Belmont Club

Bits and pieces

  • McClatchy reports the Taliban are abandoning guerilla tactics and going head to head with Pakistani security forces. “Taliban insurgents in Pakistan’s Swat valley may be preparing to fight the army on the streets of the scenic district’s main city, as soldiers and guerrillas adopt surprising conventional war tactics. … Shaukat Saleem , a Mingora resident who escaped from Swat on Friday, said the Taliban had blocked roads in the city with trees and boulders. They’ve mined the streets, dug trenches, made bunkers and occupied many civilian homes, he said. He said that he saw “lots” of Taliban as he was leaving the city, who stopped him for questioning at 10 to 12 of their checkpoints.” I wonder how good the Pakistani Army is at preventing collateral damage?
  • The  laser guided 2.75″ rocket for US helicopters has arrived. The first live-test firing is imminent, because “not everyone needs a Hellfire”.
  • There’s a new use for the venerable B-52.  The long ranged bomber is now part of a system that will track ships thousands of miles out to sea, including small vessels under 300 tons in weight. Other platforms and sensors are in use. “A top secret sensor platform could track a small vessel, or one with its AIS [transponder] switched off, approaching U.S. shores, but ‘the classified tracking information cannot be passed to staff of other agencies without proper clearance.'” One of the last steps in the intelligence cycle is dissemination, and control over distribution which though necessary to preventing the enemy from knowing what you know, frequently features in the finger pointing if something gets through.
  • Admiral Mike Mullen, chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, told a Senate hearing that unpiloted or remotely piloted vehicles are going to be the future of US aviation. “We’re at a real time of transition here in terms of the future of aviation, and the whole issue of what’s going to be manned and what’s going to be unmanned.” What will “pilot” mean in 20 years?
  • Hollywood set designers have helped build a Marine simulation facility under the Gruntworks Research for Infantry Integration Testing. “GRITT employs 21 cameras that utilize ONR-developed Video Flashlight technology to record all of the action and to replay scenarios as a virtual display. This innovative technology directly supports the Marine Corps’ need for the development and evaluation of squad equipment and uses virtual reality to make the evaluation environment extremely realistic.” Germany briefly considered banning paintball “after a school shooting tragically took the lives of sixteen students … Other combat-influenced games could also face a ban, and already punishments are being proposed for the new regulation, including a hefty €5,000 ($6,700) fine for anyone caught participating in such activities”  but backed down after authorities found it was hard to pry consoles from the cold, dead hands of young people.
  • The Navy is deploying robots under the sea. “The Navy has begun employing UUVs in applications for shallow water mine warfare, oceanography and special warfare support.    … The Navy also has been working on submarine-based UUVs, Siegrist noted. The focus has been on 21-inch diameter vehicles to take advantage of compatibility with existing torpedo tubes for launch and recovery.”
  • The Tamil Tigers are now using white phosphorous landmines to defend their shrinking redoubt, according to Space War.  It’s a good thing the Tigers are from the Third World or it might be a war crime.
  • There’s now an active anti-RPG system in development to defeat the projectiles as they fly toward their target. “Each module possesses two barrels that fire a dense cloud of smooth pellets. Incoming RPGs from as close as 40 to as far away as 200 meters can be destroyed.” Hmm. You don’t suppose the enemy will start using RPGs as armored vehicles cruise through civilian areas?
  • A new mini-UAV that reach 18,000 feet and is hard to detect because of its quiet motor is being offered to the military “A small, battery operated unmanned aerial vehicle — called the Orbiter  —  was tested in a recent exercise and is now being marketed to the U.S. military. …In combat, soldiers could carry the small spy airplane and associated ground station gear in several backpacks.”

The amount of physical skill and nerve required to be a pilot of a high performance aircraft is hard to appreciate from the movies or television. Metal can turn more sharply than men. The video below shows that what high performance flight can do to a mere mortal,  in this case a game and plucky reporter. Even a professional athlete can have trouble.

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You can see why UAVs can be so appealing. Whether controlling an anti-RPG defense, tracking vessels, operating robotic vehicles of various kinds or even training for combat, information has become the centerpiece of  the system. Ensuring space dominance, ensuring network integrity and building up human capital are the foundations of military supremacy in the 21st century. The secret weapon of the US Army during World War 2 was that most of its soldiers knew how to drive. It’s difficult for people today to comprehend what a rare skill that was in the pre-mass automobile market of Europe. Does the equivalent of that secret weapon exist today?


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