The Scottish Independence Vote

Tomorrow could see a seismic shift in the makeup of Europe. Great Britain has been relatively politically stable for some three hundred years.

Ace has a nice background on the union.

The union was an early example of the rise of the stable nation-state as we understand them today. It’s potential fracture is more evidence that our global political model may be ending, and a new one emerging.

Where in the 1700s and 1800s, we saw the conglomeration of various smaller political units into singular countries, such as the amalgamation of states into Germany and Italy, now we see a trend toward the fracture of those states. The term Balkanization comes to mind, as well as separatist movements in places such as Catalonia.

If this is the new trend, it’s a topic for strategic thought. And I haven’t seen much thought given to it.

Colt is taking over the world.

Visit virtually any gun blog, and one of the most contentious issues is the 5.56mm Colt M4 carbine. Thousands of people will argue against it and push for the adoption of another weapon, and often another caliber.

Oddly, however, surveys of active soldiers are almost universally supportive of the M4. Of course, most soldiers, even Infantrymen, have little experience with military small arms outside of their own issue weapons. Still, the level of satisfaction suggests that while the M4 may not be perfect, it isn’t so egregiously flawed as to require immediate replacement.

And another little secret is that while other nations developed their own 5.56mm weapons about the time the US lead NATO to shift from 7.62mm to 5.56mm as the standard rifle round, many have quietly adopted the M16/M4 platform, at least for certain applications.

Israel equipped its soldiers with the indigenous Galil rifle, but has since seen most of its troops shifted to the M4.

In the mid-1990s, Canada, then equipped with a variant of the FN FAL rifle in 7.62mm, worked with Colt and the US Marine Corps to develop their own version of our 5.56mm M16A2. Introduced into service as the C7 rifle, it and the carbine C8 series (very similar to our own M4) have been the standard service rifle of the Canadians, and have been adopted by several other NATO members, such as Norway, Denmark, and even Iceland.

When the US lead the shift to 5.56mm, Britain developed their own rifle, the fairly exotic looking SA80.

It has not been particularly successful competing in the small arms export market. 

Britain steadfastly claims the SA80 (L85A1 in UK service) is superior to the M16/M4 family.

But the truth is, special operations forces of Great Britain don’t like it, and never have. And they’ve been buying C8 carbines from Canada.

One of the great strengths of the Colt rifle is that it can be customized in an almost unlimited number of ways.

Our friends across the pond at Think Defence have two posts on the Colt in British service (where it’s known as the L119A1).

A Mid Life Colt Canada C8 Upgrade

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The upgraded, customized version will be known as the L119A2.

L119A2 – Colt Canada C8 Upgrade

L119A2 C8 SFW 640x304 L119A2   Colt Canada C8 Upgrade

I wouldn’t be terribly surprised if Great Britain quietly, slowly makes the Colt the de facto standard weapon over the next few years.

The Falklands v2.0- Getting There

Pretty quickly in doing research on the recently increased tensions between Argentina and Great Britain, I realized one of the biggest problems Argentina would have in any notional conflict would simply be getting to the islands.  Getting ashore would just be the first problem. Defeating the current defenses would be another.

Let’s take a look at the current Order of Battle for both sides.

[scribd id=123291888 key=key-a41g9nnkx02g526x0s9 mode=scroll]

Given the vast increases in British defense resources in the Falklands since 1982, any Argentine attempt to seize the islands would have to take a much different approach than the 1982 amphibious invasion, and would be a much wider scale operation, with much greater risks.

Argentina no longer has a credible ability to deploy more than a single battalion of expeditionary forces. Facing a reinforced rifle company in the defense with such a small force is just within the realm of feasibility, but facing one with air superiority over its own territory would be futile.

Argentina could land a token force of special operations somewhere in the Falklands to “show the flag” for domestic political consumption. Such a force could be landed by fishing vessel, or conceivably by Argentine submarine. Such a force would likely not be able to maintain station on the islands for more than 48 hours before British forces hunted them down. Since such a mission would be strictly for domestic purposes, the capture or destruction of such a team would be highly counterproductive, and great pains would be taken to plan for the retrieval of the team.

Other options short of an outright invasion are open to Argentina. Harassment of fishing vessels in Falklands waters, denial of landing rights to civil aviation from the Falklands (or even Great Britain), denial of port entry to ships making landfall in the Falklands are all options.  Other than being about 300 miles from Argentina, the Falklands are in the middle of nowhere, and some level of outside trade is critical. Actions by Argentina that are short of outright combat can persuade some commercial interests that it isn’t worth it to trade with the remote outpost.  We can expect Argentina to continue to do as much as possible to make the Falklands as expensive an outpost of Great Britain as they can, in hopes of reducing British support for the Falklanders continual claim to be under the protection of the Crown.

Should Argentina seriously try to seize actual control of the islands, they would first have to seize control of the air. The only way to do this would be to attack RAF Mt. Pleasant, and render its runways inoperative, at least for a few days. With any strategic warning at all, Great Britain could reinforce the standing force of four fighters with fairly large numbers of fighters, strike aircraft, and tankers.  With that in mind, Argentina would have to strike “out of the blue.”  A mass raid by as much of the A-4AR fleet as can be made operational would have a fair chance of success of damaging both runways. But if RAF Mt. Pleasant has as little as five minutes warning of the incoming raid, Argentine losses would be very heavy, both from ready alert Typhoons and Rapier surface to air missiles.

Let’s assume that such an Argentine raid has been successful. While denying Great Britain use of its airpower (at least temporarily) is a condition for any chance of success, such a raid would certainly alert ground forces to a possible landing.  Rehearsed plans to defeat any Argentine landings would be initiated. Whether Britain would attempt to defeat such a landing on the beaches or inland is an open question.

Any Argentine landing would have as its prime objective to seize RAF Mt. Pleasant. Failure to do so would give Britain time to repair any damage, and potentially allow reinforcements to flow in via an air bridge.  To defeat the British Army garrison quickly, the Argentines would need to land more than one battalion of their own Marines. But they lack the amphibious shipping to do so. They would have to press into service merchant vessels, themselves ill suited to serve as troopships. Worse, this procurement would have to take place prior to any hostilities. Such an action could very easily come to the attention of Britain, and serve as strategic warning of an impending attack.  Indeed, an large scale preparations by the ARA to ready more than a usual number of ships for sea is likely to attract British attention, and lead to reinforcing the islands.

But let’s assume, for the purpose of our discussion, that Argentina somehow manages to both suppress RAF Mt. Pleasant, land two or more battalions on the Falklands, and seize RAF Mt. Pleasant, and destroy or capture the garrison.  What could Britain do in return?

Much as Argentina would need to change its approach, with the absence of sea base airpower, and with a much smaller navy (and RAF, and army) Britain too would have to resort to different methods.

We’ll take a look at some possible courses of action in our next installment.

Dash and Elan

There was a time, before socialism became the culture of Great Britain, when troops loyal to the Crown were among the most intrepid in the world, and had a government worthy of their esprit.

The beginning of June 1942 was perhaps the nadir of the Allied effort against the Axis powers.* Virtually every Allied effort to stem the flood of the Axis tide had met with disaster.  Vast swaths of the Pacific lay under the heel of the militaristic Imperial Japanese Boot.  Tripolitanian North Africa was the scene of brutal battles between Britain, Italy and their German allies. Russia was being bled white by the enormous Wehrmacht assault in the East. And of course, virtually all of Western Europe was under the heel of the Nazi boot. Most famously, France, just two years before considered the greatest power on the continent, had suffered a humiliating  military and moral catastrophe in their defeat by the Blitzkrieg of the Germans.

America had entered the war some 7 months before, but for now, Great Britain,  alone among the Western powers, struggled to hold the line. Britain knew that eventually, to defeat the Nazi’s, it would take more than they alone could provide. More even than they and the Americans could muster. And for moral reasons, if no others, if France was ever to stand shoulder to shoulder with the other nations of the world, its citizens would have to fight alongside the Allies to reclaim their own soil.

So while the battle to reclaim France was still two years in the future, the fight to inspire even the smallest amount of national pride in the Frenchman in the street, to inspire hope that someday the French could indeed return to independence, was very much in the forefront of British thinking.  And with that goal in mind, the RAF ordered a daring daylight raid on Paris.  A massive fleet of Lancasters or Stirlings? Mosquitoes swirling? Nope…

Read the whole story.

*As of the  day of this raid, 12 June 1942, while the Battle of Midway had been fought and decisively won, the full scope of that victory was still generally unknown to the public.

Thanks to Craig for the head’s up on  this.

Happy Diamond Jubilee

For four days, today through Tuesday, Elizabeth II is celebrating her 60th anniversary as Queen. We’ve already seen the celebratory flyover. Today the Queen went to the Epsom Derby. Tomorrow, she will lead up to a thousand boats in the Thames River Pageant. Monday is a huge concert and lighting of beacons across the country. Tuesday will be a service of thanksgiving and another RAF flyover.

I think the Queen is a significant part of the “special relationship” between Great Britain and the United States. She has been there through a dozen each of prime ministers and presidents. She has been there through the Korean War, the Cold War, Operation Desert Storm (Operation Granby for the U.K.), Operation Iraqi Freedom, and Operation Enduring Freedom. Britain allowed our fighters to launch from RAF bases to bomb Libya in 1986. We share military bases on Diego Garcia and Ascension Island. We sell our best weapons to her country first (though she may not thank us for the F-35).

There have been rough spots, like our invasion of Grenada, and some friendly fire incidents in Iraq. Britain did not send troops to Vietnam, instead they had their hands full with the situation in Indonesia and Malaysia in the 1960’s. We’re currently in a rough spot, thanks to President Obama – the recent betrayal of intelligence assets, referring to the Falklands as the Maldives (oops and a snicker), and saying we don’t have a stronger ally than France. Not to mention wincingly bad gift choices and his feet up on the Resolute desk. I hope that a Romney administration can smooth ruffled feathers.

Thank you to Her Majesty’s armed forces who have stood with us in the war on Communism and the war on terror. We remember the British servicemen and women who have fought by our side and paid the ultimate price. Our thoughts and prayers go out to their families.

Stolen from the ONT at Ace of Spades. I like the determined look on her face.

In closing, I’d like to end with a bit of humor from my childhood. This is from a Vaughn Meador-type spoof of the Carter White House by Hans Petersen, a disk jockey from my old stomping ground of Augusta, Georgia. I was going to write the skit from memory, but even better, I found the clip on Youtube.

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5XADU-8ZVa0&w=420&h=315]