Category Archives: Military

Animal’s Hump Day News

Happy Hump Day!

Thanks as always to The Other McCain for the Rule Five links!

President Trump has saved the taxpayers a bunch of cash by negotiating down the price of the F-35 fighter.  Excerpt:

Trump never had any trouble understanding the operational advantages of a supersonic, multi-mission fighter that is invisible to radar. But from day one, he was not happy with the trillion-dollar price-tag attached to the program for buying over 2,000 planes and then keeping them in operation through 2070. Even after it was explained to him that much of that cost was inflation estimates for future years, he still thought the price was way too high.

So he decided to do something about it. In fact, Trump began his campaign to lower the cost of F-35 even before he was inaugurated. In a tweet he wrote on December 12, 2016, the President-elect said “billions of dollars can and will be saved” by pressing contractors for a better deal. Lockheed Martin, the company building the plane, saw its share price plummet 5%, and CEO Marillyn Hewson soon found herself meeting with a grim Trump at his Mar-a-Lago resort to explain why the fighter cost so much.

As old Groper Joe might say, this is a big fuckin’ deal.

The military procurement process is badly busted and has been for decades.  It takes forever to push a new program through the increasingly complex, Byzantine procurement system; back in World War II a new fighter could go through the process from concept to squadron service in a matter of months, where now it takes years.  Granted aircraft now are much more complex than they  were then; but maybe, just maybe, this instance of a President actually sitting down with a defense contractor and saying “you know, I think you can get us a better deal” might be the start of something.

Of course the President won’t get the credit for it; as the article concludes:  It’s a safe bet that President Trump won’t get any more credit for his F-35 triumph from the mainstream media than he has gotten for creating six million new jobs or eliminating regulations. But his administration has now positioned its biggest weapons program to reap huge savings as production ramps up for America’s joint force and its allies. This is the kind of efficiency that the people who originally conceived the F-35 fighter had hoped for, but it took Trump to make it happen.

Credit is as credit does, but in the end, a few bucks were saved.  Now if he could only apply that to the rest of the Imperial government.

Rule Five Tanker Friday

The U.S. Army will soon be getting a bunch of the newest version of the great old M1 tank.  Excerpt:

The new M-1A2C Abrams boasts new active and passive protection that could help to protect it from the latest enemy weaponry. The most obvious new features of the M-1A2C are the vehicle’s Trophy active-protection systems and an additional slab of armor on the front of its turret.

Trophy uses a radar to detect incoming missiles and rockets then fires tiny projectiles to intercept the munitions. The Army also is back-fitting Trophy to some older M-1 models.

And:

The M-1A2C in essence is a better-protected M-1A2SEPv2 that’s also easier to upgrade. In addition to Trophy and more armor, the new tank boasts more electrical power, better diagnostic systems and a data-link that’s compatible with programmable ammunition types that are in development.

“The Abrams M-1A2C can host any mature technology the Army deems operationally relevant,” the Army stated.

The latest version of the M-1 arguably is the best tank in the world. For now.

Russia and China both are developing new fighting vehicles. Russia’s high-tech Armata tank has run into development problems. China successfully has fielded hundreds of new Type 99A tanks that roughly are similar to mid-generation, digital M-1s.

But China has struggled to adapt old-style doctrine to its new armor. In early 2019, the Chinese army’s 81st Group Army, riding in Type 99As, lost a mock battle during a war game in Mongolia, Global Times reported, citing the state-run CCTV television news network.

Now, I  have some concerns here.

The M1 and the M1A1 were in the field when I wore Uncle Sam’s colors, and in fact I saw quite a few of them in desert tan back in ’90-91 over in the sandbox.  They were a great tank for that kind of war, maybe the best for wide-open country, vehicle-to-vehicle tank warfare.  I remember talking to a tank crew who recounted hearing a loud thump on their turret one night while halted to let the logistics train close in; they heard the noise repeated once more, and when the gunner swung the turret around to see if he could spot the source of the noise, he discovered an Iraqi T-55 that had just bounced two 100mm shells off their turret.  Needless to say that didn’t work out too well for the T-55.

Today’s wars in the Middle East are different.  These are asymmetrical conflicts against a mostly dismounted, disorganized enemy, frequently in mountainous or urban terrain, both bad places for main battle tanks.  So one wonders, given that this is the case, about the wisdom of putting a bunch of money into upgrading the M1 platform.

Still, there are few things as intimidating as a monstrous, 70-ton steel beast clattering and clanking towards you.  And like most nations, we have in the past been guilty of planning to fight the last war; a future resurgent threat from, say Russia or China, may well be a major combined-arms air/sea/land battle, in which case we’d be glad to have good main battle tanks and plenty of ’em.

The old soldier in me looks at the new M1A2C and thinks, “cool.”  The minarchist in me frets over the price tag.  The pragmatist in me wonders if we won’t be glad to have some of these around a few years hence.

What say you, True Believers?  M1A2C, yea or nay?

Animal’s Hump Day News

Happy Hump Day!

In Venezuela, shit may be about to get serious, as defectors from that socialist shithole (but I repeat myself) country are arming themselves and planning to overthrow Maduro.  Excerpt:

Wearing camouflage shirts and combat boots, a Venezuelan militia group stands in formation in the Colombian city of Cucuta as their commander, a former Venezuelan army sergeant, outlines plans to seize towns across the border before heading to Caracas to help oust President Nicolas Maduro.

Eight men, who said they were defectors from Venezuelan police, army and intelligence services, had gathered near the two nations’ tense frontier, from where they said they will lead an attack aimed at overthrowing Maduro and handing the reins of power to opposition leader Juan Guaido.

Dubbing their planned offensive “Operation Venezuela,” the ex-army sergeant, Eddier Rodriguez, said there were around 150 men ready to take part with his group. Reuters was unable to independently confirm the status of the eight men or the size of the militia.

“Our goal is to liberate the country,” said Rodriguez, 37, who said he is currently working as a security guard in Bogota. “We’re troops willing to give our lives if necessary, all 150 of us.”

You can’t fault these guys for determination, ambition or guts, but they’re going to need a whole lot more than eight guys.

But this may be the start of something.  Venezuela’s neighbors can’t fix what’s wrong with that failed nation; the United States can’t and shouldn’t try to fix this mess.  The Venezuelan people need to fix their own nation, and a small militia like this could be the genesis of that.

There’s an old saying that holds that ‘the reason peasant revolts succeed so often is that there are just so damn many peasants.’  There’s a problem; the Venezuelan people have no arms with which to contest with their illegitimate government.  That right was never allowed in Venezuela, and since Hugo Chavez seized power, civilian gun ownership has been ever more tightly restricted.

But this rumored militia; they came from the Venezuelan military.  Presumably they took some weapons with them.  So far Maduro has kept a lid on the military, presumably because the top generals are getting as rich as Maduro himself, as the Top Men in socialist states always seems to do.  But the rank and file?

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again; I see two endings for Maduro.  He can flee to Russia or Cuba, or face a rope and a lamp post.  His top generals, if they get caught on the wrong side, may end up joining him.

Animal’s Daily About Damn Time News

New Army Service Uniforms! (Image from article)

So, finally, long after my time in Uncle Sam’s colors, the U.S. Army is finally going back to a uniform that doesn’t make you look like a traffic cop or… ugh…  a sailor.  (Just kidding, all you present and veteran squids out there.)  Excerpt:

The United States Army wanted a spiffy new service uniform, one that would stand out in a tough recruiting environment and polish the Army’s image after a generation of grinding and divisive wars.

So it turned the clock back. Way back.

It chose a new uniform that looks almost exactly like the old green gabardine wool field coat and khaki trousers that officers wore in World War II. Probably not by coincidence, that’s what the Army was wearing the last time the nation celebrated total victory in a major war.

“We went back and asked, when is the most prominent time when the Army’s service to our nation was universally recognized, and the answer came very quickly,” said Daniel A. Dailey, the sergeant major of the Army, the highest-ranking enlisted soldier in the service. “That victory, that impact on the nation, is still felt today by the sons and daughters and grandsons and granddaughters of the ‘Greatest Generation.’”

And:

The Old Man in 1945, his 1911 at his side.

Army Greens will be the military equivalent of a business suit, which the Army largely stopped using during the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Just as civilians have been dressing more casually in professional and social settings, troops have been wearing camouflage fatigues in situations that used to call for a jacket and tie, like office work or travel between bases. Even in the Pentagon, officers spend a good deal of their time in combat boots.

With far fewer troops deployed in combat operations now, though, the Army has signaled that it wants to get back to the old spit and polish. It is hoping that reintroducing an iconic service uniform from the days of the Band of Brothers and Rosie the Riveter will help reframe its public image.

This does have the distinct look of the WW2 uniforms, although the difference between officer and enlisted uniforms will be less pronounced, it appears.  Dad used to comment that in the Forties, you could tell an officer from an enlisted man from across the parade ground; not a good thing in combat, but possibly handy in garrison.

Honestly, though, I like the return to a bit of spit and polish.  It’s part of the soldier’s discipline to keep one’s self strack; back in my Cold War days, when in garrison, we took a great deal of pride in looking high-speed, low-drag, with pressed OD’s/BDUs, spit-shined boots and blocked caps.  And boy howdy, the yarns you’d hear spun in those late-night boot-shining parties.

A soldier should look soldierly.  You’re representing the entire U.S. Army when you wear that uniform, and more than that, you’re representing your country.  You should wear the uniform with pride.

Goodbye, Blue Monday

Goodbye, Blue Monday!

Thanks as always to Pirate’s Cove for the Rule Five links!

Being something of a rifleman and an adherent to the school of “You Can Shoot Little Stuff With A Big Gun, but You Can’t Shoot Big Stuff With A Little Gun,” I’ve always wondered why the U.S. Army adopted the M-16 platform as a primary weapon instead of the jungle carbine it was more suited to be.  There is still a true Main Battle Rifle (MBR) in U.S. inventories, that being the M-14.

Nowadays it seems my thoughts on rifles are gathering some steam in the U.S. military.  Excerpt:

The M-14 was the U.S. military’s last battle rifle. It appeared in 1959—the contemporary of the Pentagon’s first jet fighters and ICBMs. With its heavy steel parts and walnut stock, the M-14 looked positively archaic.

It was hardly a Space Age weapon. And it only endured as America’s battle rifle until 1970, when the M-16 completely superseded it—the shortest service record of any U.S. military rifle in the 20th century.

Yet, the M-14 has come and gone and come back again. Its accuracy and power—it fires the 7.62 x 51 millimeter NATO round—have given it a new lease on life as a weapon for snipers and designated marksmen.

The M-14 refuses to surrender.

“The M-14 has re-appeared in recent years in the hands of U.S. troops,” Alan Archambault, former supervisory curator for the U.S. Army Center of Military History, tells War Is Boring. “The sniper version is designated the M-25 and has proven to be very effective in Iraq and especially Afghanistan.”

“I believe the M-14 was a better weapon for combat where accuracy and range are more important than volume of fire,” says Archambault, an Army veteran. “This is why some troops in Afghanistan have used the M-14.”

The M-14 is, of course, the modernized, select-fire version of the venerable M1 Garand.  But it remains today something I think the U.S. military needs, a full-power Main Battle Rifle, far better suited to open-country mechanized warfare than the M-16/M4 platform.

A modernized M-14 with a modern shooter.

I see that the reissued M-14s have been modernized with synthetic stocks and optical sights.  While I remain skeptical of the value of an optical sight in direct combat, as long as they are backed up by stout iron sights and the troops are trained in the use of those iron sights, that’s not much of an issue.  Getting troops to the range more often will count for a lot more than any particular kind of sighting equipment.

I’ve long thought about buying a Springfield Armory M1A, the semi-auto civilian version of the M-14.  In National Match trim the M1A runs about two grand, not an insignificant investment even in a hobby not known for being economical.  One of these days, maybe.

Animal’s Daily Conscription News

Israel gets it.

While it isn’t often described as such, this strikes me as an issue of equal treatment under the law, as well as a big helping of sauce for the goose.  Excerpt:

A federal judge in Texas has declared that the all-male military draft is unconstitutional, ruling that “the time has passed” for a debate on whether women belong in the military.

The decision deals the biggest legal blow to the Selective Service System since the Supreme Court upheld the draft in 1981. In Rostker v. Goldberg, the court ruled that the male-only draft was “fully justified” because women were ineligible for combat roles.

But U.S. District Judge Gray Miller ruled late Friday that while historical restrictions on women serving in combat “may have justified past discrimination,” men and women are now equally able to fight. In 2015, the Pentagon lifted all restrictions for women in military service. 

The case was brought by the National Coalition For Men, a men’s rights group, and two men who argued the all-male draft was unfair.

Men who fail to register with the Selective Service System at their 18th birthday can be denied public benefits such as federal employment and student loans. Women cannot register for Selective Service.

I’m not in favor of allowing women to serve in Combat Arms units.  Mrs. Animal, who had a military career spanning eight years and has a Bronze Star among her effects from that service, agrees.  Women as a rule simply do not have the strength, endurance and tolerance of trauma that men do.  There are also hygiene issues involved in having women in the field for prolonged periods, and in combat, there is also the issue that men will do reckless things to protect women.  Deny it all you like, but that’s a fact.  I’d have damn little time for any man who wouldn’t take risks to protect a woman.

But since we do have a Selective Service law, and since prominent women activists have been demanding access to women in traditionally all-male branches like Armor and Infantry, then fine – if you want that, you have to take all that comes with it, including a draft in the event of a major war.

What government does for anyone it must do for everyone, or it must do for no one.

I highly recommend this documentary on the subject.

Personally I would be in favor of doing away with Selective Service altogether.  In our era of a high-tech, modern military that requires a fair amount of training to make soldiers proficient, a two-year conscription isn’t really enough time to produce a troop who is technically and tactically proficient.  Further, the big advantage of a volunteer Army is that we have people who are serving not by order but by choice.  Early in my own career in Uncle Sam’s colors there were plenty of NCOs and officers who remembered what it was like dealing with draftees, and to a man they never wanted to go back to those days.

But equal treatment under the law means just that – equal treatment under the law.  I’m still not in favor of putting women in Combat Arms roles.  But that doesn’t mean, should circumstances call for it, that we couldn’t conscript them into other roles, freeing up men to serve in combat.  If we’re going to have a Selective Service law at all, then yes, it should apply to both sexes.

Rule Five Living Dead Friday

Thanks to all for the kind words and messages after yesterday’s post about my mother.  Your thoughts and kindnesses mean more than I can say.

But life goes on, and as my parents were both history buffs, they would have found this interesting.  Alexander of Macedon, better known as Alexander the Great, having conquered much of the known world, was renowned as one of the greatest generals of the classical world – until he died at age 32.  Legend has it that his body lay uncorrupted by decomposition for six days, which was cited as proof of his status as a divine figure.

Now one researcher has a more plausible theory; Alexander may not have decomposed for six days because he wasn’t dead.

Ouch.  Excerpt:

The death of Alexander the Great – general, king, conqueror – has been a mystery for over 2,000 years. Was he poisoned? Too much booze? Or actually malaria or typhoid, both rampant in ancient Babylon at the time?  

Now, a new theory has been put forward that is somehow even worse than all of those. Legend has it Alexander’s body didn’t show any signs of decomposing for six days after his death, a sign the ancient Greeks took that their warrior hero was a god. A new explanation is that he suffered from a rare autoimmune disorder that rendered him paralyzed and unable to communicate, although still compos mentis, right up until his death six days later than thought.

Dr Katherine Hall of the Dunedin School of Medicine at the University of Otago, New Zealand, argues in The Ancient History Bulletin that Alexander may have suffered from Guillain-Barré Syndrome (GBS), a rapid weakening of the muscles caused by the immune system damaging the nervous system, and that may explain the conflicting evidence of how and when he died.

“His death may be the most famous case of pseudothanatos, or false diagnosis of death, ever recorded,” she said.

Here’s the onion:

“I have worked for five years in critical care medicine and have seen probably about 10 cases [of GBS]. The combination of ascending paralysis with normal mental ability is very rare and I have only seen it with GBS,” Hall told Fox News.

“His sight would have been blurred and if his blood pressure was too low he would have been in a coma. But there is a chance he was aware of his surroundings and could at least hear. So he would have heard his generals arguing over the succession, hear the arrival of the Egyptian embalmers, hear that they were about to start their work.”

Now, just for a moment, put yourself in Alexander’s sandals here.

You’re paralyzed, likely unable to see, unable to speak, but you can hear, and you will certain still feel pain – including the pain of those wacky Egyptian embalmers when they start cutting you open to remove your organs.

One suspects this sort of thing happened more often than we might imagine, given our modern medical sciences.  The legend of vampires, after all, may well have begun by burying a comatose patient, who recovered underground, in the coffin; some time later, for whatever reason, the coffin was disinterred and opened, only to reveal the desperate scratch marks on the lid made by the “undead” person trying to get out.

Honestly – one wonders if having history venerate you as a demigod would really be worth all that.

Goodbye, Blue Monday

Goodbye, Blue Monday!

Thanks as always to Pirate’s Cove for the Rule Five links!

I found this interesting.  Ever wonder what would happen if mainland China took over Taiwan?  Excerpt:

What would a post –invasion Taiwan look like?

The occupation of Chinese military forces on Taiwan would basically turn the tables on the United States. The “wall” would now be a U.S. problem in terms of line-of-sight.

China has radically shifted the power balance in the South China Sea with the same island occupying philosophy. Islands are taken, then armed, and territorial lines are expanded via dubious “legal” declarations, such as exclusive economic zones, fishing grounds, historical claims that go back hundreds of years.

The declaration of an Air Defense Identification Zone (ADIZ) is only a matter of time for both the South China Sea and eventually Taiwan airspace. Taiwan’s fighter capabilities are not being renewed at a rate to stop Chinese advances in fighters and electronic warfare. Even if Taiwan procures new F-16Vs it will still face a significant problem in air power projection as China increases fighter patrols that are performing circumnavigation patrols of the island.

If Taiwan fell tomorrow, the Chinese navy could use the northeast naval base of Suao as a submarine base. Not just any ordinary base, but a far better one than Yulin Naval Base on Hainan Island, where Chinese nuclear submarines leave their mountain cave facilities to enter the shallow waters of the South China Sea. At Suao the waters off the coast drop into the abyss, giving submarines a far better ability to drop below thermal layers and vanish.

To be sure, China’s Communist government doesn’t harbor a lot of warm and fuzzy feelings towards the United States.  But I can’t really see them invading Taiwan, and not just because of America’s long-standing policy of protecting Taiwan.

No matter how modern a military force is, they can’t take and hold land without putting lots of men in boots with rifles on that land.  And China, the size of their army notwithstanding, would have a lot of damn trouble putting enough men on that big rock called Taiwan to effectively hold it against the resistance that the Taiwanese would put up; they would have to cross the strait against a swarm of missiles, establish beachheads, and bring in enough troops to effectively control the rocky, mountainous island.  And that’s presuming no naval support from the United States (and maybe Japan.)

China may try to take Taiwan culturally, and while that might just work, it would be a task of generations.

But China has bigger problems.  They are facing a demographic crisis, the fruits of their former “one child” policy; their economy is moribund, and their balance of trade is changing to be less overwhelmingly in their favor.

A successful invasion of Taiwan by China, yes, would be bad news for the United States, Japan, the Philippines and likely Australia.  I just don’t think it’s very likely.