Author Archives: Hognose

About Hognose

Former Special Forces 11B2S, later 18B, weapons man. (Also served in intelligence and operations jobs in SF).

What Paying the Dane-Geld Has Bought

connect-the-dotsLet’s get out a straight edge and connect some dots, shall we?

Here are our dots:

  • Sony Pictures Entertainment’s groveling attempt to appease North Korea, by canceling the movie The Interview.
  • North Korean cyber attacks, to which Sony’s and the US Government’s responses have been identical in one important way: completely ineffective.
  • Over 140 people, mostly children, murdered by the Taliban in a school in Pakistan.
  • The USA’s swap of 5 Taliban leaders for deserter Bowe Bergdahl.
  • The USA’s swap of diplomatic recognition and five Cuban spies and criminals, including a multiple murderer, for an American aid worker taken hostage in Cuba.
  • Repeated attempts to pay ISIL and the Taliban cash ransoms for American and allied hostages.
  • Russian neo-Soviet saber rattling and aggression, even as their economy totters.
  • Years of groveling and submission to Russia on ballistic missile defense and our own relations with such allies as the former Soviet slave states Poland, Hungary, and the Czech Republic, among others.
  • Iranian progress on nuclear armament.
  • Years of negotiation that takes the form of Foggy Bottom FSOs wringing their hands and begging on behalf of the USA.

You may connect them any way you like, but what we see are repeated attempts to pay Danegeld, and the results that go with appeasement from time immemorial, which Kipling explained thus:

It is always a temptation for a rich and lazy nation,
To puff and look important and to say: —
“Though we know we should defeat you, we have not the time to meet you.
We will therefore pay you cash to go away.”

And that is called paying the Dane-geld;
But we’ve proved it again and again,
That if once you have paid him the Dane-geld
You never get rid of the Dane.

Viking Dragonship

Kipling wraps his poem up in this manner:

So when you are requested to pay up or be molested,
You will find it better policy to say: —

“We never pay any-one Dane-geld,
No matter how trifling the cost;
For the end of that game is oppression and shame,
And the nation that pays it is lost!”

He is, of course, writing before both of the cataclysmic wars of the 20th Century1, and almost 30 years before Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain would fail to take his counsel, with results well recorded by history.

Exercise for the reader: when Chechen islamists blew up airliners, took hostages in Moscow, suicide-bombed the Stalingrad train station, did Vladimir Vladimirovich:

  1. Seek to understand the root causes of their social alienation?
  2. Convene a blue-ribbon Presidential Commission on the Chechen Question?
  3. Work within the system to address their grievances and integrate their values into society?
  4. Send hard men to blow them to hell and gone?

This is one of the tests that’s like the great Test of Life: it’s an IQ test, and it’s not graded on a curve.

Notes

1. Dane-Geld is from CRL Fletcher’s A History of England, a 1911 children’s book of history “illustrated” by a collection of historical poems by Kipling running chronologically from prehistoric to modern days, each assigned a date or a date range. (Dane-Geld is so “dated” A.D. 980-1016 in poetry anthologies, but did not have a dateline in Fletcher’s book).

A cool 1911 graphic

We saw this blurbed at Instapundit:

1911_graphic

The full thing by artist Jacob O’Neal is something you have to see. Because as cool this is, even clicked-to-embiggen, this is just one small part of it, as a static graphic. The real thing offers several views, and is animated. 

Boy. Sure wish we’d had this back in Weapons School, when two of us ran a study hall late into the night to try to save the guys who had been recycled from the class before us. (We did, but it was hard work — mostly by them, we just happened to be college boys with good study habits who could help out).

Go to his animations site, animagraffs.com and enjoy Jacob’s artistry. Along with the gun he’s got jet and piston engines and a tarantula. Then come back, hear?

Back now? Was that 1911 animation cool, or what? So, now go see the animated infographic he did for SilencerCo some time back. (And all you 1911 bashers who wanted a Glock, guess what’s hosting the SilencerCo Osprey in the graphic?)

Guy’s a talented artist. Some website looking for differentiation ought to commission him. (We don’t think we can afford him without crimping the toy budgets).

Wednesday Weapons Website(s) of the Week: Two FOIA Pages

question markThis is one of those Wednesday Weapons Websites of the Week, where we send you out to make your own experience. The reason is that there is an almost unlimited amount of quality information available here, but it’s all information that’s going to need to be winkled out using some awkward search facilities.

FOIA stands for the Freedom of Information Act, a 1970s law aimed at government transparency that has made many lawyers indecently rich for finding exceptions to shield misconduct and wrongdoing by government agencies or (more often) by senior government officials. Nonetheless, these sites offer the secrets of two agencies that have had a great deal of success as well as some spectacular failures; released documents tell the tales of both.

CIA FOIA Page

The CIA is subjected to a barrage of FOIA requests daily and has developed robust protocols to respond to  these requests, whether serious or frivolous. (The most frequent request, we’re told? Information on UFOs. The kooks are out there). The CIA has one of the more comprehensive and, fortunately, easily navigated FOIA sites in the Federal government.

A perfect example of the sort of declassified historical information the CIA excels at providing is this collection on the building of the Berlin Wall and what US intelligence knew about it at the time.

cia_west_german_paper_1960Here’s a specific example of the sort of thing you can find on the CIA site: a translated West German set of political objections to the Western Powers potentially renegotiating the status of West Berlin with the Soviet Union, from 1961 or thereabouts. Some of these objections are quite prescient and were narrowly forestalled by statesmanship at the time; others did come to pass, without seriously impeding the Western defeat of the USSR in the Cold War. (Or the USSR’s defeat of itself, perhaps). But the Germans had no way to know it at the time.

In addition, the Center for the Study of Intelligence and the Sherman Kent School for Intelligence Analysis‘s Occasional Papers are not part of the FOIA page, but they’re also on the Agency’s public website and provide a rich trove of declassified as well as never-classified material. Here’s a recent posting from the CSI, an unclassified extract of the classified in-house magazine Studies in Intelligencewhich deals with a secret Australian unit in the invasion of the Philippines and conquest of the Sulu Archipelago in 1944-45.

USAF FOIA Page

We went to the FOIA page looking for something very specific that we were promised was there — an accident report on an aircraft mishap this year in Kyrgyzstan to a tanker flying from Manas. We couldn’t find that, but we found so many other good things that we shrugged it off.

winter_study_group_1

winter_study_group_3To set up a remarkable example of the material available here, we’re looking at a recently (28 Aug 2014) released report of the Winter Study Group’s sensing sub-panel from 1960. The Winter Study Group was set up by Lt. Gen. Bernard Schriever USAF and managed by the Mitre Corporation in approximately 1956 to examine the chaos that electronic systems procurement had become. The sensing panel made interesting assumptions about the Soviet bomber and ICBM threat and about systems for detecting an attack. It is no exaggeration to say that this work led to the DEW Line, NORAD, and satellite early warning, just as the WSG’s overall work led to the AIr Force Systems Command’s Electronic Systems Division (which was established within a year of the final report) and the entire concept of Electronic Command and Control.

The report is a priceless time capsule of 1960 thinking, and the fear of The Bear is palpable in it.

winter_study_group_2

Unfortunately, the bad news: the USAF FOIA website has a human interface that might as well have been designed by Mitre in 1960, and it’s a bear (as in difficulty, not Russian, although it is a bit like a long Russian novel in a bad translation) to link an individual report (and impossible to link an individual .pdf). Your only hope is to search the site for WINTER STUDY GROUP, and Lord alone knows what you’ll find.

More recent information includes a report of investigation of a green-on blue incident in a command center in Kabul, that we hope to analyze soon; there are valuable lessons for everyone in a “safe place” overseas, and some important facts about the limitations everywhere of “good guys with guns” vis-a-vis bad guys with guns.

Both agencies are host to a lot of documents that are low quality (microfiches, photostats, old mimeographs) and tend to do a pretty lousy job preparing them for the web (they’re seldom OCR’d or printed to .pdf yielding a searchable document). But they have information you’ll never find anywhere else.  That’s the trade-off.

Notes

1. For more on the Winter Study Group, see pp. 13-14 of the MITRE history, Fifty Years of Service in the Public Interest. (.pdf) and pp. 192-198 of Johnson, Stephen B. The United States Air Force and the culture of innovation 1945-1965 (.pdf). Bolling AFB, DC: 2002. Johnson refers specifically to this study but it is another thing entirely to review the original document (as he no doubt did, writing an official history).

Gunwalker Docs: AP, CBS, NBC Reporters in ATF’s Pocket

newspaper-fishwrapWe’ve long suspected that some reporters, including Pete Yost of the Associated Press, Carrie Johnson of Narodniy Politichesky Radio, and Sari Horwitz of the LA Times, were in the pocket of the Holder DOJ and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. But information in documents pried out of the DOJ by a Judicial Watch lawsuit expose the extent to which the government agents actually dictate the stories to those, and other, reporters.

We only took one journalism class in long-ago undergrad days, so we may not have made it to the upper-division or graduate level where you learn to put a slight verbal polish and your own byline on government-issue propaganda points, but Horwitz and Yost are clearly there.

Here’s an example that Sharyl Attkisson found in the DOJ election-day document dump, and reported on 22 November (yeah, some of this stuff hangs around a while before we go live with it):

You don’t want to call a press conference on this because it will blow things out perspective, but if you have any events in the next few days (preferably tomorrow), you could find a way to take two or three questions on it afterwards. Or if that’s not easily doable, you could find a way to “run into” a couple of reporters on your way to something. Maybe Pete Williams, Carrie [Johnson], Pete Yost — that part can be managed.

That document came from a spin consultant, Matthew Miller, who was briefed on what reporters were available to DOJ as, in effect, propaganda channels, and was trying to help AG Eric Holder spin the revelations that the ATF had been systematically arming the Sinaloa Cartel in an attempt to run up gun crime numbers.

Miller knows who among the reporters are willing to slant a story for a politician that they support. Like Holder. He knows that Williams, Johnson and Yost are party loyalists above any loyalty they have to the news profession — a group that includes CBS’s Bob Schieffer, too, as we’ll see.

Attkisson reports that Yost came through with Miller’s talking points:

Pete Yost of AP wrote article on Bush-era gunwalking case that seemed to so impress Holder, he wrote ” WOW!” p. 539 AP presented the story as if it were “new”…

Using, if you needed any other indicators of Pete Yost’s integrity as a journalist (stop laughing! Stop laughing, what’s so funny about using “integrity” with “journalist”?), Attkisson’s previous reporting without crediting her, and presenting it — with the ATF/DOJ-dictated spin — as a Yost “scoop.”

Tracy Schmaler — the DOJ spokesdollie who’s famous for losing her $#!+ and screaming at reporters who weren’t Yost/Horwitz/etc.-style lapdogs — has a long exchange with White House spin doc Eric Schultz on the problem, noting that some reporters are on board with the ATF/DOJ talking points, and some are not. Worst of all, Attkisson has published memos exposing lies in Holder testimony to Congress. Here’s Attkisson, quoting Judicial Watch:

On October 4, 2011, Holder’s top press aide Tracy Schmaler tells White House Deputy Press Sectary Eric Schultz, “I’m also calling Sharryl’s [sic] editor and reaching out to Scheiffer. She’s out of control”

Schultz responded, “Good. Her piece was really bad for the AG.”

Schmaler to Holder, noting one reporter who dropped the facts of the case, and obliging ran with Schmaler’s talking points instead:

Sari (WaPo reporter) [Horwitz] was good – pointed out Issa previous briefing, that weekly reports didn’t reveal tactics and noted previous op in Bush Admin

Screamin’ Schmaler has left DOJ (where she was about to lose her top-cover, with Holder’s resignation) and is employed at ASGK, a Public Relations (i.e. damage control) firm for dishonest, corrupt and all-around no-good firms, organizations, and above all people. She’ll fit right in.

The corruption of the soi-disant Ruling Class of America certainly extends to the sunken-chested, shadow-dwelling Media Wing of same.

They’re not reporters. They’re activists with bylines.

If nothing else comes out of this, you could establish a list of reporters who willingly wrote false information at the request of Miller, Schmaler, and other officials, or who suppressed or tried to suppress stories for the White House and DOJ. Or you could just do like we do, and trust none of them. (Along with the others mentioned in this article, the LA Times’s Richard Serrano, Victoria Kim, and Kathleen Hennessey are also bylines available to spin for The Party).

Party on, reporters.

 

Ghost Gunner Update

You guys may remember the Ghost Gunner, the open-source CNC mill that we ordered a couple of months ago. According to the makers, the initial units should be shipping RSN1. Cody Wilson hasn’t been on the blog since November, but we didn’t share that update with you guys yet.

The first news is that the machine itself has been tweaked since it was announced.

Ghost Gunner Mk III

Improvements in our Mark III design:

* Single piece powder coated 1018 steel exoskeleton to improve rigidity per unit weight
*Reinforced A36 steel end plates to further improve rigidity
*A new open source GrBLDC brushless motor controller shield for Arduino.
*Oversized 125W NEMA 23 BLDC motor, electronically throttled to 72W.
*Spindle incorporation of industry standard ER11 collet system, supporting tools up to 5/16”

Those are all good improvements, although the steel exoskeleton looks like a manufacturing twofer that saves weight and reduces cost, with no net change to rigidity over the original design. Hey, if it can make the specs he claims, we’re all for it. But the ER11 collet is a big improvement over any proprietary system, as quality ER toolholders are readily available.

The ER system was developed by the Swiss company Fritz Weber Maschinenbau AG (now Rego-Fix) in 1972 and has become a standard. It allows a range of tools to be held in a single holder, which is nice; there are several ER sizes (larger number is larger) and ER11 handles a tool shank to 1/4″ / 6.5mm or so (Wilson says 5/16″). For a ½” shank, you’d need ER-20s. It is not a quick change tool holder, but the holders can be changed in the collet fairly quickly. This thread on Practical Machinist has some details (they’ve had some good luck with import tool holders, and discuss how to check them for run-out).

Back to GhostGunner, here’s what’s up:

For the rest of November we are setting up our work shifts and finishing our packaging. We begin assembly the first week of December and are still on pace for our Holiday fulfillment. Not too shabby, eh?

As for new orders, we’re thinking we will open them again in January. But you can always reserve a spot for the next round of machines on our waitlist.

This has been really fun. Ghost Gunner is still an open source project, and we will be releasing the designs and software as soon as possible. Stay tuned, ghost gunners.

via Ghost Gunner.

We’re a little concerned that we haven’t been contacted, because their lame order page ate the Address 1 line for Hog Manor (& Rong Brothers Aeroplane Works), and replaced it with the digit “4”, and we’ve been unable to reach anybody to make a correction. A bit discouraging, but it’ll work out.

They had no problem charging our credit card the same day, that’s for damn sure. Since it’s Wilson, we’re just glad we didn’t have to pay him in Bitcoin.

Still and all, we are in (IIRC) the third hundred or so — the $1299 batch.

Ghost Gunner Mk III w gun

What excites us about Ghost Gunner is not routing out AR lowers, the one canned application that comes with it, but the potential of using it to automate other small manufacturing gigs. We’re already thinking about setups for engraving and for modifying an A2 forging receiver to A1 profile. We’re going to need Wilson to fulfill his promises of open-source file formats, etc. A .dd format is a useless thing if it’s not documented and there’s no software that writes it. We’d feel a little more comfortable if the machine would take GCode.

But then again, it seems to be all open-source built, Arduino, GRBL, etc., so it probably can.

It may wind up being an expensive toy that gets used as a sweater rack, like a fat guy’s treadmill (wait… we just described our exercise room right now. And us). It wouldn’t be the first.

If there are developments from GhostGunner, they’ll probably be tweeted by the Defense Distributed or Cody Wilson accounts:

https://twitter.com/DefDist

https://twitter.com/Radomysisky

The FOSSCAD channel is unrelated, but also worth watching. Apparently the real goings-on go in in IRC, and only announcements pass in Twitter.

https://twitter.com/fosscad

Notes

1. RSN – Silicon Valley/Startup Culture acronym for “Real Soon Now.” Sometimes serious, sometimes ironic. Here, we’re not sure. They seemed to be on track in November, so we think maybe serious.

Tank Turret Rotation in WWII

a rollin foxholeLet’s adumbrate about tanks again. Fascinating things, although we always took Willie and Joe’s words to heart: a movin’ foxhole attracks th’ eye. (Alas, the only version of that classic we could find does not embiggen). Anyway, our interest has been more, shall we say, historical curiosity than professional.

To put it another way, we’re all about studying them, but we’re just as glad we spent our career under the sky and stars rather than under some inches of cold-rolled.

The nature of tank war is the nature of all war, in general, with some specialized details particularly adapted to the idea of fighting a mobile machine, and units of these mobile machines.

In armored warfare as in any other, the ability to fire the first shot is the guarantor of life. The ways you can get the first shot include:

  1. Seeing the enemy first. This has some impact on tank equipment as well as tactics. Some tanks are ill-equipped for observation in a 360º plane, making them very vulnerable for an off-axis attack. Of course, the crews train to fight the tank they have, and will develop methods to minimize this weakness.

    M26_Fireball

    T26 Pershing named “Fireball”. The 88mm mantlet penetration killed the tank and two of the five crew. Germany, 1945. They probably did not see the Tiger 100m ahead that hit them, but they were backlit by a fire. The Tiger also hit their muzzle brake with another shot.

  2. Concealment and firing from ambush. As many an infantry school instructor has crowed to students at once excited and aghast: “Ambush is murder and murder is fun!” This rewards a tank that can fire from concealment, without making a lot of noise that alerts the enemy’s dismounted scouts, without a lot of movement to betray the position. In addition, there are great advantages in the defense to be able to fire from a hull-down position. (And to a small turret, which complicates the enemy’s target solution).
  3. Outranging the enemy through superior accuracy or terminal ballistics. The components of accuracy are optic, gunner, gun, and integration. While it’s obviously important to hit the enemy first, it’s also important not to hit the enemy at a range beyond that where you can kill him. Otherwise, you’ve exposed yourself and blown your first-shot advantage for nothing.
  4. Getting on target faster. Here optics — including a good field of view for the gunner — and superior speed and control of main gun aim are the objective. If your turret slews very fast, that’s good, but not if the fast slew can’t produce fine control.
  5. Having more tanks, so that the enemy was servicing another target when your first shot kills him. This is a production and reliability play, but also rewards commanders for ingenuity in bringing their forces to bear in greater numbers at a decisive point.

The next best way to win the fight was having the first effective shot because your tank was harder to hit (or, harder to kill). This is clearly a less desirable position to be in than the one where you drop your tungsten calling card into the enemy’s brisket when he still was unaware you were there.

By World War II (and still today, apart from some unusual vehicles in both cases) the design of a tank was stabilized as a rear-engine vehicle with a rotating armored turret carrying primary and (most) secondary armament. The gun was placed on target in elevation by the gunner raising or lowering the barrel, and in azimuth by the gunner (with direction and sometimes assistance from the commander) slewing the turret.

Caught in the open: fate of many a tank and crew.

Caught in the open: fate of many a tank and crew.

In a textbook illustration of the principle of convergent evolution, WWII tanks of all nations were more alike than they were different. But different nations’ main battle tanks rotated their turrets differently — and some were effective despite a much slower rotation than their peers, which seems illogical.

  • British and Russian tanks rotated electrically. If you ever owned a ’60s British car, you have to have some sympathy for the grimy crews and mechanics struggling to keep the ancestor of Lucas electrics humming. British tanks used spade grips for the controls to rotate the turret. The British had a mode switch which let the gunner control traverse on a “coarse” or “fine” setting. The T-34 used electric for coarse and manual for fine traverse. The T-34/76 used separate wheels for electric and manual, attached to the same traversing gear. In the T-34/85, though, the same handle was used as a lever for electrical control and a crank for manual — ingenious! Rather than explain a T-34’s system, which used the same controls for manual and electric traverse, we’ll let the Military Veterans Museum show you in this 1-minute video:

  • Germans used a hydraulic system, driven by power take-off from the main engine. This was a mechanically simple and reliable system, but it had a key deficiency, as we’ll see. The Germans used foot pedals to slew the turret — left pedal went left, right pedal, obviously, right. The gun was then laid with final precision using a manual handwheel.
  • American tanks used a hydraulic system, but drove it electrically. Instead of a PTO from the main powerplant, like a tractor, the hydraulic system was energized by a pump driven by an electrical motor. Also, only the Americans applied stabilization gyroscopes to tank main armament, beginning with the M4 Sherman (on the early Sherman, in elevation only). This gave the tank a rudimentary shoot-on-the-move capability, and perhaps more usefully in tank fighting, reduced the amount of displacement needed to get on target after moving. When hydraulic system production threatened to constrain tank production, some American tanks were fitted with an electrical system also. The electrical substitute system was designed to have similar performance. American tanks used hand controls to slew the turret, and a foot pedal to fire the armament.
  • Most Japanese tanks had manual traverse only. Indeed, some light tanks and tankettes simply had a machine gun turret where the gunner moved the turret by leaning on the machine gun! While Japanese artillery and naval guns often featured bicycle pedals for traverse, the larger tanks had crank wheels to traverse the turret for coarse position. For fine position, the gun itself usually had a few degrees of traverse, and separate hand wheels. While Japanese naval optics led the world, their tank and AT optics lagged, as did most other aspects of tank development. Late in the war, electric traverse was incorporated in the Chi-Ha and Chi-Nu tanks; early Chi-Has, the bulk of those encountered by the Allies, were manually operated.
  • Some early and light tanks of many nations had manual rotation, and almost all power-rotating turrets had manual as a back-up. For example, the Panther had not only the gunner’s fine-tuning handwheel, required because of the lack of precision in the hydraulic system, but also a hand-lever for the gunner and a separate wheel for the loader. Having backups like this was important, because reliability of the systems on WWII tanks was not all that great. Engines, which were often modified or derived from aviation engines, lasted a few hundred hours before an overhaul was required, and hydraulic or electric motors were scarcely more durable. The tanks used at the peak of the war in Europe were war babies, designed once combat was underway and designed and manufactured with all due haste. They hadn’t had a long debugging cycle. Wartime memoirs are full of tales of operating with one or more systems degraded.

While in theory any system can be engineered to give you any rate of rotation, the German approach of shaft-driven hydraulics had a weakness: the turret could only power-traverse if the main engine was running. For the fuel-critical Germans, this was always a problem. This approach also meant that the speed of rotation depended on engine speed. You only got full-speed rotation at full throttle; at anything less, it was degraded.

How fast could turrets rotate?

The vaunted Panther tank had, in its first iteration (Panther Ausführung D), one of the slowest-turning turrets in the war, taking a full minute to traverse 360º. The gearing on the turret was changed in the Ausf. A, the next version, and all subsequent Panthers, giving the tank a competitive 15-second full-circle. But that didn’t last; a November, 1943 decision to govern the engine to a lower max RPM reduced slew rate to 18 seconds on Panthers from that point forward — if the crews didn’t learn about and adjust the governors. This was done to try to increase engine reliability: more Panthers were being lost to breakdowns than to Allied gunfire.

What’s interesting is that even though the early Panther turret was quite slow, it was still fast enough to track all but the fastest-moving tanks. All greater speed than a circle-a-minute buys, then, is ability to change targets, or get on a sighted target, faster.

The American system spun a Sherman turret 360º in fifteen seconds, too. The system in the M36 tank destroyer had the same performance, also. (Not surprising as the automotive  gear in the tank destroyers was lifted from the Shermans).

The undisputed slewing champ of WWII tanks was the Russian T-34, which could bring its turret all the way around in 12 seconds.

We couldn’t find any credible information on the slew or traverse rate of Japanese tanks.

The final lesson in all of this brings us back to convergent evolution: despite the different approaches taken by the major tank producers of the era, their performance was roughly similar (excluding the lagging Japanese, who deemphasized tank development and production because of their limited production capacity, and overwhelming naval requirements).

Sources

Directorate of the Armored Forces of the Red Army. T-34 Tank Service Manual. Translator unknown. Retrieved from: http://www.allworldwars.com/T-34%20Tank%20Service%20Manual.html

Green & Green, Panther: Germany’s Quest for Combat Dominance. pp. 107-120.

Military Intelligence Division. Japanese Tank and Anti-Tank Warfare. Washington: War Department,  1 Aug 1945. Retrieved from: http://usacac.army.mil/cac2/cgsc/carl/wwiispec/number34.pdf (bear in mind that as a wartime intelligence document, this is not fully-processed history!)

Zaloga, Steven J. Japanese Tanks 1939-45. Oxford, England: Osprey, 2011.

Zaloga, Steven J. M4 Sherman vs. Type 97 Chi-Ha. Oxford, England: Osprey, 2012.

Even the “Safe” Jobs in the Military Aren’t Always

We’ve been sitting on this one for a while. It’s a reminder that even a safe job, in the military, may not be, 100% of the time. The US Air Force continues to rely on KC-135 tanker jets as the backbone of its ability to project global airpower. The KC-135 was, and is, a brilliant airplane, but the very newest one in the Air Force inventory dates to 52 years ago, which is a very, very long time for something made by the lowest bidder, especially something made of fatigue-prone aluminum.

kc-135

It’s a good plane, and a beautiful plane, but it’s an old plane. How old? The KC-135, after successful flight and acceptance by the Air Force, was developed into the long-retired Boeing 707, the jet that’s often remembered mistakenly as the first jet airliner. (It was #2, behind the DeHavilland Comet).

This tanker crew was very lucky. Rather than any of its myriad other failure modes, the landing gear on the KC-135 did the very safest failure mode it has, refusing to unlock and retract. (Wild guess: human error either by crew, leaving ground downlocks in place, or by maintenance). Gear stuck up usually means a successful emergency landing, with the crew surviving and the plane probably being scrapped; the hazardous failure modes involve partial retractions or extensions, which risk loss of control in the emergency landing.

But you don’t think of flying one of the nearest things the USAF has to an airliner, the very model of safe reliability, as something that can set your pucker to 11.

PORTSMOUTH — A KC-135 tanker made a “precautionary” landing Friday morning at Portsmouth International Airport at Pease after the landing gear failed to retract on take off.
“It was stuck down in the normal configuration,” said Maj. Nick Alcocer, a spokesman for the 157th Air Refueling Wing. “About 45 minutes later … the plane landed without incident.”
There were no injuries.

The tanker left Pease on a training mission at about 9 a.m. The three-person crew performed troubleshooting while the plane was airborne and determined a faulty electrical switch likely caused the problem, he said. The gear remained in the locked position throughout the flight.
“That could be for any number of reasons: Old age, weather or some other unknown,” he said Friday.

via Tanker makes ‘precautionary’ landing at Pease – News – seacoastonline.com – Portsmouth, NH.

“Old age.” The wing at Pease is hoping to get new tankers. As to why these old carthorses weren’t replaced long ago, it’s hard to blame the Air Force. They’ve run contests to replace the old 135s over and over again, and even supplemented tanker shortfalls with converted airliners in the past (the KC-10). The problem has been Congress.

Congress has been unhappy because the winners of previous contests have been Other Than Boeing, and therefore in the wrong senatorial/congressional districts. So they have been making the USAF do their do-over over, and over again, meanwhile requiring American aircrews to take to the air in machines so old they’re from before the time when cars had seatbelts.

Because nobody in Congress is interested in the survival of American flying men and women;  everybody in Congress is interested in the lobbyists that make them rich.

A flying pit stop

Hey, sorry about that, boom operator. If you bought your Senator and Congresswoman a yacht, or maybe gave them rides in your executive jet, or gave their kid or nephew a no-show job, then they’d be concerned about you. You’ve long ago been bid out of the market, so suck it up.

Why More Guns Survive from the Civil War than Vietnam

It’s this simple:

civil war take home guns June_1965

Source.

So that’s who we have to thank: Brigadier General Dyer, and of course, Secretary of War Stanton.

Of course, in 1865 even the Washington nabobs believed implicitly that free men had a right to own guns. In Reconstruction, that was interpreted to include freed men, as it should have been.

By 1965, the nabobs’ descendants had come to believe that free men with guns were a threat to their safety, and more importantly, for a Washington nabob, their power. And the Washington nabobs’ farm teams in their state capitals had stripped that right from the descendants of the freedmen, on whose behalf the entire Civil War was fought.

(Gun licensing and permitting laws in the United States were, in the South, Jim Crow laws; in the north, as in New York’s Sullivan Law, they were aimed at Irish and Southern European immigrants).

Incidentally, the VA’s Still a Mess

VA-veterans-affairsHere’s a new IG report by the VA IG, following up on a February report where they found the WJB Dorn VA Medical Center, Columbia, SC deficient in 12 major areas.

For the initial hotline report, the OIG visited the facility on six occasions between February and June 2013 to review allegations concerning quality of care, clinical oversight, management controls, and administrative operations in the Surgery Service, as well as facility-level deficiencies in the Infection Control (IC), Quality Management (QM), and Peer Review programs. We substantiated many of the allegations and made 12 recommendations for improvement.

So, in July when they inspected, six months after the February report on a January visit, VA leadership had fixed the problems in the 95-bed facility, right? Most of them?

C’mon, what do you think? Take it away, IG:

We found that the facility had implemented corrective actions in response to the 12 recommendations in our initial report, yet the effectiveness of those actions varied widely. While corrective actions resolved the deficient conditions associated with operating room and reusable medical equipment issues, other actions were less successful, as they were not always implemented timely, were not complete, or were not sustained.

In fact, they found new problems.

In addition, during this visit, we found improper storage of patient information, medical and surgical supplies, medications, grafts, and patches.

So, on six months’ effort, they’ve gone from 12 glaring deficienies to 11 — two steps forward, one step back.

The IG inspectors were inclined to cut the hospital’s leadership a lot of slack. There’s a lot of noise in the IG report about process in lieu of progress: the remaining deficient areas are all considered “condition improved” even though the improvements haven’t made it through to the results. Language like this:

  • “National Surgery Office and Veterans Administration Surgical Quality Improvement Program (VASQIP) reports were presented.”
  • “The Surgical Service SharePoint to track and schedule surgical cases was fully implemented in May 2014″
  • “Improved the speed of hire2 measure to 89 percent, which exceeds the Veterans Health Administration (VHA) target of 80 percent.”
  • “Minor modifications have been made to oversight and subordinate committee minutes.”
  • “The local Patient Safety Reporting Program policy is in alignment with national requirements, including defining events that would constitute a “close call” and appropriate processes for reporting.”

What any of these have to do with patient care or patient outcomes is anyone’s guess. Sounds like the VA has baffled its internal watchdog with bullshit.

(Hat tip, Jonah Bennett at the Daily Caller).

 

Afghan M4 Makeover, Step 1: Vintage Stock

We remember seeing the 6921 as it shook out of the box yesterday. It came with a maybe-good-we-dunno Rogers Super-Stoc, which is not what we had in the hills of the Hazarajat.

unbox_20_new_stock

So we needed to go to the parts box for an original Colt Fiberite stock, of which we had a number even before putting in the order for the carbine.

But it turned out, we had a guardian angel looking out for us. One day, while the 6921 sat waiting for the stamp, we got a ring from an old friend who was then still in the old unit.

“What was your rack number?” Easy enough to remember. Jeez, we inventoried the team, and even the unit, weapons often enough. (The Army requires frequent serial number inventories which must be done by two officers or senior NCOs). Normally used and broken weapons parts are turned in, but the unit had a shipment of new SOPMOD stocks, and someone somewhere made a decision that the decade-plus-old, war-weary and well-worn stocks, were dumpster food. It would cost more to collect and ship them to DRMO than they could possibly bring at auction. So they were thrown out.

Needless to say, any of the guys who wanted one, brought one home. And our buddy — God bless him — brought ours home.

unbox_28_revert_to_fiberlite_stock

Dang. A real piece of the exact gun we had in Afghanistan, is the first part of our reproduction of that stalwart companion. Who else can say that?

Now, practically, the stock is inferior to the Rogers stock on several planes. It’s a little looser and shakier on the stock extension. The Rogers has the trick locking lever, which is nifty. Neither one really has a good cheek weld, but the Rogers curved buttplate is a lot more ergonomic.

And, of course, there are other superior stocks out there. But, like the Marine mantra about This is my rifle, “there are many like it, but this one is mine.” Not to go all seagull or anything.

(Note: we were wrong yesterday if we said the initial weight of the 6921 with the Rogers was 6.6 and then we established it was 6.5 after weighing the rifle with the Fiberite stock. As this photo, which we didn’t look at when writing the post, reveals, the second set of weights was 6.6, meaning the 6.5 was the initial weight result).

There’s a long way to go in our M4 Makeover. Next installment? Rails and foregrip.