Defense

Writings related to either the defense industry, the community within that industry, or anything else of that ilk

Missile Shields and the DPRK, or The Missile Defense Agency Can’t Save Us From Pyongyang

Note: This article was written before the events of August 8th and 9th, 2017.

There has been quite a lot of talk about nuclear weapons in the last few months. President Trump ran, and won, on a platform that advocated the buildup of American nuclear capabilities, even at the risk of igniting conflict with Russia, while (now former) President Obama made headlines with legislation that would invest billions of dollars to modernize the current US arsenal. Both of these policies have garnered considerable attention, and with good reason. Very little has been done to distinguish between the two, or to explain to the average voter why one policy is inherently reckless while the other is (or at least could be) a legitimate effort to make the country, and the world, safer. Then, over the last few weeks, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (otherwise known as North Korea) has done a series of ballistic missile tests, including one on July 28 that appears to be able to strike any military target of consequence in the continental United States (CONUS). This is a significant change in the status quo on the peninsula, and worthy of some study on its own. This essay is not a comprehensive assessment of either policy or the North Korean situation by any means, but it is an overview–meant to make the nature and consequences of each policy  and the changing situation on the Korean peninsula clear, in at least a broad sense, to the public. Continue with this piece

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An Overview of Decisive Battle, or My Mahanian Diatribe

TL;DR: Alfred Thayer Mahan was an influential American naval theorist from the 19th century who got a lot of things right, and got the more important things wrong because his focus was the past and not the future. His positive contributions succinctly laid out key strategic points for waging a war at sea, but his negative focuses retarded the growth of offensive thought for over half a century, and directly led to the naval arms race between Germany and Britain that contributed to the start of World War I, and created what became “Kantai Kessen”, the doomed Japanese strategy that precipitated the strike on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941. Continue with this piece

60,000 Tons of Hype, or A Realistic Assessment of the New Chinese Aircraft Carrier Liaoning

Over the last few months, there’s been quite a bit of hubbub about the doings of the brand new Chinese aircraft Liaoning. She finished her refit for service late last year, and has spent these last few months working up with exercises in the Bohai Sea, including live-fire drills, further exercises in the South China Sea seen by many as a signal to the incoming Trump Administration in America, and finally a return to her new homeport of Qingdao through the Taiwan Strait, sending the entire Taiwanese military into a frenzy. Even Chinese media has been abuzz with the developments of the ship, the first aircraft carrier in People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) service, such as this editorial suggesting the ship make a cruise to the West Coast of the United States as a geopolitical gesture. To be frank, the ship is being rather overblown. A former Soviet warship, the Liaoning represents a fundamentally different approach to carrier warfare at sea than the United States Navy’s (USN) Nimitz and Ford class supercarriers that mass nearly twice her full load, and to presume that the ship means the PLAN is now nearly ready to oust the USN from East Asian waters is laughable. Rather than swallow these sixty thousand tons of hype, this is intended as a rational discussion of the ship and her actual capabilities. Continue with this piece

NATO and the Future, or The Uses of Opposing Force Thought and Technological Revolutions For NATO

It seems every technology and defense magazine these days is gushing about the future of warfare. The discussions center on all the revolutions claimed to be on the horizon or already arriving to a battlefield near you. They’re not wrong. A plethora of convergent technological revolutions stand to upend the ways wars are fought around the world, between both state (e.g. the US, China, Russia), and non-state actors (e.g. ISIS, Boko Haram, FARC). Today we are going to discuss implications for the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, otherwise known as NATO. Current NATO doctrine in effect assumes efforts will be made to minimize civilian and military casualties. It also assumes that the Alliance will have electronic, airborne, and general technological parity, if not outright superiority, against any near-term opponent. This was a key part of NATO defense strategy during the Cold War, relying on superior Western munitions, non-kinetic technologies, and the threat of American, British, and French nuclear arsenals to offset massive Warsaw Pact numerical and conventional firepower advantages. Further, current Alliance defense procurement indicates a continued belief that it only needs better versions of the tools with which it planned to wage war against Red Army tank and infantry divisions, the war to end all conventional wars. The Eurofighter Typhoon multi-role fighter, F-22 and F-35 stealth fighters, Zumwalt-class destroyers and Queen Elizabeth-class aircraft carriers, the new Leopard 3 main battle tank Germany is developing, and the ongoing upgrade series for the vaunted M-1 Abrams tank all are examples of this line of thinking.

That will not be the next war, either strategically or tactically. While conventional force and firepower will be an integral piece of the next war, the rate of change in how wars can and should be fought since the collapse of the Iron Curtain cannot be underestimated. There is little to no investment in any of the following combat revolutions on the horizon: strategic and tactical cyber warfare, offensive electronic warfare (EW) to deny the enemy use of their battlespace networks, defensive EW against the same, airborne and land-borne autonomous weapons systems, battlefield-ready directed energy and electromagnetic weapons (e.g. lasers and railguns respectively), and asymmetric strategies, including not only insurgencies but both limited nuclear warfare and anti-civilian strategies in a total war scenario. However, even more pressing than understanding these individual revolutions is a broader concern. There is a critical lack of significant Alliance investment in understanding the aforementioned revolutions from the perspective of an opponent of NATO. NATO has not studied the implications for enemy strategies. There is no Alliance-wide effort to perceive and adapt to such strategies. Without investment in at least understanding these potentially revolutionary technologies and the doctrines they will fit into, their possible strengths and weaknesses, in the next decade or less, the Alliance could find itself on the back foot technologically and its enemies leapfrogged over it into the next era of warfare. Continue with this piece

The Helicarrier, or An Exploration of Force and Might Through the Marvel Cinematic Universe

The Marvel Cinematic Universe is without a doubt a fantastic media achievement. At the time of this writing, it spans thirteen films, with eleven in development, and four TV series, with four more also in development. One thing immediately apparent to anyone familiar with the series is that it is never afraid, like its comics origin, to provide commentary on contemporary events, politics, and cultural and social trends. Between characters, plots, villains, and more, Marvel films do not cease to provide metaphors for viewers to chew over, even as they deliver bombastic films that are whirlwinds of entertainment. I would like to propose a new vehicle through which to examine a Marvel commentary on force and power: the SHIELD Helicarrier. A gigantic craft that serves various functions throughout its cinematic career, the helicarrier and the events surrounding the titanic ship and her Insight sisters provide an unique look at the appropriate uses of force and might in the resolution of ongoing international crises and even interpersonal conflict through individual lens. Continue with this piece