Category Archives: army

Pass the Flask!

…before Jackass Cat finishes it.   He is already almost out of catnip.  Little doper.

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Another excellent Christmas gift from our gracious host.  I have been remiss in not posting this earlier.  Thanks, XBRAD.  Your gift will let me stay warm inside when the wind chill is -30 (like today), or when forced to contemplate our invertebrate Chief Executive, or our eroding liberties, or our lemming-like voter base….

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North Korea Fires Russian SS-N-25 Switchblade ASCMs

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Yesterday, the Korean People’s Navy (KPN) successfully fired three supposedly indigenously-developed anti-ship cruise missiles into the East Sea out to a range of approximately 200 km.  While the DPRK may claim the missiles are a home-made design, analysts say they are in actuality Russian export-variety Kh-35E Uran ASCMs (NATO codename SS-N-25 Switchblade).  The Kh-35 series is a close equivalent to the US AGM-84 Harpoon missile, being slightly smaller and with a lighter warhead (360 lbs) than the Harpoon (488  lbs).

It is possible that the newly-cultivated relationship between Putin’s Russia and the DPRK is bearing fruit for both entities.  This weapon system, if successfully integrated into the DPRK arsenal, represents a significant and problematic upgrade to North Korea’s offensive and defensive capabilities.  The SS-N-25 Switchblade has a seeker head very comparable to the deadly 3M-54 Klub (NATO codename SS-N-27 Sizzler), with both a radar homing and anti-radiation ability which can acquire out to 50km.

The fielding of significant numbers of SS-N-25s represents a multi-generational upgrade for the DPRK, the majority of whose ASCM inventories consist of obsolete SS-N-2 Styx and smaller (and shorter-ranged) C 801 and C 802 systems.  It is likely that the new capabilities will be employed in shore-based systems, greatly expanding both range and lethality of DPRK coastal defenses.  In addition, the plentiful but obsolescent smaller ships and craft of the Korean People’s Navy (corvettes, PTG/PG and Fast Attack Craft) configured to carry the SS-N-25 suddenly multiply exponentially their combat potential in a surface fight.  Ditto the obsolete IL-28s and other older aircraft of the Air Force, should they be configured to carry the Switchblade.

Should it come to pass that the SS-N-25 eventually comprises a major part of the DPRK ASCM inventory (courtesy of the Russians), a hard problem just got harder.   Just in time to shrink our Navy below 250 ships.

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Lyin’ Brian Williams and Hillary’s Hokum

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NBC News anchor Brian Williams is being beaten about the cranium and shoulders quite a bit in the last few days.  He deserves every last lump and then some.   He is apparently taking a few days away.  Perhaps he hopes that, when he returns, people will have forgotten all about the fact that he is a despicable liar who cannot be trusted to tell the straight story about anything.  Juan Williams, formerly of NPR and hardly a solid Republican, believes this will be the end of either Williams, if he is fired, or NBC News if he is not.  He had a point.   NBC knew that Brian Williams’ account of his experience in Iraq was a fabrication, and had even warned him to knock off perpetuating the lie.  But, of course, he persisted.  And now he is due all the scorn that comes his way.  Reporting on Hurricane Katrina in 2005, Williams’ accounts of the horrors in his area of the French Quarter are also likely hogwash.  His dramatic description of a body floating by face down, and other lurid stories (contracting dysentery) never happened.  How do we know?  The area around his hotel never flooded, and nobody responsible for mass medical care can recall ANYONE having a reported case of dysentery (a sentinel disease) throughout Katrina.  NBC knew these facts, as well, and issued no retraction.

Williams and Jeffrey Lord (American Spectator), guests on Hannity (which I don’t normally listen to, but was waiting at a highway exit and had little else to do) on Friday, also thought that the increased focus on those who are found to be lying about their “combat experiences” will turn back toward presumptive Democratic Presidential candidate Hillary Clinton.  At issue again is Hillary’s tall tale about landing “under sniper fire” in Bosnia, and the ceremony that was supposedly canceled because of the extreme danger.

Below is an image of Hillary covering the fire-swept ground on her way to the protection of a bunker.

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Here is a still image from the dramatic combat footage of the same incident.

Hillary Bosnia

For all the contempt for the US Military  expressed by the far-left, they sure seem to want to paint themselves into the tales of combat against our enemies.   The RNC should play a continuous loop of Sheryl Attkisson’s CBS report about Hillary’s fabrications between now and 2016.   (Yes, that Sheryl Attkisson.  The one who wanted the truth about Benghazi which cost her job forthwith.)  Hillary claims she was sleep-deprived, incidentally, and that was the reason she lied through her teeth.   Let’s hope when the next “three in the morning” call comes she is not as sleep-deprived then, and whoever is on the other end of the line will have better luck than Ambassador Stevens.   And that the results of that call will be reported a tad more honestly than was Benghazi, by people more honest than Brian Williams and Hillary Clinton.

But don’t bet on it.

Oh, and in my haste, I forgot the most important thing.  H/T to Delta Bravo.

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The Army’s Nuclear Ship

Wired has a piece on the almost billion dollar cost of a mid life overhaul of a Nimitz class carrier. It’s pretty interesting. Not only does it involve refueling the ship’s two nuclear reactors, but the RCOH pretty much rebuilds everything from the bulkheads in. Think of all the plumbing and wiring in a ship  designed to last 50 years. The RCOH is the one big opportunity to rebuild a lot of that stuff.

Now, you say, XBrad, that’s nice and all, but what does it have to do with the title of this post? Well, bear with me a bit.

The dawning of the age of nuclear power, as exemplified by the sailing of the USS Nautilus led to something of a frenzy in terms of nuclear power.

For a while, it seemed that in the very near future, everything would be nuclear powered. Heck, the Air Force was researching using nuclear reactors to power bomber aircraft, and actually flew a working reactor aboard a B-36.

The Army, which has always had a strong interest in prime power generation, saw nuclear power as an answer to the challenge of providing prime power in remote locations with little or no infrastructure, especially those that would be difficult to supply. And so it began research and experimentation with very small reactors. Most Army reactors were very compact, and designed to use Highly Enriched Uranium. All of the reactors under the Army Nuclear Power Program (ANPP) were one of a kind prototypes. Powerplants were used in Greenland, Wyoming, Alaska and even Antarctica.

As the wiki entry notes, a lot of the ANPP actually seemed more a solution in search of a problem. But there was one plant that actually helped solve a vexing problem.

The only ANPP plant that didn’t use HEU was the topic at hand. The Army often operates close to shores and ports, for obvious logistical reasons. And again, the need for prime power is often on the mind of the logistician. And so, someone had the idea that the Army could utilize a barge mounted reactor, not for propulsion, but for electricity and fresh water generation.

Rather than building a barge from scratch, the Army took possession of a surplus Liberty ship, and removed the steam boiler and engine, and build in its place, via its contractor Martin Marrietta, a 10 Mv Pressurized Water Reactor with Low Enriched Uranium and associated turbines and distillation machinery. The contract was signed in 1961, construction began in 1963, and by early 1967, the vessel, known as Sturgis (MH-1A) went critical while moored near Ft. Belvoir, Virginia.

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While the Sturgis was being built and tested, an actual use for it was found, one that was, in fact, somewhat urgent.

The Panama Canal, was, of course, of strategic interest to the US, and at that time under the administration of the US. The locks of the canal are operated by gravity fed water from Lake Gatun, the body of water in the center of the isthmus when the canal was built. It’s normally replenished by the torrential rains there. Fresh water from the lake fills the locks to lift ships, and then is allowed to flow out into the ocean when the locks are lowered.

Electrical power for the Canal Zone was also powered by water from Lake Gatun, via a hydroelectric station.  The combined outflow of water via the locks and the hydro power station meant that during the dry season, the water level in Lake Gatun would fall to unacceptable levels. Power was required just to operate the Canal Zone, and the locks. That meant ship traffic through the canal itself had to be restricted. But if power could be provided without having to use the hydro plant, obviously that water would be available for the locks, increasing throughput of the canal.

And so, after a few months of testing and training at Ft. Belvoir, Sturgis was towed to Panama, and from 1968 to 1975 provided its power to the Canal Zone. It’s estimated that the water savings provided by Sturgis allowed an additional 2500 ship transits per year.

By the mid 1970s, conventional powerplants were built along the eastern and western termini of the canal, and Sturgis’ power was surplus to needs. Furthermore, since she had a one of a kind plant, parts and training were uneconomical. She was returned to the US, defueled, and put into storage in the James River fleet, where today she awaits decommissioning** and disassembly.

 

*Highly Enriched Uranium is, of course, more “power dense” than Low Enriched Uranium, but it still below weapons grade enriched uranium.

**Decommissioning in this case has a somewhat different meaning than for a warship of the US Navy.

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Our Jihadist President

prayer curtain

The Daily Caller outlines a very disturbing notion emanating from the White House regarding our Constitutional liberties and Barack Obama’s predilection to render them void any time he sees fit.

“The president … will not now be shy about expressing a view or taking the steps that are necessary to try to advocate for the safety and security of our men and women in uniform” whenever journalists’ work may provoke jihadist attacks, spokesman Josh Earnest told reporters at the White House’s daily briefing.

“Steps necessary” up to and including disemboweling our First Amendment rights, apparently, for some notion of “protecting” our armed forces.  You know, the ones who risk and give their lives to uphold that First Amendment?  Yeah, them.   One should not be shocked at the criticism of free speech by this Administration, nor the rationalization of the violence perpetrated by the militant Islamists.  Despite the usual platitudes about how such violence is never justified, Obama and his minions have consistently provided just such justification by siding with the Jihadis in their public condemnation of criticism of Islam.

Obama’s willingness to pressure media outlets, to quit defending First Amendment rights and also to mollify jihadis, reflects Obama’s overall policy of minimizing conflict with militant Islam.

He also repeatedly praised Islam and Muslims, and criticized criticism of Islam. “The future must not belong to those who slander the prophet of Islam,” he told a worldwide TV audience during a September 2012 speech at the United Nations.

This President wishes to disarm law-abiding Americans and abrogate our Second Amendment rights, ostensibly so we can all be “safer”, leaving the government with a monopoly on violence and a citizenry without a last redress against tyranny from that government.  Now, Obama wants to stifle the Press, and one presumes, other manners of free expression that criticize Islam, once again for the “safety” of our men and women in the armed forces.   The intellectual fascism of the Leftist Establishment will be codified as a legitimate power of government.

The chilling effect* on free speech by the actions and threat of actions by government at any level, long identified as unconstitutional, will be a cornerstone of Barack Obama’s erosion of our liberties.  It will be a favored tool used for the stifling of political and social dissent not just by leftist social organizations and academic institutions, (and Hollywood), but also by a government already practiced in these six years in using regulatory and statutory powers as extralegal coercion to suppress political dissent.   Hillary Clinton’s remarks in the wake of the Benghazi terrorist attack smack of such suppression.  Martin Dempsey disgraced his uniform and forfeited his credibility by doing the same.

Of course, Barack Obama could protect our armed forces by halting the willful destruction of the moral fiber of those who serve our country with social experimentation, and ceasing the blunting of the readiness of our operating forces in order to feed yet more tens of billions into a $1.7 trillion dollar welfare furnace.  But he will not.  In fact, he will not even name America’s enemy, militant Islam.  Instead, the only term his Administration will use to describe those who actively seek our destruction, “violent extremists”, is applied as liberally to the Left’s political opposition as it is to those Islamic extremists who would perpetrate another 9/11.

Obama’s 2009 Cairo speech was exactly what it sounded like.  It was a klaxon to our Islamist enemies that one of their own was now in charge.  He will not criticize them because he is philosophically one of them.  The frequent visits by members of the Muslim Brotherhood to the White House, a foreign policy more accommodating to Iran and Cuba than Israel and Britain, and an undeviating record of foreign affairs decisions resulting in maximum damage to US power and prestige have long since passed the point of being viewed as coincidental blunders.   How do we know?  Because Barack Obama claims the power to keep American citizens from saying so.

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.

(*The chilling effect occurs when any Constitutionally-protected activity is unduly discouraged by actions or threats of action by the government against those individuals and groups as a consequence of exercising that activity.)

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The coming battle over military retirement.

The Army, and the other services, of course, like to say that people are their most valuable asset. Not surprisingly, they’re pretty much the most expensive one as well.

Recently, the Military Compensation and Retirement Modernization Commission returned a report on how to modernize the current military retirement system to reduce costs to the government. It’s recommendations are  not especially popular with the military population.

In simplest terms right now, 20 years of service earns you retirement at half of your final basic pay, starting immediately, for life, adjusted for inflation. 30 years earns three-quarters pay. It’s somewhat more complicated than that, actually, but that’s close enough.

The MCRMC has recommended reducing the pension soldiers receive, boosting a 401k style investment program, delaying payment of retirement until 60 years of age, and other changes. Worse still, they want to slough retirees off the TriCare For Life medical program and onto Obamacare.

Jonn at This Ain’t Hell discusses just what a 20-year pension means.

I retired at the age of 38 along with my family. I went to college the month after I left the service. It was a fairly tough transition – I worked a full time job with a security company as a rent-a-cop on a construction site, I also worked as a work/study student in the campus VA office, all while carrying a full load of classes. The pension helped us meet our transition expanses until I graduated.

After college, I went into sales with an investment company, a totally foreign environment. While I struggled to learn the business and how to teach other people what they needed, the Army pension paid the bills. Eventually, I failed at that business because some people are too stupid to help, and I’m no salesman,

When I went to work for the National Archives, most of the people my age had been at the job longer, so I was behind my peers in pay, but living in the District of Columbia, my employer didn’t take that into consideration and I still had to pay rent and bills. My pension gave me parity with my peers in an expensive environment.

Obviously, few people retire at the age of 38 and never work again. On the other hand, outside some very specific career fields, veterans who retire and then enter the work force do suffer from being years behind their peers in the civilian workforce. Their wages at their new jobs reflect their entry level status there, not the 20 years experience in the service.

Furthermore, while most jobs in the military are not terribly physically grueling, many are, and it is a rare retiree who doesn’t have some dents and dings in them. The issue is serious enough that many struggle to complete a second career.

That’s not to say that the retirement system isn’t overdue for an overhaul.

One major problem with the system is that it is somewhat all or nothing. A guy who leaves the service before 20 years essentially gets nothing. Heck, most employers vest a pension*at five years.

The big problem the military faces is that people live much longer today. When the 20 year retirement was instituted, retirees had the decency to die within about 20 years, give or take, of retirement. Today, a service member who retires at 38 years of age still has a life expectancy of another 35-40 years. And who knows just how much longer that number will be in 35-40 years. Worse still, from the government’s point of view, much of that life expectancy comes from great medical care, which is expensive, and which is a cost the government is paying.

From the DoD’s viewpoint, retirees threaten to become a costly retirement program with an armed wing. The costs of service members are somewhat high while they’re on active duty. But they really become expensive after they retire. I’m actually somewhat sympathetic to that argument.

The problem is, touching the military retirement system is fraught with political dangers. It’s extraordinarily unpopular, both with veterans (even those who left long before retirement) and with the public at large.

The other thing that really, really sticks in the craw of retirees is that they provided service to the nation. Their retirement was earned. And yet they see an ever expanding number of programs that provide money and health care, not only to people that are simply poor, but even to those who flaunt the law and come here illegally. It’s not at all surprising that veterans and retirees think cutting costs there is a good first step before touching the earned benefits of our nation’s veterans.

Here’s the commission’s report:

 

 

*Those that still have a pension, yes.

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DUKW!

From requirement to prototype in 38 days, and placed into production with only minor changes throughout the run.

In the very early days of World War II, as the Army grasped that it would be required to conduct major amphibious assaults in virtually every theater it deployed to, it also realized that the real challenge wouldn’t be getting forces ashore, but rather sustaining them with supplies over the assault beaches until port facilities could be captured. The plan was to use the same landing craft that lifted the assault troops to haul supplies. The trouble there was that transferring cargo from beaching craft to trucking ashore was time and manpower intensive. And so, the National Defense Research Council had a flash of brilliance. Why not build an amphibious truck?

The respected yacht designers of Sparkman and Stephens sat down with GMC, and quickly produced a prototype. Taking a variant of the recently introduced CCKW 6×6 2-1/2 ton truck, they added a sealed buoyant hull, a propeller and rudder, and viola! the amphibious truck was born. Under the GMC naming convention of the time, D stood for designed in 1942, U for amphibious, K for all-wheel drive, and W for dual rear axles. Hence, DUKW, which quickly became to the GI tongue, the Duck.

http://www.ifelix.co.uk/flamesofwar/imagesfow004/dukw01.jpg

The DUKW was a surprisingly seaworthy truck, and much faster on land than any other boat.  About 21,000 were produced by 1945, and served in the US Army and the Marines in just about every theater after North Africa.

Interesting tidbit. The documentary interviews Marines that operated DUKWs. In the Army, most were operated by African American soldiers in segregated units. The invasion of Iwo Jima is pretty much considered an all Marine Corps show, but Army Amphibian Truck Companies including the 476 ATC supported the operation, with its soldiers earning five Silver Stars and seventeen Bronze Stars, as well as the company being awarded a Navy Unit Commendation. That’s a hell of a record for a transportation company.

Over the years, many DUKWs have found their way through surplus sales into civilian hands, and they popular tour boats in places such as the Wisconsin Dells. That hasn’t been without risk. The sinking of a DUKW in Arkansas in 1999 cost 12 lives due to poor safety measures in place.

Still, the DUKW design was remarkably sound, given the time it took to develop, and was an extremely valuable tool in the amphibious operations of the war.

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