-sized military budget to keep the Chinese at bay.

No one needs to hear this message more than the Taiwanese themselves. In my trips to Taiwan, I have made a point of tracking down and interviewing both conscripts and career soldiers. Their pessimism is palpable. This morale crisis in the ranks partly reflects the severe mismanagement of the conscription system, which has left even eager Taiwanese patriots disillusioned with their military experience.

But just as important is the lack of knowledge ordinary Taiwanese have about the strength of their islands’ defenses. A recent poll found that 65 percent of Taiwanese “have no confidence” in their military’s ability to hold off the PLA. Absent a vigorous campaign designed to educate the public about the true odds of successful military resistance, the Taiwanese people are likely to judge the security of their island on flawed metrics, like the diminishing number of countries that maintain formal relations with Taipei instead of Beijing. The PLA’s projected campaign is specifically designed to overwhelm and overawe a demoralized Taiwanese military. The most crucial battlefield may be the minds of the Taiwanese themselves. Defeatism is a more dangerous threat to Taiwanese democracy than any weapon in China’s armory.

Read the whole thing.

Missile lock-on!

Friday, August 31st, 2018

I was listening to the audio version of David Suarez’s techno-thriller Kill Decision, when the pilot of the good guys’ C-130 announced “missile lock-on!” How exactly does missile lock-on work, and how does the target know it’s locked on?

Aircraft radars typically have two modes: search and track. In search mode, the radar sweeps a radio beam across the sky in a zig-zag pattern. When the radio beam is reflected by a target aircraft, an indication is shown on the radar display. In search mode, no single aircraft is being tracked, but the pilot can usually tell generally what a particular radar return is doing because with each successive sweep, the radar return moves slightly.

[...]

In track mode, the radar focuses its energy on a particular target. Because the radar is actually tracking a target, and not just displaying bricks when it gets a reflection back, it can tell the pilot a lot more about the target.

[...]

An important thing to note is that a radar lock is not always required to launch weapons at a target. For guns kills, if the aircraft has a radar lock on a target, it can accurately gauge range to the target, and provide the pilot with the appropriate corrections for lead and gravity drop, to get an accurate guns kill. Without the radar, the pilot simply has to rely on his or her own judgement.

[...]

And what about missiles? Again, a radar lock is not required. For heat-seeking missiles, a radar lock is only used to train the seeker head onto the target. Without a radar lock, the seeker head scans the sky looking for “bright” (hot) objects, and when it finds one, it plays a distinctive whining tone to the pilot. The pilot does not need radar in this case, he just needs to maneuver his aircraft until he has “good tone,” and then fire the missile. The radar only makes this process faster.

Now, radar-guided missiles come in two varieties: passive and active. Passive radar missiles do require a radar lock, because these missiles use the aircraft’s reflected radar energy to track the target.

Active radar missiles however have their own onboard radar, which locks and tracks a target. But this radar is on a one-way trip, so it’s considerably less expensive (and less powerful) than the aircraft’s radar. So, these missiles normally get some guidance help from the launching aircraft until they fly close enough to the target where they can turn on their own radar and “go active.” (This allows the launching aircraft to turn away and defend itself.) It is possible to fire an active radar missile with no radar lock (so-called “maddog”); in this case, the missile will fly until it’s nearly out of fuel, and then it will turn on its radar and pursue the first target it sees. This is not a recommended strategy if there are friendly aircraft in close proximity to the enemy.

[...]

Radar is just radio waves, and just as your FM radio converts radio waves into sound, so can an aircraft analyze incoming radio signals to figure out who’s doing what. This is called an RWR, or radar warning receiver, and has both a video and audio component.

[...]

Each time a new radar signal is detected, it is converted into an audio wave and played for the pilot. Because different radars “sound” different, pilots learn to recognize different airborne or surface threats by their distinctive tones. The sound is also an important cue to tell the pilot what the radar is doing: If the sound plays once, or intermittently, it means the radar is only painting our aircraft (in search mode). If a sound plays continuously, the radar has locked onto our aircraft and is in track mode, and thus the pilot’s immediate attention is demanded. In some cases, the RWR can tell if the radar is in launch mode (sending radar data to a passive radar-guided missile), or if the radar is that of an active radar-guided missile. In either of these cases, a distinctive missile launch tone is played and the pilot is advised to immediately act to counter the threat. Note that the RWR has no way of knowing if a heat-seeking missile is on its way to our aircraft.

Cresson H. Kearny’s survival skills

Tuesday, August 21st, 2018

Eugene P. Wigner, physicist, Nobel laureate, and, in May, 1979, the only surviving initiator of the Nuclear Age, wrote this about Cresson H. Kearny, the author of Nuclear War Survival Skills:

When the U.S. Atomic Energy Commission authorized me in 1964 to initiate the Civil Defense Project at Oak Ridge National Laboratory, one of the first researchers I recruited was Cresson H. Kearny. Most of his life has been preparation, unplanned and planned, for writing this guide to help people unfamiliar with the effects of nuclear weapons improve their chances of surviving a nuclear attack. During the past 15 years he has done an unequaled amount of practical field work on basic survival problems, without always conforming to the changing civil defense doctrine.

After I returned to my professional duties at Princeton in 1966, the civil defense effort at Oak Ridge National Laboratory was first headed by James C. Bresee. and is now headed by Conrad V. Chester. Both have wholeheartedly supported Kearny’s down-to-earth research. and Chester was not only a codeveloper of several of the survival items described in this book, but also participated in the planning of the experiments testing them.

Kearny’s concern with nuclear war dangers began while he was studying for his degree in civil engineering at Princeton — he graduated summa cum laude in 1937. His Princeton studies had already acquainted him with the magnitude of an explosion in which nuclear energy is liberated, then only a theoretical possibility. After winning a Rhodes Scholarship, Kearny earned two degrees in geology at Oxford. Still before the outbreak of World War II. he observed the effective preparations made in England to reduce the effects of aerial attacks. He had a deep aversion to dictatorships, whether from the right or left, and during the Munich crisis he acted as a courier for an underground group helping anti-Nazis escape from Czechoslovakia.

Following graduation from Oxford, Kearny did geological exploration work in the Andes of Peru and in the jungles of Venezuela. He has traveled also in Mexico, China. and the Philippines.

A year before Pearl Harbor, realizing that the United States would soon be at war and that our jungle troops should have at least as good personal equipment. food, and individual medical supplies as do exploration geologists. he quit his job with the Standard Oil Company of Venezuela. returned to the United States, and went on active duty as an infantry reserve lieutenant. Kearny was soon assigned to Panama as the Jungle Experiment Officer of the Panama Mobile Force. In that capacity he was able to improve or invent, and then thoroughly jungle-test, much of the specialized equipment and rations used by our jungle infantrymen in World War II. For this work he was promoted to major and awarded the Legion of Merit.

To take his chances in combat, in 1944 the author volunteered for duty with the Office of Strategic Services. As a demolition specialist helping to limit the Japanese invasion then driving into the wintry mountains of southern China, he saw mass starvation and death first hand. The experiences gained in this capacity also resulted in an increased understanding of both the physical and emotional problems of people whose country is under attack.

Worry about the increasing dangers of nuclear war and America’s lack of civil defense caused the author in 1961 to consult Herman Kahn, a leading nuclear strategist. Kahn, who was at that time forming a nonprofit war-research organization, the Hudson Institute, offered him work as a research analyst. Two years of civil defense research in this “think tank” made the author much more knowledgeable of survival problems.

In 1964 he joined the Oak Ridge civil defense project and since then Oak Ridge has been Kearny’s base of operations, except for two years during the height of the Vietnam war. For his Vietnam work on combat equipment, and also for his contributions to preparations for improving survivability in the event of a nuclear war, he received the Army’s Decoration for Distinguished Civilian Service in 1972.

This book draws extensively on Kearny’s understanding of the problems of civil defense acquired as a result of his own field testing of shelters and other survival needs, and also from an intensive study of the serious civil defense preparations undertaken by other countries, including Switzerland. Sweden, the USSR, and China. He initiated and edited the Oak Ridge National Laboratory translations of Soviet civil defense handbooks and of a Chinese manual, and gained additional knowledge from these new sources. Trips to England, Europe, and Israel also expanded his information on survival measures. which contributed to the Nuclear War Survival Skills. However, the book advocates principally those do-it-yourself instructions that field tests have proved to be practical.

When the west started losing wars

Saturday, August 18th, 2018

When the West took up the “White Man’s Burden” is when the west started losing wars:

It led the British general who was invading Afghanistan to believe he was doing Afghans a favor, and if he was sufficiently nice to them they would throw flowers at his troops. So he forbade his troops to take necessary measures for self defense, and, as a result, he and his troops died.

The white man’s burden was profoundly counterproductive to social cohesion, because it led to them sacrificing near (British officers and troops) for far (afghan officers and troops)

If it is a burden, then you proceed to conspicuously display your holiness by burden carrying — which is apt to mean making your troops carry burdens.

Before the British intervened in Afghanistan, the most recent news that most people had of it was records of Alexander’s army passing through two millenia ago.

The empire of the East India company was expanding, and the empire of the Russias was expanding, and it was inevitable that the two would meet. And so it came to pass that the Kings of Afghanistan encountered both, and played each against the other.

When the British became aware of Afghanistan, they interpreted its inhabitants as predominantly white or whitish – as descendants of Alexander’s troops and camp followers and/or descendants of Jews converted to Islam at swordpoint.

Afghanistan was, and arguably still is, an elective monarchy, and the fractious electors tended to fight each other and elect weak kings who could scarcely control their followers, and so it has been ever since Alexander’s troops lost Alexander.

Mister Mountstuart Elphinstone, in his account of is mission to Kabul in 1809, says he once urged upon a very intelligent old man of the tribe of Meankheile, the superiority of a quiet life under a powerful monarch, over the state of chaotic anarchy that so frequently prevailed.

The reply was “We are content with alarms, we are content with discord, we are content with blood, but we will never be content with a master!”

As Machiavelli observed, such places are easy to conquer, but hard to hold, and so it proved.

To conquer and hold such places, one must massacre, castrate, or enslave all of the ruling elite that seems fractious, which is pretty much all of them, and replace them with your own people, speaking your own language, and practicing your own customs, as the Normans did in England, and the French did in Algeria, starting 1830. The British of 1840, however, had no stomach for French methods, and were already starting to fall short of the population growth necessary for such methods.

So what the British could have done is paid the occasional visit to kill any king that they found obnoxious, kill his friends, family, his children, and leading supporters, install a replacement king, and leave. The replacement king would have found his throne shaky, because Afghan Kings have usually found their thrones shaky, but the British did not need to view that as their problem, knowing the solution to that problem to be drastic and extreme. If the throne has been shaky for two thousand years, it is apt to be difficult to stop it from rocking.

After a long period of disorderly violence, where brother savagely tortured brother to death, and all sorts of utterly horrifying crimes were committed, King Dost Mahomed Khan took power in Kabul in 1826, and proceeded to rule well, creating order, peace, and prosperity, and receiving near universal support from the fractious and quarreling clans of Afghanistan.

The only tax under his rule was a tariff of one fortieth on goods entering and leaving the country. This and the Jizya poll tax are the only taxes allowed by the Koran, at least as Islamic law is interpreted in this rebellious country which has historically been disinclined to pay taxes, and because this tax was actually paid, it brought him unprecedented revenues. On paying this tax “the merchant may travel without guard or protection from one border to the other, an unheard of circumstance”

However he did not rule Herat, which was controlled by one of his enemies, who been King before and had ambitions to be King again. He therefore offered Herat to the Shah of Persia in return for the Shah’s support against another of his enemies, Runjeet Singh. He was probably scarcely aware that Runjeet Singh was allied to the British, and the Shah was allied to the Tsar of all the Russias.

Notice that this deal was remarkably tight fisted, as was infamously typical of deals made by Dost Mahomed Khan. He would give the Persians that which he did not possess, in return for them taking care of one of his enemies and helping him against another.

The British East India Company, however, saw this as Afghanistan moving into Russian empire, though I am pretty sure that neither the Shah of Persia nor the King of Aghanistan thought they were part of anyone’s empire.

So Russia and the East India Company sent ambassadors to the King of Afghanistan, who held a bidding contest asking which of them could best protect him against Runjeet Singh. He then duplicitously accepted both bids from both empires, which was a little too clever by half, though absolutely typical of the deals he made with his neighbors.

Dost Mahomed Khan was a very clever king, but double crossing the East India Company was never very clever at all. No one ever got ahead double crossing the East India Company. It is like borrowing money from the Mafia and forgetting to pay them back.

Russia and England then agreed to not get overly agitated over the doings of unreliable and duplicitous proxies that they could scarcely control – which agreement the East India Company took as permission to hold a gun to the head of the Shah of Persia. The East India company seized control of the Persian Gulf, an implicit threat to invade if the Shah intervened in Afghanistan to protect Dost Mahomed Khan. It then let Runjeet Singh off the leash, and promised to support his invasion of Afghanistan.

So far, so sane. Someone double crosses you, then you make an horrible example of him, and no one will do it again. Then get out, and whoever rules in Afghanistan, if anyone does manage to rule, will refrain from pissing you off a second time.

The British decided to give a large part of Afghanistan to Runjeet Singh, and install Shah Shoudjah-ool-Moolk, a Kinglet with somewhat plausible pretensions to the Afghan throne, in place of Dost Mahomet Khan.

Up to this point everything the East India Company is doing is sane, honorable, competent, just, and wonderfully eighteenth century.

Unfortunately, it is the nineteenth century. And the nineteenth century is when the rot set in.

His Majesty Shah Shoudjah-ool-Moolk will enter Afghanistan, surrounded by his own troops, and will be supported against foreign interference, and factious opposition, by the British Army. The Governor-general confidently hopes, that the Shah will be speedily replaced on his throne by his own subjects and adherents, and that the independence and integrity of Afghanistan established, the British army will be withdrawn. The Governor-general has been led to these acts by the duty which is imposed upon him, of providing for the security of the possessions of the British crown, but he rejoices, that, in the discharge of this duty, he will be enabled to assist in restoring the union and prosperity of the Afghan people.

So: The English tell themselves and each other: We not smacking Afghans against a wall to teach them not to play games with the East India Company. On the contrary, we are doing them a favor. A really big favor. Because we love everyone. We even love total strangers in far away places very different from ourselves. We are defending the independence of Afghanistan by removing the strongest King it has had in centuries and installing our puppet, and defending its integrity by arranging for invasion, conquest, rape and pillage by its ancient enemies the Sikhs, in particular Runjeet Singh. Because we love far away strangers who speak a language different from our own and live in places we cannot find on the map. We just love them to pieces. And when we invade, we will doubtless be greeted by people throwing flowers at us.

You might ask who would believe such guff? Obviously not the Afghans, who are being smacked against the wall. Obviously not the Russians. Obviously not the Persians. Obviously not the British troops who are apt to notice they are not being pelted with flowers.

The answer is, the commanding officer believed this guff. And not long thereafter, he and his troops died of it, the first great defeat of British colonialism. And, of course, the same causes are today leading to our current defeat in Afghanistan.

The commanding officer of the British expedition made a long series of horrifyingly evil and stupid decisions, which decisions only made sense if he was doing the Afghans a big favor, if the Afghans were likely to appreciate the big favor he was doing them, and his troops were being pelted with flowers, or Afghans were likely to start pelting them with flowers real soon now. The East India company was no stranger to evil acts, being in the business of piracy, brigandry, conquest, and extortion, but people tend to forgive evil acts that lead to success, prosperity, good roads, safe roads, and strong government. These evil acts, the evil acts committed by the British expedition to Afghanistan, are long remembered because they led to failure, defeat, lawlessness, disorder, and weak government.

As a result, he, his men, and their camp followers, were all killed.

See if you detect any testiness, confusion, or exasperation

Monday, August 13th, 2018

James Fallows — who trained for and got his instrument rating at Boeing Field in Seattle in 1999, and flew frequently in Seattle airspace when he lived there in 1999 and 2000 — reviews the Seattle plane crash:

The specifics: The most useful overall summary I’ve seen is in The Aviationist. It gives details about the plane (a Horizon Air Bombardier Dash 8, with no passengers aboard but capable of carrying more than 70); the route of flight; the response of air traffic control; and the dispatch of two F-15 fighter jets from the Oregon Air National Guard’s base, in Portland, which broke the sound barrier en route toward Seattle and were prepared if necessary to shoot down the errant plane.

The real-time drama: A video of the plane’s barrel rolls and other maneuvers, plus the F-15 interception, from John Waldon of KIRO, is here.The recordings of the pilot’s discussions with air traffic control (ATC) are absolutely riveting. A 10-minute summary, featuring the pilot’s loopy-sounding stream-of-consciousness observations in what were his final moments of life, is here. A 25-minute version, which includes the other business the Seattle controllers were doing at the same time, is here. The pilot makes his final comments at around time 19:00 of this longer version. A few minutes later, you hear the controllers telling other waiting airline pilots that the “ground hold” has been lifted and normal operations have resumed. In between, the controllers have learned that the pilot they were talking to has flown his plane into the ground.

How did he do it? Part 1: The Dash 8, which most airline passengers would think of as a “commuter” or even a “puddle jumper” aircraft, differs from familiar Boeing or Airbus longer-haul planes in having a built-in staircase. When the cabin door opens, a set of stairs comes out, and you can walk right onto the plane. This is a very basic difference from larger jets. The big Boeing and Airbus planes require a “Jetway” connection with the terminal, which is the normal way that passengers, flight crew, and maintenance staff get on and off, or an external set of stairs. Also, big jets usually require an external tug to pull or push them away from the Jetway and the terminal, before they can taxi to the runway. They cannot just start up and drive away, as the Dash 8 did. Was the Dash 8’s door already open, and the stairs down, so a ground-staff member could just walk on? Did he have to open the door himself? I don’t know. But either way, anyone who has been to a busy airport knows that it’s normal rather than odd to see ground-crew members getting into planes.

How did he do it? Part 2: However the pilot started the plane (switches? spare set of keys?), the available ATC recordings suggest he didn’t fool the Seattle controllers into giving him permission to taxi to the runway or take off. He just started taxiing, rolled onto the runway, accelerated, and left. As you can hear from the 25-minute recording, ATC at big, busy airports is an elaborately choreographed set of permissions—to push back from the gate, to taxi to a specific runway, to move onto the runway, to take off. For safety reasons (avoiding collisions on the runway), in this case the Seattle controllers had to tell normal traffic to freeze in position, as the unknown rogue plane barged through.

How did he do it? Part 3: In the 10-minute ATC version, you can hear the pilot asking what different dials mean, saying that he knows about airplanes only from flight simulators, and generally acting surprised about where he finds himself. But the video shows him performing maneuvers that usually require careful training—for instance, leveling off the plane after completing a barrel roll. Was this just blind luck? The equivalent of movie scenes of a child at the wheel of a speeding car, accidentally steering it past danger? Was his simulator training more effective than he thought? Did he have more flying background than he let on? At the moment I’ve seen no explanation of this discrepancy.

How everyone else did: I challenge anyone to listen to the ATC tapes, either the condensed or (especially) the extended version, and not come away impressed by the calm, humane, sophisticated, utterly unflappable competence of the men and women who talked with the pilot while handling this emergency. My wife, Deb, has written often about the respect she’s gained for controllers by talking with them in our travels over the years. These are public employees, faced with a wholly unprecedented life-and-death challenge, and comporting themselves in a way that does enormous credit to them as individuals and to the system in which they work. In addition to talking to the hijacker pilot, Seattle ATC was talking with the scores of other airline pilots whose flights were affected by the emergency. See if you detect any testiness, confusion, or exasperation in those pilots’ replies.

We all know that the voice of the airline pilot is calm, not testy.

(Hat tip à mon père.)

When a flash-bang grenade isn’t enough

Saturday, July 21st, 2018

Flash-bang grenades are great, but what if you want to deliver 14 flash-bang grenades from 1,000 meters away?

“Currently the armed forces are unable to deliver non-lethal effects at extended ranges,” Michael Markowitch, an engineer involved in designing the munition, said in an Army press release in 2016. “Our goal was to develop a mortar that would be capable of delivering a non-lethal payload at ranges typical of mortar systems.”

“We took our inspiration for our design from the family of illumination mortars. They use parachutes attached to an illumination candle to slow its descent and illuminate an area. The team determined that similar designs could be used to control the descent of the metal parts,” Markowitch added.

This first field-test occurred during this year’s Rim of the Pacific exercise, which occurs every two years and involves more than 20 nations and dozens of warships.

The modified round is compatible with existing 81 mm mortar tubes and flies through the air like a standard mortar. The round’s effective range is between 450 and 1,500 meters.

When the round is roughly 250 meters above the target, a time-delay fuse detonates. The mortar’s nose and tail sections separate and the 14 nonlethal cardboard-encased submunitions are released.

Parachutes also release from the mortar’s nose and tail, and the mortar floats to the ground while the flash-bang grenades fall, stabilized by drag ribbons.

The nonlethal cartridges are designed to detonate simultaneously, covering an area of roughly 30 meters. Each cartridge, like the M84 stun grenade, emits a roughly 180-decibel bang and a flash of more than one million candela within five feet of the initiation spot.

Flash-Bang Mortar Dispersion

Developers of the system have also shown interest in adding infrared or ultraviolet ink to the mortar in order to paint anyone near the detonation. This could help soldiers identify people in a crowd who may disperse from the impact site, according to the Defense Department release.

In the end, it all depended on petroleum

Friday, July 20th, 2018

The failure of Barbarossa is really quite straightforward, Philip Andrews argues:

In the end, it all depended on petroleum.

Moscow was not important to Stalin. He was quite prepared, and had indeed planned, to retreat with as much industry as possible behind the Urals, and continue the fight from there — so long as he was able to receive petroleum supplies from the Caucasus across the Caspian.

The Germans knew about Moscow’s unimportance to the Soviets (Leningrad was far more symbolic, having been the birthplace of the Revolution). The German military attaché in Moscow had told the German high command as much, but they ignored him. The German high command had a fixation with major cities, and was determined to waste time and resources besieging cities that had no intrinsic military value to Stalin.

The Germans never had enough resources for the kind of war they went to fight in the Soviet Union. Firstly, most of their army was horse-drawn, and most of the transport that was mechanised was requisitioned from the occupied countries. Germany, at the start of the war, had the lowest level of transport mechanisation of any Western power. They relied far more on horses than France, Britain or the US. They did not have resources to mechanise their army sufficiently to launch a strategic war against Russia.

Secondly, in order to cripple Soviet industry and the transport infrastructure, they would have had to have developed a strategic bomber force on the lines of the British and Americans. After the death of General Wever, just before the war, they abandoned the idea of the strategic bomber altogether in favour of the Ju 88, which was never intended for strategic bombing. Thus, they never had the ability to bomb behind the Urals or to reach the Caucasus.

Thirdly, they would have needed a much stronger armoured mechanised force than the mere 20 or so panzer divisions with which they invaded Russia. Also, they should have designed their armour with wide tracks for Russia’s road-less conditions, and with sufficient armament to have taken on the T-34 and the KV-1. As it was, their intelligence on the Soviet Union and its resources, especially manpower potential, was abysmal to non-existent.

One possible winning strategy for them would have been to have invaded only the Ukraine, with a blocking force at the Pripet marshes. They could have granted independence to the Ukrainians, set up an anti- Communist puppet government, and used the Ukrainians to help fight the Soviet army. Meanwhile, German armoured and mechanised forces could have had to make a dash for the Caucasus and the oilfields.

The strategic bombers the Germans never had, could have been used to destroy the oil transfer points on the Caspian to prevent Stalin from receiving oil supplies — without, however, destroying the fields themselves. Once the panzer forces had arrived in the Caucasus, say about six months after the invasion, they may have been able to capture the fields intact, or at least to deny them to the Soviets.

At that time, the Caucasus oilfields were the only source of oil the Soviets had. If this ‘Ukrainian’ strategy had been planned for from the outset — with an appropriate build-up of bomber and panzer forces — the Germans may have been able to force Stalin to the negotiating table by denying him his oil supplies. They should have done this rather than waste good pilots and aircraft in futile battles over Britain.

This at least is my take on Barbarossa. I believe that Hitler had a very strong intuition about the importance of going for the Caucasus straightaway, but his tunnel-visioned and hidebound generals believed in conventional warfare and conventional targets like cities. It was they, rather than he, who believed that the Russians would collapse under the weight of the blitzkrieg and that the war would be over in a few months.

Israel significantly relaxes gun license regulations

Thursday, July 19th, 2018

Israel will significantly relax its regulations governing gun licenses, a move that would instantly allow hundreds of thousands of Israelis to acquire a firearm:

According to Haaretz, Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan will allow any Israeli who underwent level 07 rifle training in the IDF to apply for a gun license. All infantry soldiers are certified as 07, in addition to all combat squad commanders and the majority of IDF officers. The vast majority of IDF soldiers aren’t combat soldiers and are certified as level 02.

While the police do not oppose the move, it requested that the mandatory training course be expanded to four and a half hours from the current two. The updated guidelines are a direct result of efforts by the Knesset’s Gun Lobby head Likud MK Amir Ohana, who has long pressed for Israel to relax its tightly regulated firearms industry in order to allow citizens to protect themselves from terrorism.

“A civilian carrying a weapon is more of a solution than a threat, and doubles as assistance for the security forces,” Ohana told Haaretz, pointing out that “in 11 attacks in just the Jerusalem area, they neutralized the threat.”

“Sending the citizens of Israel to protect themselves with pizza trays, selfie sticks, guitars and umbrellas is a crime of the state against its citizens. A law abiding citizen, who has the basic skill required, is entitled to be able to defend himself and his surroundings.”

Why not carry ammunition cans?

Wednesday, July 18th, 2018

The US Army is moving away from the current Army Physical Fitness Test (APFT) to the new and improved Army Combat Readiness Test (ACRT):

This new six-event test will keep the two-mile run from the current Army Physical Fitness Test (APFT), but scraps the push-ups and sit-ups in favor of leg tucks, a medicine ball power throw, three-rep max dead lift, “T” push-ups, and a shuttle sprint-drag-carry.

[...]

The ACRT, for example, is comparatively much more time intensive than the APFT. Each set of equipment allows approximately five soldiers to complete the full six-event ACRT in seventy-five minutes. In an infantry battalion with ten sets of equipment and eight hundred soldiers, completing the ACRT will take sixteen days — three work weeks — if limited to normal morning PT hours. Since the current APFT throughput is only limited by the number of available graders, an entire battalion can easily complete the APFT in a single PT session. While there are ways a battalion could adjust to make executing the ACRT more efficient, the financial cost is more significant.

Beyond consuming more time, the ACRT transition is going to be expensive. A battalion’s set of equipment, or ten ACRT sets, is estimated at $12,000. With hundreds of battalions across the Army — combined with geographically dispersed units like the more than 1,100 ROTC campus locations, 1,600 recruiting stations, or US Army personnel stationed in embassies worldwide that need their own sets — startup costs for the ACRT could easily reach into the tens of millions of dollars, if not higher. That’s a big budget pill to swallow after almost four decades of a nearly cost-free physical fitness assessment. That also doesn’t address associated costs of equipment replacement over time, or potentially reconfiguring on-base fitness facilities to allow soldiers to train for these news tasks.

While the ACRT has been sold as a means to reduce soldier injuries, the new test introduces physical tasks that require proper training and monitoring, such as the dead lift and medicine ball power throw. According to the Army Public Health Center, musculoskeletal injuries account for 70 percent of all medically non-deployable personnel, and weight-bearing and exercise-related activities account for roughly 50 percent of all non-combat injuries. Many of those injuries result from overtraining and improper exercise.

[...]

Several ACRT tasks tie directly to physical requirements in combat — this is arguably its biggest advantage over the APFT. The shuttle sprint-drag-carry in particular includes a weighted sled pull that resembles evacuating a casualty, and the kettle bell carry simulates moving with ammunition cans. To save money and even better replicate combat conditions, the Army could replace ACRT-specific equipment with items readily available in the force.

Rather than purchasing kettle bells to simulate carrying ammunition, why not carry ammunition cans? Rather than selling all of the huge number of ammunition cans the Army goes through to the public (a very common practice), it would be easy to fill them with a set amount of weight and use them for the test. Also, rather than investing in a new type of sled to pull around a couple 45-pound plates, why not use the standard-issue SKEDCO litter system? Standardizing the weight is simple, and using the SKEDCO would reinforce an actual tactical task.

Selling Ghost Gunners has been a lucrative business

Monday, July 16th, 2018

Crypto-provocateur Cody Wilson recently won his legal battle — the Department of Justice quietly offered him a settlement to end a lawsuit he and a group of co-plaintiffs had pursued since 2015 — and now posting gun designs online is recognized as free speech:

The Department of Justice’s surprising settlement, confirmed in court documents earlier this month, essentially surrenders to that argument. It promises to change the export control rules surrounding any firearm below .50 caliber — with a few exceptions like fully automatic weapons and rare gun designs that use caseless ammunition — and move their regulation to the Commerce Department, which won’t try to police technical data about the guns posted on the public internet.

[...]

Now Wilson is making up for lost time. Later this month, he and the nonprofit he founded, Defense Distributed, are relaunching their website Defcad.com as a repository of firearm blueprints they’ve been privately creating and collecting, from the original one-shot 3-D-printable pistol he fired in 2013 to AR-15 frames and more exotic DIY semi-automatic weapons. The relaunched site will be open to user contributions, too; Wilson hopes it will soon serve as a searchable, user-generated database of practically any firearm imaginable.

[...]

In the meantime, selling Ghost Gunners has been a lucrative business. Defense Distributed has sold roughly 6,000 of the desktop devices to DIY gun enthusiasts across the country, mostly for $1,675 each, netting millions in profit.

[...]

With the rule change their win entails, Defense Distributed has removed a legal threat to not only its project but an entire online community of DIY gunmakers. Sites like GrabCAD and FossCad already host hundreds of gun designs, from Defense Distributed’s Liberator pistol to printable revolvers and even semiautomatic weapons. “There’s a lot of satisfaction in doing things yourself, and it’s also a way of expressing support for the Second Amendment,” explains one prolific Fosscad contributor, a West Virginian serial inventor of 3-D-printable semiautomatics who goes by the pseudonym Derwood. “I’m a conservative. I support all the amendments.”

[...]

Inside is a far quieter scene: A large, high-ceilinged, dimly fluorescent-lit warehouse space filled with half a dozen rows of gray metal shelves, mostly covered in a seemingly random collection of books, from The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire to Hunger Games. He proudly points out that it includes the entire catalog of Penguin Classics and the entire Criterion Collection, close to 900 Blu-rays. This, he tells me, will be the library.

And why is Defense Distributed building a library? Wilson, who cites Baudrillard, Foucault, or Nietzsche at least once in practically any conversation, certainly doesn’t mind the patina of erudition it lends to what is essentially a modern-day gun-running operation. But as usual, he has an ulterior motive: If he can get this room certified as an actual, official public library, he’ll unlock another giant collection of existing firearm data. The US military maintains records of thousands of the specs for thousands of firearms in technical manuals, stored on reels and reels of microfiche cassettes. But only federally approved libraries can access them. By building a library, complete with an actual microfiche viewer in one corner, Wilson is angling to access the US military’s entire public archive of gun data, which he eventually hopes to digitize and include on Defcad.com, too.