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Archive for the ‘military’ Category

I made a funny, LOL. Because IOKIYR. Duh.

But the facts on the Niger incident are damning for the Trump administration. First, let’s talk about Niger for a bit. Niger is one of the most desolate, poorest countries on the planet. The Niger River passes through a small part of the country in the far southwest, but that’s the only large scale water supply, and it’s passing through mostly desolate desert with no attempts at large scale irrigation and large scale farming, meaning that most of the country’s food is imported. The imported food is paid for by exporting uranium, Niger’s one and only export — Niger accounts for about 8% of world-wide uranium production. Not enough to drive up the price of uranium enough to pay for developing the country, but enough to make it utterly dependent on the few customers for uranium. The country has virtually no roads of any kind beyond the southwest, and settlement away from the southwest is concentrated around wadis, small water holes. There are no roads to most of these wadis. You’ll be flying along over the desert on Google Earth, seeing a few tracks in the seemingly endless sand dunes, and suddenly you’ll pop over a hill and there’s a settlement built around a wadi. With no roads to it at all. It’s all mud brick walls and flat roofs and thousands of people living in these compounds. Any outside goods arrive via caravan over the trackless desert, where the moving dunes swiftly wipe out any attempt at building roads.

Niger has the ill fortune to border Libya to its north, so groups claiming to be ISIS have been filtering south to use Niger as a staging place for raids into Libya. The Niger military mostly doesn’t do anything in the north. Until recently Chad was part of an African Union force that was fighting ISIS in the north, but recently pulled out after President Trump dissed Chad by putting Chad onto a list of countries with a travel ban — despite the fact that there are no ISIS affiliates operating in Chad, period. Niger also has the ill fortune to border Mali to its west. Mali has been the source of an ISIS-affiliated terrorist group that Mali soldiers and French soldiers have been fighting for years, and which occasionally strays across the border into

But this event didn’t happen in the north where Chad until recently had been operating. This event happened in the southwest of the country, near a community called Tonga Tonga. At one point there was a road that went through the desert to Mali, but that road was never completed, it peters out in the desert roughly 20 miles before it gets to Mali. This part of the country isn’t the rolling sand dunes of the north. This is plateau and wash territory, dry arid gravel plateau with washes. The road roughly parallels one such wash, which serves as the final destination for water from hundreds of miles around and thus even though it rarely flows, water is not far beneath the ground. If you look at this wash on Google Earth, there are small towns that are between the wash and the road. One of these small towns is Tonga Tonga.

A delegation of U.S. specialists protected by a small number of Niger soldiers went to this town to talk to the village elders about digging wells, improving security, all that hearts and mind stuff. Leaving the town they were ambushed by what appears to be members of the ISIS-related group from Mali. This may seem surprising, in that you’d have to walk across the desert to get from Mali to the road. But the wash goes all the way into Mali, and is littered with wells and camel stockades and camel herders’ shelters. It’d be easy enough to walk down the wash from well to well, taking shelter during the day in camel herders’ shelters, until you got down to where the ambush happened. Doing so while going unnoticed, on the other hand, would be pretty much impossible. This is a desert wash. There isn’t any place to hide in it, no jungle, no trees, it’s just gravel. Clearly the village elders at this village knew that the ISIS militants were there. Indeed that was the first hint that something was wrong — as the Americans left the village, someone on a motorcycle took off ahead of them to warn the ambushers to be ready because the Americans were coming.

So anyhow, the U.S. and Niger soldiers were lightly armed, in regular pickup trucks and other light vehicles rather than in armored vehicles, and there was no backup from other U.S. soldiers. They were pinned down by the ambush. It took an hour even for them to relay a call to the French asking for help because they didn’t have any communications protocol set up for combat support. Then the U.S. Embassy detached some of its mercenaries to mount a rescue mission as the French fighter jets were circling overhead not knowing who it was they were supposed to be bombing, and it was mercenaries who ended up pulling their bacon out of the fire. Mostly.

Four Americans ended up dead. The question of how they could have been sent into danger without any kind of support hasn’t been answered. The question of why the U.S. didn’t send any of its other 1,000 troops in Niger to rescue them hasn’t been answered. Why there was no communications between the soldiers on the ground and the French jets overhead that were looking for a target to bomb, any target, hasn’t been answered. From my perspective it appears these kids were sent into a situation without intelligence, without the proper training and equipment to coordinate with the local allies or even their own forces, and basically hung out to dry. In short, a whole lot like Benghazi.

So when will Trey Gowdy start investigating His Fraudulency Donald the Trump’s Benghazi? When will the Secretary of Defense be called to the Senate Intelligence Committee to be grilled about the multiple failures of intelligence and support that led to these Americans dying in the desert? How many hearings will we have over the next three years grilling American officials about the multiple failures that led to these Americans’ deaths?

Oh wait. I forgot. It’s Okay (to have Americans killed by terrorists because of inadequate support) If You’re Republican.

Alrighty, then.

– Badtux the “Ben who?” Penguin

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Another one on Faux News. John Garofalo, 72, did some pro-Trump artwork and claimed to have served seven years as a Navy SEAL during Vietnam with numerous commendations and medals. Turns out, however, that he was lying. He was an aircraft handler — one of those guys wig-waggling the pilot to direct him where to park his plane, and moving planes around on the ground so they could be maintained. He never served in Vietnam. He never was awarded any medals. It was all a lie — a lie so that he could seem like a tough guy down at the VFW, I guess.

What I don’t get is this: What’s the point? When my dad got out of the Navy, he was happy to tell people that the only reason he joined the Navy was to avoid being sent up Hamburger Hill in Korea with a rifle in his hand, and he spent the entire war bobbing safely in the middle of the Pacific in a submarine tender, cooking spuds to serve to squids. He was happy to talk about his adventures — snorkeling in the crystal clear waters around Midway and the gooney birds there that made the whole place a giant shithole as well as made aircraft operations hazardous, a knife fight in San Diego, adventures in Tijuana — but combat? He wanted no part of that, and never claimed to want part of that. Not because he wasn’t an asshole — he was an asshole of major proportions, abusive and negligent in equal measures and ridiculously racist. But he just never had the need to blow himself up that way into something bigger than what he was. He may have been small-minded, but he wasn’t that kind of small-minded.

Not like Garofalo. Or like another person that I know of who has done much the same thing, claiming that injuries he got from an auto accident actually happened in combat, claiming that he was a SEAL when he was actually a cook at a Navy base, that kind of thing. Just baffling.

– Badtux the “WTF is with these people?” Penguin

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Donald Trump calls the mother of a dead soldier a liar a day after he told his widow that her husband “knew what he was signing up for”.

What an ass. Even George W. Bush of “Heckuva job Brownie” fame wasn’t that kind of ass. I mean, fuck. Donald Trump makes George W. Bush look good? How fucking bad is that?!

Meanwhile, Mr. Trump: No, when I walked into that recruiter’s office, I wasn’t signing up to die. I was signing up to, hopefully, make sure the nation’s enemies died. A bit of a difference there….

– Badtux the Military Penguin

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I’ve spent probably four hours over the past two days explaining to people that no, it is *not* possible to hack a Arleigh Burke-class destroyer and cause it to run into an oil tanker. There are two separate hydraulic systems controlling the rudder, one of which is entirely mechanical (no electronics at all) and the other is attached to an *analog* “autopilot” that just keeps the ship going in a specified compass direction. Neither of these can be hacked, nor can the gas turbine controls, which are basically the same as the controls in a commercial jet airliner (yes, jet airliners are driven by gas turbines, albeit their gas turbines are driving fans to shove air out the back of the engine rather than driving propeller shafts). Yep, Arleigh Burke class destroyers are basically driven by a shaft-driving version of the CF6 jet engine that powers the 747 jet airliner! The gas turbine controls are digital now, but they’re still potted boxes not connected to any external network — i.e., you aren’t going to hack them without physical access, and they are *triple* redundant so you’d have to hack *three* of them.

In short: Nope, none of this is hackable. And yes, you can hack GPS, but all that an Arleigh Burke uses GPS for is for general location-finding. Collision avoidance is via radar and the Mark II Eyeball, and depends upon a) the ship’s rudder not jamming due to hydraulic system failures, and b) a crew that isn’t so tired and bleary-eyed from lack of sleep that they can remember how to kick in the backup rudder control system, or how to hit the collision alarm, or how to jam the engine controls to full speed ahead to outrun an oncoming oil tanker.

Oh yeah, the other stupid conspiracy theory is that the tanker was hacked to run into the destroyer. Puh-LEEZE. It takes around 15 miles for a tanker to go from its normal cruising speed of around 16 knots to a full stop. When they’re coming in to port, they start slowing down *six hours* before docking. These suckers (and their giant diesel engines) have a *lot* of momentum, they don’t speed up or slow down very quickly, they aren’t going to suddenly speed up and hit a destroyer. And changing course is similarly lethargic, taking miles to change course. An oil tanker doesn’t suddenly veer into a destroyer. These things give new definition to the word “lumbering”. The largest supertankers are almost 1/4th of a mile long, longer than the Empire State Building is tall, and weigh more than the Empire State Building too. Changing course takes miles. Basically, the only way a tanker can run into a destroyer is if the destroyer places itself in front of the tanker, whether due to mechanical failure, lack of training on the part of the crew, lack of sleep on the part of the crew, whatever. Because a tanker in a shipping lane is the closest thing to an immovable object that you’ll find afloat, it’s going where it’s going at the speed it’s going, and that’s pretty much that.

Finally: The admiral in charge of the 7th Fleet is being relieved of command. Shit may flow downhill. But when four ships under his command get wrecked in embarrassing accidents, the buck stops at the Admiral’s desk. My guess is that many, many of his underlings are also very, very nervous right now…

– Badtux the Hacker Penguin

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The GAO reports that undermanning of ships is a major cause of problems with morale, training, and readiness. The GAO reports that the Navy’s “optimal manning” program under-states the amount of work needed to keep a ship operational and does not include the resources needed to properly train new sailors. You can’t send a new sailor on a snipe hunt to find some propeller fluid, incidentally forcing him to go to most of the ship’s departments as the NCO’s send him onward and onward. You don’t have the luxury of mentoring a newbie until he’s fully trained. There just isn’t enough personnel on board to do that. The Navy’s smaller combatants weren’t extravagantly manned even before “Optimal Manning”, and a 6% cut over the already-too-lean manning means that you have a lot of tired, delirious, undertrained sailors.

And tired, delirious, undertrained sailors make mistakes that can cost lives, like the U.S.S. John McCain colliding with a commercial tanker near the Strait of Malacca, or the other incidents that have happened recently.

This isn’t Trump’s fault. This started under Donald Rumsfeld as part of his plan to buy F-35 fighters for the Navy by sprinkling magic technology fairy dust on the ships so they wouldn’t need as many sailors to sail them, thus freeing up money to buy the Gold-Plated Flying Turkey that will be twice the price of the carrier it’s sitting on by the time it’s actually deployed to carriers. Thing is, the magic technology fairy dust didn’t actually reduce manning requirements. Sure, it reduced the need to send sailors to turn off steam pipe valves and shit like that, since that got automated, but there’s a shit-ton of work on a ship that can’t be done by a PC in a closet. Like if one of those valves breaks down, that PC can’t fix it. Some sailor’s going to have to fix it. Assuming that a sailor with sufficient skills is onboard. If not, then someone is going to have to go to the PC in the closet and watch the Navy equivalent of a YouTube video instructing him how to fix it, and then half-ass it trying to figure it out for the first time, where if he’d been trained, it would take literally minutes rather than hours to fix the problem that has the rudder not steering and thus has the ship going in circles in the middle of a busy shipping lane.

That is, by substituting technology for trained sailors, everything takes longer. So yeah, the technology saved time on *some* things, but causes *more* time to be taken on *other* things. For a net wash as far as manning requirements go.

Now, this is a separate thing from the undermanning that was “fixed” during the Obama years. That undermanning was where the Navy didn’t even have enough sailors to meet “optimal” manning. What the GAO is saying is that even the “optimal” manning isn’t enough, because it doesn’t leave enough sailors to handle unexpected events like that valve blowing out and causing the ship to lose steering.

And Cheeto Mussolini wants us to have 12 aircraft carrier task forces? Fuck, we don’t even have enough sailors for the current ones, where the hell would we get the sailors for more of’em?! Not to mention we just don’t have the facilities to build two aircraft carriers in parallel anymore, unless we wanted to build some diesel-powered ones again… a possibility, I suppose, we don’t need a nuclear carrier forward-based in Japan, the Kitty Hawk, an oil burner, did a fine job there for many years, but the chances of the Navy agreeing to have a couple of oil-burning aircraft carriers again is sorta none to none. But hey, reality and the Orange Racist Russian Stooge never have met, right?

– Badtux the Military Penguin

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I don’t know too much about retired Marine Lt. Colonel Amy McGrath, but I do know that she’s kick-ass. Her career in and of itself, reaching that rank in the Marines, is enough to prove that.

– Badtux the Kickass-woman-admirin’ Penguin

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The Joint Chiefs of Staff say that there is a procedure to follow for policy changes, and whatever drivel spews out on a Twitter account isn’t part of that process. Until the Secretary of Defense receives an executive order, in writing, directing him to change the military’s policies regarding transgender people, and until the Secretary of Defense issues policy guidance to the various military branches, and that policy guidance is in turn passed down the chain of commands as orders, the current status quo stands.

Secretary of Defense “Mad Dog” Mattis is, of course, on vacation this week. We’ll see whether Mattis gets such an executive order after he gets back from vacation….

– Badtux the “WTF?” Penguin

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