Today I attended the airshow at Richmond RAAF Base, west of Sydney. There was a big crowd and a number of aerial displays. Some were by old favorites like the Spitfire but many were by our current service aircraft like the F-111, F-18, P-3C, 707 tanker, Hawk jet and P-9 prop trainer. The special guest was a USAF C-17 which performed a short take-off, landing and maneuverability demonstration. The RAAF will be receiving four C-17s starting in December of this year.
I enjoyed it but it would have been better if there were less people and I could see the displays more clearly. I guess I can’t complain if it’s a popular event, though. I didn’t get many good pictures because of the crowds but I’m happy with the C-17 photo below—all the flaps, slats and gear hanging out as it comes in to a steep landing. I quite like the F-18 maneuvering hard in afterburner too, although it’s a little blurry. Click on the C-17 thumbnail for a larger image.
My favorite performer is the F-111 but unfortunately I arrived just as it was starting its set early. It was still amazing how fast it can fly at low level and how tightly it can turn for such a large plane. On the ground it’s almost impossible to take a photo of it and get more than half the craft in the frame from any reasonable distance. They may be old but I can’t believe we’re getting rid of them for a jet with a fraction of its range. I don’t care how sophisticated a `plane is, if it can’t get to the target it isn’t going to do much damage.
Anyway, many thanks to Murdoc for letting me post here while he was away. I hope I didn’t disappoint anyone too badly. Welcome back!
Update: More images from the air show, including some great ones of the F111, are here.
—Posted by Nicholas.
Strategy Page reports on the first use of the SDB in combat, and explains what makes it unique.
As aircraft like the F-22 and F-35 enter service, which carry weapons in internal weapon bays of limited volume, weapons like the SDB will become increasingly useful. The price is a little concerning, given the number which are likely to be employed due to the small warhead size. Then again the aircraft that will be carrying them aren’t exactly cheap either. The utility of being able to carry many more bombs and missiles inside the jet will be a compelling reason to produce many of them.
I can’t help but wonder if a rocket-powered version with a reduced warhead will be developed later. It would have a longer stand-off range than the unpowered version—somewhat equivalent to an AGM-65 Maverick but physically much smaller and with a different guidance method (GPS rather than TV/IR).
Finally, here is a rather nice, high-resolution video of an SDB being tested in its ability to penetrate concrete structures.
— posted by Nicholas.
Last night my uncle said he thinks George W. Bush is “evil”. My father agreed with him. When I asked why, I was told it was because he wanted to “change the constitution so that the prisoners of war can be tried by a military tribunal”.
Now firstly, my understanding is that the US President can not modify the constitution. He can propose changes, and the states have to vote on them. Only when a certain number of states ratify the ammendments can they be enacted.
Therefore, why is it “evil” to propose a change to a constitution which needs to go to a popular vote? Many Gitmo prisoners, having been caught on a battlefield with no
weapon uniform, have only the right to a humane execution. They are treated far better than any law or convention requires, given their status.
An appropriate definition of “evil” is “morally wrong or bad; immoral; wicked”. I would argue Mr. Bush has a moral imperative to protect the United States and its people, and may do so within the existing structure of laws. Now compare him to what real evil people have done. Mao not only slaughtered millions in his quest for personal power, he did nothing when artificial famines killed millions more. Stalin had millions killed when they got in his way of personal power and a “perfect society”. Hitler killed millions of Jews because he simply didn’t like them, and millions more in a quest to personally rule over all of Europe. Kim Il Sung impoverished the North Koreans and caused the death of millions for his own personal power. These people all cared not how many people they killed, and in many cases revelled in it. Mr. Bush has repeatedly stated his reasons for taking the actions he has, and it requires a conspiracy theory to come up with bizarre selfish explanations for why he might have acted in an “evil” manner.
Mr. Bush is in a hard position. He’s a Christian and Christianity teaches tolerance and respect for others. He also has people violently trying to kill those he is sworn to protect. He must place their lives above those of foreign nationals who seek to undermine a soverign country illegitimately. While you may feel he does so in an incompetent manner, or in an overly aggressive way, I don’t see how you can twist what he does to call it evil. Sometimes you have to pick the best of some bad options in order to provide the right outcome. Nobody ever said morality is easy, and there must be some people making unpaletable decisions for the greater common good.
People who fight the USA as part of a foreign army are by and large treated well. People who cowardly hide behind civilians and plot suicide attacks against innocent people do not have the same rights the rest of us do. They can not, if we plan to eradicate their horrible practices. A different President might behave differently, but he or she would still have to balance protection of Americans and American interests against the human rights of people who seek to harm them. There are laws and practices dating back hundreds of years which involve harsh, summary punishments against such people (spies, pirates, etc.). Continuing those practices when one feels it is for the greater good can’t be evil. Misguided maybe. Dumb maybe. Not evil. How twisted must the grasp of one’s facts be to make such a poor assessment of a person in his position? I blame a serious lack of historical perspective, and a heavily biased and politicised media.
By the way, I never personally liked Mr. G. W. Bush or his father and would not have voted for him if I were an American citizen—at least not initially. I also do not believe Clinton was as bad as many conservatives make him out to be. But I will not stand by while otherwise educated people make crazy judgements about important issues. I will speak up and defend those whom I believe deserve defending.
—posted by Nicholas.
I’m afraid I haven’t been doing a very good job of covering for Murdoc while he is on vacation, but I have enjoyed the discussions on the meagre posts I have managed so far. In this spirit of that, as well as the news of the day, I would like to hear what others are thinking about the plans for partitioning Iraq which have been floating around for a while now, but seem to be reaching critical mass. Please make sure to remember that these are my opinions, although Murdoc may want to chime in later with his own thoughts.
From everything I have read so far, it sounds like partition is going to cause worse problems than it solves (if any). Turkey has gone on record as saying that an independent Kurdistan would make them very unhappy, and they are not alone in that sentiment. While I like the Kurds, especially because of their spirit despite all they have been through, I’m not sure it makes any sense even from their perspective. The worries about the Shia-dominated areas teaming up with Iran need little elaboration. Finally, the Sunnis may just get what they’ve been asking for all along—their own private area of desert with little of value contained within it. Somehow I doubt that’s going to reduce the supply of ‘splodeydopes to the region.
A lot of support for the partioning seems to be coming from mass media/mass hysteria reports about the “growing violence” in Iraq. I suspect it’s more an artefact of US elections than any evidence from Iraq. The Brookings Institute Iraq Index, among other sources of data, does not seem to support such a conclusion very strongly, if at all. But since when have media reports required any kind of evidence? The evidence is somewhat open to interpretation, I would be happy to read comments discussing what the statistics reveal about the situation.
I’d also like to hear what readers think about the wisdom of the partition concept. I can’t pretend I’ve done a very deep analysis. However, in the interests of humanity, I think we should probably stick around for another year or so and give their government a chance at getting the idiots to stop killing each other. It’s also important to finish building the Iraqi armed forces and police numbers, to give them a fighting chance at stability. But ultimately, it will be up to the Iraqis themselves to stabilize their own country. I don’t think the source of the violence is so simple that redrawing the borders will prevent it, nor do I think it will go away if the coalition troops leave. What are your thoughts?
— Posted by Nicholas.
Update: An additional thought. Based upon the writings of some Iraqis, I suspect the Sunni/Shi’a/Kurd divide between Iraqis is exaggerated. One reason partition could be a bad idea is that it would be likely to widen the divide due to an “us vs. them” mentality. If it’s the hardliners who are responsible for the sectarian violence, surely the best plan is to find a way for them to form a common bond, rather than exaggerating their differences?
I recently read “Is It Treason?” by Eugene Volokh in the LA Times (registration required; if you can’t be bothered try bugmenot.com). It’s an interesting article in its own right and you may like to read it. However, this passage prompted me to have some additional thoughts:
About a week ago I was having a debate with somebody in a comments thread (may have been on MO) about the difference between an Authorization for Use of Military Force and a Declaration of War. My argument was, essentially, that while an AUMF is clearly distinct from a Declaration of War, it still counts as a declaration of war. Thus, any principles of “international law” which apply to a declared war, apply to a war initiated by an AUMF. In fact, I personally believe this is true for any shooting war regardless of how it’s started—even if it was an act of warfare not preceded or followed by any formal declaration.
Hands up anyone who belives that the First Korean War was actually a “police action”. Now hands up anyone who thinks that’s basically just a euphemism. While I understand the rationale and political reality behind such euphemisms, it’s still just semantics. When the US Congress, or any analogous group, publically votes to use military force on another state and it’s broadcast throughout the world in a matter of hours, I don’t think anybody can deny that a state of war has been declared, regardless of what they call the actual agreement that they sign.
It only matters inasmuch as any of us believe that there are laws that bind parties in an international sense. I tend to believe that “international law” is more of an agreement between gentlemen (and ladies) than anything else. When two parties decide to adhere to it (such as, for example, the Geneva and Hague conventions between parties at war) it’s great and all. However, as soon as one or both parties realize that nobody’s going to make them do so it’s just some good sentiments that aren’t worth the paper they’re written on. I believe in all the principles behind those conventions and like to see parties adhere to them, but one has to be pragmatic and accept that people only adhere to them when it’s beneficial. And let’s face it, there are unfortunately few consequences for most countries today in totally ignoring such things, as the fighting in Lebanon so convincingly demonstrated.
However, if one is arguing about the legality of an action, rather than the morality or practicality, definitions are important. I’d be curious to hear what MO readers think about this aspect of the legality and diplomacy of war in the comments section.
—posted by Nicholas.
I was going through pictures from the Australian Army Operation Catalyst in Iraq and found some pictures of interesting weapons as well as just plain interesting pictures. Here are some of the better ones:
With tactical laser cannons, can photon torpedos be far behind?
Northrop Grumman are working on strategic lasers. Will the test bed be the Enterprise?
Update: I thought I had read an article about a tactical laser before, but I couldn’t recall where. Saywhatnow pointed it out to me: a DefenseTech article about ZEUS.
ZEUS does sound similar to THOR, but is not made by an Israeli company, so I guess they are competitors. It seems THOR’s claim of being the first such system in use is probably an exaggeration.
—posted by Nicholas.
While The Netherlands removed their 1350 or so soldiers from Iraq in mid-2005, they remain one of the biggest contributors to the peace-keeping and nation-bulding forces in Afghanistan. They certainly came prepared—Apache attack helicopters, Chinook transport helicopters, F-16 fighter/attack jets, a tanker aircraft, tracked and wheeled armoured vehicles, artillery pieces—the lot, with a side-order of chips. Interestingly, there are still significant naval assets, both submarines and frigates from the Netherlands, active in the Gulf of Arabia and Gulf of Aden near Iraq, despite their withdrawal of land forces from that area. They are increasing their contingent in Afghanistan from 600, including some Special Forces, in the first half of year up to 2000 under the ISAF program. The extra troops and engineers should be arriving there shortly. In addition, they have sent $315 million for use in the reconstruction efforts.
While the “Dutch”* troops work with all members of the coalition, they seem to have an especially close relationship with Australians and Canadians. As Marcus Casspir, our friend from Holland, pointed out in the comments to a previous entry, Australian engineers are working with soldiers from the Netherlands as well as a Canadian force. In the upcoming deployment of those extra 1400 ISAF troops, they will be working with Australians again. Marcus also mentioned that they never leave Holland without their “Gods of War”, the 155mm PzH2000 self-propelled artillery piece, one of the most advanced 155mm guns developed, which features an autoloader mechanism. On a slightly less destructive note, there are a number of “Dutch” doctors and nurses helping out in hospitals and medical centers in Afghanistan.
The original contingent from the Netherlands was deployed to Afghanistan around Kabul in the east, and in Baghlan province to its north. The more recent and larger deployment was to the south of the country, with the emphasis on reconstruction in and around Uruzgan.
I notice politicians from the Netherlands seem to use the word “terrorism” a lot when talking about Afghanistan. I don’t think that’s accidental. After making a fool out of myself earlier by referring to Theo van Gough’s murder while discussing Denmark, this time I’m ready to get it right. He was killed in Amsterdam because of a film he made, and according to our friend Marcus that isn’t the most serious incident to happen of late. There were also the well-publicized threats against black politician Ayaan Hirshi Ali. Holland is famous for having a rather “lassaiz faire” attitude, but in this case they seem to be taking the situation rather seriously. After all, if there’s anything these radicals hate it’s sex, drugs, and rock’n'roll, all of which are available in Amsterdam for those who wish to partake.
Holland lost two soldiers during their deployment in Iraq and ? so far in Afghanistan.
* I’m told that calling someone from Holland “Dutch” is like calling an American “Yank” so I’ll do it sparingly.
Below the fold: France and Germany.
I suppose we can’t claim that the media never reports anything positive any more.
It’s like 1000 lawyers at the bottom of the ocean; a good start*. Actually, there has been good and accurate news reported all along. Just not enough of it to be truly balanced. I’d expect to see good news and bad news from Iraq in at least a 1:1 proportion judging from what I have heard. Some media outlets may feature that kind of mix, but none I’ve witnessed.
I suppose some will claim this reporter is some kind of “Administration shill” or as having “gone native” but I suspect her reporting is fairly accurate. My favorite line, when she describes the FOB, is:
—posted by Nicholas (waiting for Murdoc to get back into his swing).
* disclaimer: I really like my lawyer, he’s a great guy. I’m talking about the slimey ones. You know the ones I mean.