Quotulatiousness

January 16, 2018

Life On The Isonzo Front I THE GREAT WAR On The Road

Filed under: Europe, History, Military, WW1 — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 06:00

The Great War
Published on 15 Jan 2018

Visit the Kobarid Museum: https://www.kobariski-muzej.si/eng/

Indy gets a tour through the impressive Kobarid Museum dedicated to the Isonzo Front and to the soldiers that experienced the war in the region.

Day 1 Cuban Missile Crisis – Shall we destroy Cuba, Mr. President?

Filed under: Americas, History, Military, Russia — Tags: , , , , , — Nicholas @ 04:00

TimeGhost
Published on 26 Oct 2017

On 16 October 1962. the Cuban Missile Crisis begins. President Kennedy assembles his advisors in EXCOMM to find an adequate response to the threat posed by Soviet nuclear missiles on Cuba.

On October 14 1962, Air Force pilot Richard Heyer flies over the island of Cuba in a U2 spy plane. The photos he brings back show three installations of Soviet nuclear Medium Range Ballistic Missile launch sites, with SS-4 and SS-5 missiles waiting to be made deployable. Russia now has nuclear first strike capacity and could launch an attack on the US mainland just as quickly as the Americans could on Russia from Turkey.

Spartacus Olsson
Camera by: Jonas Klein
Edited by: Spartacus Olsson, Jonas Klein

A TimeGhost chronological documentary produced by OnLion Entertainment GmbH

Yet another money squeeze for Britain’s military

Filed under: Britain, Government, Military — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 03:00

At the Thin Pinstriped Line, Sir Humphrey outlines the difficult financial position the British Ministry of Defence (MOD) finds itself in and the very limited options available for the decision makers to choose among:

The Times has broken details of the planned cuts put forward by the MOD to meet the likely scale of budget cuts needed under the ongoing national Security Review being conducted in the Cabinet Office. The planned cuts as leaked to the Times highlight the sheer scale of the challenge facing the MOD at the moment, and seem to resort to many of the ‘greatest hits’ intended to arouse strong opposition, such as ‘merging the Parachute Regiment and Royal Marines’ option.

It is indicated that the Prime Minister has opposed the measures put forward, and that this in turn will lead to a full blown Strategic Defence and Security Review [SDSR], which will look again at force structures and outputs, and hopefully deliver a more balanced force in due course. The challenge is doing this against a budget which reportedly is £20bn in debt, with no meaningful way to find savings without serious pain.

[…]

The difficulty then for Defence is conducting an SDSR in a world where politicians seem unsure as to what their ambition is for the UK in the next 5-10 years, and whether they want to find the money to do this or not. There is probably strong political support for the idea of maritime and air power, both of which can easily be deployed (and recovered) discretely and with no long-term entanglements. It is reasonable to assume that the RN and RAF have a compelling case that they should receive the lions share of investment in the review.

By contrast the Army will find itself facing a difficult time – it is telling that all three options presented in the Times focused on a major loss of Army manpower, and capability reduction. What is also likely is the wider impact of further delays in procurement and reduction of exercises, training and other tools essential to keeping the Army credible. As its vehicle fleet ages, and with almost all of its primary weapon systems verging on becoming near obsolete, politicians face a difficult choice – do they continue to direct funding into high end high capability ground equipment, or do they take the ‘UOR [Urgent Operational Requirement] it on the day’ option of reducing the size of the Army and hope that come the next long-term ground operation, there is enough time to sort a round of UOR purchases out to equip people to the right standard.

At its heart though is the difficulty that the UK seems pathologically incapable of taking and sticking to credible long-term plans on defence and seeing them through to fruition. Strategic now seems to mean ‘two-year horizon’ at best, and there is a real sense that for all the glossy PowerPoint slides and publications, it is a department in a perpetual state of crisis as it struggles to afford the equipment needed to do the tasks asked of it.

This cycle of unaffordability is not new, in fact it seems never ending. There is an occasional period of a few years when things seem a bit better, but then another thing goes wrong and the Department is back to square one. Part of this problem lies in an eternally optimistic set of planning assumptions, coupled with such regular turn over of staff that no one ever has to see through the impact of their work.

The other problem is that rather than bite the bullet, take some incredibly tough decisions and wholesale withdrawal from commitments and capability, the Department lurches on, occasionally being bailed out by some deal that finds a few extra quid to just about see it through. What isn’t happening is systematic and thorough reforms to really grip and address the problems that the Department has got to stop them cropping up time and time again.

At some point the UK must have a serious policy discussion about what it really wants from its defence and national security capability. Does it want to seriously fund it, at a time of economic challenge and government austerity, or does it want to scale back ambition in order to find funding for other national projects? This conversation will not happen though in any meaningful sense, and instead the debate will be shallow, superficial and focus on numbers not outputs and leaked papers warning of an inability to defend the UK if something is cut.

It is all very well having an SDSR again (the third in 8 years), but unless there is a real change in behaviours, there will simply be another one in a couple of years’ time when the new plan proves unaffordable and unworkable. We cannot go on like this indefinitely.

PIAT: Britain’s Answer to the Anti-Tank Rifle Problem

Filed under: Britain, History, Military, Technology, WW2 — Tags: , — Nicholas @ 02:00

Forgotten Weapons
Published on 25 Nov 2017

The British began World War Two with the Boys antitank rifle, but like all antitank rifles it rather quickly became obsolete. The replacement for it was adopted in 1942 as the PIAT – Projector, Infantry, Anti-Tank. This was a unique sort of weapon which fired a 3 pound (~1.35kg) hollow charge projectile using a combination of a massive spring and a firing charge much like a rifle grenade blank cartridge – a spigot mortar, really. The large (3.25″, 83mm) projectile was able to defeat almost any tank that would be developed during the war, as it could burn through 3-4 inches of hardened armor. However, it had a terrifyingly short effective range – 110 yards on paper and more like 50 yards in practice.

The PIAT would recock itself upon firing, but the initial cocking was something like a crossbow, requiring the shooter to brace their feet on the buttplate and pull the body of the weapon upwards, compressing the 200 pound (90kg) mainspring. When fired, the weapon has a pretty harsh recoil, although it did not have any flash or backblast like the American Bazooka did. By the end of the war more 115,000 PIATs had been made, and they would serve the British military into the 1950s, when they were replaced with more traditional rocket launchers.

January 15, 2018

Day 0 Cuban Missile Crisis – Atomic Tests and Missiles Discovered

Filed under: Americas, History, Military, Russia, USA — Tags: , , , , , — Nicholas @ 04:00

TimeGhost
Published on 24 Oct 2017

In the summer of 1962, a war of words between the United States and the Soviet Union and a number of nuclear tests on both sides increased tensions that had been mounting for years. Both sides were living under increasing panic that the other would ‘press the button’ and launch a preemptive nuclear strike, possibly destroying the world in the process. When on October 14 1962 the US discovered missiles on Cuba, that fear increased and almost came true.

Simulate a nuclear bomb anywhere: http://nuclearsecrecy.com/nukemap/

Support us on Patreon: https://www.patreon.com/TimeGhostHistory

Hosted by: Indy Neidell
Written by: Spartacus Olsson
Produced and Directed by: Astrid Deinhard
Executive Producers: Bodo Rittenauer, Astrid Deinhard, Indy Neidell, Spartacus Olsson
Camera by: Jonas Klein
Edited by: Jonas Klein, Spartacus Olsson

A TimeGhost chronological documentary produced by OnLion Entertainment GmbH

January 14, 2018

Prologue 2 Cuban Missile Crisis – The Cold War Heats Up

Filed under: Americas, History, Military, Russia, USA — Tags: , , , , , — Nicholas @ 06:00

TimeGhost
Published on 19 Oct 2017

For 13 days in October 1962 the world came closer to nuclear holocaust than ever before, but the Cuban Missile Crisis didn’t start in Cuba – it had its roots in Berlin, Italy and Turkey, the domestic political situation in the US facing the newly elected President John F Kennedy, and in the USSR, where Premier Nikita Khrushchev had taken leadership of the Soviet through a harsh four year power struggle after Stalin’s death in 1953.

Hosted by: Indy Neidell
Written by: Spartacus Olsson
Produced and Directed by: Astrid Deinhard
Executive Producers: Bodo Rittenauer, Astrid Deinhard, Indy Neidell, Spartacus Olsson
Camera and editing by: Jonas Klein

A TimeGhost chronological documentary produced by OnLion Entertainment GmbH

POWs in Japan – Great War Remembrance – Marasesti I OUT OF THE TRENCHES

Filed under: Europe, Germany, History, Japan, Military, WW1 — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 04:00

The Great War
Published on 13 Jan 2018

Ask your questions here: http://outofthetrenches.thegreatwar.tv

In today’s episode, Indy answers questions about the state of the prisoner of war camps in Japan, the ways in which WW1 is remembered in Germany and the food shortages in the Ottoman Empire, plus he takes a closer look at the Battle of Marasesti.

M4 Sherman Tank – Crew tell how shocking it was

Filed under: History, Military, Technology, WW2 — Tags: , — Nicholas @ 02:00

spottydog4477
Published on 18 Sep 2011

Doctrine

As the US approached entry in World War II, armored employment was doctrinally governed by FM 100-5 Operations (published May 1941, the month following selection of the M4 tank’s final design). That FM stated that:

    The armored division is organized primarily to perform missions that require great mobility and firepower. It is given decisive missions. It is capable of engaging in all forms of combat, but its primary role is in offensive operations against hostile rear areas.

In other words, the M4 was envisioned to primarily fill the role of a cruiser tank — although the US Army did not use that doctrinal term. The M4 was not primarily intended as an infantry support tank; in fact, FM 100-5 specifically stated the opposite. It placed tanks in the “striking echelon” of the armored division, and placed the infantry in the “support echelon”. Neither was the M4 primarily intended for tank versus tank action. Doctrinally, anti-tank engagements were the primary role of tank destroyers. The field manual covering the use of the Sherman (FM 17-33 The Tank Battalion, Light and Medium of September 1942) devoted one page of text and four diagrams to tank versus tank action (out of 142 pages). This early armored doctrine was heavily influenced by the sweeping initial successes of the German blitzkrieg tactics. Unfortunately, by the time M4s reached combat in significant numbers, battlefield demands for infantry support and tank versus tank action far outnumbered the occasional opportunities for cruiser tanks.

Although envisioned primarily as a cruiser-type tank, US doctrine did also contemplate the M4’s use in other roles. Unlike some other nations, which had separate medium tank designs tailored specifically for anti-tank roles (e.g., the German PzKfw III) and support roles (the PzKfw IV), the US intended the M4 to fulfill all roles. Although not optimized for tank versus tank engagements or infantry support, the M4 was capable of performing these missions to varying degrees. In the Pacific Theater, the Sherman was used chiefly against Japanese infantry and fortifications; in their rare encounters with lighter Japanese tanks with weaker armor and guns, the Shermans were vastly superior.

The doctrine of the time had Shermans as a sort of infantry tank. All anti-tank work was supposed to be done by tank-destroyer crews. Speed was essential in order to bring the tank-destroyers from the rear to destroy incoming tanks. Thankfully, for Sherman crews, this doctrine was not entirely used as it would create a small window of time of weakness in the armored battalion until tank destroyers moved to the front. Obviously this would make it harder for an armored force to achieve a breakthrough, a main objective of armor, if the enemy had tanks. It would also be easier for an opposing armored force to achieve a breakthrough against an American tank battalion which would not have all of its anti-tank assets at the front during the beginning of any attack.

January 13, 2018

Prologue 1 Cuban Missile Crisis – The Cold War Begins

Filed under: Americas, Military, Russia, USA — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 04:00

TimeGhost
Published on 17 Oct 2017

This series follows the Cuban Missile Crisis day, by day. In this initial prologue we explore some of the background to the crisis. During the 1950s the ideological divide between totalitarian Communism and democratic capitalism pits the USSR against the US as both super powers try to expand their sphere of influence. In parallel a series of misunderstandings and false assumptions heats up the nuclear arms race and sees the US pull further ahead of the USSR in military dominance. The increasing pressure on both sides eventually brings them head to head during several covert operations, proxy wars and, direct confrontations including the Berlin Crisis and eventually the Cuban Missile Crisis.

January 12, 2018

Woodrow Wilson’s Fourteen Points I THE GREAT WAR WEEK 181

Filed under: Europe, Germany, History, Military, Russia, USA, WW1 — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 04:00

The Great War
Published on 11 Jan 2018

In the first full week of 1918, U.S. President Woodrow Wilson outlines his points for peace. In the Caucasus, the increasing instability leads to daily skirmishes between the Armenians and Ottomans. Ludendorff continues planning for an upcoming German offensive whilst his countrymen negotiate peace terms with Russia.

January 10, 2018

QotD: Winston Churchill as First Lord of the Admiralty

Filed under: Britain, Government, Military, Quotations — Tags: , — Nicholas @ 01:00

It did not take me very long to find out that Mr. Churchill was very apt to express strong opinions upon purely technical matters. Moreover, not being satisfied with expressing opinions, he tried to force his views upon the Board [of the Admiralty]. His fatal error was his entire inability to realize his own limitations as a civilian. I admired very much his wonderful argumentative powers. He surpassed the ablest of lawyers and would make a weak case appear exceedingly strong. While this gift was of great use to the Admiralty when we wanted the naval case put well before the government, it became a positive danger when the First Lord started to exercise his powers of argument on his colleagues on the Board. Naval officers are not brought up to argue a case and few of them can make a good show in this direction.

Vice-Admiral Sir John Jellicoe, Second Sea Lord of the Admiralty 1912-14, quoted by Robert K. Massie, in Castles of Steel.

January 9, 2018

German Anti-Tank Units – Herman Göring – Caltrops I OUT OF THE TRENCHES

Filed under: Europe, History, Military, WW1 — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 04:00

The Great War
Published on 8 Jan 2018

Ask your questions here: http://outofthetrenches.thegreatwar.tv

The ongoing financial catastrophe that is the National Shipbuilding Procurement Strategy

Filed under: Australia, Bureaucracy, Business, Cancon, Military — Tags: , , , , , — Nicholas @ 03:00

Ted Campbell rounds up recent discussions of the Canadian government’s farcical National Shipbuilding Procurement Strategy (NSPS):

There is a somewhat biased but still very useful look at the successes of the National Shipbuilding Procurement Strategy (NSPS) in the Ottawa Citizen by Howie Smith who is the Past President of the Naval Association of Canada. Mr Smith is a retired Canadian naval officer who has provided consultancy services to several firms pursuing opportunities within the projects of the National Shipbuilding Strategy, which is why his article is somewhat biased. Mr Smith is responding to a recent report by Professor Michael Byers of the University of British Columbia, who is also a biased commentator on defence issues, which said that the NSPS “was flawed from the outset” and “According to Byers, the Liberal government should open-up the non-contractually-binding umbrella agreements with Irving and Seaspan, then cancel and restart the Canadian Surface Combatant and the Joint Support Ship procurement programs with fixed-price competitions involving completely ‘off the shelf’ designs.”

It is important, I believe, to understand why Canada needed something like the NSPS in the first place. The notion came in about the middle of the Harper government’s term in office – in around 2010. I think that two problems confronted the government:

  • The Canadian shipbuilding industry was, once again, “on the ropes;” Davie, Canada’s largest shipyard was in bankruptcy and the other yards were too reliant on government contracts; and
  • Both of the major federal fleets (the Royal Canadian Navy and the Canadian Coast Guard) were approaching “rust out,” again.

The solution to the first problem was to modernize the yards and make them internationally competitive … but that would cost money and private investment money is scarce ~ especially for shipbuilding, plus under the international trade rules to which Canada has agreed direct government subsidies to commercial shipyards are prohibited. The solution to shipyards that are too reliant on government contracts was ~ wait for it ~ another big government contract that would allow them to modernize themselves.

That indirect government subsidy is perfectly legal if the contracts are for navy and coast guard ships because “national security” is a big loophole in international trade law.

Both Professor Byers and Mr Smith have some good points … but neither is 100% correct. The NSPS was and remains a sound idea … the costs, which is the real crux of Professor Byers’ complaint, are not relevant because the defence and coast guard budgets are being (mis)used for industrial development ~ those are not the real costs of warships: they are the real costs of warships PLUS the cost of yard modernization.

The new surface combatant project is, as Mr Smith says, the biggest and costliest peacetime military procurement ever … and the NSPS is working just about a well as any “system” would at bringing it to fruition. At some point in the future a government will have to decide if Canada gets fewer ships than it needs or spends more more money than it wants … or, most likely, both.

That last sentence has always been the most likely outcome: the RCN will get fewer ships than it needs, and those ships will be significantly more expensive per hull than they need to be. The need for modern naval vessels isn’t the top priority … it’s probably not even in the top three priorities as far as the government is concerned (directing money to the “right” recipients, pandering to provincial sensibilities, lots of photo ops, and then maybe the actual needs of the RCN and CCG).

Update: Of course, it’s not like Canada is unique in the problems we have in military procurement … Australia is also struggling in a similar way:

The [Royal Australian] Navy’s program to replace the Collins Class submarines is known as SEA 1000. It involves modification of a French Barracuda Class submarine from nuclear to diesel-electric propulsion, plus other changes specific to Australia.

The 12 new submarines, to be known as Shortfin Barracudas, are intended to begin entering service in the early 2030s with construction extending to 2050. The program is estimated to cost $50 billion and will be the largest and most complex defence acquisition project in Australian history.

[…]

Then there’s the decision to build them in Australia. The Abbott government’s 2016 Defence White Paper only committed to building them in Australia if it could be done without compromising capability, cost or project schedule. That changed because of South Australian politics, and the new submarines could now be more appropriately described as the Xenophon class.

Even if all goes well, the cost of building warships in Australia will be 30 to 40 per cent more than if they were built overseas. However, the plan to build them in Adelaide at the Australian Submarine Corporation, the same group currently building the Air Warfare Destroyer, years late and a billion dollars over budget, adds to a sense of foreboding.

This follows the prize fiasco of the Collins Class submarine project. Their construction by the Australian Submarine Corporation ran years behind schedule, many millions over budget, and finally delivered a platform that the Navy has struggled to even keep operational.

And then there is the question of whether the new submarines will arrive before the Collins Class subs are retired, scheduled for 2026 to 2033. Even if delivery occurs on schedule, the first will not enter service until 2033. At best there will be one new submarine in service and a nine year gap between the retirement of the Collins Class and the introduction into service of the first six of the twelve new submarines.

Given this, the government has apparently committed an additional $15 billion to keep the 30 year old Collins submarines bobbing in the water. It’s like refurbishing a World War 2 German U-Boat for the mid-1990s.

The elements are all there for the submarine replacement program to become the procurement scandal of the century. Our Shortfin Barracudas will probably be the most expensive submarines ever built anywhere in the world.

For a lot less money, we could achieve a far more potent submarine capability. For example, off-the-shelf Japanese Soryu submarines cost only US$540 million. Modified to meet additional Navy requirements, they were quoted as costing A$750 million. If we simply bought twelve of those, the total cost to the taxpayer would be less than A$10 billion.

Equally, the existing nuclear Barracudas only cost $2 billion each, so we could get twelve of those for $24 billion.

For such an important defence capability, the government’s failure to guarantee Australia is protected by submarines is nothing less than gross negligence.

The Seven Years War: Crash Course World History #26

Filed under: Africa, Americas, Britain, France, History, India, Military — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 02:00

CrashCourse
Published on 19 Jul 2012

In which John teaches you about the Seven Years War, which may have lasted nine years. Or as many as 23. It was a very confusing war. The Seven Years War was a global war, fought on five continents, which is kind of a lot. John focuses on the war as it happened in the Americas, Asia, and Africa. the “great” European powers were the primary combatants, but they fought just about everywhere. Of course, this being a history course, the outcomes of this war still resonate in our lives today. The Seven Years War determined the direction of the British Empire, and led pretty directly to the subject of Episode 28, the American Revolution.

January 8, 2018

Mark Steyn reviews Darkest Hour

Filed under: Britain, History, Media, Military, WW2 — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 03:00

The latest screen depiction of Winston Churchill gets the once-over from Mark Steyn:

Churchill tends to the Churchillian, which is to say the epic. Darkest Hour, by contrast, is very finely focused. Joe Wright, director, and Edward McCarten, writer, confine their two dark hours of screen time to a couple of critical weeks in May 1940, when Hitler’s invasion of Norway precipitated Neville Chamberlain’s retreat from Downing Street. Aside from some rather elaborately choreographed overhead shots and a lush grandiose score, Darkest Hour is filmed claustrophobically, too – in poky sitting rooms, Downing Street basements, attics, Westminster ante-rooms, and chilly lavatories; the lighting is crepuscular. The fate of the world is being determined, but we never glimpse the far horizons, only the dingy backrooms.

What happened that month was a showdown between the two principal contenders for the Prime Ministership, Mr Churchill and Lord Halifax. Stephen Dillane is excellent as Halifax, the vulpine cadaver looking down (in every sense) from the Commons gallery at Churchill’s turns at the dispatch box. Unfortunately, aside from skillful deployments of his inscrutable yet condescending eyebrows, he gets somewhat short shrift on screen, so as a Churchill vs Halifax cage match it never quite comes off – presumably because the third Viscount Halifax is entirely unknown in Hollywood. (“Third Viscount Halifax? Hey, let’s see what the first two gross before we commit to that…”)

This is a pity, because the two men were on opposite ends of the seesaw, and, capacious as Churchill’s own bottom is, most of the other players – the King, Chamberlain, the parliamentary party, defeatist generals, Dominion prime ministers around the globe – were inclined to park their own butts down Halifax’s end. On May 10th, the day Winston became PM, the Germans invaded Belgium, France and the Netherlands. Ten days later, Hitler’s army reached the Channel, and was within reach of throttling the 300,000-strong British Expeditionary Force at Dunkirk, and seizing the entire French fleet. In that dreadful month of May, Churchill wanted to fight on; Halifax preferred to use Mussolini’s “good offices” to sue for a “peace” that would leave Britain and its empire more or less “intact” – save for East Africa, Suez, Malta, Gibraltar and sundry other places that would have to be addressed, per the Italian ambassador in London, “as part of a general European settlement”.

In other words, we are at the great hinge moment of the twentieth century: Had Halifax prevailed, there would have been a neutered Berlin-friendly British Empire directly bordering America on the 49th parallel and all but directly the Soviet Union in Central Asia. There would have been no potential allies for Moscow in the event of war with Germany, thus incentivizing a successful conclusion in late 1940 to Molotov’s talks in Berlin to join the Axis; and no allies whatsoever for Washington, assuming Japan still felt the need to bomb Pearl Harbor the following year. Instead, Churchill prevailed – and Britain and its lion cubs fought on, playing for time until first the Soviets and then the Americans joined the war against Germany, Italy and Japan. That year in which the moth-eaten Britiish lion and its distant cubs stood alone is, more than any other single factor, the reason why the world as ordered these last seventy years exists at all.

[…]

As with Christopher Nolan’s Dunkirk, one’s admiration for the film is tempered by a terrible profound sadness – for a people who “won the war, and lost their country anyway”. To anyone old enough to remember an England where one could “walk into any pub in the country and ask with perfect confidence if the major had been in”, the sense of loss can bring tears to the eye. Unlike Iron-Man 5 and Spider-Man 12 and Cardboard-Man 19 and Franchise-Man 37, this is the story of an actual, real-life superhero: You leave the theater with the cheers of the House ringing in your ears …and return to a world where quoting Churchill in his own land can get you arrested.

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