2012 in review

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2012 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

About 55,000 tourists visit Liechtenstein every year. This blog was viewed about 1,300,000 times in 2012. If it were Liechtenstein, it would take about 24 years for that many people to see it. Your blog had more visits than a small country in Europe!

Click here to see the complete report.

[XBradTC]- Thanks to Roamy, URR, Craig, and Padre Dave for posting, and thanks to all of YOU for reading and most especially commenting.  You lurkers out there are encouraged to chime in as well!

Here’s looking forward to a great 2013!

A Twofer from Information Dissemination

First, a review of 2012 for the People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN). The PLAN has undergone massive growth and modernization in the past two decades, and is becoming a far more professional force than it historically has been.

Second, Bryan McGrath takes a poke at guessing what some of the significant trends will be for the Navy/Marine Corps team in the coming year. URR, I’m curious what you think about item #1.

Is China Buying the Tu-22 Backfire?

For the third time in 7 years (first one being in 2005, second earlier in 2012) several websites in China (link in Chinese) are reporting that China and Russia have agreed for Beijing to buy the production line for the Tupolev Tu-22M3 bomber at a cost of 1.5 billion USD.

Once in service with the Chinese Naval Air Forces the Tu-22M3 will be known as the “H-10″.

The deal struck with Russia comes with 36 aircraft (and engines): an initial batch of 12 followed by a second batch of 24 aircraft are thought to be on order.

The Tu-22 will be employed in the maritime attack role and will be used to attack targets from low level (to avoid radar detection).

via The Aviationist » China buys Tu-22 production line from Russia. A major threat to the U.S. aircraft carriers in the region.

The Tu-22M3 is an old plane. But it is still very effective. Good range and a decent missile payload can make it a formidable threat to any task force.

For decades during the Cold War, the US Navy saw it’s first function as securing the sea lines of communication to Europe. Two major threats existed, the massive Soviet sub fleet, and the large force of Soviet Long Range Naval Aviation missile armed bombers, the last of which were Tu-22M3 Backfires. The Soviet plan was for massed raids of missile armed bombers to saturate the defenses of any carrier group by having large numbers of anti-ship missiles arrive on target simultaneously.

The Navy’s defense plan was a layered defense that came to be known as The Outer Air Battle. Long range detection of bombers via signals intelligence, and later E-2 Hawkeyes would cue F-14 Tomcats to engage with Phoenix missiles the Backfires before they could launch their payloads. Other Tomcats would engage any missiles that were launched. Then the guided missile surface escorts would begin to shoot down missiles. In fact, the whole impetus for the Aegis radar system was to defeat these saturation raids.

After area air defense was finished attriting the missile raid, or as missile started their terminal attack, self defense missile systems such as the Sea Sparrow would engage any leakers, while jamming and chaff tried to deceive the attacking missile guidance systems. Finally, the last ditch Phalanx gun system would provide the final layer of defense.

The Navy no longer has the Tomcat/Phoenix combo to deal with long range threats. On the other hand, you can hang an awful lot of AMRAAMs on a Superhornet.  And unlike the early 1980s, there are a heck of a lot more Aegis equipped ships out there to defend battlegroups.

A 36 plane raid (with two AS-4 Kitchens apiece) should be a manageable threat.  To a carrier battle group. But the same raid sent after the underway replenishment group that a carrier needs to keep the sea might be a different matter.

And who’s to say the Chinese don’t have another weapons payload in mind for the Backfire? Doubling or tripling the numbers of weapons they can carry would vastly complicate the defensive plans of any task force commander.

Of course, we don’t really even know if the Chinese will actually buy any Backfires. As the article states up front, this isn’t the first time the subject has come up, but as yet, it has never come to pass.

Why Not Renew the “Assault Weapons” Ban? Well, I’ll Tell You… « Kontradictions

It’s not easy being a leftist who loves guns. It’s like being a Republican who listens to NPR or supports single payer health care. But being a leftist, I get exposed to all the liberal publications and media that invariably call for gun control every time someone does something stupid with one. Being a gun enthusiast, I also get exposed to the political Right’s oversimplification of those liberals as somehow lacking moral fiber or true appreciation of freedom. Rather than agreeing with both, I tend to end up arguing with both. It’s exhausting to always feel like I’m apologizing for the other “side”.

This article takes a point of view, but aims to do so in a way that members of both sides of the political spectrum can understand. I’ll try to give some idea as to why we on the political left roll our eyes at the rhetoric of the NRA, and how we in the “gun culture” can possibly defend something called “assault weapons”.

We all know the cycle by now: Tragic incident occurs, both sides attempt to use it for their political gain, both sides act shocked that the other would attempt to use it for political gain, insults are flung, statistics are cherry-picked, rinse, repeat.

I began writing this some time after the Aurora massacre, but it was just this morning that news started coming in of the mass shooting at a Sikh temple in Wisconsin. I knew the wave of cries for a renewal of the “assault weapon” and “high capacity” magazine bans hadn’t yet faded from Aurora, and that they would be reinforced by this next event, regardless of how relevant either of the topics were to the incident.

via Why Not Renew the “Assault Weapons” Ban? Well, I’ll Tell You… « Kontradictions.

Read the whole thing.

NASA’s Jesco von Puttkamer Has Died | SpaceRef – Your Space Reference

After World War II, during which his family lived in Switzerland, von Puttkamer studied mechanical engineering at Konstanz and the Technische Hochschule (RWTH Aachen) in Aachen, graduating with a university degree. In 1962 he left Germany for the United States, where he joined Wernher von Braun’s rocket team at the NASA Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama as an engineer during the Apollo Program.

via NASA's Jesco von Puttkamer Has Died | SpaceRef – Your Space Reference.

He had already moved to NASA Headquarters when I joined NASA, but somewhere I have a picture of Jesco von Puttkamer and Gene Roddenberry on the set of the first Star Trek movie. von Puttkamer was one of several German engineers who were not part of Operation Paperclip but came to the United States later to join von Braun’s team.

h/t reader Bill.

Update: Found the photo in “The Making of Star Trek” by Susan Sackett and Gene Roddenberry.

von Puttkamer was technical advisor for Star Trek-The Motion Picture, providing comments on warp drive, black holes, wormholes, matter implosion theory, and script continuity (at no cost to the taxpayer, I might add).

Star Trek particularly interested him because it showed a regard for true science, and because it gave people a vision of what the realities of space could be. In fact, he feels that Star Trek did this in some ways that NASA could not. For example, NASA’s own Apollo moon shots never gave the impression of great speed in spite of the fact that they traveled thousands of miles an hour. Jesco was impressed with the initial Enterprise fly-by in the television show opening, which gave a feeling of the tremendous speeds the ship can reach. This was just the sort of thing NASA needed to get the interest and support of the general public.

Sunday Links

Well, this is gonna suck some of the fun out of Ace’s FiaF flamewars.


Budget cuts are gonna hit all the services, Air Force included


How’s that Smart Diplomacy working out for ya?


It’s a deal!


Stormbringer notes the passing of GEN H. Norman Schwarzkopf, and how timing and circumstance led him to command an army at the perfect intersection of equipment, personnel and doctrine.


Here’s a kitten.



Don’t forget the Amazon search tool up on the right side. 

US scraps entire fleet of Afghan cargo planes – News – Stripes

The U.S. military is scrapping the Afghan air force’s entire fleet of Italian-made cargo planes, The Wall Street Journal reported Friday.

U.S. and Afghan officials told the paper that the Afghan military isn’t expected to have an independent and fully functioning air force until around 2017, well after the withdrawal of most U.S. and international troops.

On the west end of Kabul International Airport, twin-engine C-27As sit side by side, sunlight reflecting off their gray wings and the green, black, and red of the Afghan flag emblazoned on their tails. For more than a year, though, most of the planes had been little more than expensive aviation exhibitions, unable to fly due to lack of spare parts and maintenance.

Now, despite spending nearly $600 million on the program, the U.S. is canceling the contract for the aircraft and disposing of all 16 planes delivered to the Afghan Air Force, the Journal reported.

Alenia Aermacchi North America, a unit of Italian defense conglomerate Finmeccanica SpA, failed to meet the requirements of their contract to maintain the fleet, according to an email from U.S. Air Force spokesman Ed Gulick, who was quoted in the Journal.

via US scraps entire fleet of Afghan cargo planes – News – Stripes.

$600 million is a pretty small price for 16 C-27A’s. Mind you, these are used aircraft, originally built as Alenia G.222’s, and not the much updated C-27J that has been such a bone of contention between the Army and the Air Force.

Still, airplanes are finicky things, and buying some spare parts might have been a good idea.

And while I don’t really know for sure, I suspect a nice simple plane like the C-27A might have been the upper limit that the Afghan infrastructure could have supported.  Instead, now they got nothing from this program, and will instead try to operate some surplus USAF C-130s.

Chinese developing C-17 clone

The Chinese military confirmed that it is developing a large transport aircraft.

The announcement comes after blurry photos leaked onto aviation forums on Christmas Eve. The photos were taken at Xian Aircraft Corporation’s airfield. As Danger Room pointed out earlier, the photos show an aircraft that looks a heck of a lot like the U.S. Air Force’s C-17.

via Chinese developing C-17 clone | Defense Tech.


Actually, it looks a heck of a lot like an old IL-76, the Soviet clone of our C-141. The fuselage is a little wider. And the engines look somewhat more modern, but not nearly in the same class as the  F-117 engines of the C-17. And certainly, having the wingspars pass above the fuselage is reminiscent of older aircraft, and not the C-17.

Just because two aircraft share a couple of common points in their configuration doesn’t mean one is a clone of the other.