Tuesday, February 23, 2016

The secret about aircraft carriers

It was just about 30 years ago that "Top Gun" introduced the world to the F-14 Tomcat and to a lesser extent, carrier operations.  The movie helped boost Navy recruiting efforts and even if people weren't inclined to join the military, they still enjoyed watching Maverick and Goose flying their Tomcat.  Even today, "Top Gun" is the movie most people when they think of aircraft carriers.

But they thrilling shots of F-14s being shot off of the flight deck or catching the cables during landing masked a secret.  Even before the first roll of film was ever shot for "Top Gun", the dominance of the carrier based fleet had been disproven just a few years before.

The Falklands War was the result of Argentina invading colony of the United Kingdom (unless you war from Argentina, then it was about the British invading your island).  Pretty much it is a forgotten war, not well remembered even by those who were around to remember it.

The Falklands War was at the height of PM Margaret Thatcher and President Ronald Reagan's time and efforts to shape a world to oppose the Soviet Union.  The Falklands may have been an obscure colony even to many British people but there was no way the "Iron Lady" was going to back down.  She sent a fleet of Royal Navy ships (which had to be hastily assembled since the Royal Navy had been drawing down ever since WWII) and sent 3,000 miles to defend the British flag.

Everyone pretty much assumed the Royal Navy and Royal Marines would mop the floor with Argentinian military but the Argentinians put a great fight and had an ace pup their sleeve.  For the UK, much like the US Navy, based power projection on large carrier-based groups.  And that's just what the Argentinians had planned for.

Argentina had purchased the Exocet anti-shipping missile.  The Exocet made use of a revolutionary tactic of surface-skimming technology to flying low, just over the waves making it virtually invisible to the technology of the early 80s.  The Harrier jump-jets did not have any capability to track or shoot-down the Exocets.

Fortunately, the Argentinians lacked enough of the Exocets and experience in using them in combat to take out the British carrier.  But notice had been served to all navies with carriers, even a small nation could defeat the mighty carrier battle group.

While the Falklands War may not be well remember, the lesson of the Exocet has not been forgotten.  Iran, China and Russia have all developed anti-shipping missiles that are more than capable than the Exocet of 1982.  These new missiles can strike well beyond the range of any of the carrier's weapon systems (including their jet fighters).  The Center for New American Security just released a study calling attention to this development and condemning the US Navy's continued reliance on aircraft carriers.

If the pre-eminence of the carrier was challenged some 34 years ago, then why does the US Navy still build them?  The same question was asked almost 100 years ago by Billy Mitchell.  BG Mitchell is considered by the USAF to be the father of the Air Force and was a distinguished aviator during World War I.  He was also court-martialed for treason for questioning the US Navy's then love for battleships and had the temerity to prove his point by first blowing-up the USS Indiana (an old battleship) and the German Ostfriesland (WWI battleship) with aircraft!

This was radical thinking as the US Navy at the time was convinced that dreadnoughts were the future of naval warfare, not the carriers which Mitchell was a proponent of (airpower was in its infancy and no one believe aircraft carriers would ever replace battleships).  Billy Mitchell proved the ability of bombers to take out even the most heavily armored ships of the era.  He also proved that that Pacific Fleet was in great danger by being parked conveniently in Pearl Harbor.  For all of his genius and foresight, he was court-martialed and permanently reduced from brigadier to full-colonel.

Despite the overwhelming proof he produced, the US Navy continued to build battleships and focus their strategy as though naval warfare had remained the same since the time of the Spanish Armada.  Then on Dec 7, 1941 the Japanese attack the US Fleet at Pearl Harbor exactly the way Billy Mitchell predicted 20 years earlier.

Ever since, the US Navy has focused all of their attention on aircraft carriers.  To be fair, the modern aircraft carrier does represent the ultimate in "power projection".  But is also a huge, slow moving target that has just been waiting for technology to catch up to it.  In 2000, the USS Cole was taken out by a very low-tech weapon.  Basically a fast boat loaded with explosives sped out to the USS Cole while it was refueling and before the crew could react, a 40 feet hole was blown into the hull of the destroyer.

A carrier is just a much bigger, slower moving ship than a destroyer.  While there are other ships to defend it, a missile using stealth technology can strike the carrier.  It was only a matter of time before missiles were developed with the range to strike the carrier before its fleet gets in range of the missile launch site.

Despite all of the evidence, the US Navy is still building aircraft carriers with 3 more to be delivered between now and 2025.  A conflict with Russia, China or Iran is not going to see carriers vs carrier type engagements.  Anti-ship missiles will be launched from long-range aircraft, submarines, ships or even the coast.  All of these scenarios will keep US carriers even further away from the battlefield.

Much like the USAF needs to give up the notion that only fighter pilots can be senior leaders, the US Navy needs to give up the notion that carrier-based fleets are still relevant.

Monday, February 15, 2016

Saudi Arabia to base troops in Turkey to invade Syria

Late last night as I watched the snow falling, I saw this headline posted on Facebook;

"Saudi Arabia Sends Troops and Fighter Jets to Military Base in Turkey Ahead-of Intervention"

For the first time, Saudi Arabia will base troops out of Incirlik AB in Turkey.  The US and Coalition Forces have been staging out of there since Desert Storm but this is the first time Saudi forces will be based there.  The article goes on the say that Saudi Arabia basically intends to remove Assad from power.  That is a rather chilling development and one brought with much peril for the entire region.

To understand a little better that implications of Saudi Arabia's intent, we need to understand the history of Prince Sultan AB (PSAB) and Al Udeid AB (in Qatar).  After Desert Storm, the Saudis were very concerned about Saddam Hussein and agreed to allow US forces to fly defensive missions out of PSAB for Operation Southern Watch (interestingly, Operation Northern Watch was flown out of Incirlik AB).  The presence of US Air Force and other flying units grew at PSAB over the years following Desert Storm.  But the Saudis always put tight limitations on how much the US forces could expand and what types of missions could be flown from PSAB.

When 9/11 happened, forces were being built up at PSAB to launch attacks against Iraq.  However, the Saudis balked at this change in missions, going from defensive to offensive strikes.  As a result, the US went looking for another home and Qatar offered up Al Udeid (along with Al Saliyah).  Unlike PSAB, the US and Coalition Forces could launch any type of mission they wanted.  Further, Qatar gave the US practically a blank check to build as much as they wanted (in 2004, Qatar offered to build Gen Paetreaus a brand new $38 million state of the art headquarters building at Al Saliyah if he would relocated CENTCOM there).

The CENTAF and the other coalition partners moved their operations from PSAB to Al Udeid and we have been flying out of there ever since.  So why did Qatar show so much love?  Quite simply, Qatar is a small nation on a thumb of a peninsula in the Persian Gulf.  While Qatar is an extremely wealthy nation, it has no real military to speak.  Qatar was always worried that if Saudi Arabia ever decided to invade there wasn't really much they could do about it.  I remember asking a senior Qatari pilot what aircraft they were getting to replace they Mirage fighters they had just sent back to France.  He just laughed and said, "What do we need an air force for?  We have the greatest air force in the world parked right out there!"  It hit me like a sledgehammer, we were their insure against any aggression.

Oh but you see, Saudi Arabia has been want to NOT get directly involved.   But then in August 2015, Saudi Arabia invaded Yemen in response to the civil war.  Taking a page out of Desert Storm, Saudi Arabia did not go it alone as fighter aircraft from Morocco, Egypt, Jordan, Sudan, United Arab Emirates (UAE), Kuwait and Qatar all flew missions.  Somalia even allowed the use of their airspace.

Now Saudi Arabia is getting ready to invade Syria and thus far Washington has been silent.  A more aggressive Saudi Arabia may not be the best thing, especially if they intend to remove Assad with no plan as to who is going to replace him.  Let's not forget that the opposition to Assad is what gave birth to ISIL/ISIS/Daesh.  Picking the right person with the right network of support to replace Assad is fraught with peril not only for the people of Syria but the region as well.

We should also be cautious of any Saudi/Turkish partnership.  As I've already written about, the Turks want to control the Anatolia water project so getting a Syrian government that's on board with that project is in their best interest.  With Saudi Arabia now becoming a more aggressive presence in the region, one has to wonder what the Iranian/Russian response will likely be.

Friday, February 12, 2016


According to Wikipedia, deception is "the act of propagating beliefs in things that are not true, or not the whole truth (as in half-truths, or omissions).  Deception can involve dissimulation, propaganda, and sleight of hand, as well as camouflage or concealment".  We have been seeing a lot of deception lately passing for the truth.

For example, the Iowa Caucus is the first major electoral event in the Presidential nomination process.  Somehow or other, one of the least racially diverse states in the Union (92.1% white, 3.4% African-American.  Source, US Census) speaks for the rest of the country regarding who should be Republican and Democrat candidates.  Then after all of the media coverage and campaign funds that were spent, it came down to a coin-toss for the Democrats?

Or how we now are still supposed to believe the Super Bowl is really about football.  The NFL and media need two weeks to build up to the game and to sell all of the commercial spots.  The general public gets mad when they learn how much some of the star players make yet no one even bats an eye about where all of the money from all of those commercial spots really go.

Speaking of the Super Bowl, both whites and blacks are all being deceived by Beyonce.  To the whites who believe her performance was somehow racist, black pride does not mean anti-white.  Nor was her performance anti-cop, it was calling attention to an issue very important to the African-American community that sees cops shooting more blacks than other races (true or not, that is the perception).

However, to blacks please stop seeing Beyonce as having done anything significant.  She merely exploited a major issue and memories of Malcolm X and the Black Panthers to deceived folks into thinking she was doing something more than getting ratings.  Beyonce and Jay Z are business people first and foremost…her performance was designed to do two things; sell more albums to her audience and create as much press as possible by being controversial, nothing more.  And now 5 days past her performance, I would say she has been quite successful but still hasn't done a damn thing about the real issue.

Think about that for a minute, if Beyonce was really all that concerned why didn't we hear anything from her before the Super Bowl?  Follow the money people.

While we are on about following the money, all you have to do to expose Hillary is follow the money.  Forget Benghazi, I seriously doubt Mr. Obama is going to let the Attorney General and DOJ go after her (if nothing else, it would expose more of his deceptions).  But hats off to Bernie Sanders, he raised the bullshit flag over her speaking fees from Goldman Sachs and this time it's sticking (something the Republicans haven't figured how to do).  She may still get the nomination but it is given it was back in August.

Another deception that Hillary and Bill have perpetrated is how much they are for African-Americans unless of course you go back an understand what the Crime Bill he passed has actually done.  Michelle Alexander  exposes this and other deceptions that Hillary would have black people believe.

There is the Ted Cruz deception of pretending to be an everyman who just happened to graduate from Princeton and Harvard.  Marco Rubio deception of being nothing more than a collection of talking points was exposed.

Mr. Obama's appeasement and capitulation on Iran to make us all safer has been exposed as a deception  for now North Korea is acting up looking for the same compensations that Tehran received.  Yet propaganda will portray North Korea as a threat which will mean more military spending.

The new Pentagon budget is full of deceptions showing that the acquisition of new weapon systems is more important than actual combat capability.  This deception may be furthered exposed if announced joint naval exercise between the US and India in the dispute China Seas end-up in some type of event.

Hell even Bill Maher is exposing the deceptions such as why no one mentions that Saudi Arabia didn't take in Syrian refugees or that why yes, if you allow a large number of Muslim refugees into your country some percentage will end-up radicalized.

So the next time you feel like condemning or congratulating your favorite politician, athlete or entertainer ask yourself what deception are they perpetrating.

Monday, February 8, 2016

All Things to All People

There is a poem that the opening stanza goes something like this;

You can't be all things to all people.
You can't do all things at once.
You can't do all things equally well.
You can't do all things better than everyone else.

I'm not certain of the author but the words came back to me after reading this headline, "Technological, Capability Issues Still Plague F-35" on Al Jazeera.  The Pentagon has published report that basically says the F-35 is still years from being fully operational.  It uses some 8 million lines of code to operate and there are still bugs throughout the software.  

The F-35 tried to be everything to everyone (air superiority fighter, air-to-ground attack aircraft, close air support) but it can only do those missions sort of well.  Now the USAF has had to postpone its plans to shelve the A-10 until 2022 in no short part because the F-35, which is supposed to replace it, won't be ready until at least then.  

Even though the Pentagon realizes the F-35 is the most costly weapon system ever, and one unlikely to provide any kind of return on investment, it still stubbornly sacrifices other weapon systems and personnel to maintain this program.  It is nothing short of insanity realized on the backs of the taxpayers.

Sto the F-35 and instead replaced with the newest versions of the F-15E.  I don't know if its possible but if they can restart the F-22 production lines, that would be another possibility.  While the Pentagon continues to plod along, China bought 24 Su-35 fifth generation fighters from Russia.  

China may try to reverse engineer the Su-35 or it may use the aircraft as a way to assess the develop of the J-11 higher.  Either way, the Su-35 could replace the F-35 to many countries concerned about its problems.  The Su-35 is also likely to see combat sooner than the F-35 meaning it will have more of its bugs worked out before the two fighters ever meet in combat.

Sunday, February 7, 2016

North Korea

Now that my annual obligation is completed (i.e. watching the Super Bowl), time to reflect on what happened before the game.  I'm speaking of course about North Korea's rocket launch.

As Pyongyang had promised, the missile passed over the prefecture of Okinawa.  As Tokyo had promised, the Japanese lost their shit but refrained from shooting anything down.  The rocket does appear to have been a vehicle to launch a satellite so now North Korea has joined the space age.

The usual cast of characters, such as Europe and the UN, condemned the launch promising more sanctions against North Korea…blah, blah, blah.  There is probably no better example of the futility of imposing sanctions as North Korea is pretty much one of the most, if not the most, isolated regimes in the world.  How much more can you isolate the North Koreans?

The usual outraged nations will be meet at the UN to discuss what actions to take against North Korea.  Same old, same old story.  Reading the comments sections of the articles covering the rocket launch, one reader had the best insight I'd come across is a long time.  He basically said the elite leaders will spend a fortune to travel to New York (home of the UN) to feast on five-star food to fuel their outrage at the North Koreans.  And then nothing will happen.

North Korea wants to be seen as much as a power player as any other nation state with nuclear arms.  Since they hasn't worked for them so far, now they have to try to join the space race.  Launching satellites are now so common that private corporations have taken over the responsibility from many government agencies, so again North Korea is still not likely to be taken seriously.

And this maybe the real reason our elite leaders won't do much more than enjoy some gastronomical delights and not produce any real actions…to do so would validate that North Korea is a real threat in their eyes.

But at the same time, the elites should not for get the old adage…never under-estimate your enemy!

Saturday, February 6, 2016

Water, The Dire Situation We Aren't Thinking About

I used to in one of my classes have the students imagine how a civil war might start in the United States.    Most would think along the lines of race, sometimes language and occasionally even a disappearing middle class.  No one ever thought about clean water and the access to it.

In this part of the country, water is taken for granted since there is either a river, lake or creek not far from any given person in Ohio.  Even when water isn't close by, there is usually no problem in drilling a well.  Despite being infamous for a city that once had a river so polluted is actually caught fire (sorry Cleveland), Ohioans take access to clean water pretty much for granted.

The "burning river" was one of the reasons the Federal Water Pollution Control Act of 1948 was heavily reorganized and changed into what is now known as the Clean Water Act (CWA) of 1972.

"Under the CWA, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has implemented pollution control programs such as setting wastewater standards for industry. The EPA also set water quality standards for all contaminants in surface waters. The CWA made it unlawful to discharge any pollutant from a point source into navigable waters, unless a permit was obtained."

As we have now learned, the water in Flint, MI is highly polluted and has been for some time.  Somehow or other, local and state officials in Michigan missed out on CWA and the fact that tap water isn't supposed to look like 40-weight motor oil.  The situation in Flint is something that might have happened 40 or 50 years ago but isn't supposed to happen in the 21st Century.

The finger-pointing, denials and counter-accusations are just beginning so it will take years before we get the real story as to how this situation was able to develop and subsequently be ignored by officials for over a year.  But we don't need to what for the post-game analysis, we can make the conclusion that if a modern US city of around 100,000 people can have highly-polluted, filthy drinking water for over a year and it can happen anywhere.

This brings me to another point, we here about the fighting in Syria and the skirmishes with Turkey but often no one mentions why this is happening.  Certainly part of it is the ISIL/Daesh/al-Nusra troublemakers but only recently have arrived on the scene.  Matters that are really afoot date much further back than the global war on terror.

The Southeastern Anatolia Project is an idea first developed by modern Turkey's founder Attaturk.  He realized the region would need electricity and believed power generated from hydro-electric power plants could be developed using the Tigris and Euphrates rivers.  It is supposed to be a sustainable project for the 9 million Turks living in the region raising their standard of living through irrigation, agriculture and the construction of 22 dams 19 power plants.  All sounds so far except take a like at this map;

The source of the Tigris and Euphrates is the Taurus mountains in eastern Turkey.  The Tigris and Euphrates flow SOUTH, meaning they flow into Syria, Iraq and Kuwait.  The Anatolia Project allows Turkey to potentially control the water of their southern neighbors.  Might be a little bit of a problem if Turkey were to say get a little attitude towards Syria now wouldn't it?

Even Saddam Hussein was eager to see what would happen so after the first Gulf War, he and Turkey had already become fast friends even as the US continued to enforce no-fly zones.  By taking Turkey's side against the Kurds, Saddam assured himself and Iraq that the Tigris and Euphrates would not be shut-off further north.

Remember all of that nonsense about an "Arab Spring"?  No one really has stopped to ask what was going on and why Hillary was so hot to have Qaddafi taken out.  Yea sure there were a bunch of despotic bastards running some of those countries, but what else is new?  Most had been in power for years including Qaddafi.  Qaddafi really hadn't done anything since Reagan unleashed a fleet of FB-111s on his ass in 1986 and any thoughts of resorting to his Pan Am Flight 103 days was beaten-out of him for good by Desert Storm.  So why did ol Hillary want Qaddafi taken out?

The Nubian Sandstone Aquifer System is the world's largest fossil water aquifer and spans all of North Africa (coincidently, the same ones that went through the Arab Spring).  It contains an estimated 150,000 km cubed of water!  Now resting on top of the world's largest aquifer may be one thing but getting access to all of that water is another.  Enter our friends, the Libyans.  See Libya prior to Qaddafi exiting the scene was producing 2 percent of the world's ENTIRE oil production.  Guess what else the Libyans found while drilling for all of the oil?  Why water of course and if you know how to run pipe for oil production, it's a snap to do the same for water.  Thus was born the Great Man-Made River.  It is the largest underground network of pipes (2,820 kilometres (1,750 mi)  and aqueducts in the world. It consists of more than 1,300 wells, most more than 500 meters deep, and supplies 6,500,000 m3 of fresh water per day to the cities of Tripoli, Benghazi, Sirte and elsewhere.

It is very likely that our friend Hillary and her then-boss Mr. Obama are secretly worried that we may be running out of clean water.  Both the Washington Post and BBC have run pieces in the last year on how the world is running out of water.

Remember my students?  When I would point out that water could be the start of a war, they just couldn't understand.  I would then use California as an example.  All of those health-loving, beautiful people out on the West Coast use a lot of water.  Of course their water consumption is nothing compared to the amount required to grow all that produce that California is known for.  It is no great secret that California, especially southern California, has been getting their water from Colorado.  The Colorado River provides water to 40 million people in the states of Arizona, Wyoming, New Mexico, Utah, Nevada, California and Colorado.  Most of the areas have been hit with droughts for years.  As anyone in Phoenix can tell you, the aquifer that supplied water for all of that growth is drying up.

What if the United States water supply is more dire than we suspect?  Flint has demonstrated the ability for officials to turn a blind eye to filthy water being pumped through municipal water systems.  More water systems may be vulnerable as our population continues to grow and the demand for agriculture continues to grow to meet those demands.  It may not be too far off in the future before the US has to start IMPORTING water they way we import oil now.  If that happens, water rationing could be a thing and a huge subsequent black-market for water could be created.

So the next time you read a headline about the situation in Syria, stop and think.  Is it really about radical Islam or something else much scarier going on?

Thursday, February 4, 2016

Missiles, virus and oil

Don't mean to sound like a broken recording but 2016 is still tracking to be one a very interesting year.

While most Americans attentions are being diverted to either the Super Bowl or the NCAA brackets (sorry candidates, even the party faithful will be rooting for their team), Japan has upped matters in the Pacific.  North Korea's announced plans to launch a "space vehicle" between Feb 8th and Feb 29th has put the Japanese Self Defense Forces on high alert.  If anything from the North Korean launch even kind of looks like it might fall towards Japan, the Self Defense Forces will blast it out of the sky using either the latest Patriot batteries or the surface ships.

North Korea has lobbed missiles over Japan before but something this time has really gotten the Japanese concerned.  If Tokyo is concerned, why isn't Washington?  But the real question will come should Japan actually shoot the North Korean missile down, what will North Korea do?

Meanwhile in a different hemisphere, Rio de Janeiro and the International Olympic Committee are about to lose their collective shit over the Zika virus outbreak.  A mosquito-borne virus, the illness is usually mild with symptoms lasting from a few days to a few weeks.  No big deal except then the Pan American Health Organization release a report back in May of last year that linked the Zika outbreak to Guillain-Barré syndrome.  Rut-roh, according to the Mayo Clinic; "Guillain-Barre syndrome is
a rare disorder in which your body's immune system attacks your nerves. Weakness and tingling in your extremities are usually the first symptoms.

These sensations can quickly spread, eventually paralyzing your whole body. In its most severe form Guillain-Barre syndrome is a medical emergency. Most people with the condition must be hospitalized to receive treatment.

The Pan American Health Organization also is concerned that the Zika virus may be causing birth defects in pregnant women including microcephaly.  If all of this were not enough, the Zika virus can be transmitted through that most favorite of human activities, sex.

Mosquitos of course have no problems hitching a ride outside of the South American continent and infected mosquitos are already in Central America, Mexico and even Texas.

So what's the difference between this and the ebola outbreak?  Well there weren't going to be millions of people traveling to West Africa for the 2016 Olympics.  Brazil has already having a bad PR time concerning the aggressive police tactics used to crack down on the favelas (slums).  If Brazil fails to handle the Zika outbreak, it could wreck the Brazilian economy (which some might be hoping with the ascendancy of BRICS).

Where is Mr. Obama amidst these issues?  Giving a speech at an American mosque for he believes the greatest danger is the fear Americans have of Muslims ("Islamaphobia as he prefers to call it).  In the President's eyes, this will tear our country apart.  While I do applaud the President for trying to stem the tide of paranoia and bigotry,  I have to wonder why he felt so compelled when there has been no public outcry for Mr. Obama to speak out.  Personally,  I'm still waiting for Mr. Obama to do something about the growing rift between police and the African-American community.

Then there is tonight's Democrat debate in which Bernie Sanders, he of that Brooklynese accent you could cut with a knife, plans to pummel Hillary over her ties to Wall St.  What is unlikely to come out though is how many of those Wall St moguls made their money basing their projections on the cost of oil being around $50/barrel instead of the current $37/barrel?  Our economy has been built around this energy model and prices aren't going to climb back up anytime soon, especially now that sanctions have been lifted from Iran.

February holds promise for many more interesting things.