North Korea backs down

It was sort of amazing the last couple of days, as we watched the whole world wet its pants worrying about the Norks. Except, of course, those who had the duty. They, Trump and Mattis, doubled down and told the fat kid to behave himself. Well, look at that, he apparently decided that launching missiles at Guam wasn’t such a good idea. America doesn’t do a lot of sabre rattling, partially because it’s not really our style, but more because a fair share of the world knows (or at least used to) that when Washington draws sabres, people, mostly other people, mostly those who wish America harm, die. Bevin Alexander wrote a few years ago about where the American character was formed…

Imagine, if you will, the sense of awe that seized the first settlers at Jamestown in Virginia, in 1607, at Plymouth in Massachusetts, and at the other landings along the coast of North America in the early decades of the seventeenth century. Here were little English communities hacking out perch sites on the very edge of an unknown land. … But when they finally reached the great chain of mountains called the Appalachians and gazed out from its heights, they were utterly confounded-before them an even more boundless, more astonishing land stretched out to seeming infinity toward the setting sun.

This was the moment when the American character was formed. Whatever limits of class and status the settlers had brought with them from Britain would fall away to insignificance in this prodigious land. When astute individuals looked toward the limitless frontier that they now knew would beckon continuously on the western horizon, they realized that no king, no aristocracy, could crush them. At any time they could cross this frontier and put all of Europe’s restraints behind them. This had immense and overwhelming effects throughout the colonies. Americans, whether they crossed the frontier or not, were destined to be forever free.

Those guys, and the great majority of us today, meant it. It’s part of the reason Trump won. It’s bad enough to hear our America derided by a bunch of Eurowienies and Asiatic dictators. To have the President join in was intolerable, and so we decided not to tolerate it.

Si vis pacem, para bellum

Alexander also made the point that the United States, like England before us, looks upon itself as an island. We will tolerate many things in the world outside, but if you threaten us, and our people, it is most unlikely to go well for you. One could ask the ghost of Nikita Kruschev about that. What was it like to be the Soviet premier, after the Cuban Missile Crisis. Too many forget, Jack Kennedy was regarded as a weak president after the Bay of Pigs, and perhaps he was – until he was pushed. William Teach tells us:

Remember the apocalyptic (non-secular, of course) talking points from most left wing news outlets, pundits, Congress critters, etc, about how Trump’s tough talking was taking us to nuclear war? Some others in the Trump admin, such as James “Mad Dog” Mattis had tough words, too. Guess what?

Kim Jong Un Backs Down In Nuclear Showdown With Trump

North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un decided Tuesday not to fire ballistic missiles at Guam, reserving the right to change his mind if “the Yankees persist in their extremely dangerous reckless actions,” according to North Korean state media.

Kim appears to be attempting to de-escalate tensions to prevent conflict between the U.S. and North Korea. After the U.N. Security Council approved tougher sanctions against North Korea for its intercontinental ballistic missile tests, the North warned Wednesday that it was considering launching a salvo of ballistic missiles into waters around Guam in a show of force demonstrating an ability to surround the island with “enveloping fire.” That same day, President Donald Trump stressed that North Korean threats will be met with “fire and fury like nothing the world has ever seen.” For a week, the two sides hurled threats and warnings at each other repeatedly, leading some observers to conclude that the two sides were close to nuclear war.

But, Kim blinked.

Kim, according to North Korean state media, told the North Korean strategic rocket force that he “would watch a little more the foolish and stupid conduct of the Yankees,” giving the U.S. time to reassess the situation. “He said that he wants to advise the U.S. to take into full account gains and losses with clear head whether the prevailing situation is more unfavorable for any party.”

American foreign policy since before there was an America could easily be summed up, and perhaps it was best by John Wayne in The Shootist.

 “I won’t be wronged, I won’t be insulted, and I won’t be laid a hand on. I don’t do these things to other people, and I require the same from them.”

A Cousin’s Playdate

Seapower as done by real Navies

The picture is of the USS George W. Bush and HMS Queen Elizabeth plus escorts doing joint work-ups off the coast of Scotland. The first time in years that the RN has had a carrier that is actually fairly close to the capital ship class that the US CVN has become.

We talk here, particularly lately, a fair amount about the military because 1) we’re quite proud of our boys and girls, and 2) they have a huge responsibility to keep us free. But this blog has long prided itself on its Anglophilia and we still pay attention. Indeed, some days, I spend more time on UK matters than I do ours. Part of that is paying attention, of course. And one of the best places to do that is a Thin Pinstriped Line. Sir Humphrey does us all a service in keeping UK Defence matters real. This article is from him.

The decision by the RN to move to a bigger generation of carriers for CVF posed a number of challenges. For nearly 30 years it ran a reasonably small airwing on the Invincibles – usually peaking at roughly 20 airframes all told of which only about half were fixed wing Harriers. This meant the RN had lost its experience of dealing with big deck carriers, and wasn’t used to dealing with large airwings anymore – not just in terms of practical handling on deck, but the wider issues of force generation, sortie generation and employing a large airwing in a very different manner to a small force of defensive fighters.

Without doubt the most impressive defence related story of the week was the news of QUEEN ELIZABETH and the USS GEORGE W BUSH steaming together off the coast of Scotland in concert with a variety of escorts. The sight of a pair of allied carriers operating together is increasingly uncommon, and its even less common to see a US carrier in UK waters these days.

The pictures are genuinely stirring – two of the largest and most complex warships in human history sailing together, one returning from operations in the Middle East and the other at the start of a career that will see her doubtless spend many years deployed in the Middle East. But its not just a photo that is so compelling here, it’s the deeper story of integration and co-operation between the US and UK that makes this such a fabulous story to tell.

Any nation can put on a photo shoot of ships together at sea – indeed when you have multi-national maritime exercises between countries that don’t work closely together, the most important ‘take away’ is being able to get them all to steam together long enough to take a photo or two. But a photo is little more than a snapshot in time intended to look good for PR images. Ultimately there is nothing particularly difficult for the RN & USN to form up in a completely non-tactical but very photogenic formation and steam in roughly the same direction for a short time.

What really matters is the wider support and links between the USN and RN that have helped keep the UK on track to sustain and regenerate carrier strike over the last few years. This is less visible, but as equally important.

 

Embedding Excellence

From the outset of the CVF project the RN has worked closely to maintain an excellent relationship with the USN, who have in turn provided fantastic assistance. This took on renewed significance after 2010 when the decision was taken to delete the GR9 from service and take a gap in operating fixed wing carriers. At the time the intent was to move to a CTOL F35 fleet, and even though this later changed to STOVL, the USN remained very willing to let the RN in and have access to its resources and training pipeline.

This offer has played an enormous part in keeping the RN able to keep naval aviation alive and prepare for the reintroduction of a truly ‘big deck’ carrier capability. The USN hasn’t just trained pilots (there are a lot of RN F18 pilots out there now), its also provided training for RN flight deck crew to get them aware of just how complex a ‘big deck’ carrier is, and what a step up it is from the Invincibles.

For many years now, there has routinely been a detachment of 6-10 RN personnel onboard many US Carriers, usually flight deck crew, pilots or officers carrying out roles as an integrated part of the ships company. This isn’t always without its challenges – apparently the USN doesn’t allow beards, and at least one copy of Queens Regulations has been sent out to confirm to the USN that the bearded RN crewmen aren’t trying to get one over on them!

A similar story can be told about the manner in which the USN is prepared to allocate control of its assets to the RN, such as during SAXON WARRIOR to help the RN gain experience of operating a large carrier with significant strike capability. It is no exaggeration to say that the RN has simply never had the level of strike capability generation that QEC offers. Even in the supposed ‘heyday’ of the RN carrier fleet in the 1970s, the strike package was limited to 18 buccaneers. Once QEC is fully up and running, she will be able to support and sustain an air-group of 36 JSF  and potentially significantly higher, with a level of sortie generation far in excess of what has been possible before.

Being able to practise this sort of planning and co-ordination with a US carrier matters because the RN is going to be operating at a scale of capability that it simply has not experienced before. At the risk of descending into ‘fantasy fleets’ territory here, its worth noting that a combined US/UK embarkation of 48 F35 on a CVF gives her an almost equivalent level of capability to a US carrier. If the US didn’t give the UK this sort of access, it would take many more years for CVF to reach her full potential with a much steeper learning curve.

There is considerably more at the link above, but this is one of the best stories I have published here. It is so good to see the cousins, the original, globe spanning, English speaking, superpower, again taking its rightful place in the front rank. Once again able to project force at her (and our) accustomed level. Nothing could be a better way to start a new week, fraught as it might be with a rumor of war and unforseen things that go bump in the night.

Sir Humphrey ends, rightly with this, and yes, I wholeheartedly agree with him, and it does my heart proud to see the RN, and yes, the UK step up this way.

True interoperability is an act of faith and trust between partners. This trust takes decades to build up and is only very sparingly given. All it takes is one act where a country is unable to carry out military action due to another refusing access (for instance overflight of airspace) for this trust to collapse.

This is why the QUEEN ELIZABETH is so significant – for the first time ever the US Armed Forces feel comfortable enough to assume that the USMC will be routinely embarking and operating from a foreign platform. This level of shared sovereignty is a real step change for the US, which works well as a coalition lead, but less well as a coalition partner over concerns about how its assets will be used.

This is a big deal, and highlights yet another reason why QUEEN ELIZABETH is such a game changer, not just for the UK but our American allies too. No other country gets this level of access or integration – others get as far as integrating an air defence platform into a CVBG, but this takes the Anglo-US relationship to a whole new level of capability.

 At a time when it is fashionable to say that the UK doesn’t exert much influence in DC and gets little from the US, Humphrey would argue that the reverse is true. The UK has been given an astonishing level of access to US Navy capability and platforms, and in return the US feels it can trust the UK enough to embark sailors and marines to sea with the UK on operations.

The great Anglo-American Prime Minister Sir Winston Churchill told the US Congress this:

It is not given to us to peer into the mysteries of the future. Still, I avow my hope and faith, sure and inviolate, that in the days to come the British and American peoples will for their own safety and for the good of all walk together side by side in majesty, in justice, and in peace.’

And because I can, and haven’t had a good excuse to lately

The Week in Picture: The Bombing Starts in 5 Minutes Edition

Hah, Saturday snuck up on me, but I saw it coming. So a bit has gone on this week, as usual, summed up well in pictures. Here’s some of them.

 

Aws usual, most from PowerLine. Have a better week

 

Mossie Plans and Elite Wallpaper

Now, we don’t often get this lucky! And something completely different.

A priceless collection of technical and engineering designs for the World War II Mosquito aircraft has been discovered hidden in a factory days before its demolition. An engineer found more than 20,000 drawings on microfilm cards in the building at Hawarden Airfield in Broughton, near Chester on the Welsh side of the border with England. This is the only complete archive of Mosquito technical drawings known in the world, all of which were top secret classified material during and after the war. It includes plans for experimental models that never made it to the prototype stage, including one that would carry torpedoes to attack German battleships, a previously unknown photo-reconnaissance plane, and a “Mosquito Mk I, Tropics” model that featured a compartment in the rear fuselage for storing desert equipment. It’s a great stroke of luck that they were discovered by an engineer who had the knowledge to recognize what a massive historical treasure he had stumbled upon and saved it before the bulldozers came in to raze the old factory and everything inside of it.

There is nothing the British do not have. They have the geniuses, and we have the nincompoops.” His bitterness was informed by personal experience, as a Mosquito raid on a Berlin radio station where he had been scheduled to deliver a speech delayed him by more than an hour.

It was the remarkable wooden construction that shortened the aircraft’s lifespan so dreadfully. Plywood and balsa don’t last long, so while its metal contemporaries like the Spitfire survived for decades after the war, the Mosquitos degraded into nothingness. Production stopped in 1950 and any surviving stock was left to rot in storage. The last airworthy Mosquito in Britain crashed at an air show in 1996, killing both pilots. There are only three Mosquitos in the world today that can fly, one in Canada, the other two in the US.

The microfilm archive was donated to The People’s Mosquito, a charitable organization that seeks to rebuild a crashed Mosquito so that the aircraft that has been credibly described as “the plane that won the war” can fly again over England’s green and pleasant land. The technical drawings will allow them to reconstruct the plane to modern aviation safety standards while ensuring its historical accuracy.

The charity hopes to resurrect the remains of a Mosquito night fighter that crashed at RAF Coltishall, in February 1949, while serving with No 23 Sqn.

Ross Sharp, engineering director for the project, said: “As you can imagine, restoring an aircraft that is 70 years old presents several challenges, one of which is a lack of information on the building techniques, materials, fittings and specifications.”

“These plans enable us to glean a new level of understanding and connection with the brilliant designers who developed the world’s first, true, multi-role combat aircraft.” […]

[The People’s Mosquito chairman John] Lilley said: “No other aircraft has amassed such a remarkable combat record in so short a time, flying so many different types of mission and excelling in each one.

“Even today, it remains one of the world’s most successful multirole combat aircraft, and it was all British, made by men and women who only a few months earlier had been building furniture and mending pianos.”

Despite the great boost the discovery of the archive gives the project, they still have a long ways to go before restoration can begin. Money is the issue. The estimated cost of the restoration is £6 million and only a small portion of that has been raised. If you’d like to pitch in, the People’s Mosquito has some in its shop, with all kinds of perks and takes online donations.

Cache of WWII Mosquito plans found days before destruction

A most worthy cause, I think.

This is nearly as neat.

When Philip Schuyler (1733-1804) began building his estate near Albany, NY in 1761, he was determined to make it a suitable home for his growing family as well as for his stature as a gentleman of wealth and property.

Called The Pastures, the brick house was to be elegant and substantial in its Georgian symmetry, and sit grandly on eighty acres high on the hill overlooking the Hudson (or North) River so that visitors coming to Albany from New York City would be sure to see it first. Twenty-eight-year-old Philip wanted his house to be as impressive inside as it was commanding from the exterior, and while the house was being built, he combined a business trip to London with something of a decorating spending spree.

Unlike most 18thc wallpaper which was block-printed, or “stampt”, this paper was painted entirely by hand in tempera paint in shades of grey – en grisaille was the term – to mimic engraved prints. In fact, the entire scheme of the papers was an elaborate trompe l’oeil to represent framed paintings and cartouches, all custom designed for the walls and spaces they would occupy.

This was, of course, extremely expensive, and as much a sign of Philip’s deep pockets as his taste. The wallpaper he ordered featured romantically scenic landscapes by the Italian painter Paolo Panini, and was called “Ruins of Rome.” The “Ruins of Rome” wallpaper was so rare and costly that there are only two examples of it known to survive in America: in the Jeremiah Lee Mansion in Marblehead, MA, and in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, NY, which has installed the paper taken from the now-demolished Rensselaerwyck, the home of Stephen Van Rensselaer II, also near Albany. (Yet all status and expense is a matter of degrees; the scenic wallpaper was inspired by aristocratic rooms like this one from Ditchley Park, Oxfordshire, UK, which features real Panini paintings in gilded, carved frames and Genoese cut velvet on the walls.)

Not bad for the colonies though, I reckon. From Recreating the 18thc “Ruins of Rome” Wallpaper in the Schuyler Mansion

Of Nukes and Men

The Fat Man then, and now…?

So, this is a bit worrying. Yesterday was the 72d anniversary of the attack on Nagasaki, and it appears some Asians have a short memory.

In any case, the Norks have threatened to send a few missiles off towards Guam. If they do they will learn a new skill: Dying. Guam is a US Territory, home to Anderson Air Force Base. This too is America, in fact, this is just as serious as an attack on say Ellsworth AFB, in South Dakota, for the same reason – this is a bomber base, amongst many other things, and America’s nuclear triad must be defended at all costs. And Navy Base, Guam is nothing to sneeze at, either. These are important installations. And if I read Trump correctly, it will be. Welcome back to October 1962, only this time induced by an actually weak American president, who gave aid and comfort to America’s enemies. No, I am not speaking of Trump. The situation is a direct legacy of Barack Obama, and his feckless and pusillanimous pursuit of anything that degraded the history of America.

Welcome back to October 1962, only this time induced by an actually weak American president, who gave aid and comfort to America’s enemies. No, I am not speaking of Trump. The situation is a direct legacy of Barack Obama, and his feckless and pusillanimous pursuit of anything that degraded the history of America.

Part of that, we learned yesterday was that North Korea has nuclear devices small enough to install on a missile, or at least we believe so. The bad part is that we knew that back in 2013, but the story was suppressed. From Fox News:

Tuesday’s bombshell Washington Post story that the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) has determined North Korea is capable of constructing miniaturized nuclear weapons that could be used as warheads for missiles – possibly ICBMs – left out a crucial fact: DIA actually concluded this in 2013.  The Post also failed to mention that the Obama administration tried to downplay and discredit this report at the time.

During an April 11, 2013, House Armed Services Committee hearing, Congressman Doug Lamborn, R-Colo., inadvertently revealed several unclassified sentences from a DIA report that said DIA had determined with “moderate confidence” that North Korea has the capability to make a nuclear weapon small enough to be launched with a ballistic missile.

The Director of National Intelligence and Obama officials subsequently tried to dismiss Lamborn’s disclosure by claiming the DIA assessment was an outlier that did not reflect the views of the rest of the U.S. Intelligence Community.

Obama officials tried to downplay the DIA assessment to prevent it from being used to force the president to employ a more assertive North Korea policy.

Isn’t that freakin’ special? But then I can’t say it’s unexpected. If Obama was good at anything, it was covering up things that redounded to his discredit, and heaven knows he got plenty of practice.

So there we are, actually the same as any other day ending a y, America will be defended against all enemies, it just seems as if perhaps one fool in charge hasn’t gotten the word, Obama is gone forever, and Hillary will never be president. Kim Jong-il’s time has come and gone, although his hour of self-appointed doom may be coming close. Many, including Bill Richardson, say he is a weak man, afraid of his own shadow. Well, that seems likely, actually, but if anything that makes him even more dangerous, because he is unpredictable.

That doesn’t mean that the only option is to burn it down from orbit with nuclear fire, actually, that’s overkill. There is nothing here that conventional aerial bombs, missiles, and such can’t deal with. And my guess is that America’s best defense assets are in Guam, Japan, and the ROK. They are at risk, of course, but there is risk and then there is risk, and part of life is to choose amongst them. For me, the calculus works out that it is time for ‘the Fat Man’ (pun intended) to retire or be fired. or should that be fried?. All my life, these fools have been oppressing their own people and threatening everyone else in the neighbourhood. Enough is enough, fix it, deal with the damage and move on.

Who knows, might even be a salutary lesson for some Mullahs, who seem to have forgotten what Ronald Reagan taught them. I also note that an actual majority of Americans are supportive of military action. That doesn’t happen very often.

Minutemen on Guard

Well, I see the Norks have launched an ICBM. It was a test, or a demonstration, of course. It’s nice to see they are making so much progress, all the way up to what the Soviet Union was doing in the mid-fifties. That’s not to denigrate it, it could be a real threat, especially given their loony-tunes leadership. But technically for a nation state, it is trivial. It’s also pretty useless since it just has to be cheaper to pay somebody else to launch your satellites, and launching actual nukes…well, if you want to rule a sheet of glass from hell, it might be viable, otherwise, not so much.

In non-news, yesterday the US was planning to launch a Minuteman III test flight. I haven’t checked by am fairly confident they did, and it passed. After all, Minuteman first deployed in the mid-1960s and has been upgraded and its service life extended a few times. Warsclerotic has some details.

The US Air Force test-launched a Minuteman III missile, just days after North Korea fired its latest ICBM into the Sea of Japan (also called the East Sea). The US missile, carrying no warhead, is expected to hit a mock target on a Pacific atoll.

An unarmed Minuteman III intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) lifted off at 2:10am local time from the US Air Force North Vandenberg base, some 210km (130 miles) northwest of Los Angeles, AP reported.

The launch is said to “validate and verify the effectiveness, readiness, and accuracy of the weapon system,” according to Colonel Michael Hough, commander of Air Force Global Strike Command’s 30th Air Wing.

“Team V is postured to work with Air Force Global Strike Command to test launch the Minuteman III missile,” Hough said in a statement. “Our long history in partnering with the men and women of the 576th Flight Test Squadron shows that the Western Range stands ready and able to create a safe launch environment.”

This will be the fourth Minuteman ICBM launched from the Vandenberg base this year. The first 2017 test took place in February, involving a Minuteman III that traveled to the Marshall Islands, carrying a non-explosive warhead. Another test was conducted by the Air Force on April 26. Days later, a third test missile launched from Vandenberg base.

Nice to know they still work after all these years.

I saw some pictures the other day of a Nork parade, you know infantry goose stepping along, tank commanders saluting proudly, ridiculously vulnerable mobile missiles and all. My thought was, “Just what are you trying to prove, and to whom?” Everybody in the west understands that you could make a pretty ugly mess – while you commit suicide with your people, which is effectively what happens when you overtly attack the US. I suspect your people know perfectly well, even if they are wise enough not to say it, that building these toys to amuse yourself, is why you are starving your people. torturing them, killing them.

Or is it really all ego, “look daddy at my toys, they’re even newer than Uncle Sam’s!” Which they are, since we build tools to do a job, and I’m not sure anybody is convinced that Minuteman IV would be any real improvement, so let’s not waste the money.

Just an irrelevant question, anybody remember when we last had a strictly military parade in Washington? I’m thinking it was as the armies went home back in 1865, but maybe there was another one or two. Not very important, is it? The military itself, like the Minuteman III, is a tool, designed to do a job, the defense of the American people, which it does superbly. It’s not a toy to stroke the President’s ego, he gets enough of that without. We’ve got a few units for show, of course: The Honor Guard from the 3d Infantry, the Herald Trumpets, the Old Guard, things like that, but basically, the US Military reflects the US. Not much about show, but a whole lot about go, and do.

Suits me, and seems to suit most of us, very well.

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