Low explosives deflagrate

Thursday, August 31st, 2017

High explosive detonate, while low explosives deflagrate:

Low explosives are compounds where the rate of decomposition proceeds through the material at less than the speed of sound. The decomposition is propagated by a flame front (deflagration) which travels much more slowly through the explosive material than a shock wave of a high explosive. Under normal conditions, low explosives undergo deflagration at rates that vary from a few centimetres per second to approximately 400 metres per second.

[...]

Low explosives are normally employed as propellants. Included in this group are petroleum products such as propane and gasoline, gunpowder (both black and smokeless), and light pyrotechnics, such as flares and fireworks.

[...]

High explosives (HE) are explosive materials that detonate, meaning that the explosive shock front passes through the material at a supersonic speed. High explosives detonate with explosive velocity ranging from 3 to 9 km/s. For instance, TNT has a detonation (burn) rate of approximately 5.8 km/s (19,000 feet per second),

Detonation has an interesting etymology:

Detonation (from Latin detonare, meaning “to thunder down”) is a type of combustion involving a supersonic exothermic front accelerating through a medium that eventually drives a shock front propagating directly in front of it.

[...]

In classical Latin, detonare means “to stop thundering”, as in weather. The modern meaning developed later.

Hitting a bullet with a bullet

Wednesday, August 23rd, 2017

Hitting a bullet with a bullet is far from easy, as the history of ballistic missile defense has demonstrated, but the US had some success in the Gulf War:

The Gulf War story is overwhelmingly one of Coalition military and technological success, with one notable exception: the campaign against Iraqi tactical ballistic missiles. Initially this aspect of the war looked to be a lopsided contest pitting Iraq’s outdated missiles against the Coalition’s overwhelmingly superior technology and complete air dominance. But this is not how events unfolded. Despite using nearly every type aircraft in the Coalition’s considerable air fleet against the Scuds, in the words of one participant and student of this campaign, there was “scant evidence of success.” The Iraqis effectively used their Scuds to frustrate the Coalition, seize the initiative, and to apply great political and psychological pressure that had the potential to unravel the alliance. In this way, the Scud campaign was the high point for the Iraqis and low point for the Coalition airmen.

From the outset the reader should realize that the Gulf War was neither the first nor the largest ballistic missile war. These distinctions belong to the German V-2 missile campaign that rained destruction on Allied cities during World War II. The V-weapons campaign was much larger in numbers and much more destructive, albeit shorter in range, than the Iraqi missile offensive. However both campaigns had similar limitations (poor accuracy and small conventional warheads) and were mainly political and psychological in their intent and impact. Forty-five years separated the two operations, but the severe problems, frustrations, and failures experienced by the Allies while defending against German missiles, despite expending tremendous resources, were similar to those encountered by Coalition airmen during the Gulf War. One major difference between the two campaigns was that in the more recent war is that the defenders had an active ground-based defense.

Scud is the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) code word for a Soviet surface-to-surface ballistic missile that evolved from the German V-2. It is little improved over the German missile, primarily having a longer range, somewhat better accuracy, but carrying a smaller payload. The Soviets tested the Scud A in April 1953 and deployed it in 1955. Scud B was an improved version that extended the missile’s range from 180km to 300km, and enhanced its accuracy from 4,000 to 1,000 meters CEP but carried only half the 989kg warhead of the “A.” ” It was first launched in 1957. A key feature of this type missile was its mobility, made possible by its wheeled chassis that served as a transporter, erector, and launcher (TEL). In 1961 the Soviets began exporting the Scud A to their Warsaw allies and then in 1973 shipped the first Scud B to Egypt, and later to a number of other middle east countries, including Iraq.

[...]

Casualties were far lower than estimated. The Israelis suffered only two direct deaths from the Scuds, and another eleven indirectly, four from heart attacks and seven 95 suffocating in their gas masks. In addition, probably 12 Saudis were killed and 121 wounded. There were also American casualties. On 26 February a Scud hit a Dhahran warehouse being used as a billet by about 127 American troops, killing 28 and wounding 97 others. This one Scud accounted for 21 percent of the US personnel killed during the Q7 war, and 40 percent of the wounded. A number of factors explain this incident. Apparently one Patriot battery was shut down for maintenance and another had cumulative computer timing problems. Another factor was just plain bad luck. The Scud warhead not only hit the warehouse, but unlike so many others, it remained intact, and detonated. Conversely, one Scud impacted in Al Jubail Harbor about 130 yards from the USS Tarawa and seven other ships moored next to a pier that was heavily laden with 5,000 tons of artillery ammunition. The missile’s warhead did not explode. These are the fortunes of war. Thus, the overall death rate was less than one killed per missile fired.

The Scuds lacked numbers, warhead size, and accuracy to be militarily significant. But General Norman Schwarzkopf’s continued restatement of these facts not only missed the point, it was politically dangerous. The general’s words indicated to the Israelis a lack of America’s concern, and encouraged Israeli counteraction. Scuds had a great psychological and political impact, especially as they were coupled with the threat of poison gas. The Israelis were not about to stand by as Iraqi missiles showered their cities with death and destruction. If they intervened, however, the carefully constructed Coalition could quickly unravel, which, of course, was what the Iraqis intended.100 In sharp contrast to the field commander, the top American leadership, specifically Secretary of Defense Richard Cheney and Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS) Chairman, General Colin Powell, saw keeping Israel out of the war as the number one priority and the Scuds as the number one problem.

Although the Israelis rejected American aid before the shooting started, the first Scud impact changed everything. The Israelis quickly requested both American Patriot missile assistance and Identification Friend or Foe (IFF) codes to allow their aircraft to strike Iraqi targets without tangling with Coalition aircraft. The US quickly agreed to the first, but refused the second. However, the decision makers realized that the Scud menace had to be contained to keep the Israelis out of the conflict. One important element in this effort was the Army’s Patriot surface-to-air missile (SAM).

[...]

The Army’s Patriot surface-to-air missile formed the last line of active defense against the Scuds. The US was able to airlift 32 Patriot missiles to Israel within 17 hours and get them operational within three days. Patriot deployment to the Gulf eventually consisted of seven batteries to Israel, 21 to Saudi Arabia, and four to Turkey.

Crucial to the active BMD was early warning provided by strategic satellites. Although American Defense Support Program (DSP) satellites were designed to give warning of ICBM launches, they demonstrated the ability to track the lower flying, cooler, short range, tactical ballistic missiles, as demonstrated against hundreds of tactical ballistic missiles during their tests and in two Mid-Eastern wars.111 Before the shooting started in the Gulf War, two young captains at Strategic Air Command (SAC), John Rittinghouse and J.D. Broyles, worked out a system that coordinated information from the satellites, routed it through three widely located headquarters (SAC, Space Command, and Central Command), and passed it along to the user in the field. While the satellite did not precisely indicate either the location of launch or anticipated point of impact, it did give general information. The bottleneck was the communications, nevertheless, the juryrigged system gave a few minutes’ warning to both the defending Patriot crews and people in the target area. During the war, the satellites detected all 88 launches.

One of the main controversies of the war centered on the effectiveness of the Patriot against the Scud, or more precisely, how many Patriots hit Scuds. Of the 88 Scuds launched, 53 flew within the area of Patriot coverage. The defenders engaged most of these, 46 to 52 according to secondary accounts, with 158 Patriot missiles. Schwarzkopf initially claimed 100 percent Patriot success. After the war the manufacturer boasted of 89 percent success over Saudi Arabia and 44 percent over Israel, then in December 1991 the Army asserted 80 percent and 50 percent success, respectively. The next April the official success claims were further reduced to 70 and 40 percent in the two areas.

[...]

This misses the main point: regardless of the exact interception figures, Patriots proved very effective. Just as the Scuds were primarily a psychological weapon, so too were the Patriots. They provided great theater, with live videos of fiery launches, smoke trails, and aerial fireworks made more vivid with a dark, night background that had a positive impact on civilians and decision makers in the US, Saudi Arabia, and Israel. (There is no indication that any Iraqis saw this very visible performance, and if so, what impact it had on them.) The situation was manageable for the defenders as long as the Scud attacks were limited in number, inaccurate, and killed few people. Missile warning protected civilians from death and injury, while active missile defenses bolstered morale. The Patriots were an important factor in keeping Israel out of the war.

The most formidable of twenty-first century weapons

Monday, August 21st, 2017

A new study from RAND examines Israel’s Operation Cast Lead in 2009 and Operation Protective Edge in 2014 and shares some lessons learned in Gaza:

For starters, smart weapons are no panacea. The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) attempted to destroy Hamas rocket launchers and tunnels with airpower alone (surprising in light of the failure of such an approach in the 2006 Lebanon War). Lack of success meant ground troops had to be sent in.

The failure of airpower meant the revival of artillery. The IDF barely used artillery in 2009, but used lots of big guns in 2014. “On a technical and tactical level, the IDF’s use of artillery support was impressive,” RAND noted. “It increased its use of precision artillery from earlier campaigns and reduced the minimum safe distances for providing fire support. Artillery fire often proved quicker and more responsive than other means of firepower, such as CAS [close air support].”

Armor also proved its worth in Gaza. “Before Protective Edge, the IDF invested in intelligence and airpower, often at the expense of particularly heavy armor,” RAND found. Or as Israeli sources told RAND, “Half a year before, they closed the Namer [a tank converted into a troop carrier] and we said it was a mistake; and immediately after, they reopened the project. You need protection. Mobility is protection.”

In turn, armor needs active protection systems. “there was near-universal consensus among IDF officers and outside analysts interviewed for this report that vehicles equipped with the Trophy system stood a better chance of surviving not only RPG fire, but also the Kornet ATGM [anti-tank guided missile],” RAND found. “Indeed, according to some accounts, there were at least 15 instances of active protection systems intercepting Kornet-style missiles.” Another unexpected benefit was that the sensors on the Trophy also proved useful in detecting the location of hostile fire.

However, neither smart weapons nor artillery can stop that most formidable of twenty-first century weapons: lawfare, or the use of international law and public opinion to stymie an adversary’s superior firepower. Under intense media scrutiny, the IDF grappled with how to destroy rocket launchers that Hamas had emplaced in densely populated civilian areas. To its credit, Israel tried a variety of means to avoid civilian casualties, including calling residents on their phones to evacuate, social media and the memorable “door knocker” inert bombs landing on roofs as a signal to get out of the target zone. Lawyers even reviewed targeting decisions, and yet Israeli still suffered a public relations disaster, including public and UN accusations of war crimes. Now the IDF General Staff is adding a lawfare section. “For better or worse, lawfare is here to stay, and the IDF — like all Western militaries — will have to wrestle with its implications in any future operation,” RAND concludes.

It just has to bring the detonator

Monday, July 31st, 2017

Back before GPS was ubiquitous, a couple decades ago, I thought it would lend itself all too well to sabotage or terrorism. Imagine sending out a fleet of miniature, autonomous Hindenburgs to burn down a dozen targets on a windless night, or dropping lawn darts from the sky.

The Russians figured this out, it would appear:

A precision attack does not need to deliver a massive warhead: it just has to ‘bring the detonator’ to a vulnerable target.

The Ukrainian SBU – the equivalent of the FBI – now believe that the destruction of a giant arms depot at Balakliya in eastern Ukraine in March was carried out by a small drone. The spectacular explosion and fire destroyed some seventy thousand tons of munitions with damage estimated at a billion dollars, though only one person was killed. This destruction is a graphic illustration of the threat posed by small drones, as many other high-value targets may be equally vulnerable.

Balakliya was said to be the largest ammunition dump in the world. Photographs of the site show wooden boxes of ammunition left in the open, making it a tempting target for an aerial saboteur. Several similar strikes have been carried out in Ukraine.

“This form of anti-materiel attack—though on a lesser scale—has already taken place at least two times in South-East Ukraine by Russian-linked forces utilizing weaponized UAS dropping incendiary bomblets,” says Robert Bunker, Adjunct Research Professor at the U.S. Army War College.

On 29th October 2015, the ammunition depot at Svatovo was hit. Some three thousand tons of ammunition went up, and 1,700 homes were damaged nearby.

This year, on the night of 17th February, an ammunition warehouse in Zaporozhye region was set on fire causing a series of explosions. The same tactics were used the next night at a storage site near Grodovka village in the Donetsk region, but this time the fires were put out. On 14th March a drone attacked another Ukrainian military facility near Donestsk, making three separate sorties and dropping two grenades each time according to Ukrainian military officials.

There had been a previous drone attack at Balakliya in December 2015, when small drones dropped at least fourteen grenades. The grenades started fires in the open storage areas, but the Ukrainian soldiers, showing considerable bravery, put out the fires. On that occasion one of the devices was recovered intact, and was identified as a Russian ZMG-1 mine grenade.

The ZMG-1 is a thermite charge, a specialist tool used for demolition by Russian special forces, which resembles the U.S. AN-M14 grenade. Grenades of this type burn rather than exploding, and are placed rather than thrown, as they must be in contact with the target. They are filled with a mixture of metal and metal oxide which react to produce extreme temperatures – something over 4,000 degrees Fahrenheit.

The AN-M14 can melt through a steel plate half an inch thick and is typically used to disable artillery. The ZMG-1 appears to have similar capability. The Ukrainian SBU have previously captured ZMG-1s in caches associated with Russian separatist groups, so they have such weapons, and ammunition dumps are a prime target.

“A weapons depot is such a good target for drones because incendiary device dropped from the drone only needs to act as fuse, using the materiel on the ground for the actual explosion,” says Ulrike Franke, a drone expert at the European Council on Foreign Relations.

This echoes the warning by T X Hammes of the Center for Strategic Research about a type of attack he calls ‘bringing the detonator’. Where there is a suitably vulnerable target, even a drone with a small warhead can do tremendous damage. It does not need to carry the explosive, because explosive is already there, it is just a matter of setting it off. This does not just mean ammunition dumps.

“Other infrastructure sites that would be particularly vulnerable to this form of attack would be those storing highly flammable substances such as fuel — especially aviation fuel,” says Bunker. “Commercial aircraft parked at an airport laden with fuel in their wing storage cells would also be very susceptible.”

Hammes also mentions parked aircraft as a target. Sites storing quantities of liquified natural gas or petrochemicals, fuel depots and similar locations could be similarly susceptible to such attacks. Storage tanks of other dangerous chemicals might not explodes and burn, but if ruptured they could still have catastrophic effects. Th accidental release of methyl isocyanate gas from a plant on Bhopal in 1984 caused over three thousand deaths. Any risk of a similar incident is likely to result in the evacuation of a wide area as a minimum, even if there are no casualties.

Small drones are readily available over the internet. Unlike earlier generations of radio-controlled aircraft, they are easy to use, and a beginner can fly one out of the box. Grenades of the sort dropped by drones in Iraq and Syria may be hard to acquire outside of a war zone, but thermite is another matter. It is easy to make, and can be legally purchased in the US, UK and elsewhere. Terrorists may have trouble making their own explosives, and often get caught in the process, but they can acquire thermite without attracting attention.

Canadian sniper makes record-breaking kill shot in Iraq

Saturday, June 24th, 2017

A sniper with Canada’s elite Joint Task Force 2 shot and killed an Islamic State insurgent in Iraq from a record-breaking distance of 3,540 metres:

The kill was independently verified by video camera and other data, The Globe and Mail has learned.

“Hard data on this. It isn’t an opinion. It isn’t an approximation. There is a second location with eyes on with all the right equipment to capture exactly what the shot was,” another military source said.

A military insider told The Globe: “This is an incredible feat. It is a world record that might never be equalled.”

The world record was previously held by British sniper Craig Harrison, who shot a Taliban gunner with a 338 Lapua Magnum rifle from 2,475 metres away in 2009.

Previously, Canadian Corporal Rob Furlong had set the world record in 2002 at 2,430 metres when he gunned down an Afghan insurgent carrying an RPK machine gun during Operation Anaconda.

Weeks before, Canadian Master Cpl. Arron Perry briefly held the world’s best sniper record after he fatally shot an insurgent at 2,310 metres during the same operation. Both soldiers were members of the 3rd Battalion Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry.

He was using a McMillan TAC-50 sniper rifle while firing from a high-rise.

Atlatling in Austin

Wednesday, May 17th, 2017

Austin seems like the kind of town where you’d see someone throwing spears at the park with an atlatl:

“It’s the rawest form of hunting tool,” says the co-founder and CEO of meat-based superfoods company Epic Provisions. Mr. Collins, 34, is a recreational bow hunter based in Austin, Texas, who only has time for a few hunting trips each year. Two years ago, he was researching historical hunting methods and discovered the atlatl (pronounced at-LA-tal).

Atlatl Photo by Matthew Mahon

A version of the atlatl, a hunting tool that predates the bow and arrow, may have first been used around 30,000 years ago in Europe and 11,000 in North America, according to the World Atlatl Organization. The word comes from the Nahuatl languages spoken in Mexico and other parts of Central America.

It lengthens the arm like an extra joint, making it possible to throw a spear farther and with more force than with one’s bare hands. It works similarly to a throw stick for dogs playing fetch.

Atlatls typically range from 18 to 24 inches long. One end has a hook and the other a hand hold. The hook connects to the back end of the spear, which is 5 to 6 feet long and thicker than an arrow. Throwers hold the atlatl at eye level and step in the direction of the target as they use their arm and wrist to throw the spear forward. The end of the atlatl flips around, pushing the spear forward with added force.

Mr. Collins played baseball in high school and likens the motion to throwing a pitch. He finds atlatl throwing meditative. “You really get in a zone and forget any worries,” he says.

RIP WeaponsMan

Wednesday, April 19th, 2017

The “quiet professional” behind the WeaponsMan blog, Kevin O’Brien, has passed away, his brother reports:

He was born in 1958 to Robert and Barbara O’Brien. We grew up in Westborough, Mass. Kevin graduated from high school in 1975 and joined the Army in (I believe) 1979. He learned Czech at DLI and became a Ranger and a member of Special Forces.

Kevin’s happiest times were in the Army. He loved the service and was deeply committed to it. We were so proud when he earned the Green Beret. He was active duty for eight years and then stayed in the Reserves and National Guard for many years, including a deployment to Afghanistan in 2003. He told me after that that Afghan tour was when he felt he had made his strongest contribution to the world.

[...]

In the winter of 2015, we began building our airplane together. You could not ask for a better building partner.

Last Thursday night was our last “normal” night working on the airplane. I could not join him Friday night, but on Saturday morning I got a call from the Portsmouth Regional Hospital. He had called 911 on Friday afternoon and was taken to the ER with what turned out to be a massive heart attack. Evidently he was conscious when he was brought in, but his heart stopped and he was revived after 60 minutes of CPR. He never reawakened.

He will be missed.

Skin on Fire: A Firsthand Account of a VX Attack

Wednesday, March 1st, 2017

Police say that Kim Jong Nam was killed with VX, the same nerve agent the Aum Shinrikyo cult used on Hiroyuki Nagaoka in Japan in 1995:

The first sign that Hiroyuki Nagaoka had been attacked with VX, the nerve agent that Malaysian police say killed Kim Jong Nam, came when the room he was in appeared to go dark.

Mr. Nagaoka then felt an intense burning sensation inside his chest and lungs that quickly spread throughout his body. He dropped to the floor screaming as his wife cried out, “Are you OK?! Are you OK?!”

He tore at his skin, which felt like it had caught fire. His body was soaked in sweat. Soon after he lost consciousness. When he awoke two weeks later in a hospital, Mr. Nagaoka said his wrists were tied to the bed frame to stop his constant thrashing around.

Nerve agents like VX cause muscles to experience constant stimulation.

[...]

Mr. Nagaoka, who is now 78, survived in large part because when he was sprayed with VX by religious cult members it landed on the rear of his sweater, below the collar.

He didn’t even notice the attack at the time, the details of which were revealed when the cult members described it at a trial. Mr. Nagaoka was attacked outside his home in Tokyo but continued on to post new-year greeting cards before the agent took effect when he returned home.

Mr. Nagaoka was targeted because he led a support group of parents whose children had become members of the cult, Aum Shinrikyo. Mr. Nagaoka’s son had joined the cult but left it before the attack.

The cult attacked two other men with VX around the same time as Mr. Nagaoka, one of whom died. Cult members sprayed the three men with syringes while pretending to be out jogging.

[...]

Mr. Nagaoka, who had to quit his job as an office worker because of harassment by Aum before the attack, also recovered because a doctor at the hospital in Tokyo where he was treated recognized his symptoms after he had treated victims of another Aum attack with a similar nerve agent called sarin in 1994.

Aum Shinrikyo would go on to orchestrate one of the worst terrorist attacks in Japanese history.

On March 20, 1995, five members of the cult boarded three separate subway trains in Tokyo with plastic bags that contained sarin. They punctured the bags with their umbrellas just as the morning rush hour was peaking, killing 13 people and wounding 6,300.

Mr. Nagaoka says his eyesight became weaker after the VX attack and that he continues to experience numbness in his right arm.

Very, very bad at gun journalism

Saturday, February 4th, 2017

The mainstream media lobbies hard for gun control, but it is very, very bad at gun journalism:

It might be impossible ever to bridge the divide between the gun-control and gun-rights movements. But it’s impossible to start a dialogue when you don’t know what the hell you are talking about.

Media stories in the wake of mass shootings typically feature a laundry list of mistakes that reflect their writers’ inexperience with guns and gun culture. Some of them are small but telling: conflating automatic and semi-automatic weapons, assault rifle and assault weapon, caliber and gauge—all demonstrating a general lack of familiarity with firearms. Some of them are bigger. Like calling for “common-sense gun control” and “universal background checks” after instances in which a shooter purchased a gun legally and passed background checks. Or focusing on mass shootings involving assault weapons—and thereby ignoring statistics that show that far more people die from handguns.

Anti-Helicopter Mines?

Friday, January 20th, 2017

The U.S. Army is now concerned about anti-helicopter mines:

Bulgaria, which seems to have developed these devices as far as as the late 1990s, offers several mines such as the AHM-200, a 200-pound device which looks like a mortar tube mounted on a tripod. The mine, which is emplaced on the surface rather than buried in the dirt, has an acoustic sensor which arms the weapon when it picks up the sound of the helicopter as far away as 1,500 feet. At a range of 500 feet, a Doppler radar tracks the target. When the helicopter gets within 300 feet, the mine detonates both an explosively formed projectile and an explosive charge packed with steel balls.

A 2012 Russian news video shows what looks a similar device. A Russian expert in the video claims that anti-helicopter mines were developed because shoulder-fired anti-aircraft missiles are ineffective against helicopters flying lower than 300 feet.

Other nations have also developed anti-helicopter mines. Poland has one, while Austria has developed an infrared-guided version.

How Japan has almost eradicated gun crime

Wednesday, January 18th, 2017

The BBC naively explains how Japan has almost eradicated gun crime:

Japan has one of the lowest rates of gun crime in the world. In 2014 there were just six gun deaths, compared to 33,599 in the US. What is the secret?

If you want to buy a gun in Japan you need patience and determination. You have to attend an all-day class, take a written exam and pass a shooting-range test with a mark of at least 95%.

There are also mental health and drugs tests. Your criminal record is checked and police look for links to extremist groups. Then they check your relatives too — and even your work colleagues. And as well as having the power to deny gun licences, police also have sweeping powers to search and seize weapons.

That’s not all. Handguns are banned outright. Only shotguns and air rifles are allowed.

The law restricts the number of gun shops. In most of Japan’s 40 or so prefectures there can be no more than three, and you can only buy fresh cartridges by returning the spent cartridges you bought on your last visit.

Police must be notified where the gun and the ammunition are stored — and they must be stored separately under lock and key. Police will also inspect guns once a year. And after three years your licence runs out, at which point you have to attend the course and pass the tests again.

This helps explain why mass shootings in Japan are extremely rare. When mass killings occur, the killer most often wields a knife.

It’s quite reassuring that mass-killers there use other tools.

It’s also impressive how Japan’s gun-control laws keep Japanese-Americans from committing gun crimes. (Some estimates place Japanese-American gun crime rates even lower than the Japanese rate.)

The U.S. Army’s Radical Idea to Save Its Tanks from Enemy Missiles

Friday, January 13th, 2017

The U.S. Army’s radical idea to save its tanks from enemy missiles involves a shield:

OBJECTIVE: Develop and demonstrate a model for a mechanism capable of moving an armor panel of at least 1 square foot with an areal density of 100 pounds per square foot (PSF) 10” horizontally in less than 5 seconds. The movement is intended to be repeatable and controlled from the interior of the vehicle and shall not pose harm to dismounted personnel.

DESCRIPTION: Conventional armor solutions currently being integrated are “not adaptable” in providing increased threat capability and protection from a greatly expanded set of threats. A solution is needed for threats that are not feasibly addressed with conventional armor systems. Conventional armor systems are essentially static and unable to respond to unanticipated changes in threats deployed against the system; essentially the army has limited potential to increase the capabilities of current static armor recipes in order to balance size, weight, and performance requirements.

Increased threat defeat using conventional armor is prohibitive due to the significant weight burdens associated with increased protection. Any increase in weight has secondary effects such as limited off-road mobility and increased logistics burden.

This SBIR topic solicits new, innovative approaches to incorporate mechanisms into an armor system to provide protection against increased threats. For the purpose of this effort the system shall be designed to interface with a 1” plate of Rolled Homogenous Armor (RHA) Plate that represents a surrogate vehicle structure. The mechanism needs to be capable of moving a 100 PSF armor panel 10 inches horizontally in less 5 seconds. The mechanism needs to be able to withstand automotive loading as well as environmental conditions typical of a combat vehicle. The proposal should discuss in detail how the system could be incorporated onto a vehicle platform and what the projected Space, Weight, Power, and cooling (SWAP-C) at the vehicle level.

The proposal shall not include a system that could be describe as an Active Protection System (APS). A system is considered an APS system if any of the two statements apply: 1. A light-weight hit avoidance vehicle defense system which, when integrated on a ground combat vehicle, can detect, track; and then interdict by diversion, disruption, neutralization, or destruction of incoming line-of-sight threat munitions. 2. A system that deploys a counter-measure that does not providing any inherent protection to the vehicle system when the counter-measure does not perform as designed.

The Gun Industry’s Lucrative Relationship With Hollywood

Friday, December 23rd, 2016

Hollywood and the gun industry see themselves as mortal enemies, but they have a lucrative, symbiotic relationship:

“Until they stop making films and outlaw weapons altogether, we’re going to keep doing what we’ve been doing,” says Gregg Bilson Jr., president of the American Entertainment Armorers Association and head of the Independent Studio Services, one of Hollywood’s biggest prop houses.

ISS is a massive, family-owned business — renting everything from Chinese takeout containers to canoes. With more than 16,000 guns in its arsenal, nearly all real, ISS is the largest armory in Hollywood (about 80 of the guns at the NRA’s Hollywood exhibit are on loan from ISS). Bilson’s crew of armorers and gunsmiths helps finicky directors from Michael Mann to Oliver Stone find and use historically appropriate weapons, train A-list actors (like Bradley Cooper, Johnny Depp and Benicio Del Toro) in how to wield them safely and shepherd complex projects to completion. “You can’t have a modern movie without a car rolling down the street or someone taking out an iPhone,” says Larry Zanoff, an ISS armorer who has worked on many big Hollywood productions. “Seventy-five percent of the time there’s at least one gun involved.”

This bit of trivia amused me:

To serve Hollywood’s marquee felons like Mark Wahlberg (currently brandishing a Glock 17 as a cop in Patriots Day) and Danny Trejo (most recently armed with an M1911A1 pistol in 2013′s Machete Kills) — who aren’t allowed by law to bear arms — ISS has a roster of realistic electronic guns (also known as e-guns or non-guns) that can stand in for everything from Smith & Wessons to Uzis. “They get a lot of use on hip-hop music video shoots,” says one weapons specialist. Producers working with ex-cons or shooting outside in neighborhoods with noise restrictions rely on them since they discharge at a much quieter level. They also are used in close-fire situations like a point-blank execution scene, where real weapons firing blanks are deemed unsafe (e-guns don’t eject shell casings).

Filmmakers now have much more incentive to get things right technically:

IMFDB.org is a wiki list-serve that functions as a clearinghouse for every possible bit of trivia, analysis and commentary on the interplay between guns and movies. Able to be cross-referenced by virtually any metric — actor, movie, firearm or manufacturer, for instance — the site is a testament to the appetite for information on Hollywood guns. There are 71 gun manufacturers listed and more than 1,500 pages in the “gun” category, along with thousands of actors and more than 5,000 movies.

“The only other product that gets people as excited when it appears in movies is cars,” says Chris Serrano, 32, the self-described “geek” who started IMFDB in 2007 from his home in Glendora, 30 miles east of Hollywood. At the time, there was much discussion but little agreement about guns in movies on the web. Serrano, who worked in real estate at the time, thought IMFDB would be a good way to crowdsource consensus.

Interest was immediate. The first visitors were fans of Westerns eager to weigh in about history and authenticity. Some modern movies generated intense discussion. The entry on Michael Mann’s Heat now tops two dozen pages. When Chad Stahelski and David Leitch debuted the 2014 thriller John Wick, IMFDB editors began itemizing the array of weaponry on display in the gun-heavy film. “As soon as it came out, it was big on the site,” says Serrano, a gun enthusiast who says he likes “a nice lever action” rifle.

Today, IMFDB gets more than 1 million unique visitors a month and has a team of 12 administrators and editors scattered around the world. “I’ve gotten word that Hollywood people do come and do research,” says Serrano. It’s mostly prop masters and armorers, but sometimes actors also come to the site to do research for their shows.

I didn’t know they traced this one back to its origin:

Sometimes armorers find that their onscreen handiwork worms its way back into real life. John Patteson, a Florida-based armorer (Cape Fear and Bad Boys II), recalls an experience on a 1980s TV show that he will not name in which a director wanted two guys with semiautomatic handguns to fire while standing next to each other. Patteson pointed out that the ejected rounds from one gun would hit the second man, at best creating an annoyance and at worst a potential safety hazard. “The director says, ‘How about we ask the left guy to tilt his gun sideways, so brass goes up and arcs away?’ ” Patteson adjusted the scene accordingly, but “next thing you know, I’m seeing guys in 7-Eleven videos holding the guns sideways.” There’s no way to trace whether incidents of sideways shooting in real life increased as a result of movie portrayals, but the anecdotal trace of his craft in real-life criminal activity left Patteson feeling disconcerted. At some point, he says, people do get “educated” by cinema: “A lot of the time, unfortunately, it takes on a life of its own.”

Apparently the initial article referred to Clint Eastwood’s iconic Smith & Wesson Model 29 .44 Magnum — “the most powerful handgun in the world” — as a “massive Smith & Wesson Colt .44″. Sigh.

USMC F-35B pilots speak about their aircraft

Sunday, December 11th, 2016

Four USMC F-35B pilots speak about their aircraft:

Guts; My first “aha” moment was a seemingly simple thing. I was executing a familiarization flight near MCAS Yuma. I was coming back to the airfield and I basically just turned the jet and pointed its nose at Yuma. Immediately the jet is providing me the information of all the traffic that is out there in the airspace. When I talk to approach for the first time they are telling me about the traffic that is out there that I already know about and I see it. I can tell who everybody is that he is talking about and the jet also saw traffic that ATC hadn’t seen yet and I asked about it. And I thought, “Holy Cow!” here I am coming back to the field from a simple familiarity mission and my jet is telling me everything about the operational environment I am about to go into. In this case, something very simple, the traffic pattern coming back there, but I didn’t have to do anything to have that level of SA [Situational Awareness]. I can start making decisions about what altitude I wanted to go to, if I wanted to turn left or right, speed up or slow down. There’s somebody coming up next to me, I want to get in front of them — or whatever. It is a very simple example, but I thought WOW this is amazing that I see everything and can do that.

The other was the first time I vertically recovered the airplane. The flight control law that the airplane has is unbelievable and I always tell the anecdote. Flying AV-8B Harrier IIs, I only had one specific aircraft I felt like I could kind of go easy on the controls and it would sit there and hover. I love the Harrier, love flying that aircraft, but there was work involved to bring it back for a vertical landing. The very first time I hovered an F-35B I thought, I am the problem here, and I am just going to let the jet do what it wants to do. The F-35 was hovering better than I could ever hover a Harrier without doing a thing. That’s back to that workload comment I said earlier. I am performing a vertical landing, and I have the time to look around and see what is taking place on the pad and around me. It is a testament to the jet.

BC; I was conducting a strike mission and Red Air was coming at me. In a 4th Gen fighter you must do a whole lot of interpretation. You see things in azimuth, and you see things in elevation. In the F-35 you just see the God’s eye view of the whole world. It’s very much like you are watching the briefing in real time.

I am coming in to perform the simulated weapons release, and Red Air is coming the other direction. I have enough situational awareness to assess whether Red Air is going to be a factor to me by the time I release the weapon. I can make the decision, I’m going to go to the target, I’m going to release this weapon. Simultaneously I pre-target the threat, and as soon as I release the A2G weapon, I can flip a switch with my thumb and shoot the Red Air. This is difficult to do in a 4th Gen fighter, because there is so much manipulation of systems in the cockpit. All while paying attention to the basic mechanics of flying the airplane and interpreting threat warnings that are often very vague, or only directional. In the F-35 I know where the threats are, what they are and I can thread the needle. I can tell that the adversary is out in front of me and I can make a very, very smart decision about whether to continue or get out of there. All that, and I can very easily switch between mission sets.

Mo; I was leading a four ship of F-35s on a strike against 4th Gen adversaries, F-16s and F/A-18s. We fought our way in, we mapped the target, found the target, dropped JDAMs on the target and turned around and fought our way out. All the targets got hit, nobody got detected, and all the adversaries died. I thought, yes, this works, very, very, very well. Never detected, nobody had any idea we were out there.

A second moment was just this past Thursday. I spent a fair amount of my life as a tail hook guy — [landing F/A-18s on US Navy Supercarriers] on long carrier deployments. The last 18 seconds of a Carrier landing are intense. The last 18 seconds of making a vertical landing on this much smaller USMC Assault Carrieris a lot more relaxed. The F-35C is doing some great stuff. Making a vertical landing [my first this week] on the moving ship, that is much smaller than anything I’ve landed on at sea — with less stress, was awesome.

Sack; It was my first flight at Edwards AFB Jan ’16. I got in the airplane and started it up. I was still on the deck and there were apparently other F-35s airborne — I believe USAF, I was not aware. I was a single ship, just supposed to go out and get familiar flying the aircraft. As the displays came alive there were track files and the SA as to what everyone else was doing in the airspace, and I was still on the ground. I mean, I hadn’t even gotten my take-off clearance yet. I didn’t even know where it was coming from. It was coming from another F-35. The jet had started all the systems for me and the SA was there. That was a very eye opening moment for me.

The second one, took place when I came back from that flight. In a Hornet you would pull into the line and had a very methodical way in which you have to shut off the airplane and the systems otherwise you could damage something. So you have to follow a sequence, it is very methodical about which electronic system you shut off. In the F-35 you come back, you do a couple things then you just shut the engine off, and it does everything else for you. Sounds simple, even silly — but it is a quantum shift.

Why Saddam and Gaddafi Failed to get the Bomb

Saturday, November 26th, 2016

Målfrid Braut-Hegghammer, author of Unclear Physics, explains why Saddam and Gaddafi failed to get the Bomb:

While dictators with weak states can easily decide that they want nuclear weapons, they will find it difficult to produce them. Why? Personalist dictators like Saddam and Gaddafi weaken formal state institutions in order to concentrate power in their own hands. This helps them remain in power for longer, but makes their states inefficient. Weak states have fewer instruments to set up and manage complex technical programs. They lack the basic institutional capability to plan, execute, and review complicated technical projects. As a result, their leaders can be led to believe that the nuclear weapons program is doing great while, in fact, nothing is working out. In Libya, for example, scientists worked throughout the 1980s to produce centrifuges, with zero results.

[...]

As my book shows, these programs were afflicted with capacity problems at every stage, from initial planning to their final dismantlement. These problems were worse in Libya than in Iraq, because Gaddafi dismantled most state institutions as part of his Cultural Revolution during the 1970s. Saddam created a bloated state that was difficult to navigate for his officials, with competing agencies and programs blaming each other for various problems as these emerged. This made oversight difficult, from Saddam’s point of view, and caused endless infighting and backstabbing inside the Iraqi nuclear program. As a result, scientists spent days in endless meetings, blaming each other for delays, rather than working together as a team to solve problems they were facing.

Even when Saddam tried to put more pressure on his scientists to deliver results, he failed. After Israel destroyed a research reactor complex in Iraq in June 1981, Saddam became more determined to get nuclear weapons. But the program made little progress. In 1985, his leading scientists promised Saddam that they would achieve a major breakthrough by 1990 – without specifying what exactly they would achieve by that time. By 1987, it was clear that they would not be able to make a significant breakthrough by the deadline. This created plenty of shouting and conflict inside the program, and led to an in-house restructuring, but even at this stage no one was willing to tell Saddam the bad news. When the delays could no longer be denied, the scientists blamed another agency. This was a strategic blunder – because this agency was led by Saddam’s son-in-law, Hussein Kamil. Saddam put Kamil in charge of the nuclear weapons program. Even Kamil, who was notoriously brutal against his employees, became so frustrated with the nuclear program that he threatened to imprison anyone found to intentionally cause delays. Tellingly, this threat was never implemented.

In contrast, Libyan scientists often did not show up for work. The regime couldn’t just fire them, partly because there were too few scientists in Libya to begin with. The regime was unable to educate enough scientists and engineers, and had to hire foreigners (including many Egyptians). Some of the Egyptian scientists went on strike during a 1977 conflict between the two states – and, apparently, managed to negotiate better conditions. Not quite what we would expect from a brutal dictator, is it? But, as the history of Libya’s nuclear program demonstrates, the regime invested enormous sums in buying equipment without getting significantly closer to the nuclear weapons threshold. In fact, nothing worked – including phones, photo-copiers and expensive laboratory equipment. Some of the equipment broke, and no-one knew how to fix them, whereas other stuff was left unopened because the technical staff was concerned that fluctuating voltage in their electrical system could break the equipment. The Soviet research reactor also faced problems, because the Libyans were unable to filter the water cooling the reactor system, which meant the pipes became clogged with sand.

The Iraqi and Libyan programs failed for different reasons. The Iraqi program was beginning to make some progress after the internal restructuring. Kamil decided to ignore Saddam’s rule to not seek help from abroad, and bought equipment for the nuclear weapons program from Germany and other countries in the late 1980s. But then, Saddam miscalculated badly and decided to invade Kuwait in the summer of 1990. After the invasion, the Iraqis launched a crash nuclear program. Kamil told Saddam that they were on the threshold of acquiring nuclear weapons in the fall of 1990, which wasn’t true. But, if Saddam hadn’t invaded Kuwait, which led to the 1991 Gulf War, he would most likely have acquired nuclear weapons. The Libyan program never even got close.