Big Bust in the Big Apple

A police officer in a bomb suit examined a Nissan Pathfinder sport utility vehicle.

If you haven’t been following, a pretty poor VBIED was found in Times Square today after a t-shirt vendor notified a horse cop that there was a smoking SUV parked at a strange angle. Quick evac of the area and speedy response from the NYPD. Turns out it was in the midst of detonating, but was shoddily constructed and thus never actually went off. Possibly a downside to open-source warfare, etc. : you can have the plans and the equipment, but actually following those instructions may prove difficult. Ever try to assemble something from Ikea?

But so far, the reaction from Bloomberg and the NYPD has been pretty stellar. And no one is panicking a la the Pants Bomber. In this case, at least, failure as a strategy has proven to be no more than just a plain failure.

The vendor who found the bomb is absolutely Mr. Cool:

He said that he was reluctant to speak with members of the media because they had twisted his words when they interviewed him in recent years.

He got into the back seat of the taxi, took off his hat and used it to fan his face.

Before he left, he was asked what he had to say to New Yorkers.

See something, say something,” he said.

The Manliest Scooter Ever?

This Italian Vespa scooter was built under license in the 1950s by Ateliers de Construction de Motocycles et Automobiles (ACMA), fitted with the US-made M20 75mm recoilless rifle, and employed in some number by the French armed forces (about 800 were deployed in Algeria and Indochina).

The aim was to provide airborne forces (TAP stands for Troupes Aéroportées) with a lightweight, but effective anti-armour weapon. Each gun crew consisted of two men on Vespas – one mounting the gun itself, the other carrying the ammunition and other equipment. To fire, the gun was taken down and deployed on a tripod carried by the team – not, sadly, fired from the Vespa while moving [emphasis mine].

Via Osprey.

“A Small Thermal Exhaust Port…”

Its defenses are designed around a direct large-scale assault. A small one-man fighter should be able to penetrate the outer defense.
[…]
The Empire doesn’t consider a small one-man fighter to be any threat, or they’d have a tighter defense.

General Dodonna

Some good news for the US Navy:

Military experts say the Fifth Fleet has come a long way since Iranian gunboats crippled it within hours in a notorious war game five years ago.

In fact, says John Pike, president of the Alexandria, Va.-based Global Security Web site, the Navy was well on its way to solving the challenge of fending off the swarming swift boats before the war game began.

In that test, an enemy “red team” headed by retired Martine Corps Gen. Paul Van Riper deployed the gun boats and propeller-driven suicide planes to paralyze the Fifth Fleet, based in Bahrain in the Persian Gulf.

It took Riper less than two hours to knock it out of commission.

Key to the shocking result was Van Riper’s strategy of neutralizing the American advantage in big guns and cruise missiles by getting in close before hostilities began.

But the Navy now has the MK 182, “the mother of all shotgun shells,” fired by 5-inch guns deployed on every major ship in the fleet, says Pike.

Nice to see the USN thinking small, fast, and swarming. Even if it’s just a defensive strategy, the vulnerability of the navy as is to asymmetrical threats – be it dinghies or land-based anti-ship missiles – is pretty damning. Clearly a step in the right direction.

Of course, as Norman Polmar insists, “it always depends on how it starts.”

The Hummingbird has Landed

The A160T Hummingbird Unmanned Helicopter/Rotorcraft.

Boeing’s A160T “Hummingbird” robot rotorcraft has been cleared for liftoff.

A series of tests conducted at the Army’s Dugway Proving Ground in Utah achieved all of the necessary goals laid out for it. The Hummingbird can successfully

deliver at least 2,500 pounds of cargo from one simulated forward-operating base to another 75 nautical miles away in well under the required six hours. The simulated mission carried 1,250-pound sling loads over two 150-nautical-mile round trips, with the A160T operating autonomously on a preprogrammed mission.

A max payload of 2,500 pounds? 20,000 foot ceiling? This thing is badass.

The real question how long before garage tinkerers make rotary-wing variants of their DIY drones. At the rate they’re advancing for fixed-wing, it won’t be long at all. Just think of all the things you could do with a helicopter as opposed to a plane…

Attack of the Caspian Sea Monster!

The ekranoplan rusting in its berth, 2010.

If you’ve never heard of the Russian ekranoplan, here’s what you need to know. A ground effect plane that flies only a few yards above water (right, it’s also a water-plane, I forgot to mention), the one-off ekranoplan was an ingenious attempt by the Russians to solve… some problem they’d come up with, presumably. It was retired in the early 90s.

Recently, some intrepid photographer found the ekranoplan in drydock, and has taken a number of pictures (along with a photoessay in Russian) so you can see the magnificent beast in all its glory.

.

Via War is Boring.

But They Knew Where the Keys Were

Even if they misplaced the tanks themselves. From the Telegraph:

‘There are tanks all over the forest, abandoned,’ an unnamed reporter on the video says. ‘If you need one, come and get it.’

Locals in a nearby village said the tanks had been sitting there for almost four months covered in snow. The armoured vehicles were identified as a mixture of T-80 and T-72 battle tanks, the workhorses of the Russian army.

Who has time to worry about where they left an entire armored regiment’s worth of tanks? What with the nation-state collapsing anyways and all manner of intrigue on every conceivable frontier… Or are the Russians early adopters of the “tanks do not equal power projection” school?

The Coming Naval War with China?

There’s a new article making the usual rounds, from the Q1 2010 issue of Orbis. James Kraska’s “How the United States Lost the Naval War of 2015” [abstract only] is definitely an interesting read; it’s one of those future/alternate histories examining, essentially, how we might get there.

Kraska hypothesizes a Chinese missile attack on the USS George Washington while “conducting routine patrols” off of China’s coast. China immediately denies all responsibility and in fact aids in the rescue of several hundred sailors, out of the original complement of 4,000. In addition to the international perception of China as uninvolved (much less the aggressor), the United States is blamed for the ecological disaster caused by the George Washington‘s nuclear propulsion system.

China’s ability to conduct such an operation is chalked up to a combination of naval spending cuts, the reassignment of “an entire generation” of officers to COIN and conventional desert warfare in the Middle East and central Asia, and “the environmentalists in charge of strategic U.S. oceans policy.”

‘Ridiculous’ is certainly the first word that comes to mind, and commentators like Thomas Ricks certainly don’t disagree, but there’s a small point to extract from Kraska’s article. His assumption that the increasing budget and growing naval aviation programs of the PLAN will directly challenge the USN for control of East Asia is a little much. He’s right on the nose, however, with the specter of asymmetrical naval warfare.

Robert Kaplan wrote an article for the Atlantic Monthly a few years back, “How We Would Fight China.” It covers a lot of this in great detail. The psychological impact of asymmetry at sea is particularly telling – Kaplan notes that “the effect of a single Chinese cruise missile hitting a U.S. carrier…would be politically and psychologically catastrophic, akin to al-Qaeda’s attacks on the twin towers.” It’s hard to talk about China without getting melodramatic, apparently.

Perhaps the greatest lesson to take away from all this would be: do we still need carriers at all?