Monthly Archives: May 2016

Three Spy Stories

Courtesy of John Schindler, here are a few Russian spy stories, because we all need a break from the Russo-Ukrainian War.

2016, May: Portuguese Spy & Russian Illegal

Schindler has the basic facts:

Spy-vs-Spy-fullLast weekend, in the latest development in the secret espionage struggle between Vladimir Putin’s Kremlin and the West, a major Russian spy was arrested in Italy. On Saturday, Frederico Carvalhão Gil, a senior intelligence official from Portugal, was picked up by Italian police along with his Russian intelligence handler, whom he was meeting clandestinely in Rome.

Suspicion usually leads to investigation, and when investigation warms up, it can lead to investugation. Depending on what the investigation finds, the spy is either turned or rolled up. Carvalhão was rolled up.

Once SIS realized Mr. Carvalhão may have gone rogue, he was moved to a less sensitive position at work, where he had access to fewer secrets and was placed under surveillance. By last autumn, he was being watched and his phones were tapped as his employer looked for evidence of his betrayal. They soon discovered that Mr. Carvalhão made regular trips across Europe, which SIS assessed were actually clandestine meetings with the SVR to pass secrets to the Russians outside Portugal. That was less risky than meeting Russians on his home turf, as the career spy knew from his own service with Portuguese counterintelligence.

This culminated in the top secret operation in Rome last weekend which led to Mr. Carvalhão’s arrest. In coordination with Italian partners, SIS watched his movements as he took a flight to Rome last Friday, in preparation for the next day’s planned meeting with the Russians. That clandestine rendezvous was spoiled for Mr. Carvalhão when Italian police appeared at the Roman café, downtown on the Tiber, to bring him into custody on espionage charges proffered by Lisbon. He did not resist arrest.

And there was a bonus:

Neither did the Russian he was meeting. In an interesting twist, his SVR handler was not in Rome under official cover, posing as a diplomat or trade representative—the default setting in espionage circles. Rather, his SVR handler was what the Russian term an Illegal, meaning he was operating without any official protection. He therefore was subject to arrest, whereas a Russian spy pretending to work at their embassy could claim diplomatic immunity to avoid police detention.

An illegal is quite a catch, in espionage terms. More explanation at the link. Most intelligence officers abroad in hostile nations (at least Russians and American ones) are covered as diplomats for their own safety; Sweden estimates a full third of the accredited Russians there are spooks.

2015, January: Russian Illegal, New York

In January 2015 the FBI rolled up another Russian illegal (John explains the terminology at the link, but in the Russian service “legal” and “illegal” spies roughly correspond to our “official cover” and “non-official cover” officers. They’re all terms of art, because of course espionage is always illegal, everywhere, whether your guy is an immune diplomat who can only be PNG’d, or just a schmo that you can toss in prison). Evgeny Buryakov (almost certainly not his real name) was tasked on economic targets and was under observation for a long time before a counterintelligence dangle brought him in. Schindler has the espionage angle, and recommends Eddy Elfenbein on the financial angle.

2010: Interview with a Soviet Spy

herman_simmThis 2010 interview in the German magazine Der Spiegel is, unshockingly, in the German language, and in an Estonian prison. Herman Simm betrayed his country to the Russians, as it turned out, because a corruption accusation put his nose out of joint.

Here is an excerpt, our translation. We pick it up after the traitor,  Simm, has denied any fellow-feeling for Russians, and insisted he always felt himself Estonian:

SPIEGEL ONLINE: So how did you let yourself be recruited by the SVR, the successor organization to the KGB, in 1995?

Simm: At that time, I had lost my job as a police chief due to false accusations. Among other things, I had bought four Russian armored cars for 93,000 crowns for the Police, and suddenly, they’re saying that I should not have paid, because the vehicles already belonged to Estonia. But the Russians had gotten all their collected materiel out of the country, and we needed the cars.

SPIEGEL ONLINE: And then you flew to Tunisia?

Simm: I was frustrated and needed some space. In front of the Hotel Kaiser in Sousse, where I stayed, my later case officer Valery Senzov spoke to me. I knew him from the old days in Talinn. He said he was on vacation, and we went and had a beer. I was astonished how well informed he was about me.

Imagine that. A chance meeting with a foreign intelligence officer who’s remarkably well informed about you. And Simm was a lifelong cop, if not a spook himself. Think he didn’t know what just happened?

SPIEGEL ONLINE: Did he recruit you right then?

Simm: No, only on the next meeting. He said, we need your help, you’ll be paid, and think about it, we have other possibilities, too. He didn’t directly threaten violence against my daughter, but I knew their methods and had no doubt about it.

Classic KGB tradecraft right there. Note, though, that Senzov never threatened Simm. Simm did that himself deep inside his own head. The whole threat-to-the-daughter thing? Smells to us like a rationalization, not a reason. In that, it’s typical of this interview: a self-serving paean to a crapweasel, by his ownself.

SPIEGEL ONLINE: And suddenly you made a career in the Defense Ministry.

Simm: If you call it a career. At the beginning I sat all alone in an office…

Awwww. The poor little backstabbing weasel, his sense of self-importance was not sufficiently stoked. #firstworldproblems to eleven.

SPIEGEL ONLINE: …and rose to be Head of the National Security Administration. Was it hard for you, to work for the Russians at the same time?

Simm: At the beginning it was very hard to smuggle information out. But the higher I rose, the easier it got.

SPIEGEL ONLINE: How does a spy live, what does he feel?

Simm: It’s like a continuous ride on the a knife’s edge. I was already nervous if I encountered the same person twice in one day.

Anyway, whole thing here, Google translate there.

This English book excerpt has more on Simm, including some tradecraft. It suggests he — and possibly others? — was a “human landmine” planted in NATO as Russia retreated.

Every titbit he gathered was passed on in the classic spy manner. He placed films, and later memory sticks, into small juice cartons of a particular brand and colour and left them in rubbish bins in designated parks to be picked up.

He was cautious to a fault. Each dead-letter box was used once only. Meetings with his handler took place in ten different countries.

He is, in the end, an illustration that while “the spy’s reward” is not always one in the neck, or a blindfold and a last smoke, it tends not to be any more rewarding than that of any other criminal….

[T]here came a time… when he feared the Estonian authorities were on to him and he was under surveillance. He was right. The net was closing around him.He asked the Russians to get him out. They had promised him a comfortable retirement in Moscow with the rank of colonel and now was the time to deliver.

But the Russians refused. By now he had retired from his Defence Ministry job and no longer had the high-level access he had once enjoyed and exploited so successfully on their behalf. He had served his purpose. They ‘hung me out to dry’, he said.

Ha, hah. You [bleeped] up. You trusted your case officer.

It was a call from his case officer — who was already in the bag, and chose to defect and cooperate rather than face prison — that sent him to his last personal meet. Instead of his case officer, he met lots of Estonian cops. He’ll be a very old man when he gets out of prison, broke and untrusted by anyone, on any side. That KGB colonel’s pension? That dacha and the bank account in Moscow? Didn’t exist, chump.

Hey, Dude, Where’s My Guns?

burglarThat was the question a Sanford, FL detective was asking when he went back to his Ford Explorer after a softball game and found his back window smashed open — and two guns, his cuff key, body armor and badge gone.

D’oh. The smash-and-grab theft was one of two at the park that day, but the other guy didn’t have guns locked in his car (and if he wasn’t a cop, would have gotten in trouble if he had… since the guy who armed a criminal is a cop, he faces no consequences more serious office mockery). Nope, what the thieves got from the other victim was a diaper bag. (So much for our master plan of hiding our guns inside a diaper bag).

After shattering the window, someone grabbed the detective’s department-issued Sig Sauer pistol, his personally-owned Remington 870 shotgun, body armor, a handcuff key, a stun-gun cartridge, radio microphone and his law-enforcement badge. The items have a combined estimated value of more than $3,400, the report states.

The Orlando Sentinel rounds up other local cop theft victims:

Guns are a popular item among thieves who target law-enforcement officials.

Earlier this month, thieves robbed a retired FBI agent of his credentials and gun while he napped inside his car outside a business in Altamonte Springs. And in a 6-month span last year, there were at least three separate incidents of guns disappearing from law enforcement vehicles in Central Florida.

Two the incidents involved Orange County sheriff’s deputies and the other a Winter Park police officer. It’s unclear if any of the weapons stolen in those cases were found.

Don’t worry about it. They’ll turn up in gang murders. Hopefully it’s only the gang members who get murdered, which is just Evolution in Action® (“Evolution in Action®” is a registered trademark of Niven and Pournelle).

While it’s fun making fun of law enforcement, nothing feels like being ripped off, except perhaps being raped. And the biggest reason we have such a high level of theft, apart from living in a low trust society produced by unassimilated immigration, and racial and ethnic identity politics, is that punishment for the thieves is neither swift, nor sure, nor sufficient. We still think malum in se felony sentences should be simplified to 10-20-Life, with no parole, no probation, no plea bargains. A second arrest while on pretrial release should nullify pretrial release rights for life. Get the pathogens out of the bloodstream, and the patient gets healthy.

Then, there’s this little two-liner from the Sentinel:

How often law enforcement vehicles are burglarized isn’t known, as agencies rarely alert the public.

Sanford police released information about the incident on Saturday as a public safety notice, saying a statement that residents “should be aware of the possibility of police impersonation.”

Good on Sanford for doing the right thing in this case, and really, it’s better to get this kind of news out in public with your own spin on it, and look like you give a damn, rather than look like you’re covering up.

Wednesday Weapons Website of the Week:

all4shooterscomWant to see how the other half lives? For Yanks (and Canucks), a visit to the pan-European website will let you know what an international community of shooters is doing. While the site was created by a German firearms-media firm, it’s becoming a trusted source for information about the European market and it’s probably the best place to see Eurozone firms promote their firearms and shooting-sports accessories to their home-continent customers.

You may learn more than you expected about upland hunting in Italy, collecting in Belgium, or products created for sports that are popular in Europe but not here.

In some ways, it reminds us of where the American gun culture was forty or fifty years ago. Looking through old gun magazines, one is struck by the much greater roles played by formal competition, and how some sports have died (quick-draw competitions) and others have been born (practical pistol and 2- and 3-gun). A gun magazine in 1966 was more likely to put a pheasant-hunting scene on the cover than a defense pistol, and was unlikely to have much to say about gun law or gun rights. Indeed, gun rights in 1966 didn’t include the right to carry one, in most States. America in 1966 was a lot like Europe in 2016 that way. What became a rights revolution in America started with the legislative overreach of Tom Dodd’s Nazi-derived Gun Control Act (which passed in 1968, after Dodd had been censured and left the Senate over unrelated corruption) and the botched ATF raid that killed Kenyon Ballew in 1970; these two overreaches triggered a grassroots backlash that has led to today’s very different gun culture: concealed carry is legal in most states, in nine of them with no permit at all; and guns of all kinds have never been more widely distributed to peaceable people, nor more used for lawful ends.

Europe today reminds us of America before that ball got rolling, and we see European guys and gals with levers all around their version of the ball. It rolls slowly at first, friends. But your efforts are worthwhile.

The site is decidedly apolitical, although it reports on gun laws in Europe and on gun rights organizations (which fight just as hard, against much more entrenched officialdom and with much less assistance from the dead hands of Constitution writers, than our champions here in the Western Hemisphere).

European gun, sport-shooting, and hunting culture is both like and unlike ours. They still have hunters, competitors, and collectors like we do, but their hunting is different. In Central Europe it’s very formalized, in part because of hunters’ tradition and in part because of population density. In England, it is the now nearly extinct recreation of a nearly extinct nobility and gentry.

Everywhere the laws are different, and different from those in the USA. But that is because the local culture and history is different. The biggest threat to the European sportsman is, these days, the rise of the European bureaucrat, where deracinated and rootless commissars in Brussels are closet Caesars, dreaming of completing the interrupted unification that eluded Napoleon and Hitler. (These are the cretins who are pushing to rename World War II — we are not making this up — the European Civil War — in effect, conceding Hitler’s point).

But while Europe may still be in the Dark Ages as far as the rights of man are concerned, it’s still a hotbed of firearms development and innovation, not to mention the cradle of a great deal of firearms history. This gets covered extensively at, which is trying to be the portal for Euro gunnies. An example of new development is the Schmeisser SLP-9, which turns out to be a rebranding of a Montenegrin Glock-off called the TARA TM-9 at home; an example of history coverage is the fascinating story of the founder of the German Rottweil ammunition plant, Max von Duttenhofer. (Rottweil is most famous, of course, for its native dog; but it is also the future home of the world’s highest elevator-testing tower, and perhaps a pedestrian suspension bridge a half-mile long). (The ammo plant in Rottweil is now closed and repurposed for many, mostly cultural, purposes; and Rottweil ammuntion is made in Fürth in Franconia (a region in the state of Bavaria).

A good series of basic technical articles by Max Popenker (still an ongoing series) introduces operating systems: blowback, delayed blowback, and recoil are the ones produced to date (can “gas” be next? Probably). A4S collects all technical articles in a single category.

The English translations of other languages’ articles occasionally have one or two small things that let you know that they were not developed by a native speaker, but if you’re not looking for them, you may miss them. Sometimes All4Shooters has articles in some languages but not others, so if you’re multilingual don’t restrict yourself to the English (or your native language) articles.

We’ve Heard of “Drug Dogs,” but This is Ridiculous

Bubba the Drug DogLord love a duck! Cops everywhere are used to finding humans out of their mind on drugs, and even humans who have poisoned their own (or someone elses’s) kids in their sick desire to share their self-destructive avocation. But the Tustin, CA police department, while rounding up the usual junkies, found that one parolee had gotten his little puppy Bubba out of his doggy little mind on multiple drugs.

The poor pooch popped positive for heroin, meth and nicotine.

A dog is on the road to recovery after police found the abused pet under the influence of drugs in a California motel room.Bubba was found to have various drugs and nicotine in his system following a drugs bust by the Tustin Police Department in California.His owner Joshua West, 40, who was on parole for drug violations, along with another suspect, was found to be in possession of heroin, methamphetamine and drug paraphernalia, police say.He now faces additional charges of animal cruelty after officers noticed the terrier mix puppy appeared lethargic and tested the pet for drugs.

via Puppy addicted to heroin and meth found in motel room .

The cops reported on their Fakebook page — with this charming picture of little Bubba, who needs a groomer’s attention to his claws — that things are looking up for the critter, if not for his incarcerated former master. Their statement in full:

In March officers arrested two subjects out of a local motel who were in possession of a large quantity of illegal drugs and drug paraphernalia. During the investigation officers took custody of Bubba, a terrier mix puppy, who was showing signs of being under the influence of drugs.

Bubba was released to Orange County Animal Care and treated for his condition. Bubba was found to have heroin, methamphetamine and nicotine in his system due to living with his drug using owners.

We are happy to report Bubba has been treated for his drug addiction and is doing excellent. Based on Bubba’s toxicology results, additional charges of animal cruelty will be filed against his former owners.

Bubba is still receiving medical care and once he is fully recovered, he will be placed with a rescue organization who can find him a forever home that can provide the proper care he will need in the future.

I understand all the libertarian arguments for legalizing drugs. But these [censored]s didn’t treat their little guy like this because drugs are illegal. They did it because drugs make people stupid. QED.

Legalize drugs, sure, but legalize the rest of us providing 9mm summary euthanasia to all the paralytic opioid sidewalk lumps, confused and stinking marijuana stoners, and drunken park pukers that we run across. Not to mention, the debilitated doggy dopers. After all, that seems to be what they want, to go out in a blaze of stoned glory.

When Guns are Outlawed, Only Outlaws will have Lions

This isn’t a first for Lions on this blog, but it doesn’t happen every day. Still, any time someone kills himself with a firearm, it gets counted as a “gun death” and blamed on all the gun owners who didn’t do it. When will we have some common sense cat control? Your tabby is to blame that these lions chowed down on this guy.

Do Not Feed the Animals 01People, when the sign says, DO NOT FEED THE ANIMALS, apparently some Unique and Special Snowflakes™ have to have the implied bit spelled out for them, to wit, THIS MEANS YOU.  The Sun (UK):

A NAKED man who jumped into the big cat enclosure at a Chilean zoo in a desperate ‘suicide bid’ survived – but only after the lions attacking him were shot dead.

That would be, “a desperate and incompetent suicide bid,” really, wouldn’t it? Because, unlike the unfortunate lions, the guy lived, for some definitions of the verb “to live.”

Santiago authorities confirmed the two beasts were killed as they mauled the 20-year-old who had broken into their compound early on Saturday.

[The idiot was] taken to a nearby hospital for treatment and was said to be in a “grave” condition.

How did he get in?

The young man broke into the enclosure, took off his clothes and jumped into the middle shocking families who witnessed the attack.

They found the suicide note in his clothes. At places, his interaction with the lions approaches lion porn. Looks like kitty here has him by the neck or shoulder:

Do Not Feed the Animals 02

“The zoo has an established protocol because people’s lives are very important to us,” said [Zoo Director Alejandra] Montalba.

She added that there were no fast-acting tranquilizers available to stop the lions quickly.

So they were able to munch on this knucklehead at their leisure.

Witnesses said the zoo was packed with people when a man jumped into the lion’s den twitter

The zoo director said she was ‘deeply affected’ by the deaths of the two lions, a male and a female.

The lioness hanging back in this picture is apparently the survivor… sometimes it pays to be a picky eater.

Do Not Feed the Animals 03

A suicide note was reportedly later found in the man’s clothing.

Hell of a way to do it, jackass. We’re thinking the wrong critters got shot.

Witness reported he shouted religious statements as he was mauled.

“Religious statements?” As in, “Oh, God, this hurts!” perhaps?

And, as it turns out, being chewed up by a pride of lions wasn’t the guy’s only injury that day. A jumpy marksman trying to nail Lippy the Lion  with a tranquilizer wound up numbing Numbnuts Himself instead. Which might have been merciful, under the circumstances.

Some More Lessons of Ukraine

We were going to have one document, but that seems like it would be shorting you.  So there’s a little more today.

The Battle of Debaltseve

This 2015 battle was a Russian attempt to do something that their ancestors, the Red Army of the Great Patriotic War, did thousands of times: reduce a salient into a pocket, and then reduce the pocket. The failure of the Russian offensive at that time let to an unstable cease-fire. This is a Ukrainian docmuentary about the battle (obviously, one-sided). It’s mostly in Ukrainian with English subtitles. (Some foreigners — Americans, including Phil Karber, co-author of yesterday’s report, and a Frenchman — speak in English).

At one point, the Russian commander on the ground insisted that the Ukrainians were encircled, and the Chief of the Russian General Staff reported that to the Russian President, who then told the public. Problem was, no one had told the Ukrainians. The Russians agreed to a ceasfire, but it was a ruse. At the appointed hour, the Russians celebrated the cease-fire with a massive offensive — artillery barrage and ground assaults. The Ukrainians planned a withdrawal.

In something that has never happened before, the withdrawal plan leaked because a parliamentarian posted it on Facebook. The plan did not get to the Russian forces in time to hinder the first withdrawal columns, but later columns were hit by the redoubtable Russian artillery. The small unit commanders had to hastily reroute their withdrawal.

The results of the battle, then, are mixed, despite the Ukraine putting the best possible shine on it. In the end, the Ukrainians withdrew and prevented the Russian attempt to encircle them and defeat them in detail. But the Russians wound up in possession of the salient’s burnt-out ground, and the surviving civilian inhabitants, if any. This was a common outcome on the Eastern Front in 1942-44, as better-led Nazi units frequently wriggled out of Soviet encirclement attempts, but the tactical superiority of the German Wehrmacht availed them little against the sheer Red numbers in the end.

 Lessons Learned from the Russian Ukrainian War

This file is a draft of Phil Karber’s lessons learns presented at a Historical LL Workshop last July.


If gets hit by a truck, or jammed by little green men in an EW van with Cyrillic labels on its knobs and dials, at press time it was also hosted here:

Karber identifies several “surprises”:

  1. First, the war itself was completely unexpected.
  2. Second, Western neglect of Russian “New Generation Warfare” has come home to roost, and this Russian doctrinal concept is not a mirror of any Western idea or doctrine, but something that must be understood on its own terms.
  3. Lack of western, even, interest in the military aspects of the war.

Karber observed parts of the war from the Ukrainian side and makes no pretense of being an impartial observer. Factor that in to his analyses and conclusions. Principal conclusions include:

  • This war, like the Russo-Japanese war in 1905, the Spanish Civil War in 1936, and the Yom Kippur war in 1973, is a glimpse of what potentially is to come.
  • However, the US has held American observers back from observing as was done in the 20th Century wars.
  • It’s only a proxy war on one side, because the West is not supporting Ukraine much. Despite that, Karber observes four things he thinks might be trends (while warning about the risk of perceiving any change as a trend):
    1. UAVs everywhere, always;
    2. A revolution in artillery and other indirect-fire lethality;
    3. ATGMs vs. Armor;
    4. Weakness of the Infantry Fighting Vehicle and other light armored vehicles.

Naturally, each development has met a counter. For example, when the Russians want to violate a cease-fire, they take down ceasefire monitoring drones of the OSCE using electronic warfare.

Of these, perhaps the most interesting are the artillery developments. Like World War I, 85% of casualties are caused by artillery (on both sides; the Ukrainians are not rolling over for their former slavemasters). Karber discusses the Western and US unilateral disarmament on DPICM warheads. Russian artillery trends include:

  • Multiple-rocket-launcher area fires. Russian force balance has changed from one MRL system to four artillery tubes to a 3:4 ratio: in effect, a trebling of rocket artillery over the last 30 years. Russian MRLS tactics deemphasize the precision strike favored by the US and NATO.
  • Both sides use the 2S1 Gvozdika SP artillery piece unconventionally in direct-fire mode — The Russians

in the dual role of both indirect Howitzer and as an assault gun. In this latter direct fire role it is used as an over-watch system targeting at a range of 1 to 6 km Ukrainian strong points and suppressing anti-tank defenses. In interviews with the author, numerous Ukrainian anti-tank missiles and anti-tank gun operators have noted their reticence in opening fire against Russian armor because of the expectation that they themselves will immediately be targeted by the Gvozdika.

…and the Ukrainians, as an analogue of the World War II tank destroyer — a non-tank light vehicle that fights tanks by stealth and speed (because it can’t go toe to toe).

Other weapons, including BM-21 Grad rocket launchers, are also employed deliberately, at least from time to time, in direct-fire mode.

  • Decentralization of Artillery. At least on the Russian side, Artillery batteries are being task-organized into tank and motorized-rifle battalions.
  • Increased Range of Artillery. This can be decisive in counterbattery fire. It’s no fun being outranged (as US forces in I Corps in Vietnam were by Russian-made M1946 130mm guns in the DMZ).
  • Importance of Counter-Battery Radar. The Russians use their latest technology. President Obama promised our equivalent, the AN/TPQ-36, to Ukraine, but reneged. Instead the US provided a 5000-meter-max-range anti-mortar system, one with an Achilles’s Heel:

Ukraine’s counter-mortar experience should teach the U.S. and NATO a valuable lesson. Because it is an active emitter, the Russians are able to accurately identify its location; and because it is a towed system and a computer requires a half-hour shut-down, it cannot be moved rapidly and thusly is highly vulnerable to the very counter-fire it is intended to suppress.

The U.S. supplied 20 counter-mortar radar. At least 20% of which have been lost: 2 lost to counter- fire; and 2 lost in the overrun of the Debaltseve encirclement, one of which is now being used by separatists against the Ukrainian 24th Mechanized Brigade

Kaber faults, in part, “seriously flawed” American policy set at the highest levels, which is what happens when you put policy in the hands of van drivers and campaign speechwriters, and people selected primarily for their sex or race.

His conclusions are bleak: if we’re reading him right, the increased lethality of modern weapons gives the advantage, for now, to defensive fortifications and positional warfare.

Or, prepare for World War I phase II.

Karber and Potomac Foundation colleagues have prepared seven more reports, of which two are available to the public:

  1. Gen. (ret.) Wesley Clark & Dr. P.A. Karber, “Non-Lethal Military Aid to Ukraine,” (8 April 2014);
  2. Dr. P.A. Karber, Beyond Minsk II: Prospects for a New Russian Offensive (presentation), (12 May 2014).

Links are as provided by the Potomac Foundation. We have the .pdfs should the Little Green Men take the PF off the net.

Ukrainian Conflict and Electronic Warfare

Joe Gould at Defense News noted in 2015 that one area where the modern Russian army has soundly beaten Ukraine is in the electronic realm.

“Our soldiers are doing the training with the Ukrainians and we’ve learned a lot from the Ukrainians,” said Lt. Gen. Ben Hodges. “A third of the [Ukrainian] soldiers have served in the … combat zone, and no Americans have been under Russian artillery or rocket fire, or significant Russian electronic warfare, jamming or collecting — and these Ukrainians have. It’s interesting to hear what they have learned.”

Hodges acknowledged that US troops are learning from Ukrainians about Russia’s jamming capability, its ranges, types and the ways it has been employed. He has previously described the quality and sophistication of Russian electronic warfare as “eye-watering.”

Russia maintains an ability to destroy command-and-control networks by jamming radio communications, radars and GPS signals, according to Laurie Buckhout, former chief of the US Army’s electronic warfare division, now CEO of the Corvus Group. In contrast with the US, Russia has large units dedicated to electronic warfare, known as EW, which it dedicates to ground electronic attack, jamming communications, radar and command-and-control nets.

The Russian EW campaign is not conducted in a vacuum, but coordinated with other arms and services.

In a fight, Russia’s forces can hinder a target’s ability to respond to, say, an artillery attack, allowing them to fire on an enemy with impunity. Ukrainian forces would be unable to coordinate a defense against incoming rockets and missiles, or release counter battery fire.

“If your radars don’t see incoming fire, you can’t coordinate counterfire,” Buckhout said.

This capability was once developed by the USA as well, but was among the many big-war capabilities abandoned for the “peace dividend,” the ongoing redirection of national resources to the comfort and benefit of the idle. This change has been reinforced by fifteen years of combat in a low-threat environment against an enemy without sophistication.

For example, even the Army’s highest EW priority today, “Multifunctional Electronic Warfare (MFEW), is intended to provide an offensive electronic attack capability.” But that is not a capability aimed at a peer competitor — instead, it will be able to degrade low-level un-hardened communications, “to jam cell phone, satellite and GPS signals.” That is, if the legendary military procurement system can bring it in somewhere near on time and on budget. And
“on time” is — we are not making this up — 2027.

This war is a valuable instructional period, as was the Spanish Civil War, yet it may go neglected by the institutional US Army the same way that war was. There may be no benefit for us by the lessons that US “trainers” are learning from their Ukrainian “students.” Indeed, it seems like most of the useful learning is coming our way. It can’t be used, immediately, with a national command authority that is focused on the military as a tool for social engineering, and that treats defense issues as an opportunity to surrender, apologize, or surrender and apologize.

One of the Ukrainians’ skills, surviving from their Soviet days, is an ability to operate even when under EW attack, even when denied the electronic spectrum. That’s very interesting to the USA, which is completely spectrum-dependent, yet has taken few measures to be prepared to seize and defend the spectrum. It certainly shines another light on the Soviet-era insistence on pre-coordinated, precise plans.

Other Ukrainian improvisations involve use of artillery in direct-fire AT overwatch (which the Russians are also doing, so it’s unclear who did it first), and sophisticated use of counterbattery radars for reconnaissance.


Russian operations as early as the Georgia War in 2008, and including the invasion of Ukraine and to a lesser extent operations in support of Russian client Assad in Syria, have showcased the emergence of a new and more capable Russian Army. Today’s Russian Army owes more to Russia’s historic mastery of chess than to its one-time production of ill-trained peasant mass levies.

There are still deep vulnerabilities to be exploited, but the US DOD and US Army do not seem to have the leadership to do so, or to prepare to do so in the immediate future.

More Retro/Vintage ARs, This Time from Troy

A routine email from TFB reminded us that Colt’s Retro ARs are not unique after all, but that since this year’s SHOT Show, Troy has been promoting retro ARs. At SHOT they introduced a retro GAU-5A/A, and at the NRA show, an XM177E2.

They are promoting these rifles at the cleverly selected URL, And they’re sensibly priced ($1,200-1,300 MSRP).

Here’s the GAU. A great deal of attention to detail has been applied here. It’s the right color grey.

GAU_5AA_rightThe lower receiver is contoured correctly for the A1-era CAR-15, and has almost exact rollmarks, until you look closely. It even has the “pin” for the auto sear — actually, just an engraved marking. GAU_5AA_right_rearThe pistol grip is an original surplus part — the only one. The barrel is about an inch longer than an original, and the profile of the false “moderator” — which is pinned and welded to make the barrel an ATF-legal 16″ — is a little bit off, but this is the closest any manufactured gun has gotten. Note that the bayonet lug has been milled off (this is correct to the originals).GAU_5AA_left

Care has been taken with the 2-position (period correct) stock. It is made of aluminum and then coated (probably not with the original vinyl acetate dip… that would be asking for OSHA to come a-viking to one’s factory). GAU_5AA_left_extTroy has not forgotten people who dwell within the Moonbat Curtain. You can also get one with the stock pinned in place and with the magazines gelded, and you can even go Full Harem Guard with a California-Legal (at the moment) Bullet Button. And each GAU (and the XM177s as well) comes with a package of accessories.


And let’s have a look at the XM177E2.

As you can see, it comes with all the same features and accessories as its Air Force / Son Tay brother, down to the “strap, utility” sling improvised with 550 cord loops….

XM-177E2_leftBut looking at the other side, we see the difference between the GAU and the XM, the yin of the Air Force and the yang of the Army — the forward assist, an Army-peculiar feature, originally. XM-177E2_rightHere’s the forward assist in close-up. Note how accurately they got the part colors, the lower receiver contour, and the dead-on look-and-feel of the stock.

XM-177E2 forward assistIt can’t turn you into Dick Meadows, but it can damn well give you his sight picture:

XM-177E2 sights

Here’s sthe stock with the field improvised sling.XM-177E2 stock

And here’s the other end of the sling showing how it’s attached., as well as the period-correct .625″ barrel OD. XM-177E2 FSB and slingThe moderator looks almost perfectly right.XM-177E2 false moderatorThis selector switch photo shows the false selector markings and the little fake-auto-sear “pin”. XM177E2_SCAR-XM11-14YT-00-autoMarkings-1-1024x512They’re also available with limited-custom, tasteful, laser personalization.

XM-177E2 custom laser engraved

They also include such things as copies of inspectors’ paint marks.

The Charity Angle

But wait! there’s more. For every one of these retro blasters Troy sells, they’re going to make a contribution to an appropriate charity. For instance, the GAU supports the National Leage of Families; the XM177E2 supports — what else? — the Special Forces Association and the Special Operations Association. The SFA is the regimental association of the SF Regiment, and the SOA restricts full membership to veterans of behind-the-lines or cross-border units and

We’re life members of both SOA and SFA, and yet we never heard of these things before so we’re extremely glad we picked up Nathaniel F’s report thanks to the TFB email.

How to Be a Gunwriter

patrick sweeney gun booksAt Guns and Ammo, Patrick Sweeney answers the question in the title. His books, on the right, include a couple that we paid for recently, so it’s obvious that we’re interested in what he has to say on this subject.

His key points, as we distill them, are these:

  1. Learn everything you can about guns, and keep an open mind;
  2. At some point, have a professional relationship with guns;
  3. Gain command of the English language, so that you communicate clearly and people enjoy your writing;
  4. Learn how to take photos.
  5. Write with discipline; to steal a phrase from Steven Pressfield, Do The Work.
  6. Make sure you GET PAID. (Caps in honor of all the writers’ advice Larry Correia puts out).

It’s hard choosing an excerpt from this long and useful article, but we’d recommend this one; then we’ll tell you what we think about items 1-6.

At some point, you will have to have a turn at a professional relationship with firearms. This can be in law enforcement or the military, although the risk there is ending up with a provincial attitude. You can also work at a gun shop or manufacturer. The law enforcement and military approaches are examples of the deep and narrow focus. Yes, you could end up shooting a lot, but if you do, it will be with whatever the issue firearm or firearms are. A firearms or ammunition manufacturer will be even more narrowly focused.

Working in a gun shop or gunsmithing can be narrow, but at least you have the option of branching out. Working in gun shops can be useful if you keep one thing in mind: You’re there to learn. Learn what customers want, what they like and dislike, and what they believe, true or not. You’ll get a chance to handle a wide variety of firearms, and if the shop has a gunsmith on hand, you can also learn what breaks, why and how.

A moment to mention competition: Do it. You will be a better shot for competing, and you will also be able to rub shoulders with and soak up info from those who are winning matches.

If you are going to be a gunwriter, you have to learn to write. Knowing every fact, data point and historical tidbit of every firearm or cartridge won’t do you any good if you can’t make it entertaining to read. When I started meeting other gunwriters, I was surprised at how many had degrees in journalism or English. Being a gunwriter, or planning to be one, does not excuse you from going to college. Before the Eisenhower era, a high school diploma was good enough to get you a well-paying job. Today, lacking a college degree qualifies you to be a surfer dude.

Writing styles vary, and I have to be truthful here. There is a gunwriter or two whose prose I find painful to read. (Heck, you might find my style grating.) Nevertheless, they have devoted readers, and I can find useful info in their efforts. You must find your own style, and this will probably happen with the help of a good editor. If that editor happens to be a teacher in school, you’ll have a leg up on all the other would-be gunwriters who hammer out a style once they start working as an actual gunwriter.

Hmm… are we among those guys “whose prose he finds painful to read.” Hope not, but sometimes it can’t be helped. Not everyone is going to be a fan. In any event, if you are a gunwriter, want to be a gunwriter, or want to know some details about how the sausage s made, go Read The Whole Thing™.

Now, here’s our impression of Patrick’s advice, per our numbered examples above.


  • Learn everything you can about guns, and keep an open mind;
    Honestly, we think that this is the key to how gunwriters are made. If you aren’t intensely curious about guns, you’re not going to develop a good frame of reference for thinking about them. As far as the open mind goes, even the best and most curious minds often close on a subject. Would you rather see Rifle X analyzed by a guy who’s got the t-shirt as a Company X fanboy, got the other color t-shirt as a rival Company Y fanboy, or who can put his preferences aside and see what Company X is delivering on its own terms?
    For a writer, learning about new guns (or learning new things about old guns!) doesn’t entirely feel like work, but it is. (Also, if you’re getting paid, you can buy Pat Sweeney’s books, or mine, and expense them on your Schedule C, a big benefit if you live in a tax hell like Massachusetts or Maryland).
  • At some point, have a professional relationship with guns;
    He is right to suggest that a professional relationship can be narrowing but it need not be. Yeah, a rifleman is trained in a handful of his own nation’s weapons, but he learns all about the use and employment of those weapons, especially if he makes it to, say, squad leader or so. A small arms repairman may not have the eye for terrain that an MG squad leader develops, but he sure develops a sense of what Joe breaks and how to fix it.
    SF weapons man is a relatively rare position where one gets hands-on experience with enemy, allied, and unaligned nations’ arms as well as one’s own. (Technical intelligence troops may get some of this, too). A military reserve career is a good parallel to one’s civilian work (it took us nine years to discover that SF was better pursued as a hobby than as a living), but done right it is very time consuming and it’s hard to sell missed birthdays, graduations and anniversaries for a “hobby.”
    Most of the writers we enjoy reading have had this professional relationship at some time. An important thing is to keep you eyes open and your wits about you while working in that job. Tam Keel, for one, seems to have gotten a lot more out of working in a gun shop than the average guy or gal would; she has a very wide range of gun knowledge, and shoots better than most of us. (Here’s a great example of why we always put down the Dr Pepper before opening her blog. Carbonated, acidic beverages are hell on sinuses).
  • Gain command of the English language, so that you communicate clearly and people enjoy your writing;
    Some people seem to think that this is a talent you’re either born with or not (like, say, a good singing voice), and one that you can’t improve with training and/or practice (unlike, say, a singing voice). It’s more like, say, guitar playing. Rare cases may be born with a natural gift, but anybody can get better through almost any combination of instruction and practice. (For the best results, use both). We would shy away from university writing programs, especially those aimed at technical and scientific communication. A lot of really horrible English gets broadcast in scientific papers; you’re supposed to be struggling to catch up with the new discovery, but we’re as often struggling to understand what the writer intended to say. (Native speakers are worse than immigrants, at least by the time the paper hits Science or Nature).
    We’d also add that everybody needs an editor. This typo-ridden and sometimes ill-organized blog is what you get when you turn loose a pretty good writer without an editor except for the one in the back of his brain housing group. (Which is no good; you can’t edit yourself).
  • Learn how to take photos.
    We’ll admit we’ve been lazy about this and use lots of net photos and too many cell phone photos. And yet, we’ve got decent cameras, and while we’re a bit rusty, there was a great two-week photography module in the pre-digital-camera Special Forces Operations and Intelligence course (including such obsolete tech as turning your Gore-tex jacket into a darkroom to develop the film). The key things to learn are simple though, and you can start getting the hang of it in a day: How to select a lens for a clear picture, how to focus, how to use depth of field, how to compose a picture properly.
  • Write with discipline; to steal a phrase from Steven Pressfield, Do The Work.
    Patrick notes with approval a friend who writes 1000 words a day (plus however much extra he feels like), and rewrites the previous day’s work. We have a similar goal, which is 1000 words on each of two books every day. Along with whatever goes in the blog, which is usually an average of 3k words. Insider secret: the more you write, the better you get at it, the more productive you are. Insider secret two: academics and literary critics are a lousy test of your quality. Those guys all love fellow New Hampshire writer J.D. Salinger who lived, if frugally, on having his one book assigned to generations of defenseless high school students, and they disdain our New Hampshire neighbor Dan Brown; if you ever visit Hog Manor we can take a drive past Brown’s house and see it’s not really made of gold bars. (But, he’s not hurting. And you’ll laugh when we explain why).
  • Make sure you GET PAID. (Caps in honor of all the writers’ advice Larry Correia puts out).
    Obviously we are a no-go at the get paid station, but that’s because this blog is one of an (involuntarily and early) retired guy’s avocations. We are working sy-mon-tane-EE-yussly on two books for release this year, one of which will sell in a trickle to gun geeks, and one of which may have broader appeal in the gun culture.


When Guns are Outlawed, Only Outlaws will have Curry

Indian GardenAnd as often, this bizarre death eventuated in England, where everyone’s going to live forever (at least, until killed by mohammedan immigrants or EU taxation), because guns are outlawed. Although, to be strictly fair, the guy in this story, Paul Wilson, was killed by a mohammedan immigrant: a restaurateur who poisoned Wilson with bogus curry misrepresented as safe for his allergies.

Even in a column that brings up a bizarre or futile death six days a week, Death by Curry is a new one.

A penny-pinching restaurant boss was today jailed for six years after being found guilty of killing a customer by serving him a meal containing ground peanuts and triggering a fatal allergic reaction.

Mohammed Zaman, 53, used cheaper ground peanuts at his restaurants, rather than almond powder, resulting in the manslaughter of nut allergy sufferer Paul Wilson, 38, in North Yorkshire.

Mr Wilson never recovered after eating a takeaway curry from the Indian Garden in Easingwold [Yorkshire], despite telling staff he could not eat nuts – and a judge has now blasted Zaman as ‘reckless’.

Recorder of Middlesbrough Judge Simon Bourne-Arton said Zaman had built up his businesses since arriving in Britain 40 years and gathered a property portfolio worth more than £2million.

He added: ‘You threw all that away. You have done so in pursuit of profit. You have done so in such a manner as to bring about the death of another individual. Paul Wilson was in the prime of his life. He, like you, worked in the catering trade. He, unlike you, was a careful man.’

The judge said married father-of-four Zaman had told ‘many lies’ to the jury, adding: ‘You remain in complete and utter denial for what you have done.’

Earlier Mr Wilson’s heartbroken parents Keith and Margaret Wilson said today that a mere mouthful of the contaminated chicken tikka masala was enough to kill their son.

During a trial that led to his conviction it emerged that Zaman ran up £294,000 debts in his restaurants so was substituting ingredients for cheaper alternatives.

Mr Wilson died three weeks after a teenage customer at another of Zaman’s six restaurants suffered an allergic reaction which required hospital treatment.

Detective Inspector Shaun Page said Mr Wilson’s death was ‘totally avoidable’

The prosecution said the owner had a ‘reckless and cavalier attitude to risk’ and ‘put profit before safety’ at the restaurants he owned.

Zaman, from Huntington, York, denied manslaughter by gross negligence, perverting the course of justice and six food safety offences.

He was found guilty of all charges except perverting course of justice.

via Penny-pinching curry house boss GUILTY of killing allergic customer by giving him takeaway containing peanuts because it was cheaper than almonds | Daily Mail Online.

Well, that’s good. We certainly wouldn’t want the course of justice being perverted. Don’t the English reserve that fate for schoolboys?

We like curry! But please, hold the death. And please, no caning; we’re not English.

Some American Thoughts on Russia’s “New Generation War.”


You’ve come a long way, baby! Russian movie portrayal of the Red Army.

Both of these documents were sent to us by a retired senior special operations officer who is employed in an influential position in operations planning. The authors of the first (and more recent) document recently did a stand up in front of, if we have this right, Joint Ops at the Pentagon. So you’re learning here what American colonels, generals, and senior policy civilians are learning about our Russian rivals.

“Rival” is, we think, the right word; so far, Russia sees itself as in competition with the democratic West, and not entirely at war. In fact, Russian leadership, which was Soviet junior leadership during the Cold War, seems intent on a new Cold War with the same broad spectrum of rivalries: political, economic, propaganda, and military via proxy wars. We have not seen a return to terror sponsorship on the level of  the pre-1992 KGB and GRU, but we can’t tell whether that’s because: today’s Russia actually eschews this as a tactic, either on moral or practical grounds; today’s Russia is better at doing it undetected than the USSR was; or, increased surveillance of terrorists and their sponsors heightens risks for state sponsors. (If we had to pick one we’d go with #1, Russia is not sponsoring terrorists, because Russian policy does not permit that at this time. But we don’t have evidence for that).

The first article is a nine-page extract from Army Magazine, the usually low-value trade mag of the Association of the US Army, an organization that young lieutenants are dragooned into joining. But it’s by two serious guys, Professor Phil Karber, a reformed Marine who’s been a heavyweight in US Army ground forces strategy for over 40 years, and LTC Josh Thibeault, a typically overeducated (heh) Operations Analyst.


(Note that we made three small corrections in the file, a typo in the filename, removed a blank tenth page, and ran it through our own OCR. If you are planning on sending this around anonymously, get the Army version from the Early Bird or “they” can trace you to WeaponsMan). Here’s an edited excerpt:

Russia represents a real threat, to real allies, on real terrain. Though Russian President Vladimir Putin’s intentions might be unknowable, we do know what his game plan is.
It’s called “new-generation warfare,” and it targets Western weaknesses, not strengths. New-generation warfare differs from Western views of hybrid conflict in that it combines both low-end, hidden state involvement with high-end, direct, even braggadocio superpower involvement.

Russian new-generation warfare is manifested in five component elements:

– Political subversion.
– Proxy sanctuary.
– Intervention.
– Coercive deterrence.
– Negotiated manipulation.

Contrary to Western politicians, the Russian leadership understands these military options and plays them like a Stradivarius.

Karber and Thibeault do examine each of those in depth, and review such newly evident Russian competencies (many of which, in fact, the old Soviet Army was not at all weak on) and their consequences for US Army RDT&E, strategy and doctrine. These areas including electronic warfare, unmanned aerial systems (new, as is the way the Russian Army uses them), tank and IFV developments, air and missile defense.

Russian artillery is particularly well-developed. Always a historic strength, new technology has made this artilllery more effective, accurate and lethal, and Karber and Thibeault project a bit of what might happen to American units if they were hit as two Ukrainian mech battalions were hit two years ago, in July 2014. (The authors don’t mention this, but the units were moving as agreed with the Russians under a cease-fire agreement).

Russia launched fire strikes with long-range artillery and multiple rocket launchers employing top-attack munitions and thermobaric warheads against two Ukrainian mechanized battalions in the open. This intensely concentrated fire strike lasted only a few minutes yet inflicted high casualties and destroyed most armored vehicles, rendering both battalions combat-ineffective.

The T-64 improved Bulat tanks of the Ukrainian 1st Armored Brigade burn, 13 July 14

The T-64 improved Bulat tanks of the Ukrainian 1st Armored Brigade burn, 13 July 14.

In combat situations like this, when up to 30 percent of a unit is killed or incapacitated, command and control breaks down and the unit is unable to treat its own wounded, much less reconstitute itself and continue its mission. The Army needs to develop reconstitution teams at the brigade level that will re-establish command and control, provide triage and other medical support, and quickly coordinate reconstitution. Likewise, units at all levels must frequently train in mass-casualty scenarios.

It’s an interesting idea, but the reconstitution team can’t work as long as the artillery continues.

Needless to say, fifteen years of desultory low-intensity warfare against rifle- and RPG-armed primitives in plastic flip-flops has not prepared the United States Army to fight against a competitor like this. (And what is a Russian capability today is a Chinese capability tomorrow, and a global second-tier state’s capability in months or a year. We are not the only ones studying these battles).

Meanwhile, we have a leadership adept at social engineering, but incompetent at war planning or even weapons procurement. What the Russians did to those two Ukrainian battalions, the US can’t do, because the US has unilaterally disarmed from thermobaric and cluster munitions. The article’s conclusion on that:

Russian artillery maintains an approximate 3:1 size advantage over the Army’s artillery, and they have a capability advantage as well with their use of dual-purpose improved conventional munitions and submunitions. For the Army to be competitive, the DoD must repeal then-Secretary of Defense Robert Gates’ 2008 directive to comply with the provisions of the Ottawa Treaty, which resulted in the removal of all submunitions from the Army’s inventory.

Note that, while Gates is often thought of one of Obama’s lousy defense officials, when he made this lousy decision he was still one of Bush’s lousy defense officials. This is a defense problem, not a partisan problem.

One more thought: military planners love infantry fighting vehicles. You know who doesn’t? Infantrymen. After seeing what protection a BMP provides, Ukrainians ride on top. In Chechnya, Russians rode on top. In Vietnam, American mech infantry rode on top. None of these things can resist artillery fires. Which right now the US unilaterally has disarmed itself of, believing that navigation satellites (subject to other Russian and other weaponry) and air supremacy were permanent conditions of US deployments.

And one final thought, on aviation. The Russians swept the Ukrainian fast movers and helicopters from the sky. Flying this high could be deadly (20 August, 2014):

So could flying even lower:

Ukrainian helicopters were reduced to flying 3 to 5 meters above ground or treetop level to avoid the larger surface-to-air missiles from the self-propelled systems, but ambush teams of two to five manportable air defense systems, cued by the integrated air defense network, shot them down. Without adequate suppression of enemy air defense assets or hardened bases and defenses, Ukraine was powerless to stop this.

Some other interesting tactics have been emerging, too, but this is a start. As we said, there are two articles; the other tomorrow or Thursday (we have to hunt it up).