October 19, 2010

UK defence cuts announced

Filed under: Britain, Economics, Military — Tags: , , , , , , , — Nicholas @ 12:57

As I blogged yesterday, quoting a Guardian article, the British government will be cutting their armed forces substantially:

I want to be clear there is no cut whatsoever in the support for our forces in Afghanistan.

The funding for our operations in Afghanistan comes not from the budget of the Ministry of Defence but instead from the Treasury Special Reserve.

So the changes to the Ministry of Defence that result from today’s Review will not affect this funding.

That will help the morale of the troops on the ground in Afghanistan, but the army overall is still being reduced.

Our ground forces will continue to have a vital operational role so we will retain a large well-equipped Army, numbering around 95,500 by 2015 that is 7,000 less than today.

We will continue to be one of very few countries able to deploy a self-sustaining properly equipped Brigade-sized force anywhere around the world and sustain it indefinitely if needs be.

And we will be able to put 30,000 into the field for a major, one off operation.

In terms of the return from Germany half our personnel should be back by 2015 and the remainder by 2020.

And tanks and heavy artillery numbers will be reduced by around 40%.

The garrison in Germany is a relic of the Cold War, and it’s amazing that they’ll still be there until 2020.

We will complete the production of six Type 45 destroyers one of the most effective multi-role destroyers in the world.

But we will also start a new programme to develop less expensive, more flexible, modern frigates.

Total naval manpower will reduce to around 30,000 by 2015.

And by 2020 the total number of frigates and destroyers will reduce from 23 to 19 but the fleet as a whole will be better able to take on today’s tasks from tackling drug trafficking and piracy to counter-terrorism.

Those are the same Type 45’s that haven’t actually had effective main armament, according to The Register.

We have decided to retire the Harrier which has served this country so well for 40 years.

The Harrier is a remarkably flexible aircraft but the military advice is that we should sustain the Tornado fleet as that aircraft is more capable and better able to sustain operations in Afghanistan.

RAF manpower will also reduce to around 33,000 by 2015.

Inevitably this will mean changes in the way in which some RAF bases are used but some are likely to be required by the Army as forces return from Germany.

The retirement of the Harrier is a simultaneous victory for the RAF against their two most dangerous enemies: the army and the Fleet Air Arm. The Harrier was the one aircraft that could provide both naval and ground support, and was therefore considered readily dispensible by the fighter jocks in the Royal Air Force.

We will build both carriers, but hold one in extended readiness.

We will fit the “cats and traps” — the catapults and arrestor gear to the operational carrier.

This will allow our allies to operate from our operational carrier and allow us to buy the carrier version of the Joint Strike Fighter which is more capable, less expensive, has a longer range and carries more weapons.

We will also aim to bring the planes and carriers in at the same time.

That is probably finis for carrier operations in the Royal Navy: but expect both of these ships to show up again in the fleet of India within 5-10 years.

. . . we will retain and renew the ultimate insurance policy — our independent nuclear deterrent, which guards this country round the clock every day of the year.

[. . .]

…extend the life of the Vanguard class so that the first replacement submarine is not required until 2028;
…reduce the number of operational launch tubes on those new submarines from 12 to eight…
…reduce the number of warheads on our submarine at sea from 48 to 40…..
…and reduce our stockpile of operational warheads from less than 160 to fewer than 120.

The less-visible effects of workplace demographic changes

Filed under: Economics, History, USA — Tags: , , , , , , — Nicholas @ 12:12

Monty points out that we’ve passed a significant equilibrium point in employment statistics:

Women are vital to the American workforce, and have been since at least the 1940’s, but this recession may have shifted the balance of economic power decisively to women. Men have been the traditional household “breadwinners”, with the wife’s income being seen as augmenting the male’s income, but this recession has hit men disproportionately harder than women. Women are far more likely to work in industries (like services and healthcare) that are more insulated from the downturn, whereas men are far more likely to work in the hard-hit trades and manufacturing sectors. Women also have many more protections — both regulatory and social/cultural — than men do. There are many deep ramifications to this change — the impact of long-term male unemployment on the family; the loss of status, power and prestige that goes with being unemployed; the male self-image and value to society. (Studies of unemployed men during the Great Depression are not happy reading — many of the chronically unemployed males left their families rather than assume a lower status in the family, and were also far more likely to be dictatorial and violent towards their wives and children.)

Social support agencies are not well-equipped to deal with this change, and it will continue to disrupt “normal” life for years to come, unless the economy is allowed to right itself — yet another excellent reason to tell the politicians to stop meddling.

Another valuable observation from the same post:

This is a point I’ve made many times: the economic demographic most impacted by immigrant labor are teens. Low-end “starter” jobs tend to be low-skill, low-paying, part-time jobs, and adult immigrants are often favored over teens for these jobs by employers (they often have families to support, are considered more reliable, etc.). This means that the teen labor-participation percentage has fallen from 50% in 1970 to 25% today. (And even 25% is probably too high.) When faced with this lack of job opportunities, teens often opt to go back to school — but this in turn saddles them with a lot of debt for (in many cases) not much gain. For many teens, it’s simply a way of deferring adulthood, not a way to gain additional skills or knowledge. (I had my first paying job at 14; my first “real” W2 job at 16. I worked nearly full-time all the way through college, and worked full-time during the summers. I wonder how rare this is now?) Another interesting aspect to the immigrant/teen issue: the language barrier. If you’re a teen who doesn’t speak Spanish, just try and get a landscaping or construction job in the Southwest. The same goes for many fast-food crews and oil-change/tire-repair places. Still, we’re not the only ones with immigrant troubles.

Another side to the increasing longevity of western culture is the delayed start to “adult” life: now that a college diploma or university degree has about the same relevance that a high school diploma did a generation ago, young folks are entering the workforce several years later than earlier generations. This delays family formation, children, home-buying, and all the other aspects of independent-from-the-parents life.

No wonder so many of the “rules” no longer seem to apply with so many things changing.

Is the NFL finally starting to take head injuries seriously?

Filed under: Football, Health — Tags: , — Nicholas @ 12:09

Another sign that perhaps the NFL is realizing that they need to change their entire culture around head injuries is this snippet:

After a brutal day of games in which players were dropping like flies and several high-profile knockout shots were applied, the league announced that players may be suspended for head shots starting next week. The awareness of concussion-related problems is catching up to the game and may affect the way defenders have to play the game in the future — and how the head-hunters will be treated. The league has learned in the past the fines don’t quite do the job, especially with players making millions of dollars a year. Keeping them from being on the field with their teammates is the pain.

It’s a start, although it should have been policy long ago.

Update: Gregg Easterbrook approves:

Josh Cribbs of the Browns sustained a concussion on a helmet-to-helmet hit by James Harrison of the Steelers on Sunday. No flag was thrown. Later in the same contest, Mohamed Massaquoi of the Browns left the field with a head injury after a helmet-to-helmet hit by Harrison. No flag. DeSean Jackson of the Eagles sustained a “severe” concussion on a flagrant helmet-to-helmet hit by Dunta Robinson of Atlanta. Robinson was flagged but not ejected, as he should have been. (Robinson left the game with his own concussion, but disqualification sends a much stronger message about behavior than just a penalty.) Zack Follett of Detroit lay motionless for several minutes on the field after a helmet-to-helmet hit by Jason Pierre-Paul of the Giants. No flag. Sam Bradford’s helmet was knocked off by a helmet-to-helmet hit by Kevin Burnett of San Diego. No flag.

Late Monday night, the NFL said it would announce new head-protection rules by Wednesday, and that the new rules will take effect immediately. It’s about time.

For too long, NFL headquarters and sports commentators both have acted as though there is some gigantic mystery regarding why NFL players make so many dangerous helmet hits. Here’s why in three words: because they can. The play is almost never penalized.

For too long, NFL headquarters and sports commentators both have acted as though there is some gigantic mystery regarding what to do about dangerous helmet hits. Here’s what to do in three words: throw the flag!

It will take longer for sports personalities on TV to stop glorifying the most dangerous hits, of course . . . they’ll have to un-learn phrases like “jacked-up”, “blew up” and the like. They’ll also have to stop playing audio clips of massive collisions at the line of scrimmage. I, for one, won’t miss this at all.

Administrivia: email contact

Filed under: Administrivia — Tags: — Nicholas @ 07:49

Rogers/Yahoo is apparently having email issues today, so should anyone need to contact me, use the “quotulatiousness AT gmail DOT com” address.

Update: Yahoo’s mail servers appear to be up and running again.

Canadian tank use in Afghanistan

Filed under: Asia, Cancon, Military — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 07:46

Strategy Page gives a nice overview of the Canadian introduction of tanks to the Afghan war:

Canadian use of Leopard 2 tanks in Afghanistan convinced the brass that these Cold War era vehicles are valuable weapons for irregular warfare. Immune to most enemy weapons and possessing enormous firepower, the heavy tanks were very useful. In light of this experience with the Leopard 2s in Afghanistan, Canada has bought 100 Leopard 2A6s from the Netherlands and another 20 2A4s from Germany. The last twenty were modified for operations in Afghanistan (better protection against mines and roadside bombs).

It was three years ago that Canada bought the hundred second hand Leopard 2 tanks from the Netherlands, to provide their troops in Afghanistan with some additional combat power. First, they leased 20 German Leopard 2s and sent them to Afghanistan to replace the older Leopard 1s. Initially, crews for the Leopard 2s trained on the elderly Leopard 1s in Canada, before going Afghanistan. There, they have to quickly familiarize themselves with the slightly different Leopard 2s. But now there are sufficient Leopard 2s in Canada for training.

It was four years ago that Canada sent 17 of its Leopard 1 tanks to Afghanistan, to give Canadian troops there some extra firepower against the Taliban. But during the Spring and Summer, the lack of air conditioning became a major problem for the crews. The age of the tanks was a factor as well, so Canada has made arrangements with Germany, the manufacturer of the Leopard, to lease twenty of the most modern version of the tank, the Leopard 2A6M (which had enough room inside to install air conditioning).

Canada is the last nation using the Leopard 1. The A6M has considerably better protection against mines, roadside bombs and RPG rockets. The 62 ton Leopard 2 has a 120mm main gun and two 7.62mm machine-guns. The 43 ton Leopard 1 has a 105mm gun, and is actually a little slower (65 kilometers an hour) than the Leopard 2. Both tanks have a four man crew.

Being the last major user of older technology is a familiar place for Canadian soldiers to be. We were also one of the last nations to retire the Centurion tank, and back in the 1970’s, it was quite common for all the vehicles in a unit to be older than almost all the troops in the unit. I got my military driver’s license on a jeep that was more than twice my age, for example.

Got a transmedia “strategy”?

Filed under: Humour, Media, Technology — Tags: , — Nicholas @ 07:29

They’re all the rage these days. If you don’t have one, you can get a custom-crafted, up-to-the-microsecond strategy outlined for you at whatthefuckismytransmediastrategy.com, like this one:

As you can see, it makes at least as much sense as “real” strategies sometimes do.

H/T to Warren Ellis for the link.

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