Israel retires the F16A/B fleet

The 90 F16A/B variants flown by the IDF have been officially retired from service. Exactly two F-35s meant to replace them have been delivered. This is pretty much a sign of things to come for western aligned air forces across the planet. Legacy “cold war” airframes are just wearing out, and “what the hell to we replace them with?” is a serious question. http://www.jpost.com/Israel-News/After-36-years-IAF-retires-last-F-16-Netz-fighter-jets-476725

In other news, the officer in charge of the F-35 project lambasted President Elect Trump by saying that all the bad stuff about cost over runs and delays happened in the past and he’s really tightened down on the price tag. And then he admitted that the F-35 program will likely still face some delays in it’s development phase… http://www.upi.com/Business_News/Security-Industry/2016/12/20/F-35-program-is-not-out-of-control-JSF-chief-fires-back-at-Trump/9951482251830/?spt=sec&or=bn

Seriously, are we still in the development phase of this turkey? The initial JSF program kicked off twenty one freaking years ago, and LM won the bid sixteen years ago. There are LITERALLY Airmen, Marines, and Sailors who saw the program start, and are RETIRING now without ever seeing ANY variant of the F-35 achieve full operational capability.

Right now Boeing is in a particularly interesting spot, possibly on receiving end of several very large multi-year contracts for new F-15 and F-18 contracts if Lockheed Martin can’t get the F-35 under control. Because as nice as it is to get a small number of F-35s that are still in development, and may still need extensive retrofitting as the bugs continue to get worked out, having a new fleet of Eagles or Hornets will ensure you actually have a combat capability that can stand up to the best that Russia and China currently have available. Boeing, and to a large extent the Eurofighter Typhoon and Rafael, are in a really good position if Lockheed Martin stumbles enough to get the next administration to focus on upgrades and replacements to current aircraft fleets instead of going “die in a ditch” for the F-35.  http://www.fool.com/investing/2016/12/30/tens-of-billions-of-dollars-f-15-upgrades-project.aspx

As of last year, the USAF was looking to massively upscale the F-15 combat performance envelope, to achieve the “right mix of capabilities” between the F-15, F-22, and F-35. The idea is to have “ordnance delivery platforms” like the F-15 carry a lot of “boom” and stealthy “quarterback” planes like the F-35 and F-22 provide an information advantage to the entire “swarm” in the sky. It’s a good concept, and it can work.  http://nationalinterest.org/blog/the-buzz/americas-f-15-fighter-will-soon-carry-double-the-amount-17384

One thing that had been suspiciously absent from the USAF purchase plan is a dedicated electronic attack platform that can fly fast enough to keep up with the fighter jets. No longer, the proposal to transfer the electronics from the EC-130 platform with a max speed of 560 km/h to the G550 airframe with a 960 km/h max speed should fill that niche rather nicely: https://www.flightglobal.com/news/articles/usaf-proposes-gulfstream-g550-caew-to-re-host-electr-425173/   And it must be noted that the 42 million per G550 is a veritable bargain compared to the flyaway cost of 67 million of a C-130J in 2014 dollars.

 

 

 

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Recap of last years performance…

Looking back at calendar year 2016…

I posted 152 times.

My little corner of the internet had 2,632 visitors.

The average visitor read 1.99 posts per visit.

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A New Year

2017 for me is going to start off with a bit of stress, we’ll find out in the first ten days whether a mandatory career change is required. How 2017 will end is anyone’s guess.

I wish I could write words that everything will be great, but the truth is that that is only one possibility among many. Some of the other possibilities aren’t so good.

But, here’s to hope. Raise a glass, say a toast, and here’s hoping that we’re all here this time next year.

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Most overrated books about War

There are plenty of professional reading lists out there. These are supposed to give junior personnel the developmental mental stimulation needed to turn into the leaders of tomorrow. Sometimes books show up on these lists that shouldn’t be there. So here are what I consider the most over rated books about war.

“On Killing” by LTC(ret) Dave Grossman. This book will go down in history as a classic example of “garbage in/garbage out.” The data that Grossman used at the time of publication failed to support any of his predictions, especially the UCR data and SLA Marshall’s work. A more thorough analysis can be found here: http://www.journal.forces.gc.ca/vo9/no2/16-engen-eng.asp and here http://www.theppsc.org/Grossman/Main-R.htm And speaking of SLA Marshall’s work…

“Men Against Fire” by SLA Marshall. There is no doubt that SLA Marshall was a journalist, a WWI veteran, and achieved high rank. There is a lot of doubt about his abilities as a historian to accurately gather and analyze evidence. This means you should read Marshall for the stories, and not about how to plan for and execute a successful war.  http://strategicstudiesinstitute.army.mil/pubs/parameters/articles/03autumn/chambers.pdf

“On War” By Carl Von Clausewitz. This is an excellent book on classical maneuver warfare, but it lead directly to the WWI and WWII because simply stating “War is a continuation of politics by other means” isn’t helpful. But if you really want to study what made Napoleon effective against other generals of his era, this is the book to read. I find that warfare has moved beyond classical maneuver warfare, so it is honestly of limited value to most people. By the time this book is of any use to a military professional, they shouldn’t need it. But if that Lieutenant Colonel or Colonel actually does need it, I’m sure there will be a copy left over from some Major who just competed ILE.

“Attacks” by Irwin Rommel. This is a “look how awesome I am” memoir and little more. If you want to understand Rommel and his formative experiences in WWI, this is a great book. If you want to understand modern war, this is of limited value. The TL:DR version, German officer randomly maneuvers troops around Europe without much accurate knowledge of other German officers randomly maneuvering troops around Europe.

“The Art of War” by Sun Tzu. If “On War” by Clausewitz is the first five books of the Old Testament then “The Art of War” is Proverbs. Figuratively of course. The reason for the popularity of “The Art of War” is that it makes the concepts of war a little more approachable to people who don’t have any business planning or executing a war. As such it actually has very little utility for a military professional. Is it something to have on the shelf? Yes, but only so you can pull a quote now and then to slap around someone suffering from the Dunning-Kruger effect who will over rate the expertise found within “The Art of War.” Maybe that is why “The Art of War” shows up so frequently on CEO’s reading lists, and not on military professionals reading lists.

“Rogue Warrior” by Dick Marcinko. There is no redeeming value in reading this biography in terms of learning how to successfully prosecute war. There is limited value in conducting unconventional operations, but only in areas without modern infrastructure or modern military. You can add “American Sniper” by Chris Kyle to this category as well.

So there you have it, the books off the top of my head that I think you shouldn’t bother reading. Comments are open.

 

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Carrie Fischer…

As someone who experienced the Star Wars franchise in his formative years only now that Carrie Fischer has passed on can I look back on my life and recognize how much she as an actress and a person impacted how I view things like female strength and beauty. If there are any feminists out there who are shaking their heads and clucking their tongues, just shove it. Like millions of people, I had zero impact on her life, but she had a non zero impact on mine.

My favorite role for her outside of Star Wars was in “Drop Dead Fred” which also had strong themes about women, femininity and strength.

So what I learned about women from Carrie Fischer.

1, Women are devious, and can manipulate men easily. Episode 4 is basically the story of a smart, intelligent, and powerful woman playing damsel in distress to get men to do what she needs them to do.
2, Women can be victimized by men (Vader and Jaba) but that doesn’t have to be permanent (escaping the Death Star and Cloud City, killing Jaba).
3, Smart women build consensus through leadership and sound arguments. Of course sometimes the soundest argument is, “you’ll get rewarded a lot when we get there.”
4, Looking vulnerable is not the same thing as being vulnerable. This is the infamous “slave Leia” outfit. She bid her time, and killed her captor in her escape. Her situation didn’t dictate her self worth, her self worth helped change her situation. Later on she lets herself be emotionally vulnerable to Solo, of her own accord.
5, Sometimes loss is a good thing in the long run. “Thank you Drop Dead Fred!” is what she exclaimed as she took a look at the insurance money….
6, People can get addicted to almost anything, including electroshock therapy.
7, Being the daughter of a movie star and being raised in and around Hollywood probably isn’t the healthiest way to grow into a well adjusted adult. Debbie Reynolds was a helluva woman herself, but kids who came of age in the 60s and 70s kinda had the odds of “well adjusted” stolen from them by circumstances.
8, Being open about depression and addiction is hard, and she did it with honesty and humility that is inspiring.

I’m sure that there are hundreds of thousands of men out there right now who are attracted to strong, independent women and get driven wild when that woman lets herself be vulnerable (Iliza Schlesinger got it right that men love vulnerability, it makes us feel powerful and masculine). And I’m positive that Carrie Fischer had a not insignificant role in creating the world where those men developed that allows women the freedom to be powerful princesses or damsels in distress as they see fit.

I will miss Carrie, she was a class act. I didn’t realize how bad I was going to miss her until the very end of Rogue One, but I choked up a little in the theater. May the Force be with her.

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Defensive Carbine: Is it actually worth the effort?

Earlier this year I started chipping away at the dogma that is the 21 foot rule using actual data from violent encounters. Here I’ll tackle the common wisdom that a shotgun or carbine (like an AR-15 pushing high velocity ammo) is a better choice for defense than other weapon systems. Forget everything you read on a gun board about how a 55gr FMJ doesn’t over penetrate walls (which is BS) and forget a politician saying “just fire two shots through the door” with a shotgun. Data doesn’t lie, although it can be incomplete.

The number of “defensive carbine” uses in the United States every year is an amazingly difficult number to pin down. Even the the FBI UCR statistics isn’t really useful in getting a good idea since you only get the “justified homicide” raw numbers rather than every incident where a carbine was used that didn’t result in a homicide. Holding a guy at gun point until Johnny Law hauls him off to the pokey doesn’t show up. So I can’t really talk about every situation, but we can talk about the data that is collected, the justified homicide section.

Since that is really the only data we have to go on (and to anyone who wonders why I don’t use short hyperlinks and instead hyperlink the entire URL, it is so that people who aren’t tech savy can actually see where my reference is without having to hover the moust or click)…

Justified Homicide by Cop: https://ucr.fbi.gov/crime-in-the-u.s/2014/crime-in-the-u.s.-2014/tables/expanded-homicide-data/expanded_homicide_data_table_14_justifiable_homicide_by_weapon_law_enforcement_2010-2014.xls
Justified Homicide by Citizen: https://ucr.fbi.gov/crime-in-the-u.s/2014/crime-in-the-u.s.-2014/tables/expanded-homicide-data/expanded_homicide_data_table_15_justifiable_homicide_by_weapon_private_citizen_2010-2014.xls

Ten. Ten American citizens in 2014 successfully used lethal force to defend their life using a rifle. This is exactly the same number of Americans in 2014 who successfully defended their life with lethal force using a shotgun. Even combined this is less than the 36 Americans who used justified lethal force with knives, or the 178 who used handguns.

Even looking at the law enforcement data for 2014 paints a similar picture. 45 cops killed people with a rifle, 5 with a shotgun, and 323 with handguns.

So given the small amount of data we have, what does this tell you about a “defensive carbine”? It should tell you that the odds of having a defensive carbine available at the time of need is incredibly small, even for law enforcement officers (and I guarantee you that those law enforcement officers were using those rifles in an offensive manner).

The mighty shotgun, which Vice President Joe Biden seems to think is more than enough, accounted for only 15 justified homicides in 2015 between cops and citizens. Edged weapons had 36 for citizens and 1 for a cop. That doesn’t make a knife a better choice than a shotgun for defense, but it illustrates the point that pocket knives and handguns are often “what you have” to deal with a situation rather than “using your pistol to fight to a rifle.”

So based on this data, if you are private citizen you should focus your defensive training on Handgun, Knife, Rifle, and Shotgun in that order. If you are a cop it would go Handgun, Rifle, Shotgun, Knife in that order.

This data also highlights a truth, that what you have on you is what you have to work with. This is why the “other deadly weapon” section exists in the UCR data set. Beer bottles, chairs,  baseball bats, and pool cues can be quite effective weapons. But YOU have to get out of the fight alive, and simply carrying tools doesn’t make you a good tool user (and don’t forget luck will play a big part).

If you haven’t taken a pistol class and you are eyeing that “combat carbine class” I recommend you don’t, and opt for the pistol class instead. At least based on the data available. It is your life and your money and your choice, but unless you are part of a SWAT team and you really need a carbine class to be good at your job, opt for pistol training.

Comments are open.

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Merry Christmas, and Happy Hanukkah

I guess I’m technically a day late for the start of Hanukkah. I’d say “so sue me” but I know too many Jewish lawyers… (that’s the joke folks, they can’t all be winners).

2016 has been an interesting year. May your 2017 be better. May your pantry be stocked deep, your tribe resilient, and here’s to wishing we avoid a WWIII scenario.

Happy Holidays everyone.

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