The Marketing People at 5-Hour Energy Should be All Over This!

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From the Daily Caller:

The top defense secretary in North Korea was allegedly executed in a hail of anti-aircraft fire, South Korean news outlets say, for falling asleep at a meeting where Kim Jong-un was speaking.

Though there remains some skepticism regarding the event, certainly there seems to be some credence to the possibility that General Hyon Yong-chol was done away with, because we know that the DPRK has the facility for such an ostentatious (and messy) display of brutality.

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But there is a marketing opportunity here.  The annoying 5-Hour Energy commercials could become quite a bit more compelling.  “Feeling tired?  Falling asleep in a meeting with the boss?  Don’t be blasted into smoking lumps of bone and flesh!  Drink 5-Hour Energy!  Now in pomegranate, berry, grape, and citrus orange!”

Wouldn’t it be irony that staunch Communist KJU was the entrepreneurial inspiration for a Capitalist marketing campaign?    Sure, the FDA has some warnings about 5-Hour Energy Drinks, such as prolonged use causing heart attacks.  But it still has to be less harmful than half a dozen 14.5 slugs to the cranium.

Maybe 5-Hour Energy can pick up the NKPA as a sponsor, to go along with NASCAR and Jim Furyk.  Or maybe not, as acquiring personal wealth is a leading cause of being shot to pieces in North Korea.

“The mission of this Allied Force was fulfilled at 0241, local time, May 7th, 1945.”

That message, sent 70 years ago by  General of the Army Dwight D. Eisenhower, Supreme Commander, Allied Expeditionary Forces Europe, to the American and British governments, signaled the end of World War II in Europe.


“The mission of this Allied Force was fulfilled at 0241, local time, May 7th, 1945.
EISENHOWER”

Top secret document sent by General Eisenhower to his superior officers to inform them that his mission was fulfilled - Germany was defeated and the war in Europe was over. 
-from the Eisenhower Library

Alfred Jodl would sign the instruments of surrender for Germany at Rheims.

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On May 8, a similar instrument was signed in Berlin, ending the war with the Soviet Union. The US and most western nations celebrate Victory in Europe on May 8. The Russians celebrate on May 9.

On May 6, 1945, the focus of the entirety of the Allied forces in Europe was the defeat of Germany. On May 8, the focus was on getting out of the damn Army and getting home. It would take some time for that to pass, and indeed, to this day, Americans are stationed in Germany, though since 1955, as guests and allies of their former enemies.

Of course, the War in the Pacific remained to be won. But with the defeat of Germany, it was seen as a foregone conclusion that Japan would fall to the combined might of the Allies. There would be a great deal of death, destruction and suffering to come, but the end game was all that was left to play out.

Tomorrow, to commemorate this 70th Anniversary of Victory in Europe, among other events, there will be a huge flyover of the US capitol by more than 40 World War II era aircraft.

More than 40 vintage aircraft of World War II will fill the skies over the nation’s capital Friday in tribute to the 70th anniversary of Victory in Europe (V-E) Day.

Fifteen flying formations will form up near Leesburg, Virginia, and follow the Potomac River southeast toward Washington. But unlike the usual “river run” of modern commercial flights into Reagan National Airport, the venerable war birds will bank over the Lincoln Memorial, overflying the National World War II Memorial, head east past the Washington Monument along Independence Avenue, turning south as they pass over the National Air and Space Museum near the Capitol.

May 7th, 1864; The Turn South

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Such an occurrence would seem absolutely implausible today, the stuff of trite Hollywood hyperbole.   Yet, it unquestionably happened.  And it is a tribute to the magnificent courage and spirit of men who comprised the Army of the Potomac.

In May of 1864, the war was entering its fourth, and bloodiest, year.  For the previous three, the long-suffering blue-clad soldiers of the Army of the Potomac had suffered from poor leadership and lack of training as they punched and parried with their skilled and elusive foe, Robert E. Lee’s legendary Army of Northern Virginia.   Whatever the shortcomings of the generalship of this Union Army, its soldiers and junior officers had proven time and again to be a match for Lee’s men in the two areas that mattered most:  willingness to endure, and raw courage.   Failures to exploit advantages gained in the Seven Days, at Antietam, and and Gettysburg, rested with the leadership of the Army of the Potomac, not with its soldiers.

But now General Ulysses Grant called the shots.  The aggressive and determined hero of Shiloh and Vicksburg encamped alongside Meade, who still commanded the Army of the Potomac.  In the first week of May, 1864, that army marched into the densely tangled undergrowth of the Wilderness in pursuit of their foes.  Grant, it is said, passed a personal message to Lincoln even as the confused savagery of the Battle of the Wilderness began.  That message said; “Whatever happens, we will not turn back”.

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Conf Dead Spotsylvania Cthse

From 5-7 May, the two armies fought a brutal and unrelenting brawl in the dense woods and small clearings of the Wilderness.  Lee, significantly outnumbered, fought the Federal forces, which included Burnside’s IX Corps, to a frustrating standstill.  Union casualties were enormous, nearly 18,000, as the terrain and foliage worked against Grant’s desire to mass overwhelming force anywhere on the field.  Confounded by an enemy that seemed to thwart each maneuver, exhausted from the furious and bloody combat, with dead and wounded strewn everywhere, fires burning, choked with smoke, dust, and the stench of rotting corpses, the soldiers of the Army of the Potomac seemed to be at the end of their tether.

On the afternoon of the 7th, Grant gave the order for the Army of the Potomac and Burnside’s Corps to move after dark.  In the pitch black, along dusty roads jammed with troops, ambulances full of wounded, cannon, supply wagons, and staff officers, the Army moved agonizingly slowly.  Filthy and exhausted, they shuffled onto Orange Plank Road and away from the burning furnace of the Wilderness.  Then, as the lead columns continued east along the road, an absolutely extraordinary thing occurred.  Officers at the scene reported that a palpable murmur arose in the ranks of marching men.  The soldiers knew instinctively that what occurred at the next road intersection would determine the future course of the war.  If the army was ordered to continue east (toward Chancellorsville) or turn left (north), it would be clear that the Army of the Potomac would again disengage from Lee, and the Army of Northern Virginia would be allowed to recover its strength.  If the column instead turned right, to the south along Brock Road, they would be marching toward Richmond.   It would mean Grant, now that he had his claws in Lee, would not let go.

As the columns drew toward the intersection, the orders came for the column to turn right onto Brock Road.  They were heading south, moving toward their enemy.  Grant was going to hold onto Lee and continue the hammer blows that he and his troops knew to be necessary to bring the South to its knees.  In the darkness, the somnambulent men who’d been stumbling along a few minutes earlier exploded with wild and deafening cheers, loud enough to draw fire from Rebel cannon.   Despite all of the suffering and sacrifice of the previous days, and indeed the three years of war, these filthy and exhausted Veterans were cheering, even knowing the grim tasks that lay ahead.  Yet to come would be Spotsylvania Courthouse, and the Bloody Angle, Cold Harbor, the Bermuda Hundred, and Petersburg.   And Appomattox, which the weary men in blue knew all too well would never happen without more bitter hammering at their enemy, and without a man like Grant.  Their bravery and fearful sacrifice in the tangled hell of the Wilderness was not to be squandered.

Happy Birthday, Flashy!

From a few years back:

DAMN YOUR EYES!

This morning, let’s wish Happy Birthday to perhaps England’s greatest and most decorated military hero. No, not the Duke of Wellington. Nor Lord Kitchener of Khartoum. Not Lord Nelson, nor Viscount Slim, Haig, Mountbatten, nor Montgomery. None of them.

Happiest of Birthdays to Colonel Sir Harry Paget Flashman, VC KCB KCIE CdLH MoH, born this day, 1822. The erstwhile bully of Rugby School went on to unlikely fame (if not fortune) in Afghanistan in 1842, the Sikh War, the 1848 revolution, the Crimea (where he participated in the Charge of the Light Brigade), the Indian Mutiny, John Brown’s Harper’s Ferry raid, both sides of the American Civil War, Maximillian’s Mexico, Little Big Horn, Natal (at Isandlwana), the Peking Legation, and a few other places. The tall, dark, handsome soldier left a trail of accidental heroism, scandal, and empassioned paramours across just about every continent.

Each and every account of his adventures is worth the read.

Happy Birthday, Flashy.

Would you like to play a game? A map of predicted nuclear targets in the US

There’s two scenarios mapped out, a 500 warhead target list, and a 2000 warhead target list.

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Click the link to see the full sized map.

You’ll notice the targeting varies significantly between the two. That’s because there are two basic types of nuclear wars. Let’s address the 2000 warhead scenario first. You’ll notice three really big clusters of weapons in Montana, North Dakota and intersection of Wyoming, Colorado and Nebraska. That just happens to be where the vast majority of our Intercontinental Ballistic Missiles are. Such a targeting scheme is known as a Counter-Force scheme. The idea is to destroy our ability to use our ICBMs against the USSR.

In the 500 warhead scenario, while there are a goodly number of purely military targets, most predicted impacts are on civilian targets, such as state capitols and industrial and population centers. This scheme is known as Counter-Value. The idea is to hold at risk the truly most important resource of the nation, its people.

A Modest Defense of the Air Force Plan to Retire the A-10 Warthog

This is a repost of a bit I wrote last year about the Air Force attempt to retire the A-10.

I’m not saying retiring it is a good idea, merely that the Air Force has legitimate, if unpleasant, reasons for the decision.

National Review has a good piece making the case for keeping the A-10 in service. I do have a few nits to pick with it. First, any article that quotes Pierre Sprey today gets dinged. He’s simply not a serious voice on the topic.

Second, every article automatically reaches for the F-35 argument. Yes, eventually the F-35 will take the place of the A-10 as a CAS provider. And every article mentions the current shortcomings of the F-35. What those articles always fail to mention is that while the F-35 is entering into service, the real interim replacements for the A-10 in the CAS role will be the F-16 and the F-15E, until such time as they are phased out of service.

And finally, there is often something of a cult about the A-10 that argues not that it is the best at CAS, but that it is somehow the ONLY platform that can perform the mission. That would be something of a surprise to the United States Marine Corps. You know, the people that invented CAS? The service that doesn’t have the A-10? The service that currently uses fast jets like the F-18 and AV-8B for CAS, and seems pretty happy and competent at it? You know, the service that has bet the entire future of Marine aviation on the F-35B as the CAS platform of choice for the future? Maybe they know something the A-10 cult doesn’t.

Again, I love the A-10, and would love to see it remain in service. But GEN Welsh’s decision to retire it isn’t a conspiracy to avoid the mission and only buy sexy jets. It’s a tad more nuanced that than.

Original post below.

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The internets have been abuzz about the Air Force Chief of Staff’s decision to retire the A-10 Warthog. Untold numbers of pixels have been spent vilifying the chief, and pointing out what a lousy idea it is.

And it probably is.

But there are three strong arguments supporting his decision.

1. Money

2. The future battlefield

3. Availability of other CAS platforms

For the record, I am and always will be a fan of the A-10, and wish that it were to remain in service indefinitely. But barring Congressional intervention, it looks increasingly as if the demise of the Warthog is nigh. And Congressional intervention is by no means even a good idea.

Let’s take a look at the three arguments supporting GEN Welsh’s decision.

Money

First, money. Yes, the Warthog is relatively cheap to operate. But there are large fixed overhead costs with maintaining a type in service. There’s the training pipeline for pilots and maintainers, there’s the spare parts pipeline, and the technical contracting for the depot level overhaul and upgrades. Simply reducing the size of a particular fleet does relatively little to reduce these costs. Savings are only achieved by actually removing an entire type from the service.

And before you say “well, fine, give ‘em to the Army” or Marines, or what have you, understand, neither service wants the A-10 so badly they they are willing to pick up those associated costs, nor incur the major doctrinal upheaval integration of the A-1o would entail. That doesn’t even get into where the Army or Marines would find the manpower to operate the Warthog. It simply will not happen.

But the era of austere budgets is upon the DoD. Sequestration is upon us, and GEN Welsh has to make cuts, like it or not. And one way or another, the cuts he has to make will impair the Air Force’s ability to accomplish its mission. He has to decide which cuts impose the lowest future risks. And the choice of the A-10 can be seen as the lowest risk from a range of options that go from bad to terrible.

The future battlefield

Let’s actually look at the past a bit first. The A-10 was designed very much with the lessons of the Vietnam War in mind. Fast mover jets such as the F-100 and F-4 struggled to provide the quality of close air support in South Vietnam that the Army wanted.  Designed as high-flying supersonic fighters, they were too fast to visually identify small, fleeting targets on the ground. They were also quite vulnerable to small arms fire and other low-tech air defenses. And their design and thirsty turbojet engines meant they could only spend a short time on station before they needed to head home for fuel.

Simultaneously, the Air Force was having generally good results with former US Navy A-1H and A-1E Skyraider aircraft.  The Skyraider could carry and impressive warload, was capable of operating at low altitudes with a long loiter time, and was rugged enough that most of the time, small arms fire wouldn’t bring it down.  The gasoline engine was a real drawback, however, complicating maintenance, and logistics. The Skyraider was also quite slow, meaning its transit times from base to station were long, and if it was usually rugged, it was also something of an easy target.

The Air Force, as Vietnam drew down, began to look at the most daunting battlefield it faced, a potential war in Western Europe with the Soviet Union and the rest of the Warsaw Pact. Air Force planners knew the Air Force would be called upon to not only make deep attacks against fixed targets such as airfields and bridges, but also the vast swarms of Soviet tanks and other armor. Don’t forget, this was an era when the primary air-to-ground sensor was the unaided human eyeball.

The air defense threat was also evolving. Rather than primarily small arms as faced in South Vietnam, in any potential Soviet invasion, three weapon systems would be the greatest threat. The ZSU-23-4 radar controlled 23mm gun, the SA-7 MANPADS heat-seeking shoulder launched missile, and its big brother, the vehicle mounted SA-9 heat-seeking missile.

When the A-10 was designed and built, it was done with both the mission of killing tanks in the relatively close confines of Western Europe, and with countering those three specific threats very much in mind. The A-10 was of course built around the (eyeball aimed) 30mm GAU-8 cannon, and it was always envisioned that its other main armament would be the optically aimed AGM-65 Maverick guided missile. Virtually all the armor and active and passive countermeasures built into the A-10 were geared toward defeating the ZSU/SA-7/SA-9 threat.

Fast forward to 2001 and from there to the present. Aside from the initial assault into Iraq in 2003, American airpower has been working in a permissive, almost benign air defense environment. Only the smallest numbers of modern MANPADS missiles have been used by our enemies. And of course, in that benign environment, the A-10 has done a bang-up job. But with the war in Iraq over (for us, at any rate) and our involvement in Afghanistan winding down, the Air Force is again obliged to look at other possible future battlefields. Critically, they have a duty not only to look to the most likely, but more importantly, to the most challenging. The obvious “worst case” scenario these days is a war with China, which for our purposes, however unlikely, at least provides proxies for the threat weapons many other potential crises may present.

Without getting down in the weeds of improved kinematics and ECCM and such, suffice to say that today’s modern MANPADS are far, far more deadly than the SA-7/SA-9 of yesteryear. And the proliferation of effective, mobile short, medium and long range radar guided Surface-to-Air Missiles in potential conflict regions means the permissive operating environment of today is not likely to carry over to tomorrow. US troops, long accustomed to being able to call upon Close Air Support, with no thought to the risks imposed on the airborne asset, may find themselves in an environment where little or no CAS is to be had, particularly in the early days of a conflict, before an enemy Integrated Air Defense System can be, well, dis-integrated.  The A-10 today finds itself more and more vulnerable to modern air defenses, and for various reasons, can not realistically be expected to reduce those vulnerabilities to any significant degree.

Availability of other CAS platforms

The A-10 may be the airplane that instantly comes to mind when someone mentions Close Air Support, but in fact, it only flies a small fraction of the total CAS missions today. By some estimates, 80% of CAS is flown by other platforms, be they UAVs, F-15E or F-16, Navy and Marine TACAIR or others.

The A-10 was deliberately designed to be low tech. Guns, dumb bombs, unguided rockets were bread and butter. But the advent of first the Laser Guided Bomb, and now the GPS guided JDAM bomb, coupled with virtually every strike fighter having a sophisticated infrared targeting pod means virtually every weapon used in CAS today is a precision guided weapon, and virtually every strike is controlled by a Joint Terminal Attack Controller on the ground. This revolution has greatly increased the ability of fast mover jets to provide timely, accurate and deadly CAS to troops in contact, and at closer ranges to friendly forces than ever before possible. The Warthog’s famed ability to get in the weeds and go low and slow is no longer so much a strength as a liability. Indeed, only in the last couple of years has the A-10 been upgraded to allow it to use precision guided weapons. Were it not for that upgrade, the A-10 would be almost irrelevant in the modern CAS environment.

Senator McCain, blasting the Air Force decision to retire the A-10, scoffed at the thought of using the B-1B bomber for CAS. In actuality, in the permissive environment in Afghanistan, it has proven to be not just capable, but in many ways, the most desirable CAS platform. It carries the same Sniper targeting pod the A-10 carries (making it every bit as accurate). It also has a stupendous load capability of up to 24 2000lb JDAM bombs. Indeed, a reengineering of the bomb racks is increasing the numbers and types of weapons the B-1B is carrying, almost certainly far and away more than any single engagement might call for. And with its intercontinental range, the B-1B can loiter on station over a fight for as much as four hours, far longer than the routine 1.5 hour station time one might expect from a Warthog.

And let us not forget the improvements on the Army side that will reduce demand for CAS. The introduction of Excalibur guided 155mm artillery, and the GMLRS guided rocket (with a range of about 70km) give ground commanders an ability to call upon timely precision fires, fires that as little as five years ago could only be answered by CAS with precision weapons. That trend to increasing accuracy (and range) of fires will only continue.

Closing

The withdrawal of the A-10 may not be a good idea. But nor is it evidence of a conspiracy of fast jet generals determined to kill a long-hated platform (GEN Welsh was himself an A-10 driver, and proud of it). The Air Force is not trying to get out of the CAS business. Indeed, the vast majority of tactical aviators with any combat experience today, only have experience with CAS. It’s what they know, it’s what they do.

What is happening is the Air Force has to save money somewhere, and from where the Chief of Staff sits, retiring a plane whose mission can be fulfilled by other platforms is the lowest risk approach.

The Jordanian Prisoner Executions vs. Extra-Judicial Killings

After the brutal murder of Lt. Muath al-Kaseasbeh at the hands of the sociopaths of Daesh, King Abdullah of Jordan has begun to fulfill his promise to execute prisoners in retaliation.

Ordinarily, we (and international law) would condemn retaliatory killings. It should be noted however, that those prisoners executed were in fact already facing death sentences. Jordan’s judicial system may not have the protections of our own, but by the standards of the region, it is a good deal more just than those of failed states such as Syria or other autocratic regimes where the whim of a despot determines guilt or innocence.

Keep in mind that the death penalties were delayed, partly so the condemned could be used as bargaining chips. Jordan in fact was attempting to negotiate the release of their pilot via a prisoner exchange. With his murder, obviously the prisoner’s value as a negotiating chip plummeted.

Ask Skipper notes that Lt. Kaseasbah was doomed the moment he was captured, and that his value to Daesh was as fodder for information operations. As repulsive as we find the stream of brutal videos and pictures flowing from the region, we should remember that we are not the intended audience. The propaganda is targeted both internally to their own fighters, and as a cautionary tale to those Arabs that are fighting them. And the brutality of Daesh may be having its desired effect.

Shortly after Lt. Kaseasbah’s plane went down, the United Arab Emirates quietly suspended operations for fear of losing its own pilots.

What will be interesting to see in the coming days is what further actions Jordan takes.

The BBC's 1964 Masterpiece "The Great War"

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Of all the events of the Twentieth Century, it is the First World War that has had the most dramatic and longest-lasting impact on the psyche of Western civilization, more so than all the events that followed.   For anyone with an abiding interest in that war, the 1964 BBC documentary The Great War is an invaluable reference to understanding.  Narrated by Sir Michael Redgrave, the 26-part documentary is a superbly-crafted work.  The tenor of the broadcasts reflects the erosion of the naïve hopes of the warring parties in 1914 into the grim fatalism that the years of slaughter evoked, and the upheaval that would ultimately topple the crowned heads of Germany, Russia, Austria-Hungary, and Serbia.  BBC producers make excellent use of voice to read the actual words of the key participants such as Edward Grey, Bethmann-Hollweg, Conrad von Hotzendorf, Joffre, Haig, Falkenhayn, and others.  The series features remarkable and little-seen motion footage of the world of 1914-18, including the civilians, the politicians, the armies, and the great battles of that war.   The battle footage heavily emphasizes the two great killers of that war (in inverse order), the machine gun, and modern breech-loading recoil-dampened artillery.

Of note also are the poignant, and sometimes extremely moving, interviews with the participants of events of the great tragedy.  Some had been in the thick of the fighting, others young subalterns or staff officers at the sleeve of the decision-makers.   Most remarkably, the BBC managed to produce a documentary about momentous events that changed the world and yet also managed to allow the viewer insight into the inestimable human tragedy that these events summoned.   At the time of the release of The Great War, those events were closer in time to the audience than the beginning of the Vietnam War is to our contemporary world.   The twenty-six episodes are around forty minutes each.  Worth every second of the time spent.

Oh, and as the credits roll at the end of each episode, one can spot the name of a very young (19 years old) contributor named Max Hastings.