Category Archives: Unconventional Weapons

VPO-208: Russian Gunsmiths Respond to Russian Law

We’re familiar, here in the USA, with weapons that are shaped by US gun laws. We have a variety of weird and wonderful arms that exist only because of the Gun Control Act of 1968, the National Firearms Act of 1934, and the patchwork of implementing regulations and executive orders that have shaped the US market. In addition, state assault-weapon band have resulted in oddities like California’s “Bullet Buttons.” A wide range of legislatively-midwifed Frankenguns, from the Walther PPK/S, to short barreled rifles, to pistols with SIG braces, reflect the degree to which designers are constrained by the gun-designing impulses of American politicians and bureaucrats.

It should come as no surprise that the same thing happens in other countries with large gun markets. This case in point comes to us from Russia, where gun laws are generally stricter than in the United States. There, no one can own a pistol. Most citizens can own a shotgun; but to own a rifle you have to have owned the shotgun without incident for five years.

So here comes the VPO-208: an SKS shotgun.

SKS in .366Produced by Techcrim, an Izhevsk manufacturer, the .366 by Russian measure, across the lands (.375 by ours, across the grooves), is a smoothbore or near-smoothbore gun that gets the would-be gun owner into a semi-automatic, service rifle platform, while staying within the letters of Russian law.

The ammunition appears to be made from fireformed 7.62 x 39mm casings, and is available in a range of sporting projectiles, plus a shotshell variant.

It is reminiscent of such American wildcats (some of them since turned production) as the small-head .300 Whisper, .300 AAC Blackout, .338 Spectre, and the Mauser-head-sized .375 Reaper, all of which run in the AR-15 platform. It just goes to show that this kind of innovation is hardly an American monopoly.

The first table in the advert below has three columns: “Type of projectile”; “Speed, meters per second;” and “Energy, Joules”. Here’s our conversion of this table.

Projectile Type Velocity, m/s Energy, J Velocity, fps Energy, ft-lb
LSWC poly coat 13.5 grams 640 2765 2099 2039
FMJ 11 grams 700 2618 2296 1931
FMJ 15 grams 620 2883 2034 2126
JSP 15 grams 620 2883 2034 2126

Techkrim

 

As the shot of the fired JSP shows, and these velocity and energy tables suggest, it would actually be a good short-range hunting round.

The second table, with the bullet-drop diagram, is, “Velocity and Energy of Projectile, .366 TKM with 15-gram FMJ bullet”. Here’s our translation and unit conversion.

Metric (SI) Values Muzzle 50 meters 100 meters
Bullet Drop mm 0 35 125
Velocity m/s 625 570 520
Energy J 2837 2437 2028
English Values Muzzle 50m 100m
Bullet Drop in. 0 1.38 4.92
Velocity f/s 2050 1870 1706
Energy ft/lb. 2092 1797 1495

The problem with the gun is its accuracy, as it’s basically a smoothbore. Hyperprapor suggests that it might be minute-of-E-silhouette at 100m.

But hey, it will let some Russian guys own the rifle their nation’s color guards parade with, and even let them shoot it, all with the reduced paperwork and hassle of a shotgun; perhaps a big win for them.

There are no ballistics for the shotshell, which exists, we suspect, primarily to navigate the channels of Russian weapons law. (This law does seem somewhat liberalized since Soviet days). Techcrim’s website shows that they are very active in small-caliber (.410) shotguns and shells, which seem to have more of a following in Russia than they do here. We wonder if that’s an artifact of Russian law, too.

We saw this on r/guns, posted by our old friend hyperprapor, who notes that under Russian law “paradox rifling”  is legal if it’s under 150mm long (About 5.9″).  Paradox rifling is rifling that was just engraved in the last few inches of the bore of what was otherwise a shotgun, to give it some capability with a single ball or bullet. It was named by English bespoke gunmaker Holland and Holland, who adopted the patent from GV Fosbery of Webley-Fosbery fame. Westley Richards called it “Explora” but other makers seem to have stuck with the paradox name.

And this is definitely one for the “how weird does it get” file — a smoothbore SKS that is one short hop removed from the Webley-Fosbery Automatic Revolver!

How to Launch a Lethal Projectile?

FOOM!Western Civilization’s best answer to the question in the title has been, since approximately the return of Marco Polo to Europe with this stuff, gunpowder: that is, a chemical reaction inside a confined space with a single outlet for the projectile, and the pressure. But that’s not the only answer. And there are reasons you might not wish to use gunpowder. Chemical propellants take some engineering to be safe, reliable, and capable of being stored (the fixed round of ammunition, holding and protecting the propellant in a sealed container capable of being weatherproofed, was a great leap forward in all these areas). Chemical propellants also have thermal, visual, and audible signatures that might be undesirable in some weapons applications.

Of course, before Polo, there were already several answers to the problem, but they basically came down to muscle power, the original projectile launch method that goes back to Cain and Abel, or stored energy (which itself takes many forms: springs, elastic bands, the bent arms of a bow, or the counterweight of a trebuchet. In ancient times, man or animal muscle had to provide the energy to be stored, by stretching the band, bending the bow, or lifting the counterweight). In more recent years, other ways of “sending a message” have become possible, if not yet entirely practical: electromagnetic rail guns, or even the lensed nuclear weapons envisioned in the 1980s for the Strategic Defense Initiative.

In World War II, the OSS wanted the National Defense Research Committee (NRDC), a gathering of eggheads led by Harvard’s former head James Conant, to address the question of projectile launching, starting at first principles, with the objective of producing silent weapons. Stanley P. Lovell, a former NRDC guy who’d been transferred to OSS to help the nascent spy and sabotage agency develop the specialty equipment such missions required, drafted the initial requirement, complete with an innocuous cover name:

No. 1 – Impact Testing Machine

You are directed to study, and if possible produce, a gun having the approximate following military characteristics:

  1. Silent
  2. Flashless
  3. Muzzle velocity of 1000 ft./s.
  4. Maximum calibre bullet compatible with a, B, and C, preferably 50-calibre.
  5. Minimum reloading time, preferably under 30 seconds.

The project may conceivably eventuate as two weapons, one for relatively long-range sentry assault, the other as a personal short-range weapon. The US Armed Forces prefer the former and there are indications that our Allies wish both types of arms.

A projectile launched with those ballistic figures would have competed well with the handguns of the day. As it happened, the NRDC did a great deal of research, beginning from first principles and concluding that crossbows using energy storage in then-modern elastics might be the best answer to Requirement No. 1 and subsequent requirements. Research done, the OSS and its academic tinkerers went on to develop crossbows and other projectile throwers ranging in size from a small pistol to a mortar equivalent.

OSS William Tell

OSS William Tell “crossbow” that used many small elastics. This approach turned out to be better than one large one, or bent wood or metal.

None of these devices seems to have been used in action, and very few if any got to the field. The handful produced seemed to succumb to OSS’s celebrity culture, being demonstrated to everybody and his brother (including, one legend goes, to FDR in the Oval Office by Donovan Himself), and piled up in every intermediate headquarters of the organization to the extent that what the field got, as far as “silent” weapons are concerned, were relatively conventional pistol suppressors (2,500 fielded) and suppressed barrel units for the M3 submachine gun (5,000).

Requirement No. 1 would be coded SAC-1 for the first requirement issued by the “SAndeman Club,” a requirments committee whose full name was the “Directors’ Committee for Cooperation with Special Government Agencies.” SAC-1 would indeed produce a working, if not fielded, silent weapon, the Impact Testing Machine, Spring Type aka The Dart Thrower. SAC-14 would produce the better-known OSS firearms silencers. Other “silent, flashless weapons” included:

  • SAC-13, “Penetrometer,” a long-range crossbow.
  • SAC-36, “Tree Gun”, a silent mortar-equivalent with a planned 250-yard range;
  • SAC-46, “Flying Dragon,” which produced a CO2 pistol procured in limited numbers (it turned out to be louder than the suppressed Hi-Standard .22).

An offshoot of this research produced the Bigot dart system and actually procured 25 guns and 300 darts, almost all of which had been lost, strayed or written off by V-J Day.

The bows and projectors had fanciful names: Joe Louis, Little Joe, Big Joe, William Tell. They weren’t entirely silent, generating about 80 dB (although the protocol for measurement is unknown).

The story of the OSS Crossbows is told in The OSS Crossbows by  John W. Brunner, PhD, with copious use of original documents from the National Archives and a decent quantity and quality of illustrations (especially when considering that the archival material has partly been reduced to microfiche, which is terribly destructive of photographs). That book is the principal source of this post. The publisher, Phillips Publications of Williamstown, NJ doesn’t have a website but may answer 609-567-0695; they have published numerous high-quality histories of spy weapons and technology. The author has his own website and has a few copies of the paperback to offer; ours came from the Airborne and Special Operations Museum in Fayetteville, NC.

A French enthusiast of crossbows built a copy of one of the larger handheld projectors, the Big Joe 5.

arba_bigjoe_big

One wonders what could be done today, with such a general tasking as SAC-1. Certainly we have materials that were unavailable in 1942, from composites with controlled layout of reinforcements to enormously improved synthetic elastomers. The most widely issued silent weapons today are Russian and Chinese devices based on a US system designed as a Tunnel Rat weapon for the Vietnam War but then abandoned at war’s end. These weapons used chemical energy, but contain the chemical inside the cartridge or at least the weapon, with nothing being vented to the atmosphere.

Cyber Strategy, Two Takes

Fun fact: more work seems to have gone into this cover image than the document inside.

Fun fact: more work seems to have gone into this cover image than the document inside.

First, here’s the unclassified Official Cyber Strategy of the USA, signed by Defense Secretary Ash Carter. Initial take: the guy really is an empty suit, stuffed with Beltway entitlement, and serving various constituencies, with the national defense of the USA not as prime as it probably ought to be here.

(U) DoD Cyber Strategy 2015, 17Apr15.pdf

Here’s how Carter (and his underlings, more Beltway homesteaders without a real-world accomplishment to their names) define the cyber threat on p. 9 of the document:

From 2013-2015, the Director of National Intelligence named the cyber threat as the number one strategic threat to the United States, placing it ahead of terrorism for the first time since the attacks of September 11, 2001. Potential state and non-state adversaries conduct malicious cyber activities against U.S. interests globally and in a manner intended to test the limits of what the United States and the international community will tolerate. Actors may penetrate U.S. networks and systems for a variety of reasons, such as to steal intellectual property, disrupt an organization’s operations for activist purposes, or to conduct disruptive and destructive attacks to achieve military objectives.

So what’s wrong with this? Here’s one: defining the military cyber threat to include commercial hackers and disruption of non-government “organizations.” No one who’s au courant with the cyber threat thinks that DOD has its own networks under control, so this attempt to subordinate DOD’s cyber defense activities to big and inept corporations like Sony, not incidentally among the owners ofthe donors to Carter’s political sovereigns, turns defense resources to private profit and distracts them from national defense. No, defending Sony is not an American defense interest. Hell, it’s not even a US corporation; why should we give

Oh, we forgot. Sony bought and paid formade substantial donations to the President and the other officeholders to whom Carter really holds his fealty, rather than to the quaint old Constitution to which he swore an insincere oath.

Let’s continue with Carter, and see if he gets any better:

Potential adversaries have invested significantly in cyber as it provides them with a viable, plausibly deniable capability to target the U.S. homeland and damage U.S. interests. Russia and China have developed advanced cyber capabilities and strategies. Russian actors are stealthy in their cyber tradecraft and their intentions are sometimes difficult to discern. China steals intellectual property (IP) from global businesses to benefit Chinese companies and undercut U.S. competitiveness. While Iran and North Korea have less developed cyber capabilities, they have displayed an overt level of hostile intent towards the United States and U.S. interests in cyberspace.

The first sentence is one key to cyber: it’s a plausibly-deniable act of war,  which is why all major powers (Russia, China, and not incidentally the USA) maintain an advanced persistent threat capability. This administration in particular is in love with the concepts of deniable, technical, literally “dehumanized” as in humans-out-of-the-loop and not at risk, technical war. It’s reminiscent of the disastrous Stansfield Turner days at CIA, when Turner played to the agency’s Polyphemos. “Noman has blinded me!” cries the agency at the inevitable “intelligence failure” result, in Turner’s case including the Russian invasion of Afghanistan and the Iranian revolution. Although he seems intent on recreating the bleak Cy Vance/Stan Turner days of his namesake President, this Secretary of Defense is unrelated to Jimmy Carter in anything.

This Air Force pro is a commo guy, not a cyber guy, but they needed him to meet some quota in the document.

This Air Force guy, A1C Nate Hammond, is a commo guy, not a cyber guy, but they needed him to meet some quota in the document.

Well, except in ineptitude. If there is a brotherhood of bozos, maybe with a secret handshake or password/countersign (“Are you a turdle?”), these guys are both life members.

Again, that the Chinese state steals IP is not exactly novel, and the Chinese are not alone; some of our allies do the exact same thing (cough, France, Israel, cough). The US, for that matter, does steal foreign technical data, the difference is, we don’t steal for order for private industry.

It is a defense matter when foreign nations steal defense material from the military or defense contractors. We’re not big on defining things as crimes rather than acts of war or terrorism, but stealing from Sony, for example, or General Electric, is not an act of war, no matter how much money those corporations sluice to Carter’s owners and overseerssuperiors.

In addition to state-based threats, non-state actors like the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) use cyberspace to recruit fighters and disseminate propaganda and have declared their intent to acquire disruptive and destructive cyber capabilities. Criminal actors pose a considerable threat in cyberspace, particularly to financial institutions, and ideological groups often use hackers to further their political objectives. State and non-state threats often also blend together; patriotic entities often act as cyber surrogates for states, and non-state entities can provide cover for state-based operators. This behavior can make attribution more difficult and increases the chance of miscalculation

Well, it’s nice to see some awareness of ISIL penetrating the thick skulls of the E-Ring, but what they’re calling a cyber threat is simply an information operations (IO) effort that is superior to that of the United States. And as long as we have IO run by giggling PR dollies, and counter ISIL guns and swords with feeble hashtags, we’re #screwed.

Diverse services -- check. Diverse sexes -- check. Diverse races and ethnicities -- check.  Can they fight? Who cares!

Diverse services — check. Diverse sexes — check. Diverse races and ethnicities — check.
Can they fight? Who cares!

You could fisk the whole thing like this. Its full of yes-hope-is-a-method naïveté, like considering the Chinese threat badly punished because we indicted five PLA members for stealing IP. (We’re sure they’re shaking in their shoes. Either that or the new guys have redoubled their efforts because an indictment is the new most-coveted achievement in Chinese cyber — more likely). It’s also full of carefully-staged “college pamphlet” or “annual report” photos of perfectly-diverse cybernauts — selected for just the “right” mix of joint-service uniforms, DOD civilians, and skin-tone diversity. In other words, it’s all full of that which proceeds from the north end of a south-facing male bovine.

Naturally, there’s a new bureaucracy to be built, under a towering buzzword, the National Initiative for Cybersecurity Education, and more SES and political appointee jobs, like the Office of the Principle Cyber Advisor to the SecDef, which will oversee the Cyber Investment and Management Board, which will operate a senior executive forum and coordinate for something called the Deputy’s Management Action Group. It’s all process, with all these Beltway drones memo-ing one another.

Wait. We said, “Two takes”, in the title. What’s the other take on cybersecurity?

Well, here’s the NATO cyber team.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

The whole team.  (Well, actually there are six men, so they can field two of these three-man teams. Feel better?).

That sound you hear is chortling in Chinese.

Ambush is Murder: A Painful Lesson, 17 Oct 67

The Battalion Commander led two companies of the 2/28 Infantry “Black Lions,” 1st Infantry Division, on a combat patrol into area where the battalion had been making contact since three of its companies choppered into the area about a week prior. They were part of Shenendoah II, an operation to investigate reports of Viet Cong presence near Lai Khe northwest of Saigon. But what was there was not a straggling guerrilla band: it was the 271st Regiment of the 9th Division, still bearing the “VC” honorific but a full-time professional People’s Army of Viet Nam unit. In the battle, the two American companies would be ambushed by two battalions of the 271st and thoroughly defeated.

By the battle’s end, the commander, Terry de la Mesa Allen Jr., son of a World War II general, had failed to lead and was in a practical fugue state when an NVA bullet blew the top of his head off. (Despite his failure and inactivity on the battlefield, he would be posthumously awarded the Distinguished Service Cross on the strength of an entirely fictional citation. The rot in the officer corps was profound in Vietnam). His sergeant major, Francis Dowling, and operations officer Don Holleder, a former football star, their RTOs, and the attached forward observer, 2LT Harold B. Durham, Jr. (who would receive the Medal of Honor posthumously) and his RTO — in short, the entire battalion command element —  were among the 64 killed. The remaining survivors were mostly wounded. The few survivors of A Company were led by a wounded first sergeant, José Valdez; by the start of the ill-fated patrol, D Company’s command had already fallen to 2LT George Welch, who survived.

The film gives a sense of just how an ambush feels from the receiving end, if it’s a well-done ambush. By 1967 the 271st Regiment had been at war for about nine years and was the repository of a great deal of institutional knowledge about fighting. The 2/28 was manned by draftees and led by careerists.

Can Your Suppressed Pistol Beat This? 78 dB.

That’s the measured performance of this little beauty:

Welrod

.32 ACP Welrod, from the collection of the Airborne and Special Operations Museum.

Vintage 1941 or so, developed by the SOE. The ASOM notes another detail, which explains the strange magazine-is-the-grip design of the Welrod (bold is ours):

A limited range, close-qurters head shot weapon, the Welrod’s main value was its level of discreetness when used. This weapon could be fired with the magazine/grip removed, in which case it did not look like a weapon at all. Using the weapon in this manner allowed operators a level of stealth necessary for operations behind enemy lines.

Internally, Welrod’s suppressor design features are typical of silencers of the time. It has a ported barrel which vents into an expansion chamber partly restricted by screen discs. Modern suppressor designers abjure these design features as archaic and backward: the ported barrel saps velocity, and the screen discs are thought to be much less effective than shaped K-baffles or other baffles.

Really? Show us the quiet, guys. Show us a centerfire single-shot suppressed pistol that can beat 78 dB. We’re not asking much in the way of accuracy — the original Welrod was intended for contact ranges, but was good for minute-of-Nazi-skull out to 20 yards or so — but let’s see more muzzle energy for less noise than the Welrod.

We’re guessing that, without going to a captive cartridge like the Tunnel Rat experimental revolver or certain Russian silent-pistol designs, you can’t get materially better than those 20th Century Britons did with the Welrod. (For all their efforts, we’ve had a hard time confirming behind-the-lines use of this system, even with so many formerly secret archives opening up lately. Anybody know different?).

True, Jesse James the motorcycle loudmouth is claiming something similar for his rifle suppressor, but when he delivers that you’ll be able to hang it up next to your jet pack in the garage where you park your flying car. He’s the Baghdad Bob of gun credibility with that one.

But you would think we would be able to excel something made before computers, finite element analysis, and 70 years of progress in understanding sound theory and in production and metallurgical technology. That we are not, generally, far beyond the status quo of 1941 speaks volumes for the ingenuity and application of those wartime engineers.

Land Mines vs. Booby Traps vs. IEDs.

Those three are the most hated, if not always the most feared, enemy weapons. Much as WWII bomber crews loathed flak more than fighters (their gunners could shoot back at fighters!) the unattended (or command-detonated) explosive device is more loathed than direct fire. Tom Kratman nailed this in his military science-fiction novel, A Desert Called Peace, which we’re still reading.

“I don’t even like the idea of land mines,” Parilla muttered.

“No one does,” Carrera agreed. “Not until you have a horde of screaming motherfuckers coming to kill you and all that stands between their bayonets and you is a belt of land mines.”

How Armies Use Mines

In military usage, mines, which may be emplaced by combat troops or by specialist engineers, are used as artificial obstacles to hinder or channelize enemy forces, or as ambush initiators. It is good practice to initiate an ambush with the greatest casualty-producing weapon, or greatest shock-producing weapon, available to you, and the authoritative WHAM! of a Claymore is an excellent way to send a message to the enemy, when that message is: “Die, die, die!”

Note to national policymakers: If that’s not the message you’re trying to send as a matter of national policy, you may have selected the wrong tool when you chose the military as messenger.

In a well-executed ambush, the Claymore blast is followed by overwhelming firepower and then, very rapidly, by a lift and shift of fires from the objective to the enemy’s potential escape routes, while troops assault across the objective to ensure the total destruction of the target element, and to gather any intelligence that can readily be gained from their still-warm bodies and shattered equipment.

Just because enemy units are armored, there’s no reason not to initiate your ambush with a command-detonated mine. The Claymore has long had anti-tank equivalents in off-route AT mines, essentially a remote-command-launched rocket that you aim in advance where you expect the enemy armor to be. We don’t know how far these go back, but the first one we used to use was based on the old 3.5″ rocket launcher (the Super Bazooka invented in WWII and used in Korea after the 2.36″ one proved useless on T-34s). The US also has a set of shaped charges and platter mines that have a limited standoff capability. Most American troops never see or train with these devices; for whatever reason, they’re not a training priority, but they’re in the inventory.

The main use of mines, despite that long digression about ambushes, is to fortify positions. A minefield of this type has very limited utility if not covered by friendly observation and fire at all times; otherwise, the enemy can simply blow or lift the mines, something that, like mine emplacement, can be done “retail” by combat troops or “wholesale” by engineers. For this reason, the Hollywood trope of the patrol caught in the minefield is actually a very rare occurrence off-screen. You do not actually find your patrol in a minefield on a nice sunny day with the leisure to probe for mines with a stick (and please, not a bayonet). You find your patrol in the middle of the mines, usually a night in the foulest weather imaginable, and under accurate enemy direct or indirect fire.

In addition to mines that can be placed by troops, minefields can be emplaced hastily by engineer equipment, including sophisticated mechanical minelayers that lay mines in a ditch or holes the machines themselves dig, and pods that can scatter mines from aircraft, usually helicopters or (these days) UAVs.

Minefields emplaced by civilized troops for defensive purposes are, by international convention, marked with recognized international symbols. This is part of why mine, booby-trap, and IED warfare by irregular forces is often hated by regulars; the irregulars do not comply with these rules and norms, and so are thought to be fighting underhandedly. (The guerrillas, for their part, see it as merely doing what they can in an asymmetric fight).

The other part of forces’ loathing for enemies’ mine warfare is, as Tom’s character Duce Parilla seems to have internalized, you can’t fight back against a mine. The guy who killed or maimed your men is long gone. (Of course, you can fight back against minelayers, but the fight is indirect and requires you, too, to play to your asymmetric strengths). This feeling of frustration by mine-warfare attack (in this case, by booby traps that produced casualties) was a key ingredient, along with inadequate officer selection & training and bad leadership at all levels from corporal to Corps, in the misconduct of Americal Division troops that became known as the My Lai Massacre.  They were so tired of taking casualties by booby trap, and so badly led, that they took out their fear and frustration on enemy noncombatants instead.

As tragic as the outcome was for the simple peasant families of My Lai 4, the murders were a great victory for the Communists in the key center of gravity of the war — the minds of the American public and their elected leaders. It was part of an array of events that drove a schism between the military and the media that endures almost 40 years later.

So What’s the Difference?

Mines, Booby Traps, and Improvised Explosive Devices are three somewhat overlapping categories of (usually but not always) explosive weapons.

landmines_1

Mike Croll defines landmines as:

mass-produced, victim-operated, explosive traps.1

In American usage (Croll was a British soldier and, subsequently, NGO counter-mining expert), “landmines” also includes command-detonated weapons like the Claymore. It was once customary for patrols to use a Claymore wired with a tripwire and a pull or pull-release firing device to delay pursuit; this usage has been banned by American military lawyers who were, we are not making this up, inspired by Princess Diana.

Booby-traps are distinguished from mines by dint of not being made en masse in factories, but as Croll points out, “the difference can be academic,” and it’s certainly not significant to the victim. While no non-explosive victim-operated weapons are currently in production worldwide, non-explosive traps have been used since prehistoric times (Croll also traces the archaeology of caltrops and Roman obstacle fields in his book). In the early years of the Vietnam War, US forces did encounter Malayan Gates, punji pits, and other non-explosive mantraps; as the war ground on, the enemy improved his logistics and regularized his forces, and such bulky, hard to make, and easily detected traps gave way to explosive weapons.

landmines_2

Improvised Explosive Devices encompass everything that blows a fellow up, and that didn’t come out of the factory in the form in which it ultimately is used. The ED is often I from factory weapons that were not envisioned by their inventors as traps, command-detonated, or suicide mines. This definition of IED includes explosive booby traps, of course, as a subset. The many forms of suicide IED are also a subset; suicide weapons have approached mass-production status in Iraq and Iran, with such markers of production status as dedicated circuit boards.

We’ve provided a couple of Venn diagrams to help you sort ’em out, but as Croll himself notes, there’s a considerable gray area. An AT mine can be fitted with a pull-release device or pressure plate and deployed as a massive overkill anti-personnel booby trap, for example. So perhaps instead of having solid borders, the circles should shade into one another.

But we’re with Parilla and Carrera. We hate ’em, unless we’re behind ’em and anticipating the banzai charge of the Third Shock Mongolian Horde.

Notes

1. Croll, p.ix.

Sources

Croll, Mike. The History of Landmines. Bromley, England: Leo Cooper, 1998.

So how bad is the Iran “Deal”?

BLOWING UP PARADISEAnybody who’s been working in the Middle East for the last 30-plus years knows what the valence of the Islamic Republic of Iran has been: strongly negative from its birth in violent revolution to its genocidal ambitions today. No nation has done more to incite, finance, equip and direct terrorism as a matter of national policy. No nation, in a world and a region where individual liberty is a hunted, endangered sprite, has done more to subjugate and enslave its own people. (If you must have this lesson with Hollywood production values, we recommend The Stoning of Soraya M. as an accurate and unflinching look at life in the Islamic Republic, and those areas that have fallen under its malign sway). And no nation is less fit to responsibly safeguard and employ nuclear technology for military purposes.

Across the table from the minions of the terror state sit the lackeys of an American president whose hunger for a deal, any deal, has given the whole enterprise the Vichy flavor of an enervated pedophile  seeking the least-worst plea bargain. The conventional wisdom, apart from a few shrinking circles in which all wisdom radiates with the sun with the openings and closings of The One’s fundamental orifice, is that it’s going to be a bad deal. That is, if you’re not a mullah.

So it’s a bad deal. And the question everybody’s asking is: how bad?

Now we have an answer: this bad. The Vichy Maison Blanc is already celebrating the Iranian holiday, Nowruz (the Shia New Year).  From The Hill: 

First Lady Michelle Obama praised the holiday in remarks at the executive mansion Wednesday. The event featured a Persian dinner and a dance troop’s performance.

“I think it’s so fitting we’re holding this celebration here today,” Michelle Obama said. “One of the things I love about the White House is how it truly is the people’s house. It is a house that reflects the diversity of culture and traditions that make us who we are as a country. Nowruz is one of those traditions.”

We don’t think we can take more of this appeasement. But tell us more, anyway:

A central facet of Nowruz celebrations are “Haft Sin,” or “the seven S’s” in Persian. Participants display seven items (all beginning with “S” in Persian) as symbols of new hopes for the next year.

The first lady said Wednesday the White House has its own Haft Sin display this Nowruz. Example she cited included an apple for beauty, grass for rejuvenation and crushed berry spices for “the spice of life.”

Say what you will about Neville Chamberlain, he never dressed his wife in trendy swastikas.

Martyr Muath, and What the US Can Do

In this case, as Jordanian airmen carry out Operation Martyr Muath in the certain knowledge that to be shot down is, despite the miracle of the ACES II ejection seat, certain death, we may ask, “What can the US do? What should the US do? And what will the US do?”‘

muath and his jet

Muath al-Kasasbeh in front of a Royal Jordanian F-16.

f16 canopy with savages

The canopy of his jet, found by ISIL cannon fodder.

 

ISIL, which in August 2014 reported this abandoned 1960s vintage MiG-21MF as a shot0down Syrian jet, recycled the image as the mount of Muath al-Kasasbeh.

ISIL, which in August 2014 reported this abandoned 1960s vintage MiG-21MF as a shot-down Syrian jet, recycled the image as the mount of Muath al-Kasasbeh in January.

The Jordanians don’t need us flying alongside their pilots (although they’d be welcome). They don’t need our precision-guided munitions — they know where the Syrians of Raqqa that are not on board with Daesh are, because they’re in refugee camps in Jordan by the millions. Collateral damage is not a concern of the King’s men.

They are fighting Muath’s fight, and — some of you will not like to hear this, but it is true — Muath’s fight is our fight.

Combat Search And Rescue/Personnel Recovery

One lesson learned comes from the fate of Muath himself. Forced to abandon his F-16 over Raqqa on Christmas Eve, he ejected without difficulty and descended into a pond. He was set upon by Daesh thugs, stripped naked, and beaten. There are photographs of this, unfortunately. The best chance to save him had come and gone.

The United States has more experience in Combat Search & Rescue than any other nation on earth, and we have retained some of the doctrine and TTPs that made what was then the Aerospace Rescue and Recovery Service so incredibly effective over Vietnam. Indeed, we’ve plucked at least one F-15 pilot from jihadi territory (thanks to the V-22 and Marine special operators).

Muath, seized. assaulted and abused by ISIL assils.

Muath, seized. assaulted and abused by ISIL assils.

There are three main mechanisms of personnel recovery from denied areas. The first is an ad hoc or hasty recovery which uses local forces. Its advantages are speed and surprise. The second is deliberate recovery which uses dedicated assets — special operations aviation, aircraft than are designed to penetrate defended airspace, planning and support. The third is clandestine, assisted evasion and recovery — transporting an evader through a chain of secret ratlines from the denied area to home. Each of these responsibilities falls on different shoulders in the American doctrinal construct, but only the US has the capability and experience to really pull the second kind — the kind that might even have saved Muath — off.

Jordan is, in the grand scheme of things, a poor country. They can’t dedicate the assets to such a peripheral function. And that’s one place where we can help. We should be providing CSAR assets — the whole package, from the Sandy A-10s to the Jolly copters and the planning cell to integrate them — because Muath’s fight is our fight.

Muath had a decent survival/E&E kit, but he never had a chance to use it.

Muath had a decent survival/E&E kit, but he never had a chance to use it.

The third kind of recovery, clandestine escape and evasion, requires much the same effort as building a HUMINT network, but paradoxically has to be kept separate and insulated from the HUMINT net. It cannot be a short-time goal, but we ought to have the ISIL command structure’s wiring so compromised that we can play it like a slot machine — with us holding the house’s odds.

In addition to these sorts of personnel recovery, there are also hostage rescue operations. The HR aspect of personnel recovery requires specialized forces, which the Jordanians do have, and actionable intelligence, which has been lacking. This is a field in which the US and Jordan can fruitfully work together.

Other Possible Responses

That’s not all we can do, of course. We should expedite any requests they have of us. We should throw open our ammo dumps and arsenals — if their leader has the stones to do what our leader has not got the stones to do, namely, bomb our mutual enemies back to the Stone Age, the least we can do for him is pick up the tab for his Neolithization of enemy-held Syria and Iraq.

It goes without saying that our tactical intelligence should be shared. Little of that exposes sources and methods that would compromise American intelligence gathering.

Unarmed Combat: Tai Chi vs … Fencing?

Sure enough, that’s what we’ve got here, in a clip from last year on Hunan TV. Tai Chi Master Wang Zhanhai goes into China’s most modern fencing center to match his skills against a young fencing expert, Coach Liu. The video is in Chinese with English subtitles (note that “taiji” is just the modern Mandarin transliteration of the old-style Tai Chi). Can open hands defeat a sword? On the sword’s home ground?

Well, there you have it, and if you’re like us you’re impressed with both athletes, but not entirely surprised that master-class with a weapon edges out master-class with open hands. Coach Liu, though, is surprised how hard he found it to count coup on Master Wang. It works in Master Wang’s favor that fencing is a sport that uses thrust-only weapons; several times, a saber slash would have undone him, but the ultimate generation of cavalry sabers (like the US M1913 designed by George S. Patton) were straight, optimized-for-thrust swords. Swordsmanship experts had decided that cuts and slashes were indecisive, compared to the forest of points produced by a cavalry charge, and the effect of those points is greatest if they are straight swords. (Even Patton had no clue how obsolete the saber was in 1913 already, but cavalry would be finished as a decisive arm within a year). Perhaps, if the war had not intervened, the cavalry would have brought back the Uhlan lance!

In SF there are two kinds of guys, the one that makes the commitment to some martial art (usually East Asian: Chinese, Japanese or Korean, but sometimes something exotic like Viking battleaxe fighting or Filipino butterfly-knife artistry). There seems to be one or two of those cats on every ODA,. And then there’s the more common fellow who learns the crude combatives and can administer a sleeper hold if he really must, but prefers to spend his time mastering modern warrior skills (like specialty crosstraining), and prefers to conduct combat using the ancient Chinese art of Ching-Chang Boom, dependent upon the ancient Chinese invention, gunpowder. We’re firmly in the camp of Ching-Chang Boom here, but it’s a pleasure to watch athletes like Master Wang and Coach Liu at work!

Events like this where two masters are paired are interesting, but in fact if you master some martial art, any martial art, you will be more capable than 99% of the people you might encounter, unless you’re like Master Wang and can’t resist trying your skills against experts in other fields. The confidence and mindset that Wang and Liu have here is a large part of what makes them winners. In life, it’s good to be the winner; in combat, it’s mandatory.

Devilry, Thy Name is Germany

Such was a British headline a century ago. after Germany released poison gas on French Algerian troops in May, 1915. But the Hun actually introduced posion gas into warfare 100 years ago today, making today the centenary of WMD.

The BBC has an interesting article with some of the history, as well as some interesting observations on the effectiveness of gas weapons in the Great War. That first introduction on 31 January 1915 was a disappointment to its Trutonic authors, says the Beeb:

As he climbed to the top of the church belfry in Bolimow, west of Warsaw, General Max Hoffman of Germany’s Ninth Army was expecting a bird’s-eye view of a military breakthrough – and a new chapter in warfare.

The date was 31 January 1915, and he was about to witness the first major gas attack in history.

Gen Hoffman watched as 18,000 gas shells rained down on the Russian lines, each one filled with the chemical xylyl bromide, an early form of tear gas. But the results left him disappointed.

“I had expected much greater results from the employment of this ammunition in – as we then imagined – such large quantities. That the chief effect of the gas was destroyed by great cold was not known at that time.”

But the failure at Bolimow proved to be only a temporary setback.

By April, German chemists had tested a method of releasing chlorine gas from pressurised cylinders and thousands of French Algerian troops were smothered in a ghostly green cloud of chlorine at the second Battle of Ypres. With no protection, many died from the agonies of suffocation.

via BBC News – How deadly was the poison gas of WW1?.

The actual effect of the gas was much less than its large presence in the public consciousness of World War I would indicated:

Casualty figures do seem on the face of it, to back up the idea that gas was less deadly than the soldiers’ fear of it might suggest.

The total number of British and Empire war deaths caused by gas, according to the Imperial War Museum, was about 6,000 – less than a third of the fatalities suffered by the British on the first day of the Battle of the Somme in 1916. Of the 90,000 soldiers killed by gas on all sides, more than half were Russian, many of whom may not even have been equipped with masks.

Far more soldiers were injured. Some 185,000 British and Empire service personnel were classed as gas casualties – 175,000 of those in the last two years of the war as mustard gas came into use. The overwhelming majority though went on to make good recoveries.

According to the Imperial War Museum, of the roughly 600,000 disability pensions still being paid to British servicemen by 1929, only 1% were being given to those classed as victims of gas.

“There’s also an element of gas not showing itself to be decisive, so it’s easier to… not have to worry about the expense of training and protection against it – it’s just easier if people agree to ban it,” says Ian Kikuchi.

In the end, gas was a psychological weapon, but with war gases and gas-countermeasures such as masks and suits equally available to all sides, the prospect of a decisive employment of gas was unlikely. That makes it a little clearer why postwar conventions banned gases.

Gas After the Great War

Gas research continued, and the Germans made numerous interwar breakthroughs, which then inspired British breakthroughs (producing the nerve gases, G- and V-agents respectively). But Germany never used gas in World War II, perhaps because of Hitler’s experience being gassed at the Front in the First War, perhaps out of fear that the Allies had equaled German research (they hadn’t, until very late). Russia never renounced the use of gas, and used it postwar in various peripheral conflicts (as well as supplying it to numerous client states), but never used it in the Great Patriotic War. Russians, as the Beeb noted, suffered more than anyone from the gas warfare of the First World War.

chlormethine

Clormethine — the form of HN (HN-2) released in the Bari Incident.

In World War I, every nation tried to be the one that used a new gas first. In World War II, every nation held its war gases back, to retaliate if someone else did — and no one did. The most serious gas casualties of World War II resulted from an American stockpile aboard ship in the harbor of Bari, Italy, being inadvertently released by a German Ju88 night bomber attack on shipping in the harbor on the night of 2 December 43. One of the 16 sunken ships contained 100 tons of nitrogen mustard, HN (methyl-bis(beta-chloroethyl)amine hydrochloride). The HN was reportedly not in bulk storage, but loaded into M47 series chemical bombs:

M-47 chemical bomb.pdf

Most of the HN burned off, but the part that mixed with bunker oil in the water injured 617-628 men (numbers in sources vary), of whom 83 subsequently died. Ironically, because of HN’s effect on lymph nodes and leukocytes, follow-on studies on the Bari bombing survivors were helpful in developing chemotherapy for leukemia, Hodgkin’s Disease, and other lymphomas.

War gases (mostly nerve and blood agents) were a critical part of Warsaw Pact and Soviet war plans, and were used widely in Soviet proxy wars, mostly against civilians. The US developed safe-handling binary chemical munitions as a counterweight, but has since destroyed its chemical stockpiles and production capacity.

We’ve come a long way from the Kaisers 1914 “Devilry.”