Saturday, July 31, 2010

Dog Heroes

Here is one of those heart warming stories for you. The dogs you see above may not be as fast as a Doberman, as strong as a Pit bull or as smart as a German Shepard, but they have earned a spot at the Ruth's Chris table if you ask me.

On February 11, 2010 a suicide bomber attempted to enter a barracks building housing US Army personnel. As he tried to enter, he was attacked by Rufus, Target and Sasha. The attack forced the bomber to detonate his bomb in the corridor, instead of the other areas with more soldiers.
The bomb wounded five soldiers and killed Sasha. However, the actions of a trio of rather unimpressive-looking dogs saved the lives of many, if not all of those soldiers.

On July 29, Pet Airways flew Rufus and Target to the USA were I hope they will be fed large amounts of whatever dogs think is awesome.

Sgt. Christopher Duke meets Rufus and Target at the gate

Greatest guns of Fiction- Plastic Gun

This one is the gun used by rogue CIA agent Mitch "Booth " Leary in the 1993 film In the Line of Fire. In the film, Leary, played by John Malkovich at his least irritating, plots to assassinate the President of the United States and plays a cat and mouse game with Clint Eastwood's character, a disgraced Secret Service agent who failed to save JFK. Spoilers are ahead for those who haven't seen the movie. It is pretty good, so watch it and come back. Leary constructs an elaborate plan to defeat the layers of Secret Service protection, including posing as a rich businessman with thousands of dollars to give to the President's reelection campaign. Genius.

But we are here to talk about guns, so lets get to it. Malkovich's character is said to be a former CIA assassin who is skilled in model making. It is this model making skill that allows him to build a unique weapon to use for the job. The gun is a double barrel, single action weapon. From the size of the bore and what I remember from the movie, it seems like it would be chambered in 9mm NATO or .380 ACP. Each barrel is manually cocked by the levers at the top of the weapon. . As near as I can tell the weapon is almost completely constructed out of some type of composite material in order to let Booth sneak it past the metal detectors. You would likely still need several metal parts, namely springs for the trigger and bolts, and a firing pin. The firing pin could be an off the shelf titanium firing pin, used in many weapons today. If I recall high school chemistry correctly, titanium is paramagnetic and would therefore not set off most metal detectors.

Could you make a weapon out of non-metallic composites? Well, maybe. If you did not plan on firing it more than a few times, used low pressure ammunition and perhaps did some engineering and computer modeling work to understand the forces and materials involved, it just might work. Then again, it might mangle your fingers. let me put it this way, I wouldn't try it. One of the biggest hurdles would be the barrel. We know that you can certainly make a great deal of a gun out of plastics, but the barrel and chamber would be pretty difficult to engineer. They are both subject to very high temperatures and intense pressure. Carbon fiber or some type of non magnetic alloy could be used but that is probably beyond the home workshop, especially in the early 90s. Since the weapon was intended to be used at point blank range, you could probably get away with an non rifled barrel, but it would likely cause the bullet to fail to reach its maximum velocity, impeding its effectiveness.

The weapon also breaks down into several sections and he stores the ammunition in a hollow key chain. Pretty clever, and it might just escape the notice of security personnel. The film also has references to three of the four historical Presidential assassinations. Clint Eastwood's character was a Secret Service Agent protecting JFK the day he was assassinated. Leary refers to himself as "Booth" for much of the film, referencing John Wilkes Booth, Lincoln's killer. In the end of the movie, Leary attempts to shoot the President through a napkin, which is what Leon Czolgosz did when he killed William McKinley.

Fun fact, the makers of the film were worried enough about the legality of the PROP that they had it cut into sections after filming. I suppose to prevent it being modified to fire.
(I would let you shoot it first)

Friday, July 30, 2010

Media Manipulation

Its important to to remember that the media, in its Corporate form, is a profit driven business. They create profit by creating interest. Interest is created by controversy, real or manufactured. Non-traditional media like blogs or state-owned media are there pretty much to promote a certain viewpoint. Please be intelligent and read between the lines, get your news from more than one source, maintain a sense of scepticism, demand proof, and use common sense.

Rant ended.
Carry on.

HESCO Bastions

From the extremely high tech world of rockets, missiles, and space flight, we will now take a turn for the primitive. What is known as the HESCO barrier or HESCO bastion is quite possibly one of the simplest and most effective systems in use today by the military. There is a great need to make bases relatively safe, especially from small arms, grenades, and rockets, as well as the shrapnel of other weapons like mortars. Classically, soldiers hand filled sand bags for use as protective fortifications. This worked okay from a protection point of view, but was extremely labor intensive. You can only fill so many sand bags in a given period and if you are trying to fortify a large FOB or airbase, it would take a real long time. Then, someone invented this:

This is the HESCO Bastion, originally designed as a temporary or semi-permanent flood control structure. They were used to reinforce levees after Hurricane Katrina. In 2008, during the extensive flooding in the Midwest, 27,000 feet of HESCO barriers were shipped to Iowa and set up. Today they are used on almost every US and NATO base in Iraq and Afghanistan. They are made up of a collapsible wire mesh "wall" with a thick synthetic fabric liner. The name comes from the British company that invented them more than 10 years ago. The real name of the product is the "Concertainer" playing on the classic concertina wire barrier. HESCO is actually the name of the company that produces it. In general use, they are often simply called Hescos.

The HESCO first began to be used in the security context in the 1990s. They can be stacked two or three high and make a formidable barrier for weapons. They are very cheap and can be assembled by people with little or no training. The are shipped collapsed and weigh very little. The Hesco comes in several sizes, dimensions of typical configurations are 4’6” x 3’6” x 32’ to 7’ x 5’ x 100’.

Protecting the most important part of the base

One of the best features of the the HESCO is the ease in which it is set up. Get it flown in or pull it off a truck, unfold it, use a front end loader or other heavy equipment to fill it up with dirt, sand or gravel. It is not instantaneous, but the speed that it can be set up in is pretty impressive. One soldier operating a front end loader and four more unfolding the shells can set up a wall in just couple of hours. They can essentially work ten times faster than crews filling sandbags. There is a new system of set up where the barriers are loaded in the back of trailer and dropped out in a line, a few people following behind set up them up and the loader filling them. This way a wall several hundred feet long can be in place in minutes and finished in a day.

Of course the real question is how effective is the HESCO bastion as a fortification? Well one answer is below. This is a Hesco that was hit by a rocket propelled grenade. You know, the things that can destroy armored vehicles.

When filled with sand, a barrier that is 24 inches think will stop almost all small arms projectiles and shell fragments. Given the very deep penetration of shaped charge weapons, guidelines state that for protection against RPGs, the barriers should be at least 5 feet thick. So based on that, we can see that the HESCO bastions, appropriately placed, would likely be a very good protector against several of the most common weapons on the battlefield. Even though the bases are still vulnerable to high angle attacks such as mortars and RPGs being used as rocket artillery, placement of bastions inside the base can greatly diminish the blast area by containing it. By the same studies' findings, car bombs (or VBIEDs if you prefer acronyms) can usually be defeated with 4 feet think sand filled barriers. I say usually, because you could have some really large bombs (like Oklahoma City) if you have the resources and motivation. Very little could impede a blast like that.

So there you have it. Cheap, easy and very fast to set up, fairly impervious to the elements, and will stop bullets, bombs and rockets. I like solutions like this and who ever thought the HESCO bastion up, that guy needs a medal. Or at least a beer.

Norwegian base surrounded by Hescos, note the barriers in between the tents to stop mortar and rocket fragments.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010


I lesson I learned a long time ago, thanks to Dr. Jones

Monday, July 26, 2010

Marshall Space Flight Center

I recently took a trip to "Rocket City" or Huntsville, Alabama. In Huntsville is the George C. Marshall Space Flight Center. The MSFC is the original home of NASA and the site of some of the most innovative science and engineering work that ever been accomplished.

So, In case you were not aware, the Saturn V rocket is HUGE.

That building behind it is about 6 stories tall.

The Space Flight Center is located on the Redstone Arsenal, an Army base that was established in 1941 and was mainly used as a chemical weapons production and storage facility. The MSFC is the lead center for NASA's work on the International Space Station design and assembly, responsible for payloads and crew training, the Space Shuttle propulsion systems and its external tank, and NASA computers and networks. Also at the center is the Huntsville Operations Support Center (HOSC). The HOSC supports ISS and Space Shuttle launch, payloads and experiments. The HOSC also monitors rocket launches from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station whenever a Marshall Center payload is on board.

Also, Space Camp is there. I was really jealous of kids who got to go to Space Camp when I was a kid, but I am not as bitter now, mostly because I found out that they didn't really go into space like in the movie. Stupid rich kids.

There was a huge building dedicated to the Space Program and especially the Apollo program, the Saturn V rocket and the Lunar landings. Below is Command Module Casper of the Apollo 16 mission, the second to last NASA flight to the Moon.

Seeing a skyline of rockets makes one think they are in a 1950's Sci Fi comic

Another Saturn V, laid out lengthwise and broken into its various stages

Concept design for the new Orion crew capsule

How about this. Regular viewers of the History and Military channel may recognize the concept design for the Future Warrior program that they talked about so much a few years ago. It was really just an airsoft outfit in black with a motorcycle helmet and a foam gun. Somebody got paid millions of dollars to talk about what they wanted to make, then they turned in this piece of crap and got a huge amount of Federal dollars. Then they cancel the program before it produces a viable product. They could pay me to do this job for much less, I bet. It is kinda cool though.

The Space Flight center had a great display of current and former rocket based weaponry of the US Armed Forces in their "Rocket Park".

The AN/TWQ Avenger is a specialized turret mounted on a Humvee chassis for use as air defense platform. Above you can see the Stinger Missile pods and .50 caliber machine gun on the back of a Avenger. The Avenger can be linked to the Forward Area Air Defense Command, Control, Communications and Intelligence (FAAD C3I) system, which permits external radar tracks and messages to be passed to the fire unit to alert and cue the gunner. The government deployed Avengers to the White House around the first anniversary of 9/11. They have also been modified for use in Iraq as convoy protecting gun trucks.

This is the MIM-72 Chaparral, another air-defense platform, this time based on the M113 APC chassis and mounting four missiles based on the AIM-9D Sidewinder air -to-air missiles. The US forces have never used the Chaparral in combat, although it has been used by US Allies. It is now retired from use by the US Armed Forces.

Here we have the Hawk , designed as a medium range anti-air missile. It was in service for more than 40 years in the Army and apparently being phased out of Marine Corps inventories, but I would imagine that they are pretty much gone by now. The Hawk system, consisting of the launcher, missiles and a variety of different radars and control stations has been improved many times and the system was used to good effect in several conflicts. In 1973, Israeli forces launched 75 Hawk missiles and are credited with destroying between 12 and 24 aircraft. Kuwaiti Hawk batteries claimed 14 Iraqi planes shot down in Iraq's August 1990 invasion. Two of those kills have been confirmed, a MiG-23BN and a Su-22.

Going even further back, we have the Nike Hercules missile, a multi-role, two-stage solid propellant missile introduced into service in 1958. It was used in the high and medium altitude air defense role by the US and its NATO allies. It was also possible to use the Nike Hercules as a surface to surface missile. The Nike H was optimized for shooting down bombers and when it ballistic missile technology superseded the nuclear armed bomber, the Nike H became less useful. All the missile sites were deactivated in the CONUS by 1974, except for a few in Alaska and Florida. The Army continued to use truck mounted Nike Hercules systems as a front line air defense platform until the early 1980's when they began to be replaced by the Patriot Missile System. Most other NATO Nike units were disbanded with the fall of the Soviet Union.

This is the M270 MLRS, the Multiple Launch Rocket system. It is one of the most powerful and long ranged conventional weapons in the US Army's inventory. It is a rocket artillery system and is capable of sending its 12 270mm rockets to a range of 42 miles in 60 seconds. One MLRS firing all 12 rockets can completely blanket one square kilometer with submunitions. As a result the M270 is sometimes referred to as the "Grid Square Removal Service" As standard metric maps are divided up into 1km grids. It also fires the ATACMS (Army Tactical Missile System) which is ballistic missile capable of reaching out to 186 miles, with the warhead going as high as 164,000 feet. The MLRS has been in use since 1983 and seen use in Iraq and Afghanistan. 1,300 M270 systems have been manufactured, along with more than 700,000 rockets. The missiles can carry a variety of payloads, many of them using smaller submunitions. This kind of attack is very devastating to airfields, marshaling areas and exposed troops. During the Gulf War, the Iraqi soldiers were said to refer to the M77 submuntions as "Steel Rain." The M270 is no longer in production, with the last units produced in 2003 sold to the Egyptian Army. MLRS has been somewhat superseded in US service by the HIMARS, a lighter, C-130 transportable, wheeled version that only mounts one "six pack" of missiles

Of course, it is interesting to remember the source of space flight and the space programs that it came from. It was all started by Werner Von Braun and the German rocket scientists who used rocketry to kill thousands of civilians at the behest of Adolf Hitler. In the closing days of WWII, the Allies competed for the German prototypes, plans and especially scientists. Above you can see a V1 Buzzbomb, the first cruise missile. In total, the V-1 attacks caused 22,892 casualties (almost entirely civilians). One could try to be optimistic and think that the Teflon, Tang and satellite navigation that we have gotten from the space program has made up for the deaths, but, since we still have thousands of ICBMs, I think the jury may still be out. That said, I believe that the space program is one of the most amazing things America has ever done and it is of the utmost importance that we continue to move forward with space exploration.

German V2/A4 rocket, the first man made object to reach sub orbital space.
It was the foundation of both US and Soviet space programs

Original plans for the V2, detail photo below

Captured by the US Army's 76th Infantry Division

North Korean Military Might

Kicking a goat. What a stupid asshole.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Military Technology -Decoy Vehicles

One way that you can frustrate the desires of your enemy in war is to deceive and confuse him.
Decoy versions of military equipment like trucks, tanks and planes can effectively deceive the enemy, help to reduce damage to the commander's real equipment, reduce casualties, and waste enemy resources of time, men, and materials. Unlike more traditional types of camouflage, the purpose is not to hide assets from the enemy but to divert the enemy from the actual forces and equipment, which can be a proactive strategy for defense or a way to gain the initiative. This idea was used extensively in WWII. The British used it in the North African Campaign, using rubber tanks to confuse Rommel's recon planes. In the lead up to D-Day, an entire strategic plan of deception was used, called Operation Fortitude. It involved double agents, false radio traffic, phantom divisions (including their shoulder patches) and of course, rubber inflatable decoys of tanks and trucks.

This idea has continued to be useful into the modern era of the Cold War and beyond. The technology has continued to advance and modern decoys are multi-spectral and can even fool some satellite and aerial reconnaissance. They can achieve this through systems that mimic the IR signature of the real vehicle. They are designed to have the same shape, size, radar reflection and infrared signature as a real tank, truck, or plane.One way to do this that has been discussed is simply putting a microwave within the decoy to give it warmth and a radiation signature. while any of these decoys would have a certain rate of failure, the basic concept is very good. No less a strategist than the great Sun Tzu recommends using deception as much as possible to put your enemies off balance.

F-16 decoys

Another thing to keep in mind with the use of decoys and deception is that it does not have to work perfectly to be effective. Even if only half of the enemy scouts, intelligence personnel, and senior leaders believe something, it can slow down their response times, lead to conflicting orders, or any other thing that will hamper and confuse a military force.while deception may not be able to turn the tide of a battle or war by itself very often, every little but helps and the low cost and relative ease of deception operations can be very effective from a cost/benefit point of view. The US Army has decoys of the M1 tank that can be set up in minutes and can be carried in a duffel bag. Sometimes they are carried with the tank formations themselves, not to distract the enemy but to inflate the number of tanks he thinks he is facing.

Air defense vehicle decoys made from flat elements, by Rusbal,Inc.

Decoy M47 Patton tank from the Cold War

There is a word in Russian that refers to military deception, camouflage and concealment. It is maskirovka (literally: camouflage, concealment). We in the west do not generally borrow words from Russian, probably because they are hard to say, but this is a good one. The Russian and the Soviet military before them were masters of military deception. Want some proof? Look at some of the pics below. Another use of decoys is just to waste enemy resources. Recon aircraft or satellite operators need time to do their work, and even a few wasted minutes can make a difference. The Russian SAM decoys below are made to force enemies to expend valuable ordinance on them, while hiding the real ones for use later. All in all, pretty clever stuff.

Su-27 decoy from Shape International, Inc.

Russian S-300 Surface-to-Air missile launcher decoys from Rusbal

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Spotting a hidden handgun

Here is a fun one: tips on how to spot a person carrying a concealed pistol.

The International War

I could be fairly accused of being overly focused on America and Americans on this blog, so I thought it would be good to post some photos of the many thousands of others from dozens of countries that are fighting the war in Afghanistan. This is not intended to be a comprehensive review of every country that has sent men or materials to Afghanistan to attempt to make it a real nation. So if your country is not included in the pics below, (and many are not) it is not because I am trying to snub you, I am just lazy. All these pics were in my files already.







Dutch PzH-2000 155mm



New Zealanders? or Kiwis if they prefer

Danish Leopard 2 tank

Danish Special Forces


British Mine clearing vehicle

and lastly, of course the Afghan Nation Army