Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Russia's SSC-X-8

Eons after the collapse of the 3CP, Russia remains a major player in the global market for cruise missile class weapons, and a major source of advanced cruise missile technology for China's increasingly aggressive industry.

The West has been much less active in developing cruise missiles over this period, and at this time has no equivalents to the large supersonic Russian missiles.

Like the illegally tested SSC-X-8...

Russia flight-tested a new ground-launched cruise missile this month that U.S. intelligence agencies say further violates the 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) treaty, according to Obama administration defense and security officials.

The missile launch Sept. 2 was the latest flight test for what the Pentagon is calling the SSC-X-8 cruise missile. The cruise missile did not fly beyond the 300-mile range limit for an INF-banned missile, said officials familiar with reports of the test.

However, intelligence analysts reported that the missile’s assessed range is between 300 miles and 3,400 miles—the distance covered under the landmark INF treaty that banned an entire class of intermediate-range missiles.

The SSC-X-8 test also involved what officials called a “nuclear profile,” meaning that the weapon is part of Russia’s strategic nuclear forces.


Best guesses about the new missile tend to say she's a sexed up variant of the SS-N-30A nom d'guerr'd as KALIBR can be fired with both nuclear and conventional warheads and can put most of Europe in it's cross-hairs when fired from a naval ship in the Black Sea, Pentagon officials stated, noting that the long range version of the missile can reach targets between 620 and 923 miles, while the shorter range version can hit targets at distances of up to 180 miles

Pentagon officials expect to see the new missile installed on both submarines and surface ships, including the new type 885 Yasen class submarine, older submarines and cruisers, and newer models of destroyers.
To make matters worse, naval vessels equipped with SS-N-30As could also be deployed from the Black Sea to Kaliningrad, the Russian enclave on the Baltic Sea bordering Poland and Lithuania, in order to shift its range of influence.

In the face of this potential threat, experts believe that the U.S. has no viable response.

Tuesday, September 29, 2015


If ya missed it - it was embarrassingly discombobulated...

The speech had several strong paragraphs about freedom, human rights, and democracy. For example, 44 said: “I believe a government that suppresses peaceful dissent is not showing strength. It is showing weakness, and it is showing fear. History shows that regimes who fear their own people will eventually crumble.” But his administration has in fact steadily reduced American programs supporting human rights and democracy, and reached out to tyrannies such as Iran and Cuba — delaying the day when they will “eventually crumble.”

He spoke of the nuclear non-proliferation regime as one of the “principle achievements” of the United Nations, but of course that regime has been endangered by his awful Iran deal more than by any other development in decades. (And in what sense were nuclear non-proliferation agreements negotiated by the United States an achievement of the U.N., anyway?)


44 spoke harshly of Syria’s Bashar al-Assad, “who drops barrel bombs on innocent children” and uses chemical weapons, and he called for “a managed transition away from Assad.” But it is 44 who has led the way for three years in doing absolutely nothing about Assad’s terror. When in 2012 even HRC advised that the United States had to do more, 44 rejected that advice and stood firmly for inaction.

On Libya, he said: “Even as we helped the Libyan people bring an end to the reign of a tyrant, our coalition could have and should have done more to fill a vacuum left behind.” But why did the coalition not do more? Because 44 rushed for the exits, not because “our coalition” got it wrong.

 Similarly on Ukraine, 44 spoke of Russia’s “aggression” and said: “We cannot stand by when the sovereignty and territorial integrity of a nation is flagrantly violated. If that happens without consequence in Ukraine, it could happen to any nation gathered here today.” But except for mild sanctions on Russia, what 44 is doing is precisely “standing by” — and denying the Ukrainians the weapons they have repeatedly begged from us, weapons they need to defend their country.

Then came Cuba, perhaps the most offensive part of 44’s speech. Here is what he said: In this new era, we have to be strong enough to acknowledge when what you are doing is not working. For 50 years, the United States pursued a Cuban policy that failed to improve the lives of the Cuban people. We changed that. We continue to have differences with the Cuban government, we will continue to stand up for human rights, but we address these issues through diplomatic relations and increased commerce. And people-to-people ties. As these contacts yield progress, I am confident that our Congress will inevitably lift an embargo that should not be in place anymore. Change won’t come overnight to Cuba, but I am confident that openness, not coercion, will support reforms and better the life the Cuban people.
Nowhere in all of this did he call for democracy in Cuba. Nowhere did he call upon the regime to free political prisoners; instead he said “change won’t come overnight,” as if the regime had not been resisting change through executions and jailings for more than 50 years. His only actual demand was made not to Castro but to the U.S. Congress, to fully end the embargo of Cuba.
Now, human-rights conditions in Cuba have actually deteriorated in Cuba since his policy of embracing the regime was announced last year, giving the lie to the claim that “we will continue to stand up for human rights.” In fact, if President Obama wanted to stand up for human rights in Cuba, today’s address to the United Nations was a perfect opportunity. He blew it.

Some of the tougher language here, like that against the Assad regime, is welcome. But as with the talk about Ukraine, it won’t scare Putin or Assad or the Iranians. They’ve heard it all before and watched as 44 failed to act when American interests were on the line. They listened again today when he said he would never hesitate to use military force, but they recall the chemical-weapons red line in Syria that disappeared and the refusal to act forcefully on Ukraine or Syria, and they see 44 presiding over a steady decline in American military strength.

It’s hard to believe they will wince and withdraw after hearing U.N. General Assembly speech number seven from 44. 44 concluded this speech by saying: “We are called upon to offer a different type of leadership. Leadership strong enough to recognize that nations share common interests, and people share a common humanity.” That’s a nice summation of 44’s approach, and as we look at the global mess he has created, those words should stick in our minds.

Our next president will also have to offer a “different kind of leadership,” one that realizes that the conduct of vicious regimes in China or Russia or Iran or Cuba won’t be affected by warm words about “common interests.”

This was vintage 44, and one can only be thankful that his next U.N. speech will be his last.


Monday, September 28, 2015


WoW - the Watchers Council- it's the oldest, longest running cyber comte d'guere ensembe in existence - started online in 1912 by Sirs Jacky Fisher and Winston Churchill themselves - an eclective collective of cats both cruel and benign with their ability to put steel on target (figuratively - natch) on a wide variety of topictry across American, Allied, Frenemy and Enemy concerns, memes, delights and discourse.

Every week these cats hook up each other with hot hits and big phazed cookies to peruse and then vote on their individual fancy catchers.

Thusly sans further adieu (or a don"t)

Council Winners

Non-Council Winners

See you next week!

Friday, September 25, 2015

Myth of Decline

Bunches of American politicians are exaggerating China’s power. Yet China is not about to replace Great Satan as the world’s largest power for decades to come.

Why cause?

Be cause!

Great Satan has been the world’s largest economy since the end of the 19th century. Many economists expect China to pass her as the world’s largest economy (measured in dollars), but the estimated date varies from 2030 to 2050 depending on assumptions about the slowing rate of Chinese growth. Even if China someday passes the United States in total economic size, that is not the only measure of geopolitical importance. Power—the ability to influence others to get what you want—has three aspects: coercion, payment and the soft power of attraction. Economic might is just part of the geopolitical equation, and even in economic power, China will still lag in per capita income (a measure of the sophistication of an economy). In addition, China lags behind the United States in military and soft-power indices. Our military spending is four times that of China, and a recent soft-power index published by Portland, a London consultancy, ranks China in 30th place, while the United States is ranked third.

If we define “the American century” as the period since World War II when the United States—without full control—became the central actor in the global balance of power, that is likely to remain true in 2041, the centennial of when Henry Luce first proclaimed the term. Despite our various problems, the United States is the only major developed country that will hold its place (third) in the demographic ranking of countries, rather than shrinking in population or being overtaken by other countries. Our dependence on imported energy has decreased; we remain in the forefront in development of key technologies (bio, nano, information) that are central to this century’s economic growth; American universities dominate in the area of higher education; and our culture remains open and entrepreneurial. It’s going to take decades for other countries to wrest leadership on those issues from the United States.

Leadership has never meant full control of world politics. There has always been a lot of fiction mixed with the facts about the American century. The peak of America’s share of world power resources was from 1945—when the U.S. had nearly half the world economy—to 1970, when the U.S. share of world product returned to its prewar level of a quarter of the world product. Yet even during this period of peak influence, the United States often failed to get what it wanted: Witness Soviet acquisition of nuclear weapons; communist takeovers of China and Vietnam; stalemate in the Korean War; and Soviet suppression of the revolts in Hungary and Czechoslovakia.

Today, on the key new transnational issues—financial stability, climate change, pandemics, terrorism and cyber strife—we are not in complete control. Achieving our goals in the 21st century will require the cooperation of other nations, both friendly and not. In this world, networks and connectedness become an important source of power, and no country is the center of more networks and alliances than the United States.

Contrary to those who proclaim this the “Chinese century,” we have not entered a “post-American world.” Of course, the continuation of the American century will not look like the 20th century. Our share of the world economy will be less than it was in the middle of the past century, and the complexity represented by the rise of other countries—as well as the increased role of nonstate actors—will make it more difficult for anyone to wield influence and organize action. But no other country—including China—is about to replace us. Europe lacks unity; Russia is in decline; India and Brazil remain developing countries.

Americans should stop talking and worrying about “decline,” a fear that mixes many different trends and leads to mistaken policy conclusions. Instead, we should face the fact that we will be the largest country and will have to lead for decades to come.

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Syria's Russian Air Defense

Commonwealth Russia is deploying her advanced air defense systems to Syria as part of its military build up inside the war-torn country.

While she is currently deploying point defense missiles, it’s possible Russian forces could deploy more capable area air defense systems like the much-feared Almaz-Antey S-300 to the region. If Russia does deploy her latest surface-to-air missiles (SAM) to Syria, the areas protected by these systems would become no-go zones for most allied aircraft save for the F-22 Raptor and B-2 Spirit—and the F-35, if that warplane was genuinely operational.

Weapons like the S-300 and S-400 form the top tier of Russian surface-to-air missile systems and are designed to protect strategically important areas. The S-300PMU-1 has a range of about 120 miles and can engage targets as high as 100,000ft. Each battery can attack more than half a dozen targets simultaneously.

The S-300 and its follow-on systems are some of the most capable and dangerous air defenses an opposing air force could ever face. Not only are the missiles mobile, but the systems are networked together. One S-300 battery is a handful, but several such systems networked together into an integrated air defense system is a nearly insurmountable challenge for most fourth-generation fighters like the F-16 or F-15.

The best option to defeat an integrated air defense system is to use a stealth aircraft—like the F-22 Raptor and the B-2 stealth bomber. Since the F-22 became operational in 2005, Raptor crews have practiced a mission they call the “Global Strike Task Force”—which is a combined strike package of F-22s and B-2s.

The Raptors “kick down the door” using their unique combination of stealth, high altitude and blistering speed to target the nodes of the integrated air defense system so that the B-2s can proceed to their targets unmolested. It’s a mission the F-22s have only gotten better at with the Increment 3.1 upgrade that allows the jet to geo-locate emitters much more precisely than before. And that capability will continue to improve with the Raptor’s forthcoming Increment 3.2B upgrade.

The other option to take down an integrated air defense system is to use a combination of standoff weapons like the JASSM and JASSM-ER cruise missiles together with electronic attacks from a platform like the EA-18G Growler. The Growler can not only jam the enemy’s radar, but can generate an ellipse to target the missile site. The problem there is precisely updating the cruise missile with current track data before the enemy moves during the incoming weapons’ time of flight.

This is all hypothetical in the event that something goes horribly wrong. It’s important to note, however, that U.S. forces in the Middle East are not trying to confront Russian forces—nobody wants a third world war.

The presence of Russian and American forces in such close proximity inside a war zone is bad news to say the least.

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Refugee Quiz

Ah, before Great Satan gets sucked in too far loaded up with Syrian refugee/migrant cats - may be time for the Five Questions...

Some 4 million persons have fled the Syrian civil war, and another 7 million are internally displaced. The plight of these persons is tragic. Yet Americans should not confuse “leading the world” with a reflexive openness to the world’s heavy-laden. The  administration should not receive a single Syrian refugee unless it is able to answer adequately the following five questions.

1. Can we distinguish between genuine refugees and economic migrants?


2. If so, can we adequately investigate refugees to make sure none have ties to terrorist organizations?


3. If so, can we prioritize actually vulnerable refugees?


4. If so, can Syrian refugees be hosted in a way that does not overburden local communities?


5. If so, can Syrian-refugee communities prevent the rise of Islamism in the second and third generations?

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Russia's Syrian Strategy

Suriya al Kubra!

Russia has a way lately of turning the unthinkable into the possible.

Watching Assad’s position weaken, Russia has chosen to intervene, not just to rescue him but to fundamentally turn around its engagement with the West.

Russia is signaling that it is deploying for an air support and a train-and-equip mission in Syria.  Given the prevalence of MANPADS in Syria, Russian forces are unlikely to launch a major air campaign on Assad’s behalf and put its assets at risk.  Air campaigns are an expensive business to support logistically, and risking its brand new tactical air fleet over Syria is not something the Kremlin would be eager to do. 

The introduction of Russian aircraft is likely a feint, disrupting Washington’s plans for a no-fly zone in Northern Syria and imposing a situation that necessitates the restoration of military contacts between the two countries.  Furthermore, it now places Washington before a difficult question: What happens if Russia conducts air strikes against U.S. backed rebel forces that may be protected by U.S. airpower over a “safe zone”?  Moscow’s goal is to present this scenario as a potential problem to push Washington to reconsider its policies in Syria.

Russia was cautious in the way that it sent its forces to fight in Ukraine and settled on an economy of force approach.  We should expect Moscow will be even more reticent about direct combat in Syria.  Given the prevalence of man-portable air defense systems (MANPADS) in Syria and the cost of a sustained air campaign, Russia is unlikely to risk its brand new tactical air fleet in major operations. Ground combat is equally unlikely because deployments on a large scale would quickly rekindle not-so-distant memories of years spent fighting Islamic militants in Chechnya and Afghanistan, both of which were highly unpleasant experiences that left marks on the Russian psyche. 

Moreover, since the various groups fighting against Assad, are awash with anti-tank and anti-air guided munitions, direct Russian participation in ground combat would get ugly fast. But, perhaps more significantly, a sustained Russian ground campaign in Syria is unrealistic because the Russian military lacks the logistics to maintain a large ground presence in the country. Russia’s navy depends on an arsenal of older Soviet landing ships supplemented by expensive air lift via transports.  A large military presence requires supplies, troop rotations, and an expeditionary capability that Russia would find difficult if not impossible to support.

Russia’s pledge to consider Syrian requests for additional troops does not mean it is eager to send forces to fight alongside Assad’s army. Instead, Moscow’s preference remains having Iranian Shiite militias and Hezbollah supplement Syria’s army on the battlefield.   Russia’s intervention in Syria is more of a strategic disruption to Western plans than a larger commitment to Assad. At home, Russia is trying to demonstrate that it is more than a regional power and hopes to leverage its intervention to achieve larger strategic goals, but the plan only works if that the intervention stays small.  We are once again looking at a limited, but decisive, use of force to achieve political ends.

Great Satan faces a conundrum.  Once Russia completes its deployment, She can completely undermine the effort in Syria, from no-fly zones to opposition proxies.

Monday, September 21, 2015

Taiwan Tease

Forget about the south China Sea smokescreen - Collectivist China's real deal is a Taiwan Blitz

Each of Beijing's moves appears carefully calibrated to maximize foreign fear and minimize Chinese risk.  Nothing has happened in this war of nerves that might result in a shooting war. China knows it would lose such a fight. But more important, and often missed by observers, the South China Sea is not a top priority.

China's military buildup is about Taiwan, not the South China Sea. According to reports from the Pentagon and Office of Naval Intelligence, conquering Taiwan is the core mission that drives the People's Liberation Army (PLA).

  Why? Because China's authoritarian leadership is deeply insecure. Beijing views the Republic of China (ROC, or Taiwan), which exists as an independent and sovereign state, to be a grave threat to the communist party's vice grip on power. Taiwan is dangerous because it serves as a beacon of freedom for Chinese speaking people everywhere.

Taiwan is also a problem for China because it has a close defense and security relationship with the U.S. military. There are over 3,300 Department of Defense visits to Taiwan a year. And that number is growing fast. In addition, a remarkable number of Taiwanese military personnel study and train in America, probably more than any other foreign country. From Beijing's perspective, China's historic rise as a great power will not be complete until it can wrest Taiwan out of America's sphere of influence.  Only then can China break through the first island chain to become a regional hegemon, dominating Japan and South Korea.  

According to authoritative Chinese writings, the PLA focuses surprisingly little on the East Asian seascape. The Science of Military Strategy is the most detailed and credible document available on Chinese military thought.  It takes pains to underscore the prime importance of land, not water. China's "main strategic direction" (a euphemism for supreme national objective) is the invasion and occupation of Taiwan's entire territory. Second order campaigns involve conflicts along China's 14 land borders. Here the PLA is talking mostly about war with India. Neither island disputes nor sea lanes are a critical priority.  

he Science of Military Strategy makes clear that PLA ground forces would play the leading role in a Taiwan campaign. The ground forces, as a result, enjoy pride of place in the Chinese military. That's one reason why infantry, tank, and amphibious units led the way at China's recent national day parade. The PLA Navy, Air Force, and Second Artillery (China's strategic rocket troops) follow the ground forces in protocol order. Their envisioned roles are to support the Army's needs.

Each Chinese fighting service and branch considers the invasion of Taiwan their principal mission. The Science of Military Strategy reveals the operation would involve information attacks (electronic and cyber warfare), missile bombardments, airstrikes, sea blockades, and surprise amphibious landings. The ground force is expected to face the brunt of the bloody battle, fighting from the coast into Taiwan's dense urban centers and mountains. Assuming victory, the Army is also responsible for pacifying a post-war Taiwan, turning it into a Orwellian police state.  
The PLA Navy's mission is to support the invasion of Taiwan. It would be responsible for executing naval blockade operations; providing air defense and transport ships for the invasion armada; shelling the coast; clearing mines and beach obstacles; and deterring, delaying, or disrupting American aircraft carrier groups.

These are all highly difficult tasks. Most of these missions are probably outside China's grasp and will be for some time to come.  
The myth of reunification claims it's inevitability, in reality, nothing could be farther from the truth.  The CCP's policies toward Taiwan are failing miserably. Recent polling data reveals that unification never been more unpopular in Taiwan than it is today.

Another common misperception is that the balance of military power has shifted decisively in the Taiwan Strait. If that were true, as China's propaganda machine would have us believe, the PLA could invade Taiwan anytime it wanted.

However, recent studies on Taiwan's air and naval defense capabilities reveal that the ROC military is a whole lot tougher than it generally gets credit for. China knows there is a long road ahead before it can credibly threaten Taiwan with invasion. 

And Great Satan can tip the scales at any time

Sunday, September 20, 2015


WoW - the Watchers Council- it's the oldest, longest running cyber comte d'guere ensembe in existence - started online in 1912 by Sirs Jacky Fisher and Winston Churchill themselves - an eclective collective of cats both cruel and benign with their ability to put steel on target (figuratively - natch) on a wide variety of topictry across American, Allied, Frenemy and Enemy concerns, memes, delights and discourse.

Every week these cats hook up each other with hot hits and big phazed cookies to peruse and then vote on their individual fancy catchers.

Thusly sans further adieu (or a don"t)

Council Winners

Non-Council Winners

See you next week!

Friday, September 18, 2015

The Next Carrier Air Wings

Hudson Institute’s Center for American Seapower will release on 8 October on Capitol Hill a report on the future of the aircraft carrier. Titled “Sharpening the Spear: The Carrier, the Joint Force, and High-End Conflict”, it systematically analyzes Carrier Strike Group vulnerabilities and offers a number of innovative recommendations in terms of concepts, capabilities, and capacities.

Here's a quick peek!

By 2015, a typical carrier air wing consists of two squadrons of F-18C/D Hornets strike aircraft (10-12 aircraft per squadron), two squadrons of F-18E/F Super Hornets strike aircraft (10-12 aircraft per squadron), one squadron of EA-18G Electronic Attack aircraft (5 aircraft per squadron), one squadron of E-2C/D AEW aircraft (4 aircraft), and varying numbers of SH-60 and MH-60 helicopters, for a total of approximately 64 aircraft.

The C-2 Carrier Onboard Delivery detachment aircraft do not fall under the CVW construct.  The air wing eliminated S-3s that had provided organic open ocean ASW capabilities, replacing it with the short range SH-60 helicopter.

Moreover, the carrier’s dedicated organic aerial refueler, the KA-6D, had been replaced first with tanking from the S-3B following elimination of its ASW role and then solely with buddy tanking from F-18Es and F-18F’s, significantly reducing the organic range of the air wing, making the air wing more reliant on Air Force tanking and reducing the number of aircraft in the air wing available for combat missions.

Compared to the 1980s, the contemporary air wing is significantly smaller. In the 1980s a typical air wing had approximately 90 aircraft, 60 of which were fighter or strike aircraft; in contrast, contemporary air wings hold a mere 64 aircraft approximately, 44 of which are fighter or strike aircraft. Consequently, the fighter or attack portion of the air wing has been cut by more than a quarter and the total size of the air wing has diminished by approximately 30%.

The planned introduction of the F-35C to the air wing is expected to further cut the size of squadrons by 2-4 aircraft. The F-35C’s low observable features, advanced sensors and networking, and approximate 613 NM combat radius will improve carrier fighter performance compared to the 390 NM combat radius of the F-18E/F.  Overall, though, the size of the air wing has been shrinking. Ironically, the Navy has gone on to procure the FORD Class carrier, capable of embarking more aircraft and conducting operations at a higher sortie rate than the NIMITZ Class.

In summary, contemporary and projected air wings display three key trends: they are shorter in range than its Cold War predecessors, they host significantly fewer aircraft than their Cold War predecessors, and they have eliminated dedicated fixed-wing aircraft for ASW and aerial refueling.

Differences between the current and projected air wing include the addition of the F-35C and potential incorporation of a carrier-launched unmanned aircraft system. Of note, Section 220 of the FY 2001 defense authorization act stated, “It shall be a goal of the Armed Forces to achieve the fielding of unmanned, remotely controlled technology such that by 2010, one-third of the aircraft in the operational deep strike force aircraft fleet are unmanned.” Clearly, the Joint Force has failed to meet Congress’ 2010 goal.

On 8 October, the Hudson Institute’s Center for American Seapower will release a report that will examine whether it is worthwhile to continue to build large, nuclear-powered aircraft carriers, given their considerable cost and mounting Anti-Access/Area Denial (A2/AD) threats to sea-based operations.

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Breaking Point

"This We'll Defend"

The U.S. Army currently fields the smallest force since the beginning of World War II. In July 2015, a document obtained by USA Today outlines that the Pentagon plans to cut another 40,000 soldiers and 17,000 Army civilian employees by the end of September 2018 with reductions bottoming out at around 450,000 active duty soldiers by then.

Joining a chorus of senior Pentagon officials and military officers, acting Undersecretary for Personnel and Readiness Brad Carson warned in an interview with Stars and Stripes that the U.S. Army – the world’s deadliest conventional fighting force – will be near breaking point if automatic sequestration, set to begin in October, takes place.

The U.S. Army could be cut down from 450,000 to 420,000 active duty soldiers should sequestration – automatic spending cuts across the board in order to reduce federal expenditure – continue with the result that the army would not be able to meet its current deployments.

“The Army’s near breaking point if you go that low, I think. Already we see the fact that people are demanding the Army do many missions — from West Africa and the Ebola crisis to now resurgent problems in Iraq, Syria. Russia of course posing a threat,” Carson said. “So the demand on the Army is not slackening at all, and at the same time, their numbers are falling.”
Less manpower available, means more soldiers deploying more often, which in turn affects the readiness of the U.S. Army, Carson notes:

 This has a real cost, a real cost to their readiness, because when they’re out in the field, they’re not training. Across all the services — the Marine Corps the same — the personnel cuts have been deep. And if they go much deeper, they will become a matter of grave worry to us all.

Former U.S. Army Chief of Staff, general Ray Odierno, voiced his grave concern over troop reductions back in July noting that the U.S. military can no longer deter conflict due to the shrinking number of soldiers: “The reason we have a military is to deter conflict and prevent wars. And if people believe we are not big enough to respond, they miscalculate.”

A February 2015 report by the Heritage Foundation indexing U.S. military strengths reiterates the dangers of fiscal constraint:

The common theme across the services and the United States’ nuclear enterprise is one of force degradation resulting from many years of underinvestment, poor execution of modernization programs, and the negative effects of budget sequestration (i.e., cuts in funding) on readiness and capacity.

The study also notes that the United States will have difficulties fighting two regional wars simultaneously (the so-called Major Regional Contingency strategy) despite maintaining the world’s largest defense budget.

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Future Air Force

Wild Blue Yonder!

It’s 2035, and US Air Force pilots are flying “D” model Joint Strike Fighters. This afterburning F-35D controls an uninhabited long-range strike bomber in tandem with a team of cyber operators. Using line-of-sight data links, the fighter pilot of 2035 can control the drone bomber, if the enemy cuts out the link to the drone pilot back in the United States, while a cyber team constantly updates the level of autonomy the unmanned bomber are able to perform. The upgraded Joint Strike Fighter can also launch clustered, expendable micro-satellites on-demand to complicate targeting for the enemy and allow for rapid reconstitution of U.S. space capabilities.

The Air Force’s new Future Operating Concept envisions a future dominated by agility, adaptability, and partnerships between man and machine. While other recent service documents have discussed why the Air Force needs to adapt in light of new threats, the futuristic new concept deals with questions of how and with what the future Air Force will fight. Tomorrow’s Air Force plans to adapt the concept of mission command from commander, subordinate to subordinate, machine to enhance autonomous decision making and, as a result, change how conflicts are fought and won. This is critical as America’s military technological superiority continues to vanish.

In the high-tech and fast-paced war of 2035, there are no more Top Gun dogfights or manned refueling missions in defended enemy airspace. Pilots of this future—some of which have not yet been born—will think of air, space, and cyberspace as one big playground.

Bigger than the man-to-machine relationship shift or the development of highly skilled multi-domain operators is the dramatic change in Air Force acquisition priorities embedded in the new concept. Gone are the luxurious days when the Air Force could take 20 years to build a fifth-generation fighter jet only, to see second movers in this market come online internationally in a fraction of that time and with superior products.

Tomorrow’s Air Force will field a high-low mix of capabilities in which the new platforms or airframes are considered low-end capabilities and the weapons or payloads as the high-end capabilities. This inversion of purchasing priorities means Air Force budgets will soon look very different than those of the past quarter-century. The Air Force has no plans to develop and buy any more new expensive, high-end platforms over such periods of time that the software is out of date by the time it’s fielded. For example, a more integrated high-low mix means the Air Force will focus future investments on swarms of simple, modular, low-cost drones carrying sensors, jammers, munitions or decoys to complicate life for the enemy.

In the war of 2035, an F-35 could use its radar-enabled offensive cyber weapons to win without firing any missiles; an F-15 might be reassigned from an attack mission to launch micro-satellites to preserve communications; an F-22 or bomber might find itself redirected from suppressing enemy air defenses to striking enemy cyber operations centers. Down the food chain, the Air Force also wants to use Big Data analytics and automated processing to help decision makers at all levels to home in on the most relevant intelligence so that decisions are made much faster.

The real emphasis in the new operating concept is not about what the Air Force might buy in the future but rather on how it will attract and train future airmen. As Pentagon leaders are set to unveil specific legislative and executive branch proposals to better recruit and retain the “Force of the Future,” the Air Force is one step ahead. Commanders of the future will have extensive experience in air warfare, space control, and cyber operations. Pilots of the future will have a far broader set of proficiencies and responsibilities that in the past.

Highly intelligent artificial intelligence programs will help rapidly narrow down the choices available to pilots so that they can concentrate on decision making—a project well underway with the F-35’s unique sensor fusion abilities. This reduced mental workload will presumably allow pilots to control swarms of drones—even autonomous air refueling tankers. To harden these critical data pathways, the Air Force plans on maintain space control through maneuvering satellites (X-37B), decoy spacecraft, and the rapid launch of microsatellites from fighter or cargo aircraft during war.

Air Force global logistics in 2035 will expand to include operating more global logistical nodes, rapid satellite launching, and coordination of cyber access points. This will be accomplished in austere and denied environments, mostly by using drones, 3-D printers, and advanced fuels. The Air Force expands the concept of mobility by providing assured access to engineering data and envisions precision airdrops of polycarbonate blocks to Special Operations Forces for 3-D printing. The Air Force sees manned cargo planes leading packs of cargo drones and new hybrid airships for low-cost shipping to low-risk environments. Lastly, the Air Force wants a fleet of stealthy unmanned aerial refuelers—perhaps a derivative of the yet-to-be-built new bomber or X-47B/UCLASS—so that manned tankers can control fleets of drone tankers and send them into dangerous airspace.

Even the Air Force strike mission will change fundamentally. The Air Force wants to expand the idea of precision-guided munitions to both cyberspace and space itself by developing payloads with precise, predictable effects to give commanders confidence that they can control collateral damage and political fallout the same way they can in basic air-to-ground combat. In that vein, the service wants to deliver cyber payloads through all means—traditional intelligence agencies’ network operations, insertion through micro-drone or cruise missile, or even by directed energy weapons.

Somewhat surprisingly, the Air Force delivers a full-throated commitment to its hypersonic and high-altitude development programs for aircraft (X-37B) and weapons (tactical boost-glide and high-speed air-breathing weapons concept). Smartly, the Air Force also envisions the eventual winner of the T-X trainer competition building an attack variant capable of leading packs of uninhabited “missile trucks” to replace the A-10 and F-35 in the close-air support mission.

In the sixth year of a decade-long defense spending cut, it is immensely refreshing to read Air Force leadership once again unleashed to consider how they plan to dominate the adversary and achieve operational victory over a much tougher enemy than those of the recent past. Since the end of the Cold War, the Air Force has essentially made incremental improvements on existing operating concepts and capabilities. With the exception of the F-22, America has not developed a new combat aircraft since the late 1980s. The hardest job in tomorrow’s Air Force will not be buying a revolutionary new aircraft; it will be integrating and adapting better and more quickly than the adversary.

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Multiple Syrias

Suriya al Kubra!

What's better than one Syria?

Easy! Multiple Syrias!

In one sense, a partitioned Syria is already visible, its contours drawn by the front lines of the civil war. President Bashar al-Assad has retreated from territory that was too difficult for his overextended forces to hold, giving up the attempt to reimpose nationwide control. (That doesn't mean he's on the run. Iran and Russia have made it clear they won't let that happen.)

Kurds hold the area near the Turkish border, having driven out Islamic State.

The competing factions in areas held by Sunni Arab rebels make for a more complicated picture, but a map of how the front lines looked this summer shows the outlines of a potential partition of Syria into three parts. The red designates regime control. The yellow is Kurdish. The green and black are Sunni Arab, including the area now controlled by Islamic State. (The white is sparsely populated desert.)

The competing factions in areas held by Sunni Arab rebels make for a more complicated picture, but a map of how the front lines looked this summer shows the outlines of a potential partition of Syria into three parts. The red designates regime control. The yellow is Kurdish. The green and black are Sunni Arab, including the area now controlled by Islamic State. (The white is sparsely populated desert.)
For example, the rebels are entrenched in the suburbs of the capital, Damascus, yet the regime would insist on holding the city. Similarly, Assad would want to hold onto Aleppo, Syria's largest and (before the war) wealthiest city; it's now mostly under rebel control and cut off from the regime's heartland. Either there would have to be a trade, or neutral zones established and secured by a heavily armed international peacekeeping force of the kind successfully deployed in eastern Croatia at the end of the Yugoslav war.  Similarly, rebels hold some pockets surrounded by regime-controlled territory along Syria's border with Lebanon. The regime holds the seacoast north of Lebanon, part of which is mainly Sunni, a fact that would be unacceptable to rebels who would want their entity to have access to the sea.   
The war is slowly resolving these issues as each side focuses its military resources on what it wants most, but it could take years.  An agreement that assures each of the outside powers that their clients would retain control in their designated territories could also go a long way to allowing Iran, Saudi Arabia and others to compromise, because the war would no longer be zero-sum.
It's impossible to say exactly what each country would demand, but here are some probable minimums.

Iran would want a friendly regime dominated by Alawites (a Muslim religious minority with connections to Shiite Islam) to control Damascus and a secure corridor from the capital's airport to Lebanon. Russia would want to know that its naval base at Tartus was secure, and that Syria as a whole would become neither a Sunni Islamist state nor a U.S. protectorate. Saudi Arabia would have to see Hezbollah leave Syria and Iran's influence squeezed. Israel would need to be sure the Syrian side of the Golan Heights wouldn't become a new playground for Hezbollah. Turkey would want a Sunni entity to control Aleppo and the north, and Kurdish autonomy limited.

Monday, September 14, 2015

Coup d'état

Suddenly a breaking news alert flashes across the screen: “Military Coup Overthrows the Government.”

What would be the reaction?

While most Americans say they can’t imagine supporting a takeover of the government by the armed forces, or least aren’t sure about it, a substantial number of people say they can imagine supporting the military in such a scenario.

In a
new survey by YouGov, 29 percent of respondents said they can imagine a situation in which they would support the military taking control of the federal government – that translates into over 70 million American adults. Forty-one percent of respondents said could not imagine supporting the military taking over the country.

Republicans (43 percent) were more likely to say they can envision a scenario in which they could support a military coup than Democrats (20 percent). Perhaps that difference is related to having a Democratic president who some critics on the right see as overstepping his power.

Regardless of political ideology, one reason people might support a military coup is because they respect officers in the military far more than they do people in Congress. According to the same YouGov survey, almost three-quarters (70 percent) of respondents believe that military officers want what is best for the country, while only 29 percent think the same of members of Congress.
Lawmakers better shape up or they might be shipped out -- literally.

Sunday, September 13, 2015



WoW - the Watchers Council- it's the oldest, longest running cyber comte d'guere ensembe in existence - started online in 1912 by Sirs Jacky Fisher and Winston Churchill themselves - an eclective collective of cats both cruel and benign with their ability to put steel on target (figuratively - natch) on a wide variety of topictry across American, Allied, Frenemy and Enemy concerns, memes, delights and discourse.

Every week these cats hook up each other with hot hits and big phazed cookies to peruse and then vote on their individual fancy catchers.

Thusly sans further adieu (or a don"t)

Council Winners

Non-Council Winners

See you next week!

Friday, September 11, 2015


If there’s one lesson the nation should have learned from that awful day 14 years ago, it’s that the United States cannot afford to ignore a rabidly anti-American terrorist group that has established a haven in a faraway place.

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Russians In Syria


Commonwealth Russia is flex flex flexing her military muscles in ye olde Suriya al Kubra...

The Russian tank landing ships arrived in the past day or so at the port city of Tartus, just south of Latakia, the officials said, without providing information on the cargo. Additional cargo aircraft had also arrived at the airfield near Latakia.

Russia has sent two tank landing ships and additional aircraft to Syria in the past day or so and has deployed a small number of forces there, U.S. officials said on Wednesday, in the latest signs of a military buildup that has put Washington on edge.

The two U.S. officials, who spoke to Reuters on condition of anonymity, said the intent of Russia's military moves in Syria remained unclear.

U.S. officials have not ruled out the possibility that Moscow may be laying the groundwork for an air combat role in Syria's conflict to bolster Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

Assad, a longtime Russian ally, has seen the area he controls whittled down to a fifth or less of Syria’s territory after more than four years of grinding civil war

The United States and Russia have long been at loggerheads over Syria. Russia has backed Assad, while the United States advocates a political transition to end his rule.

On Tuesday, the Pentagon said Russian support for Assad risked "further escalating the conflict."

"If there are further efforts to support the Assad regime from a military standpoint on the part of the Russians, we would again see that with concern," Pentagon spokesman Peter Cook told a news briefing.

An official with the Russian defense ministry declined to comment.

A traditional arms supplier to Damascus, Moscow has supported Assad throughout the war that has fractured Syria and has said it strongly opposes Islamic State, a militant group that is also the target of a U.S.-led air campaign.

One of the U.S. officials said initial indications suggested the focus was on preparing an airfield near the port city of Latakia, a stronghold of Assad.

The officials estimated that dozens of the naval infantry forces had recently arrived at the airfield, possibly to help provide security.

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Queen Elizabeth II

God Save The Queen!

The young princess came of age listening to the roar, whistle and thud of air raids near the sand-bagged redoubt of Windsor Castle. As the Second World War neared its end in 1945, she would wheel an ambulance through roads cratered by German bombs. She became Queen on Feb. 6, 1952, upon the death of her father, King George VI. Neither she, nor her subjects, had any real say in the matter.

And Queen she remains. A Queen who, as of 5:30 p.m. London time on Sept. 9, 2015, surpasses the 23,226-day, 16-hour and 23-minute reign of Victoria, her great-great-grandmother. A Queen longer than any monarch in British history. Like Victoria, who became the longest-serving monarch in 1896, Elizabeth is not particularly keen to have this milestone celebrated. Like Victoria, she is extraordinarily well-briefed on the affairs of her realm, though less overtly meddlesome.

Elizabeth has also produced a large (for her times) family with its share of woes and, like her great-great-granny, she has kept Charles, her son and heir, waiting into his senior years for a chance to rule. There the similarities largely end. The often reclusive Victoria was obese, frail and mentally confused by the time of her death at 81, while age has hardly diminished Elizabeth—although, of course, she is no longer the fetching beauty who married Philip. She has morphed over time to become the all-knowing grandmother of the Commonwealth, while remaining, in an era of fleeting attention spans, perhaps the most famous woman in the world.

The crown is more often conveyed in sorrow than in joy. It’s a lesson Elizabeth would learn at age 25, when Philip broke the news of her father’s death while the couple was visiting a Kenyan game resort. He put his arm around a weeping Elizabeth that morning as they walked the lawns of the resort, contemplating their loss and the daunting new reality. His career as a naval officer was over. She was Queen. He was her consort; their life sentence had begun.

Unlike raw power, influence is a discreet instrument. In the 63rd year of her reign, she is a master of the long game.

The last vestiges of Victorian prudery crumbled in Elizabeth’s time, as did the Empire, though she can’t be blamed—or credited—with either event. It was left for her to put a brave public face on her family’s marital woes, and to champion the Commonwealth, the more benign offspring of the empire Britain once ruled. For a woman who’s never owned a passport, it’s been quite the journey.

She was—literally—born to do this job, and has worked relentlessly these 63 years to prove herself worthy. So she gathers bouquets while she may, she smiles and lets them snap their damned photos. And, in so doing, tries to keep alive in a loud and cynical age this curious notion of a hereditary monarchy.

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

AWOL Arab League

Oh yeah - the refugees fleeing the mid east for the generous tolerant Woman Worshipping West...

As pressure rises for European leaders to resolve the refugee crisis, critics are also asking why Middle Eastern governments have not done more to help the four million Syrians who represent one of the largest mass movement of refugees since World War Two.

Much ire has focused on the relatively wealthy states along the Persian Gulf. According to a report by Amnesty International, the six countries of the Gulf Cooperation Council offered zero formal resettlement slots to Syrians by the end of 2014. 

Rights groups point out that those countries — Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) — with wealth amassed from oil, gas, and finance, collectively have far more resources than the two Arab states that have taken in the most Syrians: Jordan and Lebanon. The Gulf states are Arabic-speaking, have historic ties to Syria and some are embroiled in the current crisis through their support for insurgent groups. 

The missing link in this tragic drama is the role of Arab countries, specifically the Gulf countries. These states have invested money, supported political parties and factions, funded with guns, weapons etc, and engaged in a larger political discourse around the crisis.

The logic behind Gulf refugee policies is complex. In smaller Gulf states like Qatar and the UAE, foreigners already far outnumber nationals, a demographic balance that, for some, feeds feelings of anxiety tinged with xenophobia. In the UAE, foreign nationals outnumber citizens by more than five to one.

Elsewhere in the Middle East, Syrians fleeing the slaughter in their country often face a bleak landscape with few opportunities to work, attend school, reunite with their families, and start new full lives.

Lebanon has accepted more than 1.1 million Syrians, the most of any Arab state (Turkey has accepted approximately two million). That means that at least one in five people in Lebanon is a Syrian refugee. Lebanon forbids the construction of formal refugee camps. As a result, more than 40% of refugees in Lebanon live in makeshift shelters including “garages, worksites, one room structures, unfinished housing,” according to U.N. figures cited by Amnesty International. Many Syrians rely on aid agencies whose resources are stretched thin.

In Egypt, state repression is part of what is compelling Syrians to risk the sea route to Europe. Following the military’s overthrow of elected president Mohamed Morsi in 2013, Egypt demand Syrians apply for visas. Morsi’s Islamist government was sympathetic to the rebel cause in Syria, but the new military-backed regime is less sympathetic to Syrian migrants many more have been deported. Coinciding with a tide of Egyptian nationalism, Syrians reported being fired from their jobs, detained by police, and harassed by landlords.
According to the United Nations, 49 per cent are non-Syrian. As to whether they're refugees, well, usually, refugees flees as families. Yet here, from those UN statistics, is he breakdown of those "refugees":
13 per cent children
12 per cent women

75 per cent men
That's not the demographic distribution of fleeing refugees, but of an invading army.