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Deichman on Veteran’s Day

Friday, November 12th, 2010

Shane Deichman has an outstanding reflection up at Wizards of Oz:

Armistice/Remembrance/Veterans Day

On the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month, in the year 1918, “The Great War” ended.

Of course, it couldn’t have been known as “World War I” at the time — because that would mean the insanity of wholesale slaughter and wanton destruction would happen again.  What a difference a generation makes….

92 years after the poppy has come to signify remembrance of those who fell in defense of the State, whether in Flanders Fields or France or the coral atolls of the Pacific or the rolling hills of Korea or the jungles of Vietnam or the deserts of Iraq or the river valleys of the Hindu Kush, today we are living off the interest earned by their blood.

Read the rest here.

The Wizard of Oz

Tuesday, July 27th, 2010


Earlier today, my friend and sometime coauthor Shane Deichman, who blogs at Wizards of Oz,  passed through the area as part of his “OldSkool 2010 tour. Mrs. Zenpundit and I were treated to lunch by the Deichmans and it was a pleasure to see them and their children, including their adorable youngest member of the family, who was not yet born the last time we got together.

Food was good, the company was better!

Missile Defense Defense

Thursday, May 20th, 2010

I begin by stating I do not have the technical competence required to make an independent assessment here.

Recently, the NYT published an article quoting leading missile defense critic,  MIT Professor Ted Postol:

Review Cites Flaws in U.S. Antimissile Program

Mr. Obama’s announcement of his new antimissile plan in September was based on the Pentagon’s assessment that the SM-3, or Standard Missile 3, had intercepted 84 percent of incoming targets in tests. But a re-examination of results from 10 of those apparently successful tests by Theodore A. Postol and George N. Lewis, being published this month, finds only one or two successful intercepts – for a success rate of 10 to 20 percent.

Most of the approaching warheads, they say, would have been knocked off course but not destroyed. While that might work against a conventionally armed missile, it suggests that a nuclear warhead might still detonate. At issue is whether the SM-3 needs to strike and destroy the warhead of a missile – as the Pentagon says on its Web site.

“The system is highly fragile and brittle and will intercept warheads only by accident, if ever,” said Dr. Postol, a former Pentagon science adviser who forcefully criticized the performance of the Patriot antimissile system in the 1991 Persian Gulf war.

Naturally, the Pentagon disagreed with Dr. Postol, but their response was unusually blistering this time (and ignored by the Times):

Missile Defense Agency Responds to New York Times Article

….This sea-based interceptor missile is designed to intercept and destroy short to medium-range ballistic missiles using “hit to kill” technology, which means that the interceptor collides directly with the target missile or warhead, and destroys the target using only the force of the collision.  The allegation that target intercepts were reported as successful when they were not successful is wrong, and the data presented by the authors in the article is flawed, inaccurate and misleading.

In each successful intercept test the target missile was destroyed by the Aegis BMD/SM-3 system due to the extreme kinetic energy resulting from the “hit to kill” intercept.  In each instance, the mission objective of “hit to kill” of the unitary or separating target was achieved. 

Postol and Lewis apparently based their assessment on publicly released photos gleaned from a sensor mounted aboard the SM-3 and postulated what they perceived to be the interceptor’s impact point although they had no access to classified telemetry data showing the complete destruction of the target missiles, or subsequent sensor views of the intercept that were not publicly released so as not to reveal to potential adversaries exactly where the target missile was struck.

Actually, the publicly released videos, which can be seen at www.mda.mil/news/gallery_aegis.html, and from which the still photos were extracted, show infrared images from both interceptor and airborne sensors demonstrating the complete destruction of the target missiles.

All of the tests cited by the authors as “misses” were tests involving short-range unitary targets, when the warhead remains attached to the booster rocket.  These tests were correctly described by the Missile Defense Agency as successful intercepts, because they successfully intercepted the target.  Post-test analysis from collected telemetry showed that the interceptor’s kill vehicle impacted the target body or warhead within inches of the expected impact point that was calculated to maximize damage against a variety of warhead types.

….The authors of the SM-3 study cited only tests involving unitary targets, and chose not to cite the five successful intercepts in six attempts against separating targets, which, because of their increased speed and small size, pose a much more challenging target for the SM-3 than a much larger unitary target missile. They also did not mention the fact the system is successfully intercepting targets much smaller than probable threat missiles on a routine basis, and have attained test scores that many other Defense Department programs aspire to attain.

I mention all this because my amigo Shane Deichman, who like Postol, is a physicist and a former scientific adviser for the DoD (Postol for the Chief of Naval Operations, Deichman for JFCOM) and is currently working at the National Missile Defense Agency, felt that the rebuttal scored a direct hit on Postol’s claims about the system tests ( which might explain why it did not get cited by the NYT, though in fairness, the Times did quote the agency spokesman). I trust Shane’s judgment but I’m not able to expound on it, so he is cordially invited to add any comments here that he might wish that might further the reader’s (and my own) understanding.

Comments are, of course, open to all.

Red Flag Rising

Friday, November 14th, 2008

Shane Deichman had a superb post on Soviet Admiral of the Fleet and C-in-C of the Red Navy, Sergei Georgyevich Gorshkov over at Antilibrary. The admiral was the father of Soviet blue water power projection. Shane is reviewing Gorshkov’s The Sea Power of the State:

Gorshkov’s “The Sea Power of the State”

In this book, Admiral of the Fleet Gorshkov not only offers a vision of the relevance of the “World Ocean” to any nation’s well-being – he also provides a compelling rationale for “joint operations” a full ten years before our own nation’s Goldwater-Nichols Act forced jointness onto a reluctant American defense establishment, and underscores the importance of the littoral in a navy’s ability to influencing events ashore nearly two decades before “… From the Sea”.

The Sea Power of the State is rich in dichotomy: a land-rich nation with few accessible ports preaching the relevance of sea power, an atheist totalitarian regime describing the social and cultural significance of the “World Ocean”, a nation besmirched for its negative impact on the environment bemoaning pollutants and the need for “union with the environment”, and a foundational tome for effective naval force planning from a nation that just this month claimed the lives of nearly two dozen civilians in a submarine accident. Such is Gorshkov’s compelling style – scholarly and impeccably researched, with steadfast devotion to the tenets of Marxism, decrying the “imperialist aggression” of the Capitalist powers who exploit sea power to “hold in check other states.”

….Most impressive about Gorshkov is the breadth of his perspective.  Alongside the typical Communist demagoguery (e.g., “Imperialist power exploit sea power to preserve their monopoly …”) are lucid arguments for balanced force structure planning (inclusive of creating large merchant fleets), diminished pollutants, and even maritime law (with an appeal to demilitarize the World Ocean beyond the 12 mile territorial waters).  Curiously, he never once expresses disdain at the limited blue water access of the Soviet Union – and was convincing enough in his vision that the Kremlin subsidized his development of a fleet that nearly reached parity with the dominant sea powers of the west

Read the whole review here

I am not an expert in maritime matters but I am relatively conversant on Soviet affairs. Shane’s right, by Soviet standards, where bureaucratic conservatism and enforced conformity to CPSU doctrine served to weed out independent thinkers before they could ascend the first rungs of the nomenklatura ladder, Gorshakov was making a daring, even a startingly bold argument. The Sea Power of the State could have easily been a career-ender had the ideological winds taken a wrong turn; Gorshakov’s argument has very little to do with Marxism or Soviet military doctrine. Instead, it draws upon the Petrine tradition of modernization and securing the “window to the west” that Peter the Great sought in building St. Petersburg and the warm water ports after which subsequent Tsars lusted.

Fortunately for Gorshakov, his ideas coincided with the noontide of Brezhnev’s faction, which was rooted in military heavy industry, the Dnepropetrovsk mafia and a national security axis of the power ministries – Defense, Foreign Ministry and the KGB which were controlled by Brezhnev’s then allies and proteges, Ustinov, Gromyko and Andropov. Gorshakov’s vision of expanding Soviet reach abroad also had appeal to party hardliners like Mikhail Suslov and Boris Ponomarev who were deeply interested in supporting radical third world regimes and adding the Ethiopias, Angolas and Nicaragua’s to the “Socialist camp”

Nuclear Blog Tank

Saturday, July 12th, 2008

Cheryl Rofer of Whirledview has called for a blog tank on the strategic question of countries with just a few nuclear weapons:

Blog Tank: National Strategy for a Few Nuclear Weapons

Herman Kahn worked out the strategies for massive nuclear exchanges between the United States and the Soviet Union.

Both the United States and Russia are now disassembling their nuclear weapons, rather than building more. The nations that have tens or hundreds of nuclear weapons are looking fairly peaceful lately; even India and Pakistan seem to have achieved their own version of the balance of terror. Terrorists don’t seem to have any nukes hidden away yet.

So the danger is that a nation will break out of the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty with a few nukes. This is a very different problem from the one Kahn addressed.

The last country to face an analogous situation was the United States at the end of World War II. By the time it had tested an implosion device at Alamogordo, New Mexico, and dropped weapons on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, it was out of atomic bombs and fissionable materials. Truman bluffed for the several years it took to build some tens of nuclear weapons.

That was, of course, when no other nations had nuclear weapons.

Andy at Nuclear Mangoes reminded me over the weekend of my irritation that nobody has addressed the strategy of one to a few nuclear weapons. That’s a different problem than something in the range of 5-10, which is a different problem from a higher number. None of these have been addressed systematically for today’s world.

So let’s have a blog tank. Anyone who wants to participate should post a scenario (or scenarios) on their blog or, if you don’t have a blog, in the comments to this post. Here is the problem I want to address:

What strategies are available to a country with fissionable material sufficient for 1-5 nuclear weapons, some of which may be assembled? Take into account probable responses, and assume some sort of rationality on the holders of these weapons and material. You may specifically refer to Iran and North Korea, or any other nation, or make the scenario(s) more general. Flesh out the scenario with some support.

I envision a next step after the scenarios have been presented, perhaps a mutual critique, but I am open to suggestions on that next step. Let’s keep this first round to scenario development.

I’ll pull things together, as I did the last time around. I won’t try to reconcile one scenario with another, although I may note similarities.

Deadline for scenarios: July 18.

This is a great idea. I see that Shane has already responded but I will look more closely at his post here on Sunday.

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