Friday, May 13, 2022

Ukraine War Update (May 13, 2022)

 You may have already read this since the Institute for the Study of War seems to be one of the major go-to sites for information on the war, but their May 11 assessment noted that "Russian forces did not make any significant advances anywhere in Ukraine on May 11, and Ukrainian forces took further ground northeast of Kharkiv." The Ukrainian successes apparently were forcing Russian commanders to shift forces from those fronts where Russia intended on making their advances. Yesterday's (May 12) assessment mentions what seem to be the consequences, noting that "Russian forces may be abandoning efforts at a wide encirclement of Ukrainian troops along the Izyum-Slovyansk-Debaltseve line in favor of shallower encirclements of Severodonetsk and Lysychansk," and that "[i]t is unclear if Russian forces can encircle, let alone capture, Severodonetsk and Lysychansk even if they focus their efforts on that much-reduced objective." 

The Ukrainian counteroffensive around Kharkiv is also forcing the Russian command to make hard choices, as it was likely intended to do.  The UK Ministry of Defense reports that Russian forces pulled back from Kharkiv have been sent toward Rubizhne and Severodonetsk but at the cost of ceding ground in Kharkiv from which the Russians had been shelling the city.  The counteroffensive is also forcing Russian units still near the city to focus their bombardment on the attacking Ukrainian troops rather than continuing their attacks on the city itself.  The Ukrainian counteroffensive near Kharkiv is starting to look very similar to the counteroffensive that ultimately drove Russian troops away from Kyiv and out of western Ukraine entirely, although it is too soon to tell if the Russians will make a similar decision here.

It also interesting to observe that Russian forces have yet to capture or completely neutralize the Ukrainian forces at the steel plant in Mariupol. 

Russian forces continued to conduct air and artillery strikes against Ukrainian positions in the Azovstal Steel Plant on May 12. Russian troops notably did not conduct a ground offensive on Azovstal on May 12 but rather focused on blocking Ukrainian defenders from using tunnels to exit the plant.

This is not to say that the Russians are completely stymied. "Russian forces made marginal gains to the north of Severodonetsk and have likely captured Rubizhne and Voevodivka," and "Russian forces are strengthening their position on Snake Island in an effort to block Ukrainian maritime communications and capabilities in the northwestern Black Sea on the approaches to Odesa."

The Ukrainian Ministry of Defense stated that the Russian grouping on Snake Island is trying to improve its position on the island in an effort to block Ukrainian maritime communications and capabilities in the northwestern Black Sea, particularly toward Odesa. The Ukrainian General Staff noted that Russian forces have built up their air defense system in Western Crimea in a likely attempt to provide air cover for naval activities in the northwestern Black Sea.

    Some other headlines: 

    Tech firms are buying up new washing machines so they can harvest their computer parts in a desperate bid to beat the global microchip shortage.

    Once solely used in PCs and mobile phones, semiconductors are now vital in cars, kitchen appliances, TVs, smart speakers, thermostats, smart light bulbs and even some dog collars.

    Microchip manufacturers are unable to meet the ever-growing demand – accelerated by families buying more computers and gadgets during lockdown – as it takes two years and billions of pounds to build each factory.

    Severe shortages have hit production at multinational firms, from car giants such as Tesla and Ford to appliance firms such as Bosch and Hotpoint and video games console makers Sony and Microsoft.

    Hardest hit are car makers, which can end up with vehicles worth £100,000 or more stuck in factories because they cannot get hold of basic chips that two years ago cost just £1.

    They are now having to resort to buying washing machines and cannibalising them for semiconductors rather than wait six months with such expensive goods stuck in a factory.

    Modern washing machines can contain several chips which allow the operation of touchscreen displays, wi-fi connection, load weight sensors and fault detectors.

    Troops shot in the legs screaming in pain. Others dying from blood loss and shock. With no one around to provide medical assistance. A Russian soldier crucified on an anti-tank barrier, chained to a metal ‘hedgehog’ and then burned alive…

    For many, graphic footage of Russian servicemen tortured and killed by the Ukrainian Armed Forces, and nationalist battalions, came as a real shock. But this did not surprise those who are familiar with the ‘traditions’ of Ukraine’s ‘fighters for national freedom’, as they have more than a century of history in this sort of thing.

While the article is intended to paint the Ukrainians as cold-hearted, murderous bastards, it seems to actually underline the intense animosity that exists between Ukrainians and Russians.

  • Even longer read: "Briefing: analysis of documents related to the military biological activities of the United States on the territory of Ukraine May 11, 2022"--The Saker. It would be easy to dismiss this a propaganda except that the federal government has a long history of contracting out work or activities to foreign nations and private companies that it is not legally permitted to do itself, whether it is the CIA holding prisoners in foreign countries to conduct interrogation that would be illegal here, having arrangements (e.g., Five-Eyes) with foreign intelligence agencies (or domestic police agencies, looking at you NYPD) to conduct surveillance inside the United States that it would otherwise be illegal for the federal intelligence agencies to perform, the NIH conducting gain-of-function research in China using a private company as a mediary because it was illegal for the NIH to conduct such research, programs like Operation Chokepoint to weaponize the financial industry against disfavored industries, to the countless "contractors" and "consultants", the cozy relationships between the FBI, CIA and media outlets (the phony Russian dossier ring a bell). So it would not be shocking to the see the Feds attempt to get around both Congressional and treaty restrictions on bio-weapons research by having some other country conduct the research.

Thursday, May 12, 2022

The War Zone: "Fake David Attenborough Voice Narrates The ‘Natural’ Death Of A Russian Tank"

 The article is here. Watch the first embedded version as it is about 15 seconds longer.

Let's Go Brandon: "Biden administration cancels oil and gas lease sales in Alaska, Gulf of Mexico"

 You can find the story at The Hill. Key part:

    The Interior Department will not move forward with planned oil and gas lease sales in the Gulf of Mexico and Alaska’s Cook Inlet, it announced Wednesday night. 

    A spokesperson for the department confirmed the Cook Inlet lease sale would not proceed due to insufficient industry interest. Meanwhile, the planned sale of two leases, lease 259 and lease 261, in the Gulf of Mexico will not proceed due to contradictory court rulings on the leases, the spokesperson confirmed. 

    Shortly after taking office, President Biden signed an executive order freezing all new oil and gas leasing on federal lands. Last summer, Judge James Cain, a Trump appointee, struck down the ruling, prompting the Biden administration to appeal.

    Meanwhile, in January, the Washington, D.C., District Court invalidated another Gulf of Mexico lease sold by the federal government, lease 257. The administration is not appealing the January ruling, although it affects a separate lease from the ones named by the Interior spokesperson. 

And this:

“I’m glad Cook Inlet belugas won’t be forced to face even more oil drilling in their only habitats, but much more must be done to protect these endangered whales from offshore drilling,” Kristen Monsell, Oceans legal director at the Center for Biological Diversity, told The Hill in a statement. “To save imperiled marine life and protect coastal communities and our climate from pollution, we need to end new leasing and phase out existing drilling.”

    The dirty little secret to this is that the environmental groups and the feds (or sometimes a utility) will basically agree off the books to the environmental group suing the feds, and the feds will in turn fold and either essentially let the Nature Nazis win or stipulate to an agreement with the Nature Nazis to settle the case. Then the feds can say "hey, we tried to follow the law as to the lease and/or allowing development, but we were sued and lost."  

    Reading between the lines, I think that is what is going on here, and why there is little interest by oil companies to obtain leases where the lease is going to be contested and the companies will probably never be able to actually drill or will have the lease later yanked. For instance, reading above, we see that the Biden Administration is appealing the court order to overturning Biden's freezing of new oil leases, while also not appealing a decision invalidating a lease. The Administration does not want to allow drilling and will use all means available to it, fair or foul, to stop such drilling.

Wednesday, May 11, 2022

Forward to the Past? The New M5 Carbine

If you haven't already heard, the Army has selected a new infantry carbine (the XM-5) and squad automatic weapon (XM250), both chambered in 6.8x51mm. With the Army also planning on converting the M240 to use the 6.8x51mm, the Army will finally realize its long held dream to have a single cartridge for its small arms. (Except it won't because non-combat soldiers will still be using M4s and, of course, there are those darn 9mm handguns, but let's not spoil the dream).

    The military is being all hush-hush about the performance of the new round. However, Sig has released a civilian version to the market--the .277 Fury--which gives us some insight into the cartridge and its capabilities. As you may have already guessed from the metric dimensions, the .277 Fury is, kinda-sorta, a necked down .308 cartridge, something to keep in mind for further discussion below. But because it operates at chamber pressures of 80,000 psi, Sig had to design a new hybrid case using a stainless steel base that attaches to a brass walled upper. This allows 135 and 140 grain bullets to be launched at 3,000 fps and 2,950 fps, respectively, out of a 16-inch barrel. A 150 grain bullet drops the muzzle velocity to 2,900 fps. Those are impressive numbers for shooting out of a 16-inch test barrel. The cartridge also boasts 6 to 9 feet less bullet drop at 1,000 yards than the 6.5 Creedmoor. And it is all because of the greater chamber pressure. 

    The reason for the new cartridge is supposed to be two-fold: (i) it provides a greater effective range--some 300 meters more than the effective range of the standard infantry rounds used by the Russians and the Chinese--and (ii) it is supposed to offer greater penetration against the body armor expected to be fielded by Russian troops (but which don't seem to have been used--at least to any great degree--in the Ukrainian conflict) and the Chinese military.

    The greater effective range, of course, is dependent on soldiers being able to see and accurately target their enemies on the battlefield. Otherwise, all that extra power is wasted. To this end, the military will also be outfitting the rifles with a new optic system: the XM157 Next Generation Fire Control System. This is a 1-8x LPVO that, while it uses an etched reticle in case the battery dies or the electronics are damaged, is able to correct for windage, angle and distance for different projectiles and project a corresponding targeting dot. In addition, it can share information between members of a unit so that if one soldier is able to tag a target with the system, that information can be shared with other soldiers (or, I'm sure, overhead drones, guided munitions, etc.--you get the idea). Using this system, every infantryman will, in theory, be an expert marksman. 

    While the greater effective range is believable (provided the XM157 works as intended), I have my doubts about the increased effectiveness against body armor. It is well known that bullet penetration of body armor is mostly dependent on velocity, and the magic velocity for Level IV is about 4,000 fps for standard copper jacketed bullets: well above the muzzle velocity of the new 6.8x51 cartridge. That means that the military is going to be relying instead on special penetrator rounds to achieve penetration at a lower velocity. But how much lower? And how expensive will be those rounds? 

    So, those are the upsides to the system. What about the downsides? The video from the military arms channel embedded below discusses the probably downsides in detail and I suggest you watch it if you have the time.

If you don't have time, here are the highlights:

  • It weighs more than the current M4. Much more. The bare bone XM5--no suppressor or sights--is 8.38 pounds (vs. 6.43 lbs for the stripped M4). With the suppressor that is supposed to be used with each rifle, the weight goes up to 9.84 pounds. Vortex hasn't released information on the weight of the XM157 optic, but for comparison a basic Vortex Strike Eagle 1-8 LPVO is 17.6 ounces. With the extra electronics on the XM157, I think that doubling of that weight is probably not unreasonable, so about 2.3 pounds. In other words, the Army's new rifle, in its standard configuration, will probably be running about 11 pounds or so. By comparison, the M14 was only 9.2 lbs., and it was considered to be too heavy.
  • The high chamber pressures will wear out barrels very quickly. Which means frequent barrel changes, especially if the military brass expects those rifles to actually still be accurate out to 800+ yards.
  • Although it is not known what will be the magazine capacity selected by the Army--20 or 25 rounds--it will be less than the 30-rounds standard for the M16/M4 or Chinese or Russian weapons.
  • The Army touts that the cartridge weighs less than the .308, but it weighs more (a lot more) than the 5.56. So soldiers will not be able to carry as much ammunition. I can't find specifics on the cartridge weight, but the design is supposed to be 20% less than a similar sized brass cartridge.
  • The recoil is supposed to be less than a .308, but probably not much less. If you watch the video above, they have clips of various people shooting the weapon; and it is readily apparent from those clips that the recoil is substantial and that the weapon will be uncontrollable in full auto. Yes, I know that all rifles are uncontrollable in full auto to one extent or another, but this appears to be in line with M14 or FAL uncontrollable. And check out the fool that tried shooting it with the butt high on the shoulder like you can get away with using a 5.56. With this new rifle and cartridge, we will probably see the return of the much derided "chicken wing" as soldiers learn to lift their elbow a bit to create a better pocket in which to tuck the butt of the rifle. 
The recoil may, in the end, spell the doom of the new cartridge. As discussed in the video, the higher recoil will likely result in lower qualification scores, particularly among smaller soldiers (e.g., female recruits), which could result in something similar to what we saw with the FBI's adoption of the 10mm. That is, the FBI believed that the 9mm was inadequate and so it adopted the 10mm. It then  saw qualification scores fall off due to the size and recoil of the new cartridge, switched to a lower power 10mm to compensate, then to the .40 S&W since there was no longer the need for the longer 10mm case, and then when it was apparent the .40 S&W was not any better than the 9mm in any practical sense, returned to the 9mm. 

    My own thoughts are somewhat mixed as to the rifle and cartridge. On the one hand, I just put together a lightweight AR10 in .308 with a 16-inch barrel to serve as a modernized version or interpretation of the Scout Rifle concept (although mine is much lighter than the M5), the idea being to have a sort-of "do it all" rifle that could be used for hunting but pressed into duty as a defensive rifle if need be. So I can understand wanting a rifle that can reach out and touch someone at longer distances.

    On the other hand, it is hard not to draw comparisons between this rifle and cartridge combination and the decision making that led to the adoption of the M14. The M14 was the product of military brass wanting to simplify logistics by having a rifle and cartridge that could do everything (and do it out to five or six hundred yards), but produced a rifle that was too heavy and had too much recoil to be useful for the common infantryman. 

    More than the problems inherent with using a high pressure round and the issue of recoil, I believe that what will make or break this project is the weight of the weapon and the ammunition. I have to wonder if there is not some exo-skeleton system out there that the Army also plans on adopting.

Tuesday, May 10, 2022

Tech Bubble Bursts

 I can't decide if this is a "Let's Go Brandon" story or a "Get Woke, Go Broke" story. Anyway, the headline is "Tech bubble bursts! Silicon Valley giants have lost more than $1 TRILLION in value over the last three days as investors flee for 'safer' consumer staples stocks." From the article:

    Major technology firms have lost more than $1 trillion in combined market value over the past three trading sessions, as investors flee risky growth stocks in favor of safer consumer staples.

    Since the closing bell on Wednesday, following the Federal Reserve's rate hike announcement, tech stocks have been hardest hit, with Apple alone losing more than $220 billion in market value, according to a CNBC analysis.

    Though markets rebounded somewhat on Tuesday morning, the tech-heavy Nasdaq composite has dropped 26 percent so far this year, and is trading at its lowest level since November 2020.

    Amid the selling, investors have been flocking to classic consumer staples companies such as Campbell Soup, General Mills and J.M. Smucker.

In other words, the big money is on a food shortage.

Ukraine War Update (5/10/2022)


Photograph of a T90M tank--Russia's most advanced model--that was destroyed with one shot from a Carl Gustaf recoilless rifle. Close-up footage of the tank shows how the projectile was able to evade the tank's defenses by punching through one of its wheels. (Source)

The Institute for the Study of War (ISW) reports:

  • Russian forces did not make any confirmed advances to the southeast or southwest of Izyum on May 9 but are likely attempting to concentrate the forces necessary to resume offensive operations in the coming days.
  • Russian forces made marginal gains around Severodonetsk in the past 24 hours.
  • Russian forces are likely continuing to amass troops in Belgorod Oblast to stop Ukrainian counterattacks around Kharkiv City from reaching the Ukrainian-Russian border.
  • Russian units in Zaporizhia Oblast are regrouping and will likely receive reinforcements from forces previously deployed in Mariupol.
  • The Kremlin continues to face severe force mobilization challenges, and ongoing “covert mobilization” efforts are unlikely to generate substantial combat power.
  • Russian authorities are likely setting conditions to integrate occupied Ukrainian territories directly into Russia, as opposed to creating proxy “People’s Republics.”
    Notwithstanding these marginal gains, there is no reason to think they will continue. Several media sources indicate that Russian forces suffer from poor training and low morale, even going so far as to refuse orders. On the latter point, ISW relates:

A senior US defense official claimed that Russian troops in Donbas are failing to obey orders from top generals. Russian forces deployed to the Zaporizhzhia area reportedly are experiencing very low morale and psychological conditions, complain about the ineffectiveness of operations in the area, frequently abuse alcohol, and shoot at their own vehicles in order to avoid going to the frontline. This is consistent with reports made by the Ukrainian General Staff that the extent of Russian losses is having widespread impacts on the willingness of Russian troops to engage in offensive operations.

I found comments from a former member of Wagner who fought in Syria to be interesting because his contacts in the Russian military and Wagner told him that they "expected to face rag-tag militias when they invaded Ukraine, not well-drilled regular troops." That is, they expected to face what they faced in Syria, militias that had no anti-aircraft systems or artillery. 

    Other problems that have cropped up is the lack of guided munitions. The New York Times explains in "Russian Guided Weapons Miss the Mark, U.S. Defense Officials Say":

    On Monday morning, as columns of armored vehicles and soldiers paraded through Moscow in celebration of Russia’s 1945 victory over Germany in World War II, one element of Russian military power was conspicuously missing: its warplanes. And though officials blamed bad weather for their grounding, Russian planes, pilots and air-to-ground weapons have all grossly underperformed in the war against Ukraine.

    The absence underscored President Vladimir Putin’s failure to build a capable modern air force, as Russian aircrews race in and out of Ukrainian airspace and heave unguided bombs while fleeing enemy surface-to-air missiles that Moscow has still not managed to destroy, even after 75 days of combat.

    Russian warplanes are generally flying 200 to 300 sorties each day, a senior Defense Department official told reporters during a briefing Monday, but have failed to establish air superiority over Ukraine, which continues to fly its own fighters and attack jets against Russian troops. And as the war stretches into its third month, Russia has already expended many of its most accurate weapons, such as cruise missiles and both short- and medium-range ballistic missiles.

    On Monday morning, as columns of armored vehicles and soldiers paraded through Moscow in celebration of Russia’s 1945 victory over Germany in World War II, one element of Russian military power was conspicuously missing: its warplanes. And though officials blamed bad weather for their grounding, Russian planes, pilots and air-to-ground weapons have all grossly underperformed in the war against Ukraine.

    The absence underscored President Vladimir Putin’s failure to build a capable modern air force, as Russian aircrews race in and out of Ukrainian airspace and heave unguided bombs while fleeing enemy surface-to-air missiles that Moscow has still not managed to destroy, even after 75 days of combat.

    Russian warplanes are generally flying 200 to 300 sorties each day, a senior Defense Department official told reporters during a briefing Monday, but have failed to establish air superiority over Ukraine, which continues to fly its own fighters and attack jets against Russian troops. And as the war stretches into its third month, Russia has already expended many of its most accurate weapons, such as cruise missiles and both short- and medium-range ballistic missiles.


    Instead of being able to quickly target Ukrainian troops and moving vehicles with laser- or satellite-guided bombs, Russia has largely shown it can hit only fixed targets like military buildings or civilian population centers — either by firing volleys of unguided artillery shells and rocket attacks at them, U.S. officials said, or by using large guided ballistic missiles and air-launched cruise missiles that often fail or are inaccurate.


    The difference between Russia’s airstrikes in Syria and in Ukraine, however, is vast, a senior Defense Department analyst said. In Syria, Russian warplanes could fly unopposed and loiter over their targets for as long as they wanted to before dropping a guided bomb — something that Ukrainian jets and surface-to-air missiles make impossible.

Other sources I've come across indicate that the use of the dumb bombs has also forced Russian jets to release the bombs from much lower altitudes, brining them within range of the man portable anti-aircraft missiles that the West has provided to Ukraine.

     Phillips Payson O’Brien and Edward Stringer discuss the Russian failures in the air and establishing air superiority in the article at The Atlantic, "The Overlooked Reason Russia’s Invasion Is Floundering." They begin:

    Airpower should have been one of Russia’s greatest advantages over Ukraine. With almost 4,000 combat aircraft and extensive experience bombing targets in Syria, Georgia, and Chechnya, Russia’s air force was expected to play a vital role in the invasion, allowing the Russian army to plunge deep into Ukraine, seize Kyiv, and destroy the Ukrainian military. But more than two months into the war, Vladimir Putin’s air force is still fighting for control of the skies.

    The Russian air force’s failure is perhaps the most important, but least discussed, story of the military conflict so far. Ukrainian forces showed surprising strength in the air war, and adapted as the fighting progressed. But either side of this war could still gain air supremacy—and fundamentally change the course of the conflict.

    Airpower is potentially decisive in any war, but difficult to wield effectively. Air forces are dependent on an array of technologies that require highly trained personnel who can quickly set up what amounts to an airborne military ecosystem: airborne radar stations to provide command and control, fighters to protect and police the skies, refueling aircraft to keep everyone full of gas, electronic-warfare planes to keep enemy defenses suppressed, and a range of intelligence-gatherers and attack aircraft to locate and destroy enemy forces. These sorts of combined operations involve hundreds of aircraft and thousands of people in a tightly choreographed dance that takes a lifetime to master. But when managed correctly, these overlapping operations allow a military to dominate the skies, making life much easier for the ground or naval forces below.

    Unfortunately for the Russians, the recent modernization of the Russian air force, although intended to enable it to conduct modern combined operations, was mostly for show. The Russians wasted money and effort on corruption and inefficiency. Though much was made of the flashy new equipment, such as the much-hyped SU-34 strike aircraft, the Russian air force continues to suffer from flawed logistics operations and the lack of regular, realistic training. Above all, the autocratic Russian kleptocracy does not trust low-ranking and middle-ranking officers, and so cannot allow the imaginative, flexible decision making that NATO air forces rely upon.

    All this meant that when the invasion started, the Russian air force was incapable of running a well-thought-out, complex campaign. Instead of working to control the skies, Russia’s air force has mostly provided air support to ground troops or bombed Ukrainian cities. In this it has followed the traditional tactics of a continental power that privileges land forces. Focusing on ground troops can work if you have almost endless numbers of soldiers and are prepared to lose them. But so wedded is Russia to its history of successes on the ground that it fails to understand the importance of airpower.

But the author's touch on an important point: that Russia's advancements have mostly been show. What technical advancements that have been made have obviously not been pushed out to the troops or properly implemented, whether it is something as basic as a modernized infantry rifle (the AK12 being conspicuous in its absence), Russian troops relying on cheap Chinese Baofeng radios for communication, or downed Russian jets sporting inexpensive commercial GPS units taped to their cockpit controls. The latter article adds:

    Ukraine has shared abundant evidence of what it says are Russia's attempts to patch over issues with old military equipment and bypass equipment shortages.

    Last month, Ukrainian troops paraded what they said was a Russian drone that had been covered in duct tape and fitted with a generic plastic bottle top for a fuel cap. In March, Ukrainian troops found what appeared to be Russian army bandages dating to 1978 discarded on a battlefield.

    In his Monday speech, Wallace said Russian vehicles "are frequently found with 1980s paper maps of Ukraine in them" and that soldiers were using "pine logs as makeshift protection on logistical trucks" and attaching "overhead 'cope cages' to their tanks."

    Russian tanks, once considered some of the best in the world, are being destroyed in droves, often due to a design flaw placing their munition storage in the turret with the crew. And because of sanctions that have curtailed the flow of microchips needed for their systems (eerily similar to the supply chain problems crippling American auto manufacturers), the Russians can't replace their tanks. At the same time, Lockheed is doubling its production of Javelin missiles

    This is my view of the situation. Prior to the Ukraine invasion, Russia had successfully carried on a grand military bluff for decades projecting an image of having a powerful military in size that, while not the technological equal to the United States, was close enough to make it dangerous. There were hints that this was not true: e.g., how easily Iraq's Russian equipped military collapsed when attacked, the failure of Russia's advanced anti-aircraft systems in Syria to detect, let alone stop attacks from Israel using non-stealth F-16 jets, and massive losses among Wagner mercenaries whenever they attempted to attack U.S. troops. All of this was brushed aside because we weren't dealing directly with Russia and, like the U.S., they probably didn't sell their best military technology even to their allies. (There being a big difference between selling an airframe and selling the avionics and electronics warfare packages that we use with those airframes). 

    So when the war with Ukraine began, there was reluctance to provide assistance to Ukraine because (a) it was anticipated that Russia would steamroll the Ukrainian forces and (b) we didn't want to face the might of the Russian military. 

    But as the war progressed, Russia was revealed as a paper tiger. It's advanced weapons were absent; its tactics sucked; it was paralyzed by its history of corruption and what that meant to its logistics; and its troops were poorly trained and lacking experience. It couldn't even obtain air superiority over an air force only a fraction of its size.

    Once the Russian military was revealed as a paper tiger, the military assistance began to flow in at greater and greater rates. What at first was a mere trickle of weapons--probably provided more to test their effectiveness against Russian armor and aircraft than with any expectation that Ukraine would hold off the Russians--has become a flood. The Deep State smells blood and they are now going all in. 

    The question now being asked is if Russia's conventional forces were a paper tiger, what about its nuclear forces? I think Western leaders have answered that to their satisfaction as well: The U.S. House of Representatives, for instance, will be voting on a $40 billion aid bill to Ukraine. Up to now, most of the major equipment that has been provided to the Ukraine has been old Soviet equipment, the excuse being that the Ukrainian troops already know how to use them, but also, I suspect, to not push the Russians too hard. That is over. The U.S. and other Western countries have now expanded beyond man portable anti-tank and anti-aircraft missiles, drones, and small arms to now providing more modern artillery. Some in Washington have even boasted (anonymously, of course) of the U.S. providing targeting information to the Ukrainians. If the war drags on too long, I would not be surprised if the U.S. or NATO started providing jet aircraft to Ukraine in 6 to 12 months.

    At this point, the Russian invasion is a failure. No matter what happens on the ground, Putin has failed at his basic goal of keeping the Ukraine independent from the West and preventing the further spread of NATO. Sweden's and Finland's entry into NATO is all but a done deal. Ukraine, even if it is never an official member of NATO, will now wholly be in the Western camp.

    If I were China, I would be looking very closely at Ukraine. However poor was Russia's training, experience and morale among its troops, China's is going to much lower. China's military is just as corrupt, if not more so, than Russia's. It will face the same problems--at least in the short run--of equipment that will break down or simply not function because it has not been properly maintained, or which may exist only on paper. 

    China has to buy jet engines for its fighter craft from Russia because it lacks the technology to build even to Russia's. Consequently, China cannot equal Western military aircraft in performance. Its fighter aircraft are the equivalent of a sportscar body sitting on the engine and drive train of a 4-cylinder subcompact hatchback. And I doubt that China can coordinate its aircraft any better than Russia. 

    In short, I believe that China is also a paper tiger militarily, and any attempt by China to invade Taiwan over the short term would see China facing many of the same issues that have hamstrung Russia's military in its attempted invasion of Ukraine.

    Ironically, many of the military problems facing Russia (and which China would also face in an invasion of Taiwan) is because they too have relied on the protective American military shield and Pax Americana. For all of their propaganda and rhetoric that America is a military threat, Russian and Chinese leaders knew that the U.S. and NATO were not inherently aggressive (unless its oil lifeline was threatened). And because Russia (and China) knew that to be true, it didn't matter if their troops were ill prepared or their weapons did not work. The rampant corruption could be overlooked because the Americans were never going to invade Russia (or China). Only by Russia drawing its sword, was the sword revealed to be rusted and weak. I suspect that China, right now, is checking the condition of its own sword.

Monday, May 9, 2022

Docent's Memo (5/9/2022)


VIDEO: "Concealed Carry for women while wearing what you want"--The Fieldcraft Survival Channel (10 min.). Showing and explaining pros and cons of different concealed carry with women's outfits.

Firearms, Shooting & Self-Defense:

  • I look through Greg Elifritz's Weekend Knowledge Dump every weekend, and this weekend was no exception. Greg has an excellent selection of articles as it is, but there are always a few that tend to stick out for one reason or another:
    • First up is the article on "stop blinding yourself" which has tips on using a flashlight or weapon light in structures. I have to agree with the author that for a tactical light, you want to keep it as simple as possible--on and off--and eschew those with various settings (dim, strobe, red, etc.) all selected from the primary switch, generally the end-cap. Ditto with the minimal use of the light and using spill. I have practiced clearing my house at night with a flashlight, as the author suggests, and can guarantee that you will learn things about where you have located reflective surfaces.
    • Second is the article about a cartel attack on a state Attorney General’s Office (FGE) near the town of Sultepec de Pedro Ascension, in the state of Mexico. The building was largely unoccupied with only two guards there, so the purpose of the attack was unclear. But what the cartel did to block access to the building is of note:

Some of the cartel vehicles moved to create roadblocks on the roadways which lead to the building, in order to prevent reinforcements from being able to reach the location. Large cargo and delivery trucks were commandeered from their drivers by armed hitmen. The trucks were then parked across lanes of traffic and then set on fire. These roadblocks occurred on the Ixtapan-Zacualpan highway and Toluca-Temascaltepec highways, as well as the road that leads to Almoloya de Alquisiras.

As Greg points out, we may more of this behavior as government agencies in the U.S. lose legitimacy. Although I would not necessarily assume that such attacks would be carried out against government agencies, but by Leftist groups against the churches, businesses and homes belonging to their political opponents. 

    • Third, check out the article on Alec Baldwin’s damning police interview. While there is considerable debate on whether and how much you should talk to the police after a shooting, I think we can all agree with the author of this article that we should shut our trap as soon as we are Mirandized by the police.
  • "Hornady Critical Duty Awarded FBI 9mm Full Size Service Ammunition Contract"--Shooting Illustrated. This is a +P round using a 135-grain FTX bullet. 
  • "What is Frangible Ammo, and Is It Worth It?"--The Mag Life. Not a very detailed article, but it is clear that it is important where the risk of ricochet outweighs other concerns, such as shooting at steel at short distances. 
  • "The Paper Target Advantage" by Frank Galli, Gun Digest. The author discusses a few advantages to shooting at paper over steel, but it boils down to the idea, as the author puts, that paper tells a story. That is, you can more accurately score your shots, and it is more amenable to many drills. And if you are shooting rifle, the author recommends shooting at 200 yards over the standard 100 yards:
... While the mindset everyone uses is 1 inch at 100 becomes 2 inches at 200, this rarely plays out in real life when it relates to group size. Instead, we see a student with a .65-inch group at 100 shoots 2 inches at 200 yards. Two hundred is a much more difficult distance for groups. This very reason is why we recommend groups at 200 instead of 100.
  • "Ruger Wrangler With Birdshead Grip"--Shooting Illustrated. This a more compact version of the Ruger Wrangler having a slightly shorter barrel than the standard Wrangler, and featuring a birds head grip rather than the plow handle grips of the standard Wrangler. Based on comments in the article, it seems that this weapon is more usable, and more appreciated by, those with small hands.
  • "Ruger Mark IV 22/45"--The Mag Life. A review. The 22/45 line of pistols has been available since 1992. The idea was to provide the traditional target/hunting/plinking Ruger pistols with a frame sporting the same grip angle as a 1911 and having similar controls. I had a Mark II 22/45 at one time and, while I liked it, didn't like it so much as to not sell it. There were a few things I didn't really like about it, but probably the biggest one was the difficult disassembly/assembly process that required turning the gun upside down and letting certain levers or rods get in just the right position.... Ruger has fixed all that in its Mark IV line of pistols, including the latest 22/45 version.
  • "This Is An Effective Combat Cartridge"--GUNS Magazine. A look at Sig Sauer’s 200-Grain .44 Special Elite V-Crown JHP. The author notes the differences between this round and other .44 Special offerings:

The SIG SAUER .44 Special Elite V-Crown JHP cartridges are the most unusual revolver loads I’ve seen. First, the bullet has a longer than usual cylindrical portion before it goes into the taper of the truncated cone. Second, the brass case is shorter than the SAAMI specs. That is, it’s 0.945″, whereas SAAMI specs is 1.165″. Third, the cartridge’s overall length is also shorter than the SAAMI specs (1.340″ as opposed to 1.415″ minimum). Fourth, the precut skives — scores in the bullet which make it expand at a controlled rate — are so subtle, I wonder if all of the work is on the inside of the jacket rather than the outside.

It also uses low-flash propellant and nickel cases. The author observed an average of 808 fps out of a 7.5-inch barrel, and slightly better than 700 fps out of a 2-inch barrel. Also:

In bare gelatin, it flew wonderfully. Several iterations yielded 15″ of penetration, with a full 150% expansion and 100% weight retention. Even in a snubnose, I have had this cartridge penetrate 14″ consistently. As a purely defensive round, this cartridge will give the user the right performance.

While the author's focus is on using the cartridge out of a .44 Special snubby, it may be something to look at for someone that has a .44 Magnum that they intend on pressing into duty as a home defense weapon. 

  • "Ruger Old Army – Is it Really All That?" by Paul Helinski, Guns America Digest. From 1972 to 2008, Ruger made a cap and ball revolver that looked like a mash up between the Ruger Blackhawk and a Remington "New Army" Model 1858 revolver. The reason for using the beefed up frame, the rumor goes, is to accommodate shooters that engaged in duplexing: "taking a few flakes of a fast pistol powder and dropping it in first, before the black powder."

Ruger jumped on that trend, and at the time their engineers designed the gun to be able to withstand an entire cylinder full of Unique, which is one of the fastest if not the fastest pistol powder, compressed with a ball…and not blow up. They of course did not advocate this, but that was the story anyway.

The author adds:

Ruger stopped making the ROA in 2008 not because the gun no longer had any demand. It was a political and legal decision after the development and commercial success of the Kirst Konverter. This was, and is, a replacement cylinder for the gun that fires the 45 Colt cartridge. Each cylinder on the Kirst Konverter has it’s own little firing pin, so the hammer that would normally fire the cap fires the shell. 

Or, as the author's review revealed, it might just have been because of poor quality, such as the cylinders having slight variances in bore diameter which made the gun inconsistent, at best, in its accuracy. 

  • "You Gotta Believe: The Importance Of Confidence" by Josh Wayner, Gun Digest. This article is all over the place as far as topics, but the basic gist of the article is that you need to have confidence to perform in the field (the author speaking of hunting) and the way to do that is to have confidence in your abilities learned through practice under realistic conditions. I think that the same applies to all shooting, including self-defense. One of the things I've always done when teaching my kids to shoot (and relatives when I've been shanghaied into that duty) is to make sure they enjoy the experience by successfully shooting the target even if that means moving the (paper) target up close. A couple times that has meant having targets no more than 5 to 7 feet away. Success feeds confidence; once installed some confidence, then you can start challenging them while still retaining their interest.
  • American Partisan has a couple articles on the PTR 91 (an U.S. made clone of the HK91/G3) and its use as a survivalist rifle:

The HK91 was a favorite of survivalists in the 1980s because it was relatively inexpensive compared to the FAL, and used a real man's cartridge: the .308. It seemed to fall out of favor in the late 1990s and early 2000s as survivalists fell in love with the AR15, the price of genuine HK 91s skyrocketed, imported parts kits brought down the costs of FALs, and the M1A seem to gain traction as far as sales. In the 2000s, I put together a CETME C rifle, on which the G3/HK 91 was based, and added G3 furniture. I built mine with the paddle mag release which I believe is essential in order for the HK91 and its clones in order for the weapon to be effective as a defensive rifle. I was impressed with its accuracy. The parts kit I purchased came with a brand-new cold hammer forged barrel from the factory in Spain which produced the barrels for the Spanish military, and it was a good barrel. And the blow-back system it uses makes it, in my opinion, more inherently reliable than many other semi-auto designs. 

    But there are some problems with the HK91 and clones. First, and foremost, the triggers are terrible. Even the CETME, which had a better trigger than the HK redesign, was not very good. There were ways to lighten it up, but there was substantial travel and the trigger shoe is thick. Another major problem was mounting optics of any sort. Although there are options for attaching a scope mount, the weapon was intended to be used with the iron sights and this is reflected in the design and construction of the receiver and the butt stock. Also, the cocking handle is placed far forward on the right side and the weapon has no bolt hold open, making reloads slower than they should be. Aftermarket products have ameliorated some of these issues, and JCD discusses many of these in his articles. And I've used some aftermarket solutions on that CETME I built such that I thought it would be serviceable as a modern defensive rifle.

    As I started getting interested in building my own ARs, though, I came to conclusion that it was easier and I would end up with a better product to simply build a modern AR .308 "battle rifle" rather than try to update an obsolete one. 

    A properly formed Kydex holster will not wear your firearm. The inside of a Kydex holster is totally smooth. What wears on a firearm is the dirt, dust, debris, etc. that gets stuck in your holster. Anything that gets stuck inside your holster will cause friction and acts like sandpaper. This is where proper maintenance of your holster comes in. To eliminate this and minimize wear on Kydex holsters and firearms, you can frequently wash your holster with water and wipe clean.

     Leather holsters will wear your firearm just as fast or even faster. That is because the dirt and debris can get stuck in the rougher texture of the leather. Leather holsters are more challenging to keep clean than a Kydex holster. But, still not too bad. To clean my leather holsters, I will simply blow the holster out with an air compressor. By doing this, I can get all the dust and debris out. Then you just have to use some leather conditioner every couple of months. A leather conditioner is important in order to keep your leather in top condition.

     With all that said I would also like to point out that everyday carry firearms are “tools.” You really can’t expect them to stay in showroom condition if you are using them. This goes for all styles, a Kydex holster, a leather holster, or even a Hybrid holster, it does not matter. If you want a firearm to be immaculate, then the gun safe is the place that it should live. If you are carrying a firearm for everyday use, it is crucial that you use it often. You should be using and practicing with it regularly at the range or even doing dry fire drills. All of this use will cause wear on your firearms, no matter what style holster you have.

VIDEO: "Why Does Smoke Follow You Around a Fire?"--Sci Show (5 min.)

Prepping & Survival

  • "Water Proof, Water Resistant, And IPX – What Does It All Mean?"--Outdoor Technology
  • "White, Red, Green, Blue"--Blue Collar Prepping. A look at what are the advantages and disadvantages to using plain ol' white light with your flashlight or headlamp versus red, green or blue light. Basically, though, use white light when you need the longest cast or need to see the most detail; red for maintaining your night vision or not disturbing others, where a limited range is okay; green for longer range; and blue for tracking blood.
  • For those readers living in southern Idaho: "Idaho Department of Water Resources curtailing Snake River ground water use"--KTVB. Basically, because there is not enough water this year, those with lower priority water rights (almost exclusively those using ground water) will see their water cut off so that water users with senior rights will get their allocation. The State has a voluntary curtailment agreement that is supposed to not be so drastic, but those not agreeing will be ordered to shut off their water. The article doesn't mention de minimus users, so I assume this will not impact household water. But it does mean reduced crop yields from those that rely on ground water sources. God (or Nature, if you prefer) seems to be trying to make up some of this given the large amount of rain and snow we have seen over the last few weeks.
  • "U.S. takes unprecedented steps to replenish Colorado River's Lake Powell"--Yahoo. 
    Amid a sustained drought exacerbated by climate change, the Bureau of Reclamation will release an additional 500,000 acre-feet (616.7 million cubic meters) of water this year from the Flaming Gorge Reservoir upstream on the Wyoming-Utah border that will flow into Lake Powell.

    Another 480,000 acre-feet that otherwise would have been released downstream will be retained in the artificial lake on the Utah-Arizona border, officials said.

    "We have never taken this step before in the Colorado River Basin, but the conditions we see today and the potential risk we see on the horizon demand that we take prompt action," Tanya Trujillo, the Interior Department's assistant secretary for water and science, told reporters.
  • "Food Supply Shutdown: Deer, fish, pigs euthanized; crops not planted"--Ice Age Farmer. I haven't listened to the podcast yet, but based on the intro, it seems to be about the perfect storm we are seeing in regard to drought, avian flu, the spread of deer wasting disease, and now the apparent spread of African Swine Flu into the United States.
  • "8 Clever Survival Uses for Glycerin" by Tim Makay, Modern Survival Online. The eight uses the author lists are: lip balm; to heal cracked or dry skin; moisturize skin; treat sores or injuries in the mouth; to use in soap making; as a laxative; (with potassium permanganate) as a fire starter; and diluting with water and using a mouthwash. 
  • "I Wish I Had My Own Home Depot For Preparedness Sake"--Modern Survival Blog. Although we can't hope to emulate the breadth and depth of materials found at a Home Depot or similar store, the author suggests that once we have our basic supplies sorted out looking at gathering tools and supplies for repairs and minor construction, including some lumber.
  • "Six Great Keychain Flashlights"--Shooting Illustrated. The SureFire Sidekick Ultra-Compact Keychain Light looks nice.
  • "How to Get an Emergency Supply of Antibiotics"--Prepper Survive. Not veterinarian or fish antibiotics, but a filled prescription for a range of antibiotics through a service called Jase Medical. I have not used the service: just putting it out for those of you interested. For the $260 that the service apparently costs, you get:
    • Amoxicillin-clavulanate 875 mg tablets (28 tablets)
    • Azithromycin 250 mg tablets (6 tablets)
    • Ciprofloxacin 500 mg tablets (28 tablets)
    • Doxycycline 100 mg capsules (120 capsules) 
    • Metronidazole 500 mg tablets (30 tablets)
    • Emergency Antibiotic Guide Booklet
    • Carrying case
    • Unlimited physician follow-up for any questions relating to the use of any medication prescribed
  • "Gear Rx: Hiking Boot Maintenance"--Field & Stream. The author begins by noting:
Shoes and boots are one of the hardest items to buy sustainably. They are bound to wear out eventually, especially if you are hiking on a regular basis. The best way to prolong the life of your footwear is to maintain the material integrity, store them properly, and keep them clean. 

The author then gives detailed instructions (and some tips and advice on products) for cleaning and drying your hiking boots, waterproofing and conditioning them, and answers some FAQs.

  • "New Brunswick Man Stabs Attacking Black Bear with His Pocketknife"--Outdoor Life. She had him down and was mauling him. According to the article, he used a wood pallet for some protection "stabbed the bear in its side with his pocket knife while it was on top of him, helping to repel the attack."
  • "Canadian Plumber Kicks a Cougar in the Head to Save His Daughter’s Dog"--Outdoor Life.  Per the article, the cougar had its jaws around the head of one of his daughter's dogs and was dragging it off when the man came upon the scene. "He ran right at the big cat and kicked it in the head several times. The cougar then let go and backed off the dog—but it didn’t run off." But it "sauntered" away after the man grabbed a large stick and started beating the ground trying to scare it off. 
VIDEO: "Shanghai strict lockdown: Returns to the 80s/Why is there a famine? Body in the bag still alive!"--China Insights (21 minutes). As is true of socialism where ever it has been attempted, some "animals" are more equal than other.

News & Headlines:

    The relief -- which the DOE says will average about $60,000 per borrower -- is being given after President Joe Biden made changes to the program in October, under which nonprofit and government employees can have their federal student loan debt forgiven after 10 years, or 120 payments.

    While the debt forgiveness will come as a relief to those who qualify, the number represents only 0.26% of the 43.4 million Americans burdened by federal student loan debt.

Shandel talking to police about her boyfriend: "He jus' waz watching the newz, ya' know, about the Supreme Court striking down abortion or whatever an' says to me, 'that just makes me wanna off a brother'. Ya' know what I mean!"

See, it just doesn't pass the smell test. Unmentioned in the article is anything about drugs or defunding the police.

I was sorting through my e-mails the other night, and found this one I sent to a friend some time ago, after I had been giving some talks at Christian colleges. I have slightly altered this to shield the name and identity of the Christian college in question (it’s not Baylor), so as not to get the professors who talked to me in trouble. Enough time has passed, and I’ve talked at enough Christian colleges and universities since then, that it should not be possible to figure out which school this is. But I can tell you that it’s a big one. One of the profs there told me it made him sick how the school’s recruiters banked on the desire of parents that their kids go to a Christian university, when in fact at best the school serves as a vaccination against ever taking Christianity seriously, and at worst … well, read on:

    I was thoroughly depressed by what I heard here at [university], from both professors and some of these students. This campus is thoroughly post-Christian. The hook up culture is rampant, with many kids using a particular app to find those around them who are “DTF” (Down to F–k). Rape is a problem on campus, but one professor told me that the school hamstrings itself in dealing with it because the school is terrified of using the language of morality, only consent. The one thing they would never, ever tell their students is that sex is morally wrong outside of certain contexts. A couple of professors told me that the overwhelming majority of these kids come from Christian high school backgrounds, but are also “functional nihilists.” There are a few kids here and there who are vaguely Christian, and striving to discover truth, but they are largely alone, and struggling hard against the tide.

    One professor told me that he routinely encounters kids who have never read the Bible, and know nothing about the Bible. At all. Quote: “Dr. [name], you assigned the Book of Genesis, but I couldn’t find it in the bookstore.” And: “Whoa, I didn’t see Jesus coming back from the dead. I knew he died for our sins, but that resurrection was a real plot twist.” I’m not making this up.

    I was in conversation with three professors, all of whom said that it would be professional suicide to speak in class about what the Bible and the school’s religious tradition teaches on LGBT sexuality. I told them they must be exaggerating. Oh no, they said, it’s serious. One prof who is involved in Title IX compliance on campus said there are lots of cases around the country of non-tenured professors losing their jobs or otherwise suffering severe professional sanction just for presenting arguments against gay sex, even neutrally, as part of theological or philosophical discussions. It’s no joke. In this same conversation, a professor said a student came to his office hours and asked him what he thought of homosexuality. “I was sweating bullets,” he said, and talked about how he gave a noncommittal answer.

    Think of it: at a Christian university, a nontenured professor is terrified to say what he really believes — that is, in the teaching of the Bible and his denomination — about homosexuality, for fear that he will lose his job and destroy his career (because no school wants to hire a bigot). And these professors are watching these kids drown in hedonism and nihilism, and can’t throw them a lifeline, because the one non-negotiable on campus is sexual freedom, and to deny that in any way, even in principle, is an assault on the personhood of the student, as far as the university is concerned.

This is our world now.

    Archaeologists have analyzed the residue inside four medieval ceramic shards and determined that one of them may have been used as a hand grenade, according to a recent paper published in the journal PLOS One. And the explosive used was likely made locally rather than gunpowder imported from China.

    Byzantine soldiers used early versions of grenades in the 8th century CE, building on the "Greek fire" invented a century earlier. Instead of using Greek fire with flamethrowers, they placed the incendiary material in small stone or ceramic (and later, glass) jars to create handheld explosives. By the 10th century, the technology had spread to China, with Chinese soldiers packing gunpowder into ceramic or metal containers with a fuse attached.

    India likely also had grenade-like weapons. A 12th-century manuscript (based on an earlier Sanskrit work) describes a terracotta elephant filled with explosives with a fuse that was unleashed on an invading army. A mid-14th-century Chinese treatise references a "flying-cloud thunderclap cannon," described as cast iron shells shaped like a ball and roughly the size of a bowl, filled with gunpowder ("divine fire"). Similar grenades first appeared in Europe in 1467 and have been a staple of warfare ever since.

    So it's perfectly plausible that grenades were also a fixture of weaponry in 11th- and 12th-century Jerusalem. According to Carney Matheson, an archaeologist at Griffith University in Australia, and his co-authors on the latest PLOS One paper, small ceramic vessels (ranging from a few centimeters to 20 centimeters in diameter) from the 9th to 15th centuries are frequently found in excavation sites throughout the Middle East. Many have conical bases and spheroid bodies, and the ubiquity of these sphero-conical artifacts suggests the vessels were used for many different functions.

When I first read accounts of Morgan's attack of Panama City in 1671 and some of his other exploits, I was struck by the fact that in addition to explosive grenades, the forces made use of gas warfare in the form of bombs and grenades that burned sulfur. 

    The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency on May 4 issued a solicitation for proposals for the next phase of a demonstration of a nuclear powered spacecraft. 

    The project, called Demonstration Rocket for Agile Cislunar Operations (DRACO), started over a year ago when DARPA selected a preliminary design for a rocket engine reactor developed by General Atomics, and chose two conceptual spacecraft designs by Blue Origin and Lockheed Martin.

    The next phases of the program will focus on the design, development, fabrication and assembly of a nuclear thermal rocket engine. ...

Associate professor Mazhar Ali and his research group at TU Delft have discovered one-way superconductivity without magnetic fields, something that was thought to be impossible ever since its discovery in 1911 – up till now. The discovery, published in Nature, makes use of 2D quantum materials and paves the way towards superconducting computing. Superconductors can make electronics hundreds of times faster, all with zero energy loss. Ali: “If the 20th century was the century of semi-conductors, the 21st can become the century of the superconductor.”

A one-way superconductor means one-way gates and, thus, super-conducting logic circuits. 

VIDEO: "Moses and the Brass Serpent"--Gospel Lessons (12 min.)

Ukraine War Update (May 13, 2022)

 You may have already read this since the Institute for the Study of War seems to be one of the major go-to sites for information on the war...