Analysis 05-08-2024

ANALYSIS

The Red Sea War Continues

With the pro-Palestinian protest breaking out across the world, it’s hard to remember the ongoing war in the Red Sea and the Gulf of Aden.  Not only are the US and its allies having problems keeping the critical seaway open, but rebel forces in Yemen are also keeping pace with the expensive, high-tech weapons being fielded against them.

Of course, there is the ongoing battle that is pitting low cost, crude missiles against the costly Western missile defenses.  However, the rebels are extending their successes as they defeat other Western technology.

Yemen’s Houthis announced that they had downed an American MQ-9 Reaper drone – a claim that was confirmed by the Pentagon.  The drone was downed a week ago last Friday and cost about $30 million.

This was the third time since November that a Reaper drone has been downed.  At $30 million apiece, that means the US has lost $90 million in Reaper drones.

Despite the overwhelming technological edge that the Western nations have, the US led Operation Prosperity Guardian has not been a success.  The Houthis managed to continue their retaliatory attacks on commercial shipping near the Bab El-Mandab Strait.

However, shipping hasn’t been totally cut off in the Red Sea.  Intercepts by Western naval air defenses, the poor quality of the Houthi/Iranian missiles and drones, and the ability of most commercial ships to withstand missile damage have made the Houthi campaign less successful than the news reports make them.

The Houthis struck the MV Andromeda Star, a British owned oil tanker with missiles.

At the same time, the MV Maisha was attacked.

A few days ago, a bulk carrier, MV Cyclades, was also attacked.

Bulk carriers are better able to withstand missile damage.  However, the more vulnerable LNG tankers are very susceptible to catastrophic damage and have rerouted around the Cape of Good Hope.

Last month, 16 maritime industry associations co-signed an open letter to the UN calling for assistance as Middle Eastern choke points were seizing up.   The choke points mentioned are the Suez, Bab El-Mandeb, and Strait of Hormuz.

“Given the continually evolving and severe threat profile within the area, we call on you for enhanced coordinated military presence, missions, and patrols in the region to protect our seafarers against any further possible aggression,” the letter said.

In the Middle East, 25% of global trade flows through the Suez, Bab El-Mandeb, and Strait of Hormuz.

However, a letter to the UN asking for greater maritime patrols will not solve the problem.  Several world class navies are already on station and patrolling the Red Sea, Bab al-Mandeb, and Gulf of Aden.  Yet, they haven’t been able to stop the rebel attacks.  Experts also expect it to take a year after the blockade ends to relieve the supply chain problems.

One problem with Operation Prosperity Guardian is that the warships have become overstretched as they have stayed on station for several months – far beyond what they were designed for.  Not only have they been on station in the Red Sea and surrounding area for months, but this is also an active combat zone, not merely a peaceful patrol.

The German frigate Hessen had missile supply and reliability problems and had to return to Germany.  It also appears that the German air defense missile the SM-2 is out of production and there is no plan to expand current stockpiles – a problem for several NATO navies as the SM-2 is a mainstay of NATO air defense.

Although the US and UK have larger stockpiles of SM-2 missiles, they can’t reload the vertical launch systems at sea, which forces the ships to leave station and travel to a port with VLS reloading capability is available.  UK ships can reload their VLS in Gibraltar, but the time off station is nearly a month.  The US ships would need to go to Diego Garcia or the Philippines.

Another problem is that the USS Eisenhower carrier task force has been on station in the Eastern Mediterranean and Middle East for about 8 months and needs maintenance of the ship and aircraft.

The USS Eisenhower is currently in Souda Bay, Greece.

The Western nations have a major problem.  This is not WWII.  They do not have the hundreds of warships to cover the world’s oceans.  Reloading modern ships isn’t just sending a few pallets of ammunition via underway replenishment.  Rather ammunition is scarce, expensive, and not designed for large scale naval warfare.

Another choke point that could cause problems is the Bosphorus Strait.  Turkish/Israeli relations have fallen to low levels, and it has been reported that Turkey has cut off high percentage of its trade with Israel.

The Red Sea problem will continue if the genocidal war continues in Gaza.

Analysis 04-13-2024

ANALYSIS

NATO’s Navy at 75

As NATO celebrates its 75th birthday, one arena of potential military conflict is firmly on NATO’s side – naval strength.  Russia, which has always suffered from a lack of accessible or ice-free naval ports, saw its access to open waters decrease as Sweden and Finland joined NATO.  The Baltic today is less an arena of potential conflict and is now considered as a NATO lake.

The NATO navy is impressive in size and strength.  It has a dozen nuclear aircraft carriers (US and France).  Three nations have nuclear submarines (US, UK, and France).  And the NATO fleet has hundreds of frigates, destroyers, and corvettes.  In total, NATO can call upon over 2,000 ships.

There are also Standing NATO Maritime Groups (SNMG) that are immediate reaction forces of four to six destroyers and frigates.  Command rotates through different NATO nations.  The current commander of SNMG 1 is Spanish.

Russia, meanwhile, is having some problems keeping its Black Sea fleet effective with full strength in the face of Ukraine’s miniscule naval force that has been supported vigorously by NATO.

Not only does the NATO force have an impressive force afloat, but most of its member nations also have ship building facilities, thanks to centuries of shipbuilding experience.  This will facilitate NATO naval expansion.

But, in the face of potential war with Russia over the Ukraine, the NATO navy has problems.  The new generation of military aged men is unwilling to volunteer in numbers necessary to man the fleet.  For the first time in decades, some NATO nations are talking about returning to conscription to fill out its military.

Another problem is that the NATO navy has evolved in the last three decades from a fleet designed for large-scale naval action against the USSR to one designed to counter piracy and non-government actors labeled as insurgents or terrorists.  The US spent a considerable amount of money building a Littoral Combat Ship designed to fight in shallow waters to counter insurgency, only to rediscover that the US Navy needed ships designed for deep water operations.  The result is that the Littoral Combat Ships are being mothballed after just a few years in service.

Modern warships require skilled manpower, and most navies are short of such skilled labor polls.  The US Navy has even suffered from a lack of training, which resulted in several collisions.

But it isn’t just the US Navy.  Other NATO navies like Denmark and Germany have had problems in the Red Sea operations.

A German navy frigate Hessen mistakenly targeted a US Reaper drone in the Red Sea during operations.  The drone wasn’t damaged and continued its mission.

Whether that means the drone’s countermeasures are that good or the German ship’s air defense system is lacking is unknown.

Meanwhile, a Danish frigate suffered a weapons system failure.  The frigate, Iver Huitfeldt, suffered a failure of its phased array radar.  The failure was serious enough that it was unable to launch its anti-aircraft missiles for about 30 minutes while a Houthi missile barrage was fired at merchant ships and naval vessels.

Ammunition from two of the ship’s 76mm cannons was also defective on more than one occasion during operations.  The ammunition detonated early and too close to the ship.

During operations, the Danish frigate downed four drones.  However, it was recalled due to technical problems and sailed back to Denmark.

The operations in and around the Red Sea have highlighted another problem – logistics.  While the US and UK navies have the logistical infrastructure to stay underway for long periods, the smaller nations are unable to stay on station for more than a couple of weeks.  Even the US Navy must send ships back to port to reload their missile launchers.

However, the Ukraine War has encouraged NATO nations to embark on fleet modernization.  The British have once again fielded modern aircraft carriers – the Queen Elizabeth Class, which is designed to work with American carriers in intense air operations.  Although they have had teething problems(term used to describe troubles), that is normal in new ship classes.

Just consider the problems incurred in the American Gerald Ford Class nuclear aircraft carrier.  Its new catapult system didn’t work and there were problems with the arresting gear that stops aircraft after landing.  In fact, the USS Ford is back in Norfolk working out many of the bugs uncovered in its first deployment.

However, most NATO navies focus on smaller warships like destroyers, frigates, and corvettes.  The Italian Navy, which is the second largest navy in NATO, after the US Navy, has active shipbuilding programs for destroyers, frigates, and corvettes.  They also have an amphibious assault ship, the Trieste, which carries marines, helicopters, and the F-35 fighter.

The Italian navy is one of the most active contributors to NATO operations.  Its operations frequently take it to the Indo-Pacific region as the Chinese challenge has grown in recent years.  Its proactive stance in NATO has led it to be called “The West’s policeman.”

The Italian aircraft carrier Cavour, which has qualified to operate with US carriers and the F-35 recently sailed to Japan.  Italian Minister Crosetto noted, “Relations between Italy and Japan are fundamental for facing the geopolitical and technological challenges of the future.”

Sweden’s joining NATO has boosted the NATO fleet.  Experts note that Sweden’s submarine fleet has some of the most advanced submarines ever built.  They can stay underwater for weeks, and they can operate in the shallow Baltic Sea, which US and Russian nuclear submarines can’t.

Proof of Sweden’s world class submarines came in 2005 when a Swedish submarine was able to evade the carrier strike group escorts and “sink” the American nuclear aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan during an exercise.

As the Ukrainians have shown, the Russian Navy has its problems.  It is also limited by geography.  However, the NATO navies have one overriding advantage – the ability to project power.  Several NATO nations have aircraft carriers, which the British, Americans, and Italians could deploy to the other side of the world.

Although many NATO ships are too small for blue water operations, there are a significant number of frigates and destroyers to deploy around the world.  And, although the Red Sea operations show the weaknesses of some ships, they have shown that they can coordinate their air defenses in the most intense naval operations since WWII.

Analysis 04-05-2024

ANALYSIS

Indian Navy Raises Profile in Red Sea Operations
Which Navy has the most naval ships in and around the Red Sea?
 

If you picked the United States, you are wrong.  The Indian Navy has deployed over a dozen ships in and around the Red Sea.  And, according to experts, they are as professional as the most competent navies.  They operate two aircraft carriers and operate several radar and monitoring stations around the Indian Sea to monitor communications and locations of sea going vessels.

Although the Indian Navy isn’t operating in conjunction with the US led task force operations in the area, they have been quite successful.  While the Western nations have focused on intercepting and attempting to destroy Houthi missiles and drones, the Indian Navy has investigated over 250 vessels and boarded 40 ships as part of the attempt to restrict Houthi’s access to rocket parts and other weapons.

The Indian Navy also has surveillance aircraft operating in the north and west part of the Arabian Sea.

 

Power Projection of the Indian Navy

The Indian Navy isn’t a small, green water navy.  It has a naval heritage from the British Navy and takes its protection of maritime routes and its Exclusive Economic Zone seriously.  It also carries out operations ranging from the China Sea to the Western Mediterranean.

One area where the Indians copied tactics of Western maritime nations was with their Maritime Commando Force, known as MARCOS.  Like the US and UK, it has strict selection processes and training.  Of those who make it through the selection process, only 10% to 15% make it through training.

MARCOS demonstrated its exceptional training during Red Sea and Gulf of Aden operations.  The Indian Navy rescued 17 crew members of the MV Ruen during an anti piracy operation.  No casualties were reported, and dozens of pirates were captured.  The Ruen hijacking was the first in the region since 2017.

John Bradford of the Council on Foreign Relations told CNN, “What marks this operation as impressive is how risk was minimized by using a coordinated force that includes use of a warship, drones, fixed and rotary-wing aircraft and marine commandos.”

After the pirates fired on an Indian drone and destroying it, the Indian warship INS Kolkata fired on the Ruen, disabling the steering.  Military cargo aircraft then dropped rafts into the water for the marines, who had parachuted into the water.

Although outnumbered, the Indian marines captured 35 pirates.

This wasn’t just a piece of luck as MARCOS showed its skill again.  The Greek owned cargo ship MV True Confidence was hit by a Houthi missile that killed three crew members and injured four more.   The ship was carrying steel products to Saudi Arabia.

The INS Kolkata moved in to help the injured.  They rescued 21 crewmen, including one Indian national.

An Indian naval medical team provided medical care before evacuating them to Djibouti by helicopter.

 

Maritime protection and economics

Although the Indian Navy has recently rescued several ships of different countries, there is an economic side to India’s actions.  Oman is the third largest export market for India among GCC nations.  From a military and security angle, Oman has allowed India to build communications and tracking stations to monitor shipping. Oman has also granted berthing rights to India.

In addition, Oman and India are considering building an underwater natural gas pipeline.

India is also building monitoring stations in Madagascar, Seychelles, Maldives, and Sri Lanka.

But Oman isn’t the only GCC country involved.   Saudi Arabia and the UAE have close naval cooperation with India.  In 2021, the Saudi, UAE, and Indian navies carried out joint naval exercises.

There is also a demographic reason for the Indian Navy to work closely with GCC nations.  38.2% of the UAE population is Indian, which makes it the largest ethnic group and three times larger than the next largest ethnic group (Egyptian 10.2%).

The UAE and India also have healthy export/import trade.  Non-oil trade between India and the UAE grew by 3.9% in 2023, totaling 7.6% of the Emirates total trade.  This occurred at a time when global trade shrank by 5%.  UAE exports to India included gold, jewelry, plastics, cement, oil, and dates.

The Emirates know that the Houthi retaliatory actions have impacted the UAE economy.  Shipping costs have gone up along with food inflation.

Monica Sood of the Indian National Unity and Security Council said, “Addressing food inflation concerns particularly in the UAE presents a complex challenge, with potential implications for global trade dynamics.”

Analysis 03-21-2024

ANALYSIS

America Builds a Pier for Gaza
Boots on the ground, boots in the water, or boots in the mud

The US is building a pier to move more food into Gaza, since the air drop of food into Gaza proved to be too limited and a risk to civilians.But will this solve the problem?  We don’t know yet.  There are a lot of variables that will have to be considered before the first pallet of food arrives over the beach.

Here are some of the issues that must be considered:

Is sea lifting food over Gaza beaches the most efficient method?  No.  The best solution would be to move the food into modern commercial ports in Egypt and then transport it by truck.  However, Israel wants to inspect any supplies and they have vetoed the land route.  This leaves the pier in Gaza as the best alternative.  Supplies will be sent to Cyprus for inspection and reloading (if necessary) before going to the Gaza pier 210 miles away.

Unfortunately, Gaza doesn’t have any ports, except for very small fishing marinas.  And Israel has been loath to allow Gaza to have a commercial pier.  The Gaza shoreline is sandy and flat and building a commercial port would require a major effort to move the sand and build breakwaters.

What would this pier look like?  At this point, we don’t know.  There are a variety of options depending on security, the number of supplies expected to move across it, what the future of the pier will be and who will maintain it.

The simplest method to move supplies would be to use America’s LSV (Landing Ship Vehicle).  This shallow bottomed ship could run up to the beach, drop its ramp, and move loaded trucks onto the beach.  However, there is only one ship like this in the Atlantic and it only has a top speed of 10 knots.  Since the storms in the North Atlantic are rough, and this ship isn’t designed for smooth sailing, it would have to take a longer route via the South Atlantic.  It would take many weeks to arrive off the coast of Gaza.

The most likely solution would be a pier with three parts – a pier connected to the beach with a floating causeway, a floating pier in deep water, and a connector craft that would move supplies from the floating pier to the causeway.  It would take about two months to build and once it is in place, it could provide food for up to 2 million people.

There is a hitch with the pier method.  As it is connected to the beach, it needs to be anchored to the beach.  That means troops to build the anchoring system.  It also means troops to maintain it as small shifts in winds and currents would shift the pier. Needless to say, a storm would require a lot of repairs and maintenance.

The beach also needs preparation like scraping and sand removal.

This brings up the next question.

Is this talk about no US troops with boots on the ground real or political fantasy?  These piers need earth moving equipment and regular maintenance by trained professionals.  One can’t shove the pier onto the beach and expect it to not have problems.

Trained US soldiers or contractors will have to leave the dry environs of the pier to operate heavy equipment and anchor the pier.  It might very well be argued that soldiers working in the surf are not “boots on the ground,” but it will be near impossible to secure the pier to the beach without operating on the beach.

This is where we can expect semantics games by the Department of Defense and White House.  Will soldiers on the beach, but not working above the high tide be considered “boots on the ground?”

Obviously, there will need to be security teams and they will need to secure the high ground and a zone that will be out of range of rocket propelled grenades.  Will this be guarded by US soldiers, the IDF, Commercial security, or security from Gaza?  Could there be a security team comprising all the nations that intend to support the humanitarian effort ?

Security will be critical.  A rocket propelled grenade (RPG-7) could seriously damage the floating causeway, even though the larger craft would be out of the range of a RPG-7.  A group of fighters could easily overwhelm the beach security and occupy the floating causeway.  And, although the fighters would be separated from the large supply ships, they could very well capture Americans who were on the floating causeway.

This is a serious problem.  The American craft aren’t armed.  At best, they would have machine guns to defend themselves.

It’s also important to remember that the Carrier Strike Force and Amphibious force have headed back to the United States, so there isn’t any major American military strike force to reinforce the ships and pier.  It’s likely that the US would have to rely on the Israelis, which would only increase tensions.

Although it appears that the pier will be constructed in the next couple of months, there are several problems that must be solved.  They are:

-The speed with which the pier equipment is sent to the Mediterranean and installed.

-The ability to ship enough supplies to feed 2 million.

-Finding the most efficient way to build a pier and causeway.

-How to build a pier while the residents of Gaza are starving.

-Securing the food as it leaves the pier.

-Ensuring that the pier is maintained once it is installed.

-Encouraging other nations involved in the effort will help with pier maintenance.

-Assembling a credible security force.

-Keeping the “boots on the ground” force as small as possible

-Developing a plan that allows the US to leave, while the pier operations continue.

Analysis 03-06-2024

ANALYSIS

Putin Threatens Nuclear War
What would Nuclear War in the 21st Century look like?

 

Russian President Putin used the Russian State of the Nation speech to warn NATO that sending troops to fight in Ukraine could result in nuclear war.

This warning came after French President Macron told a security forum that sending troops to Ukraine “can’t be ruled out.”

Putin said, “All this really threatens a conflict with the use of nuclear weapons, and therefore the destruction of civilization…We also have weapons that can hit targets on their territory.”

However, a strike against NATO and its nuclear weapons is a bold move.  In addition to the nuclear NATO nations of the US, UK, and France, there are US nuclear weapons also stored in Belgium, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, and Turkey.  These nations also have nuclear capable aircraft.

There are also unconfirmed reports by the Times that Pakistan may be willing to share some nuclear warheads with Saudi Arabia if there is a threat to the Persian Gulf.  Both nations have denied the report.

Meanwhile, Russia has said that it is sharing nuclear capable weapon systems with Belarus.  However, Russia may not actually deploy the nuclear warheads until later.

So, what would a NATO vs. Russia nuclear war look like?  It’s very unlikely to look like a movie version of nuclear war, where dozens of nuclear weapons are launched simultaneously to destroy all the major cities on earth.  Modern nuclear weapons are more accurate, and some nuclear devices are only a kiloton in yield.

This week, the Financial Times published some leaked Russian documents that outlined their doctrine for the use of tactical nuclear weapons.  It also outlined the minimum criteria for using tactical nuclear weapons.  The documents were dated 2008 to 2014 and they have been verified by experts.

The Russian nuclear inventory is different from the American one.  Their tactical weapons are designed for use in Europe as they have a shorter range.  They also envision using their nukes against China.

Concerning China, the documents say, “The order has been given by the commander-in-chief…to use nuclear weapons…in the event the enemy deploys second echelon units and the South threatened to attack further in the direction of the main strike.”

A briefing for Russian naval officers gave an outline of when Russia may use nuclear weapons.  These include an enemy landing on Russian territory, the defeat of border units, or an imminent enemy attack using conventional weapons.  This includes a combination of factors where Russian losses “would irrevocably lead to their failure to stop major enemy aggression…a critical situation for the state security of Russia.”

The papers also give specific instances, where nuclear weapons would be used, including the destruction of 20 percent of Russia’s strategic ballistic missile submarines, 30 percent of its nuclear-powered attack submarines, three or more cruisers, three airfields, or a simultaneous hit on main or reserve coastal command centers.

Tactical nuclear weapons could also be used for several scenarios including “containing states from using aggression…escalating military conflicts…[and] stopping aggression.”

In other words, we can expect Russia to resort to nuclear weapons whenever it feels it is necessary.

Although these leaked documents are ten or more years old, experts think they still outline current Russian nuclear doctrine.

So, what is the US strategy for using nuclear weapons?  We don’t really know as it is one of the most sensitive and secret documents the US possesses.  It is called OPLAN 8010-12, Strategic Deterrence and Force Employment.  It has been in place since 2012.

Since the geopolitical situation has changed, it is very likely that it is being revised to account for a likely nuclear strike in Europe or the South China Sea.  Specifically, there will be options for using nukes in defense of a non-NATO nation like Ukraine.  There will also be options for a Russian strike against Poland or the Baltic nations.

Undoubtedly, a Russian strike against Moldova will be considered.

The US plans will also consider its NATO allies.  The US and UK will secure the Greenland, Iceland, UK chokepoint to stop Russian submarines from entering the Atlantic.  These will likely include US aircraft carriers and the UK’s latest Queen Elizabeth class carriers.  The US will work with Italy to secure the Adriatic Sea so US aircraft carriers can secure the NATO southern flank.

The US will have more options since it can project power across the world.  Its nuclear capable bombers can launch from the continental US to it anywhere on earth.  There are also US Navy ships that carry nuclear capable missiles.

But nuclear strikes aren’t the only tool in the American tool box.  Massive American airpower could use conventional weapons to strike nuclear sites in North Korea and Iran.

There are also options that include striking a nation’s electric power grid, conventional electromagnetic pulse weapons, jamming and spoofing the enemy’s air defense and communications, electronic jamming of communications, and cyber warfare.

The US can ratchet up the pressure if intelligence indicates a major strike against the US itself.  This could include tactical nuclear weapons that can penetrate deep underground to destroy underground bunkers that might be used to protect national leaders or nuclear warheads.

Whatever the plans and possible options, they need to be reviewed.  The world has changed dramatically in the past few years.  More nations are nuclear capable and ballistic missile technology makes delivering a nuke easier.  The age of flying a commercial aircraft into a building is past and the threat has gone far beyond conventional terrorism.

In many ways, the type of war envisioned today is closer to that of the Cold War – but with smarter weapons.

Analysis 02-29-2024

ANALYSIS

Ukrainian War Learned Lessons
Compared to Past Wars

 

Anyone can see the Ukrainian War through their own eyes and experiences.  This analysis claims to see it through the experience of previous wars, from Vietnam to Afghanistan.

Therefore, let’s look at the Ukraine War:

The saying that “Amateurs talk tactics, but professionals talk logistics” still holds.  Russia has not been good at logistics and this war showed that they remain having some shortcomings at logistics – something that is even more critical in the offensive.

Russia relies on railroads for its logistics support and rail lines are very hard to secure as they go through towns, which are hard to capture.  This was evident during the opening days of the war as the Russians tried to capture the rail complex in Kharkov.  The Russian offensive bogged down around Kharkov, and they couldn’t advance much further on that front.

Both sides underestimated the supplies needed to support their operations.  It didn’t impact the Ukrainians as they were on the defensive, but it slowed down the Russians.  Front line soldiers were left without ammunition, food, and even fuel for their armored vehicles.

The same logistics issues hurt the Ukrainians during their summer offensive.

War is expensive.  Modern war relies on expensive equipment like smart weapons.  Hundreds of billions of dollars in smart munitions were spent on the Ukrainians – generally to good effect.  Ukrainian soldiers with man portable anti air missiles prevented elite Russian soldiers from capturing airfields on the outskirts of Kiev.  Anti-tank missiles stalled Russian armored columns.  And air defense missiles prevented more damage to Ukrainian cities.

Fortunately for the Ukrainians, the US and several NATO nations had sizable stockpiles of smart munitions that helped stop the Russian onslaught.  But for the Ukrainians, the cost of these munitions kept the NATO allies from giving the Ukrainians enough munitions to push the Russians back.

If there is a lesson to be learned, it is that the NATO nations haven’t stockpiled enough weapons and munitions to fight a major conventional war in Europe.  Smaller NATO nations donating equipment quickly ran out of weapons and munitions within weeks of the start of the war.

Ironically, President Trump’s demand that all NATO nations fulfill their goal of spending 2% of their GDP on defense now makes sense as NATO is beginning to realize that a conventional war in Europe is a real possibility.

Older equipment must be maintained.  Most countries warehouse their older equipment like tanks, armored vehicles, and aircraft.  Unfortunately, they don’t maintain the equipment, and equipment that was promised to Ukraine had to undergo months of maintenance and overhaul before they could be sent to Ukraine.

The infrastructure necessary to fight a war is missing.  The reason the US provided the winning edge to fight WWII was the infrastructure to build the tanks, ships, and aircraft to beat the Germans and Japanese.

Most NATO nations, however, don’t have a defense infrastructure and rely on buying equipment and munitions from other nations like U.S.  However, when a war starts, there isn’t enough capacity, and stockpiles can run out quickly.  Older electronics for advanced weapons may not be available.

One advantage of bringing Sweden into NATO is that they have a robust defense infrastructure, including submarines, tanks, smart missiles, and aircraft.

Not everything runs out in a war.  We learned that some technologies like cell phones and small drones can be purchased in the civilian market.  Drones once used by hobbyists were soon modified to carry and drop motor shells and grenades.

Although cell phones could be tracked and strikes carried out against them, they also provided inexpensive communications.

Civilian satellite imagery also came into its own during the war.  It provided targeting information and damage assessment.  It also gave news agencies an unbiased source of information on movement in the front lines.

If there was one thing that was underestimated, it was military history.  Few places on earth have seen as much combat as the Ukraine and the Russia forces failed to remember that the Pripet marsh in northern Ukraine hampered the Germans in WWII and did the same to Russian armored forces.  Ukrainian soldiers could hide on the side of the road and take out tanks with anti-tank missiles.  The result was clogged roads, slow advances, and logistics backlogs.

The Ukrainians failed too.  The fight for the Crimean Peninsula was long and bloody in 1941.  In the last two years, Ukrainians had some successes in missile attacks on the peninsula, but, they were unable to capture or even seriously threaten it.

NATO is carefully studying the war and how it may impact a Russian attack against other European nations, especially ones belonging to NATO.  The major lesson learned is that all NATO nations must take the 2% GDP goal seriously.  There is also a realization that Western NATO nations must fortify some smaller, weaker nations like the Baltic States.

NATO will give priority to restocking weapon and munitions stockpiles in the next few years.

The failed Ukraine summer offensive owes much to the lack of an adequate air defense and the inability to establish air superiority.  In the next few years, it is likely that NATO will boost air defenses and make sure that NATO aircraft will be able to successfully neutralize Russian aircraft.

There has been some concern that a reelected President Trump will gut NATO defenses.  That is unlikely.  In his first term, he pushed NATO nations to meet their 2% GDP goals.  Although there was some grousing, several nations boosted their defense spending.  That spending has increased even more in the light of the Ukraine War.

Contrary to some media reports, Trump hasn’t said he will let Russia do anything to NATO nations.  He stated that if a NATO nation refuses to bear its share of the NATO defense, he will not be bound to the treaty in so far as defending that nation goes.

One thing Trump understands is the American Public’s weariness of supporting wars around the world.  In addition, the stretching of American military power prevents upgrading the military.  They see threats in North Korea, China, war in Gaza, the Red Sea, and Ukraine.

Americans also see the threat posed by the unguarded border in the Southwest.  And Americans want the US border protected more and less money sent to Ukraine.  They accused Biden of preferring to spend more money on Ukraine than the US border.

There is enough flexibility if both sides truly want an agreement.  However, the main stumbling block is closing the Southwest border.  Democrats don’t want a border solution in the Ukraine and Gaza bill.  And Republicans don’t want to let the border to remain open as it currently is. And they seem to adhere to Trump’s position of not reaching a compromise on the border because a compromise will help Biden’s reelection.

Clearly, stopping Putin is a critical issue for both parties.  However, stopping Putin, while letting the US border evaporate is equally distasteful.

Putin is far away, but the US border is next door.  Americans will vote to close the border rather than stop Putin.  If there is a lesson to be learned by Democrats before election day, it is that the border takes precedence.

Analysis 02-20-2024

ANALYSIS

Russian Anti-Satellite Capability:
Reality or Hype

Much was made this week of a report of a new, dangerous Russian anti-satellite weapon that contained “nuclear components.”

The report was over dramatized hype.  Insiders said the weapon was still in development and had not been deployed.

Russian anti-satellite weapons are nothing new. Russia has had an operational anti-satellite system in space since the 1980s. It was recently tested in November 2021 and garnered much international condemnation as it created space debris.  The Russian weapon was a large shotgun that used a conventional explosive to fire small pellets into the target, an obsolete Russian satellite.

Russia is not the only nation with this capability.  China, India, Russia, and the US all have some capability in this field.  Most of these weapons are similar to the Russian satellite.

So, what makes this potential so dramatically different? Some claim that it is a satellite that can maneuver close to an enemy satellite and destroy its electronics with an electromagnetic energy weapon.  Of course, the enemy would become aware of the attempt to intercept its satellite and would move it out of the way with its maneuvering rockets.  Not only could that maneuver succeed, but it would also act as a warning that a major attack is imminent.

This is where longer range weapons would help. That is why lasers, particle beams, and kinetic weapons offer some advantages.  The problem is that these weapons require substantial amounts of energy – more than what a solar panel will provide.  That is where nuclear weapons hold promise.  They can provide long range electromagnetic pulses that can impact large areas of near space and territory.

Such a nuclear weapon would violate the 1967 Outer Space Treaty and be hard to construct as it would require electronics currently embargoed by the West.

So, what type of technology is Russia intending to use? We do not know.  According to reports, it is an anti-satellite technology with some sort of nuclear component, but not a normal nuclear weapon.

It is important to realize that Russia is very accomplished in theoretical physics.  In fact, US understanding of particle beams came from Russian research during and after the Cold War.  They may have found a solution to nuclear devices that the US has not discovered.  These designs fall into what are known as Third and Fourth Generation nuclear weapons.

The Neutron Bomb, which creates substantial amounts of high energy neutrons while reducing the blast effect, is an example of a third-generation bomb.

One anti-satellite weapon that is proven in design is the Chemical Laser.  This was a proven design based on the Tactical High Energy Laser (THEL)that was developed by the US and Israel.

These chemical lasers are powerful but have major problems that the Russians may have chosen to ignore since the weapon will be fielded in the vacuum of space.  The Russian chemical laser system is built around a deuterium fluoride chemical laser operating at a wavelength of 3.6 to 4.2 micrometers (Mid-Wavelength Infrared, also called thermal infrared). The weapons system burns ethylene in Nitrogen Trifluoride gas, which is then mixed with deuterium and helium, to produce the excited deuterium fluoride lasing medium.  This gas is then fed into expansion nozzles like those of other chemical lasers.

But there are problems.  Since the exhaust of this laser is hazardous to humans, a complex exhaust system must be used to absorb and neutralize the highly corrosive and toxic deuterium fluoride exhaust gas.  This could be ignored in space.

Multiple “cartridges” could be stored on the satellite so it could rapidly reload and fire at the next target,

Although this is a conventional laser, it could be said to contain a “nuclear component,” as it uses deuterium, which is used in nuclear physics.

Another weapon that uses nuclear components, but circumvents treaties, is subcritical explosives. For a traditional nuclear device to explode, explosives compress uranium or plutonium until it reaches supercriticality, where a nuclear chain reaction can develop.  For this to happen, several kilograms of nuclear material are required.

This weapon design would not need a critical mass of uranium or plutonium.  A subcritical burn weapon could use a pellet of nuclear material not much larger than a grain of rice and conventional explosives.  Although a self-sustaining chain reaction will not take place, enough energy could be released that would equal hundreds or thousands of pounds of high explosives.  The biggest technical problem with this method is generating enoughneutrons to bombard the nuclear material as it is compressed.

Although not well known, research on subcritical burn has been conducted for years by the major nuclear powers to test nuclear weapon design. These tests have not been called nuclear tests because they do not create a super critical mass that sustains a chain reaction.  Nor do they fall under the restrictions in the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty limiting the development of nuclear weapons.  Despite this, these weapons promise a nuclear yield of hundreds of pounds of high explosives.

One of the problems of nuclear weapons is that they are symmetrical – i.e., the effects of the explosion radiate in all directions.  However, this can beavoided by employing a “Nuclear Shaped Charge.”  This was a concept put forward by American nuclear weapons designer Dr. Edward Teller.  It was seen as the possible propulsion for a nuclear rocket.  The concept was studied in the 1960s and was seen as a part of the 1980s Star Wars Defense.

The nuclear shaped charge used beryllium oxide to convert the x-rays released by the nuclear bomb to longer wavelength radiation which would vaporize a material like tungsten and turn the kinetic energy into tungsten plasma.  Up to 85% of the bomb’s energy would be converted into this plasma.

There has only been one nuclear shaped charge test (Operation Grenadier) in 1985. The one-kilogram tungsten/molybdenum beam was able to accelerate the tungsten/molybdenum particles to 70 kilometers (about 43.5 mi) a second.  As impressive as that test seemed, it was not efficient for an 8-kiloton device.

A nuclear weapon using these principles was designed called the Casa-Howitzer, but details remain classified.  It was planned for the 1983 Strategic Defense Initiative.

These are but a few types of anti-satellite weapons that could be under consideration by the Russians. However, this is not to say that the Russians may be fielding a new concept.  However, history tells us that the more complex a modern design is, the harder it is to make it practical.

Analysis 02-13-2024

ANALYSIS

Analyzing the 2024 Presidential Election

In 10 months, the US will be holding its presidential election.  And the election looks unusual.  The incumbent is clearly suffering from dementia and senility.  The challenger is facing numerous felony charges.  Despite that, the incumbent and challenger have all but clinched their party nominations.

The incumbent, Joe Biden, has become an embarrassment in public as he gets lost finding his way off stage and has problems saying simple words.  No wonder the White House turned down a CBS offer to speak to the nation just before the Super Bowl, when millions of voters could see him.

 The powers that are in the Democratic Party know this and would prefer a candidate that would not be the punch line for jokes.  However, the odds are that Biden will win the nomination and head into the fall as the Democratic nominee.

Biden is the president and holds the key to his future.  Unless VP Harris and the Cabinet rule that he is unable to fill the office of president, he is in until the end of his term.  Even then, there will be a fight in Congress about whether he remains in office.

The fact is that he holds a lot of power in terms of appointments.  He also has considerable power to write regulations.  His “handlers” and many currently in power know that and will continue to support him.  Will people like Jill Biden (or even Obama) be willing let go of power?  Probably not.  And, given the polls, Biden is not in a hopeless position.

No matter what, Biden will be seating on the podium in front of the Capitol on January 20, 2025 –either as a reelected president or as the outgoing president turning power over to Trump.  The Democratic leadership will not want Biden to resign before January 20.  That leaves VP Harris as acting president and the Republican Speaker of the House, Johnson, as the next in line for the presidency.

If the Democratic leadership manages to convince Biden and his handlers to announce he is not running for reelection after the Democratic Convention, the Democratic leadership will have the power to name a new ticket.

 

So, who will they pick?

Forget VP Kamala Harris.  She is unpopular and incompetent, even to the top Democrats.

There is California Governor Gavin Newsom.  He clearly wants the position, is photogenic, and a good speaker.  But California suffers from financial problems related to significant operating deficits, and high taxes.

The media will like him, but he will have problems in the general election.

Needless to say, there are about two dozen Democratic governors who would like the nomination, but jump starting a presidential campaign in a few weeks would be challenging.

Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer has been mentioned as possible presidential timber in the past and as governor of the tossup state of Michigan, would be helpful in a close election.  She is also a good VP in case Biden dies or becomes even more mentally unstable.

There is the name of former first lady Michelle Obama being mentioned – thus bringing in a third Obama term.  She would bring enthusiasm to several sectors of the Democratic Party, but she has repeatedly stated she isn’t interested in the job.

Of course, Barak Obama would like the job, but since he is prevented from running again, he might try to pressure Michelle to run.

 

 

Trump has all but won the Republican nomination and negated the Insurrection clause in the US Constitution.  He still has several trials coming up, but they likely will be postponed until after the election.  Of course, if he wins, expect either a pardon for himself or a new Attorney General who will trash all the indictments.

Trump is actively looking for a VP and he has made several comments about specific Republicans.  Here are several possibilities:

TrumpSENATOR TOM SCOTT.  Several analysts have said Trump should pick a minority running mate and Senator Scott could possibly be the choice.  He is one of the leading Republicans in the nation and withdrew from the presidential race in 2023 and endorsed Trump.

Polling shows that Blacks, especially Black males, are moving away from Biden and preferring Trump as time goes along.  Even taking a few Black voters from Biden could make it difficult for the President to win reelection.

VIVEK RAMASWAMY.  Another minority choice for Trump would be billionaire Vivek Ramaswamy.  He is young (38 years old), the son of Indian Immigrants, and has a conservative political view that mirrors Trump.  A young person would help attract younger voters.

GOVERNOR KRISTI NOEM.  As the governor of the safe Republican state of South Dakota, Governor Noem won’t be picked for the state’s electoral votes.  She is conservative and articulate.  She also has experience as a state governor.  Proof that she is on the VP short list is that Trump called her “A warrior for American values.”

 

Other Possibilities:

.  He is a former Fox News personality with name recognition and conservative stands.  Carlson, however, may have damaged himself somewhat by interviewing Russian President Putin.  Since the US is helping Ukraine, interviewing the Russian leader may tarnish his reputation among some voters.

.  A Trump firebrand, who makes controversial comments designed to upset Democrats.  If she can deliver Georgia to Trump, she may prove valuable.

.  A freshman senator from Ohio – a traditional tossup state.  Previously a “never Trump” person, he is now close to Trump.  He is a more likely candidate in 2028.

Tucker Carlson.  She is the senior ranking women in the GOP congressional leadership, and she comes from very Democratic New York.  She is only 39 years old.  Trump may decide she is more important in Congress but expect to see her name mentioned frequently in 2028.

Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene 

Senator J.D. Vance 

Rep. Elise StefanikThere appear to be two major issues this year – the economy and illegal immigration.  Although Democrats have accused Republicans of using immigration for votes and as an issue to attack Democrats, in a representative government, government decisions should represent the views of the electorate.

According to a Harris poll put out a couple of weeks ago, broad majorities of Republicans and Independents (85% and 71%) want to see tougher border enforcement.  Even Democrats are split on the issue 50-50.  A Pew Poll shows 41% of voters agreeing with Republican policies while only 31% agree with Democratic policies.

IssuesClearly, the immigration issue has hurt Biden’s popularity.  It’s also hurting in states that he needs to win.  With the sealing of the Texas border, the Tucson, Arizonasector is seeing a major jump in illegal immigration as illegal immigrants seek an easier crossing.

In a Marist poll this week, 42% of Americans said the US is too open.

Note that Biden won Arizona by only .3%, so immigration may be the winning margin in a close election.

According to the Harris poll of last month, Immigration was the major problem for 35% of Americans.

Immigration has clearly overtaken economic issues as the major concern.  32% say inflation is their major concern; while 25% said it was the economy and jobs.

Although the election is a long time from now, the issues that will drive voters to the polls favor the Republicans.  No matter the face of the Democratic nominee, the policies will be the same.

Analysis 11-20-2023

ANALYSIS

The 2024 Presidential Election

 

It’s a year until the US presidential election and it’s time to look at the election.

The conventional wisdom held that the 2024 election would be straight forward.  The Democratic National Committee had cleared the primary calendar so that pro-Biden states would go first and give Biden an easy road to the nomination.

The experts saw a difficult time for Trump.  There were over a dozen Republicans running for president and between a raft of legal problems and qualified candidates running against him, including the popular governor of Florida, Trump would have a difficult time being nominated.

The experts saw an easy win for Biden in November 2024 over a divided GOP.

They were wrong.  Biden is losing support across the board, including usually reliable minority like Arab Americans and Muslim Americans and women voters.  He is behind in key battleground states and would lose if the election were held today.

Meanwhile, the legal attacks on Trump are only convincing voters that the legal system is corrupt and solidifying his support.  His primary opponents are lucky if they get percentages in double digits.  Even his former Vice President, Pence, has pulled out of the race.

 

What happened?

For Biden, there are two issues – dementia and corruption.

Biden’s mental abilities are going down rapidly.  He is frequently lost on stage and can’t find his way off the stage without help.  His answers to questions are frequently vague and mumbled.  This week, Biden called Chinese president Xi a dictator, while answering questions about US Chinese relations. it is diplomatically crass to call a visiting president a dictator at a diplomatic event.

In a more diplomatic tone, China called the comment “extremely wrong.”

The other issue is corruption.  Although there is no chance that Biden will be impeached and convicted, the corrosive release of illegal activities by Biden and his family is hurting his electability.

The Democratic leadership is worried.  A New York Times poll taken last week shows Trump leading in 5 critical battleground states – Arizona, Georgia, Michigan, Nevada, and Pennsylvania.  Of course, the poll is a year in advance of the election, and much can change.

Other answers were also concerning.  Trump leads Biden 48% to 45% nationally.  62% say Biden doesn’t have the mental sharpness to be president and 72% say he is too old to be president.

59% of those polled in swing states disapproved of the job Biden is doing as president.  54% said Trump is mentally sharp.  Likely voters said trump would do better on the economy, national security, and immigration.

David Axelrod, the chief strategist for Obama, said the poll “will send tremors of doubt through party.”

Although the Democratic leadership may want Biden to pull out of the race, that is nearly impossible unless Biden agrees.  The primaries have been set up by the Democratic National Committee to give Biden an easy nomination win.  And, without any strong competition for the presidential nomination, polls show Biden getting over 70% of the likely Democratic primary voters.  Since unelected super delegates aren’t allowed to vote in the first ballot, they can’t impact the nomination if Biden has already gathered 51% of the delegates going into the convention.

Biden did make a vague comment about California Governor Newsom being qualified for being president.  He said Newsom, “Could have the job I’m looking for.”  But, as eye raising as the comment was, mentally weak Biden has frequently made misstatements.

Newsom shouldn’t get too excited.  A Fox poll this week showed Newsome behind Trump 49% to 45%.  Trump also led VP Harris (50%-45%) and Michigan Governor Whitmer (48%-46%).

It comes down to the DNC versus the Biden group and the Biden group will not want Biden to become a weak lame duck.  To resign or announce that Biden will not run for reelection means the Biden handlers will lose their power.  For instance, First Lady Jill Biden will not have any power when Biden loses the presidency or announces he will not run for reelection.  Better to keep the power of the presidency until January 20, 2025.

Any bribery will not continue for Biden or his family once he is a lame duck or is out of the White House.

The DNC could use VP Harris to invoke the 25th Amendment to become acting president, but that will have no impact on the nomination and could cause an internal split in the Democratic Party.  Besides, the GOP members in Congress may support Biden just to weaken the Democrats.

As it stands, Biden has clear sailing to the nomination.   However, short of a major shift in voter perceptions, the General Election will be a disappointment for him.

 

Trump

Despite a raft of legal problems, it looks like Trump will win the nomination and stands a good chance to win the While House in November.

The Democrats’’ mistake was swamping Trump with a raft of legal obstacles rather than focusing on one strong case.  By instituting several court cases in Democratic jurisdictions, they have convinced many voters that the current legal system is corrupt and needs repair.

One anti-Trump strategy was to accuse Trump of being an insurrectionist and therefore ineligible to run for federal office.  However, two state supreme courts (Michigan and Wisconsin) have ruled that Trump can be on the ballot.

Trump’s best strategy is to continue his trips across the country.  Likely, these trials will drag on for months.  If convicted, he will obviously appeal.  Some Democrats may want to put him into jail during the appeal, but that will only help Trump win.

Trump will have to name a vice president for the ticket.  Kari Lake had been considered as many consider her to be a “female Trump.”  However, she is running for the senate and is considered a good chance to flip the seat to Republican.

Ex TV host Tucker Carlson is thought by many to be an excellent choice for Trump’s VP position.  He is an excellent speaker, and his political philosophy generally matches Trump’s.

However, Trump has months to decide on his VP.

If Trump wins in November by a narrow electoral vote margin, but loses the popular vote, expect legal challenges to his taking office.  Don’t be surprised if there are mass demonstrations at the Capitol and White House just as there have been massive demonstrations in support of Hamas and Palestine recently.  If the case goes to the Supreme Court, expect demonstrations at the Supreme Court and the justices’ houses.

Could this get out of hand if one wins the popular vote and the other wins the electoral vote?  Yes.  Just look at what happened with the election of 1860.

There were interesting similarities with the 2024 election.  The incumbent President Buchanan was accused of rigging elections by buying votes.  In addition to this corruption, there was the issue of immigration.  And there was the emotional issue of slavery.  Stephen Douglas, who was running under the split Democratic ticket, said a Republican win would split the nation apart.

Lincoln won the election with a majority of electoral votes, but only 39.9% of the popular vote.  The Democrats were split between Stephen Douglas and VP John Breckinridge.

While Breckinridge won the south (Lincoln wasn’t even on the ballot in the South), Lincoln took the Northeast.  Douglas and Bell split border states.

Stephen Douglas was right.

Like 1860, feelings are running high, and riots are a strong possibility.

The aftermath of the 2024 election could be more important than the election itself.

Analysis 10-03-2023

ANALYSIS

Federal Government Avoids Government Shutdown

 

In what seems to be an annual event, the Congress avoided a shutdown on the last day.  However, the problem hasn’t been solved.  The Continuing Resolution only keeps the government going for another 45 days.  There are also several funding issues that must be worked out.  Although there weren’t the dramatic cuts in most department budgets, funding the Ukraine was left out of this bill.  Federal disaster assistance was included though.

The bill passed with most Republicans and nearly all Democrats voting for it.  However, Republican demands for more across the board cuts will remain a major issue as a small block of Republican congressmen hold the balance of power in the closely divided Congress.

To pass the bill, the Speaker of the House McCarthy had to ignore the wishes of some of his caucus and give in to Democratic wishes.  This leaves the Speaker vulnerable to an attempt by the Republican Conservative Caucus to declare the Speakers seat vacant.

Congressman Gaetz, who voted against the Continuing Resolution called the Speaker’s alliance with Democrats “disappointing” and said that Speaker McCarthy’s position as speaker was “on tenuous ground.”

If the bill hadn’t passed, the Speaker was prepared to pass several bills to limit the impact of the shutdown by paying members of the military and Border Patrol.

In the meantime, the House sent a bill to the Senate for their confirmation.  It then will go to the President for his signature.

Biden has signaled he will sign the bill.

An interesting sideline to the vote drama was Congressman Bowman’s attempt to slow down proceedings by setting off a fire alarm.  Ironically, as Speaker of the House McCarthy noted, this was a violation of 1512(c) (2) Obstruction of an official proceeding – the same law that has been used to prosecute Trump supporters who protested on January 6th.  Since Congressman Bowman is an ally of Biden, we can be sure he will not be put in jail as hundreds of Trump supporters have for violating the same law.

On another note, in the annual appropriation for the Department of Defense, Congress voted to slash Secretary of Defense Austin salary to one dollar.  Congresswoman Greene, who brought the amendment to the floor of the House said, “He is destroying our military. During Secretary Austin’s tenure, military recruitment has reached crisis levels of low recruitment.”

The provision says, “None of the funds made available by this Act may be used to pay Defense Secretary Loyd James Austin III a salary that exceeds $1.”

This isn’t the only trouble Austin faces.  Last month articles of impeachment were filed that centered around the American exodus from Afghanistan.

 

History of Government Shutdowns

In the legislative history of the US government, government shutdowns are relatively new.  They usually occur when the legislature and president are from different parties, although the late 1970s saw shutdowns even though the Congress and President were both Democrats.  The longest shutdown at that time was 17 days (September 78), while the average was 8 to 12 days.

Although Reagan faced a Democratic House, shutdowns were only 1 to 3 days long.  Clinton faced only one long shutdown (21 days in December 95).  A Republican Congress and Obama led to a 16-day shutdown in 2013.

The longest shutdown was December 2019, when Trump and the newly energized Democrat Congress kept the government closed for 34 days.

As mentioned before, not everything closes if the Continuing Resolution isn’t passed.  There is an OMB memo that outlines who gets laid off and when.

Naturally national security and foreign relations are the priority if they are essential to life and safety.

Next in line are benefits and contract obligations.

Essential activities that protect life and property like:

  • Medical care
  • Continuance of transportation safety functions
  • Border and coastal protection
  • Protection of lands, property, and buildings owned by the US.
  • Care of prisoners and others in the custody of the US.
  • Law enforcement and criminal investigations
  • Emergency and disaster assistance
  • Activities essential to elements of money and banking system
  • Activities to ensure production of power and power distribution systems.
  • Activities to protect research properties.

Safeguarding nuclear weapons isn’t mentioned (although the National Nuclear Security Administration does mention it in their plans for the shutdown).  Most DoD civilian employees would be furloughed although burials at Arlington National Cemetery will continue.

Mail service and Amtrak will still be available.

Government economic statistics, which have been criticized recently, may be late.

Most National Parks would be closed, except in Arizona, where the state intends to use state funds to keep the Grand Canyon open.

Although this shutdown appears to have been avoided, we may be facing the same problem in a little more than a month.

Stay tuned for Part Two.